6:15 a.m. My schedule starts early, not because I prefer to get up at this ridiculous hour, but due to my four-month old daughter, Mira. Her schedule is best described right now as flexible. The only saving grace is that she is never as ridiculously happy as she is in the morning. But before I usually even see her, I must deal with the dog. My wife, Abby, and I used to split dog walking duties, but since she can feed the child and I can't, he's all mine right now.
6:16 a.m. Clinton is a six year old Beagle-Pointer mix, or something like that. He is what the dog trainers like to call "high energy." In fact, one of the three trainers we've worked with admitted that he will likely "never, ever calm down." Fortunately, once he goes outside and then eats, he'll likely sleep for the next five hours, so out we go. His first walk is short, which is good, because it's 17 degrees out right now.
6:25 a.m. Back in, I'm finally greeted by Mira. See what I mean? This instantly makes me forget the early wakeup time.
6:26 a.m. Now I'm on breakfast duty, with the goal of preparing everything as quickly as possible. This is by far the meal I care the least about all day, so I don't feel the least bit ashamed that we eat microwaveable oatmeal. I should point out that it's steel-cut microwaveable oatmeal, but whatever. 2:30 minutes for each bowl. Done. Our morning beverages are another story. Abby drinks tea; I drink coffee. So, I dump out the old leaves, and then add new ones. Measure out exactly 30 grams of coffee, and begin the pour over process. Honestly, I kind of wish I'd never learned about pour over, because I love it so much, but it does take time. Plus, my scale automatically turns off after a minute, so if I forget to add water exactly on time it turns off and I forget how much needs to go in.
6:40 a.m. I sit down at my desk and login to my laptop. I glance momentarily at my email to make sure everything is okay, and then I take a look at some sites while the coffee wakes my brain up. First is Pitchfork. Usually I just check out the new reviews, but this morning is going to take some time because the site just released its list of the Top 100 Tracks of 2013.
6:50 a.m. "Hold On, We're Going Home" is number one. I agree.
7:00 a.m. Breakfast is done, and now I get some Mira time. Though she's only been up for 45 minutes, she's noticeably tired now, but she still likes to play.
7:15 a.m. Since it's 17 degrees (actually, now it's 18) I go to warm up the car for Abby to take Mira to daycare. We don't have a garage, so I have to sit out in the car. I learned a few weeks back that it's faster to warm the car up if you turn off the fan and turn the heat to cold, which is great for the girls, but that does mean that I sit in the cold car for five minutes. To pass the time I play Triple Town on my phone. Anyone know this game? I am addicted.
7:20 a.m. Abby is out with Mira. I say goodbye to both and head back inside. Now it's time to work.
7:30 a.m. I've been putting off the Chicago gift guide for way too long. I have most of the ideas, but I need to gather images and write up captions for them.
8:13 a.m. Read an email from Mike Gebert that he has not one but three posts for me, which is awesome. Only thing is that the post he had scheduled for today was about the Italian beef at Joe Boston's, but since I just posted about a bunch of Italian beefs last week, we decide to switch one of the new posts in. That means I need to frantically edit his pictures and get a new post up before 8:30 a.m. And the timer starts... now.
8:31 a.m. Phew... got it done. I had to rush, but I think it looks good. Gebert always manages to find places I've never heard about before, and that's definitely the case about this post about Something Sweet, a doughnut shop in the western neighborhood of Belmont-Cragin. If only I had doughnuts right now. Anyway, back to the gift guide.
8:45 a.m. Seriously consider buying the new Beyoncé album.
9:00 a.m. Take a break from the gift guide, and start thinking about some of my year-in-review posts. Like the past two years, I want to put together a list of the best new restaurants, but there are a few key places I still haven't tried. Having a baby kind of makes it hard to go out at night, because it's much easier to get Mira down for the night if Abby and I tag team. Perhaps there is a new restaurant I need to go to that is open for lunch?
9:19 a.m. Jamie emails to remind the editors to send our leftover link picks. Basically, it's just a short blurb about an article that we've been reading. Even though I have dozens of potential candidates, my mind always freezes when this email comes. What have I been reading? Oh yeah, Time Out Chicago just released its list of the 100 best things we ate and drank this year. I always love looking at this list. I wonder how many of these I've gotten to.
9:48 a.m. Crap. I didn't mean to reread the entire list again. I write out a few sentences and send my pick to Jamie.
