My memory for the details of my days is not the strongest (I guess just enjoying and experiencing what’s happening around me does not equate well to paying attention and retaining), so on my recent solo trip to Prague, I jotted little short notes on an iTouch as I went along (Saturday on an iPad) and took a billion pictures in the hopes that I could relive my experience through them. Here they are exacting as I typed them. Line breaks and capitalizations and everything as is. They probably won’t make much sense, but the point is, I love Praha.

THURSDAY, October 3

Stumbled all over ots lost as eff
Happened to find Charles bridge
Totally blown away
Beautiful!!!
Near tears
So happy
Lennon wall, ran into same guy
who took pic on bridge
Lost again…
Narrow steep streets
Bought my magnet
Random comment – I like doors
Found the castle
Beautiful!!
Strolled through
St vitus cathedral
Again, blown away!!!
Golden lane
Park
Lots of schoolkids
Mala strana
Scared by myself on the
offbeaten path
Found petrin hill
What a hike, cardio!
Beautiful views
Walked through the park and
along the wall to the monastery
Lunch – goulash in bread bowl
Not sure what goulash is still…
Amber beer. big, whoops. Not
convinced it’s the best I’ve ever
had so… small dark too. YUM
Tipsy…
Stumbling around lost again
Thoroughly enjoying self
Using embassies as locating
landmarks
Cerninsky palac
Palaces in general are
underwhelming
Wait is palac palace
Cold!!
Find myself back at the castle
Time to make use of the rest of
my ticket
Prague castle interior
Inside not that interesting
No photos allowed
Weirdly stylized portraits
No ticket up the powder tower
here or the st vita’s south tower
St George basilica
Garden and park north of the
castle… another hike
Couple kissing dramatically and
deeply at the top, missing hunter
Some fancy governmentish
looking building with pretty
weeping willows and a gorgeous
park by the river
Cross the manesuv most
(gorgeous)
Great view on the right of the
Charles bridge, now warming
with tourists (3pm)
Random comment – LOTS of
Chinese tourists
Near tears again crossing the
bridge, so beautiful
Passing other cool buildings, the
umeleckoprumyslove museum ???
still extremely full from bread
bowl soup and beer
Jewish quarter is nothing too
special… some pretty streets
and synagogues
Nice shopping street here too!
Upscale
Whipping out the superior
navigation skills again for these
little streets
Saw a guy in an Ohio state
sweater, smiled at him before
remembering the game this
weekend!!!!
Heh heh food museum, would go
if it were free
Passing obecni dum?? What is
that..
Prasna brana in sight!
Divadlo hybernia? Ballet??!
Oh I bet the obecni dum is an
opera house!
Randomly wandering north now
Little farmer’s market, music
drums playing
Sausages look amazing – big
thick and juicy but I’m too full :(
Weird trash can thing that just
exploded out of the ground
Apples for 6 czk
Holy crap though the SAUSAGES.
Lunch tomorrow…?
Wild board and deer sausage
samples OMG so gooood
Supermarket, bought some baby
tomatoes and face cream… no
green veggies really readily
available…
Legs getting weary… Wencelas
square for a sit? On my way
Goes through main shopping
center!
Omg wencelas square is all FOOD
Stalls lining the whole place
Shopping on the outside
Really cool building in sight at
the end (might be national
museum)
Right now I’m REALLY wishing
that I could eat more
Totally caving and got some
round dough thing with cinnamon
sugar
It’s amazing
Sitting on a bench in the middle
eating my thing
Street performers playing la vie
en rose – accordion, bass, or
cello? It’s giant. I’m dumb
And sax
Super delicious looking berry
combination packs at this little
outdoor market between
wencelas and the hostel yummm
Pitstop at the hostel before
hitting up ots, the dinner
restaurant I picked out, and
maybe some bar or something
tonight? (no clothes for clubbing)
…just reading the list now…
obecni dum is the municipal
house
Perplexing… the roommate
arrived barely five minutes after
me (it’s like, 5:30pm) and she’s
curled herself under the covers
again, looks like to sleep, wat
(she was in bed when I got here
last night before 10pm, still in
bed when I left in the morning…)
Found my restaurant just fine,
pretty excited for the food
There’s a wait
Just sitting here waiting, guy
next to me is smoking ugh
Will need to shower tonight
Pilsner urquell beers
First sip of their velkopopovicky
kozel dark… SO GOOD.
Meal is HUGE
Delicious. Roast pork (hints of
garlic), red and white cabbage,
bacon potato dumplings, bread.
Way too much though, could only
get through a little less than
half even with my best efforts :(
:( especially considering I can’t
save with no fridge
Dying of fullness
Also tried the light beer on tap,
the original pilsner urquell (owns
the restaurants). Alright beer,
can’t complain, more beery than
the dark. I like the dark better
Waiting for check now. Dying.
Might just go back to hostel.
Charles bridge at night can wait
until tomorrow.
No fun at night by myself
Too full to drink. Won’t feel as
safe and no clothes for clubbing.
How do Europeans drink so much,
btw
I’ve had .62 liters of beer with
dinner and they suggest spirits
for dessert? Old people around
me are straight up taking vodka
shots to finish off dinner like nbd
Going to go back to the hostel,
shower, and curl up in bed and
read…
I like my spot. Tucked away and
cozy, towards the back, slightly
raised, booth cushiony seat, a
little wall to separate me from
the level below…
Couple next to me is clearly on a
date. I miss hunter. He could
have helped with my food
Do I go up to pay… not sure.
Hmm just waiting
Want tummy rub
Eating only green smoothies and
salads when I’m back in
Amsterdam ugh

