Sunday, March 29, 2009

Fun in Chi-Town for Paddy's Day!

Eric and I were lucky enough to get to make our almost annual pilgrimage to Chicago to celebrate St. Patrick's day, but the most wonderful part of it was getting to spend it with my best friend Kristina, her husband David, and her sister Ingrid! Eric and I arrived in Chicago around lunchtime on Friday, 3/13, and made our way into the city to our hotel, the Westin Michigan Ave. The staff was great, and they gave us a lake view room on the top floor. My only gripe about this hotel was the bar, or lack thereof. There was a bar in the Grill on the Alley, the restaurant attached to the hotel, but it closed early and there was not really a 'hotel bar,' if you will.

We had some chicago style pizza for lunch (nothing to rave about, but satisfied the craving), and made a beeline for H&M. I really don't know why we don't have an H&M in Dallas - if anyone wants to open one I will be happy to go in with them!! Eric and I stocked up on our spring wardrobe basics - it was a pretty sucessful shopping trip. Have I mentioned how nice it is to have a husband who will shop with you? Then it was back to the hotel to rest up before meeting our friends for dinner.

We met Kristina, David, Ingrid, Ryan, Jeremy and Romy at my favorite Tapas place in Chicago, Cafe Ba Ba Reeba (side note, I want to expand my horizons and try Cafe Iberico next time we're in town). It was so great to see everyone! Jeremy and Romy are in the midst of planning what promises to be the most fabulous wedding ever, and Ryan is living the fabulous life with his job at Northwestern. Everyone seemed to be doing well! We had a great waiter and had lovely tapas and lovely Sangria! The menu had changed since our last visit, but we were still able to find all our old favorites, as well as enjoying some of the pintxos - the bite size tapas that are new to the menu. I particular enjoyed the short rib stuffed piquillo pepper, the house plate with Manchego, jamon serrano, chorizo, salchichon, the best pan con tomate ever, and the bacon wrapped dates. This was the first time we had room for dessert, and we thoroughly enjoyed the truffle chocolate cake and the butterscotch custard creme mini desserts. I love the option of getting a couple small desserts to share rather than one huge dessert! Anyway, dinner and the company was great, and I really do love our tradition of going here on our Chicago visits.

After dinner, Jeremy and Romy took us to a nearby neighborhood bar - the Marquee Lounge - for more fun and conversation. We had a great time and it was so great to see the happy couple. Can't wait till August for the wedding!

The next day was the big St Paddy's day pub crawl. Ingrid, Kristina, David, Eric, and I piled into a taxi (thanks to the taxi gods for always providing us with a van size taxi!) and headed to the Irish Oak Pub. Although just after noon, it was already packed with fellow Paddy's Day merry makers! We found a spot in the back and tried to catch up with the already drunken crowd. It was so great to get to catch up with our friends - really a breath of fresh air after how hard we have been working lately. We are so lucky to get to see Kris and David so often, even though they live across the pond. After a few hours at Irish Oak, we headed to Sluggers.

Now, if I lived in Chicago, Sluggers is the kind of place I would never go to, but as a tourist, I freaking love it! We were lucky enough to find a couple tables in the back, which was nice to sit down for a while after standing for hours at the previous pub. Then came the jello shots, which led us upstairs for some drunken batting cages, air hockey, and dueling pianos (how weird is it that a bar has all this stuff???). We had such a great time and were sad to go home. We finished the day with a quick snack at the grill on the alley and into bed by midnight. I think for a bunch of 27-33-year-olds, we did quite well!

Sunday was a relaxing day of - shock - more eating and enjoying the city. We started with brunch at Rockit, one of my favorite places downtown. They had really great live music and just such a relaxed, Sunday vibe. My turkey burger with goat cheese was fab - and they had the best chips/potato wedges. Then we walked around town, visited Millenium Park, and a quick trip to Filene's basement. We capped off the evening with drinks on the top of the John Hancock Tower to enjoy the sunset and fabulous views, followed by dinner at Quartino, which is basically an Italian tapas restaurant (yes, I freaking love any place with small plates as I have a hard time deciding on one food to eat). This was our first time to Quartino but it came highly reccommended by our Chicago native friends, and they were right. Everything from our waiter, Zack, to the lovely Chianti, to the fabulous caprese salad and braised lamb shank was was just lovely for our last night in Chicago. The only thing we didn't love was the gnocchi, which was sad because I have a love affair with the potato pasta heaven that is gnocchi - but all of the other fabulous dishes overshadowed this one less than perfect aspect.

Kristina and I spent Monday boutique shopping in the Halsted/Armitage area. The most exciting event of the day was finding a shop that was moving location and scoring Rich & Skinny jeans for $60 dollars reduced from $200! They are my new favorite jeans!! We also had a lovely lunch at Toast.

Then, as quickly as we arrived, it was time to leave. Oh how I love Chicago. The fact that I've never been between October and mid March probably contributes to my love as I have never experienced the painful cold that I hear so much about. And oh how much we will miss our friends. We are so blessed to have them, and seeing them a few times a year is certainly better than not at all. Can't wait for our Greece vacation together in June!

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