Monday, December 26, 2011

Day Trip to ChiTown

My SIL recently moved to Chicago- about a 2 hour drive from the PIL's house. Joe and I both have friends in ChiTown so we decided to drive in to town to pick Joe's sister up and visit with pals. I've taken the train in but never drove. It was a cloudy day to begin with and the factories dotting the highway like this one weren't helping the air quality...

I've been in the O'Hare airport several times, but I've only ever once been in Chicago itself. From what I remembered, it was a lot like NY, but a little less gritty. 

Since Joe's sister was working that morning, we made a detour to Hot Doug's for some lunch! One of my food boyfriends (Anthony Bourdain or Adam Richmond) had introduced us to this place a while back and it sounded heavenly.

As is the story with most of the best food joints in big cities, there was a line. Outside. In the blistering cold. It felt vaguely reminiscent of my visit to Tom's Diner in Brooklyn last week

Look at how cute Joe looks holding my purse while waiting in line- especially while standing behind two giant iron workers. 

We waited patiently in line, jumping a bit to keep our toes from freezing and staring straight ahead- hoping the people in front of us would move up, so we could move up!

I swear I was happier than I looked!

Once inside. it was pure encased-meats heaven. 

In addition to their regular menu, there was also an extensive "specials" menu which included items like a foie gras sausage, a cheese stuffed brat topped with bacon mayonnaise and cheese... etc. 

After selecting your sausage, your job is NOT done! You must determine how you like it (char-grilled, deep fried, steamed or fried and grilled) and what you'd like on it (Chicago's version of everything is mustard, relish, onions, tomatoes, pickles and celery salt). 

I actually didn't read what this little critter was hawking- I was so distracted by the bling- but that sausage sounds pretty stellar too...

When we got up to the counter our order was taken by none other than Doug himself- a super friendly guy!

Joe got a cream soda to wash down the deliciousness. 

I was too excited to drink anything so I just sat and waited for our order...

And then it came! I got a grilled and fried Elvis with Everything. Joe got the cheesy sausage with bacon mayo and cheese and we split cheese fries. 

It. was. perfect. 

Truer words have never been spoken. 

Bellies full, we headed to Liz's apartment. This was our first time seeing her place! It's cozy and adorable! 

I saw this sign on her mirror and HAD to take a picture. I guess I'll have to substitute "Joe" for "the Doctor", but you get the gist...

Liz likes to decorate! Can you tell! Her apartment was a veritable Christmas-topia.

Liz packed for the trip home while I occupied myself this way...

After an incident involving my husband, this Nerf gun (whose safety mechanism has been removed) and MY FACE (true story- he's fired)...

...we were off! Our plans were to head towards the Christkindlemart to finish up some shopping and meet up with a friend of mine and a friend of Joe's. On our way, we stopped to caffeinate at Kickstand Espresso Bar

The vibe was very Williamsburg-y (sorry- ALL my ambience comparisons are places in NY)- quite and laid back with some SERIOUSLY gorgeous and funky wall-art. I ordered two iced coffees but they ran out of iced coffee after the first, so one became an iced Americano. I gave that one to Joe.

I kid you not- this was probably in my top 5 iced coffee experiences of all times- and your girl has had iced coffee ALL over the place. Whatever roast they used was dark and strong enough to combat the ice-melt but not overpowering, I could taste both my soy milk and my iced coffee- perfect. 

The next time I'm in Chicago, I WILL find you again, Kickstand. 

The weather was getting nasty, but the city was still beautiful. 

After searching high and low for a parking spot (for realz- almost worse than parking in NY), we made our way to the Christkindlemart to meet up with my friend Jessica!

It was a joyful and long overdue reunion, complete with awkward yearbook photo poses...

By the time we met up it was BLISTERINGLY cold and raining, so we didn't spend much time in the the market. We did grab one of these delicious pretzels, though...

And then we headed into Marshall Fields to warm up and lounge on the furniture displays...

After a short visit we were all tired, cold and wet, so it was time to bid farewell to Jessica and Chicago...

We made a few wrong turns on our way out of town and accidentally stumbled past the Calumet Fisheries, another spot recommended by one of my food boyfriends (I'm pretty sure this one was Anthony Bourdain). Serendipity!

We drove past it the first time- it's just a small little shack on the side of the river... but inside, edible acquatic pleasures abound!

We ordered a catfish and shrimp dinner- while we waited, we were offered samples of the smoked garlic/ pepper salmon. 

WOAH. This was a truly sacred experience. The texture was perfection- not slippery or slimy like some lox I've tried, but firm and insanely flavorful. 

We were sold! We bought some to bring home. 

Sooooooooooo delish!

And then we drove home through the rain. So concludes my Chicago adventure!

Random P.S.

I am a closet fashion freak- specifically in terms of evening-wear. It might be the former-pageant girl in me, but I am OBSESSED with cocktail dresses and evening gowns. I've recently been drooling over Marchesa's Spring 2012 line. My absolutely favorites in this line-up are:

I. Die. 

What's your guilty fashion pleasure? Jewelry? Flip flops? Cute scarves? I wanna hear!