Food for Thought--37 Years of a Great Wife and Great Chicago Restaurants

8581844849_04677e814c_q hot dogFood glorious food...

...hot sausage and mustard

Oliver!--Lionel Bart, 1960

Not much on the housing front this week, but today is a special day. Barb and I are celebrating our  wedding anniversary! We have been married since 1978, and for thirty seven years we have used our anniversary as a chance to indulge ourselves.  Travel (for the family), jewelry (his or hers), and a designer purse or two (all hers). But those of you who know us best know that we like nothing better than sampling Chicago's fine restaurants. Looking back over our anniversary dinners is our personal timeline through the chefs and trends that have been earning their Mobil stripes and Michelin stars here.

We didn't start out as foodies!  Our first favorite restaurant was the Gino's East Pizza.  The original one on Superior, not the less stellar suburban outposts. Our admiration of Gino's started on our first date, a polo game at the Chicago Armory followed by deep dish cheese pizza. It's a good thing Barb liked the pizza, she was less than thrilled with watching polo. An afternoon wedding at the Drake Hotel meant we were close enough, and hungry enough, for dinner at Gino's on our wedding night, and we followed that up with anniversary pizzas through the next several years.

When we finally broke the Gino's streak, it was to return to the Drake for a fifth anniversary dinner at the Cape Cod Room, one of Chicago's longest lasting fine restaurants. It was a little old and creaky way back then in 1983, and I hear it is getting little older and creakier, but it will go on forever, just like our marriage. Hey, we are getting older and creakier too!

Over the next 30 years, Chicago Magazine has been our guide and directory for Anniversary Night. If a place was at the top of the Best Restaurant List, we had to check it out. Booth One at the Pump Room. Traditional French cuisine from the late Jean Banchet at Les Francais. Charlie Trotter, Graham Elliot, Carlos, Jackie, Jimmy and Yoshi, you name the celebrity chef, we toasted our anniversary at their place. From airborne Everest to subterranean Les Nomades we indulged and always found room for dessert. Tru and Ria were good, Trump Tower's Sixteen, and the Belden Stratford's Ambria were better. There were a few stumbles along the way; Grace didn't get our blessing and we weren't too surprised when L2O sunk.

Most special of all? Let's go back to the early 2000's. We read the great reviews for a place called Trio in the north suburbs. An anniversary dinner without the long drive downtown, a double treat for us. We loved the meal, but I said to Barb that "this chef is a little too avant-garde for conservative Evanston. I hope he makes it, but I predict he doesn't last too long here." I was right, sort of. Within a few years that young chef, a guy by the name of Grant Achatz, had left Evanston behind and had cooked up Alinea. For an anniversary dinner or any other reason you can think of, there is nothing like Alinea. And Halsted Street might not be as close to home for us as Evanston, but it is still a lot closer than the Loop!

What's on tap for Year 37? If you see us at Brindille Saturday night, buy us a drink! And Barb, the restaurants have been great, but they have only been special because I have been there with you. Happy anniversary, Babe!

Send your anniversary wishes, or any other news of note to les.raff@post.com.

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photo credit: Tommy's Chili Dog via photopin (license)

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