Saturday, May 31, 2008

NYC, finally at the end of my trip!

By the time I got off the train at 2 am in New York, I was wishing I had just rode it all the way back to DC with Erin. I was exhausted, but I hadn't been up to New York since the Spice Girls concert. Plus the weather was so miserable that weekend that Erin and I didn't do much in the way of touring. So I reminded myself that I NYC and all my friends there and that I'd be missing out on a lot if I skipped over it. (Plus the train conductors would notice if I road all the way back to DC with a New York ticket and they would not be happy.) Looking back, I am so glad I stayed! The weather was amazing. I got my first new freckles of the year! And I got to spend a ton of time playing around the city!

So on the first day, I slept in pretty late. Finally around noon, I rolled out of Jamie's/Allie's/Alex's apartment where I was staying and ventured up to Columbia (look another law school!). Of course I am a complete dunce and didn't read their visitor's information page very closely online because all classes were canceled that day for the moot court competition they had which Chief Justice Roberts presided over. When I tried to follow their little self tour booklet (I was at the school, I felt I should do something), I got even more frustrated. The directions weren't clear, and I couldn't find any of the things they pointed out. The one thing I did find, the library, was reigned over by your stereotypical spinster-looking evil librarian. After she was so short with me, I gave up on trying to poke around the school an just walked around the neighborhood instead. The most note worthy sights were this statue and a girl laying out in a tiny bikini in the park (in April!).

Check out that detail! The mini ark was fabulous! Anyways no pictures of the bikini-clad girl. Although I was impressed by her boldness, I was not impressed to the point where I was going to risk looking like a creep by taking long distance pictures of this stranger. After these 2 sights, I figured I'd gotten the most out of the neighborhood and headed back down town to wait for Jamie to get out of class. As I was amusing myself snapping photos of the different architecture downtown (see below), I ended up running right into Jamie's school.

This building was very 70' s-esque, but I adored all the color tile! Bright and fun never goes out of style.

These are actually the Credit Suisse buildings which is a company I know only through my encounters with that at work (which means I know very little outside of they have a lot of money and do financially stuff with it). I've always imagined them as one of those cold, evil, John Grisham-type companies. So it seemed perfect that they would have that standard blah NYC high rise with some Gothic looking towers, but then they had this bridge. The bridge is really what interested me because it reminded me a lot of the Bridge of Sighs in Venice. Now if a soulless, profit-obsessed company is going to reference anything in their architecture, I'd think the last thing they would choose would be the Bridge of Sighs, but whether it was an accident or not, it is perfect poetic justice.

And look! Here's Jamie's school! I thought this building was awesomely modern, took a picture, realized this is where Jamie happened to matriculate, and 2 minutes later she called me to say she was out of class. Then I told her I was here to pick her up from school. It was perfect timing. Off we went to play! First Jamie introduced me to the wonderful world of fancy frozen yogurt chains. (Why do we not have these in DC yet?!?!?!?!?) Obviously I had heard of Pinkberry before thanks to endless plug from Perez Hilton and the Plum Card commercials, but there are so many more that I had never heard of! There's Flurt, Berrywild, Tasti-D-Lite... There's probably even more than that, but it was hard to keep track. Seriously, though, every block it was a different Pinkberry knockoff! NYC certainly has more than enough yogurt chains to share. Spread some fro-yo loving to the District! In my short time visit New York I was only able to sample 2 of the contenders. It came down to the contender...

...versus the original...

And the winner was... Pinkberry! Hands down. I am obsessed with their green tea flavor. Mmm so good! I was totally blown away with how it actually tasted like frozen yogurt. Not like the frozen yogurt you get at the store, but like someone took a cup of yogurt and made it really really cold. Totally unlike ice cream and also totally awesome. Mayor Fenty needs to get on this lack of Pinkberries ASAP. Books for inner city schools can wait, what those children really need is some vanilla fro-yo with fresh fruit and Cap'n Crunch. That'll edumacate them.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Now the Follow Up to my Pizza: my Bajillion Course Sushi Dinner! (insert exploding stomach here)

So I meant to write this post last night, but I got really tied up with Michael Clayton. Erin and I have just signed up for Netflix, and I feel like this is going to be the undoing of any motivation I had left to be productive because my original plan was to blog while watching the movie but it just required too much attention for that. I could barely handle eating popcorn and watching the movie. (Ok that's a joke. I can always handle eating popcorn no matter what the scenario.)

