Chicago

Lake Michigan, with downtown Chicago in the distance

Lake Michigan, with downtown Chicago in the distance.

I recently returned from a 10 day trip to Chicago, my duckies! I had a moment of existential terror when the right engine on the jet to Chicago started up a loud squealing that lasted until we landed, but I decided that for the duration of that flight, I would consider myself a fatalist. I took up my book and read, and the squealing receded into the ether.

My time in Chicago was a whirlwind of exploration and nosing around and walking and trying out the most amazing restaurants! I took many, many photographs of my meals, and though some are blurry, some turned out fairly well. Posts are in the works!

A bag from the Cheesecake Factory, filled with goodies!

A bag from the Cheesecake Factory, filled with goodies!

I must say that I was thrilled to take in my first meal at the Cheesecake Factory, and I’m so happy to report that the cheesecake is as good as people say. Really, the thought of mass-produced cheesecakes being of good quality seemed too good to be true, yet they were by and large wonderful. The key lime cheesecake was so good that I actually whimpered.

Key Lime Cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory.

Key Lime Cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory.

But there’s a caveat to everything, isn’t there? The red velvet cake cheesecake was a disappointment. I expected it to blow my socks off, but the cake part was chewy, as though it had been frozen for a long time (which it likely had been), and it was also lacking in flavour. I also wanted there to be cream cheese icing between the layers, which would have added to the flavour and texture of the overall cake, but no dice. I really prefer the version I made at home, even though making it takes a lot of effort. I will say that I liked the white chocolate shavings on the outside of the red velvet cake cheesecake; they add a nice crunchy texture. I think I’ll borrow this idea for the from-scratch version.

Red Velvet Cake Cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory. My apologies for the blurry shot!

Red Velvet Cake Cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory. My apologies for the blurry shot!

I also hit up Revolution Brewing, a gastropub about 45 minutes outside of downtown Chicago.

Coasters at Revolution Brewing

Coasters at Revolution Brewing.

This place was too loud and frenetic for me. I’m just not into the bar scene, where shouting is a requirement for dinner conversation because the ambient noise is so great. Having said that, I was intrigued by their bacon fat popcorn, which came with bacon pieces and shaved Parmesan cheese on top. It was as rich as you’d think, and tasted amazing.

The bacon fat popcorn at Revolution Brewing.

The bacon fat popcorn at Revolution Brewing. Bacon really does make everything better!

Their Eugene Chocolate Cake was also on the unusual side of things. It featured a scoop of Eugene Porter ice cream, which was delightfully boozy, atop a very, very dark chocolate cake with a fudgy consistency. There was crunchy chocolate streusel sprinkled around the plate, along with bittersweet chocolate drizzle. I don’t normally care for dark chocolate, but the bittersweet drizzle went surprisingly well with the porter ice cream, which was a bit on the sweet side. This dessert was very well balanced, and it was presented nicely, too. All it needed was a sprig of mint on top and a fussy French waiter placing the dish just so on the table.

Eugene Chocolate Cake at Revolution Brewing.

Eugene Chocolate Cake at Revolution Brewing.

Luckily for me, back in downtown Chicago, I chanced upon the most beautiful, amazing, ungodly, delicious, swoon-worthy, incredible thing I’ve ever eaten in my life. Seriously! These are the chocolate croquettes at Mercat, a tapas restaurant on Michican Avenue, which is the shopping mecca of Chicago. These croquettes are, to me, pretty strange-looking, which made my first bite all the more shocking. Oh, how I wanted to go back and have more of this gorgeousness! Believe you me, I’m going to try and recreate these at home. (Be on the lookout!)

Chocolate Croquettes at Mercat

Chocolate Croquettes at Mercat.

I loved strolling down Michigan Avenue. There were stores galore, most of which I didn’t make it into, and people fighting to fork over their hard-earned money. They reminded me of, well, myself in the Godiva store at a certain time of the month. Downtown Chicago is frantic with activity, but occasionally you come upon a scene like this, which restores my faith that there can be calm amidst the chaos:

Downtown Chicago, near the Field Museum

Downtown Chicago, near the Field Museum.

I spent quite a bit of time downtown, and was drawn to the Field Museum like a moth to the flame. On my first trip there, I spent a lot of time gazing at Sue the T-rex, whom I’ve wanted to meet since I was a kid. I didn’t have my camera with me (I’d forgotten the battery!), so I haven’t any photos of the wonderful Sue, but I did snap a photo of this fellow on my second trip to the museum. He stood guard outside the museum.

