Ok, I am now watching an episode of the Simpsons where Homer becomes an opera star. When Mr. Burns brings him flowers on opening night, he says to Homer "You're a star!", to which Homer replies "Yay!", after which Burns says "An opera star", at which point Homer's face falls and he utters a solemn "Doh". Even the creators of the Simpsons know that becoming a famous singer in the opera world means nothing to most of the population. I have to ask myself if this infiltration of the art form into popular culture is due to that menacing Paul Potts. Every time I see his stupid commercial, my fangs and claws come out and I hurry to change the channel before I have to listen to one note of that horrid rendering of Nessun Dorma. If you bought Paul Potts album, or think his singing is "nice", well then, we are not friends. Or you don't have ears. Either way, I'm sorry.
Nonetheless, it's refreshing to see that opera is making it's way into popular culture. I just wish it wasn't through an idiot like PP. People tend to get a skewed view of what things are really like in the opera world through a "phenonmenon" like him. And, honestly, I just don't think his voice is at all pleasing! Truly, it's not my highly trained ears and snobbery saying this -- I admit that Andrea Bocelli has a pleasant and lovely instrument, as do Josh Groban and Charlotte Church. Anyways, I'm going to get off that soapbox and get on another one...
Generally, I love Chicago restaurants. I've had very few bad experiences at restaurants in this fair city. But somehow, during the past three days, Nick and I managed to have three of the worst meals known to man at three different Chicago restaurants, all located within a mile of our apartment. It started out innocently enough: we ventured out for lunch on Friday at a local restaurant that we had been to before for breakfast and thought the food was pretty good. And it wasn't the food that was terrible; it was the service. I've never had such a bitchy waitress in my life. I can't honestly understand why anyone whose wage depends on being nice to people would be so rude. First, she was extremely impatient when she couldn't hear Nick (he just underwent a throat surgery and can't speak very well right now). It was his first venture out of the house since the surgery, and she made him feel bad, which infuriated me to no end. When she brought our food, she put the plates down on the table without saying a word. She never smiled once, or spoke in a nice tone of voice, and made us feel as though we had done something horribly offensive by just sitting there ordering and eating. I complained to the management and we left her no tip. It was the first time Nick or I had ever left anyone nothing. But this woman could not be compensated for that sort of behavior. They tried to cover themselves by saying it was her first day, but a first day is no excuse for that kind of rudeness. Needless to say, we won't be going back there. And I don't think you should either: Taste of Heaven, Clark and Balmoral. WORST RESTAURANT EVER. I won't even talk about the food because it's pretty good and that's beside the point.
Second bad experience came just a few hours later when we ventured out for dinner. We had heard mixed things about a relatively new Italian place that had just opened up where a really delicious tapas restauarant had once lived (I still can't understand why it closed). We decided to give them a few weeks to iron out the kinks before we tried it. The atmosphere was nice, laid back but trendy and not too loud, just what we needed for a casual post-surgical evening out. I ordered a glass of red wine from the decent wine selection; I was pleased when a generous sized carafe of wine was placed in front of me for only $7. Back in Austria we called it a viertel. Basically, it's like two glasses of wine. For an appetizer we ordered fried calamari, which was decent but not spectacular. Then came the entrees: two of the most boring, bland pasta dishes I've tasted in years. I can cook better than this, people. And I do, on a regular basis. I had a seafood linguine that was so incredibly tastless. I was like, please, you couldn't atleast make an effort with some garlic or SOMETHING? The seafood was also rather chewy and not at all fresh-tasting. I could have walked across the street to the Hopleaf, and for just $6 more, ordered their bouillabaise which is ALWAYS fresh and amazing. Nick ordered shells in a red sauce with sausage and red peppers that tasted oddly like a pizza. With sausage and red peppers on it. It wasn't really a good thing -- if he'd wanted a pizza, he'd have ordered one. We decided to skip dessert (there anyway), and went on our way, stopping at our favorite neighborhood sweets shop for a slice of cake to go, which defintely redeemed the night a little (a bite of their butter cream cheese frosting would melt the heart of Hitler, and maybe some other scary world powers). So, while we probably won't go back there, it wasn't a ruined evening, more just a minor disappointment and disbelief that a hip new restaurant in the city could put out such bland and uninspired pasta.
By now you're thinking, just stay home and cook people! But no, laziness and putting off of grocery shopping until Sunday led us out of the house once more on Saturday night, to a nearby Pan-Asian cheap eats down the street from us. The menu is GIGANTIC, and they have Thai, Chinese, and Japanese dishes, plus a sushi bar. We ordered our one of our favorite Pan-Asian appetizers, the soft shell crab. We expected the usual tempura battered crab legs, but what we got was what looked like the crab had just been jacked over the head on plopped on the plate (ok, it was cooked, but the presentation made it look this way). We are quite adventurous with food, but weren't sure whether we were supposed to eat the "skin" or just suck the meat out or what... It was difficult to get the meat out, and the taste of the skin wasn't all that pleasant, so we just kind of made a big mess of it on the plate. The entrees were tasty, I had sweet and sour chicken that was not breaded or fried, but in a delicious light sauce with lots of stir fried veggies. Nick had the tempura, which was various vegetables and shrimps fried in tempura batter, probably his favorite Asian dish. Problem was, my entree arrived about twenty minutes before his tempura. Being the people we are, we just shared my entree until his arrived, then got to work on his tempura. If we hadn't had two bad experiences they day before, we probably would have just laughed it off, but by that time I was getting rather annoyed with the restaurant industry. I'm really not that type of person who complains about everything in a restaurant; I'm just spolied by what has come to be the standard in Chicago dining: excellence. My guess: these places won't be open for long.
So this week we are eating one restaurant and one restaurant only: Emily's Kitchen. Tomorrow I'm going to tackle meatloaf for the first time ever (albeit a very shi-shi meatloaf) and on Tuesday, Asian Ginger Chicken Soup (courtesy of crackhead Rae-Ray). And after that, we'll probably only venture out to our faves until we muster up the confidence to try a new place. The restaurant industry needs to check itself and then get back to me. Which reminds me of a saying Andrea and I used to have during "Single and Fabulous Life in the City 2004-2005" as I like to call it. Whenever a prospective new guy came a-calling, we'd say (to each other only) "Check your body, check your personality, get back to us." Which in retrospect seems a little silly and shallow, but hey...I got what I was looking for (wink, wink!)
(P.S. For those of you in the "inner circle", Nick is doing really well. His surgery went great and the doc said things were looking good. Now we just wait for the swelling to go down to see what sort of improvement is there! If anyone knows where we can find mens turtlenecks size XL or XXL, I'd really appreciate it. We spent several hours looking yesterday and could only find a $200 cashmere sweater (wayyy to pricey) and a $14.99 old man blouse-y hideous cotton blend thing from Macy's that I forbid him from buying. He'd like to have something for going out that covers his 2 inch incision scar.)
Sarah's Summer Reading Suggestions
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