Anyways here we are at part 2 of post about the New Haven leg of the trip, the post in which I actually talk about the sushi that brought us there. (Crazy that I can squeeze 2 full length posts out of what was essentially a 6 hour visit, but I guess we just ate that much food.) So after a few jumping jacks (to work off the pizza, remember?) and a bit of a walk, we arrived at Miya's. Despite all our attempts to waste time til 7, we still ended up being a half hour early. Little did we realize then that we would need every minute of this half hour to complete our feast.

We start off by explaining to our waiter how we aren't from anywhere near by and how we made a special stop just to come to this restaurant. Then we ask him for his recommendations as to how to maximize our experience. He says (direct quote) "You are both going to get the Wednesday night special. I would lay down in traffic to keep you from doing anything else." The Wednesday night special is a flat rate for something like 9 or 10 courses. Considering Miya's normal prices, it is a steal. For us it ended up being particularly economical as our waiter told us he would not be "counting courses," meaning he was going to keep bringing us food until we begged him to stop, which is exactly what he did. At this point I started really regretting eating that pizza.

With every course came an in depth explanation of the philosphy and creation process. If you didn't think a sushi roll could have a philosphy, you have never met a chef like Bun. His menu is like a story book, behind the actual items with price listings are chapters, each dedicated to a different memory and explaing how this memory inspired a roll or an appetizer. Then behind the stories is another section the outlines every main ingredient to be found on the menu and describes, in a decent sized paragraph, why that exact ingredient was chosen instead of another. After all that reading, when Erin and I thought we knew more about that restaurant than any we'd ever eaten in before, our waiter would present the dish and offer still more information on why the tastes compliment each other or how the roll had evolved from earlier versions and how we could best enjoy it. I don't know if it was because we had traveled from out of town or if it was because the night was generally slow, but the Wednesday night special turned into an entire lecture series. For the casual diner, this may have grown old pretty fast, but Erin and I were utterly fascinated by knowing so much about our food.

I will try to remember as much as I can from what we learned, which unfortunatley is not very much, as I recount approximately 3 hours of what Erin's and my life looked like (minus a couple of courses that we forgot to take pictures of because we were in a black out food coma):

This was our first course, we had their miso soup was a bit creamier than normal miso, and this particular batch had some sort of pumpkin flavoring in it as well. Also on the side were their "Tokyo Fries," super thin potato straws with what I believe was a curry aoli, and behind that was an artichoke with the most amazing pureed pepper sauce. The waiter and the story book went into absurd detail on the preparation of this sauce. I think it involved months of pickling and marinating and such things. It was quite spicy, but not in the I-hate-myself-for-putting-this-in-my-mouth-I'm-never-going-to-be-able-to-taste-food-again way. It was spicy in this rich flavorful way. I couldn't get enough even though my tongue was burning.

I can't remember that this one was, but I can definitively say it was yummy.

This was one of the few piece of sashimi that we had. They used Marlin which was a new development. They used to use Yellow Tail, but after discovering that it was being over fished, they switched which turned out to be quite serendipitous as the new fish complimented the multispice bath far better than the old fish had.

This was my absolute favorite roll. It is was a potato roll wrapped around tempora shrimp with a dill havarti lemon cream sauce drissled over the top. Go figure my favorite roll would involve potato, fried food, and cheese. God, I am so predictably Irish/American sometimes.

Miya's seems to be especially excited about dehydrating different foods and then using the flakes as a crust on fish. This was Erin's and my first dish in this style. It is tuna coated in dehydrated seaweed. Our waiter told us we were absolutely not to use normal soy sauce or ginger on this dish because it came with its own soy/ginger flavors in the form of ginger roasted garlic pieces and a seasame sauvignon blanc soy sauce drizzled on top.

This was swordfish sashimi that came with 2 different crusts. The one in the foreground has dehydrated tea leaves seared around the edge. Out of the 2 that was my favorite. The one in the background had dehydrated tuna flakes as its crusts. So the one fish was actually seasoning the other. Although I found that concept utterly unique and fascinating, it didn't actually translate to me liking it more than the first combination. Erin, however, thought it was far superior to the tea flake fish. Just goes to show that Erin has terrible taste... haha no j/k! It goes to show to each his own.

