Chicago | Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons. Doughnuts and Hot Chocolate.

Fun fact: Ritz-Carlton Chicago is owned and operated by Four Seasons.

It’s the only Ritz in the world like that.

So the official name of the hotel is: Ritz-Carlton Chicago (A Four Seasons Hotel). Just something to keep in mind ^_^

There’s also a Four Seasons in Chicago, located around the corner from Ritz-Carlton. Both properties have awesome pools…which is even more enticing when it’s a windy -15F in the city. I was only in Chicago for a week but that was enough to dry and crack my skin. Scary! I should have worn a face mask. Pictured above is the pool at the Ritz…

…and this is the pool at the Four Seasons. (It’s the pool where they filmed Home Alone 2.)

Also worth noting…food!

The must-eat dish at Ritz-Carlton is from deca RESTAURANT + BAR. Chocolate Cake! Ten layers of super moist dark chocolate sponge layered with whipped ganache. Heady and intense. And most impressively, not too sweet. 

At Four Seasons, order the Chicago-Style Hot Dog at Allium. Every component of the hot dog is made in house. The dog itself is snappy, so juicy. Careful when you bite, I ended up getting meat juice all over my dress. Totally worth it. 

And because I see tea everywhere I look/eat/drink…earl grey tea cookies with a smear of chocolate cream. There’s toasted oatmeal blended into the cookie dough to give a nutty crunch.

P.S. Serious Eats just ran a post on my 10 Favorite Bites from Chicago. I mentioned most the places in previous Chicago posts on this blog…with the exception of two desserts. First is this Aztec Hot Chocolate from Xoco. Four ingredients: fresh-ground chocolate, water, chile, and allspice. I love the earthy notes of the chocolate and had this for breakfast on more than one occasion. On another morning (after heavy drinking with Noelle), I paired it with pork belly chilaquiles. And that was just heaven.

The other dessert/breakfast is…doughnuts! Doughnut Vault closes when they’re sold out. That’s usually around noon. Daily specials posted on Twitter. So mark your dates and go early. This is the chocolate-dipped, strawberry-stuffed yeast doughnut. It looks heavy, but was light with only the thinnest dip of chocolate. This, too, was heaven ^_^

Cocktails in Chicago | The Office, The Aviary, Drumbar, Three Dots and a Dash, The Purple Pig, Sable, and The Violet Hour

When I see Noelle we drink more than we eat (and sometimes we do a lot of both). 

So for our week in Chicago I put our where-to-drink agenda in her hands. And this is where we wound up:

The Office for an Old Fashioned, my go-to drink…

…and a generous pour of sherry (that glass o_O)

A peek into the ice room…

…where they make 30 different types of ice for the cocktails.

And upstairs to The Aviary

…where we started with Ford’s Model Tea Party.

Bergamont, blood orange pu’erh, mandarin, and gin. 

A heady bite of A5 wagyu Wellington…

…followed by Insane in The Membrillo. Quince, ginger, almond, oloroso, and gin. 

And there was Glögg!

Muddled, orange, port, aquavit, and cognac.

We found Saturday Cartoons at Drumbar inside the Raffaello Hotel. Cinnamon Toast Crunch-infused rum, averna, amaro, demerara, a whole egg, and angostura bitters. Boozy dessert.

And at Sable, matcha cocktails with black grouse, benedictine, matcha syrup, and a whole egg.

Nearby at The Purple Pig we traded in cocktails for heady Italian reds and deep fried salt and vinegar tendon chips…

…and a giant midnight brioche stuffed with ricotta and chocolate. Also deep fried.

A little tiki-style at Three Dots and a Dash. Mai Tais! Pina Coladas! They even have cocktails named after the Halekulani and Hilton Hawaiian Village. 

If I could only return to one cocktail bar? The Violet Hour. For a fine Old Fashioned…

…and fries laced with herbs and served with lemon aioli. So crisp!

Pullman toast smeared with chicken liver pate, blackberry jam, and pickled red onions. 

And a juicy Toulouse sausage. Brioche bun with Boursin and onion jam ^_^

Chicago | Afternoon Tea at The Drake Hotel

When’s the last time you had a solo afternoon tea

It’s one of my favorite things to do. Indulge in some quite time…

…with champagne.

