Chicago in the Summer

Have you ever touched dry ice before? Suddenly, there’s a searing cold that borders the line between freezing and burning, and you’re not sure if you want to scream or curl into a ball and rock back and forth silently.  That’s the feeling that I associated with visits to Chicago before this weekend.

Yes, I could mostly thaw my bitter heart with the warmth of my friends and loved ones that I was staying with, but as a Carolina girl for seven years, my delicate sensibilities regarding temperature were finely tuned to mild winters and scorching summers. I could handle that. “Cold” in Chicago is a different beast entirely. There aren’t enough layers I could possibly wear to prepare me for outdoor adventures, and I become bear-like in my desire to hibernate in a cave (or near a fire place, if the opportunity presents itself).

I'll just be over here reading. Seeing the sights be damned.

I’ll just be over here reading. Seeing the sights be damned.

This weekend, I emerged from my Chicago cocoon, shedding puffy jackets and elbow-length gloves in favor of thigh-grazing jorts and sheer, gauzy tops that cling to your skin, giving the illusion of wearing nothing at all (I wore bandeaus and tank tops, though, because nip slips aren’t cute in any city). The blossom of the city of Chicago opened up and presented me with a fragrant, vibrant experience rich with sights and sounds. Dogs barking, birds chirping, children pushing the buttons of their handyman father who desperately wanted to use Sunday afternoon to fix that loose step on the deck.

The beautiful backyard at Bang Bang Pie Shop

The beautiful backyard at Bang Bang Pie Shop

Due to some leftover points from Southwest and a freebie I obtained earlier this summer from Spirit Airlines, I managed to visit four airports in an equal amount of days (Atlantic City to O’Hare, Midway to Philadelphia) in a super cheap trip to that old Windy City. True to form, the city continued to be delicious, but the escapes from the confines of Caitlin’s condo were more frequent, and far more enjoyable.

Mmm, pork.

Mmm, pork. 

Our weekend began the way most excellent weekends should: with a giant pile of meat. A trip to Lillie’s Q was in order to reconnect with the gals I met on my last visit as well as my inner cave-woman who likes her meat like she likes her men; served on a slab and accompanied by various sauces and gooey mac & cheese (and now you know what most of late-night fantasies revolve around.) Everything was delicious, and then acted like an edible lullaby as I knocked out the moment I hit the pillow.

Sing me to sleep, sweet potato fries.

Sing me to sleep, sweet potato fries.

The rest of the weekend was filled with delicious treats and lots of outdoor time (a concept that seemed novel in trips previous to this one).

A trip to Revolution Brewing‘s tasting room was inevitable.

Hardcore

Hardcore

Rosa (Hibiscus Ale), A Little Crazy (Belgian Pale Ale), Black Power (Stout, baby)

Rosa (Hibiscus Ale), A Little Crazy (Belgian Pale Ale), Black Power (Stout, baby)

Logan Square Farmer’s Market for tasty treats

Tacos... for BREAKFAST!

Tacos… for BREAKFAST!

Retro on Roscoe, a throwback-style street festival featuring cool jams from the 90s, and shenanigans from NOW!

Thanks, Instagram!

Thanks, Instagram!

I even got a textured football for impromptu back massages.

Looks like it feels good, right?

Looks like it feels good, right?

And we ended the weekend off in the best POSSIBLE way: a jaunt to Bang Bang Pie Shop for (what else) PIE! And a biscuit.

Want this. Stat.

Want this. Stat.

"Summer Pie" featuring a graham cracker crust, sage ice cream, lemon curd, macerated blackberries, and a little of my drool on top because of extreme salivation.

“Summer Pie” featuring a graham cracker crust, sage ice cream, lemon curd, macerated blackberries, and a little of my drool on top because of extreme salivation.

Now that I’ve been spoiled by a Chicago summer weekend, I’m not sure if I could bear to return in the dark hours of winter…. Though there’s one thing that always keeps me coming back.

True Love: Friends since Tockwogh!

True Love: Friends since Tockwogh!

Now, to go bask in the remaining days of my “summer” in Philly (is it summer? Because this weather feels very Autumnal…)

 

 

 

 

 

Tasting Chicago

True Life: Of the past 44 hours, 18 have been spent Living Socially. My job is the most fun.  But now that I’m home, cozied up in sweats and slippers, I am fully ready to live anti-socially for a bit. And what’s more anti-social than blogging about myself?

Don’t answer that.

When we last me, I regaled you with tales of my trip to Chicago but, more specifically, to the Goose Island Brewpub. And, don’t get me wrong, that was delicious. But, let’s be honest, no trip to Chi-town would be complete without a solid amount of edible adventures, in addition to the boozier ones. And thus, with empty bellies and a full itinerary, my buddy, Katie, and I hit the ground running in hopes to eat our way through some Chicago specialities on our very own self-guided food tour of Wicker Park and the Loop.

