Monday, August 28, 2017

Last September's Epic Chicago Trip

Carol and I have been friends for years - friends who love food and travel and will combine them at any time. We went to Austin a few years ago to eat, and we'd talked Chicago for ages. We finally made that happen last September, sort of as a birthday celebration for me, and we'd managed coveted reservations at Alinea, a dream come true.

It would be a quick weekend trip - Friday to Sunday - but boy, did we pack in the highlights! As a bonus, I got to see a good crew of Georgetown/DC friends, and it was just a wonderful weekend.

Carol landed Friday morning, and I got in closer to midday. She grabbed us a spot on the list at Au Cheval, and I came straight from the airport to meet her and the best burger of my life. The staff was so excellent, from the hostess storing my suitcase in her small space, to talking through food recommendations, and even removing a dish from the bill when it got to us three minutes later than expected (not even a big deal, we didn't notice, they proactively did it).


We came for the burger, but the fried chicken was so dang good.

This burger is a masterpiece.

Perfect meal, perfect way to start the trip. Then we walked over through the dreary weather to our hotel and made a plan for the day.



First non-food destination - the Driehaus Musem, which is a mansion made in the Gilded Age. Beautiful and dark interiors.



Every feature had such detail in luxe materials.




I'd take that for my living room ceiling.



Worth a trip if you're in the area. Now on to the next food stop.

Parachute - a Korean/American restaurant.
Loved the unique sodas.


Had to order their famous potato bing bread.


I recall the arctic char and peas being excellent.



We first went for the mochi cake for dessert, and as a backup we ordered the pavlova.

This pavlova blew my mind. I need way more black sesame in my life, and this dessert was perfection and unexpected. I still think about it every couple weeks (no lie), and I wondered if I had time to go back again that weekend for another serving. Next time I'm in Chicago, I will eat here again and request this dessert if it's not on the menu. I'm in love with it.

One more activity for the day! Sigur Ros for the second time that week.

One mega Friday in the books.

Time to start cramming in the Saturday food. Doughnut Vault had a shorter line, thanks to the rain. We got there right before opening and were some of the first to get our hands on the goods. 


We got them all. After all my doughnut eating over the years, I am strongly in the yeast/glazed camp. Cake ones just don't do it for me. 
Then it was time for meal two at Fat Rice, with food from Macau. I hope you know where that is.  




 Duuuuumplings.
 I could've bathed in this butter sauce.

Carol and I parted ways for a bit, and I ran up to Andersonville to see Keri. It had been years since I visited her here, and I love her darling neighborhood. We grabbed some drinks at a cafe and caught up on life. She's part of my DC Crate and Barrel crew, and they'll always be some of my favorite people on earth. 





Back to the hotel to prepare for the greatest meal of my life.

Alinea!

Everything was a delight from beginning to end. We walked in and several people greeted us and showed us to our table. They asked which one of us was Lauren, since we had noted that we were celebrating my birthday. From then on, every single person we encountered magically wished me happy birthday.

The menu for the evening. I love that we'd prepaid for our meals, the menu was set, and all we had to do was enjoy it, and then walk out and dream about it.


Who makes an ice bowl just to serve one course in? Alinea, that's who.




This was a delightful tomato soup with essence of yuzu steaming in the background. 

This is a caramelized onion cracker with edible flowers.



This cellophane stuff on top is sour cherries, with some bubble gum flavor and childhood - the nostalgia course. 

And finally the highly anticipated balloon!


 Next time we'll choose the option that paints dessert on your table. We started with the basic one, but I'm ready to try the next experience soon!

Our keepsake - a clear overlay to place on our menu with the ingredients of each dish.

 Everything about the meal was magic, and the staff is a perfect orchestra with everyone coming in at the right parts. I stood up to use the ladies room, and instantly there was a person at my side, escorting me to the right hallway and opening the door for me. At one point Carol stood up to make that same trip, and someone immediately picked up her napkin and placed a perfectly folded new one at her plate. Impressive.

Alinea is a little spendy, but absolutely worth it for a special occasion. Definitely a once in a lifetime (or a few in mine, I hope).

We'd dined on the early side there since that's when we could get in. I took off for a couple hours to go see Derrick, a Gtown friend, and meet his boyfriend. His brother was also in town, and we grabbed some Asian style shaved ice. 


One more evening activity (told you I packed stuff in) - comedy show at Second City! We went to the late showing of #DateMe - An OkCupid Experiment. If you've ever dated online, hilarious. The creator of the show did a real life experiment by creating fake OkCupid profiles of undatable people. We got some good laughs in before bed. 

 We had a few hours left to eat on Sunday morning.

We had to compare the prior day's doughnuts to Do-Rite. I think we came to the conclusion that both places are excellent, and we had favorite flavors from each.  There's a pistachio lemon one in there and a chocolate cake. Pretty solid.

Brunch time with a couple of Carol's friends at The Publican. We ordered lots of things.

Garlic monkey bread.


Pork schnitzel.


Then it was time to part ways again. Carol was off to the airport and I had a few hours to kill before my flight. Time to see more Georgetown friends!

I met Jamie at Cone. Their Netflix and Chill flavor is the perfect movie combo - popcorn and M&Ms. That's what I always get at the movies, and throwing that combo into ice cream made my dad. I would definitely go back for that.

We hadn't seen each other probably since graduation, but it was so, so great to catch up! We really didn't become friends until our last year at Georgetown, but I'm glad we are still in touch. She's a good one.

Final stop of the trip was to see Erin in Oak Park. We were roommates at Georgetown and had some study abroad adventures together. One of my prior trips to Chicago was to see her, and now she's got a lovely house and a couple kids.  I had missed her!


This was an absolutely perfect weekend in a great city with tons of DC friends and the best food anyone could ask for. Chicago, I'll be back! If your winters weren't so bad, maybe I'd make that a permanent thing.

1 comment:

llcall said...

I don't even know how to wrap my mind around an experience like Alinea, but your post was...educational? I'm glad you had such an awesome trip!

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