This was the Doctor Zhivago's favorite shrimp roll. The roll notably contained within it roasted garlic and wild rice. There is a whole section in the novel/menu that talks about how Miya's favors wild rice for it's flavor, it's nutritional leg up on white rice, and its locality. If there's one thing you walk away from Miya's with (other than a tummy ache from eating too much) it is a respect for their use of local ingredients. Also if you are beginning to wonder how I've remember all this about a meal I had a month ago, I have to admit, the menu is online here and I have been cheating a bit, but I swear a lot of this I did actually remember on my own!

This would be the Mighty Mother Earth Roll, as Miya's says it's the Philadelphia roll for smart people. The smoked salmon is on the outside and then inside there's the usual cream cheese and then a whole bunch of other stuff: asparagus, shrimp tempura, caviar, regular salmon, and scallions. I think I would have like the roll a lot more without the asparagus. Despite all my parents hard work, that is one vegtable I never learned to love, I certainly have to give them credit for giving something named after Philly a bit of class.

This roll was probably the most conceptually interesting of them all. It was called the Japafrican Queen and has an entire existenial disertation written about it. It started with Bun asking himself the what would sushi have been like if it had been invented in Africa instead of Japan. What he came up with could certainly be called interesting. Instead of being wrapped in seaweed, the roll was supposed to be wrapped in this African tortilla thing, but the waiter explained that they could never get it to come out right in the baking. So instead they called the wrap what it was, a teff grain crepe, and pretended that was what is was suppose to be all along. (Apparently teff grain is also super healthy. The waiter told us about all of its amino acids and stuff. I forget exactly what he said but it was something along the likes of teff grain is the only food that contains all the amino acids... or something...) Inside of this uber healthy crepe was eggplant, goat cheese, apricots, avacado, pickled radish, scallions, and Ethiopian berbere spices. See what I mean about it being interesting? So it wasn't my favorite taste-wise, but I think it was my favorite story-wise. I'm a sucker for the sushi/philopshy combination apparently.

This was a pretty basic crab roll. A little avacado on top and some curry aioli to spice it up. While super simply, it was one of my favs. (Although my affinity for it could just be a reaction to being overwhelmed by the previous roll, but in any case I enjoyed it.)

Missing from this run down was at least 2 more rolls, one wrapped in grape leaves in stead of sushi that I loved! So all of this combined with the 3 apps would put us at a grand total of 14 course. 14 f-ing courses. At this point I was crying tears of both pain and joy, and I had to tell, nay beg, the waiter: no more! But did he listen? Of course not, or that would be the end of the blog post. Instead he brought us out the sushi dessert roll, and even though I didn't think I could physically swallow another thing, I made room for this. Oh my God. It was faaaaaaabulous. It involved peanutbutter and banana and chocolate and blueberries mushed inside, and it was all topped with their homemade rose ice cream. Aaaaaaaaaaaah. I've just drooled on myself a bit remembering it.

After our ridiculous marathon of eating, Erin and I both felt like this:

The feeling inspired a story about Erin's father. A little background: we both have fathers who are quite fond of food, and it always amuses us to compare their food related behaviors because their food behaviors, although entirely different from one another, are often amusing. This particular story that Erin told tonight was how her father finishes meals that he is especially fond of. Let's take a look:

O Mr. Morris. How silly! Well now it's time to get back to the train station and retrieve our (fingers-crossed) not stolen luggage. So we pay the check, tip our awesome waiter something porportional to his awesomeness, and call a cab, which of course is not going to come for 20 minutes even though the town in only 3 inches big. But waiting turned out to be a good thing because 2 funny things happened. 1) Our waiter brought us even stuff to consume! This time it was their homemade flavored sakis in lemony citrus and pine tree flavor (No joke on that pine tree flavor. I accidentially drank some pinecone residue that was on the bottom.) They were delish and totally changed my opinion on saki, which I had only had once before but it had been traumatizing.

And 2) our super helpful friend from the vistor's information office showed up for dinner with his friends! So we ran into him again which was nice. He asked us all about dinner and the Pepe's pizza, and listened politely as we told him how much we loved everything.

