Chicago: What I Ate

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Sorry this blog has been delayed! Things have been really busy around here and I lost track of time. I hope to have the third an final installment of the series done and posted this week as well. Although, the more I continue to talk about my vacation the more I feel like I'm still on it!

This blog entry is going to be solely based on everything I ate: morning, noon and night. You all have seen me when I post pictures for my hauls, I'm slender in frame but I can pack away food! What I ate, more like what didn't I eat! Let the drooling begin!

Day 1:

First order of business from the airport was breakfast. We headed out to the Lakeview section of Chicago for some Ann Sather breakfast. I found out about this place from my favorite Food Network personality, Jeff Mauro of Sandwich King. Jeff lives in Chicago and features many local restaurants on his show and then goes home to put his spin on their most popular dish.

Ann Sather cinnamon rolls

Jeff Mauro had recommended (not personally but via the show) the cinnamon rolls. I mean, who doesn't love a good cinnamon roll? I was down for the challenge to see if this was truly as awesome as he had said.

The setting of Ann Sather is quaint and make you feel like you are eating at your Swedish grandmother's house. The menu is large but I was after one thing, so I didn't spend too much time browsing.

Great breakfast at Ann Sather
I ordered two eggs any style (scrambled!) with bacon which then came with two sides. I had a side of mixed fruit and the cinnamon rolls. You get two cinnamon rolls per order, which is a lot but so amazing you don't care. The cinnamon rolls were so fresh and the icing was light and not over sweetened.

If you're not headed out to Chicago anytime soon you can make them at home and see what all the buzz is about! You can find the recipe for Ann Sather's cinnamon rolls here.

I had planned to get lunch at Giordano's to try a Chicago deep dish pizza but after stuffing myself at Ann Sather, it just wasn't happening. Giordano's and many other Chicago based pizzerias actually ship their pizza. Worse comes to worse I can always order if I'm still looking to fulfill that check box on my list of things to eat in Chicago.

Dinner reservations were at Hub 51. It was a casual atmosphere which suited me for the first night. Between traveling and doing a lot of walking exploring and shopping all over the city I was exhausted.

I had started my meal off with their big city cornbread. I wasn't impressed, it was warm which made it appealing but there were chunks of corn in it and I personally do not like that. The best cornbread I have eaten at a restaurant would have to be in NYC, Southern Hospitality. Otherwise, The Fresh Market has awesome cornbread for a grocery store!

Big city cornbread a Hub 51
For my entrée, I had a "knife & fork" open faced BLT which was nothing to write home about. I actually hated the fact that you couldn't pick up the sandwich. When you had to use your knife it was difficult to get all the elements into one bite.

Lastly, for dessert I had lemon meringue ice box pie. It was delicious and refreshing but the portion was out of control. I actually enjoyed the dessert that my mother had gotten more. She had Grandma Bea's chocolate pudding pie and made it a s'more with the marshmallow topping. It was a nice size portion and was delicious, top to bottom.

Not to be negative but I have one more complaint for Hub 51, we had our waiter change mid dinner. Our original waiter was very nice and tentative but then we got a waitress who was cold and really ruined my experience.

Day 2:

Early in the morning, I headed off in search of the Chicago French market. Here it is located at a train station so it is a heavily trafficked area, especially in the morning. I was adamant about going to the French market because there is a bakery inside who makes really unique flavors of French macaroons.

Vanille Patisserie is the name and macaroons are definitely their game. I bought a box of 12 and have not eaten one of them because I feel they are too pretty to eat. They are in my freezer as we speak, I might bust them open this weekend and share them while I visit my sister in Philadelphia.

Some of the unique flavors that caught my attention were tequila lime and PB & J. I was happy to find out that Vanille Patisserie also ships their macaroons so that when my box does empty I will order more!

Vanille Patisserie French Macaroons
For breakfast, I stopped to get a donut at Glazed & Infused (many locations around town) that was just around the corner from the Ritz. The donuts are unique flavors which is important to me. If I wanted a donut I would have went to Dunkin' but I was looking for a DONUT!

First of all, they have free samples and the free sample of the day was a pineapple bacon fritter. Mind blown, I secretly took two samples (guilty). I was stuck between two donuts, do I get the cherry granola or Terrys toffee. Ladies and Gentlemen, I went with Terrys toffee. I mean after all it is vacation it's a time to splurge and cherry granola sounded too healthy.

Terrys toffee donut from Glazed and Infused
The DONUT was delicious and I was sad when I reached my last bite. However, I have to say that Federal Donuts in Philadelphia still has my all time favorite Strawberry Lavender donut.

No time for lunch and besides I wanted to save room for dinner at RPM Italian that evening. For those of you non-reality TV watchers, you might not know who Bill Rancic is but you should get to know him. I don't have time to get into how much I love Bill Rancic because it would be a whole separate blog entry, just Google the man.

He and his wife and a couple of their friends started RPM Italian. It's a chic, hip Italian tapas restaurant basically. It's by no means Italian "family style" like every Italian chain known to man. The plates are meant to be shared but order a lot because portions are tiny (hence my tapas reference).

Clockwise: Watermelon tomato salad,  lobster caprese and zucchini fritti. 
As appetizers I had lobster caprese, zucchini fritti and watermelon tomato salad. I thought that the lobster caprese was a little on the salty side but other than that was delicious. The zucchini fritti was by far my favorite though. It was basically like fried pickles but a slightly healthier version. The herb dip was okay but I mostly ate the fritti alone. The watermelon tomato salad was light and fresh and not overpowered by the other element in the dish.

