Category Archives: cocktails

5 for Friday: St. Patrick’s Day Edition!

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Taking a break from the books this week since it’s St. Paddy’s Day! I’m not Irish, but sometimes I celebrate like I am. ūüôā

Here are 5 of my St. Paddy’s Day Faves:

  1. Food:

    • Creamy Reuben Soup – I made this for the first time on Wednesday. My husband devoured nearly 3 bowls of it! (For the record, I loved it, too.) Okay, so Reubens are not technically Irish, but the corned beef and sauerkraut (cabbage), makes me feel like Reubens kind of are… ¬†Besides, a local bar always makes a version that Rob always dreams of this time of year. I wanted to see if I could do it justice. The verdict? This one might be better. Make it no!¬†Side Note: I never really had a Reuben sandwich until I met Rob. He and his parents always ordered them when we ate out!
    • Corned Beef and Cabbage – Truth be told, this is not a traditional Irish dish either! It’s more Irish-American. This was our go-to recipe every year, a few years back. I don’t think I’ll be making it again, though. The Soup has won out for eternity.
    • Irish Bread – I think Irish Soda Bread might be Irish-American, too. I don’t remember ever having that when I was in Ireland.I do miss their brown bread, though! Maybe I’ll have to try whip up a batch of that next year. Anyone have a fave recipe?
  2. Drinks:

    • Guinness – People think that Guinness is such a heavy beer because it is dark and maybe also because of the foamy head.¬†While it may be heavier than the lager you are drinking, Guinness really isn’t as think or full-bodied as you¬†may¬†think it is. There are several stouts that have much more flavor and richness than Guinness. So give it a try! Sometimes, I’ll drink a Guinness when I want something lighter – it has so¬†fewer¬†calories than many other beers! Plus, there are so many concoctions you can make, including the Black Velvet in this post.
    • Whiskey – I’m not much of a whiskey drinker, but my husband and friend Jen tend to like Johnny Jump Ups (a shot of whiskey in cider). But we did do a tasting while in Ireland. So much fun!
    • Irish Sangria – Want something a little nontraditional and fit for the beautiful weather we are supposed to have this weekend? Try the Irish Sangria in my Sangria post!
  3. Entertainment:

    • Irish Music – You can’t easily¬†find trad¬†in the U.S. but when you do, especially on this special day, it’s wonderful. We love the music at St. Paul’s FREE Irish Fair every August. And we go to see¬†the¬†non-traditional, but always fun Gaelic Storm whenever they are in town!
  4. Memories:

    • My friend Jen and I started a tradition when we backpacked Europe after college to find an Irish Pub in every country. My husband and I carry on this tradition to this day whenever we travel like we did here, here, here,¬†here, here and here.
    • Almost two¬†of those 10 weeks¬†backpacking in¬†Europe backpacking were spent in Ireland. I was most at peace in Dingle. I still remember that day and the calm I felt on the boat while in search of a the view of Fungie¬†the dolphin. Although, hanging with my friend Colm in¬†Dublin and Dundalk¬†was wicked fun!
    • Then we took a family trip to Ireland with Rob’s parents in 2012. Here’s a link to my last post¬†about that wonderful¬†trip. If you scroll down to the bottom of that post, you’ve got a link to all of my posts about that trip on the bottom. We were chauffeured around The Isle by Ray with Walk with Me¬†and made some friends with locals in Dublin. {Hi Ross!} We do need to plan a trip back. {Sigh.}| I haven’t seen the south yet!
  5. Lastly:

    • Our very own Shamrock:

 

Happy St. Paddy’s Day!

What is your favorite thing about this holiday?

Cheers~
Carrie

Ch√Ęteau Frontenac

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The Ch√Ęteau Frontenac is probably the most recognized building in all of Quebec. It’s certainly recognized as the most photographed hotel in the world!

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I think this is because of it’s monstrosity and how it sits elevated above the St. Lawrence River. But you can capture photos of it from so many different vantage points!

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I’m sure the views are breathtaking from the highest stories, too. Even if you are not staying in this hotel, it’s worth a look inside. It’s quite grand! And while we’re at it, we were told to stop for a cocktail in the bar or lunch in the cafe.

