For the first time, Linda and I both were able to spend a month in Chicago together this summer. It was fun to kick back and chill in River North. A bum left calf and foot kept me from walking all around town like I love to do, but we were able to use Lyft to explore many new restaurants. Our favorite discoveries were the Cherry Circle Room, BLVD and Mexique. Biggest flops were mfk, Tavern on Rush and Proxi.
The highlight of the trip, and the event I planned the schedule around, was Paul McCartney playing at Tinley Park. It’s a bit of a hassle to get to Tinley park, which is in the suburbs about an hour away, but we rented a car and it was definitely worth the trip.
It was hard to believe Sir Paul is 75 years old! He played an energetic set without a break for two and a half hours, then came back and did a thirty-minute encore. The sound and staging was great, and often spectacular:
McCartney played nearly forty of his best songs, ending with my all-time favorite Beatles suite from Abbey Road:
Full setlist for Paul McCartney at Tinely Park Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre, July 25, 2017:
A Hard Day’s Night
Can’t Buy Me Love
Let Me Roll It
I’ve Got a Feeling / Hendrix Jam
Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five
Maybe I’m Amazed
We Can Work It Out
In Spite of All the Danger
You Won’t See Me
Love Me Do
And I Love Her
The Fool on the Hill
I Wanna Be Your Man
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!
Band on the Run
Back in the U.S.S.R.
Let It Be
Live and Let Die
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Hi, Hi, Hi
Carry That Weight
Every year, in preparation for their annual Bordeaux auction, Hart Davis Hart hosts a comprehensive Bordeaux tasting that offers an opportunity to taste two different vintages of nearly all the first and second growth Bordeaux, side by side.
This year’s vintages were particularly interesting, being of the same era but from very different years. 1989 produced tannic somewhat off balance wines for many wineries, while it was easy to make good wine in 1990. But in a couple of cases the 1989 turned out better than the 1990.
As in past years, among the first growths Cheval Blanc was at the top of my ratings, and Margaux at the bottom. Pamer, right next to Margaux, was significantly better than Margaux, especially in 1989, even though it is a second growth.
Here are my ratings of the forty wines:
89 Montrose 94 (remarkable balance for an 89)
90 Montrose 95
89 Cos d’Estournel 85 (bitter chocolate)
90 Cos d’Estournel 86
89 Lafite Rothschild 94
90 Lafite Rothschild 96
89 Mouton Rothschild 97
90 Mouton Rothschild 99
89 Latour 89
90 Latour 91
89 Lynch Bages 84 (pruny, overripe)
90 Lynch Bages 92
89 Grand-Puy-Lacoste 88
90 Grand-Puy-Lacoste 89
89 Pichon-Longueville, Baron 93
90 Pichon-Longueville, Baron 93-
89 Pichon-Longueville, Lalande 90
90 Pichon-Longueville, Lalande 91
89 Ducru-Beaucaillou 89
90 Ducru-Beaucaillou 90
89 Gruaud Larose 87
90 Gruaud Larose 83 (burnt rubber, truly awful)
89 Leoville Poyferre 85
90 Leoville Poyferre 86
89 Leoville Las Cases 88
90 Leoville Las Cases 89
89 Margaux 87
90 Margaux 89
89 Palmer 93+
90 Palmer 90
89 Haut-Brion 93
90 Haut-Brion 95
89 La Mission Haut-Brion 90
90 La Mission Haut-Brion 91
89 Angelus 91
90 Angelus 91 (these two were nearly identical)
89 Cheval Blanc 97
90 Cheval Blanc 99+
89 Troplong-Mondot 89
90 Troplong-Mondot 90
Only about half the wines are available at retail:
Chef Noah Sandoval and Pastry Chef Genie Kwon knocked it out of the park.
Speaking of knocking it out of the park, not the Chicago Cubs won the world series this week, after a 108 year drought, so it was a really fun week to be in Chicago. But that wasn’t even the most exciting thing happening at Oriole. On Monday they learned they received four nominations for Jean Banchet Awards for Culinary Excellence. Sommelier Aaron McManus was nominated for Best Sommelier and Genie Kwon was nominated for Best Pastry Chef. And the entire team was nominated for Best New Restaurant and Best Service!
