Family visit to Chicago September 2012

In September my parents and my brother and sister-in-law came to visit. We did a lot of tourist stuff, since we were practically tourists ourselves back then. We ate a ton of good food and saw a lot of stuff, too.

They stayed at The Aqua. It’s new and really cool. There is a hotel, condos, and apartments. They rented a condo on the 40th floor.

The Aqua, Chicago.

The Aqua, Chicago.

The Aqua Building was designed to look like water.

The Aqua Building, Chicago.

The Aqua Building, Chicago.

 

The Aqua, Chicago.

The Aqua, Chicago.

Sunday we had lunch in our tiny apartment and dessert on the roof deck, then we walked from our apartment in Lincoln Park through the zoo and down into the Gold Coast and had dinner at Gibson’s Steakhouse, which was awesome.

The tigers at the Lincoln Park Zoo.

The tigers at the Lincoln Park Zoo.

The fam in Lincoln Park

The fam in Lincoln Park.

Huge steaks, delicious cocktails, sides and wine at Gibsons in Chicago.

Huge steaks, delicious cocktails, sides and wine at Gibsons in Chicago.

David and Sarah relaxing outside at The Aqua.

David and Sarah relaxing outside at The Aqua.

On Monday we took a tour with the Chicago Trolley and Double Decker Company. It was actually really fun and informative. Highly recommended.

Chicago Trolley Company's Signature Tour.

Chicago Trolley Company's Signature Tour.

We sat on the top of the double decker and got some good pictures.

We sat on the top of the double decker and got some good pictures.

Since the tour is “hop on, hop off” and there are designated spots to do this, we opted to get off on Taylor St. and go to Rosebud for lunch.

Lunch!

We are serious about lunch.

Sarah and David like to share entrees. I don't share, but I do sample what everyone else has.

Sarah and David like to share entrees. Good idea, I'll share, too!

Mike had the Penne Bolognese (it was delicious).

My dad had the Penne Bolognese (it was delicious). We "shared" it.

Mike had the Spaghetti and meatballs (it was delicious).

Mike had the Spaghetti and meatballs (it was delicious).

I had this insane thing: Cavatelli Ala Rosebud. I still dream about this dish. It was one of the best things I've ever eaten. I told my dad I'd share it with him but wound up scarfing most of it myself. It's basically a gnocchi-like pasta with grean beans, tomatoes, peppers, and a butter sauce. OMG.

I had this insane thing: Cavatelli Ala Rosebud. I still dream about this dish. It was one of the best things I've ever eaten. My dad and I were supposed to share it but I wound up scarfing most of it myself. It's basically a gnocchi-like pasta with grean beans, tomatoes, peppers, and a butter sauce. OMG.

After lunch we got back on the trolley and finished the tour. Later that night we went to the John Hancock Building’s Signature Room and had drinks and checked out the view from the 95th floor.

Fancy cocktails at The Signature Room.

Fancy cocktails at The Signature Room.

Tuesday we started out at Big Star in Wicker Park. The service was sort of lame and we felt like they weren’t that thrilled to have us non-hipsters out on their patio for everyone to see, but the food was really good. The margarita was not great, though, and overall we like Taco Joint in Lincoln Park better.

Yummy tacos at Big Star in Wicker Park, Chicago.

Yummy tacos at Big Star in Wicker Park, Chicago.

The margarita was warm and didn't taste like anything special. Plus it was small.

The margarita was warm and didn't taste like anything special. Plus it was small.

Another delish taco and really good beans- which were attacked by the family before I even got a good picture.

Another delish taco and really good beans- which were attacked by the family before I even got a good picture.

Yet another tasty little taco and the blah margarita. No matter how many pictures I take of it, it isn't going to improve.

Yet another tasty little taco and the blah margarita. No matter how many pictures I take of it, it isn't going to improve. You can see how everyone else devoured their food.

Then we got on the El to Wrigleyville and wandered around there for awhile.

Mom and dad on the El platform.

Mom and dad on the El platform.

Instagram!

Instagram!

Chicago wore them out!

Chicago wore them out!

