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Any Given Sundae

sundae

By now you probably have heard of the $1000 Victoria Ice Cream Sundae at Chicago’s Langham Hotel, but did you know that the Victoria is only one of many ice cream creations on the menu?  All of them just as amazing but do not require deep pockets to enjoy. Read more…

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The Aviary Chicago – Designer Drinks Not for the Birds

Photo Credit: Christian Seel

Photo Credit: Christian Seel

If you’re looking for birds, you might want to redirect your evening plans to Lincoln Park Zoo unless your version of bird watching is designer drinks. The Aviary—located on West Fulton Market near Randolph Street’s restaurant row—is a bar that prides itself on highbrow drinks, attention to detail, and presentation. According to The Aviary’s website, bartenders are trained as chefs by famed owners Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas, the focus of each drink is on the flavor of the spirit and not the name or branding.

“Leave your preconceived favorite drinks or disliked spirits that you drank too much of in college at home,” Chef Micah Melton says. “Trust us, the tequila drink won’t make you feel the same way the shots of Jose Cuervo did in college. The Aviary doesn’t have a rum and coke or vodka soda on our menu, so trust us and select a drink based on flavors that you like.”

Photo Credit: Christian Seel

Photo Credit: Christian Seel

Owner of an America’s Top 50 Restaurant Alinea and restaurant to The Aviary and speakeasy bar The Office, Next, Achatz holds the credentials to back his restaurant’s reputation. Open only Wednesday through Sunday beginning at 6 p.m. reserve the single chef’s table located in the kitchen of The Aviary or select a table in the main dining area, which provides a lounge atmosphere with low booth seating and small tables just big enough for the selection of drinks you’re about to order. Walk-ins are also welcome.

The menu provides an array of drinks available for order or you may reserve a ticket for their “prix fixe” menu, which can include 5-10 drinks that will not disappoint in taste or awe factor.

Photo Credit: Christian Seel

Photo Credit: Christian Seel

Zombie Panda

Served as a refreshing starter, the Zombie Panda features a blend of lemon, raspberry liquor, lychee, and pisco. Brought to your table in a small rounded 1.5 oz glass, the Zombie Panda is a watermelon color with the texture of a blended watermelon. It’s a perfect introduction to richer flavors to come throughout your menu of drinks during your stay.

Barber’s Brunch

Whether or not you love to brunch with bottomless mimosas, The Aviary’s take on the classic champagne and orange juice beverage is sure to stun. Paired with a seasoned fried pork rind, the mix of Seville orange, royal combier, and topped off with a dusting of paprika, served in a champagne flute, makes Barber’s Brunch a VODA favorite.

Infernal Imagery

A treasure chest full of treasure is nice, but at The Aviary a treasure chest full of alcohol is better. Delivered to your table in a small chest made of smoky cherry wood, your waiter will open the top to a fog of deep aromas and drinks mixed with baralo, maurin quina, and rhum.

VODA Tip: As the drinks flow throughout your night, make sure to ask for glasses of water as well as The Aviary’s egg drop soup—a traditional hangover preventative featuring egg, greens and a delicious buttery ginger broth.

The Porthole

Trust us, this drink is so much better than being stuck on a cramped cruise. Served in a porthole infuser, teas, citrus and spirits collide for a drink that continues to change flavor throughout your dining experience. Available in various combinations of herbs, fruits and spirits, whichever porthole you order make sure to try this beverage at the beginning, middle and end of your stay. Your taste buds will be glad you did.

Tea In Trinidad

Looking less like a tea and more like the beginnings of a high school chemistry project, this drink is served in a cylindrical beaker complete with a stand and straw. Let the smoky start of this warm drink settle before enjoying a sweet taste of rum, rooibos, verjus, and benedictine like never before.

Photo Credit: Christian Seel

Photo Credit: Christian Seel

In The Rocks

Old fashions are your parent’s drink, an In The Rocks is yours. The Aviary’s most popular beverage served completely enclosed in a ball of ice, the In The Rocks requires a little bit of work before enjoying your drink. Served with a slingshot, your server will instruct you to place the slingshot on the glass, pull the apparatus back and let it strike the ice open to reveal your drink. A VODA favorite for innovation.

