I Heart Eataly Chicago

I love Mario Batali for many reasons. Here are just a few:

1. First and foremost, he is an amazingly talented chef on the Food Network.
2. Mario has red hair, like my handsome husband.
3. His wife’s family owns a dairy goat farm (I have a current obsession with goat farms after meeting Gretta of Gretta’s Goats).
4. Mario is a Midwestern man during the summer; he has a home in Michigan.
5. He—and his lovely business partners—gave me Eataly Chicago.

I know I go to a lot of restaurants, but this one is oh-so-different. The first time I went (and, I confess, I’ve been back since!), I was like a kid in a candy store—except my candy includes cured meats, cow’s milk-alternative cheeses, fresh pasta, a Nutella bar, and made-to-order sheep’s milk cannoli.

Eataly takes up at least a city block, and it’s a sensory overload from the moment you walk in. It’s two floors that consist of a fine Italian market, restaurant, brewery, and more, all in one. Because it’s a bit overwhelming, I’ve developed a system to navigate the space: walk counterclockwise around the perimeter of the store. It hasn’t failed me yet!

My first visit to Eataly was with my good friend, Lindsey. I took the subway from my office and arrived in 10 minutes (dangerously close). We wondered around the first floor, wide-eyed. It’s there you’ll find the information desk, produce, a Panini bar, a coffee bar, Nutella bar, gelato bar, sweets bar, housewares, packaged sweets, jams and jellies, and packaged dairy (milk, butter, yogurt, and eggs too).

We walked up to the second floor, where we were greeted by a fried food bar to our left, cheese and cured meats to our right, and a wine bar directly in front of us. We opted for wine first: Prosecco for me and red for Lindsey. One of the many good things about Eataly: you can drink and shop. Mario, you’re one smart cookie.

We then decided to stop at the cured meats and cheese bar. Because I try not to have cow’s milk cheese in January—call it a New Year’s cleanse, of sorts—we ordered a wooden board of delicious cured meats. I found out when I went with Hope (in February, post-cleanse) that when you order the meat and cheese platter, you get sweet jams and honey on the side, too. I dare you to try both!

Next, we wandered around, passing the rotisserie bar, peeked in the brewery, and made our way to the refrigerated cured meat and cheese section. I was in heaven. Friends, take note: Eataly is the best place to build the perfect gift basket.

Past the fish and butcher stations, you’ll pass the fresh pastas. During my first visit, I brought home some fresh pasta, as it was part of their weekly special. Yes, every week, there’s a new deal on everything from pasta to fish (Branzino this week!) to toothpaste to pasta sauce. What a great way to sample some of Eataly’s finest!

If you’ve ever wanted to see endless varieties of dried pastas, faro, risotto, sauces, pestos, olives—this is where you want to go. Then, comes the best part of Eataly: the pizza and pasta restaurant. I’ve sampled the pizzas with buffalo mozzarella (apparently I’m not allergic to buffalo milk!), and had a fresh pasta dish (with mushrooms) and a dried pasta dish (with pork, parsley, and pecorino) from their menu. Not a bad meal yet; although, during my visit with Hope, I was completely stuffed because of my lack of self-control around mouth-watering carbs. Whatever you do at Eataly, you need to eat at this restaurant.

After the carb fest, the rest gets blurry. I blame it on the food coma. There’s a bountiful wine section (as you would imagine), fresh breads (watch the bread makers—they’ll toss flour at you!), beauty products, and lots and lots of olive oil.

Each time I’ve been, I have been too full for dessert; however, why not bring some home for my hubby? First, fresh cannoli, and then a rich semifreddo sweet with a blackberry on top, both packaged to perfection.

I said it before, and I’ll say it again: go to Eataly. I haven’t even begun to share all of the elements I love about this place, but you have to discover them for yourself. Mangia and salute!

