After the road trip I flew directly to Chicago from Miami to see my friend Piper. I'm not sure why but I always end up visiting her in the dead of winter, and this time we were hit by a blizzard! I got to town just in time for the amazing cocktail party Piper was throwing for her friends. I helped her get everything set up, and it was really nice to meet some of the people she has talked so much about over the years. Piper is an incredible cook and everyone was joking about the enormous spread of food, since she had warned her guests that dinner was not being served. I think my favorite thing were the homemade sea salt caramels, which we forgot to put out for the party, but which made excellent snacks during the rest of my stay.
The next day we were lazy and in the evening we went to dinner at Lula, which was awesome. We saw a movie (Tron), and went to bed early. In the morning, Piper and I drove up to downtown (she lives on the south side) for a luxurious "staycation" at the Elysian Hotel. It was pretty funny to be taking a vacation from my vacation, but the point was to give her one, since she hasn't been able to get away from work in a long time. We spent the day shopping on Michigan Ave and had a lovely lunch at the Purple Pig. In the afternoon it was starting to snow a bit, so we got cozy in our hotel room (which I got a great deal on through Jetsetter!), which had a fireplace and complimentary champagne. We got a little tipsy and spent some time in the hotel's whirlpool and sauna, and took a quick nap before dinner. Dinner was at the Girl and the Goat, and I cannot tell you how GOOD it was. We ordered half the menu and I am so glad we got to try so many things. Everything was beyond delicious!
The next day we both had treatments in the spa and then did a little last-minute shopping before heading back south to pick up Piper's boyfriend for our annual pilgrimage to Hot Doug's. As we were driving to pick him up, the blizzard warnings were getting more and more serious. By the time we got back on the freeway to go to Hot Doug's, traffic was barely moving because of the heavy snowfall. With only an hour to get there before closing time, we decided to try surface streets instead and made it moments before they closed! Doug was as happy to see us as we were to see him, and he gave us a round of free drinks for making it through the storm. We ordered SEVEN sausages and the duck fat cheese fries, and stuffed ourselves silly. The drive home was long and snowy but totally worth it. When we got back to Piper's, I checked on my morning flight and found it was cancelled. The airline put me on another flight leaving the next evening, and we all decided it was for the best since we wanted to sleep in anyways.
When we woke up the next morning, there was over two feet of snow on the ground. I lived in New England during college, but we never had snow like this! The plows hadn't had a chance to get to most of Hyde Park so we put on as many layers as we could and went out to play in the undisturbed drifts. It was so much fun tromping about in the snow (in some places it came up to my waist!), and it really did feel a little apocalyptic: groups of people roving around in the streets, cars abandoned wherever they stopped, all the stores closed... When we got home we were hungry so we Piper whipped up some homemade tomato soup and I made us grilled cheese using her fresh-baked Tartine sourdough. YUM! We discovered that my flight was cancelled yet again, so we decided to invite the neighbors over and make dinner from whatever was in Piper's pantry.
Luckily, Piper has pretty much the best-stocked pantry ever, and from what we found within, we made roasted elk loin with a rhubarb-wine sauce, pan-roasted Brussells sprouts and baby turnips, beet salad with mozzarella, and for dessert we had her homemade nutmeg ice cream and more caramels. Not too shabby!!
The next two days we mostly just worked and hung around the house. We played board games and ate more awesome pantry dinners (elk melts, anyone?), and baked bread. I finally got a flight out on Friday night (I was originally supposed to leave Wednesday morning), and it has been sad and strange to return to normal life...