Quote of the day,via Philip Roth

“He had learned the worst lesson that life can teach — that it makes no sense. And when that happens the happiness is never spontaneous again. It is artificial and, even then, bought at the price of an obstinate estrangement from oneself and one’s history.”  — Philip Roth, “American Pastoral”



That magical moment when one first falls for the Beatles

“Hey Siri — what’s the name of this song?” my tween niece asks the new Apple HomePod, a black orb of netted plastic that’s an interactive speaker you can talk to and enjoy its no-nonsense vocal responses. It stands about seven-inches-tall, it’s shaped like a futuristic sports ball with buffed, rounded edges and a flat, glowing top. It is distinctly Kubrickian.


“The song by the Beatles is ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,’” Siri, or the Apple HomePod’s resident DJ — the tiny person who we all know resides inside — responds in a tranquilizing, female android voice that isn’t at all … creepy.

But this is about the Beatles — the ones with Apple Records, not Apple singular — though both are capitalistic behemoths of flabbergasting muscle, might and moola.

1b36f65fa471104e63641414cff829c5.jpgIt’s about a 12-year-old discovering the indelible Brit band if not for the first time — as a toddler her bedtime lullabies included the Beatles’ “Hey Jude” and “Across the Universe” — then for that point in life when culture totally matters, that crucial juncture of taste-making that suffuses a being forever. Art and culture are cyclonic at this age. Their influences batter and blow, shaping aesthetic passions like sand dunes, but with much more permanence.


My niece is at that point — post-Harry Potter (she was in the stultifying wizard’s unyielding thrall for a few unholy years), post-Pokemon and their predictable kin (though Star Wars never quite captured her imagination).

No, instead she has gravitated to sophistication and kneels at the high-art altars of David Bowie, Queen, Radiohead, “Hamilton,” “The Catcher in the Rye” and (one of this film buff’s all-time favorites) “All About Eve.” She’s hankering to read “The Great Gatsby.”  She performs lustily in local theater musicals. She writes wonderful poetry and is working on a novel. She reads books with dizzying voracity. I reckon she’ll be A.P. all the way.

Hell, I was a grizzled 19 when I finally and full-throatedly got the Beatles. I too had an infantile acquaintance with the group — I was smitten with “Yellow Submarine,” both the animated movie and the soundtrack, as a wee one — but there was no follow through until college.

It hit hard. I got so into every nook and cranny of the band that I was inspired to buy a harmonica and an electronic piano, both of which proved embarrassing and foolhardy acquisitions. The Beatles, like Brando and Shakespeare, were a blinding Damascus moment, earth-rattling, a crack in the cosmos. Their various looks, images, melodies, harmonies, beats, hooks and lyrics dovetailed, in my mind, into an unearthly incandescence so often ascribed to genius.

A few of my niece’s favorite Beatles songs include “Here Comes the Sun,” “Let it Be,” “I Am the Walrus” and “With a Little Help from My Friends” — as good as any Beatles starter kit as any.

These songs are easy ones, Muzak-ready, plucked off the top of any Beatles fan’s pop-addled head. Soon she’ll be singing and swaying to the likes of “Golden Slumbers,” “Norwegian Wood,” “A Day in the Life,” “Lovely Rita,” “In My Life,” “Blackbird,” “The Night Before,” and on and on. (The band recorded 213 songs.) She knows the stinkers, too. She tells Siri to skip “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” when it comes on. Even Siri loathes this song.


The depth and breadth of one’s favorite Beatles songs is unfathomable — I like almost all of them (almost). Over at Vulture, there’s a brilliantly informative and very funny list of every Beatles song ranked from worst to best. “Silver Hammer” clocks in at a charitable #182. “Ob-La-Di. Ob-La-Dais properly called one of “the top five Most Irritating Songs Paul McCartney Ever Wrote.” It sits at #194. The worst slot, at #213, goes to “Good Day Sunshine,” a snappy McCartney ditty I rather like. (The best? Not telling. I will reveal #2: the twirling, kaleidoscopic “Strawberry Fields Forever.”)

