Fine Dining in Chicago

One of Chicago’s most elegant restaurants is Everest - located on the 40th floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange. My husband and I had the opportunity to experience Everest this past fall. We were greeted by the host who was very cordial and welcoming. He offered to take our coats as soon as we walked in. We were next greeted by the Maitre D’ who was polite and professional as she guided us to our seats. We were offered a generous assortment of fresh breads including sour dough, French, multigrain, olive, and rye presented on a tray and presented by the food runner. Bread had very crisp crust with soft center; all choices were very fresh.

Assortment of Fresh Bread

We were treated to an Amuse Bouche which contained three unique teaser portions – a small white spoon of fresh seasonal pumpkin puree sprinkled with small bits of crisp prosciutto, a small silver ladle filled with a fresh cauliflower soup, and a small white bowl filled with a thin slice of fried fluke atop a creamy slaw all presented on a long rectangular plate. Each small portion was extremely flavorful and refreshing; the fresh pumpkin was a great seasonal choice and paired very well with the saltiness and crunch of the prosciutto; the cauliflower soup was very rich and creamy; and the fried fluke and creamy slaw brought a nice familiarity to the overall presentation. This was a great way to start the experience!

For an appetizer we ordered the Roasted Main Lobster. This had a Generous portion of fresh roasted Maine lobster meat situated in a pool of Alsace Gewurztraminer butter sauce and sprinkled with ginger presented in a large white bowl. The lobster was extremely tender and flavorful overall; lobster meat paired perfectly with the richness and unique woody flavor of the Alsace butter sauce; ginger added a great subtle sweetness and a great contrast to the richness of the butter sauce.

For an entrée I ordered the Colorado Rack of Lamb. This dish had Three bone-in lamb fillets situated atop a root vegetable gratin and next to a sweet garlic flan garnished with a crisp thyme leaf and tomato and served on a large circular white dish. The overall tenderness of the lamb and the compliment with the garlic flan/vegetable gratin.

Breathtaking Views

Our experience would not have been complete without dessert! We finished with the Banana Dessert – A large square of fresh banana crème brulee containing fresh diced banana pieces bordered with a soft chocolate cake and topped with a quenelle of fresh vanilla praline ice cream and a powdered sugar coated cookie accompanied by four small drizzles of thick maple syrup sauce. Unbelievable!  Extremely rich and decadent overall; crème brulee was prepared perfectly and paired well with the moist chocolate boarder; diced banana pieces added a great textural balance within the dish as did the crispness of the crème brulee topping; fresh vanilla praline ice cream was very rich overall and added a great cool variation to the dish; maple syrup tied all ingredients together nicely and offered a great seasonal flavor. Great dessert!

The pace of the meal was excellent. Service was good and excellent very polite and professional. The server had a great attitude, and his food knowledge was impressive.

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Mother’s Day

April showers bring May flowers, so pick those flowers and give them to your mother on May 12th for Mothers Day. We should be thankful for our mothers every day for changing our diapers as babies, supporting us during our awkward middle school years, loving us during our rebelling high school years, not judging us during our college years, and being so proud of us when we finally got a job.

Mother's Day

Mother’s Day

If your mom is like my mom she doesn’t want gifts for Mother’s Day, she just wants to spend some quality time with her kids (but secretly wants a handmade card and possibly some flowers). Rather than getting a tattoo to show how much you love your mom, check out these websites for some great and inexpensive ideas:
www.groupon.com- Mom’s never like their kids to spend their hard earned money on them. Groupon has a Mother’s Day tab which has a variety of gifts at a great deal. There is a time limit on every item, so make sure you grab the one you want before time runs out!
www.etsy.com- If “do it yourself” art projects are not your thing, this site is loaded with creative, hand crafted, one of a kind gifts. Hurry though; since items are personalized, it might take a few days to ship.
www.pinterest.com- If you have a creative bone in your body, check out Pinterest for some Mothers Day projects. Nothing says “I love you, Mom” like a handmade flower pot or picture frame.
If you really want to “WOW” your mom, take her to Chicago for a nice relaxing weekend. We have rooms available for Friday and Saturday night at great rate! Check out our website at www.hamptonsuiteschicago.com for availability and pricing.
Make your momma’s proud; get them something memorable this Mothers Day!

