“The Pure Essence of the Good Life” (Chapter Two – The Crown Fountain and Cloud Gate in Millennium Park in Chicago Are A Must See; BTW, Chicago Is The Deep Dish Pizza and Hot Dog Capital of the USA) by Gary S. Smolker

“The Pure Essence of the Good Life” (Chapter Two – The Crown Fountain and Cloud Gate in Millennium Park in Chicago Are A Must See; BTW, Chicago is the Deep Dish Pizza and Hot Dog Capital of the USA)

by Gary S. Smolker


My youngest daughter Leah recently gave me a report on her experiences studying abroad in China and Thailand and while traveling in Asia.

Leah had wonderful things to say about each of the countries she visited and told me the following about signs she saw in hotels in Cambodia which I think will surprise you. It surprised me.

According to Leah, hotels in Cambodia don’t have “No Smoking” signs.  They have signs which say, “No Grenades, Guns or Heroin.”

Leah’s comment reminded me of the surprise I experienced when I read the following warning when I visited Alaska: “Watch Out for Bears” and “Moose Crossing.”


I recently returned from a five day (August 21, 2011 through August 25, 2011) trip to Chicago.

Friends told me to make sure to eat Chicago style hot dogs, Chicago deep dish pizza and Chicago Mix popcorn. I followed their recommendations.

A Chicago style hot dog is a thick hot dog with jalapenos, relish, ketchup, mustard and onion, in a bun. They ones I ate were delicious.

I ate three Chicago style hot dogs at O’Hare Airport at the Gold Coast fast food stand and one at the Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago.

The Chicago style hot dogs I ate at the airport cost $4.59 each.

The Chicago Style hot dog I ate at the Four Seasons cost $14.00. I liked the hot dog at the Four Seasons best.

The hot dogs at the airport came ready to eat.

The hot dog at the Four Seasons came in a make it yourself in a “do-it-yourself” form on a tray with jalapenos, relish, ketchup, mustard and onions to be put on the bun and  a thick hot dog already in the bun.

The General Manager of the Four Seasons Chicago told me her hotel prides itself on its Chicago style hot dog and its cheese sandwich.

I was most impressed with the Four Seasons Chicago “in-room” service menu because it contains excellent photographs of notable buildings in Chicago.

It was on that menu that I discovered the existence of the new Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies building at 610 S. MIchigan Avenue.  See http://www.spertus.edu


The Spertus building has a one-of-a-kind, ten story faceted window wall that provides spectacular views of the Chicago skyline, Grant Park, Millennium Park, and Lake Michigan. The window wall is built from 726 individual pieces of glass in 556 different shapes.


My compliments to Denise Flanders, General Manager of the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago for the excellent performance of her staff.  Denise can be reached at: Tel: 312-280-88oo. E-MAIL: denise.flanders@fourseasons.com.

Each member of her staff that I came in contact with provided impeccable service.

Each staff  member greeted me with a smile, was friendly, had presence, had passion, and seemed to be genuinely interested in helping me have a good experience.

Every contact I had with the Four Seasons Chicago staff was a pleasurable experience.

Everything in the Four Seasons Chicago felt right to me.

When I first arrived , I  entered the reception and registration area. I wanted to linger to look at the other guests.

Each time I ate in the restaurant  I wanted to linger to watch the other guests.

I enjoyed looking at what the other guests were wearing.

I liked receiving complimentary issues of the “New York Times,” the “Financial Times” and the “Wall Street Journal” each morning.

I liked having available complimentary shoe shines available – leave your shoes on the outside of the room to your room at  night and the next morning they will be returned shined.

I liked Denise knowing what was happening in her city and sharing with me her list of great places to go and things to do.

She told t me I must take the architectural river cruise, see Millennium Park and Grant Part and visit the Chicago Institute of Art.

I had already walked along Michigan Avenue. Michigan Avenue is a street of endless luxury. It is one of the special streets of the world.

I liked the waitress who served me in the restaurant (Mirjana) at the Four Seasons remembering my name and greeting me by my name.


I ate a deep dish “stuffed pizza” at Giordano’s on 223 W. Jackson Blvd. Eating it was an experience.

I ordered the small pizza which was ten inches in diameter and about two or three inches thick — it contained sausage, mushroom, green pepper, onions, cheese stuffed in a thick crust. See http://www.giordanos.com.

I couldn’t eat more than half the pizza.

If you couldn’t get a seat at the bar, you had to wait for a table over one hour.

I haven’t checked whether Giordano’s ships pizzas to out of state destinations.  Phone (312) 583-9400, FAX (312) 583-9585, or go to http://www.giordanos.com.


