…Because The Lake Is At Its Most Beautiful
Photograph: Catherine Opie, Summer (Lake Michigan), 2004.
Courtesy of Regan Projects, Los Angeles
|Summer (Lake Michigan), photographed in 2004, from Catherine Opie: Chicago (American Cities), now showing at the Museum of Contemporary Art through October 15th|
…Because Grilling Is The Chillest Way To Cook.
If you don't see chef Paul Kahan at Blackbird (619 W. Randolph St.; 312-715-0708), he may well be nursing a beer and mopping his 'cue from a lawn chair in his backyard.
Paul Kahan's Pulled Pork BBQ
- 3-pound boneless pork shoulder or butt, generously salted and peppered all over (or brine it overnight, as Kahan does)
For the sauce:
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 3 tablespoons molasses
- 3 whole garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon cumin seed
- 2 teaspoons coriander seed
- 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
- 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
- 2 star anise pods
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
- 8-ounce can plum tomatoes with juice
- 1 1/2 cups white vinegar
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Sriracha sauce, to taste
Place first ten sauce ingredients in a pot and simmer on low for 30 minutes. Add tomato paste and tomatoes and simmer for 15 more minutes. Add vinegar, water, salt, and sriracha sauce and cook, covered, over low heat for 3 hours more, stirring every now and then. Place your pork on a grill, which has been preheated and set on low, indirect heat (about 225 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit). Baste well with sauce and cover. Flip the meat and rebaste every 30 minutes. Grill until the meat is nearly falling apart-about 8 hours.
I have loved the white sox for almost as long as I have loved my parents. Granted, this is a patently ridiculous statement. I don't really know anyone in the Sox organization. And if my parents had torn down my childhood room in 1991, gone on strike in the middle of our best year (1994), and given up on me completely in 1997-not to mention, over the course of six months each year, systematically crushed my hopes and dreams-I would have stopped returning their calls years ago.
But that's the thing about baseball: it doesn't always love you back. In fact, it's less like your folks and more like the girl you ached for in junior high, the one who didn't know you existed, which made you only want her more. After 88 years of unrequited Sox love, we finally got some affection back last October, and it shifted our world in such a profound way that we reverted to primal acts. The moment Bobby Jenks recorded the final out in the World Series, I bit my brother's arm. I bit him. I didn't know what else to do.
Now, Sox games just feel . . . different. During my first trip back in The Cell this season, a beautiful night game against Minnesota, I knew that everything had changed. First of all, it was packed. And loud. People were rowdy and jovial and not just cheering when the electronic scoreboard told them to. Most noticeable, though, was a new aroma in the air hanging over the whole ballpark. It was an earthy, unmistakably masculine smell that wafted from the players to the crowd, from the crowd to the ushers, the ushers to the vendors, the vendors to the guy selling funnel cakes in section 110. Even the zit-faced ticket-tearer had it. It took me four innings to realize what the odor was, because I had never smelled it before in Chicago: it was confidence.
When the Twins' notorious Sox killer, Torii Hunter, crushed a Freddy Garcia fastball over the left field wall that night-an event that would have led to groans and whines in the past-the crowd all but shrugged. Don't worry about it; we're the champs. We'll be OK. One World Series and we've all turned into unabashed optimists. Sure enough, two innings later, Jim Thome answered with a two-run blast into the partying right field bleachers to put the exclamation point on the evening. Sox win. See? I told you.
After the game ended, the stadium lights went off, the crowd went bonkers, and fireworks painted the sky over 35th Street. To me the fireworks shows of the past were nice enough, but they always felt kind of desperate, every noisy explosion another nudge to North Siders: Hey, look at us! We've got a ballclub down here too! This time, even I had to admit: that blast of color was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen.
–Jeff Ruby …Because We're Not Above Partaking In The Cheesy Attractions At Navy Pier.
Photograph: © Jason Lindsey/Alamy
As tourist destinations go, Navy Pier is a lumbering, smelly, and loud behemoth that happens to be squatting on one of the most desirable stretches of lakeside real estate in the city. Most Chicagoans I know shun the place, except perhaps for jaunts to the Children's Museum or the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. But during the summer months, there is one more reason to endure Navy Pier's pandemonium: the Wave Swinger.
Sandwiched between the Pier's carousel and Ferris wheel, made of what seem to be a few dozen legless dinette chairs hanging by chains from a tall, rotating shaft, the Wave Swinger is the quintessential carnival ride. Climb on, lower a lap bar, and soon your chair lifts 15 or so feet off the pavement. As the shaft begins to turn, you are quickly on your way to being flung outward like a ball at the end of a tether, your legs dangling, the breeze in your face, the coast of Chicago twirling before your eyes.
With the wafting aromas of popcorn and burnt sugar, this really is the essence of summer, our own Coney Island or, from my California girlhood, Pacific Ocean Park. I love it, and my preteen son isn't even my excuse to ride two or three times in a row, nonstop. (In fact, when we've braved the hours of traffic jams to visit Six Flags over the years, I'm the one crazed with excitement and anticipation. He waits patiently for me at the base of the Viper, Iron Wolf, or American Eagle, eating ice cream.) I have been known to stop at Navy Pier for a quickie on my way home from a meeting or between errands, an easy, satisfying, but furtive thrill.
Be warned, though: avoid Navy Pier on the weekends, when the sweat-drenched crowds are roiling, the parking snafus are infernal, the lines are long, and the gooey foods underfoot can suck the flip-flops right off your soles. Even riding the Wave Swinger isn't worth the aggravation. Not even three times in a row.
