Sunday, November 2, 2008

Welcome To Illinois!

Ok everyone, I did the best I could to clean up, and tidy things. Please don't put your coats in any closets or look under the rugs or beds. And help yourself to the goodies. I made some lovely snacks for everyone.


Oh, because Debbie invited the Blog Around the World crew to come take a tour of Illinois today. Be nice to the visitors.

Really, Illinois to me means Chicago. It's kind of like when I lived in Minnesota (Wayzata in case anyone really wants to know). There was the Cities and there was outstate. And yes, we actually called it outstate, as in not really a part of Minnesota. It's kind of like that with Chicago, too. I can name some suburbs, but even where they are is sort of hazy to me unless I've been there.

I'll toss in a tiny bit about the only other part of Illinois I know a little about. And I know this only because of my husband, who is from St Louis. Which of course means that he lived on the Illinois side of the river near St Louis. See, even people who live in parts of Illinois that aren't Chicago don't call themselves Illinois -- these guys identify themselves with a completely different state! (And for those who don't know me, this is completely tongue in cheek.)

So here's what I know about southern Illinois: They have the Cahokia Mounds. The mounds are big. They're in Cahokia, which means goose in an Indian language. There are several of them. Many schools take field trips there. They have a lot of steps and some ruins on the top.

And now I'm shamed into actually looking up and providing more accurate info on the Cahokia Mounds:

Ok. There are at least 109 mounds (although I recall climbing only two), which are the remains of one of the most advanced ancient societies in North America pre-European invasion. Monk's Mound is the main mound and has four terraces, making it the largest man-made earthen mound in North America. The mounds were abandoned more than 100 years before Europeans arrived, however, with no real knowledge about why they dispersed. It is now a protected national heritage site, and there's a pretty cool website with more info on it here.

Now back to Chicago. Where it's impossible to get lost so long as you know what number you're looking for because the city is laid out in a numerical east/west, north/south grid. Go ahead, quiz me on what hundred a street is! (Granted, Minneapolis with its going through the alphabet twice order for street names is pretty ingenious, too.)

One of my favorite things about Chicago is the food.

We do food right around here, as you can see from our typical girth.

The good news is that if I were a size two or four or six, I could find tons of really cute clothes on sale because so few people are small sizes like that. You don't have that luxury in places like oh say New York. Unfortunately, I'm not a size 2.

What do we like to eat here?

Some of my favorite is the pizza we do. The pizza we have is (duh) Chicago-style. Nothing against New York-style, which I am also a fan of, but this pizza rocks. It's deep dish, but not like what you'd get at Pizza Hut. This typically has the filling inside it instead of on top, with the filling and cheese mixed together and the sauce on top. It's definitely knife and fork type food. Spinach is a tradition -- and trust me, this is the only way you're going to get me to eat spinach on pizza.* And yes, there is also the meat gorging version that a lot of people eat (me, I can't mix cheese and meat -- I think I was Jewish in a former life).

* Unless it's Neopolitan pizza with fresh spinach wilted atop a white pizza from Spaca Napoli.

If you come to Chicago, don't go to Uno's or Due's or Gino's East. Those are not for the connoisseurs. If you want the good stuff, I prefer my Giordano's and Suparossa (which used to be sold in the freezer case when I was growing up in MN but I haven't seen it since high school) and sometimes Lou Malnati's (otherwise known as Lou's). When you're on a first name basis with your pizza, you know it's good.

The other stereotype is the Chicago dog, also known as a red hot. Do not, I repeat do NOT put ketchup on your dog. Eww. Mustard, relish (which must be a florescent green not known in nature), dill pickle spear, celery salt, sport peppers, onion, and tomatoes are de rigeur. Oh, and it's ok to add cucumber but not necessary. It's ok to leave some of those off, but do you really want to mess with tradition? And it must be served on a poppyseed bun.

Real hot dogs are Vienna Beef hot dogs. Any decent hot dog place in Chicago serves them. Especially good ones. Fluky's (the original). Mustards (a tradition before or after Northwestern games) -- officially called Mustard's Last Stand. I love the pun, don't you? Demon Dogs, Superdawg, Weiner's Circle (yep, we're all about our puns), Portillo's, and more.

