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February 3, 2006

Get a Life—February 3, 2006

Come fifth week, with the multitude of papers, midterms, and presentations reaching the peak of its crescendo, getting a life at the U of C means finding time to shower. In an attempt to remember the steps of spermatogenesis and where Richard II’s “my brain I’ll prove the female to my soul…” speech is, I forgot laundry, I forgot shaving, and I even forgot that my Dad’s birthday was on Wednesday. Damn! I vowed that this year, though, I would make an effort to get out of Hyde Park, even in my smelly, hairy, and unhygienic state. You really lose nothing (except bus fare): You can read during the commute, and the new environment will stimulate you to be more productive and brilliant than ever.

Gourmand, a coffee shop on Printers’ Row, is a great place to spend the day studying. The walls are bright shades of green and blue; the ceiling is black with exposed piping; the furniture is a mix of wooden tables, plush, vintage chairs, and slightly ratty couches. They have Wi-Fi, although you have to pay for it, and there are open-mic nights on Thursdays from 8 to 11 p.m.

The food—an extensive menu of breakfast, lunch, and dinner foods; baked goods; tea; specialty coffee drinks; ice cream; smoothies; and more—is actually pretty good. The French toast with cinnamon butter, roasted pecans, and dried cherries is to die for. I’ve also discovered my new favorite cookie here: It’s milk chocolate chip and pretzels. The key to its goodness is that the cookie is pretty salty. I believe the main problem with most chocolate chip cookies is not enough salt in the batter. You need lots of salt to bring out the buttery taste and contrast the sweetness of the chocolate. This is especially true if you’re using a particularly sweet chocolate, like milk (instead of semi-sweet).

The only thing that gives me pause about Gourmand is the experience I had the other day: A middle-aged woman came and sat down next to me. She talked to herself for three hours straight—loudly—and kept raising her hands into the air as if I had scored a touchdown. I can’t blame Gourmand for attracting the crazies, but I was a little bothered by the fact that no one in the whole place seemed to note this behavior as abnormal. All the Columbia College students and other locals that inhabit the place apparently don’t find this sort of thing at all arresting—except this one girl, who came and sat on my other side and started blatantly taking pictures of this woman. What? Bizarreville, USA.

Gourmand

Address: 728 South Dearborn Street

Phone: (312) 427-2610

Via CTA: Take the #6 to Balbo and Michigan or Metra to Roosevelt.

Via car: From Lake Shore Drive, turn left onto East Balbo Drive. Turn left onto South State Street. Turn right onto West Polk Street. Turn right onto South Dearborn Street.