Back to the Windy City

Last week I spent much of my time in Chicago for a training for work.  It was a nice break from the norm of visiting my territory or being in the office!  Of course you cant go to Chicago without eating great food and boy did I have some good food.

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Since I was traveling for work Monday-Friday I didn’t have a chance to purge anything else in the house.  It also means I wasn’t tempted to spend any of my personal money since work was picking up the food tab in Chicago.  I’ve also been to the city before so there wasn’t much I wanted to see this time.  I was a little sad I didn’t get to see a Broadway show (they have a great theater district) but its $200+ I saved so I got over it quickly.  Plus, last time I was here I saw Hamilton and you cant really top that!

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Monday I arrived in Chicago in the afternoon on a gloomy rainy day.  After I checked in to the hotel I decided where to go for dinner.  Based on a recommendation from a friend I decided to try out The Publican.  It was a little over a mile from my hotel and since the rain has died down I decided to take the walk over, making a slight detour to visit Dylan’s Candy Bar.  If you have never heard of Dylan’s Candy bar its exactly what you would expect, a candy store.  A giant candy store.  Nostalgic candy, fancy chocolate bars, bulk candy, basically all the candy you could possibly want.  I just wanted strawberry sour belts and champagne gummy bears.  After candy I headed down to dinner.  The first part of the walk was nice then it got not so nice.  Mental not to self, don’t come back this way after dinner.

Once I got to The Publican it was time to eat and that nice little walk helped work up my appetite!  The menu here changes often but some standards are their meats.  Across the street they have a meat market, which I didn’t visit but you can go there for a quick bite or some meats to go.  I decided to go with the fish based on the server’s suggestion and it was delicious!  I also ordered the cauliflower but that I didn’t like so much.  There was a spice they used that I am not a fan of, I don’t know the name but I know the smell.  Anyway, the fish was delicious.  Nicely seared on the outside, flaky and butter on the inside.  It was one of the best fish dishes I’ve had in a while (its really hit or miss with fish).

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After dinner I wanted some dessert and right down the street was BombaBar.  This is a tiny little window where you order different kinds of Bombalina (Italian donuts) or gelato.  I decided to check out their menu and they also had a hot chocolate!  It was in the 40’s so that sounded perfect to me.  I also got a salted caramel Bombalina because, when in Rome!  The hot chocolate was amazing!  Rich chocolate, caramelized homemade marshmallow on top and a tiny bombalina on the straw, which, when dipped in the chocolate was divine.  The salted caramel bombalina was the star though.  The sauce comes on the side so you decide how much you want to put on.  The fried donut doesn’t feel heavy or overly sweet, it was just right!  I didnt finish all of the hot chocolate it was a little too rich and heavy for my pretty full stomach but those marshmallows!!  They were so freaking good!!

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Tuesday means its training time so no fancy breakfast or lunch, that just means more money to spend on dinner!  After training we headed over to the Purple Pig to get on the waiting list, they dont accept reservations or calls-ins.  When we arrived it was almost 6pm, and the wait was THREE HOURS LONG!!!  We put our name down, but heck no I am NOT waiting 3 hours for dinner.  I suggested we head over to Eataly (where I wanted to go that night before I was invited out with the group).  They were a little hesitant but we went anyway.  To fully understand the awesomeness that is Eataly I have to explain it to you.  Its a multi-level Italian grocery specialty store with small specialty cafe’s throughout the establishment.  At this particular location (there is also one in NYC and Rome) there is a Lavazaa coffee cafe, gelato/cannoli/nutella dessert cafe on the first floor.  For the market, on the first floor was souvenirs, sweets, and basic kitchen items.  On the second floor there is a cafe for pizza, pasta, fish, wine, and an osteria.  For the market on the second floor there is cheese, meat, fish, canned goods, pasta, wine, so many things!!!  That means, no only can you buy all the things you need for an awesome Italian meal, you can have one yourself while you are there!