First up: The Bristol for some brunch…

We have arrived.

We have arrived.

Or really, for some duck fat fries.

A bright start to the day

A bright start to the day

Katie, a fanatic for all things duck fat (or really, duck-related), has been eyeing these puppies for a bit. And, when the opportunity to dip crispy fries into mayo-disguised-as-aioli, who am I to say no?

For $5, this portion was generous, and came served with a side of housemade ketchup (which was a little thick for my liking) and tossed with herbs (which were right up my alley). But, honestly, these were the type of fries that would’ve been a-okay even without dipping sauce, the kind that have you licking your fingers and contemplating licking the plate clean of any niblets.

I couldn’t resist the Moscow Mule on the menu, so I guess this day wasn’t entirely booze free.

That's so Jordan.

That’s so Jordan.

This Mule was made with American Harvest Vodka, fresh lime juice, and Barritt’s Ginger Beer, and served in what looked like an adorable tin or copper mug, this cocktail was refreshing, light, and chock-full of ginger taste. I’m into that. I’m real into that.

Our tongues coated in salt and savory taters, we decided our next stop should be something sweet. And what’s sweeter than hot chocolate on a freezing cold day?

Mindy’s Hot Chocolate might be my favorite concept for a brunch ever. Many tables were loaded with mimosas and bellinis and, I’ll admit, it was tough not to blow my load and eat everything on the menu. But I only had eyes for their hot chocolate. Each mug is served with a house-made marshmallow. And I went for the Mexican hot chocolate.

2/3 dark chocolate, 1/3 milk chocolate, fresh cinnamon and cayenne?

Please and thank you.

Please and thank you.

Spicy and sweet is one of my favorite flavor combinations, and this had the bonus of being creamy and piping hot. The marshmallow was a total game changer, and tasted phenomenal even without the hot chocolate (but definitely better with it…)

Katie went for something even more indulgent. The Black & Tan is 1/3 hot fudge and 2/3 medium hot chocolate.

I know, right?

Yes.

Yes.

I tasted a sip or two, and felt as though it was meant to be poured over ice cream. That, or directly into my gullet.

We took a little breather over at Casa de Sierra, author of Posh Meets Pavement AND former classmate from UNC , and I irresponsibly didn’t take any pictures. But check her out, she’s living locally in Chicago and, in her free time, travels the world and runs half-marathons. Crazy person.

Four hours later (ish. Felt like no time at all, the beauty of bonding with college friends), we were ready to revisit the world of treats. And, as I’d Yelped my way through the entirety of Chicago earlier (maybe a little less, but that’s what it felt like), I knew where we were headed next.

Magnolia Bakery for their infamous banana pudding. Katie went for a B&W cupcake.

I won this game.

I won this game.

Full disclosure: The cupcake was meh. Nothing to write home about, in my humble opinion, but that didn’t bother me. I’ll tell you why.

This banana pudding was about as life-changing as I think banana pudding can be. I feel like, despite having many experiences with banana pudding before, I have never truly tasted it before this banana pudding.

You might think I’m exaggerating.

I am not.

This is the banana pudding by which all future banana puddings will be judged. The bar has been set, banana pudding. I’m calling you out, and you must be pillowy, flavorful, full of bananas, fluffy, and also made with love.

That’s all.

Road pudding

Road pudding

And, I know it was a little out of order, all that dessert before dinner, but that’s the reason we became grown-ups, right?

We knew what we needed to eat for dinner. It was meaty, it was cheesy, and, of course, held in a deep dish.

IMG_9290

Pizano’s Pizza was, quite simply, the closest spot with solid deep dish pizza reviews. But we were SO pleased.

The crust tasted almost like a savory pie dough. The sauce was super-flavorful. But I think my FAVORITE part was the cheese. It was like…. cartoon cheese.

Let me elaborate. You know in cartoons you watched as a kid (or yesterday), when they’d order a giant cheesy pizza and, when the characters grabbed a slice, the cheese would go on forever?

Cheese me.

Cheese me.

It was that kind of cheese. And it was PERFECT.

After we waddled our way back to Katie’s home and sat back in full-belly bliss, I appreciated Chicago cuisine utterly and completely.

And then, I shamelessly grabbed another spoonful of banana pudding.

Chicago, you did me dirty. I loved every bite, and I can’t wait to come back.

What cartoon food would you LOVE to taste in real life?

Ever had a dessert that rocked your world quite like that banana pudding?