…Because It's Possible To Watch Fireworks From The Open Water.
Illustration: Juliette Borda
Yacht owners have the life. But you needn't own your craft to watch fireworks from the water-and besides, even for experienced boaters, navigating at night can be challenging. For the safest and most hassle-free viewing, hire a boat with a captain. Most charters will book up early for July 3rd's show, but try for Wednesday and Saturday evenings throughout the summer, when you can approach the barge southeast of Navy Pier for the regular fireworks.
For groups of one to six people, Charter Boat Chicago (DuSable Harbor; 312-213-2628) offers a trim and maneuverable motor yacht ($150 to $300 per hour). Captain Jim Brummel will tailor a trip to fit; in the past, he has arranged sport fishing, architectural tours, bachelorette parties, and onboard marriage proposals. Chicago Sailing (Belmont Harbor; 773-871-7245) offers a quieter, motorless option for up to six people on each of its eight sailboats ($110 to $200 per hour). A larger party is better off booking one of two boats owned by Free Spirit Yacht Cruises (Burnham Harbor; 708-361-2220); these can accommodate from 50 to 100 guests ($350 to $800 per hour). Another option for big groups is Shoreline Sightseeing (Ogden Slip; 312-222-9328). In addition to large yachts, the company offers three French canalboats, low-riding vessels whose top decks are completely open to the sky and fit up to 50 people. Although not a great option for rainy or cold days, the unobstructed view is unmatched ($700 to $1,200 per hour).
…Because Your Bicycle Becomes A Viable Means Of Transportation.
It's a universal moment: you're packed aboard a sweat-scented bus or stuck, dead as road kill, in rush-hour traffic, when a commuter on a bicycle whizzes merrily by. You think, Could I do that? It may be easier than you imagine. For one thing, Chicago is a city built for bicycle commuting: paths and dedicated lanes abound, the riding is relatively flat, and a supportive network of fellow riders make it a breeze to hit the open road. These four Chicagoans who ride their bikes to work attest that the common hurdles-fear of traffic, sweating, fatigue, the hassle of rainy days-are real but hardly insurmountable.
Name: Kevin Read
Job: Legal assistant at Segal McCambridge Singer & Mahoney and food educator to a third-grade class at the Daley Academy
Closest El Stop: 43rd Street on the Green Line in Grand Boulevard
His Route: Read takes the lakefront path from the South Side to downtown, entering at Oakwood and exiting at Monroe.
What He Rides: A Puch Brigadier he bought in 1979 when he was 15, the only bike he's ever owned
A-Ha Moment: One of his high-school teachers organized a bike trip through Germany, Austria, and Switzerland the summer after Read graduated. "That trip made me a biker."
Repairs: Read uses heavy-duty inner tubes and liners, and considers himself almost flat-proof. "With the bike racks on buses, you're never totally stranded if you do get a flat."
How He Freshens Up: On his way to work, Read exercises and showers at Bally Total Fitness. "I carry my clothes in my backpack. They don't get too wrinkled." On rainy days, Read uses dry socks and underwear from the emergency stash he keeps in a drawer at work.
Road Wisdom: "Be way more alert than somebody driving a car."
Name: Sherry Daun
Job: Attorney at Hubert Law Group
Closest El Stop: Equidistant from Division and Chicago stops on the Blue Line in Ukrainian Village
Her Route: Daun takes Rice Street to Damen, rides south on Damen, then cuts east on Grand. She zigzags her way east and south until reaching the corner of Wells and Randolph streets.
What She Rides: A 1975 Schwinn Cruiser
Repairs: The first time Daun got a flat tire, she had to walk her bike home about five miles. She now goes to open shop on Tuesday nights at West Town Bikes (2418 W. North Ave.; www.westtownbikes.org).
How She Deals With Rain: Fenders. "They help keep the stripe of mud off your back."
Time Savers: "Clothes that get dry cleaned, they stay downtown." Daun routinely travels in her suit, riding six blocks to the federal court for a trial or to client meetings.
Bad Moment In Traffic: She once was hit while biking the wrong way in a crosswalk. "Cars aren't expecting anything faster than a pedestrian."
Nice Tip: Present your bike key and shower for free at participating Bally Total Fitness gyms.
Name: Dan Korn
Job: Software developer at Printable Technologies
Closest El Stop: California on the Blue (soon to be the Pink) Line in Little Village
His Route: Korn's route to work is mainly via Ogden, but he likes to ride home through Pilsen on southwesterly Blue Island Avenue.
What He Rides: Korn's bike is two frames, one on top of the other, with the seat five feet in the air-known as a tall bike. "With a tall bike you're more visible to cars. There's also the gee-whiz factor. When people are looking at you, they're less likely to think you're another damn biker in their way." The downside, Korn says, is that occasionally people will drive very close to him, trying to take his picture.
Repairs: Because his bike's added weight puts stress on the tires, Korn gets a lot of flats. He packs a tube, patch kit, wrench, zip ties, and duct tape.
How He Freshens Up: He rolls up a dress shirt and puts it in his bag before biking, then towels down in the bathroom at work. "I bask in the air conditioning for a minute and then put my dress shirt on."
Good Advice: "If on the first day you plan to start bike commuting it's raining, don't bike."
Photography: Anna Knott
Name: Elizabeth Adamczyk
Job: Circulation supervisor at Northwestern University's Chicago campus library
Closest El Stop: Paulina on the Brown Line in West Lake View
Her Route: When Adamczyk first started bike commuting, she found the lakefront path too congested. She forced herself to try the bike lane on Lincoln Avenue. "One day I just did it and it was so much nicer."
