Eating our way through Chicago

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It seems that Jay and I really love to eat and our time spent in Chicago was no exception.  I knew Chicago had a few famous dishes, pizza and popcorn for example, but I wasn’t prepared for just the depth and variety of the foodie culture that would present in this midwest town.  I was eager to try some of the Chicago classics but in my preconceived notions of the USA I had not added Chicago to the ranks of San Fran, NYC or D.C. when it came to their panoply of offerings of culinary prowess. Here are a few of the highlights and surprises that left us salivating in Chicago: 

1. Stay at the Fairmont Chicago

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Throughout highschool and undergrad I had the privilege to work with some truly amazing people at the Fairmont Empress in my hometown of Victoria, British Columbia.  Now prior to our move down south I left the Empress but still have some unreal friends working there while they finish up their schooling.  So thank to one such remarkable human, Kyle, Jay and I still have a few ins for good deals with the Fairmont brand.  Now although it hurts not to get my employee discount anymore, we decided to splurge to stay at the Fairmont’s in Chicago, Pittsburgh and Washington D.C. before ending our cross country venture.  The Fairmont Chicago did not disappoint and after staying at 18 of the brand’s properties I have high standards. However, the modern decor was reminiscent of the keen design sense that Chicago on whole is famous for and our view from the 42 floor was nothing short of remarkable.

2. Find a gym up in the air and be inspired by the Chicago skyline

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We couldn’t wrangle  the friends and family rate for both nights at the Fairmont Chicago so we stayed with their affiliate brand Swissotel (also thanks to Kyle).  The gym and pool are on their penthouse level with panoramic views of the city skyline.  I think while we swam in the evening and worked out in the morning we saw more patrons of the hotel coming up to snap photos and video the view than actually donning exercise gear.  However, I can’t blame them the view of Millennium Park, Lake Michigan and the famous Chicago architecture was captivatingly inspirational.

3. Have breakfast in Millennium Park

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With such a limited amount of time Jay and I stayed pretty close to the guide book on our Chicago tour because we wanted to ensure we saw all the Chicago sights that were must-sees.  That meant Millennium Park and the bean were on the top of our list.  There are a bunch of great café’s and smoothie shops (big names and lesser known eateries included) across the street where we picked up our breakfast and carted it over to one of the pic nic tables in the park to enjoy.  It was the perfect start to a busy day full of walking down the magnificent mile (another Chicago must-do), architecture touring (one building has a piece of hundreds of other famous buildings fashioned into their walls, such as a tile from Notre Dame) and doughnut hunting (The Doughnut Vault has sold out by the time we got there at 11 a.m. so go early).

4. Refuel with Bow Truss Coffee

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Okay so coffee is a new thing for me.  Last September when the school year started I realized the sheer value of an extra caffeine boost before facing a classroom of 60 peering eyes.  However, my less than refined palate and previous repulsion at even the smell is still learning to savour, and relish coffee.  You can all be proud though I have graduated from a latte to an Americano so there is some headway being made.   This being said I still need the put enough sweetness into it to bake a cake in order for me to stomach coffee in whatever convention the barista serves it to me.  This was not so with Bow Truss Coffee (and 2% Jazz if you happen to be from the island and reading this) I had a plain drip coffee over ice and although I did concede to sweeten it a little for my own enjoyment I really had no need.  I honestly, and truly enjoyed the pure, unadulterated local roast as it was handed to me over their polished wood bar. Now that is saying something.

5. Pizza… obviously.

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Now I was at first a little hesitate to try deep dish pizza.  I usually prefer a very thin, crisp crust on my pizza with loads of veggies and light on the cheese.  I also has the misconception, due to appearance, that deep dish pizza would taste like a quiche or vegetable pie and as my mother can attest to that has never been something that has been an easy sell for me.  However, Jay and I both found the the deep dish pizza at Giordanos left us feeling lighter and less stuffed than a traditional pizza often has.  My unfettered recommendation would be to try their Super Veggie pizza.  Now don’t be put off by the broccoli, as it is the most marvelous touch. This pie is about 80% veggies, 10% crust and 5% cheese and you will relish every mouthful. Promise.

6. Popcorn

This gourmet goodness doesn’t even need a description because nothing I could type, describe or transpire to convey would even come close to doing it justice.  Suffice to say the cashier directs you to their packages of wet wipes when you by a bag or tin of Garret‘s Chicago Style Popcorn because it is flavorful, and messy and you won’t be eating like a lady.  Again that is a promise.

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