We were having dinner one night at home and started talking about our travel credits due to cancelled trips from the pandemic. We jokingly said we should use our credit to go to San Francisco for a night and have dinner at Atelier Crenn to celebrate our anniversaries. The joke kept going for several weeks until we started looking at flights and realized that we could actually pull this trip off. We were waiting by our computers for reservations to open on Tock, and just like that, our anniversary dinner dreams came true.
Atelier Crenn had been on our bucket list for a long time now thanks to an episode of Chef’s Table on Netflix. Dominique Crenn is the first woman chef in the United States to receive three Michelin stars, and we were insanely excited to finally try out her menu. We arrived at Atelier Crenn for our reservation at 6:00 PM. The outside of the restaurant is very understated and almost unnoticeable with the other bright and loud restaurants near by. We made sure to take our obligatory “we are at a 3 star Michelin restaurant” photo before we headed in for dinner.
We were greeted by a host who knew exactly who we were before we said a word. He welcomed us to the restaurant and we were seated immediately. The restaurant itself is simple but special in décor. All of the art was made by Chef Crenn’s father. If you have watched the Chef’s Table episode on her, you will know how important and special her relationship was with her dad which is reflected all throughout the restaurant. We kicked off our dinner with a champagne toast (thank you mom and dad!) and were taken through the most amazing 15 course dinner.
Atelier Crenn’s menu is always presented by way of poem leaving both a whimsical and mysterious nature to the dinner. The menu is now fully pescatarian, a change they informed us was implemented within the past few years in an effort to be more sustainable. Chef Crenn draws influences from her home in France and the bay area, weaving a delicious menu combined with traditional French techniques and modern coastal cuisine. Many of the ingredients are sourced from the restaurant’s farm upstate in the Napa Valley. We enjoyed dishes like geoduck clam, abalone with cabbage, trout mousse, and a playful spin on “oysters and rose”. We ate the most beautiful tomato dish comprised of 6+ types of tomatoes and were beyond indulged by a seasonal white truffle course that was irresistible. We don’t like to spoil the experience by sharing what each dish was but can tell you that between the four of us, we each walked away with different favorite dishes because everything was just that creative and memorable.
10/10 we would recommend this unique experience to anyone who finds themselves (or purposely goes out of their way) to be in San Francisco. It was such a special and memorable way to celebrate our anniversaries together and cross another Michelin starred restaurant off our never ending dining bucket list.
We decided to splurge for our anniversaries this year and treat ourselves to dinner at Atelier Crenn in San Francisco. With busy schedules to consider, we ended up booking flights to have just about 24 hours in San Francisco before we needed to get back home to Denver. We were not going to let any of those hours go to waste, and set upon making a Google Map of all of the restaurants we were hoping to hit during our day in the city. We will give a play-by-play of everything we ate in 24 hours so that if you happen to have a quick stop in San Francisco you can retrace our footsteps.
Stop #1: Breakfast & Irish Coffees at Buena Vista
The Buena Vista is a restaurant located near Fisherman’s Wharf that has been around since the early 1900s. They are credited with making Irish coffees a world famous beverage and have been in institution for over 100 years. We started our morning with a round of Irish Coffees and some breakfast essentials to fuel us for walking around the pier.
Stop #2: Chowder In A Bread Bowl
After walking through Ghirardelli Square and down Fisherman’s Wharf we stopped for a quintessential San Francisco dish, clam chowder in a bread bowl. We went to Boudin Bakery, which is a little bit touristy down by the wharf but an excellent choice for getting in and out without having to commit to a sit down meal. Their sourdough is top notch and they have lots of outdoor seating to enjoy the pier.
Stop #3: Caffe Trieste
We walked from Fisherman’s Wharf back to our hotel, which was located closer to the Theater District area of town. On the way back down Columbus Ave you’ll start to see red, white, and green flags on all of the poles, showing that you have clearly stepped into Little Italy. There are dozens upon dozens of restaurants to chose from along this walk, but we settled for an afternoon pick me up iced cappuccino at Caffe Trieste. It is a cute little mom and pop shop that has been open since 1956. They also have lots of outdoor seating to sit and enjoy a coffee before continuing the food adventures.
Stop #4: Dim Sum in Chinatown
No stop to San Fran is complete without some dim sum from Chinatown. We could have spent the entire day sampling dumplings and noodles from various restaurants around Chinatown, but due to our limited eating window we settled for getting dim sum at just one place: Yank Sing. We sat down at a table and ordered potstickers, xiao long bao, and sticky green beans. The XLBs were some of the best we have ever had and we only wish that could have ordered significantly more of the menu to sample!
Stop #5: Dinner at Atelier Crenn
Dinner at Atelier Crenn was our primary reason for going on this trip to San Francisco and it did not disappoint! Dominique Crenn is the first woman chef in the United States to win 3 Michelin stars. Her menu is inspired by the similarities of her hometown of Brittany, France and San Francisco. The menu consisted of 15 courses of fresh, coastal seafood with many ingredients grown on their their farm further upstate. We will keep the details brief in this post as we will have a full rundown of our experience on a post later in the week. Spoiler alert: it. was. amazing.