Oh, a bit of a warning. You definitely need two hands to eat a Chicago dog. And I'd recommend a few napkins. They look good though, don't they?

Illinois is also where the first Mai Tai was invented. That's a bit of a surprise, isn't it? You thought they were invented somewhere tropical. Nope, Bob Chinn's is the home of the original mai tai. And they do great food outside the mai tai, but if you order one you get to keep the plastic cup it comes in. They have the most delicious rolls they serve before your food comes out. They're piping hot, and you can get them with or without garlic but really, who wants it without the garlic? Mmm, mai tai, a couple rolls and some fantastic shrimp, and I'm one happy camper!

Actually, you could eat anything you want in Chicago. Chinatown is one of the better ones I've seen (Royal Dragon has great dim sum), and up on Broadway on the north side there are a ton of great Viet and Pho restaurants. Or you can go upscale in the Loop with Tru or Alinea or any one of a number of others.

Even better, you can learn to cook all these kinds of things right here in Chicago. The Chopping Block is a cooking school for amateurs that offers classes on everything from knife skills to making pasta to basic meals and more. They're done in small classes either in a demonstration or hands on mode, depending on your preference. Either way, food is made over a couple hour period before you eat it and then take home recipes so you can recreate it. This is one of the places that nutured my interest in cooking and definitely honed my skills.

It's a real shame that Debbie wasn't featuring Illinois during early July. That's when we have the Taste of Chicago. I can't even compare it to other tastes that have popped up elsewhere around the country. I've been to a couple of them and been sorely disappointed after being spoiled by the original. Granted, it's crowded -- the secret is to go midweek during the first week during the day -- but all the heat and people and noise is well worth it to get little snitches of everything you could ever ask for. It takes all the flavors of Chicago described above and puts it into one place. Of course, that means for those of you who haven't been there before, only order the taste portions. You want to sample everything you can, and it isn't worth it to fill up on full size portions.

Now I'm hungry, and I hope some of you are, too! There's far more to Illinois than this (and to my blog, so feel free to explore), but I'm still working on getting back in synch after my lovely vacation to Orlando. Thanks for stopping by -- and thank you, Debbie!


Anonymous November 2, 2008 at 11:11 PM  

Hey there! Im over from BATW! Chicago sound GREAT!! Especially the pizza! It makes me hungry!!

I did take some of those treats and i am SO excited to try them!! thanks!!

Julie November 3, 2008 at 12:23 AM  

oh my that pizza looks so good and I would love to take those cooking classes, thanks for sharing!

illahee November 3, 2008 at 12:31 AM  

awesome tour! i LOVE food!

..and now i'm crying over the pizza. *sob*

Frizzy November 3, 2008 at 12:41 AM  

Ok, I am stuffed and drunk from all of your yummy hospitality. Just kidding. It all looks fabulous, I'll have to try a few of those recipes. Enjoyed your Taste of Chicago IE Illinois if you will. Thanks for sharing.

Sue November 3, 2008 at 12:55 AM  

Oh my! I am simultaneously drooling and experienceing heartburn just looking at that pizza and hot dog. We don't get it like that over here in Japan!

Thanks for the BATW tour. I must visit Chicago some day. I have only flown through, and I have to say that O'Hare just doesn't cut it.

MsTypo November 3, 2008 at 2:00 AM  

Oh i forgot how much i miss Chicago!! All we ever do is eat and shop when we're there but you don't see me complaining. I totally agree about Giordano's. YUM!

Enjoy your BAtW day!! :)

Keeper of the Skies Wife November 3, 2008 at 5:56 AM  

I think of Chicago when I hear Illinois.

That pizza looks so GOOD!!! YUM!

Thanks for the tour!

Bramblemoon Farm November 3, 2008 at 6:00 AM  

I love Chicago! I am so hungry now I can't stand it. I want Chicago pizza:) We love Shedds and The public museum. We need to make another trip! It's about a 5 hour drive for us from Grand Rapids, MI.