The Drake Hotel in Chicago is one of the few afternoon tea spots in the US that offer unlimited replenishments on the tea sweets, savories, and scones (something that’s common in the UK). 

We’re drinking the signature Palm Court, a blend of Indian Assam, Chinese Keemun, Ceylon, and Formosa Oolong.

Let’s get to the scones while they’re warm. Buttery and dotted in cranberries, accompanied by…

….lemon curd, Devonshire cream, and strawberry preserves. 

On that same bottom tier is the lemon poppy seed loaf (even better with extra Devonshire cream slathered on a slice ;).

Sandwiches on the middle tier. Roasted strip loin and white cheddar on a pretzel roll…

…and lobster and shrimp salad tucked into split brioche. 

And finally, cucumber and tomato on pullman. 

Four nibbles at the top tier. A raspberry Sacher torte, lilikoi tart…

…coffee macaron…

…and a cream puff swan ^_^

Chicago | Alinea

Snapshots from dinner at Alinea. Kristen and I scored reservations the day before…just in time to celebrate 15 years of dining out together. It was meant to be.

 Let’s begin! Char roe with banana pudding, lilikoi foam, and ginger. 


…with citrus aromas and fourteen textures.

Lobster with curry, earl grey, and grapefruit…

…and a warm fire in the middle of the table. 

Turned out the “logs” were charred parsnips…

…and wagyu! Served with black trumpet mushrooms and konbu.

Chef’s take on orange chicken…with sweetbreads. All crisp on the outside and so savory, creamy on the inside. With lily bulbs and mustard.

Hot potato and cold potato with butter and black truffle.

My favorite course? The duck. Served five ways: confit, neck, breast, mousse, and foie gras…

…with 60 accompaniments. Such fantasy!

Palate cleanser: ginger with five other flavors.

Pumpkin puree tempura with vanilla, maple, and pumpkin seeds. 

Pistachio with lemon curd, mascarpone, strawberry, and black walnut cake.

The balloon! Plenty of helium and green apple. And Kristen.

Then comes the milk chocolate…

ta-dah. A tart with pâte sucrée, violets, and hazelnuts. 

Finishing with a blend of rose hips and chamomile.

Till next time ^_^

Afternoon Tea | The Peninsula Chicago

Ready for another wonderful afternoon tea service?

We’re at The Peninsula Chicago. It might be zero degrees outside, but it’s warm in here. The ceilings are high, the light is soft, and the waiters are extra sweet.

Let’s begin with bubbles!

Afternoon tea is served in The Lobby, a grand space made for decadent afternoons.

The tea menu is split into two sections: proprietary (which includes blends) and premium (all single-estate teas).

We had one from each section, the Peninsula Chai and the Himalayan Peak Darjeeling. Remind me to do a future post on blending your own chai at home…so good for the winter season.

Usually we start at the bottom tier, but here you should start at the middle because there are warm quiches. Mushroom and leeks, and just enough cheese and cream. That butter crust! I could have devoured a dozen.

And then return to the base tier for sandwiches. 

There’s smoked salmon with dill cream cheese and asparagus on a pumpernickel bun…

…turkey and emmental with grain mustard aioli, fig jam, and orange-coriander on wheat.

Crab salad with mary rose dressing and chives on brioche buns.

How pretty are these egg salad sandwiches? Egg salad with radishes and lemon aioli come rolled up in pullman. It’s wrapped in cucumber slices and tied with a chive ribbon. Perfection. 

Scones arrive separately, still warm. Two types, two shapes. Traditional in round and cranberry-orange in square. 

Clotted cream! Lemon curd! Raspberry preserves!

All my favorites.

After you finish the scones, out comes a special seasonal treat (which change every four to six weeks). We got warm apple cider and mini cinnamon-caramel beignets. 

And onto the sweets!

Mini-mont blanc with blackcurrant jam tucked in the center…

…and lilikoi-chocolate macarons.

A coconut mandarin cake…

…and caramel-chocolate brownies.

My favorite? Red velvet cream puffs filled with the lightest whipped cream cheese ^_^