Tag Archives: Chicago

Avoiding Post-AP English Syndrome, Using Expired Scone Mix, Descending Upon My Proposal Like a Beast, Going Through a Cream Phase…and Still Rooting For Team Melissa

Alright, so, I’ve been getting LOTS of amazing feedback…which, for a writer frequently plagued by self-doubt, is really wonderful to hear (although, folks, don’t be shy! Feel free to comment *right here* so, you know, any future employers/publishers can feel the love, too…)…although, in true LL style, it sort of worries me as I fear I’ll get Post-AP English Syndrome again…which, for those of you who haven’t known me since high school, is basically what happened after my AP English teacher told me I was a good writer and I went off to college and felt all sorts of pressure to *be* a good writer and it backfired and I’d spend weeks and weeks on individual papers and get Bs — Bs! — and, about a year later, I finally threw in the towel and said, “To heck with it! If I’m going to get Bs, I’m not going to spend weeks and weeks writing these damn things…” and I wrote a paper the night before it was due…and I was so, so embarrassed by the, you know, word-vomit that I turned in…and that very paper turned out to be the turning point and my professor asked me to stay after class because he thought I could get it published. End Writer’s Block.

So, long story short, I worry my blog will all of a sudden become crap and I will find myself incapable of writing about anything anymore if I let this go to my head and/or try to write anything that I think people will like. Although, in all fairness, Post-AP English Syndrome was — cringe — about ten years ago. So…perhaps I have matured since then. We’ll see.

I haven’t really cooked or baked anything since returning to New York to tackle the New Year (I *did* make eggnog scones from a mix that was given to me last Christmas(-ish) by the Luxury Spot…which were okay…and the only other things worth noting about it are: 1) I like the name of the bakery — Sticky Fingers — and would like to come up with something comparable for my book; and 2) the mix said it was best by 07/03/09, which I *assumed* meant merely that they would have turned out fluffier last summer and not that I would, you know, die after consuming them now…but I’m very much in starving artist mode, so I took a chance.

And, really, the past week has been all about the freelance scramble — drumming up projects, applying for jobs, working on the book proposal — which I absolutely HATE and which stresses me out even more than, you know, baseline…and I feel like I’m constantly working, but never really getting anywhere — there’s ALWAYS a pitch I could be writing or a job I could be applying for (…even if it doesn’t sound all that interesting…)…and there’s always some editing that could be done on my proposal…and, while we’re at it, there’s always some editing that could be done on my 90,000-word draft, too. And…I keep extending my proposal deadline to accommodate…but feel like if I do it any more, it will be 2011 and I’ll still be saying, “My proposal is almost done!” So…this week is it — I’ve given myself an ironclad deadline. No excuses. It’s going out to agents no matter what. (I had a little freakout when I realized that all agents seem to want something different — some want the first chapter, some want the first three…some want the first five to ten pages…some want the first four to seven…and here I’ve been working on a proposal that weighs in at about 100 pages now…and it sounds like I’m going to have to pick it apart — like some sort of vulture! — and cater it to each agent specifically…although a friend pointed out that the agents likely appear finicky just so, you know, they know that you’re really specifically sending it to *them* rather than just sending out a blanket email to see who will bite. [Although a blanket email with my 100-page proposal would be SO much easier…and yield a much faster sense of accomplishment! But…I guess if I’ve waited this long…])

So…simple math — 20 agents in five days. Totally doable. And then no more of this starving artist business with expired scone mix. Lisa Lacy is going places.

Annnd…there are really only two other bloggable things on my mind: National Pie Day and The Bachelor.