Chicago Mix Popcorn is a mixture of popcorn with cheddar cheese and popcorn with caramel.   Garrett’s Chicago Popcorn is famous for its Chicago Mix popcorn. It is delicious. See http://www.GarrettPopcorn.com.


I ate at several famous restaurants in Chicago, including the Frontera Grill.

Frontera Grill is a Mexican Restaurant but not the kind of Mexican Restaurant we have in California.  For example, Cheese Enchiladas and Tostadas are not served at Frontera Grill.

Frontera Grill has a full menu, but I want to tell you about the deserts.

I was inclined to have Frontera’s chocolate pecan pie with Kahlua whipped cream, but the manager recommended that instead I have Empanada de Cereza y Chocolate.

Empanada de Cereza y Chocolate is a flaky pastry turnover filled with seedling sour cherries, homemade ricota and dark chocolate sitting in a luscious chocolate-hazelnut “crema” swoosh, topped with milk chocolate ice cream (perfumed with Oaxacan rosita de cacao), sweet-sour cherrries, and caramelized hazelnuts.  It is delicious.

Frontera Grill is a fantastic place where the menu changes every month or so.

Frontera Grill takes reservations for 10% of its tables, the other 90% are saved for walk-ins. The place is packed and noisy.

For more information on Frontera Grill and its award winning chef Rick Bayless go to http://www.rickbayless.com.


Millennium Park, the Cloud Gate at Millennium Park and the Crown Fountain at Millennium Park are must see during your life time places.  For photographs by Peter Barreras go to http://www.barrerasphoto.com.

Millennium Park is a 25 acre showcase for contemporary art, architecture, and landscaping located in the very heart of Chicago.

It is a true public space. There is no charge for visiting Millennium Park and the programming is free. Because it’s free parents take advantage of introducing their children to cultural things they wouldn’t buy tickets for.

In 2009 the park attracted four million visitors.

Cloud Gate in Millennium Park

Inside the park is an enormous steel sculpture designed by Anish Lapoor known as Cloud Gate. It is 66 feet wide, 33 feet high and it weighs 110 tons. The surface is a nearly perfect mirror. The skyline, the clouds and visitors are reflected on its surface. It is a must see.

Keep in mind that everything in Cloud Gate is structural and everything is made of stainless steel.

Chicago’s immoderate temperatures can vary 100 degrees or more over a year. Using one material was the only way to make sure the natural expansion and contraction that occur over the seasons would be uniform throughout the sculpture.

Cloud Gate has 168 steel plates of one-quarter to three-sixteeths-inch thickness. Each plate weighs roughly two thousand pounds.

Kapoor wanted the level of craftwork one would expect to find in a finely made piece of gold or platinum jewelry, but he wanted the piece made out of stainless steel.

When Cloud Gate was unveiled on August 28, 2005, it had acquired the slippery unreal quality Kapoor was after.

Cloud Gate looks like it has been frozen in mid bounce. The sculpture meets the ground in just two small places.

It is impossible to think of Cloud Gate in a mere room.  You must see it.

Crown Fountain in Millennium Park

There is only one word to describe Crown Fountain – UNFORGETTABLE.

Crown Fountain consists of two fifty foot glass towers separated by a 230 foot plaza skimmed with a pool of water less than an inch deep. Children play in the pool of water.

Two faces are projected on the towers.  The faces change expression and from pursed lips emit spout water.

Soon the projected water stops and the faces fade away. This sequence is repeated over and over again, each time with different faces.

There are 22,500 hand cast ten pound glass blocks held by a steel frame in the towers.

When first tested , water spouting out of  the fountain’s spouts knocked down a two hundred pound man.  The spouts were redesigned to emit a gracefully curved “low pressure” spout of water from the lips of the faces.

To create the faces to be projected on the glass towers one thousand fifty Chicagoans were videotaped, representing every religious group and ethnicity in the city.

All the videotapes were digitized. The video team built its own computer network, with fifteen large hard drives that could, together, contain the data for just the 150 raw recordings at one time.

LED screens had to be built to display the faces on the screens.

LED screens were assembled like tiles to create the large, single images at the fountains.

There are 147 computers in each tower that feed the display data to screen modules measuring twenty-three by five inches. These modules are tied to large computer servers housed beneath the fountain orchestrating the randomized image selection, its display, and sequencing. The screens are placed close behind the class wall and its frame.


There is a palatable and amazing amount of energy in Chicago.

Chicago is a testament to human imagination and vision and ability to get things done.

Chicago is a series of examples of men achieving the unachievable.

The Chicago Architecture Foundation has a river cruise tour that  showcases more than 50 significant buildings as it’s boat, First Lady, takes passengers along all three branches of the Chicago River. See http://www.cruisechicago.com.