Finally our taxi came, and it was time to leave. We got back to the train station (where our bags lay un touched!) and sat there thinking about how much we had done in the last 5 days. When the 12:27 train came, Erin snuggled up in some seats and slept all the way back to DC, but I got off on the 2 am stop in NYC for the final stop of my trip!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

We say Goodbye to Boston and Hello to Ridiculous Diversion Dedicated Solely to the Pursuit of Sushi which was further Diverted in the Pursuit of Pizza

It is, sadly, our last day in Boston, and it is, of course, the most beautiful day of them all. Katie J went to Whole Foods to grab some breakfast and some snacks before she got on her train while Erin and I packed. (I totally wasn't kidding about her being obsessed.) The packing got harder and harder along the way because not only did we buy more clothes, but we also were no longer wearing our rainboots. Up until Boston, we'd pretty much worn them everywhere so there was no need to try to cram them in our little carry-ons, but now I had to try to make those things fit in with everything else. Erin, smarty pants that she is sometimes, had bought a new tote bag, but I was basically screwed. I threw then in a shopping bag and prayed it didn't break before I made it home (which was still a good 4 1/2 days from now).

As we said goodbye to Boston, we also said goodbye to Katie J who headed back to Delaware that morning. She would not be joining us on the next leg of the trip. Although Erin and I were sad to see her go, we couldn't blame her. The next leg of the trip was a bit ridiculous. Erin was going to be heading back to DC and I was eventually off to NYC, but first we took a pit stop in New Haven that not only cost us an extra train ticket but also considerably delayed our progress forward. (Delayed as in I got into NYC at 2 am on Thursday morning instead of some normal time on Wednesday afternoon.) All this for a taste of the creative sushi combinations at Miya's. I swear, it's that good.

So we ended up taking the 1:40 from Boston and got into New Haven at 4 pm, and then we took the 12:27 out so we wouldn't have to pay for a hotel there over night. Our dinner reservations weren't until 7 pm but we amused ourselves for the first half of the afternoon by trying to talk some random guy into watching our luggage and then figure out where the heck we were going. The random guy, despite standing behind the sign that said Amtrak Luggage Desk, insisted that this was not his job, but considerable pleading and a promise that we would be back before 10:30 eventually convinced him that today watching luggage was in his job description. I was a bit nervous leaving all of our stuff with him seeing as he was not thrilled with us, but I was really happy to not have to lug it around as we searched New Haven for where we were supposed to be.

The train station was only a short walk from town. New Haven is not terribly big, but despite that it took a bit before we stumbled upon the New Haven visitor's center. Some super knowledgeable kids work there. We asked about Miya's and not only could the one kid give us directions, he also told us all about Bun, the proprietor, who happened to be his mentor in whatever his senior businessy thesis thing was at Yale. Then I mentioned that I had once seen a Food Network show that had mentioned a pizza place, and this guy new instantly what I was talking about. He was told us all about the place, Pepe's, and gave us great directions how to get there as well. So now we had wasted about an hour schmoozing with the luggage man and the Visitor Center man, but it was still only 5. We weren't quite sure what to do. So of course I did exactly what I shouldn't have and marched to Pepe's for a pizza pie before our massive dinner. It was famous! How could I resist?!

There she is. Just like Food Network promised. Check out that classic sign!

The pizza guys hard at work.

And here's me enjoying their work. We found Pepe's in the little Italy section of New Haven, which reminded me a lot of Dover, Delaware. I know that doesn't mean anything to the 99.9% of the world's population that has never been to Dover, but what I mean by that comparison is that the neighborhood was just a little too run down and plain to be considered quaintly historical. Instead, everything just felt old, but there in the middle of it is this world famous pizza joint that people will line up around the block for. It's not that Pepe's didn't fit the general feeling of the neighborhood. It was more that its fame didn't. It seemed like the type of place that locals loved and would faithfully dine at every Saturday night, the type of place where teens would congregate after a school dance, but not the type of place that's secret would have been leaked to the rest of the world. All the fame surrounding Pepe's gave the neighborhood an interesting dynamic.