Stop #6: Breakfast at Tartine Bakery
Is it possible to be hungry for breakfast after 15 courses of fine dining the night before? Yes, it turns out. We believe that no trip to San Francisco is complete without a trip to Tartine Bakery, even if that means waiting in line for pastries at 8 am after a big night out. The smell of buttery croissants while you wait makes the minutes standing in line worth it. If you go to Tartine croissants are a must. We ordered a pain au chocolate, ham and cheese, and almond croissant as well as a gougere and croque monsieur. The mix of sweet and savory was just what we needed before heading out to the airport and back to Colorado.
We lived in Nashville while Ryan played baseball for the Sounds in 2017 and loved every minute of it. Since living there, we are often asked for recommendations about where to eat and what to do when friends and family have visited for a weekend. We went back a few weeks ago for baseball and got to familiarize ourselves with what has changed in the last few years. With this new information we were inspired to write our list of recommendations once and for all! Without further delay, here is everything you should know about planning your trip to spend two jam packed days in Music City.
Nashville City Neighborhoods
If we have one complaint about Nashville, it is that it isn’t the most walkable city. There are cute neighborhoods and pockets throughout the city, but getting from A to B on foot isn’t always easy or convenient if you are short on time. When planning out an itinerary, it’s important to note which neighborhoods you plan to go to so that you aren’t going back and forth and spending more time transporting than you are actually experiencing the city. Here is a map courtesy of Nashville Guru so that you can familiarize yourself with Nashville’s neighborhoods.
Day 1 – Welcome to Music City!
Most people that we know are headed to Nashville for some version of a bachelorette party or friends getaway. If dancing, music, and drinks are your thing, you’ll want to stay as close to the bars downtown on Broadway as you can. If you are looking for a weekend that is a little more low key, try to find a place to stay in Germantown, 12 South, or near the Vanderbilt campus. When introducing anyone to Nashville, we like to start with a morning of shopping and eating in The Gulch followed by a tour of the Country Music Hall of Fame. The Gulch has plenty of breakfast options – Milk & Honey and Biscuit Love are our favorites – along with stores for window shopping. The lines at both of these restaurants can be insane so make sure you get to them early in the day (ideally before 10 am). While you’re waiting in line make sure you take a picture in front of the famous angel wings. From The Gulch it is an easy walk to the Country Music Hall of Fame. The Hall has a number of rotating exhibits and has a little something for anyone that loves country music.
From there take a quick walk to Assembly Food Hall, which is a newer eating establishment right downtown and something that was desperately needed for foodies near Broadway. They have two of our favorite hot chicken spots – Hattie B’s and Prince’s – as well as a dozen other food stalls. There is everything from donuts to Thai, Indian to pizza, and sushi to cheeseburgers. If you’re traveling with a group and can’t narrow in on a cuisine, this is definitely the place for you. They also have live music going most of the day and night, which is one of our favorite things about living in Nashville. There is a lot to see in this area, including the Ryman Auditorium and the Gibson Garage, for any guitar buffs.
For those looking to continue walking around and exploring the city, hop in an Uber and head to 12 South. There you will find a number of cute stores including Reese Witherspoon’s Draper James and imogene + willie. There are a bunch of restaurants on this street as well, including Bar Taco and Epice, which is a delish Lebanese restaurant. If you need an afternoon sweet treat stop at Five Daughters Bakery or the famous Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. Music lovers can also visit the Gruhn guitar showroom just a few blocks away.
A Little Ditty About East Nashville
East Nashville is not one of the areas we would recommend you spend a ton of time, particularly during a quick weekend trip. There isn’t much to do there in terms of tourist attractions, however, you will find some of the best restaurants in the city in this neighborhood. If you are like us and pretty much plan every meal on vacation before you’ve even booked your flights, then this is a neighborhood you need Uber over to. Most restaurants are on Main Street, Gallatin Ave, or the intersection of the two. Grab a coffee and giant slice of coffee cake at Slow Hand Coffee + Bakeshop, brisket tacos at Red Headed Stranger, and dinner at Pelican & Pig, our favorite restaurant in all of Nashville. If you’re still hungry for more, Butcher & Bee is an excellent Mediterranean spot for dinner or weekend brunch.
Wild Nights In Nashville
Almost anyone we know visiting Nashville wants to check out the bars and night life on Broadway. Walking along the bars on Broadway can feel like walking the streets of Vegas. Bars have live music most hours of the day and there is an atmosphere for any type of bar goer. We particularly like to go to the bars that have rooftop options, and luckily most places there have them. If you’re looking for traditional country music check out The Stage and Tootsies. If country isn’t your thing head towards the rooftop at The Valentine or FGL House, which plays a nice mix of many types of music. During the day we like the live music at Assembly Food Hall and ACME Feed and Seed, a smaller food hall that also has fun weekend events like rooftop yoga and boozy jazz brunches.
Day 2 – A Grand Ole Day in Nashville
Country music fans will know that Nashville is home to the Grand Ole Opry. Opryland is about 10-15 minutes outside of the city, but well worth a visit if it’s your thing and you have a half day available. The official tour of the is well worth booking and a great look into the history of the Opry. You get to see the main theater and each of the themed dressing rooms backstage. If you book a show there, you never know what famous artist might show up for a surprise performance! The Opryland Resort is very Disneyesque and worth walking around as well. They have immaculately manicured gardens, restaurants, and a huge mall to check out while you are there.