FRIDAY, October 4

Awful night at the hostel with
four new boys
Two snored like roaring lions
Not just normal snoring
Lion snoring
Out anyways, pretty late.
Leisurely day
Not really taking pictures, just
strolling
Cross Charles bridge
Walk along the river
Go through cute little park
Beautiful riverfront walk
Miss my babe a lot
Most legii
Little island – shooters island
Totally empty
Really fun obstacle course thing
for kids ;)
National theater is totally
magnificent
Ufleku recommended on map
It’s a cabaret, not interesting
Dancing house, cutest house!!!
Obelisk hehe
Mostly obscured view of klaster
na slovenich (emmaus monastery)
Botanical garden
Very quiet and private but plants
look all dug up
Made it to the castle! Nearly
two hours walk
Vysehrad
View
Graveyard
Thing in the middle
Park with statues
More great views
Congress and business centers
Construction workers sitting
around smoking and listening to
wrecking ball Lolz
Crazy cats cabaret!!
Sort of shady alley
Wencelas again for lunch
Sausage. Eh, good but nothing
super special
Casual aimless wandering around
Nap at the hostel
New room, 4 bed, with a mirror!
Dinner at place I found online
called u medvidku
Good dark beer, not as much
flavor or body though, turns out
I’ts budweiser haha
1466 founded, used to be a
brewery
Budvar in tanks (like pilsner u at
kolkovna)
Underground, atmospheric,
accordion player
Eerily feel like I inadvertently
picked the place that hunter ate
at.. People in the room next to
me seem to be drinking mead…
and there’s the accordion
player…
Ah maybe not though, didn’t have
his house special on the menu I
don’t think
Food – potato pancake (good)
with this “spicy” meat mixture
cooked with veggies on top (not
so good)
Tasted Chinese tbh
Out of their brewery beer (old
gott) which was disappointing
Think I’m probably dehydrating
myself with all the beer and no
water hah
Disappointed with dinner
Oh my… HUGE line when leaving!
20-30 people
Stroll up the bridge tower
Charles bridge at night
Crying (not really)
Considering aspects of Alice
black light show at the black
light theater, but eh
Nice and relatively warm night
Little shops so fun with wooden
toys, bohemian furs, crystal,
souvenirs, leather, dolls, paintings
U vejvodu bar, mm my yummy
velkopopvicky kozel dark
Not so nice staff though, wish I
had fun bartenders to talk to
Hanging hard pretzel things that
look like they might be for
eating? But maybe not… just
looking
Okay my waiter guy is not so
bad, just very busy
But smiley and nice when
attending to me
Second beer – master dark.
different. more… refreshing? less
coffeeish/chocolate notes, more
bitter notes.
Nonetheless, very good
Reading a book (pride and
prejudice) on the iPad, while
drinking beer in a pub in
Prague… SO HAPPY
Charming singer/performer in ots
with a big circle around him –
chasing cars and call me maybe
Albert Einstein lived in this house
apparently ots tour guide on a
thing driven by a bike
FIREWORKS!!! so happy

