05.16.2011 by Andrea
Everytime I hear the word “Chicago” I think of Oprah in her bellowing voice belting it out with a prolonged emphasis on the “oooooo.” Her influence is everywhere.
Chicago as a whole has become one of my favorite cities to visit. Architecturally it’s one of my favorite downtowns and I’ve been planning on taking a boat tour to hear more about the dazzling design of the city. It became all the more endearing and intimate after reading the Devil in the White City by Erik Larson.
It’s also a city with great eating. They have their own style of pizza, creative eateries such as Cereality, a cereal bar [now closed apparently], need I say more? As well as the other usual suspects that have been infused with a Midwestern flair.
Enroute to Paris I had a stop-over in Chicago and I was jazzed. Why? Because I knew I was going to buy the best snack a girl could consume on an 8 hour flight through the night. I was introduced to Chicago famed Garrett Popcorn Shop a little over 2 years ago. I didn’t understand why some of my colleagues made such a concerted effort to obtain this delicacy whenever we were in town. I’m talking about a husband going extreme lengths to bring his wife a tin – making the trek downtown when we were staying near the airport. Now he goes to the airport early, if at all possible, to pick it up, fresh, in the terminal. It’s a set of golden handcuffs to have a hub in the airport. Luckily it’s not always in the same terminal I am in. Knowing I had a layover and that I was flying American cemented my plot before I had even taken off. The original popcorn is just like the buttery goodness you indulge in only when at a movie theatre. The nut blends and warm caramel stand alone on their own kernels and instantly hit the spot. Much like the Big Picture [great movie theatre in Seattle] a bag of the gourmet cheese bursts of flavor. If you’re going to go for the ultimate then you must sample the Chicago blend. Out of this world. It marries the caramel and cheese together. Your fingers turn orange, a handful of napkins is a must, and keep a carafe of water close by to wash it all down. But it’s worth it. Oh, it’s worth it.
Garrett in terminal H, I’m putting you on notice: we have a limited visitation working relationship. The hips love you, the tastebuds are overjoyed, and just like good home cooked food – you’re great when you’re hot but you’re even better after the flavors have intermingled and soaked up each others sweet and savory notes.
You might have thought that a large bag of this popcorn would tide me over until I got on the plane. If that was the case you certainly don’t eat with me on a regular basis. As I was trekking to Garrett I noticed that there was a full service Macaroni Grill close by in Terminal K. Granted I was headed to Italy and was fully ready to immerse my palate with freshly picked vegetables, recently cured meats, and handmade pasta. But, who can pass up an opportunity to doodle on a table, and eat warm crusty bread fresh out of the oven? Obviously, not this girl. I got lucky with my table for one as it was close to a power outlet thus allowing me to charge my phone for the flight. I kind of dawdled as I perused the menu and was dragging my bread through oil and vinegar. I had time so I figured I should acclimate to the Italian way of not rushing through a meal. Knowing I was going to be flying for several hours I certainly didn’t want to eat too heavily but was fearful I might get mid flight munchies if I didn’t get enough protein. All worries of that quickly dissipated after I had my first taste of the Parmesan Crusted Chicken Salad. What a great launch into Italian flavors. Hearty mixed greens, mixed with bright red cherry tomatoes, generous chunks of chicken, freshly shaved Parmesan cheese mingled with peppercorn dressing and a honey balsamic glaze. I should have divided half of it upon arrival so I could eat some of it on the plane. I was eating with such gusto that the contents of the plate rapidly dwindled and there were no remnants to box up, only a bit of dressing which I swabbed up with some bread. Leave no bite behind.
Between popcorn and then my salad I almost felt like it was the Crosstown Showdown. Who should I root for the Cubs or the White Sox? Ultimately like the Cubs, who call Wrigley Field home – a favorite stadium of mine, the local wunderkind pulled at my heartstrings and Garrett is the winner of this bout. Don’t discount Macaroni Grill if you’re swinging through O’Hare but Garrett is a must taste homerun!
until the next bite, cheers.