Friday, July 26, 2013

Summer Vacation

I apologize for the silence around here while I've been enjoying some much needed summer vacation. Even though I've been taking it easy for the most part, I haven't forgotten about my 30 Before 30 to-dos. One such item on the list involved my vacation - A trip to Michigan to visit Justin's family lake house. We spent a gloriously relaxing 4th of July with Justin's family, full of fishing, boating, fireworks and delicious meals. Justin and I flew to Chicago first, where his brother and wife have just purchased a beautiful house.


The last time I was in Chicago was for their wedding over a year ago, and I somehow never had a famous Chicago hot dog. Our hosts took us straight to Hot Doug's, the "encased meat emporium," to remedy that situation.

 

Hot Doug's makes all kinds of creative sausages, but I felt like I should try the classic while in the Windy City. I got a Chicago-style to share and The Norm Crosby, a garlic, beef and pork dog. The Norm Crosby was delish! Even with all the accoutrements, the Chicago-style just couldn't hold a candle to the full flavors of that juicy, garlicky dog. Also, I learned that it's considered criminal to put ketchup on your hot dog in Chicago. You just don't do it. My friend Jane would be very pleased with that policy ;)


Next stop was Goose Island Brewery to sample some local beers, which is one of my favorite things to do when exploring a city. A few Goose Island beers make an appearance in Los Angeles bars and restaurants so we've been wanting to visit the brewery for some time now. They had a really wide selection and we each sampled various flights in addition to a summer special, the Cherry-Mint Wit. Refreshing!



Later in the trip we enjoyed a really lovely meal at Maude's Liquor Bar, where I had the BEST vodka smash of my life. Prior to this cocktail experience, my favorite adult beverage might have been the blackberry smash at BOA Steakhouse. Maude's smash was just so simple and uncomplicated, full of fresh citrus and mint and not overly sweet. I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since. It's a problem, really...


The dimly-lit, speakeasy vibe at Maude's nicely complimented the French menu, from which the boys shared a large platter of oysters and we all devoured ricotta gnocchi, a massive cassoulet and crispy pomme frites.




From Chicago, we drove to Michigan for a few more days of food and fun.


Since the day I met Justin, he's talked non-stop about his parent's cottage on the lake. I think it might be his favorite place in the whole world. I've always looked forward to eventually seeing this place with my own eyes, so it made an appearance on my 30 Before 30 list to make certain that we'd get out there sooner rather than later.




As you can see, the cottage is primed for relaxation and once you're there, it's really hard to leave. Jobs, deadlines, bills, etc. just cease to exist for a magical few days while you're disconnected from the rest of the world. 



While we didn't eat any of the fish we spent the days catching (thank God), we experimented with smoking a brisket on the grill as demonstrated by Bon Appetit. Jessica made cottage cheese and dill bread from scratch to accompany the meat, and we all had a truly memorable lakeside meal. 




Vacation is the best. It's been hard adjusting back to a work schedule and less indulgent meals since we returned, but we have a few more fun things on the horizon. I will not let go of summer just yet!