My trip started with plenty of fanfare. Before even leaving the airport my flight was delayed due to a VIP in the area. Well, it first was categorized as an Air Traffic Control related issue. Trust me, this was most definitely a VIP. It was no surprise that everyone on this flight began to speculate and guess who it could have been. Little was left to doubt when that crackling voice from cockpit informed us that the VIP was the President. Turned out our arrival was going to overlap with the President’s scheduled departure and that was the nature of the delay. We were greeted at the airport with a pleasant view of this little aircraft.
Say hello to Air Force One. By the way, from the distance I was taking these photos, inside the terminal, this was the best of the bunch. For some reason, they weren’t very keen on getting a close up. Oh well, it was pretty cool to be this close. Not a bad way to be welcomed in the Windy City.
I didn’t get to my hotel until late in the evening and with the time difference I had plenty of time to kill. So, first up was stock up on a few hotel essentials. There was a Whole Foods a couple blocks away and it was good to get a little fresh air too. There are certain things you must have in your hotel room to have a proper stay. Here is a photo of a few of my essentials.
For me these are important things to have in your hotel room. Grapes make a great late night snack or something refreshing when your hotel room is sweltering and you can’t stabilize the temperature in your room. Bananas are a great, healthy and quick way to start a busy day as opposed to scary hotel breakfasts or big box breakfast sandwiches. Water, I know after a long day flying and traveling I forget about staying hydrated. Also, the temptations of travel bring other types of beverages to the party. Finally, without saying, beer is a must. It can be less expensive than the hotel bar and a great night cap or a way to wind down after a long day. These are some of my hotel travel essentials.
The truth is this post has a deep dark secret. This post contains the one major food blunder of my trip. As I was talking with some family about it the other day they reminded me that at least I got my bad food out of the way early and ate well the rest of the trip.
A couple hours after I arrived at the hotel I decided to look for a little dinner option. I knew I didn’t want to go very far and I remembered seeing a few places on the same block as my hotel. I remembered seeing a local Armenian restaurant in my research that scored relatively good reviews and was right across the street from hotel. Perfect, I thought to myself. It is really close by and should be super easy.
So, I walked across the street, got seated, and proceeded to order a drink. I noticed the place was dark right off the bat. There was only one other table of 6 people in the back part of the restaurant. Other than that, the place was empty. That was only confirmed by the fact that the hostess and the bartender had plenty of time to spend on their phones in between doing nothing or filling an occasional drink order. With that aside, I was excited with the looks of the menu and proceeded to decide what to order. The menu had the classics such as kebobs, couscous, lamb varietals, and a number of other things. I ended up settling on Kofta, which a mixture of ground meats heavily seasoned and formed into meatball or kebob style shapes. I opted to go with the lamb and ground beef Kofta as the idea of ground lamb seemed particularly appealing.
Let me just say that this dish had a number of issues. I will say the best part of it was the meat mixture, as advertised. It was seasoned well, flavorful, and was moist. The rest of the dish, however, was a big miss. The salad on top of the meat was just parsley and chopped red onion. It wasn’t dressed or seasoned in any way, but the real tragedy was the amount of salad was out of proportion. After a few bites the flavors of the salad began to take over and didn’t provide any complexity to the dish. The rice was not seasoned well and I almost wondered if it was prepackaged. The biggest elephant in the room was the onion and bell peppers on the plate being used as a garnish. The menu referred to the those two veggies as charred, which I took to meant charred and cooked through, but still retaining some of the key flavors. No, not exactly. Instead, one side of the vegetable is charred and thrown on the dish. You end up with a slightly charred but totally raw vegetable, which is a total buzz kill. There are tons of applications for raw veggies, but this isn’t it. For one, there is a ton of onion already on the dish so adding more raw onion doesn’t make any sense. The bell pepper committed the same infraction expect without the pungent flavor that overtakes everything. A simple change would have been to grill both the veggies a little longer to not only cook them through but develop more flavor. This is one reason I talk about seasoning so much in my blog and that the simple techniques can really elevate the dish. Needless to say, this was a let down. The best part was the meat and my drink after the long trek from the airport.
I returned my hotel, grabbed a beer and some good dark chocolate, and looked forward to a little rest with even higher hope for killer food for the rest of my trip. Luckily for me, there was plenty of good food to come!
Stay tuned for more posts following my Chicago adventures!