We are home from Chicago, home of the best Italian food outside of Italy. We even stopped at one of our favorite places there, Carmines and brought dinner on the plane to have tonight. There is just something special about that town. Each time we go, I seem to love it more and more. Although always glad to be home, it is hard to leave Chicago.
We met some friends of ours from Richmond, VA there, as we have done many years for New Years. We seem to go to places that have gained a place in our hearts because of the nice memories, not to mention the great food. If you travel to Chicago, check out the smaller hotels there that have such a nice ambiance to them. It was so cold, with the wind chill, some nights when we were out walking, it was 7 degrees. So every once in a while, we would duck into a store or hotel to allow our cheeks to un-thaw so we could resume our conversations. When we entered the Hilton or Marriott, although they were both lovely hotels, there was just something that made us so glad we were staying where we were staying, The Millennium Knickerbocker, which is located 1/2 block off the Magnificent Mile. When we would walk in, after being gone, they would call us by name and it just reminded us of what hotels must have been like years ago. The rooms are small, but so quaint. When Randy stubbed his toe on the chair that was right by the bed, I did have to remind him that was just the price you paid when you wanted “quaintness”. After all, what is a stubbed toe, when you have “quaintness?”
Some of the favorite restaurants that we always have to go to are, Garret’s Pop Corn, Carmine’s ‘, Joe’s Stone Crab, and ” Pertillo’s. This year, we decided to get out of our comfort zone and try a few new places. One of those places was called Merlot on Maple. What a delightful restaurant!!! We entered the brownstone house and was taken directly to our table, which was upstairs on the 3rd story. Because the rooms are small, there is only 3-4 tables in each room, which created such an intimate dinner, where you could actually have a conversation without yelling to be heard. (well, almost all of us, one of us who share remain nameless still needed a little help). The owner and cook is from Bologna, Italy and makes all her own pastas. The delicacies are flown in from different regions of Italy, such as black truffle oil and mushrooms. We began our dinner with prosciutto wrapped around some type of cheese I could not pronounce, much less remember or spell, which was wrapped around asparagus and then baked. Wow, just delicious. They brought baskets of what looked like fried lasagna noodles and was lightly sprinkled with garlic and sea salt. We finished off our diner with gelato, which she makes there, coconut and chocolate. All 4 of us felt like we had been right in the heart of Italy. After dinner, we put on our face masks that made us feel and look like bank robbers, and headed out into the night. I think one reason I love Chicago is the heavy coats you have to wear. No one knows if you are a size 8 or 18 when you have those things wrapped around you. So we can just eat and eat while there and hide the new found pounds in a coat.
Times like this past week, just prove once again, that friendships, not only are made and nurtured around the table, where food is shared, but the memories that are made are priceless. We just have to remember to take the time to sit and visit with one another. Even though it had been 5 years since we have seen these friends, it was like we had been with them every day the last 5 years. We rang out the old year, thankful for God’s blessings of so much He has given to us, new family members, new adventures, health,although losing a parent, which was very sad, but knowing that he is enjoying his life, that is now free from pain and disabilities.
We began 2013, encouraged that we had been reminded on this trip that true friendships are everlasting.
We began 2013 encouraged that we still had the stamina and strength to walk and walk and walk, in the bitter cold.
We began 2013 encouraged that our health allows us to enjoy great food and great adventures.
But most of all, we begin 2013, encouraged by all of our family and friends and what a blessing each one is to us. Happy New Year. I’m back home and will resume sharing new and great recipes…tomorrow. Right now, I’m going to sit and finish up the last of our Garrett’s carmel popcorn with a glass of Dr. Pepper.