Sunday, January 30, 2011

gnat revisits al's (and gets it right, this time)

it's the end of the month and as of yesterday i had only completed one item out of five on my january chicago wishlist. totally unacceptable! not wanting to close the month with a dismal 20% success rate i crammed two more items from the list in at the last possible moment.

first, my triumphant return to al's beef:

i first visited al's with jalees and nicole back in august. i didn't find out until months later (thanks, man vs. food!) that REAL chicagoans get their al's beef "dipped" - the sandwich gets dunked into the vat of juice the beef was cooked in, because it just isn't messy enough to be worth eating otherwise.

so of course, i went back. i asked the guy behind the counter twice to make sure he actually dunked my sandwich this time, because it didn't look quite mushy enough to my untrained eye.

it was dunked, all right. as soon as i picked the thing up to get a picture it unleashed a greasy stream of liquid and i narrowly avoided a lap full of beef juice. the following is an actual look of shock and dismay captured by cara:

if you should ever find yourself at al's #1 beef, do yourself a favor and get your sandwich dunked.

this morning i walked down to navy pier to check out the snow sculpture competition at "snow days chicago." (see? i DON'T just write about food.) because i was feeling exceptionally touristy, i walked the scenic route along the lake. last time i was at this "beach" it was 95 degrees out... not so much, right now.

the snow sculptures were, predictably, completely awesome. i took a moment to discuss the ones i liked best with comedian bob newhart, a chicago native.

(just did some research. evidently this is his character dr. bob hartley's psychoanalyst couch from the bob newhart show.. for the purposes of this discussion i would like to pretend instead that i am on some sort of bob newhart talk show discussing snow sculpture ratings and how painful sitting on frozen metal couches can be.)

this wasn't one of my favorites but the others weren't quite as imitable as cranky captain america.

except maybe the medusa, but nobody was standing around to get a picture of my interpretation. it won first place!

my favorite was the second place winner. it's called "hommage a duchamp no. 2" and it's based on a marcel duchamp painting called nude descending a staircase no2.

i also liked this one, "that's a moray." yeah, it's actually called that.

an exhibition piece done by the team that won last year's competition. zoom in and look at the wrinkles in his face... that's all made of snow.

i'm not even certain i'm capable of putting together a half decent snowman. i haven't tried yet, but we're supposed to get a blizzard this week so there should be some prime snow frolicking days coming up.

the last two items on my list were a visit to the field museum and to go to a blackhawks game. both have been postponed (one due to a total fail on my part, the other completely zain's fault, or really zain's knee's fault) but by no means forgotten!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

gnat goes to white castle

i went down to my old hood (south loop) last night with taylor and friends to see a concert at reggie's music club, which happens to be about an inch and a half from a real life honest to god white castle.

the band that opened was excellent, but the "headliner," ekoostic hookah, was underwhelming at best. we slipped out in the middle of their set for some sliders.

taylor insists that this was the worst white castle she had ever been to and that we have to try a different one before i can pass judgement - i'm going to write about it anyway.

we got tiny little cheeseburgers and crinkly fries (and chicken rings, whatever those are...), which we ate while huddled around a trash can because there were no tables and it was 11 degrees outside. i don't really have anything else earth shattering to say about the experience, so without further ado here's an incredibly awkward photo of my tentative first bite:

the verdict: white castle isn't half bad. i wouldn't go on a zany late night misadventure in pursuit of it (unless neil patrick harris is involved, then i'm definitely down), but it wasn't bad at all.

on second thought, i have been known to instigate spontaneous outings in search of strange foods at ungodly hours on a pretty regular basis, so yeah, i guess i probably would go on a zany late night misadventure in pursuit of it.

i had a katy perry induced moment of intense homesickness on the train this morning. my pod was on shuffle and "california girls" came on, and i looked out the window at the snow, and i counted all the items of clothing i was wearing (leggings, jeans, two pairs of wool socks, undershirt, sweater, scarf, sleepingbagcoat), and i got a little choked up because all i really wanted from life at that moment was to be driving up PCH in santa monica with the windows down. and maybe a cheeseburger animal style with fries and a diet coke from in-n-out.

oh yeah.

