Friday, March 30, 2012

My Ultimate Mixer

Give me a good cocktail and good conversation and I'm pretty darn happy.There are definintely a few spots in Chicago that hit the nail on the head when it comes to mixing a delicious drink.

Most know of The Violet Hour, and it's worth every bit of the $12 they charge for a drink. I stick with vodka & gin as my primary alcohol, and every item on their menu is beautiful and delicious. Granted, I won't go when there is a line (that's a rule of mine since college) and I think their service is a little on the slow side, but once you have a drink in hand, it's the perfect spot.

The Barrelhouse Flat is also amazing. I believe one of the owners used to be a mixologist with the Violet Hour, and it shows, with a similar flare in their drinks.The atmostphere on the 2nd level is perfection and I pretty much recommend it to everyone in Lincoln Park.

My last can't miss spot is Acre in Andersonville. The food & drinks make for a perfect date night.

Greg has become my at-home mixologist. We've recently ventured into a bottle of St. Germain.  I was feeling splurgy one night. Mixed with Champagne will wow you. The vieux mot is delicious and our current drink of choice. In fact, I have one in hand now. Check this site out for every recipe you could imagine with St. Germain.

I can't wait for summer punches.

I'd love to hear if you have any must-experience spots for a great drink.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

2 Days in Savannah

Savannah, GA is one of my sweet spots in this country. I've had the opportunity to get to know this charming town the past couple of years and found myself there again last week. Sweet tea, shrimp & grits, and sunshine. That's a recipe for a happy Rachel.

One of my favorite things to do when traveling for work is going out for a run, just to wander through the area and hope to find fun spots along the way. It's a great way to scope out the town, and you're able to cover a lot more territory than just walking.

In my visits to Savannah, I always make it a point to take a run or walk through Forsyth Park.  I can't imagine a person not loving this park. It is absolutely beautiful with fountains, trees, and people enjoying all sorts of outdoor activities; tennis, rugby, personal training, jogging, picnicking, playing with their dogs. It's heavenly. Go there!

I will also go on record of saying that I had the best meal in my memory at The Olde Pink House in Savannah. This was 2 years ago, and since then I haven't stopped recommending it. It's an evening to remember, and your stomach will thank you. My meal consisted of fresh flounder, grits, the best fried green tomatoes, all their specialties.

I prefer shopping for home goods any day to clothing, and One Fish Two Fish as well as No.411 fit the bill.  Can my condo looks like one of these shops like... tomorrow?

My latest discover just last week, was a bakery that screamed my name. This girl right here enjoys her sweet treats! Back in the Day Bakery is a little off the beaten path, and well worth it. I enjoyed a late lunch of Back * Onion Jam Panini and an Old Fashioned cupcake. YUMM. And... I bought their new cookbook which has both of these recipes in it! I see lots of flour & sugar scattered in my kitchen in the near future.

A few days in Savannah is definitely good for the soul. If you make it there, put these spots on your itinerary and you are in for a great time.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Prep & Party- A Chicago Wedding

Six months ago this week was Greg and my wedding. Yes, it was absolutely lovely. Yes, it was a whirlwind, and I literally ate only cupcakes after spending lots of moolah on the perfect blend of foods to serve. Now that I am an experienced bride, I feel both obligated and entitled to offering a little advice on how to most enjoy "your" day.

Let me preface my advice by saying I am the queen of budgets. I don't over-pay, but I do pay for good quality. Greg and I are lucky enough to be able to afford a few splurges here and there, but I took many steps to keep from giving myself an ulcer over the $$$ involved in one day.
I was the anti-bride in many ways. No big bridal party, no mile long registry, no ordering around my now-husband with frivolous tasks that no one notices. With that being said, there were many parts of our wedding weekend that were so important to me, and for those items I was a perfectionist, and am glad.

First and foremost- Hair & Makeup. Hire the best and look gorgeous. You'll look amazing, feel amazing, and it is really nice to look at photos and not think "Ugh, I hate the way I look". I really want to tell every bride in Chicago to stop worrying about it, and just hire Krysten & Samara of Bridal Beauty Chicago. They are fun, easy to be around, and don't make a fuss. I was full of nervous energy (& champagne cocktails) on the big day, but they just set up shop in our suite and we all loved them. I had already met them for a trial, and they take tedious notes, pictures, and actually got to know my vision, and it worked perfectly! I thank them for me feeling super glam for my wedding.