But that wasn’t even the biggest news. On Wednesday the discovered that they had been awarded two Michelin stars, which is unheard of for a restaurant that has been open only seven month!
Never was an award so well deserved. This event even managed to surpass our previous dinner, which I would have thought impossible,
Sommelier Aaron McManus served the wines we brought and acted as a wonderful host.
This was the first time Oriole had guests bring in wines like these, so it was quite a treat for everyone.
Refer to this map:
Chicago is on the west shore of Lake Michigan. Much of the area along the lake is various parks, from Lincoln Park on the North to Millennium and Grant Parks on the south.
The downtown area is mostly high-rise businesses and is comprised of the one square mile of the Loop (so named because it is encircled by the Elevated train tracks). The Loop is bounded on the North and West by the Chicago River. North of the river is the one square mile River North, which is where a lot of the clubs, restaurants and residences are.
The East boundary of the Loop and River North is Michigan Avenue, and the part from the River northward is called the Magnificent Mile, because it’s where all the fancy stores are. This is Tourist Central.
The easiest and cheapest way to get from Orlando to Chicago is Southwest non-stop to Midway. Midway is a bit easier to navigate than O’Hare because it is smaller.
Uber works really well in Chicago, and is really cheap. But if you’re feeling adventurous it’s even cheaper to take the El, which is always $2.50. The El is the train system around Chicago. The different lines have colors. The blue line goes to O’Hare, the Orange line goes to Midway. The red line goes North/South and the Green line goes to the west. (The Red line is actually underground in downtown, like the tube in London.) Nearly everything converges on The Loop.
You buy a card that operates the turnstiles. You can get one and put money on it at major stations. The same card works for the buses. Google or Apple maps work well with the El
From the either airport to downtown is under an hour on the El, sometimes less on Uber (but not always).
Separate from the El is the Metra, the train that runs north to Wisconsin, but is not useful for local transportation.
There are also horse drawn carriages in the tourist area along the Magnificent Mile.
Things to Do
City Pass Chicago
If you plan to do several things, the City Pass combination ticket is the best deal. It includes:
Shedd Aquarium – VIP ENTRY
*Skydeck Chicago – FAST PASS
*The Field Museum – VIP ENTRY
*Museum of Science and Industry – VIP ENTRY OR 360 CHICAGO – EXPRESS ENTRY
*Art Institute of Chicago – FAST PASS OR Adler Planetarium – VIP ENTRY
I put an asterisk on the best choices.
Museum of Science and Industry
This is a great museum in a huge building that is the only survivor from the Chicago 1893 World’s Fair where the original Ferris Wheel debuted. That world’s fair was one square mile, and had 700,000 visitors on its closing day alone!
Must see things at the museum are the Coal Mine ride and the German U-Boat On-Board tour. These have specific admission times you select when you get your tickets. Allow at least 4 hours minimum.
The Art Institute of Chicago
Huge, HUGE art museum with an amazing impressionist collection by Renoir, Monet, Van Goghs, plus A Sunday on La Grande Jatte and Nighthawks. Even if you think you don’t know what those are, you do.
You can not even walk this whole museum in 8 hours, so be selective!
Dinosaurs, and all that natural history stuff. And did I mention DINOSAURS?
Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise
There are a number of Chicago River boat tours and even a number that focus on the city’s architecture, but this is the best one, because it has a docent from the Architecture Foundation doing the commentary. Even if you’re not that interested in architecture, it’s a great way to see the city and the river, all the way from Lake Michigan past the Sears Tower.
Chicago Loop Bridges
A retired engineer and bridge enthusiast conducts these very personal walking tours of all the different types of drawbridges along the Chicago River, and you get to go into one of the control towers that is now a museum. This is often a private tour.
If you don’t want to take the tour, you can just visit the museum:
Sears Tower (no one calls it Willis Tower)
Our condo is pretty tall, but this building is more than twice as tall. The tour, displays and glass floor of the skyjack are very popular attractions.
Lincoln Park Zoo
This is quite a pleasant zoo, and it also has a great restaurant in the park nearby, North Pond, which has a Michelin star (reservations essential).
There’s a new Ferris Wheel on the pier that gives quite a view of the skyline and lakeshore. This is also where lake cruises depart from. The dinner cruise is nice although the food is nothing special. During the summer there are Disney-quality fireworks every Wednesday and Saturday.