First things first, as noted, I’m poor…and I really can’t afford to bake 14 pies and a cobbler to celebrate January 23 in high style like I did last year. (I have also officially given up on Internet fame…) At the same time, I feel like I can’t let January 23 go by unnoticed (plus, I really like traditions…and wish my family had more. When I was in Chicago, I ended up crashing K’s family’s New Year’s Day homemade pizza party…which is something they’ve done every January 1 for the past 30-ish years…and I love stuff like that…)…but this then begs the question — if I’m only going to make ONE pie to acknowledge National Pie Day, what’s THE pie to make? I have my mother’s peeler/corer/slicer, but I feel like I’m over apple for the time being. And I still have cans of pumpkin…but I also feel like pumpkin is too blas√©. I’m actually sort of feeling a lemon meringue or a banana cream might be nice — if not totally evocative of the pie genre as a whole. And this is after making a chocolate cream pie for Christmas…so maybe¬† it means I’m going through a cream phase. I don’t know — I’m open to suggestions. (And — ooh — hey, look: ANOTHER excuse to comment. Lucky!)

And…no good way to segue from cream pies to reality TV (I Googled — there isn’t…), but…I’ve totally been watching Jersey Shore because I’ve been working on a story about it (although, now that I think about it, I guess I’ve already mentioned it…but, since then, I learned that one of my J-school classmates totally interviewed Vinny when we were in RW1 together. It’s my six degrees of separation…)…but my other guilty TV pleasure is The Bachelor. And…I admit that I was genuinely into it in the Jason Mesnick era. I couldn’t believe DeAnna didn’t choose him and felt so sorry for him…but don’t even get me started on the whole Melissa/Molly debacle…and, I mean, sure — things have worked out really well for Melissa since then…and even though Jason looked like a big scumbag at the time, it probably *is* better that he followed his heart when he did, blah, blah, blah. But…I worry a little that maybe Melissa was so eager to show the world that she isn’t a Sad Sally that she jumped into this marriage with Tye. And I could be wrong — all I know about Melissa is what I’ve seen on ABC…but I also wonder if it says something about, you know, modern times (not Medieval Times) or whatever that she needs a husband to make it look like her life is complete and she can’t be independent with a successful career and hold her head up high on her own. *That* would be something. (Although, admittedly, it’s not an easy thing to do. Especially when Stupidface who let you go is right there with his new ladyfriend — who is clearly nowhere near as awesome as you are — and you have to smile through gritted teeth and tell them both how good it is to see them…even though all you really want to do is shoot laserbeams out of your eyes to vaporize them.) So, I mean, I wish Melissa and Tye the best…and I hope it doesn’t turn out to be a Charlie-Sheen-sort of situation. (I was *also* thinking about how Denise Richards must feel a little vindicated and/or be experiencing some good ol’ schadenfreude as news leaks about Charlie post-Christmas. I just hope Jason and Molly don’t find themselves in a similar position. Happy or not, I think they’re a little too smug.)

Okay — one more embarrassing paragraph on The Bachelor and we’re done. SO much to love this season…if not the Bachelor himself. He’s okay, I guess…but he didn’t really win any bonus points in my book for going back to warn Jillian about Love Don’t Come Easy. Seemed a little much to me…although I guess it established a nice segue for this season. Regardless…I totally thought the big scandal was that two *contestants* had hooked up in the house, drumming up all this girl-on-girl intrigue…and not just that one of the ladies had an affair with a crew member. Seems so droll in comparison…and I’m actually kind of surprised ABC hasn’t thought of a lesbian affair already. Perhaps next season. (“It’s okay, Jake, I swing both ways!” Can you imagine??) Back to the stuff I love: LOVE the tagline “On the Wings of Love.” (He’s a pilot! Get it?) I loved the plane flying over Jake’s head when he parked his motorcycle at the beach. I loved it when he said he’d never had 25 women fighting over him before and so seatbelts needed to be fastened. And I loved it when he threw the rose in the fire after learning of Rozlyn’s indiscretion. But the most memorable part was undoubtedly the Cambodian chick from Santa Rosa, Calif. (current home of Guy Fieri, former home of yours truly) who told Jake — first in Cambodian! — that he could park his plane on her landing strip any time. I mean, admittedly, you need to think of something to say that separates you from the pack — I get that. And I *might* be tempted to lead with my first and last name and a wink-wink with its pornographic implications…should I ever find myself getting out of a limo in an evening gown to meet the Bachelor on Episode 1. But…words fail, Channy. As much as I’d like to believe in the power of reality TV show love, I hope for her sake that the show is scripted and someone put her up to it.

