Cinco De Mayo on Uno De Mayo here at the Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago Downtown

Mark your calendars and get ready for a celebration! The Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago Downtown will be hosting a fiesta in honor of the upcoming Cinco De Mayo holiday from 5:00pm to 7:00pm on Tuesday, May 1, 2012. The reception will take place on the Outdoor Terrace, located on the 2nd floor via the Pool or Fitness Center. All clients and affiliates are invited to attend.

The Cinco De Mayo Fiesta will take place on the Terrace, May 1, 2012 from 5 to 7pm

The Cinco De Mayo Fiesta will take place on the Terrace, May 1, 2012 from 5 to 7pm

Guests attending the event can expect refreshments of Cerveza, Signature Margaritas, and Virgin Strawberry Daiquiris. For those needing a little sustenance, a make-your-own nacho bar filled with fresh beans, sour cream, cheese, fajita chicken, chili, salsa, sliced black olives, guacamole, jalapenos and more will be available. Not to mention large portions of Southwestern Salad catered by NYC Bagel will be on hand for those Salad Lovers. Have a taste for seafood? Passed shrimp will be served courtesy of our Hampton employees.

Finally, what Cinco De Mayo fiesta would be complete without a piñata? Candy will fill a pink horse and blue bull piñata for nostalgic charm. Attendees can take a whack and attempt to break the piñata for sweet treats! Cookies and fresh fruit will be provided, also.

If you plan on attending the event, please RSVP directly to Kristen at 312-396-5234 or kreeves@fhginc.com no later than Friday, April 27.

Gracias!

 

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Girl and the Goat: Worth the Wait!

When people think of Chicago they think of the windy city and of great food! Personally, I think that both of these are certainly worth taking into consideration, especially the dining portion! Since I have lived in the city of Chicago I always make it a point to try new restaurants that I have not been to. My latest addition to the list is the Girl and the Goat. This awesome restaurant is located in the West Loop smack dab in the Randolph Restaurant Corridor. It is easily accessible from the River North area via taxi, if you are staying with us at the Hampton Inn & Suites it will probably take you about 10 minutes via cab.

I would strongly recommend that you have a reservation before you go to this restaurant and be warned that when you try to make one, they will probably be booked for months! Now you are certainly able to just show up and put your name on the list but the wait is at least 45 minutes if not longer. We had a reservation that was made 4 months prior to the selected date for dinner!! Now this certainly took me by surprise, this was my first restaurant where I had to make reservations so far ahead. You are probably thinking one of two things right now; this must be an amazing restaurant to be booked so far in advance or is this really worth my time?! I assure you that this restaurant is so busy because it is absolutely worth your time! The chef who created the restaurant, Stephanie Izard, won top chef several seasons ago and has really made a name for herself here in Chicago with her $1.5 million dollar restaurant-The Girl and the Goat. If you don’t like crowded places then this might not be the spot for you, but if you are just looking to be surrounded with great friends and looking to have dinner in a rockin’ environment then certainly check this out!

When we sat down we were immediately greeted by our waitress. As it was our first time there she was more than happy to explain how the Chef envisioned the dining experience. Because there were four of us she recommended that we order anywhere from 8 to 11 dishes. At first we thought that this would be a ridiculous amount of food and we were hesitant to order that much, but she did reassure us that we would be full, as the portions were designed to be small in order to enjoy the flavor of each bite. As we ordered our entrees we were pleasantly surprised by the aromas and the infused flavors of each individual dish. One of my favorite dishes was the Sautéed green beans. This dish contains a fish sauce vinaigrette with cashews; for a person that is not crazy about green beans I was surprised I could not get enough of this dish. I highly recommend this dish to anyone that is eating at this amazing restaurant.

Sauteed Green Bean

Wood Fired Oysters

One of the many flatbreads available

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Go CUBS Go!

Holy Cow! Baseball season is finally upon us and for we die hard cubbies fans that means another chance to be the World Series Champions. Last night, in preparation for the home opener on April 5th 2012 vendors were out setting up their stands, Clark Street was flooded with people, and Wrigley Field’s Stadium lights were shining brightly. Early this morning on my way to work, there was an eerie silence that swept over Wrigleyville, almost like it was the calming before a big storm.

That storm hit around 9:00am this morning when every news station was buzzing about opening day. Wrigley was already swamped with fans waiting outside the stadium ready to watch their beloved cubbies play the Washington Nationals at 1:20pm. With the first crack of the bat, first hot dog of the season, and an ice cold beer in hand; we hope our Cubs can bring home a win and wave that “W” flag.