Sports! Go Sports!
For travelers that would rather be in the city, make sure you check out some of the athletic events happening around the city. Between the Tennessee Titans, Nashville Predators, the Vanderbilt teams, and our beloved Nashville Sounds, there is almost always a team to root for year round. The Nashville Sounds play in Germantown, and in addition to a great stadium there is also a sports bar in the outfield from which you can watch the game and anything else on TV. Our favorite type of multitasking.
Our Favorite Restaurants, By Neighborhood
You know that eating is by far our favorite activity on any vacation, and usually the driving force behind our trip planning. Below we are highlighting all of our favorite restaurants by neighborhood so that you always have a recommendation no matter where you find yourself in the city.
Henrietta Red – oyster bar with a farm fresh feeling menu. Great for dinner or brunch. Reservations recommended.
Butchertown Hall – Tex-Mex and bbq vibes. They have a great food and drink happy hour!
City House – a little Italian, a little southern. Reservations recommended.
Rolf & Daughters – modern American with Italian highlights. We still talk about the squid ink pasta from four years ago.
Milk & Honey – great coffee and breakfast shop. Arrive early to avoid the lines!
Biscuit Love – another classic for breakfast. Arrive early and order the bonuts.
Chauhan Ale & Masala House – Indian inspired brunch and dinner.
LA Jackson – rooftop bar at The Thompson Hotel. Our favorite spot to start off a good night.
Broadway & SoBro
Assembly Food Hall – a little bit of everything, Prince’s Hot Chicken & Hattie B’s Hot Chicken in particular
Sixty Vines – wine bar on the upper floor of Assembly. Reservations recommended, great for brunch.
Husk – Sean Brock’s flagship restaurant for all of your southern favorites.
Peg Leg Porker – classic, delish bbq.
Pinewood Social – bowling alley meets summertime pool spot meets a weekday lunch or weekend brunch.
Five Daughters Bakery – donuts and cronuts…. need we say more?
Bar Taco – one of the only chains on our list but a great spot for a margarita and tacos.
Edley’s Bar-B-Que – another great bbq spot across town.
Epice – really delish Lebanese food for when you’re over hot chicken.
Slow Hand Coffee & Bakeshop – biased because Jamie worked here; not biased because the cream cheese sugar cookies will change your life.
Red Headed Stranger – the brisket tacos are a must… you won’t be disappointed.
Two Ten Jack – ramen and izakaya dishes. One of the only restaurants we ate at in Nashville twice.
Butcher & Bee – great Mediterranean for dinner or weekend brunch. Reservations recommended.
Pelican & Pig – our fave restaurant in Nashville! Order the ribeye and lots of vegetable side dishes.
We have moved to a lot of new cities for baseball season over the past few years; probably 8 in the last 5 years alone. Moving to a new city is both exciting and a little overwhelming, so we try and get our boots on the ground and familiarize ourselves with the city and neighborhoods as quickly as we can. One of the ways that Jamie does this is her famous “restaurant list”. Whenever we go to a new city (be it for a baseball move or a vacation), Jamie gathers some internet intel to create a list of restaurants we need to try while we are visiting. When we got to Columbus, Ohio this year for baseball and began digging around for research, we realized that the work had already been done for us. The Experience Columbus visitor’s bureau has two maps to help explore the city: The Columbus Coffee Experience and the Columbus Ale Trail. You can go to each of the locations on the two maps and get a stamp after visiting. This concept is a dream come true for type A foodies like we are. Not only have we expanded our exploration of Columbus well beyond what we would normally explore in a baseball season but we have been able to support a number of local restaurants in the process.
So let’s talk coffee. There are about two dozen coffee shops on the Coffee Experience map. We were glad to see that most of the shops have survived Covid shutdowns, but there are a few changes as to what is open with the current map. You can pick up the map in any of the shops participating and start your coffee experience. Rather than go through each of the shops one by one, we wanted to highlight our favorite shops and add a few more that deserve a spot on the map.
Judging the best coffee out of over 40 coffees is a difficult task. Some people like a straight forward beverage, and others (looking at you Ryan) like to order the coffee that most resembles dessert. Keeping those extremes in mind, here are the standout beverages we had along the way:
Winan’s – peaches and cream breve latte
Bexley Coffee Shop – strawberry latte
Roaming Goat Coffee – perfect cappuccino
Crimson Cup – french toast crunch latte
Brioso – their shop is closed for beverages, but their coffee beans were the best we purchased
While food isn’t a requirement for a “coffee experience”, we are not ones to turn down a good breakfast to pair with our morning caffeine. For the sake of research we ate more muffins, breakfast sandwiches, and pastries than we care to admit. Here were our favorites:
Fox in the Snow – hands down one of the best breakfast sandwiches in Columbus. The food is so good we went there twice! The pastries are also incredible if you are in the mood for something sweet.
Pistacia Vera – lots of traditional French breakfast items. The almond croissant is still discussed regularly as one of the best things we have eaten in Columbus. The croque monsieur and smoked salmon sandwich are perfect for a heartier, savory option.
Coffee Connections of Hilliard – maple waffle breakfast sandwich. It’s a little sweet, a little savory… the perfect start to any morning.