Dinosaur outside the Field Museum

Dinosaur outside the Field Museum.

On my way out of the museum, I encountered throngs of fans leaving a Chicago Bears game! I’ve always wanted to go to one, but that wasn’t in the cards this trip. The day was certainly perfect for football watching, with a crisp, clear blue sky and a brisk wind.

People leaving the Chicago Bears game

People leaving the Chicago Bears game.

To my great surprise, I managed to encounter quite a bit of nature in the midst of the Windy City. I couldn’t seem to take my eyes, or my camera lens, off the beautiful foliage!

Tree and leaves at sunset

Tree and leaves at sunset.

Red leaves near Lake Michigan

Red leaves near Lake Michigan.

A pair of gnarled trees next to Lake Michigan

A pair of gnarled trees next to Lake Michigan.

Red leaves against Lake Michigan.

Red leaves against the blue of Lake Michigan.

Moon over Lake Michigan

Moon over Lake Michigan.

The shot below made me think of Miami Beach! Very tropical-esque.

Miami Beach? No! Pine needles against Lake Michigan, with Indiana visible in the distance.

Miami Beach? No! Pine needles against Lake Michigan, with Indiana visible in the distance.

Walking on the University of Chicago campus, I managed to catch the eye of a fanciful squirrel, who stared at me defiantly. I pretended not to see where he’d buried his nuts.

Deranged squirrel, outraged that I'd seen his nuts

Deranged squirrel, outraged that I’d seen his nuts.

The interior ceiling of the University of Chicago School of Business was amazing.

Interior ceiling of the University of Chicago School of Business

Interior ceiling of the University of Chicago School of Business.

Winding around the city, I felt at times that I lived on the Metra, one of the public train systems zooming through Chicago. Here is one of the Metra stations at sunset:

Metra station at sunset

Metra station at sunset.

I made it to the Chicago Institute of Art, and I’m so glad! It was incredibly humbling to stand face-to-face with paintings by the masters. I came across a painting by Titian, one of my favourite artists. While I gazed, enraptured, at Titian’s artistry, a man wandered up and assumed the Serious Art Critic Pose. I couldn’t resist taking his picture:

This dude knows what's up.

This dude knows what’s up.

I also toured the collection of armour! It was quite glamourous and the hall echoed with the memories of all the battles fought by the men who’d worn the armour. There was a lot of energy in there.

Knight with armour and armoured horse and generally lots of armour

Knight with armour and armoured horse and generally lots of armour.

And no trip to Chicago is complete without a visit to the Shedd Aquarium! I love fishies, and the aquarium was well stocked with them. 😉

Lake Michigan from inside the Shedd Aquarium

Lake Michigan from inside the Shedd Aquarium.

One thing that caught my eye was this shell lamp, a work of art in itself.

Shell lamp at the Shedd Aquarium

Shell lamp at the Shedd Aquarium.

Having gushed about the Shedd, I have to confess that I don’t agree with keeping large cetaceans in captivity, so I refused to watch the whales performing their circus tricks in exchange for food. So no photos of that. I was quite upset to see one of the Pacific white-sided dolphins acting a bit oddly, banging his head on the bottom of his pool. I left quickly after seeing that. That was a definite dark spot on my trip, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget that poor dolphin.

While in Chicago, I went to the Drake Hotel for their traditional afternoon tea. I’m working on a post about that! That post is now up! Having tea at the Drake was quite an experience.

Teacup with tea strainer at the Drake Hotel afternoon tea

Teacup with tea strainer at the Drake Hotel afternoon tea.

The hotel has a live harpist playing for tea drinkers on weekday afternoons. I didn’t care for this, even though I normally love hearing the harp played, because the player’s harp was connected to a microphone and was thus many times louder than it would have otherwise been. The sheer volume of the music – such that I could scarcely hear my tea companion – dampened the wonder of the overall experience. Still, the magnificent mocha opera cake more than compensated for the harpist! It was so scrumptious that I’m going to try and recreate it at some point.

Mocha opera cake at the Drake Hotel.

Mocha opera cake at the Drake Hotel.

I had a marvelous time exploring the city, and I can’t wait to post more about my trip! Chicago has a lot to offer, and I’m so glad I was able to experience even a fraction of it.

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4 thoughts on “Chicago

  1. Pingback: The Cheesecake Factory in Chicago | KitchEnchanted

  2. Pingback: Tea at the Drake Hotel | KitchEnchanted

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