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A Consistent Bacon Theme…with the Best Burgers in Chicago and Pies to Boot.

My fat-themed trip to Chicago began with K meeting me at O’Hare with a pumpkin spice latte (say what you will about Starbucks, but it’s become a rite of fall…), which was absolutely perfect as my flight from Denver left at 6:40 and I needed just a *little* more coffee to really feel like Lisa.

Our first stop was Vosges, a chocolate shop with the tag line “Haut Chocolate.” We were there specifically for a bacon bar, but discovered there were actually several to choose from — milk, dark and caramel toffee. I don’t actually remember which of the chocolates I liked better with the bacon bits (it’s sweet and salty…which is one of the reasons I used to love Take 5 so much…), but I generally like milk chocolate better, so that was probably it. The bacon caramel toffee was certainly good, but we couldn’t tell there was any bacon in it…which may defeat the purpose of actually buying bacon chocolate. But, in the end, neither one of us was compelled to buy a whole bar…in part because I could not tell how much they were…and if I had to ask, maybe I couldn’t afford it? (Turns out they’re about $7.50 each…so it might be worth it as a special treat for bacon lovers.)

From there, we stopped off at Dominick’s (…which sells Safeway products! A nice little kickback to my California roots…) for pie ingredients. K is participating in the Bucktown Apple Pie Contest on October 18 and wanted some pointers. I told her the one big thing I learned from the 2007 APC Crisco National Pie Championships — Plain apple won’t do it. You HAVE to have something unique and/or distinctive. — and we found a recipe on Epicurious for a Deep-Dish Caramel Apple Pie. (She actually used her iPhone to do it…which made me long for one even more…but then I worry that I will never be able to make calls in my apartment as the reception is so bad…and I continue to hem and haw…)

We used my aunt’s crust recipe…and, in all honestly, all I think K needs to do is practice a bit to get her confidence up…and *maybe* purchase a few tools (a pastry blender! a pie crust shield! a silpat liner!). Otherwise, the only advice I gave was the standard “make sure your water is really, really cold” and “don’t let the dough get too sticky.”

And…even though the recipe does not call for an upper crust, we improvised a bit and added one…and I think the pie was better for it. It was definitely a memorable spin on standard apple.

After baking, we hit up the Bristol…which allegedly serves a Bacon Manhattan for brunch. We thought maybe we could ask nicely and they would serve us one anyway for happy hour, but, alas, the barkeep said he did not have the right bacon-infused booze on hand. He later let me try some bacon-infused scotch (and the brunch menu says the Bristol’s Manhattan is made with bacon-infused Dewar’s, so…?)…and I told him I liked it better than regular scotch — the truth! — but I did not tell him that I do not like regular scotch. The bacon infusion sort of took the edge off of it…and totally made it drinkable. (Another bonus? They had duck fat fries…which I have been unable to try at Hot Doug’s for TWO consecutive Chicago trips. [They are only served on weekends.])

After meeting up with K’s new husband, we headed over to Kuma’s Corner for what was supposed to be one of the best burgers in Chicago. I don’t like eggs, so the Kuma Burger (with fried egg) was out, but it was really hard to decide between the YOB and Iron Maiden and Neurosis (among others). In the end, I went for the Iron Maiden and K ordered the Neurosis…and both were really, really good…on the order of not-much-talking, lots-of-eating kind of good. I was at Subway once with a guy (hey, big spender…) who was sort of shocked that I ordered a sandwich with everything on it…so, what can I say? I like lots of stuff. I actually kind of wish I lived closer to Chicago so I could try some of the other combinations at Kuma’s. Worth noting in so many words: Definitely worth the trip if you’re in the area.