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Filming in Chicago

Nothing is more exciting than seeing your hometown of Chicago in a film, from Lower Wacker Drive in “The Blues Brothers” and “The Dark Knight” to seeing the entire River North district in “Transformers – Dark of the Moon”. With summer movie season upon us we will be seeing our beautiful city of Chicago in more movies.

lower-wacker-drive-in-tdk1

Lower Wacker Drive

Man of Steel” (Opens June 14, 2013) which stars Henry Cavill as Clark Kent aka Superman, along with Amy Adams, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane and others, is expected to feature the Loop’s Chicago Board of Trade and Willis Tower buildings prominently. The Board of Trade will be used as the exterior of Kent’s workplace, the Daily Planet, while the Willis Tower will provide the interior shots of the newsroom setting. Chicago has been prime filming locations for both Metropolis (Superman) and Gotham City (The Dark Knight). The architecture of downtown Chicago has been key for filming such nostalgic pop culture icons. If you think about it, Chicago is a Metropolis and is a perfect for such film such as Man of Steel. With a Justice League movie on the horizon we might see Chicago the prime filming locations such as New York was for The Avengers.

This summer is going be a hot spot for movies being filmed in Chicago. There has been plenty of rumors and speculation about where the next Transformers movie will be shot this summer and at least part of the movie will be filmed in the Windy City. Picking up where the last movie left off. Mark Wahlberg is set to star in and produce the Michael Bay film.

Andy and Lana Wachowski (who were behind the Matrix trilogy) are also preparing for another futuristic science fiction film, Jupiter Ascending, which will star Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, and Sean Bean also star in the film which will begin a 4-5 week shoot in Chicago on June 24. Andy and Lana Wachowski are no strangers for using Chicago for their movies. Being Chicago natives they used and filmed certain scenes for The Matrix trilogy in Chicago. If you watch closely you see Chicago city streets and locations seen throughout the movie. In the Matrix Reloaded they recreated a portion of the I-90/I-94 going into the city for a climatic chase scene.

Matirx

They just finished filming the highly anticipated Ferris Wheel scene on Chicago’s Navy Pier for Divergent and will be filming all over the city. The film stars Shailene Woodley, Ray Stevenson and Kate Winslet. The acclaimed young adult novel in which the film is based on is set within a dystopian version of Chicago. The novel has been compared to similar young adult books such as The Hunger Games because of its theme and target audience.

Move over New York and Los Angeles, looks like our town is prime for filming such blockbusters and as a Chicagoan I say thanks.

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Comedy – A Must Do!

Just moving to Chicago from the east coast, the greater Washington D.C. Metro area, the expectation for city greatness has been set quite high. For those of you who have traveled to the greater DC area know there are very few cities that can rival the tourists “hoopla” of DC. Over the last six months I have challenged myself to explore and experience everything that the city has to offer. I can honestly say that I have not been disappointed and Chicago is not only a city that rivals but may prove to be a better city for tourists, in my humble opinion.

There are so many great things to do in Chicago, but the one thing that I have found that is unique to Chicago is the Comedy Club Scene. While well known for its exquisite Hot Dogs, Deep Dish pizza and the city’s pride and joy ‘Da Bears, their comedy scene is a hidden treasure that all must experience. Within 5 miles of the Hampton Inn and Suites Downtown Chicago, there are some world famous comedy clubs that has produced some of the world’s most talented funny people.

The Second City is one of the most famous clubs we have in Chicago, providing comedic relief for the masses seven days a week. I first experienced this “Gem” over the Christmas Holiday with my parents. Truly a treat for us all, although my parents and I have very different comedic pallets the stellar cast made the experience both memorable and enjoyable. Producing some of the greats such as Stephen Colbert, Bill Murray, and the blues brothers Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi you know you are in for some good quality fun.

The Second City

The Second City

If you find yourself in the mood for a more intimate setting with some comedy that has some “bite”. Then look no further then The Comedy Bar located in River North. Just a few short blocks from the front doors of the Hampton Inn and Suites Chicago Downtown, there truly isn’t a better deal in the River North area for an evening of entertainment. At $10.00 a ticket you can see some of the most promising new comers to the Comedy Scene. After you are done with the laughs if you feel like busting a move look no further than the bar\club they have on the second floor. Cover included with admission.