Tickets for today and this weekend’s game are still available. If you want to get in on the action, feel free to visit the Cubs website here.

Also, if you would like to support your cubbies and a good cause, sign up for the Race to Wrigley 5K Run on April 14th 2012 at 8am. This race is the kick off to the Baseball Season and proceeds go to Children’s Memorial Hospital. The course route will take you thought Lakeview neighborhoods and back to Wrigley Field, where you get to run through the stadium. Online registration is available until 4/12/2012 for $35 dollars. You can purchase your race packet and t-shirt at http://www.race-cubs.com.

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America’s Second City is top for entertainment

Joe Shooman, a Travel Writer for The Observer in the Cayman Islands, stayed here at the Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago Downtown and wrote an article on his experience in Chicago. I am re-posting below for your enjoyment.

America’s Second City is top for entertainment
Travel and Leisure
By: Joe Shooman | joe@cfp.ky
25 March, 2012

Snow. I’d forgotten all about it. But it’s beautiful, it’s soft and it’s very, very cold. But that’s what you get when you decide to visit Chicago in February, I guess. And whilst the rest of the Chi-town population is wrapping up against more days of the blimmin white stuff, Suzy and me are like kids cause we’ve not seen snow in four years.

Chicago is a city with seemingly endless possibilities for entertainment, sight seeing, eating and drinking and it’s great to land somewhere where nobody knows your name.

After a quick trip up the Willis (formerly Sears) tower we spend our first evening in the Illinois city watching the Chicago Bulls at the mighty impressive United Center along with 20,000 other people. Whilst we may be up in the gods at least we’re near the beer; that, allied to the fact that the Bulls ease past the challenge of local rivals Milwaukee Bucks by 110 to 91 with a triple-double from Joakim Noah, makes a very happy bunch of visitors. And whilst Derrick Rose remains the team’s star, I’ve got a new hero – Carlos Boozer. We return to our brilliant, centrally-located Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago Downtown in the River North district, the choice of which proves a smart move on our part due to it being right in the heart of downtown, just north of The Loop.

It’s also near the Red Line of the easily navigable El Train underground railway system; we buy day passes and start to make our adventures the next morning. It’s always much easier to get an idea of a city’s layout and size during the day and so it proves.

 

Checking the bean

We end up at Millennium Park, which is something of a centre of entertainment, nature and art. Because it’s winter there’s an outdoor ice rink and we toy with getting our skates on, but we have more important things to do, one of which being checking out the famous Cloud Gate.

It’s a sculpture by Anish Kapoor, a British artist born in India, and it’s a masterful, huge, distended, polished steel jelly-bean blob in which the downtown scenery is beautifully reflected. The skyline looks quite extraordinary and lends the city a contemporary regality. Of course, the colloquial nickname is The Bean, which shows the humour of the locals. But it’s a brilliant piece that plays with perception – so much so that my wife Suzy clonks her head into it whilst trying to take a video. Oops! But no harm done, so we skip through the rest of the park – no music on the Great Lawn today, but in the summer you can tell that open-air concerts would be awesome there. It gets lovely and warm come July here, with temperatures kissing the 80s with some ease.

Back to the frozen icicle dripping from my chin, however. It seems we need to warm up which we duly do with a visit to the excellent Art Institute of Chicago which for 150 years has presented the good stuff.

It’s a comprehensive museum with Old Masters alongside plenty of contemporary, decorative and visual arts and the one million square feet make it the second-biggest in the States (only the Met in NYC is bigger). Of the many famous works, Edward Hopper’s study of aloneness, Nighthawks, and Grant Wood’s American Gothic are highlights as is the ancient Egyptian gallery. Best of all, I buy an awesome pen in the shape of the heavy metal salute on the way out.

There’s one thing you have to eat in Chicago and that is pizza. Famous for its deep dish, buttery crust, this is a long way from the mostly traditional Italian thin crust style. It truly is a wonder to behold and a wonder to eat, too. We round off the evening with a visit to the cinema to watch The Artist; a couple of post-movie drinks and we’re done – despite planning to head to one of the many awesome blues clubs which are just getting started. But that will have to wait for another visit.

Despite my best efforts, our third day is spent downtown shopping on the Magnificent Mile – every store you could want is here for clothes and stuff apparently. I’m more interested in trying to find a decent set of darts to bring back to Cayman, but sadly I fail. I do, however, manage to snag a pretty sharp set of Nike trainers that I didn’t know I was looking for until I saw them, so it ain’t all bad.

