Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Chicago Part Deux

Chi Town Part Two

While my hubby caught an extra hour sleep I indulged in one of my favorite hotel activities…a bath! I turned down the television that my hubby was, “watching” snuck into the bathroom being careful not to make too much noise, closing the bathroom door so the sound of the running water would not wake him from his much needed, woke-up-early and drank a couple too many gin and tonics slumber. Just standing in the bathroom alone with the sound of the water charging into the tub, splashing around and starting to fill the room with steam made me feel a little more relaxed. There had been so much stimulation over the past two days; this tiny bit of alone time was exactly what I needed. I lowered my body into the too hot water with the usual, “Oh ouch o wow too hot” song that gave way to a deep sigh once I leaned back and let the hot water spill over my shoulders….ahhhhhh.

Once washed of the Wrigley grime and heavy metal burger bar grease I came alive again, ready for another night exploring Chicago. I emerged from the bathroom just in time to see the hubby pop up to answer his phone. It was Amy’s husband wondering where we were, “No we are still in the room, Sam took a bath so she needs to get ready” no mention of course of his 2 hour nap….nope, it’s my bath that has us still in the room….silly boys. “Give us thirty minutes or so and we will head in your direction” one husband said to another and I popped a bottle of 2007 Muga Rosato to whet my whistle while I reapplied my make-up and slipped into a slightly more evening appropriate outfit….jeans, white shirt, pink tie and pink flip-flops, a touch SoCal but it was comfy and as I saw nothing but bars and fried food in my future I deemed it “fancy enough”. Maybe it was the Muga that inspired the evenings “pink” theme, the wine tasted so refreshing, slightly stony, and full of tart strawberry and vibrating with lovely acidity….so tasty, along with the bath I was refreshed and had a new bounce in my step.

We pushed through the revolving door and let the assault of sound that is the Chicago at 9:45 pm on a Friday night, (or any time of day honestly) get us fired up even more. We began our 8 block hike towards Michigan Ave, two blocks up and both our phones were going off, his was a call from Amy’s husband, “Where are you?! We are at a wine bar called CRU meet us here”, mine was a text message from my importer friend telling me that dinner would probably wind down around 10:30 or 11:00 so if I was up to it having a drink was very doable….sweet!

We huffed and puffed our way up to Rush and Delaware where our fellow travelers were already tucked inside the wine bar, Amy sipping away on a Cremant d’Alsace. We slipped in beside them and I ordered a glass of Sancerre in an effort to restore some of the moisture to my palate. “So what did you two do for the last couple hours” I asked and sat there sipping on my lovely crisp dry white wine while they told us all about their long nap and how ready they were to bar hop on Rush street. I had just started making fun of Amy’s husband, who had earlier in the afternoon called us all a rather unflattering gender specific name for merely suggesting that a nap might be in order when my phone went off again…..”At Pops, a very hip Champagne bar why don’t you come meet us here” it was my importer buddy again. I wanted to go but, 1) I still had wine in my glass and I never walk away from Sancerre and 2) Just where was Pops located….right freaking across the street from my hotel that I had just walked from…dammit! Sent a, “Give me 30 minutes text” and finished my glass of wine and chatting with my crew at Cru. Gotta tell you, it was a sweet little spot, low lights, high bar….very comfortable with a refinement that was very soft and inviting….wish I could have stayed longer but alas I had a very dear friend to see and I was looking forward to being near someone that was really, “feeling” the Didier sadness that I was.

I left my husband in the very fun and capable hands of our pals, slid my glass across the bar, hugs, kisses and “have fun” all around and I bounced out of the wine bar and hailed a cab back to where I came from….was so not walking back. First of all I was now way past the 30 minutes I had asked for and secondly I had a sinking suspicion that I would be making the trek back up to Rush Street with the new group of pals. The cab dropped me off across the street from Pops and I saw the group, they seemed like they were in the middle of some kind of deep conversation so I opted to have a cigarette before entering. I stood outside chatting with the parking attendant, saw a drug deal go down and started getting even more nervous about entering the Champagne bar….the people coming and going were pretty dressed up and here I was in pink freaking flip-flops and I feared that my entering may disturb the little meeting I had seen. I decided to be a grown up and headed for the door, last minute freak-out and I slipped past the door and around the corner peering into the window on my way around….yup still locked in brow furrowed conversation, shit now what?!