Some think the Beatles are a band you grow out of, not into. I demur. This polymorphously gifted quartet — well, quintet; one can’t leave out uber-producer George Martin — is a perennial, one for the ages. Once bitten, you’re infected for life. Not liking the Beatles, a laughable proposition, is akin to not liking pizza, puppies or “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” Like Spielberg and Mozart, they may appeal to the masses but, if you’re listening closely, that doesn’t diminish their brilliance one scintilla.

My niece is lucky. She’s just getting started, peeling back the layers and layers of Beatles enchantments, music that rewards the more you listen. “They have sweet tunes and sunny music that’s poetic,” she tells me. On the eternal, deal-breaking question “John or Paul?” she doesn’t hesitate: John.

If she sticks with them — I think she will — she’ll take some of the best artistic journeys she’ll ever take. Lucky indeed: She has a multitude of tuneful universes ahead of her.

The rising OK-ness of a table for one

“We love our single diners!” gushed the genial manager at Girl & the Goat in Chicago on a recent Thursday night. I believed her. She was sincere, direct and almost giddy.

I was eating alone, again, as I do when I travel solo, which is 99-percent of the time. Have no pity. This is something I relish, the quietude and solitude of dining companionless. Not that I don’t like eating with others. I do. But solo is its own sensation — cool, uncluttered, zen.


Look at this guy. He’s dining alone, and he still looks suave.

I’ve eaten alone in restaurants around the world scores if not hundreds of times. What once might have been a mite squirmy and self-conscious is now a cinch, and a joy. Like going to the movies alone (the best way), eating singly is woefully underrated. (Haunting bars solo is a lonelier proposition, but it’s still totally doable, at times even rewarding.)

Eateries have evolved and they are now equipped, ready and happily accommodating of the one-man show. I have no, er, reservations about making a reservation for one, and the staffers on the other end never pause, hiccup or flinch when they hear that some weird single guy is coming. Nowadays a table for one is entirely normal. Any uncomfortable vibes are coming from your end only. I’ve never felt strange or alienated dining out with me and myself.

9Go. Relax. Be seated and order a cocktail or a glass of wine. I used to bring reading material to the table, a magazine or travel guide — like the hapless fellow in “The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover” — but no more. (For one, it’s invariably too dark to read anything. I’m at the point where I have to use the light of the table’s feeble candle to read the menu.) And I’m not one to obsessively tap, scroll and stare hypnotically at my smartphone. So I instead observe, look around and listen — the time-honored sport of people watching.

When it’s early, well before the dinner crush, I’m known to sit at the bar with my laptop and have a small bite and a beer, which I did last week at Longman & Eagle in Chicago, a winsome gastropub with a kicky, rustic flair. I emailed ahead for the best hours to pull out a computer and to confirm the place has free Wi-Fi.

Any stigma attached to the idea of lone dining is dated and moribund. At Avec in Chicago I sat at the bar with an unbroken row of single diners. A few chatted with the stranger next to them, others (me) kept to themselves and saved conversation for the empathetic, fiercely attentive server who coddled me just enough that I didn’t feel fawned over.

There are perils to eating out alone. Servers tend to have the urge to rush the meal, so if I’ve ordered three courses, instead of staggering them leisurely, the server will pile them on, and I wind up with three full plates waiting to be tackled at once. I call this shoving food down your throat and shoving you out the door (this has happened to me at least three times recently). Rushing the plates, it’s as if the lone eater cannot be left without something in front of him, lest he perish from loneliness.


View from the bar at Frenchie in Paris. Close to the action, with great, personalized interaction. That’s owner, head chef and all-around mensch Gregory Marchand. I had the best seat in the house.

Tip: Sit at the bar. Servers tend to be more attentive and personalized and there’s less of a chance of a plate pile-up because the area is busier and service slows somewhat. Communication, from illuminating details about the menu to cordial chit-chat, reigns.