With bellies full of burgers, K’s husband dropped us off at the Green Eye, where we continued to catch up and whatnot…and we were thrilled to see it had one of those collegiate banners hanging from behind the bar that said, “Bacon!” (The theme continues!) And…I’ll blame it on the bacon-infused scotch, I guess, but it maybe seemed like I had nothing to lose by contacting Wall-E at that point…although it was kind of weird when he showed up and I think I was maybe kind of mean and ignored him a little. So. There ended that.

The next day, our first stop was the Hoosier Mama Pie Company…which K had emailed me about long, long ago. We were both kind of sick of sweet stuff — we had, after all, had pie for breakfast — but they had a peach raspberry pie…which contains, like, my two favorite fruits of all time…so I couldn’t not get a piece. (K, for her part, got a slice of bacon quiche.)

We couldn’t eat it right then and there though — so we dropped off the baked goods at K’s house and headed downtown…where K had the brilliant idea of eating at Rick Bayless‘ new restaurant, Xoco. We had to wait in line for a good long while (and a ballsy woman pulled up in a Corolla and wanted someone to give her menus and phone numbers)…but it was totally worth the wait. (Plus, RICK BAYLESS HIMSELF was working in the kitchen…so we were sort of able to gawk while we waited…) K had the choriqueso, I had the milanesa…and by the time we actually had seats, it was another one of those no-talking, more-eating moments. We were approached by a WGN reporter at the end of the meal who wanted to talk about our food. Unfortunately, nerves got the better of me and I sounded like that version of myself that I hate…and even though it didn’t come out very clearly to WGN, it *is* true that my mother LOVES Rick Bayless and that my torta was really good…I just couldn’t think of any other way to describe it while on the hot seat. Perhaps I’ll give it another go here: it was kind of like a grilled cheese sandwich, but with this tomatillo sauce that gave it a little zing…or maybe you could even think of it as a Mexican spin on an Italian cutlet sandwich?

K and I did some kind of arty, shoppy stuff in the afternoon…and then, finally, we more or less ended everything with a trip to (O)enology at the InterContinental Chicago for — that’s right — more chocolate-covered bacon. One of my classmates had tweeted or Facebooked or somethinged about trying chocolate-covered bacon in Chicago…and so we knew we had to add ENO to our fat list, too. And, you know what? It had one of those menus that seems like it would be really fun to write (Another? Le Peep.) and I would totally dig a job like that…except, even though I realize they have a schtick, I might feel kind of like a schmuck with the whole “Wine. Cheese. Chocolate. Sensation.”-thing. Regardless, the chocolate-covered bacon was only available with the “Wine and Swine” Chocolate Sensation…and so that is what we ordered (along with flights called “Tickled Pink” and “Ring Around the Rose”). It also came with a shiitake truffle…which I was not sure about…but our waiter (who looked like Bradley Cooper from afar) assured us we’d wish it had *more* mushroom. I can’t say I really tasted any shroom…it was pretty much just chocolate. And the chocolate-covered bacon was, you know, good. Same sort of sweet/salty combo as before…but perhaps with more salty this time as there was more meat…and it was covered in dark chocolate…which I suppose was a nice complement to the higher chocolate:bacon ratio?

And then that was it. I had to go home and eat leftover burger and pack so I could wake up super-early and fly back to NY. (And I will share my thoughts on *that* momentarily…)

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Poor Wall-E…

I may very well be getting too big for my britches here and blogging too much about stuff no one cares about…but, then again, if self-actualization is my goal I shouldn’t care what other people think. So…I guess this means I can blog about whatever I damn well please.

