ANNIVERSARY TRIP, DAY 25, CHICAGO, IL – SATURDAY, JULY 7, 2007

Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders:

On Saturday we arrived in Chicago.

Chicago skyline
Chicago skyline

After watching Wimbledon in Moline as long as we dared, we checked out and made our way to Chicago. Surprisingly, the countryside in Illinois was the countryside I’d imagined for Iowa, flat with cornfields. We set our GPS for our hotel and made our way in through the traffic. After weeks of being in small town America, it is kind of a shock to be in a big, noisy city.

Since it was already late, about the only thing we did was go out to dinner at the Bluewater Grill. We have mixed reviews on this. John gives it a B and I give it a B-. John’s B is based on spotty service and ambiance. I think we have consensus on one thing; Chicago restaurants are way too noisy. It is as if you prove your worthiness by your decibel level.

We started out with the calamari. Verdict, overcooked. You’d think in a seafood restaurant they’d get this right. John had the cod special which he could make some sense of. It was a piece of cod on top of a melange of chorizo, chicken, tomato and onion stew and that was on top of chickpea puree. Okay, so perhaps a Portuguese farmwife was making a stew with the odds and ends of the week. All of a sudden her husband who has spent the day fishing comes home and has a cod that he has caught. Given that, the dish makes sense and the fish was cooked beautifully.

Now my dish is harder to make sense of. I had scallops. We told them that we wanted them rare. This was a good thing because they came out just on the more well done side of rare. Anyway, along with the scallops, there were were ravioli stuffed with lobster and parsnips and a underneath the scallops, spinach, tomatoes, chives, walnuts and fennel. What? How do these things go together? It’s like a farmer/fisherman in New England somehow warped time and kept things that he grew, fresh for the entire season and then his friend Giovanni stopped by with some pasta sheets just at the same moment when he had some leftover lobster and caught a few scallops. Lobster and parsnips? That ended up tasting like ravioli stuffed with parsnips with blobs in it. Kind of like that awful tea with tapioca in it.

Here is an idea for my dish. Make a salad. Put the spinach, tomatoes, chives and fennel in it. Follow that up with a pasta course of parsnip/pear ravioli with walnuts in a butter sage sauce. Finally serve the scallops on a bed of wild rice pilaf with some seasonal veg. Makes a lot more sense.

Tomorrow we are visiting some of John’s relatives and we will try another restaurant.

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