ALA Midwinter for work. The conference was held in the windy city of Chicago (why do they choose places that are cold?). And even though the winter is being icy, cold, and snowy, I was still excited because I've never been to Chicago before! Yup, this was my first trip to Chicago and I wanted to see the sights, eat great food, and pick up a book or two. Howard even tagged along as it was his birthday weekend, aka Super Bowl weekend and Groundhog Day.
Another first was flying Porter! For our first experience, I have to say, it was great! We arrived at the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, took the ferry (a little bit of nausea for me, even though the Lake was semi-frozen), and sped through checking in. There were lots of business folks with carry-on bags so they all breezed right through. Which was great for us because by the time we reached the counter and security, there were no line ups. The staff was friendly and the lounge offered free WiFi and complimentary beverages and snacks! We didn't have to spend a small fortune on bottled water, juice, and pop at the airport - and that was so refreshing considering you're not allowed to bring your own beverages any more.
Our flight was delayed for 20 minutes, but at least the estimate was accurate and they kept us up-to-date. It's a pretty short distance from Toronto to Chicago, but they still offered snacks and drinks in flight. Upon arrival, everything was just as fast as checking in. Our luggage was waiting for us and we were on our way to the convention center for setup.
booth looked great! Next step: check into the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers, leave our luggage, and go eat lunch!
We stopped at Shake Shack because we were so hungry from setting up all those books. We got to try the ShackMeister Burger (cheeseburger topped with crispy marinated shallots and ShackSauce) with crinkle fries (why wouldn't you get crinkle fries?), and my favourite - Shack-made mango lemonade!
We made stops at Eataly, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's. The home decor and kitchen stores were tempting, but there was no way I could bring all that back to Toronto. Of course, we had to stop by to see all the Jordans at the Nike store. Howard was pretty much in love with this wall display.
Cole Haan. Pretty boots for me and Chukkas for Howard. We're such huge fans of their foot wear, mainly because they have the Nike Air cushioning without the looks of sneakers and runners. All year round, I stay comfy with my ballet flats, pumps, and boots from them. I was really, really tempted by a pair of ankle boots too, but one big purchase was enough for me.
By the end of the night, we were exhausted. We made it all the way to the Drake Hotel before having to hail a taxi to take us back to our hotel by the Chicago River.
XOCO (pronounced “SHO-ko”) by Rick Bayless. It's a more casual dining experience compared to the usual sit in restaurant. You order at the counter, get a table number and are seated, and then they bring the food to you. We tried the Chicharrones with Tamazula hot sauce, queso añejo, onion, cilantro, and lime. This was a large basket, perfect for sharing. Watch out though, it has some heat! We also got the fully dressed guacamole for the table, which means a little bit of each available topping: sun-dried tomatoes, queso fresco (fresh cheese), pomegranate seeds, pumpkin seeds, spicy roasted poblano, chicharron (crispy fried pork skin), grilled onion, and smoky bacon. Also served with tomatillo salsa, three-chile salsa, and just-made chips.
We tried two tortas, the one picture above is the Milanesa: crispy Gunthorp chicken, Jack cheese, pickled jalapeños, red onions, Napa cabbage, tomatillo-avocado salsa, and black beans. This was one delicious sandwich. The other one was the Cubana: smoked Gunthorp pork loin, bacon, black beans, avocado, spicy morita, Jack cheese, and chipotle mustard. This was also very good, except it was unanimous that we all preferred the Milanesa!
At this point of the night, we were so tired that we couldn't even muster another bite or order churros for dessert. After all that eating, we still didn't have the energy to stay awake and walk back to the hotel. You know you're done when . . .