Tag Archives: Chicago

MORE FROM CHICAGO: THE FIELD MUSEUM

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Jerry and I drove into the beauty of the lake front area that is home to Soldier’s Field, Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum and more on a sunny morning last week. Not finding the street that led to close parking for the Field, we pulled up to some workmen to ask questions. They were smiling and helpful. But one said to us, “Oh, you mean the old museum?” I’m sorry to say this turned out to be a prophetic statement. And not just because this grand museum celebrated opening day in May, 1921.

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We made our way to the parking and soon we were climbing the stairs to the front entrance of the Field. Both of us had been there as children. I was especially interested in the exhibit of The Wonders of the 1893 World’s Fair. Though neither my Dad nor my maternal grandmother actually visited the fair, both had talked about it often, telling me how fabulous it had been. They had seen buildings and parks left in the city after the fair.

That World’s Fair introduced the world to the Ferris Wheel. The Fair, called the Columbia Exhibition, was so popular that the Midwest author Hamlin Garland said, “sell the cook stove if necessary, but come to the Fair.”

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Last fall, excited about this exhibit at the Field, I wrote a post “ Five Ways to Travel to the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893.” (Scroll through the November, 2013 archives to find the story.) Someone views it every day on this blog giving it most-popular status, no contest. Finally, a week before this exhibit closed, we were about to see it. I had so looked forward to this visit.

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The lobby of the museum was filled with the large replicas of African Elephants I remembered from a previous visit. We found ourselves under the banner “Wonders of the 1893 World’s Fair.”

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But as we entered that area, the museum seemed dark, and while some signs and placards explained things, others were brief, hard-to-read, and in light colors hard to see and find. The majority of the exhibit consisted of artifacts exhibited in 1893 such as minerals, gems, plumes, and other items from cultures in faraway lands. Very large grainy photos of some type gave a sense of the grand buildings, the exhibits, and the crowds that filled the Fair in 1893. Those photos made me believe the Fair had existed in a way that glass cases filled objects could not.

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From a personal standpoint, I enjoyed the plumes. My grandmother was a milliner who for several years at the beginning of the 20th century owned and operated a hat shop at the corner of Wabash and 28th street in Chicago. Later she trimmed hats all over the west, including in San Francisco. Here were examples of some of the plumes she had talked about, and shown to me over the years. These plumes from birds such as the snowy egret were used as ornaments in hats of the era.

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The actual Fair was located in Jackson Park––seven miles south of the Field––and this world-famed exhibition marked Chicago’s recovery from the Great Fire and offered visitors information of Western Civilization at that time. The many beautiful white buildings were known as “the white city.”

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I had hoped to buy a book about the fair that would include pictures and supplement my knowledge of the event. Alas, the gift shop saleswoman told me they had all been sold and not reordered. These five titles, carried earlier in the gift shop, are available from Amazon. I sadly suggest one of these books is most likely a better investment than the Field Exhibit.

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Titles are:
The World’s Columbian Exposition, Spectacle in the White City,
Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair,
America at the Fair,
Chicago World’s Fair of 1893
There is also a DVD from a 2 hour PBS Special titled Expo: Magic of the White City.

A 3D film about Ancient Egypt and mummification gave scant information. And so we went to the top of the museum hoping to see some of the reconstructed dinosaur skeletons we remembered from earlier visits. The stegosaurus pictured and others filled the third floor, and the spectacular views out toward Lake Michigan and into the city from the windows at the top of the building made our ride to the third floor well worth it.

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We enjoyed our visit in spite of the disappointments. Maybe the intense anticipation robbed me of some of the joy. Most likely, I simply like turning the pages of a book better than looking in glass cases and reading placards. A good photo can be better than the real thing?

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BANDERA IN CHICAGO: EXECUTION, QUALITY, FLAVORS AND FRIENDLINESS ADD UP TO AN UNBEATABLE DINING EXPERIENCE.

