This week was quite busy this week – dare I say because it might actually be getting warmer??? Might be some wishful thinking on my part, but I do feel like summer is just around the corner now (finally). To start the week on a sweeter note, I decided to check out one of the city’s favorite doughnut shops: Doughnut Vault. I’ve seen it all over my feed lately and since I was in the neighborhood, I thought why not! The location is quite hidden – I went past it at first since I didn’t think I needed to take the stairs down, oops. It’s quite small but it adds to the exclusivity factor, seeing as they close once they run out of doughnuts. There’s also a newer location in the West Loop that has seating and store hours, so if you want to guarantee a doughnut, go there but if you get here early, you’re fine! I tried the buttermilk old fashioned since it’s their classic. As I’ve stated before, I’m not a big doughnut person but that’s not to say I don’t like them at all. I didn’t love this one to be honest, however their ginger bread one is supposed to be really good. I think I honestly might not have gotten the right flavor for me, I usually opt for chocolate ones but have never had a buttermilk doughnut so wanted to at least try it. So for now, I won’t totally rule out this place yet until I try a couple more flavors.
Next up, something I’m super excited to share: meeting Nick Jonas at Nordstrom!! If anyone else was a big #olddisney fan like me, you know this was a big deal. Meeting John Varvatos was also cool, don’t get me wrong, but me (along with the majority of the crowd) were here for Nick. I really liked hearing that both of them have a soft spot for Chicago, with John Varvatos wanting to open a store here and Nick, at one point in time, wanting to go to Northwestern. The event itself, I felt, was handled pretty well honestly for having a high profile celebrity. Once in the priority area, vodka tonics and beer along with snacks like fancy seasoned potato chips and salmon rolls were passed around. Now that’s not to say it wasn’t crazy, (people camped out overnight!) but I’m glad hardly anyone was obnoxiously screaming and the organizers kept everyone in a straight line, making sure everyone who was in the roped off area would get a picture. The only thing I was a little disappointed in was that neither of them were allowed to sign anything (so the line was fast) but I mean, I get it.
These next events really put a positive spin on my week, the first being a West Loop panel at Co Optim, a new luxury co-working space in the neighborhood. The space itself was gorgeous! Each room was decorated with little chandeliers and accessories that added to the “luxe” feel, along with serving charcuterie boards (yum) and beer, wine and champagne! Unlike other co-working spaces, Co Optim does not allow members behind the bar since they are supposed to serve you as you are the guest. They also have a relaxation room with pillows and candles if you need a mental break!
My friend Jordin, whom you’ve heard me talk about, was speaking on the panel so I had to go support my gal! She talked about her blog as well as balancing one with a full time job, super helpful! The other panelists were Emily Belden, author of Hot Mess – a story about a girl who gets stuck in a bad restaurant investment and has to either open the restaurant or lose all the money she gave to it that was inspired by the famed Restaurant, I mean, Randolph Row. There was also Joe of Warm Belly Bakery, a cookie bakery that has been recognized by the Food Network and serves very unique flavors of cookies like his purple yam Ube cookie, which sells out every. single. day. I tried it and I definitely see why because it was delicious! Last but not least, Susan of Pure Barre West Loop, talking about the workout group’s successful pop-ups around the city as well as how competition can be healthy. If you want a recap, check out my highlights in “events”!
The second event was an Instagram Seminar with Chloe of Chloe’s Cravings (and Shop Buzzed) and Lexi of Lex and the City at the Acme Hotel. Such a cool vibe here and we even got to see one of the rooms and stage a little shoot with props. Again, I walked away with some great knowledge after this from new apps to use – did you know Adobe Lightroom has a mobile-only app for $4?? Because I didn’t! Planning your content is also key, but make sure to keep it authentic by mixing it into your everyday activities too. The biggest takeaway that I got was that you shouldn’t be afraid of what people think, when you have a vision (whether it’s a type of photo you want for the gram or a blog post idea) nothing should stop you, take chances. You can check out a few tidbits on my Insta highlights for more details!
Quick one here, had an awesome shoot with Oak Street Social and Five Roses Pub. Five Roses is a Rosemont Irish Pub with lots of fun food and drinks like their caramelized onion and mushroom cheeseburger (yum). I can’t wait to share more on this spot but I don’t have the content yet so stay tuned!
The final two were probably my favorite of the week because I had been wanting to try both spots for a while now. When Claire asked me to help her do some research on an upcoming prettiest cocktails in the city post, I obviously had to help 😉. Her and I (and Lee, of Its in Chicago – hi!) went to Beatnik first, a chandelier filled spot with interesting appetizers and super fun drinks. You guys, I was in awe of this decor. This is seriously what I want for an outside deck one day. There were pillow filled couches to sit in, plants to add a little jungle feel, and even vintage candles lit up parts of the deck as well as the rest of the dining room. The area itself is slightly sketchy so just be aware but you can get off the Blue line and walk to it so not that bad.
