Chicago 2012

Oh, hey! Remember when I had a blog? Things have been incredibly busy over the past month with work, travelling, baking, appointments and Christmas. There is a list on my phone of about 10 posts that I have to write and I’m hoping over my Christmas break (5 days off of work, then back for 2 days and then off for 4 more!) I can catch up on life and food.

On American Thanksgiving weekend we went to Chicago for a wedding and a little getaway. The wedding was of a friend I had met in university, Nicole and her now husband, Andrew. They are a beautiful young couple and they are so in love it just makes you smile. I’m glad we were there for the wedding, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!

We were there from Friday, November 23rd to Tuesday, November 27th with the wedding taking place on the Saturday. As like any other trip I take, the majority of my pictures and highlights revolve around food. Here is a day-by-day breakdown of where and what we ate and some details about what we did in Chicago.

Friday, November 23  On Black Friday we were walking up the Magnificent Mile which is probably one of the worst ideas we have ever had. It was packed, crowded and terrible – a very bad first impression of Chicago. As we would learn the rest of our stay, Chicago is nothing like this. It is relaxed, friendly and comfortable.  GC and I met up with Cynthia and we tried to go to The Purple Pig but it was packed so we opted to try some legendary deep dish pizza at the chain Giordano’s.

Me and GC with a deep dish Chicago-style pizza. Photo credit: Cynthia

Giordano’s was packed (Black Friday – what do you expect?) but we were starving so we waited.  Between the lineup and the cooking of our pizza, we were waiting for almost 2 hours (deep dish pizza takes 45 minutes to cook). The interior of the restaurant is standard pizzeria design – pseudo-Italian rustic touches and accents of the city the restaurant is located in. We ordered bruschetta, breaded mozzarella triangles and Chicago-style deep dish pizza green peppers, onion, pepperoni and mozzarella cheese.

If you are an incredibly huge fan of deep dish and that’s the only way you take your pizza then you should probably stop reading. I don’t know if it is because this style of pizza has been built up for me for the past several years or even if it is just so legendary that it’s reputation proceeds itself but I didn’t love this. It was edible and I liked it but I don’t see what the big deal is. I hate eating pizza with a fork and a knife and there was too much cheese. It was like eating a pizza casserole. It was excessive, fatty and just made me feel slightly gross after. This did not stop us from trying it again… If you go to Chicago, you have to have deep dish but just don’t expect too much and you won’t be disappointed.

Sunday, November 25  On Sunday we went to the Lincoln Park Zoo. This zoo is great because it is free and actually has a lot of animals – lions, tigers and bears, oh my! If you visit Chicago I would recommend a visit to this zoo. After wondering around the zoo we went to the Twin Anchors Restaurant & Tavern. Apparently, and this was the reason we went to the restaurant, this pub was Frank Sinatra’s favourite restaurant in Chicago! It was a fluke that we found this out – we were looking for restaurants in the area and after reading the guide book I had (who knew you should actually read those to find useful information out?!) we learned that this was a Sinatra favourite and we had to go. Although nothing remarkable or amazing, this pub is Chicago legend and it’s always neat to eat somewhere one of your favourite celebrity’s used to love.

Sunday night we tried to go to the Purple Pig, again, and again, it was packed. After wandering the side streets of Michigan Avenue we stumbled upon Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery. This was a cozy pub which brewed its own beer in house. I tried the Red Ale and GC tried the India Pale Ale. Both were very good – hoppy, but slightly fruity.

GC ordered the 2:00 AM Burger – a burger topped with hashbrowns, American cheese, smoked bacon and a sunshiny fried egg.

IMG_2273I ordered the Laredo Burger with a side of mac & cheese –  a spicy, Southwest-inspired burger with pepper jack cheese, housemade guacamole and chipotle mayo.

IMG_2272Tasty burgers and tasty beer – this resturant is definitely worth checking out.