What She Rides: A Jamis Nova 27-speed Cyclocross
Repairs: She carries a tool set, spare tube, and small pump.
How She Deals With Rain: "I just throw a slicker over everything. After a few times riding in the rain, you realize there's nothing to it."
How She Freshens Up: Adamczyk rolls her daily outfit into a regular backpack. Once at work, she speeds through a five-minute routine that includes disposable wipes and running a bit of water through her hair. "I try to get a haircut that's a little shorter in the summer so my hair's not matted down to my head."
Extracurricular Activities: She recently helped organize the Ride of Silence, a ten-mile silent bike ride to bring awareness to the legal rights of cyclists on the road.
Illustration: Juliette Borda
…Because Block Parties Are Fun.
Of all summer's rituals, the annual block party is surely one of the most pleasant. We cheer the bike parade, admire the fire truck, count on tie-dyeing to draw out the teenagers, and, maybe, hike up our shorts for a game or two of volleyball. The predictability of its lolling rhythm is topped only by the novelty of drinking beer in your lawn chair where you usually park your car. But what would happen if we snapped out of our collective trance, dared to dream, applied a little creative gumption to the event? What exactly could an enterprising block party achieve? Might we rent a Tilt-a-Whirl? Truck in three tons of sand for a beach party? Set off a fireworks display?
Well, sadly, no. After calling around to some aldermen's offices, which approve block party permits, we learned that the first scenario presents liability issues, the second blocks the public way to emergency vehicles, and the last is just plain illegal. However, we came up with some quality alternatives that don't break the rules-provided your neighbors are willing to toss more than a five- or ten-spot in the collection can.
Patch 22 in Wadsworth (www.patch22.biz) will lead two ponies for an hour-that's about 45 rides-for $200. Add a petting zoo of baby animals for an extra $375.
Your neighbor still refuses to cut back the branches from the tree that's dropping fruit in your yard. Settle the tiresome matter by donning a huge, padded sumo suit and wrestling her to the ground. A-Awesome Amusements Co. (www.awesomeamusements.com) will provide costumes and a referee. $500 for two hours.
Achieve a true carnival atmosphere with entertainers from Forms in Motion (www.formsinmotion.com/acts.htm). You get stilt walkers, fire-eaters, jugglers, face painters, balloon artists, and more. $2,000 for three hours.
For $25.95 per person, Robinson's Ribs (www.rib1.com) will send out two chefs and two servers with grills in tow. You get a complete cookout, from barbecued ribs and chicken, hot dogs, and hamburgers, to corn on the cob, baked beans, coleslaw, potato salad, Popsicles, ice-cream cups, and drinks. Heck, they even bring all the paper products.
Blow your kids' minds with a sundae bar for 100, complete with homemade ice cream, chocolate sauce, and loads of trimmings. Forest Park's Brown Cow (www.browncowicecream.com) will do it for $350.
Swing dance party
The biggest bang for the buck just may be a dance party from Big City Swing (www.bigcityswing.com). For roughly $500, two dancers, accompanied by a deejay, will spend an hour instructing the block in how to swing dance. The deejay spends an additional hour spinning swing tunes, then another two hours playing music from various eras. Swing not your thing? They do tango or salsa, too. String some lanterns in the trees, and dance the night away under the stars. Now, that's a party.
–Karin Horgan Sullivan
Cold Comfort, Part I: Six Summer Sippers
Photography: Fredrik Brauer
1) Vodka lemonade at Fireplace Inn
This 32-ouncer is big enough to hide behind when dodging exes during the Wells Street Art Festival. And potent enough to help you forget the inevitable awkward run-in
($9; 1448 N. Wells St., 312-943-7427).
2) Floating Orchid at Japonais
Vodka, Cointreau, ginger ale, and pear and lemon juices with an edible orchid to boot. Sip it overlooking the Chicago River downstairs on the open-air veranda
($11; 600 W. Chicago Ave., 312-822-9600).
3) Road Rash Mary at Twisted Spoke
Even liquid dieters need to eat sometimes-the meat and olive garnishes in this Bloody Mary are a meal. And nothing beats the massive rooftop patio
($6.95; 501 N. Ogden Ave., 312-666-1500).
4) Margaritas at Blue Agave
A slightly less sloppy scene than at nearby Melvin B's lets you sink into the strong margaritas with a side of Gold Coast wannabes
($8; 1050 N. State St., 312-335-8900).
5) Martinis at the Matchbox
The world's smallest bar takes it outside during the summer-there's something irresistible about a crystal clear martini quaffed roadside along grimy Ogden Avenue
($6; 770 N. Milwaukee Ave., 312-666-9292).
6) A strawberry daiquiri at Castaways
It's the spring break experience you never had, with the Chicago skyline as your backdrop
($6.25; North Avenue Beach, 1603 N. Lake Shore Dr., 773-281-1200).
