My kind of Chicago

by Jasmine Rushton on 11 October 2013, 11:10AM

There is one thing a city like Chicago will do to you, it will leave an impression. Chicago offers all the benefits of a cosmopolitan city with local charm only a Midwestern city can offer.

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Photo Credit: ©Cesar Russ Photography

After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which completely destroyed the city, planners had the opportunity to rebuild a bigger and better Chicago. With the foresight to protect Chicago’s lake front for the people of Chicago, the city now boast 26 miles of uninterrupted coastline and 33 beaches along the magnificent Lake Michigan.  Chicago transformed into a city now famous for its architecture, music and cuisine.

intro2Photo Credit: ©Cesar Russ Photography

Capturing the beauty of Chicago’s skyscrapers, I took the Chicago’s First Lady Architecture Cruise  which follows the Chicago River and highlights the design and architectural achievements of over 50 buildings throughout the city. From the modern designs of the Trump International Hotel & Tower, standing tall in the centre of the city reflecting the beauty around it to the  classic roaring 20s design of the Civic Opera House, you can see why Chicago is recognised for some of the world’s most amazing architecture.

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The Willis Tower is undoubtedly one of Chicago’s most famous buildings. Originally named Sears Tower, the skyscraper is now home to Chicago’s tallest attraction, The Skydeck. On the 103rd floor, 412 metres in the sky, four glass boxes are suspended out of the building offering sweeping views across part of the city and Lake Michigan. I take my first tentative steps towards the deck and every inch of my body begins to tell me that I am crazy. Who steps out of a building 412 metres in the sky on to glass? Apparently I do, thanks to a friend who takes my hand and drags me out to take a picture.

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I am more of a ‘keep my feet firmly on the ground kind of girl’ and insist on hiring a couple of Chicago’s Divvy Bikes, a sharing system with 4,000 bikes across the city similar to Boris Bikes in London, to cycle along the lakefront starting at Oak Street Beach at the top of Michigan Ave, or known locally as the Mag Mile, past Navy Pier towards Millennium Park and Grant Park.

intro5Photo Credit: ©Cesar Russ Photography

Wedged between the two parks is the Art Institute of Chicago, home to famed works including Grant Wood’s American Gothic and Picasso’s Old Guitarist. However, I have a rumble in my tummy and I head straight to the top of the Modern Wing to Terzo Piano, a contemporary restaurant where ladies lunch al fresco on Chef Tony Mantuano’s menu, which focuses on local organic ingredients and inspired by Italian cuisine.

intro6Photo Credit: ©City of Chicago

Chicago is fast becoming a culinary hotspot, this year Chef Paul Kahan (Blackbird, Avec, Publican) came first equal for the Outstanding Chef award by the James Beard Foundation with a chef from New York, and local restaurants such as Alinea and Girl & the Goat are known around the world. The beauty of Chicago’s food scene is that local chefs are not afraid to experiment. Food Trends include everything from gourmet donuts to cronuts, ramen noodles to gluten free, and the latest trend to take the city by storm, bacon. If you love bacon, then I would suggest heading to Burke’s Bacon Bar, a bacon themed sandwich shop located alongside David Burke’s Primehouse in the James Hotel. All sandwiches at the bar are handmade with four types of bacon. And the desserts, well, I can only suggest the chocolate chip cookies with bacon and peanut brittle.

Another local star on the culinary scene is Chef Derek Simcik from Atwood Cafe. He is so obsessed with bacon, he even went as far as to pay homage to it with a tattoo of a pig on him arm. Not only has bacon taken off in restaurants, but also mixologists throughout the city are coming up with ways to create cocktails with it. Sable Kitchen & Bar mixologist Mike Ryan has created two bacon inspired drinks the Swine & Thine bacon/rum cocktail (Zacapa, bacon syrup, crème de cacao and chocolate bitters) and Tea and Sympathy (bacon washed plantation rum, earl grey and balsamic shrub and bacon-lemon flambé).

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I have to confess, I could have spent my entire trip to Chicago sampling all of the bacon options available to me. However, as the sun sets, I decide to give a nod to the city’s prohibition era. My first stop is to The Drake Hotel’s legendary Coq d'Or bar, which first opened on 6th December 1933 after the repeal of the Prohibition. It was the second bar in Chicago to receive its liquor license. When it first opened its doors, staff had to serve its thirsty patrons as they queued out of the building and down the street. That day, they only served whiskey so I promptly request one. Around the corner from The Drake on North Rush Street is The Drawing Room, a modern twist on a speakeasy style bar with one of the best cocktail programmes on offer in Chicago. Descending down the dimly lit staircase you really do feel like you are transported to the glamorous era where drinks were forbidden and bars were hidden away. At the bottom, I am greeted by a room that is furnished in suede and although open plan, feels as if there are hidden corners. Chief Mixologist Cristiana DeLucca is behind the bar. Naturally I ask her to create me a bespoke cocktail. The end result was a gin creation that I will forever wish I knew how to recreate!

Author bio: This post has been written by Jasmine Rushton, PR Manager UK & Ireland for Choose Chicago


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