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    Stacy's Picks: Chicago!

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    Last week, I went to Chicago for the first time to meet with some new clients and old friends – Chicago has a range of advertising agencies that I was so excited to be able to meet in person. It was my first time there and I couldn’t wait to see what all the fuss is about.

    I had heard Chicago had a budding food scene, but it was an awesome surprise. I traveled with one of Exposure’s agents, Anais Merle, and we stayed in very accessible downtown Chicago (which seemed central to absolutely everything for us) at the James Hotel. The rooms were comfortable and the hotel was located within 8 minutes to every single meeting we had that week; with three 80-pound bags and heels, it made life really easy. When we arrived – we had time for a quick lunch. The nearby options included a number of Chicago-style pizza places, and the newly opened Eataly, conveniently located only a couple of blocks away from the hotel. Eataly offered almost exactly the same restaurants and products as in New York, but it was much more spacious and civilized than its landmark in NYC. Our lunch at Il Pesce restaurant was fresh and simple, and allowed us plenty of time for a coffee downstairs at the espresso bar before heading over to our first meeting with our giant bags.

    Our first dinner reservation was at the famed Girl and the Goat located on the Randolph Street Corridor – a large street known for its row of restaurants and bars. Owned by Stephanie Izard, season 4 winner of Bravo’s Top Chef, she was nominated for a James Beard Award in 2011. The reservation to Girl and the Goat is coveted and took a month in advance to secure, with good reason – it was packed! The atmosphere is fun, very lively, and the cocktails and food are delicious. Among our favorites (I’d like to go back and try everything) were:

    Wood fired halibut: marcona almond butter, white asparagus, blueberry nuoc cham

    Sugo: cavatelli, baby carrots, cape gooseberries

    Wood oven roasted pig face: sunny side egg, tamarind, cilantro, red wine – maple, potato stix 

    Our second day we hit the ground running and visited the iconic Leo Burnett building for a portfolio breakfast which started a series of meetings throughout the day. We had the chance to stop for lunch at the James’ restaurant, David Burke’s Primehouse, which has a great tableside Caesar salad and classic popovers. It is a nice place for a formal sit down lunch meeting.

    After a long day we celebrated with a very special meal at the three Michelin starred restaurant Grace. Owned by critically acclaimed Chef Curtis Duffy, Grace offers a 9 course tasting menu of either “Flora” or “Fauna”. We both chose the “Fauna” menu, which consisted of the following:

    Trout: osetra caviar, lychee, chive

    Alaskan King Crab: kalamansi, cucumber, lemon mint

    Oyster: salsify, pomelo, sea cress

    Rabbit: asparagus, cannellini bean, Chinese toon

    Pig Tail: endive, cauliflower, oxalis

    Miyazaki Beef: Romaine peanut, Vietnamese herbs

    Chocolate or Vanilla Ice Cream Cone

    Strawberry: chartreuse, kaffir, balm

    Chocolate: coconut, finger lime, basil

    The entire meal was a true experience! Each bite offered something new and the dishes were brought out in exciting ways. Some were plated on hollowed bark, others in classic glass yogurt cups which had been filled with smoke that was dense, but brought out the flavors of each ingredient. It was exceptional and left no wonder as to how Michelin had given this restaurant (and it’s service – which was nothing short of perfect) three stars. We agreed 100%. They even offer coffee pairings with the changing menus. The attention to detail makes this place extra special.

    The following day we had a few hours of down time to digest the amazing meal from the night before and explore the city a bit farther. It had been recommended that we take an architectural tour of the city by riverboat. Chicago has some of the best architecture in the world and the history of Chicago can literally be seen from its skyline. I am proud to say that I now truly appreciate why people call Chicago the country’s “architectural king”. The buildings alongside the lake include some of the most famous art deco towers, soaring green glass office buildings mimicking the color of the river, the Lake Point tower that looks like a glass piano, The Wrigley Building, the “corn-cob” towers, and so many others. It is a mix of old and new, and it’s pretty awe-inspiring,

    To finish our evening we had a drink at the Trump Hotel at the 2nd floor bar, with and old friend and client, where the view of the river really made the drinks that much more enjoyable.

    Our last dinner reservation was at the trendy restaurant Ruxbin, which is a small, rustic BYOB restaurant that offers a unique menu for people who like to try interesting meats and vegetables with a slight global twist. The menu included perfectly cooked venison and pork belly with squid. The garlic fries were awesome as were the foie gras, prawns and cauliflower appetizers. They offer homemade sodas with a variety of flavors as well to go with your meal if you opt out of BYOB.

    Overall Chicago was a treat and I can’t wait to go back to visit the sites I missed and get back to the incredible restaurants. So thrilled I discovered such a spectacular place not too far from home with such great people and culture.


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