Chicago Report: Chicago is My Kind of Town

May 26, 2011 by

Chicago Report: Chicago is My Kind of Town

It just so happens that one of my absolute favorite persons lives in Chicago.  And this post is a little late, but we traveled there for a conference that Matthew had in March.  I came for a long weekend that happened to encompass the St. Patty’s Celebration madness, which was a hoot.

We stayed at the Sofitel at the Chicago Water Tower.  I really love this hotel, and would strongly recommend it.  It sits a few blocks back of Michigan Avenue, so it is a little quieter, but right in the middle of things still.  It was easy to walk or use public transportation to most everything in town that we wanted to see.  The rooms were nice and very clean, and just minimally decorated in a way I find relaxing.  There were awesome full length mirrors covering the closets so it was easy to style yourself.  And to top it all off the bathrooms were huge, with a wide array of really nice amenities.  What more can a girl want you ask?  A lobby filed with fresh flagrant flower displays, helpful staff and a great lounge and restaurant that’s what, and they got you covered there too.

So the night I landed, Hubby took me to the most beautiful place.  The Bloomingdales Home Store in Chicago… YeeGods this place is awesome.  Four or five floors of nothing but beautiful home decor, in an old Synagogue that itself was amazing.  Not only that, but they had the new Diane Von Furstenburg plates and bedding.  Heaven, heaven, heaven.   Then we had dinner at Moto.  The super modernist, molecular gastronomy restaurant of Chicago.  And it was so much fun!  I can’t even describe the food and the courses, but I have pictures!  If you like fun dining and don’t take your food to seriously I would recommend it.  There are places rated much better food-wise, like Avec, but this was fun and Hubby and I like all the work and creativity put into the dishes.  The staff was so nice, they were low key and down to earth, and it made the whole thing relaxed and fun.

Friday we ate an early lunch at Grahamwich, Graham Elliot’s sandwich shop. This was really, really good. YOU MUST EAT HERE!  I had the jarbrito tacos which had nicely flavored soft meat and crunchy plantain bits, they could have used a touch more acid, but that is a light quibble.  I also had a bite of my Hubby’s Reuben, which was really good, juicy and just succulent as can be. We also got the short rib sandwich and I ate all the guts out of my half. That was fantastic, the pickled onions, chip pieces, short rib that was rich and soft, but not runny and sauce that was creamy, but had a nice acidic balance pull it all together and it was so rich and crispy and tart all together. That was a great sandwich. It was very hipster in terms of scene, but I liked it, a lot.

After our tasty lunch I convinced Hubby we should walk down Michigan Avenue to see some of the great buildings.  This turned into quite a long walk all the way to the Field Museum, but it was a nice day and we needed to burn off all those Grahamwich calories.  On the way we stopped into a poster store that had amazing old vintage posters on the bottom floor that were amazing and rare.  It is one of those big online shops, but just seeing some of their neat, rare art deco posters up close was fun.  We also stopped into the Chicago Architecture Foundation store which is neat too.  After finally arriving at the Field Museum (and as a note if you don’t love to walk don’t try this it was a long walk), we had a great time seeing the exhibits in their neat vintage boxes with hand painted backgrounds.  I felt like I was in another era walking through the botanical section learning what families plants and veggies I love are from.  I did not know the apple tree was in the rose family.  I don’t think this is probably a favorite museum for kids, but I would certainly recommend it for any adult that enjoys art and botany.

That night we had our obligatory Rick Bayless at Frontera Grill. I started with Duck flautos in a tomatillo sauce. This was just fantastic. Slightly spicy, crisp outer shell, rich meat, but the tomatillo sauce with toasted herbs and spices was just amazing. I am sure it is in his cookbook and would be worth it if you had some time to make it. It was an excellent dish. Hubby had chorizo tamales which were good, but it had so much sauce, meat, greans and etc you couldn’t really taste the tamales, so while it was good, my starter was better. For entrees he had an entree with chicken, rice and spinach which had a light sauce that I want to say was tomato based. His entree was really good, I liked it a lot. The spinach was fantastic and the sauce was light but flavorful. I had chicken enchiladas in mole poblano. It was very rich and sweet, but nicely balanced with black beans. The meat and tortillas were very good, the mole was very complex, but good. It isn’t something I could eat often, I couldn’t finish it just so rich, but it was very good. We were too stuffed for dessert. I also had a very good blood orange margarita. The service wasn’t stellar. We waited a long time for drinks, silverware, our order to get taken we ordered second drinks, but finished our entrees before they came so the waiter asked if we still wanted them and we declined. I understand it is exceedingly busy there all the time, but at the same time, it is always like that so I expect them to be able to better deal with the madness.  If you can get the reservation for Topolobampo, I would bet it is well worth it.

