Widow Guide: Chicago

This past Monday the Chef and I celebrated our  6 year wedding anniversary! Hard to believe it's been 6 years but hot damn has it been a crazy fun ride. The Chef loves all of me, all of the time. No. Matter. What. I can't say that about anyone else in this world. We are total lifers and I couldn't be happier. Sure sometimes I want to punch him in the face and shave his beard of while he's sleeping but if that's not love, I don't know what love is. Totally kidding. He's the man and it's dope that he's mine. Normally, we tend to forgo presents on our anniversary and usually try to take a trip somewhere. Just the two of us. No work, no kids, just us.

Last year the Chef surprised me with a trip to our friends restaurant in Virginia. This year I surprised the Chef with a road trip to Chicago. We packed our bags and hit the turnpike.

Getting a quick race in while the Chef fueled up

In under 6 hours we crossed two state lines and found ourselves in the Windy City with no kids, no reservations, and most importantly no work. 

Check out or whirlwind weekend in The Windy City:

STAY

The James

I picked Chicago for two reasons: the proximity to CLE (5 hour drive for us) and the awesome rate I got on Jetsetter. As I was perusing for hotels, I saw the special for The James. Their website looked cool and they responded to my questions about their gym on the Twitter, so I booked it.

We checked in and immediately noticed the super hip vibe. Being not so hip, I demanded that the Chef take ridiculous pictures of me posing with art chairs. He complied as evidenced above. Because we had absolutely NO SCHEDULE for the weekend, we headed up to our room to relax after the long drive.

Honestly we found ourselves a bit disappointed with The James. When we arrived on the 7th floor we noticed immediately the overpowering cigarette smoke waffling through the hallway. As we opened the door to our room, we were greeted by two double beds. Nothing says anniversary like two double beds! I called the front desk to let them know I reserved a kind room and would like to move. The front desk informed me that unfortunately they were sold out of kings. Obviously it being our anniversary celebration I was a wee bit ticked about the bed situation. I also picked The James because of an interaction I had with the hotel on Twitter. The Chef and I have been working out religiously every single day and I didn;t want our trip to slow down our momentum. Before I booked with the Jetsetter I took to social media to ask if anyone had stayed at The James and if so how was the gym? Did it have a sauna, steam, or spa? Within a few hours The James Twitter responded that yes it had all of the amenities I was looking for and they looked forward to my stay. I booked the hotel.

Fast forward to the first morning of our trip. The Chef and I awoke and headed to the gym. We were completely disheartened as we paraded through the lobby down a flight of stairs in our gym clothes. Once we walked in we were greeted and asked where the locker rooms were. The girl at the desk informed us that there were no locker rooms and if we needed a restroom there was one in the lobby. I asked about the steam and sauna and was immediately shot down. Apparently I had been misinformed on Twitter the girl explained. Feeling a little steamed that I had specifically based the booking on the rooms and the gym I hit the treadmill with a furious vengeance.

The James had it's issues and I would probably never stay their again however it does have some major pluses. The location is the jam. You are literally in the heart of the city surrounded by shopping, restaurants, theatres, the river walk, and anything else you heart possibly desires. The staff is also fantastic. The front desk worked really hard to get us in a king room and lucky for us they managed to on day #2 of our trip. They also moved us to the top floor so we wouldn't be surrounded by smoke. The staff really improved on what could have been a really shitty stay.

EAT

Avec

Our good friend Koren runs Avec in Chicago. The Chef has eaten there multiple times but I hadn't been so lucky until now. Koren's food is simple, beautifully executed, and delicious. The Chef and I sat at the bar nibbled on specials as Koren ran around the restaurant, touching every aspect of service. She is James Beard winner and it shows. Girl got it going on. 

PQMeats

I may or may not have totally convinced a patron of PK Meats to buy a few bottles. We stopped into Paul Kahan's awesome new butcher / sandwich / speciality food shop before we hit up Publican for brunch. The shelf was full of all 6 of our vinegars and a woman was reading the above tag. I walked up and picked up a bottle of rose vinegar when she asked me if I had ever had it. Naturally I gushed about the Chef's product and let her know my favorite styles. After brunch we came back to see if any of our vinegar had sold. Half the shelf was empty. Crazy exciting to see!

Publican

Brunch is the bomb. Publican is the bomb. 'Nuff said.

GT Fish

It's kind of funny how we ended up at GT Fish. Earlier in the day we had brunch at Publican with two Chicago culinary staples, Roderick from Rare Tea Cellar and Ellen of Soapbox fame. As we ate thru the menu, Ellen and Roderick informed us that it was restaurant week in CHI and hopefully w had a reso for that evening. Being that our trip was intentionally under scheduled we began to worry that our celebratory anniversary dinner would be a bust. Luckily for us, Ellen and Roderick worked their magic and later on that evening the Chef and I were enjoying our share of to die for oysters and lovely cocktails. At the end of the evening we met Giuseppe Tentori, the Chef of GT Fish & Oyster. He was beyond adorable as he offered up his advice and suggestions for the next time we visit the city. This past week, I was pleased to see his name on the James Beard nomination list alongside my Chef's. 

Intelligentsia

This coffee is pretty freaking spectacular. So spectacular that we are going to be serving it in The Greenhouse Tavern and Noodlecat starting this week. 

PLAY

Matchbox

Koren snuck out for a moment after dinner at Avec and introduced us to her local. We downed a few drinks and talked shoppe. A great end to an already perfect evening. I will definitely be calling this my watering hole the next time I'm in town.

Sepia

The Chef and I accidentally went to Sepia. And thank god we did. We only got to experience the cocktail side of the restaurant but what an experience it was! The entire restaurant is super cool and my cocktail was fucking amazing. Next time I must go back for dinner especially since I saw their Chef, Andrew Zimmerman, also appeared alongside my Chef's name on the beard list last week. How weird that two places we visited in CHI had Beard semifinalists  running them? 

'In Theatre' Movie Rental

Our final Chicago memory is one of my favorites. The Chef and I had contemplated going to a movie on our last afternoon in the city. We went back and forth on the idea and decided against it mainly because of the health kick we have been on. That is when I had the brilliant idea of renting an 'in theatre' movie in our hotel room. We walked across the street to Trader Joe's, bought some fruit, snacks, and a little dark chocolate, and headed up to the top floor of The James. We rented The Descendants and snuggled up for a relaxing afternoon. Pure awesomeness my friends. If you've never rented an 'in theatre' movie in a hotel room, I highly, highly recommend it. Lounging in a hotel room is WAY better than sitting in crappy theatre seats while eating disgusting 'buttered popcorn.'

I definately fell a little in lurve with the city of Chicago. Having only been there once before I definately did not have a great view of what the city actually offers. Spending Columbus Day weekend with the man I love in Chicago was absolutely what the Chef and I needed and introduced me to a brand new city. I can't wait to go back!

What are your favorite places in Chicago? Kid friendly? Resto's? Museums? Hidden gems? Show me some Chi City love!