Ritz Carlton Battery Park

The Ritz Carlton Battery Park is a great hotel for families staying in the city. As ex-New Yorkers we often stay on the lower east side, where we used to live. However the Chef was in town for an amazing event and they put us up at the Ritz Carlton in Battery Park. Even though I lived in New York for most of my 20's I had never really explored Battery Park. I went there once when we went to Ellis Island and I think that's about it. 

We checked in and the first thing that I noticed was how kid friendly the front desk people were to my kids. They got them a Ritz Carlton kid bag that had toys, goodies, and a hotel scavenger hunt. My kids were impressed. After checking in we went up to our room and were very pleased with the size of our suite. Lately I have noticed that hotels have been selling "suites" that are really just a big room with a pullout couch. This was not the case. We had two very large separate rooms and the minis set up camp in theirs and we set up camp in ours. For our family of four, a suite has become a must have aspect of travel. It allows space for all parties involved and can easily make or break a vacation. Since this was a work trip we knew that space between mom and dad and the minis would be important. 

The master bathroom was gorgeous with a huge soaking tub and separate shower. The minis had their own bathroom and a kitchenette. The room itself was spectacular. 

We had a fabulous time staying in Battery Park and it really grew on us as a place for us to stay in the city. Transportation is easy from the hotel to anywhere in the city and the path by the river is easily walkable and filled with playgrounds and fun sights to entertain the kids. I would highly recommend staying at The Ritz Carlton in Battery Park. 

🔪🔪🔪🔪🔪 out of 🔪🔪🔪🔪🔪

 

Walden Inn and Spa

The Chef and I might be turning into the same person. This year for Christmas we agreed to buy a very small gift for each other. We set a budget and agreed not to go over it. Mostly though, we agreed to actively spend time together, not working, not talking about work, and not thinking about work.

Imagine my surprise when I opened my gift to find a spa day at The Walden Inn and Spa in Aurora, Ohio. Better yet, imagine his surprise when he opened his gift to find a three night stay at The Walden Inn and Spa in Aurora, Ohio. How ridiculous is that? I had no idea the Chef even knew what a spa was. We bought each other the same gift. At the same place. Like I said, we are totally turning into each other.

We decided to go the day after New Years to start off the year with a bang. I shared my spa day with him (back waxing CHECK) and went spent three glorious days together. It was unbelievably amazing.

couple spa room

The spa itself is gorgeous and the shared couple rooms are ridiculous. The wonderful thing about doing a treatment is that you get the room for an hour before and after. The room is huge with a giant hot tub, two massage tables, sauna and steam, a reading nook, and a wintery view of the woods. We most definitely enjoyed our spa day.

bathing

I knew about The Walden thanks to my bff getting married there a few years back. While I didn't stay for the wedding it was hard to forget the simple beauty of the atmosphere. The Inn is large but not overwhelming and the staff has a way of being all encompassing but never intrusive. For the most part we barely saw a soul. Each night we watched a movie in the private theater all by ourselves. We made popcorn and drank cider and watched cheesy stoner comedies. It was so much fun! We also found ourselves taking an exorbitant amount of baths. I think in our entire marriage I have known the Chef to take a bath once. In three days I think he averaged two baths per day. We were very clean. We were also very very happy. It really felt like a second honeymoon. 

We ended up eating out a few times as The Walden's main restaurant The Barn was closed for  winter holiday and the room service food was meh. We had two meals out and both were not super exciting but I'm glad we did it. We never ever get a chance to see what other people are cooking. Our time at The Walden was easily the best Christmas present either of us have ever received!

If you have a chance to spend a weekend at The Walden, I highly recommend it. I know that the Chef and I plan to start our new year off every year at The Walden, it is good for the soul and great for the marriage. 

The Public Hotel

Lobby

The Chef and I had to be in Chicago earlier this month because he was participating in the Chipotle Cultivate Fest. It was the weekend following our anniversary so we planned to spend the weekend holed up in a hotel in between chef duties.  

I reserved a room at The Public Hotel because the Chef had stayed there during another trip and loved that they lent out bikes to their guests. I booked a loft room and we were on our way!

