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that it's picturesque is an understatement: it's absolutely charming. And what impressed me even more about Lake Forest is the fact that F. Scott Fitzgerald mentions the town in one of my all-time favorite novels - ahem - The Great Gatsby.
On the evening of the third, I visited Lake Forest with my fellow musketeers, D and H. It was my first time actually walking the streets there, exploring every nook and cranny. Unfortunately, the town had mostly shut down for the Fourth, but there were a few restaurants and shops still open. D, H, and I quickly learned that Lake Forest was a pretty boring place. We asked some locals and even they didn't have a kind word to say about their hometown! (Apparently, there's nothing to do in Lake Forest except go to the beach!) It was getting late, so D, H, and I looked for a canteen to sup at.
We found Francesca's Intimo, a small and cozy Italian trattoria located near the heart of town.
What I ate:
1. Calamari Fritti (8.99 USD): Battered, deep fried calamari. I consider fried calamari to be one of the biggest gambles when eating out. Myriad restaurants have it on their menu, but only a fraction of a percent of them actually get it right. I order fried calamari as a sort of test: I will know right off the bat whether or not a kitchen is capable or not. Francesca Intimo's fried calamari turned out to be OUTSTANDING. The batter was perfect - crispy and thin. The squid was perfectly cooked - tender, not rubbery. The accompanying marinara sauce was SUPER garlicky though. Although I didn't mind the garlic, I know most people wouldn't like it. (And from a culinary standpoint, you want to strike a balance between the ingredients in a dish. Too much of something is not always best.)
2. Pizze (10.99 USD): Sausage, artichoke, and eggplant. The pizze was fine. The crust was good. I'd like to see more pizzas out there with artichoke.
3. Gnocchi al Funghetto (15.99 USD): Handmade potato-flour dumplings sautéed with porcini & wild mushrooms, mascarpone cheese, white truffle oil, fresh oregano, and a brandy-veal sauce. I thought this dish had everything going for it EXCEPT THE FLAVOR! I mean, as a whole, the gnocchi was pretty bland! I'm fairly certain the cook did not taste the dish before sending it out because it could have used more seasoning. On the plus side, the texture of the gnocchi was good.
Our server was affable and took care of us well. Our busser could have been less coarse in manner: his actions needed refinement. I thought staff dress might have been a bit too informal for the setting. (I'm nitpicking here.)
My Rating: out of four stars (good to very good). Open for lunch Monday to Friday, 11:30 AM to 2 PM. Open for dinner Sunday to Thursday, 5 PM to 9 PM, and on Friday and Saturday, 5PM to 10 PM. Visa, MC, Amex, and Discover accepted. www.miafrancesca.com
+ - × ÷
The following day, I dropped by the 4th of July Celebration at Naval Station Great Lakes. I wanted to try some carnival food: you know, fried candy bars, fried Oreos, fried EVERYTHING. I got one of my roommates - M - to go with me.
We arrived during the hottest part of the day (a costly error in judgment) and boy, we were cooking - about 100°F with 90-100% humidity! I desperately needed to cool off, so the first thing I tried was an Orange Creamsicle float:
It was just some vanilla ice cream in orange soda, really. So sugary, it was a sweettooth's fantasy!
M and I checked out some of the other stalls at the fair:
M got some grilled chicken and shrimp:
Sure, there were tons of food available at the 4th of July Celebration, however, what is one carnival treat that must be indulged in? Can you guess what I'm thinking? That's right, funnel cake!
Mmm, fried batter covered in 10x (that's powdered sugar) and topped with sliced apples dripping with glaze. I went wild with excitement as I dug in, but honestly, after eating half of it, I got tired of all the grease-saturated batter. There was just too much to devour! Regrettably, I left the funnel cake at Oscar the Grouch's doorstep (the garbage can).
Before I left the fair and retreated to an air conditioned environment, I ran into my buddy, Elmo:
Last Word: That evening, my roommates and I watched with longing at the showers of fireworks over Ross Field from the third deck of our ship. It was a bittersweet moment for all of us so far removed from home.
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