Archive for the ‘The List’ Category

Italian Beef Crawl 2014!


2014
10.05
Italian Beef Crawl 2014 is HERE!

Italian Beef Crawl 2014 is HERE!

Italian Beef Crawl 2014 is upon us.  What is Italian Beef Crawl?  It is a tour de force of beer and beef stretching across the city on a magical 8 hour tour. Included with this year’s invitation:

1 t-shirt to commemorate Italian Beef Crawl 2014

1/2 a beef sandwich at 4 beef restaurants

Beer at every bar on the beef crawl

Beer on the bus

Bus transportation from 12pm-8pm

Voting scorecards for the beefs of the day

Without further ado, here are the selected locales for this year’s beef crawl!

ROUTE

12:00pm-1:00pm: Five Star Bar – $2 PBR

1:30pm:                   Johnny’s Beef

1:45pm-3:15pm:    Phil’s Sports Bar

3:30pm:                 Mr. Beef & Pizza

3:45pm-5:15pm:   O’Malley’s Pub $12 Domestic Buckets

5:30pm:                  Marco’s Beef & Pizza

5:45pm-7:15pm:   The Question Mark $1.75 Domestic Drafts

7:45pm:                  Jay’s Beef (North Ave)

8:00pm:                 Two Way Lounge

COST

Please bring $55 to cover the cost of Italian Beef 2014.  We’ll meet on October 18th and get this show on the road.

Please note this post is not an open invite – if you have registered for Italian Beef Crawl through Brion Coughlin, Kurt Magnuski, or An Phan, you are good to go.

May the beef be with you!

The Great Chicago Fire Festival Recap


2014
10.05

The Great Chicago Fire Festival took place last night on an unseasonably cool night marked with the third earliest snowfall in Chicago history.  This artistic homage to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 featured buildings on floating platforms and much anticipation for a flaming tour de force that fell flat in its execution.

Arriving to Wacker Ave. at 7pm, chaos reigned as onlookers gathered on the Lower Wacker Riverwalk and the various bridges.  Security and police tried to clear spectators from the bridges due to safety concerns as fireworks were scheduled to begin later in the evening but the police changed their mind.  This left me to fight my way down to Lower Wacker Drive where all of the prime viewing spots had already been taken.  People lined up precariously on stairwells and some resorted to standing on muddy slanted hills to try to get their vantage points.  A man with a lit up Home Run Inn Pizza placard walked around to pass out coupons to all passers and maneuvering through the endless sea of people soon became a fruitless endeavor.

Eventually we settled into a spot under Wabash Bridge only to notice that the bridges had not cleared with thousands of people still standing on them.  Was this a legitimate safety threat?  Had police and security lost all control of public safety?  All of this reminded me of the much maligned Looptopia circa 2007-2008 that was subject to the same public mass disorganization.

Eventually the PA systems turned on to announce the schedule of events and explain the backdrop of the event.  Students did help assemble these great looking floating platforms and there were various community leaders and political big wigs ready to help with the lighting of the everything.  Trendy music popped in and the narration of the history of the Chicago Fire made us remember those fateful Chicagoans who had to deal with a mean southeast wind that would set their city ablaze.

Floating Building Platform

The anticipation of the setting of the fires was met with bemusement and prolong confusion as no fires were lighting up the buildings.  Music and the audio sounds of fires popping kept repeating on the loud speakers but it was clear that a certain element was missing:  fire.  Soon the crowd burst into chants of, “FIRE! FIRE! FIRE” which reminded me of Chicago Fire chants, but no capo to lead the cheering was to be found.  Eventually an announcement was made to admit defeat and capitulation as the gatherers were informed of the electrical malfunction and that now we would be setting the fires via manual mode which inevitably meant more delays.

At this point, the crowd began to thin out as disappointed onlookers were not willing to remain braving the cold for a partial glimpse of buildings on fire.  This gave me a much better vantage point to start shooting pictures, but there wasn’t much to shoot.  From Lower Wacker, you could see Marina City Tower residents gathered on their balconies trying to catch a view of the impending flames below, but the waiting continued.

At last - a fire?

At last - a fire?

Eventually the buildings were set ablaze with much cheering and applause.  The high winds did not help with the flames and we soon realized these buildings were fizzling out, much like the spirit of the event.  At this point, a vast majority of the people started fleeing the scene in an effort to avoid the inevitable public transportation logjam that would ensue.  An announcement soon proclaimed that the fireworks show was soon to begin!

Chicago Fire Fireworks!

Chicago Fire Fireworks!

