Monday, September 9, 2013

A Bloody Brilliant Weekend

There's a time for subtlety, humility, and carefully measured words... and this is not it.


Better than when I learned to walk.  Better than when I was accepted to college.  Possibly better even than when the Ravens won the Super Bowl, which I have always maintained will overshadow even the birth of my first born child.

This weekend was to my life what the birth of Jesus was to humanity.

It started at a slow roll, indistinguishable from my typical "this is more enjoyable than waxing my eyebrows" kind of weekend.  I had a good long run and got a much-needed new pair of running shoes.

It really started picking up pace Saturday afternoon, when Derrick and I met up with Erika (my best friend from high school) and Jake, her boyfriend.

They were in town for work and were able to pencil in some time for us somewhere in their busy schedule of jamming every activity known to Chicago into 24 hours.  We met up in the Loop and made our way to the Chipotle Cultivate Festival.

The point of the festival was to promote fresh, locally grown foods, sustainability, and all that general "green" hippie business.  They had informational booths about processed vs. fresh foods, local food tastings tents, and trash cans separated into specific compost, recycling, and landfill sections.

If it wasn't for Erika, I might have skipped it; I like a good festival but I usually try to avoid ones where I can't figure out the disposal system.  But man, am I glad I didn't.

The good weather, good company, good music, etc. etc. was all grand, but let's get to what we're all really interested in: the food.  I learned that Chipotle is expanding and has opened a new Southeast Asian line called ShopHouse.  So far, there are only 4 of them (in DC and CA) but they're looking to grow, apparently starting with portable tents at Chicago festivals.

Erika, Jake, and I tried their bowls, Erika and Jake getting the meatball bowl, and me, the tofu.

The bowls had jasmine rice, either pork and chicken meatballs or tofu, green beans, green curry sauce, papaya slaw, and crispy garlic.

I didn't like it very much.

Sarcasm aside, it was de-re-cious.  Even Derrick, who normally takes a firm anti-curry stance, said it was good.  I will consider the next few months a mere transition period in my life until they open a store here.

By Saturday night, as we were enjoying a lovely bring-you-to-tears-of-joy dinner at one of Derrick and my favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurants called Taco Joint, I thought that the weekend had reached its peak.  And that was before Erika pulled out a "gift" for me that she had bullied Jake into carrying hobo style in a drawstring bag.

(You know you've found a true friend when she smuggles you bottles of free hotel Cabernet Sauvignon.)

So when Derrick convinced me to go back down to the Loop to see if we could jump into a scene of Transformers 4 (which they are filming literally 5 feet from my office building) and we saw some of the residual props from the shooting that day, the weekend had thoroughly surpassed all of my expectations.

Nothing like unjustifiably overestimating your social status based on the proximity of someone famous to lift your weekend.

I thought it could get no better.  And I was so, so wrong.

Ladies and gentlemen, the culmination of all things good in my life happened this weekend in a suburb of Chicago called Highwood.  This unassuming little town, an hour and a half north of my neighborhood via various buses and the Metra, is home to the most glorious festival known to man: the Bloody Mary Festival.

When local bars get together to compete for the "best" Bloody Mary, an already flawless work of art, well... it looks something like this:

I'd like to say that I am just exaggerating my overwhelming enthusiasm for this event, but that'd be a lie.  Although Derrick and I were a bit skeptical when we first got off the train and found the festival (which was located in a park behind a small dive bar, evidently the hangout for every local middle-aged woman), the festival left absolutely nothing to be desired.

They had plain Bloodies, Bloodies with shrimp, Bloodies with cheese, Bloodies with brats, Bloodies with freaking pepperoni pizza.

I had an unheard-of 4 Bloodies, which isn't counting the various sample shots I had from the underdogs hoping to snatch a few extra votes.

They even had something for the non-Bloody Mary activists who were dragged there by their completely nuts significant others; Derrick, a taco connoisseur, was not at all disappointed by the Mexican food vendors.

For those of you who are not obsessed with this Sunday brunch staple (like my mom, who responded to my "THIS IS THE MOST GLORIOUS WEEKEND OF MY WHOLE LIFE!" texts with a disappointing indifference) I'll stop here.

But for those of you who do show the appropriate respect for my favorite drink, I am teaming up with another pair of Chicago bloggers at The Bloody Best for a more in-depth recap of this wonderful, wonderful display of human ingenuity.  They agreed to swap guest posts with me, so you can read even more about the festival over there plus you'll hear something from some local Bloody Mary experts themselves right here real soon.

Here's wishing you all a bloody awesome week!

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