Thanks for the yummy tour!

Nonnas News November 3, 2008 at 6:31 AM  

I loved visiting Chicago! Thanks for the tour! And congrats on being featured today! I'm here from Texas.

Lauren W November 3, 2008 at 6:43 AM  

Mmmm... Chicago sounds delicious :) You've definitely made me hungry.
I do love a good deep dish pizza.
Well, have a happy day, I'm off to find food :)

Melisa Wells November 3, 2008 at 7:04 AM  

I LOVE the Chopping Block! Great post on our city. Nice job! ;)

Melissa Lester November 3, 2008 at 7:46 AM  

Chicago is on my definite must-visit list. My sister visited Chicago in high school and says it is her favorite city. When I do get a chance to visit, now I'll know where to go for awesome pizza. I've never had that style of pizza, but it looks wonderful!

Caution/Lisa November 3, 2008 at 8:05 AM  

I sincerely hope you are in sales or event planning because this was a GREAT tour!

Amy Kay November 3, 2008 at 8:13 AM  

Oh, yes I'm now hungry, and it's only 9 am. Thanks for the tour, it was great. I've been close to chicago living in Toledo, Ohio as a teen, but never acutally been there. Definitely on my list of places to visit. I'm visiting from BATW, and South Georgia. Congrats on the spotlight.
Hugs, Amy ;)

Louise | Italy November 3, 2008 at 8:29 AM  

Chicago Pizza Pie! I haven't had one of those since the Chicago Pizza Pie Factory in London's Mayfair closed, way back in the early 80s (oh I'm getting old). Could murder one right now. Great blog, Michelle!

Anonymous November 3, 2008 at 8:47 AM  

Thanks for the tour, am here from BATW via Sweden...

And my - all that food! Ah - yes, I remember the Chicago Pizza Pie Factory in London too..

Becky W November 3, 2008 at 8:55 AM  

What a tour!! I want to come to Chicago so bad - for two reasons primarily - to go to Wrigley Field and to see Wicked before it leaves! Probably won't make it though! Enjoy your day!

Unknown November 3, 2008 at 9:08 AM  

I definitely shouldn't have visited before breakfast! Great post, very entertaining and informative!

Karin November 3, 2008 at 9:28 AM  

Very nice tour! We have good memories of our visit to Chicago a number of years ago. Congrats on being features on BATW. Waving at you from out west in Canada.

Amber November 3, 2008 at 9:42 AM  

This was a great post! I love Chicago. We lived in Iowa for a few years and loved visiting. We went to see Oprah, visited the Navy Pier, and just enjoyed the city. It's a great place!

Lady Dorothy November 3, 2008 at 9:43 AM  

Greetings from California!

Wow, Chicago is all about the food, isn't it?

Fun tour!

Gina November 3, 2008 at 9:47 AM  

I have never made it to Chicago during Taste of Chicago, but I keep promising myself I will. Every time I have visited, though, I have gone to Giordano's. Love it. And Buddy Guy's Legends is one of our favorite things to do there.

taratoons November 3, 2008 at 9:56 AM  

I'm hungry now, too. I have to confess, I ONLY eat ketchup on my hot dogs... I'm not a fan of mustard, pickles, etc... I'd give it a try though! That deep dish pizza looks divine! Yum! Well I hope you have a nice BATW day! Thanks for giving us a glimpse into Illinois!

Vicki November 3, 2008 at 10:07 AM  

Thanks for the Chicago tour! One of the great things about big cities is the amazing food! I was in college before I got to taste Ethiopian food because I had finally made it to Atlanta. I'd love to come up there and eat my way through the spring or summer. :)

Breanne November 3, 2008 at 10:31 AM  

Thanks for the tour...that pizza looks awesome. I am now very hungry after looking at al that good food.

"The Queen in Residence" November 3, 2008 at 10:35 AM  

I would love to have a chopping block here. What a fun thing to do and yummy. Your post ahs made me hungry....but not for a Chicago dog. That was too much stuff and I had to look for the dog....
Enjoy the bloggy love today from BATW. It is the bomb!