The Brekkie Shack – this shop is not on the coffee experience map, but is one of our favorite stops for breakfast and had to be added to our recommendations. The “all the feels egg sandwich” gives us exactly that, with an unusual combo of egg, bacon, cheddar, and crispy brussels sprouts.
Boston Stoker – after accompanying us to about two dozen coffee shops, Tuck thinks that this is the standout shop for furry friends. Their pup cup was his favorite!
Most of the time we are grabbing coffee on the run, but every once in a while we want to relax and enjoy the morning. These shops had our favorite places to enjoy our coffees or have such a cute storefront that we would want to bring visitors just to experience the vibes of the place.
Kittie’s Cakes Bexley – we love the patio at Kittie’s and the cute bookstore they share a space with. Kittie’s was also the only shop that made Jamie’s favorite drink (an iced cappuccino) so they earn bonus points for that alone. The neighborhood is great for a stroll, which is exactly what we did after downing a cinnamon roll and cappuccinos.
Luck Bros’ Coffee House – another shop that is not on the coffee experience map but is a great experience in Columbus. They are in Grandview Heights right across the street from a cute park and have a good sized patio to enjoy your coffee. Pre-covid they offered a coffee tasting flight, and we hope they bring that back soon.
Pistacia Vera – we already mentioned them before, but the aesthetic of this shop is Jamie’s favorite. They sell gorgeous flowers and have an open atmosphere that makes them stand out on the list. They do not offer seating post-Covid, but we were recommended to take our food and drinks to Frank Fetch Park a few blocks away. This little tiny park might be the cutest spot in German Village, and perhaps all of Columbus.
Stauf’s Victorian Village – there are quite a few Stauf’s shops on the coffee experience, but the Victorian Village location is definitely the standout. The shop is located in an old church and they did a great job of modernizing the space while keeping true to the building’s roots. They have a good sized shaded patio that is perfect for enjoying your morning coffee.
If you follow us on Instagram you know we just spent the weekend in Napa. During the peak of the pandemic, Jamie and Ryan temporarily moved in with Calli and Kidd. What we thought would be a two week stay ended up being SIXTEEN WEEKS of living together under one roof! To say thank you, Jamie and Ryan treated everyone to a special weekend in Napa. One of the ways we all maintained our sanity was wine, so this felt like an appropriate way to celebrate. Despite the California fires and COVID cases on the rise, we had a safe, fun, and healthy trip!
If you are planning a trip to Napa, you likely have eating and drinking on your mind. With hundreds of wineries and restaurants in the region, your options for a weekend trip are endless; the difficulty in planning the trip is choosing where to go. One of our strategies for creating a weekend itinerary was intersperse eating and drinking with other outdoorsy activities like hiking and biking. We went to Napa October 22-25th and the weather was perfect for moving around outside. Adding these to the agenda helped break up the drinking and allowed us to see wine country in a new way.
French Laundry, Bouchon Bakery, La Toque, Restaurant at the Meadowood, Oxbow Market, Gotts Roadside, Girl and the Fig
Activites / Things To Do
Riding bikes from Napa to Yountville, Hiking, Wine tastings
Planning Out Where To Drink
There is so much to see in Napa and the surrounding wine towns, it is hard to know where to start when it comes to planning out winery visits. Reservations are required at most wineries and restaurants with the exception of bakeries and coffee shops. Reservations are limited and fill up quickly, so much so, that you won’t be able to get same-day reservations at most wineries on weekend days and are unlikely to get them even 48 hours in advance for a Friday or Saturday. Trip planning is essential but can be really helpful in mapping out where to go and what to see on vacation.
During our first trip to the Napa region in the fall of 2017, we spent most of our time in Santa Rosa and Healdsburg. This trip we wanted to focus our time on Yountville, Napa, and a little bit of Sonoma. Although the towns look relatively close on a map, driving to each town takes longer than you think it will. We suggest sticking in an area for at least half a day to make sure you aren’t spending the majority of your trip in the car. There are so many vineyards and wineries that it is nearly impossible to narrow down where to go unless you have suggestions from friends. Our best advice is to focus on what type of wines you prefer to drink and choose wineries that way. We don’t love chardonnays, so we try to avoid wineries and tastings that focus only on that type of wine. We also try to do a mix of larger and smaller wineries – some of the smaller brands give some of the best tasting experiences and are often the places that we bring home bottles of wine for later. The larger wineries offer breathtaking views and often have the most Instagram worthy picture opportunities. During our two trips thus far, here are some of our favorite wine experiences:
Priest Ranch (Yountville) – the tasting room for Priest Ranch is right in downtown Yountville, so you won’t get the vineyards and rolling hills for views. You will, however, get a relaxed tasting and some of the best wines we had on our trip. The Double Barrel, Malbec, and Block 72 were some of our favorites. They have cheese boards if you are in the mood for a snack, otherwise Bouchon Bakery is right down the street.
BR Cohn (Sonoma) – Calli is a member of this winery and they have a large variety of wines to sip on during a tasting. On the weekends they have a pizza food truck roll in, so you can sip and graze all afternoon long. We love their cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and their sauvignon blanc. They also sell olive oils, which make a great gift to bring home to loved ones!