At last, something to watch with awe and to think about.  Fireworks boomed from all bridges (with people still on them) and the greatest boom came from Michigan Avenue bridge which was just a bit too far out of site.  It was a fun fireworks show to watch and even more fun to take pictures of.  Execution here was great, but the lackluster never was blaze served as a great disappointment on a personal level.  Having been to a Red Moon event before, I was expecting flawless execution and an amazing show considering the $2M spent and considerable newspaper coverage.

The purpose of the event was to unite the city with its various communities being represented as well as to draw in people from all over the city to enjoy our seldom used Riverwalk.  I commend everyone who worked hard on the event and feel terrible that the inclement weather of the last few days resulted in less than perfect execution.  The idea was thought out and the considerable effort showed and I hope for more great city events in the future.

#77 – Pig Roast at Frontier


2012
09.27
Pig Roast @FrontierChicago

Pig Roast @FrontierChicago

Roasted pig is a fine delicacy taken to great heights at Frontier – recently, I was fortunate enough to feast on the beast on a fine autumn afternoon.  Entering Frontier in the early afternoon we were the first people in the bar but there was roasted pig waiting for us.

Caesar Salad

Caesar Salad

Start off with a caesar salad with your leafy greens except add in one small twist: add fried thingermerbobbers filled with cheese.  I couldn’t tell you what these things were but they were a perfect replacement for crouton and were stuffed with pure deliciousness.  We housed this salad with great ease.

Mixed Vegetables

Mixed Vegetables

Next up was a mixed vegetable bowl cooked in lots of oil and/or butter.  Being polite, I took one giant serving spoonful and dabbed some on my plate.  The buttery deliciousness of these veggies became apparent quite quickly and the food glistened and left a fine buttery trail on my plate.

Johnnycakes

Johnnycakes

Next up were Johnnycakes.  What are Johnnycakes (besides tricky crossword puzzle clues)?  Never having a Johnnycake before they looked like mini-pancakes which confused me since it definitely was not brunch. The cornmeal flatbread was just what the doctor ordered and it was hard to resist engulfing the johnnycake one-bite one kill style.

Mac n' Cheese

Mac n' Cheese

Macaroni and cheese is a tried and tested recipe that we’ve all learned how to make by reading the directions on the box.  At Frontier, they serve up a golden crusted mac n cheese served on cast iron and the cheesy deliciousness can’t be denied.  The combination of appetizers and craft beer was making for the perfect afternoon.

Pork Belly

Pork Belly

While watching the carving, I never knew how much oil and grease could flow out of a freshly roasted pig. The first plate off the pig was the pork tenderloin, which was soft tender and chock full of flavor.  Luckily my dining companions were all-in on the pig and we feasted vociferously as pork tenderloin, pork shoulder, pork leg, pork ribs, pork jowl, pork tongue and pork cheek were all rolled out. My favorite was the pork belly and ten of us barely put a dent in the giant amounts of roasted pig.

In summary, if ever you and a group of friends are looking for a fun dining experience, take a stab at the pig roast at Frontier.  It will be a feast for the ages if you can finish an entire roasted pig and your taste buds will thank you for it.


#76 – Watch Sunrise at the Lake


2012
08.18

I couldn’t tell you when I first saw sunrise at the lake, but I can tell you that if you’ve never done it before it’s worth doing at least once a summer.  Staying up all night is almost obligatory, but waking up early also works – just make sure you to the lake before the sun breaks on the horizon!

Pre-dawn at Lake Michigan

Pre-dawn at Lake Michigan

I got to the lake just in time for sunrise and arrived before the sun broke the horizon. I picked a spot by Montrose Beach, which for some might not be ideal since you can’t see the skyline very well.  Nonetheless, you can pick your own spot for geographic convenience.  At Montrose Beach, you can sit on the beach or find yourself a spot by the rocks and there will likely be packs of dogs running in the water and sand.

Sunrise

Sunrise

Sunrise in the east, it’s best wear sunglasses as the sun’s intensity is bright enough to burn your retina.  Even with clouds in the sky, the sun was able to break though.  On this particular morning it was a wee bit chilly, but once the sun rose the warm rays of the sun will make for an ideal morning.  Joggers will likely be running off in the background behind you but the sunrise is simply captivating.

Johnny Walker Blue Label

Johnny Walker Blue Label

If you feel like taking sunrise to the next level, bring yourself a bottle of high quality spirits or a bottle of bubbly to celebrate waking/staying up early enough to catch sunrise.  This morning’s edition include a fine bottle of scotch which was a fine welcome to sunrise.

