This Chicago dining guide for local fare just highlights some of my favorite spots. If you are serious foodie like me and are spending the day in Chicago, I recommend adding these to your list to check out while visiting. Most of these places fill up quickly so it is best to get your reservation in at least a few days ahead of time if not weeks before dining.
Click on the restaurants link for directions, hours and menu information
This locally owned cafe is located a few minutes from downtown but feels like an old rustic small town cafe you might find in the middle of Iowa. The decor will take you back to your Grandma’s childhood kitchen with antique furnishings and appliances placed throughout the space. Dishes are prepared using local and seasonal ingredients from area producers as well as the restaurants owners farm.
Fronterra Grill owned by Celebrity Chef Rick Bayless, is always on my list when visiting the windy city. The elevated Mexican fare is like non other. Rick is passionate about using produce and meats from local farms. The flavor combinations he uses in his dishes set Fronterra Grill apart from any other Mexican restaurants I have tried.
A visit to Chicago is not complete without a visit to the iconic Garrett’s Popcorn Shop. Once in the door the caramel corn aroma will have your mouth watering. I prefer the Almond Caramel Crisp, but the Garrett Mix that combines sweet Caramel Crisp with savory Cheese Corn is the most popular.
Get your reservation in early for The Girl and The Goat owned by celebrity chef Stephanie Izzard. The dishes are served family style, which make them ideal for sharing. Most come in the “small plate” format so it is ideal to go with a group to try a variety of things. The restaurant serves only dinner and opens at 4:30 pm. This makes a great spot if you are need of dining late as it does not close until 11 pm Sunday – Thursday and 12 am Friday and Saturday.
A stay at the El Dorado Casitas Royale will sweep you away to paradise. Hubby and I vacationed there a few months ago and oh my was it heaven! I can’t really call this post a review as there was no compensation involved so I will refer to it as an experience. If you are looking into staying at the resort, I hope this experience will help you make your decision. Please feel free to reach out to me by commenting below or sending an email if you have any questions.
The El Dorado Casitas Royale is part of the Karisma Gourmet Inclusive line of resorts. The Gourmet Inclusive resorts take pride in the food served. Most fresh herbs, fruits and vegetable are grown on site to ensure freshness, quality and of course taste. There is tour available to visit the on-site green houses and gardens.
Locally sourced meats and fish are served when available and unique ingredients are imported from the country of origin. For instance in the Italian restaurant on the property, the ingredients used in the house-made pasta are imported in from Italy.
With so many restaurants to choose from it is best to stay a week so you can try them all. Not one of them dissapointed and each of them serve such artfully plated food that it can almost be to pretty to eat.
In addition, the resort has what I have called “Foodie Experiences” and must not be missed.
Foodie Experience one is the Fuentes Culinary Theater.
This live action cooking demonstration hosted by the Chef and Sommelier will ignite all of your senses with a 5 course dinner with wine parings.
Foodie Experience two is the Chefs Table.
Tucked away in the back of D’ Italia there is a private room awaiting to indulge your senses. You will interact one on one with the chef as he prepares a special and unique menu just for you.
The food at this meal was some of the best I have ever had and even made me a fan of goose liver. Who new it could be so good!
At one point there were three chefs preparing house-made sorbets and syrups to create a stunning masterpiece of a dessert.
Now to the accommodations. The resort is divided into two sections with the Casistas being a little more secluded. Access to personal concierge service is included when staying at the Casitas as well. It is a little farther to walk to some of the amenities such as fitness center and theater but having the selection of beach front beach beds was heavenly. There is also a golf cart type shuttle available to get you to and from if needed.
I cannot comment on other accommodations other than the room we had which was lovely. Upon arrival there was champagne chilling on the table.
The room was spacious and very accommodating.
The bathroom features an indoor and outdoor shower so that speeds up the process for two people getting ready at once.
Our room had a small private pool area along with seating for lounging.
Speaking of lounging, my favorite place was the beach front beach beds. It seemed my day consisted of hubby getting up early to grab us a bed while I did morning yoga overlooking the ocean. On the way back I would grab a protein shake made with fresh tropical fruit and lounge the morning away overlooking the ocean.
By the time lunch rolled around it was time for a tropical drink and then maybe a seaside nap. Before I knew it, it was time to get ready for dinner.
Now by all means, you do not have to be lazy like me if adventure is your thing. The resort offers plenty of activities, excursions and a tequila tasting featuring unique and local tequilas.
I was most pleased with our stay. All of the staff were courtesy and friendly. The grounds, rooms and venues were clean and well kept. After writing this and reliving it through the photos, I am ready to go back!
