Chicago 2019

A couple weeks ago we decided to take a little impromptu trip. There were three reasons:

  1. We both needed a couple of days away from work (though this ended up being much more the case for me than for Lindsay)
  2. Lindsay had never been to Chicago and had mentioned a desire to visit
  3. I needed to book one more flight to maintain my Porter status for 2020

And so, after some last-minute (for me; I usually plan trips months in advance) bookings we were off to the midwest.

This was Lindsay’s first trip post-fracture, but she and her ankle came through it like a champ. Porter flies into Midway, not O’Hare, which I thought would mean less walking, but all the construction had us wandering all over god’s green acre. Anyway, we escaped, and the taxi ride downtown was short, but hair-raising.

We’d booked at the Chicago Athletic Association hotel, an old private club restored in recent years to be the same type of destination hotel we found in The Line DC. It’s a gorgeous old Gothic building from 1893, still full of knickknacks and curios. We had a big spacious room overlooking Millennium Park (albeit only from the 3rd floor) and, given the late hour, we didn’t have much in us that night except a quick drink and snack in the room and then sleep.

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When in Chicago. @gooseisland #beer #saison

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On Friday morning we ate breakfast downstairs in one of the hotel’s restaurants, the Cherry Circle Room. I had braised pork belly & polenta w/ Brussels sprouts, carrot, hazelnut, and vadouvan. Lindsay had grilled lamb Merguez sausage w/ tomato ragout, poached eggs, pickled onion, and Manchego.

We did both have work to do so we retired to the drawing room — essentially a great cozy hall just off reception — and set up shop next to a fireplace. Eventually, once the hour was respectable, we supplemented our work with a Negroni and an Old Fashioned. Or two.

After working away for a several hours we needed lunch, so we popped next door to Acanto, a casual-looking Italian wine bar. What was supposed to be a simple, light lunch (we had a testing menu booked at a Michelin-starred restaurant that evening) turned into a bit of an affair.

  • Soppressata
  • Robiola Langhe 3 milk cheese
  • Salad special w/ salmon
  • Lobster Spaghetti w/ Maine lobster, Calabrian chili, fennel
    • A bottle of I Custodi ‘Aetneus’ 2010 Etna Rosso

It was all pretty damn good, but that bottle of wine was special. And we had such a good time chatting with our server that he brought us some polenta cake (better than it sounds, trust me) on the house.

Back in the room it was basically nap time. Like, nap so hard time. As I said, we had a late, fancy dinner booked. Not that 8:30 is that late, but given the time zone difference and the recent daylight savings change, it felt like 10:30 to us and, well…I’m old. Anyway, I stayed conked out until the end, but Lindsay at least took advantage of the big soaker tub.

Dinner was at Smyth, a two Michelin starred restaurant in an old warehouse. Gorgeous decor. Precise but unstuffy service. Fully open kitchen, so you get a show with dinner. And the food lived up to the Micheliny hype. They kindly printed off the entire menu with wine pairings; I stupidly forgot it at the table. However, the online version seemed to match it exactly; I’ve provided what I can remember about the wine, but didn’t capture the producer, nor the vintage.

  • Maine uni glazed in egg yolk
  • Squash with quince & chestnuts
    • Ruinart rosé Champagne
  • Shima-Aji, barley & frozen turnip
  • Lobster with leek & gooseberry kombucha
    • Alsatian Grand Cru Riesling
  • Trout, kelp & autumn greens
    • Chablis
  • New potatoes, Rosehip & white asparagus
    • Bourgogne Pinot Noir
  • Aged lamb with “The Farm” lima beans
  • Brioche doughnut
    • Brunello
  • A bar of milk chocolate, raspberry preserves with shiitake mushrooms
  • Egg yolk soaked in salted licorice with frozen yogurt meringue
    • Banyuls Vin Doux from Languedoc
  • Koji caramel apple
    • Billecarte-Salmon demi-sec Champagne
  • Earl Grey tea

Saturday we had breakfast brought to our room, largely because we couldn’t move. Lindsay had more work to do so I went out and wandered around Millennium Park a bit and got a coffee from Fairgrounds.

That’s our hotel in the middle

Our plan that afternoon was to get a Chicago deep dish pizza, drink some beer, and visit the Museum of Contemporary Art. Through a combination of misadventures we accomplished very little of that — the Gino’s East we landed at was not the brewpub but rather a family restaurant. Lindsay didn’t think to bring her ID, but they ID’d her, so she couldn’t drink what few decent beers they had. The pizza was…fine. And we were so thrown from the whole thing that we opted to not even go around the corner to the MCA. We needed to recover this afternoon.

After a bit of an arduous walk we put the recovery plan into action at Pops For Champagne. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a Champagne bar. Our (extremely sweet, extremely attractive, extremely Kiwi) server guided us through the options, and I think we did a good job. She told us we were her favourite table, and I’m sure she never says that to anyone else.

  • Glasses of Egly Ouriet Blanc de Noirs
  • Oysters
  • A bottle of Vilmart & Cie Grand Celier D’Or 2013
  • Fries
  • Glasses of Moussé L’Or d’Eugene Blanc de Noirs (Lindsay) and Pierre Moncuit Blanc de Blancs (Dan)

The afternoon thus salvaged, we went back to our room for yet another afternoon nap (only on vacation!) before yet another monster dinner, this time back downstairs at the Cherry Circle Room.

  • Cocktails (Lindsay had a Nice New Outfit; I had an Improved Whiskey Cocktail with Westward single malt whiskey from Portland, along with something else so strong it took me the whole dinner to drink 3/4 of it)
  • Oysters on the half shell w/ fresh horseradish, japaleno mignonette
  • Yellowtail w/ aquachile, pickled rhubarb, grapefruit
    • glasses of Ingrid Groiss Gruner Veltliner (Lindsay) and Bellevue Muscadet (Dan)
  • 10oz Wagyu strip steak from Snake River Farms
  • Dry aged Rohan duck breast w/ roasted strawberry, mustard greens, Ras el Hanout
  • Brussels sprout slaw
    • Bottle of 2013 Elio Grasso Barolo Gavarini Chiniera
  • Ice cream: concord grape & peanut butter swirl / spicy Mexican hot chocolate
    • Disznoko “5 Puttonyos” Tokaji-Aszu 2010

We thought hard about one more cocktail at the Milk Room on our way out, but it was full and about to close, and as it turns out, it probably would have seemed like a very bad idea the next morning. So.

Our flight left at 5:30pm on Sunday, so we had time for a bit of a leisurely last day. Lindsay had more work to do, and did it. I relaxed and read and got more coffee from Fairgrounds. We Uber’d over to the Museum of Contemporary Art again; even though we only had an hour or so we did see the main exhibition we were interested in, and another quick one, before heading back to the hotel for check-out.

We still had a few hours to kill; luckily we’d managed a reservation at Cindy’s, their (extremely popular) rooftop restaurant + bar. Looooooooooots of selfies happening there. But the food was pretty good too: we had oysters (for some reason we were loving the oysters in Chicago!) and chilaquiles and cocktails and Lambrusco and beer and coffee, and we left absolutely stuffed. Like, in pain.

Our trip back to Toronto was unremarkable, except that our cabbie at the Toronto airport almost got in a fight with another cabbie. Moral of the story: take Ubers.

So yeah, we didn’t do very much of Chicago except eat its food and admire its architecture, but doing wasn’t the point of the trip. We ate and relaxed like champs, and Lindsay’s ankle held up pretty well, and I had Monday off, so…great trip.

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