Alison came into town on Friday night and began the fun. We popped open that bottle of Grand Mark that we bought on our Michigan wine tasting a couple weeks back and made almond crusted baked brie with honey/balsamic reduction and a lentil-quinoa salad. It was the perfect meal. I do need to perfect the process of making that brie (read: shorten), but otherwise it's a nice dinner to pair with wine and something light for summer.
Here's the brie I made back in August of 2010 for a baby shower I hosted. Hah. 2010 was likely the beginning and end of baby showers for me. Something else I've lost out on. Super.
We watched the movie Just Go With It and it was terrible. Not recommended.
Saturday was devoted to lazy river and magazine reading. We grabbed sandwiches and drove about 20 miles away from my house to a water park that boasts the second longest lazy river in Illinois! If I could find the park with the longest, I'd probably go there... but it's too hard to find online. It was the case where we weren't supposed to take in outside food or beverages, but did anyway. Because 16-year-olds are working the joint. We ate on our lounge chairs and enjoyed our lazy strolls through the water before settling on our lounge chairs and people-watching the rest of the day. I will be going back when my SIL comes to town in a week.
Wrong place at the wrong time, buddy.
That night we had dinner in downtown Naperville at one of our favorite little places, Kuma's Asian Bistro. Except of course when you plan to bring someone, the food is never as good--as was the case this night. The drinking started there and we finished it off with margaritas at out house.
Sunday, we headed downtown to The Taste of Chicago. This was my first Taste experience. For the most part, I enjoyed it. Off the train we headed straight to XOCO, one of Rick Bayless' restaurants. We ate at Frontera when I was super, happily pregnant in late October and attempted to at least grab a churro from this street-food style joint. Notsolucky. Apparently they're closed Sundays and Mondays. Speaking of closed a lot... our favorite (and only) German restaurant in the 'burbs is closed for 3 weeks. They're only open dinners and closed Sunday and Monday, too. How very European of them. Three weeks is a lifetime in America, especially for a restaurant that probably grosses over $25,000 a day. Crazy. We then headed down Michigan Avenue in search of more food.
What's better than to be able to try about 5-6 different types of food for lunch/dinner? Prepare for my full menu and commentary, here.
For taste portions, most were 4 tickets ($2) with ~$.67 charge for maintenance, etc.. Some were 3 tickets and a select few were 2.
Homemade wheat tortilla veggie taco from Carbon with a medium tomatillo salsa. My first and favorite of the day.
Next up, hummus, falafel, and pita from Alhambra Palace. We later had falafel sandwiches with Jerusalem salad for dinner (Not pictured. Gasp. I know.) It wasn't quite to par with Naf Naf, our fave, but it was decent. The hummus was delish and the falafel, good, but the pita was lacking.
Star of Siam's pad thai veggie noodles. Meh.
Tuscany's toasted cheese ravioli. Quite delish!
Bud Light Limes. Not bad...
Cheese and corn empanada from Adobo Grill. Super fried... I know.
Love my happy husband. Seriously the only thing that gets me through the day sometimes.
Vermilion's mango dusted fries with tamarind chutney and chimichurri sauce. AMAZING.
This was happy husband's interest also from Vermilion: grilled chicken kabab with tomatillo, potato and charred onions.
I have no idea what he ordered, but I know they were two fudge samples from Ryba's Fudge Shop. He ate them faster than I could see!
My thoughts on The Taste: It was great to try out a bunch of foods, tapas-style for lunch. It was even more fun to walk around and have a mixed bag of all types of food. It also allowed for trying things you may not normally try (for fear of disappointment/dislike). Being a veggie, I loved that no one had to conform to my interests because we all had the chance to try what we wanted on the cheap.
My main issue: The famous, popular, fantastic, beloved, interesting, well-known restaurants of Chicago were not included in any of the tastes! I expected Rick Bayless to have a showing. Nope. Poor quality pizza joints and little to no Italian beef showing. I felt it could be called The Taste of ANYWHERE in the US. I also wanted more Indian food and there was a lacking in that department.
We headed down to Michigan Avenue (before obviously heading back to The Taste for an early dinner, aka use the rest of our tickets on falafel pitas and fresh watermelon) for some shopping. Ray headed back to the train so he could meet our friend Derrick for golf. We grabbed our pitas after shopping and got lost on our way back to the train. I get lost without my husband with me. I'm impossible. We did make it back in time and actually got seats. Miracle. Not gonna lie though... it was stressful. If we didn't make the 6:35 train, we'd have to wait til 8:35. Um, no thanks.
Monday was all about relaxing, shopping the outlets, and eating/drinking again. I had a craving for veggie tacos and decided to make some for lunch before we headed off for the day. I made homemade tortillas since we bought this bad boy, grilled up some onions, green chilis and heated some black beans. I also made a quick salsa puree for the top. We walked Downtown Wheaton and visited a cute tea shop and I had my first Hibiscus iced tea. It was delicious! No photo, but it was amazing. It had a salty taste and it was addicting, despite obviously having no salt. Nummers. We were getting hungry and decided to hit up Downtown Naperville for margarita Mondays at Front Street Cantina. In general, their food sucks. But... we figured their margaritas and some nachos would do the trick. How can you screw up nachos, right? Well, the Germans used kidney beans and that was definitely a fail. But Front Street... well... they shocked me.
They used MOZZARELLA cheese on our nachos! Not cheddar. Not jack. Not Chihuahua. Nor pepper jack. Not white cheddar. Not cheese sauce. Mozzarella. Friggin' weird.
Once we received them, I took two bites before turning to Alison and asking, "Is that brie cheese?" She then ate an isolated piece and laughed. "No, it's mozzarella!" It wasn't awful, just not what we expected or would've chosen. To make matters even more confusing, the guy outside was also having nachos with cheddar cheese. Did he know to ask for the proper cheese? Oye. Thank heaven for $4 margaritas. Alison and I have a long history of nachos and margarita-drinking. In true form, we made sure to indulge in our favorites.
I've all but given up in finding solid Mexican food in this town. Thankfully we have Chipotle and I know how to replicate some of my favorite meals.
We headed home, got ready, and headed to dinner. We had Buona for the first time. It's equivalent to a Panera, but mostly Italian food. It's owned by the Portillo's brothers. Buona is a bit nicer than Portillo's though.
Tired of me talking about food? How about grief?
I've come to the main conclusion that I'm just a crappier friend. I wish I didn't suck the fun out of everything, but I feel like I can't help it. I slap on my shiny-happy face and practically pass out into my bed at night from the sheer exhaustion of burying my sadness and emotion. At 7 months out from losing our baby, people don't want to see or hear you cry out anymore. Not one is plainly telling me that (as they likely know I'd have a serious backlash), but I feel it. I feel that I'm so separate from who I used to be and so separate from caring about things I used to enjoy. Except maybe food.
We had a nice time, but I sure do miss the Brandy who used to be. Who used to fall asleep with that stupid plastic smile on her face.
p.s. Blogger is a jerk because I had to login and logout of Blogger to upload photos about 5 times. So it landed itself in my title. Jerk.