Paris Club

Studio Paris is a popular place to go out in Downtown Chicago, but I think Paris Club is discredited for how delicious their food is. I went there for dinner this past weekend with friends, and it is now one of my favorites. I recommend simply sharing their small plates. This way you can get a little taste of everything.

We started with their Drippings on Toast. This dish comes with five toasted slices of French bread situated next to a black iron bowl filled with tender brown short rib meat and an extremely flavorful short rib sauce. Wow! Great way to start the meal! The tenderness of the short rib meat paired perfectly with the crunch of the toasted French bread and the overall flavor of the sauce was meaty, salty, and delicious. Excellent selection overall!

We next tried the Lobster Crostini. Two large slices of toasted crostini pieces topped with a delicately prepared scrambled egg, large pieces of butter-poached lobster, and a light drizzle of white truffle oil. Incredible! This was by far the most memorable dish of the night. Each of the ingredients complimented one another perfectly. The smooth tender scrambled egg paired extremely well with the snap of the fresh lobster meat and the crunch of the crostini. The portion size is perfect for two people overall and the light drizzle of truffle oil added that great earthy aroma and flavor. If you go with a group I recommend ordering a few. Excellent! I would 100% order this again.

Next was the Paris Chopped Chicken Salad – A Large portion of chicken chopped salad which included fresh iceberg and romaine lettuce, fresh green avocado slices, tender chicken pieces, halved grape tomatoes, green onion, cauliflower, croutons, and served with a sweet vinaigrette in a white bowl. Great fresh salad option overall! The crunch of the lettuce, tomatoes, croutons, and onion paired nicely with the tender chicken and the creamy smooth avocado slices. The addition of cauliflower was a unique touch to a common dish and complimented the other ingredients well. The sweet vinaigrette paired perfectly with the fresh salad ingredients and gave the dish a great sweet flavor. Excellent!

We went on to try their Tuna Tartare – An appetizer portion of fresh pink tuna tartare mixed with fresh green mint leaves, arugula, diced avocado, and tossed in a light vinaigrette and served on a white plate. Exceptional light refreshing dish overall. The fresh tuna pieces paired extremely well with the smooth creamy avocado and the lightness of the sauce added a great sweetness to the dish without being overwhelming.

We finished our meal with the Cheese Plate for dessert. Two long slices of toasted French bread situated next to three cheese selections – blue cheese, a light goat cheese, and a hard cow’s milk selection – accompanied by nuts and small slices of fresh fig. Excellent presentation overall. Each of the elements complimented one another well in both flavor and texture. Great way to end the meal!

I would 100% return to Paris Club. This restaurant is an excellent value, the food quality and presentation is excellent overall, and it is a fun, welcoming, and elegant atmosphere. Can’t wait to go back soon!

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Although it is quite unusual that Chicago is in the mid 50’s this late in November, I am not one to question this phenomenon. With that being said, for all of those who are traveling this way for the Thanksgiving Holiday, you can leave your snow suite at home!

Yes I said it, Thanksgiving. That time of year where we get together with all our family members, eat so much food you have to put sweat pants on, sprawl out on the couch watching football in attempts to make room for not one, but two pieces of pie. Well, at least that what my Thanksgiving is like.

Thanksgiving Crafts

As a kid I always loved Thanksgiving because we got to make cool crafts. Some of you might recall using a profound amount of glue and construction paper to make your Pilgrim hat and Indian headdress. The most genius (and easiest) craft was making your very own Turkey by tracing your hand. Now that Pinterest exists, there are millions of other great craft ideas that you can do with your family or for your home. If you have not heard of Pinterest, then I suggest you join the millions who are “pinning” their hearts out. That way, you too can create your own board full of your favorite fall crafts and food ideas this holiday season. Check it out at www.pinterest.com and prepare to spend countless hours following, liking, and repining.

If you are downtown Chicago Thanksgiving Day and feeling ambitious before the feast, head to State Street for the Thanksgiving Day Parade from 8 a.m. – 11 a.m. You can also tune into WGN Channel 9 for full coverage. If you are feeling brave enough to fight the crowds, don’t forget to check out the Black Friday sales that will be going on in your area.

Now, as we all know Thanksgiving isn’t about the buttery turkey, creamy mashed potatoes, and the decadent pie, although they are delicious. It is about gathering together, expressing your gratitude, and what you are thankful for. On behalf of everyone at the Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago, have a very happy Thanksgiving!

