Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Chicago Comfort Food and the Spa Life

I was just getting over an illness, but itching to travel, so when the opportunity to go to Chicago and do nothing except eat, drink and spa came up, my bags were packed and I was ready to go.

My friend Cortney picked me up for our second adventure in Chicago together.  Our first stop was The Local Chicago, just opened in December, 2012. Even though this restaurant is by the same owners as Chicago Cut Steakhouse, the two could not be more different.

The Local Chicago is all about a casual atmosphere and old fashioned American Comfort food, offering fare to the “locals” such as a Thanksgiving Dinner every Thursday.  It is open from 6:30 am to 2:00 pm, offering one menu for lunch and dinner.

We started lunch with the unbelievable Blue Cheese Fondue Chips, which were soft and crispy. We also tasted the JalapeƱo corn bread and it was easy to see why Oprah fell in love with it. Alongside the comfort food were comfort cocktails, with ingredients like house-made grenadine and hibiscus gin.

I was thrilled to hear they are very allergy conscious here and don’t share the same fryers or pans with different types of food so when Cortney was enjoying her scallops with butternut squash risotto, I didn’t need to worry that my Dr. Pepper Ribs (as good as it sounds) and fries were cooked anywhere near them.

We finished the meal with a sampling of a trio of their most popular desserts – chocolate mousse, warm chocolate chip cookies and Oreo mint ice cream pie and thanked our hardworking waitress, Linda.

Within a few minutes we were pulling up at the Trump International Hotel Chicago. This was my third visit, but I will never get tired of the first class treatment. It would be even more than usual as Cortney and I were spending the night in one of their Spa Rooms.  

In addition to direct access to the spa without having to take an elevator, we had a room full of extras that come standard in these rooms, including thick robes; an oversized bathtub with salts, oils and scrubs; and a heater for our nightly eye and neck warmers. We also had a wonderful view. 

We relaxed for a bit before meeting Michael Koury downstairs at Rebar to hear about the cocktail menu introduced for the spring and summer. He told us about his new ice program, which included large cubes infused with everything from smoke for whiskey to rosemary and thyme for herby cocktails. Even the new pastry chef was getting into the mix with ice pops.

He said the focus would be on citrus and champagne. We tried a few of the drinks, including the White Sangria (St. Germain, sauvignon blanc and vodka) which macerates with peaches and apples in a big glass jug at the bar.

In addition to the drinks, Rebar has mixed up their famous sushi for the summer by using soybean paper instead of seaweed so the outside doesn’t overpower the inside.  

We had a Trump Ransom (Ransom Gin, Peach Ciroc Vodka, rosemary-infused simple syrup, Blood Orange San Pelligrino) for the road before grabbing a cab to City Tavern.

To be honest, I probably would have picked a different restaurant for dinner had I realized that City Tavern also specialized in comfort food, but that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it.

The cocktail menu was a bit too eclectic for my taste (I learned I’m not a fan of Arrak), but the wine was interesting and diverse enough to make up for it.  I really liked the Ship of Fools Pinot Blanc from Traverse City.

As at The Local Chicago we had a sampling of a number of things on the menu.  The pork belly sliders were quite good and came with the best (house-made) potato chips I’ve ever had. The meatloaf was perfectly paired with a great mac and cheese, but the best at City Tavern is definitely the fried chicken, coated in maple and honey, then vinegar to give it the sweet and salty.

For dessert we only had room left for small bites of the apple pie with cheese and the chocolate pudding with homemade fig newtons.  Kelin, who had been serving us all evening, suggested a prosecco to top off the night and it certainly did.

When we arrived back at the Trump Chicago, our beds were turned down, chocolates, water bottles, slippers and the warm neck and eye pillow were waiting. We drifted off to sleep, thinking that the only thing better than this was the day ahead at the spa.


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