Thanksgiving and other Chicago Snacktivities

Thanksgiving has always been a mixed bag for me. I haven't celebrated the holiday with my immediate family in over a decade, and mashed potatoes are really the only Thanksgiving food that matters. After finding myself newly single a couple of years ago, I was set to skip Thanksgiving altogether, but because of friends and family who worry too much, I've celebrated every Thanksgiving for the last four years a little differently each time, some celebrations more traditional than others.

This year, I was grateful my friend, Dan, was willing to open his home in Chicago to us for a few days. I was even more grateful that he was willing to eschew his own Thanksgiving tradition of crab legs and Kung Fu movies to cook an insanely intricate six course meal, completely devoid of turkey or can shaped cranberry sauce. It was decadent, and for sure one of the best meals we've had on the trip so far. Like, for real. Dan is fancy AF when he throws down in the kitchen.

Thanksgiving Dinner
Charcuterie; Green tea lime granita with whipped green tea and lime; chestnut velouté with duck confit, lavender oil, and sherry vinegar; Brûlée mushroom parfait; Beetroot spelt risotto and fennel salad; Peking duck, duck skin, peach preserves, brussels sprouts with bacon, and celeriac remoulade; Bourbon gums with vanilla sugar

I pat myself on the back for being able to cook food that tastes like food and doesn't make me sick, but we were totally blown away by all the preparation and care that went into making this dinner. The least Casey and I could do was show up with a few bottles of decent beer, which we did. Dan was one of my first "beer friends". We met while working at a liquor store and bottle shop in Boston more than ten years ago, and have been friends ever since. He introduced me to my first bottle share, even though I had no idea that's what it was called, and a lot of what I learned about beer early on, I learned from him. Needless to say, I was very excited to share some fun beers with him prior to dinner.

Jester King 2014 Atrial Rubicite; Jester King Aurelian Lure, Jester King Fen Tao, and Our Mutual Friend Brewing 24 FPS (Thanks, Jan!)

The sour beers all went well with the charcuterie (the aged Atrial rubicite went particularly well with the funky blue cheese, and the Fen Tao accented the homemade peach preserves Dan hade made). After dinner, we watched "Labyrinth" and enjoyed a Gold Road Kölsch from Mother Road Brewing – the consensus on this beer has been that despite Kölsch not being everyone's favorite style (come to think of it, I don't know that I've ever met anyone whose favorite style of beer is Kölsch), this one is brighter and more flavorful than average, and is really quite good.

On Friday, instead of going shopping, we slept in and allowed ourselves to finish digesting dinner from the night before. After that, we went out for what I like to call "Snack Friday", which involved eating and drinking our way around Chicago. We slurped ramen at Strings Ramen Shop, grabbed cocktails and light snacks at Girl and the Goat, stopped for burgers and beers at Kuma's Corner (side note: this place has the most entertaining menu ever. They must get a lot of vegan visitors on the hunt for waffle fries), and finished our adventures with beers at Hopleaf.

Snack Friday

To say we ended the night feeling uncomfortably full would be a huge, bloated understatement. Despite skipping a meal or two for the last couple of days, we still haven't fully recovered, and I can't remember the last time I craved fruits and vegetables this much. It was for sure excessive, but I would 100% do it all over again. Just not any time soon.

Dan and Leah

On Saturday, we said goodbye to Dan, and continued our journey east. We stopped at 3 Floyds Brewing Co. for a light lunch and to try some beers including the Chevalier Bertrand Du Guesclin (blueberry sour), the Alpha King (Pale Ale), and the Vagrant Purge (a smoked hefeweizen, which while not my favorite, was a pleasant surprise because I generally don't care for hefeweizens or smoked beers). We also got to try a Sauternes barrel aged apricot sour from Cigar City Brewing. Casey's favorite wine is Sauternes, which, if you've never had it, is a very syrupy sweet white dessert wine (I'm probably oversimplifying it. If you can't tell, I am more of a beer drinker), and it is usually too sweet for me. While the beer definitely had a very strong sweet sauternes flavor to it, the cloying syrupy sweetness I usually get from that type of wine was balanced out by the sourness of the beer. It was badass.

We'll be spending the next week or so galavanting around various parts of New York, so Casey can visit his company's office, and we can visit with my family and friends Upstate. It feels oddly calming to know we'll be in the Eastern time zone for the foreseeable future.