Flushing food tour, Chicago and much more!

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Flag of United States  , New York
Monday, February 25, 2013

The snow has finally melted! (I typed a week ago...)Thank goodness! After the initial novelty and powdery softness, it turned into more of a hard, slip-every-step, glass-like substance that made for very treacherous walking; especially at the park. Having four legs seemed to help Lulu with this, but I think I must have made for a very comical figure picking the path of least slipperiness. And of course Lulu would leave her ball in the most unreachable spots…

Wednesday, 13th of February, Suzy (who I met at Madiba's) and I went to an event called "How to prepare a Mexican Feast" at the Brooklyn Brewery. Matt and I were supposed to go but as he was in Detroit it became a girls’ night out. There was a taco, salsa and sweets demonstration station. The taco demonstration was not wildly exciting, but the salsa demo was good with lots of taste testing. The sweets were really yummy – almost flourless chilli chocolate cake with tomatillo sauce and Mexican paletas. Lise and I had some yummy paletas when we were in Mexico. They’re basically fruit ice pops with chunks of fruit in them with optional chilli salt that can be sprinkled over them.

The Saturday before Matt’s birthday I took him on a surprise Chinese food tour of Flushing. It took over an hour to get there on the train so we had worked up a fair appetite by the time we arrived! There were only four of us; including Joe our tour guide! Andrea is a food writer and she was doing some research. We started the tour at the New World Mall food court where we had some Szechuan spicy beef tongue first up – very yummy. Next we had dumplings “with wings” from Li Lanzhou’s Hand-stretched Noodles – also delicious. After that we had a mango egg custard from New Flushing Bakery. By pure co-incidence there was a Chinese New Year parade on too. It made it a bit harder to get around and it was very busy everywhere but it was cool to see some of the floats and dragons.

Our next stop was the Soy Bean Chen Flower Shop – a flower shop with a small stall that sells fresh soft tofu. I’ve never had tofu like this before. Warm and like custard with spicy shrimp sauce on top. Really delicious. They also have a sweet version with ginger topping instead. Next we walked to the Assi Plaza – a huge Korean supermarket with an amazing range of chillies, dried fish of all descriptions, kimchi, meat, fruit and vegetables – anything you could want! We stopped at a stall inside and had some Korean dumplings filled with kimchi and pork. We also had some fried seaweed which was initially not very nice but became strangely addictive…

Next we headed to Flushing Mall where we saw some more dragons before heading to Diverse Dim Sum for some crab-and-pork soup dumplings. Nice enough but not nearly as good as the ones at Hutong Dumpling in Melbourne. We started heading back in the direction we started the tour from and on the way ate some kind of tofu roll at White Bear that wasn’t anything special. The next snack – peking duck rolls were very yummy and made up for it. After that we headed into a pharmacy to have a look and also tried some ginseng tea – not my kind of cuppa; yuk! Next we headed down the stairs of the Golden Shopping Mall – I definitely would have walked past it if we weren’t on the tour. Here we sampled some spicy sausage (OK) and some durian custard-cream buns. Durians stink, but I tasted it before in Thailand and quite liked it. Apart from Joe I was the only one to finish it and later when it kept repeating on me I wished I hadn’t…

All that eating made us quite tired and we ended up starting the journey home. We made a brief stop in Manhattan and looked at a really cool gallery/ artist before deciding we couldn’t be bothered, picked up Lulu from day care and had a lazy rest of the afternoon.

On Sunday, after heading to the gym to make room for some more eating, we went and saw “The Impossible” movie about the tsunami in Thailand. It was set in the same town where I volunteered a few years ago and reminded me of some of the people I met and their incredible stories of survival. After the movie I took Matt to “Mighty Quinns” for some extended birthday celebration ribs. Matt (and I) love ribs, but from what we’ve heard and tasted we might need to go to the South to taste some really good ones.

Monday was a public holiday so we went out for a local brunch. Oh how we miss Melbourne’s brunch and coffee scene… Coffee so terrible it could not be drunk and average food. L Here a crowded restaurant and a high score on Urban Spoon does not equal a good one! Sunday and Monday were absolutely freezing made worse by strong winds. It was -8 on Sunday morning but it felt like -14. BBBBBRRRR!!! Monday night Matt had to finish off some work before heading to Detroit on Tuesday and I headed to Manhattan for the second meet-up for designers and artists. The bar was appropriately named “Art Bar”. Again not many turned up but it was still interesting to see what people are doing and how they’ve dealt with certain problems. They included a jewellery maker, furniture maker, children’s hat maker, some film makers, a photographer, an art consultant and I.

On Tuesday night we organised a girl’s movie night out. Suzy, Haylay, another girl who’s name I can’t remember and I saw “Safe Haven” by the same author as “The Notebook”. A good chick flick but not as good as The Notebook. Marina joined us for some chocolate inspired cocktails at Max Brenner’s beforehand, but as she had flown in that morning from a weekend away she skipped the movie. All in all it was a great night out!