The first of the drinks (that I didn’t try, sorry y’all!) was this aperol spritz, grape fruit, orange and pomegranate one called Got Stones that Claire got. It looked so pretty (job well done) and I love coupe glasses like this. I’ll definitely have to give this one a go next time since it sounds delicious.
Another one that Claire got (that I tried, yay) was the Cats Vodka Soda with lime dust and champagne along with the title ingredients. Very refreshing and yummy, however it is a vodka soda which you can get just about anyway so I would say skip if you want something a little more outside your comfort zone.
This coming one is the first one I ordered, the Tio’s Safe Word. VERY sour at first sip so if you’re not a citrus fan, you’ve been warned. However, it wasn’t bad otherwise with lime, orange flower water and brut syrup thrown inside it.
Lee got a little baby octopus appetizer since we weren’t getting dinner til later so Claire and I sampled it a little bit. It was actually really good! The garlic aioli squid ink (the black swirl) was something to not miss, it really gave the octopus a nice flavor. Plus I’ve talked about garlic aioli a million times so you know I was happy when I found out that’s what the sauce was.
Claire got the Cava Cobbler, with cava (Spanish version of champagne), elderflower, bitters, and Bergamot. I really liked this one! I would’ve added a little less of the syrup since it reminded me of grenadine which I’m not a big fan of but otherwise it was light and sweet. The mint really adds to the flavor too!
Breaking the cocktail talk for a second, I had to share that it’s finally warming up in Chicago so I was able to break out one of my new spring tops – hooray! This one is from Nordstrom and I just love the ruffle sleeves. They add just the right amount of drama to the outfit (along with my matching black Frame jeans).
Ok back to regularly scheduled programming. This last drink was my favorite out of all of them, if you don’t get anything else, get this! The chipotle and mezcal give this cocktail, the Mámù Vida, a nice smoky flavor and a bit of a kick like a spicy margarita. It was the best of both worlds: pretty and flavorful!
On our way to dinner we made a quick pit stop at Frontier, which I hadn’t been to since last summer. I was hoping their frosé would be back for the season but it wasn’t so I tried something I had never seen on a menu before. It’s called the Gin Buck and it’s a gin version of a Moscow mule. Yum! It didn’t come in the copper glass, but the taste sure made up for it. I want to try making this at home sometime because it was so delicious with Hendrick’s Gin, raspberry-basil syrup, fresh lime and ginger beer. If you like regular mules, this one has a nice sweet twist!
And it all comes down to this…Il Porcellino, a Florence inspired Italian restaurant in River North. I had no idea that the spot was inspired by one of my favorite places in the world until I walked in, but I was in heaven after entering. The ambiance is on point with cute floors, chianti bottles everywhere, a replica of the famous hog statue that sits in one of Florence’s piazzas (give him a coin in his mouth and rub his snout for good luck!), and the starry night lights that you sit under while dining.
I got a Super Tuscan wine for a drink (yum) because I knew a place like this would have great ones (I got the number 1, there’s two of them listed) and it did not disappoint. Very smooth and tasted like my home away from home. Upon arrival, instead of table bread, the restaurant gave each of us a mini arancini (fried cheesy rice ball) with a little marinara. Very good but very small so if you’re hungry, I would order an appetizer. Which we did! The first being the Tuscan Cheese Bread with marinara sauce. You guys. When I say this bread was out of this world, I mean I could have just eaten this as my meal and been perfectly happy. It was super cheesy and gooey plus the freshly baked bread itself (when the cheese fell off) was seasoned and oiled to perfection with EVOO and sea salt.
The stuffed mushrooms were also a win, with spinach, bread crumbs and garlic. Again, well oiled and seasoned so the flavor was perfect, one hundred percent would order both of these again!
For the main course, I got the Molto Benne Penne (it rhymes!) with tomato and asiago cream plus basil on top and mini fresh mozzarella balls hidden throughout the dish. Super flavorful but I wish the sauce was slightly thicker so it could stick better to my pasta. It still tasted really good though and I love red sauced based penne so I was happy. All three of us agreed that we liked the appetizers more than our main courses but we did eat everything (bringing some of it home) and were full after so mission accomplished on that. I hear that Il Porcellino has aperitivo (similar to happy hour) so I definitely want to check that out next!
Local Spots I Checked Out: Doughnut Vault, Nordstrom, Co Optim, Acme Hotel, Five Roses Pub, Beatnik, Frontier, Il Porcellino
Events I’m Looking Forward To: Dos Toros Happy Hour with Chicagogrammers, Cinco de Mayo/Kentucky Derby, Brunch at Barrio with Nikki, Holt’s Spring Cocktail Menu Blogger Event
See you in the next post!