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Snickers Bar & Grill

Dive bars are few and far between in Chicago’s River North Neighborhood. But every once and a while I will get a guest who will ask me where a good local joint to grab a beer and watch the game. Go no further than at the end of our block on the corner of Illinois & State street where you will find Snickers. You can look it up on Yelp and find out what the reviewer say about it, but the common theme is that they don’t have one common type of crowed. You will find the 80 year old grandpa, the 22 year old frat boy and a hotel general manager cheering on their hometown favorite teams.

Snickers Bar & Grill

It doesn’t have a pretentious atmosphere or a bouncer at the door. They welcome just about anyone in who is willing to keep a bar stool warm. They serve Greek food, that I understand ain’t half bad. It’s not the kind of place you order wine from. They have a pretty good bottled beer selection and a few beers on tap. I’m pretty sure they go through about a case of Jameson a night on the weekends from the amount of shots I’ve seen them pour (note the $2 shot sign in the window).

Sometimes on a night out, you don’t want to have to scream to the person next to you or listen to the thump of the DJ booth. When it’s that kind of night out, give Snickers a try.

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Holiday Season in Chicago

Christkindlmarket

Christkindlmarket

As the holidays approach, Chicago begins to get a little chilly. Most often than not, everyone stays indoors and enjoys a cup of hot cocoa with a warm blanket while they watch their favorite shows on TV. For those of us that are visiting the city or for the locals that enjoy the cold winter months, Chicago is always full on wonderful outdoor activities. For this holiday season take advantage of the Daley Plaza’s Christmas Market. If you are staying here with us at the Hampton Inn & Suites on Tuesday, November 20 take a quick 12 minute walk and enjoy the wonderful Christmas delights. The market will be open from 2-8pm on that Tuesday. I was able to attend last year with my younger brother and sister and we had a blast. This is a traditional German Market. It started in 1996 and has been gaining popularity every year. Actually, it is the largest German market in the country and the best part is that all the vendors are serving authentic German food. They always offer sausages, sauerkraut, and potato pancakes. If you have never tried a potato pancakes this is definitely a must try. They are a delicious savory treat! For the younger generation, there are sweets, pastries and candies. To drink, there are German beers on hand as well as the traditional “Glühwein”, which is a hot spiced wine that is served around the holidays. I have to admit, I was a little hesitant about trying this wine, but once I did I was certainly glad! It was a great warm beverage and the spices in the wine were delicious. So as you come and join us in Chicago this holiday season, take advantage of this fun outdoor activity – admission is free!!

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Hub 51

It was date night last Friday night! We decided to head over to Hub 51 – just steps from the Hampton! We entered the restaurant and immediately noticed the buzz from the bar area and a feeling of excitement flowing throughout the restaurant. Overall, a great exciting first impression.

We were seated, and our server approached our table right away. Her casual professionalism and overall personality made us feel welcome and excited to begin our meal. When it came time to start discussing food and drink options, she was able to answer all of our questions and gave several excellent recommendations. By the way she described the preparation and presentation of the appetizer and entrée recommendations, you could tell she had a great knowledge of the menu and that she was confident answering all of our questions.

 We started with the Del Mar Seafood Salad to share. There was a large portion of seafood salad which included fresh iceburg lettuce, poached shrimp and peekytoe crab, radicchio, green beans, jicama, red pepper, celery, edamame, carrots, and tomatoes served with a thick vinaigrette on a large white circular plate. Great fresh salad option overall! The crunch of the lettuce, tomato, radicchio, jicima, celery, carrots, and green beans paired nicely with the tender shrimp, crab, and edamame. The vinaigrette paired perfectly with the fresh salad ingredients and gave the dish a great sweet flavor. Excellent starter selection and perfect for two people.

 Next I tried their Fish Tacos – seasoned Mahi Mahi filet served with fresh corn tortillas, a green chili salsa, fresh diced tomatoes, guacamole, white rice, black beans, and a creamy cabbage slaw and served on a large white oval dish. The tender Mahi Mahi was seasoned extremely well with a unique baja rub and paired perfectly with the creamy cabbage slaw. The fresh green chili salsa complimented the fish and slaw and brought a slightly spicy and very unique flavor to the dish. Great flavors and textures overall!

 The overall pace of the meal was excellent. We had enough time to savor each course without feeling rushed. This restaurant is an excellent value, the food quality and presentation is excellent overall, and it is a fun, welcoming, and elegant atmosphere. The pricing is very reasonable for the quality of food presented and the location of the restaurant in Chicago.