Illustration: Juliette Borda
The nine-hour drive to pristine fish-filled lakes in Hayward, Wisconsin, some 450 miles from Chicago, offers pure kitsch. Leave early so you can take in lunch at the Norske Nook (13804 W. Seventh St.; 715-597-3069, www.norskenook.com), whose towering, seven-inch-tall slice of banana cream pie is a minor work of art. Head north and sample Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co.'s seasonal best at the attractive Leinie Lodge (124 E. Elm St.; 888-534-6437, www.leinenkugel.com) in Chippewa Falls. A couple of hours later, you'll reach hilly, rustic Hayward. Stay the night at the Spider Lake Lodge (10472 W. Murphy Blvd.; 800-653-9472, www.spiderlakelodge.com), a lakeside retreat that has been extensively renovated. Dinner in this part of Wisconsin means supper club, and the nearest fix is the Tally-Ho Supper Club (10432 West State Rd. #77; 715-462-3646, www.tallyhosupperclub.com) for shrimp cocktail and prime rib. Next day, tour the town. The National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame (County Highway B and State Rd. 27; 715-634-4440, www.freshwater-fishing.org) is a hoot. The hanging dioramas of animals at the Moccasin Bar (126 W. 1st St.; 715-634-4211) will remind you that you're in the nation's taxidermy capital. A half slab of ribs at Original Famous Dave's (12359 W. Richardson Bay Rd.; 715-462-3352) will stick to yours. But don't forget to pack a cooler at The Meat Palace And Smokehouse (15867 T-Bone Lane; 715-634-2194, www.themeatpalace.com), where the plump sausages make a fitting souvenir.
Strip down your beauty regimen to its barest essentials by replacing laborious rituals with long-lasting treatments.
Dump your mascara
What: Like hair extensions, lash extensions are glued onto existing hairs for semipermanent length and thickness. They look and feel natural, and you'll still be able to take your daily swim.
Where: Rashida B at The B Spot (1471 N. Milwaukee Ave., 3R; 773-256-9799). $300 to $425.
Get a carefree cut
What: "Go with the flow," says Anthony Cristiano at Mario Tricoci; in other words, let curly hair go wild, and keep straight hair sleek with the best cut you can afford. Cristiano is the master of effortless hair from his work backstage as a stylist for New York and Paris fashion shows.
Where: Anthony Cristiano at Mario Tricoci (900 N. Michigan Ave.; 800-874-2624). $200.
Stain your lips
What: Local makeup artist Janine Greff developed a line of long-lasting lip stains that will darken your pout all day, even through meals.
Where: Morpho Super Staying Lip Stain, available at Ruby Room (1743 W. Division St.; 773-235-2323) and Sweet William (15 E. First St., Hinsdale; 630-920-8444). $20.
Shape your brows
What: A strong brow line enhances makeup-free features, defines your bone structure, and accentuates eyes. It's practically an instant face-lift.
Where: Michael Meyer for Ayala Maquillage at Mon Ami Coiffure (65 E. Oak St.; 312-943-4555). $60 first visit; $25 to $45 maintenance.
What: The white cotton T-shirt is the summer's most versatile wardrobe basic. The longer cut of this one from Generra will mask the danger zone from waist to hips.
Where: Generra second skin shirts, available at Active Endeavors (853 W. Armitage Ave.; 773-281-8100). $58.
Wax off-but gently
What: The Brazilian is out. So this year, try an Ibiza bikini wax, which is less bare and therefore far less traumatic to maintain. Exfoliate immediately before and after to minimize ingrown hair.
Where: Leticia Kagan at Beauty & Soul (65 E. Oak St., Suite 201; 312-943-4388). $50.
Spray on some sun
What: Real tanning is too dangerous. A precise, technician-applied airbrushing adds color and contouring that no spray booth can match.
Where: Available at Asha Salon Spa (1135 N. State St.; 312-664-1600) and The Streets of Woodfield (601 N. Martingale Rd.; 847-592-5000). $35 per session.
Lengthen your toes
What: The pedicure at Exhale is worth the splurge: after a luxuriously long foot massage, calluses are tamed and nails are polished. Ask for a neutral color, like Essie's classic Mademoiselle, to make toes look longer and chips less visible.
Where: Exhale (945 N. State St.; 312-753-6500). $48.
The bounty of the harvest is upon us. But what to do with it all? We asked a chef, a baker, and a seasonal drink maker for their best ideas.
Photography: Anna Knott
Bartender at Nacional 27
Judging by the "market cocktail" menu at Nacional 27 (325 W. Huron St.; 312-664-2727), the restaurant's head bartender, Adam Seger, has never met a fruit or vegetable he didn't want to muddle into submission. And South America's pantheon of drinks-the mojito, the caipirinha, and the batida-are rustic, casual preparations that lend themselves to such a project. "I just think about food ingredients that will work together and build the drink from there," Seger says. Last summer, Seger invented a strawberry-rhubarb mojito. He stews rhubarb chunks over low heat with a little sugar, and uses his muddler-a mini baseball bat carved from a footlong piece of Brazilian rosewood-to crush the resulting compote with lime wedges, chopped strawberries, mint leaves, light rum, and simple syrup. Add ice, shake, and finish with a splash of club soda. Employing another classic culinary flavor marriage, Seger adds a touch of balsamic vinegar to his strawberry-basil mojito.
Similarly adaptable, the batida-a daiquiri that's shaken instead of blended-is an ideal carrier for any luscious summer fruit. "Peach batidas are awesome," Seger says. To make one, peel and chop a ripe peach and splash with a good light rum (even though cachaca, the Brazilian sugar-cane spirit, is traditional). Shake together spoonfuls of the soaked peach with more rum, lime juice, simple syrup, and crushed ice. Experiment with watermelon, honeydew, and cantaloupe. A caipirinha-which is just lime wedges, sugar, cachaca, and crushed ice-is a good vehicle for fruits with skins, such as grapes or black cherries from Michigan. Simply mash together the limes and fruit, then add sugar, cachaca, and ice, and shake well.
