On my birthday I received this message from my friend, Mel: “Happy Birthday. We are going to see P!nk!” HELLS YEAH! And on Saturday the 9th, it finally happened.
I have to admit to spending a bit of time trying to figure out just what one should wear to a P!nk show. The final decision came down to a tank top or a corset. Eventually I chose the maroon tank as it was in the “pink” color family…kind of.
The Mel and Mel show arrived at the United Center and did a little bit of wandering. Let me tell you, tour tchotckeys are EXPENSIVE!! Much more expensive than I remember. I looked to my right and I saw a HUGE CoverGirl sign (P!nk is their newest spokesmodel) and headed down there where I discovered they were doing free manicures and doing a photo shoot. Hello, I’m in! Since the manicure line was a bit long, I just did the photo. If I ever do one of these again, I don’t think I’ll use any props because I am all the prop I need. On the other side of the arena we found free mascara and could make a video stating your truth about love. You know I did it and maybe I will share it.
As we wandered the concourse, we looking for food and discovered that the Gluten Free Table was closed. Since this show was pretty close to a sell out, this left me hurt, sad, confused, and HUNGRY! This blog has actually been delayed because I sent an e-mail to Levy Restaurants, who run the food locations at the arena. It took 2 weeks but I finally heard back from the Director of Operations at the United Center. Currently we are playing a game of phone tag, but when we connect I will share the information.
The opening act was The Hives. Their backdrop was fun-the face of a mad puppeteer with strings coming off his fingers and onto their set. They had 2 stage ninjas that were fun to watch as they kept cords from getting tangled, playing tambourine, and generally just running around the stage. I wish I could say something good about the band, other than they looked dapper in their top hats and tails, and they had a lot of energy, but after a while it all just blended together and sounded the same. But a bonus was, the lead singer ended up coming up into the stands to the row right below me and stole (and took a bite out of) someone’s ice cream. I was not a fan of the music, but their energy and craziness made them a fun opening act.
After their set, and while their gear and backdrop were coming down to open the stage up for P!nk, this guy came into the stadium at various locations around the lower bowl and began (kind of rudely) interacting with the audience. His costume looked like something Two-Face would wear and just before the curtain dropped for P!nk to take the stage, he introduced himself as the host of a new show called “The Truth About Love.” During random points during in the show he would come out, generally when there was a costume change going on, but overall I do not think he added anything to the show, Eventually it reached the point where I rolled my eyes if he appeared.
When P!nk took the stage. WOW! The stage itself needs to be described as best I can as it was one of the more elaborate stages I have seen. There were staircases on stage left and right with what I will describe as “old fashioned” street lights along the railings, leading to a platform up stage rear (aka the back of the stage). Suspended above this platform was a heart-shaped video screen that was used to best effect during “Give Me Just a Reason.” This platform was an elevator lift that lowered behind a wall so P!nk and the dancers could re-enter the main level through a door. The main level featured ramps stage left and right, a speed lift stage left and right, and a slower lift center stage. Extending from the stage right front was a walkway that went out, then curved toward center. The apex of this was a rose shaped (and painted) piece that doubled as another entrance point. Behind all of the decor were multiple video screens used to great effect, and crowning the stage was a BIG “The Truth about Love” neon sign. Basically, there was a LOT of real estate here, and it was all used to great effect.
One last thing to mention before I go into how amazeballs the concert was. The band, backup vocalists, and dancers rocked out. Earning awesome points right away was the fact that it featured one of my favorite things — a she-bassist. I just love a woman playing bass guitar and I always say that one of these days I am going to learn how to play one. Until then, I will continue jamming and ruling the Bass play on “Guitar Hero” and enjoy watching others keep the rhythm onstage. The rest of the band consisted of a guitarist, drummer, keyboard player, and a rhythm guitar/”other” musician. The 2 back up vocalists rocked the house, and the 6 dancers (3 male 3 female) worked like there was no tomorrow. Did I mention that the male dancers provided some might fine eye candy? This whole group, including P!nk, seemed like a big family who threw a party and invited us all to sit down around the (gluten-free) kegerator and have fun.
So, the show. WOW does not even begin to describe it. I could probably put every alternative for brilliantly amazing in here and STILL feel like I have not adequately described it. From the opening number (“Raise Your Glass”) performed on bungee cords, to her final encore (“Glitter in the Air”) performed on silks, P!nk wowed me and made whatever was paid for my ticket absolutely worth it. While the aerial work is the “wow”, the thing that sets her apart from other performers, I felt like it was utilized at the right moments and for the right songs. The numbers where other forms of movement/dance were used were also properly placed and it never felt like something was done just to do it. One of the numbers that I really enjoyed the staging of was a cover of Chris Issaks’ “Wicked Game.” For this number she stood center stage with a stand mic, and the male dancers moved her around. It was simple, interesting, powerful. During numbers like “U + UR Hand” or “Walk of Shame” for instance, it was just a freaking party. It just made me sad that the singles from her first album were pretty much rolled into a brief medley — even if that medley had a killer dance break. But I also understand that she has grown and evolved from that period of time, and am thankful that she did anything from that album at all.
