Category Archives: US

Vacation For You, Staycation For Me

I always love finding hidden gems in Chicago and sharing them with you. My latest discovery is Hotel Cass in the heart of River North in downtown Chicago, right off the Magnificent Mile. This quaint, adorable hotel is literally in the middle of all the action in terms of restaurants, bars and shopping. It’s truly a tourist’s paradise, and also quite affordable compared to other hotels in the area.

Hotel Cass Downtown Chicago

Hotel Cass Downtown Chicago

I had the chance to do a mini-staycation with my cousin Jigisha and we had an absolute blast staying at Hotel Cass. The cute decor, friendly staff and amazing location made our stay so fun and so memorable. There is also a hot breakfast buffet included and we were impressed at the number of options, especially being vegetarian! Here are some pictures from our stay:

Checking In At Hotel Cass

Checking In At Hotel Cass

Quaint Hotel Cass Lobby

Quaint Hotel Cass Lobby

Hotel Cass Lobby Hallway

Hotel Cass Lobby Hallway

Hotel Cass King Room

Hotel Cass King Room

Hotel Cass Bathroom

Hotel Cass Bathroom

Jigisha And I At Hotel Cass

Jigisha And I At Hotel Cass

Hotel Cass Hot Breakfast

Hotel Cass Hot Breakfast

View From Hotel Cass Doorstep

View From Hotel Cass Doorstep

If you find yourself staying at the hotel, might I suggest some of my personal favorite locations in the area to grab a bite to eat or a drink for the evening. Each one of these spots is less than 2 blocks from Hotel Cass:

So, I guess I’ve pretty much helped plan your entire stay. You’re welcome (ha ha)! Let me know how your stay goes and which restaurant/bar recommendations you liked best.

 

Please Note: While I was invited to stay at Hotel Cass, all opinions are my own.

Just Another Wednesday Night With Flo Rida

If you follow me on Instagram, you already know that I have been collaborating with Hyatt Centric to showcase my favorite things to see/eat/do around Chicago. It has been so fun to share some of my favorite gems around the city and see my followers take my recommendations!

This past week, I had the honor of attending an exclusive performance by musical artist Flo Rida at the Hyatt Centric’s newest location right off Michigan Avenue. It was a fun way to promote the newly converted property (called The Hyatt Centric Magnificent Mile) along with local radio station 103.5 KISS FM.

Flo Rida Concert

Flo Rida Concert

Unless you already know me, you probably don’t know that I am a HUGE Flo Rida fan. I absolutely love his catchy songs and have actually been requesting them quite consistently over the past two years at my Flywheel and Peloton cycling classes (just ask my favorite teacher Erin about this). So, you can imagine that I literally let out a scream when the Hyatt Centric team emailed me and not only asked me to attend Flo Rida’s performance, but also come up on stage with famed DJs Fred and Angi from 103.5 KISS FM and announce this year’s Hyatt Centric Explorer Contest winners. It was truly a “pinch-me” kind of moment.

On Stage To Announce Contest Winners With Fred And Angi From 103.5 KISS FM

On Stage To Announce Contest Winners With Fred And Angi From 103.5 KISS FM

The absolute cherry on top was that I was able to bring Erin as my guest for what turned out to be one of the best nights EVER. I jokingly told Erin that it was payback for all those times she obliged (maybe begrudgingly) and played all my Flo Rida song requests at class. She’s an amazing friend and I feel like my world came full circle to have her by my side as we danced and sang in the front row at Flo Rida’s awesome performance.

Here’s my Instastory from Instagram that evening. Just a little snippet of a truly special night that I will never, ever forget. Thank you Hyatt Centric!

 

 

Chicago Happenings- November Recap

What a fun month for me, I tried an exciting list of places I had never been before. Not all of these places are new, but most of them are, so it was awesome to go to some new hot spots. Either way, I consider this #winning. Read on:

True Food Kitchen

True Food Kitchen

True Food Kitchen– I have been anxiously awaiting the opening of this restaurant focused on healthy eating with many vegetarian and vegan options. My friend Mamta told me about this place when it was announced it would be opening in Chicago and I couldn’t wait to check it out. I was fortunate to attend an opening party one night and go to dinner a separate night, all before the restaurant even opened to the public on November 22nd. And, let me tell you, this place is AMAZING! If you are vegetarian, vegan and/or gluten-free (or even if you are none of those), I promise you will be just as addicted to this place as I was. Literally, every single item I have tried has been a winner. I don’t come across many restaurants that I feel this way about, but I can honestly say that True Food Kitchen is going to be my second home. For reals. Just you wait and see. Now, let me get back to the unbelievable tofu lettuce wraps. Yum!

