Loving Chicago is like loving a woman with a broken nose.
– Nelson Algren
Have you ever received a text message from your friend’s fiance (whom you’ve never met) asking you to help him with a little surprise for the bride-to-be? My guess is probably not; however, let me assure you that these things do in fact happen. Or at least they happen to me. 🙂 Trust me, you wouldn’t believe how surprised I was upon receiving said text message; it took some real craftiness for him to sneak into S’s cell phone and get my number! I was intrigued by the idea of helping with a surprise and eagerly texted back, thinking that he wanted me to pick up something for her, or to organize photos from our college days or something along those lines (I’ve always been tickled pink by the thought of espionage and top secret errands meant to bring people great happiness)…and then it became clear that the surprise was going to be me (I know, I know, it’s not only highly complimentary and kind of glamorous, but also romantic and sweet gesture towards S on his part. In that moment, this fiance/groom whom I had never met instantly became a keeper; male readers, I hope you’re taking notes!) :). You may be wondering why I had to be a surprise guest, rather than an actual guest, but the fact of the matter is that they wanted a small wedding (as in 14 guests; yes, small, intimate weddings are still possible in this day and age) and, when the planning was undertaken, it was unclear whether I would be able to make it, so, for the sake of keeping numbers small, another college friend was chosen as the representative of our dearly departed Columbia days. Needless to say, I was excited about the surprise, about going to Chicago for the weekend (my last chance at humidity and, boy, did it deliver!), about taking part in my friend’s special day and also about meeting the crafty groom.
Which is why, when I woke up on Friday morning at 6:22 a.m., I nearly had a heart attack. My flight was leaving at 8:15 a.m. from Oakland International and, as I was planning on taking public transportation, it seemed like I wasn’t going to make it on time or, at the very least, would be cutting it quite close. You may be wondering how in the world this happened or why I hadn’t planned better? Yeah, you and me both. I would like to say two things on this front: 1) The day before I had finally upgraded my phone (the Samsung Reality is absurdly chic; I love it) and, though I did a test run with its alarm mode, the new phone ultimately failed me. I had set it for 5:33 and it never went off….This added to the sensation of having been shot and pulled back into the waking world against my will, yet with great urgency (it probably doesn’t help that I had seen “Inception” the night before and so my mind was preoccupied with dreams) when my internal alarm went off. Needless to say, I moved like a rocket (don’t know if I’ve ever moved that fast in my life) and was out of the apartment–even having quickly showered–by 6:38. Yeah, it was remarkable. Somehow things aligned and the 57 came, which got me to BART, then the Dublin/Pleasanton train appeared fairly quickly and then I was at the airport. I don’t consider it to be that coincidental that “Don’t Stop Believin'” came on my iPod as I made it to the final stretch at the airport. I hate to say it, but I pulled the “cute girl in distress” act, smiled winningly and even allowed a little bit of southwestern PA twang to enter my voice as I explained the situation and cut everybody in line. Were my toiletries in a plastic bag? No. Were they above 4 oz? Yes. But did they take them away? Nope; the stars were on my side. I then got to the gate at 8:05 only to discover that the flight was delayed by 15 minutes–a true godsend–and why? Because the captain was late, having been held up in traffic on I-80 after a tractor trailer flipped over. I’ve never been so happy that I decided to abandon the idea of taking a cab in a time of great need. This also leads me to point 2: despite my general Type A personality, absurdly organized life and love of punctuality, I’ve always been careless when it comes to airports/flights. I once went to the wrong airport in Japan (oops) and missed an international flight to China after foolishly having decided to take a cab (the most expensive cab ride of my life and all for naught;there was half an inch of snow on the roads and, by Japanese/Kansai standards, this is a blizzard, so we weren’t going anywhere); my travel agent’s advice to cry at the ticketing counter didn’t do me any good; the ticket agent had a heart of stone and told me to come back on time the next day. I’ve also missed a flight to Madrid, had a plane wait for me in Shanghai and run like a madwoman at JFK when returning from a conference, scaring the daylights out of a child who happened to be in the way. My most recent flight experiences having been largely drama-/adrenaline-free, I had thought I had overcome this flaw, but apparently, there’s still a little work to be done. Ultimately though, all that matters is that I made it; after all, this wasn’t just about my escaping to Chicago for a weekend….This was about the wedding, my role as surprise guest and there was no way, faulty alarm or not, I was going to mess that up. I won’t lie: I was again willing to cry at the ticketing counter, although I must confess that both my dignity and I are happy it didn’t come to that….I boarded, read Saveur’s Greece issue 😉 and a little Soseki; the only punishment I suffered for my lateness was the lack of food I had in my bag, which led to my eating the gross crackers with fake cheese in the center. It was a low culinary moment for us all.
