New Year May

With May being in Peru our chances to cross paths number few, especially given that she can’t take personal days prior to notching a year of work. When news came that her office would be shutting down over the New Year, flying her back to Chicago became an immediate priority. Weather looked to delay our reunion a bit, but all turned out well. We only a few days together, but filling them with quality Chicago time proved no issue. Most of what we got up to involved food, including our first dinner downtown at Bandera. This swanky place overlooked Michigan Ave. and checked the long standing box of live jazz music.
IMG_0523Another feast was Osechi, which is enjoyed on New Year’s Day over in Japan. According to May, it was something to happen needed for it to feel like a proper start to the year. Problem is though that the preparation of this meal spans literal days and involves all sorts of arbitrary steps imbued with tradition and meaning – boiling the black beans with a rusty nail, for example. This is essential for getting the beans to turn the right shade of black, I hear. The local Japanese market was selling the meal set for $180, so we were extremely grateful when an invitation came to join some of my rugby friends. I made sure to eat myself sick as food this good doesn’t come around often.
IMG_0605The well-trained eye might spot the dish in the middle as being a bit out of place; my contribution freed me from the guilt of simply devouring someone else’s hard work. It was my buy in, and May added a very nice shortcake for dessert. Olie Bollen is a seasonal Dutch staple. They are only dough with raisins, but these comprise the traditional feast that I’ve enjoyed throughout my childhood. I have fond memories of heading over Grandma Ada’s every January 1st for these. This year was the first time I’d properly made them myself, and my inexperience was evident. The combination of overly hot oil and ladling massive blobs of dough left the first batch completely raw inside. Tearing them in half and dunking them back in for a second oil bath salvaged them. Those in the photo below turned out especially horrendous.
IMG_0602May and I are always fond of checking out different breweries, and there was one up in Northwest suburb of Wauconda that I had long been wanting to check out. Small Town Brewery is most famous for their Not Your Father’s Root Beer, which is essentially a spiked version of the classic sassafras beverage. Despite the brewery being way out in what I would call the Chicago hinterlands, this root beer has enormous distribution throughout the region and, per their website, each of the 50 states. They offer a full spread of beers though our mutual consensus was that collectively they were too sweet. Having pecan pie lager as an option is good, but having so many such choices is a bit much. The strawberry rhubarb however was light, pink, unique, and exceptional. One of the main draws is the NYFRB which at 19.5% ABV is definitely not sold in stores. They limit each customer to a single 10 oz. glass, which in honestly is all anyone would need. It has a somewhat boozy scent and taste, but goes down about as well as anything that strong can. It was a nice stop, but won’t likely be a redo.
IMG_0615For our last evening together, we kept it classy with a bit of wine and cheese. The quality and variety of the beer down in Peru is far from the luxury that we enjoy here in the states, so I added sixer to the mix as well. Good times were shared with the roommates. One highlight was May crafting Peru’s signature Pisco Sour with the spirits she had brought me as a souvenir.IMG_0620The time in Chicago was excellent and flew right by; my hope is that the time until whenever we cross paths again does so too.

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