Friday, January 21, 2011

gnat girds her loins

according to the weather channel, when i wake up in a few hours it will be 8 degrees outside. with the wind chill, it will feel like -22 degrees.

i am officially terrified.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

gnat gets her recommended daily dose of vitamins A, B, C, E, and K

mom has told me horror stories about the year we lived in illinois. for example, she claims that during winter months grocery stores included bunches of free parsley with every purchase in a lackluster attempt to mask the absence of other fresh green things. understandably this caused me some concern as, despite what previous blog entries may have led you to believe about my eating habits, vegetables are a very important part of my daily life. in fact since moving here i have been anticipating with considerable apprehension the possibility of being forced to prepare meals using exclusively root vegetables and kale.

luckily just half an hour and one bus transfer away from my apartment there exists a veritable tropical paradise of cheap fresh fruits and vegetables:

stanley's produce market!

cara and i made the trip on monday and came home with a cornucopia of beautiful things, including the single most important food for the maintenance of my happiness - tomatoes.

if you look closely, you'll notice that root vegetables and kale made the cut. i'm just glad they aren't the only things i have to eat.

Friday, January 14, 2011

gnat devours four unlikely animals (in one fell swoop)

i knocked one and a half items off my january wish list today.

i know what you're thinking, "how do you knock half an item off a wish list, gnat?"

well, hockey is maybe a big deal in chicago, which to be fair i think i knew. the blackhawks won the stanley cup a few weeks before i moved here, and there were banners and lights and stuff all over the place, so i figured people must like them and they must be kinda good. still, somehow it didn't occur to me that i might not be able to find tickets to a game. as it turns out they still exist, but the games are in march and the tickets cost $400. not going to happen.

instead, i am going to watch a game at a blackhawks bar. this promises to be warmer and infinitely more terrifying (exhilarating?) than actually attending a game. there you go. half.

i also knocked a full item off the list - today andrew and i took a field trip to the famed encased meat emporium, the sausage superstore of lore, hot doug's! we braved the 50 minute schlep to a neighborhood that even google maps doesn't have a name for (let's call it west and kinda north somewhere) and stood outside in the bitter cold (have i mentioned yet how cold it is here? because it's pretty cold) in a line wrapped around the building for hot dogs. but not just any hot dogs:

the game of the week! can you read that? it says:

"the mountain man (a damn tasty combination of elk, antelope, venison, and buffalo) with blackberry mustard and goat cheese"

i had never eaten any of those animals before (i had seen them in zoos, not the same thing) and though blackberry mustard sounded questionable i am a fan of anything with goat cheese on it. pictured here with duck fat fries!

(upon checking the website just now to verify my description of this item, i found that the weekly special had been changed to smoked spicy alligator sausage with shrimp remoulade. holy crap, i need to go back tomorrow.)

delicious. totally worth standing outside and not being able to feel my toes for 45 minutes. mission accomplished... for now.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

gnat learns an important lesson about appropriate footwear (and priorities)

i neglected to look out the window before leaving for class this morning.

had i looked out the window, i would have, no doubt, noticed that it was snowing. had i noticed that it was snowing, i might have rethought my choice of shoes. had i rethought my choice of shoes, this:

might not have happened.

what's sad is that i own boots that are suited to this weather, but i walked out, noticed it was snowing, did a quick assessment of the situation, and came to the conclusion that if i went upstairs to change my shoes i would be late for class. so instead, i trudged out into the snow in my little ballet flats (which, to their credit, have excellent traction, but do absolutely nothing in the way of warmth/dryness). i did, however, make it to class on time, so i guess that's a good thing.

yep. i may masquerade as a chicago resident but it turns out i'm still an idiot from california who assumes there's no reason to check the weather in the morning (and risks frostbite in the name of punctuality).

