It had been almost a decade since I was last in Chicago and I was anxious to get back; my primary intent to eat my way through the city. From all reports, Chicago is bursting at the seams these days with highly lauded, inventive, boundary-pushing chefs, and I had a long list of restaurants on my must-try list. When I found out I’d be heading to Chicago for a business trip, I knew there would be some great meals in store for me and my colleagues, even if I wouldn’t be leading the reservations effort.
I’m not going to kid myself; this will never be a three Michelin-star restaurant, ever. We’re so far outside the box. We play loud hip-hop. We do not give a fuck.
-Chef Phillip Foss
Coincidentally, the same week I’d be in Chicago would mark my wedding anniversary with Craig, so we decided to extend and morph the trip into a mini-vacation; because life is short and a few extra days would mean a few more opportunities to eat. I extended my stay through the weekend and Craig booked a flight to join me mid-week when the business part of my trip was complete. My primary task: find a special place to eat for our anniversary with only a few weeks’ notice.
These frustrating idiosyncrasies can make the task of pinning them down with words a hopeless task. The same goes for critiquing food, which is why I’ve also avoided writing about culinary experiences where possible. Perfect example: Next Restaurant and its sister cocktail lounge, The Aviary. I’m staring at the photos I took of our drinks and dinner there and everything looks delicious and inviting. Why then did I leave the table feeling underwhelmed and dissatisfied with that night?
Chicago is a mecca for anyone even slightly interested in American architecture. From innovative, turn of the twentieth century brick warehouses, to iconic art deco towers, to sleek international style skyscrapers, to the post-modern response, and finally to contemporary, cutting-edge building design, the entire history of modern American architecture unfolds before your eyes. With so many important and lesser-known but still fine examples of buildings on every block, there’s nothing like just letting yourself wander the streets on foot and making your own discoveries. But one of the best ways to take it all in, and get a great overview while learning a little bit of the history of Chicago architecture, is by taking an architectural boat tour.
Architecture is the will of an epoch translated into space.
–Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe
It felt like it was time to go back.
On the afternoon of Friday, February 27th, Woodland Park Zoo CEO Deborah Jensen stepped up to the podium at an assembled press conference to announce that the zoo’s remaining two elephants, Bamboo (48) and Chai (36), both female Asian elephants, had finally been found a new “home.” At the same time, 2,000 miles away at the Oklahoma City Zoo, where Bamboo and Chai will be headed in a month’s time, it was 18 degrees Fahrenheit with snow falling, and the zoo was announcing it would be closing early on account of the frigid weather. (OCZ would remain closed for the weekend because of cold and snow).
From a governance standpoint this was a methodical process. It was a lengthy process. We are so excited about the fact that we can achieve what the public and our professionals told us needed to happen.
-Laurie Stewart, Woodland Park Zoo Board Chair
Thus ended a frantic six-month period since the death of the Woodland Park Zoo’s lone African elephant, Watoto (45), and a complete reversal from the zoo’s ambitious-if-not-arrogant intention to expand their elephant herd, to their decision to shutter the exhibit entirely and send Bamboo and Chai packing to what undoubtedly is an even worse environment.
Welcome to your new home, ladies.
Anyone who knows me even the slightest bit is likely aware that I am a huge fan of food, Nick Cave, and the written word. So when I was recently reacquainted with Chester Hastings after a brief meeting a decade earlier, and remembered he not only has the same interests but has had involvement with all of them professionally, I knew I had to delve in deeper and put the pieces of the puzzle together.
Before I could even peel an onion he put me in the basement offices and made me read Italo Calvino, study the art of Caravaggio, and architecture of Borromini and Bernini. He took me to the opera, convinced that before I could learn how to cook the traditional foods of Italy I had to understand the culture from whence they came. We weren’t artists creating something new, we were anthropologists, keeping the ancient traditions alive!
I first met Chester through our mutual friend, Todd, at a Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds concert in 2003. The band was doing a limited five-city US tour, and I flew down to Los Angeles for the show and to catch up with Todd. Through the years, I would continue to hear little snippets about Chester whenever I spoke with Todd, but it wasn’t until last year at another Nick Cave concert in San Francisco that I would meet Chester again.
Chester has been in the food industry for all of his adult life, starting in San Francisco before doing a stint in Italy, and later spending time in London because of a chance meeting at a Nick Cave concert. Do you see the pattern here? Chester then moved back to the States, landing in Los Angeles, where he met Joan McNamara (and our mutual friend Todd) both of whom he worked with up until very recently when he decided to dedicate himself full-time to his other passion: screenwriting.
Thank you for your reply to my correspondence urging City and County officials to use their political and financial influence to ensure that Bamboo and Chai are sent to a sanctuary where they can roam and be free after a lifetime of physical and mental abuse, and not sent to another zoo where they will continue to suffer for public amusement and private profit.
While I realize that being a member of both the King County Council and Woodland Park Zoo’s Board of Directors puts you in a position that some might consider to be a conflict of interest when it comes to determining the financial backing and other resources the Council affords the Zoo on taxpayers’ behalf, I am surprised and somewhat taken aback that your response to the community’s concern about Bamboo and Chai would seem to be taken almost verbatim from the Zoo’s press releases; statements which dismiss those who advocate for sending Bamboo and Chai to sanctuary, and the content of which is simply untrue when looked at with a critical eye and a minimal amount of research.