This past September, 2015, I spent some time exploring the Midwest, beginning with a few days in Chicago, then driving to experience the best of Michigan, including Mackinac Island, the Midwest’s version of Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket, a naturally beautiful, elegant island that time has almost forgotten—a retreat for well-heeled Midwesterners looking to escape the summer heat! Let’s visit my newest Golden Palate Partners and top destinations in the Midwest! Let’s start with the best of “The Windy City!”
Salmon, Ancient Grain Salad, and Potato Leek Soup at Travelle.
Chicago’s thriving culinary scene will surely please even the most seasoned palates. My epicurean adventure began at Sixteen, the Two-Michelin Star restaurant on the sixteenth floor of the gleaming Trump International Hotel Chicago—exceptional seasonal cuisine showcasing the regional bounty (Chef Thomas Lents) with dramatic views of the city and outdoor terrace. The tasting menu with optional wine pairings coupled with flawless service creates an unparalleled experience for dining. Located in the heart of the city overlooking the Chicago River, the luxurious Trump International Hotel is a favorite place to stay as well! Across the street, also overlooking the Chicago River and city is the luxurious Langham Hotel combining British and contemporary elegance. Travelle, the signature restaurant (Chef Tim Graham) features seasonal American menus with Mediterranean influences and great cocktails! Indulge by staying at the Langham’s Club Level, and experience the ultimate in pampering. No visit to Chicago would be complete without a visit to at least one of Chef Greg Achatz and the Alinea Group’s restaurants: Three-Michelin-Star Alinea (molecular gastronomy), Next, and The Aviary, (some of the best cocktails in the world). Be sure to reserve several months in advance.
Pictured: Bison Loin Carpaccio, Blue Cheese Mousse, Concord and Green Grapes, Celery, Nougatine, Jerky Crumble, Grilled Bread.
Stroll through beautiful Lincoln Park or along Lake Michigan and dine at North Pond (Chef Bruce Sherman) overlooking a beautiful pond and the Chicago skyline with seasonal French-American cuisine in what is Chicago’s version of Central Park.
The breathtaking views of Lincoln Park, and the Chicago skyline at North Pond (above).
Zucchini Flowers at Baffo.
For Chicago’s best Italian, visit Spiaggia, (Chef Tony Mantuano) featuring modern Italian seafood overlooking Lake Michigan, and Nico Osteria (Chef Paul Kahan) in Gold Coast (like Greenwich Village), featuring excellent crudo plates and pasta. Also visit the new Eataly and enjoy Baffo, Chicago’s counterpart to New York’s famed Babbo, owned by Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich.
One of the outstanding “Crudo” or raw fresh seafood plates at Nico Osteria.
For the best views, visit The Signature Room on the 95th floor of the John Hancock Tower overlooking Lake Michigan and the entire city.
Another Chicago must is “deep dish” pizza. Visit the legendary Giordano’s (multiple locations) where the pizza is prepared to order (45 minutes) and is based upon a centuries-old family recipe from Northern Italy for Easter Pie.
During baseball season, visit Wrigley Field, and enjoy a Vienna Beef hot dog. There are many great neighborhoods to explore on foot, such as Lincoln Park and Gold Coast—in fact I walked from the center of town six miles to Wrigley on a lovely autumn day to catch an afternoon game. Each morning, I joined other fitness-minded Chicagoans and ran along the lake, and out onto Navy Pier to watch the sunrise. After a few days, I felt right at home! I enjoyed fantastic cuisine and incredible sights, while enjoying exercise and some amazing scenery. Note: even with highs in the 70’s, the strong winds made it feel quite chilly—dress accordingly! Runners: The Chicago Marathon each October is a great way to enjoy the Windy City!