Plus, the scenery at the bar is superior — a stool with a view. If you’re lucky, there’s an open kitchen, where you can witness the artful commotion of chefs in the tentacled frenzy of culinary creation. Bodies swerve and dodge, flames lick the ceiling, delicacies are chopped and seared and tossed, plates are decorated as meticulously as a Buddhist sand mandala. Art happens. For the wide-eyed foodie, it’s the frisson of salivating spectacle, a bonus main course, with extra dessert.

Eating, walking, rocking, Chicago style


View from the 95th floor bar-lounge in the John Hancock Building.

The first thing I did in Chicago was get a drink. There for fun from last Thursday to yesterday, I took the elevator in the famed Hancock Building (at a clip of 22 mph), which was smack next-door to my hotel in the lake-kissed Gold Coast, and landed in The Signature Lounge on the 95th floor.


My hotel abutting Hancock Building.

It’s all about the eye-popping view. But after the hassles of airport travel, it was as much about a decompressing dram. Like the view, the drink prices were waaay up.

The catch: Going one floor higher to the official observation deck costs a smidge more than a Signature drink. So it works out: same view, less money, plus a cocktail and a seat at the window. My blackberry gin and tonic, mighty fine, cost a few cents less than $19, pre-tip. Ghastly, sure. But again, a better deal than what the higher (and dryer) chumps upstairs got.

It was a refreshing and dazzling beginning to the trip, which would take me on a three-hour walking food tour (very good, but too many sweets), Millennium Park, the International Museum of Surgical Science (shoutout to blogger Jessica — you would love this place), the Art Institute of Chicago (boo — no “American Gothic”; it’s on loan), Frank Lloyd Wright’s world-famous Robie House, an exhilarating play about teenage-girl soccer players called “The Wolves” (it was a Pulitzer finalist), an iffy concert of all-female punk bands at legendary dive bar The Empty Bottle, and a superlative array of eateries running the gastronomical gamut.

Yes, I did, as sworn, order and devour the fabled roasted pig face — and it was amazing. That was at the charming and bustling Girl & the Goat, where I also ate calamari bruschetta and grilled broccoli, all of it savory and spectacular.

Chicago is like a cozier New York with a tang all its own — a little Midwest, a little metropolis. It’s thronged and noisy, but contained and sleek, despite ragged edges any city worth its urban bona fides possesses.

The “El” trains will deafen you, while its uber-original hot dogs and pizza will soothe and sate. It’s got a lake so big it looks like an ocean and it’s steeped in cracked-leather tradition that makes so much of it seem early-20th century old school. Like Al Capone old school. Like lots of restaurants called Joe’s. But it’s also ever-changing, of course, with farm to table bistros, elegant bars, hip cafes and cutting-edge art. Its modernity is palpable.

It is, in its sneaky little way, deeply seductive.


Roasted pig face, succulent layers of meat with potato crisps under the runny egg. This signature dish at the adamantly popular Girl & the Goat was the highlight of the night, and perhaps the trip.


Calamari bruschetta (clam baguette, goat milk ricotta, goat bacon, green apples) at Girl & the Goat. Perfectly firm yet silky squid with the creamiest, velvet-like ricotta. Kaleidoscopic flavors, sweet, tart and savory — a tastebud tango.


Pricey drinks, priceless views, 95 stories high.


Anish Kapoor’s glistening Cloud Gate sculpture, aka the Bean, in Millennium Park. People swarm the ginormous orb, gazing at the skyline and themselves in its curved silvery skin.


Same, in the Loop district of the city, Millennium Park.


Butcher steak at the phenomenal Avec, a massively in-demand Mediterranean-tinged joint that hit every note just right, with music to spare. The must-have dish, which I had and almost wept over, is the chorizo-stuffed dates. Divine. Meanwhile, this steak, piled with tender fennel, was marvelously otherworldly.