Even ingredients you might associate with a salad don't escape Seger's sweeping gaze. Cucumbers, for example. Using a boutique gin, Seger has concocted a cucumber and mint mojito that's so far on the savory end of the flavor spectrum that he rims his glass with salt and ground pepper. "It just screams summer and freshness," he insists. He is also getting worked up about his heirloom tomato mojito with fresh-snipped chives, but he says it would work with practically any summer herb.
Adam Seger's Cucumber and Mint Mojito
Coat the rim of a sturdy, tempered 16-ounce tumbler with lime juice; then dip into a mixture of kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper. In it, muddle together half a lime cut into wedges, 1/4 cup chopped cucumber (peeled and seeded), and 12 mint leaves until juicy and aromatic. (Seger recommends the muddlers at mister mojito.com; you can get them here at Sur la Table and Binny's, or use the end of a rolling pin.) Add 1 1/2 ounces Hendrick's gin and 1/4 cup cucumber juice (peel a cucumber, purée in a blender, strain out the solids). Fill with crushed ice and give it a good shake. Top with a splash of club soda or tonic water. Garnish with a lime wedge, cucumber wheel, and extra mint leaves. Makes 1 drink.
Executive Chef at May Street Market
In 1997, Alexander Cheswick, then a student at the Culinary Institute of America in its restaurant management program, took a school trip to California, where the students learned about organic farming and met a bunch of West Coast chefs. "That changed, basically, my whole life," says Cheswick, the 32-year-old chef and proprietor of May Street Market (1132 W. Grand Ave.; 312-421-5547), a new 66-seater just northwest of the Loop. Between then and now, Cheswick cooked in Germany, first at a three-star Michelin restaurant in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps, and later at a boutique hotel near Munich where deer roamed the grounds and chanterelles sprang up like weeds.
"The true organic is wild," he says. Which may go a long way toward explaining why his list of favorite seasonal ingredients reads like a pantry inventory out of The Sound of Music: elderberry and chamomile flowers; miner's lettuce (a wild green); foraged fungi, such as chanterelles and pine-scented matsutakes; lingonberries for making into a compote for game; and field strawberries.
But he's also excited about trolling Chicago's farmers' markets for the best-looking stuff among slightly less exotic offerings-ingredients he can turn into specials-of-the-day or sneak into regular menu dishes. He expects to find morels, for example, through June, since the popular mushroom has an extended season in Illinois and Wisconsin thanks to our long winters. Peas are quintessentially summer. He recommends using the tender shoots and mid-growth tendrils as greens in a salad. Kohlrabi, the strange-looking and underrated cabbage-family bulb, is one of his favorite vegetables. At its best in late spring and early summer (choose the smallest you can find), kohlrabi can be eaten raw, like jicama, if sliced very thin. Cheswick says kohlrabi's light turnipy flavor pairs nicely with spicy arugula and can be cut into julienne strips for an unexpected twist on coleslaw served next to soft-shell crab.
And, of course, there's corn. Cheswick's method for making a fresh corn soup is as simple as it is ingenious: put cut kernels through a juicer and bring the bright yellow extract up to a boil, which activates the natural starches to thicken. Season to taste and, if you're feeling extravagant, add a touch of cream for smoothness. "Chill it down and serve it with crab meat," he declares. Cheswick's own finishing touch is a curlicue of pure corn oil, which he gets from one of the restaurant's specialty purveyors. "It's yellow and it tastes like eating corn," he says. Sounds like a summer day.
Alexander Cheswick's Corn Soup
Husk 8 ears of fresh sweet corn and rinse away any clinging silk. With a knife, slice kernels off the cob. Put kernels through a juicer, or purée in a food processor or blender and strain through cheesecloth. Bring corn juice to a low boil, and season with 1/4 teaspoon each of kosher salt and sugar, plus a pinch each of white pepper and freshly grated nutmeg. Whisk continuously for about 15 minutes until soup is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Adjust seasoning as desired. Chill and serve with a generous spoonful of lump crab meat, garnished with lightly chopped fresh herbs such as sorrel, basil, or cilantro. Serves 4.
Pastry Chef At Blackbird/Avec
Perhaps more so than other chefs, Tara Lane, the pastry chef at Blackbird (619 W. Randolph St.; 312-715-0708) and a visual artist by training, is ravenous for color by the time spring rolls around. So naturally she falls for bright-red rhubarb and strawberries, hot pink raspberries, deep orange peaches, and inky purple blackberries and Concord grapes. "I love Concord grapes," she says. "The color is so vibrant." In past summers, Lane has made Concord-grape sorbet, doughnuts filled with Concord-grape jelly, Concord grape clafoutis, and crème fraîche panna cotta layered with Concord-grape gelée.
She also loves green-and has acquired a reputation for crossing into territory where pastry chefs normally fear to tread. For example, she recently turned sweet peas into ice cream (as well as eggplant into cake and fennel into granita), and regularly raids the hot kitchen's herb drawer. "When you think about basil coming out and just exploding, I was like, ‘I want to do that, too!'" she says.
Thus, summer-herb ice cream made with basil but also with tarragon, thyme, and mint.
