Cali Girl Does Chicago - The End!

9:52 AM

I love exploring different places...

...but nothing feels as good as home! All good things must come to an end, but first you better enjoy the hell out of them. I wasn't homesick at all, but I was definitely missing my pillows and L's sweet little face! But before we departed the Windy City, we enjoyed our last two days to the fullest (even with full trade show days)!

Day 2 of the trade show is always the longest! So, knowing that I tried to get plenty of sleep. Standing on your feet for 7 hours, may not sound tough, but it gets exhausting. I ordered room service for breakfast, which I totally wouldn't have if I knew how much a basic breakfast would come out too! Geez, about $40 for two eggs, toast, bacon, and Cranberry Feta chicken sausage. Okay, I did order an extra protein, but holy geez! It came plated cute and I love the mini Ketchup bottle, but dang!
Off to the show, I finally took a break in the afternoon and grabbed a panini from one of the restaurants at the hotel. It wasn't as bad as I remembered their food being, it was decent and more importantly, filling. Back to the show I went, but not before I did a little exploring and grabbing this mini funnel cake cupcake, before making my way to our booth.


When they announced the show was over, I immediately switched to my flip flops before heading back to the room. We didn't have much time to get ready, because we got an invite to one of the big parties, hosted by another company. I don't understand how they make all their money, but somehow they do and they put on killer parties for people. Killer, because everything is free -- shuttle to party, booze, food, and entertainment.

This party was speakeasy style and held at the Untitled. I loved the vibe, I don't think I can describe it, but it attempted to give off an old school, dark vibe. They had about 5 open bars with a special "Prohibition Punch" just for the party and another few little tables giving away food. They were sampling braised pork, shrimp, and mushroom pasta. I tried the pork and shrimp and both were amazing, we had seconds of each. J ate the pasta, but I feigned disgust since there were mushrooms on it.
They had this awesome blues band as their entertainment. Their sound was awesome and the singer had a great personality. My little band of co-workers enjoyed the party and the cool vibe! After awhile, we had to leave since we had dinner reservations.

We saw the most gorgeous sky when we were walking to dinner. They said it was supposed to thunderstorm, but it never happened.
We found ourselves at Shaw's Crab House for dinner. Poor J hates seafood, so he only had three options to choose from on the menu. They had our reservation, but it was a busy spot that night. Since most of us indulged at dinner, we didn't do the usual smorgasbord of appetizers for the group. We all just ordered wine (duh) and our meals.
Not Pictured: J's FILET MIGNON (10 oz) Bearnaise sauce && their amazing roles!

THE SIGNATURE - steamed Alaskan red king crab legs & 6 oz filet mignon
Seasonal Sides shared with the Group:
Lobster Macaroni & Cheese
Potatoes Au Gratin
Creamed Spinach
Sauteed Summer Vegetables

Dinner ended crazy late, since the service was so slow. But the food was really, really tasty. The Alaskan King Crab legs were amazing, even J liked it...doused in butter of course. The pre-party had me slightly full, but this meal still deserved all its glory! So we didn't do anything excited after dinner. I think it was 11:30PM when we walked out of the door.

It was hard to believe it was the last day of the show already. Months of planning and executing and this was the last 6 hours of the show. It felt nice. I grabbed a coffee and bagel for breakfast, but didn't snap a pic (sorry)!

I took a lunch break and was starving. Since my lunch the day before wasn't bad, I went back. This time I grabbed a pepperoni pizza. It was okay, it was not like the local deep dish style. It was also not like what I normally eat in Cali. It was just different, no red sauce, but large tomato chunks and the cheese was baked on top of everything. I ate half and then headed back to the show to finish the day.

But not before I could stop by the Blommer booth for one of their delicious ice creams. I ate part of one of these on the first day and was dreaming about it ever since.

When the show was announced officially over, I was relived. J came and helped us all close up the booth, so it didn't take too long and we were all out of there in record time. It felt great to end the show, it was a really good show for all of us. 

J and I got to spend the last evening of our trip together. We almost hung out with my co-workers, but they were sweet and said they wanted us to enjoy the evening together! We didn't have any plans, but knew we wanted to rent the Divvy bikes and find our way to the Navy Pier, and that's exactly what we did.

Divvy bikes are Chicago's bike sharing system. You immediately recognize them, by their blue color and chunky bike style. They have stations all over the city, one was conveniently in front of the Convention Center/our hotel. We grabbed two and set out to explore on our own terms. No plans, no rush, just enjoying the evening together. We'd dressed to workout, but it ended up being really cold and windy. 

