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Our third day in Chicago we go less ambitious. I wanted to do two things:
1. Visit Brooksfield Zoo
2. Eat at Calumet Fisheries
However, neither were next to each other and each involved a trek of an hour out of Chicago via rail or bus combo. It was Sunday and we decided to stay inner-city. Well relatively… since we went north.
Our first stop was a neighborhood called “Ukrainian Village.” I wanted to visit it and see if it compares to Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, NY. Alas very few things do but none the less the little village did have it’s charm with being smaller, friendlier and cleaner than NY!
Interesting part of Chicago neighborhood layout is that north is Wicker Park, a hipster hood of “vintage” shops and yummy cafes. Midday you can see the babushkas walking along side the skinny jeans trotting hipster.
I scouted yelp for a place to feed my belly and stumbled upon Shokolad
Tony was HUNGRY and ordered “Gutsulske Pechenya” which was cubed beef, potatoes, carrots, lima beans, & celery combined in a clay pot & cooked until tender. Served with freshly backed ricotta rolls. I ended up eating half his rolls while scooping up the soup. It might have been 95 degrees outside but tasty hot soup is still tasty!
I went a little less heavy and ordered one of my childhood favorites! Blueberry Varenyky! Oh how home sick they made it! I wish there was a place in Boston I could get them. I could always make my own but I got two left hands when it comes to cooking. So good with sour cream!
We then continued to walk around the check out the churches and all the residents in their Sunday wear.
This was one of the cooler 10 churches we saw; but I’m not sure which is called what. Afterwards we took a bus outward to Lincoln Park
They had a really cool green house with free entrance!
The problem with wearing yellow is that I think I confused all the bees! They loved me.
So many cool orchids!
Aside from the botanical building, Lincoln Park also has a free city zoo! They guy was feeling the heat as well
And this was my first time seeing a hippo out of water! They are huge!!!!!! So cool!
We left the park to go search for Fro-Yo, however we never made it to fro-yo
Instead we got distracted by a pizza joint… We saw a bunch of people outside and wondered why! Chicago Pizza & Grinder over Co. So we came to a halt of something shiny and walked in. The guy that owns the place doesn’t take your name, he just remembers your face as you wait to get seated. Luckily Tony and I are small so we took a TINY but cozy booth right away. While we were deciding between pizza or continuing for fro-yo, locals assured us we have to eat here, it’s the best, they been going here for YEARS… so how could we say no to the eager faces looking to share their joy.
Tony and I were actually not that hungry so we decided to split a small salad and a half pounder (of pizza). And yes that’s their version of a small side salad.
The pizza! I’m usually not a fan of Chicago Style pizza being a New Yorker and all I view it more as a pot pie with tomato sauce. However, call it what you might this was quite tasty!
Yes I look dirty and exhausted. Walking around miles in 95 degree weather definitely throws vanity out the window.
After the pizza and frosty adult beverages I forgot all about the Fro-yo as we walked back south to North Beach where I ran the day before.
It’s so beautiful! Chicago Peeps you’re too lucky!
We were totally in love with Chi-Town!
This picture was taken from the Navy Pier as night which aside from the city view was very uneventful. They didn’t even have an arcade… I was really itching to play some skeeball… None the less a great day and sadly our last full day.
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My running has been scattered, I’ve been going from 50 to 30 miles before Chicago. 55 miles after Chicago and back to 40 miles last week! Right after Chicago I dove straight into running, 11 days none stop for 95 miles. I won’t go into the detail of most runs since all my emotions have been poured into my Daily Mile updates instead but here’s a summary of the runs by day.
A few things to note:
- I think the 13 and some of the 11 milers were done in two parts between lunch and post work. With time management I am finding it physically and mentally easier to run twice in one day then once in a long time.