SATURDAY, October 5

Sleepy morning
Metro to bus to zoo in Troja
Stopped by an officer for ticket haha, blew him off thinking he was trying to sell something
Nice area, different view
Walls of rock
Cool buildings set in the rock, almost like mini castles
View of the petrin hill tower and the castle
Depressing by myself
Entrance has cute Hollywood like stars but with animal footprints
Indonesian jungle
Otters so cute!! Swimming and playing on raft
Birds singing to each other
Okay wow the views from this zoo make it stand out
Minimal fencing which is nice for the view of the animals
Lol Canadian geese are interesting here, kept with the bison
Wandering, less note taking
A lot of animals are still sleeping I guess
Leaving now
More rural/rustic area
Scenic bus ride :)
Lots of greenery
Vineyard area sort of feel
Signs for camping
Back to the area I walked yesterday (after the Vysehrad)
Pivovarsky dum for lunch
Bohemian platter
Beer sampler – (worst to best) banana, nettle, wheat, special, coffee, sour cherry, light, dark
Not recommended ugh, need something to wash it out
One last dark at u balbino, cool place with the tank beers
Bye Prague
Awesome airport waiting space
Sat next to two boozy girls on the airport, smelled strongly of alcohol, had little alcohol bottles on the plane
Talked about sleeping with all these guys on their Eurotrip
On the train back to apartment, f.u.n. spongebob song in Dutch haha
End

It’s Friday night and we’re spending the evening in the apartment washing and preparing fresh fruits/veggies, packing, and looking up things to do in Belgium. Off to our first mini-trip tomorrow – Antwerp, possibly Ghent, and Brussels! Really looking forward to those Belgium waffles and beer (perhaps not together)… Finishing off a big bowl of popcorn as I type this now and the rest of a bottle of wine with Hunter.

My first day at the Voedselbank was really fun! It was also my first time trying to navigate on bike the canals and streets all by myself. So I left a good thirty minutes early. Good thing too, I ended up being there about four minutes early, which is probably a little late by my standards. To be fair though, the entrance to the place was exceedingly difficult to find. I had expected a pretty young crowd there, and was excited at the prospect of making some new friends in Amsterdam. Turns out, they were pretty much all middle-age unemployed folk who probably don’t have as much interest in hanging out with me on the weekends ahah. But they were a super nice group, I liked listening to them chatter in Dutch (cannot understand a thing…), and I did my fair share of talking and telling them about myself (they were also all fluent in English, like pretty much everyone around here). I also made kind of made a friend of this one guy! He had spent some time in the US – California and then Chicago – and so could relate to me well. We added each other on facebook and later that night, he sent me all these suggestions and links of places to go to in Amsterdam from fun touristy things to the best bars/clubs. I’m glad to have met him.

Speaking of friends and meeting people, we’re slowly starting to branch out on our floor. I’m pleased to say that everyone I’ve met so far has been super likeable. The building seems to house a lot of students, many who are international (like Hunter). Everyone that I’ve met on our floor has been really nice, young, and seem like fun people to hang around with. There’s this girl Roxy diagonal from us that we met in the hall, and have run into a bunch of times. Susan, this pretty blond thing we met tonight. And Wilson, the guy next door, who basically saved my day this morning (long-ish story). Turns out, Wilson is also a student at VU like Hunter and they’re in the same neuroscience program (he’s a first year and Hunter is second). Dinner or drinks or something, we’ll all have to do something together soon. Yay new friends!

Other than that, these last few days have been pretty uneventful. Hunter’s been busy with a ton of deadlines this week, I haven’t done any more touring (although, the bike ride from the Voedselbank was nice and took me around the zoo and a quieter part of town). I got my bike seat fixed (it was a little loose) at the same little bike spot in Waterlooplein and had a really good conversation with the older guy that runs the place. And now I know what all the XXX symbols that I’ve been seeing around the city mean! (No, not like the explicit XXX.) It’s the city coat of arms symbol and “one for strong heart, one for… uh, steadiness, and one for courage” – Mr. Bike Guy.

We’ve been eating really well! Or rather, cooking well. I’ve still yet to spend any money on food in Amsterdam outside of groceries. But our meals have been really fantastic and I’m definitely going to come home a chef.

Day six in Amsterdam and this is my first post, haha. To be fair though, the first couple of days were really busy and full with getting settled in and unpacking and IKEA shopping and grocery shopping and getting over jetlag and the like. I arrived at Schipol airport on Thursday morning, super sleepy after only catching around 3 hours worth of zZz’s on the plane, and Hunter was there waiting for me to take me home :).

