Macy’s Flower Show: The Secret Garden

Spring Arrives in Chicago at Macy’s Flower Show

Thursday was a cold, gray, rainy day. So what better time to seek out spring indoors, at Macy’s Flower Show.

Macy's Flower Show: The Secret Garden

This was my first year going to the Flower Show. I’ve always wanted to go, but simply never got around to actually doing it. I took Nora, and it was a nice little mommy/baby experience! Plus, because the weather has been so miserable, it was refreshing to get a taste of spring, even if it was indoors.

Macy's Flower Show: The Secret Garden

The Flower Show’s theme is The Secret Garden, and there are gorgeous displays representing England, a Celtic Glen, a poet’s garden and so on.

Macy's Flower Show: The Secret Garden

There are so many beautiful flowers in every color of the rainbow — lots of vibrant, bright colors. And they smell lovely, just as you might expect a secret garden to smell. Allergy sufferers, beware!

Macy's Flower Show: The Secret Garden

The show takes up a corner of the 9th floor at Macy’s on State Street, and it took us about 15 or 20 minutes or so to walk through and see all of the displays. There’s a guided tour available, too, as well as various floral and cooking demos and arts performances throughout the show.

Just outside of the Flower Show is The Secret Garden Cafe, which has pastries and drinks as well as floral and garden-themed items, children’s books and small toys.

The Secret Garden Cafe

Good to Know:

  • Sunday, March 23 – Sunday, April 6, during Macy’s store hours
  • Free
  • Guided tour available with a flower expert
  • Appropriate for all ages and plenty of room for strollers
  • Daily events covering floral, food and performance
  • Valet parking available on Wabash Ave; rates start at $14 for up to two hours

Friday Faves: March 28, 2014

Snow

Bla, bla, bla, SNOW, bla, bla, bla. It snowed. Again. At the end of March. Chicago, I wish I knew how to quit you!

As I was writing this post, I glanced at the calendar for today’s date and I can’t believe it’s already the end of March. Maybe it’s because it generally still feels like January, but I feel like the first three months of the year have just flown by. But I’m glad. I’m ready for it to warm up, and I’m ready for all the fun things we have planned this spring and summer.

My weekend is wide open, aside from doing some much needed stuff around the house like finally finish the baby-proofing, rearrange furniture, organize cabinets — the spring cleaning bug bit me. While I go work on my weekend to-do list, you enjoy these links.

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I loathed April Fool’s Day as a kid. I was sure I was going to somehow get punked and look like a… well, fool. Here are some ideas if you’re interested in making someone look like a fool.

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One correct: Boston is also very aware of what “dibs” means.

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My most favorite piece of celebrity gossip this week.

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I’m never at a loss for things to do in Paris, but here are some good ideas for free things to do in the City of Light.

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This week marked the 30th anniversary of one very memorable detention.

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Guilty of eating at least two of these things as a child.

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I love pretty much everything Laura Mercier — and it’s on Gilt right now. Snag some goodies while the gettin’s good (and cheap)!

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Daisy actually looked a little bit like the Boston in #3 when we were basking in the warm temps at my parents’ last weekend.

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That’s all for this week. Have a fabulous weekend!

Wine from Fezziwig’s Tea & Gourmet Market

We took a road trip this past weekend to visit my parents in Southern Illinois. It’s always a nice getaway from Chicago — because it’s nothing like Chicago. No tall buildings, no crazy traffic, no unending noise and congestion. You know I love Chicago, but an escape every now and then is necessary. And, since the forecast at my parents’ called for 70 degrees on Friday, I couldn’t get there quickly enough.

My parents still live in the small town that I grew up in, about 40 minutes east of downtown St. Louis. Dotting the area are a number of similar small towns, most of which are farming communities. Some have cute little downtown areas with shops and restaurants. Just a few minutes from my parents’ house is Lebanon, which has plenty of boutiques, antique shops and restaurants along its main drag, St. Louis Street, otherwise known as “The Brick Street” (cleverly dubbed due to the cobblestones). And, one of my favorite places to visit in Lebanon is Fezziwig’s Tea & Gourmet Market, a gourmet shop offering food, wine, tea and home décor. I always find something yummy at Fezziwig’s that I must have. Cranberry Jalapeño Compote, anyone?

Fezziwig's Tea & Gourmet Market
Fezziwig’s Tea & Gourmet Market
Photo credit: Tom Conder

Whenever we’re in the area, we always try to make a quick stop in Fezziwig’s to see what’s new, particularly in terms of wine. Though the wine offering is fairly small, I like it because I almost always discover a new wine that I wasn’t familiar with before, and I typically walk away with a new favorite. Oftentimes they have Saturday wine tastings, which was the case this past visit.