Hanzell (Sonoma) – a great winery in the hilltops of Sonoma. Of all of our wine stops on our first trip to Napa, this is the vineyard we took home the most bottles from. Their chardonnays were some of the few we really liked during our first trip and the tour of the grounds and wine making process was also very entertaining.
Ram’s Gate Winery (Sonoma) – this was one of our favorite experiences from our first trip to Napa. We did the wine and food pairing- a multi-course lunch that had excellent food. The decoration and setup of the vineyard are spectacular.
Passalacqua Vineyards (Healdsburg) – one of our favorite stops on our first trip to wine country. If you find yourself in Healdsburg and like a good zinfandel, this is your spot!
Pro Tip: If you plan to bring wine home, most wineries will cover the cost of your tasting if you purchase 2 or 3 bottles. They will usually ship larger orders as well, which will help you travel home as lightly as you came!
Planning Out Where To Eat
If you’re going to Napa you are likely planning on doing some great eating while you are there. There are tons of “food and wine” experiences to be had at the vineyards in the region, but some of the best restaurants in the world are also located in wine country. During our two trips we have visited some of the best of the best, and here are our recommendations:
Brunches & Lunches:
Bouchon Bakery – Thomas Keller’s traditional French bakery, located in Yountville. Stop here for a coffee and pastries as a warm up for wine tastings.
Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Company- a great local coffee shop serving up all our caffeine favorites.
Model Bakery – another great bakery located in the Oxbow Market. We stuffed ourselves silly with scones, croissants, and danishes and we have no regrets.
Bounty Hunter – excellent barbecue in Napa with views right on the river. They also have a great whiskey list and beer flights for those of you looking for a break from the wine.
Gott’s Roadside- great burgers and fries for a more casual lunch or dinner.
Oxbow Market- a great food market with everything from coffee to oysters, sushi to empanadas. The perfect stop for a group that can’t narrow down on what they want to eat.
If fine dining is in your itinerary, be sure to check the reservation policy for each reservation. Most Michelin restaurants take reservations only 30 – 60 days in advance and are booked full the day reservations open.
The French Laundry – if you are a foodie, you know of Thomas Keller’s institution for fine dining. Located in Yountville, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that can we only hope to enjoy for a second time in the future. The service, food, and overall experience are second to none.
La Toque – another Michelin ranked restaurant located in the Westin Hotel in Napa. This is everything you want about fine dining with a bit of a smaller price tag than The French Laundry.
Restaurant at the Meadowood- the restaurant we were supposed to visit in St Helena this trip. Unfortunately it was one of the buildings lost in the California fires. We look forward to their reopening and cannot wait to eat here once they are back on their feet!
Our Suggested Two Day Napa & Sonoma Itinerary
Day 1: Explore Sonoma. Start with a quick breakfast in town. Enjoy a leisurely, food and wine filled lunch at Ram’s Gate Winery before making your way back into town. Enjoy some of the wineries in Sonoma (our favorites are Hanzell and BR Cohn). Have a delicious dinner at Girl and the Fig.
Day 2: Explore Napa and Yountville. Rent bikes from Napa Valley Velo and ride on the Vine Trail from Napa to Yountville. Enjoy breakfast at Bouchon Bakery and a wine tasting in Yountville (we recommend Priest Ranch). Make your way back to Napa (there are plenty of wineries on the path between) and stave off your hunger with a hearty lunch at Bounty Hunter. Stop by another tasting room in downtown Napa before some downtime. Have a fancy dinner at La Toque, The French Laundry, or any of the highly rated restaurants in the area.
Tate has a very special relationship with Chicago as it is where he was born and raised. Spending his first few formative years in the Windy City allowed him the opportunity to explore the best of Chicago. Chicago is a huge city with many historic sites, amazing museums and of course, delicious food.
Most of the foods that Chicago is known for (deep dish pizza, hotdogs) are not the foods that we would typically seek out during our travels. We have included a few recommendations for where to go if you are dying to try some of these local specialties. Don’t get us wrong, none of this is BAD food, it is just that Chicago’s food scene has become much more sophisticated and we think there are foods a bit more worthy of your time. To be honest, our B list for food could easily be an A list. Check out our recommendations but also do your research to make sure you are dining at the places that suite your appetite and budget!
Alinea, Girl and the Goat, Portillos, Schwa, Fat Rice, Ema, Lula Cafe, Mindy’s Hot Chocolate, Sushi-San, Monteverde , Peaquods, Cindy’s Rooftop Bar, Eataly
Local Foods to Try
giardiniera, deep dish pizza, italian beef sandwiches, chicago hot dog, gastronomy, malort (only if you’re brave and have a strong stomach), garrets popcorn
Things to See
Millennium Park & The Bean, The Art Institute of Chicago, The Magnificent Mile
Neighborhoods to Visit
River North, Wrigley, West Loop, Lincoln Park
Architecture Boat Tour
Duck Duck Goat, The Publican, Smythe + The Loyalist, Gibsons, The Aviary, Roister
Things to See/Places to Visit
Willis Tower, Logan Square, Navy Pier
Neighborhoods to Visit
Logan Square, Wicker Park, Chinatown
Welcome to the Windy City! Get your walking shoes on because today you will be exploring the city by foot. Head out of your hotel and make your way to Eataly in River North to grab an espresso and a breakfast pastry. Spend your time walking around the store to explore the beautiful displays of fresh pasta, seafood, meats and cheeses. Exit Eataly and head a block east to Michigan Avenue, also know as the Magnificent Mile. Enjoy shopping or window shopping and if it is the winter, looking at the holiday displays.
