(Also, Mom, thanks for giving birth to me!)
Things have been relatively quiet with me on the blog/social media front lately because two weekends ago, Jon and I took a trip to Chicago in celebration of my big 3-0, which was followed by an out of town staff trip for work. Combine that, family and friends coming in to visit, and a move to the Heights next month (which Jon and I have done zero packing for so far, of course), and July/August are some pretty jam-packed months for me!
But, yep, today is my 30th birthday, and I'm so excited to share it with you all! In celebration, I'd like to show you 49 pictures of our trip to Chi-Town! (consider yourselves lucky, the first cut was 65 pictures, down from 300.) I'll do my best to keep it as brief as possible, but #WordyThirty.
Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba, a super charming tapas place that had been recommended to me by about 37 people.
The food was stellar. Some of the scrumptious plates we shared (top four pics above, starting with top
left) included the goat cheese baked in tomato sauce with garlic bread; fried green peppers & course salt (YA'LL THESE WERE SO INEXPLICABLY GOOD); spicy potatoes with tomato aioli; and mushroom, toast, aged roncal cheese & sherry gastrique. The food was truly delightful.
Also I apologize for my likely misuse of semicolons in my food descriptor sentence. There's no way that sentence is grammatically correct.
On Friday morning we met up with Alex, one of my sweet old friends from high school whom I hadn't seen in several years. We had a lovely breakfast at Ann Sather, which from what I gathered is a place that all Chicagoans know and love, and if you don't love it they'll kill you.
After breakfast, Jon and I took the "L" train downtown to visit the Field Museum because Jon could not go to Chicago without seeing a couple of taxidermed lions in a glass cage who apparently ate some people including Val Kilmer in Africa over 100 years ago.
Oh, I mean they were really awesome.
Soldier Field. We passed by these statues of legs, and I said "Look Jon, that must be Soldier Field!"
Did I mention how cool the lions were?
Sue is the most completed Tyrannosaurus Rex in existence, with 90% of her bones being real. Fun fact though, her head is so flipping heavy that they have the actual head in a case upstairs, while the one on her body is a cast.
Let's have a photo shoot with her, shall we?
Also for the record that is not a knife that I'm holding but a t-rex tooth some kind lady thrusted into my hands before taking our picture (I told you people in Chicago were nice).
Okay, and I was just giving Jon a hard time. The lions of Tsavo and their story were actually very interesting. Sue just makes everything else pale in comparison. So definitely go to the Field Museum if you get a chance - I wish we'd had more time to explore the many exhibits there!
Miller's Pub because #yolo (is #yolo still a thing?).
After we said goodbye to Kelly, Jon and I walked over to Millenium Park and took about 167 photos with the giant bean (but don't worry, I'll only show you 5).
After that (are you tired? I'm tired), we walked over to the John Hancock building to enjoy a cocktail in the Signature Room at the 95th floor and take in some killer views of the city.
Out of all the meals I had planned for the trip, I was most excited about this one, but unfortunately it didn't live up to my expectations. I originally had made reservations that night for RPM Italian, but after reading reviews on Balena (with a nod in 2012 from Bon Apetit as one of the best new restaurants in America), I decided we should go there. After looking at the menu, we thought we might have a Coltivare experience, but as you all know, those are some heavy boots to fill.
While the service was attentive and friendly, though albeit slightly uniformed (when I asked if their pizza with apricot, broccoli leaves, and pancetta would still be good without the pancetta, they said yes, and spoiler alert it was so tart it was almost inedible), the atmosphere was very stuffy and scene-y (seen-y?). It reminded me of the atmosphere at Brasserie 19, which I'm not crazy about.
The burrata panna with olive oil and sea salt (pictured above, left) was the best thing we ate that night, and it was incredible. The toast was smokey and peppery, and the burrata was seasoned perfectly. The chilled beets I had (above, right) were good at first, but the scallion mixture quickly became too overpowering, and I could only eat a little bit of it.
Don't get me wrong, Balena is certainly a good restaurant, but I don't think it holds a candle to the Colitvares, Backstreet Cafes, and Underbellies of Houston. Overall though, I sort of wished we'd tried RPM instead (especially after hearing that Guiliana Rancic was there that night, partying with a bunch of celebs! Okay, maybe that place is scene-y (seen-y?) too....)
So that was Day 2! 2 down, 7 to go!
I don't know if you've figured this out, but I'm sort of an extreme Type-A planner. As in, I do my research, make reservations well in advanced, and plan my vacation schedules out pretty much to the minute.
BUT. In my 30 years of life I have also learned the importance of being flexible and adaptable to my surroundings (okay can't take credit here - that's a direct quote from my Aunt Donna). And in this particular situation, Jon and I had brunch reservations down on the river on Saturday morning. But the night before, when we were about to go to sleep - completely exhausted from our 82 mile Chicago walking day - I turned to him and said, "How about we get 4 hours instead of 3 hours of sleep tonight, ditch the schfancy reservation, and walk around Lakeview until we find a place where we can eat breakfast?"
And that's how we happened upon an incredible breakfast at Sam & George's. At this super duper laid back diner, they specialize in the friendliest, chattiest servers in the world, the freshest fresh-squeezed orange juice in the Americas, and the most robust, incredible egg skillets to have ever graced my lips. It was a beautiful accident ending up at Sam & George's, and Jon will probably still affirm that this was his favorite meal we had in Chicago.
|Photo Credit: Amber|
What a cool experience. Wrigley Field is oozing with history, and the enthusiasm of the fans there is beyond electric. I am so glad we were able to meet up with Rob and Amber and see such a fun piece of Chicago!
|Photo Credit: Amber|
After the game, we headed down into town (inside the loop? Eh?) for dinner at The Purple Pig, where we waited two hours for a table. Amber was concerned that we'd be upset about having to wait, and I was like "Girl I will wait 4 whole days if it means waiting for good food! But forgive me if I start confusing your hands for apples."
|Photo Credit: Amber|
Here's a picture of my handsome cousin and my handsome boyfriend to remove that whole bizarre apple hands comment from your short term memory.
Remember how I could barely eat the beets at Balena? Well I could barely keep my face out of the salt-roasted beets with whipped goat cheese and pistachio vinaigrette at The Purple Pig. Ugh, they were awesome. And so was the cheese plate we ordered!
In total, no lie I think we split 17 different small plates, and each one was more unique, intricate, and exciting than the next. Pictured above was one of my favorite dishes we ordered, the eggplant caponata with goat cheese. The cool, sweet, almost chili-like eggplant dip spread atop the goat cheese-smeared pieces of toast was absolutely breathtaking.
Dining at The Purple Pig was a truly exciting culinary experience!
|Photo Credit: Amber|
It was an insane, whirlwind of a weekend, but quite the adventure! For two Texans who had never been to Chicago, I feel like we saw, did, and ate quite a bit in the mere 72 hours we were there. It was admittedly quaint and laughable hearing the locals complain about the "humidity" (sorry Chicagoans, you have NO idea), and the summer weather there (lows in the 60s, highs in the 80s) was perfect - July is for sure a good month to go for a visit. I am definitely now a huge fan of this beautiful, buzzing, friendly, clean, delicious city!
Come at me, 30.