Max & Leo's Pizza

Max & Leo’s Pizza

Max & Leo’s Pizza– Located in the entrance of the awesome King’s Bowl is the famous Boston pizza joint, Max & Leo’s. Baking artisan coal-fired pizzas in a special oven that gets up to 900 degrees, this pizza is truly delicious. I had the chance to try several veggie pizzas and each was delicious in its own way. But, it always came back to that amazing crust! You can definitely taste the freshness and difference in these pizzas. One of my favorites of the evening was the L’Umina (made vegetarian without prosciutto) that had olive oil, sliced pears, caramelized onions, ricotta cheese and basil, drizzled with organic wildflower honey. And since you know I’m obsessed with pears, it’s kind of obvious that this would be a favorite. I loved the addition of the ricotta and honey, which you don’t normally see on menus, so it was nice to find something unique and so tasty. Trust me on this one, if you are craving pizza, get to Max & Leo’s ASAP. I promise you won’t be sorry.

The Little Beet Table

The Little Beet Table

The Little Beet Table– This new restaurant is pretty much any dietary restriction person’s paradise. Not only is this gem also “vegetable forward,” it’s also 100% gluten-free. And, more than any of that, it is absolutely delicious. What I truly appreciated about this great spot is that I tried vegetarian items I’ve never tried before like sweet pea guacamole and cauliflower hummus. I truly appreciated having vegetables prepared in unique but yummy ways. I also need to acknowledge their great drink menu and I totally fell in love with the spicy grapefruit margarita. I always get my spicy drinks made extra spicy, and the bartender totally delivered on it. It was such a hit, that 5 out of 8 diners at our table ordered the same drink on our second round. I like having that kind of influence! ha ha. Definitely try The Little Beet Table and don’t forget to get that margarita!

Studio Three Cafe

Studio Three Cafe

Studio Three Cafe– Aside from my actual home and my workplace, my “other” home I would declare is Studio Three. This beautiful, new-ish (just one year old), fitness studio located in River North offers cycling, interval and yoga classes. It is hands-down the best fitness studio I have been to and I absolutely love it. A new cafe recently opened on the first floor offering everything from wraps, bowls, juices, smoothies and so much more. After an awesome Saturday morning sweat session in the Peloton cycling studio, I stopped by the cafe to try some of their delicious offerings and I was really impressed. My absolute favorite was the tofu burrito which had seasoned tofu, black beans and cilantro. So simple, yet so tasty and perfect to fuel up after an intense workout. I also really enjoyed their new line of fresh, cold-pressed juices. Seriously, you can’t go wrong with any of the options to help you refuel in a healthy way after a great workout. Now, who is ready to join me for a class?

Floriole

Floriole

Floriole– Sometimes there are places that you have heard great things about, but just never had the chance to make it to. Floriole was one of those places for me. Luckily, I finally got to cross it off my list. One awesome event this Lincoln Park bakery offers is called the ‘Sunday Supper Series’, where a three-course dinner is offered one Sunday out of the month. I was super lucky to get to try out “Friendsgiving” for the month of November and was seriously blown away. We started off with a delicious squash soup, followed by a winter root vegetable gratin, mushroom cornbread muffin and fresh Brussels sprout salad (turkey was offered up for the meat-eaters) and finished up with a choice of gingerbread pumpkin tart or pecan pie cake. I mean, doesn’t that all sound unbelievable? It was. I can’t wait to see the menu for the December supper as I’m sure I will be going back.

 

Please Note: While I was invited to visit these establishments, all opinions are my own.

 

Chicago’s Best Fitness Instructors

Veggie Food. Workout. Travel. Repeat.

Has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

That first line sums me up pretty well. You already know great vegetarian food and travel are two of my biggest passions. And, in order to indulge here and there and feel good, I gotta get my booty to the gym.

Two years ago I joined Flywheel (indoor cycling classes) and one of the greatest by-products has been meeting some of the best of the best in the fitness industry. Seriously, the cream of the crop. These fine folks are motivators, passionate, hard-working and most of all, FUN! And, the absolute cherry on top is that I can now call each one of these amazing people my friends. It’s really because of each one of these rock stars that I even show up to workout and work hard at that.

