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Review Thu Jan 15 2009
I grew up ice skating on frozen flooded soccer fields and baseball diamonds, where the ice got rougher and more dangerous as the winter drew on -- unless a neighbor or Park District employee thought to revisit the rink with a hose. I don't know that this tradition continues, though I wouldn't be surprised if liability and insurance concerns have made these hand-crafted rinks unfortunate casualties of a more concerned sporting population... Skating in Millennium Park, for obvious reasons, doesn't feel exactly the same as the remembered experiences of my youth. The glow of shining Christmas lights and the sky high faces of the Crown Fountain, the sweeping city scape, and, well, an awful lot more people make for a decidedly more urban experience. But the delightful and terrifying feeling of those first tentative, flailing moments on newly glassed ice is exactly as I remember it. (Here, there's a zamboni to keep that feeling coming back, no neighbors needed.)
And enjoying a hot, ever-so-slightly greasy meal after skating -- well, why stop with tradition on the ice? Michigan Avenue offers slightly more upscale after-skating food and drink options than a dubiously boiled bratwurst served by the local middle school hockey club booster association (located at the counter between the skate sharpener and WWF wrestling video game). The earthy but haute comfort food at The Gage, or slightly more classic American fare at the Park Grill may beckon, but why not wander down to Pizano's Pizza. You either already know this place, or have walked past it a hundred times. If you're in the latter category, stop by for some of the best thin-crust pizza around -- buttery, biscuit-y and deeply flavorful. Make it a great end to a good night of skating, and you may find yourself crafting a new tradition on the spot.