Chicago architecture is truly amazing. After going on the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s boat tour I realized California doesn’t have skyscrapers.

After going on that boat tour, going to the Sky Deck on the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower was almost anti-climatic.

From the Sky Deck one can see into four states and up to 50 miles on a clear day.

Chicago is the architectural capital of the United States.


For my money the best place to eat chicken is Bonanos, a hole-in-the-wall restaurant located at 8363 Reseda Blvd., Northridge, CA. 91324.

At Bonanos you can get a wood rotisserie cooked half chicken for $9.50, which is fantastic.

I also like Bonanos’ Pescado Sudado which is delicious white fish dish cooked in tomatoe wine sauce for $11.99. It is delicious.

Bonanos is a Peruvian restaurant. See http://www.BONANOS.com.

Another unusually good eating experience is eating the Creme Brulee French Toast available at the hot food counter in the Whole Foods Market located at 21347 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills, CA. 91364.

It has been recommended to me that the best Humus and Pita to be had is to be had at Abu Hazaan, in Tel Aviv, Israel.

I recommend the Mushroom Hummus and Moroccan Fish at the Hummus Bar & Grill on Ventura Blvd., in Tarzana, CA.


I will be attending the Toronto International Film Festival from September 7 through September 17, 2011.

Life is notable, it is an exceptional remarkable feast that is tantalizing and irresistible.  I hope you are enjoying it.


Copyright (c) 2011 by Gary S. Smolker

All Rights Reserved

About Gary S. Smolker

PERSONAL PHILOSOPHY: No enterprise can exist for itself alone. Every successful enterprise ministers to some great need, it performs some great service, not for itself, but for others. Otherwise, it ceases to be profitable and ceases to exist. Imagination, open mindedness and flexibility are the most important factors in unlocking potential. Those who embrace innovation, improvisation, continuous learning, time management, are action oriented, high energy, passionate, creative, purposeful and intense individuals are best equipped to succeed. We all have ideas and the ability to make progress by sharing information and our ideas and also by changing our ideas when appropriate. We should always be on the lookout for teaching and mentoring moments. We hold time like water in our hands; however tightly we clench our fingers, it drips away. But, if it falls on a seed, a seed may grow to become something that will have a positive social impact. PERSONAL INTERESTS: I have a passion to learn, to innovate, to lead, to mentor and to teach. I seek to write things worth reading and want to do things worth writing about. I enjoy (a) driving a fast car, (b) having intense conversations (c) teaching/mentoring, (d) reading and (e) being involved in productive activity. PERSONAL: I believe in cultivating and backing passionate people, innovation, and old fashioned good ideas. I love making human connections and spreading good ideas. I am strongly motivated to achieve in situations in which independence of thought and action are called for. PERSONAL GOALS: I want to live life vibrantly, to be as sharp as a tack until my last breath and to change the world by being me. My personal goal is to be fully engaged in life, to lead by example, to set high standards and to continue to amass firsthand experience and knowledge in all that interests me. PERSONALITY: I love fun and mischief. I relish absurdity. I have an irreverent, facetious and satiric disposition. I dread boredom. I have spent a lifetime reading. I have no bias against people who have lived successful and/or complicated lives. I write to release tension, to get things off my chest. SOCIAL MEDIA: I post articles on the "Gary S. Smolker Idea Exchange" blog at www.garysmolker.wordpress.com, and "Dude's Guide to Women's Shoes" at www.dudesguidetowomensshoes.com. I also post images and comments on Instagram @garyspassion. CONTACT INFORMATION: Gary Smolker, Smolker Law Firm, 16055 Ventura Blvd., Ste 525, Encino, California, 91436-2609, USA. Phone 1-818-788-7290, e-mail GSmolker@aol.com.

Posted on September 5, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Hi Gary,
    Enjoyed your post on Chicago.
    The cafe we spoke about in Woodland Hills is:
    Leo & Lily Eatery. market. cafe
    22420 Ventura Hills, Ca 91364 818.222.6622

    Enjoy the film Festival, see you at the gym on your return.
    Gary Greene

    • One of my goals is to share a list of great places to go and things to do.

      I look forward to going to the “Leo and Lilly Eatery” in Woodland Hills and sharing that experience.

      I will write about my experience at the Toronto International Film Festival in the next posting of “The Pure Essence of the Good Life” (Chapter Three).

      While in Toronto, I had one fabulous dessert, a “Maple Walnut Roulade with Candied Walnut Meringue” — Vanilla bean creme Anglaise, maple syrup ice cream. I love maple syrup ice cream.

      I ate that dessert at the 360 Restaurant at the CN Tower.

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