Well, we never actually made it into the city, but we did spend a few days in Oak Brook last week. The owner of J's company visited her plant in the morning last Tuesday, but she was able to leave shortly after noon to pack and then head to Illinois. Our trip was uneventful, smoothed out by a Kay Hooper mystery on CD and punctuated by toll paying and extraordinarily bad Cinnabons, all dried out and hard. Yuck! When we arrived at our hotel, we had dinner at the hotel restaurant (beautiful salad, overcooked filet and stunning veggies) before soaking in the hot(ish) tub for awhile before bed.
In the morning, J got up and went to work while I ordered an omelet from room service. I relaxed in the room all morning, reading, playing around online and writing. A friend from seminary, Lisa, who now has two churches of her own in a town of about 1,000 people outside Chicago picked me up for lunch at the Cheesecake Factory. We ended up sitting there talking shop for 4 hours! She'd had a rough week and I am eager to absorb all the wisdom and experience I can before I am out there in the trenches, so it was just great. To the great credit of the staff, we were not hurried out of there or even given reproachful glances, even when the dinner crowd started coming in. The spinach dip was good, the Cobb salad was great and the cheesecake wasn't so shabby, either, although it needed more raspberry flavor for my taste. When Lisa dropped me off, I hung out reading for a bit, then took myself to the hot tub with a good book. J was at dinner with the folks from work, so I was on my own for the evening. When she got back, I ordered some delicious cream of chicken soup and a lovely salad starring a fruity vinaigrette and fresh mandarin orange slices from room service and ate as she dozed off.
In the morning, she was off to the conference bright and early. Knowing I'd be driving home, I slept late, then got our room all packed up and checked out. I spent the early afternoon wandering the Oak Brook Center mall, with lunch at Cafe Nordstrom and plenty of time to drool over the housewares at Restoration Hardware, Pottery Barn, Williams Sonoma and Crate and Barrel. I picked up some Frango mints for J's secretary and some for us, then spent the rest of the afternoon hoping they wouldn't melt in the heat. They didn't. I spent the later afternoon reading magazines and sipping iced tea at Borders. I'd purchased Cloth, Paper, Scissors for the spoon book project, which I definitely want to try, and Hallmark mag just because I usually like it, so I found a comfy chair in a sunny window and curled up with the magazines until J called to tell me she was finished.
I picked her up at the hotel and we went to Mon Ami Gabi for dinner. We'd had lunch there while we were in Las Vegas in December. I'd adored the croque monsieur and the artichoke with lemon Dijon sauce. It had been, in fact, our favorite restaurant we'd tried in Las Vegas. I assumed the dinner menu would have equally good things on it and J had heard from the folks at work about how amazing the food was there. We chose a patio table overlooking the parking lot. Not the best view, but there were sprightly flowers in window boxes all along the railing, at least. We love eating outdoors, anyway. J had a very tender crab cake with gribache sauce while I indulged in the artichoke. Is there anything more perfect for a summer evening than pulling velvety artichoke "meat" off the leaves with your teeth after dipping them in a wonderful sauce? Of course, I like my lime butter better, but this sauce is lovely, too. For the main course, J chose the chicken paillard with gorgeous lemony haricots verts. Honestly, I like my chicken paillard better, but this was very good, despite my egotistical preferences. My steak was perfectly cooked and tender, slathered with a very generous amount of roquefort and accompanied by crisp frites. It utterly made up for the not-so-hot steak at the hotel. For dessert, against my urge to order the crème brûlée, we split the bananas Foster crepes with vanilla ice cream. They could never measure up to the expectations created by the amazing bananas Foster we had one Fat Tuesday at the Winds, but they were pretty tasty anyway. J discovered, however, that she no longer likes crêpes, so I ate most of that part and she had lots of the ice cream. Thus fueled for the journey, we got out of Oak Brook and onto the thruway at about 9 o'clock Ohio time, meaning we finally arrived home and fell into bed a smidge after three Friday morning. The trip, aside from that long drive home, was very relaxing. My only regret is not having made it to Ethel's Chocolate Lounge for fondue.