I pulled the phone from my bag and called a friend back home, explained the situation and she simply said, “He invited you so I am sure they are expecting you” I agreed but then mentioned my shoes to which she asked, “How far are you from you hotel?”….”Um across the street” I told her and before she could say it I denounced myself a jackass, got off the phone took a deep breath and walked in. Told the hostess that I was meeting a group that was already there and she let me pass, didn’t even notice my kicks….hooray and just then I saw a guy, big guy in shorts and a t-shirt at the bar, feeling ever more like a giant retard I found my buddy and took a seat at their high table. The space between the table and the wall was narrow…..I’m not so it took a bit of wiggling and scooching down of the stool before I could finally take a seat, if I was worried about intruding before, this little chair dance of mine was making me feel like the entertainment!

Introductions were made, the last glass from their second bottle of Champagne was handed to me and I was finally able to just chill. I sipped away on my glass of bubbles and tried to engage the others in conversation, my buddy I knew these other two I did not but as my questions sat out there either un answered or slowly answered it became clear to me….these dudes were a touch pickled! They were not locked in deep conversation, they were trying to understand what the others were saying….awesome. My friend seemed fine, (or maybe I am just used to seeing him in this state….or he is better at it) but man o man the other two….wow. As they told me about all the amazing wines they had shared at dinner I started to feel like the only kid on the football team with a clean uniform….I wasn’t in the game! The server approached to see what the plan was and welcome me to the table….he was so sweet, he could tell that the others were way ahead of me, he brought me a shot and a glass of Laurent Perrier….bless him.

As the minutes ticked by I could see that this party was going to be coming to a close in the very near future, one guy left the table no less than 3 times in 20 minutes….poor thing, I was feeling a touch sad as I was only here to share a drink with a buddy in honor of Didier Dagueneau and it was looking like it was so not happening, just then my pal leaned in and said, “I believe you and I have a bar to find and a shot of Whisky in our future” I lit up like a pinball machine. The invitation was extended to the rest of the table and there was only one taker, although I think it was an unwise choice for this poor cat….he was having an enunciation issue and more booze may not have been the cure I would have chosen….but whatever I’m not his mother so let’s get this show on the road guys!

We walked…..and walked, I swear we must have stumbled on the only street in downtown Chicago that did not have an Irish pub on it, before my pal and our apparent guide on this little adventure took us to a place he had been to earlier in the week. This joint was packed with drunk twenty-something’s spilling out of the few booths they had, dancing, (read grinding) with each other and living it up on a balmy Chicago evening. I took the lead and found a spot at the bar….no seats but not to worry the floor was so sticky I don’t think I could have peeled my flip-flops off the floor anyway. I ordered 4 shots of Jamison and two beers, two shots and a beer for my friend, two shots for me and just a beer for our verbally challenged guest. “I said one shot Sam” I was being scolded but I came back with, “Two for Didier, he would have had two” glasses clinked and Whisky gone.

Even though I was scolded there was another round, to share his preferred Whisky, Bushmills and the bartender bought us a round of Powers to round out our flight of Irish Whisky….can I tell you this Irish girl was very warm and fuzzy, due in some part to the Whisky but mostly because I was able to have this moment, with this friend that was responsible for introducing me to both Didier Dagueneau as a person and for sharing his wines with me on many many occasions….just felt a bit like a fitting sendoff and a proper way to say goodbye. I bid farewell to my importer friends and took a cab back to my hotel, my husband rolled in a couple hours later and we spent the next day sleeping in and just hanging in our room. A very relaxed day that was much needed.

