The Joy of Visitors - Part One

On the agenda for the weekend was a visit from Joy, my sophomore year roommate from college, and her friend Nicole, who were in town for a Sonic Youth concert. Joy came into town on Friday night via the much-lauded Megabus, but her experience was less than stellar: her bus had a flat tire, so instead of arriving at 10:30 in the evening, she arrived at nearly 1:30 in the morning after spending three hours along the side of the road somewhere between St. Louis and Springfield. It was decidedly not a good time.

To make things right, I took her to Taste of Chicago on Saturday, employing all the tricks I have acquired in my years of Taste attendance to make it the most pleasant experience possible:
  • I pre-purchased tickets at Dominick's before Taste of Chicago started, when they cost $6 per strip of 12 tickets, instead of $8. That way, you basically get four strips of tickets for the price of three strips purchased at the festival itself.
  • Using a map of the festival grounds, we made a game plan the night before, so that we could pace our eating to include all of our must-try items.
  • We packed a Taste "care-package" consisting of bottled water, a roll of paper towels, a plastic knife to cut food for sharing, a Tide-pen, and hand sanitizer.
  • We entered the festival on Balbo, the least crowded entrance, and got there shortly after it opened at 11:00, to try to dodge some of the crowds.
  • I dispensed preemptive stomach medicine, to head off any discomfort at the pass.
It was a good day to go to Taste of Chicago -- not too hot, not too crowded, and most importantly, during the wettest year on record in Chicago, not rainy. I was glad that I got to go this year, but the actual food I sampled was somewhat of a mixed bag. The beignets from Lagniappe were pretty wretched; they had been fried in the same fryer with the stand's catfish, and tasty unpleasantly thereof. My wildcard pick for the year was the pork-filled banana dumplings from Sabor Latino, but the one I received was entirely overcooked, and contained no discernible meat filling. The miniature steak gordita from Los Dos Laredos was incredibly cute, but somewhat bland. It could have benefited from the presence of onion, and some cheese. I suppose you get what you pay for when you stick to the cheaper tasting portions, when you're trying to stretch your tickets.

The first photo taken with my new Nikon S630: pierogis from Kasia's Deli.

On the positive end of the spectrum were the always dependable potato pierogis from Kasia's deli (I am, and always shall be a devotee of the dumpling arts), the chocolate-covered frozen banana from Aunt Diana's, and of course, my favorite all-time Taste item -- the pickle on a stick from Vienna Beef Hot Dogs. Some of my greatest childhood memories of going to Taste of Chicago with my parents center on what seemed at the time to be an enormous pickle on a skewer, practically the size of my forearm. Pickle juice would be running all down my arm and all over my face, and I could barely finish one on my own. I don't know if the pickles have gotten smaller, or I've just grown up, but even though they aren't as huge as I remember them, the flavor was pure childhood nostalgia.

I am normally terrible at the self-pic thing, but this one isn't too bad: Joy and I in front of Buckingham Fountain, during the Taste of Chicago.

Even though we still had a sizable number of food tickets remaining, all the fried food so early in our day had made us uncomfortably full, so we headed back to the condo to sleep it all off, and enjoy some air conditioning instead of toughing out the hottest part of the day. When we had finally regained some appetite, we headed out for a light supper at Cafecito, but discovered that it closes early on weekends. Instead, we ended up at my other favorite neighborhood haunt, Tamarind, for sushi and appetizers.

After dinner, Joy was in the mood for a walk, so we took the bus up to North Michigan Avenue for a bit of window shopping and wishful thinking, before the ubiquitous rain started up again, and we waited an unprecedented amount of time (for Michigan Avenue, epicenter of Chicago bus-bunching), to catch a ride home.

On the way, we heard from Nicole, whose flight had arrived early at Midway, in an attempt to dodge the incoming severe weather, so we detoured to the train station to meet her. Sadly, the evening ended on another negative note for Joy, who misplaced her cell phone after making a final call to link up with Nicole. We may never know if she dropped it and somebody picked it up, hoping to score some free long-distance calls, or it fell out of her pocket and off the platform, but it was nowhere to be found. Luckily, we managed to meet up with Nicole before the phone went AWOL, so other than the inconvenience of reporting her phone stolen and losing all her contacts, the trip was not adversely affected in the short run. Nevertheless, we would have to wait another day to try to salvage her vacation.


  1. Sounds like your friend had the trip from hell...bus broke down, lost the cell phone, lousy food at the Taste...when did you get a new Nikon camera?

  2. It was a birthday present from you and Mom. It is a Nikon S630, and we are still getting to know each other. On the plus side, it is smaller, has more megapixels, and more zoom capability. It is also much faster. On the negative side, the screen is larger, but more grainy, even if the pictures themselves aren't. I think the backgrounds are often over-exposed, even if the people in the photos look fine. I'm just going to have to get used to it.

  3. I love that your dad was unaware of the gift that he "helped" to give. ;)