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March Adventures: Spring Comes to Chicago

March 1, 2021 - March 31, 2021

Frank Brichetto

Chicago Correspondent

Hello my good friends and dear readers, we’ve made it to another month and we’re ready for adventures yet again.

Let’s start the month this Sunday, March 7th, with breakfast at Kasama, 1001 N. Winchester Ave, https://www.kasamachicago.com/,. It’s a wonderful Filipino place that’s right in the Ukrainian Village, where we can indulge in a breakfast that is sure to satisfy any appetite. Me? I’ll have the Filipino Breakfast Combo, of course, with sweetened and cured pork belly, (tocino), fresh Filipino longanisa sausage, topped with a fried egg and served with garlic fried rice. Is this calorie rich?  You betcha!  Do I care?  Not today, and you won’t either once you taste this.  You may prefer the Combo Sandwich, with sausage, shaved pork and giardiniera, which also looks delightful.

Isn’t this excellent? The type of care and personal touches to traditional recipes that a great chef brings to your plate tells you a lot about the quality here.  But we’re not done yet! Did you look at the bakery? Chocolate Croissant, with a smooth creamy filling, a Ham and Cheese Danish, piped with raclette cheese and Serrano ham, fresh fruit tarts…coffee, a Crème Fraîche Cheesecake,  for now and a Danish (to go), please.

Sadly it’s time to depart, but stay safe through the week and we’ll meet up again soon.

This afternoon, Saturday, March 13th, meet us at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E Chicago Ave., https://mcachicago.org/, for a few hours while we take in The Long Dream, which promises to be one of those “makes you really think” exhibitions.  MOCA describes it this way: “…The Long Dream invites visitors to see the city of Chicago, the world, and themselves, through the eyes of more than 70 local artists whose work offers us ways to imagine a more equitable and interconnected world. Named after the 1958 novel by socially committed author Richard Wright, The Long Dream brings together work by both emerging and established Chicago artists, and includes painting, performance, sculpture, video, and sound art.” It’s intriguing and enlightening, isn’t it?

Today, Sunday, March 14th, is the day we grab our clocks and “spring forward” into Daylight Savings Time, hooray! Setting the clocks forward doesn’t “save” anything, but we get more light in the evening, when people have more personal time. One story says that daylight saving time was proposed before the invention of electric lights so baseball games could be played on weekday evenings, helping to expand America’s favorite pastime.

But in mid-March there’s still snow in many places, especially in the sheltered, wooded paths of the Morton Arboretum, www.mortonarb.org, 4100 Illinois Rt. 53, Lisle, so let’s make that the starting place for today’s adventure. The Arboretum still has Cross Country skis to rent, and we haven’t done that together this entire winter. Winter will be mostly gone in another week or two, so now is our last chance to go out and glide, smoothly and silently, through the bare, gray woods.  The tangle and spidery veins of tree branches are uniquely appealing this time of year, don’t you think?

Look! Some of the oaks and maples have the beginnings of buds peeking out. Over there, see, the crocuses are already blooming, do you believe it? Other early risers are pushing their way up, bringing the beginnings of green back to life, marking the end of another long, dreary winter. As we ski, sometimes fast, sometimes slow, keep watching; maybe we’ll even see some newly awakened wild creature, a fox perhaps, coming out of its winter den.

After that exhilarating morning, lets head into the cafe, shall we?  I’m hungry! The cafe is still take-out only, but we can grab some coffee, sandwiches and pastry treats while we’re here, and munch as we walk back to the cars. That was wonderfully fun, thanks for joining in!

Today, Wednesday, March 17th, is still St. Patrick’s Day, and despite the lack of green dye in the Chicago River, we can get together with a small group, so please join us at 6pm sharp, we’re saving seats for you at Emmett’s Brewing Company, https://emmettsbrewingco.com/, in their 200 Main Street, Downers Grove, location. Emmett’s kitchen will serve up anything from wings or pretzel twist appetizers, fresh soup, sandwiches, even grilled salmon and filet mignon, so arrive hungry, as well as thirsty.  The numerous awards Emmett’s has won attest to the quality of their offerings and I can tell you that their many brews are all tasty and refreshing.

I can’t resist the French Onion Soup, then I’ll dive into this Smokehouse Burger with sweet potato fries, oh, how delicious is this?  You’re a fan of a good Reuben sandwich, as I recall, and this one will thrill you.  Or the Emmett’s Club, filled with turkey, ham, bacon, and loaded with other good things, yes, indeed, somebody please order one, so we can trade bites.

