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Last weekend we celebrated the day o’my birth and my sister came in to visit me for the occasion. We had tons of girly fun – mani/pedi’s, boutique shopping, coffee runs & meals at fab restaurants. It was exciting and relaxing, exhilarating and restorative, all in one. Family time is good for the soul.

[the two sisters]

For some time I’ve had my eye on a brand new little brunch spot down the street from my place. The menu was clean and inventive, plus the two guys behind the restaurant hail from the iconic Charlie Trotters. Once I saw this rave review in Daily Candy, I was sold and knew I couldn’t waste anymore time. With my sister in tow, we set out for a Friday mid-morning brunch at Lincoln Park’s newest hot spot, 2Sparrows.

[and that, my friends, would be the general manager making house-made beef jerky right atop the bar]

We ordered the foie gras pop tart with cherry compote [!!] for a little app, then we each ordered the eggs benedict [had to see what the b-y-o hollandaise was all about].

[cappuccino made with intelligentsia coffee to start the day off right]

[the richness of the foie gras offset the sharp tang of the cherry. 'twas all wrapped up in a buttery, flaky crust. mmmmm.]

The eggs benedict was EGGCELLENT [shame on me. couldn't resist]. I’ve had quite a few eggs benedicts in my time and I would go out on a limb [branch?] by saying 2Sparrows has the best eggs benedict I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. Where oh where do I begin:

-the ham. I don’t normally like the greasy, fatty canadian bacon that typically comes with eggs benedict, therefore I order mine sans meat. In this case, our [amazing] server informed us that all the ham is made in-house and so I decided to give it a try. Boy am I glad I did. This ham was wonderful. Just the right amount of salty smokiness to round out the dish.

-the toast. Sometimes the richness of eggs benedict can leave you with that nauseously overfull feeling. I blame that feeling, not on my own gluttonous ways, but on the filling bread that most eggs benedicts are perched on. At 2Sparrows the small, almost bite-sized pieces of toast are just the right amount.

-the big green salad. I’d never seen eggs benedict paired with a big green salad before and oh lordy, was it delicious. My sister loved the fennel and the dressing was light and refreshing. The perfect compliment to our eggy & indulgent brunch.

-the b-y-o hollandaise. Whoa. This was another first for me. Our meal came with not one, but two different hollandaise sauces – one was infused with roasted red pepper, the other with scallions. You build your own [b-y-o] and mix it up however you like. Who knew brunch could be so much fun?

The atmosphere was dynamic [even for a Friday afternoon], the service was excellent, the food was right on the money [and for that matter, quite reasonable given the upscale feel of the place]. I can sum it up with this – never before have I been at a meal where my companion and I both completely cleared our plates. We ate every last crumb. 2Sparrows, I will see you [and your eggs benedict... & probably your maple & bacon doughnuts] again soon.

 

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I’m not one to gripe about the heat [the blizzard of 2011 is all too fresh on my mind] but when I saw a news anchor cook a steak to medium-well on the dashboard of his car yesterday, I knew it would be okay to admit that this thick summer heat is getting a little out of hand.

While we’re on the subject of suffocating heat, you’ve heard of bikram yoga, the class where people voluntarily coop themselves up in a room cranked to 110 degrees to do yoga for 90+ minutes. To add insult to injury it isn’t cheap to endure this type of medieval torture. Yoga studios charge an arm and a leg for these classes [although they will be toned arms and legs, no doubt].

So if you’re a bikram devotee, first of all, my hats off to you, but secondly I vote to skip the heated room for a night and downward dog it outside [for free] on the rooftop of one of the finest grocery stores in Chicago.

[photo courtesy of whole foods]

Whole Foods Lincoln Park at 1550 N. Kingsbury [as previously blogged about here] is bringing back their popular rooftop yoga class tomorrow [Thursday] at 6:30 p.m. and best of all it’s 100% complimentary. Just bring your mat and a big bottle of water because it’s going to be Toasty with a capital T. They’re also providing light refreshments and a special giveaway for all participants.  If you live in Chicago, this one is a no-brainer. I have to take a rain check because I’m picking up my sister and niece from the airport [they're visiting me for the weekend, yea!] but you can bet I’ll be at the next class.

 

{breath. stretch. namaste.}


 

 

 

 

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I’m sort of embarrassed to admit what I did last week. Because I am a weirdo and enjoy grocery shopping more than a normal person should, I made a night out of it. You can’t blame me though, I live 10 minutes from the wondrous glory that is the Lincoln Park Whole Foods [15150 N. Kingsbury], the third-largest Whole Foods store in the world. This is not your average grocery store. It is the gargantuan mother of all grocery stores. Sure, you can pick up milk and eggs but why stop there when you can hit up…

  • Da’Vine Wine Bar [totally acceptable to sip a glass of wine as you shop]
  • 1550 Bar [complete with nightly specials such as Trivia Night]
  • Mix-and-Match Cookie and Trail Mix Stations
  • Make-your-own Bath Salt Station
  • Make-your-own Peanut/Cashew/Almond Butter Station
  • Seven in-store eateries [fresh sushi, bakery, deli, and more]
  • Rooftop yoga class
  • Nightly cooking classes

+ so much more

…all under one [massive] roof.

This beautiful behemoth is truly something to behold. I’ve taken both my brother and sister to check it out when they visited me and they were blown away too. My sister and I were lucky enough to score seats at the bustling wine bar and enjoyed wine flights and prime people watching. There were couples on dates, guys catching up over a pint, girlfriends with glasses of champagne. All in the middle of a grocery store – who’d a thunk it.

