Friday, June 24, 2016

Postcards from Bunny: Summer Girl's Night Hangouts

A little known fact about Bunny is that she is a football fanatic.  No, not American football, but soccer, as most of the United States calls it.  "There's just nothing more exciting than watching a group of athletes in the prime of their lives kick a ball back and forth for several hours," Bunny has been known to say.  This is why she made a special stop into Chicago to attend a certain game at Soldier Field, but when strong storms seems to be on the horizon, Bunny made some alternate plans.

Moonage Daydream
Oh! You Pretty Things
Her first stop was to the J. Parker for some rooftop pre-gaming while she watched the storm roll in.  The J. Parker is currently featuring a collection of ten specialty cocktails for the summer, which are all named for songs by the greatly missed David Bowie (a man whom Brandy may or may not have had a hand in launching to stardom).  Accompanying Bunny was Starr from Chicago Foodie Girl, who had yet to see the stunning rooftop bar atop the Lincoln Hotel.  Settling in a table in the shade, the two went over the cocktail menu in detail.  Bunny decided to start with the Space Oddity with pisco, raspberry liqueur, Earl Grey tea, peach bitters, lime, and Prosecco, all of which combined for a rather complex and fruity drink.  Starr picked the Moonage Daydream with gin, coconut, lemon, lime, and orange flower soda.  This drink was fresh and lovely with a slightly floral note.  For the second round, Bunny went with the Life on Mars?, a bourbon heavy cocktail with cherry, apricot, and rhubarb bitters, while Starr picked the Oh! You Pretty Things with pear, lavender, orange, lemon, and vodka.  Lastly, Bunny tried the Golden Years, a sweet and tropical taste sensation with rum, banana, vanilla and lime.

Golden Years
Space Oddity
Life on Mars?

To balance out the cocktails, the ladies snacked on some delicious bites from the bar menu.  First, they started off with a couple of Mini Burgers, delicious little sandwiches somewhere between a slider and regular sized burger, with melty cheese spread and buttery buns.  Because the burgers didn't have enough cheese to satisfy their cravings, they also ordered some Beer Cheese Dip, which came with more buttery pieces of pretzel bread to bathe in the melty goodness that was the beer cheese.  After two rather rich snacks, they lastly indulged in some Shrimp Ceviche, which helped to cleanse the palate with a dose of bright and citrusy flavor.

After it became apparent that the storm was imminent, Bunny decided to forgo attending the game in person and instead searched for a place she might be able to watch from the safety of a bar.  A quick call to her friend Mama Bee gave her the idea of stopping into Whirlyball on Fullerton to not only check out their brand new complex and menu, but also watch the game on the giant screens around the ground floor bar.  Bunny had heard tales of this bastion of fun, from their patented bumper car based game to their laser tag court, to their gorgeous rooftop over looking the city skyline, but had yet to visit the newly built location.  She was immediately delighted by the open floor plan and comfortable atmosphere with touches of whimsy, like the beer tap handles decorating the ceiling and the bowling balls colored to look like giant pool balls.

Right from the start, the new menu was certainly not what Bunny expected to see from Whirlyball.  A bucket of innocent looking popcorn on the table was doused in liquid nitrogen, which gave it an impossibly buttery flavor, a normally ineffectual sounding crab cake was presented in the style of a Japanese pancake called okonomiyaki, and a truly unique bruschetta rounded everything out with the bright earthy flavors of fig jam, goat cheese, and roasted red peppers.  Mama Bee loved sampling some of the new salads, like the crunchy Kale and Quinoa with a zingy cranberry relish, and the Simple Green with a surprising mix of fruit and crispy potatoes.  One of the real winners of the night was the Fried Brussels Sprouts, which had been tossed with a black garlic aioli and espresso infused balsamic vinegar to make for a pungent and deeply flavorful dish.

The true star of the new menu was the burgers and sandwiches.  The Stout Style Reuben with its beer braised corn beef and spicy giardiniera was the perfect update to a classic, in Mama Bee's opinion, but Bunny was paying far more attention to the burgers.  The 12 Hours 55 Minutes Burger (so named for the time a flight from Chicago to Tokyo would take) was another Japanese themed delight with pickled cabbage, green onion, and some sharp bleu cheese, while the Barcelona Night Burger added spicy ground chorizo and Manchego cheese for some Spanish flair.  Mama Bee's favorite of the night was with French Quarter Burger with roasted corn relish, creole spiced aioli, jalapeno jack cheese, and andouille sausage, which made for a slow burn spice that she really enjoyed.  Bunny, on the other hand, favored the Wild Forest Burger with plenty of mushrooms, creamy goat cheese, and a touch of truffle oil.

By the time the storm had passed, Bunny had consumed so much food and so many cocktails that she had all but forgotten her whole reason for being in Chicago in the first place.  "There will be other games," she waved off with a hiccup when she realized she'd not seen a minute of play, "Besides, after everything I've just eaten, I would much rather get up and play a little something myself!  Whose up for some laser tag?"

The writers of this blog were invited to dine at the mentioned restaurants free of charge in order to facilitate the writing of this post.

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