Later that evening we had fun catching up with Megan at her very chic apartment.  A place I wish I could just teleport to with a bottle of wine and stories to tell.

Saturday was St. Patty’s madness. We ate breakfast at Cafe Grand Deluxe, which I believe is owned by Cheesecake Factory brand. Places were so crowded at this point we just wanted some food and they could get us in fairly quickly. I had an egg white omlette and it was good, I mean nothing to write home about, hee hee hee, but definitely an adequate place to stop with lots of variety.  The river was green, people were crazy.  But it was fun to see the madness.  We met up with Megan and toured the Chicago Cultural Center which is just stunning.  If I got married in Chicago this is where it would have been.  The beautiful Tiffany domes and detailed mosaics covering the building just make it a magical place.  We walked through Marshall Fields, toured Millenium Park then ended up at the Art Institute of Chicago.  Wow this place is gigantic, we couldn’t come close to seeing everything.  I also found the layout very confusing if you just wanted to pop in and out to certain exhibits and not follow their routes.  The coolest part of the museum were the mini-rooms which shouldn’t be missed.  I love the Art Institute’s massive collection- well worth paying admission (something us DCers just don’t understand).

That night we went to the lounge at Sixteen at the Trump Tower for cocktails and a snack. I love this lounge, I think it is akin to drink at the W Hotel in DC (which used to be the Hotel Washington, but this place has better drinks).  I bet the hotel rooms are amazing too, especially if you get a view looking up or down Michigan Ave.  The view from the lounge is really beautiful, the cocktails were really well done, I had a ginger cocktail, Vodka, Domaine de Canton and perhaps something else, with a candied ginger rim, it was very well blended with a nice mixture of flavors. My friend Megan had a whiskey, maple syrup and bacon cocktail with some other things to balance out the sweet and that was really good. Hubby had the least appealing, I can’t even really remember what it was, he didn’t get a second of it, he had something else. But sitting there drinking cocktails, watching the skyline light up, and catching the fireworks was a great evening. If you want the iconic cocktail with nice view this is the place. We ate samosas and beef satay both of which were really tasty.  We spent a good portion of our night talking, laughing and just enjoying life from that beautiful lounge.  In the summer they open up the terrace there and I am sure then it only gets better.

That night we ate dinner/more snacks at Bin36. This place had a fantastic wine list, a very good selection of wine flights, a huge selection of cheese and was a great place to hang, casual, but buzzing with a great open feel. We all got different flights, I had the Habla Espanol which had wines from the new world and old, they were all very good. We had a lavender and coffee encrusted cheese, mortadella, salami platter which was very good. Hubby had a cheddar flight which was awesome. Then I had a beet and crab salad, which had a touch too many beets and not enough other components to balance them out. But was pretty good. My friend had sausage, polenta and an egg which was like having really good breakfast for dinner. Hubby had fondue with soft pretzels and apples which was good. We mainly just wanted snacks and hangover food to suck up all the liquor from the day. We then drank at some different bars that night trying to find a good St. Patty’s place but they all seemed to be packed to the gills.

Next day we tried to go to Yolk which was packed, so trying to hit up some museums quickly we just ended up at Potbelly. We then headed up to the Museum of Science and Industry.  This is an amazing museum.  It is the place to take kids, or anyone like me, who likes to be a kid whenever possible.  I watched in awe as trains went through the replica of Chicago, walked up  stairways filled with working pumps, motors and machines you could turn on and off, create a tornado, tsunami and avalanche in the lab, and so much more, this place was epically cool.

Later that day we went to Marshall Fields/Macy’s which was a ton of fun. I wish their cafes had been open that day. We got lots of chocolate from the candy department- I had never seen Moonstruck chocolates before and they are so cute, especially the little animals. I got a bunch for my Mom as a thank you for watching Max and a couple for me including penguins!  They had an amazing selection of anything and everything. That store is just nuts! We ended up grabbing a quick dinner before heading to the airport at Flacos Tacos which was surprisingly good, the chicken tamale was incredible and the tacos were really good. In retrospect we could have eaten somewhere nicer, but we didn’t know how long it would take us to get to the airport, through security and all that jazz, but it ended up being a breeze.  The whole trip was so much fun, I wish we had more time, but another trip now that the weather is warmer wouldn’t be bad either.

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2 Comments

  1. Reading: Chicago is My Kind of Town: It just so happens that one of my absolute favorite persons lives in Chicag… http://bit.ly/lekkHX

  2. Megan

    aw, i loved reading about your visit! come see me again when the weather warms up!

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