Monday, September 20, 2010

My First Chicago Foodie Jaunt

I'm a big believer in destiny. Kismet. Fate. I suppose it appeals to the pacifist in me. Not very forward thinking of me, I know, but there you have it.

Anyway, I think my destiny is to be covered in baby poop every morning. I realized this as I was scrubbing one of B's soiled pajamas (again) before I even had time to brush my teeth (again), and wondering if I can ever really get rid of that smell (not really, it's embedded in my subconscious).

Shall we talk about food now?! ahahahahahahaaaaaaaaa ... evil mom tactics to gross you out! See? Even your sense of humor changes when you become a mother!

Speaking of destiny, I can only thank my lucky stars that Grand Rapids happens to be within driving distance of Chicago - which, in my opinion, is one of the top 3 food cities in the US. Ahhhhh, the windy city, how I admire thee. You introduced me to tapas, bless you. You are where one of my favorite Top Chef seasons was filmed. You are the home of the first Top Chef Master winner - Rick Bayless.
This is Xoco, the newest addition to the growing Bayless empire. I know it was the weekend when we went, but in a city that's brimming with celebrity chef restaurants, I didn't think this little Mexican eatery (basically a sandwich shop) would have a line out the door! But I was there, and I was committed. So we stood in line with the rest of the hungry masses, inhaling the intoxicating aroma of freshly brewed Mexican hot chocolate. Good. Lord.

I was also unbelievably lucky to see Rick Bayless himself at the restaurant! I know! Celebrity chefs are never seen at their own restaurants - they're too busy with their TV appearances. But he was there - not cooking, mind you - but I let him get away without taking a photograph. That was painful. The poor man was in a hurry, and rushed past me with just a wave and an acknowledgement, and a "sorry" for not being able to stick around. *sigh* These are the times when I wish I was more like my mom, shamelessly forward and brave. She would've gotten that photograph, I'm sure of it.
Goat Torta with oaxacan pasilla-tomato salsa, avocado, onions and cilantro. Earthy and lurvely!

Red chile Chicken Torta, with pickled white onion, black beans, avocado and tomatillo salsa. Bright and scrumptious!

Although I was pretty full after that meal, DH knew that I secretly wished we had time to try Hot Doug's, the place that Anthony Bourdain highly recommended on his Chicago show. So he whisked me away to this place, where lo and behold, we encountered another loooooooooong line. Are you sensing a theme here?
Still, I wasn't about to leave without trying the famous Fois Gras Hot Dog, with truffle butter. I had to. Just one bite. Anthony would've wanted me to.

So I did. I took one bite. Nearly spat it out. Took another bite. Barely got it down. Gave it one, final chance, and that's all she wrote. I'm so sorely disappointed in Anthony right now! I love me some fois, as much as the next food geek, but that hot dog was disgusting! Me thinks it was fois gone bad.

Which is not to say that Hot Doug's is all bad. On the contrary, their regular all-beef dog was great! And from the looks on the customers' faces as they scarfed down all the other varieties of hot dogs available there, they do an amazing job. Maybe I'll try their ostrich dog next time.
The best part of the meal - the duck-fat fries. Sinful. And yes, you can taste the difference.

We headed back to Michigan the next day, but not before I stopped over at Molly's Cupcakes for a goodie box.
Gosh, that's pretty. I could stare at those racks all day.

My treasure trove. Starting from the top left, the cupcake flavors I picked were: tiramisu (my FAV!), red velvet (my second fav), banana-nutella (not good), chocolate raspberry (awesome), chocolate mint (interesting), caramel apple (ok), peach cobbler (super fab) and carrot (nice, but mine are better).

This is just my introductory foray into Chicago's diverse foodie scene. I plan on many more such trips, and of course, I'm going to be telling you all about them.

Bashaar: "What?! More road trips? No fair, Mama!"