We took the metro (using chipkaarts! cute name for a metro card) and the first thing that I noticed about Amsterdam was that it had some really cool buildings with interesting designs and architecture (and we were still in the newer, more modern part of Amsterdam, hadn’t even seen the awesome older buildings yet). The ride back to his apartment was fairly short and once there, I took a shower and then promptly went to sleep as he went off to class for the day. We took it easy that first night, spent some good time together and made a yummy dinner (read about our cooking adventures on Hunter’s food blog) and played games until 1am before going to sleep again.

Friday. Woke up earlyish in the morning to have breakfast with Hunter before he left for class… which is when I promptly plopped back into bed. Jetlag! It was like my internal clock’s 3am or so. In the afternoon, we went to IKEA to pick up some things to help make the apartment more suitable for two. After which, the unpacking began… Some pictures of our cozy nest!

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Saturday & Sunday. We went out and I started to see Amsterdam! First thing we did on Saturday was a grocery run. Hunter’s trying this cooking system via Rachael Ray where we keep the pantry stocked with a bunch of “essentials” and spices and the idea is that all these meals can be made with just those ingredients and a few fresh additions. It seems to be working pretty well, but when the pantry supply gets depleted, the grocery run to replace everything is intense. After groceries, we had a quick lunch and then trekked back out to a nearby park (Park Frankendael) which was charming and fun and with an interesting old historical house. Then to the city center to try to find me a bike (which is going to be my main form of transportation over the next several months). There’s this great big outdoor market called Waterlooplein, our first destination. The walk there was lovely, and I snapped a bunch of pictures of the views along the way. Everything is just so different than in the states.

We went to a couple of different bike places, between the market and some secondhand stores and another bike shop that Hunter knew of a little further away. On route to the last place, we accidentally stumbled through Amsterdam’s red light district… And of course I’ve heard of it, and I know that prostitution is one of the “novelties” of the city (the sex industry is a multi-billion euro industry for the city each year, yikes), but it was still jarring, especially because it was unexpected. There were literally windows along the small streets with red curtains and girls in booths not wearing very much, bathed in red light, posing. Very odd during the day. Definitely would not not want to stumble into the area at night. But anyways, happy ending – I got my bike! It’s solid and sturdy and I think it will serve me well and! it’s purple. I was/am pleased.

Sunday was a real touristy day. We tour our guidebook with us and biked around to specific destinations and took a lot of pictures. We saw the outside of the royal palace, went through Rembrantplein (square), sampled free cheeses (the truffle goat cheese omggg), did a walk through canal ring, saw some churches and towers, a Dutch bank, the outside of the Anne Frank house (line was too long, will go back sometime, probably on a weekday), among other things. It was a lot of fun and especially so because I shared the whole day with Hunter.

Monday. A work day! Hunter took me to his school’s campus (Vrije University) and gave me a mini tour. The bike ride there was pleasant, winding through a nice park and a big “i amsterdam” sign (although not the tourist picture one, that’s in museum campus). The campus was… not as pretty on the outside as Northwestern. But the inside of the buildings were really cool! Modern and colorful and well-designed. We found a couple of different areas to do work in and I got some important things taken care of. I started feeling a little sick though, possibly because of a run the previous day in too little clothing for the chilly/drizzly weather.

And that brings me to today! Not much going on so far… I have a bunch of errands I need to run, but I’m still nervous about striking out on my own with the bike and trying to navigate. Will not be easy. I’m leaning towards just staying in for the most part today, working from the apartment, working out in the afternoon, and running errands tomorrow. After all, I start at the Voedselbank in the morning, so I’ll already have to figure out navigation, haha.

Aaand now we’re up to speed, more or less! Ready for all the adventures to come :).

takeaways –

  • crunchy muesli is a much more fun way to say what I feel is exactly the same thing as granola
  • amsterdam is colorful and modular
  • but the fashion is very monochromatic; the people who look most well-dressed are always in various layered shades of black
  • the tree-lined/house-lined/boat-lined canals are so charming
  • pretty sure i’m going to be overusing the word “charming” way too much these next few months
  • the weather is pretty much consistently dreary around here, sigh
  • i don’t at all know how i’m going to find my own way around these streets and canals on bike
  • “anything, everything, little or big, becomes an adventure when the right person shares it”
  • This morning, I was thinking – I should keep some kind of record somewhere of all the places that I’ve ever visited.