In no particular order, I present to you my favorite fitness instructors in Chicago and which studio you can find them at (many teach at other studios as well):

Erin Schirack (photo: Studio Three)

Erin Schirack (photo: Studio Three)

Erin Schirack at Studio Three– I’m pretty sure Erin and I had an instant friendship from the first time I took her Tuesday morning Flywheel class. I just remember absolutely loving her energy, dance moves and the fun she brought to each class. But, there was something more to her that I picked up on as I became a regular; it was her aura and inspiration on that bike. It’s actually kind of tough to pinpoint and describe, but there was just something about her that was so engaging, it was hard not to become her groupie. Erin now teaches Peloton spin classes at Studio Three, and has somewhat of a limited schedule since she moved to Michigan. She does come back every other week or so to teach here in Chicago and I literally stalk the schedule in advance to make sure I’ll be able to make it to her classes; yes, I’m a little crazy like that. Take her class and you’ll understand why.

Will Haley (photo: Flywheel)

Will Haley (photo: Flywheel)

Will Haley at Flywheel– I knew from my first class with Will that he was going to be a favorite purely based on the songs from his playlist. We definitely like the same kind of music and that for me is a huge motivator when it comes to any kind of group fitness class. It really does boil down to both the instructor AND the music. But, what I also really liked about Will is that he keeps you on your toes. On many occasion I’ve found myself in a focused zone with Will’s insightful messages about being true to yourself or winning at your own game, and then Will blurts out something so random and hilarious, I’m literally cracking up out of no where. He’s got a great sense of humor but keeps it real while getting you to give it your all on that bike. It’s truly never a dull moment with Will around, so sign up for his class and see for yourself.

Angie Starz (photo: Yoga Six)

Angie Starz (photo: Yoga Six)

Angie Starz at Yoga Six– I’m including Angie on this list even though I didn’t meet her through Flywheel (I actually met Angie at a rooftop yoga class through the Trump Health Club almost two years ago). We’ve bumped into each other now and again, but I was super excited when I was offered to come try out Yoga Six and Angie was one of the instructors there. In case you didn’t already know, not all yoga instructors are created equal. And, I personally think Angie is one of the best yoga teachers I have come across in a long time…dare I say ever?! Her calm demeanor, awesome energy and all-around fantastic classes are a testament to her practice of yoga and teaching. Not to mention that every class I have ever attended of hers is always jam-packed. Word has definitely gotten out about how amazing she is. And here’s a fun tidbit; Angie teaches special yoga classes and workshops, for example, at the top of the John Hancock building, 94 floors above the city or at the beach of Lake Michigan. Check out Yoga Six to see what special workshops she’s teaching and make sure you attend; I promise you won’t be sorry.

Alicia Miller (photo: Flywheel)

Alicia Miller (photo: Flywheel)

Alicia Miller at Flywheel– Alicia just rocks. It’s as simple as that. Alicia is also one of the nicest, most laid-back people I know and she’s got such a great spirit. I have brought many friends (and even my brother) to her classes and every single person has loved it. Alicia is truly a master at Flywheel and very well-respected within the community. I’m so bummed to say that Alicia is leaving us here in Chicago and moving to Seattle in December where she will continue her legacy with Flywheel. My best friend just happens to live in Seattle, so I know I will be taking Alicia’s classes when I visit. You have less than two weeks left to ride with Alicia here in Chicago, otherwise, make sure to scope her out if you find yourself in Seattle.

Gideon Akande (photo: Studio Three)

Gideon Akande (photo: Studio Three)

Gideon Akande at Studio Three– I’m fairly certain that Gideon does not sleep. Here’s my understanding of some of the things he does; teach spin and HIIT (high-intensity interval training) classes at Studio Three, lead boot camp classes in the park, was named Men’s Health Next Top Trainer and released Riptensity (an at-home workout series on DVD that Gideon created and led), is a fitness expert on TV shows as well as hosting workshops around the city. How does he do it all? No, seriously, how does he do it?! I mean, I’m excited when I get one workout in for the day…ha ha.  That list truly sums up the dedication Gideon has to helping others and his passion for fitness. He is such a kind-hearted person and just a true champion all-around. I haven’t tried his boot camp classes yet, but maybe that will be my next endeavor to switch things up. Truthfully, I’m a little scared, but know I’ll be in good hands with Gideon leading the way.

