For the last six or so years, my sister and I make a point to spend at least one day together downtown to take in the amazingness that is Chicago during the holidays. It really is beautiful, and it’s so much fun to have a day to just be goofy with my sister!
We pretty much walked and ate our way through the downtown area… 4.2 miles and 3 restaurants, and of course lots of shopping and photo-taking.
It’s one of my favorite things to play “tourist” in my own city, and I love capturing some of the beauty on camera.
I call this one “looking up”.
Our first culinary stop was the bar at Sixteen, the restaurant in the relatively new Trump building. The view was incredible, but not so camera-friendly with the clouds/light/windows combo… but trust me. Leigh and I enjoyed a drink and charcuterie… I knew we’d be having wine later, so it was a winter mocktail for me with apple cider, orange, cranberry, and cinnamon.
A long sit and a little walk later, we ended up at one of Chicago’s famous landmarks, the Chicago Theater. It’s famous for the huge lighted Chicago sign, but I missed that shot in favor of this one:
Is she not just adorable?
We shopped a bit more, and ended up at one of Leigh’s favorite spots to eat in the area, aver. Remember that whole Weight Watchers thing? Yeah, I used up way too many Points+ on this meal, but it was worth Every. Single. One.
We ordered a bottle of wine which, someone pointed out, is apparently made by felines? It was delicious and I’d order it again in a heartbeat.
Our first dish was chorizo-stuffed bacon-wrapped dates in a piquin chile tomato sauce. I could eat nothing but these for weeks and be happy. Spicy, sweet, salty, rich…
Next was the whipped brandade with scallions and toast. Leigh told me when I got off the train that we’d “be walking a lot, but there’s brandade at the end of the tunnel.” I had no idea what brandade was. Now, I can’t think of much else. As Leigh said, it’s “whipped fishy creamy goodness.” Yep. It’s a salt-cod whipped with cheese, herbs, and olive oil… I lied before. I could have nothing but those dates and brandade and be happy.
We also enjoyed spicy roast hanger steak with a slaw of fennel, peppers, onions, and feta. The meat was so perfectly cooked that when the server brought us steak knives, we didn’t even notice.
Then, just to finish us off, we shared the loup de mer, a succulent and almost creamy roasted fish with crispy skin, served with a fish broth, capers, clams, fennel, and onions. Yes, it had its head. Yes we ate bits of it. Yes it was fantastic.
We finished off our bottle of wine, grabbed our coats, and walked a bit (and then caught a cab) to NoMi Kitchen, the restaurant in the Park Hyatt hotel, for dessert. One of Leigh’s former chefs, Meg Galus, is the executive pastry chef there. Oh the friends in high places… next thing we knew, all five desserts that Meg is currently serving showed up on our table. FIVE! Leigh enjoyed a Campari and soda, while I took one sip of it and wanted to scrape my tongue…
Clockwise from top left: eggnog tart; pecan chiboust; dark milk chocolate cream; parfait with vanilla bean cotton candy; my date; wild bolivian chocolate with honey cream
A 7-minute cab ride back to the train station (in which my cabbie sat and ate fennel fronds) and I was on a train heading home, full and exhausted, which in my world, is the sign of a day well spent.