This week we went back to Chicago to claim our reward for winning a contest given by the Chicago Loop Alliance!
The lights are now decked out for St. Patrick's Day - there's no music playing yet, but you can bet some great Irish music is in the works.
Friday, the first night of our trip, we stayed with Erin and Beret. They greeted us with a batch of cinnamon rolls (a great midnight snack) and we settled in for a light discussion of religion, politics, gender, and race!
Saturday morning we awoke to french toast and talk of a future camping trip before heading off to the Chicago LDS temple. From the pictures I saw online, I wasn't expecting much, but the Chicago temple is gorgeous!
From far away, it looks like your standard stone church building...
... but up close you can see the gorgeous marble. It was brilliant in the sunlight and against the snow.
We arrived early (well, we were actually late...) so we took advantage of the time and bought our first set of temple clothing (to clarify for the non-Mormons out there, in the temple we wear white clothes. Some temples will rent a set to you if you don't have them, but it's really best to have your own set. There is a small selection of styles to choose from). It was so exciting getting our very own that we don't have to rent and, for me - though I hate how petty this makes me sound - that are a style that I've chosen. It also added a new element to my experience; I felt more invested. Like I was actually a part of the ceremony rather than just an unaffected viewer.
After the temple, we parked our car and rode the Blue Line in to the city to get to our hotel and meet up with my friend, Chris, who we stayed with last year when we came for U/RTAs. We met at Cosi - a cafe - and were quite underwhelmed by our drink/snack selections. Really, we should have known it would be questionable when we ordered one of several bagels from the pastry display case and they informed us that those are just to display what they offer in the morning. It doesn't sound that ridiculous when written out, but it seemed really absurd at the time... Regardless, the company was wonderful.
Then we got to our hotel, The Wit. From the first glance it's clear that this isn't like any hotel we've ever stayed in. For starters, it's right in the hub of downtown. There were doormen outside to turn the rotating door for you - classy! At check-in we were given complimentary Mrs. Field cookies... warmed!
The room was awesome! Very modern with bright pops of color. The alarm clock was also an iPod dock (I don't know why, but I find that to be super cool). The view was awesome.
Ben chillin' on the orange chaise lounge.
On the other hand, there we little traps set up in the room to trick us into spending more money. Like sensors in the fridge that knew if you even touched one of the items stored there, or these water bottles:
"Awesome! Complimentary wat- $6?!."
So we just didn't touch anything...
At 6 o'clock-ish we went down to dine at the hotel restaurant, the State and Lake Tavern, for which we had a gift certificate. Dinner was pretty darn good. We really liked the appetizer (Scotch Eggs: soft boiled eggs inside a deep fried cocoon of breading... super delicious) and dessert (chocolate and butterscotch layered mousse). The entree was some type of beef, which was too well done, and a side of fried rice that had too spicey a sauce on it. When bookended by such delicious food, though, it didn't matter so much.
After dinner we walked over to the Cadillac Theatre to see South Pacific! The theatre was practically right around the corner, and on the way we saw the Puppet Bike. Literally a puppet theatre on the back of a bike.
The Cadillac Theatre is beautiful inside and the show was good - not our favorite, but good entertainment, especially for free. There were some rowdy people sitting in front of us for the first act. To our relief, and that of several of our neighbors, they left at intermission. We realized that this was the first professional show we've seen together that neither of us have been apart of. That part of it - seeing theatre we haven't helped produce - was invaluable. It's so sad that we don't get to do it more often.
After getting back from the show we considered checking out the bar that is on the top floor of the Wit, but there was a line and a bouncer, so ultimately we went back to our room and watched some SNL before zonking out.
The next day, with the help of our handy dandy concierge (have I mentioned how much I loved our concierge?) we set out to find a restaurant recommended to me by a friend: Orange With A Peel. How happy we are that we went there!
Don't worry, it was open when we arrived.
We ordered a little of each of their specialty items: Frushi (fruit sushi), Pancake Flights, and Caprese (not a specialty item, but a taste of their savory menu).
First came the Frushi - sweet rice topped with fruit and a fruit sauce. The fruit varies from day to day.
Another thing they offer is to design your own juice! My concoction: pear with cucumber and pineapple - it doesn't look like much but it tasted delicious!
Next we had the pancake flight. Top L-R: Grapefruit, Orange & Chocolate
Bottom L-R: Lemon w/cream cheese, Lime w/Ginger whipped cream
The favorite: Lime, then Orange.
Finally: The Caprese.
What is so wonderful about this restaurant is how light and fresh everything was. We didn't walk away feeling bogged down by a heavy meal. It was delicious and felt kind of healthy.
After lunch we decided to walk down Miracle Mile which afforded us some treats. Our first stop was the Hershey's store because, well, we've never seen a Hershey's store before. We were in for a treat!
After wandering around the store for a few minutes we were drawn to the back portion of the store where the bakery is. A worker there was announcing that she would be giving away a cupcake! She didn't just SAY this, though - she SANG it. She wasn't the best singer we've ever heard, but she could carry a tune and she was completely unabashed. It was charming. So she sang us over and teased us by putting tiny dabs of frosting onto the cupcake. Then. She applied a GIGANTIC DOLLOP of frosting and we immediately knew we were no longer interested it the promise of this cupcake. I never thought it was possible, but that cupcake had entirely too much frosting. It didn't stop there. She sang on some Kit Kat bars, Hershey bars, mini Kisses, and Reeses pieces. It was almost too much to look at. Too much to listen to. Too many jingles.
The children danced for it and one lucky (?) winner took home a nice plateful of diabetes.
A Ghiradelli store was across the street and we lavished in a candy experience that was a little more... sane.
We continued down Michigan Avenue and found Tribune Tower, the Chicago Tribune building - which is super cool! Their was a contest for who would design the building in 1922 and the winners, John Mead Howells and Raymond Hood, designed this neo-gothic beauty. Prior to the building of the Tribune Tower, correspondents for the Chicago Tribune brought back rocks and bricks from a variety of historically important sites throughout the world. Sites include: Taj Mahal, the Parthenon, Hagia Sophia, Westminster, the Great Pyramid, the Alamo, Notre-Dame, the Great Wall of China, the Berlin Wall, and Abraham Lincoln's Tomb, among others.
That's a stone cannon ball from Pevensey Castle, England above Ben's head.
Immediately next to the Tribune Tower is a giant statue of Marilyn Monroe.
We finally made it to Blick (for more art supplies...), to the hotel to pick our luggage, and out on the blue Line to get our car. We then decided to make one last stop at the National Museum of Mexican Art, which was on our way out of the city and free! so we didn't feel bad about staying for only 20 minutes (it closed at 5pm).
We literally sped through the museum, but we managed to notice that there were some really awesome things there: costumes, puppets, folk art, etc. We definitely plan to go back and spend some quality time there in the future.
If you're LDS, this might look familiar. Ben pointed out that the illustration style looks just like the cover of Family Home Evening manual.
This is Qinceanera by Carmen Lomas Garza and was one of our favorites (really, it's the one we spent the most time looking at) because there are so many hilarious things going on! We also learned that a Quinceanera requires 14 "damas" or companions, which explains the 14 girls in identical pink formal dresses.
All that to say, we had a fantastic trip!
PS - last night (Monday) Ben felt inspired by our time at Orange With A Peel to make frushi! It was really good, I was super impressed.