The Comedy Bar

The Comedy Bar

There are so many great clubs to just stop in on any given day and catch a laugh or two, so come on down and experience one or two for yourself.

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Spring is here and so are the CUBS!!

Chicago has a lot of fun activities over the Spring/Summer months. If you have never been to a CUBS game this is the time to get started. The Cubbie’s home opener at Wrigley Field is on the 8th, where they will play the Milwaukee Brewers. This will certainly be a fun and memorable experience if you are from out of town. When staying with us at the Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago Downtown, you are within walking distance to the red line Grand stop. To get to Wrigley field just head northbound towards Howard and get off at the Addison stop. The commute is approximately 15 minutes. Once you get off on Addison you will instantly feel the excitement! Most of the people that live on the north side of Chicago are Cubs fans (although we all know that they always loose!) But we are optimistic and when the new season starts we say “this will be the year!”

Wrigley Field

One thing that you must check out is one of the Cubs rooftops. Wrigley just opened up their very own “Sky lounge” located on 1048 Waveland Ave. They have a total of 125 seats and you can join as a group or individually, so you can’t go wrong! They have bleachers on the rooftop that will overlook the field. This is a completely different experience and one that you have to try! They will have burgers, hot dogs, pretzels, beverages of all types and you don’t have to deal with the big crowds.

Wrigley Rooftop

 

Check out a game while you are in town – you will have a great time! GO CUBS!

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Ready, set, Shamrock!

As everyone gets back on track after excessive celebrating over St. Patrick’s Day, one thing that you can do to burn off the calories you drank is the Shamrock Shuffle. There is no better way to kick off the running season than participating in this 8K (5mile) race is on Sunday, April 7th. Now, don’t be fooled because shamrocks are associated with St. Patrick’s Day, which is on March 17th. If you are familiar with Chicago its inconsistent weather conditions, running in 20 degree weather is not desirable.
People of all ages join bright and early on Sunday morning in Grant Park in their finest of green outfits. The race loops through the Loop as all the runners vigorously try and make it to the finish line for the post race celebration. Along the way you get to see all the great attractions Chicago has to offer, while complete strangers cheer you on!
Don’t be intimated by the idea of running 5 miles. This race is for all types of runners. My mom, sister, and I ran the race last year and it was so much fun we signed up again this year.

Shamrock Shuffle in Chicago

We also have some of our Hampton Team running this year, so if you are in the area come cheer us on!

Happy running!

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Tru

Chicago is notorious for its culinary scene. One restaurant that puts Chicago on the map is Tru. This has been on my bucket list for a long time running. I, finally, can now to check it off my list! My husband and I had a “truly” (no pun intended) incredible experience.

We entered the restaurant and immediately focused our attention on the hostess area adjacent to the main door. The lighting in the restaurant was dark and inviting. We were immediately welcomed by a team of restaurant staff who took our coats and promptly welcomed us into the restaurant. Overall, a unique and exciting first impression.
Once our reservation was located, we were then introduced to the maitre’d and promptly shown to our table.

Our main captain approached our table within the first two minutes after we had sat down. He immediately asked if we would prefer a cocktail, glass of champagne, or view the wine list and explained that he would give us several minutes and then discuss food options and recommendations once we had made our drink selection. After we had placed our drink order and after an initial amuse bouche course, we were presented with menus. Our captain did an excellent job explaining the layout of the menu, the various menu choices, and the caviar menu.

I started with the Duck Consomme. Excellent unique presentation overall! A burner and glass device were presented at our table which contained duck consomme along with black truffle and a number of other aromatics  Once the liquid cycled back-and-forth through the glass device enough times to fully impart the dish’s unique rich flavors, the hot flavorful liquid was poured over several small foie gras ravioli pieces, small pieces of duck confit, and presented in a white bowl. The duck consomme broth was extremely flavorful, earthy, and rich overall. The foie gras ravioli and duck confit pieces added great texture and an additional layer of earthiness to the dish. Such a memorable presentation and flavors overall!

Next I tried the Atlantic Skate – a small strip of pan-seared Atlantic skate presented with small diced pieces of orange braised fennel and crispy garlic pieces on a unique white plate. A great delicate dish. The skate was prepared perfectly with a slightly crisp exterior and warm flaky interior. The orange braised fennel had a slight touch of orange which was not overpowering and paired perfectly with the delicate skate. Great delicate and flavorful first dish overall.