I got my pizza just like the Food Network and the lady at the counter suggested: clams with white sauce and no mozzarella. It came on super thin crust, which made me a little sad because I loooooove doughy pizza, but the toppings were plentiful and delicious enough to more than make up for the lack of carbs. The pizza was everything I was hoping my 2 Amy's pizza would be and more. The clams weren't in their shells, unlike 2 Amy's. So not only did it save me time in eating, but it also allowed them to fit a ton more clams on! The clams weren't the only thing there was more of! There was more cheese (Parmesan instead of mozzarella) and more oil. Basically there was more pizzay goodness all around. I can see why Pepe's became so famous. They do thin crust so well that even a deep dish loving girl like me was won over. In the end, I think the pizza was too good because I said I was only going to have a few pieces and throw the rest away. In reality I ate everything but the crusts even though I knew our huge sushi dinner was right around the corner. I know, I know. I need more self control. You're right. I do, but what's done is done. So after I ate the pizza, I spent the next 15 minutes doing jumping jacks (and being stared at by dog walkers) as my half hearted attempt to work it off. Then around 6, we set off back towards Miya's and my second dinner for the night.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Boston, Night 2, We Travel to Cambridge

A long day of scouring the racks at more consignment shops left us all ready for some relaxing and nourishment. While we were sitting at the hotel planning our next step, one of my girlfriend from college, Courtney, called! She lives in the general Cambridge area. So we set out to have dinner there. I'd been to a place called the Daedalus in Cambridge before in my prior Boston explorations, and I remembered that their mojitos had been to die for. Since no one had a better suggestion, Daedalus it was. The mojitos were just as I remembered (mmmm yummy), and the other drink that Katie J had was equally delicious. I wish it had been warm enough to sit outside on the deck because the view of Harvard is so nice. We tried it, but, even though Boston's weather was waaaaay better than Chicago's, it still wasn't really outdoor deck weather. So in consideration of general comfort, we forwent the view for warmer pastures. Right as the appetizers arrived, wouldn't you know it, so did Courtney. That girl has timing.

Well if Courtney's grand scheme was to swoop in right as food was presented on the table, she did an admirable job. She got a few nachos and a few of mussels (of course I got mussels, gosh I just love them and get them at pretty much every new restaurant). Of course when the main dishes came, there was no sharing between my girl friends. It was everyone for themselves.

Yeeeeeeaaaaaa, those are not the faces of girls who want to share. In the end, actually, the food was only so-so. Decent but not amazing. Totally edible but not mind-blowing. Erin's risotto of the day was pretty enticing, but I think that was the most inspiring dish. My Daedalus burger was solid but nowhere near the top quality burgers I've had in my past. It was a bit overcooked, and really, I like my meat bleeding. (Mmmmm, bloody meat, yummy.)

Dessert was also a mix. Katie J liked her tiramisu, but it wasn't just kind of standard. Erin and Courtney split some chocolatey chocolate dessert which they loved and was also presented wonderfully.

I thought it seemed a little silly that the syrup flower was bigger than the chocolately chocolate thing, but apparently it was so rich that that was all they needed. They gave their dessert 2 thumbs up. I got an Irish coffee for dessert. It was waaaaay heavy on the Jameson. (Bleh!) In the end I came away with the same thing I thought the first time I went to the Daedalus, the mojitos are awesome.

Afterwards Courtney had to go home, silly girl with work the next day, but she did take us to John Harvard's so we could hang out for a little bit longer and soak up the Boston/Cambridge atmosphere. John Havard's was a chill place. They had a good beer selection and relaxed bartenders. I liked it a lot. I liked it even more as observed all the people around us. There was the string group that had come to hang out after some performance. They sat in their corner and quietly played their lively string songs under the cover of the bar standards of 80's rock songs. Then there was the drunk guy stood up on the table to scream, "I need a beer! Where's my waiter?!" The bartenders were a little less than amused. Needless to say that, I have learned, is the quickest way to never get another beer in that bar again. It was, generally, an interesting scene with no pretension, and I would definitely go back on my next Boston adventure.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Boston - Day 2

BU was cool. The actually building was definitely not as nice as Northwesten, but I sat in on this class with a great professor. They were talking about contracts, which I thought would be lame, but it was actually really interesting. When I got out of class, I was completely reassured that being a lawyer was going to be sooooooooo much better than being a paralegal, seeing as it appears that lawyers actually get to think for their job whereas all I do is put stickers on the corners of paper. You wouldn't believe how many lawyers are always telling you: "Don't be a lawyer" "You're not going to want to be a lawyer after you've worked at a law firm" "You could get such a better job" "Blah blah blah..." You know I'm sitting there thinking "Well, dude, there has to be something redeeming about the job. I mean, you haven't quit, and even if there isn't really anything redeeming, you don't spend you day sticking stickers!"

