Monday, May 16, 2011

Blago from Chicago

Well, we had a fabulous time on our girls trip to Chicago this weekend. How could you not!? We started the morning bright and early by piling into Jana's huge car (8 of us in total!) Starbucks in hand. We made our way up north hitting two more Starbucks on our way up. They turned out to be a nice place to take a potty break. 

We made it to the city by about 10:30AM, which was great. We checked into one of our rooms at the Renaissance and were pleased. To celebrate our arrival, we toasted with a glass or two of wine. Off to lunch we go! Here's Jana and I in the hotel lobby.

I'll say it just one time here - the weather was atrocious!!!! It was 40-50 degrees with spitting freezing rain drizzle and the infamous Chicago winds. Here's a photo and you can see the fog in the background.

So, we took a cab to the Purple Pig, a small plates restaurant not too far from the hotel. The concierge recommended it and I was happy to hear it because that was one of the places I had seen on Trip Advisor and was highly recommended. However, since they didn't take reservations, I figured it was out for a Saturday night party of 8. 

Anyway, check out the menu! We opted for the waitresses suggestions:

  • Salt-Roasted Beets with Whipped Goat Cheese & Pistachio Vinaigrette - have to say I didn't try this - those who like beets said it was very tasty!
  • Charred Cauliflower, Toasted Breadcrumbs, Cornichons & Parsley - very good - nutty taste maybe from the charred-ness? Also, the cauliflower was green.
  • Salad - Asparagus & Hazelnuts with Arugula & Treviso - This was my favorite dish of the lunch and maybe the trip. The hazelnuts were so yummy and the asparagus were cut on a strong diagonal and very thin so they blended very well with the arugula. Delish!
  • Potato and Speck Croquettes with Calabrian Chili Aioli - This is a fancy way of saying fried mashed potatoes. This was also very good (how could it be bad?) - we ordered extras of these!
  • Milk Braised Pork Shoulder with Mashed Potatoes - This was a main dish. The pork was unbelievably tender and seemed like it was probably slow cooked for three days. 
  • Bacon Fat Pork Belly Confit with Peas & Carrots - Yes, we tried the pork belly. My first bite, I have to admit, was absolutely disgusting. In fact, it was so bad, I'm not sure why I tried a second bite. But, I did and was pleasantly surprised. We all had about an inch squared piece and I think we probably busted our fat allowance for the day with that piece. It was actually good - I guess that's where bacon comes from but when it's slow cooked, it's very tender and flavorful. 
That was enough for eight of us. Here's what we passed on - pig ear, octopus, pig tail and roasted bone 
marrow. I also found a new Italian beer I like thanks to Monica! 

After lunch, we took off toward Water Tower Place and Filene's Basement for some shopping. Check out the flowers on our way. They were so pretty and seemed so out of place since we all had on winter coats and gloves!

On our way to Filene's Basement, which by the way, is part of the Schottenstein's holdings (aka - Value City), we stopped at Neimann Marcus just for fun. Jana tried on a $10,000 fur coat! She says she had no idea how much it was, but I saw the price on the belt ($285), not included by the way, and saw the writing on the wall!

We made our way to Filene's where I bought my annual pair of Teva flip flops. Summer can officially come now! Across the street were the Water Tower Shops and we spent a little time there. I was able to spend my Sephora gift card from Christmas so I was happy. We were all pretty spent so we hailed a taxi back to the hotel to freshen up for dinner and another glass of wine.

Dinner was a Quartino's. Wow - it was so good! We all got different things. It was also supposedly a small plate restaurant, but I think it's just their excuse to bring out the dishes whenever they're ready. It didn't matter because it was all great. Take note though that the roasted bone marrow was again on the menu. Again, we passed.

After dinner, we headed back to the hotel for a little Bailey's and girl talk. It's been a while since I've done that, but it sure was fun. By 10PM, I was falling asleep (imagine that) so we hit the hay. I slept like a rock and didn't wake up until 9AM! No breakfast for me! We got going around 10:30 or so. Here's a picture of the new Trump hotel.

We took off walking which was probably a mistake. We slipped into a Chicago souvenir shop to get out of the rain and I picked up some things for the girls. Then, we took off to Nordstrom's. It was nice to see a lot of different stores in this mall too. We poked around in a few stores and then a few of us took off for Marshalls where I hit the mother lode! I spent $150 but got so many great things. I was happy! 

After a brief and awesome lunch at Cosi, we loaded up the car and took off for home around 3PM. It was a really wonderful trip, aside from the weather. I felt so rested when I got home last night from my 11 hours of sleep. I really needed the break and the girl time. So, we're already talking about the next trip! What fun!

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