I was still living in the Bay Area when I started a new job that would take me to Chicago every month. I would be there for a week at a time, living in the Chicago Athletic Association. It was tough leaving Taylor every month for a year before I made the decision to move us both back, a decision that forever changed our lives for the better. This particular night in February 2017 was a good one at a restaurant that is no longer in business.
10 February 2017
When I lived in Chicago, I rarely found myself in Streeterville. With very close friends living there and another close friend running a restaurant there, I find myself in the area every time I visit Chicago, which has now consistently been at least once a month the last few months. I always stay at the Chicago Athletic Association, which is fast becoming my favourite hotel with its extremely friendly staff, world class coffee from the Milk Room, the bar and games in the Game Room, the Drawing Room which evokes memories of the 1880s (except for the laptops that are everywhere), its gym and unique suites, not to mention the rooftop bar restaurant Cindy’s, which serves delightful cocktails (yes, I used the word ‘delightful’ though I don’t think I would ever say the actual word… like ever) and tasty food.
But this was Friday night, and I was headed to see my buddy Alex and checkout his restaurant Green River, the Michelin-star rated restaurant set on the 18th floor of Northwestern Memorial outpatient pavilion in Streeterville.
Set on the 18th floor with a stunning view of the Chicago skyline from its outdoor terrace, Green River is a must-attend dining event.
I was made to feel special in every way. Alex introduced me to the people working there including Chef Aaron. I noticed while I was all smiles and eyes gazing, that the staff made everyone feel that way. They were an extension of my friend. We walked throughout the restaurant, onto the outdoor terrace with a stunning view of the Chicago skyline made even more resplendent with the Lunar moon smiling down upon us, shining white and radiant. After the front of the house, he guided me on a tour of the back of the house. I love being shown something that most people don’t get to see.
I settled into the Annex, a smaller, private bar off on the corner neighboring Green River. Alex introduced me to Amit and Jeremy, two excellent bartenders; and I met two women sitting next to me finishing their cocktails, one a designer and the other a forensic accountant. Amit, not to mention the entire bartending staff at Green River, took their cocktails seriously. Before long, we were all friends. However, soon I was drawn into my phone texting back and forth with someone dear to me.
"Lovely, don't you ever change
Keep that breathless charm
Won't you please arrange it?
'Cause I love you
And just the way you look tonight"
The Whitefish Tartine was an explosion of flavors. I would have never ordered it if Amit had not recommended it; he was spot on. The hard boiled eggs, endive and radish shavings along with the chives perfectly complimented the fish. The champagne washed it down only accentuating the already vibrant flavors. Along with the uni pasta, it was one of only two items that normally stays on the ever-changing menu, all inspired by Chef Aaron’s commitment to working with local purveyors.
Because I had told Amit the story of the Rickshaw Run in India, he made a special cocktail inspired by my adventures. I don’t know everything that was in it, but he called it the Jaipur Cocktail, and it hit every mark.
"If they asked me I could write a book
About the way you walk and whisper and look
I could write the preface on how we met
So the world would never forget"
Dinner would come soon after the drink was made, and I was forced into a dilemma. Do I let my cocktail sit and dig right into dinner, switching to wine? Or do I finish my cocktail? If this was the biggest dilemma I would face this eve, I’d say I was in for a good night. I asked Amit, who only responded with, “They say ‘drink a cocktail while it’s still laughing at your face!’” Who was I to argue!
The duck confit was bar none the best I’d ever had, which was becoming a broken record of superlatives. Almost 25 minutes into it, my new friend asked me whether I wanted the food taken away. I always say, food was meant to be eaten slowly, going down one small bite at a time, each one a guest in your stomach, eventually creating the party of a lifetime. Everyone who knows me knows I love a party. And one specifically in my stomach was the perfect of parties. Then when you washed it all down with wine – Sparkman Cabernet Sauvignon – dinner became a water park of wine and adventure.
“In other words, please be true!” Harry crooned.
Every morsel is so good that my bites are getting smaller and smaller. I don’t want it to end.
However, end it had to. I had places to be. I wanted to check out my old neighborhood where I had lived for a decade — Wicker Park, Chicago — specifically The Northside Bar & Grill, where I used to visit (to this day) one of my dearest friends Elizabeth, as well as the spot that could have and probably did change my life — Damen Avenue just south of North Ave and north of the Damen el stop, where I was hit by a car, crossing the street. So of course, I wanted a pic standing in the middle of the street on that corner.
It was going to be a good night. It already had been.