9:50 a.m. I start thinking about my best bites of 2013. I have a few that I know have to make a list, but it's hard to remember everything. If only I took a picture of everything single thing I ate in 2013? Oh, that's right, I do. I open iPhoto and scroll though the year, picking out dishes that I remember being awesome.
10:20 a.m. I've eaten soooo much food in 2013! I have a list of 35 potential dishes, which I'll need to whittle down to 15 or so. But at least I have a good starting point now. Back to the gift guide.
10:45 a.m. Remember my dog? He hasn't budged since Abby left. But he finally lifts his head up to see what's going on, only to fall right back asleep.
11:00 a.m. Okay, the gift guide is basically done. Time to move on to more editing. I take look at Joe Roy's post about breakfast at UB Dogs. I barely have to spend any time editing his posts. Both Joe and Dennis Lee have been writing for the Chicago site since it launched back in November of 2011, so they really know what they're doing.
11: 30 a.m. The idea of working from home sounds awesome, but mostly it just means that I don't have to take a shower or get dressed until I want to. For me, that's usually around noon, but since I want to head downtown to try Nico, I need to get going a little earlier. I also need to walk Clinton again before I go.
11:40 a.m. Now that I'm properly dressed, it's time to face the cold. It's still below 20, but I'll forgive the temperature as long as there is a covering of snow. Clinton, on the other hand, doesn't much care for it.
11:59 a.m. Clinton does his job, and we're back inside. I take off his leash, and then herd him towards the bedroom, give him a treat, and then shut the door.
12:00 p.m. Back outside. All the buses and trains in Chicago can be tracked by phone, which makes commuting so much easier. It's kind of a pain to get to the Gold Coast, but at least I have two options. Looks like I could take the 74 to the Red Line, and then get off at the Division stop, but the bus isn't supposed to arrive for 8 minutes. It's cold, so I decide to head to the Logan Square Blue Line station, where at least I'll be underground.
12:05 p.m. Damn. I should have checked the train schedule because it's not supposed arrive for 13 minutes! So much for a quick trip.
12:06 p.m. When I'm stressed and in a hurry, I find it hard to write on my phone. But I can play Triple Town! It's embarrassing how much of my life has been lost to this game.
12:18 p.m. Train is here. Grab a seat and get back to work. Working from home obviously has its pluses, but sometimes I love taking public transportation because it forces me to answer emails. It's genuinely harder than it sounds. The day before I attempted to wait until a specific time in the afternoon to answer all of my messages, but when I checked my inbox at 1 p.m. I already had 130 emails!
12:28 p.m. Check the bus schedule at the Damen stop, which is the last stop before the train heads underground and service gets real spotty. The schedule says that the 66 Bus at Chicago Ave. is expected to arrive in 4 minutes, which is cutting it really close.
12:31 p.m. Doors open at the Chicago stop and I book it up a flight of stairs, down a hallway, and then up to the street level only to find that there is not a bus in sight... Check the schedule and see that the bus is still 3 minutes out, which means I ran for nothing.
12:40 p.m. Gebert emails me to point out that doughnut shop's name is "Somethin' Sweet," not "Something Sweet." That's what I get for rushing a post up. Blah. If I were at home, this would take 10 seconds to fix, but since I'm standing on a moving bus, it takes a few minutes for me to fix the mistake on my phone.
12:43 p.m. Fixed!
12:50 p.m. Exit the bus at Chicago and Wabash Ave, and head straight north to the Gold Coast. Actually, I'm going to the Viagra Triangle, which... I don't have to explain this to you, do I? You know, it's the stereotypical hotspot for old rich men to meet much younger women. Anyway, much to my surprise, Google Maps totally recognizes it as an official place.
12:55 p.m. There's Nico! I should have realized this, but it's directly across the street from Gibson's Steakhouse. I'm currently binge watching The League, and Gibson's is where the guys get an afterwork drink, even though the interior set on the show makes the restaurant look more like a frat bar than the steakiest steak house in all of Chicago.
12:58 p.m. Nico is much bigger than I expected. I grab a seat and take a look at the menu. It quickly becomes apparent that everything on the menu looks great. How am I supposed to pick? I eventually I order the big eye tuna crudo and grilled octopus fett' unto, which the waitress explains to me is sort of like an open-faced sandwich.
1:15 p.m. Run into someone I used to live with in Manhattan. Haven't seen him in ages. He asks if I am at Nico because the new lunch menu launched yesterday. "Exactly," I reply.
