Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Hoped for so much more at Hilton O'Hare

The Hilton at O'Hare airport is a beautiful huge facility.  A full service hotel is usually not a good choice for me and here's why. There are usually no microwaves or fridges,  (but this facility gave me a fridge at no charge an it was there, literally, before I got the second light switch turned on in the room).  O'Hare has no rental cars available for private pilots so we're dependent on a ride from either the facility where we park the plane or the hotel.  In either case I don't like being dependent on someone else's schedule.  Too many times I've had my timetable planned out and then heard, "Oh, and we just have to drop this guy at terminal 3," and I just lose a half hour.  This is true no matter where I stay but the company is less likely to provide a rental car if the hotel is so close.  There are also very few dining options near by and without a car you're sort of stuck.  I do know there is a CIBO that carries Soul Vegetarian seitan sandwiches, (see my other post here), in a terminal but it's on the other side of security.

But of course, dear reader, you don't tune in for logistics planning, you come here for the food.  And that's also a problem at most full service hotels for two reasons.  First is selection and second is price.  Most full service hotels at airports have plenty to offer culinarily to the meat eater but hardly a thing for vegans.  It, more than likely, will be special order.  I talked to the waiter and while I won't say his eyes glazed over I think he knew the end result was that I was going to be talking with the chef and offered no menu selections.

Chef Chris came out and showed me a bag of gluten free corn pasta.  I told him I wasn't gluten intolerant and he said all the pasta had egg in it.  Ah.  OK, I explained that I wasn't married to pasta and he could just make me a delicious vegan dish.  Apparently the menu will be changing over next week and that was the issue.  I didn't press it further.  Sometimes my mind isn't quick enough to think, "What did I just hear?"  Were there no vegetables?  Were all the veggies just rotting in a busbox in the back waiting for next week?  Were all the veggies quietly being eliminated?  Had the ghosts of the Chicago Stockyards finally pushed every protoplasmic organism in the kitchen with a cell wall out the door?  Is Dr. Atkins alive and in their walk in?

My dish came.  It was the corn pasta.  It had big hardly cooked and hard chunks of carrots and somewhat softer zucchini and cauliflower chunks.  There were a few green beans.  And parsley.  The sauce was thin but did have a nice flavor.  My 11 year old daughter gets more inspired when she cooks.

A show of hands now.  Who at home couldn't make this?
Chef, the challenge isn't to make 200 covers and go home.  It's not doing the easiest thing you can do to turn my table at 10 PM.  It's rising to the occasion and doing something creative when a culinary challenge comes before you.  It actually might even involve thinking ahead just on the off chance a vegan gets lost and stumbles into your restaurant.  My job is a game of "What if ..."  Play it sometime.  Please don't serve me something I could have made at home and when I'm charged $20 for this please don't make me wonder why I didn't slap together a sandwich in my room with the food I brought from home.

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