John Hancock Tower
There a great view here because the building is on the Magnificent mile at the lake shore. However you don’t need to pay for 360 Chicago. You can see the same view by having a drink at the Signature Lounge.
Richard H. Driehaus Museum
This mansion from the guided age is right in River North, and is the best preserved historic home I have ever been in. Elaborate marble, woodwork and tiffany glass look like they were installed yesterday. They host changing exhibits, too. When we went there was a collection of original cartoon artwork from 100 year old issues of Puck magazine.
The opulent Chicago Theatre used to be a movie palace, but now hosts major musical and comedy performers. During the day they offer great tours of the building, with lots of fascinating history.
Randolph Street is Chicago’s theatre district, where many shows open before going to Broadway, and where the touring productions come. The major theaters are the Oriental, the Cadillac, and the Goodman. To the north is Steppenwolf, and on Navy pier is the Shakespeare Theatre. There are also dozens of smaller theatres.
Museum of Broadcast Communications
This conveniently located museum will bring back memories of old TV programs, and has a comprehensive collection of radio history. It’s best for adults; there’s not much of interest for little kids.
Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio
About 30 minutes to the west of Chicago is Oak Park, where Frank Lloyd write built his own home and studio. It’s very extensive, and the tour shows how his work evolved over time. Be sure to book your tour in advance. There’s also a walking tour of the homes he designed in the surrounding neighborhood, but since you can’t go in those I would skip it. You can Uber for about $30 each way, or take the Green line and be there in 20 minutes or less.
Mars Cheese Castle
If you’re headed to Wisconsin, there’s no place quite like this.
If you have a car, it’s an hour drive to Indiana Wineries. Butler makes good wine from local grapes, and Shady Creek makes good wine from California grapes. Do not go to Anderson’s Orchards and Winery.
Tastebud Food Tours
A local entrepreneur runs some very good food oriented walking tours. I took one where the guide stayed in character as a socialite from the days of the 1893 World’s Fair. We visited a half dozen historic stops and had foods that were invented there. They also do brewery and distillery tours.
Live Music & Bars
Many, many places up and down Hubbard have live music.
Andy’s Jazz Club
Good food and drinks, $14 or $20 cover for live jazz. Shows at 5pm, 7pm, and 9:30-1am.
This restaurant and live music venue is also really into wine, and serves everything in Riedel stemware. The food is good, and they have different acts every night. During the summer there is also a casual outdoor version right on the Riverwalk.
Untitled Supper Club
500 Scotches, great cocktails, and good food and live music are all on offer in different rooms of this speakeasy-themed restaurant and bar.
Three Dots and a Dash
This is the best Tiki Bar you will ever go to. It’s not really on Clark. Enter the alley on Hubbard and follow the neon light to the door. Reservations essential. Even neater is the tiny Bamboo Room within Three Dots and a Dash. A separate, prepaid reservation is needed here. For fiifty dollars you get several custom made tiki drinks, or can have a rum tasting. Ask to sit at the bar so you can talk with the bartender as he makes your drinks.
Chicago has a dozen Michelin starred restaurants, but mostly I have ignored those, because they take months of planning to get into. These are some favorites by category.
Things to NOT eat in Chicago:
Deep dish pizza. You can get the same stuff at Giordano’s. When the Chicago magazine ratings come out, none of the top pizzas are deep dish.
Chicago style hot dogs. It’s nothing special, just on a poppy seed bun with a pickle, tomato and pepper. There are gourmet dogs in town that are better.
Mexican food. Some people like Rick Bayless’ Michelin-starred Topolobampo, or his adjacent Frontera Grill or Xoco, but I’m not impressed. Chicago really doesn’t have a great Mexican restaurant.
Best Restaurant in Town (and the country) – Oriole
The secret is out (two Michelin stars in the first 7 months) but the best place in town is Oriole. Reservations well in advance essential. Don’t be alarmed that it looks like a warehouse and you are entering off an alley.
French – La Sardine
Traditional French Bistro food, perfectly done.
New American – Cafe des Architects
In the Sofitel. The trick here is to put yourself in Chef’s hands and get the tasting menu. Amazing presentations, great price for the quality. Best to go here on a week night when the chef is bored.