We rode past Lake Michigan until we couldn't any more. We both assumed it took you straight to the pier, but no such luck. So we ended up getting a little lost, but totally okay with it. After plenty of twists and turns, we found our way there. Returned the bikes and set out on foot, to yet again, check another touristy thing off our list!

I didn't think the Navy Pier would be as touristy as it actually was. I didn't think I'd see chain restaurants there, I guess I didn't really know what to expect. Maybe something like Santa Cruz, I'm not sure...I knew one thing was for sure, I was getting on the Ferris wheel. I have an odd obsession with them, I think they are so romantic.

Although it was a steep, touristy $8/person, we made it happen. Luckily we got there when we did, the line got really long right after we bought our tickets. The ride provided some amazing views, sadly you only go one full revolution. I wish we could have gone at least two. Oh well! After that we walked around and found our way inside where there were a bunch of shops. We peeked our head into a few, but left empty handed. We were getting really hungry. We tried to use the Chicago trolley, but the 'free' one was taking forever. So we walked back to the Divvy bikes and hopped on another set of them.

Headed back toward downtown, we had no plans again. We wanted food and J wanted to pick the spot. Somehow we ended up hitting the Under Armour store before we decided on food. J was searching for his beloved Spurs stuff in there and I hung out with the bikes. I was having a hard time finding where a Divvy station was to drop the bikes off again, but finally found their station map online. They are everywhere, until you need one. We finally found the one on the map and as we were locking up the bikes a sweet family (from Venezuela) asked us for help. The spoke Spanish (and English), but J was able to help them. I also tried, but the station had stopped working so they couldn't get their second bike. 

After we said bye to our new friends, J gave in to using Yelp to at least find a few restaurants to choose from. He settled on Bottlefork, so we mapped our way there. Holy delicious luck, did we find a great place to eat. Although it was pricey, it was really good. It was the perfect meal to say goodbye to Chicago. Right when we walked in I saw a sign that read "Home of the Famous Bacon Burger". Say NO more!

We ended up sitting at the bar, instead of be cramped next to another table. I happened to check in on Yelp and they offered a free appetizer called their Bag of Crisps & Eggs. They have a brown bag with chips that have salt and vinegar (I think) on them. Then they have a poached egg and they dump it in the bag, then the bartender mixed it all up, violently. Then he proceeded to pour them into a bowl. As weird and as gross as I probably described them, they were good!

Buttermilk Fried Chicken - Mustard Gravy + Griddled Biscuit
Wood Grilled Ground Bacon Burger - Vermillion Blue + Shoestring Potatoes + Special Sauce + Kennebec Fries
We split both meals, but there was way too much chicken for one or two people. It was perfectly friend and seasoned, the meat was juicy and tender. We both didn't care for the gravy, the mustard was overpowering. For some reason we were both a little thrown off by the biscuit, but it was still good. It was pancake fluffy, but biscuit consistency -- if that makes any kind of sense. I can't even begin to describe that burger. It is on par with Au Cheval. The taste profile is different, but it is just as good -- just in a different way. Every single flavor that they put into that burger is like sex in your mouth, good! I promise! It's a little more complex than Au Cheval, for it's flavor profile. Poor J ordered a Pepsi and got one of those small cans. We laughed at how expensive it was going to cost us for a mini can, he was just upset he couldn't get multiple refills! We skipped dessert here, but had other plans.

I found Firecakes on Yelp a few nights back, but it was far from where we were when we wanted dessert. It happened to be less than five minutes away, walking. So, although we were freezing and under dressed, we walked there. It is the smallest little shop, so the line was almost out the door. It was too cold, so we cramped ourselves in there. Although we've both had donuts and donuts with ice cream before, I wanted to try it. Firecakes doesn't give you options if you want ice cream with your donut, you only get one choice - a glazed donut, cut in half, with vanilla ice cream, with a drizzle of hot fudge too. They had other donuts for sale, but we were pretty full, so we went with the ice cream option.

It didn't look that amazing, but the tasted delicious. It wasn't overly sweet, but it hit the spot. As soon as we closed the door behind us, we were hit with a cold, windy Chicago night. So we rushed to find the nearest cab, which is where we enjoyed most of our dessert.
Our trip had come to an end. It started and ended magically. I appreciate that I get to travel, for work, once in a blue moon. It lets me experience new places and foods...while also doing a job I enjoy. Trade shows are lots of work, but I'm glad it's part of my job! But I honestly don't have too much to complain about. I was happy to be headed home, but grateful for another new experience (even though I've been here before, each trip brings something new)!
Thank you, Chicago!

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