A Trip to Eataly

Chicago Skyline | Inkwells & Images

I’ve lived within driving distance of Chicago my whole life. It’s where we would go on field trips in grade school, where my husband and I have headed for a quick weekend away a time or two. But it’s so hard to get to know Chicago if aren’t from the city (or don’t have the couch of a local to bum on for a few nights). Sure, there are the tourist destinations: The Field Museum, Millennium Park, etc. But once you’ve done all of those, and you aren’t into the night life, what do you do?

In telling a friend that we were planning to eat our way around the city last week, she tipped me off to a place called “Eataly” which I had never heard of before. Her words: “It’s a big Italian grocery store and food court, all-in-one. Pretty cool.”

It is so much more.

Maybe It’s my love of cheese and fancy pepperoni. Maybe I love it when someone takes a theme and runs with it. But I now love Eataly.

Eataly, Chicago | Inkwells & Images

Eataly is a two-story Italian grocery store that feels more like a department store. It has a few full-service sit-down restaurants scattered throughout, as well as several counters where you seat yourself and order. If that’s not enough, there are also entire “departments” of food on shelves in every corner possible: there’s a cheese section, a meat section, a wine section, pasta, cosmetics, chocolates, coffee… and so, so many places to look.

Eataly, Chicago | Inkwells & Images

Eataly, Chicago | Inkwells & Images

Eataly, Chicago | Inkwells & Images

Chicago in Photos | Inkwells & Images

Eataly, Chicago | Inkwells & Images

Eataly, Chicago | Inkwells & Images

Eataly, Chicago | Inkwells & Images

Eataly, Chicago | Inkwells & Images

Eataly, Chicago | Inkwells & Images

Eataly, Chicago | Inkwells & Images

Eataly, Chicago | Inkwells & Images

Eataly, Chicago | Inkwells & Images

Eataly, Chicago | Inkwells & Images

Eataly, Chicago | Inkwells & Images

Eataly, Chicago | Inkwells & Images

Eataly, Chicago | Inkwells & Images

So, is Eataly authentic? I don’t know. I don’t know if Italians living in the city actually go there. But I would again. It was an experience unlike any other, and I can’t wait to go back.

Have you been to Eataly – or anything like it? Share! 

Story in Photos: A Mini-Vacation in Chicago

We spent a few days in Chicago last week, taking advantage of my time in-between jobs and the chance to visit the city not on a Saturday. It’s an odd feeling, being in-between. Almost like life is temporarily unreal.

It’s Tuesday now and I can say with confidence that the job is very much real. Yesterday was Day One and it was good and full and exhausting and exciting as all first days at new jobs are.

Chicago’s weather was gloomy but we went prepared: winter coats and walking shoes. A list of places to eat, but nothing else on the agenda other than wandering and picture taking, some used bookstore shopping. Just some time to unplug, unwind, and prepare for the next adventure.

A late brunch at Hash in Wicker Park:

Chicago in Photos | Inkwells & Images

Chicago in Photos | Inkwells & Images

Curry and Naan at Tandoor Char House:

Chicago in Photos | Inkwells & Images

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Chicago in Photos | Inkwells & Images

Chicago in Photos | Inkwells & Images

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Chicago in Photos | Inkwells & Images

A hotel in Lincoln Park – and with Lincoln all around:

Chicago in Photos | Inkwells & Images

An Italian grocery store/restaurant/eye candy destination (more about Eataly on Thursday!):

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Cool storefronts that promised cool contents, but were closed:

Chicago in Photos | Inkwells & Images

My favorite bookstore in all the world, and one that appears in the novel I’m writing:

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Chicago in Photos | Inkwells & Images

Chicago in Photos | Inkwells & Images

What are your favorite Chicago haunts? 

Story in Review: “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel

Scott and I are in Chicago for a few days, spending some time together and resting up before I start a new job on Monday. It’s been awhile since I’ve done a short book review, so I thought it was time. I got this recommendation from the lovely Erin Morgenstern, author of The Night Circus (which you should read if you haven’t – it’s one of my favorites), via her Twitter feed. The book did not disappoint.

Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel | Inkwells & Images

Well-woven with intrigue, bits of philosophy, and characters as unlike one another as can be, Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven is a fast, yet thought-provoking read. What would happen if a flu epidemic wiped out 95% of the population on earth? St. John Mandel explores what that would look like through the eyes of several main characters: Jeevan, a paramedic-in-training; Kirsten, a young child actor before the epidemic and later a survivor in her mid-twenties; Arthur, an aging celebrity with a lot of ghosts; Arthur’s first wife, Miranda, a graphic novel artist; and Clark, Arthur’s best friend from before he was famous.

The novel follows the lives of these main characters and others, unwrapping the story across continents and decades and slowly unraveling the mystery of how they are all connected and how they did – or didn’t – survive the pandemic.

Favorite Quotes:

“Hell is the absence of the people you long for.” – p. 144

“I look around and sometimes think–this will maybe sound weird–it’s like the corporate world’s full of ghosts… I know academia is no different, so maybe a fairer way of putting this would be to say that adulthood’s full of ghosts. I’m talking about these people who’ve ended up in one life instead of another and they are just so disappointed. Do you know what I mean? They’ve done what’s expected of them. They want to do something different but that’s impossible now, there’s a mortgage, kids, whatever, they’re trapped… High-functioning sleepwalkers, essentially.” – p.163

“If she weren’t so tired, if it didn’t take all of her strength to keep breathing… she could have told him what she knew: it is possible to survive this but not unaltered, and you will carry these men with you through all the nights of your life.” – p. 296

“He likes the thought of ship moving over the water, toward another world just out of sight.” – p. 333

What made this a good story? The plot is fascinating, and the I loved how St. John Mandel wove the stories into each other, slowly and with great care. Small moments become bigger as the story goes on, and I love a book where I have to consciously be present as I read it in order to fully understand. Her language is top-notch: it’s always the right word, always. I especially enjoyed the moments of self-reflection tucked into Clark’s story, how young Kirsten is so much older than her age. It was a beautiful and haunting story to read.

What could have made it a better story? The ending didn’t feel like the end to me. Even though you know how everyone makes it through, it wasn’t a satisfying conclusion: some story lines are obviously at an end, but others aren’t. Please write a sequel, Emily St. John Mandel. Please.

Also: I would have loved to have seen some of the fictional illustrations by Miranda. That would have been a beautiful addition to the text.

 What do you think? Have you read Station Eleven?