Foodcation 2010: Second City

It’s been three months since we returned from Foodcation 2010 and I’m finally getting around to posting about our last stop: Chicago. That’s some serious backlog! (Read about NYC and Philly)

We only had one reason to go to Chicago and that was Alinea. So imagine my disappointment about being put on a 20+ person wait list. We had booked all of our travel/lodging months beforehand and I thought calling one month before to make a reservation at Alinea would be enough, but it wasn’t; Alinea begins taking reservations two months prior to the month you plan to dine. For example, if you want to dine on August 24th, you better start calling on June 1st! More about Alinea in another post.

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We booked a room at Allerton, which is located on Mag Mile. To me, the location was the best aspect of the hotel. I love how lively and vibrant Mag Mile is! It reminds me a lot of NYC and you all know how much I LOVE NYC! 🙂

As with NYC and Philly, the public transportation in Chicago is very efficient. We purchased a 3-day pass (available at CVS) for $14 each, which we used to go to Hot Doug’s, of course.

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After about 50 minutes on public transit and another 50 minutes waiting in line, we were finally standing in front of Doug, himself, ordering:

– 2 “Foie Gras and Sauternes Duck Sausage with Truffle Aioli, Foie Gras Mousse and Fleur de Sel”
– 1 “Red Wine and Demi-Glace Venison Sausage with Fig Goat’s Butter and Raclette Cheese”
– 1 “Saucisson Alsacienne: Bacon Sausage with Creme Fraiche, Caramelized Onions and Tomme de Savoie Cheese”
– order of DUCK FAT FRIES

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One word: AMAZING.

To burn off the 3000+ calories we consumed at Hot Doug’s, we walked around the city.

First up on our walking tour was Millennium Park. We were in town for “Chopin in the Park”, a bi-centennial birthday celebration of Poland’s greatest composer, Frédéric Chopin. Perfect timing! Chicago is Warsaw’s sister city, which is why it was part of the celebration. We stopped to listen to a little boy play Waltz in D Flat Major, Op. 64, No. 1 (aka Minute Waltz) and Waltz in C Sharp Minor, Op. 64, No. 2. I recognized both pieces instantly – anyone who started playing piano at 4 years old and practiced 3 hours a day would.

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After Millennium Park, we made our way to Buckingham Fountain (cue: love and marriage, love and marriage :)) …

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… and ended our walking tour at Willis Tower (aka Sears Tower), where my camera battery ran out after my first shot inside! BURN. Thank goodness for back-up point and shoot!

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We also used our metro passes to visit the United Center, home of the Chicago Bulls and the 2010 Stanley Cup Champions, the Chicago Blackhawks.

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While Chicago is certainly beautiful during the day, it is even more so at night. Chicago has the most breathtaking skyline I’ve seen so far. Even better than NYC. YES, I said it!

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The above is my best attempt at a panorama. Taking pictures at night without a tripod is hard enough, but on a moving boat? Forget about it 😦 Anyway, we were on a boat for a fireworks cruise. During the summer (~Memorial Day through Labor Day), there is a fireworks show every Wednesday and Saturday night at Navy Pier. Sure, you can experience the fireworks show for free at Navy Pier, but with a cruise, you can sit back, relax and soak in some history, all while enjoying a breathtaking view of Chicago. At ~$30/pp, Lake/River boat tours may seem like a tourist traps, but I highly recommend them!

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Trivia time!

In what direction does the Chicago River flow?
a) West to East, towards Lake Michigan
b) East to West, away from Lake Michigan
c) Both directions

Well, according to the research of the Civil and Environmental Engineering department at the University of Chicago, Urbana-Champaign, the answer is c) both since it is believed the surface flows away from Lake Michigan while deep, deep below, the flow is in the opposite direction because of a density current. Anyway, the original flow of the river was West to East, towards Lake Michigan, but engineers reversed the river flow in the 1900s due to concerns regarding the pollution of the city’s water source.

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Between the Chicago River and Lake Michigan lies the Chicago Harbor/River Lock. This device allows boats to easily transition from the lower water level of the river to the higher water level of the lake. That’s right! I got my learn on 😀

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Ok so, you can’t go to Chicago and not have a deep dish pizza, right?! Right. Since I’ve never had deep dish pizza before, we went to Giordano’s for lunch, waited about an hour for a table, and guess what? After one bite, I decided: I HATE DEEP DISH PIZZA! It’s really an abomination to the pizza I grew up with and love. The crust in the middle of the pizza was mushy, there was too much sauce that wasn’t seasoned properly and worst of all, you can’t eat this kind of pizza with your hands. Yea, I know I’m being Captain Obvious with my last point, but seriously, how awful is that?! There’s a time and place to be prim and proper and eating a pizza is not one of those times.

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Well, this trip was certainly different than our past trips since it was heavily based around food. And while I loved this food tour of ours, I did find myself missing the outdoor activities. For our next annual trip, I’m going to try to have more of a balance between food and the outdoors. Life is all about balance 🙂

——–
Chicago Eats (+our verdict):
Hot Doug’s, 5/5
Giordano’s, 2.5/5
Blue 13, 3/5

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