Anyways enough will talk about feelings and thoughts. After I was done at BU, I met up with the girls for more shopping! We hit up another consignment shop. It was pretty quality, and we all got something cute. They had a great jeans selection. Not only was I able to find a new pair that I loved, I also found these (which I promptly forced Erin to try one):

They're Apple Bottoms! The most hideous Apple Bottoms ever, but all the more fun for it! Erin was not happy about this little fashion show, but Katie J and I couldn't stop laughing. Here's Erin with, honest to God, the world's smallest butt. I mean she just doesn't have one, and we forced her into some Apple Bottom jeans. Can you see all the extra fabric below her ass? O man. Those were good times. Silly Erin!

Monday, May 19, 2008

What I learned in Science Class (lots going on... sorry for the slow pace!)

I know the writing's been pretty fickle lately. There's been a lot going on, though! I will have a post about it all in just a few days.

Buuuuuuuuuuuuut back to the Law School Adventure. Today we find ourselves in Boston! We got in around 11 am on Monday morning after our weekend in Chicago. Yes, that would mean we caught as absurdly early flight. As in, our shuttle to airport came at 3:45 a.m., which totally sucks when you went to bed at midnight, but we made it there alive. Barely. Actually we may have died a little bit from sleep deprivation on the way. But technically our bodies were still moving on our volition when we arrived. So we were more alive than dead. Maybe like a 78%-22% split. Like a Mortal Kombat character who had just sustained its first major hit, and the only thing that is going to bring my life bar back up is to get to our hotel, drop our stuff off, change out of my galoshes, freshen up, and lay on a lump/bed bug free bed for a minute.

A small detail was overlooked, though. We got to the hotel at noon. Check in was at 4. Those dastardly hotel clerks! They thwarted us. I mean, come on, guys! Coooome oooon. 4?! Who has check in at 4?

Siiiiiiiiigh. So we were forced to just dump our crap off with the luggage guys and trek out in our sleep deprived, smelly, 22% dead state. First thing we did? Head straight to Faneuil Hall for some touristy goodness and some food.

Katie and I split one of my all time favorite meals: meat wrapped in meat.

Mmmmm. So meaty. Just like I like it. Don't be fooled by that tomato. I certainly did not eat any vegetables. We just threw that little thing at a pigeon. It was all about the chicken and bacon. Sitting down for a bit and eating actually did make everyone feel a lot better. So we were inspired to get up and do more touristy stuff since those hotel jerks were still not going to let us in. So the next stop on the list? The Museum of Science!

It was actually kickass, and not just because we got to watch a movie about the Alps on their Imax. We actually learned things. Like smart kids do. And I haven't forget them yet! You might think that makes me a nerd, but I actually just find it reassuring that our drunk brunch from the previous day didn't have any lasting effects on my brain function. So the things I learned at the science museum were:

1) Animal skull structure tells you a lot about their habits. (i.e. Eyes on the side, run and hide. Eyes in front, they like to hunt. Which translates to deer have eyes on the side of their heads, and foxes have eyes in the front. Pretty cool little rhyme, right?)

2) The beaver's prehistoric ancestor weighed up to 300 lbs! 300!!!!! The average beaver today only weighs 50 lbs. So these suckers were 6 times as big. What kind of dams do you think giant mutant beaver's build? I mean they could take one bite and cut down a sequoia. Or they could ever just lay across the stream and stop the water. Who needs a wooden dam when you're 300 lbs?

3) Evolutionarily speaking, humans are closer related to mushrooms than to trees!

4) There is a tree called the Quaking Aspen, named because it is always moving in the wind. In France, however, they call this tree "langue de femme," and in Wales they call it "coed tafod merehed." Both names mean woman's tongue, which is apparently a metaphor for incessant movement. I kid you not. Those old countries really are that politically incorrect. See for yourself:

Also I learned all about how a lung works with the heart, but I did actually forget most (ok all) of that information. That might have had a small part to do with the fact that I was less interested in the sciency words coming out of the ladies mouth and more interested in poking the lung.

