Last night my friend Mark was in town, visiting from Toronto. It was great to see him. Unfortunately, he was here for only one day. He came to visit for the holiday. When last heard from he had been stranded in the airport since 8 am, because of the delays at O'Hare and the weather in Chicago. It was 4 pm when I last heard from him. I haven't heard from him since, so I'm hoping he's made it there safely in time to see the play at the Steppenwolf that he'd already bought tickets for. What a nightmare.
Since he had only a day or so here, the tour I could offer was perfunctory at best.
Actually, he knows the sites of the city better than I do, at least the posher ones.
He didn't see any of the "devastation," partly because of time constraints, but mainly because he'd rather ignore it.
I was happy to oblige. We spent most of the day in the quarter, which is cleaner than it's ever been before, and in the warehouse district, where he was staying.
We went on an excursion trying to find Brad and Angelina, but never did....unless the Asian family we saw walking on Dauphine St. was them, incognito. They do have access to prosthetics, as Mark reminded me.
I haven't seen him in nearly four years. When I went to New York, he'd come down to visit me there for a day. That was the last time I'd seen him in person. When he had told me he was planning to visit, I had, of course, invited him to stay with me, knowing his money situation, but I knew he'd refuse. He has a taste for the finer things, I'm afraid, and luxe hotels are one of them.
When I first met him, he was...ok, well, let's not mince words here, something of a kept boy. When he and the boyfriend lived down here, they lived in a lovely condo downtown, very posh. (The parking cost more than my rent does now, in fact.)
He spent his twenties and much of his thirties in the care of a rich boyfriend, living a lavish lifestyle. This is the ideal situation for a soul like him....so of course, fate being as it is, it had to come to an end.
He's never quite recovered from the end of this lifestyle, I'm afraid. It's not a pretty thing when a kept boy has to fend for himself.
It was good to see the semi-jovial Mark, rather than the chronically depressed one that arrives in my email. I wish I could see this happier Mark more often.
On the way to dinner he insisted that we pass through Saks.
"What do you need to buy?" I asked naively.
"Nothing. We're just going to scope out the well dressed men." He was disappointed by the offerings, needless to say.
We ended up at Stella!, a nice enough place, with an ersatz "French Provincial" decor, which didn't seem to fit well with the food.
All in all, it was just an excuse to get dressed up...which was nice.
The menu left a bit to be desired, however. I don't much like fish (insert Beavis and Buttheard laughter here), and these sorts of places seem fish-heavy for some reason. Maybe it's just a fad.
I ended up getting the lamb ("Honey glazed lamb shank on a puree of winter vegetables" to paraphrase). It arrived looking like something from a very elegant episode of "The Flintstones," a big bone sticking up ceremoniously from the plate, piled upon a mound of miniaturized vegetables.
Before the entrees arrived, the chef generously sent over an amuse bouche of raw salmon and some sort of lotus root garnish, which one was supposed to suck down from a Chinese porcelain spoon. I kept looking around to see if we were the only ones so favored, but never could quite tell. I'm sure we looked like philistines trying to suck down the raw fish in one bite and not drip the sauce all over. It wasn't easy.
Anyway, since I had already embarrassed myself, I figured what the hell, took the camera out and started taking surreptitious photos of the plate. Unfortunately it was too dark for the photos to really come out. I had to rush for fear they'd confiscate the camera and drag me back to the kitchen, putting me through some sort of waterboarding-like torture involving those amuse-bouche spoons.
You never know.
The waitress was already peeved at my little mountain of Sweet and Low packets, I'm sure. We'd started out on the wrong foot when we ignored the wine list and ordered tea. I could swear I could hear her grit her teeth at that. Hey, I *did* politely stack up the packets in a tidy little pile for her. I don't know what her problem was.
After dinner, we decided to go crazy and get a dessert. Mark had some sort of frozen ginger creme brulee with green tea ice cream. It sounded better than it was.
Looking over the dessert menu, we had a good snicker about the "Chocolate Cake with Hot Buttered Pink Lemonade."
So of course, daredevil that I am, I got it.
It was good, but nothing earth shattering. For the record, "hot buttered pink lemonade" is remarkably similar to drawn butter for the king crab legs at the Chinese buffet, with a packet of sweet and low mixed in it.
(Not that I'd ever...umm...do such a thing, of course.)
The nicest part of the meal was actually the last course, which came (by way of another snooty waiter) "compliments of the chef." It was a post-dessert dessert of meringues and two homemade espresso-flavored marshmallows.
I think the homemade marshmallows were my favorite part of the whole meal.
How does one even make a homemade marshmallow?
I think I'm going to have to look that up.