We tasted five wines and I was surprised to discover that my favorite was this Montinore Estate Riesling Sweet Reserve. I’m not normally a huge fan of Riesling; my husband is. It’s too sweet for me, and while the Montinore Estate is certainly sweet, there’s a bit of a punch to it — not quite spicy, but zingy. Zingy? Probably not a word you’re going to hear real wine connoisseurs throw around. Maybe it was the citrus notes (“notes” — see, I can pretend I know what I’m talking about). Whatever it was, I was sold. My sister and I snagged the last two bottles that Fezziwig’s had and I proudly left with a gift for my husband (and me to share). I thought it would be the perfect wine for Easter lunch, light and springy. Because maybe by Easter, it will actually be springy.

Montinore Estate Riesling Sweet Reserve

And then Sunday came along and we started the process of packing up the car for the dreaded drive home to Chicago. And my dear husband, god love him, did what he normally does, which is try to do 900 things at once. One of those things was to put the bag with the Riesling in it in the car. I’m not exactly sure the comedy of errors that ensued. All I know is that the tasty bottle of Riesling bid us farewell on my parents’ driveway.

While my husband’s out of the doghouse, I have yet to find the same Riesling in the nearby vicinity. Let’s be honest — I only checked two places so far, one of which was a grocery store. And I can hardly stomach paying a $20 shipping fee if I were to buy it online. So, looks like another trip to Fezziwig’s is in order the next time we’re home, and hopefully by then this gem of a Riesling will be back in stock.

Top 10 Spots for Foodies in Chicago

One of the things I love most about Chicago is the food scene. There’s something for everyone — everything from Michelin-starred fine dining, to hole in the wall joints. Here are a few of my favorite foodie spots in the great city of Chicago.

Alinea’s accolades speak for themselves, perhaps most importantly its three stars from the Michelin Guide. I’ve dined at Alinea just once, and the experience was worth every cent (because whoa, it’s not cheap!). Chef Grant Achatz, the genius behind Alinea, creates the most memorable displays of each of the 18 courses, intended to awaken all of your senses. The presentation can be very playful, like the pheasant course that came with smoldering leaves to evoke a sense of autumn in the Midwest. In some cases, Chef Achatz prepares a course right at your table like the dessert we had when we were there. Yes, 18 courses sounds intimidating, but it’s a tasting menu, so many courses are simply a bite.

Dessert at Alinea
Dark chocolate, butternut squash, lingonberry, stout dessert at Alinea
Photo credit: banditob

Grace is another fancy schmancy restaurant somewhat similar to Alinea, but with a nine-course tasting menu. Grace’s similarities to Alinea should come as no surprise since Chef Curtis Duffy, the chef/owner, worked with Chef Achatz in a former life. While Grace is certainly high-end and more of an occasion restaurant for someone like me, my first experience there was so memorable that it would be my first pick for a special dinner. Impeccable service always gets high marks in my book, and Grace brought it. The sommelier was so approachable and completely into his job; it was funny to see how excited he got about the decanter he chose for our bottle of Cuvée Marie.

Grace Menu January 2014
Grace Menu January 2014

Girl & the Goat has been around for nearly four years now, yet it’s still painfully difficult to get a reservation that isn’t at 10:00 on a Tuesday night. I’m a glutton for punishment, though; I keep going back for more and get downright giddy when I manage to magically score a reservation before 9:00 p.m. on a weekend. I really rooted for Stephanie Izard when she was on Top Chef, and I’ve witnessed her working her butt off at Girl & the Goat. Like most of my picks here, the Girl & the Goat changes its menu regularly, but some staples seem to stick around, including two of my favorites — sautéed green beans and pig face. Naturally, there’s a healthy dose of goat options on the menu — I loved the goat pizza.

Girl & the Goat
Girl & the Goat
Photo credit: kiditamae

The Monkey’s Paw is nestled on a quiet, tree-lined street in Lincoln Park and is a favorite for brunch and dinner. The Monkey’s Paw features seasonal farm-to-table fare. In the summertime, the panzanella salad is a favorite with big, juicy chunks of tomato; hefty, salty bread pieces and fried cream cheese cubes. Known for their scotch and whiskey collection, The Monkey’s Paw boasts a two-page whiskey menu (including flights). And they don’t mess around with the brunch cocktails, either. The Smoky Maple Manhattan includes a strip of bacon (!) and the Monkey’s Bloody Mary has a spiced bacon rim. Every time my husband orders one, it really makes me wish I liked bloody marys.