That was almost the peak of my day, but then I started reading this little exhibit. It talked about the spread of genes over the world and how they mutate and what not. To prove a point it highlighted this one gene that let's you taste PTC. There are 13 different varieties, which leave some people not tasting it at all, some people tasting extreme bitterness, and everyone else at some level in between. The volunteers at the museum carry around little PTC sticks that you can suck on to see what variety of the gene you have. I have the gene that doesn't let me taste it at all, but I was curious to see what gene Katie and Erin had. So I went to find them and made them put the PTC sticks in their mouth. Turns out Asians must be carriers of the variety which tastes extreme bitterness because they were not happy with me. I tried to apologize, explain I didn't know that would happen, but I couldn't stop giggling.

Erin's face for that split second was the peak of the day.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Final day in Chicago (sad face)

My eyes popped open on Sunday morning after almost 8 uninterrupted hours of sleep in my Arlington House bed of awesomeness. It was 10 am and my last day in Chicago with the girlies. We put on something resembling decent outfits, cleaned up some of the makeup that had streaked down our faces while we slept, and headed off to a place called Duffy's for brunch to help us recover from the last night. $15 for all you can eat and all your can drink. Multiple flavors of champagne drinks. A buffet that is set to impress... it was all that and more. We showed up around 11. It was already a 30 minute wait for a table, but the hostess said we could try our luck at the bar if we wanted. Wouldn't you know, there were 4 seats all together right at the end. Like they were waiting for us. Like it was fate. Well who were we to argue with fate?

We plopped our butts down and introduced ourselves to the cutie bartender who was more than obliging in our attempts to live up the morning/early afternoon. He explained that there was 4 delicious flavors of champagne drink: regular mimosa, mango, passion fruit, and berry and that we could have as many plates off food as we could eat. Guess how many Erin had?

3! How did you know!? Lucky guess, I suppose. So yea she had 3 plates of food! What do you mean, 'what's the big deal?!' That may not seem so ridiculous on the outset, but let me explain. The plates looked something like this:

Fist Course: A bit of everything.

Second Course: Some desert.

Third Course: The leftovers of an excessive amount of crab legs.

As for the champagne drinks, they were delish! Katie J and I were particularly fond of the berry flavor. Erin, of course, loved the mango as she obsesses over all things mango. Julia wasn't really partaking in much because she was being lame-O! We tried to force her to have fun but it was hard.

Gosh, she see how resistant she was! As much as we tried to make her have fun, but she resisted. She was just being Pouty McPouterson. That's ok though. We didn't let her bring the party down.

There was still plenty of dancing in our chairs (a little bit of dancing in the middle of the floor, especially when the perculator came on!) and lots of joking around with the fabulous and super friendly wait staff. O yea and there was maybe a little bit of a mimosa drinking competition between the rest of us who weren't being lame.

We eventually (and I do mean eventually - as in 4 or so hours after we arrived) left Duffy's. Not for lack of a party. The left over kids were just starting to get animated, but we did want to get some shopping done in the neighborhood before we had to leave.

In retrospect shopping after drinking all morning was a terrible idea. I did get some cute stuff while we were out but... well... I also did this...

At our first stop, a consignment shop, I proceeded to buy a skirt that I thought was a shirt (in my defense it was a very deceptive skirt and may have even looked better as a shirt) and 4 pairs of shoes. 1 of which I didn't even like once I woke up from my post-brunch nap. Well good thing all that stuff was only $10 a piece or so, but still there is a lesson to be learned about combining alcohol and retail. It is not safe. Talk to your kids about it. Warn them before they end up with a pair of Charlotte Russe rainbow wedges and don't know how that happened.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Meeting up with more old friends

After a day full of walking and a tummy full of champagne, you can guess what we did: go back to Arlington House and take a nap! The best thing about that hostel was how the beds, despite being lumpy and possibly bug-ridden, lulled you into the deepest sleep possible. It was borderline Cinderella-esque. Here at home in my own bed, I can never make it through the night without waking up a few times, but in Chicago I slept like a rock. It was amazing. I swear there were sedatives in the mattress that seeped into your body through osmosis. Anyways that was just a long way of explaining that none of us woke up from the nap until about 9 o'clock at night. It was a pretty long nap, but at least we had digested the brie and were ready to eat again! And guess where we decided to eat... a pizza place! Duh! It is Chicago after all. We needed the experience of some true Giordano's deep dish. So I called my friend Angela who I had met while studying abroad, and we arranged to meet at the closest Giordano's. It would be just like Italy again! There'd be pizza, wine, and lots of complaining about why Italian men had such a fondness for mullets. (No kidding! It is mullet-city over there. The Itals are not the sex gods you are imagining. Trust us. Angela and I avoided being touched by them at all costs... unless the cost was a free drink. We might have made exceptions for that. Milan was expensive, you know?)