- That being said, I think I’m okay with doing double duty for mileage as long as I do one real “long run” a week
- The 15 miles on Saturday was my first long run in a while. I flirted with some 13 milers in the beginning of the month but haven’t really done long runs in one standing
- The 15 miler was rough. I averaged out at a 9:05 pace which includes a fast stretch and potty stop at mile 11. I wish I could say 15 felt easy but I don’t think mentally I’m in long run shape. I know physically I can do it, but my mind is not into it
- I struggled through the 15 miler by listening to gardening pod-casts. I don’t actually think I absorbed anything or had any clue what they were talking about but it made me feel like I was multitasking and not just doing something I wasn’t in the mood for (like running).
- I’m been doing fartleks (not to be confusing with farting haha) on my treadmill runs. I don’t think it’s the best kind of training for me since I should work on keeping a pace but those help make things less boring.
- I skipped a long run this weekend because I was visiting my family in NY. Between 9 hours on a bus and just how fast a day and half fly by, I decided taking a 3 hour run was not the best use of my time. And no waking up early is not an option. I love my sleep dearly.
- I was stubborn. So stubborn that I decided I couldn’t go to bed until I did a long run on Monday. The 22 miles is composed of 6 miles during lunch and 16 after work. The 16 miles were hard physically. I thought two days of rest would make me amped up for speed, instead I wanted to sit on the couch and watch Olympics as I ran vicariously through the professionals on TV. I took an 8 minute break around mile 14 where I had to beg myself into going back outside for 2 more miles. In the end the average pace with break was 9:41. I know that I ran around 8:30 for the first 8 miles before I just lost energy.
- I did take Gu Chumps, but Gu Chumps can’t replace a real meal that my body was craving at 7:30 PM. I tried to tell it that if it waited til 9 a burger and beer was waiting for it, but it wouldn’t believe me. I listened to about 3 running podcasts to keep me motivated.
- Run Run Live podcast is awesome so I highly recommend it for some mojo on your run.
Why am I so insistent on long runs again after calling it quits for the summer? Well I must confess, flipflopped back on running the RnR Montreal marathon if I don’t have to work that weekend. I had a slight freak-out when all the promo hotels with group discounts were sold out. But! I found shelter for $36 a night next to the starting line. AirBnB rocks!
I will also be using AirBnB for renting a room for the Providence RnR half marathon! While I haven’t personally stayed in a room through the site yet, friends that have said it turned out cheaper and better than a hotel room so we shall see.
And because I can’t have a post without some pictures
Whenever I visit Brooklyn, sushi takeout is a must
Since Tony wasn’t there with me, I got this all to myself!
My parents took me to Ikea because I am in search of cheap curtains
Alas, no curtains were purchased at Ikea but somehow I walked out with a full belly instead. I must say, next time I’m going to try to trade some of the balls for more mashed potatoes. It was great!
This is a Tuesday shot but GeorgeTown cupcakes on Newbury celebrating Crocs
Can I just say that the free secret cupcakes they have everyday is the best worst idea ever.
Hope everyone had a great July!
Can’t believe it’s August in a night’s sleep. Where did my summer go!
Finally after much wasting time around the hotel room, we made it outside. We made a stop at Wrigley Field. It was actually a small mistake as I decided to randomly exit there. A game was happening so it was a bit insane.
Madness… so we got back on the train and went further north until the train went no more. Then we took a commuter rail further north. Finally we arrived somewhere that was within a mile walk of the Chicago Botanical Gardens.
Much to our surprise it was free! I guess that’s why the sales tax is like one million percent.
There was a creepy statue that glared at us
Of course with our luck it started to pour! But not before we got to watch a food demo and have a tasty sampling
Who knew that avocados and blueberries worked so well!
So it rained and rained after eating and waiting for over an hour we sucked it up and purchased this fashionable wear.
There was a mile of walking to the train so I was worried for my electronics. Well… needless to say as soon as we got fashionable, it stopped raining. You welcome Chicago Botanical Garden visitors. Luckily admission to the park was free so I considered these overpriced ponchos as part of my donation to the gardens.
Proof that it really did rain!
There was a pretty rock garden/water falls thing
They also had a really awesome Japanese garden but I didn’t take any pictures there because I was enjoying being peaceful and zen.