Frank Lloyd Wright’s elegant Robie House was finished in 1910 and is part of the iconic architect’s Prairie period. It’s simple yet granular in its considered details that only Wright was doing at the time — from windows and furniture to lighting and rugs. It’s one of the most important examples of residential architecture in America. Undergoing renovations, it can be a little musty in some rooms, but the informative tour highlights what makes the building a grand marriage of form and function.


The sublime Art Institute of Chicago boasts one of the largest collections of Impressionist paintings in the world, as well as such masterstrokes as Seurat’s giant pointillist gem “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte,” Picasso’s “The Old Guitarist,”  Hopper’s “Nighthawks” and a flotilla of other indelible works by Degas, Magritte, Dali, Warhol, Giacometti, et al, not to mention exhibits of African and Asian art and a large spread of Chicago’s specialty, architecture. Huge and handsome, the venue is like a combo of NYC’s MoMA and The Met — a magnificent aesthetic amusement park.


The perfect classic Chicago-style hot dog, or “red hot,” that’s been, as they say, “dragged through the garden.” It overflows its poppyseed bun with celery salt, a dill pickle spear, peppers, tomatoes and onions. For three bucks at famed Portillo’s, it was a thoroughly delicious snack.

Second thoughts about the Second City? No way.

Small compared to my last few trips — London, Montreal, Russia — my jaunt to Chicago approaches with almost unnerving rapidity: in two days. It should be an “easy” trip — short domestic flight, no visas or sourball customs agents — though inevitably there will be a measure of that fly-the-friendly-skies folderol we all know and love. (Baggage fees — adorable.)


What, me worry?

Easy though it may be, this angsty traveler is strictly a glass half-empty kind of fellow, and that applies to my journeys. With excitement I choose a destination. With a kind of giddy glee I chart an itinerary, winnowing down the sites and restaurants and museums and cemeteries I plan to visit. An anticipatory rush animates the research and planning, and I get revved all over again for the unpredictable adventure of unshackled travel.

I hold onto this fuzzy feeling — until I don’t. As the trip’s date nears a sort of existential nausea, a galaxy of apprehensions, sets in. I mildly panic. My mouth becomes a rictus of worry. I wonder if I’ve made a glorious mistake. Chicagowhat was I thinking? I fret about how nice the weather will be, how acceptable my room will be, how easily I’ll be able to get around. Is the city overrated — is there enough to do and see? Aargh.

I inventoried my neurotic travel niggles in a blog post last fall as I was heading to St. Petersburg, Russia. They have not improved. They have not been assuaged.

Why do I worry so? Because this mostly lone traveler has found some destinations — luckily very, very few — to be a little … lacking. Not bad. Never bad. Never uninteresting, and never without a laundry list of things to do and see. But here and there (say, oh, Boston) a place will offer too much dead air, too little to do to occupy one’s time, too little to enthrall. I get up late and stay up late. Entertain me.

I’m being a bit facetious. Just absorbing a city and the neighborhood one stays in is bracing — a concentrated dose of head-twirling newbie-osity.

I think I have Chicago down. Like, down. I’m staying in an Airbnb that happens to be a room in a luxurious downtown boutique hotel, not someone’s crib. It abuts the 360 Chicago skyscraper in the Gold Coast on Lake Michigan, in the same hood as the Museum of Contemporary Art and the (oh, yes) International Museum of Surgical Science.

It’s too early in the season for river boat tours, but not too early for a slew of city walking tours. I’m booked on the Famous Tastes of Chicago Food Tour, a three-hour amble of hot dogs, pizza, Italian sandwiches, chocolate and architectural superstars. I’m holding a hot ticket for the critically salivated-over play “The Wolves,” a finalist for the Pulitzer last year. My dinner reservations are otherworldly. The lush, star-studded Graceland Cemetery beckons. A brace of fabled bars, The Hideout and The Empty Bottle, are sure bets.

Just reading all that serves as verbal Xanax. Calmer, even optimistic, I can take care of business, like packing, which takes me approximately 12 minutes. Then what? Travel is what. It’s a drill I know well. Get to the airport, check in, blunder through security, get to the gate, wait, board, soar. The rest is the adventure, the big show, which should be joy-inducing, eye-opening, head-expanding. It is where worry and angst go to die.

