Sunday, August 18, 2013

Chi-Town, continued

The Purple Pig
Day 5
Early morning found me back at the Gleacher Center for another half day of sessions. We broke for a pretty late lunch. I had been trying to get a meal at The Purple Pig all week, but it was always too much of a wait. (And they don't take reservations. Sigh.) Because I was stopping by at an off-time, I was able to walk right in and get a seat at the bar!

I had the pork shoulder, served on a small bed of mashed potatoes, and then I also got a bowl of peas with bacon and croutons. YUM. The peas were bright and lemony, and the pork shoulder was meltingly tender. (I would've liked a bit more mashed potatoes, but I suppose a girl can't have everything.)

Navy Pier
After eating, I decided to walk out to Navy Pier. It was a bright, clear day. The carnival barkers were out, children played in the fountains, and the ferris wheel spun against a blue, blue sky. I enjoyed the views and popped into the free Stained Glass Museum. It offers a dazzling collection of stained glass doors, windows, and other decorative panels.

On the afternoon of day 5, hubs flew up to the city to join me for a few days. After a quick rest, we headed to Rick Bayless' Frontera Grill for supper. We'd made reservations for an early dinner. (And I was glad we had, because by the time we left, the line stretched around the street corner!) We had an AWESOME waiter (full of great personality, with a remarkable handlebar mustache) who gave us excellent recommendations. As we sipped our mojitos, we sampled lots of goodies: the street food trio, the ceviche, a bowl of deliciously flavored green beans, and an amazing creamy squash dish. We finished off with a seasonal berry shortcake for dessert. It was a marvelous meal, and service was prompt, knowledgeable, and FUN!

After that, it was back to the hotel. Hubs was beat from a day of traveling, so we turned in early.

Sky Deck!
Day 6
We started with a quick breakfast at Starbucks so we could arrive at Willis Tower EARLY. We were there about 20 minutes before it opened, and we watched the line get longer and longer the closer it got to opening time. We bought tickets for the Sky Deck, then zoomed up to the 107th floor for some of the best views of Chicago. You can see 4 states from up there! It was a clear, sunny day, and my legs trembled a bit as I stepped onto the Sky Deck. (You're kinda fighting centuries of biological instinct to do it! Hubs kept saying, "Do I see some cracking in the plexiglass?" as I stood on the clear surface. A comedian, that one!) It was wild! We took lots of photos and oohed and aahed and picked out landmarks below.

Chagall's America Windows
Then, it was off to the Chicago Art Institute. We got there shortly before it opened and lined up. (You will adore the homeless man who comes out to sell copies of Streetwise Magazine shortly before the museum opens. He sells the publication for $2 each to help support himself and tells tons of schlocky jokes!) After a quick stop to purchase our tickets, it was off to American Gothic. (I found it very dour. The subjects looked Puritanical and unhappy.) We also spent some time in the Indian, Asian, and Himalayan art collections. We sat for a while in front of Chagall's America Windows, which are a nice echo of his Four Seasons installation in front of Chase Tower. In the Greek/Roman/Byzantine statuary collection, I found faces I recognized from our trip to Italy last year. (My old friend Hadrian!) I'm also positive that the gorgeous gold body chain I photographed in the British Treasures exhibit would have looked GREAT on me.

Armor at the Art Institute
Tummies rumbling, we went in search of food. A museum employee (from Clarksdale, Miss., no less!) directed us to a beautiful open-air courtyard on the museum campus, where we lunched next to a bubbling fountain and fed our extra bread to sweet little ducks. Brian ordered chicken, and I had a delightful eggplant sandwich.

Refreshed, it was off to the modern wing. Up on the third floor, we explored an extensive Picasso collection, as well as work by Kandinsky, Dali, and Miro. Then, it was off to the Impressionists. Monet's Water Lilies and Stacks of Wheat series, Van Gogh's Bedroom and Self Portrait, and the vibrant, saturated work of Renoir. Eager for a change of pace, we decided to check out the historic armor. We finished up on the lower level with the Thorne Miniature Rooms. What fun! So precise, so perfect, appointed beautifully with a slavish devotion to detail.

After all that, we were POOPED! (And honestly, there's so much we didn't even cover. You could spend days in the Art Institute and still not see everything.) It was back to the hotel for a rest before we ventured out again.

It starts HERE! Who'd a thunk?
That evening, I'd booked us a reservation at Russian Tea Time (right across the street from the Art Institute, and, incidentally, right where Route 66 starts) for dinner in honor of hubs' 39th birthday. What a great find! We decided to get the sample platter for 2 and a couple of glasses of wine. We got to try so many different treats! On the appetizer platter, we had steamed dumplings (mmmmmmm), stuffed mushroom caps, carrot salad, tabbouleh (with no tomatoes or onions, and some different spices than what we use to make it at home), hummus, shredded beets, and all kinds of yumminess. My favorites were the dumplings with garlic yogurt and the hummus. I also loved the beets on a slice of dark rye bread with a dollop of sour cream on top. (I decided it would make a fantastic appetizer for a party.)

Then, we had a big main course platter. The stroganoff and the big chicken meatball were both amazing. The stuffed cabbage reminded me of my mom's stuffed squash. We waved off dessert, but the waiter knew it was hubs' birthday, so he brought us a free piece of chocolate strudel with a candle in it. Needless to say, we walked very S-L-O-W-L-Y back to the hotel!

Final installment to come . . .

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