Eats and drinks at The Monkey's Paw
Eats and drinks at The Monkey’s Paw

Coast Sushi has three locations and while I’ve only dined at the South Loop one, we order from the Bucktown outpost plenty. Everything is so fresh and they have some very unique signature maki, like the Maine roll, which is my favorite — cooked lobster in ginger mayo with scallion, salmon roe and cucumber on top. The asparagus beef is not to be missed, nor is the lychee martini. It’s crisp and smooth and goes down way too easily, until it’s too late and you accidentally drank four of them.

Sushi at Coast Sushi
Sushi at Coast Sushi
Photo credit: soaringbird

Oasis Cafe is one of my favorite lunchtime haunts. It’s a bit of a hole in the wall, err, jewelry store. The Mediterranean restaurant is tucked away in the back of a jewelry shop on Jeweler’s Row, and clearly I’m not the only one who favors it at lunchtime, given the frequent line. Falafel, hummos, chicken shawarma — it’s all very authentic, and very reasonably priced. The catch is that there’s somewhat limited seating, and if you’re there at the popular lunch hour, you’ll likely have to take your order to-go.

Oasis Cafe
Oasis Cafe
Photo credit: wind and esmé

Kiki’s Bistro hooked me on my very first visit during the miserably cold winter months in Chicago. It was so warm and cozy inside, although I got more of a French ski chalet vibe than Parisian bistro. It was charming; strung throughout the dimly lit restaurant were these glass orbs with tea lights burning inside them. At the right table, I’d even dub Kiki’s as romantic. The food is solid French fare, including the decadent profiteroles!

Kiki's Bistro
Kiki’s Bistro
Photo credit: nicole cho

Lou Malnati’s is my pick for best Chicago-style pizza. Everyone has their favorite and mine is Lou’s. Admittedly, I like both the Chicago-style (thick crust) as well as the thin crust, but whenever we have guests visiting, it’s The Malnati Chicago Classic™ — lean sausage, some extra cheese and vine-ripened tomato sauce on Buttercrust™. And my friends, the Buttercrust™ is what makes it.

Lou Malnati's
Lou Malnati’s Chicago-style pizza
Photo credit: Travis Estell

North Pond oozes romance. Sure, you could go with the girls or a colleague, I suppose, but it’s really best for a night out with your beloved. And it’s especially lovely in the summertime when all of the floor-to-ceiling windows in the front of the restaurant are flung open and you see the pond and the gorgeous Chicago skyline in the background. In the early 1900s, the building that houses North Pond served as a warming shelter for ice skaters. Redesigned to house the restaurant, the Arts and Crafts design remains and farm-to-table fare is served, utilizing local farms as much as possible.

Chicago skyline from North Pond
Chicago skyline from North Pond

Piccolo Sogno is another good one for romance — and delicious Italian food. The place is always busy and buzzing, and the people-watching is phenomenal. It’s cliché, but I’m a sucker for the frittura di calamari — fried calamari served in an adorable paper artichoke.

Piccolo Sogno
Piccolo Sogno
Photo credit: Seth Anderson

Just ten? Yeah, for now. If I were to tell you about every single one of my favorite Chicago restaurants for foodies, that would be a blog in and of itself!

Friday Faves: March 21, 2014

CelebrateToday calls for a celebration, my friends. It’s the second day of spring (and my brother-in-law’s birthday — happy birthday, Nube!) and unlike yesterday, Mother Nature did not play any cruel jokes today. I woke up to a generous dusting of snow yesterday. Seriously. Luckily it was all melted by lunchtime, but snow on the first day of spring? (I’ll spare you the photo from our back deck because it looks exactly like every single other one I’ve posted on a weekly basis.)

Although it’s spring, there appear to be these all-too-familiar white flakes in next week’s forecast. I could really use a warm weather escape. Two friends are jetting off to Mexico and I’m beginning to consider cramming myself into their luggage.

Alas, we have our own little getaway this weekend, and while it isn’t to warm, sunny Mexico or anywhere remotely like it, at least the temperature’s supposed to be in the 70s at my parents’ today, which is where we’re headed. While I go dig out my sunnies, you enjoy these links.

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Super advice for learning a language before your next trip. Wish I had done this instead of plunking down $$$$ on a German class that I later dropped before visiting Germany.

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Basic things to keep yourselves healthy, ladies!

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If Mother Nature isn’t going to bring spring to Chicago, then Macy’s will. Macy’s Flower Show kicks off on Sunday.

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This “pile of trash” is super alarming, but luckily it was saved.

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We lost one of our furry friends this week. He was a Boston Terrier rescue, like Daisy. Rescue organizations and the volunteers are amazing. I love this sweet story written by a volunteer.

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My rain boots bit the dust this week, and I’m loving these adorable turquoise ones — a nice pop of color for a rainy day, right?

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You will be shocked at how ridiculously yummy — and easy — this is.

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That wraps it up, friends. Have a lovely weekend!