We thought about taking a tour of Wrigley Field but the tickets were $25. REALLY? Yeah. Then we had some cocktails at one of the many bars up there.

Wrigley Field Instagram.

Wrigley Field Instagram.

After the drinks we got back on the El and went down to Fullerton in L.P. and had some hot dogs at Chicago’s Dog House.

The 'rents at Chicago's Dog House.

The 'rents at Chicago's Dog House.

All the yummies at Chicago's Dog House.

All the yummies at Chicago's Dog House.

Later that evening we took an architectural river cruise with the Chicago Architecture Foundation.

CAF Architectural Cruise

CAF Architectural Cruise

River cruise, CAF.

River cruise, CAF.

Some cool shots from the boat.

Some cool shots from the boat.

CAF does great river tours, very informative and fun.

CAF does great river tours, very informative and fun.

The Wrigley Building a la Instagram.

The Wrigley Building a la Instagram.

After the river tour we had drinks and apps at Filini. I had another of my favorite foods ever there.

One of the best things I've ever eaten: the mushroom pizza from Filini, Chicago

One of the best things I've ever eaten: the mushroom pizza from Filini, Chicago.

Wednesday was their last day in Chicago so we started out in The Loop at Do-Rite Donuts. Everyone else was food-ed out, but Mike and I enjoyed the donuts very much. Rookies!

Do-Rite Donuts, Chicago.

Do-Rite Donuts, Chicago.

Then we just hung out in Millenium Park and had lunch at Mariano’s, the neat grocery store/cafe/restaurant by The Aqua.

Sarah and Dave at "The Bean".

Sarah and Dave at "The Bean".

Sarah and Dave at "The Bean".

Sarah and Dave at "The Bean".

These shots are irresistible.

These shots are irresistible.

These shots are irresistible.

These shots are irresistible.

Family shot!

Family shot!

LOL, silly.

LOL, silly.

"The Bean" is really called Cloud Gate.

"The Bean" is really called Cloud Gate.

Awwwww.

Awwwww.

David and Dad.

David and Dad.

Millenium Park, Chicago

Millenium Park, Chicago

 

 

Fun!

Fun!

Some places to get good coffee, Chicago Edition

We love coffee. We love to go out and get coffee. We spend a great deal of time with coffee. Lucky for us, Chicago has a ton of excellent coffee houses and cafes. Here are some of our faves so far.

Intelligentsia, multiple locations. Ours is 3123 North Broadway, Lakeview, Chicago, 60657.

Seriously. We moved to Chicago without coming here first. I only had Google Maps to help me decide where to live. When I saw Intelligentsia, I knew this was going to be our neighborhood.

Intelligentsia Coffee

Intelligentsia Coffee

 

City Grounds Coffeebar: 507 W. Dickens, Lincoln Park, Chicago, 60614

Really good espresso in a clean, contemporary space. The regular coffee is the pour-over kind, yummy.

City Grounds, Chicago

City Grounds, Chicago

Cafe Latte at City Grounds, Lincoln Park, Chicago

Cafe latte at City Grounds, Lincoln Park, Chicago

Bourgeois Pig Cafe: 738 W. Fullerton Parkway, Lincoln Park, Chicago, 60614

Cool old house with brick and wood. A nice patio in the summer. Good food, espressos and delicious huge cakes (the best carrot cake I’ve had in awhile). YUM!

Cafe latte and decadent carrot cake at Bourgeois Pig Cafe, Chicago

Cafe latte and decadent carrot cake at Bourgeois Pig Cafe, Chicago

Vintage ceiling at Bourgeois Pig Cafe, Chicago

Vintage ceiling at Bourgeois Pig Cafe, Chicago

 

Coffee in L.A.

I go to L.A. just about every month. Sometimes Mike comes with me. There’s a lot to do there and there are always new places to go.

Of course we always go get coffee. Proof Bakery: 3156 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles, has fancy breakfast pastries, pretty desserts and great coffee.

Proof Bakery, Los Angeles

Mike and my brother Chris at Proof Bakery, Los Angeles

 

A slice of quiche and a cafe latte from Proof Bakery, Los Angeles

A slice of quiche and a cafe latte from Proof Bakery, Los Angeles

A bread pudding/strata type thing from Proof Bakery. Delish.