Eclectic – Girl and the Goat
Stephanie Izzard’s flagship is always packed, but they hold some tables for people who didn’t get reservations two months in advance. Go at 4pm and have a drink in the bar.
Chinese – Imperial Lamian
Amazing Dim Sum. Also, you must have the Mixed Mushroom Lamian and the Jasmine Tea Smoked Ribs.
Hamburger – Au Cheval
The most famous hamburger in America is at Au Cheval, but good luck getting in. There are a few spinoffs called Small Cheval that are more accessible. But you can also get Au Cheval’s hamburger at a salad place(!) See below.
Salad – 3 Greens Market
This place has an enormous and fresh collection of salad bars, but they also serve Dillman’s famous pastrami sandwiches from another restaurant’s recipe, and the burger made famous at Au Cheval and voted best in the country. So something for everyone!
Sushi and Cocktails – Kumiko
Created by the folks behind the amazin Oriole, Kumiko was selected by Time magazine as one of the best 200 PLACES in the world–not just restaurants. Craft cocktails and creative Asian food. Best to try to reserve a seat at the bar. Even more exclusive is the downstairs Kikko with an omakase served at a small bar.
Pizza – Coalfire
The best pizza in Chicago is not Chicago Pizza, it’s Coalfire’s Pepperoni & Whipped Ricotta.
If you just was a slice, closer by, you can get one for $4 at Dough Bros.Try the spicy Roland.
Barbecue – Chicago q
Chicago q is not a joint, it’s actually a nice restaurant I’m not a fan of Midwestern barbecue sauces, I like a Southern style, which is more like wha they offer here. Try the barbecue sampler appetizer to see what you like; it comes with four sauces. They also have about 100 whiskeys and bourbons, and tasting flights of same.
Indian – Vermillion
This place is marching to their own drummer. It’s gourmet Indian unlike any you’ve had. The service is amiable but very whacked – just hang in there for the food.
Steak – Gibson’s Italia
There is almost a steakhouse in every block of River North. One of the most famous is Gibson’s, but this is a new location with a dramatic view of the river. Despite the name, it’s really about steaks, not Italian food.
Fish – GT Fish and Oyster
GT has the reputation of the best fish in River North.
Italian – RPM Italian
Run by Lettuce Entertainment, a very successful restaurant operator in Chicago, with dozens of great restaurants. Avoid the Michelin-starred Spiaggia.
Popcorn – Garrett’s
Famous for its Chicago Mix, which is half caramel popcorn, half cheddar cheese popcorn. It’s better than it sounds. There’s always a line, but it moves fairly fast.The one on Randolph in the Loop doesn’t usually have a lone.
Donuts – Stan’s
Chicago has some great donut places – Glazed & Infused, Do-Rite Donuts, and Firecakes. But my favorite is Stan’s (six locations), an import from Westwood Village in Los Angeles. You want an old fashioned buttermilk. (At Glazed and Infused you want a maple bacon; you enter through the Davanti Enoteca restaurant.)
Best Hotels in Chicago
Convenient Moderate Hotels
The Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile
Convenient Cheap Hotels
Hilton Garden Inn
A few years ago Linda and I attended a Riedel stemware seminar while on a Celebrity cruise. The premise of the seminar was that different shaped glasses make wines taste different.
We went in very skeptical but came out completely believers. So much so, in fact, that I ordered four sets of the glasses and have conducted the same seminar for my co-workers and members of my wine group. Everyone who has ever gone through it has been amazed at the effect that even small changes in the shape of the glass can make.
So when I heard that Riedel was conducting a seminar just a block from our Chicago condo I had to sign up for it again. Why? Becuase for $90 you get four excellent wines, and can keep the glasses they’re served in!
Dani and I attended last night, and even though the venue was less than ideal for wine tasting (outdoors, noisy band nearby) it was still impressive. We also discovered a few new things I hadn’t heard in the previous seminar:
- The wine smells different depending upon where in the glass you place your nose. This was particularly apparent with the sauvignon blanc, which smelled like grapefruit on either side and like yeast down in the center.
- The glasses are dishwasher safe, but don’t use soap, as a hot glass absorbs the soap and becomes cloudy when it cools. Because of their height, you need to put them on the bottom rack.