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We decided to put our name down for the Osteria (an hour wait) and have some wine in the piazza wine cafe.  At $39 for a bottle of sangiovese I wouldn’t say its cheap but the price was pretty good and it included a cheese and meat platter!  Once we were seated for dinner the wine and conversation was flowing!  I ordered some Italian dumpling with truffle oil and ground veal.  I don’t remember the exact name and forgot to take a picture but I remember it melted in my mouth and I loved it!  Everyone at the table loved what they ordered and the plates were cleaned!  After dinner we went downstairs for gelato and I ordered the passion fruit and salted caramel.  It was hard to choose a favorite but the salted caramel had a slight edge.  Both were fantastic and I highly recommend them.

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Wednesday training again with no great breakfast or lunch but dinner I was taking the group out for PIZZA!!!  Its very rare I find someone who knows how awesome Chicago thin crust pizza is unless they are actually from Chicago.  Aurelio’s is my favorite thin crust pizzeria in town and as an awesome bonus they now have a location inside the city loop so its really easy to get to.   We ordered two giant pizzas and everyone was a big fan.  I was glad I ordered the biggest size of the supreme pizza because I wanted leftovers and there were hardly any!!  After dinner we headed back to Eataly to check out the nutella bar.  Unfortunately by the time we got there they had closed the kiosk (not because it was late, the workers were just apparently not wanting to work over there).  Instead of nutella goodness we had cannolis!  I have to say I was impressed with the chocolate cannoli!  The shell was nice and firm but the filling was more reminiscent of stracciatella then full on chocolate which I loved.  Not the best cannoli I had ever had but it definitely hit the spot.

Last day of training and this time lunch was so bad we decided to go to Portillo’s, famous for their Chicago dog.  I’ve been here before but its always delicious.  After training we decided to try one more time to go to the nutella bar at Eataly (yes we went 3 times in 3 days, don’t hate).  Luckily this time it was open and I got a strawberry nutella crepe.  It was delicious.  Not too much nutella, enough strawberries to have some in each bite.  Delicious.  For dinner the group decided to try the Purple Pig again, and this time the wait was only an hour!  Having a larger group at the Purple Pig is a very good idea.  They have a lot of plates that are more tapas style so if you want to try multiple things have a larger group.  I think in total we ordered 12 dishes!!!  Everything was great, the pork belly, turkey leg, and duck bolognese were the big stand outs of the night.  I didn’t take any pictures of the food, I was honestly too exhausted from the training and social interaction to remember to take photos.  After dinner we were all pretty exhausted so we headed back to our respective hotels for an early night.

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Friday and its time to go home.  My flight was at noon which means I had enough time to grab a pretty decent breakfast.  A good breakfast in Chicago means I’m going to Batter and Berries.  They have some of the best waffles I’ve ever had.  Its friendly service and they have great tea.  Even my Uber driver knew it and loved it!  I ordered the blueberry waffle with a side of chicken sausage and again it did not disappoint!  What I love about these waffles is the batter is slightly sweet and the butter has a brown sugar taste to it so you don’t need any extra sweetener than what you see in the photo.  I also love that they put blueberries in the batter.  Some places just put blueberries on the top and not mixed in, I hate that.

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I’ll tell you though, I have never felt so exhausted in recent memory than I did on Friday.  You may know that I am uncomfortable in social situations especially with people I don’t know well.  This was 3 full days on interacting with relative strangers, having to act out scenarios during training then go out after and continue the interaction.  Seems trivial to some but my body was 100% done on Friday.  I felt like a zombie walking through the airport.  I was so tried when I got home I took a 2 hour nap then went to bed at my normal time, work up 8 hours later and was still exhausted.  No rest for the weary though it was time to take my fabulous friends out for a photo-shoot of their sequin skirts we made for our cruise back in November (recap coming soon).  Talk about fierce!

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After taking tons of photos we headed over to Saint Arnold’s Brewery for a drink and a tour, it was right next to our last location.  Of course you cant end a photo sesh without some food so I introduced the ladies to Tacos a Go-Go, a Houston staple.  Then it was back home for a nap.  Not too long of a nap though, we had dinner plans with my mom and movies with my brother!  Y’all, to say this was a busy weekend would be an understatement!  We ended up over-sleeping Easter Sunday and had to stream church since we work up 10 minutes before service started!!  Whoops!  What a week right?!  I’m ready for a restful weekend but I don’t see one in my future for a while.  Oh well, it was fun and you only live once!!!

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CHIME IN!!!  How was your week?  What’s your favorite place to eat in Chicago?  What did you do for easter?

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