When we got back, we had a real fancy dinner…
It’s not a true vacation until Subway is consumed. Sometimes you just want something cheap, and filling and Subway hits the spot. Smelling flowers make you hungry. Don’t worry we kept it classy with some wine.
As we walked from our hotel to Millennium park I can tell you that the Magnificent Mile gets a whole lot less magnificent. I guess all the crackheads and bums only come out at night in Chicago while on the east coast they work full time full day of creeping little girls out.
The hatch thing had an evening concert as well and they were performing Broadway songs! We even got a seat mid-show. No need to sit on a grass or watch in envy for all those well prepared lawn chair peeps.
Great performance! And I only got 1 mosquito bite. A winning night.
I even found the bean I couldn’t find the day before in daylight.
Of course the night didn’t end there, as we walked back to our hotel we saw fireworks!
I think they are shot from Navy Pier.
So day 2
1. Lots of flower and train travel
2. Some more rain
3. Subway – Spicy Italian is the only way to go!
4. Free concert in the park
Sorry if you get this post twice in your email, I hit publish by mistake before I was done!
Tony and I took a 6AM flight from Logan to Midway which let us explore the most in day one without having to pay for a hotel the night before.
It was early and after checking into the hotel we started by walking down to Millennium Park… Well actually correction, I started by walking us in the wrong direction (north vs. south). It was a good mile uptown before I said to myself, hmm the lake seems to be on the wrong side!
I have to admit, seeing a real metropolis distracted me from my usual sense of direction
After doing the embarrassing tourist turnaround, we made our way to the park
They have a very cool outdoor bandshell where an orchestra was performing! Also, what makes Millennium Park even cooler was that 12 years ago it was a wasteland of parking lots and railways and now is one of the greatest urban parks out there! Per Google this is what is used to look like:
Projects like this always go beyond budget and have a ton of corruption behind them but the results are still so amazing and great for a city. Down with parking lots up with parks! Roar!
We walked past the smells of Taste of Chicago (I decided to pass on sausages and hot dogs in exchange for finer snobby dining) and made our way to Buckingham Fountains. We had lunch reservations at 1:30 and it was mind over stomach!
Also a sad but gross display, Toms are comfortable BUT nothing including Toms will be comfortable in 95 degree weather as you walk around for miles being a tourist. My feet cried for flip-flops and I’m pretty sure these shoes lost 10 months of wear from me pressing in the back.
Finally it was time to walk over to Blackbird for our reservations. I was super excited after reading about it on yelp, blogs and Anthony Bourdain’s love for Chef Paul Kahan. I’m an impressionable foodie…
I opted for a 3 course special, I think it was like $25 bucks or something. My first course was great. kombu cured fluke with spring mojo verde, spruce tips and lardo. I love cured salty fish, its the little Jewish gal in me. After the first course, I was excited for the main entree…
Yup.. that was it. My cat could vomit up a bigger plate of food! Give me a slice of bread with it at least. Those are small thin pieces of wood-grilled sturgeon with some kind of sour white sauce on the side. It tasted great but I was hungrier afterwards then I was before it.
Then there was the terrible service. It’s not that our waiter was rude, he was quite polite and seemed like a nice fellow, but each course took over 35 minutes to get there. I get it that when you sit down things take a while to get started but you usually don’t have to wait 35-45 minutes between each plate.
Before the dessert came out, I was wondering if the chef drove out to the woods to pick the blueberries himself. We got there at 1:30 PM and it was 3:30PM on a Friday. The place was mostly empty so it wasn’t that they were swamped with orders. Finally after staring for 45 minutes at my mostly empty plate, this came out. No apologies, no explanations, as if I really have nothing better to do than sit and stare at an empty plate for 45 minutes. Don’t get me wrong, the blueberries with hay ice cream, smoked honey meringue, thyme were delicious, but I was starting to get a splitting hunger headache.