Photographer- Again, hire the best. I'm convinced that after an absurd about of research on photographers that I ended up with the best in the city. It was a splurge, we will have these photos forever, and I imagine our kids & grandkids thinking how cool we used to be when looking at our photos. Peter Thompson was everything we could have imagined for our photographer, and more. His eye is amazing, and he captured our style perfectly. Peter & his assistant walked into our suite and completely made themselves at home and ready for 10 hours of shooting. Hire him!  Yes, there are a few shots I wish we had, like more of Greg and I with my nieces, but we were all having too much fun to worry about getting all the shots. And well, the nieces walked down the aisle like perfect flower girls, and I couldn't bear to ask them to stop eating cupcakes or dancing just so I have a few more photos.

My groom didn't want to see me prior to me walking down the aisle, so we scheduled an after-shoot a few days later, where he and I could go to a few hot spots in the city and take our time getting photos. It certainly took away from the rush of photos on wedding day, but getting all dolled up again was a bit of a pain. Not sure that I have the perfect solution to this, but it worked for us.

I am admittedly a hotel snob, and I like the think I hit it out of the ballpark with our hotel. I wanted out-of-town guests to stay in a place that let them see Chicago as we see it. No Michigan Ave. for me. I knew  PUBLIC Chicago was going to be perfect for us. The Near North location allowed for walks along the lake, strolls down tree-lined streets, and was absolutely beautiful. We had booked a suite for 3 nights and I was ready to move in. BEAUTIFUL! The hotel used to house the Ambassador East Hotel and unveiled a newly done Pump Room, which was frequented by hollywood stars in years past. There was Chicago history, but it was at a whole new level of class. And, when they saw me walk in with my gown on it's hanger we were treated likely royalty. Nothing better than good customer service. I highly recommend the hotel for just about anyone.

Location- After being shot down on the thought of eloping, I knew the perfect spot for our wedding & party. I'd gone to a charity event a few years back at A New Leaf and remember telling a friend, "Oh this would be a fab place to have a wedding." Guess I know what I like. I love pretty much everything about A New Leaf. Our ceremony was on their 3rd level, we had multiple levels for celebrating, and a beautiful courtyard where the party ultimately led. Think gorgeous exposed brick walls, natural character, and a hidden gem amongst the bustle of N. Wells St. One of of the most convenient features was the fact that we didn't have to coordinate any sort of transportation. Guests could cab it, walk from the hotel, and didn't have to think about getting from the ceremony to the reception. We said our I Do's and 5 minutes later folks were grabbing their first drink in celebration.

A New Leaf also handled our flowers, and I really think they were the most perfect arrangements for us. I literally spent 20 minutes with my assigned flower coordinator talking through different pieces, showed her a few photos of what I like, and that was set. I always thought I'd have a heck of a lot of peonies, but they weren't in season. Get over it. In season flowers are better. They are less costly, in better condition, face it, there are a ton of gorgeous flowers out there to choose from.

I knew from the get go I wanted live ceremony music. There's something about the sounds of a violin & cello that makes my heart swoon. Dolce Strings were amazing. Easy to work with, played absolutely beautifully, and well there was no wondering  about anything. These ladies are professionals! Now if only I had a fancy party to host so that I could hire them again.

The above 4 vendors are my major recommendations for any lady planning her Chicago wedding.

