So I’m in Chicago, primarily to attend the IFT16 (that’s the 2016 conference for the Institute of Food Technologists – you’re welcome), where two of my favourite thinkers were on the bill to deliver keynote addresses:
It’s also my first time in the Windy City, so I of course laid all sorts of other cunning plans to tick off Important Things on my wish-list: dinner at Alinea, Grace (OK, not really in the position to drop $200+ on dinner); failing that, NextÂ (“just” $155); OK fine, I’ll settle forÂ Roister and Frontera Grill. Except neither of the latter are open on a Sunday or Monday, the two days we had to explore the city.
So, my experiences and observations are unfortunately – or fortunately – somewhat more mundane than eating at all the *must-go* places in Chicago (I choose to think of this like the author of Save Room for Pie, which means that there’s always more to look forward to).
- It’s very pretty here, and I think it may be the US city with the nicest summer climate (that I’ve experienced). It is actually rather pleasant to wander the streets in this season without feeling like you *must* eat ice cream or drink beer in order to stay sane. (To which my husband retorts, “but oh, wait for winter!”. Winter, schminter. Lagertha and I don’t share blonde hair and blue eyes for nothing.)
- Pokemon Go is as stupid here as everywhere else, and may indeed be dangerous. Walking back from lunch the other day, we found ourselves behind a person who was meandering in what appeared to be a non-drunk way. We chuckled to ourselves that he was probably looking for Pokemon(s?), and when we were sufficiently close enough for him to sense our presence and entertain for a moment that we might be about to mug him, he clearly got the fright of his life. “Oh sorry,” he managed, “I was playing the game.”Â The game.Â ðŸ™„
- Chicago hoddogs are pretty good.Â Look, the roll becomes a bit of a soggy mess, but I gather that’s par for the course of various “sandwiches” out there (and probably why I don’t eat them very often). But the combo of mustard – no ketchup allowed! – relish with a spicy kick and a pickle is pretty fine. I am inspired to do something along these lines in my kitchen (ice cream?).
- Tootsie rolls are not lovely, but not terrible either. I learned this at the Expo part of the conference, which basically consisted of hundreds of stalls giving out free food, much of it completely unrelated to what they were trying to sell (read: to lure disinterested people like me to their stalls). I thought this was not a Chicago-specific observation, but it turns out they do indeed hail from this city, and were the ‘first penny candyÂ to be individually wrapped in America’.
- Even the touristy blues clubs are decent here, as we discovered after lazily going to Buddy Guy’s Legends, which happens to be closest to our hotel. Or perhaps we were just conveniently located to what claims to be the “premier blues club in the world”! Thinking the location was a bit skanky on arrival, we settled on having a drink and then moving on to somewhere else for dinner (to wit: hotdog pictured above). We took our drinks outside for a smoke and struck up conversation with a fellow traveller, which was interrupted when said traveller was summoned onto the road by a lady driving by who stopped in the middle of traffic to ask for a light. He duly complied, and came back to confirm that the smoke she was lighting was as “green” as the crazy fingernails I had spotted cupping her J. As for the music:
Final thoughts? I’ll be back as soon as I can. Hopefully with a reservation at Alinea or Grace. Or Roister or Frontera Grill. Otherwise I’ll happily settle for a bottle of Sicilian wine and some cheese and meat from Eataly, as we spent our final evening sipping and supping on with a perfectly decent view from a hotel patio. And the best company in town.