Off of Michigan Avenue you can venture to the John Hancock building to get amazing views of the city at the 360 Chicago Observation Deck. There are also activities for those not afraid of heights such as the Tilt. When hunger strikes, head to Ramen San or Sushi San – both off of Michigan Avenue for lunch. Depending on if you want ramen or sushi, both of these spots by the Lettuce Entertain You Restaurant Group will bring you an ambiance of 90s hip hop and most importantly, amazing food.
Once you are filled up, head back to Michigan Avenue and walk south until you get to Millennium Park. Spend an hour or two exploring the park and be sure to visit the famous Chicago Bean. If you are an art fan, don’t miss the Art Institute of Chicago. However you spend your afternoon, don’t miss stopping by Cindy’s at the Chicago Athletic Association for a cocktail, snack and amazing park and lake views.
If you are like us, you will be ready for a nap at this point. Relax for the rest of the evening because for dinner, you will be going to the coveted Fat Rice in Logan Square. It is hard to describe Macanese cuisine at Fat Rice as it is a blend of Chinese, Thai and Indian cuisines. The flavors are incredible, unique and will fill you up after a long day of walking through the city. Make sure to make a reservation in advance. The food is amazing. Just go. Trust us on this one.
Day 2 is going to take you through a few of Chicago’s neighborhoods that are outside of the main downtown area. Start you day with breakfast at Lula Cafe in Logan Square. Lula does take reservations which are highly recommended on the weekend. If you have to wait for your table, no problem! Walk around the Farmers Market if you are there on a Saturday or explore the many unique shops near the restaurant. When you are done with breakfast, take a long walk, south, down Milwaukee Avenue and you will soon be in the neighborhood of Wicker Park. On this walk, you will pass many coffee shops, breweries, and stores. Take your time and enjoy these two unique neighborhoods. Hungry for more? Try the famous burger from Small Cheval or a piece of pie from Bang Bang Pie Shop.
When you are through walking and exploring, hop on the Blue Line to the Monroe Station. Get above ground and you will be just blocks from the Willis Tower. Head on up for views of the city and the Skydeck where you can walk on top of a see-through glass floor. Don’t forget to look down! Head back to your hotel and get some rest before your big night out at Alinea. We wrote a whole post about this very special dining experience that you can read through here.
We know you are probably very full of food by this point in the trip. No plans for you this morning! Sleep in. When you are ready make your way towards the lake and walk up and down the lake shore path. Venture north and you will make it to Lincoln Park where you can go to the zoo (for free) or head south to Navy Pier. If you head north, we recommend venturing to Old Town for lunch. On Wells, you will find many, many restaurants and bars to enjoy.
The last stop for your day will be back to Michigan Avenue where it crosses with the river to board the Architecture Tour . This is a very unique tour, done by boat, and will teach you about the history and architecture of the city and is a great way to see the skyline from the water!
There is no better way to experience food than by sharing a meal with good friends. A little over three years ago, we met our new foodie friends Kaitlyn and Aaron. Over the years we have formed a friendship around discussing restaurants, cooking, and enjoying new foods together. Our foodie entourage took our first trip together this past weekend to Chicago to have dinner at the renowned restaurant, Alinea.
In order to have the full picture about Alinea, you have to know more about its head chef and creator, Grant Achatz. We highly recommend watching his episode of Chef’s Table on Netflix for a full history, but we will give you a quick background. Achatz is a rock star in the culinary world. He is known for taking molecular gastronomy and the dining experience to an entirely new level. His MO is to heighten all of your senses while dining through a combination of scent, taste, sound, surprise, and visual stimulation. Dishes at Alinea are rarely what they initially appear to be and the entire meal is an explosion of sensory experiences.
The Reservation Process
Alinea uses Tock to open monthly reservations to the public at 11:00 AM central time on the 15th of every month, two months in advance. This means our November reservation was available at exactly 11:00 CT on September 15th. Small tip: be sure to log into your Tock account in advance of the time reservations are released; this way if you get a table you won’t lose it during the login process. If you login at exactly the correct time, you should be able to get any table for any day that you are interested in.
There are a number of different seating options for Alinea. The Gallery is the main dining room of the restaurant, serving their full experience menu. It seats parties in groups of 2 or 4 people at either 5:00 pm or 9:00 pm. This seating costs about $400 per person which includes tax and gratuity, but does not include alcohol. The Salon at Alinea is an abbreviated experience of the restaurant. There are a number of seatings per night and that experience will cost you about $325 per person including tax and gratuity, not including alcohol. The final experience at Alinea is The Kitchen Table– the most exclusive of the experiences- at a private table in the kitchen. It seats six guests and costs about $530 per person including tax and gratuity, no alcohol. Because we were a party of six…. you guessed it…. this kitchen table was our dining destination!
The Experience (Spoilers Ahead!)
