Chicago is for Foodies

Chicago is for Foodies 

Spending last week in Chicago for a conference meant: frigid cold weather (as an Angeleno, anything sub freezing counts as frigid, even if the low 30’s “aren’t that bad” in Chicago), navigating the behemoth building that is McCormick Place and FOOD.

Having struggled to get into the restaurants on my “to do” list last year, I came prepared this time around. My OpenTable reservations were set months in advance. I was taking no chances. In hindsight, as excited as I was to eat my way through the city, I really should’ve taken more photographs of all the Chicagoan eats, but I suppose I was just too busy eating them! Fortunately I was able to snap a few dishes before scarfing them down.

Monday night, just after flying in, we headed to RPM Italian, aka Bill and Giuliana Rancic (of the Apprentice and E! Entertainment fame)’s restaurant. Our group of six started with the truffled garlic bread, zucchini fritti and big eye tuna bruschetta. Never before had I considered truffles on garlic bread. What a delicious discovery! So delicious, that our table had devoured them before I thought to snap a pic! The fried zucchini, sliced thin like potato chips was light and paired well with the aioli dipping sauce. As a vegetarian, I didn’t try the big eyed tuna, but my companions seemed much more interested in the veggie friendly appetizers anyhow. Splitting dishes with a fellow vegetarian allowed me to try both Mama dePandi’s Bucatini with pomodoro and the eggplant parmesan. Both were delicious, the Bucatini rich with garlic and the eggplant smothered in perfectly bubbly melted mozzarella. Only the Bucatini survived long enough for a picture, though.

Mama DePandi’s Bucatini

 

Our waitress at RPM surprised us after dinner with a complementary assortment of mini gelato scoops in equally mini sized cones. From coffee, to pistachio, lemon, strawberry and coconut, we had something for everyone. Too busy taking a pic, I ended up with strawberry being chosen for me and was relieved to not have to choose and that it was just the right amount of sweet after a filling meal. 

 

Mini Gelato Cones

The next morning was an early start with a 6:30 AM 5K to kick off the day. At 23 degrees, this was definitely the coldest weather I’ve ever run in. An international race, there were runners from all over the globe, with those from colder climates better prepared in thermal tights and headgear. I bundled up the best I could in my Nike Thermafit hoodie and hoped for the best. Running in Grant Park along Lake Michigan was beautiful, the sunrise reflecting off the icy cold water. It was also freezing cold. All I could think was that the faster I ran, the sooner I could get back inside and have a hot breakfast (my reservations, of course, made far in advance as my reward). As I finally crossed the finish line 3.1mi later I sped towards my roommate, ready to head for a taxi ASAP. Before I could reach her, though, I felt a hand on my shoulder and heard “Miss! Miss! Your medal!” Frozen beyond my ability to reason it all felt like a hallucination from the cold (does that even happen? Or am I just being LA dramatic in not so dramatic weather?) but sure enough, a race organizer was handing me a bronze medal.

 

 Somehow, despite feeling like a Popsicle the whole way, I’d managed to run fast enough to place third in the women’s division! Before I knew it, I was standing next to the Gold Medalist from Finland and the Silver Medalist from Colorado, doing my best to smile with my frozen face (ok, this I’m not even exaggerating in the least about as the pictured confirm the left side of my face couldn’t meet the right to form a proper smile. I looked like I had a palsy!)

5K in Grant Park on my trusty Nike+

 

After taking photos and hailing a taxi, we were finally on our way to my breakfast reward at Little Goat. The Spanish Omelet with cheddar, pickled peppers, masa chips and sour cream with some of their homemade habanero sauce warmed me right back up!

Little Goat’s Spanish Omelet

Rounding out the trip was our much awaited return to Eataly, Mario Batali’s “food amusement park” we’d wanted to revisit since first discovering it last year. This place is really a wonder. From fresh produce to baked goods, pizza and pasta restaurants and a section devoted strictly to FRIED FOOD, you can find everything you want here. We ended up starting with the fried mushrooms – perfectly salty, spicy and fried to a crisp! 
 
 
 

This picture doesn’t do these mushrooms justice!

Next was the Quadrati con Ricotta e Spinaci, a delicious fresh made spinach ravioli with lemon butter sauce and crushed pistachios. This was pretty much all of my favorite things wrapped into freshly made pillows of al dente pasta. I’m surprised I was able to pause long enough to photograph them!
 
 
 

Eataly’s Quadrati con Ricotta e Spinaci

 We could’ve probably stopped there, but with a gelato shop and Nutella bar, that would’ve just been crazy. So we got Nutella crepes like sensible people would do. 
 

Nutella Banana Crepe at Eataly

 
I wish I’d taken more photos. Chicago was such a delicious city to visit. Here’s hoping the rumors of an Eataly coming to LA really are true! 
 
 
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