I wanted to share some photos of my shopping trip with you, and, me being the responsible blogger that I am, called ahead to get the OK from Whole Foods to take some photos. With some minor stipulations, they welcomed me with open arms. Without further ado…

[the sheer volume of everything is astounding]

[endless rows of fat, juicy heirloom tomatoes]

[lifetime supply {and then some} of carrot juice]

[fancy soap station]

[bath salt bar]

[pellegrino as far as the eye can see]

[had to do it]

A few things that came home with me…

[my favorite tea]

[freshly ground 100% almonds... it was warm as it came out of the grinder!]

[my new obsession: black truffle oil... a bit of a splurge at $12 for a small bottle but you can use it in everything and a little goes a long way. i've added it to mac + cheese and eaten it just by itself with whole-grain bread]

[icelandic style yogurt is very thick and has a TON of protein]

[farm fresh eggs you literally pluck from a little chicken coop-esque bed of hay]

[i've lived in chicago for 3 years and had never tried the famous oberweis milk - til now!]

 

 

 

 

 

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[r + r]

This weekend while the rest of Chicago was getting saucy & celebrating St. Pat’s, Vince and I roadtripped to Cleveland for my mom’s birthday. Although we missed the bulk of the St. Patty’s festivities, it was one of those weekends that hit the spot; relaxing and good for the soul. We caught up on lots of sleep + quality fam time, had brunch with some of my high school pals, and topped it off with a birthday lunch celebrating my mom.

[trust.]

[team effort]

 

[party dress fit for a twirl]

 

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[my mom just sent me this plate in a care package {thanks mom!}. it came with black ribbon but she gave me extra red so i could switch it out for v-day]

[ravioli ..holy cannoli.. my mom made this for my dad last night as an early valentine's day dinner. dad snapped me this pic before he dove in.]

[a pic I sneaked of my sis hard at work during our girls pizzelle night]

[flowers vince sent my mama]


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This weekend I got to spend some much-needed quality time with my sister who surprised me with a birthday visit. We had a lovely ladies weekend from start to finish: we got mani/pedis, we ate delicious meals, we sipped some wine, and, of course, we shopped ’til we dropped.

One of my favorite finds was this Itsy Bitsy Bag for just $18 from Francesca’s Collections on Halsted. I love the snazzy gold chain-link strap and the go anywhere, ready for anything crossbody style. Although teeny, it’s just big enough to hold the essentials. The funny thing is, I must have been subconsciously looking for a similar version of this $228 wonder I’d been fawning over from Marc by Marc Jacobs. Can you point out the pricier find?

Aside from the gold chain, you’d have to do a double take to tell these two apart. They even share the trademark Marc by Marc Jacobs turnlock, and yet the one on the left was a staggering $210 cheaper [almost enough for this pretty retro KitchenAid Mixer in a mod shade like pistachio].

I also snagged these little gold bow earrings for a mere $12 [also at Francesca's Collections] that suspiciously mirror these pricier Marc by Marc Jacobs studs [$38]:

[the look...

... for less]

Without meaning to, I landed two charming copycats for a fraction of the price.

PS: I also picked up this pretty bauble from Mint Julep on Armitage [bad news: that location is closing, good news: everything is 20% off, plus their Southport store is alive and well]

Have a lucky day everyone!

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Yippie! Today is my birthday! I know I sound like a twelve year old but birthdays have always been celebrated as a special day in my family. Every birthday growing up, we’d wake up and scurry downstairs to see the kitchen decorated with a big “Happy Birthday” banner and find the kitchen table set with the special birthday tablecloth. We’d eat cake for breakfast and bring giant frosted cookie cakes to school to share with everyone. It was the best.

For the first time ever, this year my birthday has morphed into a birthday :week: ! I celebrated with my family this past weekend while I was home [complete with not one, but two cakes], last night Vince + I went out to dinner, then this weekend my sister planned a surprise visit to Chicago. Maybe everyone feels bad for me because I’m inching towards my late-twenties [which, I know isn't old but it sure feels old]. So tonight I have a work event that I’m looking forward to, and after that am planning on meeting up with some friends in from out of town.

Last night my honey, ahem, + I …

[honey {+honeycomb} purchased at patterson fruit farm in chesterland, oh]

… went to the most amazing restaurant: Browntrout at 4111 N. Lincoln [North Center neighborhood]. The place was perfect for a quiet date night. Dimly lit, good crowd, wonderful service, and best of all – delicious food. Browntrout has a great thing going. They specialize in sustainable, locally farmed, and organic dishes. While I don’t necessarily go out of my way to find restaurants like this, it’s always a major plus when I end up at one.

We opted to have our server pair each dish with a drink, a first for both of us. I was impressed by how well each drink and dish complimented one another; it made each bite taste even better. We shared the Pommes Frites [w/three dipping sauces incl. gruyere fondue...heaven). I had the Wild Burgundy Snails, I can't remember the name of the fish I had for dinner and it's not listed on the site.. eep.. but I think it was bass, yum, and for dessert I had the Butterscotch Creme Brulee. Vince had the Illinois Corn Risotto, Idaho Golden Trout, and Fallen Chocolate Souffle. They pretty much had to roll us out of there.

[ready to dig into the trout]

[bass {i think} w. saffron sauce]

We really enjoyed ourselves. Browntrout, we’ll surely see you again soon.

Thank you loved ones for a star-studded 26th,

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