Hello Chicago!

Earlier this week, Rupak flew to Chicago for the ProMat Conference. Since our ten-year anniversary is on Thursday, we made plans for me to fly out and meet him. After planning our itinerary for a month, I was excited to finally arrive.

I arrived around 3:00 or so and took a cab to the gorgeous J.W. Marriott Hotel. I would have posted a picture of our room, but Rupak had checked in earlier in the day, and the room was already a mess by the time I got there… so I grabbed a couple of pictures off of Marriott’s website.

Hotel Room at the J.W. Marriott, Chicago
Hotel Room at the J.W. Marriott, Chicago

The room is beautiful and has a nice view of some of the surrounding buildings. The architecture here is fascinating. Hopefully it will be a sunny day tomorrow so I can post a few pictures.

Bathroom at the J.W. Marriott Hotel, Chicago
Bathroom at the J.W. Marriott Hotel, Chicago

I could probably go swimming in that bathtub. It’s enormous!

After I unpacked (and cleaned the room), I realized I was starving, so we headed out to a hot dog shop I’d looked up online that was within walking distance. (Everyone says to get a hot dog and pizza in Chicago, so I decided this one time it was okay to eat meat!) After a few blocks, we stopped where the hot dog place was supposed to be… apparently it no longer exists! Instead of just turning around and heading back to the hotel, however, Rupak and I decided to walk around the block and see if something else popped up. We came across this little gem just half a block away:

Kramer's Health Food Center & Café, Chicago
Kramer’s Health Food Center & Café, Chicago

I figured this was my “sign” – meat just wasn’t supposed to be in the cards for me today.

The business is made up of two parts – a health store downstairs that carries all kind of natural foods, herbs, and supplements, and a café upstairs featuring vegetarian and vegan food and smoothies. The first thing that caught my eye was the Kombucha on tap. I didn’t even know that was a thing! I’m not a huge fan of Kombucha (do a Google image search for “kombucha mother” and you’ll see why) but Rupak loves the stuff.

Kombucha on Tap at Kramer's Health Foods, Chicago
Kombucha on Tap at Kramer’s Health Foods, Chicago

We headed upstairs to the café, where I quickly became overwhelmed with all the delicious-sounding vegetarian options.

Kramer's Health Food café menu
Kramer’s Health Food café menu
Smoothie/Juice menu
Smoothie/Juice menu

Rupak and I both decided on paninis: he ordered the Pesto (roasted red peppers, walnut pesto, spinach, red onion, mozzarella) and I chose the grilled cheese (tomato tapenade, caramelized onions, cheddar, mozzarella, plus I added pesto to my sandwich as well). Rupak got a combo meal with lentil soup and a vegetable juice blend.

Rupak "being a hippy" (his words, not mine)
Rupak “being a hippy” (his words, not mine)

The food was absolutely delicious! So glad the hot dog place was closed!

Pesto Panini, Kramer's Health Foods, Chicago
Pesto Panini, Kramer’s Health Foods, Chicago

With our tummies full, we headed back to the hotel. Rupak took a nap while I cleared out about a million photos from my phone. We were going to the Girl and the Goat restaurant for dinner and I wanted to make sure I had plenty of room for more food pictures!

We decided to walk to the restaurant to work up our appetites. It was quite windy and chilly, but it was only a mile away. Plus, there are literally cabs everywhere in Chicago, so if we got too cold or tired, we reasoned we could always jump in a taxi on the way. We arrived after about a twenty-minute walk and we were seated right away. It was packed and loud, and we were practically sitting on top of the diners next to us, but there was a great vibe to the place. Our waiter explained the menu, which was divided into vegetable, fish, and meat dishes, along with a special separate “Goat” menu.

Fish menu, Girl & The Goat, Chicago
Look, Dad! Cuttlefish!

The dishes are brought out one or two at a time, and they meant to be shared. We decided to splurge and ordered six dishes – three from the vegetable menu, one fish dish, one meat dish, and one goat dish.

Goat menu items, Girl & The Goat, Chicago
Look, Mom! Goat legs!

Our first dish to arrive was the goat carpaccio with smoked trout roe and olive-maple vinaigrette. Rupak cleared the plate by himself (big mistake with five more dishes to go).