If you’re feeling a little hungry post cocktails, the restaurants on Randolph Street are a short walk away or The Aviary will call you a cab if you are wanting a lift.

The Aviary is located at 955 West Fulton Market, Chicago, IL.

VODA In the Know:

  • The Aviary has a classic cocktail-style speakeasy in the basement called “The Office.” If there’s a cocktail that is your go-to that they don’t have upstairs, ask to have it downstairs! They also have an “insane spirit” list and 14+ collaboration beers that are only available at the Aviary.
  • Achatz—owner of one of American’s Top 50 Restaurants Alinea located in Lincoln Park—and Kokonas were asked by a hotel group to open a branch of Alinea in hotel locations. Chef Micah Melton says Achatz and Kokonas proposed a bar instead, but the hotel group passed. Following the rejection came The Aviary.

 

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Luxury Hotel JW Marriott Celebrates 4 years in Chicago with a Flash Sale

 

Grand Opening of the JW Marriott Chicago

On November 10, 2010, the JW Marriott came to Chicago opening in an historic landmark building in The Loop.  Four years later they feel like celebrating.  On their four year anniversary the JW Marriott Chicago will be offering an exclusive sale for the from midnight Sunday to midnight Monday.  Normally we’d just report on the hotel but this sale is really huge and really short. If you want a really great deal, please read on.

Read more…

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The Ultimate Skincare Line – Elemis

The box arrived at the front door on a recent weekend afternoon.  I was like a child on Christmas Day ripping through the box tearing out products with the words illuminating and glow on them. I calmed down a bit and started to read through the packages and inserts as if it was a prescription medication with questionable side effects. And side effects it had! I had a facial scheduled in a month at the Spa at Fearrington Village, the only spa to carry these incredible products in the state of North Carolina. I could not wait for my facial to learn how to use them properly and in which order. I dug into those products as if  they were candy and emerged with skin as radiate as the sun!

Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm

Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm

Elemis  is a luxury skincare line from the Britain. The products are used in top spas throughout the US and the UK. It’s a results-driven line bringing nature and science together with a focus on anti-aging. I learned from Angela at the Spa at Fearrington how to use them properly. Her skin looked almost translucent – it was so clear and glowing.  She stressed the importance of thoroughly cleaning the skin, not scrubbing it, but cleaning it. We started with the Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm. It is oil-based and she took about a bean-sized amount and thoroughly massaged it into my dry skin. The oil from the product breaks down the oils and dirt and the massage technique strengthens the facial muscles to increase the look of smooth skin. After a thorough facial massage, she added a bit of warm water to emulsify the product and then gently washed it off with a soft cloth. At that point, I was in such a state of bliss from the massage and aroma that the order of which products came next escapes my mind.

Pro-Collagen Marine Cream Ultra-Rich

Pro-Collagen Marine Cream Ultra-Rich

My package contained Pro-Collagen Super Serum, Pro-Collagen Marine Cream Ultra-Rich, Pro-Radiance Illuminating Flash Balm (favorite!), and the Total Glow Bronzing Moisturizer for face and one for body. I purchased the Rehydrating Ginseng Toner at the spa. What resonated with me was to throughly clean and tone. Those two steps lend an extra layer of cleansing, exfoliating, and helps serums and moisturizers absorb properly. Toning also balances the skin and helps maintain moisture levels.

Rehydrating Ginseng Toner

Rehydrating Ginseng Toner

Once home, I continue my skincare regime by using the techniques and knowledge I learned from my treatment. After thoroughly massaging in the cleansing balm allowing it time to break down the dirt and oils, I rinse and apply the ginseng toner with a cotton ball and follow with the serum and marine cream. I use my own favorite eye cream which was a tip from an another esthetician, it’s the budget-friendly Olay Regenerist Lifting Eye Serum.  When I’m going out  to an event and really want to sparkle, I use the illuminating radiance balm instead. My skin has never looked better. It has a glow and clearness about it. As we progress into the fall and winter months, I continue to use the bronzing moisturizer for face and body to extend that look of summer that Elemis helps last throughout the year.

Total Glow Bronzing Moisteriser

Total Glow Bronzing Moisteriser

Full confession, there are (very occasional) evenings I skip my bedtime routine of washing and flossing, but these products make me want to, the aroma alone! A few months later my skin looks youthful and is hydrated and clean (thank you, Angela). The beautiful simple, yet elegant packages adorn my bathroom vanity. I’m a fan of Elemis, for me it’s the ultimate skincare line.

