Thursday, June 24, 2010

Chicago Part 2: Day 2: People, Places, Food

Day 2 of Chicago was probably the best day. I knew it was going to be great, because I was having a great hair day. My bangs had been cut too short by my hairdresser, but magically overnight they grew to the perfect length. To celebrate I wore my funky dress that has roses and airplanes all over it. Danny knew it was going to be a great day too. He visited Crossfit Atlas and surpassed his goal of deadlifting 450 lbs by 5 pounds. My husband is crazy strong. We were in such good moods we decided to take the long walk down Michigan Ave instead of taking a cab.

Remember our friends Matt and Janey? The ones we randomly met in line for breakfast in San Francisco? Well they happened to randomly be visiting Chicago during part of our visit. We had planned to meet for breakfast that day. We walked to their hotel, and then we all walked together to Eggsperience. Matt and Janey had brought along their sweet little girl Faith. We discussed our current life happenings and what we were all doing in Chicago. Then we got down to the business of food.

Prior to our Chicago visit I had been eating extremely strict Paleo which excludes things like sugar and anything sinful. So of course I had to have the caramel apple pecan French toast. Janey has good taste, so she ordered the same thing. Danny got a skillet of some sort. Matt ordered a chorizo omelet the size of a small child. No need to worry, it was made of egg whites. Janey, Danny and I had coffees. Matt had lemonade. I am using my poetic license when I say that the lemonade tasted like summer. Faith had Minnie Mouse pancakes. Good call Faith, good call. We all enjoyed our food and just like at Dottie’s we all shared our food. Janey and I agreed that the French toast was good, but nothing could compare to the French toast at Dottie’s.

Faith was being a little shy at first but she later warmed up to us and we compared injuries. I showed her my knee from my fall while hiking, and she showed me her head that she had bonked. It was so nice to see our friends again. Before we left we discussed our next city destination, which is possibly Philadelphia. They said they wanted to go there too. I think we are destined to be great friends, even if we only see them in far off cities.

After breakfast, we headed to the Art Institute of Chicago. I was told by multiple people that it was amazing. The art institute has over 300,000 works of art and in over 1 million square feet. I was not let down. On either side of the Art Institute are two bronze lions. They are the guardians of the museum. Apparently the lions are also Blackhawks fans. They were both wearing the champion’s helmets.

Entering the building, you immediately know it’s going to be something special. The building itself is a work of art. We started our art quest by visiting the restrooms that happened to be on the bottom floor by the children’s section. My mom taught me that you can learn a lot from children’s art as well as illustrations in children’s books. The use of color and imagination are unlimited by the adult world, which makes for truly unique art. The children’s art was great. I wish I would have mastered my camera at that point as there is a no flash policy, and I seem to always mess up without it. There were some interactive art exhibits for children and the kiddos seemed to be enjoying them immensely. I would have got in on the action, but I didn’t want any weird looks from the parents.

Next were the miniature rooms. I love miniature things. Take something really big make it tiny, and I will stare at it all day long. The Thorne Miniature rooms represent European rooms from the 13th century to the 1930s and American rooms from the 17th century to the 1930s. These interiors were designed by Mrs. Thorne and crafted by a nameless person from 1932 to 1940. The nameless person certainly needs some credit as the attention to detail was incredible. These little rooms were the dollhouses of my childhood dreams.

Upstairs we passed through the Asian and Indian areas. Some of the art pieces were thousands of years old. The craziest art piece, in my opinion, was the Chinese pillows. They were decorated stones. If the Chinese knew that their uncomfortable pillows would someday be considered art, they probably would have laughed. I certainly don’t want my pillow in a museum.

We then followed the big crowd to the Matisse exhibit. The Matisse exhibit concentrates on his work from 1913-1917. I am no artist, nor am I a Matisse expert, so take what I say with a grain of salt. Apparently Matisse’s art from 1913-1917 are amongst his most experimental years. Many of the paintings, sculptures, and prints were reworked numerous times. If you look closely you can see the multiple scrapings in the paintings. Matisse said that these years were called, “The method of modern construction.” He was influenced by the cubist movement and World War 1. Certainly by looking at his work you can see that the process of making his art was art itself. I would show you examples, but cameras were off limits in this area.

On our way to the impressionism and post impressionism section we passed some pretty famous painting like American Gothic and Nighthawks, that even my non arty husband recognized. That was fun. We also passed a group of children who all said bonjour to Danny and I. We decided they are either enrolled in French class or are French. Either way, I liked the little Frenchies.

Impressionism is my favorite style of art. I am probably swayed by my artistic mother, as this is one of her favorite styles too. Personally I think her art could be next to some of the greats. I am slightly biased though. Anyway, the art pieces in this section did not disappoint. From Van Gogh to Monet and Renoir to Degas, all my favorites were included. It is always easier to appreciate art pieces in person, especially impressionism. If you look closely you can see the individual brush strokes, but take a step back and these simple strokes create not an exact image but an idea of what the artist saw. That’s what I like the most, it’s like a small glimpse into the mind of a genius.

Linda Gross (Mom)
Of course there was plenty of more art to see, and we saw most of it, but my fingers will become just as tired as my tootsies were that day if I cover it all, so you will just have to go see it yourself. Besides this blog is already on the lengthy side.