Goat carpaccio, Girl & The Goat, Chicago
Goat carpaccio

Next, the pan-fried shishito peppers with parmesan​, sesame, and miso breading. The peppers were a little spicy, but the breading was delicious. We ate way too many peppers, and I ended up drinking three glasses of water in an attempt to counteract the spiciness. Four dishes still to come.

Pan-fried shishito peppers, Girl & The Goat, Chicago
Pan-fried shishito peppers
with parmesan​, sesame, and miso breading

The next two dishes arrived together – the roasted cauliflower with pickled peppers, pine nuts, and mint garnish and the sautéed green beans and cashews with a fish sauce vinaigrette. The green beans were highly recommended by the people at the table next to us, who said it was one of the best things on the menu. They were right! I’ve never tasted green beans like this before.

Sautéed green beans, Girl & The Goat, Chicago
Sautéed green beans with
fish sauce vinaigrette and cashews

The cauliflower was excellent as well. I like to roast cauliflower at home myself, but I always just pull off the florets and throw them on a baking sheet to roast in the oven. This cauliflower was sliced, then roasted, and it was the perfect mix of crunchiness on the outside and softness on the inside. I didn’t care for the mint, but I’m not a big fan of mint anyway.

Roasted cauliflower, Girl & The Goat, Chicago
Roasted cauliflower with
pickled peppers, pine nuts, mint

The next dish was the seared diver scallops with ginger-chili aioli, shiitake mushrooms, sea beans, and braised peanuts. We were both getting pretty full at this point, so I was glad the last two dishes were meat. You wouldn’t think a person could fill up on green beans, cauliflower, and peppers, but when the dishes are this delicious, it’s not hard to overeat. Good thing I wore my stretchy pants. I tasted the aioli, beans, and peanuts, all delicious.  Rupak described the scallops with one word: “YUM!”

Seared diver scallops, Girl & The Goat, Chicago
Seared diver scallops with ginger-chili aioli, shiitake mushrooms, sea beans, and braised peanuts

Finally, the star of the show arrived – the beef tongue. Gross. Rupak cut off the tiniest little piece for me to try. The taste was good, but the texture was… well… like a tongue. It really freaked me out when I realized my tongue was touching a cow’s tongue. Rupak said it tasted like sausage. To me, the best part of the dish were the fried masa pieces.

Braised beef tongue, Girl & The Goat, Chicago
Braised beef tongue with masa, beef vinaigrette, and salsa verde

Our waiter returned with a dessert menu. Of course, like any good dessert menu, there was a cheese section!

Cheese & Dessert, Girl & The Goat, Chicago
Cheese & Dessert menu. (Also, who is Jessie?)

While we were trying to decide if we could fit any more food in our stomachs, the waiter stopped by our table with an anniversary gift for us: dessert! Our waiter even offered to take our picture.

First of three anniversary dinners!
First of three anniversary dinners!

Unfortunately, we dove right in without me getting a picture of the dessert first. So, here’s the aftermath:

This used to be a sticky date cake with pomegranate, meyer lemon yogurt , and a crunchy pine nut topping. Use your imagination.
This used to be a delicious sticky date cake with pomegranate, meyer lemon yogurt, and a crunchy pine nut topping. Use your imagination.

You would think that we would have stopped there… but I’m not one to leave a fancy cheese plate behind. So, much to our waiter’s surprise, we ordered the Nancy’s Hudson Valley Camembert, a sheep/cow’s milk blend.

Nancy's Hudson Valley Camembert sheep/goat milk cheese, Girl & The Goat, Chicago
Nancy’s Hudson Valley Camembert sheep/goat milk cheese and crackers

And finally, tea.

Chamomile tea - check out the fancy (reusable!) tea bag!
Chamomile tea – check out the fancy (reusable!) tea bag!

When we first arrived at the Girl & The Goat, cold and hungry, we decided that we would take a cab back to the hotel… but after all that food, we felt we had to try and walk at least *some* of it off. We took a different route back and discovered some neat landmarks along the way.

Union Station & Willis Tower
Union Station & Willis Tower
Super cool building with a map of Chicago on the side
Super cool building with a map of Chicago on the side

We finally made it back to the hotel, tired, fat, and happy. Tomorrow we visit the Art Institute of Chicago and dine at the famous Alinea!


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