While we’re here, let’s raise a toast to our Irish friends, perhaps ancestors, and to the luck of the Irish that is everyone’s due today. Drive home safely, please.

Today, friends, Saturday, March 20th, is the Spring Solstice, the official First Day of Spring.  Doesn’t feel like spring much, does it? Let’s meet this morning, with masks, and gloves and appropriate clothing for this brisk day to take a long stroll along part of the southern portion of the Lakefront Trail. Meet us at 10am, at the 31st Street Harbor, 3155 S. Lake Shore Dr., and we’ll take our time walking to Jackson Park and the Garden of the Phoenix, https://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/parks-facilities/japanese-garden, at 6401 S. Stony Island Ave.

Also known as the Osaka Garden, the Park District website says it: “symbolizes the mutual respect and friendship that Japan and the United States initiated more than 120 years ago. In 1893, on Jackson Park’s Wooded Island, the Japanese Government built the Ho-o-den [Phoenix Temple] as its pavilion for the World’s Columbian Exposition. The Ho-o-den introduced Japan’s artistic heritage to Americans and remained as a gift to Chicago after the fair ended. The original pavilion had only a small garden, however, in the 1930s the newly formed Chicago Park District restored the pavilion and added a more extensive Japanese Garden. The garden has been revitalized several times throughout the 1900s, including a 1992 project that celebrated Chicago’s Sister City relationship with Osaka, Japan.”

Reopened after another restoration project, the garden, to me, truly symbolizes the “Phoenix”, the  legendary bird of Japanese, Chinese, and Egyptian cultures, the winged miracle that rises from the ashes of its own destruction. The temple has been vandalized, restored, neglected, restored, wildly overgrown, and restored yet again. Through it all it remains a sacred place where anyone can come to meditate, pray, breathe deeply and calmly, or just take in the wonderful interaction between the temple and it’s carefully gardened, yet completely natural surroundings. Isn’t it lovely?

We’ll come back again in May, when the cherry blossoms are in bloom and the temple grounds are at their visual best.  The Japanese call the appreciation of blooming flowers ‘hanami‘, and that’s not to be missed. For now, on the walk back, let’s take photos of the city, both north and south.  The views in both directions are always fabulous, confirming my belief that Chicago is one of the world’s great urban gems. But don’t neglect the Lake. From here, near the southernmost tip, it can seem as if you’re gazing straight to the North Pole; there is nothing but water to the horizon and well beyond. Lake Michigan is always beautiful, inviting, frightening and powerful, all at the same time.

Well, friends, we’re back at the harbor and heading home. This time together has been wonderfully warm and reassuring, despite the brisk weather. Thank you so much. See you next week.

Yes, it’s the weekend already, and today, Saturday, March 27th,  join us please, at The Art Institute, https://www.artic.edu, 111 S. Michigan Ave.,  where we’ll take many hours to explore just two exhibits.  Bisa Butler: Portraits, is the first solo exhibition of this talented, insightful artist. She is a living American artist who changed her medium from painted canvas to quilted fabric as a way of honoring her grandmother during her master’s degree studies. Quilting is a demanding, time and labor intensive process that can take many hundreds of hours to complete. The results are undeniable; here depth, color, individuality and character are vividly portrayed. Her portraits invite us in to almost take part in the scene before us. Don’t you love the way it all comes to life?

Monet and Chicago is the second exhibit we’ll visit today. Chicago has always had a special relationship with Monet, and the Art Institute has the largest collection outside of France. We are all familiar with Water Lilies, Stacks of Wheat, and other famous works and now we’ll get close to rarely displayed seascapes, figural scenes, landscapes and more. Scientific and historical research is here to provide insight into his creative processes and artistic techniques. Monet’s works are always delightful, intriguing and strangely satisfying, don’t you think?

Closing time, already? Yes, we’re being invited to leave and suddenly it’s time to part ways until next month. Be safe until we meet again.

Before we leave the month of March, friends and readers, let’s take a quick peek into April, because Sunday, April 4th, is Easter Sunday, the most sacred of Christian holy days. On this day, let’s take the time to reflect upon and celebrate the promise of life restored through the Resurrection. After all, the tomb is empty; there is hope for each of us.  On the Eastern calendar, Easter will be a bit later, and there is no reason why everyone cannot celebrate the Resurrection twice. Spend today with your family, rejoicing that we can actually gather (somewhat) to celebrate and look forward with hope.

See, we’ve done it again. We’ve adventured our way through the entire month, even started our way into April. It’s been wonderful, especially now that a few more of us can gather together at one time. Until next month, keep your adventuring spirits high.