1:20 p.m. Big eye tuna cruda arrives. It's topped with rice wine vinegar, fennel, and breadcrumbs. The dish is sort of everything The Publican is not. Instead of fatty and powerful, the dish is clean and restrained. Absolutely gorgeous, right?
1:25 p.m. I spot Paul Kahan in the kitchen. But he's not out in the dining room shaking hands. He's working the line with the other kitchen staff. That kind of tells you everything about Paul. One time I actually walked into Publican Quality Meats to find him mopping the floors. I love that about him.
1:30 p.m. Abby texts me to see if I'm home. I reply that I'm not even close.
1:35 p.m. Second dish arrives. It is an open-faced sandwich, and along with grilled octopus are beans, olives, and a small salad. Plus, there are some roasted potatoes that are exceptionally crusty on the outside, soft and creamy within. Why don't more places serve these instead of fries?
1:50 p.m. Wow, Huge Galdones is here, too!
2:00 p.m. Check paid, I'm out the door. Now, I need to find the 70 Bus.
2:10 p.m. Once on the bus, I begin drafting a post about Nico. I find that the earlier I attempt to write things up the better, but then my phone buzzes me to alert me that I only have 10 percent of my battery life left. That should be enough to get home, right? Perhaps this will give me writing a sense of urgency!
2:25 p.m. Step off the bus at Division and Ashland, and head for the Blue Line station, only to find a group of people waiting at the top of the stairs. What's going on? Turns out a man is blocking the entire path as he attempts to pull his two enormous suitcases up the stairs. I can't decide if I'm pissed off or strangely impressed by the man's strength.
2:34 p.m. Another 10 minute wait! Talk about bad luck. Well, actually bad luck would be if my phone ran out of...
2:35 to 2:49 p.m. BLACK HOLE OF NOTHINGNESS! What happened during this time? No one will ever know.
2:50 p.m. Return to the real world. I hurriedly open the door in the hopes of seeing Mira, only to realize that she's taking a nap.
2:55 p.m. Decide to add another category to the gift guide. Okay, that should be it.
3:00 p.m. Why is traffic on the site so strong right now? Turns out my post about Italian beefs from last week is being discussed on Reddit. 47 people have already weighed in with their opinion, but my favorite is the first: "Went to Bari for lunch today. That shit was DELICIOUS." I feel good.
3: 20 p.m. She's up! And smiling!
3:40 p.m. I remember that I need to tag the gift guide so that it will appear in our amazing looking Gift Guide landing page. I can't seem to locate the relevant email, so I message Max about the specifics. Thanks, Max!
3:45 p.m. I pay attention to Mira for like two seconds, and then Clinton decides it's time for his third walk, which is usually around 4 p.m. So I get him ready and march back out into the cold.
4:00 p.m. Seriously, Logan Square looks awesome in the snow!
4:15 p.m. That was a real walk. Okay, now it's time to finalize plans for the Serious Eats Chicago holiday party tomorrow. You'd think that I'd have all the plans figured out by now, but most non-baby information just gets pushed aside until later. At first, I decide to whip up a massive Mexican feast, but then Abby politely reminds me that I don't exactly have a lot of free time, and that I should consider something a bit easier. I settle on ordering three different kinds of pizza, representing the three major styles of pizza in Chicago—thick, tavern-style thin crust, and neo-Neapolitan thin crust. Done.
4:30 p.m. But I still want to make champagne margaritas for the party. I first tried the drink at Frontera back in November, and I've been obsessed with the drink since. I head to the local liquor store to pick up some tequila, but the brand I want seems wildly overpriced, so I decide to go to a second place where it is $10 cheaper.
5:00 p.m. Time to start making dinner. Though the Mexican feast idea was left behind, my craving hasn't subsided, so I decide to make tortilla soup from Rick Bayless's Mexican Everyday, which is definitely the cookbook I use most at home. I know people often say things like that, but for proof check out all the stains!
5:45 p.m. Dinner is served. I used to make fun of people for eating so early, but I'm so tired and hungry by this point, I could honestly care less.
6:00 p.m. And guess who is ready for another nap? Mira!
7:00 p.m. I make a couple champagne margaritas—you know, just to make sure my bar tending skills are ready for tomorrow. Abby and I watch a Daily Show. We are both unbelievably tired, but happy.