A bread pudding/strata-type thing from Proof Bakery. Delish.

Pretty coffee.

Pretty coffee.

Proof Bakery

Proof Bakery

Figaro Bistrot: 1802 N. Vermont, Los Angeles. One of my faves! Fabulous atmosphere and great food. Of course really yummy espressos and pastries, too.

Cafe latte from Figaro Bistrot, Los Angeles

Cafe latte from Figaro Bistrot, Los Angeles

 

House made bread and jam at Figaro Bistrot.

House made bread and jam at Figaro Bistrot.

Of course we always go to Intelligentsia in Pasadena when we’re in L.A!  The interior of this location is the neatest one.

Cafe latte from Intelligentsia in Pasadena, CA

Cafe latte from Intelligentsia in Pasadena, CA

 

Intelligentsia's red star

Intelligentsia's red star

 

Intelligentsia Coffee

Intelligentsia Coffee

The best and easiest coffee cake ever

From Pinterest, of course!

I wasn’t all that jazzed to make this cake because it looked kind of boring. But last night I wanted some dessert and when I asked Mike if he’d rather have brownies, cookies, or cinnamon cake, he chose the cake.

It called for stuff I had on hand and only took about 5 minutes to assemble, so it was great for a last-minute treat.

And it is insanely good. It’s light and soft and just cinnamony enough. It makes about 9 pieces and we scarfed half of it as soon as it came out of the oven. I’m sure we’ll finish it off this morning. It is full of butter, which is probably why it’s so delicious.

The best and easiest coffee cake in the world- cinnamon swirl coffee cake

The best and easiest coffee cake in the world!

Cinnamon Swirl Coffee Cake

Cake

  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted

Cinnamon swirl

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. flour
  • 2 tsp.  cinnamon

Make the cake by mixing everything together except for the butter. I just used a medium-size bowl and a spoon — no mixer or fancy equipment needed. Then slowly stir in the melted butter (the slower the better according to comments from the original recipe) and pour into a greased 8×8 pan. For the cinnamon swirl, mix all the ingredients together until well-combined. It will be creamy for swirling, not crumbly like a topping. Drop/spread evenly over the batter and swirl it into the cake batter gently with a knife. You just want swirls on top, not to mix it totally into the cake batter. Bake at 350 for 25-35 minutes — start checking it with a toothpick or knife after 20 minutes and then every few minutes after that. It will not be good if it gets overcooked.

While it’s cooking, make the glaze.

Glaze

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. milk
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Mix it together in a bowl with a fork to dissolve all the powdered sugar.

Then once the cake is done and still warm, drizzle the glaze over the cake.

If you want, you can double the recipe and make it in a 9×13 pan.

Adapted from here, who adapted it from somewhere else.

So much amazing food in Chicago

Some of you might have noticed that we like to eat. For a lot of people, eating is something they do to stay alive. They call it a necessity.

But for us, eating is a hobby.

Lucky for us, Chicago has a few places to indulge us. We’ve been pretty busy, and we’ll talk about some more of these in greater detail later, but for now, here’s a list of some of this city’s amazing food offerings we’ve enjoyed:

  • Uncle Sammy’s: Our first night in Chicago, we were having a horrible time finding a place to park a UHaul truck. At about midnight, we finally found a place and were walking home when we stumbled onto this gem. The Pilgrim is a very fine sandwich.
  • Kitchen Sink: Good, simple sandwiches.
  • Floriole: Adrienne loved it. I thought it was only OK. Quiche, apparently, is to die for.
  • Pasta Bowl: Delicious and affordable pasta.
  • Tzatziki Grill: Excellent Greek place that also has a pretty solid Italian Beef sandwich.
  • Margie’s Candies: It’s like time travel at Margie’s. Egg-salad sandwich and the Terrapin Sundae: Recommended.
  • Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria: Our favorite pizza in Chicago so far. Pizza in Chicago is like barbecue in other towns: Everyone has a very strong opinion. We loved Lou’s, but we’re still open to trying others.
  • Lito’s Empanadas: Delicious — and cheap. For $2.50, one of these little guys is great for a snack. Get two, and it’s lunch.
  • Del Seoul: Weird little Asian dumplings that are oddly addictive.
  • Paciugo: Gelato. Can’t go wrong with gelato.
  • Pret a Manger: This is Target’s cafe. Yes, I know. Why eat out at Target? But you see, here in Chicago, even going to Target is a dining experience.
  • Brown’s Chicken: Fried chicken place in one of the downtown pedways. Scenery wasn’t great, but loved the biscuits and mashed potatoes.
  • Bobtail Ice Cream: An almost-overwhelming amount of goodness.
  • The Edge: Cake!
  • The Grove: More time travel. Open-face turkey or meatloaf sandwich, with bottomless coffee.
  • Red Hen Bread: Tip: Get the day-old stuff for a little less money (same deliciousness, though).
  • Taco Joint: Best Mexican so far in Chicago. Lebanese Pork Taco: must have (available only on Thursdays).
  • Chicago’s Dog House: Our favorite dog place in Chicago so far. Good choices, good service, good prices.
  • Clark Street Dog:  Got caught in a storm and waited it out in here with a couple of dogs and a couple of beers. There are worse places to end up when it’s raining.
  • Red Hot Ranch: Our first hot dogs in Chicago. Our first experience with french fries on a hot dog. Interesting.
  • Big Star: Gourmet tacos. Service was only OK, but the decor was great. After Taco Joint, though, hard to compare.
  • Gibson’s Bar and Steakhouse: Best service of any of the restaurants we’ve been to. A shoutout to our server, who happens to be a Lincoln Park neighbor! Desserts are insane. And tall. You’ll need to share. Oh, and also: $$$
  • Filini: Ultra-modern, ultra-hip dining at the signature downtown building Aqua. Sotto Bosco pizza was impressive. As was the Carciofini spinach dip.
  • Rosebud: Best Italian so far in Chicago. Two must-tries: Penne Bolognese and their Cavatelli Alla Rosebud.
  • Toast: Great service. Outstanding breakfast burrito.
  • Stella’s: Delightful breakfast options.
  • The Bourgeois Pig Cafe: Carrot cake!
  • Goose Island Brewpub: We didn’t eat here, but for some great local brews, it’s worth a try.
  • Dunlays on Clark: $5 Cheeseburger special = delicious.
  • The Burwood Tap: One of the oldest continuously operating bars in Chicago. Really good free food Mondays through Thursdays (my fave was the chicken).
  • Smoque: Been having a hard time finding some barbecue out here, but this was fantastic.
  • Pizzeria Due: After a too-long wait at Malnati’s, we ended up here. Not quite as good as Lou Malnati’s, but if LMs is a 10, Pizzeria Due is a 9. Very good.
  • Portillo’s: Iconic. Worth it for the atmosphere. Still, Chicago’s Dog House wins out.
  • Potbelly Sandwich Shop: Grilled Chicken Mediterranean is a fine, fine sandwich.
  • Matisse: Did not expect deliciousness when we ordered the Reuben Potstickers. We were pleasantly surprised.
  • Do-Rite Donuts: You’ll find lots of Dunkin’ Donuts here, but few local places. These guys do donuts right.
  • Wow Bao: Quirky little place with neat little fluffy dumplings. A must-try.
  • Devil Dawgs: It’s worthwhile to try all of Chicago’s hot dogs.

So much food in this town — how do people here ever get anything done?

Sundaes, treats, floats. Plenty of tasty options at Margie's Candies.

 

If you're after treats, Bobtail is also an excellent choice.

 

What's this? A hot dog? Yes, I guess so. Underneath the french fries, anyway. Interesting technique, Red Hot Ranch.

 

The S'mores cake at The Edge. Cake did not last long.

 

The best Chicago hot dogs, in our opinion. Chicago's Dog House.

 

A very full meal at Smoque BBQ: Chicken, mac & cheese, baked beans, and cole slaw.

 

Carrot Cake! At the Bourgeois Pig.

 

We don't only take pictures of food. We are also capital-A Artists. Or, maybe this is the view after we'd eaten too much and had to lay on the floor. Hard to say.