- The Riedel decanter that looks like a coiled cobra has an interesting property: if you turn it around at an angle once before you pour, it dispenses exactly one glass of wine.
Although The City Winery Riverwalk was packed last night, the seminar was undersubscribed, and they backfilled with random bystanders (who didn’t get to keep their glasses). This was a tactical error, because these folks weren’t really interested in the seminar, and yacked through what was already a difficult listening environment. However we did meet an interesting guy and his son who sat next to us, and talked with them at length afterward.
The wines selected for last night’s event were all superb, especially the chardonnay and pinot noir. They were chosen for their intense varietal character and winemaking style, and I would be happy to have any of them again:
- Matua Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand
- Beringer Luminus Chardonnay
- Etude Pinot Noir
- 2013 Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon
We picked the right weekends to visit Chicago. The weather was perfect. We originally scheduled this trip for our Next season tickets. The Alps-themed meal turned out to be lackluster, but we had a lot of fun anyway.
We visited the Art Institute of Chicago, which is HUGE. We even bought a season pass so Dani can go back with friends.
The next weekend we took the “L” to the west to Oak Park to see the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studios and take a very interesting walking tour of the other houses he designed.
We also got to see a bridge stuck up during the annual Chicago boat migration.
Speaking of museums, last year Dani and I also visited the nearby Museum of Broadcast Communications.
I flew up to Chicago on Friday to spend some time with Steve and Dani. The weather is very strange this time of year – we had lunch outside yesterday and it went from very sunny to threatening to rain with the temp varying by 20 degrees all in the course of one meal!
Yesterday we went on a tour of the Chicago Theater which is about to celebrate its 95th birthday. It was originally built as a movie palace – outside of stunning architecture its claim to fame was air conditioning when it opened. Since films were silent then it has a massive pipe organ – the largest pipe was built of wood and was just over 33 feet long! The organ console has “special effects” buttons built in for car horns, sirens, etc. to accompany the silent films. The theater sat over 3500 folks and was actually a medium sized theater for the chain that it was a part of. When it opened there were well over 100 ushers employed all of whom had “to be well brought up young men of good character with a minimum of a high school education”. They also had to be 5’7″ tall and 135 lbs. to fit into the standard uniforms. Similar to our Disney operator signaling systems today, there were elaborate button and light panels all through this massive building so the ushers could communicate where empty seats were. Very impressive for its day!
Our first road trip stop is in St. Louis. We are staying in a Four Seasons with a lovely view of the arch which unfortunately is closed due to urban renewal around its base. Also unfortunate is that the view of everything around the arch is a collection of decaying riverfront factories with black walls and smokestacks – no wonder they built the arch so high – perhaps the goal was to be able to see into another state!
Strangely adjacent to this nice hotel is a new casino which is quite lovely but filled with the dregs of humanity – dedicated gambler that I am even I was scared off and retreated back to the room.
Memphis was much nicer than St. Louis. We stayed at the original Peabody – what a wonderful blast from the past! And best of all the ducks are still there. It was so fun – the Duck Master comes out (sort of like a Ring Master) all dressed up in a fancy red coat and after a spiel to the crowd (of several hundred) he ceremoniously lowers red carpeted duck sized stairs and escorts the ducks to the elevator for the ride to their duck palace on the roof. In Orlando, once released from their fountain the ducks broke the land speed record to escape the lobby full of children; the Memphis ducks seem to have much more decorum and walked down the aisle with a majesty that would have befitted the Queen of England.
We ate at a restaurant called Flights. They had wine flights of course but also had food flights as well – so for example they had a salad flight consisting of (3) salads – thank goodness we just ordered one – portions were huge – I forget this is the South and all. Along those lines it is kind of telling how many billboards there are for cardiac care!
In the morning we took a quick drive down Beale Street just to check that off the list (they were still cleaning up from last night’s partying). It’s not quite as romantic at 8:30 AM!
I took my turn at driving today as we continued down I-55 through Mississippi – what a great drive! I have spent so much time driving in Florida with idiots that I had forgotten what it was like to share the road with folks who know what they are doing. And best of all there are virtually no towns en route, so there aren’t any cops either. Everyone has agreed to go 80 MPH and it’s an overall dandy arrangement. I was driving Steve’s stretch Lexus which is SO comfortable – the only bad thing is there is absolutely no feedback as to how fast you are going – I caught myself doing 90 at one point!