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Tequila Partida

Partida line high-res

In my recent path of discovery into the rarified world of fine tequilas I had the good fortune to come across Tequila Partida.    Tequila Partida puts to use old world traditions juxtaposed with modern distillation methods to produce an exceptional spirit that is recognized everywhere for its consistent superior quality.  I was expecting it to be good but just how good I wasn’t sure.  What I had sampled was unexpected.

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Elle Comes In From The Cold

Baby it’s cold outside. The days are shorter, the winds off the lake are brisk and chilly. Winter is nipping on our heals. Summer is but a fond memory. One of the joys of living in Chicago is dining al fresco during the summer in one of the many restaurants across the city. One standout this summer was Elle on the River. Mediterranean-inspired tacos served on the patio of The Langham Hotel along the north shore of the Chicago River.

Mediterranean Tacos

 

Starting Sunday, in celebration of Daylight Savings Time and the longer nights to follow, Travelle Lounge  on the second floor of the Langham Hotel, will be adding some of the best of Elle on the River to their menu.

Chef Tim Graham

Chef Tim Graham

 

FOR A LIMITED TIME, every Monday through Wednesday at sundown diners at Travelle get to experience Chef Tim Graham’s “After Dark” menu featuring a rotating selection of $3 tacos from Elle on the River.

  • Piri Piri Chicken with pepper aioli, mahon cheese, pickles
  • Calabrian Mahi Mahi with lemon cream, quinoa slaw, avocado
  • Crispy Chickpeaswith hummus, herb tabouli, red cabbage
  • Chermoula Braised Pork Shoulder with radish and tzatziki

 

 

TravHiRes_MG_9861

 

Some of my favorite memories this past summer have been at Elle on the River, meeting up with friends after work, eating the Chicken and Pork Tacos, sipping on watermelon soda and arguing over whether the Chermoula Braised Pork Shoulder had a hint of cinnamon (totally does) and who ordered the best dessert (strawberry shortcake FTW).  Summer’s gone, but the flavors remain… if only for a little while longer.  The “After Dark” menu is available for a limited time only.  Second chances are so few and far between so if you missed out this summer now is your chance to give them a try.

 

For reservations or more information, please visit www.travellechicago.com or call 312-923-9988.

 

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Trick-or-Treat

halloween

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Persévérer

PRSVR

Persévérer – Flagship store at 900 North Michigan Aveue

 

It is an overnight success story several years in the making.  It’s the art of perseverance and an indomitable entrepreneurial spirit that fuels their rising star in Chicago’s burgeoning fashion scene. Read more…

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A Stay at the Umstead Hotel and Spa – Add This To Your List

View of grounds of The Umstead Hotel and Spa Photo Credit: Chris J Hamilton

View of grounds of The Umstead Hotel and Spa Photo Credit: Chris J Hamilton

We arrived at The Umstead Hotel and Spa on a late summer afternoon when the feel of fall flirted in the air. It’s tucked away in the midst of suburbia in Cary near Raleigh/Durham and from the moment you arrive you are immediately transported to utopia. Lush foliage surrounds the property as it sits on the edge of  Umstead State Park. At check-in, the front desk receptionist had anticipated our arrival and reviewed our weekend itinerary with us complete with dinner and spa appointments. A choice of complimentary daily newspapers was offered and a refreshing welcome beverage. We are escorted to the guest elevators. All signs of a true Forbes Five Star, AAA Five Diamond property.

Lobby Lounge Photo Credit: Chris J. Hamilton

Lobby Lounge Photo Credit: Chris J. Hamilton

On our way to the elevators we passed the sprawling lobby with abundant and inviting seating. It begged for you to relax in it in the morning with the New York Times or curl up with a book in the afternoon before the buzz of the nighttime cocktail crowd arrives.  We took the elevator up to our fourth floor, lake-facing room with a view of a rehearsal dinner being set up on the garden grounds for what we were old was, “The biggest wedding the Resort’s ever hosted.”  It was stunning beautiful. We immediately relaxed into a resort-like state taking in the lush greenery below from our patio perch. We nibbled on a welcome amenity of cheeses and charcuterie as we thought about a light meal. The next night we were dining at the resort’s signature restaurant, Heron’s. We didn’t want to venture out and allow our relaxed state to escape by leaving the property. We decided to continue our outdoor patio party and enjoyed the deck of The Dining Terrace with a light dinner of a baby lettuce salad and grilled flatbread pizza.