Matt arrived back from Detroit late on Thursday night. Luckily he was able to work from home on Friday which made it easier to co-ordinate and get to the airport for our trip to Chicago.

We arrived at Lindsay and Dan’s around 7:30pm (Chicago’s an hour behind NY) and had a yummy seafood dinner with the biggest scallops I’ve ever seen! Dan introduced Matt to some Wisconsin beer and cheese – he is very “state-triotic”. Matt tried to keep up, but Dan basically inhaled his beers so Matt had to concede defeat later in the night... We thought we’d probably have an early night so we could be ready to go exploring the next day, but instead Lindsay and Dan decided to entertain us with some more unusual Chicago experiences. First we headed to their local – only a few steps in the snow away from their house. Smallish place with a bar running down the length and every seat occupied by a local. As we entered they told everyone “we’ve bought some Australians” and everyone at the bar turned around and said hello! Next we had to roll dice – miraculously I rolled consecutive numbers and got a free drink (I never win)!

After a quick stop we walked to “Too much light makes the baby go blind” to watch a presentation by “Neofuturists” (http://neofuturists.org/toomuchlight/). It’s hard to explain exactly what it is but basically the show runs for an hour. There are 30 plays/skits that can possibly be performed. Every audience member has a “menu” with the play numbers and names. The show starts when the buzzer is set and the audience yells out the number of the play they want to see. The number is plucked from a line hanging above the “stage”. The play is performed with minimal props and when it is finished the audience yells out the next number. This continues until the buzzer sounds and everything stops. Plays included “Food. Eat. You”, “Extremely Specific, Angrily Shouted, Semi-Silent Art Auction”, “Dropbox Booger”, “Shitty Trumpet and an Abacus” and “Ass Comparison” amongst others. We saw all but about 4 plays - lots of fun!

The next morning, feeling a bit seedy and tired we decided to head for Giordano’s to try some authentic Chicago deep-dish pizza. Lindsay had typed up some suggestions for us, so we took the taxi along Lake Shore Drive which runs along Lake Michigan. The shoreline was frozen and it was too cold and windy to get out and walk along it. Some souls were still brave or crazy enough to be jogging along it though... Unfortunately Giordano’s wasn’t open yet so we had brunch at “Rosebud on Rush” which also seemed to be quite well-known as there were lots of photos of famous people on the walls. I had white chocolate raspberry French toast with challah bread – really yummy. Huge US style servings too.

After that we walked along Michigan Avenue which has lots of beautiful buildings like the Wrigley Building, Trump Tower and Chicago Tribune Building which has pieces of famous places in the facade of building. We walked past the studio of WGN radio 720am and could see the broadcasters at work. After we crossed the Chicago River we walked to Millennium Park where we saw the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Cloud Gate (known as “The bean” by Chicagoans), the Art Institute of Chicago and Crown Fountains video faces. The water wasn’t running (would probably freeze) but it was still pretty cool and a bit freaky. We had to keep ducking into shops as it was freezing and windy and Matt was starting to loose feeling in his feet. My feet were warmly ensconced in my moccasins J. Lindsay told us to keep an eye out for a Garrett’s Popcorn shop so we could try the Chicago mix – caramel and cheese-salt covered popcorn mixed together in a bag. We tried the combination – eating a cheese and caramel one at the same time, but I preferred picking out the caramel ones.

We walked to the theatre district and saw some pretty cool sculptures along the way. We were starting to fade and thought that it might be time to try the pizza at Giordano’s. Unfortunately there was a long waiting list, but sitting inside for 45 minutes wasn’t too bad! We didn’t really like the pizza – deep-dish with a sickening amount of cheese and another layer of dough on top. But it was one of those things we just had to try at least once. We headed back to Lindsay’s around 4 as she was having a party that night. We helped to set up, showered and then the guests started arriving. I thought they weren’t arriving till about 7:30 and was secretly disappointed that I missed out on a nap which I very much needed after the previous night, sight-seeing and busy nights last week. Poor Matt was even more buggered than me…

Luckily it was a low-key party involving eating, drinking and talking. I couldn’t do much eating after the pizza and was very envious of the baby sleeping in her little carrier. We felt bad that we were so exhausted, but luckily most people didn’t head out for the karaoke afterwards so we could pass out guilt-free.

The next morning our Frank Lloyd Wright tour got cancelled but luckily we found out that you could do the same tours by going there and signing up. We did the interior tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s house first and then we did a walking tour in the neighbourhood as he had designed many of his neighbours’ houses for them. It was a beautiful, sunny yet cold day so perfect for the tour. It was really interesting to see the houses and to find out more about the man I remember learning about in high school! We also loved the other houses in Oak Park – just beautiful!

After the tour we headed back to get our bags and made our way back to the airport. We were hoping to get an earlier flight – and did; only to get delayed for 1.5 hours anyway! We still left half-an-hour earlier than our initial flight so I suppose that was something! Poor Matt had to head back to Detroit again this morning. I don’t think we’ll be planning much for this coming weekend!
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