Last week John and I went to Chicago for my birthday weekend. Chicago had been on our list of places to go to for a while and we wanted to do something special to celebrate my birthday. We found a really great deal on airfare and an awesome hotel on Jetsetter. Plus, we’d been dying to go to Alinea (a restaurant, more on that later).
We caught an early flight and were in Chicago by 9AM. When we arrived we took the train downtown to our hotel. It started pouring right when we got to Chicago and didn’t stop all day. We spent the train ride adjusting our itinerary so that we’d be doing all the indoor stuff we’d planned for the weekend on that day.
After we got squared away at the hotel we had breakfast at Pret A Manger and headed to the Museum of Contemporary Photography. Breakfast was good but the museum was disappointing.
We then walked to the Chicago Architecture Foundation and checked out their model city of Chicago. It was pretty awesome.
Next up was the Chicago Art Institute. The museum was amazing. The collection was exquisite, so many great works of art. I could have spent all day here.
The model miniatures were awesome, I loved the detail on all of them.
Works by Monet:
Works by Van Gogh:
Famous pointilism work by Georges Seurat, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. The close up of this painting was unreal.
Nighthawks by Edward Hopper and American Gothic by Grant Wood.
Works by Georgia O’Keefe: (I love the colors in her paintings, so calming)
Indian, Southeast Asian, and Himalayan Art room:
Misc. favorite exhibits:
After the museum we visited Cloud Gate/”The Bean” in the rain.
The optical illusions standing under The Bean looking up were really cool:
The rain picked up and we hustled to Xoco for lunch. We dried off while eating the best tortas and churros ever.
We got back to the hotel around 3PM to rest a bit before getting ready for our dinner at Alinea. We got ready and left the hotel at 5PM for our 6PM reservation. After much debating we ended up taking the train over a cab in rush hour. Despite getting a little rained on on the way, we were on time and hospitably welcomed into the restaurant at 5:45PM.
Alinea has been on our must-do list for a while. The deconstruction of classic ingredients were something we needed to see; molecular gastronomy is really fascinating. Also, Alinea has 3 Michelin stars and was recently voted the 6th best restaurant in the world. I mean, we had to go!
The whole experience, all 3 hours of it, was the best dining experience I have ever had. It was more than I could explain in words but overall: incredible food, the most quality ingredients I’ve ever eaten, exquisite service, spare but romantic decor. Each course was as surreal, entertaining, unique, and delicious as the one before it. It was the best celebration of food and technique I’ve ever experienced. Definitely a birthday dinner I will never forget.
I didn’t take pictures of our 16 course meal, it was too austere and solemn a place to be snapping away. I did take one picture on my phone of our dessert, The Chocolate Explosion:
If you want a taste of Alinea, and to see what this dessert was all about, watch the video about it’s presentation here.
After we finished our meal we were presented with the menus (I got the vegetarian meal which is how they differ):
I took the best care of them throughout our travels and when we got home from our trip we bought a frame immediately. We hung the menus up in our kitchen as a reminder to think outside the box and to always be fearless with food.
Stay tuned for Day Two in Chicago!
Looks like you got off to a good start in our hometown – it is a very handsome city we live in.
We fell in love!!
Love the idea of framing the menus! May I suggest adding French Laundry in Napa Valley to your list if it’s not there already – another 3-star restaurant.
Yes! John is dying to go there! Have you been?