Sunrise Sidekick

Sunrise Sidekick

Last but not least make sure to bring a sunrise sidekick, lest you consume your spirits alone.  Extra bonus points if they are snapping up pictures.

Sunrise at the Lake

Sunrise at the Lake

After the sun is up, feel free to go on with your day.  Whether you’ve done this a thousand times or have never gone out to the lake for sunrise, it’s something worth checking out in case you ever have to check out of Chicago.

#75 – Crawfish Boil at Toon’s


2012
04.22
Toon's Crawfish Banner

Toon's Crawfish Banner

We’re talking crawfish boil here.  Just two months ago I had my first crawfish ever in Las Vegas and have been craving crawfish ever since.  In Vegas, they fly in their crawfish daily from the south.  When I visited California in March, lo and behold they had several crawfish restaurants serving boiled crawfish and boiled shrimp all day every day.  The search for Chicago crawfish boil revealed that only a few places have crawfish boils and you certainly can’t find any places serving up crawfish daily!

After hearing that Toon’s had regular crawfish boils, I made sure to find them on Facebook and find out when the next crawfish boil was.  Discovering the next crawfish boil would feature 700 pounds of crawfish, it was a no brainer to pop an event invite and round up some good company to go eat crawfish!

How to Have a Successful Crawfish Boil at Toons

1. Get there early – Arriving early to a crawfish boil make sure you get a nice seat at the best TVs and that you will be in striking distance of the crawfish right when they come out of giant vats boiling in the back.  Getting to the boil early also means that you will have a prime opportunity to drink more and secure seating for you and your closest friends.  Don’t be surprised if a stranger decides to sit by you – seating gets tight (and that’s not a bad thing)!

2. It’s all about the plastic tray – While there are paper baskets to carry your crawfish, arriving early also means first crack at the giants trays used for crawfish. You might be able to double down with two paper baskets to drag back your crawfish, but I think it’s more fun to load up a giant tray with steaming hot crawfish.

3. Bring $25 cash. For the price of $25 cash you will get a bracelet along with a drink ticket for your included serving of selected beer.  The bracelet entitles you to ALL YOU CAN EAT crawfish from when they start serving until they flat run out of crawfish.  You will definitely get your money’s worth if you obey rules 1, 2, & 3.

Toon's Crawfish Tray

Toon's Crawfish Tray

The crawfish came out at 1:30PM and the line was not too daunting as Toon’s kept serving up tray after tray of crawfish and every serving was more than generous.  To be honest, one tray would have made my money’s worth and I really enjoyed the corn and mushroom that came along with the delicious crawfish. My old roommate was annihilating his crawfish and @GourmetRambler made fun of me for eating slow also.

@GettinHanked and @atick7 arrived next but sat elsewhere in the bar to enjoy their crawfish. @leyla_a missed out on the mud bugs since she compares crawfish to cockroaches and ordered pulled turkey instead. @TheAW1 and his friend Norman arrived much later and @girlinacity got there by crawfish o’clock.  Whilst waiting for a batch of crawfish, I got a chance to check out the back operations to see where the crawfish were all coming from.

Danny Beck - Mastermind of Toon's Crawfish Boil

Danny Beck - Mastermind of Toon's Crawfish Boil

With 700 pounds of crawfish and a bush of blue crab cooking up it was great to be able to take a look at the hard work going in the back while everyone was inside drinking and waiting for the next batch.  There were three or four giant vats to cook up crawfish, jambalaya, and crab, and kids were playing with live crawfish in a shallow plastic pool.  Two people were eating on top of a dumpster, and Danny let me know there were 150 pounds of crawfish left and that all of the crawfish were flown in fresh from the bayou.

Are you ready for a bushel of blue crab?

Are you ready for a bushel of blue crab?

B.S. Brass Brand: some serious brass Dixieland

B.S. Brass Brand: some serious brass Dixieland

Danny also let me know that the band was about to play in an hour. When B.S. Brass Band took stage, I think this is where Toon’s elevated this from a feeding frenzy to an all out party.  The music was some straight up Dixieland jazz blasting out some ripe music. Given that I had been sitting by the juke all day, the new music was loud and I was loving every minute of it.  You can always tell it’s a great party when you run into people you just don’t expect, I ran into a kid from my high school who I hadn’t seen in ages and ran into @cpbelser outside.  @cpbelser let me know that Toon’s crawfish boil is the closest you’ll find to a real southern crawfish boil out in the city and I was happy that my first crawfish boil was in the right spot.

If you’ve got a hankering for crawfish boil, find out when the next crawfish boil is at Toon’s and head on over!