A Pulaski Day Profession of Chicago Love

Casimir Pulaski, the Polish fellow being honored today, died in the Revolutionary War’s Siege of Savannah in 1779.

Plaque in Pulaski Square, Savannah

Three years ago I packed up and moved to Savannah, seeking respite from the Chicago winters I complained so much about and hoping to start a new life amongst the genteel and seersucker clad. I rented a room from two fun gay dudes on the top floor of a fancy pantsy mansion right next to Forsyth Park.

House on Hall Street

Forsyth Park

I made the most of the city’s open container laws and unwritten karaoke-seven-nights-a-week laws, but in the end it was a lonely and failed three-month experiment. I missed everything about Chicago. Yes, even the weather.

Twentysomething me wanted to live anywhere but the Midwest, spouting standard lines about how much cooler it would be to live in Europe/the Pacific Northwest/ on an island off the coast of Honduras. It took ten years for that to work its way out of my system, but at 34 I can now say I’m here because I wanna be here.

So tonight I will eat a Polish-Chicagoan-Low Country meal of pierogi and cheesy grits to commemorate General Pulaski’s untimely demise in Georgia and to reconfirm my gushy love for this city. Plus, today is the 176th birthday of the City of Chicago, so maybe I’ll stick a candle or two in there somewhere.

Kasia’s + Cheese Grits = Pulaski Day

Ethiopian Food as Sports Nutrition

Hoofing it up 94 flights of stairs requires a well-fueled body. Yesterday afternoon I did the Hustle Up the Hancock for the fifth time in my tenure here in Chicago and to prepare, I carbed up on injera at Ras Dashen in Edgewater on Saturday night.

Ras Dashen

I’m not sure gorging oneself on spicy food at an Ethiopian restaurant the evening before a rigorous athletic event is especially well advised, but the stomach wants what the stomach wants. My dining pal and I forewent any appetizers and dove face first into our giant sourdough pancake the second it hit the table. Toppings of choice were a poofy fresh cheese called ib, stewed green beans and carrots, lentils and okra in red sauce, and spicy juicy lamb. My grandma was from Oklahoma, so I have a hereditary longing for okra even though it looks like an alien life form. Everything tasted like it was slow-cooked with TLC and I managed to not make a huge mess of myself while eating with my hands (which is only worth noting because a no-fork meal at Hyderabad House once left me in a crumpled pile of dirty napkins, covered head to toe in goat paste).

This feast did, in fact, make me as strong as the Ethiopian mountain the restaurant is named for and left me wanting to come back another night with a bigger group to try even more toppings on that heavenly injera bread.

So until next time, I leave you with “Before” and “After” pics from the Hustle. It’s no marathon, but I’ll take bragging rights where I can get them!

Permission to Board the Ramen Bandwagon

Some say love, it is a river that drowns the tender reed.

Some say Wasabi, it the place to go for the best ramen in the city.

As a lifelong eater of Top Ramen packets and future hypertension sufferer, I thought all ramen was the same. It wasn’t until I started hearing murmurings of Santouka, Slurping Turtle, Urban Belly,  etc. that I came to know good ramen is a thing people chase down. Or blog about. Or make movies about.

So I found myself at Wasabi this weekend, sidled up to the counter waiting for a bowl of their raved-about spicy roasted garlic miso ramen. I’d been here a few times before for sushi, completely skipping over the noodle portion of the menu, but that was before the ramen evangelists spread their good word unto me. I know nothing about wine pairings, so I brought a bottle of Gazela vinho verde because it is light, effervescent, and rings up as $6.66 at the liquor store down the street.

When the bowl came out, I saw that the hype was warranted. If this bowl were a contestant on The Bachelorette, I would give it a rose. It was huge, so big points for volume, and you couldn’t even see the noodles under the layer of fixin’s––cut up scallions, two medallions of Berkshire pork cheek, bamboo shoots, and a glorious half of a soft-boiled egg. I didn’t even try to take a photo because I don’t have the camera-phone skills to do it justice. So I took a picture of the pig statue that was mooning me all through dinner instead.

Working with chopsticks and a spoon that looked like a clamshell tied to a stick, I ate the toppings and excavated the noodles from down below. They were full of a color, flavor, and texture that Top Ramen can only dream of. The broth was opaque and super rich, almost like a thin gravy. It took a while, but I made it to the bottom of the bowl and earned myself a completely sated, second trimester-esque ramen belly.

I normally try to play it cool and feign annoyance at food fads (I’m look at you, bacon and cupcakes), but this ramen thing fills a wavy noodle-shaped void in my very being. I will not chase it with the ardor of the diehards, but I may become a regular at the Wasabi counter. You can find me slurping away next to the pig butt.

German Biers in Ravenswood

Laschet’s is the after-rehearsal hang of the Ravenswood Community Orchestra, so I’ve found myself here on many a Monday night. This is a real deal German bar, as proven by the number of times I have witnessed patrons burst into German song. And the number of times I have been moved to burst into German song. There are deer heads on the walls, as well as flyers advertising a venison dinner dance in March. This literature begs two pressing questions:

  1. Who will be my date to the venison dinner dance?
  2. What does one wear to a venison dinner dance? (Safety orange? Antlers? A salt tiara?)

Burnt wood art = always classy


In Search of Swedes: An Afternoon in Andersonville

I have never been to Sweden and I would very much like to go. When I was travelling through Poland, I met a very ill-behaved Swede in my hostel whose main mission was to visit a brothel and drink as much cheap vodka as humanly possible. He achieved both of those goals, as well as some public urination in my presence, but I have not let that sully my impression of this land of smiling blondes and chunky knits.

In lieu of an SAS ticket to go meet some Swedish folk on their native soil, I went to Tre Kronor for brunch and checked out the Swedish American Museum.

Dala horses at Tre Kronor

Here’s what you need to know about my brunch: I ate a bacon sausage. Is your mind blown? Two independently wonderful things smashed together. Like cake pie or Cheetos Pringles. Somehow they stuffed ground bacon into a sausage casing and fried it up to perfection. It was completely delicious and worth an afternoon worth of Baco~Os burps. I also had a lovely slice of salmon quiche.

The Swedish American Museum is small and charming (so fairly worth the wee $4 admission fee). There was an exhibit of folk art on the first floor and a permanent exhibit on Swedish immigration on the second floor. The second-floor collection is kind of like a grandma’s attic with cool old photos and knick-knacks. And dead-eyed paper mache zombie people.

Coming to America

On my way out, I quizzed the nice Swedish lady at the front desk about her favorite place to eat in the city. She gave Tre Kronor a resounding recommendation and waxed poetic about their waffles and fish. My wafting bacon sausage burps probably reminded her of breakfasts around the wood stove back home. You’re welcome, nice lady. It was my pleasure.

Ingen orsak!