Monday, May 5, 2014

Chicago Getaway: Kinzie Hotel and Howells & Hood

I was in the habit of heading to Chicago every month or two to check out a hotel and some restaurants, but my workload had me traveling so much out of the country that it had been a while since I’d been to the Windy City. I grabbed the chance when I heard about a new hotel in town.

I headed into Chicago with a friend for the easiest trip there I’d had in a very long time. I almost (note that I said “almost”) felt guilty about just staying at one hotel and going to one restaurant, but we had both been working our tails off the previous few weeks and needed the break.

It was an easy two hour drive to downtown. The Kinzie Hotel is located in the building that once housed the Amalfi, though you might not recognize it now. It’s a thoroughly modernized boutique property with some very interesting amenities.

It’s always been my pet peeve that the more expensive the hotel (especially in big cities), the less you get.

If you stay in a chain’s lowest property, you’ll get a host of amenities at no charge, but if you stay in their highest priced property, you’ll pay $30 a day for internet! It never made much sense to me and I’m glad to hear more properties agree.

The Kinzie is definitely not an especially expensive hotel, but it does have a chic feel in an intimate setting of only 215 rooms.  

Our Deluxe Corner room had a view of Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse through large windows. We also had a IHome Docking Station, a Keurig with a gourmet coffee and tea setup, WiFi, a pillow top mattress, and a nice size bathroom with dual shower heads. That was all complimentary and it wasn’t even the best of the free offerings.

The Double Cross Lounge offers a Manager’s Reception every evening from 5:00-8:00 pm and I was quite impressed. The cozy tables for two and the murals made for a nice setting to enjoy your choice of cocktails, beer or wine, along with a tasteful buffet that included charcuterie, cheeses, and veggie kabobs.

We had two drinks each and a bit of the food while we unwound from the week, but we had dinner reservations so we weren’t going to overdo.

It was a short walk from the hotel to Michigan Avenue, where Howells and Hood is located in the ground floor of the Tribune Tower. I had never been here before and was drawn to it the minute I heard they had 114 beers on tap – the largest selection in Chicago.

I think everyone knows by now that I don’t really drink beer, but I always come prepared with a beer taster when needed. I knew he couldn’t possibly taste all the offerings so I asked the waitress to recommend two of the flights.

Howells and Hood has four different flights on their menu. Patrons are also encouraged to create their own with four beers of your choice.

The first flight came with four beers: North Coast Pranqster, good citrus and hops taste; Green Flash Le Freak, less fruity with less hops, but stronger;  Lagunitas New Dogtown, more of a barley taste and sweeter hops; and Stone Arrogant Bastard, a bit more bitter, though this is a very popular beer.

Even though he isn’t a big bourbon fan, he did like the Alltech Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale (smooth with an interesting orangey taste) and the Tyranena Rocky’s Revenge (very Guiness-like).

Of course, I’d never let a friend drink alone. I ordered La Flora Collins from the cocktail menu (Bombay Sapphire, St. Germain, lemon, sugar and San Pelligrino).

It was so good that I ordered another before switching to the Eden Valley Sauvignon Blanc on tap, I felt wasn’t quite as flavorful as in the bottle. 
The Signolo Pinot Grigio worked a bit better tapped. 

We also deferred to the waitress when it came to choosing from the extensive menu and opted to go with lots of the small plates instead of entrees. She came up with a wonderful selection.

The house-made charcuterie was just terrific, as was the Mac N’ Cheese, but the Lamb Meatballs were the best. They were made with Cedar Springs Lamb and black garlic, with house-made ricotta.

The waitress described the desserts and there was no way we could resist. She brought out a basket filled with mini Pumpkin doughnuts and a Peanut Butter Snickers Pie. We ate a few of the delicious doughnuts, but finished ever last drop of that pie!

After one of the best night’s sleep in ages, it was time for breakfast. One of the attractions of the Kinzie Hotel is that they put out a continental breakfast on every floor. Whether you bring it into bed or enjoy it on the couch in your room while taking in the view (like we did), you don’t even have to get out of your robe and go far to get it.

I also have to say it was an expanded continental breakfast with fresh fruit, yogurt, cereal, muffins and Danish, as well as juice, milk, coffee and tea.

It was too short a getaway, but the Kinzie and Howells and Hood made it just right. While I don’t know that I’d recommend the combination for a family trip, both places are perfect for a romantic weekend, or some fun with friends. 

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