After walking around the museum all day we built up an appetite. So we used our trusty iphones and yelped it up. We found a little sandwich shop called Fontano’s. We both ordered the “Big Al” which is an Italian sub with Italian meats, provolone, and Giardiniera on it. In Chicago Giardiniera is a big deal. It’s an Italian hot pepper relish that is delicious. After I took a bite into my sandwich which also had mayonnaise on it, I read the article on the wall that said true Chicagoans always hold the mayo. You can take the girl outta Ripon, but you can't take the mayo out of her sandwich. Across the street was DePaul University for law students. Fontano’s had a student discount. I thought to myself, if this is the way law students eat every day I might have to change careers.

We then went to the Field Museum. On our way we noticed a camera crew and lots of people standing around trying to get a peek of something. Naturally we joined in. We didn't know what we were trying to get a peak at until I decided to ask some teenage girls. They said Vince Vaughn was filming the movie Cheaters. As the girls were discussing how the hunky Channing Tatum was also in the movie and that if they saw him they would run across the street and declare their undying love, Vince came out of a camera shop, looked up, and waved. My thoughts about Vince Vaughn are as follows: He is tall. He likes the Bears. I know this because he was wearing a Bears hat. He is nice. Nice enough to wave that is. Although my brush with Hollywood was brief, I was grateful that I was having a good hair day. You never know when a talent scout is in the audience looking for the next great Hollywood starlet.

On the way to the Field Museum we wandered through the multiple lovely parks running along Lake Michigan’s shore. The Field Museum is another grand White House like building. It is situated near the Shedd Aquarium and the Planetarium in an area called Museum Campus. Unfortunately we did not have time to see the other two “iums.” The main attraction in the Field Museum is Sue. Sue is a Tyrannosaurus Rex. She is the most complete T Rex that has been discovered to date. This is her 10th anniversary, so the museum was definitely tooting that horn. Besides looking at a bunch of bones, we also looked at a bunch of dead stuffed animals. I enjoyed the bird part, because I enjoy birds, but the rest was rather repetitive. I think we would have been more excited if we hadn’t of recently gone to the California Academy of Science and saw a multitude of dead stuffed animals there.

Danny asked if I wanted to go to the gem display, which to his dismay I did. The gems were huge, but they were difficult to see, because of the crowd. We realized it was because Monday happens to be free admission day at the museum, which was why the line to the restroom was ridiculous. The restroom did not have any seat covers whatsoever. I was disappointed. I think to more fully enjoy a museum you shouldn’t go on free admission day. The crowds were crazy, and it was difficult to get a good look at any one display.

After the museum we walked back to the hotel and crossed picket lines. We rested, freshened up, and then decided where to eat. Danny really wanted to try this Brazilian steak place called Texas de Brazil. I had my doubts, but agreed because I won the gem war.

The walk to Texas de Brazil was fairly long, which was good because I didn't even have an appetite. According to our overly zealous waiter, Brazilian BBQ involves meat on large skewers that is roasted over an open flame. I believe somehow salt brine is used. Texas de Brazil works like this: There is a big salad bar with various "international items" such as, sushi, goat cheese, marinated artichokes, exotic looking grains, and ranch dressing. I will admit that the lobster bisque was delicious. While you are filling up on salad, various meat men come around with skewers of meat offerings. If you would like some they slide or slice, you off some meat. You are given a little card with a green side and a red side. If you need a meat break you turn your little card over to the red side. Red means stop. Green means go, just like I learned in first grade. As soon as that card is flipped to green watch out! You will soon be overwhelmed with meat. The overzealous waiter also brought us fried bananas that were rolled in sugar as a “palate cleanser." I'm not sure if it cleansed my palate, but they tasted good.

So what can be wrong about endless amounts of meat you may ask? Especially coming from me, a meatasaurus? Well for starters it was way too salty (although they did offer to cook some less salty meat), for seconds I don't think the meat was that good of quality. Endless amounts of meat may have once been my nirvana, but now I will take a quality steak over the meatarazzi any day.

I haven't figured out where the Texas in Texas de Brazil fits in. Maybe it's the buffet part. The meat on a sword part is supposed to be Brazilian. Or maybe it’s the garlic mashed potatoes. The waiter did tell me that in the bread basket were Brazilian cheese rolls. They were good, just like the ones you get at Red Lobster. Perhaps Red Lobster is owned by a Brazilian fisherman. All I know is Texas de Brazil is a mesh of American and possibly Brazilian foods, and the combination is not pretty. Of course, Danny loved it. Did I mention there was a wine lady who hung from a suspension line and did acrobatics to reach the wine bottles? They called her the wine artist. I'm serious.

After dinner we took a stroll by the river and visited the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial park. We always seem to come across a memorial park on our trips. For whatever reason we always end up sitting in the park staring at a list of names for a while in silence. Even in the silence I know Danny and I are thinking about the same thing.

When we were done paying homage to our veterans, we walked around the Loop area and planned our next day. My eyes were so tired from staring at things. We stared at paintings, dinosaurs, dead birds, celebrities, meats, and lists of names. It was time for bed, I don't think my eyes could take in any more information, and my brain was certainly filled to the brim.

By the way, so that your eyes won't tire out, I promise Day 3 of my Chicago trip blog won't be so long!


  1. Enjoyed reading your post, and I live not that far from where Monet painted the picture in your photograph. I write a blog myself that might interest you as Impressionism is your favourite style:

  2. Why thank you Thomas! I will certainly check out your blog.