Monday, July 30, 2007

Summer in Chicago

And here, friends, is another long-awaited recap of the first half of my first summer in Chicago proper. Having lived in Evanston last summer, I didn't really get to appreciate the way that Chicago simply explodes with life once the summer months set in. Restaurants and bars jubilantly cast open their windows, women in sundresses and oversized sunglasses take over the streets, and no matter what day or time it is, the interstate is backed up. Not to mention the FAIRS AND FESTIVALS that take place every weekend, all over the city-- wherever you are on a weekend, it seems that if you stop and listen hard enough, you can hear the distant strains of a cover band rocking it out in one of Chicago's neighborhoods. And who can forget the ever-present fireworks- every Wednesday and Saturday at Navy Pier. In fact, I was pleasantly reminded of the fact that I live "downtown" just the other day when I thought I heard gunshots in my back alley, only to remember (with relief) that it was a Wednesday. Yes, I live close enough to the downtown to hear the Navy Pier fireworks. AWESOME!

Anyway, let's get to the HIGHLIGHTS.

1. Lisa, Kate and Laurel go to BOKA

I thought that Boka, a staple of my daily walk to the Red Line, would be a lot like its Halsted sister (and one of my favorite Chicago institutions), Landmark. I was wrong. Boka has all the prices of Landmark, but with a far more chi chi attitude. It was "fine dining", for sure -- the head chef of this place is a former protege of Charlie Trotter himself-- and I can't say I didn't like it... it just was a little fancier than I expected.

Here's our appetizer, which was a play on the classic tomato, basil & mozzerella neopolitan. Can't really see it, but there was pesto gelee in there. Interesting.
Next up were the main courses. I got sesame-wasabi crusted salmon, with green tea soba noodles and soy foam. So gastroscientific. Not pictured: Laurel's soft shell crabs, which we learned were ACTUAL CRABS, battered and fried whole. We helped her out with them.
I should also mention that this dinner was EXTRA special because one of my favorite college friends KATE was in town for her graduation! Kate's a fellow foodie who got to see a lot of the Chicago culinary scene before I did courtesy of one very generous boyfriend. She now lives in San Francisco and works for Google. I took her to get dessert at my favorite local low-cal dessert stand, Treats! Seriously, 90 calories per four ounces of something that looks AND tastes just like real soft serve? Sign me up. Here's Kate, enjoying her treat!!

2. We are more preppy than you, neighbors
Laurel and I popped our collars and rung in our new apartment with a little Lincoln Park Prep Party... because we landed a cheap place on one of the richest streets in the city. We still don't know quite how.
The double-popped collar brigade:
Fancy (and delicious!) Cookes:

And OF COURSE, finger sandwiches!
3. It always tastes better over a campfire
One of my best college friends, Amy, is from Michigan, and she graciously took a bunch of us up to her hometown of Interlochen, Michigan a few weeks ago. We pitched tents at a lovely little campground right on Lake Michigan, and of course made some quality campfire food while we were out there. After years of cooking campfire food with my family and at Girl Scout camp, my favorite is still the tinfoil dinner. Just chop up some meat (chicken), add a bunch of your favorite veggies (carrots, potatoes, green peppers, onions, garlic, etc), a generous amount of butter, Lawry's seasoned salt, and even some shredded cheddar cheese, then wrap it all up in tinfoil and cook it in the coals for about 20 minutes, until everything's cooked through. Open and enjoy!
Here's Jenny making her preparations:

4. Camp House Cooking
I went home to New Hampshire over the 4th of July week, and had some delicious home-cooked food both at my real house and at our new little lake house we call "the camp". Not pictured is my first lobster dinner, unfortunately undocumented. Although I can tell you that while I REALLY wanted to love lobster, I wasn't a huge fan. Did love the tail... didn't like the "claw meat" or the whole dissecting-the-animal part. Guess I'm not quite grown up, yet.
Anyway, here is a typical grill-out dinner, which we ate pretty much every night. This one is tilapia, corn, asparagus, and zucchini. Tip: grill your fish and corn in tinfoil to keep the moisture in as they cook.
After dinner we usually went to Johnson's, an ice cream stand not far from the camp, that has the largest servings you've ever seen. We all got "kiddie" sizes, which were slightly bigger than a 16-inch softball. Yikes.

I made some bacon-wrapped scallops on the grill. They came out ok, but since I like my bacon a little crispier, I think I'll fry it a little longer next time before wrapping the scallops.
5. I think I'll go to BOSTON
I went for a day trip in Boston while I was on the east coast, to visit my friend Meredith. It was a beautiful day in Boston, so we just strolled around and went window shopping on Newbury Street. Here we are enjoying some scones and tea at Tealuxe on Newbury Street - kind of like the Armitage Ave of Boston, but nicer.
I love me some tea with soy milk!
Mmm Meredith and her green tea... so healthy.

6. Summer's not complete without the BEACH!
Over July 13 & 14, I played in an ultimate frisbee tournament on Montrose Beach called Sandblast. Our team was called the American Gladiators, and we showed up with style, finesse, and of course costumes. My shirt may have had an angry eagle on the front, but Richard's took the patriotic cake!!
We may not have won the tournament, but we won the party!
7. Can't go wrong with curry (unless you do).
And finally, last week I made some pretty badass curry-shimp-noodles. Here's a picture of the shrimp frying up in the olive oil and spices. Yummm!!
Well that's all I've got for now. Things not pictured: the Old Town Art Fair, Pitchfork Music Festival (that I didn't make it to this year), Taste of Chicago (also missed), Going Out in Naperville Can Be Fun: The Tale of Jeanette's Birthday, Flat Top Grill (multiple times), and others.
Coming up next: Lisa & Ian do FRASCA, Lollapalooza. Stay tuned.

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