“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.” Luciano Pavarotti
After a full day of travel, I landed in Chicago mid-day and napped away the rest of the afternoon. But when I awoke – voilà! A delicious homemade fettucine alfredo a la Chef Nick. And for dessert, fancy Neuhaus chocolate from my connection at the Brussels airport where I reminisced about my study abroad days there.
After two full days of conducting phone interviews for my fellowship program, we finally got out of the apartment and did some typical “welcome back to America” activities – a trip to Target and a movie! But on our way, we stopped at the best pho restaurant in Chicago – Tank Noodles. Yum! I really missed soup; it’s way too hot in Uganda to ever crave it.
“Eataly is Italy”
That weekend, we did a little exploring in the area and saw the Baha’i Temple outside Evanston, a Puerto Rican neighborhood & café near Division Street (Paseo Boricua), and Humboldt Park. But the last and best stop: Eataly. Eataly is a huge, two-floored gourmet grocery store that also has several embedded restaurants specializing in wine, pizza, seafood, etc. The only US locations are in the US & Chicago (and DC soon!) – I’d highly recommend checking one out if you’re in those areas. I could have gotten happily lost in there forever. But after an hour of googly eyes, we emerged with ingredients to make more food than we really needed. So we spent Sunday evening whipping up a fantastic meal: cantaloupe wrapped in prosciutto, homemade butternut squash ravioli with a browned butter sage sauce; a cheese, olive, and roasted garlic plate with fresh bread; and white wine. One of the prouder moments of our cooking endeavors! Food coma and movie night followed.
Fun fact: Remember Nick and I visited a Baha’i Temple in Kampala? We wanted to stop at this one in Evanston because there are only 7 of them in the world at the moment. The only in North America and Africa are in Evanston, Il (right) & Kampala, Uganda (left).
Monday evening we went out to dinner at a local farm-to-table restaurant in Evanston with a seasonal menu that I had been wanting to try since last being there – Farmhouse. After indecisively studying the menu for a little too long, we ordered “Amish” roasted chicken with rosemary dumplings and caramelized carrots/turnips and cider-brined pork with an heirloom bean salad. Wow! For a sweet ending: pear sorbet. Did I mention their cocktail and local beer menu was amazing? It sort of reminded me of my favorite restaurant in DC – Founding Farmers. Will certainly be going there again!
During my second week there, we drove about 3 hours southeast to a small town in Indiana to stay at a lovely cabin overlooking the Wabash River. Fishing for Nick and hot tub and a book for me! Was a very relaxing two-night getaway. While there we grilled beef kebabs and marinated chicken. For lunch one day, Nick patiently roasted hot dogs over a bonfire. And what’s a fire without s’mores? On the drive back to Evanston we were able to grab coffee with a friend of mine from the area – shout out to Marni!
As my trip was wrapping up, I spent a bit of time running errands, making time for a few quicker lunches around Evanston… one at Todoroki (Japanese/Hiabachi) and the other at Joy Yee’s Noodles (Pan-Asian). Both scrumptious. Not pictured here is Nick’s gigantic plate of sushi… he finished all of it. The only non-local food in Kasese is Indian, so this really hit the spot.
We ventured into Chicago one last time for dinner at Hopleaf, a Belgian bar/restaurant. There, we ordered some typical Belgian dishes including moules frite (mussels and french fries) and a Flemish beef stew. The food was deliciously rich and the beer perfection. I’m pretty sure that Kwak is my new favorite beer (pictured in the funny glass below). Topping off the evening, we met some really good friends from DC out at a bar later on.
Last Dinner in US for a few months…
… homemade parmesan-crusted sea scallops. As a seafood junkie, this was my request. Lobster tail on sale too? Yes, please. Between all the starchy foods in Uganda – cassava, “sweet potato,” yam, “irish potato,” and pumpkin – none of them taste like what we call sweet potato in the US, hence the random side dish here. And as an ever-proud Vermonster, Ben & Jerry’s released these new “core” flavors since I’ve been away. Had to try!
Goodbye for Now
So after 12 full days, it was time for me to head back to Uganda. On the way to the airport, we stopped for some Chicago-style deep dish pizza because neither of us had ever tried it before. Essentially, cheese pie! Heaven.
The scary part? I didn’t even plan to write a blog featuring food, this is just how many pictures I take of food on a normal basis. Ha! Anyways, I’m back home in Kasese now (enjoying my daily rice and beans) and have just under four months left in my fellowship. I’ll have a bit of down time in April but almost all of the weekends in May are be busy with travels: my housemate/co-fellow’s traditional introduction ceremony to his fiancé in Masaka, his wedding in Kampala, our Global Health Corps Quarter 3 Retreat in Kampala, and a weekend trip to Murchison Falls, the biggest game park in Uganda (where I’ll finally see giraffe!). So I’ll be keeping busy over here. But this brief trip home certainly got me excited for post-fellowship plans to move to Evanston and re-unite with everyone in the US. I’ll leave you with this…
I am not a glutton, I’m an explorer of food. – Erma Bombeck