May 23, 2007

I Am Missing Chicago Food

Filed under: Chicago, Food, Travel — Tom @ 12:47 pm

One of the things I miss most here in Portland was the Chicago food scene. While Portland has some great food, the pizza here is no match and I have some other favorites that I wish I could find.

Last weekend, my girlfriend was in Chicago. That left me begging her to bring back some blue cheese steak fries and buffalo chicken strips from Leona’s and a stuffed pizza from Giordano’s.

Leona’s has always been one of my favorites even though they’ve become a little more corporate as they’ve expanded. There was a time when Leona’s had the best pizza in the city — its stuffed pizza was second to none. I suspect it was sacrificed to move the customers through more quickly. A popular dish with an hour-long cooking time can really slow things down.

While I understand the business logic behind the stuffed pizza assassination, I’ve always been puzzled by Leona’s decision to replace ordinary hot fudge with Ghirardelli chocolate sauce a few years back. I don’t understand businesses that buy into the idea of having a named brand on their menu for its own sake. I like Ghirardelli chocolate, but their sauce was a nasty substitute for the delicious hot fudge it replaced. I asked the wait staff about it; they also didn’t understand the change and confirmed that my reaction was pretty common.

Leona’s redeemed themselves shortly after the Ghirardelli incident by introducing the blue cheese steak fries. Wedge fries. Alfredo sauce. Blue cheese. Bacon. Awesome. Not health food.

Unfortunately, we decided that the blue cheese steak fries appetizer wasn’t going to travel well and an entire pizza was a bit awkward to bring back. I did get a couple orders of buffalo chicken strips and some blue cheese sauce. Extra buffalo sauce to be used in the reheating didn’t make it to Portland — the O’Hare TSA confiscated it, keeping America safe from that particular tub of spicy condiment.


October 9, 2006

SFO Ghost Town

Filed under: Travel — Tom @ 7:56 pm

I’ve recently been working on helping a client roll-out salesforce.com and flew down to San Francisco for their Dreamforce user conference. It’s a decent enough event and I’ve seen some interesting stuff that I won’t bore you with here.

I was really surprised by how deserted San Francisco airport is. It was totally empty. I say this with confidence because I had to walk through most of it. I flew an American codeshare on Alaska Airlines. The flight was fine but things went to hell when we landed.

We landed in the international terminal; I think the plane continued on to Mexico. They announced on the flight that baggage claim was at the end of the baggage claim area. When you get there, there are signs that lead you to a door that says you can’t go through it and that you’re in danger of violating airport security.

After wandering around for a bit thinking I’d missed something or made a mistake somehow, I went to visit the baggage claim office. The signs send me to the opposite end of the terminal, where you have to go outside, walk down the side of the building, and into some dark little door to find the baggage offices. Really, this is one top-notch airport.

Inside, there’s a sign that lists three airlines and says the rest are in the other baggage claim office — back at the other end of the terminal where I started. Back to the other end, same routine, outside into some grimy, alley-esque access road and into some dark hole in the wall. And Alaska doesn’t have a baggage office there either.

Back inside, there are still no employees to be found anywhere. Eventually I go upstairs to check-in, find Alaska’s desk and a very pleasant guy tells me that Alaska baggage claim isn’t even in this terminal! I have to go down this way, and up some stairs and down an escalator and through some tunnel and it’s right there. “Can’t miss it.” Who the hell came up with this system? (I suspect they hired the guy who laid out Portland’s intersections.)

So I finally got my bag. I called a friend who lives in SF and asked him what the deal was with this pathetic, empty airport. He said everybody flies into Oakland these days. Can you blame them?

June 12, 2006

My Girlfriend is Circus Folk

Filed under: Chicago, Travel — Tom @ 12:02 am

I went back to Chicago for the weekend. My flight back to Portland is about 8 1/2 hours away.

Flying from Portland is a) so much easier than negotiating O’Hare and b) sort of a pain because I’m used to O’Hare, where I can get pretty much anywhere with a direct flight between American Airlines (who I vastly prefer) and United. But American is a direct flight to Chicago and the under 15-minute drive to the airport and small terminal made it a breeze. (And free Wi-Fi! In your face, O’Hare!)

So Diane has been wanting to take a trapeze class at the Flying Gaona’s Gym here for a long time. We went to the introductory class yesterday morning and it was pretty awesome. There were maybe a dozen people there.

I was super skeptical when Diane came up with this. But in this 90-minute class, Gaona’s took them from just dangling from a bar to an aerial hand-off.

From zero to aerial catch in 90 minutes!

They only got one shot at the catch with the time constraints of the introductory class. She did a fantastic job. I shot video of the whole affair that I’m going to cut down in iMovie at some point.

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