New Orlean’s French Quarter defies description – you have seen the pictures of course but the ambiance is kind of like the seedier part of Las Vegas mixed with the funkiness of San Fransisco’s water front with a dollop of New York street life thrown in for good measure. Walking the streets is kind of like driving in Florida – you have to assume you are going to be cut off at every pass – folks start to drink around 11 AM and it is legal to carry drinks with you on the street – so it’s a happy but directionally and balance wise challenged crowd. Bourbon Street is sort of like an exercise in natural selection – the street itself is closed to traffic but the cross streets are not – you get the picture.
Just one block over from Bourbon is Royal Street – a very different vibe. There are still many tourist shops here but there are some fine antique stores as well. We spent an hour in one that was more like a museum with price tags. It was not uncommon to find prices around $75K and there was a painting that had been sourced from the Vatican that was close to $1M. And heaven knows what they had hidden in the back! The place was huge and among other treasure they had a collection of precision world clocks from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.
Commander’s Palace turned out to be a dud – incredibly high wine prices, a fairly limited menu and fractured service – oh well.
Last night however we went to and absolutely fabulous new restaurant (R’evolution). Great wine list and the food was outstanding. Steve and Dani had a 1907 Madiera to finish off the meal – perfect in every way!
On Bourbon Street one passes cigar puffing men in red tutu’s and matching bustier’s with a lot of muscles and an overall bad attitude. The young ladies in similar attire go down the street without comment. The young ladies (?) hooking for the strip clubs hang out with mostly bare tops covered perhaps by black paint at the most. They are about 15′ away from young boys tap dancing on the street in violation of every child labor law I have ever heard of. We saw a very dapper pair of elderly men (clearly well monied) with impeccable suit jackets, killer shoes and no pants save for very colorful boxer shorts. Then there was the black robed young woman with a large live snake draped around her neck. And the crazy guy naked but for black Speedo who was bragging about being both drunk and high on cocaine… And everyone else is just pretty much 3 sheets to the wind. Several schmucks had fallen by the road and were sleeping it off on the sidewalk. And this was about 5 PM last night. So what I could not get my head around was about this same time a NOLA police car was driving down the road – could not fathom what infraction they were going to go for first? These folks have taken live and let live to a whole new level!
So what I neglected to mention is the music. Music oozes from every pore of the French Quarter – they seem to be be born knowing how to play an instrument. There is nothing repetitive about it – every performance is improvised – as opposed to soul music this is music from the soul – amazing! There was a street band led by an older black lady clarinet player – the best I have ever heard! Her name is Doreen Ketchens; here is one link on YouTube but you can find others as well:
There was also a band that played in a lounge in our hotel. The room was about the same size as lounges on cruise ships and I always felt a slight rocking sensation (but it might have been the champagne…).
Yesterday we had had enough of the city and drove about an hour out of town to a riverfront plantation, Oak Alley. It was a rainy day so it was very uncrowded and it was a little easier to get a sense of what it must have really been like. It is named Oak Alley because an unknown Frenchman planted an avenue of oak trees 80 feet apart in the early 1700’s. He never lived to see them in their full majesty but now they have grown together and form a magnificent arch leading to the river. They funnel any breeze and in the early 1800’s a wealthy French officer built a magnificent home at the end of the Alley for his bride (who sounds like she was actually a pill but whatever.)
The plantation grew sugar cane and employed about 100 slaves. There was an inventory of them from the mid 1800’s and their values ranged from $25 for a very sickly older person to $1500 for a skilled self taught botanist. Morality aside, just from an economic standpoint most of them were not given sufficient food/clothing to survive adequately – they had to supplement their incomes/food by raising crops and animals in their “spare” time; seems a pennywise approach to treating your work force.