    And how awesome and aesthetic would it be if I did it with a giant wall mural/decal/painting/board in my (future) home, marking all the places that I’ve traveled to with super cute DIY labels.

    I can picture it. Really sleek and minimalist black lines tracing the outlines of the continents against the wall. Dots in one color for the places I’ve been. Dots in another color for the places Hunter’s been. Dots in a third color for the places we’ve been together.

    We already have Pittsburgh, Chicago, Canton (MI), and Minneapolis together. Paris, Naples, Rome, Florence, Venice, Vienna, and Berlin together. Coming up this fall – Amsterdam and Barcelona and London and Brussels and all over the Netherlands, together. I can’t wait.

    Dot dot dot.

    What do you do when you have some downtime at work? Create a project for yourself, of course. I was introduced to SEO (search engine optimization) just very recently (aka when I started reading about it two weeks ago), so this is all pretty basic stuff, but I found it all interesting and potentially really powerful. Good luck with the ongoing website revamp efforts, Intersport!.

    To everyone else, there’s a ton of stuff in here for the beginner do-it-yourself SEO-ers. Whether it’s for a company site or to boost your personal brand, here a bunch of easy things you can do to give yourself a lot more presence on the web.

    1 seo_search_engine_optimization

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    …this week :)

  • flaming sushi with an old friend
  • a video of fat ninja (our baby kitten) floofing around
  • hotel sleepover with my boyfriend (who was in town for a med school interview the next day
  • star wars IV: a new hope
  • a man holding his umbrella over me as i walked across the street on a rainy day
  • a three hour liquored up (on their part, i’m still pitifully young) dinner with my coworkers
  • baby pictures
  • long walks, sunny days
  • red box
  • a wedding photoshoot that’s happening in front of me right now, as i sit on the clock tower stealing wifi :) the photographer is goofy – “hug and squeeze each other and be merry!” – and they’re so happy and it’s lovely
  • If you know me at all, you know that I’m literally nuts when it comes to planners. I started using planners in elementary school (third grade maybe?) to help keep my schedule and school assignments organized, and as I got older and busier, they only became all the more essential and I became pickier. My planner had to be sturdy. Aesthetically pleasing. The layout had to be just right – week views with each day having enough blank lines, maybe a monthly calendar too to fill in the big picture stuff. The pages had to be thick enough to not have pen show through. It had to be lightweight and not too bulky. And I had to like the font used throughout. Yeah. Nuts.

    But if you’re anything like me, you know what it’s like to spend way too much time searching for the one each year. Here’s a shortcut list of the best for this season, and possibly for longer.

    -

    Coach Legacy Leather Agenda
    I know that this one’s a huge splurge, but it’s so classic and just so perfect that I think it’s worth it. I currently have it in cobalt (a more timeless color than carnelian or fuchsia) and plan on using it for years and years to come. If you want to make a classy investment… really, I’ve never been happier or so in love with an inanimate object. ($198)

    Kate Spade New York 17-Month Agenda
    I don’t actually own any Kate Spade, but I LOVE the brand! A great balance between chic and practical and fun. This planner is much more affordable, but you’ll still feel classy. Lots of space for writing and filling it in as you please. ($36)

    Moleskine Weekly Diaries/Planners
    It took me a couple of years to understand why Moleskine was so popular, but I recently got my first product – a yellow thick-cover notebook – and now I totally get the hype. These notebooks really are high-quality and durable, and the Moleskine weekly agenda is sleek and simple and can definitely handle tumbling around in a bookbag. ($16)

    Lilly Pulitzer 2014 Luxe Agenda
    With super cute patterns and luxe details, the Lilly Pulitzer planners are for the seriously girly girls. I love love love these planners for the extra design details on each page and the colored monthly tabs. ($40)

    Mead Solid Poly Planner (from Target)
    Target is one of my favorite places ever, and I bought my planners there for probably five or so years. I loved the inexpensive Mead planners (slight variations every year, but mostly the same) for their colors, durability, size, and the layout of the inside pages. Another planner that met all my planner requirements again and again. ($10)

    Sarah Pinto Weekly Planner
    A great basic planner for school. With the bonus of having super cute prints! ($20)

    -

    EXTRA!