 

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Chicago Marathon Weekend

It’s that time of year when you need to unpack your fall fashion collection, Bears football jersey, and grab yourself a pumpkin spice latte, because it is officially fall in Chicago.  It is also that time of year thousands of people from 50 states and over 100 countries have dedicated their blood, sweat, and tears in preparation for the Chicago Marathon.

The race starts at Grant Park and loops through the beautiful downtown neighborhoods. If you have friends or family running in the race, the course map will help you navigate through the city.

Times of each wave are as follows:

Location- Grant Park, Columbus Dr. & Monroe St.
Marathon Wheelchair Start – 7:20am
Marathon Hand-cycle Start – 7:21am
Wave 1 Start- 7:30am
Wave 2 Start – 8:00am
Spectator Access to Grant Park- 8:30am

If you are staying with us at the Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago Downtown this weekend, to either run in the Marathon or to cheer someone on, we will have a station set up in the lobby filled with bananas and Gatorade. This will be available starting at 5:30am. While you are there, check out each poster every department of the hotel staff created to root on the runners. We also have a complimentary full American breakfast starting at 6am in our Daniel Burnham room on the second floor of the hotel. If you have any questions or need any information regarding the Marathon, please don’t hesitate to ask a front desk representative.

Good luck runners as you concur 26.2 miles on Sunday. You are an inspiration to us all!

For those of you who didn’t run the Marathon this year, but are determined to try it in 2013, download Nike’s 15-week Bank of America Chicago Marathon Training Program to get you started. As my General Manager, Andrew Scarlett always says when we are working our way toward a certain goal “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

 

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Hampton to host charitable event this evening

Today, Thursday September 20th, 2012, the Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly Young Professionals Advisory Board will host an event at the Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago Downtown from 6:00pm to 9:00pm.  The event titled “engAge,” is a fundraising event benefiting Chicagoland Seniors. The mission of the Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly is to provide services and companionship for the Elderly that may not have close social connections, i.e. family or friends, due to death or distance.

A silent raffle, along with refreshments and music will be enjoyed by all patrons this evening. If you would like to learn more about the event, please click here. engAge is open to people 21+ years of age.

We hope to see you at the Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago Downtown! The event will be on the 2nd floor in the Daniel Burnham Room. 100% of the proceeds go directly to Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly.

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Shakespeare in the Park: A welcome [new] tradition for Park Districts

This summer I had the opportunity of attending one of the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre “Shakespeare in the Park” productions in conjunction with the Chicago Park District and Boeing. The concept is to bring professional productions, such as The Taming of the Shrew, free of charge to Park Districts throughout the city so masses can enjoy. A new sort of summer tradition, if you will. The Summer 2012 schedule ran from North of the City at Welles Park to South of the City at Ridge Park, making classic drama accessible to all. Stellar acting lends a new take on Shakespeare.

Although the productions are done for the summer, keep an eye out for the 2013 season. It’s a great non-traditional tourist attraction while visiting the city. Plus did I mention it’s FREE? So pack a picnic and bring a bottle of wine, it’s perfectly acceptable. The Red Line El train, located 1 block from the Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago Downtown, makes transportation to and from select Park Districts easy! To receive information on upcoming Shakespeare in the Park locations and productions, sign up for the email blasts, follow the hashtag #ShakesInTheParks on Twitter, or “like” them on Facebook.

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Upcoming Summer Events

June 20th was the official date that we could say it was “summer” in Chicago. Of course with the change of season come temperatures over 100 degrees and humidity so thick you could cut it with a knife.  If you want to beat the heat, there are many places you can visit that will be blasting their air conditioning. However, for those who are willing to defeat the heat check out some of the “cool” outdoor events going on in this sweltering City.

Taste of Chicago offers a variety of Chicago cuisine to be sampled

Taste of Chicago. This epic food festival brings in over 1.2 million people to the Chicago to experience all the amazing food and entertainment this city has to offer. This year, Huffington Post said that “attendees consumed 17,600 slices of deep dish pizza at Lou Malnati’s, 15,000 funnel cakes from the Churro Factory, and 30,000 rainbow cones.” Along with the food, there were many performances at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park that hosted bands like Death Cab for Cutie, Jennifer Hudson, Dierks Bentley, and Chaka Khan. If you ended up missing the Taste of Chicago this year, don’t worry it will be back in full force next year.

