Saturday, March 31, 2012

gnat finally makes it to kuma's

if i were going to write a post called "gnat's favorite burger" we all know who would win already.


however, as the aforementioned burger does not exist anywhere in the vicinity of my current place of residence, i have to get my burger fix elsewhere. longtime readers will recall that five guys failed to impress:

i've also tried epic burger, m burger, and dmk burger, the counter, the crack-donalds, and of course the billy goat (amazing), but last week i had a burger that outshone all of chicago's other burger offerings that i've experienced thus far:

the absu burger at kuma's corner.

i first heard about kuma's long before i moved to chicago, by way of diners drive-ins and dives. i knew immediately that i needed to eat there, but it's quite a schlep via the cta and the wait for a table in the tiny dining room regularly tops two and a half hours - in the last two years i've attempted to eat there and failed no fewer than four times. last week i finally made it, and boy was it worth the wait.

kuma's appears in the top five of just about every "best burger in chicago" list there is, and for good reason. all of the burgers are named after metal bands, and all of them are topped creatively and deliciously (read: ridiculously... we're talking brie and bourbon poached pears, cream cheese and chorizo stuffed jalapeno poppers, pulled pork and pancetta). mine had tomatillo salsa, avocado relish (avocado relish? what? how is this different from guacamole?), pepperjack cheese, queso fresco, and deep fried jalapeno and habanero peppers, on a super clutch pretzel bun.

i apologize for the poor quality of the photos, to be completely honest i was way too hungry to be even marginally concerned about the lightning, and too covered in burger flotsam and jetsam to fiddle much with the settings on my camera and get a better shot.

and now, i give you a collection of quotes from how i met your mother which pretty much nail my feelings about this burger:

"this burger is so good, it's like christmas in my mouth. meat christmas."
"it's like an angel from heaven landed in the kitchen of mcclaren's... where the chef killed it and ran it through the meat grinder."
"i love this burger so much i want to sew my ass shut."
"oh my god. i'm never brushing my teeth again. unless it's with a toothbrush made from this burger."
"i want to take this burger out to dinner, then maybe a movie, then take it back to my place, put on a little terrence trent d'arby and just... fool around a bit, nothing serious. take it slow."
"i want to get tiny fitted sheets for this burger, and just... crawl into the bun, get all cozy, and die there."

my stomach is begging me to go back, my arteries are begging me to stay far, far away. let's take a crazy guess which will win.

Friday, March 23, 2012

gnat goes green

happy belated st. paddy's day, on behalf of the city of chicago!

i celebrated with homemade shepherd's pie and a shamrock shake,

and joined the hundreds of thousands of green-clad chicagoans (and visitors!) in watching the river dyeing and subsequently aimlessly wandering the streets enjoying the inexplicably perfect weather.

this was the 50th year that the chicago river has been dyed green (and my second year in attendance), apparently not planned or funded by the city but by the local plumbers' union - thanks guys!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

gnat does new york

guys, i am exhausted. in the last two weeks i have flown five times and slept on four floors in six cities. i'm in chicago now and needless to say i am so happy to be back at home base, sleeping on my own mattress on my own floor. (yes, i sleep on a mattress on the floor. there is a bed frame involved. it's a long story. actually, no it's not. i bought a broken bed frame on craigslist and so my mattress sits on the floor inside the frame. i swear it's very comfortable.)

anyway, one of the floors i slept on happened to be in my friend jimmy's apartment in new york city. i informed him before my visit that my biggest priority was (surprise) to try as much food as possible, and though i was only there for 42 hours i managed to eat many, many things including breakfast at tom's restaurant in morningside heights (which you may recognize),

a hot dog and papaya juice at gray's papaya (famous hot doggery),

the inside of which is decorated like a tropical pinata,

and where i discovered that i'm not super wild about sauerkraut but that i do find the hot dog/papaya drink combination strangely delightful,

wafels and dinges (dinges is apparently dutch for "things" or "stuff" as in the stuff they put on waffles),

where i had a wafel with spekuloos spread (which is seriously amazing - it's like a peanut butter but made of ground up gingerbread cookies),

koronet pizza,

where i got a jumbo slice of pizza,

which was bigger than my head and totally overwhelming,

(i'm not the only one who felt this way),

and absolute bagels,

where i had a fresh bagel with lox spread (and it was the best bagel i had ever eaten).

not pictured are a burger which was not really memorable but to which the soundtrack was a choreographed karaoke rendition of men in black (complete with costumes and props), a street pretzel, and a reuben which was technically not from a "new york deli" but hey, my time was limited. in case you weren't counting, that's eight meals in a day and a half. be impressed.

of course, i also did things that WEREN'T food related (to kill time between meals). i saw strawberry fields in central park, across the street from the apartment building where john lennon was shot (may he rest in peace):

the lincoln center,

the GE building at 30 rockefeller plaza,

(and rockefeller center right under it, although somehow i missed the statue of atlas)

and times square, which i was resistant to the idea of visiting but which i found strangely soothing after a long day... something about all of the movement and ambient noise and huge billboards flashing has a totally unexpected (and counter-intuitive) calming effect if you sit there long enough...

i also got to spend a few hours at moma, which has a spectacular collection (including many pieces i would have sworn were in europe):

van gogh,





braque and picasso,


rothko (not reeeeeeaaalllllly my favorite),

pollock (which i never understood until i stood two feet from one - at which point i finally got what was so exciting about it),

and my favorite, chagall. (i remember the first time i saw a picture of this painting - i was six years old. he's been my favorite ever since.)

there were a few things i missed - the painting above is the only one of chagall's on view, and although moma has persistence of memory (probably dali's most famous painting but far from my favorite) there is only one other dali - but i saw so many more exciting things than what i've put above and there were even more that i didn't see because i got kicked out when the museum was closing. 

(as a side note, i think it's strange that i was more self-conscious about looking like a tourist in new york city than i ever feel when taking pictures of things here in chicago. i wonder why that is?) 

after new york i was in la, then back to chicago, rounding out the top three largest cities in the country in a span of five days. (it sounds cool, but it was borderline miserable - when i finally got back to chicago for good on thursday i slept for 15 hours then proceeded to lie on the couch for another two days. i am only now starting to feel like a normal human being again.) many thanks to jimmy, especially for accompanying me on many of my food related new york adventures, and to everyone else whose floor i have slept on in the last few weeks. 

and now, back to your regularly scheduled chicago-related programming.