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I was not aware that this was a wine and cheese bar! If I had known that I would have made cheese my dinner. ūüėČ {Instead, this was a night-cap.} The bar itself is a beautiful site. We tried to get a seat near the window facing the St. Lawrence, but all were taken. ¬†To the bar it was!

There were a few different drink menus, but I liked this one which included the recipes:

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That ^^ is exactly the drink I ordered. Beautiful!

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As expected, the drinks were a bit spendy. But this was a special treat for us. Rob ordered a Stinger, which has 989+ different versions. But together with the ambiance, our cocktails and experience at the Ch√Ęteau Frontenac¬†were magical.

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What do you like to splurge on when you travel?

If you want to catch up on my previous posts covering our trip to Quebec:

Cheers~
Carrie

 

Quebec City – Outside the Walls

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We loved exploring the city of Quebec! And although we loved staying in Vieux-Quebec, the vieille ville, some of the best little spots we found were located outside the walls of the fortified Old Town.

First up is Rob’s best hot dog of his life… {I can’t argue; it was pretty damn good!}

If you exit the Porte Saint Louis of the old town along Rue Saint Louis, the street becomes the Grande All√©e. It’s along here that you’ll find L’Inox Brasserie {brewery},¬†which we visited on our first day¬†after¬†we had lunch. Still, we perused their menu, on¬†which the Deluxe European Hot-Dog was highly recommended.

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After Rob saw one of those hot dogs served to another patron, he declared that we were coming back. It was almost as intense as Michael Scott declaring bankruptcy:

And so we did. And we were blown away. You see, this Deluxe European Hot-Dog {I love how they hyphenate it!} is not only made with specialty meats, but it is also served in a baguette. Yes, I said in, not on, like on a bun.

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This is because a hole is poked through each baguette with a warm pointy device {technical term}. The result is that warm doughy interior and the crunchy baguette exterior surrounding the entire hot dog. Genius.

We both tried to capture the guy prepping the baguettes on video; but it was challenging trying to keep all of the employees’ faces out of the shot. We didn’t get a good enough video;¬†but here is a teaser… It’s quick! So look carefully at the top of the screen and replay if you need to! Tee hee. I wish I knew how to make a GIF.

Inox has a few guest taps in addition to their own. That day, I went with the¬†Mystique Sparkling Cider. I love that they don’t ever put ice in the glass when serving cider, which is becoming more and more common in The States and was always assumed when we were in Ireland.

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Oh! There was also the beef jerky. Rob loved the fact he could find that on a menu!

After Rob’s epic hot-dog experience, we continued to walk along the Grande All√©e further away from the Old Town. We had intended to go far enough to take another street that intersects Rue Saint Jean. We had a list of little recommended hot spots we wanted to check out on that street. It was time for some hopping!

But along the Grande All√©e,¬†I spotted this cute little church with the doors swung open. It had a sign that read in French, “For Lease. For all types of business.”

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But the doors where open and from across the street I could tell that there some lights strung about. Was it a bar or restaurant? I had been to a church-turned-bar in Belfast back in 2000. I was curious…

But it was even better. Here is what we found:

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This was a secondhand book sale! I was in heaven. I could have spent hours in here just looking… There were hundreds and hundreds of books in this run-down church. It was really in need of repair. It would be so beautiful! Just look at the stained glass and tiles on the walls…

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There was a small section with books in English. However, most of all of the books and albums were in French.

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And when I found these, I just had to take a photo for my mom:

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Her favorite author’s books all translated in French. ūüôā Finding surprising things like these is why I love exploring new cities!

As we came up on Rue Saint-Jean and were about to take a right to make our trek down it back toward the old town, I¬†saw a sign to the left that read, Le Projet¬†–¬†Sp√©cialit√© Microbrasseries”.¬†I knew what each of the words meant, but I couldn’t determine what the building was.¬†My first thought was that it was a home-brew supply store called Le Projet¬†{The Project – great name} that specialized in microbrews.

But then I took a peak around the corner. The room was filled with people sitting at tables! It was a little bar, gastropub actually, that specialized in microbrews!

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I ordered the Boréale Concombre & Basilic (cucumber and basil) beer Рtap handle on the far right.

