Tuesday, May 24, 2011

my staycation: or, i need to go on a veggie detox

I LOVE seeing friends that I haven't seen in a long time. My college roommate/best bud came to Chicago last week for four days (he called it my staycation-- I'll take that), and it was great to see him. When I see people I was close to in college or high school, we kind of revert back to our sillier, more care-free ways, you know? And also back to college eating and drinking (you know what I'm talking about): cheese, beer, and anything deep-fried are what's on the menu for the entire week. Having someone in town is a great excuse to visit all your favorite places, and try places that have been sitting on your list for ages (calories be damned). And as if blowing my diet and my, ahem, bank account, weren't enough, I had to bake too! Here's what we were up to:

In the middle of baking raspberry thumb-print sugar cookies with vanilla icing drizzle (if they didn't flatten out to hideous pancakes I would have taken a photo), I got a call that he was off the plane. Woohoo! I went to meet him at the train, and we had to grab some caffeine at Wormhole.

                                                                                  photos from Metromix

Why yes, that is a Delorean in their window. It's an 80's-themed coffee joint, and they have all kinds of paraphernalia from my childhood. Part of me would love to lend them my My Little Ponies lunchbox for their wall of lunchboxes, but I can't part with it...

Sufficiently caffeinated, it was on to Big Star for "lunch" (read: drinks, and if we felt like it, maybe a snack).

I live on this street, and trust me, Big Star never has this many tables open, especially at night-- this place has some of the best and most ridiculously strong margaritas in Chicago.

I got something strawberry-y (and then two more, which is why I don't remember what they were), and college buddy, who works in a Mexican restaurant in Manhattan and is a tequila snob aficionado got straight tequila with some lime juice. This is our tasty mess of cheese and chorizo. Oh my god do I love chorizo! Reason number one to eat straight veggies for a week.
After this I decided it was a good idea to drag him to my apartment so he could help me make this:

...a whole-wheat pizza dough with fresh mozzarella, pepperoni, and sausage. Can't have the hubs go hungry when I'm out all week ;)

I've been here a couple of times and it's pretty unremarkable, except that night was an important first for me, my friends-- it was the first time I had ever had friend pickles. They were so good, my life will never be the same!
On Wednesday we meandered around downtown Chicago, it being too late to go to the Art Institute.

                                                                (weird leggy statues)
...and ended up at Carmichael's steakhouse, a place hidden in a residential area of the Loop, where one of our other friends works. She went all out for us, giving us this seafood sampler of their appetizers-- lobster, crab cake, calimari, bacon-wrapped jumbo shrimp... it was some of the best food I'd ever eaten.

We split a steak after this, but it was all I could do to finish only most of my half (I had no trouble with my own bottle of wine, though). If you live near Chicago, and you're in the mood for an mind-blowing meal, GO GO GO to this place!

On Thursday we made a half-hearted attempt to eat a bit better, so I took him to Handlebar, an all-vegetarian restaurant on North Ave. Now, I like my meals meat-tastic, mind you, but Handlebar is no salad joint (although their salads are actually quite hearty and delicious). You should go there too :)
If you at all like pickles, you should definitely eat here-- they make their own, and their pickles are so subtly spicy and outrageously good. College buddy got a bloody mary, and it came with a fried special pickle... I about told our server I was moving in. After Handlebar we stopped at Myopic Bookstore, a humongous used bookstore that is one of the best places to lose yourself for a few hours in the city (which we promptly did). I will be so sad when we move away from walking distance!
After Myopic, we stopped for some coffee at Killer Espresso, and then headed to Floyd's pub to meet some other buddies. We had hours of laughs over the Rapture (and this velocirapture). [btw, I'm glad the world did not in fact end!]

On Friday, I was pretty spent already-- I am definitely not used to eating and drinking out this much, and I was definitely feeling it. I made some brownies and toffee-chip and pecan cookies from scratch for the hubs' game night with the boys, and met up with college buddy for a rapid-fire tour of the Art Institute. He made it with 40 minutes left til closing, so I took him to some of my favorite exhibits, and to the Modern Wing so he could see some of his favorite stuff. I'm glad I had just been there last week so I remembered my way around! At 7 we headed to the Chicago Center for Performing Arts to see my friend in her show Passing Strange. It has one weekend left, and you should go! It's about finding yourself through art and travel, and the frustrations we think we can escape by running away. My description sounds a bit cliche, but it was fresh and funny, and everyone in the show is an unbelievable singer.

I had to be up early Saturday morning, so I didn't go to the after-party, and I'm pretty sure my liver thinks that was a wise choice! I came home hoping to find the hubs and his guys still around, but all I found was this:

Which ones do you think were the cookies that I asked him to take out of the oven? Sheesh, I even set the timer for him...

Anyway, that was my staycation. Sorry this is such a monstrous post, but I hope you all got some good recommendations for eats if you ever come to Chicago. I hope everyone has a great week! Now I'm off to make a veggie burger :)

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