When we arrived I noticed how clean and pretty it was.

Very boutiquey, very hipster.

We checked in and were given keys to our room. The bellhop accompanied us and when we got the room I found myself a bit surprised. I reserved a loft room which was described on their website as: 

including a King sized bed and living room area with pull out sofa. Classic city views with large work area, custom lighting, mix of custom and iconic pieces of furniture, comfortable slip-covered sofa and chairs, down comforters and pillows, imported 300 thread count Frette linens. Bathrooms with bathtubs, custom corian sinks and marble mosaic floors. Flat-screen 55” LCD high definition TVs with full cable access, complimentary WiFi, customized minibar, ipod docking stations, and safe

That night the Chef and I headed to Blackbird to meet the other chefs participating in the event for dinner. We decided to ride the bikes that the hotel provided to the restaurant. About halfway their the Chef's tire popped. We called the hotel explained the situation and expected them to offer to bring us another. Instead the manager told us to walk them back. Seeing as how we were soon to be late to dinner and almost to the restaurant the Chef expressed disappointment at the manager. After a 10 minute conversation/argument the manager agreed to have a bellhop walk us a new bike. We were shocked that a luxury hotel could have not a care less for their guests. We were super bummed about our bad hotel pick for our anniversary weekend.

Stranded with a flat

After the room bumble and the bike drama I would never ever go back to The Public Hotel. The manager sent us a bottle of champagne to make up for her lack of caring and poor response but it wasn't enough. The fact that the hotel was willing to let a guest be stranded in the middle of a city just floors me.  

While The Public Hotel is beautiful the lack of customer care for such an expensive hotel is astounding. Think twice before booking...

Simon says...thumbs down. 

St. Regis Aspen

The St. Regis Aspen is easily the NICEST hotel I have ever stayed in.

The Chef and I were lucky enough to experience The St. Regis as part of his Chef's Club contract and last month I found myself indulging in all of her luxurious amenities.

The St. Regis Aspen

The St. Regis is located at the base of Aspen Mountain and is walking distance to anything and everything in this glamorous snowy town.

The Chef spent most of his time in the kitchen so I was free to explore the St. Regis at my leisure. After a full day of snowboarding at Buttermilk Mountain I headed straight to the glorious Remède Spa. I steamed my bumps and bruises away and melted in the bubbling grotto. After I couldn't get any more relaxed I headed to the oxygen spa. Never having 'done' oxygen I was immediately impressed and obsessed. 

By the end of my spa session my body was a bowl of jello.

Never having been as relaxed as I was when I left the spa, I slowly headed back to our gorgeous room. The St. Regis room that the Chef and I were lucky enough to stay in was quite stunning. With a corner of Aspen Mountain waking us up each morning we sure didn't have a lot to complain about. The bed was one of those beds you never want to get out of and when we didn't have to get up we stayed in. 

St. Regis Guest Room

One of the best things about The St. Regis Aspen is the Chef's Club restaurant.

The Chef's Club features different  Food & Wine Magazine Best New Chefs. The menus change seasonally as do the chefs. Because I happen to be married to one of the chefs I was lucky enough to dine at the Chef's Club numerous times. The restaurant is so gorgeous and the food's not half bad either. There is a kitchen table that was perfect for the solo diner like myself. The staff is amazing and absolutely know what they are doing. The execution of the dishes was phenomenal and the overall atmosphere of the Chef's Club was comfortable yet luxurious without being white table cloth stuffy. I loved it and think The St. Regis has an absolutely beautiful dining experience on their hands.  

Chef Sawyer at the Chef's Club

The St. Regis Aspen has it all.

I almost think it might be the perfect hotel. On the last day as the Chef and I were walking back to our rooms a gaggle of kids ran past us in their pajama's. They had met in ski school and quickly became friends when they realized they were staying at the same hotel.  As we walked towards our room, I couldn't help but imagine my kids running around with their ski buddies, sneaking hot chocolate in the lobby, and promising to write each other when their vacation ended. We most definitely will be back. And next time, we'll be bringing the minis.  

Choose 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.

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!