The Clean Living® Experience with Tosca Reno could just change your life. It did mine, so that is why I am writing this today.
I first encountered Tosca Reno in 2007, when a magazine I subscribed to had her graced on the cover at age 40 in tip top shape. Once tipping the scale at 204 pounds she decided enough was enough and dropped the weight by using her eat clean® diet plan and eventually even competed in a figure competition.
The fact that she was older and had been overweight and now looked amazing, peaked my interest, so off to the store I went to get her Eat Clean® Diet book. It was easy to follow and it worked! I lost the weight I wanted to lose and I have been a fan ever since! I have most of her books, follow her on social media and subscribe to her newsletter, which is how I found out about this retreat.
A few weeks ago I got an email from her newsletter that she was hosting a wellness retreat at the beautiful Villa Estrella in Costa Rica through a company called Retreats Unlimited. Enough said for me as I know she knows her stuff and booked the retreat. I could not wait to meet her.
This retreat came at the perfect timing in my life as I have put back on a few of those extra pounds I lost so many years ago. In addition to the weight, my personal life was on the rocks as a move away from family and friends as well as becoming an empty nester all at the same time has thrown me into a tizzy. I know her plan works and thought this is just the ticket I needed to get recharged and back on track.
Once at the resort and meeting Tosca, it was clear I needed this even more than I thought. Not only did she address health and wellness issues, she gets to the core of the emotion. By sharing her own struggles, she became one of the group and made a safe zone where if desired, others could share their struggles. I’m pretty sure I was a blubbering idiot but it felt good to release the emotion.
Come to find out, we all have struggles and hurt, even Tosca. Your hurt looks different from my hurt, but it is still pain. It was comforting to see I am not the only one out there that feels like they are drowning in this thing called life.
Tosca worked ahead of time with the chef and every meal was clean eating® approved and delicious. Just after a couple of days of eating like this, the body starts detoxing as there has been no sugar intake, just clean healthy delicious foods. Some detoxing symptoms the group experienced were headaches and acne which is the bodies way of expelling the toxins we carry around.
With all of the amazing food, I really did not feel like I was losing any weight but decided to go ahead and weigh when I got home. I was down 3 pounds! Not bad for a four day retreat, I’ll take it!
Along with informational sessions on healthy eating, supplements, metabolism, and even a little sex, you will spend time with Tosca in the kitchen.
She will teach you her secret recipe for wetter water, plus easy tips and tricks to clean eating® so you will be able to cook and eat like this at home!
I am now back home and am back on track. My kitchen is stocked and I am not missing the sugar or anything else I have taken out.
Eating six meals a day, I had forgotten how much food you can really eat on this diet. Honestly, it is not a diet but more of a lifestyle way of eating as it is easy to follow and you get to eat real food.
For those interested in the fitness side you will not be left out. Tosca personally leads workouts in the pool, on the beach and fitness facility throughout the day. Nothing is mandatory at the retreat and at any time you may opt out of a session or workout with no judgement.
If all of the above is not enough, you also get a personal coaching session with Tosca if you wish.
There are a limited number of guests allowed on this retreat so the setting is intimate, personalized and Tosca is literally walking beside you!
Our group was very flexible and bonded well. I have made new friends that I will treasure for a lifetime. As a super fan of Tosca I thought it might be intimidating to meet her. It turned out to be the exact opposite. Tosca is humble, gracious, knowledgable, inspirational, strong and truly beautiful inside and out.
She was a blast and joined the group in all areas even accompaning us into the town to do some souvenir shopping and got a fish pedicure at the fish spa. So fun!
She took the time to bond with each one of us and embraced our individual needs.
She was gracious enough to sign all of the books that I brought and laughed when I was labeled the stalker of the group. I am honored to be called her friend now and not just a fan.
If you are in need of getting recharged physically, emotionally, mentally nutritionally or just looking for a fun getaway, I encourage you to seek out this retreat, it is truly a life changer.
The Retreats Unlimited staff go above and beyond to make sure you have the most amazing experience. They have more wellness events scheduled through out the year with various health and wellness ambassadors. Tosca’s are in March, April, May and October. Get more information at the Retreats Unlimited website. For more information on Tosca Reno or to order her books visit toscareno.com.
Cirque du Soleil’s Toruk- The First Flight recently had a run at Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kansas as part of its North American tour.
I had the chance to attend a show and was amazed at this theatrical production. This visually stunning performance takes over 25 semi trucks full of props and equipment to put things together. After watching the performance I know why. As you read other reviews, I am sure everyone will be different as to how they interpreted the show. One thing I am sure we will all will agree on is the splendor of the scenery and special effects.
