Archives for June 2013

Chicago Weekend Wrap Up

White Wine Sangria at Wishbone

White Wine Sangria at Wishbone

Without question if I had to choose a city that best fit my ideal lifestyle it would be Chicago.  It provides my perfect mix of food, fun, and culture.  This past weekend I got a chance to do a little catching up with some of my favorite college friends and of course explore the city that I love (especially in the summer time).  Of course I did not stray from my usual agenda of food, food and more food.  One of the best things about a walking city is you have a chance to work up a healthy appetite so you can skip calorie counting and dive in for the favor. In that light I thought I would highlight some of my new and old favs that are a must on my list of things to eat in Chicago.

  • Joe’s Stone Crab: Regardless of if I am in Chicago, Las Vegas or Miami, Joe’s is always a necessity for me.  I kept it pretty simple with this visit as I already had plans for dinner.  I just cannot resist the stone crab when it starts a calling.  As promised the claws are always fresh and delivered cracked to take the manual labor out of reaching the deliciousness.  As great as the claws are, the mustard may be just what sets Joe’s apart.  It is the perfect complement to the clean favor of the stone crabs and with the 7 claws that came with my order I managed to go through four containers of mustard.  Shouts out to the waiter for not judging me.
  • The Girl and the Goat: Normally once I am hungry notice of a 2 hour wait will send me running to the next restaurant.  As a big fan of Top Chef, once my friend suggested this restaurant owned by Stephanie Izard I knew I have to give it, and my patience, a try.  The plus side to the two hour wait is definitely getting some dedicated bar time.  Once you sit at a table it is easy to revert to old favorites. By sitting at the bar, however, there is ample opportunity to see what is popular and which drinks passing by that might strike your fancy.  Their Sidecar was a definite winner for me!  Although a lot more traditional than some trendy drinks, the Sidecar has not stood the test of time without cause.  It’s strong enough to catch your attention, but avoids the in your face taste that some drinkers avoid.For dinner I was lucky to dine with another foodie and we took the tasting vibe from the bar to the table.  For the night we dined on fried pickles, squash blossom Rangoon, diver scallops, pan roasted halibut, however, the favorite of the night came as a surprise.  Their cauliflower is awesome!!!! Only as an adult have I branched out and really developed a love of cauliflower.  As a kid I just remember thinking had no favor at all.  Prepared at The Girl and the Goat my taste buds went in completely the opposite direction.  The cauliflower still had some bite and crunch to it and added with the pine nuts and pickled peppers it was a flavor explosion in my mouth.  I was literally stuffed so finishing it was impossible, well until morning hit and I unwrapped my leftovers for breakfast!  I would definitely put this on my must do’s when in Chicago.
  • Wishbone: I love Sunday’s where you can just take it easy and brunch is usually at the top of my lists on days like this.  Wishbone is one of my old time favorites in Chicago for brunch.  They quickly made a fan of me years ago by serving some delicious chicken sausage.  I know this may not sound like much but when don’t eat beef or pork a breakfast sausage can be hard to come by.  For my companions the hit of the meal was definitely the sangria.  The white wine sangria they offered as a special was filled to the brim with watermelon, cantaloupe, honey dew melon, berries and as a surprise a slice of cucumber. The cucumber twist definitely elevated the drink mixing in a refreshing component you don’t always find in sangria.  Add in favorites such as shrimp and grits and crab cake benedict, good friends and a beautiful Sunday afternoon and I cannot think of a better way to close out a fabulous trip!

SLS – Miami

[slideshow_deploy id=’175′]After my law school graduation the first thing on my mind was my trip to Miami.  After four long years of law classes at night it seemed like a fitting reward.  My last visit in Miami I stayed at the hotel next to the SLS Hotel and every day at the pool I heard the music and saw the party vibe at the hotel.  Without question I knew the SLS had my vote for hotel my next trip to Miami.  As one of the newest hotels on South Beach it has a fun but sophisticated swagger that fit the vibe I was looking for in relaxing before bar study began.  The best feature of this hotel, which quickly pushed any other glitches we encountered quickly out of our minds, is the people.  At almost every stop I encountered a welcoming staff that always went above and beyond to make the experience an unforgettable one.   Whether it was Gustavo and Ricky at the beach or the fun and accommodating staff at the pool everyone there was working while having fun.  As a guest in a hotel, if the staff is having a great time, who are you to deny the vibe???

At first sight the hotel offers a modern view of the Miami lifestyle with the beautiful Bar Centro welcoming you in.  Every step seems to tell a story as you take in the Spanish theme throughout the lobby.  As you move closer and closer to the pool you pass the open kitchen that kicks your taste buds into gear even if you did not know you were hungry.  Then on to Bazaar where the outside dinning allows you to take in the incredible view of the pool and remind you the vacation has officially begun.  If you stop at the bar you have to ask for the Strawberry Lemonade Rum Punch.  The refreshing favor complements the rum, which is always a vacation favorite for me.  Now it may have just been a specialty from the awesome bartender who served me but it was too delicious for words.  In adding a pinch of mint the bartender became a genius in my eyes and the combo kept me coming back for more.

As you finish your walk down the hotel corridor you reach Hyde Beach.  In both night and day environment this space elicits all the coolest kids, sometimes on their baddest behavior.  This is the epitome of what you should do when in Miami on vacation: enjoy food, drinks, sun with a splash of turn up just because no one really knows who you are.  At night the same vibe carries on and to be honest it would take me three months at home to dance as much as I did in one night at Hyde.  Whether your goal is to lay back and watch or get in on the action Hyde is a highlight on the normal South Beach scene.

This is not to say that there were not some hiccups.  As with almost any South Beach hotel the rooms are a little small.  My opinion is likely swayed by my bigger is better mentality as a Texas.  The rooms are beautifully decorated and let’s face it, if you came to South Beach to sit in the room you have way bigger problems.

So to round off my experience of the best at the SLS I have to give the number two spot to food of course!  I have been to Katsuya in the SLS before and it was an interesting experience.  Given I am a fan of the awesome sous chef, I decided to try the restaurant again.  The crowning moment came as my sweet tooth took the wheel and I decided to try out some desert.  GREAT DECISION!!! Now sushi and donuts do not sound like a likely pairing, but the donuts here are phenomenal and give Krispy Kreme a run for its money.  They are served hot with an orange glaze and it had all the nonbelievers at my table jealous.  Warm, soft, sweet, citrus donuts can change almost any smile into a frown and has my mouth watering just with the memory.