Avant garde jazz at Al Capone's hangout and Ethiopian food

Sunday I had hunted around Chicago's Chinatown looking for shops that might be the right kind of venue to carry my specialty sweets from Hong Kong and went away not very thrilled at the prospects. There aren't many shops there that do a very good job of displaying merchandise in a way that suggests quality. The two exceptions I found didn't really carry any food type gifts; I think they might be potential customers but I got the impression I'd be better off at mainstream tea shops in other parts of town, and maybe a few upscale gift shops that aren't necessarily focused on Asian products.

On Monday I visited the area around the red line stops Argyle and Berwyn to see if things were any different up there, but that area was overall more depressing. A few of the supermarket type places had better merchandising of sweets and snack items so next time I'm in town I will probably approach some of them. These shops tend to be owned more by Thai and Vietnamese immigrants than the ones in Chinatown but the selection tended to be more or less international. I overheard one Thai shopkeeper requesting green tea mousse Pocky, a Japanese product, from a salesperson for one of the big distributors of Asian imported stuff.

Around dinnertime, I met a friend of mine from college, Grace, for dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant with another friend of mine, Lucia. I've been to Ras Dashen, which is located a little south of the red line Thorndale stop along Broadway, before, so there weren't many surprises with the food, but it was good, humble food. We had an okra and lentil dish, some dish made with small chickpea dumplings, some fresh cheese curds called "ib" which are sort of ricotta-like in texture and cream-cheese like in acidity, a cabbage dish, a spinach dish, some kale and bitter greens, and some split lentils. We plowed through as much as we could but were bested...

Lucia wanted to get some cake afterward, so the three of us tried to ignore the drug addict ogling Lucia and Grace on the train who was blabbering incomprehensibly, and made our way to Julius Meinl near the Southport stop on the brown line. Julius Meinl is apparently the only US location of an Austrian coffee shop, and they have impressive-looking cakes that Lucia can vouch for. Grace and I stuck with coffee. I had an espresso with a little bit of cream. Were I not completely stuffed at the time, I probably would have grabbed a Topfenstrudel made with sweetened quark, or a cute little tulip-shaped chocolate filled with white chocolate mousse. Lucia had some sort of banana cake with what appeared to be a caramel topping.

We finished the evening by going to the regular Monday night performance of the Patricia Barber quartet at the Green Mill. Open since prohibition, the Green Mill is reputed to have been a hangout of Al Capone and his crew. Patricia Barber is a clever pianist and vocalist, and has assembled a band which does great reinterpretations of standards, some nifty originals, and genre-bending improvisations. I'm not that well educated when it comes to jazz... Almost everything I know I learned from listening to KPLU and some small shows in Seattle mostly by local performers. But it's really cool to listen to someone as ingenious as Patricia Barber for a mere $7.