With that in mind, as you know, my friend K got married in Chicago earlier this month. And…after the wedding, I went to a bar called Richard’s with some of the groomsmen…which is apparently a good ol’ dive bar known for its hard-boiled eggs and its jukebox. (I, however, do not like eggs…and so even if they had been serving those bad boys by the time I got there, I wouldn’t have tried them. Eggs are non-negotiable.)

And…when I am away from home, I like to take lots of pictures. So…there was a group of men at Richard’s who were wearing matching shirts with stuff written all over them and I wanted a photo. So…I took one. And my flash gave me away…and then the man in question turned around and I had to talk to him. And…it turns out he has a very common first name, but his last name is super-long and starts with “Wal-…” so he goes by Wally. (And…I was telling a friend about this recently and she said all she could think about was Wall-E, so now every time I think of Wally, I hear this in my head.)

So…he was nice and everything, but I got Schlitz and Blatz confused and so when I saw they served Schlitz at Richard’s, I got excited because I thought it was the same beer that one of my cousins in Wisconsin bought for us once…and the Schlitz factor apparently upped my cool points considerably in Wally’s estimation…but I was *wrong* and it wasn’t Schlitz at all. It was Blatz. (So…see? I’m a fraud.)

And then, you know, I was ready to go back to the hotel, so I bid adieu to Wally…but he didn’t want to bid adieu. But it was super-late and I was ready to go…and he wasn’t…and so finally he suggested he ride back to my hotel with me. And after some hemming and hawing, I finally said, “You realize that you’re not coming upstairs with me, right? You’d be riding in a taxi and saying goodbye and getting right back in another taxi?”

He said he understood.

So…off we went to my hotel. And…I don’t really know how I am able to be so ballsy sometimes and yet so scared of my own shadow at others…but… I said something along the lines of, “You’re the man — pay him…” and got out of the taxi when we arrived at my hotel.

But…as I was waiting for Wall-E in the lobby, I started thinking, “Sheesh. I really don’t want to have the, ‘No, you’re really not coming up to my room,’-conversation…” and I began dreading it more and more. But…after a few minutes, Wall-E still hadn’t appeared and so I popped outside to see what was going on and found he was arguing with the taxi driver.

And this is where we prove once and for all that I am a terrible person because the first thought that popped into my head was, “Now’s my chance!” and I took off my shoes and ran across the lobby as fast as I could and jumped into the elevator. And it wasn’t until I was actually safe in my room with the door locked behind me that I breathed a sigh of a relief and knew I had escaped him sans “No, you really can’t come up to my room”-conversation.

Later, I felt bad for ditching poor Wally — he really was a nice guy. So…I sent him a quick email to apologize…and he wrote back to say that it was okay, but he wished things had ended differently. So…I said, “Well, I’m not sure how things would have ended differently other than with a goodbye…”

BUT HERE’S THE CRAZY PART: he keeps writing. And I don’t know what to do with this. He’s nice and everything, but…the whole thing kind of freaks me out…probably more so because I will be back in Chicago on the 9th…and so in theory I could meet up with him again. And I totally wouldn’t do anything without K — she’d have to be in on this, too — but I’m torn. On the one hand, it would just be another Schlitz at Richard’s…and why not? But, on the other hand, yikes! Can I face him? Should I encourage this? I don’t know…

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Cue the Lynyrd Skynyrd…

Boy, am I going to sound like a wet blanket, but…the job woes continue, etc., etc.

And…as noted in my previous post, I’ve been sad about The Bartender. So…I was talking to my oldest childhood friend and she reminded me that maybe the reason everything is so uncertain for us now is because of our Saturn Return. So, I mean, this is fantastic news. I can’t even tell you how comforting it is…especially since I can now start thinking about 30 as the end of chaos…rather than the beginning of the end.