Alicia @ Oh2122 November 3, 2008 at 10:47 AM  

Happy BATW day!

Thanks for the tour. That pizza looks SOOOOOOO good, and yes I'd love a mojito.

Mo-heeeeee-to! Woot!

Laural Out Loud November 3, 2008 at 10:48 AM  

You're hungry? I'M hungry! And I can't even get the stuff you talked about because I'm in San Diego. So unfair, lol. Thank you for a great tour!

Denyse November 3, 2008 at 11:24 AM  

I love Chicago! It is one of my favorite places to visit!!!! I especially love Giordanno's!!!!! Thanks for the tour :) Oh, and the people are sooooo nice...just like you!

Dessa November 3, 2008 at 11:34 AM  

OMG! That deep dish pizza looks AMAZING! Enjoy some for me!

Stacey Cannon November 3, 2008 at 11:35 AM  

Oh my goodness I'm so STARVED after reading that! I am a sucker for a good hotdog or piece of pizza, and now you've got me craving both! Thanks so much for the wonderful tour! :)

Rebecca November 3, 2008 at 11:40 AM  

Well it is 11:39 and I have about 20 minutes until lunch break. I don't know if I can make it now. Thanks for the delicious tour!

Star Forbis November 3, 2008 at 11:55 AM  

Hi, It's nice to meet you.
I Love Chicago!

I Love Purple More Than You November 3, 2008 at 11:56 AM  

Oh you definitely made me hungry! My sister lives in Chicago. When we all came to her wedding, she had the rehearsal dinner at a restaurant that was famous for its deep dish pizza. (don't remember the name of the restaurant) I do remember the pizza was AWESOME.

Great tour! (visiting from Los Angeles, CA)

Aunt Julie November 3, 2008 at 12:04 PM  

My daughter, who attends college in Wisconsin, really loves Chi-town! She's applying to law school, and the Chicago schools are at the top of her list! Thanks so much for the tour--I'm a real BATW fan!

Unknown November 3, 2008 at 12:21 PM  

I agree that pizza looks WAY tempting! :)

It was fun visiting today. Thanks for the grand tour.

I'm giving away one of my books if you want to come on over and see how to enter the give away!

Have a great day.

Joy November 3, 2008 at 12:27 PM  

Scrumptious. All the food there looks wonderful. I've never been to Illinois or Chicago, but I'd like to come up and sample some of these wonderful dishes.
Thanks for the food tour.
Joy from TX via BATW

Susie November 3, 2008 at 12:28 PM  

Greetings from Wisconsin:-) Congratulations on your BATW feature! I hope you are enjoying your day in the sun:-) Thanks for the tour of my southern neighbor:-)

Tara November 3, 2008 at 12:32 PM  

What a great way to eat spinach! Loved the tour and love sister lives there. Visiting is always fun!

Amy November 3, 2008 at 12:53 PM  

You have definitely made me hungry. That pizza looks amazing. Thanks for the tour!

Anonymous November 3, 2008 at 1:22 PM  

I'm hungry too! I'll take some of everything, thank you.

We were stationed in southern Illinois for a while - in a little town called Shiloh. It was about 20 minutes east of St. Louis. We loved it - all four seasons!

Melissa B. November 3, 2008 at 1:35 PM  

Well, we're all Packers fans over here, so can't agree with you on football, but we love Chi-town anyway! And, don't tell my Hubz, the Brewers Fan, but I really do love the Cubbies!! Thanks a Whole Heap for the tour...I'm a big fan of Debbie and BATW, aren't you?

Mom November 3, 2008 at 2:11 PM  

Ok I love the new look but my guess is that it has been here for a while because I am so out of touch. Now can I just tell you my mouth is watering and I am trying to figure out how I can plan a business trip to Chicago!!!

Amy November 3, 2008 at 2:15 PM  

Visiting via BATW! Thanks for the tour.

Melanie Sheridan November 3, 2008 at 2:29 PM  

How you've made me miss my home state! I'm from Bollingbrook and haven't had a good slice of pizza since I visited Chicago about 10 years ago. And Portillos? That was the only place I'd eat a hot dog when I was little.