Eataly Chicago
43 East Ohio
Streeterville

20140206-193617.jpg

20140206-193626.jpg

20140206-193634.jpg

20140206-193646.jpg

20140206-193656.jpg

20140206-193704.jpg

20140206-193730.jpg

20140206-193740.jpg

20140206-193749.jpg

20140206-193800.jpg

20140206-193812.jpg

20140206-193821.jpg

Week #38 – Davanti Enoteca

My apologies that my posts have been so late in the week, but there are reasons, I swear. You’ll have a better sense of what’s going on at the end of this post. (Oh, sounds juicy, because it is!)

Little did I know that this meal with our good friends Brad and Sandra was going to be my last meal before one of the busiest and most exciting weeks of my life.

I’ve heard of Davanti Enoteca from friends before, and I was excited when Sandra suggested it. Nate and I arrived a few minutes early (that’s a first) and had some cocktails (prosecco for the lady and red wine for her man) before our friends arrived and we were seated. I should mention that the decor in this restaurant is romantic, but comfortable, like you’ve been going here forever.

We sat down and the waiter was lucky because we were starving. The restaurant serves small plates, so we ordered a little bit of everything: pizza and salads and seafood (I tried octopus!) and meat and more. I have to tell you, this creamy polenta dish we ordered with short ribs was one of the best dishes I’ve had in a while (and you know how often we go out!). The savory goodness just melted in your mouth. Even if that was the only thing I enjoyed–which it wasn’t–I’d return just for that plate.

We were able to eat pretty much everything, but didn’t leave room for dessert. Next time…I promise!

So, what happened the next day? We got our bundle of joy: George, a French Bulldog puppy who has stolen my heart. Photos to come soon!

But that’s not all. Brad and Sandra surprised us less than a week later and joined us on our trip to Jackson Hole! (Even more pics to come!)

Stay tuned, friends…

Davanti Enoteca
1359 West Taylor
University Village

20130922-221117.jpg

20130922-221126.jpg

20130922-221135.jpg

Week #18 – WhirlyBall

Well, friends, the mystery is solved. I now know first-hand what WhirlyBall is…and it’s pretty fun!

I was excited to see WhirlyBall on the agenda when I received the invitation for our friend Scott’s 30th birthday. I asked around a bit to see if other friends had gone and what they thought of WhirlyBall, and I only heard positive things. How’s that for word of mouth advertising?!

Saturday night was the big night. After filling up on Art of Pizza (some of the best pizza in the city!) and homemade cake at Scott and Katherine’s, we were ready to compete.

I played about three games, always on Team Red. (Tip: the black cars were rumored to be the faster cars.) My strategy was to knock the whiffle ball out of my opponent’s scoop, and T-bone people to throw them off when trying to pass. Ha.

If I’m going to be brutally honest, I was terrible at offense, but was confident in my defense skills (I was always a badass full back in soccer), and I was terrible at scooping up the whiffle ball. (I got extremely nervous and usually lost out to my opponent who was faster than me.) Needless to say, I never scored.

The biggest surprise I found—other than how much fun it is to hit your friends in bumper cars—is that you get really hot, temperature-wise. I really didn’t think I’d have to put too much effort into it, but if you take it seriously, you can get heated up!

Other nice surprises of the WhirlyBall facility are the big bar area where they have huge TVs and an excellent craft beer selection (I had a tangerine wheat beer named Clown Shoes), along with many arcade games, air hockey tables, pool tables, and—you guessed it!—a photo booth. (See below for my photos with Nate.)

Some unofficial rules I learned from playing WhirlyBall. 1. Ladies, don’t wear high shoes. My wedges looked really cute when I was hanging out in the waiting room, but they were not nearly as cool to drive in. 2. Prepare to get banged up! I have four sizeable bruises on my legs. Ouch!

If you have a fun group of friends who aren’t afraid to get competitive, WhirlyBall is a must. I’m so glad I tried it, especially while celebrating a good friend. Happy birthday, Scott!

WhirlyBall
1880 West Fullerton
Bucktown

photo-222 photo-221 photo-220 photo-219 photo-209 photo-211 photo-212 photo-213 photo-216 photo-214 photo-215 photo-217 photo-218 photo-210 photo-208 photo-206 photo-207 photo-205 photo-203 photo-204