Entries in Chicago (2)


Hello 2013!

Michael Neff's Christmas tree installation in Brooklyn, New York (© 2013 Amber Drea)

With the holidays and initial onslaught of work deadlines behind me, I'm now ready to greet the new year with a fresh sense of excitement and invigoration. For Christmas, my husband and I went to Chicago, where we laughed a lot with family, kissed a lot of babies and ate a lot of food. It was the first time we spent the holiday with his brother and sister-in-law in at least six years. The four of us even got the chance to have dinner with my husband's 87-year-old grandparents at Marinella's Ristorante Italiano in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. My favorite part of the evening was when my husband's grandfather told us his plans for he and his wife's 65th wedding anniversary party, which will take place at the Lincoln Park Zoo and involve a baby giraffe and/or a woman with a boa constrictor draped over her shoulders. The restaurant also featured its "famous" nativity scene—an incredibly intricate diorama of the entire town of Bethlehem.

Nativity scene at Marinella's restaurant in Glen Ellyn, Illinois (© 2012 Amber Drea)For New Year's Eve, my husband and I treated ourselves to a six-course prix-fixe at Reynard in the Wythe Hotel. The indulgent meal included caviar, seared diver scallops, beef carpaccio with sea urchin or a persimmon salad, Maine lobster or grass-fed steak, and Meyer lemon pudding cake or chocolate stout cake (I ate both desserts, btw). All the dishes were delicious, but my favorite was the raw bar plate comprising oysters, clams, mussels, beer-poached shrimp and avocado-crab salad. Then we hurried over to a friend's house party, arriving seconds after the stroke of midnight. We could hear everyone counting down as we ran down the hallway and just missed the ball drop. Fortunately, they recreated the countdown for us so we wouldn't feel left out.

New Year's Eve 2013 in Brooklyn, New York (© 2013 Amber Drea)So far, 2013 has been off to a great start. I'm about halfway through the first draft of my novel—thanks to National Novel Writing Month—and I plan to spend the next few months finishing it so I can begin the revision process. I've also met a ton of amazing people in the NYC storytelling scene and I'm looking forward to hosting my new monthly open mic series, Another Round Storytelling, at LaunchPad in Brooklyn every fourth Thursday of the month. The first installment was super fun, and I can't wait to hear more boozy stories. The next show is Thursday, January 24th, and features the hilarious Glen Roseberg. Hope to see you there!

Another Round January 2013 flyer (photo © 2013 Eric Medsker)


Mystic vs. Montauk; Sin City vs. the Windy City

Chill chihuahua in Las Vegas (© 2011 Amber Drea)

September and October were unusually busy this year. My husband and I went to Connecticut over Labor Day weekend, and we took the nephews to the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center, where we saw many animals, both dead and alive. The middle-aged gentleman running the place was extremely friendly in that quirky New England way, and he taught us about the various rodents and birds of the area. My friend's daughter was particularly fond of the owl who snoozed on and off while perched in a cage by the front desk. I also learned that the chickadee is responsible for the swooping song I'd always heard growing up, and we listened to the "sounds of the forest" in a spooky, darkened room. It was fun to revisit one of my childhood escapes—I used to ride my bike down there every Saturday and spend hours exploring the interactive displays and nature trails. For lunch, we went to Sea Swirl, my favorite food stand in Mystic, for lobster rolls and ice cream. That night, my husband and I headed to Brooklyn—Connecticut, not New York—for a bonfire with high school friends who raise egg-laying chickens and grow their own vegetables.

A few weeks later, my husband and I spent a couple days in Montauk, at the very tip of Long Island, to celebrate our second anniversary. Despite a bit of rain, we had an amazing time. Summer had just begun to transition into fall, so the sun still shone bright and warmed the ocean waters—I even went swimming, albeit under the influence of something called a Chum Bucket. We ate well and took a bike ride all the way out to Montauk Point. Vacationing there might become an annual tradition...

The following weekend, we flew to Chicago for my father-in-law's wedding to his longtime girlfriend. It was the first time I'd been back since last Thanksgiving, so I jumped at the opportunity to check out Grant Achatz's new experiemental cocktail lounge, The Aviary, and stopped by nearby iNG while I was at it. (Check out my Chicago Drinkie post here.) I took Metra into the city and walked around downtown, passing by the Steve Jobs shrine at the Apple store and getting up close and personal with the Marilyn Monroe statue, which invites the inevitable lurking of creepy dudes. One guy wearing a bike helmet stood between the statue's legs and snapped about 75 photos of its crotch with his cell phone. Afterward, I had lunch at the incongruously named New England Seafood Co., which served up some of the tastiest lobster rolls in the Midwest. Before we got back on the plane on Sunday, my husband and I had brunch with his 92-year-old grandparents, who are as spunky and vibrant as ever, and then strolled through the autumn foliage at Herrick Lake Forest Preserve in Wheaton, Illinois.

The travel continued in mid-October, when I went on my first work trip, which brought me to a beer distributors convention in Las Vegas. I know it's called Sin City, but I was still shocked at the abundant amount of decadence and debauchery. Smoking, drinking and gambling everywhere 24/7. I was only in Vegas for 48 hours, but was able to hit the pool for a few hours and even got off The Strip to experience Fremont Street, an outdoor marketplace/ freakshow located downtown. After dinner at The Barrymore with a friend of a friend, we caught a performance of Halloween-themed cover band Frank & the Steins. We were feeling adventurous, so we decided to ride the zipline, but there was an hour and a half wait—at midnight. So we had a couple cocktails at Downtown Cocktail Room instead (you can read my Vegas Drinkie post here). Both days I ate lunch at a lobster shack called Lobster Me, which was located in a mall of all places. Two weeks later, I'm still dreaming about the Lobsicle, a tempura-battered lobster tail on a stick. It might be the best thing I've ever eaten. While in Vegas, I also saw the most chill chihuahua that ever lived—he looked like what happens when you take two Xanax and a shot of Tequila.

Now, fall is in full effect, and I'm looking forward to the holidays, which mean more time with family and, in turn, more trips to Chicago and Connecticut. Can't wait!