We left the house at 9:00am and encountered rush hour traffic on our way to DCA airport. We checked in and grabbed breakfast then boarded our United flight. The flight wasn’t full so the flight attendants were able to change our seats so we had all three seats to ourselves to spread out a bit. The flight was turbulent throughout the whole time. Carrie has flown several times prior but this was her first without breastfeeding. We gave her the bottle and she didn’t have any problems. We landed at O’Hare on-time. What a huge airport. It was quite a walk to the baggage claim.
Once we claimed our luggage, we took a 30m cab ride to the Hard Rock hotel conveniently located on Michigan Avenue near Millennium Park, shops and the action. We checked-in and settled-in prior to venturing out to find a place to eat.
We walked around looking for a quick bite. We ran into this deli shop called Pastoral. What attracted us to this place was the fact that it was gourmet deli. A quick look at the menu started our love affair with this place. Why doesn’t DC have a place like this? I ordered the Canard Balsamico, herbed duck confit with balsamic bisollini onions, mustard, greens and Fromager D’Affinois cheese. Mao had The Parisian, Madrange ham with Fromager D’Affinois cheese, tomato, greens and whole grain dijon. The flavors from all the ingredients all worked delicately well. We were sure to come back again during our 4 day stay. And that we did. Every meal was meant for Pastoral. We even had two to go on our way back to DC.
On the way to Pastoral, my phone died in the hotel elevator. I tried everything to fix it to no avail. Bring on the shopping district at the famous Magnificent Mile, I searched for a nearby Apple Store on my laptop. It was maybe a quarter mile away from the hotel and off we went.
When we got there, a sales person was able to reset it and as he was doing so, I just thought I’d ask if they had the new 3GS in stock. He uttered some beautiful words along the lines of “Yes, just go upstairs and get in line.” That I did and within minutes I had an activated shiny new 16gb iPhone 3GS in the palm of my hands. While my classic iPhone sat idle in my shorts pocket, I walked around town playing with the new 3GS. First, i noticed how it was noticeably faster and the camera was faster, better controls and more MPs. It was better in focusing and exposure. Mao wanted to find a place to eat so I put the 3g network to good use searching for restaurants nearby. Ended up at a Mexican joint. We then shopped for a little while more. We found chocolate infused with bacon bits. It was quite interesting. Then picked up some food at Trader Joe’s and we went back to the hotel.
The following day it was much of the same. Mao was at her conference until 4pm so I had Carrie while I did work at the hotel room. For lunch, I went back to Pastoral and had the Panino Di Prosciutto. it had San Danielle prosciutto, Podda cheese, greens, olive oil and black pepper. The sandwiches were simple, yet very complex in taste. Mao reminded me that Intelligentsia Coffee is in Chicago. After containing my excitement, I did a proximity search and found one two blocks away. Then I got really excited. After Mao was done, we went to Intelligentsia. We bought two lattes and walked over to Millennium Park. Mao suggested we take the river architecture tour. I called Wendella Tours and booked the two-hour sunset tour. That was very well worth the money. The weather was beautiful, Carrie enjoyed the ride, they had a bar and you get to watch the sunset behind the Windy City. You just can’t help but admire the architecture in this town.
There are a number of Baltazars in Chicago. My aunts and uncles from my father’s side migrated here. The last time we saw most of them was at our wedding a couple of years ago. Since we didn’t have a car, we searched for a car rental place. Everyone had a ridiculous day rate. We checked out Zip Car, a car sharing company that allows you to borrow a car by the hour or by the day. We went to their office to sign up. They had a promotion that day where you sign up for a discounted rate, spin the wheel and get free hours/day. We both received credit for a free day. We were told it may take a few days to verify our driver’s license records to get our zipcard. Fortunately, two hours later we received the email that our zipcard was ready to be picked up. So, we’re basically getting a zip car for $25, the sign-up fee. How cool is that?
We found my cousin Rommel and Christine available to host us for dinner. We drove against Chicago traffic an hour or so away. They just had a 2 month old baby boy, their second. They prepared a feast for us and boy was it delicious. Both of them are wonderful cooks and Christine prepared Pampangueno dishes (our province) that I haven’t had in a while.
We headed home the next day. Before leaving, we went to Intelligensia where I bought 5lbs. of the Black Cat espresso coffee then off to O’Hare. While at the airport, we decided to lookfor Chicago hot dogs. We’ve been so immersed with Pastoral sandwiches in the past couple of days that we didn’t really explore other Chicago food. We found a stand at the airport and had our delicious hot dog. Right after, United had a promotion that day. You guessed it, it was yet another spin the wheel type. Mao spun and she got the Economy Plus upgrade. Those are the seats with extra leg room. So the pressure was on me to get the same thing, and as the wheel slowed down to stop, it ticked and ticked and finally, the last tick which was right on the Economy Plus upgrade. How about that?
I’m sure we should’ve explored more of Chicago’s culinary culture, but we were quite satisfied with Pastoral and Intelligensia. We went to a few other restaurants but they were just blah.