The unexpected pitter-patter of rain on a snoozy Saturday

Today I walked two miles, to the cafe and back, and on the return journey the skies broke and a steady rain began to fall. Not wearing proper gear, I was lucky enough to have a plastic shopping bag in my backpack, which I hurriedly spread over my head like a hapless vagabond, rain gathering on top of it, overflowing and dripping down my nose.


This guy’s a pro.

This lasted about 15 minutes, the remainder of my walk. Cars passed. Drivers surely sniggered at the sight. I paid no attention. I was annoyed but contained my annoyance by dint of the bag actually doing its job, for the most part keeping my head dry. My sneakers didn’t fair so well, but they’ll live. No water got inside my shoes, despite a hearty split along the seam of one of them, another bit of luck.

Later, the dog was taken out to do his business in the rain. He came back damp, not soaked, and he smelled like a pile of dirty wet towels. He started to flail about on my bed, limbs flying, nose snorting, but I stopped him in mid-tumble because he was, frankly, disgusting. No amount of rain is going to supplant a good bath. He’s currently air-drying with a little frown on his face. He smells like tacos.


Wishful thinking.

Rain is a pain. I’m not a giant fan because, well, it’s just a bunch of inconvenient water dropping on you. On my travels I pray for no rain, and I have been exceedingly fortunate that I’ve almost never required an umbrella on the road. When I do need one, I really hate it. I’m the guy whose umbrella turns inside-out in a gust, fuming.

Hours later it’s still trickling outside and the neighbor’s aluminum gutters are making a determined percussive patter. Tomorrow promises more of the same. We need the water. So much of the world does. So I don’t make a point of cursing the heavens. “Do not be angry with the rain,” said Nabokov. “It simply does not know how to fall upwards.”

Whistle while you irk

Here he comes. Yes, he is coming. I don’t see him. I hear him. From afar. He’s whistling, oh-so carefree, head swaying, body grooving. And he’s doing it loudly and without a whit of shame or self-consciousness. Notes swirling from his pursed lips for all to hear. You just want to smack him.

This middle-aged guy, this oblivious songbird, comes to the cafe almost every time I’m there, which is a lot. He sports sunglasses, a down vest, chinos. And he strolls around whistling, sometimes to a song of his choosing, often to whatever is playing on the cafe stereo. Tweetle-lee-dee …


Why am I so vexed by a man who whistles merrily about a coffee shop? Whistling, it’s said, is a symptom of happiness. One site muses: “Are whistlers so insanely happy that they have some overly elevated level of joy? So much so that it bubbles up and spills out in the form of air molecules passing over the tongue and through their lips?”

If so, am I just madly envious of this fellow’s happy mien? His ability for unfettered glee to pour out and tweetle in everyone’s eardrums unbidden? He’s not a bad whistler. He’s actually fairly adroit, a mini jazz-flute maestro vamping on his facial wind instrument.

No, I am not envious. I have no idea if he’s inflated with uncontainable ecstasy, though he appears pretty content and confident with his hands-in-pocket swagger. It’s that his music is like a yappy-dog bark, or the proverbial nails on a chalkboard. I roll my eyes whenever he passes. I think he knows this and turns up the volume. Toot-teetly-do-da …

Yet I give him license. Whistling Willie, I’m convinced, is simply indulging a bad habit. His tuneful penchant is pure reflex, like the drummer who instinctually taps the table with his fingers. We all have tics, mannerisms and foibles, even if they’re not as piercing and public as full-throated whistling. The dude’s just doing his thing.


The lip-doodling is pretty damn distracting (otherwise I wouldn’t be grousing) when I’m trying to read and write. “If you’re an anti-whistler type, short of duct tape, how can you keep your focus when Tweety Bird starts up?” asks the above web site, Screenflex (a portable room divider company!).