    Pretty planners call for pretty colored pens to help keep them organized, and finding the right pens can also be hard. Goodness knows how many different kinds of pens I’ve tried (hint: a LOT). My favorite? Papermate Flair felt-tip pens, in medium point. I have the 12-pack. They are the best, ever.

    I wouldn’t consider myself a foodie, not even close, but living in a city like chicago presents itself with enough tummy-appeasing, happy-making, mouth-watering culinary opportunities that you just cannot avoid good eats. From quick bites to fine dining (while still on a budget), I’ve made some really special memories with the people in my life and the food we’ve shared. Here are my all-time favorites.

    -

    senza
    SENZA – My boyfriend and I went to Senza on a special reunion date after a three-month long period of being apart (him in Berlin, myself in Chicago). He wanted a molecular gastronomy experience, and after looking up literally over twenty restaurants, Senza won out with its combination of unique and delicious sounding cuisine at an actually reasonable price. For $50 a person for a well-portioned prix fixe four (sans wine pairing), I probably had the best meal of my life. Granted, I don’t do fine dining (Alinea? I can only dream…) but seriously. It’s like I forgot how delicious/heavenly/amazing the last bite was just before each new bite I took. The scallops course (pictured) was to die for with its integrated flavors of chargrilled onion, blueberry, and that onion caramel. Also really loved the parsnip soup with apple, lobster, caviar, and soy sauce flavors. Very molecular gastronomy-y, especially since the apple flavor came in the form of a blob of greenish foam. We had a bonus course of humboldt fog ice cream (with strawberry shortcake and basil) that inspired my newfound love for the cheese, and the “oatmeal” dessert was probably my favorite course.
    www.senzachicago.com

    ginos
    GINO’S EAST – I grew up and went to school (elementary through high) in this township in Michigan that was about a half an hour’s drive from Ann Arbor. Naturally then, a lot of my childhood and high school friends go/went to the University of Michigan and I’m constantly getting visits from them in Chicago. What better place is there to go than Chicago when you wanna get away from Michigan, but don’t want to spend the time and energy and money to get away too far? Gino’s East is one of the go-to places I bring my friends to; their deep dish pizza is the ultimate Chicago taste and experience! Having tried a variety of Chicago deep dish joints (Giordano’s, Lou Malnati’s, Pizzeria Due’s), Gino’s East is still hands down the best to me. Plus the restaurant itself is half the fun. Diners write and scribble over all the walls creating a cool, graffiti-inspired eating space.
    www.ginoseast.com

    dimos
    DIMO’S PIZZA – Another pizza place, Dimo’s is definitely somewhere I tell people to go when I want to impress them with my less touristy knowledge of Chicago eats. It’s in Wrigleyville, literally a couple of minutes from Wrigley Field, always a vibrant, young, fun place to be. Dimo’s is unique as a pizza place because you can find just about any kind of meal there… on pizza. The picture shows slices of mac & cheese, philly cheesesteak, sausage penne alfredo, and florentine PIZZA. My first draw to the place though? Their s’mores pizza. Mmmm.
    www.dimospizza.com

    lappetito
    L’APPETITO – This place!! I love it so much I think because of it’s distinctively European charm. It’s as unassuming as it can possibly get, considering that it’s located at the base of the John Hancock Observatory. Probably because there’s a shiny Cheesecake Factory right across from it which steals most of the attention. (Not that I have anything against the Cheesecake Factory, I’ve definitely been known to grab a slice to go after a day of shopping up Michigan Ave heh). In one corner, L’Appetito has everything from perfectly grilled caprese paninis to arancini to cold pastas and salads to a selection of sausages and meats and cheeses. There’s also a little market if you just wanna grab something really quick to go or stock up the pantry. And then on the other side, desserts! The most adorable pastries and sweets of all imaginable kinds behind glass, and a nice selection of gelatos. Fabulous place for a fast break in the middle of a busy day downtown. I’ve been here a million times.
    www.lappetito.com