Big J’s other revelation? Welll…I was *also* saying that I think maybe my love affair with New York is coming to an end (although, then again, something like the Michael Jackson birthday party comes along and reminds me why I fell in love with Brooklyn in the first place…)…and there are so many cities I’d love to try out before all is said and done: Seattle, Chicago and Atlanta, to name a few…and then I start looking for jobs in those places and then I end up with a totally overwhelming number of jobs to apply for and then I start thinking, “I don’t even know if I want any of these jobs!” and I don’t actually apply for anything and I get nowhere.

That is when Big J said (more or less), “You big dummy! You don’t just apply for anything! You look for the jobs you really *want* and *those* are the jobs that you apply for outside of New York!”

And of course she’s right!

So…I did just that on Friday…and came across a job in Alabama that sounds like it would be a really good fit — writing and editing stories about food, home and travel. I don’t actually know anyone in Alabama…and I’m not sure how I feel about starting all over *again*…but I spent four years in Mississippi and Georgia growing up…and was actually surprised by how nice it was to be in the South again when I went on the trip in the trailer with my mama in July…(see my post about that meal in Carlisle, Arkansas. Whoa.)

Plus, I’d be living on the coast…which is 1) super-beautiful (if memory serves)…and 2) only about five hours from Atlanta. So…I could get a car and visit some of my favorite people on the weekends…and I could finally get a Golden retriever. And imagine the kind of apartment I could have — I’m thinking washer/dryer *and* dishwasher. My heart be still…

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Fat Chicago

So…I am about to go to Denver for a friend’s wedding. And…when I was booking my ticket, I noticed that American Airlines routed me through Chicago on the way back. And it just so happens that one of my favorite people lives in Chicago…and the last time I saw her, she was getting married…so it didn’t really count as a Seeing K trip, you know? So…I asked if she minded if I stay with her for a few days on my way back to NY…et, voila.

Then — the power of social networking! — I saw on Facebook that my friend J had tried chocolate-covered bacon…and so I told *her* how exciting it was to hear as I had missed the chocolate-covered bacon at the Wisconsin State Fair…and she said she had it in Chicago! So! It appears I will have another shot at chocolate bacon!

I wasn’t sure how K would feel about the bacon as she seems like a woman of refined taste. But she didn’t flinch. In FACT, she pointed out that there is a brunch spot in Chicago where you can get a bacon martini…and that because there is so much fat and so many fat people in Chicago that we could do an entire fat-themed trip!

Which clearly is amazing.

Last year, an editor suggested I get the duck fat french fries at Hot Doug’s in Chicago (and I can’t not point out after linking to it that the Web site says it is “The Sausage Superstore and Encased Meat Emporium”)…but, alas, Doug only serves those fries on weekends and so K and I were out of luck. I am going to miss them *again* on this trip (I guess me and duck fat aren’t meant to be…), but I am optimistic there’s plenty of other fat to choose from on weekdays. K even dug up this milk chocolate bacon bar at Vosges. It turns out this is *not* the same as the chocolate-covered bacon J referenced — she said she had it at the Intercontinental? But J *also* said she was going to recommend Vosges. So! Small world.

Do *you* have a tip about what to do on a fat-themed tour of Chicago? Tell me! Don’t be shy!

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Lisa & Julie & Julia

I can’t believe I missed June completely. It’s been hectic though…filling in for my old job *and* trying to find direction, purpose and meaning in my life.

I’m not back in NY for long this time though. My dear friend is getting married in Chicago on August 1 (which happens to be another dear friend’s birthday) and so I will be in the Midwest for the first week of that month…and am super-excited to see that Julie & Julia opens on August 7! Which means that my mama and I may be able to see it together before we go to the airport.

I haven’t been this excited about a movie in a LONG TIME! (Aww…I Googled it and now I am following it on Twitter…) In fact, I totally get how Julie Powell feels about being stuck and things not working out the way she wanted them to…and hope that *my* book leads to a similar sort of Oprah-ish A-Ha Moment after which I can then look back at my life and say, “Yes! I understand why it all worked out this way now. It was all about getting me to this point!” I just wish I was there already, you know?

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