We met the group later that evening for dinner at a highly recommended Mexican place, (we were going to go to Frontera where we had been before and LOVED the food but read this place was better….not) the service was pretty bad, (started when they would not let us open the two bottles of Champagne we brought, not a big deal but they were way snooty about it) and they had premade tortillas…..rest of the food was fine but not worth the price and left me wishing we had stuck to our plans to go to Frontera. It was not a horrible dining experience but I would not go back and it was the one and only time we left a tip that was less than 20%...they tacked on a 18% tip because we were a party of 5….5….really? Well okay then with the service this crappy you can have that 18% and we will be on our way.

We found a little neighborhood bar that let us open one of the bottles of Champagne for$10.00 corkage…woo hoo!! So while the guys had their cocktails Amy and I had icy cold glasses of Billiot Latetita, so rich and full in the mouth with tons of buttered toast and a tart apple skin finish, didn’t take long before the bottle was gone and we were on our way back to our hotels to get some sleep before the Bears game the next morning.

The guys woke early again to head to Solider Field and partake in the whole, Bears tailgating thing….funny story, no booze in Chicago before 11:00 am on Sunday, so while Amy and I were snuggled away in our roomy hotel beds these two were carting around an empty cooler and just waiting for the game to start…awww poor boys….(snicker). I got ready, touched base with Amy and flagged down a cab, “We will be making two stops. One to Michigan Ave at a hotel and then Solider Field” I told the cabby and whoosh…we were off. I had tucked away another bottle of Champagne, Jean Milan Carte Blanche in my purse and Amy had found two Styrofoam cups, (she and I were so on the same page) to share at the, “tailgating”. We were plopped off in front of the stadium and we called my hubby to figure out where to go. We were informed about the lack of tailgating and that was when I was told, “Yeah there may be a problem with our seats”.

We purchased our tickets online and as Amy and I glugged our styro cups of Champagne my mind was racing with what the problem might be. We finished our bubbles, (I would write a review but the cups imparted a tad too much flavor for me to write something honest) and made our way into the stadium. This was my first ever NFL game and I was a giant bubble of energy, my head was spinning this way and that, my heart was pounding and when I saw the field I was damn near exploding! We got to the right section about 15 minutes before the game was to begin, hugs to the hubbies and a, “So what is the deal with our seats” from me….that is when I saw where we were standing….in the handicapped section. Amy and her husband made their way to their seats while my hubby and I discussed the “situation”. I looked at where my seat was and saw what the problem might be, there was a young man in a wheelchair, hooked up to a feeding tube and a little monitor where he could push buttons to let his father know what he needed, I think he may have had Cerebral Palsy…..”We can stand” I told my husband and he was more than willing to do the same. Just then an usher came over and looked at our tickets, “They are in your seats. You paid good money for these they need to move” she barked at us and made her way to the poor kid and began asking them to move…..I pictured myself going straight to hell and blurted out to my husband, “Make it stop!” and he ran over to stop this woman from tossing this kid and his Dad. “We will sit in another seat and if someone needs it we will stand, it really is not a problem” we assured the usher and she begrudgingly allowed us to settle into other seats. Worked out fantastic and it was so much fun even if the Bears did lose.
We filed out of the stadium, I called Mairin and we all met at Lou Malnati’s, our favorite pizza in Chicago, those deep dish sausage pizzas with all that cheese, butter crust and chopped tomato are so good we even have them shipped to us in Southern California…could not wait for Amy to try it!

Two pies later we were in a higher end pub called English, (Motto, eat well drink better) saying our goodbyes to Mairin who had to leave and get ready for her Monday workday. We were all so tired as we had crammed so much stuff into so few days but we were not yet ready to end the evening. After a bit of wandering we found ourselves at our hotel in the Weber Grill restaurant bar sipping on Martinis with blue cheese stuffed olives….such a fitting end to a world-wind of a long weekend in an amazing city. We ended up closing the place, giving each other big hugs and wishing each other a safe flight home. The hubby pretty much fell into bed but I sat up, icy cold glass of 2006 Vieux Prunier Sancerre in my hand looking over the city from our 18th floor window.

I let the grassy, white stone laden wine wash the Gin from my palate and tried to burn the memories of the trip on my brain…..did not want to forget one moment. I started the trip with a profound sadness and ended it feeling really tired but full of life….and love. Good friends, great memories and people that touch your heart….nothing else in the world like it.

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