There are no answers. There is only discipline. Tune out the tunesmith. But it’s not just the “music” that kills me. It’s the brazen indifference to his fellow folks, inflicting, without a flinch, his own song list on strangers, like the lunk who hoists a blaring boom-box strutting down the street for all to hear, no matter individual taste and basic social decorum. It’s the principle.


My whistler, my personal Bobby McFerrin, who’s probably a swell human being, despite the cloud of patchouli cologne he resides in, just needs a touch of self-awareness to wake him up — perhaps an actual whistleblower to call him out, bawl him out, and slip a cork into that irksome “O” on his face.

Germane words from Orwell on the biggest, most obscene day in sports

A non-sports fan of the most unreconstructed order, I found this bit in an op-ed in yesterday’s New York Times so very fitting on whatever today is, some big sports thingamajig I hear people give a disproportionate bleep about (bold-faced italics mine):

(George) Orwell noted that sports faded in prominence after the fall of Rome, only to surge again in the 19th century, in England and the United States, where games became “a heavily financed activity, capable of attracting vast crowds and rousing savage passions.”

For Orwell, the rise of sports was bound up with the rise of nationalism, both of them examples of “the lunatic modern habit of identifying oneself with large power units and seeing everything in terms of competitive prestige.”



A blog post that’s purely a pet project

Cubby is the family dog. He is small and Schnauzer-esque. A rescue mutt. His long tail curls into a small O, like a bagel. He barks sparingly, if piercingly. He cuddles greedily. He is overgrown with charcoal-colored fur, like a neglected shrub that needs to be desperately trimmed into a topiary. He smells faintly of turkey bacon. Bath — he could use a bath. Freshly trimmed and clean, he looks like this, a canine Cary Grant:


Currently, he looks like a graying Ewok:


How we adore our pets. That’s a cliche, and I’m sorry that occurred. Still, we do. They are little people, extra children, crucial on both sides of the love equation. So human is Cubby that we sometimes believe there is a little man inside him named, mystifyingly, Pasquale, who can unzip an invisible zipper down his neck and chest and pop out ever-so fleetingly, utter his name — Pasquale! — then zip back up and return to being a dog. It’s terrific. We all need medication.

I require animal companionship. When I left home, where we enjoyed a pair of heart-melting black Labs and a bevy of feral yard cats, I went small with pets, namely fish and rats. (Yes. Rats. Deal.) I didn’t want the steep, familial responsibilities of a dog or cat. My independence, especially as a budding world traveler, took primacy.


Tammy as a tot.

Rats rule. If you know little about them, I repeat the slogan of rattie devotees: “Smarter than dogs, cleaner than cats.” They make magnificent pets — loving, social, funny, trainable. (And then they chew up half the house and all that goodwill curdles. For about a day.)

I have owned six rats, individually. The best were Phoebe, Becky and Tammy, who played and came when called and snuggled and loved to have their tummies rubbed and peed all over the place. And then, exactly at 2.5 years old, each got horribly sick and died. Rat life expectancy is ruthless and cancer or infection generally fells them. Each loss wrecked me completely.


Cubby, cleaned up.

Dogs, natch, live much longer. Cubby’s about 3 or 4. He looks 65. I’d say he’s got a good 10 to 12 years left in him, wonder dog. I’d include a recent picture of him, but you’d have no idea what you we’re looking at, except maybe a miniature yak.

I didn’t mention the two cats here, Tiger Lily and Spicy. They’re brother and sister and they look about as much alike as Barack Obama and Donald Trump. They wrassle and hiss at each other and Spicy scampishly steals Tiger’s food.

Cats are weird company. Their independence is enviable and noble. They thrive on solitude and hiding places. Pet them at your risk. With an imperious air, they will come to you when they want attention, not the reverse.

Come to think of it, that sounds something like me. I am definitively a dog person over a cat person. I love dogs’ gregariousness, neediness, demonstrativeness — their licks, wags and yelps. But I am not a dog, per se. I’m more Tiger Lily than Cubby. Yet I like Cubby better than Tiger Lily. What that says about me just sent a shiver down my back.