Most of the night, this was the level I was at….and by the end I probably broke it:
I wish I had the words to describe how much I love the music P!nk creates, how much of it seems to be ripped from my own life. She blends the tough with the vulnerable and finds a way to plant the tongue firmly in cheek. 2 of her more recent songs (“Perfect” and “Try”) are anthems that I play to pick myself up when I have a rough day, while others (too many to name) are ones that I play when I am in a fantastic mood and just want to let it all out and have fun. So, I just want to leave you with this before I go. It is from the concert and it combines the aerial work that blew me away, with the dancing, and the raw emotion that I love.
Have you ever liked the IDEA of something more than the actual thing itself? That is how I feel about Bountiful Eatery, a gluten-free, quick service restaurant located in the Lakeview Neighborhood. Yes, GLUTEN-FREE! I could eat everything here and not have to ask a bajillion questions about cross contamination or ingredients. When I first learned of this restaurant, I did a happy dance. And my happy dance is a sight to behold.
The first time I visited, I ended up getting my order to go. I was feeling lazy, cooking was not an option I wanted to entertain, and I had a movie waiting at home to watch, so I decided to try them out on my way home from work. Originally I was going to order the chicken kabob, but the person behind the counter made me feel like it would be such a hassle to get that, Instead, I ordered the chicken breast pita with a side salad. In general, it is known that I am a bit of a character, but I thought I would have pieces of chicken inside the pita with the spinach, tomatoes, and the “zesty yogurt spread.” What I received was a whole chicken breast placed in a pita. This was not easy to eat, and a disappointment because I really wanted hand food. The side salad was also a disappointment as it tasted like something that I could get out of a bag at my grocery store. Overall, I was disappointed, but they have brunch!
My second trip was my first attempt at trying their brunch menu, but I missed the end time by about 30 minutes. So instead of pancakes I ordered a grilled cheese and turkey from the kids meal and had them add some avocado. Since I had the option of a side salad or chips, my instinct was to go for the salad, but when I saw that eating in would get me the same plastic container of salad I didn’t care for my first go round, I opted for a bag of sweet potato chips. As an added bonus, I decided to try their smoothie menu and got the Choco’Nut (low fat chocolate yogurt, banana, skim chocolate milk, and all natural peanut butter). YUM all around! The avocado added a fun twist to the grilled cheese that had me wondering why I had never tried it before, and the smoothie was a further celebration of my new found love of chocolate, peanut butter, and banana. This is a meal I would come back for, and with the 20% discount they are giving for flashing your gym card, one that clocked in around $12! If my sweet tooth needed further tempting after that smoothie, they have brownies and desert bars from Rose’s Wheat Free Bakery for sale.
Third time was the charm, in terms of FINALLY getting brunch and I eagerly ordered the Pumpkin Pancakes and another Choco’Nut smoothie. After a bit of a wait, my 4 pancakes arrived with a side of fruit. Issue #1 — I had to ask for butter, or a similar substance, for my pancakes. Maybe it is just me, but shouldn’t that just come with the pancakes, along with the syrup (maple, in this instance)?? Issue #2 — the pancakes just kind of tasted blah, until my last one. That last one had that distinctive pumpkin taste with melted butter and maple syrup that I had been longing for the entire meal. Overall, the experience was just a bit meh.
I know I am going to come back here, as I hear other items are good and I want to give them a try. Plus they have a nice smoothie menu, which is always a win in my book. I just really wish I could drum up more enthusiasm for the food, because I like the concept so much. Here is hoping…
Bountiful Eatery, 312 North Broadway, Chicago, IL 60657
If you had not already guessed from my Gluten-Free Disneyland-Days 2-5 post, I love breakfast. Specifically pancakes, french toast, waffles, and crepes. You know, the gluten-y, yummy stuff that is pretty much poison to my body. Not quite skull and crossbones I am going to die poison, but bad enough that I feel like I am going to die and am miserable (and miserable to be around). And even though I know how to pop some frozen waffles in the toaster, or dunk a GF bread in eggs, milk, and cinnamon, or even use Bisquick or Pamela’s to make pancakes, there is something nice about going out to a nice brunch. While I know omelets are always an option, I am looking for the taste, textures, and aromas that make my mouth do a happy dance and make me wanting to lick my plate because I cannot get enough. That is not too much to ask, right?