Amanda and Katie November 3, 2008 at 2:53 PM  

Thanks for the tour!! The pizza looks so is making me hungry!

Kellan November 3, 2008 at 3:12 PM  

That was a great tour of Illinois/Chicago! Now I am hungry too!

Have a good week - Kellan

Ashley November 3, 2008 at 3:19 PM  

MMMMmmmm..... those 'goodies' look delicious - as well as all that food. Congrats on the BATW feature!

The Hultman's November 3, 2008 at 3:42 PM  

Hello! Great tour! My husband is from Rockford, IL but he went to school in Chicago. Because his family is still there, we get to visit often. You're right about the food! It's the best!

Mrs. X November 3, 2008 at 3:48 PM  

What a deliciously informative tour! :)

Deb Burton November 3, 2008 at 3:52 PM  

Hi Michelle, I'm the other BATW hostess for the day and I've been meaning to get over here to say hello to a fellow IL blogger, but I haven't had the time. I see you've been just as busy!

I think the food of Chicago is probably one of the best things you could've focused on, but then I'm prejudiced. I love food!

Have a great rest of the day and enjoy being a hostess with the mostest!

AutoSysGene November 3, 2008 at 3:58 PM  

OMG, your killing me. Looks like I'm going to need some Lou's this week. Yum!!

Elena November 3, 2008 at 4:36 PM  

Oh the food...a girl friend and I are planning on coming to Chicago sometime next year. I keep telling her I can't wait to try the food!! Thanks for the info, now I'm salivating.

Marla November 3, 2008 at 4:37 PM  

some day i need to have a chicago dog... thanks for the tour!

caron November 3, 2008 at 4:51 PM  

Another fellow native Minnesotan!! Do people in Chicago make fun of your accent?!? I moved to VA from MN and have never had so many people ask me where I am from! Anyway..stopping by from BATW

Debbie November 3, 2008 at 6:42 PM  

Is it bad that I just ate dinner and this post made me hungry all over again? Love the diagram of the hot dog ;) Thanks for the tour!

jori-o November 3, 2008 at 6:52 PM  

Oooh, thanks for the info! I've never been to Chicago, but it's on my List of Places to Go Someday. Obviously I'll have to bring my stretchy pants! ;)

Jen November 3, 2008 at 7:55 PM  

Um so now I am so hungry and I must have some Chicago style pizza and a hot dog. I MUST!

Gombojav Tribe November 3, 2008 at 8:11 PM  

There used to be a little Chicago pizza place a few doors down from where I worked when I was younger. They also had the Chicago style hotdog. I bought one every. single. day. They are so good!!! Looking at a picture of them makes me drool!

Michelle November 3, 2008 at 8:43 PM  

Ohhh you guys are so sweet! Usually I respond to each comment on here, but I'm not sure I'm quite up to that. 59 comments! I've never had half that many before. Thank you all so much for making my day!

But I'll try to respond via email and visit each of your blogs -- I hope you come back soon!

Desi November 3, 2008 at 8:47 PM  

Man oh man, I love a place with food! Thanks for the tour!!

Kelsey November 3, 2008 at 9:10 PM  

I had Giordano's on Friday night and it was SO GOOD! I ate at Uno's before and I didn't like the Chicago style pizza, but I decided to give it one more chance and I'm so glad I did! Seriously, best stuff ever!!

Oh and the Chicago dogs are delicious too. I'm thinking it was a good thing I walked as much as I did.

I've always missed The Taste of Chicago by like a week and I'm making a point of it to come back on time this year!

I LOVE Chicago, I'm moving there in a few years (God willing).

Unknown November 3, 2008 at 9:30 PM  

What a great tour! Hi there from the Gulf Coast of Mississippi!! Nice to meet you. :)

I'm from BATW... :)

Just Lisa November 3, 2008 at 9:54 PM  

Great tour! The Chopping Block looks so cool! I'll have to go there someday!

Irene November 4, 2008 at 12:47 PM  

Wow, you seriously have me hungry!!! That was very interesting!