Tony got a burger that he claimed was tiny but it looked like a meal fit for a king compared to mine. Luckily he had some fries that I stole as my plate became empty fairly soon.
Two hours later and more hungrier than before we walked back to the hotel for a nap.
Artsy parking lots?
After nap time we went to a random sketch comedy thing I found on GoldStar comp tickets. I highly recommend if you’re bored with nothing to do and want to go out check out the comp section.
We walked around Wicker Park, a sort of Williamsburg wannabe. I loved all the shops, and restaurants and could have started a new home there and been happy.
Luckily for our second meal of dinner. It did not disappoint! Cumin, a modern Nepalese resturant was just what we needed to regain our confidence in Chicago dining.
I went with cauliflower florets deliciously cooked in nepalese spices with tomatoes and ginger-garlic paste and Tony went we a chicken curry dish and we had ourselves a happy feast!
So day 1:
- Lots of walking, Toms are bad for 95 degree weather
- Chicago is fun to explore, especially millennium park
- Don’t eat at Black Bird unless you’re not very hungry and have 2 hours to sit and stare
- If you’re in Wicker Park, check out Cumin! You must, you must! It was so good. Looking at the pictures is making me drool!
I’ll continue my Chicago recap with my second favorite part of the trip; dining at Girl and the Goat! After running in Chicago, this was my favorite. It was a struggle finding space for a reservation as it seems to be booked months in advance. Luckily I had a perfect day for a 4:30 dinner; Monday the day we flew back to Boston. 97 degrees where all we could do was seek refuge in air conditioned stores and watering holes. 4:30 couldn’t come soon enough.
Upon entering I was surprised by how large the space was with open windows and daylight lightening up the room. After a few minutes, we got seated and our eyes were evaluating our options…
Tony got himself a cognac, bourbon cocktail while I stuck to beer. I tried the Salt Lake City Dubhe Imperial Black IPA which I never had before. It had the taste of mild stout with the crispness and hop of an IPA. Very fun.
We picked out 6 tapa style plates. Our first was this tomato bread that they make fresh in the restaurant with a side of spicy pickles .
Next was the bristol bay sockeye tartare with truffle vinaigrette, summer squash & popiah. I wasn’t sure what popiah is but I assume by the process of deduction it’s the crisp bread on top.
Next came the goat empanadas and I think this was my second favorite out of the 6 plates we got. I don’t remember exactly what was on it since I didn’t take a picture of the goat part of the menu, but it was delicious.
Next was grilled baby octopus with guanciale, favas, radish and pistachio-lemon vinaigrette
This was our first time trying octopus. It was more tender and juicier than calamari and I love it. I don’t think Tony was into it as much but I traded him some extra from the other plates for more of this dish. It was my favorite out of the 6.
Next were the scallops with foie gras vinaigrette, klug plums, sweet onion & brioche crouton. Scallops are awesome; ’nuff said.
Our final of the 6 plates was the Pig Face… Not quite sure what to expect before it came out.
I let Tony do the honors. Wood over roasted pig face with sunny side egg, tamarind, cilantro, red wine-maple & potato stix. Even after eating it I wasn’t sure if I really was eating a Pig’s face. Well thanks to google I now know that Pig Face is a “gelatinous dish that’s composed of cleaned pig head, minus the organs.”
Our waitress was perfect. We told her that we had to leave by 6:15 to head to the airport and she made sure we were paid and all set to leave exactly by then. However, we just couldn’t help ourselves and ordered a 7th dish. Zucchini bread and maybe a second beer haha.
Overall Stephanie Izard’s Girl & the Goat was one of the finest and unique dining experiences I have had. I don’t think I have eaten anywhere where I can try such a diverse and yet well prepared set of dishes. If you live in a cave and are like me who never heard of Stephanie Izard; she’s the only female winner of Top Chef and this is her resturant.
So if you find yourself in Chicago and are going out for one nice meal, try to get in here! They always have a set of walk-in tables but I’m not too sure how long the wait is. Luckily, there’s a comfy set of couches and a great bar to wait by.