Tara Lane's Basil Ice Cream
Blanch 2 cups basil leaves for 30 seconds in boiling water; plunge into ice water and drain. Purée basil with 1 cup half-and-half in a blender. Bring 2 cups heavy cream and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a boil; remove from heat. Whisk together 9 egg yolks and 3/4 cup sugar in a bowl; immediately add 1/4 cup of the hot cream, whisking constantly. Slowly whisk this yolk mixture back into the pan of remaining cream. Switch to a wooden spoon and stir over low heat until the mixture coats the back of your spoon. Strain into a bowl set in ice water and stir in the basil. Press plastic wrap to the surface of the custard and chill for at least 2 hours. Spin in an ice-cream maker, according to manufacturer's instructions. Makes about 1 quart.
Illustration: Juliette Borda
…Because It's Not So Much What You Did Last Summer; It's What You Dreamed About Doing
What I remember most about summers in Chicago is not what my best friend, Eric, and I did, but what we didn't do. For instance, we didn't take up Eric's sister on her suggestion that we drive south to Soldier Field, sit on the hood of a car, and try to listen to the Springsteen concert from the parking lot because none of us had had the presence of mind to buy tickets. We never quit school to spend a year in L.A. writing screenplays. We didn't buy lanterns at Manzelman's Hardware in order to play late-night basketball at Chippewa Park. I never summoned up the nerve to ask for a date with Gwen Billings. Or June Newberry. Or Demetra Karras.
And then there was the week in early June when Eric and I sat with a Casio keyboard in the backyard of my folks' house on Mozart Street, composing hip-hop songs for our rap group, the one that we were planning to call Big Mac and the Pounders. Eric thought that we had at least an album's worth of material-romantic songs like "(She's Just a) Nice Girl," topical numbers like "(Her Name Was) Flo-Jo," anthems like "Doin' the Penguin." But the project stalled on the second night of rehearsal when we realized that my rhythm was off, and so was Eric's pitch. And besides, our $10 Radio Shack portable tape recorder would hardly have been sufficient to produce a professional-sounding demo cassette.
Which left us heading back once again to the beach, where we would skip stones, gaze out at the skyline, drink 32-ounce Cokes, and dream aloud about what we would do with the rest of our summer.
During those hot nights on Lunt Avenue Beach, there was always a new plan. We would build a raft out of planks of wood, line it with milk cartons, and sail it all the way to Michigan. Or we'd grow beards and drive out into the wilderness in my mom's gold 1978 Volvo GL. Or we would start a radical political newspaper called The Free Press, and distribute copies in front of City Hall. Or we'd rent video cameras from Triangle Camera and make a stellar independent film, presumably in one take, because neither of us owned or knew how to use editing equipment. Or, as soon as morning arrived, maybe we would head down to Lyons Office Supply on Devon Avenue to buy a plastic sheet of rub-off letters and a burnishing instrument, with which we would make fake IDs so that we could buy liquor at Armanetti's or get past the bouncers at Club 950, Octagon, or Metro. Just so we wouldn't have to spend another pathetic night dancing at Medusa's, then returning to the beach.
Somehow, though, we never got very far in our plans.
Eric drew the sketches for the raft, but I was a lousy swimmer, and intentionally forgot to purchase the necessary lumber. Our macho road trip ended up as one night frightened of wild animals in a campsite outside Madison, Wisconsin. I went downtown to the Marquette Building to interview former Republican mayoral candidate Bernard Epton for the inaugural issue of The Free Press, but we lost interest in our newspaper after it took more than a day to lay out a page. We did shoot about 20 minutes of footage for a video, but when we met Charlie Sheen on the beach-he was in town filming a real movie called Lucas-we felt embarrassed by our amateurish project, and lost heart. And, yes, we really did make some fake IDs (highly unconvincing driver's licenses from Massachusetts), but when we hit the liquor store and attempted to purchase a bottle of Night Train, the guy at the register didn't even card us. We wound up taking two swigs of the vile fluid, then burying the bottle atop the toboggan hill in Warren Park, vowing that one day we would return to dig it up.
We never did.
What we actually did was take our piddling salaries from our summer jobs and internships to buy gas, burgers, and pop, then drive from one end of the city to the other and back again, taking side streets the whole way, blasting cassette tapes by Lonnie Brooks, The Ventures, and Falco, talking about how we would spend the next night, and the rest of our lives.
A few years after graduating from college, I met a local film producer in Printer's Row to discuss a script I had written about two teenagers in Chicago, and what they did on their last summer before college.
"But nothing happens," she said. "It's all setup with no payoff. All they do is drive around, hang out by the lake, and talk about what they're going to do; they never actually do anything."
Exactly. That was my kind of summer.
Cold Comfort, Part II: Ten Frozen Delights
Photography: Nathan Kirkman
1. Made from rich, creamy frozen custard, the Boston Shake at Scooter's in Lake View is a milk shake topped with a chocolate sundae-decadence worthy of a Roman orgy (Scooter's Frozen Custard, 1658 W. Belmont Ave.; 773-244-6415. $5.24).
2. The Mexicana Shake at Hyde Park's stalwart eatery will perk up even the dourest University of Chicago grad student: the extrathick vanilla shake is spiked with Mexican chocolate for a beguiling hint of cinnamon (Medici, 1327 E. 57th St.; 773-667-7394. $3.50).
3. Fans of Wisconsin's Chocolate Shoppe brand of super-premium ice cream will rejoice upon receiving the gargantuan portion at Sweet Occasions and More: a whopping seven-ounce single scoop, surely the best deal in the city (Sweet Occasions and More, 5306 N. Clark St.; 773-275-5190, plus two other city locations. $2.85).
