I headed to Chicago last weekend with the primary purpose of finding a wedding dress, and with that came the added benefits of hanging out with family, trying a few new restaurants and escaping subzero temperatures in St Paul. When I booked my flight a month or so ago, it all seemed kind of premature, but as the trip approached my excitement levels rose, and I couldn’t wait to try on pretty dresses while sipping champagne with my mom and sister-in-law. I may or may not have found a wedding dress, and I definitely ate my fair share of great meals in those four days.
My flight was delayed out of Minneapolis, so I did a lot of window shopping before ultimately giving in to the urge to buy fancy snacks at Surdyk’s Flights.
Friday lunch: The Mario at Rollin To Go in Evanston
Dress shopping at BHLDN
My mom and I made a quick visit to Eataly on our way to dinner, and we didn’t know this at the time, but it had just opened earlier in the week and would be taking a break three days later because of the insanity of its first week of business. We were there to check out the packaged goods, but I’d like to return sometime to eat, although I’d probably be completely overwhelmed by all of the options.
When I was in middle school or early high school, my mom and I started taking girls trips to Chicago. We would spend the entire day shopping, and when the stores closed and our feet ached, we would drop off our bags at the hotel and head to dinner, usually hitting up Topolobampo one night of each trip. Since I’ve moved to Minnesota our shopping trips are now done up here, and while we manage to eat at great restaurants (and not pay sales tax on clothes!), I miss our upscale Mexican feasts. It wasn’t until after I left Chicago for Minnesota that XOCO opened, and I’ve been dying to try it ever since (I even saw Rick Bayless walk in to XOCO while waiting outside of Topolobampo for our table a few years ago – my kind of celebrity sighting). After an afternoon of shopping and an evening bridal appointment downtown, Friday night was the perfect opportunity to revisit our old tradition. It was wonderful! We got there later in the evening, but there was still a long line to order – margaritas to the rescue!
We went a little crazy with our ordering, but I knew I wouldn’t make it back to XOCO for a while and wanted to try pretty much everything on the menu. We started with chicharrones and an order of guacamole with roasted fennel and pumpkin seeds – both good, especially the guacamole. I had assumed that the portions would be smaller, but it turned out that the prices are just very reasonable.
My mom’s cochinita pibil torta
My choriqueso torta
As we were getting ready to leave, a group of people sat down at the table next to ours and apparently had more people joining them that were going to take over our table. Someone who worked at the restaurant saw what they perceived as us being rushed out by this other table, which was definitely not the case, but as a result, he gave us free hot chocolates for the walk home. I thought I was full, but next time I’ll remember that you’re never too full for a cup of thick, rich hot chocolate. It tasted just like the truffles that you get at the end of your meal at Topolobampo, and it was the perfect ending to an awesome day with my mom.
Despite the bitter cold on Saturday, my mom, brother, sister-in-law, nephew and I headed down to the Loop for lunch at Berghoff’s and a trip to Christkindlmarket. We’ve been going to Berghoff’s for as long as I can remember, and the only thing that’s changed is my order – from the turkey dinner and a root beer to wiener schnitzel and a dark beer.
My mom and I ordered strategically so we could have a little of each of our favorite things. I ordered the wiener schnitzel with vegetables and German fried potatoes…
And she ordered the game sausage plate (boar, venison and duck) with root vegetables and spaetzle. I think the game sausage was my favorite of the two, although I have no idea which sausage was which. Not pictured: sides of sauerkraut, creamed spinach and red cabbage.
This was my first visit to the Christkindlmarket, and while I can see how it could be a fun thing to do around the holidays on a 30-degree day, standing in a long line for lukewarm mulled wine on a 10-degree day is not my idea of a good time.
I’ll leave it to the rest of the group to keep up their tradition of fighting crowds in the cold to collect little mugs.
We capped off our day of running around in the cold with carry-out from Lou Malnati’s. This was always my favorite deep dish place when I lived in Chicago, but after trying Pequod’s a couple years ago, this didn’t quite live up. The crust wasn’t as buttery as I remember it being, and it also tasted a bit undersalted. I’d still chose it over Giordano’s, though.
Mimosas at Madewell after another round of dress shopping
After hearing stories from my mom, brother, and sister-in-law about amazing meals at The Purple Pig, I finally got to experience it myself when we had a late lunch/early dinner/only real meal of the day there on Sunday. My brother and I both ordered the same cocktail with gin (I think), s citrus component, sage (simple syrup?) and maybe something else. They were excellent.
We ordered so much food that the waiter eventually told us that he thought we’d ordered enough…and then we added another item to the list. I only took pictures of a few of our many, many small plates, although each of them was delicious. This was the burrata with the most amazing kale pesto and equally delicious chorizo-stuffed fried olives.
While I’ve been told that Magnus loves the bone marrow at The Purple Pig, this time he mostly stuck to his iPad, orange juice and shaved brussels sprouts.
Bone marrow with a parsley, caper and fennel salad
The pork heart “Italian beef” panini was the one thing I couldn’t resist ordering. You can throw giardiniera on anything, and I will eat it, and it’s not every day that you’re presented with pork heart as a sandwich filling. When in Rome…
It was a cold, windy walk back to the car after our meal, and since we were parked across the street from it, it only made sense to reward ourselves with dessert from Sprinkles Cupcakes. So good!