Saturday, January 8, 2011

gnat appreciates german culture

apologies in advance for the poor photo quality in today's post - i gave my camera carmine II a break in favor of iphone photos, mistake!

my friends and classmates andrew and andrew are organizers of a student group called the beer appreciation club (BAC), with which i have attended many exciting beer related events. the other night i received the following email:

"Did you know that there is a direct correlation between German beer and being good at science? That's why there are so many medical eponyms named after Germans, like Alzheimer's disease and Wegener's granulomatosis. If you want to be good at science too, you should join us for delicious Teutonic food and drink at GERMAN APPRECIATION NIGHT"

because i am a lover of both science and beer, i hastily RSVP'd yes and last night headed out towards lincoln square to the chicago brauhaus - a venue chosen specifically because it offers beer in glass boots, or "bierstiefeln."

whether passing a giant boot of beer around without letting it touch the table is actually german tradition or just passed off as such by the movie beerfest i honestly do not know.

we were expecting a bar but actually found ourselves in a bavarian lodge type restaurant, replete with long tables of rowdy patrons, a live band, and adorable old guys showing off their sweet moves on the dance floor. we ate traditional (read: stereotypical) german food:

i recognized exactly zero of the varieties of beer offered, but ended up with kostritzer black bier that i really enjoyed (served in what i've only just now discovered isn't technically called a "stein" unless it's made of stoneware. thanks, wikipedia.)

whether or not this field trip has made me better at science is uncertain, but thanks to the BAC and the chicago brauhaus (including the german "microneighborhood," or really the block of north lincoln avenue on which is located) i am feeling more appreciative of german culture here in chicago.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

gnat transitions smoothly back into chicago life

ok, so all i've done since being back (besides going to class) is attempt in vain to get over a cold (which i picked up, believe it or not, while still in california -suck it, cold weather). still, today i am overwhelmed with this feeling of excitement about being back in chicago. i'm in such a good mood, in fact, that even though it's freezing outside (technically, way below freezing) i actually kinda like it. i've procured a massive coat which is reminiscent of a sleeping bag and let me tell you, its ability to keep the cold out is downright miraculous.

tonight my "practice of bioethics" class met at a tapas restaurant near my apartment called 1492 - the idea being to expose us to accomplished people in our field and teach us how to network over dinner. i tell you this because had i not been sitting with people to whom i needed to appear to be a serious, aspiring young scholar of medical humanities and bioethics, i would have taken pictures of all of the food.

it was my first tapas experience, but because i can't provide pictures i will spare you an in depth analysis, suffice it to say that everything was delicious. i even (accidentally) ate some crostini type thing with a huge mushroom (basically the only food i will not eat) on it and didn't hate it. still, the whole idea of tapas feels utterly impractical to me so i am unlikely to go back.

in other news, my girl guy was in fine form today, undeterred by the cold he gave a several hour long performance of "this little light of mine" on our corner.

Monday, January 3, 2011

gnat breaks radio silence

happy new year! did you miss me?

so, i'm still in california, albeit only for about 20 hours longer. my boarding pass has been printed, my laundry is done, things are mostly sorted and packed. the weather has been checked - no snow in the forecast, so fingers crossed for no delays. tomorrow's high will be 19 degrees. ("feels like" 7. excellent.) lets be real kids, this is probably the last entry i will write for months in which i don't complain about how miserably cold i am. brace yourselves, i know i am.

i never make new years resolutions but i decided to make one this year, which is to take more initiative in exploring and enjoying chicago. my january wishlist includes but is not limited to the following:
- blackhawks game, preferably with someone who a) understands hockey and b) is patient enough not to care that i will require constant explanation of the action
- revisiting al's #1 beef (remember why?)
- snow days chicago, which includes a snow sculpting competition. and dog sled races. why not?
- field museum
- hot doug's. (how have i still not been here? duck fat fries that don't result in unsightly and uncomfortable duck fat blisters, yes please!)

stay tuned for these adventures and more, and to find out if my girl guy is still standing out there singing even though it's 13 degrees below freezing!