Yesterday I suggested to my friend Jen H. that we check out the Garfield Park Conservatory. She's relatively new to Chicago, and hadn't been, Sine she lives in the West Loop, we met at the Clinton Green Line El stop.
The conservatory, like most, is a wonderland of beautiful plants and wonderful smells. And it's WARM. Perfect for a winter day. Looking at all the plants, I felt so looked after, so fortunate, that the world makes things like this. For free.
We hit the gift shop, where Jen got some air oil, and then we headed to Oak Park in search of a cafe (The Conservatory is beautiful, but it's not in a great neighborhood, and the gift-shop lady told us there were no local cafes.)
Oak Park is very beautiful, home to Hemingway and Frank Lloyd Wright and lots of lovely shops. Massachusetts people: think Newton, in Prairie style. Yuppie Town.
We went to Red Hen bakery, and I ordered my decaf and a spinach/cheese croissant. They were out of that, so I told the young guy I'd take a pan au chocolat. He apologized profusely for being out of my original choice.
"It's not the end of the world," I assured him.
He brought my decaf over, and there was about an inch of room from the top.
"I can make more for you; I'm so sorry this is all that's in the pot," he said. I assured him that was perfect, as it left room for milk. He continued to apologize.
"Hold on," I said. "I really don't mind. You see, I'm not from Oak Park. I'm from the other park -- Rogers Park. The Peoples' Park. This stuff doesn't undo me."
He informed me that I was fabulous, and Jen and I sat down by the window to "Yuppie watch," as Jen said. Oak Park is really very nice, but if you depend on public transportation (which I'm certain very few in Oak Park do), you'd have to travel through some pretty rough areas to get there from he city. Areas which at night are not a good idea.
We checked out various shops; one specialized in olive oils and balsamic vinegars. (Who knew there were such options?!?) We sampled oils and vinegars that were heavenly. The woman had us try a meyer-lemon oil mixed with a currant balsamic. To die for.
"I think I actually have a buzz from this vinegar," I said, after tasting an 18-year-old brew.
Jen bought some, and I'm determined to go back once I start my job, because this stuff was amazing.