Cheating on New York

When it comes to city life, it’s not hard to impress a small town girl, especially one from a town with an annual festival honoring mules.  (Yes, you read that correctly, mules as in that glorious cross-breed of a horse and donkey.)  When I came to Nashville a few years ago, it was a revelation; New York this summer was a paradise.   Yesterday I was in Chicago, moving my little brother into his apartment-style dorm at the School of the Art Institute.  (My dorm is approximately the size of his kitchen, and he’s a freshman. Vanderbilt, you got some esplaining to do…)

Chicago is a beautiful city, at least the area where my brother is located.  As everyone has told me, it’s very clean.  We went to Millennium Park, a couple blocks away from my brother’s dorm, where I stared at my reflection in the Bean (or the Cloud Gate), and dipped my feet in the Crown Fountain.  I took a hard look at the artistic Jay Pritzker Pavilion, and tried to imagine my not-so-little little brother in four years, getting his BFA under the huge cloud of stretched, twisted steel at the head of the amphitheater.  Then I realized in four years I would be 25 and became terrified.

Strangely, I saw more pan-handlers in one day than my entire summer working in New York.  One, who I suspect was not actually homeless, got major points for creativity: His sign was a large picture of a LOLcat that said, “Halp! Scientology is after my monies!”

After we unpacked my brother’s things, we ate at a Cuban coffee house about six blocks from his dorm called Cafecito. (A “cafecito” is Cuban espresso sweetened with a ton of sugar.)  They have been rated best Cuban sandwich in Chicago, and have a delicious variety of gourmet pressed sandwiches.  My parents had the Cuban sandwich, which was great but made me wonder if they really had much competition.  I had the Choripan sandwich–Argentinian chorizo (a slightly spicy sausage), chimicurri sauce, and grilled onions.  It was absolutely amazing, no exaggeration.  I let my brother try the sandwich and his eyes almost popped out of his head in amazement.

The chimichurri really made the sandwich.  The recipe for chimichurri varies, but it is generally made with parsley, oregano, garlic, olive oil, vinegar and red pepper.  The sauce in this sandwich was incredibly flavorful and fresh, and it made a sexy marriage with the chorizo.   I’m still dreaming about it…

Chicago is supposed to be a great food city, so I wish I could have stayed to explore the possibilities.  Since New York is the only other BIG city I’ve been to, I was inevitably comparing Chicago to New York the whole time I was there.  My one day visit in Chicago doesn’t qualify me to make an opinion on which is better, but I can say this:  I fell in love with New York, but I could probably have an affair with Chicago.

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