So then it was off to Biloxi and the Beau Rivage. It is kind of sad – sort of a southern Las Vegas built on the cheap for senior citizens who have never gotten the chance to travel anywhere else. The only fun fact is for inexplicable reasons it is mandated that the casinos themselves have to be built on barges. So the hotels are built on the water’s edge and the barges are seamlessly attached to them – you can’t detect the seam from the inside. And no, I cannot figure out how they deal with the tides and it’s bugging me…
Last night we had a lovely dinner in a steak house on the top of another hotel – they had a very nice wine list and also were having a 50% off special on the wine – no limits! Had some really good Burgundy at below retail – yeah! And I even won $15 at the casino last night.
Eating habits in the South – no wonder insurance rates are so high! It is just kind of sad. We went to a sushi restaurant in Biloxi and out of 40 rolls only 3 or 4 of them did not feature tempura battered something or overall deep fried or both. Yuk! Amazingly their sashimi preparations were spot on.
En route to the Panhandle I was amazed by the sophistication of Mobile, Alabama – beautiful waterfront convention center and great local restaurants.
I am going to sleep with the doors open and the waves lapping outside.
Alinea is widely regarded as the top restaurant in the United States, but when we visited five years ago we weren’t impressed. The service seemed stiff, and there were too many directions involved in how to eat each course.
But it had been a few years, and since then we’ve enjoyed many meals at their related restaurant, Next, which changes its entire concept three times a year.
Both restaurants use an advance ticketing system, and it takes quite a bit of planning to book a table. In addition, Alinea won’t accept a booking for odd numbered parties, so we waited until Dani was out of town.
This visit immediately felt different than last time, as the waiters were much more friendly. Linda and I shared a reserve wine pairing, and that was plenty for both of us, because the wines were more eclectic than actually great, although there was an impressive 2005 Chateau Palmer near the end.
I was surprised how many of the courses were the same as five years ago, but there were also many new ones. I don’t think anything was as good as some of the things we’ve gotten at Next, but there were some fun items.
These pieces of paper picture different food items, and the small tastes on top of them are designed to taste like the pictured item, even though they appear completely different.
This was several courses. The best and most interesting thing of the night was a shellfish I was unfamiliar with called Percebes. There were two on the piece of driftwood, and they were consumed by simply biting off the tiny bit that extended from the shell. All the rest of that is just decorative.
This was the final course, which was the same as last time, and didn’t thrill us. They put down a mat and the chef decorates it with dessert. It’s not particularly interesting, just outre.
The menu was presented at the end of the meal. The size of the circle indicates the size of the course, the darkness of the circle indicates the intensity of flavor, and the position of the circle indicates sweetness (the farther to the right, the sweeter).
In summation, I thought Alinea was better than last time, but still not anywhere near the top of my restaurant scale. There are many places in Chicago I’d rather go, including Next, Boka, Grace, Intro and Sepia. Also, having just been to Victoria and Albert’s for Linda’s birthday the week before, it really pointed out how the experiences are not remotely on the same level.
Maybe in another five years we’ll give it another try.
After purchasing the new condo in downtown Chicago we wanted to transport some big, heavy stuff like art work and dishes, so Dani and I decided to road trip via Atlanta, Nashville and Louisville. This would have the added advantage of a car in Chicago for the summer, which would ease the move from Evanston.
10 Days, 11 States: Chicago IL, Indiana, Detroit MI, Cleveland OH, Pittsburgh PA, Hot Springs VA, Beckley WV, Asheville NC, Sevierville TN, Charleston SC, Savannah GA, Jacksonville FL and home to Orlando. A little over 2000 miles.
The day before the road trip we decided to be Chicago tourists.
We took advantage of having a car on our last day in Chicago to do touristy things, visiting the Museum of Science and Industry, and the Sears (er, I mean Willis) Tower.
They’ve really fixed up the museum, as the last time we were there, four years ago, most stuff seemed to be broken. On this visit there were lots of new exhibits, and everything seemed to be working. Hopefully it’s because they’re using lots of our gear.
The body exhibit was the main thing Dani was interested in. They’ve taken real human bodies and replaced all the part with injected plastic, then performed autopsies on them. Fascinating, but not for the squeamish.
We also went through the U-Boat, which is now indoors. I could have spent several hours at that exhibit alone. They’ve added audio and lighting effects to the tour of the sub itself, which is quite effective.
We also went to the Wills (Sears) Tower and stood on the glass floor. They had a pretty good movie before the elevator ride. It seems that some smaller attractions are getting better at hiring storytellers to design their experiences.