…Continued from yesterday
We started off Saturday morning with breakfast at a Bucktown French-themed restaurant called Café Crème located across the street and down the block from our hostel.
Claire and Miguel chose this restaurant, which has been open only a few months, because Claire loved the polenta breakfast dish they served as well as the breakfast tofu , which she says is the best tofu she’s ever had. Miguel likewise loves the restaurant’s Salmon Hash, so they were looking forward to taking us to this place.
Café Crème is a cute little place with a blue and pink awning and a pretty pastel-hued interior. Amazingly, there was no wait for a seat on this beautiful Saturday morning; in fact, the place was pretty empty. Subsequently the service by the friendly, abundant wait staff was fast and great.
However when we got the menus Claire and Miguel learned to their dismay that the polenta, tofu, and salmon hash had all been cut.
“I don’t know why,” the waitress confessed when we asked her why all their favorites were missing from the menu. “In fact, some people came to our restaurant just for our polenta.” Of course this is why we had come, too, as well as for the now defunct salmon hash.
But I had an idea that having an empty restaurant on a Saturday morning in Bucktown during prime breakfast-brunch time was probably what motivated the chef to change the menu. Which is a shame, because they cut the very items that kept bringing back two faithful customers.
So instead of salmon hash Miguel ordered the new menu item, pork hash, which he said was good but not as good as the salmon hash and had, he felt, too much potato filler. Claire ordered scrambled eggs with brie, mushrooms and avocado, which she also pronounced good, but not as good as the polenta or the tofu. Tom ordered a scrambled eggs crepe which he said was good but not to die for. And I felt like ordering my perennial sunny-side up eggs, hash browns and toast, but as only scrambled eggs were offered (though I guess I could have just asked for sunny-side up instead, right?) I decided to go 'way off network and order something completely different from my usual, so I ordered the Croque Monsieur with hash browns.
Now, a croque monsieur (pronounced "crokuh missyeuh" but pronounced by the waitress as "croke monsoor", which should have tipped me off), at least I always experienced its preparation when I lived in Paris, is made, to my understanding, by dipping a ham and cheese sandwich in beaten egg, as you would french toast, then cooking it on a griddle, also as you would french toast. According to the menu this croque monsieur came with bechamel, which I assumed would be the buttery white sauce that sometimes topped the croque monsieurs that I used to know, as one would top french toast with syrup.
However, the sandwich I received appeared to be a ham sandwich on toast with a little bit of something white spread on the interior of the sandwich. The sandwich was then topped with a slice of swiss cheese, then either microwaved or heated in the oven to melt the slice of cheese on the top.
Was it good anyway? Well, let's just say that I was wishing I'd ordered the scrambled eggs.
Claire, Tom and I all had hash browns on the side.
Now, I've come to believe that the expression "hash browns" must be a generic term for breakfast potatoes, since every restaurant seems to have its own interpretation of the hash brown. The Cafe Creme's hash browns were a huge pile of what appeared to be potato quarters, coated in some kind of batter and deep-fried and deliciously seasoned, kind of like deep-fried potato skins but including the potato. I can’t imagine how many calories were involved involved in this affair. I also can’t imagine how many potatoes went down to provide the portions they gave us.
See above the supposed croque monsieur with the monster hash browns, one of which I'd already scarfed down by the time I remembered to snap a photo. I could only eat one or two more of them and I didn't finish the croque whatever, either.
Anyway, Claire concluded that she is going to send an email to Café Crème imploring them to bring back the polenta and the tofu for her and the Salmon Hash for Miguel.
I think I’ll send them an email with instructions on how to make a croque monsieur.
After breakfast the plan was that we’d get away from the city and drive out into the country for the day. So we drove (Miguel drove, we passengered) 50 miiles outside Chicago to All Seasons Orchard, a former apple orchard that is now a sort of, well, I guess you’d call it a Fall farm experience…
... where everyone else in Chicago had likewise decided to come to get away from the city for a Fall farm experience:
It was fun, though. You paid an entrance fee, and after that some of the activites were free and some entailed further financial expenditure, such as picking apples at the u-pick apple orchard or picking pumpkins at the u-pick pumpkin field. There was also a u-pick-a-pumpkin-that-was-already-picked-for-u field:
There were scores of other activities for young and old, including:
Inflatables for the kids:
A tractor-pulled cow train:
An apple-gun shooting range, where you shot apples out of a cannon-like gun at big pumpkin, ghost, and bat targets. Miguel and Claire tried it and found it surprisingly engaging. After we left they rather regretted not having taken the opportunity to shoot a few more rounds of apple-cannon.
There were cute petable farm animals in their pens:
...except for this little guy who escaped, much to the delight of the children:
And there were llamas:
...and lots of other farmesque sights and activities, including a farm market and a country-kitchen restaurant:
But of all the activities, the ones we were most looking forward to were the duck and the pig races.
Alas, The duck race turned out to be a bit of a bust because the ducks turned out to be plastic:
And little kids were doing the the racing:
But the pigs were the real deal:
Those little porkers could run! Supposedly pigs can run really fast (well, these pigs could, anyway), and are capable of a 7-minute mile. We were asking one of the workers how they trained the pigs to race. He said the pigs love above all the cinnamon apple-cider doughnuts they sell at the orchard's farm market and so they’ll race for cinnamon apple-cider doughnuts.
I’d race for cinnamon apple-cider doughnuts.
In fact we all ended up racing back to the farm market for some cinnamon apple-cider doughnuts:
After a few more turns around the farm we headed back to Chicago to Claire and Miguel’s apartment, from whence, deciding we still had one more meal to go, we walked to a wonderful deli-restaurant across the street from our hostel called The Goddess And The Grocer:
It was a warm, beautiful,evening so we sat outside on the restaurant's second-story balcony:
Tom had an enormous stuffed pepper which he declared far above average but below the quality my stuffed peppers, a very diplomatic and prudent response:
While Miguel had a beautiful-looking brisket sandwich and a bowl of lemon-orzo soup. He said the brisket was good but lacked smoke. (Though not being a BBQ fan I’m not sure what that means).
Claire had a tomato, mozarella & pesto sandwich and a bowl of sweet potato-curry soup, both of which she declared to be very good, and I had a Green Goddess vegetable wrap, also very good:
So, The Goddess And The Grocer had nice food, nice ambiance, and I especially liked the sign in the ladies' room:
After dinner it was time for us to say our final good-bye for this visit as Miguel and Claire headed back to their apartment and Tom and I headed back to the IHSP Chicago.
Saturday night in Bucktown:
Tomorrow morning we’d be heading back to Columbus.
To be continued…
by Patti Liszkay
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by Patti Liszkay
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"Equal And Opposite Reactions"
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I am a traveler just visiting this planet and reporting various and sundry observations,
hopefully of interest to my fellow travelers.