For an entrée, I got lobster ravioli. Which was awesome. The spinach ravioli was packed with lobster meat and the sauce added a spicy kick to the dish. I would have liked to eaten the sauce as a soup, it was that good.

Lobster ravioli from RPM Italian
Having saved room for dessert (as if there is a time I don't save room for dessert) I opted to get the tartufo and two flavors of sorbetto, raspberry and limoncello.

On top: Tartufo how it arrived at our table and then sliced open. On bottom: Raspberry and limoncello sorbetto
Day 3:

Breakfast started off on the wrong foot. I went to Little Goat Bread, owned by former Top Chef contestant Stephanie Izard to get a bagel. Bagels really fill me up and I was excited to try their signature bagel, the grumpy goat (golden raisin bagel).

Well they were out of the grumpy goat bagel, which I find funny because we got there basically right when it opened and there was no line. I opted to try their special bagel of the day which was peach masala. They offered a list of smears such as cream cheese or butter. I got the cinnamon cocca butter.

I took my breakfast back to the hotel and from there became thoroughly disappointed. The bagel would have been delicious as just peach, the masala made the bagel spicy, in a bad way, and left a terrible taste in my mouth. The butter was also disappointing, bland with no taste. Don't waste your time, because it's also out of the way.

On the third day, I actually ate lunch! I took a cab all the way out to California Avenue to get my first taste of a Chicago style hot dog at Hot Doug's! I love hot dogs but I typically just stick to ketchup or the occasional cheese dog, nothing wild.

Hot Doug's got amazing reviews from every website I went on so I knew it was the location where I would have my Chicago style hot dog. I wasn't alone with the idea to eat at Hot Doug's because the wait was an hour and a half!

The dog from Hot Doug's
However, it was an amazing hot dog and the owner was actually working and took my order which is so cool that all his success hasn't gone to his head. You can get your hot dog grilled or steamed, I went grilled and it had the perfect snap when I bit into it. It was a messy experience with all of the topping piled onto the bun but completely worth it!

I highly suggest asking your cab to pick you up at a certain time because there really isn't a lot of cab traffic in the area. Also, a wait for your hot dog is very common so wear your comfortable shoes! The other place that got rave reviews was Gene & Jude's, but they were even further away. It was tempting though because they put french fries on the hot dog!

For dinner, I had reservations at The Bedford. The building where The Bedford is located used to be a bank so there is a vault in the restaurant and you can even request to sit among all the shiny safe deposit boxes.

This was by far the best dinner out of the three. I had a Royal Kir to drink which instead of raspberry liquor they used peach and it was delicious. Our waiter, Taylor, was awesome. He was very friendly and made great conversation.

Royal Kir at The Bedford
I picked this restaurant based on the cool factor that there was a vault in the restaurant and also because there were deviled eggs on the menu! Naturally, I had the deviled eggs as an appetizer. The dish came out and it was all my favorite things on one plate. Hot sauce rimmed the plate, deviled eggs and they were laced with bacon powder. I've never had bacon powder but it was delicious and so bizarre. It looks like powdered sugar but you taste bacon the moment it hits your tongue. 

Deviled eggs at The Bedford
For my main course, I had the chicken with summer squash risotto. Another amazing dish comprised of my favorites. The risotto was a had on the salty side but other than that it was creamy and full of summer squash. The chicken was juicy and had great flavor. My only complaint was that the bone was in the chicken.

Chicken and summer squash risotto at The Bedford
I opted not for dessert because nothing really caught my eye but also because I had plans to hit up a couple of bakeries on my way back to the hotel.

Down the street is Alliance Bakery & Cafe. I decided to go in after looking at the beautiful cakes on display outside.

While inside, I asked the young girl behind the counter about how much one cake goes for and she said off the top her head she knew the strawberry cake was $700 and the blue and white cake was $450. Needless to say I moved on to more affordable treats!

I found my favorite new sweet treat, the French macaroon, and snagged up a few new flavors. I also decided that I would get something for breakfast because I had plans it hit the Willis Tower early in the morning. I got a cronut which is all the rage right now.

The cronut is a hybrid of a donut and a croissant. It's shaped, filled and iced like a donut but when you bite into it, it's flaky croissant dough. My cronut was filled with blueberry compote, sugar coated with a lemon icing on top. It was by far the best creation I had on my trip. Yes, it surpassed the Ann Sather cinnamon roll.

Last bakery I hit up while in Chicago was Toni Patisserie & Cafe. I stopped in because I took loved their display case as well. I legit has my future wedding cake in the window! I picked up yet some more French macaroons and a frosted sugar cookie which I ate on the plane ride home.

My future wedding cake basically

Day 4:

As previously mentioned I ate my cronut this morning and then the only other meal I had was lunch. After a long day of exploring the aquarium I worked up an appetite and wanted a good meal before getting on the plane.

I had read up on a few breweries and decided to go to Goose Island Brewery for lunch. It was your standard pub food. So standard that I forgot to take pictures of the food. I had a turkey club and it was alright, the french fries were really good. As for drink, I enjoyed their community beer, American wheat ale with blackberries and blueberries. It was refreshing and hit the spot.

Community beer from Goose Island Brewery
That wraps up my tour of where I ate on my trip to Chicago! I hope you enjoyed and again if you have any questions or what more information don't hesitate to leave a comment!

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