Monday, November 26 We kicked off Monday morning with a trip to Yolk – the restaurant that has the “best egg;s Benedict in the city.”  This restaurant was a cross between Daybreak and Cora’s – huge portions, bright colours and fresh fruit.

GC ordered the Croque Madame: Grilled ham and turkey nestled between two slices of our Challah french toast with melted Swiss cheese and our Dijon sauce.
Topped with one egg sunny-side up and served with fruit or red diced potatoes.

IMG_2280I ordered the Egg’s Benedict: 2 poached eggs and Canadian bacon atop English muffin halves and topped with homemade hollandaise sauce.

IMG_2281Not the best I’ve had (that would be from the Gorndon Ramsey restaurant in London that I had breakfast at) but certainly not the worst. It makes me sad for Chicago though if this is the best egg’s Benedict they have… And don’t lie to me about Canadian bacon. I was very close to telling our server that what was on my breakfast was not Canadian bacon, it was just ham but I didn’t. I didn’t want to launch into a full-scale Canada rant first thing in the morning.

After breakfast we headed over to the Fields Museum and then the John Shedd Aquarium. Both were awesome and must sees of Chicago. We grabbed a quick snack at Pret A Manger before dinner. Pret is one of my favourite things that we discovered while in London last year. It is a sandwich shop with pre-made sandwiches that are absolutely delicious. It started in the UK and is now slowly moving to the States and hopefully soon will be in Canada (hint, hint…) Unique flavour combinations and profiles of cheese, meat and veggies, all on delicious baguettes and other breads; it is Subway on steroids. While we were there I tried their new strawberry lemonade and omigosh it is one of the best things I have ever had to drink.

For dinner that night,  we were able to try The Purple Pig. Finally! The Purple Pig is Mediterranean-style food but served tapas style. They suggest that each person orders 2 or 3 plates and shares with the table. We ordered 6 different dishes followed by dessert.

The Purple PigTop row, left to right: Prosciutto Escarole Bread Balls, Prosciutto de Parma with Pecorino Noce, and Mussels with Pancetta, Crème Fraîche & Marjoram.

Bottom row, left to right: Pork Sweetbreads with Fennel & Apricots, Meatball Slider with Parmesan and Arugula, and Sicilian Iris, a ricotta and chocolate chip filled fried brioche.

This was one of my top meals of 2012. If you are in Chicago, you need to try this restaurant. The whole experience just left me satisfied, happy and a little food drunk. Everything was delicious. The flavours were fresh and light, the pairings were traditional with modern twists and everything was cooked perfectly. My favourite dish were the sweetbreads – tender, juicy and a little bit of sweetness which was highlighted  by the apricot smear and contrasted with the perfect little zing from the fennel. But the dessert. The Sicilian Iris is one of the best desserts I have ever eaten – it may even be the best. The outside brioche was perfectly crispy and sugary and when you sliced into it the gorgous custard poured out like hot lava. The custard was cheesy, smooth and rich – the most extreme indulgence topped off with beautiful spots from the milky chocolate chips.

The Purple Pig was the perfect example of the Chicago foodie scene and I am so glad we got to try it. My only regret is that we unfortunately had to miss out on this experience with Cynthia. It only means we have to go back!

Tuesday, November 27 This was our last day in Chicago and we thought we had to give deep dish pizza one more try so we went where it was first created, Pizza Uno.

IMG_2982I enjoyed this pizza better than our first one at Giordano’s but I am still not sold on the idea… sorry Chicago, I’ll stick with The Purple Pig rather than your pizza…

After lunch we headed over to the Art Institute of Chicago where we foolishly thought we could see the whole galley in under 5 hours. We were clearly wrong. A subway ride to the airport, a quick bite at Potbelly Sandwich Shop and then a plane ride home. A great weekend, a great wedding for an amazing couple and a great city! I would recommend Chicago to anyone and we will definitely be going back!

Happy American munching!

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