4. At the Ritz-Carlton, executive pastry chef Anthony Chavez offers a gourmet blueberry cheesecake sundae: sapphire blueberry sorbet, silky graham cracker ice cream, fresh fruit sauce, and, just when you thought you'd reached the farthest outpost of indulgence, chunks of house-made cheesecake (The Ritz-Carlton; 160 E. Pearson St.; 312-266-1000. $12).
5. Push aside the tourists and go off menu when ordering Ghirardelli's Strike It Rich sundae, which ascends from classic to outstanding when you sub in dark chocolate fudge (Ghirardelli, 830 N. Michigan Ave.; 312-337-9330. $6.95).
6. Hands down, the best hot fudge is at Margie's, where customers form a line around the block for the thick yet pourable chocolate sauce. The joint gets bonus points for serving it on the side (Margie's Candies, 1960 N. Western Ave.; 773-384-1035. $3.95 for a classic sundae).
7. The Macaroon Crumble sundae at this recently opened outpost of a California chain is crowned with crumbles of buttery cookie goodness atop marshmallow and fudge sauces (Billy Berk's, 3 Westfield Old Orchard Shopping Center, Skokie; 847-763-4600. $6.95).
8. The mascarpone gelato may be only the best of several outstanding flavors (try the pistachio and blueberry) at this low-key South Loop chocolate maker (Canady le Chocolatier, 824 S. Wabash Ave.; 312-212-1270. $3.50 for a large).
9. Since the 1930s, Mitchell's has been cranking out its renowned chocolate chip ice cream, a rich vanilla shot through with chocolate chips. Make it a double (Mitchell's Candies & Ice Cream, 18211 Dixie Hwy., Homewood; 708-799-3835. $3.60 for two scoops).
10. We grant that the locally themed dessert menu at the Chicago Chocolate Company is hokey and pandering. Still, we couldn't stop eating the South Side Sundae, two scoops of vanilla, chocolate, or mint-chocolate-chip ice cream topped with almonds covered in chocolate and loads of whipped cream (Chicago Chocolate Company, 847 W. Randolph St.; 888-568-1733. $4.99).
Take It Outside: 10 Ways to Get Your Sweat On
Calories burned per hour*: 300
If you walk for 18 holes-typically about three and a half miles-while shouldering a 15-pound bag, a round of golf will burn calories and tone your core. Off the course, load up on bicycle crunches, which mimic a torso's rotation through a swing.
Calories burned per hour*: 270
Trade the crouching position for more muscle-engaging stances-lunging with your front leg bent and back leg straight is particularly effective. Then pull out the non-motorized lawnmower and a rake.
Calories burned per hour*: 600
Tackle two or three circuits of the wood-and-metal exercise stations-also known as the Perrier Parcourse-that run south from Belmont Harbor in Lincoln Park (and elsewhere along the lakefront). Jog in place between circuits to keep your heart rate up.
Calories burned per hour*: 700 (full-court)
Talented high schoolers and college athletes bring their pickup game to the courts at 63rd Street and Lake Shore Drive, which have been known to attract the occasional NBA player. Foster Park (1440 W. 84th St.) is another competitive venue.
Calories burned per hour*: 350
Paddle your way down the Chicago and Des Plaines rivers and around Lake Michigan in a sleek fiberglass kayak. The Chicago Kayak Club (www.chicagokayak.com) offers excursions and Chicago River Canoe & Kayak (www.chicagoriverpaddle.com) rents boats by the hour.
Calories burned per hour*: 800
Dive into the lake at Monroe Harbor (100 N. Harbor Dr.), which is patrolled by city lifeguards. To maintain a straight course, you'll need to practice what triathletes call "sighting": looking forward as you turn your head to breathe.
Calories burned per hour*: 600 to 800
Energize a routine gone stale by introducing fartlek (Swedish for "speed play") runs once a week: after a ten-minute warm-up, run hard for two minutes and recover for one. Repeat seven or eight times. Advanced runners should increase the hard run to four minutes.
Calories burned per hour*: 280
On July 16th, take a free class at 8 a.m. on the lawn in front of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Throughout the summer, the Chicago Botanic Garden (1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe; 847-835-5440) offers an outdoor tai chi class for beginners on Thursdays from 8 to 9 a.m.
Calories burned per hour*: 240
Ultimate Chicago's friendly coed league plays on Mondays and Wednesdays through August 10th, at 6:30 p.m., in a variety of locations (www.ultimatechicago.org). Bring up to three friends, but remember that the league enforces a strict five-to-two male/female ratio.
Calories burned per hour*: 560
Sharpen your spiking skills at one of Players Sports' outdoor clinics. The next session, to be held at North Avenue Beach, begins in mid-August (www.playerssports.net). Then go online to find a team through Chicago Sport and Social Club's excellent message boards (www.chicagosportandsocial.com).
*Based on a 150-pound person.
Outdoor music sprouts up around Memorial Day and flourishes until a few weeks after Labor Day, when it's too cold for lips on a brass mouthpiece. With almost too many options, dare we say, we solicited some expert advice on which acts coming this summer are a must-listen.