Pets reveal stuff about us. Dog person, cat person, rat person, all of the above. Knowing these creatures, all my life, I’ve been aware how far my fondness can stretch for a non-human being. Blasphemy, you say, but sometimes I think I like the animals better than the people. Just sometimes. Call it a pet peeve. I call it sheer devotion, always returned, unreservedly.

Getting my Goat, Chicago style

A couple of blogs ago I rhapsodized about two fine-dining dishes I’m already swooning over before a March trip to Chicago: crispy duck tongues and wood-oven roasted pig face.


Roasted pig face.

Served at the acclaimed Girl & the Goat, they sound so marvelously disgusting yet so tantalizingly tasty that my anticipation surges. My only fear is that the plates are so popular they’ll be out of them the night I order. I have no backup. It’s either fowl and swine or nothing. Keep your hamachi crudo and seared yellowfin tuna — I want barnyard animals! (Well, there’s always the titular goat. I ate goat once in Jamaica, with a complex of reactions.)


This is about Girl & the Goat. This post is then, in its adorable naiveté, free advertising. But let’s not forget: I’ve never been to the restaurant, never tasted its food. I’ve only read about it, drooled over photos of dishes (XXX food porn), watched Anthony Bourdain sing its praises and learned a bit about its chef and owner Stephanie Izard in the press. If I go and it even slightly disappoints, I will return here with a retraction, grumbling umbrage, quibbles and caveats. I am fair. And ruthless.


Stephanie Izard

But back to our hopes and dreams. A Chicago native, Izard is, famously, the fourth-season winner of Bravo’s “Top Chef,” where she was also named fan favorite. She opened Girl & the Goat in 2010 in the West Loop, followed by Little Goat Diner across the street and the Chinese-themed Duck Duck Goat around the corner. She’s become a mini-industry in Chicago, and G&G was nominated best new restaurant by the James Beard Foundation in 2011. Izard won the Beard award for Best Chef Great Lakes in 2013 and was tapped one of Food & Wine Magazine’s Best New Chefs in 2010.

I have meals planned at other admired restaurants in Chicago — Avec, Frontera Grill, Piece, Au Cheval — but for some reason Goat has me giddy. On paper, the menu’s a doozy, mouthwatering morsels and paradisiacal plates that can’t miss. I quipped before that I will only eat duck tongue and pig face. Not true.


Calamari bruschetta.

The calamari bruschetta (clam baguette, goat milk ricotta, goat bacon, green apples) will be sliding down my gullet, as will the wood grilled broccoli (rogue smokey bleu, spiced crispies) and, if I don’t erupt first, escargot ravioli (bacon tamarind sauce, escarole and celery, crispy onions). (Please, god, let there be doggie bags.)

Girl & the Goat is but one more event in my ongoing daredevil dining excursions. It’s not that crazy, but its exoticism feels just right, and its menu is much more ambitious than those of the other eateries I’ll visit in the Second City.

Deep-dish pizza is great. Potato-goat sausage pizza is divine.

Dining out should be a thrill, a mini adventure. Not to get dopey or too obvious about it, but what’s the point of forking out for food that’s not extraordinary? When I buy a burger, I want that slab of beef to sing. I want the crispy Platonic ideal of fried chicken at The Wooden Spoon in Bloomfield, NJ, or the extravagant, inspired dogs at Ruffhaus Hot Dog Company in El Dorado Hills, CA, or the amazing mazeman at Ani Ramen in Montclair, NJ, and anything at Frenchie in Paris, France. I want my eyes to roll back in my head at each bite.

Girl & the Goat looks promising, and this will be the end of my unsolicited promotional pamphlet for the restaurant. Perhaps I’ll follow up with a report on how it all — duck tongues, pig face and all — went down.

I will follow in this little guy’s hoof-steps. He looks like he knows how to dine with panache.

me as i enter.png

Girl & the Goat mascot. How I intend to enter the establishment.

me as i depart.jpeg

The little fella after enjoying dinner. How I intend to exit.