Sunday, April 27, 2014

DC to Chicago

Day 1 of the westward migration was a success!  I made it from DC to Chicago in approximately 11.5 hours, and I didn't once end up in a ditch.  I passed through six states, ate pancakes at IHOP and raw lamb at a Michelin-starred gastropub, listened to more Christian pop music than I even knew existed, and blew the toll-booth guy's mind when he asked how much my bike cost.  Now I'm curled up in Vanessa and Steven's cozy guest room getting ready for some much needed beauty sleep (and by "beauty sleep" I mean "not on the floor").  But before I turn the lights out, a few highlights from the day:


I awoke this morning to an empty stomach and an empty fridge.   I knew I needed sustenance for my Trek Across America, so took a deep dive into one of the temples of Middle America:  IHOP.

After all, nothing says "I'm going to drive through the Midwest" like a plate of
eggs, sausage, bacon and French toast, with a side of pancakes
Thus fortified, I dropped my apartment keys at the front desk and headed westward into the wilds of . . .


Which felt very much like home.  Only I noticed, as I drove through familiar territory, just how much construction there is right now.  I mean, I could come back in six months not recognize this place!  I started to get emotional, but then the soundtrack to Thoroughly Modern Millie came on and I was all, like, "I'm a PIONEER WOMAN, pal!" and got all sassy about going someplace new (I glossed over the part about how she was leaving the Midwest and going to the big city, whereas I was leaving the big city to drive into the Midwest...).  And before I knew it I had crossed the bridge into . . .


But let's just call a spade a spade:  Maryland is basically Virginia.  Snooze.  On the other hand, by the time I got to . . .


I felt like I'd been dropped into some revivalist Christian summer camp.  Every single radio station was either piping out Christian talk radio Southern-inflected voices telling me how to get saved, or playing some awkward mix of goopy Christian pop music and commercials that were basically a cross between the NPR pledge drive and fast and testimony meeting.  It was interesting at first, from an anthropological perspective, but then I just couldn't wait to get to . . .


Which was moderately less Christian but turned out to be SUPER BORING instead.  I mean, the entire state is one long turnpike with flat farmland on either side.  And more billboards than I've ever seen for plus sized clothing.  There mud be a lot of big people in Ohio.  But there wasn't any sense in complaining, because after 300 miles of Ohio turnpike, I crossed the border into . . .


Where I discovered that Indiana was indistinguishable from Ohio, except for the fact that it smelled bad (all that heavy industry) and had a lot more of those fancy semis with race car logos all over the sides.

By this time the day was drawing to a close and I was SO ready to get out of the car.  I can't say how happy I was when finally I entered . . .


Once I was in Chicago, I knew I was nearly there.  Google maps took me right to Vanessa and Steven's cute little house, where I was able to stash my bike in the garage and my suitcase upstairs before running out for . . .


As luck would have it, neither Vanessa nor Steven was around -- Vanessa is in Florida for business, and Steven was out at dinner with some friends -- but that didn't prevent me from having a fantastic gastronomical experience worthy of Chicago's foodie reputation! Before leaving Vanessa (a fellow foodie) had sent me a list of nearby restaurants, including Longman & Eagle, a Michelin-starred gastropub that was only a few blocks away.  I walked over, not sure if I'd be able to get in, but discovered -- to my delight -- that it's no problem at all to get a table for one on a Sunday night.  (Sorry for the bad lighting!)

Amuse-bouche:  chilled turmeric and cardamom soup, with caramelized marshmallow
Lamb tartare with pickled green beans, quail egg, celeriac remoulade, brussels sprout leave
and mustard foam
Steak with emulsion of foie gras, fried parsnip strips, asparagus, baby potatoes, and
manicotti stuffed with ricotta and something else that I can't remember
Black sesame donuts, coconut tapioca, black sesame puree,
powdered coconut, coconut sorbet, and
lime & palm sugar granita with coriander and cilantro

The food was all very good, but I think the portion size was off.  I came away feeling over-full, which in my experience is uncharacteristic of the better Michelin-starred restaurants.  I'd be curious to go back with someone else -- my sense is that it would have been better to split everything roughly in half (which is what the couple next to me did; they just shared everything).

By the time I'd finished dinner, Steven had gotten back from his dinner, and so we chatted for a while about life and leaving big law firms (he made the leap about six years ago and has since become a solo practitioner).  But soon I got droopy and knew that I needed rest before another big driving day tomorrow.

And so with that, goodnight!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That's a lt of states in one day! Looks like you had great driving weather. Enjoy... Lady