Friday Faves: March 14, 2014

Blarney CastleHappy St. Patrick’s Day Eve Eve Eve! Back in my younger days, this weekend would involve guzzling lots of green beer. These days, it will probably involve wiping lots of green boogers. But I’m okay with that.

So this week in Chicago we were teased with just a taste of springtime. Just a taste. Monday started off ridiculously beautiful with lots of sunshine and temps in the 50s. I had to splurge and get an iced coffee on one of my three (!) walks with Nora.

This was Monday.
This was Monday.

And then by Tuesday night, it all went to hell. This is what we woke up to Wednesday morning:

This was Wednesday. Waah waah waah...
This was Wednesday. Waah waah waah…

Sure, it was pretty. But I’m over it.

Anywho, it’s Friday and it’s supposed to be like Monday again, temperature-wise. Fingers crossed! I could really go for a walk or two with my little bird. On tap for my weekend is a haircut and a double date — we’re cookin’ up tacos tomorrow night. Probably time to start looking at a big girl car seat, too. Whatever you’re up to this weekend, enjoy. And if it’s warm where you are, send some of it my way, please.

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I’m not a huge corned beef and cabbage fan, but I am a huge quesadillas fan. If you’re looking for a non-traditional way to eat traditional St. Patrick’s Day fare, give these a try.

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St. Patrick’s Day automatically brings Ireland to the forefront of my mind, which makes me think about the incredible trip we had there nearly two years ago. If you’ve never been, I can’t recommend it enough. And by all means, make sure gorgeous Castlemartyr is on your itinerary.

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Remember when I was raving about Warby Parker? The lovefest continues. I got my new prescription sunnies and love love love them. I think I need a trip someplace warm to break them in.

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I’ve never been a fan of cats. And one that scratches a seven month-old baby? Hell no.

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I always (almost) choose a window seat. But I never capture anything remotely this cool.

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Although I’m still super peeved about The Mindy Project hiatus until April 1 (how can they do this to us?), I’m happy to hear this news.

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I just signed Nora up for swim class again. It starts in less than a month which means I have less than a month to find a non-frumpy “mom” swimsuit, or risk wearing the swim “dress” I bought when I was pregnant (which is now super frumpy). Thank goodness there seem to be some decent options out there. Wish me luck!

Wanderlust Wednesday: Nice, France

Nice, France
Nice, France
2009

It’s spring break season, which means flying any place warm and beachy will cost a small fortune at the moment. Still, I can’t help but reminisce of hot, sun-drenched days and my toes in the sand, or rocks, as the case may be. Heck no, I never went to Nice on spring break (more like Negril, Jamaica or South Padre Island, Texas!), but Nice is what comes to mind when I think of my favorite beach experiences.

The Walnut Room, a Chicago Institution

I’ve lived in Chicago nearly five years and had yet to dine at the famous Walnut Room in Macy’s on State Street, so a visit from Mom presented itself as the perfect opportunity. We made it a shopping/ladies who lunch kind of day!

Walnut Room menu

The Walnut Room has been around for over a hundred years and it has that kind of a feel to it — lots of dark wood paneling, sparkly chandeliers, etcetera. During Christmastime, it’s dressed up with a ginormous Christmas tree and people wait in line for hours to dine near it. And don’t even think about getting a seat at the Wine Bar at the Walnut Room during the holiday season. I’ve tried. And failed.

Being a nondescript Thursday in February, getting a reservation was no problem whatsoever, and I felt kind of silly that we even had one when we strolled in and the place was generally empty. We sat by one of the big picture windows overlooking State Street. Not much of a view, per se, but it was nice. The Walnut Room really does have that “ladies who lunch” kind of feel to it. I felt a little bit like we should be discussing the upcoming regatta gala or something.

The lunchtime menu at the Walnut Room has the standard fare — salads, sandwiches and some heavier entrees. My mom opted for the Peach Nest Salad which looks as interesting as it sounds — chicken salad in a “nest” of shoestring potatoes, alongside peaches, grapes and a trio of breads.

Peach Nest SaladSince I was off the wagon and eating everything in sight, I went for it and had the Mrs. Hering’s 1890 Original Chicken Pot Pie. When in Rome, err, the Walnut Room, right?

Mrs. Hering's 1890 Original Chicken Pot Pie

I think the only thing left on my plate was a piece of lettuce. And, because I finished all my lunch like a good girl, a shared dessert was in order. In keeping with the traditional dishes, we shared a piece of the truly decadent Frango Mint cheesecake (and I’m sorry, but I couldn’t resist digging in before capturing a photo).

Frango Mint cheesecake

For someone who isn’t really into dessert at restaurants, I’ve been finding some winners lately, between this and that heaven and hell cake. That really doesn’t bode well for me and these pesky ten baby pounds…