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It was a saison-style beer. Rob hates saisons and he hates cucumbers. So I guess it was kind of mean of me to offer him to try it without him knowing what it was. He hated it instantly! I just wanted him to have an open mind before he knew what the beer was!

I’ll tell you this, though, I do like cucumbers. In fact, I LOVE them. I eat them all summer long. But I’ve slowly learned that I don’t like cucumbers in my drinks. I made a mental note. Then I noticed any gin cocktails I saw on menus throughout the trip always had cucumber in them.

Have you ever discovered something surprising in an old building?

Cheers~
Carrie

Other posts on our trip to Quebec City:

Salsa a la {Closed}… Bob

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This month’s Girls’ Dinner Night Out took us out for some Salsa a la Salsa.¬†Rob laughed and said he was so glad he wasn’t included in this. He’s not a huge fan of salsa, nor would he want salsa on top of his salsa. HA!

I had been to Salsa a la Salsa once, probably over 10 years ago near the Convention Center. I didn’t remember much about it. However, we were venturing to their new location – in Uptown.

This was one restaurant where I did not look at the menu before dining. Can you believe it? My friend Jen was certainly surprised. But really, how can you go wrong with Mexican food?

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We ordered some cocktails {obvi, not pictured}:

  • El Camino Margarita¬†made with reposado tequila, pomegranate pur√©e, lime juice and grand marnier. <– Kim loved this!
  • House Margarita made with tequila, lemon, lime, orange and agave nectar. Jen realized how spoiled¬†we’ve become about good tequila. Plus, there’s just¬†too much sour mix in¬†most margaritas these days, imho.
  • Paloma made with blanco tequila, grapefruit soda, fresh lime. It just so happens that I had my first Paloma in this very building¬†a couple of years ago when the establishment was Boneyard Kitchen and Bar. {I never did write about that one.}¬†And I fell in love with Palomas!. This one was horrible – completely sour and unbalanced. Oh well.

As I know how much I tend to fill up on chips and guac at Mexican restaurants and then tend to overdue it on the entree, I decided to order some soup instead. Both the Cilantro Chicken Soup and the Pozole de Pollo sounded great. I was really in the mood for chicken, specifically shredded chicken. Is that weird? I made my choice based on the recommendation of our server:

Pozole de Pollo traditional pre-columbian soup; shredded chicken, hominy, guajillo, oregano, served with tostada 5.75 / 7.95

Pozole de Pollo –¬†traditional pre-columbian soup; shredded¬†chicken, hominy, guajillo, oregano,¬†served with tostada $7.95

The juicy shredded chicken was just what I wanted! The tostada on the side was a nice, refreshing accompaniment, too. However, the flavor of the soup was a bit boring. That was, until I realized under those limes was some onion and cilantro to dump in it… DOH!

Kim’s tamales looked out of this world. That sauce and all that cheesy goodness!

Tamales de Pollo two chicken tamales with green sauce, melted cheese, served with Spanish rice and refried beans. Ala carte 12.95

Tamales de Pollo  two chicken tamales with green sauce, melted cheese, served with Spanish rice and refried beans $12.95

But I think Jen, probably ordered the healthiest and most desirable dish {to me anyway!}

Plato de Barbacoa slowly braised beef with avocado leaf, onion, tomato, pickled jalape√Īos 16.95

Plato de Barbacoa –¬†slowly braised beef with avocado leaf, onion,¬†tomato, pickled jalape√Īos $16.95

The juicy, flavorful barbacoa couldn’t have been better. Those green beans were well-seasoned such that I wanted to eat them like fries. Jen barely made a dent in that plate. I think she took home what could have been two or three more servings. I’d definitely get this dish next time!

Oh, and BTW, the Traditional Guacamole rocked.

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And in GDNO tradition, we headed to a new-to-us coffee shop:

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We generally choose our coffee shops based on proximity to the restaurant. Kim is usually in charge of searching for one once we get into the car. ūüôā

What I really liked about Bob’s was that dogs are allowed!¬†There was one beautiful dog there while we were and treats on the counter for those who bring them in. ¬†Also, this…

I don’t quite understand the significance of the number 33 everywhere; but Bob’s Java Hut¬†was great for handcrafted cuppa and conversation regardless.

 

What are your favorite Mexican style foods?

Name a place you are happy {or unhappy} that dogs are allowed!