I actually went to the Taste of Chicago many years ago, with my first real boyfriend while he was going to ND. I remember having a very good time.

I love Chicago, it is definitely one of my favorite cities. I need to get back there!!!

Angela November 4, 2008 at 2:53 PM  

LOVED the tour! Awesome job. Of course you know if we ever make it to Chicago, we're coming to your place to eat, LOL!

I hope to be back online soon and able to coment more!

Anonymous November 4, 2008 at 4:30 PM  

Oh, how I miss that pizza!

Aubrey November 4, 2008 at 7:29 PM  

Oh My Yummy Goodness. Thanks for the delicious tour! BTW, I had to google the pizza places. Found out that Lou Malnati's ships their pizzas! I'm ordering for the holidays!

Thanks for the tour! It was SO much fun!

♥ Braja November 4, 2008 at 8:05 PM  

Ohhhh how I love it when talk turns to foooooood!!! I'm late for your BATW day but I'm here...congrats...

Tracy P. November 4, 2008 at 10:16 PM  

Oh, better late than never, right? Even better than Taste of Minnesota, huh? Well, I could believe it--I'd sure like a piece of that pizza! Great tour! And your trick or treaters turned out adorable. Great mom!

Michelle November 4, 2008 at 11:10 PM  

Mrs de Miranda - I'm so glad you took some treats. I hate cooking and having no one enjoy the efforts! ;)

Julie - The cooking classes are great! I've found some closer to me but nothing is as good as the Chopping Block!

ilahee - Thanks! And hey, Giordano's AND Portillo's (and Eli's) deliver anywhere. It comes packed in dry ice, so no need to cry!

Bird Frizzy - Definitely try some of the recipes and let me know what you think! I'm glad you enjoyed the tour.

Sue - Ohhh no. Definitely nothing like this in Japan. Even the "Chicago" places in other cities aren't the same as true Chicago cooking. O'Hare DOES have a number of the favorites in various kiosks - Eli's (cheesecake) for one and the kosher dogs, too!

Cairo Typ0 - Eating and shopping are definitely two good activities while in Chicago! So yum!

Keeper of the Skies - Hey, I'm just impressed you think of Illinois at all! Usually it's only the east or west coast and people skip straight over the heartland! ;)

And I'll get to more comments soon, I promise. I need to get to bed tonight though!

Rachel Ann November 5, 2008 at 5:32 PM  

My Dad and his family are from Chicago, although my sisters and I have never been! I guess he wanted away from there and never wanted to go back.

My Grandparents owned a hot dog stand here in WA State for about 15 years serving...GENUINE Chicago style hot dogs...just like your picture. OMG they were the best...the celery salt is the bomb! OH i miss them!

Michelle November 9, 2008 at 8:53 PM  

Brenda Jean - Actually, *I* want some Chicago pizza right now, too! The homemade chicken tenders and corn I made for dinner tonight just don't quite do it for me. And I want to do that 5 hour drive to get me some good blueberries fresh picked! :)

Patti - Thanks! I'm really enjoying the feature and visitors.

Lauren - I'm making myself hungry again looking at it all! Here's hoping you found some good food.

Melisa - Me, too! I wonder if I've ever been in a class with you. Have you been lately? And I'm glad you approved of the tour. I was a little worried about how other Chicagoans would see it ;)

Melissa - Oh you definitely have to visit! It's a great city, and you definitely need to try out the real Chicago pizza.

Caution Flag - Aww, thank you! That was so sweet to say. I think that's my favorite comment so far!

Amy Kay - Mmmm south Georgia. There's some good cooking down there, too! Thanks!

Louise - Hmmm, that's been a long time since Chicago pizza. You need to find one somehow :) Thanks for the compliment!

Lady Fi - Sweden doesn't get the same kinds of food as what we have either, does it? Too funny that two commenters in the row knew the same place in London!

Becky - Try to make it. There's tons of fun stuff here! And I think Wicked may be here permanently. You don't want to know how many "Last Chance" ads I've seen over the last 3? 4? 5? years!

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