Lucky me, a business trip to Chicago! Chicago, a city where it’s almost impossible to get a bad meal or have a bad time. Especially on this trip, which was packed with fun activities for “team building” – I’m all about the team.
Every morning began with breakfast in my hotel room overlooking Lake Michigan – pretty hard to have a bad day with a start like this. For the record, I began each day with a fruit plate and bran cereal — needed to have at least one healthy meal a day.
Monday afternoon was a team building exercise — Kart racing at Autobahn Country Club. This stock photo from Autobahn will have to do until I get copies of our group’s photos — although I’m sure, at the speed I was driving, my photo will be nothing but a blur. Nothing more fun then racing around a track at 50 mph with the smell of burning rubber and gasoline in the air.
Many would say a trip to Chicago wouldn’t be complete without a taste of its famous deep dish pizza. Starving from an afternoon of competitive racing, we did a group dinner at Gino’s East. I had Gino’s almost 10 years ago and remember really loving it. This time around, not one of my favorites. Casey at Good.Food.Stories. and Gina at Zest, The Florida Foodie Insider’s Guide both recommend Lou Malnati’s for Chicago’s infamous deep dish.
I don’t care how many times you’ve been to Chicago or how “anti-tourist traps” jaded you are, a cocktail at Signature Lounge at the 96th in the John Hancock Center is always a must. It’s especially critical if you’ve traveling with Chicago-virgins, they will think you are the coolest hepcat around for taking them here, plus each cocktail comes with a John Hancock Center shaped swizzle stick – cocktails and souvenirs!
When I think about great Chicago food I always think Italian and freshly made pasta. One of my favorite Italian restaurants is Volare. On the menu, your choice of 9 pastas to top with your favorite of their 11 sauces. This trip I tried a new place (well, new for me) Trattoria #10. Atmosphere – more romantic than rollicking; food – off the charts. These photos were taken with my iPhone so please excuse the poor quality. Even with bad shots you can see how great the plates looked. Multiply that by about 1,000 and you’ll have a sense of how they tasted.
I started my meal with the marinated and grilled baby octopus salad , orange segments, watercress, radicchio. Grilled octopus is a new obsession for me. I think it’s just the smokey grilled flavor since octopus doesn’t really seem to taste like anything — I’ll keep ordering it until I figure it out or start growing more arms.
It’s a good thing my first course was relatively light because my entrée was creamy, rich, earthy decadence: gemelli pasta, creamed spinach, mushrooms, caramelized onions, truffled goat cheese. Goat cheese and truffles together – add a glass of red wine and call it a night.
After such a rich and amazing dish like that do you even care what anyone else had? Well, since I’ve got the photos here is the roasted rack of lamb and, I think, the tuna, from two of my dinner companions.
For dessert, the table (o.k. two of us) shared a dessert sampler of profiteroles filled with vanilla gelato and Valhrona chocolate sauce, vanilla baked pear and lemon cream tart and cinnamon mascarpone strawberry shortcake with strawberries with cinnamon and vanilla scented whipped cream. What, no photo? Well, you see I was so distracted by having three desserts laid out in front of me that I forgot to take a photo before digging in.
I thought that meal was going to be the highlight of my Chicago foodie experience. Oh, how wrong I was. Check back next weekend when I devote an entire post to the culinary delight I discovered on my last day in Chicago.
Thanks to everyone who sent me recommendations via Twitter and Facebook, I didn’t have enough time to try them all but if you’re in Chicago here are some recommendations for shops, restaurants and other fun, all from very reputable foodies: Teageswender, Blackbird, Avec, Quartino, Naha, Salpicon, Southport Lanes and Goose Island.