Some other Tips & Thoughts:
* Offer to pay cash to all of your vendors (assuming you have the cash). Not all will accept, and others will knock of 10%! This literally saved us thousands of dollars. The hassle of going from your bank to your vendor with a wad of cash is totally worth it.
* My least favorite part of a wedding is the sit-down dinner. It's a total lull in the fun. I didn't want that lull, I wanted a party. We had lots of food, and really delicious food (well I really only know from the tasting), but people could get whatever they liked at different stations. I loved this concept, but I wish someone would have brought Greg and I a couple of plates of food at some point. I was never without Champagne & always without a bite to eat.
* I don't understand designer dresses. Well I do, but my pocketbook does not. You can find your perfect dress without going into debt. Really does it all have to be hand sewn & Italian silk? The answer is no. It's totally fine to drive to a far southwest suburb and end up bridal shop, in a strip mall, with hot pick carpeting. It's just fine!!
* Day after Brunch- My 5-year old niece graciously hosted a brunch for all of our family. Greg and I finally ate!!! Hub 51 put together a schmorgesborg of food for our group of 35 people. This allowed for us to spend some quality time mingling with our family, and a nice relaxed atmosphere for folks to start sharing stories from the previous night.
* Greg was into Cigars and the Beer selection. He literally spent 6 months choosing what craft beers would be served. Totally fine with me. I had Greg give his approval in items, but for the most part, I was the key decision maker. It worked for us. Communicate with your groom and it'll all be fine.
* Greg and I both laugh about the serious levels of dry mouth each of us experienced pre-ceremony. Have a bottle of water with you for this moment. We were sooo thirsty!
* Touch-up your lipstick. Yes this is trivial, but it buds me! My lips have no color, and I'm pretty sure I never put on any additional makeup after the pro finished me up. Wish some of the late night photos had my pop of pink on my lips.

Greg and I had a blast throughout our entire wedding celebration. And, I still haven't had my dress cleaned & preserved so I suppose there is still something on my to-do list.

There's enough advice to keep you up at night planning your wedding. Enjoy!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Restaurant of the Week - Irazu

There are so many restaurants in Chicago. You could go out to dinner every night and never have to hit up the same restaurant again. With that being said, I find that there are very few restaurants that I love. When I say love, I mean they are worth my money, have a great atmosphere, good service, and most importantly, delicious food. Irazu is one of those special places. Go there!

I just arrived home and am already thinking of my return trip. I've been a couple of times in the past, but tonight I found MY DISH. Casado with Tilapia was so amazing. I want more, now... Just a few more bites.

 Let me set the stage. I was meeting a friend for dinner and major catching up. It was the perfect warm evening so a 30 minute wait outside wasn't a problem. Why the wait you ask? Because Irazu is worth a wait and has quite the following of customers. The hostess gave us cups for our bottle of wine and we killed time on the sidewalk with about 20 others. BYOB bonus! That is one way to keep the bill down and drink what you like. Chicagoans love their BYOB restaurants. People are not shy about bringing copious amounts of beer & wine, as you just don't want to run out!

I really should begin taking pictures of my meals. My meal was basically a big plate of rice, grilled onions, black beans, red peppers, tilapia, and most importantly, sweet plantains. Yum!!! I was craving Irazu for their sweet plantains, but discovered a new favorite dish. The tilapia was so delicious, onions perfect, and everything combines made it even better.

If only I had room to order their infamous Oatmeal Shake. If you are looking for a restaurant that is anything but your average joe, check our Irazu on Milwaukee Ave. in Bucktown.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Welcome to UrbanDose.

I dedicate my inaugural post to my husband, who has convinced me that with so much time I spend reading blogs (on my ipad, in bed, while he is trying to sleep), I should write my own blog. I kept thinking, ugh, I don't have a schtick. I can't DIY a thing, cooking happens about once a week in our home, I'm not a mommy blogger because, well, I'm not a mommy.

Instead, UrbanDose is simply a little bit of life from the perspective of a 30 year-old, newly married, urbanite. There are so many things that I love ( & despise), and I intend on wrapping them up all up in this cute little blog.

At the forefront is the great city of Chicago. I like to think that I am a pro in this city.. Whether you're a resident or coming in for a long weekend, I hope to help you discover a few gems. You can expect to read about date nights, my go-to restaurants, the perfect shop to find a deal, and how I spend my Saturday afternoons.

I also love planning trips. Obsessed! It's half the fun of a vacation. And you may think that means that I'm all about an itinerary while on vacay, but it's actually the complete opposite. I just like to arrive feeling like I know a few things, and know where the locals hang. You can join me in my plans and hopefully share with me some insider secrets.

I hope you enjoy UrbanDose, and maybe someday you'll find youself looking for new posts here as much as I do on all my favorite blogs.