I just got back from a wonderful trip to Illinois. It was truly a special time with my very special friend.
GG and I “met” online in a group for cat lovers about 5 years ago. She has visited me several times now, and I was very excited to go visit her this time. I’ve never been to her part of the country before, and GG was such a wonderful hostess and showed me so many wonderful things. Especially wonderful things to EAT. Eating is my favorite. 🙂
The Chicago area is famous for several foods. We started my food tour with some Chicago deep dish pizza at Lou Malnati’s right next to the Northwestern University campus. This pizza was soooooo good! They also have a special salad dressing in this restaurant that has a very unique sweetness to it. They serve it on their house salad that has blue cheese in it. The intense blue cheese flavor mixed with the sweet salad dressing was delicious.
I also had the chance to try another Chicago specialty – an Italian Beef sandwich from Portillo’s. Also delicious!
And if my orange-stained fingers are any indication, the Chicago popcorn from Kernel’s Gourmet Popcorn was a big hit. This is a combination of caramel corn and cheese popcorn all mixed together. Don’t make a face – it’s a yummy and crazily addictive flavor blend of sweet and salty all in one bite.
GG and I also had the opportunity to continue my education in Armenian cooking. I have learned to make several things so far from her last visit, such as cold sarma, paklava, boureg, mante, and lahmajun. (I sure hope I spelled these things correctly!) This time we messed up HER kitchen making a hot sarma . . .
. . . which we enjoyed with some yogurt, and a great madagh which we served over bulgar wheat.
It was SO delicious, and of course, so much fun to cook together. I’m hoping that my love of Armenian food will help me to become an honorary member of GG’s family. 🙂
OK, so no, of course not . . . I did not only just eat while I was in Illinois. 🙂 We did some really fun things! GG picked me up from the airport and took me through Chicago all the way up Sheridan drive where all the most gorgeous coastal homes are. I think our heads were going to snap off our necks from the constant looking left – then right – then left again – trying to see every magnificent home along this route. After that we took an architectural boat tour.
What started out to be a really great boat tour quickly got soggy when our open-air boat full of people for the one-hour-and-fifteen-minute ride got caught in an unexpected rain. And not just a light rain! It was a SOAKING rain. The kind that makes your fingers all pruney and makes the money in your purse stay wet for days.
But all we could do is laugh, because really, what else could we do? 🙂
One day we went to this adorable little town called Morris. We started our day there at the 3 French Hens Market – a wonderful outdoor market place filled with antiques, artisans, baked products, plants, and farmers’ market. It was the most perfect Summer day – warm and sunny with no humidity, and both of us found some treasures while meandering through the rows. After the market, we went to Lettie May’s Tea Room. I know I won’t be able to do justice with my description of this amazingly adorable vintage tea room, so here are some pictures.
It’s the most wonderful collection of vintage aprons, wallpaper, plates, tablecloths, napkins, chairs, tea cups and pots . . . just adorable! I’ve been to a LOT of tearooms, but this one is just the best and truly one of the hilights of my whole trip. I just adore this place. <3
One night we had a lovely dinner at a restaurant called Carlucci’s at the recommendation of friends of mine. They told us of this amazing dish this restaurant serves where they take hot pasta and swirl it inside the center of an entire wheel of Parmesan cheese. Swirl, scrape some more cheese from the center, swirl some more . . . and then scoop it onto a plate of prosciutto and peas.
It was to die for!
That was just our appetizer. We also enjoyed some filet, shrimp scampi, veal marsala, salad, flourless chocolate cake with raspberry sauce and creme brulee – all washed down with a wonderful Malbec.
We were lucky to have a great waiter all evening, and he even brought us a nice “digestif”. It was a really special evening.
One morning I woke up to this.
GG has wonderful family who allowed us to stay at their beautiful lake-front cottage in Wisconsin.
While here, we were treated to boat rides, brunch at a lovely place on yet another lake, and a cookout with many of GG’s lovely family members later in the day. It was such a nice day at a truly magical place.
So what was my favorite part of this whole wonderful trip? Well, other than spending time with my very special friend, I would have to say I have TWO favorite parts.
These two lovelies are GG’s furkids, Jin Jin and Jazzy. They are so sweet, playful and affectionate in addition to being stunningly handsome and beautiful. . . in other words, perfectly Himalayan in every way.
GG kept asking me just how many pictures of these two I was going to take. Well, after coming home and going through all my photos from the trip and deleting all the bad pictures of these two beauties (bad through no fault of their own, but bad only because of my poor photography skills), I’m proud to admit that I have no less than 100 photos of just Jin Jin and Jazzy. I am hopelessly in love with them.
Thank you, GG, Jin Jin and Jazzy for inviting me into your loving family. You’re all fabulous hosts and hostesses, and I miss you all like crazy already. <3