It's always hard for me to wrap my head around a new year. That it's 2011 seems incredible to me and I know it will take a while for it to really sink in.
This year, we went to Chicago for New Year's. It's a bit of a tradition for Daniel, since some of his closest friends from college- David & Lindsey- live there. They very graciously offered to let us stay with them at their lovely apartment in the Aqua building and acted as tour guides for us, which I was especially grateful for, it being my first trip to Chicago.
On our first day, we arrived at O'Hare to beautiful weather and were picked up by David, who promptly drove us directly to lunch at Smoque BBQ. I still blush to think of the quantity of pork products I consumed, but everything was so good. Between the three of us, we managed to try Texas sausage, pork ribs, brisket, pulled pork, coleslaw, macaroni and cheese, and peach cobbler.
I practically had to be rolled back to the car. Completely worth it.
We spent most of the afternoon relaxing and settling into the apartment. We watched The Dark Knight, which I had never seen, until Lindsey woke up from her post-call nap (both Lindsey and David are physicians) and we got ready to go out for cocktails at the Violet Hour over by Wicker Park. The Violet Hour is, hands down, one of the coolest bars ever. Dimly lit, with high-backed armchairs and a roaring fireplace, it has a private feel. I had a Juliet & Romeo (gin, mint, cucumber, rose water) that I thought was fantastic. Have I mentioned before how much I like cocktail bars?
After drinks we went home to get some rest. Those of us on vacation
slept in late and the next day went out to explore the neighborhood around the apartment. We lunched at Pastoral where I ate a vegan sandwich in an attempt to counteract the meat overload from the day before. Afterwards, we strolled through Millennium Park. It was cold, but not nearly so bad as I had expected.
We also saw the Bean. Which I still don't really know the significance of, but think is pretty cool anyway.
Directly across the park is the Chicago Art Institute.
Right before Christmas, I went to a tea with my mother at her friend Susan's house. Susan is from Chicago and when I told her I was going, she told me that, if nothing else, I had to see the Art Institute. So I went into the museum expecting it to be good, but really not knowing that it was great. Stupid, I know. I spent most of my time looking at the 19th-20th century French paintings but also made it to the Modern American section for a bit before I faded.
For dinner, we went to Tango Sur, a BYOB Argentinean steakhouse with an intimate feel and the largest portions of steak I have ever seen. We drank some wonderful wines (including a Luna Moon Tsai, a gift from Daniel's mother) and positively gorged ourselves on red meat. It was spectacular.
The next day had an understandably lazy start, and because the weather was poor, we ended up going to see True Grit. After we left the theater, the weather had broken and we were able to walk around.
Chicago feels so different from any other large city I've been to. I love that.
Anyway, as it was New Year's Eve, we eventually went home to get ready for the evening. We went for drinks and dinner at the Bristol, which was lovely, and then back to the apartment at 11:30. We stood on the balcony and watched fireworks explode over Lake Michigan.
To stave off the cold, there was whiskey. And cigars. And some ridiculous fur.
After a somewhat mangled version of "Auld Lang Syne" and some dancing in the living room, we said our goodnights and goodbye to 2010.
January 1st was Saturday, and our last full day in Chicago, so it was devoted to more touring, and of course, more food.
We started with deep-dish pizza for lunch.
After pizza, we all piled into the car to drive around and see the sights. It was really too cold to spend much time outdoors, so I was very grateful for the car tour.
I was also grateful that we stopped at a wonderful coffee shop called Intelligentsia for some afternoon refreshments. I had a ginger beer and tried Askinosie chocolate for the first time. I also bought a Honey Badger Espresso sweatshirt, which I am wearing at this very moment.
Afterwards, we drove down around Jackson park and to the University of Chicago, which was beautiful and vaguely spooky in the dark wintry weather.
We drove through Barack Obama's neighborhood and past Louis Farrakhan's house. We drove through part of the Southside. We dropped off pizza for Lindsey at her hospital and spent half an hour studying the wall-mounted class photos of medical students from the University of Chicago since 1950.
The next day was our last in Chicago and Daniel and I went for a walk along Navy Pier in the morning and took some pictures. It was cold and perfectly clear.
The fair on the pier was not really my cup of tea- too much blaring music, too many fast-food stands, but the views over the lake and back at the city were quite lovely.
By the time our walk was over, it was time to head to the airport. Not without a last meal, though- we went to the DMK Burger Lounge to feast on hamburgers, three kinds of french fries (truffle and parmesan cream; wisconsin cheddar; sweet potato) and macaroni and cheese- necessary before the strenuous activity involved in sitting on a plane for 5 hours. I could die very fat and happy in Chicago.
Anyway, it was a marvelous trip (in spite of our delayed flight to San Francisco and extra 2 1/2 hour layover in Cleveland, yuck.) and I already have a hankering to go back and see the city in the spring, just to see what it's like in another season. Though really, it's time to settle down a bit and focus on San Francisco for the present moment- there's enough excitement here to last quite a while.
So welcome, 2011. A wonderful start to the new year!
3800 North Pulaski Road
The Violet Hour
1520 N Damen Ave
53 East Lake Street
3763 N Southport Ave
2152 North Damen
3123 N Broadway St
DMK Burger Bar
2954 North Sheffield Ave