Cheers~
Carrie

Monello – Italian Coastal Cuisine

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MotorettaCarpano Bianco, Genepy, Gin, Orange Bitters -$8

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RED PRAWN – Charmoula & Ramps -$15

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GRILLED OCTOPUS – with Pine Nuts, Paprika & Grilled Cucumber -$18

She loved it! The octopus, understandably, reminded her of calamari. Then came our pasta courses. All the pasta is made fresh and in-house here! You have the option of ordering a small or large portion. Sally and I both went with smalls because we had our starters.

FAZZOLETTI with Poached Lobster, Hazelnuts & Saffron 12/19

FAZZOLETTI –¬†with Poached Lobster, Hazelnuts & Saffron $12/$19

Sally said she wanted something with a rich sauce, but the fazzoletti dish¬†wasn’t rich at all. I think he may have recommended it because it was a brown butter sauce and perhaps one of the “richest” on the menu.

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RICOTTA TORTELLI – with Preserved Lemon, Ramps & Asparagus $11/$18

Ryan and I both ordered the Tortelli. The difference between the small and the large was four versus eight tortelli, respectively. You can’t see the beautiful tortelli in this photo, but it was phenomenal – fresh-made and delicate with pillowy ricotta inside. The sauce was like a pesto. This was my favorite dish of the night… and pretty much everyone else’s, too!

Rob had a large serving of pasta for his main course. There wasn’t much on the menu he could have, being that the focus at Monelli is on seafood.¬†Have you noticed how beautifully plated everything is? I felt like we were on Top Chef.

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AGNOLOTTI with Roasted Beets, Goat Cheese & Sweet Sausage $12/$19

I was surprised that Rob ordered this dish because of the goat cheese, of which he is not a fan. He expected a few little clumps of it. However, the dish tasted very much of goat cheese because the agnolotti were filled with it. He said he could still appreciate the perfectly cooked pasta. Unfortunately, he only had three little pieces of sausage. Although he did like this dish, he much preferred my pasta to his.

When you are at a restaurant that prides itself on offering Italian Coastal Cuisine, get the seafood, right?! I really wanted the scallops, even though the description sounded a bit boring.

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SAUTEED SEA SCALLOPS with Zucchini, Tomato, Eggplant & Red Wine Vinegar $29

And it really was. The scallops were cooked nicely, but the rest was just… boring. Sally ordered the same. I still liked the crispy basil on the top. And I’m very glad I got a few different courses so that I discovered something I really liked. {The pasta!}

Plus, I asked for a wine pairing recommendation to go with my scallops and got to try a new-to-me varietal!¬†Timorasso, Colli Tortonesi-Derthona La Colombera 2011¬†($15) – described as a “rare varietal from the Piedmont that delivers an umami hit like a secret handshake.” Yes, it was a unique white wine!

While the tortelli seemed to be the star of the entire night for all of us, Ryan said his steak was right on par.

GRILLED BEEF TENDERLOIN with Morel Mushrooms, Romanesco & Red Wine 35

GRILLED BEEF TENDERLOIN with Morel Mushrooms, Romanesco & Red Wine $35

So when in doubt, I’ll go with the steak and pasta here. Monello has received many, many rave reviews. I can see why! While I didn’t love everything I ordered, it’s probably just because of my not-completely-refined tastes. Everything was delicately plated and¬†there was so much attention to detail. The service was top notch, too. Recommendations were always offered and each dish was described as it was delivered.

Constantine

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Rob and I had a date with our friends Sally and Ryan last weekend to check out a craft cocktail bar called Constantine. We had already been to the Commodore together not long after it opened {which I never did write about!}.

It’s located in the basement of the Ivy Hotel in Minneapolis. When you walk into the Ivy, don’t be fooled by the hotel bar on your right… Make sure you take the stairs down to Constantine. It’s a dark bar with an almost mysterious ambiance.

Although, none of the cocktails really spoke to me. They seemed to be a little more fru-fru than I tend to like.

IMG_6712 They did have other options; but I was there for a cocktail!

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I ended up going with the 3 Stacks of High Society:

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It was still a bit sweet to me, but probably my best option. 10What I do like is that they use real candles here. That’s a huge 3-wicked one in the background in the photo above. The ambiance is great – very loung-y. Although I didn’t love the drink list, I’d come back for that reason. Rob would come back for the Dim-Sum style menu!

