Monday, February 12, 2007

Chilly Scenes of Winter and Brunch at the Bongo Room

Saturday morning was still in the single digits, so it was too cold for Bob and me to go walking along our usual path. I say usual as if we've done it more than twice.

Bob suggested we meet at the Field Museum. I had planned to take my camera down to the lake to get some pictures, but because we were getting a later start than usual and it was supposed to be warmer on Sunday, I decided not to bring it. I'm still using the Sony camera that Mary gave me, and while I love the quality of the pictures it takes, it's big and clunky, and awkward to lug around.

But when I got to the museum and looked out over the lake, I regretted my decision not to bring it. The water was frozen and still and I really wanted to take a picture of it. It would have been nice to have it inside the museum, too. I didn't know you could take cameras inside the museum. I'll know for next time.

I always forget how big the Field museum is. And so beautiful. They don't make buildings like that anymore. You can see the history in the wide columns and high molded ceilings. And the marble stairway, with the steps worn down by the thousands of feet that have climbed up and down them over the years.

We knew we wanted to see the Mendel exhibit so we headed upstairs to visit that first. I remember studying Mendel in high school and at college, and how he used the sweet pea to figure out how to predict the appearance of dominant and recessive traits over generations. I had kind of blocked it out because the last time I had to study it was in my freshman cellular and molecular biology class - the hardest class I've ever taken. But it's really interesting how the science of genetics grew out of the work he did with those peas.

When we got to the entrance of the exhibit, a friendly young woman asked us if she could give us a quick survey, in exchange for free tickets back to the museum. Sure! After telling her why we were there, what they could do get us to come more often, and our opinion on what new exhibits they should bring in, we get to come again for free. The tickets are good for a year. Woohoo!

After a walk through the plants of the world and a whirlwind tour through Fiji, we decided it was time for brunch. We both had noticed the Bongo Room on the corner of Roosevelt and Wabash on the way to the museum, so we headed on over.

The original Bongo Room is in Wicker Park. I've never been because I avoid that neighborhood like the plague, but now I'm kind of sorry I never checked it out. The place was hopping, which isn't all that surprising considering that there still aren't that many restaurants in the south loop. The minute we walked in, though, we knew it was going to be a good experience. There was a short wait, but we didn't even have to wait the ten minutes they told us it would be. It's a bright, well-lit room with few frills and simple tables and chairs close so they can fit a lot of people in, but not so close that you feel like you're eating with the people on either side of you.

I had the breakfast burrito with eggs, avocado, and cilantro. Even without the cheese and sour cream (I didn't want to completely undo the benefit of all that walking Bob and I did) it was delicious. I had to pay 1.50 extra to get fruit instead of hash browns, but it was a lot of fruit and it was all fresh. All of the ingredients were fresh. And I must say Bob's hash browns looked scrumptious.

Bob had one of their specialties - the sweet potato pancakes. He was kind enough to give me a taste and they were truly awesome. They came with a huge scoop of what I thought was butter that looked like it had brown sugar and/or nuts mixed in it. "Wow," I said. "Is that butter?"

"Oh no," Bob said, nodding sagely. "It's ice cream."

And it was a big enough scoop that I realized it probably was, although I was surprised it wasn't mentioned on the menu. I took a bite of the perfectly scrambled eggs inside my burrito and Bob dipped his spoon into the ice cream and put some in his mouth. A strange look crossed his face.

"It's butter," he said. He then proceeded to mash it up over the pancakes. It looked really tasty . Screw the heart attack. It looked damn tasty.

And I haven't even mentioned the towers of French Toast that I saw many people order. Huge piles of toast dripping with chocolate. And if it all seems like too much food, you can order one, two, or three of the pancakes and French Toast. They also had about five different kinds of benedicts, including the traditional plan and Florentine. All of those were tempting as well. I could see eating one's way through that menu to be a lovely goal.

And then yesterday it finally warmed up enough for me to brave the lake. I only made it up to the end of my street, to Belmont Harbor, but I got some good pictures of how that looks frozen.

Here is the entrance to the harbor, where you can see the unfrozen waters of the lake just outside. The snow is on the frozen harbor water. I love it when you can see snow on the lake like that.

Belmont Harbor still has the spoke-style boat moorings. I love how they sit on the water and radiate out in a circle. It almost looks like you could just walk out there, doesn't it?

One of the things I love about Chicago is how there are all kinds of little surprises everywhere. Right where Addison empties out onto the drive is this lovely Totem pole.

Here's a closeup of Kwanisula the thunderbird on the top.

I'm glad I got out yesterday. There's more snow coming.


Anonymous said...

Did you know that that totem pole is haunted? It is facing the wrong way. I learned all about it on my "Haunted Chicago" tour.

dejamo said...

Do you know the story, Mary? I couldn't find anything online about it.

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