 

A bit about food

We lunch at Crisp, a North Broadway eaterie that is famous for its Korean-tinged fried chicken. I’d seen it on one of those celebrity cooking shows previously and if it’s good enough for Guy Fieri then it’s gotta be worth a shout. And it comes up trumps; the Seoul Sassy adds a great ginger/garlic slight heat to the very tender chicken which, yes, is crispy on the outside. The salad that comes with it – Buddha Bowl – is a mix of vegetables with rice and topped with a fried egg. Strange, but outstanding nonetheless. A quick trip to the ace Myopic Books yields brain food that afternoon and we round off our trip with a final-evening visit to another awesome food place.

The Purple Pig is located on the Magnificent Mile and can be best described as a kind of pig-worshipping tapas-type bar. We’re a little late due to unforeseen wine, so we have to wait, salivating, for half an hour before the table is ready. But by god it’s worth it; plate after plate of extraordinary dishes are brought out for us to sample and share. There’s fried pig’s ear with crispy kale, braised pork shoulder and mash, turkey leg confit and the absolute star of the show – roasted bone marrow. The interior of the bone is a buttery delight; smeared on brioche it is delicate, rich and something that everyone needs to taste at one time in their lives. The Purple Pig’s menu is great but this is something very special.

And so, a quick few beers later, we’re packing to come back. Yes, it’s cold in the winter, but that’s no bad thing in itself; when you live in beach paradise it’s great to get a dose of opposites once in a while. Chicago is as fast and furious as you want to make it, the inhabitants are friendly and the food is great. With the direct Cayman Airways flight taking around three hours, it could well be the ideal city break.

To see this article in its entirety, click here!

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Nothing’s Sacred

Kristen and I got back from the Big Apple in early March – after beating those mean streets.  The purpose of our visit was to make travel agents in NY aware of the Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago/Downtown, for business and leisure travel.  Twenty – one appointments and touching 500+ agents in a week, we returned back to our home and our home away from home, Chicago and the Hampton Inn and Suites Chicago/Downtown.

Now you know what kept us busy during the day – but the evenings were ours for the asking.  What comes to mind when some people think NYC – if you resemble me – the theatre would be number one. And pray tell (no pun intended) what did I see “The Book of Mormons”.

The title of my “Blog” describes the tone of the play in a nutshell.  If you cannot take a joke – for no matter who you are you are going to get slammed.  No one is left unscathed.  It is written by the creators of South Park – come on – would you expect anything less – and no TV censors.

Performances in Chicago start in December of this year and I urge you to get your tickets now- because the run will sell out quickly.  Just remember “Nothing’s Sacred”, and do bring something to wipe away those tears of laughter.   This review does come with a warning – not for the easily offended.

Andrew Rannells plays the central character Elder Price in the Broadway...

Broadway in Chicago.

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Café Baba Reeba: Terrific Tapas!

My husband and I went out for dinner to one of our favorite spots in Lincoln Park – Café Baba Reeba. This restaurant is known as an elegant tapas restaurant with excellent food and reasonable prices. As we entered the restaurant, we walked down the initial entry hallway and entered the main restaurant. We immediately noticed the host stand directly in front of the main entrance, the patio area to our immediate left and the large bar area to the right. There was a great charred smell in the air and a noticeable buzz of excitement flowing throughout the entire restaurant. All in all, a great first impression that made us very excited to begin our experience.

The host explained that there would be a short (10-15) minute wait for the patio. We took at seat at the bar and enjoyed some sangria. So refreshing!

Regreshing Sangria

After we were seated we started with the Sweet Potatoes – A generous portion of sliced sweet potato pieces situated next to a small scoop of pomegranate aioli. Great flavor/spice overall! Perfect balance of sweet and salty with an excellent textural contrast between the crunch of the sautéed potato skin and the warm smooth potato center. The tart pomegranate aioli was a great compliment and added a great unique taste to the dish. Great way to start the meal! Next we tried the Braised Short Rib. This dish has a medium-sized tender piece of short rib meat served alongside mashed potatoes and sitting in a pool of rioja wine sauce.Extremely tender overall – the short rib was cooked perfectly! The mashed potatoes soaked up all of the remaining wine sauce and were a great compliment to the richness of the short rib. Excellent dish overall! Our next tapa was the Bacon Wrapped Dates. Wow! You get six bacon-wrapped dates topped with fresh green apple pieces served in a small white bowl. The dates were very smooth and tender without being gummy and/or chewy. The salty bacon paired perfectly with the sweetness of the date and also gave the dish a desired textural crunch. We would 100% order this again.

