windy city highlights

There are many reasons why I love Chicago, not only is it my hometown, but while walking around the city I feel an overwhelming sense of pride. Maybe it’s because the Cubs just won the World Series, probably helped there were loads of holiday decorations–but what I really think it is– is the people. They’re a kinder, hardworking breed who I observed walk with their heads up, equally observing what the city has to offer.

Theres also:

  1. J-walking-can’t do this in LA and forgot how much I LOVE it
  2. Seasons-ok so the lack of sun isn’t ideal, but hello sweaters/scarves/coats/fireplaces
  3. Architecture– I could aimlessly walk around the city for hours and stumble upon new buildings and history
  4. The L– visibly connects the city together, granted waiting outside can get chilly, but it makes Chicago, Chicago

I mentioned here some Chicago food favorites, but here’s an update to the list! So whether you’re visiting Chicago or hosting guests, here are a few things not to miss:

girl and the goat

After being open for six years, I finally made it to one of Chicago’s most highly acclaimed restaurants. And HOLY SHIT did it live up to the hype. I went with my family and we finished every small plate dropped at the table, could have licked a few…plus a few cocktails and bottles of wine. No pictures were taken because I wanted to enjoy family time, but highlights were: green beans, broccoli, wood-fired shrimp, bucatini, goat loin and goat belly! The flavors were outstanding!

tip: go with a friend/ your cool aunt/uncle/cousin and sit at the bar, no reservation needed! aim to get there before 7 so you don’t have to wait for a seat. 

3 greens Market

If I lived in Chicago, this River North spot would be in heavy weekly rotation. It’s part coffee shop, part food market, part work space. I mean can we get one of these in LA? It’s the perfect spot to pop in for a quick lunch and impress out-of-towners–not only can you get Small Cheval burgers, but there’s a healthy salad bar, and hot food bar. Plus drinks to warm the soul, or take the edge off of holiday bustle.

tip: there’s free wifi and ample outlets, so if you need a place to recharge with or without family this place will take care of you.

Christkindlmarket

Open daily in the Daley Plaza, this outdoor Christmas Market is such a fun excursion. I even went while it was pouring down rain with my brother and we had a great time. The hot spiced wine helped I’m sure. There are plenty of food vendors, hello German specialties like brats, pretzels, cheese, strudel. And you’re allowed to walk around with alcohol while in the market. My kind of shopping. The other booths are various holiday craftsmen and decorations offering precious ornaments and nutcrackers. Open 11-8/9PM.

tip: aim to go during the week when it’s a lot less crowded. and as far as parking goes, use the app SPOT HERO to secure parking beforehand. click the link for $5 off your first time!

pickwick coffee roasters

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So maybe you need a little pick-me-up post Christkindlmarket or maybe you just want a quick cuppa to take into the park. Either way, stop into this cute and somewhat hidden alley way coffee house. If you’re not smiling afterwards I’d say you’re a Scrooge.

tip: grab a cup to keep you warm as you walk around the loop! 

skydeck Chicago at the *Sears towers*

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admiring the sunset
the ultimate #fromwhereistand
the ultimate #fromwhereistand

I can’t bring myself to call the Sears Tower its’ new name, The Willis Tower. How can you change the name of such an iconic building?!?!? Names aside, going up some 1,300ft and seeing Chicago is breathtaking. I happened to have a free afternoon and took the trip up 103 stories solo. I happily played tourist and gawked at Chicago from the tallest point.

tip: make sure you go on a clear day AND for the best view, aim to head up 30 minutes before sunset. seeing the city go from day to night is damn magical. also, lines are shorter for the “ledge” where they have a professional camera set up, but they will happily take a pic or 2 or 5 on your phone/camera as well.

mindy’s Hot Chocolate

there's life before this mac and cheese and after...never looking back
there’s life before this mac and cheese and after…never looking back

I know I’ve written about this restaurant before, but it will always be a stop when I’m home. The atmosphere is cozy without feeling cramped, and the food. Don’t even get me started. I am never ever disappointed. Their mac and cheese is last meal status along with all of sweet confections.

tip: if you want to work off the mac and cheese//your brunch, grab your hot chocolate to go and take a walk on the 606 trail which is just steps away.