We finished our experience with the Campfire of S’more for dessert. Excellent presentation, textures, and flavors! A small cannelle of marshmallow ice cream presented alongside a trio of chocolate selections – one airy milk chocolate mouse, one dense frozen dark chocolate crumble, and one milk chocolate thick rich mouse presented on a long black dish. Very unique and memorable! The different chocolate variations added a great textural contrast, the marshmallow ice cream was smooth creamy and flavorful, and the overall presentation was excellent. Such a great dessert option!

Campfire of S’more

 

The overall pace of the meal was excellent. We had enough time to savor each course without feeling rushed. Each dish was presented in an extremely unique manner and the food quality was impeccable overall. The entire wait staff team did an excellent job maintaining the order of the table. Our flatware was replaced before each course, our water and wine glasses were never neglected, and the table was crumbed after each course. Overall, our wait staff team remained attentive and aware throughout the meal and maintained the cleanliness and the order of the table extremely well.

After we finished our dessert course and experienced the additional dessert cart (amazing) the table was cleared of all remaining items and the table was crumbed one final time. The check was presented in a timely manner and all items were indicated properly on the check. Overall, we had a great memorable dining experience at Tru.

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Beer Tours in Chicago

In the past few years craft beers and breweries have popped up all over the place and Chicago is no exception to the rule. There are now 6 class act breweries with at least one more to open in the next year. To add to that, there is now a beer tour that will take to you a few different ones while giving you a bit of history about beer & Chicago. If you have a group of friends coming to the city and you are looking to do a different type of tour, check out the Chicago Brew Bus. It’s a safe and fun way to goof off for an afternoon.


Some of the breweries that have popped up here in the past few years are a nice complement to our older craft beer producer Goose Island. For our Conventioneers, we will also be welcoming our newest brewery Broad Shoulders Brewery to Chicago this summer right near McCormick Place Convention Center at 2337 South Michigan Ave. This is a far cry from what Chicago had during the turn of the 19th century with just short of 60 breweries.
Either way, come join us for some fun in Chicago. Spring is just around the corner!

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Is Nothing Sacred?

Well after seeing the play Book of Mormon, in this case, no nothing is. It may not be for everyone and I could see how some might be offended, an average of fifty people walk out of a performance, but really Book of Mormon is from the creators of South Park. You have to know what you are walking into; surely one is not expecting a sequel to the Sound of Music. This play is not one for the kiddies.

Book of Mormon

In any case, be prepared to laugh until it hurts, and at other times to shake your head in in utter amazement, at what you are hearing and seeing. But remember, Book of Mormon is live theatre and weren’t you fortunate to get one of the hottest ticket on Broadway. If you think you are going to be offended – you probably will be. So my suggestion would be to not to go and let someone who will appreciate it – to have chance to nab one of those tickets. For me, it was a night of laughing until it hurts and shaking my head in utter amazement, at what the creators got away with.

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Chicago Transit Authority Gets Into the Holiday Spirit!

I have lived in Chicago for the past 7 years, and this is the first time that I have been able to experience the Holiday Train. For the duration of my commute home from The Hampton Inn & Suites I could not help but smile. Generally my work commute consists of me playing words with friends and listening to Pandora on my phone. But this time it was different, as I mentioned I could not help but smile.

As the train pulled into the Grand station, one block away from the Hampton Inn & Suites, my eyes widened and I felt a wave come over me of true holiday cheer. The train is a little bit shorter than a regular train, roughly about six-cars long. It is decorated with holiday seasonal images and thousands of multi-colored lights on the outside of the cars as well as on top. It is truly amazing how a little holiday cheer brightened up my day on my way home from work.
The best part about the experience is that Santa and his elves were also riding the train with me. As we pull into each station, Santa would waive to the boarding passengers from his sleigh on an open-air flatcar carrying his reindeer and decorated holiday trees. There were a lot of families and children so it was a little crowded, but their faces truly made my experience that much more pleasant. Santa would stop to visit with the children on the train and his elves would help him pass out candy canes and season’s greetings.
When coming to Chicago with your family, I would recommend taking one ride. It is definitely worth it! According to the CTA, the holiday train operates from about 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on select weekdays and will be running through the rest of December as part of regular rail service. Normal CTA fares apply.

Happy holidays, and I hope to see you on the train!

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