Checking Out Chicago’s Latest & Greatest

I try to take one big trip and one quick getaway each month. I often do the latter in Chicago, about two hours from my home. Even though I’ve been in the Midwest over two years now, I never have a problem finding something unique to do in the Windy City.

I started my latest Chicago adventure with a Chef’s Table event by The Local Tourist.  My friend Theresa Carter does a wonderful job with these events, which include everything from seven course formal meals, to pizza and wine pairings -- like the one I attended at Red Flame Pizzeria.  This restaurant/wine bar has many wine selections are reasonable, wide ranged and many are available by the glass.

The Chef’s Table event is a great way to network for business, or make new friends, while tasting food that Chicago’s Local Tourist will stand by.  At Red Flame we had a Brushetta Trio for a starter, followed by a selection of pizzas (including the veg HEAD, with wild mushrooms, spinach, roasted garlic, basil and extra virgin olive oil, and the crazyFLAME, four cheeses topped with arugula salad).  We even had a dessert pizza called S’mores -- flame-cooked dough topped with chocolate spread, graham cracker crumbs, chocolate chips and marshmallows!

The food was great at Red Flame, as was the wine, the favorites of which were Otto’s Constant Dream Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, Budini Malbec from Argentina, The Velvet Devil Merlot from Washington and Grayson Cabernet from Napa. I tried to pace myself because there was plenty more food and drink to come on this trip, starting with lunch at Rock Bottom Brewery with my friends from Edible Ink PR.

The brews at Rock Bottom (there were nine on the menu) have won over 125 major awards and vary from “I’ll be back Winter Lager” to “Drink Me India Pale Ale.”  You will also find a great cocktail menu that includes martinis, margaritas and some house specials.  We had a selection of starters – loved the Ballpark pretzels, brushed with ale and served with a spicy spinach cheese dip – and then I had a tasty turkey burger with their delicious macaroni and cheese.  The menu is huge and has a selection that would please anyone.

Rock Bottom was just a few short blocks from my hotel for the night, the Trump Chicago. I had seen it tower over the city in its own little conclave, but this was my first time inside. I have to say I was extremely impressed.  I see a lot of five star hotels, but the attention to detail here is just amazing.  You feel it immediately when you walk in to face the concierge, not the front desk.  The area is large and welcoming, and they will pretty much take care of anything you want, from walking your dog (the Trump has its own dog walk), to getting your bottled water inside your room. (And, speaking of bottled water, I loved the way the valet brought my car back cleaned out and with fresh bottled water!)

My room was not a suite, but it was very large and had a kitchenette.  I also marveled at the enclosed shower and tub area. I had the pleasure of taking a tour around the property with the Sales & Marketing Director, Robert Prohaska.  The Spa Suites are wonderful, located on the floor with the extensive gym and spa, so you can keep the relaxation going in your room’s soaking tub when you finish your treatment.  The extras in these rooms (as well as the family suites) are amazing, especially the warmer for neck and eye wraps that comes with your nightly turndown service. I am scouring my schedule for some time for a more extensive look at these rooms! If you don’t have the opportunity to stay at
Trump International Hotel & Tower® Chicago
, I suggest you at least come for a drink at ReBar, meal at Sixteen or, in the spring through fall, The Terrace, where you have breathtaking views of Chicago that include the fireworks over Navy Pier twice a week.

I had a magnificent breakfast at Sixteen, but I didn’t eat dinner there.  That was at one of my other favorites in Chicago, Palmer House Hilton.  I had stayed at this classic hotel a few months ago, but this time I was there to check out the Regional Wine Journey Classes at their Lockwood Restaurant.. They are led by Manager Sasa Sinanagic, who takes patrons through a different wine region each time.  I had come for Spain and Portugal, two areas I was eager to learn more about.  I wasn’t disappointed in the lesson or the wine that Sinanagic chose.

It’s only $25 to taste a selection of wines while you learn about the areas they are produced in. It’s always a small group so there is plenty of interaction. Sinanagic is very open to questions and was more than happy to provide those who wanted with some tasting lessons.  A big hit was the Portuguese Vino Verde, with citrus and green apple notes, this wine is only $24 in the restaurant.  Spain’s Orballo Albarino, full of tropical fruit like pineapple and melon, was also very good.  We were also introduced to wines that many in the group didn’t know, such as Tempranillo and Grenache. Sinanagic believes, “We owe our guests to better educate them to understand wine and food.”

As for the food, you won’t get any complaints from me.  I was in the mood for something a bit lighter and Lockwood Restaurant knows how to do even that in style.  The Butternut Squash and Apple Soup was flavorful and not too heavy and the Black Truffle Risotto was divine.  For more information on Lockwood and the Regional Wine Journey Classes, visit the website or call (312) 917-3404.


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