To give you some of the details without giving the entire dinner away, we will give you a full account of our first and last courses. After watching the Chef’s Table episode, we walked into the restaurant wide eyed and ready for everything. We were taken to our table in the kitchen, which was decorated like a fluffy ball of pink cotton candy. There were birds hanging above, flowers at the center, and a number of elements on the table that were clearly items to be eaten. The “show” began with the waitstaff pouring liquid into the vases that held the flowers. The result produced a smoke that smelled like pink lemonade. To accompany the smell, we had frozen pea soup (it looked like dip and dots) delivered to our plate . It was served with edible flowers and a cold broth that was hidden within the centerpiece of the tables. The birds hanging from the ceiling ended up being sesame stuffed cracker pastry doves that were cut down for the second bite. A gold dome on the table revealed the most delicate and perfectly cut melon with jasmine. The beautiful flower dish held two “puffs” flavored with tea and honey. Ladies and gentleman – that was JUST THE FIRST COURSE.
The rest of the courses throughout the meal were a similar adventure. We had a course in the kitchen, our room decoration completely changed while we weren’t looking, and a number of other surreal experiences throughout the night. Every single aspect of the dining experience is thought out while we ate our meal. The music, brightness and color of the lights, and scents being pumped into the room all changed with each of the foods we ate to heighten the experience of our dinner.
The dessert courses, and the conclusion of our dinner, were menu items that are mentioned in the Chef’s Table, so we don’t feel too bad about giving those away. Dessert starts with Alinea’s famous apple balloon. Each person at the table is served a balloon that is fully edible, string and all. The next and final performance is the dessert art that is featured in the episode. Two chefs come to either side of the table, remove plexiglass that was hanging from the ceiling, the music changes, and the lights go out. The chefs plate the dessert in a synchronized dance onto the glass; each element goes onto the glass one color at a time. The final product can only be described as beautiful, edible, graffiti.
This is one of the most unique and fun culinary experiences in the world. You will be hard pressed to find a more amazing, sensory dining journey. While we loved everything about our dinner, we would be hard pressed to go back again given that the menu would largely be the same and that the “show” would not have the same surprise that is did this first time. Should Alinea produce a new concept as they did a few years ago, you can expect a new review!
After watching season one of Chef’s Table France, we knew that dining at Arpege was high on our list of things we wanted to do during our four days in Paris. Ranked #6 in the world on the World’s 50 Best List 2018, this was the epitome of a three star, French Michelin dining experience. Arpege is located right in downtown Paris near the Musee Rodin. Reservations are available online via their website for about a year in advance. We had no problem getting a dinner reservation in the winter about three months out, and did not have to put down a credit card to reserve our table.
We arrived for our 8:00 pm reservation and due to a snafu with a private party, were seated in the basement in a six table wine cellar. Some of the other diners in the room seemed annoyed to be there, but we really enjoyed the privacy and more intimate atmosphere. Chef Alain Paissard was a regular face in the private room, and even with a language barrier made us feel welcomed and appreciated during our dinner. We also had our own set of waitstaff which made the experience that much more personable.
The Chef’s Table episode talks about Chef Passard and his evolution as a chef from cooking traditionally meat-centric meals to cooking completely vegetarian and growing almost all of his produce in his gardens outside Paris. As a result, there are three menus available for dinner: a vegetable tasting menu, a land and sea tasting menu, and an a la carte menu. Our waiter convinced us that if we were going to do the tasting menu, that one of us should order the vegetable and the other order the land and sea, and we were really glad we made that choice. There were elements of both menus that were spectacular and the menus were so different that it was nice to be able to share them and try that many more dishes. There is an extensive wine list, but no pairing options, so we just ordered bottles of wine per the sommelier’s suggestion throughout dinner.
Overall, our experience at Arpege was incredible. The staff was very attentive, we were constantly blown away by particular dishes, and felt the constant influence of Paissard’s garden throughout the meal. It really changed our perception of what “vegetarian food” could be- for example the beet burger with poached egg. While not a traditional burger, it really did taste as good as it looks. Even the desserts were primarily vegetable based! Some of our favorites were the shallot tart with caramel and a celery root ice cream with sweet herb creme anglais.
We went to Paris in December, 2018 and it was Tuck’s parent’s first trip to Europe! We saw a little bit of everything, ate a lot of many things, and felt like we had a great understanding of the city and how we could expand on our next trip. One of our top recommendations for traveling in Paris (or any city abroad) is to check whether they have any sort of scooter transportation system (Bird, Lime, Lyft, etc…). This made traveling from site to site really easy and allowed us to stop and see the city at our own pace versus being on a train or in a cab and missing things along the way. The itinerary below includes the best of our experiences in Paris during the holidays – a magical time to visit.
Cafe de Flore, Arpege, L’As du Falafel, Angelina (famous hot chocolate), Le Train Bleu (gorgeous train station restaurant), Christmas Markets, Patisserie du Meurice, Septime, Frenchie.
Local Foods to Try
croissants, croque madame, crepes, French onion soup, macarons, pommes frites, fois gras, baguettes, cheese, wine, charcuterie, pain au chocolate, vin chaud, traditional ham and grueyere on a baguette, boeuf bourginon.
