How much can two people eat in one day? Our Chicago trip continued.

***Remember when I said one month ago that I was going to post Day 2 of our Chicago trip then?  Wow, how time flies!  Better late than never.***

Chicago, March 4, 2012

We woke up early on our second day in Chicago to head to the Maxwell Street Market.  (Read about our first day here).  Alessandro and I had both independently heard about this market and new it was a must-see. 

This market was awesome and is now our second favorite Chicago destination.  It is a hodge podge of a place, with vendors selling toiletries, clothes, junk and vintage goods.

We bought a new vintage toy wagon for our niece for Christmas and also...a pair of binoculars cause we thought we needed them.  Turns out we didn't.

But the best part was the authentic Mexican food and drinks.  I was taken to a happy place stuffing my face here, which by the way, was right before we had scheduled to meet Al's sister for lunch.  Oops.  But, since we're only in Chicago once.....

For tacos, we tried Manolo's food tent. 

It was really cool watching this hooded woman make tortillas so effortlessly.  I can still remember the wonderfully soft and fluffy texture of these tortillas...unlike any I've ever had before.  And I've had a lot of tortillas in my life, being Mexican and all. 

We ordered three tacos:  pork, tongue and pumpkin flower (which is squash blossom).

Please pardon my shiesty pictures.  It was way too cold out that day to focus.  I was just trying to survive, people.

We also got a canela tea to drink, because the young vendor was all, "Would you like a canela?"  And we were like, "Um, yeah, don't see why not."  Canela is simply cinnamon tea made by boiling whole cinnamon sticks in water.  It was really really good and we could not get enough of it.  We have no idea why something so simple could be so good, but it was.  I tried to recreate it at home and was semi-successful, but it was certainly better from Manolo's.  Try it out one day, will ya? 

We didn't get very far after finishing our tacos (we got to the tent right next door, actually) before we saw this goodness going on:  

Yes please.  We got a grilled corn on a stick with the works, which meant it was covered with lime, Mexican crema, Parmesan cheese and chili.  

For Alessandro, it was love at first bite.  He later proclaimed the corn as the best thing he ate in Chicago.  I recently made this for us for dinner...two nights in a row...we tore it up.  Alessandro is officially in love with this dish, called elote, pronounced e-loh-thay.  

The corn was so hot, in temperature and in spice, and memorably contrasted with the cold outside temperature.  It had my sensitive teeth asking, "Why, oh, why?"  But then my belly reminded my grill that everything would be okay.  

From the same food vendor, we also got a drink that is the primary reason that Maxwell Street Market will forever be held high in my heart.  The drink?  Atole de Arroz, which is a creamy drink made with milk, cinnamon and rice.  I have a love affair with this drink.  My Grandma makes it, but she hasn't made it in a very long time.  Last year, I couldn't take the craving anymore and I tried to make it myself, but it came out thicker than I remembered and was more of a meal than a drink.  I thought I was just going to have to settle for that...until my craving for the drink was fulfilled at Maxwell Street.  It was a happy time for me as I walked and sipped and smiled. 

As if that weren't enough, we also shared a rice pudding empanada, and how can that be bad?  It can't.  It wasn't. 

By this point, we had only a short time before we were scheduled to meet Alessandro's sister for lunch.  Ha!  Good thing it was more of a talking lunch than an eating one : )

We picked Goose Island Brew Pub for lunch, which was a Rick Bayless recommendation.  He didn't personally recommend it to me, but I read somewhere that he thought it was a must-visit.  We stopped at a Crate and Barrel Outlet first, which was right next door, and we left with some juice glasses, a small cutting board, a glass storage jar and baker's twine.  So exciting, right?

For lunch, we forced ourselves to munch--Alessandro had mussells and I had chorizo quesadillas.

Dang, I don't remember what kind of beer I had, but I wish I could because I really liked it. 

I have a bad habit I need to break of taking pics of food, not folks, so I missed out on snapping a pic of Al with his sis.   

After our morning and afternoon of eating, we headed to our hotel for a few hours of rest.  Then, we were ready for the moment we've all been waiting for:  dinner at Avec, our favorite place on Earth.

Check out Al in his new jeans!  

Avec is the coolest place.  It's super slim and wooden.  (They didn't pay me for that articulate plug).

It snowed while we waited.  And we reminisced that there always seems to be something falling from the sky when we're there.  The first time we visited, we walked for hours to get to the place because we kept getting lost and as soon as we stepped foot inside, it began pouring rain.  

At Avec, you dine while sitting at the same table with people you don't know, which is fine for us, but understandably not for some.  We discovered that we're not very friendly since we didn't want to talk to the couple next to us, but it seemed like they wanted to talk.  Hey, we were on a date and it wasn't a double!

See, Alessandro's all, "Um, stop talking, please." 

And I'm all, "Look, I'm on vacation!"  

Avec is a tapas joint, and we like to order a few small plates to share.  We ordered our favorite dish, chorizo-stuffed medjool dates.  The perfect combination of spicy and sweet. 

And, a couple of new dishes for us...roasted whitefish...

and a pork shoulder stew. 

The best part is that when we got our bill, this is what was placed in front of me: 

No, not the price, silly...

I had to do a double take, and I thought I was on candid camera or something. (Or had too much wine).  What are the odds of that?  Our favorite restaurant that we found while wandering Chicago one year before Alessandro was diagnosed with MS, that we visit each time we go back to Chicago, and that was referenced in our wedding vows, was now, 6 years later, participating in a fundraiser for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.  Weird how everything moves in circles

It was the perfect ending to a perfect dinner. 

Alessandro will kick me in the gizzard if I don't mention that we ate breakfast the next day at The Bongo Room, and he had one of his favorite breakfasts of all time.  It was a tomatillo, avocado, spinach and chicken scramble. 

That's all folks.  

It was a short trip where all we did was eat, but seriously, isn't that what you're supposed to do in Chi-town? 


A Song

Artist:  The Shins
Title:  Simple Song

Everytime this song comes on in our house I say, "Who sings this?"  That is my way of saying I like a song...needing to know the artist.  For some reason I can't ever remember that it's The Shins.  Maybe now since I've shared it with you I will finally remember.


A Song

Artist:  Lucas Jack 
Title:  Cover of Lana Del Ray's Video Games

Luke is Alessandro's friend from college.  He is a beautiful singer.  
The first time I met him in Chicago he sang and played the piano for us in his apartment.  
I was amazed by his talent then, and continue to be amazed everytime I hear him belt a tune.  
I think he takes this song to a whole new level.