Bath Amenities Photo Credit: Chris J. Hamilton

Bath Amenities Photo Credit: Chris J. Hamilton

Our room was adorned in muted tones of soothing beige and light woods.  A freestanding tub was the statement of the bathroom and the double vanity. Two glass doors contained a private toilet and another with a high-powered shower that felt like a massage. What I took note of were the plentiful bath amenities in larger-than-average miniature sizes, and a full sized loofah. After a restful slumber and fully refreshed we got our circulation revved with loops around the 1/4 trail. The property offers bikes to enjoy at the nearby William B. Umstead State Park, but we were not feeling adventurous and knew spa appointments awaited us and a dip in the salt water pool.

Meditation Garden Photo Credit: Chris J. Hamilton

Meditation Garden Photo Credit: Chris J. Hamilton

The full-service spa was equipped with all the luxuries one could expect from a Five Star, Five Diamond property including a steam room, sauna, whirlpool, and relaxation lounge. The amenity I loved the most was the outdoor meditation garden furnished with ornate and thoughtfully placed art.

Heron's Restaurant Photo Credit: Chris J. Hamilton

Heron’s Restaurant Photo Credit: Chris J. Hamilton

Herons was the highlight of our visit and we did our best to save our appetites for this memorable dining experience.  Service was flawless, without pretense, and personable. Sommelier, Hai Tran, started us with a Blanc de Blanc grower’s Champagne. I learned from the French years ago that sipping on Champagne prior to a meal opens up the appetite. It is a tradition I thoroughly enjoy while dining out and one I occasionally indulge in while dining at home. Tran explained this selection was part of the Special Club or Club Trésors de Champagne (Treasures of Champagne), a unique collection of just 26 grower-producers. Grower Champagne is made by the same estate that owns the vineyards that the grapes come from to make it. These are what those in the industry call, terrior-focused wines. We opted out from the wine pairing menu and created our own tasting experience.

Grower's Champagne and Cucumber Enhanced Water Photo Credit: Chris J.Hamilton

Grower’s Champagne and Cucumber Enhanced Water Photo Credit: Chris J.Hamilton

Newly appointed, Executive Chef Steven Devereaux Green, started out us with an amuse bouche of the  most unique and mouth bursting flavors of foie gras stuffed cherries served on top of coffee beans. Yes, yes, yes, we wanted more. The chef’s artfully displayed each course to out do the next. Guests from nearby tables gasped as the dishes we selected were placed before us. 

Heron's Kitchen Plating Gastronomical Gems Photo Credit: Chris J. Hamilton

Heron’s Kitchen Plating Gastronomical Gems Photo Credit: Chris J. Hamilton

Our entrees included local mountain trout and halibut. The did not disappoint. They were perfectly accompanied and the fish melted in our mouths like butter. We finished with a Dark Chocolate Cremeux with an incorporation of pomegranate and sassafras. Heron’s graciously accepts outside guests, but you’ll want to book a room to thoroughly enjoy what this gastronomical gem has to offer. The menu changes seasonally so expect to be wowed by the unique way Chef Green creates masterpieces out of what is available locally. 

Outdoor patio Photo Credit: Chris J Hamilton

Outdoor patio Photo Credit: Chris J Hamilton

The next day we enjoyed a meditative gentle yoga workout on the lawn led by a skilled instructor. She had a kind and gentle aura and stretched and bent our bodies in ways they hadn’t been before.  The natural and serene setting eased us into a relaxed state even further.  We emerged from our stay at the Umstead recharged, refreshed, and in a blissful state. We will return and when in the Raliegh/Durham area this is a destination sure not to miss. Rather, make this a destination to put on your list.

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An evening at FIG & OLIVE

FIG & OLIVE

FIG & OLIVE has a special evening planned on Monday, October 20th.  Its founder Laurent Halasz along with Xandra Falcó of Marqués De Griñón Estates will be hosting and exclusive tasting and dinner. Read more…

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