Erin, Katie J, Julia, and I all put our faces on, dawned some cute little outfits, and hurried over to the bus stop to catch the 22. It didn't come. It rained some more. The wind blew harder. It still didn't come. More rain. More wind. No bus. Finally a bus! Not the 22. I asked the driver if this bus stops at our street (Belmont), though. He says yes, and so we all got on, thinking that it probably followed the same path of the 22, at least until our desired street. We got off at our street, and I called Angela to tell her we're there.

"Where?" she asks.
"At the intersection," I say.
"Of Belmont and Clark?"
"Yea, where are you?"
"No you're not."
"Sure we are. We just got off the bus."
"What bus?"
"Angelaaaaaa, the one that just drove by!"
"I am sitting at the intersection of Belmont and Clark. I have been for the last 5 minutes. There has not been a single bus that has come by. I think you should find a street sign."
"O," I say. "We're not at the intersection of Belmont and Clark."
Siiiigh. "Just tell me where you are. I'll come find you."

So the lesson learned was to not get on random buses, but true to her word Angela found us. By the time she did, we all looked a lot like this:

I can't help but imagine how much Angela was giggling at us in her head. Here we were, a gaggle of silly girls in our cute going-out attire and spring jackets with inside out umbrellas and streaked mascara. Here she was, a native of the area in a hooded parka with knee high boots on. You could tell who the tourists were even with your eyes closed. Angela kept us motivated, even though this other bus had dropped us off many blocks out of our way, and we pushed through the misery and made it to Giordano's! When the pizza finally came, it was hard earned and, as such, tasted even more delicious than it otherwise would have. If you have never had Giordano's, it is an experience you should have at least once. I know many people who are thin crust fans poo poo this deepest of deep dishes, and that's fine. You are all entitled to your own opinion.... But I think you're wrong. That's my opinion! Giordano's pizza has so much more toppings and cheese because they bake the pizza like a pie with the toppings on the inside and the sauce layered over the outside. There is just no way to physically pack more flavor into a pizza. I mean just look at all of that yummy goodness oozing out of Julia's piece of pizza! You can't top that anywhere (certainly not on a piece of thin crust pizza)!

After we were sufficiently refueled by the cheesey goodness, we were off to explore more of Chicago's night life. Angela took us to a hooka bar called Sigara which was kind of in the Wicker Park hood. Now the only hooka bar I've been to before is Chi Cha over on the end of U street (which I was actually just at last weekend, so there will be some more DC-oriented Search for J Street adventures about that coming up soon), and so I was expecting Sigara to be like that. In actuality about the only thing they shared in common was dim lighting. Where as Chi Cha is very open, Sigara is very closed. All the seats seem so secretive, nestled back into corners created by temporary walls made out of curtains. Someone could be sitting inches away from you on the other side of the curtain and you would have no idea what they were doing. The lighting was almost no existent, provided only by candles. You felt like you were in an Arabian brothel, in a good way. I tried to snap a few pictures of the experience, but it was to dark to get anything good. Mostly I just captured us looking ghostly by the candles.

I thought we looked so ghostly, that I tried to get everyone to tell actual ghost stories. No one was feeling that. So I started it off with the story of the green ribbon, but I only got about 2 sentences in before Erin said, "O my god, Cara. Not the green ribbon story. Everyone knows that!" That promptly ended the ghost story telling. So we all exchanged crazy stories from studying abroad instead while we sipped on some pretty decent wine. We ended up not getting a hookah because we got there so late, but the lounge was so smokey that we got the experience anyway. All in all, it seemed like too short of a night, and I was sad to see Angela go when the bar closed down. I was happy to get back into my nice warm bed, though, and out of my wet clothes. As soon as my head hit the sedative-laced pillow, I was fast asleep and didn't move an inch until the sun was up the next morning.