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A friend in the food business recommended this restaurant. We enjoyed a delicious lunch. Our rating: five stars. Here are the details.

We entered off the street, up the escalator to the second floor. Bandera is located at 535 N. Michigan Ave in Chicago. We were warmly greeted. Tired after a morning at the Field Museum, we settled into a roomy booth with a lovely view of the restaurant. The casual atmosphere, chic and comforting, radiated friendliness.

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I sipped a perfect glass of California Sauvignon Blanc and Jerry seemed to enjoy his beer. Our waitperson offered a complimentary appetizer, the house specialty, Iron Skillet Cornbread. We smiled and said yes, and thank-you. This stunning cornbread arrived hot, crispy on the outside, tender on the inside and tasted wonderful with a hint of jalapeño.

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Jerry ordered the luncheon plate of prime rib and classic Caesar salad with cornbread croutons. The dressing was superb to my taste. Juicy, tender, big beef flavor and perfectly cooked medium-rare described his meat. I tasted it, thought it was like steak instead of prime rib.

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I chose grilled trout with a mixed green salad dressed in champagne vinaigrette. When Jerry tasted my fish, he said, “Oh my that’s good.” Fish, perfectly cooked, is rare, even though I almost always order fish. I would guess the fish in this restaurant was given the care that Michael Gibney describes in his book Sous Chef.

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The flavors of the champagne dressing made the salad shine. In my judgment many restaurant vinaigrettes add little to the greens; I often reject them for something creamy. This time I took a chance and I savored an extraordinary salad. I asked the waitress if the chef would divulge the ingredients. She said he tells no one. She did say some of the ingredients are olive oil, champagne vinegar, turbinado sugar and a bit of jalapeno. I guess that’s where I will start when I try to recreate it at home.

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Work progressing in the open kitchen added interest to the dining experience. The cornbread was on display behind the hostess station. I loved the open, inviting and friendly atmosphere. I did not notice the kind of posturing and busyness I observe in many Detroit area restaurants with a pretense to excellence. We felt well cared-for due to the exemplary service.

Our friend Michele, who recommended the restaurant, told us well-executed food and friendly atmosphere topped the list of reasons she and her husband ate there whenever they were in Chicago. They go for the food, not to be seen or to especially enjoy a social experience. Our food was probably the best prepared I’ve eaten in any eating establishment in the past few years, and certainly the best I’ve eaten in the Midwest.

If you are in Chicago, I urge you to ride the escalator to terrific food and a grand dining-out experience. Thank you, Michele for your recommendation. And, thank you to the staff at Bandera, who made our visit memorably special.

Follow Bandera on Facebook.

AT THE SHEDD: SEE THE FISH, FIND A BOOK, OR TWO OR THREE

Some photos by Claire Stanley

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Chicago here we are! A visit to the Shedd Aquarium. Come along and join the fun!
1200 S. Lake Shore Dr. Chicago, IL 60605

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He’s shy, but oh those claws.

Find the seahorses

Find the seahorses

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The color design might work on a shirt as well as a fish.

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This is a blue I won’t soon forget.

Here's the gift shop

Here’s the gift shop

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As always, I found some books:

National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of the Ocean by Catherine D. Hughes.
Bright colors….great graphics… larger size. Take a quick dip or dive in for a swim. Little ones will love this book. I loved it, too. Irresitable!

Fish Forever: The Definitive Guide to Understanding, Selecting, and Preparing Healthy, Delicious, Environmentally Sustainable Seafood by Paul Johnson.
Information….pictures…recipes… Soon I’ll be roasting, grilling, poaching, and sautéing fish. Amazing!

Voyage of the Turtle: In Pursuit of the Earth’s Last Dinosaur by Carl Safina.
A Journey with the turtle, a thrilling natural history adventure. I began to read this book almost as soon as I held it in my hand. The caliber of the writing is as thrilling as the adventure.

Thank you to Chicago and members of my family for a too brief but unforgettable adventure. There’s so much more to see.

www.sheddaquarium.org

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