We finished our meal with some coffee and their Butterscotch dessert which is a small shot glass filled with creamy butterscotch filling and topped with a small dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of coco powder. So good! Extremely rich butterscotch flavor. Excellent dessert option with an excellent rich flavor overall.

Anyone looking to have a fun and relaxing dining experience would love Café Baba Reeba. The pricing is especially reasonable for the quality of food and the location of the restaurant. We can’t wait to go back!

Private Party Room at Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba

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Bakin’ and Eggs

They always say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I couldn’t agree more. I love breakfast and could eat it for lunch and dinner if I could. I am not much of a connoisseur of fine foods and have admitted many times that I am a horrible cook. However, the one thing I know and know well is great breakfast places in Chicago. As seen on WTTW’s ‘Check Please’, Bakin’ and Eggs is known for their breakfast, homemade pastries, and the most important food group; Bacon. The name Bakin’ and Eggs comes from both the fresh baked goods and the bacon that is creatively incorporated in almost every dish on the menu.

Vittles from Bakin' & Eggs

If you do venture out to this Lakeview delicatessen, be sure you show up early because they do not accept reservations. However, if you do show up and there is a wait time, don’t worry; there is a fresh self serve coffee station available to take the edge off.

Of the many breakfast places I have been too; this one has a wide open space to accommodate a lot of people. This is also a kid friendly establishment, so be forewarned; it can get noisy. The menu ranges from sweet to savory and everything in between. If you are looking for savory, you should try the caramelized onion, blue cheese, and balsamic frittata. If you have a sweet tooth, you can select the banana pecan French toast with 3 different dipping sauces; hazelnut ganache, banana rum cream sauce, and good ol’ butter. You can also take a walk on the wild side and order the bacon flight, which has an assortment of 5 distinct flavors. The Jalapeno Bacon was my FAVORITE!

A cool twist to end the meal is the chance to win free pastries at the counter on Saturday and Sundays. Your bill is delivered to your table and secured with a close pin. If your close pin has a color on it, YOU WIN! Only 6 lucky guests will win a free pastry, and 1 lucky winner will receive pastries to feed your whole group (if you choose to share). Even if you aren’t a winner, might I suggest buying the whoopie pie just as a “I deserve it” treat at the end of a great meal. I am not going to give away any more mouth watering details, you will have to check it out yourself.

Bakin' & Eggs Interior

 

Bakin’ and Eggs is open for breakfast and lunch Monday- Friday and brunch on the weekends. Feel free to check out their website at http://www.bakinandeggschicago.com/menu or the review on ‘Check Please’ at http://video.wttw.com/video/2161642378.

 

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Metro Chicago, a Chicago tradition in Music

As the resident independent music lover in the office, I attend a concert at least once a month. I love seeing live shows, hearing new bands and usually end up traversing around the city of Chicago in search of good tunes.

One of the earliest venues I visited (even before I became a Chicago resident) was Metro Chicago. Metro Chicago is housed in an 85 year old building that used to be a Swedish Community Center. The exterior architecture is unassuming, unpretentious; even in a neighborhood populated by CUBS fans and young urban professionals. Since 1982, Metro Chicago has been cranking out good music and introducing some heavy hitters in the musical forefront. Namely, Chicagoans The Smashing Pumpkins, Urge Overkill, Local H, Liz Phair and Veruca Salt. All of whom began their careers on the Metro stage.

Today, great artists and upcoming new talent showcase their skill set at Metro Chicago. Some of the shows I’ve personally seen there include: Catfish Haven, Dan Deacon, The Psychedelic Furs, Die Antwoord, Hot Chip, Girl Talk and more than I can remember. I enjoy climbing to the 2nd floor and having an aerial view of the stage, the band at work.

Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er performing at Metro Chicago February 15, 2012

Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er performing at Metro Chicago February 15, 2012

During the Die Antwoord concert I was witness to crowd-surfing twice and glad for the safety and security of the 2nd level! During less enthusiastic shows, I prefer to be front and center on the lower level where close proximity to the artists is relatively easily.

