And All That Jazz

2014.Jul.06 Sunday · 2 comments

in Life, Restaurants

We’ve been on to three days in Chicago – the botanic gardens, fireworks, and the architecture boat tour, and of course visiting with family were the highlights.

Some of you probably have seen posts and tweets and such about Anthony Bourdain’s recent criticism of folk who take photos of their food and share them on social media – he singled out Instagram, though it was pretty clear he meant it more generally. The takeaway quote that’s getting the most play is that it’s “about making people feel bad about what they’re eating.” My response is that that’s pretty much what every episode of every one of his shows is about. Critic Pete Wells dropped back with “To me, Bourdain’s shows have a you-are-there feeling. Instagrammed meals say ‘I was there and you weren’t.'” (Then again, Wells has an anti social media bias when it comes to things like this already) My return volley was, “See, to me, they [the shows] have a ‘look at all the cool stuff I’m doing and eating that you’ll never do’ feel. Instagram says come try it!” I find that when people, especially those who I know, trust, and like, share photos of their meals along with great descriptions, I make a note of places to get out and try in the future. When I watch shows like Bourdain’s what I think about is how I’ll probably never get to have that experience. Weigh in, what do you think?

By the way, for those of you who follow me on Foursquare, I’m on hiatus. They’re gradually switching all users over to a new app called Swarm that I simply don’t like. It’s a clumsy interface with colors that are hard to see in anything but the best of light, non-intuitive symbols for the different sections rather than labels, and it has a constantly updating location feed, so I find that if I’m trying to check in somewhere, it keeps moving up and down on the list faster than I can stab my finger onto it, so I’m constantly picking the wrong place. It also keeps asking me to turn my check-ins and such more social, to invite people, not always my friends or family, to come join me wherever I’m eating. If that’s the direction FS is taking, I’m no longer interested.

I have a tendency to forget, when I’ve been away from the midwest for awhile, that portion sizes tend to be large, and the food, eaten out, isn’t always as healthy as in some other places. I hate to pile it on to the midwest, but it is where I tend to encounter that sort of stuff the most, at least given the places I visit. Our first night, we cooked at my brother’s house, where he sensibly whipped up grilled salmon and burgers with whole wheat buns, fresh vegetable toppings, and left it to us to throw together a spicy skillet of mixed vegetables – more or less our aloo gobi recipe except we had sweet potatoes instead of potatoes and added in some broccolini. But mostly we went out…

Casa Isaac - guacamole
Casa Isaac - lamb tacos
Casa Isaac - duck tacos
Our best meal out was at La Casa de Isaac in Highland Park, near to where my brother and his family live. Casual, Tex-Mex food, great guacamole, we went through two servings of it, interesting tacos – fish, lamb, duck, with varied accompaniments like radish and onion salsa, mango salsa, and others. Mushroom quesadillas. Grilled fish, enchiladas, you know the drill. All fresh, vibrant, and delicious! I did not, here or the rest of the spots, go around the table taking pictures of everyone’s food – just Henry’s and mine.

Heaven on Seven
Heaven on Seven - blackened mahi mahi
Soft Shell Crab Salad
The real midwestern hit came at a place called Heaven on Seven, downtown Chicago. Touting a vaguely cajun and creole menu, the first thing you’re greeted with on entering is a wall of hot sauces (I didn’t get a picture, sorry), and they’re all available, from mild to searingly hot. Then after passing through the bar you’re greeted with a wall of gallon containers of mayonnaise and corn syrup, which pretty much sums up what’s going on behind the scenes. Henry smartly asked for his crayfish cream sauce on the side of his blackened mahi-mahi and dirty rice, as the sauce turned out to be a thick slick of flour and cream with just a hint of the shellfish. I was less lucky, figuring that I might be better off with a salad, I ordered the crab salad, which turned out to be a bowl of lettuce with a couple of tomato, cucumber and mushroom slices dressed in a sickly sweet mayo and topped with a whopping deep fried soft shell crab.

California Pizza Kitchen - kung pao pasta
California Pizza Kitchen - cobb salad
The following day found us doing a bit of mall shopping at Henry’s request. I think he may have been disappointed to find out that shopping malls here aren’t all that different from shopping malls in BA. We stopped in at a California Pizza Kitchen for lunch, a chain I’ve never been to before. I was at least pleasantly surprised, perhaps it was just our selections, but his kung pao chicken on spaghetti wasn’t half bad, and my cobb salad was actually quite good, even with the odd addition of beets. Portions were, once again, pretty large, and I noticed numerous people diving into the pizzas, which all sounded interesting, but most folk were eating what I’d consider at least a medium pie, as individual dishes.

Rosebud - chicken milanese
Rosebud - chicken vesuvio
And, dinner out in Little Italy at a place called The Rosebud. Pretty decent Italian food – big focus on veal and chicken dishes, and an array of pastas. Henry’s chicken milanese was delicious, if a bit much at two whole breaded chicken breasts, green salad, and a bowl of penne with tomato sauce. Mine came closer to a normal portion, the chicken vesuvio, it was still the same two chicken breasts, coated in herbs and garlic, and served with roasted potatoes and fresh peas. But at least the accompaniments weren’t so overboard. Pastas at the table were delicious, in particular an interesting version of an arrabiata sauce using finely chopped pickled cherry peppers instead of pepperoncino.

And that’s the round-up for Chicago. Into the car shortly and we’ll pop up in our next location later today.


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