Last week, I had the pleasure of visiting the Windy City for a two-day work meeting. Prior to this trip, I had only been in Chicago one other time, in 2002 when Andy and I were on our way back from our preview/house-hunting trip in Guadalajara and had a ten-hour layover which we spent shopping and freezing our tails off downtown.
From the moment my co-workers and I landed and found our way to the hotel, with this view from the corner room, the city started laying on the charm.
This blurry view of the Navy Pier does not even begin to do justice to the views surrounding my temporary abode. The amalgamation of the vertical architecture and corresponding city lights with the vast darkness of Lake Michigan in the background was stunning.
It is funny how the culture you absorb through travelling, reading books, newspapers and magazines as well as watching television affects your perception of a new place. Many of the skyscrapers near my hotel reminded me of those you might see in New York City and for some reason, I kept thinking of the book, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, a book that takes place in NYC. This NBC building seems perfect for a comic book hero to scale.
My second morning in Chicago, my co-worker and friend, Matt, and I went for a run down to the Navy Pier. It was a clear day, perfect for photos.
Had thought about it, I should have expected that the food in Chicago would be superb. What I didn’t realize is that Chicago is home for 2.7 million people and the greater metro area for 9.4 million. That equated to a whole lot of food options.
The first night, my work team went out to Gibsons Steak House. The food was very good, the wine amazing (until it all made me ill later.)
We were all trying to figure out why we didn’t feel well after the meal, was it the crab or the mussels? Or perhaps the fact that we just overindulged? The carrot cake my friend Becca is posing behind was NO joke. We wondered why the waiter said three desserts was too many for eleven people.
The next night when we went out for Chicago-style deep dish pizza, it became very clear that bigger is better in more than one Chicago restaurant establishment.
There was an Irish bar near our hotel which we visited one night with a Whiskey menu that left nothing to be desired. I was still recovering from my bout with bad food so I was only able to have a taste of the Midleton. I wouldn’t say this about many drinks but I think it was worth the $29.5o for the snifter and I am still thanking my co-worker for letting me have a little sip (or two.)
After the run the second morning, we had the pleasure of eating breakfast at XOCO, which upon stepping foot inside the door and reading the menu, I wished Andy was with me. The menu was filled with authentic Mexican specialities we have not seen in the US like a Guadalajara favorite, Torta Ahogada.
But it was too early for Tortas (spicy sandwiches) so I ordered a CHOCOLATE CAPPUCCINO (to die for!) and some huevos rancheros and immediately wanted to bring the entire restaurant back with me to Boise.
My last night in Chicago, I had plans to meet, in real life, a blogging friend, Justine, from Here is Where I Have Landed. The day before the meeting, we started discussing restaurant options over text. My stomach had not fully recovered from my first night in Chicago so I was hesitant to choose one of the local, ethnic places she was recommending but eventually when she typed the words “hot pot” I knew that is what we needed to do. Hot pot is essentially a large pot of broth with a spicy and a mild side, where you cook the raw food that comes to the table. It was one of our favorites when we lived in China and I hadn’t eaten hot pot for over four years.
Justine picked me up from the hotel and we drove to Chinatown and checked out the sweet shop first before heading to the restaurant.
I find it fascinating how different sweets are in different cultures.
Since this trip, I have been busy explaining to Belén that Santa often picks up sweets on the other side of the world and if you are really lucky, he will leave some in your stocking.
Dried squid anyone? It actually tasted quite good.
The hot pot experience did not disappoint, although the highlight of the evening was getting to know Justine. We have children that are very similar in ages so we easily related with one another. I very much enjoyed her company and getting to know her. I only wished I felt 100% because by the end of the evening, my body was once again not exactly happy with me.
Before that happened though, I had the pleasure of sharing these desserts with my new friend. (Maybe my body was just not used to so much dessert!)
Regardless, it was a great night!
Oh right, and I was there for work. I had set up a two-day meeting to jointly come up with a plan of attack for the project I am leading. While in the “board room” discussing important, work-related items, a guy in his black briefs lounged out of his bed and stood in the window across from us for a good ten minutes. It was definitely a different world looking into apartments WITH NO SHADES while we were conducting business. It kind of reminded me of this incidence when I accidentally streaked for the window washer.
All in all, it was a great trip to Chicago! It is a fun city that I hope to visit again soon.