What are your favorite spots in Chicago?? Always wanting to try new places!

 

wine wednesday: labor day picks

 

With the long weekend ahead, it’s only fair to assume some drinking will take place. And if you’re headed to the beach, be sure to take your vino in one of these babies! The 750ml fits an entire bottle of wine minus the glass bottle.

slightly Bubbly white

2015 Espiral Vinho Verde- like less bubbly Lemon LaCroix plus the alcohol

French rosé

2014 J.L Quinson Côtes de Provence- all day

italian rosé

2014 Il Rose di Cassanova, Tuscany IT- dry crisp and different

crisp, refreshing white

2014 Antiche Terre Venete Soave, Verona IT-summer sipper

wine water bottle

Because glass at the beach is a no-go- more picks below!

Enjoy your weekend, and let me know your favorite summer/party picks!

wine wednesday: domestic gold

With the opening ceremony for the Rio Olympics a mere two days away, I thought it suitable to throw out some domestic picks. These are all great for people on a budget and easy to sip in the summer. Because dang it’s hot out there, and you don’t want anything too heavy!

BLANK CANVAS PINOT NOIR

2013 , California: silky smooth

LIBERTÉ PINOT NOIR

2013, California: great red fruits and light

LAZY BONES CABERNET FRANC

2014, California: peppery yet raspberry, a great pick if you usually like medium to heavy reds

CHARLES SHAW PINOT GRIGIO

2015, California: it’s $2.49, enough said

COTE DES ROSES ROSÉ 

2015, France: crisp and kisses of strawberry

WHITE GIRL ROSÉ

2015, California: yassss queen (domestic pick!)

What are your go to domestic bottles?

wine wednesday: so you like pinot noir

So you like Pinot Noir?! It is one of my faves because it’s super approachable. I love that it can have a fragrant berry-cherry nose, then surprise you with a more earthy taste. Fun fact, it’s a bitch to grow. PN is one of the hardest grapes to cultivate and transform into wine because it loves maritime climates, and the grape’s skin can be temperamental during fermentation. Originally from Burgundy, this varietal also shines from Sonoma (Russian River Valley) and the Willamette Valley in Oregon.

That being said…there are MANY other light to medium bodied varietals that are just as good to “give a go”. Below I have a handful of wines to try that are perfect on their own or with food. Be bold and try something new. I mean, WINE NOT!?

DOLCETTO: @11.99 Banfi L’Ardi 2014 from Piedmont, IT (at Trader Joe’s)

GAMAY: light French varietal from Beaujolais that tends to be a little earthier than Pinots, but has a fragrant nose!

**GRENACHE(A): @6.99 La Paca 2014 from Spain** pick of the week from Trader Joe’s

MENCIA: Petalos from Spain 2011 Medium bodied and beautiful

NEBBIOLO: Palmina from Santa Barbara, CA 2009 definitely medium bodied, but still approachable AF

NERELLO MASCALESE: Italian varietal, it’s very fruity: strawberry, cherry but also leathery with hints of cinnamon. Medium Tannins.

PRIMITIVO: fruit forward and aged in oak tends to have notes of vanilla and spice and tastes like raspberry with earthy hints.

What’s your favorite Pinot or Pinot Noir-esque bottle?

iScream for summer

SUMMER is HERE! And while that means copious amounts of chilled rose and vihno verde, it also means my other vice in life: ICE CREAM. When it’s hot, I crave it any way- cone, cup, soft serve, or straight outta the pint! It’s the perfect friend date, cheap date (gents take note) or solo date because yes, you do deserve it. I’ve curated a mostly LA list, so scroll to find your perfect match!

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The Bigg Chill: this must be the place!!! perfect post (or pre) Apple Pan, if you want THE BEST tart soft serve-it’s my favorite in LA-they have vegan cookie dough and numerous other toppings and a rotating list of flavors. No shame that it’s bookmarked on my phone. CASH ONLY!IMG_1141

CVT: simple AF and only 3 choices: chocolate, vanilla or a twist. My preferred method is twist in a cone with rainbow sprinkles. They’re a food truck, so check for their location. Usually available on Sundays during the Melrose Trading Post Flea Market.IMG_0887

Pressed Juicery Freeze: soooo you want to be “healthy” and are into the whole non-dairy thing. no shame, I have those days. GO HERE, it’s *just* their frozen juice. No added sweeteners!