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I must admit, I am intrigued. We didn’t eat there that night because we just had dinner upstairs… Come back tomorrow for that one!

Do you know of a restaurant that serves Dim-Sum style that is not a Dim-Sum restaurant? 

Cheers~
Carrie

Anniversary in Chicago

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When I woke up that Sunday morning in Chicago and asked Rob how he slept, ¬†he said that he was in the bathroom every 15 minutes all night long. ūüė¶

Please keep reading! I’m not going to go into detail on that!

He was still feeling absolutely miserable. In fact, he felt worse than the day before. I felt so bad for him. But, he felt bad for me because he knew I wanted to go out and explore. And it was our anniversary. So he gave me a gift: He told me to go out and enjoy Chicago on my own for the morning!

This way, I wouldn’t feel useless not being able to help him feel better and he wouldn’t feel guilty keeping me cooped up in the hotel. He could rest and sleep {and be very close to the toilet}.

Besides, it was a beautiful day!

Originally, because we knew the weather was going to be beautiful, we had planned to go to Oak Street Beach. Yes, there are beaches in downtown Chicago!¬†{Ever heard of Lake Michigan?! HA!}¬†And it’s beautiful! Just look at all this sand!

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I took the walking/biking path along the beach…IMG_6593

I stopped only to check out the views of the city…

Just look at the color of that water…

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And as usual, the Windy City delivered, but even windier off the lake!

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I use several resources when making travel plans. Mostly the interwebs, but I did check out a few books from my beloved library and this one seemed to suit me most!

I loosely followed that Gold Coast walking tour, along Oak Street Beach and then through a quiet neighborhood with some old mansions! By lunchtime, I made my way to Allium, a restaurant on the seventh floor in the Four Seasons Hotel, where Kat from Tenaciously Yours said I could find one superb Chicago dog.

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First, I must say that you should go to Allium just for the experience, even for just a drink at the bar. This place was absolutely beautiful! {Um, you are in the Four Seasons.} I *almost* felt out of place. I strolled up to the small bar where there was a couple and another gentleman seated. It was Sunday… So brunch…

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I was worried that I’d be out of luck, but there were several menu items that sounded tasty! I wouldn’t have gone away hungry.
IMG_6606The Chicago Dog was not on this menu! So I asked the bartender, “I’m told you make a damn good Chicago Dog. Do you serve that all day?”

“Why, yes, of course!”

So I treated myself to one alongside a bloody mary.

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Chicago Style Hotdog Homemade Everything

I had no idea it came with fries! This¬†was so much food! If Rob were with me, we could have easily split this and had food leftover. You’ll see all the homemade fixings come on the side, including homemade beer mustard, relish and balsamic ketchup. They were very kind to explain each condiment to me and then ask if I wanted traditional ketchup. Nope!

Here, I also learned how awkward I feel making small talk at a bar without Rob. So instead, I listened in to the conversation going on between the others, smiled and nodded where appropriate and answered a question or two.

The guy by himself at the bar casually mentioned in his conversation with the other couple that he was in town for business, working on a project called The Vampire Diaries. I don’t watch that show, so I thought nothing of it. {BTW, I wasn’t really eavesdropping. The bar was small and L-shaped, so I was facing the others.}

Later he talked about where he grew up and about traveling to Ireland – his last name is Malarkey. At one point, the couple asked him if he was an actor. “Yeah, I was in a series called Raw¬†that only aired over there.”

This was all very casual. Okay, I obviously didn’t know who he was, so I had to IMDB him! This is who was sitting across the bar. He seemed like a nice guy. I feel like I know so much about him now, though. If you are a fan of The Vampire Diaries, let me know and I can fill you in on some not-so-important information. HA! Celebrity Sighting #1.

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After lunch, I started to head back to the hotel because Rob said he was feeling better! It had been over an hour since he had been in the bathroom.

Side Note: For the record, these are the shoes I wore to walk all over Chicago.

I never thought I’d be the one to wear this brand, but they are CROCS! I just love them because they are great walking shoes, are close enough to sandals if it gets warm {I wore them at Bondi Beach and in the water in Australia¬†and just rinsed the sand off afterward.} And they are dressy enough to wear them out at night. I didn’t bring any other shoes with me that weekend.

