Sunday, November 13, 2011

Lots of Food and Fun

Last weekend my mom came to visit me here in Chicago.  It has been just over six months since I saw her last.  We talk on the phone often, but it was so nice to see her in person and spend time together.  I requested a few days off work so we could explore the city and hang out.  
Almost every time we talk I mention a new store or restaurant I have tried and she wanted to try them as well.  We had a list of things to try and do which made for a busy weekend.  

She came in around lunchtime so we headed to Chicago Bagel Authority for a tasty steamed bagel sandwich.  It is a little shop right off the Armitage stop on the Brown Line.  There are thousands of bagelwich options and instead of toasting the bagels they are steamed which make them warm, soft, and chewy. (sorry, I didn't take a picture)  

Later we had a plan to head to Bucktown/Wicker Park for a quick dinner and then a painting class.  We stopped by the new restaurant Melt, where they specialize in unique grilled cheese sandwiches.  It was a cute place designed like a school cafe.  I decided on the Santa Cruz which was really good.  It came with a side of soup, but was nothing great, the star was the sandwich!  My mom got the Provence, which was good too, but had a bit too much bread.   I think we both agreed mine was better. 
Santa Cruz: tomato wrap, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, vegetable cream cheese, provolone, mushrooms
We then walked down to the street to get some hot chocolate from Mindy's Hot Chocolate.  This is one of the places I visited on the food tour of Bucktown/Wicker Park.  They had a seasonal Pumpkin Pie flavored hot chocolate which we split.  Mom also picked up some hot chocolate and homemade marshmallows to take home to Florida.  The cocoa was crazy delicious and tasty like liquid pumpkin pie and of course the marshmallow was perfect.  These people know how to make hot chocolate!

A few months ago I bought a Living Social deal for Arts N Spirits which is a small studio where you paint a picture.  You can also bring food and drink and make a night of it.  My sister, Caroline, worked at a place similar to this in college and I was excited to try it myself.  
That's the original painting for the night on the right.
We got set up with easels, paints, brushes, and smocks.  
This is my "I'm a serious painter" pose 
There is a painting that the instructor leads the group through painting.  However, you can change the colors or paint your own thing if you want.  I liked the picture, but wanted to use some different colors and got inspiration from some of the other paintings on the wall and kind of made my own picture. They play a variety of great music while you paint and take you through the painting step by step.  We spent over four hours there and the time flew by.  I had a lot of fun and liked seeing how everyone interpreted the painting in their own way.  There were a few moments of panic and frustration trying to get the painting to look how I wanted and deciding what to paint.  We both weren't sure if we liked what we painted at the end of the night, but the next day were happy with what we created.  

We also tried a new (to me) place for breakfast called Bongo Room, per a recommendation.  This place was really good.  It has a small menu, but everything sounded good.  (I think a small menu is usually a good thing because the place knows what they make really well.)  We decided to split the breakfast burrito and white chocolate caramel pretzel pancakes.  Yes, they were both amazingly delicious.  

The pancakes were quite unique and not super sweet like we initially expected.  They were pretty filling and were the perfect mix of salty and sweet.  The burrito was also delicious.  This was great place and I can't wait to go back!

I have been talking about the amazing cupcake shops that are here in Chicago and had to take my mom to visit.  We both love cupcakes (but really who doesn't?), so we had to try a few... or ten. (We clearly have a cupcake addiction.)  We went to Crumbs first.  They make giant cupcakes that all look really pretty and taste good.  The Raspberry Brownie Cheesecake was the best of these, but we only had tastes of each.

Chocolate Milkshake, PBJ, and Raspberry Brownie Cheesecake
My favorite cupcakes though are from Sprinkles.  The shop is actually right around the corner from work, which is both good and bad.  These cupcakes are so fresh and the flavors are perfect.  They are a bit pricey, but I honestly haven't had a bad cupcake from them.  (I follow them on twitter and everyday they tweet about free cupcakes.  The first 50 people to say a secret password get a free cupcake.  We got the Pumpkin and Salted Caramel ones for free!) We ended up stopping there twice to try different cupcakes! 
Chai, Lemon Coconut, and Pumpkin 
Salted Caramel, Chocolate Coconut, Black & White, Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter
We completed the Hot Chocolate 15K on Saturday together.  

We ate at a few other places like a great local bakery called Dinkel's where they have awesome doughnuts and enjoyed deep dish from Pizano's.  Of course we had to visit my favorite, the Green City Market.  We also just walked around the city and did some shopping.  Traveling through and around the city involves a lot of walking which was good considering all the eating we did! 

I always enjoy spending time with my mom and I was so glad she took the time to come visit me!

Have you ever participated in a painting class?  What is your favorite cupcake?