    xoco
    XOCO – Chef Rick Bayless is brilliant. XOCO is a little pricey for the amount of food you get, but I definitely think it’s worth it to check out at least once. Or twice. Or maybe it’s a daily temptation that you have to fight off because it’s only about a five minute walk away from the office. (That’s me.) I’m not sure I’ve ever had Mexican cuisine elsewhere that has the same depth of flavors that Bayless has accomplished in his tortas. Possibly because not many chefs around here have dedicated over six years to culinary research in Mexico like him. He definitely has developed an expertise on the authentic flavors which he (thankfully) brings back to us here in Chicago. Even his salads are unique and delicious (my favorite has the best dressing of avocado and lime) and the Mexican hot chocolate, sinfully rich and deep. You can also go more upscale and eat at his Topolobampo or Frontera Grill restaurants. They’re all literally right next to each other.
    www.rickbayless.com‎

    hotpot
    LAO SZE CHUAN – So the “Lao” restaurants are all part of Chef Tony Hu’s Chinese food empire. Look him up, his story’s pretty interesting. This one’s all the way down south in Chinatown, and it has all the weird Chinese foods you won’t see in most mainstream Chinese restaurants. It’d be really fun to go with a friend and see how daring you guys can be together… :P I’ve only been once, but my boyfriend and I had the best time with their hot pot! My love for hot pot definitely is connected with my Chinese roots; I have fond memories of a sweltering hot Beijing summer, sitting around with my family, sweating and crying over a hot and spicy hot pot meal. Lao Szechuan has an all-inclusive option that literally includes everything. From the normal thin slices of beef and lamb and veggies and tofu skins to filets of fish and assorted seafood balls and noodles and more. We were really impressed with the selection, and it was so much fun teaching Hunter how to eat hot pot.
    www.tonygourmetgroup.com/

    bourgeois
    BOURGEOIS PIG – It’s been a long time since I last visited this place; it’s also a bit out of the way. But it’s definitely my first choice for the Lincoln Park area. The place is cool and hip on top of delicious and sandwiches are named after famous literary works and authors. “The Sun Also Rises” (one of my favorites) is made with sundried tomato bread, fresh homemade hummus, oven roasted boars head turkey, fresh tomatoes, swiss cheese, red onions and alfalfa sprouts (yes, I just looked that up). There’s also “The Old Man and the Sea” which features tuna and “The Catcher in the Rye” on… rye bread, among so much more. Really fun, clever, and so good. I think I need to go back soon.
    www.bpigcafe.com/

    mollys
    MOLLY’S CUPCAKES – So when I think of Chicago eats, I generally think of deep dish pizza, the Chicago dog, froyo and cupcakes! There’s a bounty of yummy cupcake shops all around downtown, and I’ve tried a few that are supposed to be the best. Sprinkles is known for being the first place (or one of them?) to have cupcake vending machines. Their cupcakes are really tasty, and very uniformly presented. It’s a little disconcerting. As a girl who loves to bake in her own kitchen, I’m not used to seeing everything look so perfectly alike ahah. Then there’s Crumbs, with their massive and fun-flavored cupcakes. Too big for me; it makes me feel a little sick. Molly’s cupcakes though. Beautifully presented, each cupcake is its own work of bakery goodness, and they all have different creams for their filled centers and pretty decorations to match. Plus I loved my Molly’s cupcakes because they were a graduation present from one of my best friends. We shared each one of them.
    www.mollyscupcakes.com/

    Image-1
    CAFFE BACI – I’m sure this isn’t the absolute best cafe that Chicago has to offer, but I’ve been brought back here so many times in all sorts of circumstances, that it really has a special place in my heart. Conveniently located right across the street from Millennium Park, it has been a haven for me to rest, refresh, or thaw my popsicle legs during cold winters. There’s a wonderfully wide selection of eats and drinks here, but I’ve personally never tried their pizzas/soups/salad/sandwiches. I usually go in for the hot chocolate or chai lattes, sometimes grabbing a biscotti with coffee, or to sit outside with their gelato in the summer.
    www.caffebaci.com/

    -



    Phew. So there you have it. My favorite Chicago eateries compiled together in one list. Hoping that one of you guys out there will read this list and try one of these places as per my suggestion and fall in love with it too! I’d be pleased. Chicago’s truly a fantastic city to dine in; to everyone, happy eating!

  • the idiot
  • zen flesh, zen bones
  • lean in
  • the willpower instinct
  • the happiness project
  • thinking fast and slow
  • crime and punishment
  • on another note, first night without internet – hung out at barnes and noble for three hours. went home and washed the dishes. laid in bed and played cribbage/gin on my phone. watched three episodes of friends that i had downloaded and saved on my computer. hard boiled some eggs. read zen flesh, zen bones. slept shortly after 11pm, haha.