Metro Chicago boasts 2 bars, one on the lower level and one on the 2nd level. Metro allows a more intimate experience than the larger dome entertainment centers, such as Allstate Arena or the United Center. A bird’s eye view or front row accessibility are pros to this smaller venue.

Metro Chicago is located on Clark Street, a short train ride from the Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago Downtown. Simply hop on the EL at the Red Line Grand Stop and head North towards Howard. Exit at the Addison Red Line Stop and walk 2 blocks north of Wrigley Field. If you get the chance to visit this iconic Chicago music venue, please do! Odds are you’ll see some great upcoming artists or maybe an old favorite.

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Scoozi: Exceptional food presentation and quality

My husband and I had date night, once again, this past weekend and wanted to try something new. We gave Scoozi a shot after hearing some great food reviews. The restaurant gave off a warm and inviting ambiance as soon as we entered making us excited to sit down and start the experience. Our server made us feel very welcome and immediately asked if we would like to start with drinks, wine, or cocktails and also started to discuss the nightly specials and layout of the menu. He did a great job describing the preparation and presentation of some of his favorite recommendations, and it was apparent that he had a good understanding of the menu. Overall, a wonderful first impression.

We started with the Mushroom and Truffle Pizza as an appetizer. Wow! It was a large rectangular thin crust pizza topped with roasted Portobello mushrooms, fresh green baby arugula, ricotta cheese, a porcini pesto sauce, and rich white truffle oil served on a wooden pizza server. Excellent crunch and flavor overall. The fresh and peppery baby arugula paired extremely well with the richness of the ricotta and truffle oil and the earthiness of the Portobello mushrooms. Very good value and portion size for the price. Great appetizer options overall.

Scoozi Gnocci/Ravioli Trio

For an entrée I ordered the Gnocci/Ravioli Trio. This included generous portion of three gnocci/ravioli choices – mushroom bolognese gnocci, tomato and cream gnocci, and seasonal butternut squash ravioli – on a white, divided dish. Overall, the ravioli and gnocci were prepared perfectly. The mushroom bolognese gnocci had a great meaty flavor that paired well with the smooth creamy texture of the gnocci.  The richness of the tomato cream sauce paired extremely well with the smooth light tender gnocci and the smooth butternut squash filling paired very well with the crunch of the candied walnut pieces served atop the ravioli. Overall, a great, unique dish!

What is a dinner date without dessert? We ordered the Strawberry Panna Cotta – a small white disc of fresh cool smooth panna cotta served with fresh sliced strawberries, a drizzle of dark balsamic, and a dusting of white powdered sugar. Excellent fresh light dessert option overall. The smooth vanilla flavor of the panna cotta paired very well with the sweetness of the fresh strawberries, the balsamic, and the powdered sugar.

After we finished our meal Brian wished us a good evening as we stood up to leave as did the host as we left the restaurant. There is no question that my husband and I will return to Scoozi. It is an excellent value, the food quality and presentation is exceptional, and it has a fun, welcoming and elegant atmosphere.

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NYC Bagel a hidden gem in River North!

As the saying goes, little things come in small packages….. No, I did not get a little box over the weekend that could possibly determine the rest of my life. I am actually talking about the small New York City Bagel store (NYC), located on Dearborn just across the street from the Hampton inn & Suites Chicago Downtown. This is truly a hidden gem in the River North area of Chicago; they have great flavors and the quality of their meats are amazing!

I have begun to use them as our outside catering company for my meetings at the hotel. I knew that they were good, as on more than one occasion I have been known to run across the street to indulge in their savory breakfast bagel sandwich. Yum! Our first experience working with them as a caterer went better than I had hoped, the staff was amazing! When I expressed concerns about the details of the lunch for the meeting they were more than happy to meet with me. In person, we were able to discuss what I envisioned; they ensured that everything was executed to my expectations.

The meeting was for 64 people, this had originally been 24 and as the client called me to increase the number of attendees, I in turn called NYC to increase the number of people for lunch. They were more than accommodating, which seeing the size of the store one might think that they would not be able to high volume catering. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the presentation of the food that they were so willing to deliver to the hotel in order to facilitate the process for us.

The best part of this experience is that the client was blown away; the program coordinator sent an email a couple of days after the event, “Thank you for taking care of our needs for this event! It was above and beyond our expectations. The ultimate goal in the service industry to make the client happy, through NYC’s professionalism and attention to detail this was accomplished and certainly well received”.

The next time that you stay with us at the Hampton or if you are in the River North area, go and get a sandwich at NYC Bagel. You won’t regret it!

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