Lollapalooza, 2010
Lollapalooza, 2010. Image courtesy of PBS

Lollapalooza. This 3 day music festival turns Chicago into a mini Woodstock. This event started back in 1991 and established its territory in Chicago’s Grant Park in 2005. Lollapalooza means “an extraordinary or unusual thing, person, or event.” Over 16,000 people of all ages come to Chicago to take park of this wondrous music event to check out their favorite bands and to discover new ones.  You have the option to purchase a 1 day pass for $95 or a 3 day pass for $230. With 8 stages and over 100 bands to choose from, each day you will be exposed to a different type of music from Rock, Indie, Punk, and Techno.  This year you will see performances from The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Black Sabbath, Avicii, The Black Keys, Florence and the Machine, Jack White, and Kaskade. For more information on Lollapalooza and the lineup, check out their website at http://www.lollapalooza.com. If you need hotel accommodations, please contact the Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago Downtown direct at 312-832-0330.

Chicago Air and Water Show

Chicago Air and Water Show, Image courtesy of the CCTB

Air and Water Show. Pack your lawn chair, a cooler, some sunscreen, and ear plugs if you plan on heading to Chicago’s Lakefront to watch the Air and Water show.  This show attracts millions of prospectors each year to check out the amazing tricks performed by aerobatic teams and the U.S military. A cool factoid about the show is that most of the planes fly to and from Gary Jet Center in Gary, Indiana. They have to time their flight down to the second so they can fly over the show at an exact moment. The show is from 10am-3pm on Saturday August 18th and Sunday August 19th at North Avenue Beach. Since it is free to the public, if you have trouble finding seating at the show center then head to Ohio Street beach or Oak Street Beach and bring your binoculars. You can also check out more information about the Chicago Air and Water Show on Explore Chicago’s website at http://www.chicagoairshow.com.

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Lincoln Park Zoo

As a tourist coming from outside of Illinois the most common idea of sight seeing is the main Chicago sights: Willis Tower, Hancock building, Magnificent Mile, the Lakefront, etc. The last thing that one thinks about is going to see something that you can do back home, like going to the Zoo.

Every city has their own unique Zoo, where the residents are able to escape reality and spend some time with our furry friends from all over the world. Over the 4th of July holiday I spent the day at the Lincoln park Zoo. After living in the city of Chicago for the last 6 years I thought that it might be about time that I visit this magical place. I don’t know about most of you, but I turn into a 5 year old when I get past the gate. I literally drug my boyfriend around the park going “ooohhhh and awwweeee”. It was a very hot day, I recommend that when you visit you try to go around September. Or if you do decide to venture during our hot Chicago summers, take a lot of water!!

I have to say that my first Zoo experience at the Lincoln Park Zoo was great! We took the red line up to the Zoo as parking is generally a little pricy for my taste. For those of you staying with us at the Hampton Inn & Suites, it is so easy to get there, just take the Red Line at the Grand Stop headed North and get off at Fullerton. Then walk east until you reach the Zoo. Very accessible and easy route from the downtown location. When you get there, no need to take out your wallet as the Zoo is completely free!!! Not a bad deal, huh? But of course they always accept donations, so feel free to give a little back as it goes toward making the Zoo a better home for the animals. They are just too cute to refuse! So…my first stop was  the Pygmy hippopotamus. He was such a cute little guy, check out my photo:

Hippo at Lincoln Park Zoo

He was so excited to see us there, that he kept trying to push his way through the glass. He would swim up and down trying to find a way out. But aside from his cuteness, I did find out some information about this type of Hippo. It seems that due to habitat loss, the Pygmy Hippo is endangered. This particular species is solitary and a nocturnal mammal. The population has dwindled and we don’t know the exact numbers, but from the information provided by the Zoo, scientists estimate that 3,000 of the animals may live in the wild. At this time, The Lincoln Park Zoo cooperatively manages Pygmy Hippopotamus populations with other institutions in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Some cool facts about this species that I was able to find out, courtesy of the Zoo webpage: Special Adaptations

  • The pygmy hippo’s skin secretes a red substance, giving rise to the legend that the species “sweats blood.” The substance isn’t blood, but its function is unknown. Scientists believe it may serve as an antibiotic or help block excessive sunlight.
  • The eyes, ears and nose are located on the top of the head, enabling the species to see, smell and hear while the rest of its body is underwater.
  • The pygmy hippos’ ears and nostrils pinch tightly shut when the animal dives underwater, making it easier for them to stay submerged.

You don’t have to be so excited about the animals to go to the Zoo, just enjoy the nice walk and the fact that you get a chance to explore a different side of the city. It is a nice break from being around so many people when walking down the Magnificent Mile or when seeing the amazing sites the Willis Tower has to offer. Check out the Zoo next time you are in Chicago, you won’t be disappointed!!

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