Malibu Farm: kind of a given if you go to Malibu Pier, you need a little tart yogurt in life, because it’s Malibu after all and everything’s a little more beach-y and natural *wink wink*.IMG_6999

Jon and Vinny’s: save room for dessert!!!! Or just swing in, and get their twist to-go. Served with little wooden spoons so it’s almost as good as MilkBar’s cereal milk soft-serve…almost.

REGULAR ICE CREAM IMG_9740

Salt and Straw: they’re originally from Portland, so you know it’s good shit. I just checked their instagram and their July flavors were posted early. OMG. I need to get over there now. This shop always has about 15 flavors that never leave, and a monthly series (July’s is an ode to berries) Expect long lines, but the friendliest staff- and sample everything!

McConnell’s: this Santa Barbera based shop gets my “elevated basics” stamp. They take everyday flavors and make them siiing, like: Churros con Leche, Chocolate covered Strawberries, Salted Caramel Chip and Turkish Coffee. Go here if you’re in DTLA and need a fix! 1 of 2 LA locations is a Grand Central Market which makes for a great foodie date.

Sweet Rose: LA based and oh so yummy. A friend introduced me to their salted caramel (which they top with a sprinkles of salt!) and I was hooked. They use local ingredients and it’s part of the Rustic Canyon restaurant
group!

Jeni’s: there’s something about Jeni’s that makes me want to spend all day in the store. Maybe it’s because they are always making waffle cones- hello scentgasm- but the interior is crisp and all the flavors  are written out in a font that I wish was my own handwriting.  They always have seasonal flavors, right now I want to try “Sweet Cream Biscuits and Peach Jam” as well as “Birch & Marshmallows”

Carmela: all organic and based in Pasadena, Carmela is home to my favorite “vanilla”, theirs being “brown sugar vanilla bean”. And for those of you who like lavender- they have a “lavender honey” that is so
summery and light.

Top Round: being from the midwest and more specifically having family in Wisconsin, means frozen custard was a daily treat. If you happen to be in Door County, Not Licked Yet, was our favorite spot. But seeing as that is miles away, if you need your frozen custard fix, head to Top Round for the good stuff. It’ll be pretty hard to resist the rest of their menu, so go with an empty stomach.

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Sprinkles Ice Cream: Sprinkle’s cupcakes were the ones to start the cupcake trend so at their ice cream shop, you can order a sundae smashed between a cupcake. You read that right. Ice cream plus cupcake. Even better, they do a version with their mini cupcakes so it feels less guilty.

ICDC: you can get an affogato sundae with a house-made DONUT. what?! sugar/caffeine buzz for sure. Also their colorful shop makes for a good ‘gram.IMG_9300

Little Dom’s: nutella. hot. fudge. need I say more?

ICE CREAM SAMMIEIMG_0880

Churro Burrough: Who doesn’t love churros?! I’m a cinnomon lover, so when I heard there was a place that sandwiched ice cream between two churro patties I was SOLD.IMG_0926

Milk: Oh Milk, how I love thee! They are known fo
r their macaroon ice cream sandwiches and they are amazing. Personal favorite is the fruit loops flavor with cereal milk ice cream. Lines are long at the Beverly shop, so if you’re on the East Side, check out their Silver Lake location.IMG_6352

CoolHaus: Started by Natasha Case and Freya Estreller, these two badass ladies combined their love of food and architecture. They hit up Coachella in 2009 with their truck and the rest is history! Check out their twitter for truck locations or stop into one of their brick and mortar locations.

WHEN IT’S 11PM AND YOU DON’T FEEL LIKE LEAVING YOUR HOUSE

Frozen Bananas+PB+Cocoa Powder: this is my poor (wo)man’s go to when I’m having an ice cream craving, but I don’t want to get in my car and drive. Just combine 1-2 frozen bananas, a spoon of PB and a spoon of cocoa powder and blend. A splash of almond milk also helps if you don’t have a Vitamix.

Phew, I know that was a long one! Still on my radar to try are: After’s Ice Cream, Magpie’s Soft Serve, Cream and Cauldron.

What are your favorite ice cream shops?!