My first adventure in GF brunching was at Meli Cafe. This corner cafe is located in the heart of Greektown, and was chosen by an amazing mezzo-contralto,and fellow Glutard, Cece Otto. Since I knew nothing about the restaurant, I poked around their website a bit and saw that they were well-reviewed by the Chicago media. Maybe I should have raised a couple of red flags when their site’s “About” section talked more about the eggs they used then about the food they made…
Cece arrived before I did and went back into the February air to wait for me with our pager from the restaurant. I am not sure how long we ended up waiting, but Cece had been told about 20 minutes. We heard people coming out saying upwards of 40, so the wait kept getting longer. Inside the decor is bright and welcoming, with sunshine yellow paint on the wall, natural wood stained trim, beautiful paintings of flowers and some interesting floral displays on the walls. Other than the insane crowd, this place was saying, “Welcome, enjoy yourself and your meal.”
One of the things that attracted us both to Meli was their selection of smoothies. Cece ordered the Vegan (almonds, pecans, soy milk, maple syrup), while I tried the Peanut Butter (peanut butter, banana, frozen non-fat yogurt, milk, chocolate, and whipped cream). They were pretty tasty and something I would go back for again.
Upon opening the menus we were shocked and surprised in the very best way. The second page of the menu was their GF offerings! Page 2! Of the regular menu! Since this is not something you see very often, our smiles got wider by a few degrees.
After looking it over, and weighing the pros and cons of trying the Polenta Pancakes, we both decided to try the Vegan Gluten Free French Toast. To me, the polenta pancakes did not sound as appetizing as GF bread dredged through a soy milk custard, topped with raspberries, blackberries, banana, and paired with an agave syrup. It sounds AMAZING!!!! Plus, add a side of bacon to the mix and it is almost a brunch lovers dream. Sadly, the dream ended with the visual presentation of the meal. After putting that little bit of butter and then drizzling that warm agave nectar syrup over my slices, I eagerly dug in. What I found was dry, dry, dry, weird texture, not delicious at all. Did I mention dry as the Sahara Desert? I slogged my way through a slice, ate all the berries, drizzled a bit more nectar on it and still could not bring myself to finish it.
This is where the service started to get weird. Our server comes back, asks how everything is, I mention being less than pleased with it, and she whisks it away. Oooookay. About 5 minutes later she comes back and asks Cece if she is done (clearly she is not), and I mention that I would like to look at the menu to see if there is anything else I would like. While all of the following is going on Cece is letting her french toast sit, and sit, and sit in a puddle of agave syrup. For 20 minutes! At this point she declares that her french toast have enough moisture to not be a torture to consume.
Menu comes, I look it over and decide that a crepe look really good (in small print under the crepes I saw they had a GF crepe batter). We ask about the preparation of the crepes and discover that, while they do not have a separate crepe maker, they clean it really well between batches. Seeing as how I was still hungry (and hearing Sapps voice in my head calling me an idiot for risking it), I decided that the Symphony Crepe (chocolate infused crepe filled with Nutella, strawberry, and banana, topped with banana, strawberry, and pecans) sounded pretty freaking amazing. As I ordered, the waitress let me know that I would still have to pay for my french toast, and I assured her that I was willing to do that. Maybe because I have a service industry background, but I found it weird that she felt the need to tell me that fact. However, I know there are people out there who want something for nothing, so whatever.
My crepes arrive and they look DELICIOUS!!! By this point in the meal, I am very apprehensive. Not 5 minutes after the crepes are set in front of me, and BEFORE I EVEN HAVE A CHANCE TO TRY IT, the waitress is back asking if I am done and if she can box everything up. Wha-WHAT!?!?! Do you not see this fresh, untouched plate of food sitting in front of me? Do you not see Cece’s 1/2 drunk smoothie and the french toast still on her plate?? Instead of getting irate, we calmly told her I had just been served and we were going to be a while. The crepes, by the way, were tasty, but by this point in time the service and overall experience had been so bad that I was losing my appetite.
The final nail on the coffin of my desire never to return came not long after when they brought us our bill. Along with a plastic cup and straw for the remains of Cece’s smoothie. Tactless, classless, and rude. At that point, we knew we decided to talk to the manager.
I don’t really know if it was because they were super busy, I do not really care. But the fact they advertise gluten-free, yet cook it on the exact same surfaces as everything glutenous, is the first reason that I will not return to Meli Cafe. The second is the service issue. Brunch is a time to relax, catch up, gossip a bit, and enjoy the company you are with. It is not something for the servers to rush you through.
Another friend of mine told me that their omelets are good, which I may (but probably may not) keep in mind in case I ever want to go back. But for me, the cross contamination possibility paired with not enough indoor waiting space and poor service is enough to keep me from making a return trip.
PS: Cece is preparing to go on a cross-country trip along the Lincoln Highway doing an American Songline (basically singing the songs of the road from the time when it was a popular path across the US). Check it out and think about contributing to her Kickstarter campaign.