Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Crowds are Back!

It was a slow few days, but as I suspected, the crowds are thickening up with the onset of the holiday weekend. Makes getting around the Taste a bit more tedious, but it's good for sales, so we'll take it!

The main entertainment today was Trey Songz. I don't know what he sings, but I've heard the name and he's apparently one of the hot hip hop celebs at the moment. So, we had a young, rowdy crowd, which always translates to more issues, cops, and attitude. Moral of the story: if you come to Taste, pay attention to the entertainment schedule when deciding the days to attend.... Come on the days when they have Broadway or Country & Western - the crowd's pretty mellow on those days!

Speaking of Country & Western, the copper cowboy is here every year, posing, scaring unsuspecting passers-by who haven't noticed he isn't REALLY a statue. Just one of the many sideshows you might catch on any given stroll through the Taste (not even including the sideshows who just show up among the crowd!)

Between errands before arriving and being so busy with the extra crowds, we didn't get a chance to eat much today. That's probably a good thing as my pants are already tighter than when I arrived! We did stop for a few snacks along the way, though. Got more of that chopped salad from Malnati's. Asked this time and was told that delicious dressing is a sweet vinaigrette. I'll have to try to recreate when I get home!

Hope got a pork taco from Adobo Grill for one of the guys working at BJ's. Looked pretty good, but too many onions for my middle-aged digestive system! I, on the other hand, was already thinking ahead for the next morning and on my way back to Lagniappe-Creole Cajun Joynt for beignets.... The order came with 2, so I chomped down 1 (before the photo again!) and saved the other for breakfast. I promise, it was much more appetizing than the photo can depict! The generous amount of powdered sugar had already started to get moist by the time I snapped the pic, but the dough was fried to crispy perfection and soft and sweet inside. I hope it will taste as good tomorrow as it does when warm and freshly served!
That's about all we had time for because it got so busy at BJ's booth that even Hope donned a visor and went to work. Bri was aching to work also, but Mom forced her to wait it out until the crowd thinned.

And the upside to all that hard work on the crowded days: MORE work for the support staff counting tickets! (If you've never been to Taste or I-fest in Houston, you have to buy tickets from the city in order to buy food. No currency exchanged at the vendor booths. That way, the city ensures they get their take, 15% in the case of Taste, when it's time for the vendors to cash in!)

So, we had a BIIIIG pile to dump when we arrived at ticket counting central, Hope's mother-in-law's, Juanita. Here she is taking in the sight of the mountain of tickets to be sorted and
counted, along with sister Linnie who works the early shift and collected a good portion of those tickets. Linnie comes in every year from California to help out and also likes to go around the Taste collecting all the freebies she can find: bags, t-shirts, water bottles, frisbees, you name it! If they're giving it away, Linnie's gonna find the source!

It's all a family affair for BJ's at Taste of Chicago! Hope and I pitched in, (with Linnie in the middle), for Ticket sorting duty, too! Brianna helped as well.... See that smile on Hope's face - she looooves to get those biiiig piles of tickets! Mo' money, mo' money, mo'money!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Ahhhhh,... My kind of Town, Chicago is....

I don't think there can be anything as great
As a summer day in Chicago by the lake
When it's clear and sunny with a temp of 78!

Wednesday was the kiddos turn at the Taste! Brianna and her two girlfriends were our charges for the day. Tried to tire them out right from the start with a round of jumping. May as well try it now,... at 12 and going into 6th grade, this may be the last year they're interested in the inflatable amusement activities!
As we would soon discover, it would only take Malnati pizza slices, Gold Coast Dogs Firedogs (a spicy hotdog smothered in grilled onions and mustard), and sweet potato chips on a short picnic break to replenish the energy tanks.
I had to try the more adult fare today of a petite grilled sirloin steak sandwich with Bernaise sauce from Polo Cafe. The steak was Taste-y and tender. The bread (my second biggest weakness behind chocolate) was soft, buttery and delish, as good as it looks! Didn't know what Bernaise sauce was, but I won't shy away from it in the future! Yes, that is a bite, I keep getting distracted by my salivary glands on the way to taking pics!
After the picnic, we were off and running! Along the way, Hope and I had a brief wait by the Pritzker concert Pavilion, shown against a backdrop of a small fraction of Chicago skyline, while the girls raced each other across the BP Bridge over Columbus Dr.

After that grueling physical workout, they needed another rest with the feet hanging in the water by the Lurie Gardens.... Refreshing, relaxing and good for a little girl talk! Then off we go again, making our way to The Crown Fountain for a little (actually a LOT of) reveling in the water and drenching under the water falls and spouts.

What kid can resist being spit on by a huge face projected from an interactive column display! While the energetic ones played in the fountain, I took short walks to enjoy more of that beautiful landscaping Mayor Daley has provided, to experience the hustle of a real downtown on Michigan Ave (sorry Houston, just no comparison!), and to take in...
some of the many art displays - this one part of a display labled "Contemporary Art from China."

Once the girls were sufficiently saturated, we stopped at the restroom for a quick (well, as quick as you can be with self-conscious 12 year old girls changing clothes) dry off and then headed back to the festival.

Along the way, that Molten Lava Chocolate cake kept calling my name from the JR Dessert Bakery booth. Well, I haven't had my chocolate fix yet today, so it may as well be now! What a perfect confection of rich, dense chocolate cake, thick, creamy, warm chocolate sauce oozing from the middle.... mmmmmmm. I had mine unadulterated (without the optional vanilla ice cream).... Please forgive my diving in before the photo... too tempting again to resist! Thank you JR Dessert Bakery for bringing a little cup of paradise to the Taste!

Hope showed more restraint, opting instead for a cup of Bissap Sorbet, frozen Hibiscus leaf tea with whipped cream, from Iyanze. It was deliciously refreshing!

One last walk to entertain and educate the girls: to the 30 minute Chicago inner harbor boat tour. The view of the Adler Planetarium (America's first planetarium), Shedd Aquarium, and Field Museum from the boat.... I now know these museums were all made possible by generous donations from executives of 2 major chicago retailers: Max Adler (Sears Roebuck) and John G. Shedd and Marshall Field (Marshall Field's). Learn something new every day!

Got just a little chilly on the open waters, but we were prepared for
anything as any native Chicagoan knows to be! Even Brianna bundled up...

A view of Navy Pier against the Chicago skyline.

Nearing the end of our adventure, it's back to the Taste festival grounds where I've just noticed that even here we have reference to the on-going environmental catastrophe playing out in the Gulf of Mexico....
Those poor gulf coast fisherman have a long road ahead of them.... So glad to be disassociated - thanks for the walking papers, BP!
One last dessert before the night is done ( I think I went on sugar overload today!): the Banana and Chocolate Egg Roll from Tamarind. I like bananas and need say no more of my affection for chocolate, so this just sounded too interesting to pass up. I could taste the bananas and there was just the right balance of chocolate wrapped and fried, then drizzled with MORE chocolate. Oh so yummy! And at least there was fruit to provide SOME nutritional value!

Hope's last indulgence was a bag of Chicago Mix (cheese and caramel popcorn) form Garrett Popcorn Shops, famous in Chicago for some time, made more famous by Oprah's celebrated cravings (pre Bob Greene!)

Tomorrow will be back to work. Still trying to make opportunity for that physical exertion.... Already feeling like I'm 5 months pregnant - Gee, I wonder why?!!