Tuesday, July 31, 2012

From 2 Sparrows to the Trump

I checked out of The James in Chicago, but there was still more to taste in the city. Breakfast with my Cocktails and Joints Publisher Dale Winespeare was scheduled at 2 Sparrows and I couldn’t wait to check out this unusual spot.

This is a breakfast and lunch only restaurant with the food driven by what’s local, fresh and in season. The owners, Gregory Ellis and Steven Fladung, grew up in Chicago and both bring in a host of restaurant experience that was mostly earned at the famed Charlie Trotters.

In addition to the locally-driven food, 2 Sparrows has a great menu of cocktails, wine, beer and spirits – many of which are from small, regional developers, such as North Shore Distillery and Metropolitan Brewing.

While the food and drink menu does change often, I can tell you we loved what we had. That included Buttermilk Pancakes with honey mascarpone, blueberry and fresh maple syrup; Maple & Bacon Doughnuts; and “Pop Tarts” filled with Nutella and topped with raspberry icing.

Of course, a breakfast like that needs to be washed down with cocktails and there is no shortage of exciting ones here. Our favorites were the 553 (North Shore Gin #6, St. Germain, blueberry, sage and ginger), Split Compliment (Moon Mountain Vodka, cherry, Sombra Mezcal, Sioux City Ginger Beer and lime) and Black Heart 75 (Journeyman Distillery Gin, Santome Prosecco Rose and orange marmalade). While it wasn’t quite my taste, Dale really enjoyed the Bloody Norseman (North Shore Aquavit, House Made Bloody Mary mix, lime, beef jerky and a pickle).

We went from 2 Sparrows to take a look at one of Chicago’s newest accommodations, Hotel Lincoln. This is one of the most unusual hotels I’ve seen, matched by a sister property I had lunch at in Arizona, The Saguaro Scottsdale. It’s a combination of ultra-modern and nostalgic and I look forward to staying there soon. They also have a rooftop bar and lounge with a view that will make you believe you’ve landed in the Caribbean rather than the Midwest.

Dale and I then checked into our rooms at another favorite hotel of mine, the Trump International Chicago.  I had been here once before and the rooms, service and food are as you would expect from a property with the Trump name on it. From the moment you pull into the circular driveway of this massive hotel, you are made to feel like royalty and the management extended my feeling by putting me into a beautiful one bedroom suite with breathtaking views of Chicago from both the bedroom and the living room (also loved the chocolates on the bed with a letter from Donald Trump welcoming me).

I settled in for a bit and soaked up the luxury before Dale and I headed off to lunch at Volare Chicago. It was my first trip to this Italian restaurant and I was very happy that Dario, our waiter, was so helpful with wonderful suggestions. He started us with Insalata D’Anguria, a delicious and unusual combination of watermelon, string beans and dry ricotta in a balsamic reduction. He suggested adding a little truffle oil and that made it just perfect.

For lunch, I had the Fettuccine with Porcini Mushrooms & Veal. It was served in a light cream sauce and just terrific. Dale loved his Grigliato Miste, a mixture of seafood that included scallops, calamari and shrimp with a bit of a blackened taste.

Dessert was just as good as lunch as I had a light and tasty Napoleon while Dale went for the Panna cotta with saffron.

We decided to burn off some calories and walked back to the Trump Hotel. There was a bit of time to get some work done before an evening I had been waiting for as we were having dinner up on The Terrace at Trump International Hotel Chicago, which includes views of Chicago and the fireworks at Navy Pier. 

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