"The Stephen Sondheim [July 14th through 16th] is a huge deal," says James Palermo, artistic and general director of the Grant Park Music Festival (www.grantparkmusicfestival.com). Stars of musical theatre, including Scarface actress Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Liz Callaway, and Northwestern alum Brian d'Arcy James, will sing Sondheim classics on July 14th and 15th (Palermo hopes the composer himself will be in the audience). Palermo also recommends the percussion-centric symphony by the contemporary Australian composer Carl Vine (programmed with the always-popular Carmina Burana), on July 19th and 22nd. Welz Kauffman, the president and CEO of Ravinia (www.ravinia.org), told us to catch the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's three-day superstar showcase, August 4th to 6th. Violin virtuoso Gil Shaham, star soprano Renée Fleming, and cellist Yo-Yo Ma will perform in successive concerts, the third of which features Ma premièring a piece by Argentinian/Israeli orchestral composer Osvaldo Golijov, whose music deftly weaves together classical, jazz, Latin American rhythms, and klezmer. Art Lange, chairman of the programming committee of the Chicago Jazz Festival (www.cityofchicago.org; search for "chicago jazz festival"), says September 2nd is the night to see the tight, talented Joe Lovano Nonet, a nine-piece band that revisits the radical instrumentation of the Birth of the Cool combo led by Miles Davis. Saxophone legend Lee Konitz, who played on Birth, will conduct a workshop for young musicians on Friday, September 1st (it's free to attend), and perform over the weekend. The Evanston Starlight Concerts series (www.cityofevanston.org/departments/parks/starlight.shtml), which visits three parks in Evanston on Tuesdays and Thursdays, this year features rockabilly stars Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys, a favorite of Evanston's cultural arts director, Jeff Cory. They play at 7:30 p.m. on July 25th at Dawes Park. Another act to catch, says Cory, is Cordero, an indie-rock band from Brooklyn with a Latin flair; they perform on July 13th at 7:30 p.m. at James Park.
Like some benevolent strain of bird flu, a game called cornhole has invaded the yards, alleys, sidewalks, and taverns of Chicago in the past few years. The game-somewhat like horseshoes minus the potential for deadly brainings with flying iron hoofwear-requires participants to toss soft canvas bags filled with corn kernels about 30 feet toward a sloping plywood ramp with a hole at the far end; they score points by getting the bag to drop through the six-inch hole (hence the game's name) or stick on the ramp.
Though cornhole's origins are murky at best, future scholars will trace the dawn of the game's modern era to the turn of the new millennium, when it began sprouting up in the backyards of Cincinnati like a cicada infestation. Within a few years it spread to other regions. Mike Whitton, founder and president of the three-year-old Cincinnati-based American Cornhole Association (www.playcornhole.org), reports that about 20 percent of his organization's 10,000 members are in Illinois, mostly in Chicago-now arguably cornhole's second city. A group called ChicagoCornhole operates leagues with 80 teams competing at two North Side taverns (new leagues start in July; go to www.chicagocornhole.com).
Why the game caught on, as any avid cornholer will tell you, is a no-brainer. It's infectious fun, the equipment can be set up virtually anywhere, and the skills required are so minimal anyone can play. It demands close to zero exertion, which makes it an ideal activity for cookouts and tailgates-something to do between the lighting of the charcoal and the burning of the brats.
While the American Cornhole Association has codified the game's equipment specifications and rules, there's no agreed-upon technique for putting the bag in the hole or near it. Dave Rapp, who claims to be the cornhole king of the La Grange Fire Department, where he's a lieutenant, recommends holding the edge of the bag with your fingertips rather than resting it like a softball in the palm. My Cincinnati brother-in-law, Mike, is a master of the Frisbee-style spinner, which lands flat and slides smoothly to the hole-or can be laid up shy of the hole to create a "blocker." The cornhole association's Whitton advises getting plenty of loft on your throws-the more vertical the descent, the less likely the bag is to skid off the ramp. He offers one more solemn bit of wisdom: "By holding a beer in your non-throwing hand, you'll have better balance and accuracy." Just be sure to sip yours while egging on your opponents to guzzle themselves sloppy. In a game where no lead is safe, every advantage helps.
He's wearing camo bermuda swim shorts that come to rest beneath his hairless, ripped torso. She's wearing a Burberry string bikini that enhances her perfectly sculpted assets. Sipping slushies poolside, they're among other hard-bodied tanorexics populating the rooftop deck at the East Bank Club. After all, it's summer and this is where the city's affluent unattached come to display what they've been working on all winter. If the East Bank Club is its own small city, made up of more than 10,000 members, then the rooftop pool area-a sprawling 60,000-square-foot lido deck-is its most visible subculture.
Lori Armon, a member since 2001 and the director of corporate PR for Hyatt Corporation, offers this helpful guide to the three-tiered terrain: "Regulars know that the ones who sit on the upper deck by the pool are the people who want to be seen. The people on the second tier want to be seen just enough for the scenesters to say, ‘Hey!' as they keep walking up to the main level. And the ones on the lowest level, well, they probably just got there late."
But single adults aren't the only ones served. Hip parents, like Geoff Alexander, the director of operations for Shaw's Crab House, take advantage of the communal vibe at the wading pool. "The kids can play, and parents can relax, catch up, and network," says Alexander, the 35-year-old divorced dad of Morgan, 7. "It's great, because I can watch your child while you enjoy the pool, and then you can watch mine and let me take a swim." Alexander has been dating Armon since last summer, when they got better acquainted at the kiddie pool. "Joining East Bank served its purpose for me," he says.
…Because Those Long Months At The Gym Were Not In Vain
…Because A Beanbag-Based Game From Ohio Has Taken Beer-Soaked Lollygagging To New Heights
…Because Music Is Everywhere
…Because You Can Ditch Your Gym.
…Because Ice Cream Is A Necessary Response To The Heat.
…Because There Are 31 Farmers' Markets In The City Plus 37 In The Suburbs
…Because You Can Go Naked
…Because We Like To Drive
…Because It Makes Us Very, Very Thirsty
…Because This Year South Siders Can Gloat.