Monday, February 16, 2009

Meatloaf Cupcakes and Everything that Followed

I had a dear friend in town this weekend. It being Chicago in February, we did what any sensible fun-seekers would do: we ate. Uncontrollably.

The first stop in all this fun was the Bucktown Pub, which doesn't serve food but has a trivia night on Thursdays. I lured my friend with the promise of PBR and free popcorn, and the hope of the tamale guy. We were not disappointed when he appeared with his coolers, peddling homemade tamales with tiny, serving-size containers of red and green salsa. Greasy napkins and empty corn husks are always good balm for a loss at trivia.

But truly, this eating craze started a few months ago. I received an email alert for a new restaurant in town, The Meatloaf Bakery. A new meatloaf lover, I forwarded the alert to the friend who converted me. Elated, she said we would make a visit during her visit in February. As two women who pride themselves on fulfilling promises, we woke up on Friday, watched The Office and 30 Rock in bed, and then headed to the Promised Land.

The place was pleasantly designed, a tiny little storefront on Clark with a big, sunny window and bright, accent pinks and oranges to liven up the white walls. But these details were almost lost on Allison and myself when we approached the counter with the day's wares. This bakery boasts eight (?) different types of meatloaves, and three different serving methods. You can order a whole loaf, but they're not really lunch ready. After the loaf size, the option falls to a cupcake. A meatloaf cupcake. This creation is about the size of a large muffin, and in place of icing, covered in mashed potatoes. Not to be outdone, the tiny "loafies" made a name for themselves by being served in pastry shells, like little meatloaf tartlettes. YUM.

We ordered flights of loafies, a spicy one with chorizo and peppers, an Italian one with parm and tomatoes and angel hair pasta on top, and a burger one with cheese and bacon, and the smallest bun anyone has ever seen. For our cupcake, we split a traditional Mother Loaf with a demi-glace. I will not admit whether or not we went back for round two with some more small loafies. I will say that it was delicious and we walked out cackling about meatloaf.

After a brief art-viewing interlude and some false homework time, night fell and it was time to meet more friends for dinner at my favorite place in Chicago. Thankfully, Icosium Kafe specializes in savory crepes filled with fresh and (mostly) light ingredients. We drank wine and enjoyed bell peppers, goat cheese, pine nuts, spinach, carmelized onions, and a few million other ingredients that I'm forgetting.

Saturday involved brunch (quiche and juevos mexicanos and omelettes, oh my), a trip to the Garfield Park Conservatory, hot dogs, and a gourmet dinner at home--French onion soup broiled with baguette and jarlsberg, and a mediocre brownie sundae. Oh, and I think a McFlurry or two was eaten over the course of the weekend.

Just writing about all this food makes me simultaneously hungry and contented. This winter, I've found myself an insatiable eater. "It's the weather," my roommate and I tell each other. It's cold, and we need to keep up our energy. But with less and less work available to me, and days when I do work so full with work and school that I want to collapse, I wonder if I'm excusing too great of an indulgence. With February more than halfway over, I guess I'll just wait for spring to tell if it's winter blues that's fueling this tasty self-medication.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Battle Wounds

There's a killer bruise on my right thigh, right on top. If this were shorts season, it would probably appear when I sat down. I got it Sunday night, trying to exit the Damen stop with a rolling suitcase, a duffel bag, and a messenger bag. I'm just terrible at schlepping things, and in my effort to push through the turnstile while managing all the bags, I misfired and nailed my thigh.

It's one of those bruises that I secretly love. It started forming immediately, and has changed colors each day. Yesterday, at its start, it showed all the colors: yellow, blue, purple, grey. Today it's a stormy blue-grey, to match the weather. I think I'm drawn to the colors of bruises, and to the instant gratification. Yes, I got hurt, and here is the proof, the mangled colors of muscle and blood and fat and whatever other tissue. I can feel the way my leg has changed, hardened, in that spot.

I registered yesterday for the last classes I need to complete my Master's. In June, I will be done with school and out of excuses for not working full-time. My diploma will be a bruise, a display that my brain muscles have changed, molded in spots. My student loans will be the proof that it hurt.