Set thousands of years before AVATAR on the planet Pandora, the story follows two young Omatikaya boys who have to find Toruk to help save the Sacred Tree of Souls, after the Shaman has a vision of molten lava threatening to destroy it.
As the boys travel in search of the great bird Toruk, they encounter various tribes along the way. Each scene is full of color and brilliance and include the talented Cirque du Soliel acrobats performing mesmerizing stunts indigenous to their tribe.
The visual effects include whimsical creatures, earthquakes, waterfalls, lava, oceans, forests and more.
The added addition of the story teller helps to narrate what is happening as the show as it is spoken in the Na’Vi language.
The option of downloading the TORUK app allows the audience to interact at certain times during the show. A notification from the app gives instructions on what to do. Avid fans of James Cameron’s AVATAR will certainly enjoy the detail costuming of the Na’Vi people and culture as he helped with the production of this show.
Although having the narrator helped, at times I found it a little hard to follow. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the magnificent talent of the acrobats and performers. The costumes, scenery and visual effects are like nothing I have ever seen and certainly up to par in comparison to the their flamboyant and extravagant Vegas style shows.
In addition to all of the props and equipment, this show is literally a traveling city with mobile kitchens and more including doctors on staff to assist the cast and crew when medical care is required.
For more behind the scenes look at what it takes to put on this show you can read this behind the scenes post.
I am an avid traveler and Verizon Wireless recently loaned me some tech gadgets to demo a few weeks. All of these items are great. It is now time to return the items and I am reluctantly sending them back as they were way too handy. I especially loved the Bose headphones. Below is some top tech gadgets to make your travels run smoothly.
Smart Phone – It is pretty much a given these days that most everyone has a smart phone and is a must for travel. Not only does the phone work with all of these top gadgets, it is necessary to have that form of communication to get information on flights, transportation and keep in touch with those who matter most.
Milk and Honey Leather Pocket Case – This case fits snugly around your iPhone to protect it from the wear and tear from travel. The built in leather pocket makes a great holder for credit cards, id, a few bucks or any other items you may need handy until you reach your final destination.
Mophie Powerstation XL – With dual USB charge ports this quick charge external battery can juice up multiple devices at once. This powerstation gives 10+ hours to a large tablet, 14+ hours to smaller tablets and 48+ hours to your smartphone. This compact powerstation will make sure you never get stuck with a dead battery again!
Bose Quite Comfort 35 Headphones – These wireless, bluetooth, acoustic noise canceling headphones will make you feel as if you are the only one around. They are adjustable to fit just about one and the deep bass gives you a surround sound experience.
Nest Smoke and Carbon Dioxide Alarm – This unit thinks, speaks and alerts your phone if it detects smoke or carbon dioxide. Having the security of this device protecting your home and family while traveling is priceless and the perfect addition to other smart home products and alarm systems you may have paired with your smart phone.
All of these Items can be purchased at the Verizon Wireless website and make great gifts this time of year for the avid traveler in your life.
With James Cameron’s input, Toruk – The First Flight is a prequeal to AVATAR, and takes 27 semi trucks full of props and equipment to pull off this visually stunning traveling show.
The show takes place in the majestic land of Pandora, thousands of years prior to AVATAR. This stage production follows two adolescent Omaticaya boys who are courageously trying to save the Tree of Souls from a natural disaster. In order to keep the tree safe they must travel through the Floating Mountains and find the red and orange predator, Toruk, who rules the Pandoran sky.
If you have ever experienced a Cirque du Soleil show you know the talent, detail and theatrical phenomenon these shows entail. The majority of the magnificent Cirque du Soleil shows primarily run in Las Vegas with a select few that tour different cities. How Wichita got lucky enough to get a stop on their tour I will never know. How exciting to have such worldwide sensation grace our town.
I am set to check out the show on January 26 and have a giveaway courtesy of the show for two 2-packs for the Jan 26 show as well! I also have a special link that gets you a $10 discount on tickets should you not win the giveaway but still want to go tot he show. This link discounts Scale 1 and 2 lower bowl. Tickets to the show would make a great gift this time of year for the AVATAR fan in your life. Full price and other seat section tickets can be purchased here.
To enter the giveaway for the tickets just comment below if you have ever seen a Cirque du Soleil show. Contest will end midnight December 20. Two winners will chosen using random.org. Each winner will receive 2 tickets. Winners will be notified via email. Tickets will be available under winners name at the Intrust Bank Arena will call booth the night of the show.