Things to See
Arc de Triomphe, Musee Rodin, Musee D’Orsay, Louvre
Neighborhoods to Visit
The Latin Quarter, St Germain, Jewish Quarter
Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower
Places to See
Picasso Museum, Hotel des Invalides, St. Chapelle, Moulin Rouge
Siene River Cruise
DAY 1: Start at the Arc de Triomphe. From the Arc, walk through Avenue Montaigne, which is where all luxury shopping dreams come true. The Christmas decor was spectacular and worth seeing even if you have no intention of purchasing anything. From Avenue Montaigne make your way to Musee D’Orsay. Stop en route at Gosselin for any of their croque sandwiches and macarons. The croque poulet- a chicken and tomato grilled sandwich- which was one of our favorite things we ate for lunch. Visit the Louvre. Depending on your level of interest in art and history, you could spend your entire four day trip here. We spent about 90 minutes and saw the “must sees” and a few other exhibits that peaked our interest. Going in December meant hardly any lines, which really expedited things for us. Look at their website and download the app before you go in order to map out what you want to see to save some time before going.
Go to St. Germain for dinner. This neighborhood and the Latin Quarter were our favorite parts of the city. We wouldn’t stay anywhere else next time we visit. There are a ton of restaurants in the area, but Atlas was the restaurant we have not stopped talking about since. The boeuf bourguignon was our single favorite thing we ate the entire trip. We still talk about it, regularly, months and months later. Stop at Cafe de Flore for dessert. The cafe was established in the late 1800s and has been a frequent stop for famous artists, authors, and actors ever since. Order a hot chocolate and any dessert for a wonderful cap to the night.
DAY 2 Make your way to the Eiffel Tower, stopping at Boulengerie de Tour Eiffel for a quick croissant and pastry before heading to the tower to see it during the day. After walking the grounds of the Eiffel Tower, ride to Hotel des Invalides – Napoleon’s Tomb. This was a B List item but ended up being one of our favorite historical stops. Venture towards the Musee Rodin– our favorite museum of the trip. The outdoor compound of Rodin’s home features a number of statues, including “The Thinker”, and is a fantastic change from indoor museum scenery. Plan to go here on the nicest day for weather if you are visiting in the winter.
Take a break for tea at Restaurant Dali by Alain Ducasse in the Dorchester Hotel. This was a splurge gift from Tate’s parents and was a very luxurious way to spend the afternoon as the weather got colder. Their current pastry chef is Cedric Grolet- The World’s 50 Best- Best Pastry Chef in the World for 2018. Tea for two includes finger sandwiches, scones, and an overwhelming number of Grolet’s signature pastries. Allow at least two hours for tea in order to really enjoy the experience. Walk off the sugar coma with a stroll around Place Vendome, which is beautifully decorated for the holidays. Shop until you drop on Rue Saint-Honore, a street with almost every luxury designer you can think of. Cap off the night at the Christmas Market at the Jardin des Tuileries, right near the Louvre. Eat everything including vin chaud, moules frites,and nutella crepes.
DAY 3 Start the morning at Notre Dame and St. Chapelle. With the recent fire at Notre Dame, tours may no longer be available, but it is a must do if they are. The tour is not guided, so do some research about the building before entering to get the most out of your time there. Reenergize with a coffee or lunch at Le Train Bleu– a restaurant in La Gare de Lyon (train station). The decor is extraordinary and a magical place to visit. This stop is not as geographically sensical as the rest of the trip, but it’s worth going out of the way for.
Visit the Jewish Quarter. There is a lot to do in this neighborhood and worth walking around and taking your time in. We browsed a number of food shops, clothing boutiques, and markets. Must-sees include the Picasso Museum, L’As Du Falafel (there is a line but it is worth the wait), and the Museum of Jewish Art and History. Detour to the Les Halles Christmas Market. This was an accidental find and one of our favorite sporadic moments of the trip. Eat a raclette and anything that comes dripping in melted cheese. Try more vin chaud to keep you warm as you walk around.
Dine at a Michelin restaurant. Paris is the mecca for fine dining and there are more restaurants to choose from than one could hope to accomplish in a lifetime. We ate at Arpege– restaurant of Chef Alain Passard. Watch his Chef’s Table episode to see why is he internationally recognized as one of the most talented chefs in the world.
DAY 4 Rise and shine with a hot chocolate and croissant at Angelina Paris- one of the best hot chocolates in the city. The Rue de Rivoli location is right in the center of town and next to Cedric Grolet’s Patisserie du Meurice. Wait in line and be there right when it opens for some beautiful pastries to take back to your hotel with you. Despite our best efforts, they do not travel well via plane, so enjoy while you are there.
Take a river cruise on the Seine. This is one of the more “touristy” things we did on our trip but it is worth doing to see the city from the water. We did a combination of the river cruise and tour of the Eiffel Tour, which included dinner in the tower. Even if this isn’t your thing, you are expedited through the massive lines at the Eiffel Tower, which is a real plus if you want to see it up close. If we did this again we would do it during the day as it was very chilly on the boat at night. Head north towards the Opera district. This is a launching point for the Moulin Rouge, Montemarte, and Sacre Coeur. On your way back, eat at the restaurant Corner Hausmann, where we had yet another amazing croque and onion soup.