Despite the minor trials and tribulations, it was completely worth it; being there was truly, to steal a word that a friend just said to me in an email, “splendiferous”! Chicago was beautiful, S was sooooo surprised to see me (P and I were successful partners in crime), the wedding was lovely, the groom’s friends were wonderful (thanks, Ellen, for becoming a follower! :P), we all got along and ate oh so incredibly well (no fake cheese once I landed)! I even finally got to say something I’ve long wanted to say to a cab driver when the bride left the groom’s wedding ring in the hotel and I was elected the person to go back and get it (in 15 minutes, I went up and down Michigan Avenue no less than 3 times): “You’re going to have to step on it because I have a wedding I need to be at in 5 minutes.” While the cab driver was a little taken aback, he delivered and was tipped amply for his fine city driving. Plus, Chicago really is quite the food city. At each meal, people kept asking me, “Are you going to take pictures for your food blog?” (good news travels fast and, honestly, the food was too beautiful not to photograph). Besides walking around and taking all of our meals together, we also swatted mosquitoes off of each other in the park where the ceremony was being held (it’s a funny thing to see people in fancy clothes smilingly smacking each other, but keep in mind that this was done out of love) and all tried to dodge the bouquet that the bride insisted on throwing at the 4 unmarried people in attendance (I tried not to catch it, really, I did, but the damn thing made a beeline for me and to have let the bride’s bouquet hit the ground would have been poor form. So, like the good sport that I am, I jumped, reached and caught it. It, however, means nothing).
Now for some food highlights!!!
From the “rehearsal” dinner at Amelia’s Bar and Grill, which, while a little off the beaten path, was totally worth it. I’ve never been so happy to see a plate of food in my life….and the fact that this plate included shrimp, pumpkin mole and sweet plantains (camarones ala pipiana) made my earlier necessary consumption of fake cheese fade away like a bad memory.
Can I just say that Chicago is a great city? People are friendly, it’s pretty and it has lots of interesting local events that aren’t ridiculously crowded and unbearable to be at. For example, after the ceremony, two of the other guests and I meandered through the park and stumbled upon the Chicago Summer Dance Festival, where they were selling Sangria and offering salsa dancing lessons…Unfortunately, we didn’t get to partake in the dancing, but we helped ourselves to some overpriced Sangria. 🙂
Onto the delicious three course wedding dinner at Sweets & Savories; my selections were the Heirloom Tomato and Mozzarella Salad, the Roasted Pork with Corn Pudding (what can I say? I’ve recently developed a liking for the other white meat!) and the Blueberry Cobbler (there was, after all, wedding cake as well; I had to get my fruit groove on before I could indulge in chocolate-y deliciousness):
And now for a headless glimpse of the happy couple (this blog, I’m afraid, is faceless and will remain so) and the pièce de résistance , the Chocolate and Hazelnut Wedding Cake from Flourish Bakery, which basically was like a good old-fashioned spoonful of Nutella *happiness*:
A post-wedding brunch at Yolk, where I was thrilled to have a plate of bleu cheese deliciousness with some bacon, tomatoes and spinach thrown in (to be fair, I balanced the pure fat content by making it an egg white frittata….Moderation is always key!):
And just a few more shots of lovely Chicago (yes, I do love my urban landscapes!), which, if this is what a woman with a broken nose looks like, then I’d be more than happy to break my own. =P