I brought Rob back a couple of bottles of Gatorade. I wanted him to be well-hydrated before we left to explore other neighborhoods. I also made him eat a piece of my leftover pizza to see if his stomach could handle it. He passed with flying colors! {And I also got a nap out of the deal.}

Our first stop was Logan Square. Fresh off the “L” we found Longman & Eagle, one of the hipster cocktail bars I wanted to try. ¬†Such a cool place! We had to wait just a few minutes for a seat at the bar; but we had a lot of fun deciphering the menus.

Can you determine which cocktail each of us ordered?

Dorothy's Destination (Carrie) & Songs They Have Sung (Rob)

Dorothy’s Destination (Carrie) & Songs They Have Sung (Rob)

They were both fantastic. Then it was time to get some more food in Rob’s stomach. But, DOH! We were there during in-between hours! No food was being served. Rob was going to have to wait. There were a few other places in Logan Square that were on my checklist, but they were either a bit of hike from where we were, weren’t open quite yet or the menu did not appeal to one of us at a time. {For our future notes, that includes Fat Rice, Avec, Blackbird, Scofflaw & Billy Sunday.} #nexttime

Then we¬†got back on the “L” toward River North. But first – Wicker Park. Our destination was The Violet Hour, a speakeasy I had read a lot about. But they didn’t open until 6pm.

So we stopped at Trencherman¬†first.¬†Such a cool bar that also was not serving any food…

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We tried to order just a bit of bread when we found out they didn’t start serving food until 5pm. I think our bartender felt bad for us, because he went into the kitchen and was able to twist some arms, because this came out.

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That warm ciabatta bread with salted butter was some of the best $3 I ever spent. It hit the spot and was enough to tide us over until some establishment served food.

We still had some time to kill afterward; this meant it was time for a pint at our Irish pub Рour travel tradition!

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Then, it was time to go in search of the Violet Hour, which was a little more tricky to find than I had imagined. But that’s the point, isn’t it? Let’s just say that we walked around the block a few times and finally inquired at an Urgent Care type building with the same address. Let’s just say that this mural is significant:

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Why cows? I have no idea. And do you see the door there? Just open it and go right in!

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Inside, you’ll be greeted by a woman who informed us of rules, if only because Rob was wearing a Michigan cap. {No hats!} I understand why. After the curtain was moved¬†aside for our entrance, we stepped into a dark, candlelit, swanky bar. We requested a seat at the bar and they sat us at the end. Apparently, we were quite early and this place fills up. I was in love with Violet Hour.

You will see no photos of the inside or our drinks from me, if only ¬†because I didn’t even want to take my phone out. I wanted to suck it all in. However, I learned later that they have a no cell phone policy, too. I love that. It’s like we were going back in time¬†in this little hidden Speakeasy.

I had a boozy gin drink called a Puff Up¬†{Dorothy Parker gin, carpano antica, cardamaro, grapefruit bitters}. That was my favorite cocktail of the trip! So much that I wanted to try another one there, but I thought better of it. It was boozy and it was only 6:30pm. Rob was disappointed that the Last Word that he was looking for wasn’t on the menu. I told him to ask the bartender could make one. It is the ultimate classic cocktail;¬†so as long as they had all of the ingredients, they’d certainly no how. He said, “Absolutely,” without hesitation.

We went away from Violet Hour that night noting how much we enjoyed the Wicker Park area. Then we made our way back to the hotel to grab some dinner much closer.

I also have no pictures from our dinner at Quartino.¬†{Rob was craving Italian again – haha – Surprise!} But I would tell you it was a terrible experience, from the wine, the food and the service. We will not be going back there and I want to note it so that we don’t forget. I just love the name, so I fear I would! The only thing that made this experience cool was walking into the large women’s bathroom and hearing “When the Doves Cry” coming from a woman’s smart phone. She was leaning against the wall, just listening. It had¬†only been three days¬†since Prince passed…

Overall, it was a great day. The only downfall was dinner; but so what? Rob was feeling better and we discovered some cool places!

Have you been to a Speakeasy-type bar before?

What was it like?

Cheers~
Carrie