I have been mulling over just how to document our trip to Sycamore. I want Aidan and Nadia to remember the terrific times we had with their cousins, how welcomed we felt by my sister and David and of course the wonderment of the sights we experienced at the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium and the Midwest Museum of Natural History but all I can think about is the food! Experience after experience was laced with the guttural memory of every bite.
The savory warmth of homemade beef stew piled on a puff of mashed potatoes built the homey atmosphere we came to know the entire time we visited. Andria is a stew-genius and a wonderful hostess.
Every family should relish in the goodness of Portillo's. I watched my loved ones scarf some serious hot dogs, if you can call them that. They are more like hot dog works of art. Unfortunately, I was relegated to chicken noodle soup as just two days prior I had horrendous, tear-inducing, panic-stricken gum surgery and needed to go gently into that good bite. The spunky atmosphere and movie-inspired decor sparked family conversation, which with Tony, David and Andria as company always proves to be a good time.
As we walked into Shedd Aquarium I was overwhelmed with the architectural beauty and while the diversity of life is cemented into my memory it is slightly overshadowed by the late and lazy lunch that followed. Our fancy, gadgetty GPS lead us on a brisk walk to the Firehouse of Chicago where I thought my tongue had died and gone to heaven. When people say roast beef melted in their mounth I always thought they were blowing smoke up my wahoozie, but I am here to tell you that the horseraddish slathered delicate slices of roast beef melted on my tongue, and that wasn't even my order! I savored the cheesy goodness that is French Onion Soup and Nadia had the cheesiest real macaroni and cheese I have ever laid eyes on.
My stomach's memory moves from these delectable meals to what I can only describe as a fete of Greek delights. Ok, so that may not be the only way I could describe it, but it is the last of 22 attempts. Picture eight Greek-pristine, Field Museum weary, traffic law-bending family members gathered around a table awaiting delicious dishes that I can't begin to pronounce let alone spell and me, marveling at the petite half pint Diet Pepsi seated in front of me. There was warm, crusty bread with tzatziki dip and salmon dip, gyro, flaming cheese, Greek salad topped with smooth feta cheese and ripe red tomatoes, spinach pie, baked herb chicken, roasted potatoes, seasoned rice and leg of lamb (which my childhood memories of raising these stupid but adorable animals prevented me from eating...that and the fact that my sister repeatedly remarked that it tasted like a ram in rut). The meal was complete all on it own and then they brought the very best coffee that has ever passed these lips accompanied by the flakiest loveliness that is real baklava.
Our last day visiting my sister and her family included another walk, this time in the biting cold, to a candy shop reminiscent of the 1950's. Papa gave Tony the $20.00 handshake to treat his grand kids to the sugary-goodness. Each child filled their bags with their own stockpile of jellie bellies, chocolates and giant golden coins. Dealing with the sugar high was worth knowing that Papa would be smiling back home at his long-distance spoiling.
We came home with satiated bellies, happy hearts and anticipation for the Christmas holiday when we will see each other again.