Champaign, Ill. (WCIA) –
Getaways for Grownups to Louisville & Chicago
By Marcia Frost
Summertime means lots of family activities while the kids are out of school, but sometimes you also need to plan fun for the grownups. Whether it’s a trip with the girls (or guys), or time for romance, here are two that you’ll be ready to get away to.
24 Hours in Chicago for Grownups…
For an all-inclusive night out in the Windy City with friends or a significant other, look no further than City Winery.
I had heard about City Winery, but never got around to visiting until AJ Croce’s publicity representative contacted me about his upcoming show.
Before seeing the energizing performance by Jim Croce’s son (and opening act Adam Ezra), I had the opportunity to fully check the place out and it’s quite impressive.
My friend, Joan, and I tasted their vast selection of wines, all named with Chicago in mind. From West Loop Red to Andersonville Chardonnay, the City Winery wines are made with grapes from around the country. Their winemaker does the blending and the wines are created at the same location you’ll find the restaurant, shop, and concert hall.
There is an area by the bar to eat and sample, but there’s also a full restaurant. We sampled some of the top menu items with Chef Mark Mendez, formerly of Vera and Carnivale, who took over the helm in October.
The burrata was amazing, the ribeye with gorgonzola butter melting in our mouths, and the shells and cheese creamy and rich.
As for the wine, we really enjoyed it. Our favorite was the 2018 Riverwalk Rose, a great deal at $18 a bottle. Wine by the glass, bottle, or in flights, is also served in the show area, as is a shortened menu.
We spent the night at the Hyatt Centric Loop. The rooms are and they have the most comfortable robes I’ve ever had. The downstairs restaurant, Cochon Volant, has one of the best breakfasts in Chicago. There is also a rooftop bar.
Hyatt Centric Loop is conveniently located to shopping, Millennial Park, and the Art Institute, where we saw the latest exhibit, Manet and Modern Beauty. The classic watercolors of Édouard Manet are well-represented in this extensive collection, available until September 8th.
Next to Manet, you can stop and see more contemporary American work, such as well-known Georgia O’Keefe treasures. Before we left the museum, we stopped to take a look through the powerful display, “The AIDs Crisis Is Still Beginning.”
During the trip, we were able to get two more Chicago lunches in. The first was Cantina Laredo, where we almost filled ourselves with margaritas and this month’s special guacamole, filled with tomato and cotija cheese, in a sweet and slightly spicy mix. I washed mine down with a tasty, Pineapple Infused Rita, while Joan had Jalapeno special margarita.
For lunch, the tamales were a bit spicy for me, but Joan thought they were ideal. We both agreed that the Flautitas were cooked and sauced perfectly. The Churros were warm and tasty and went well with the house-blend coffee.
Our other meal was at Pinstripes. It is a play place with bowling and bocce ball, but the bar makes it clear from the moment you walk in that it’s for adults.
Before or after playtime, you can enjoy the extensive drink menu, which includes local beers and handcrafted cocktails. Joan fell for the Limoncello Martini, while I had a Riesling from their eclectic wine menu.
We shared some of their tender mushrooms stuffed with zucchini, spinach, and goat cheese, then couldn’t pass on the pizzas when we saw the wood fired oven. I had the seasonal eggplant flatbread – the pistachio was a tasty touch – and Joan went for the margherita, with a thick crust and fresh cheese.
The cheesecake was good, but the star dessert was their version of a strawberry shortcake, with angel food cake, whipped cream, and fresh strawberries.
Back to Louisville for Adult Time…
Louisville, Kentucky, can be a great family getaway (see this segment), but it’s bourbon country, making it full of over 21 fun.
I returned to Louisville to cover the second annual Bourbon & Beyond Festival, an event filled with food, cooking demonstrations, music and, of course, plenty of Kentucky’s finest spirit. Unfortunately, day two was rained out, but we did have an incredible time on day one, with local food, a Jim Beam and Whistle Pig tastings, and performances by Sheryl Crow, John Mayer, and Lenny Kravitz. Other lesser known bands we discovered included Larkin Poe.
The 2019 schedule for Bourbon & Beyond looks just as good, and they have secured some indoor space this year so you don’t have to worry so much about the weather.
We stayed at the new Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Downtown Louisville. This hotel offers large, comfortable rooms, and a big complimentary breakfast.
One of the big changes in Louisville in the last few years has been the addition of tasting rooms for some of the major bourbon distillers. This is a wonderful for tourists because you don’t have to get in your car and drive for hours just to taste at a few different distilleries.
Old Forester built a $45 million distillery right on main street. The 70,000-square-foot building is set up for not only making bourbon, but for making the barrels they are aged in. Tours are available for you to see everything from the history to the fermentation and production of the bourbon. You can also watch the barrels being made in the cooperage.
At the end of the Old Forester tour, a tasting session is led by one of the distillery’s experts.
Another spot in Louisville to visit is the Frazier History Museum. The Official Kentucky Bourbon Trail Welcome Center is here, as well as the Spirits of the Bluegrass Exhibit.
In addition to bourbon, Louisville is known of its barbecue restaurants. Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen was our favorite. The portions were large and the sides, especially the sweet potatoes with marshmallows, were southern delicious.
On the way out of Louisville, make a stop at Please & Thank You for what was called the Best Chocolate Chip Cookie in Kentucky.
Photographs from Bourbon and Beyond by Brittany Lambright.
Be sure to Like Midwest Travel with Marcia Frost on Facebook for more information on her trips, and read her stories on her Wine And Spirits Travel blog. You can also follow Marcia @Spiritstraveler on Twitter and Instagram.