Candy Morales (photo: Flywheel)

Candy Morales (photo: Flywheel)

Candy Morales at Trump Health Club– I first met Candy at Flywheel (where she is still an instructor), but more recently have begun personal training sessions with her. I knew how intense she was in the Flywheel studio, so I won’t lie, I was beyond freaked out for our first training session together. But, here’s the thing I did not expect; to be laughing the entire hour while working hard, and more so, being truly inspired as Candy told me about her own personal fitness journey. Sometimes you look at these strong, dedicated instructors and think they were just born like that. But, Candy revealed how she poured her blood, sweat and tears into getting to where she is today and I was truly touched by her story. And, don’t think because we had such a fun time in our training session that it was a breeze in the park; I pretty much couldn’t walk the next three days. Instead of being mad or sad about it, it was a reminder that I need to switch up my game and get more strength training in throughout the week. The good news is that now when I train with Candy, I’m not sore anymore the next day and I can feel I’m getting stronger each time. Ready to train with Candy (the answer is yes)?

Dani Muckley (photo: Studio Three)

Dani Muckley (photo: Studio Three)

Dani Muckley at Studio Three– Dani will always hold a special place in my heart because it was at her Flywheel class that I achieved my best PR (personal record). It was less about my score as much as it was achieving something greater than myself and seeing my improvement week after week on that bike. But, I know I could not have done any of that without the coaching and guidance of Dani (and all the other instructors along the way). I still take spin classes with Dani at Studio Three and I have yet to attend one of her HIIT classes. I know Dani will give me a run for my money while I’m on that row machine and treadmill, but if she could help me achieve such success on a bike, I know she will get me to another level of fitness trying out something different. I’m ready for the challenge! Who wants to join me at Dani’s HIIT class?

There you have it. If you are looking to change-up your workout routine or are just looking for some of the best instructors in Chicago, then I hope I have helped steer you in the right direction.

 

P.S. This post was not sponsored in any way. I wrote this to share my thoughts on the best fitness instructors in Chicago, but also purely out of my gratitude to these unbelievable people who help me every single week in ways words can’t describe.

Chicago Happenings – October Recap

I was out-of-town on a 10-day trip to Nashville and DC this month, yet I still had the chance to try out some awesome places and attend cool events. Read on:

Kings Bowl Lincoln Park

Kings Bowl Lincoln Park

Kings Bowl– Ok guys, this place is awesome and a must-visit!  What I thought was probably just a standard, run-of-the-mill bowling alley, turned out to be an ultra-hip, fun, foodie destination. Most bowling alleys I’ve been to serve seemingly regular bar food, but Kings Bowl offers an elevated, delicious and long menu of options that were outstanding. Even for this veggie girl, there were so many choices, which was so unexpected. I was really impressed with the variety and uniqueness with options like the kung pao fried cauliflower appetizer to the Mediterranean sampler platter to the mac ‘n cheese bites, all of which were vegetarian. And, make sure to save room for dessert like the ridiculously huge Peanut Butter Cup Sundae which has vanilla ice cream topped with warm peanut butter sauce, chocolate sauce and mini peanut butter cups.  We jokingly asked if we could spend the night because we were too full to move. Ok, maybe we weren’t joking. All I know is that next time I visit Kings Bowl, I will bowl first and then eat because I’m 100% sure I will be indulging in all of their amazing culinary options and will probably be too full to move again.

Taco In A Bag

Taco In A Bag

A Taste For Change– I was honored to be asked to join the host committee to help promote the Shriver Center’s benefit, A Taste For Change. This wonderful organization aids in advancing justice and opportunity for people living in poverty and I was happy to help support such a great cause. The evening was held at an awesome space called Salvage One, which is a very unique event space in Fulton Market District. There were over 20 local restaurants serving up some unbelievable bites ranging from Piece Pizza to Heaven on Seven to Bang Bang Pie. One of my favorites of the night was Taco in a Bag which served a little different spin on their Reverse Coney option. This one had tortilla chips topped with three bean coney sauce, pepper jack cheese, yellow mustard cream sauce, green onions and oyster crackers. So yummy and I definitely need to go check out Taco In a Bag’s storefront in Lincoln Square.

Patisserie Coralie Evanston

Patisserie Coralie Evanston

Evanston Food Tour– Being the foodie that I am, you probably won’t believe me when I tell you that I’ve actually never been on a food tour before. I know, shocking, right?! Thank goodness that has finally changed. Thanks to my friend Soo of Fab Food Chicago, I got to join several other foodie friends for an awesome evening in Evanston trying out local establishments. We visited Cupitol Coffee & Eatery, Taco Diablo, Patisserie Coralie, Found and Whiskey Thief Tavern. Soo mentioned to all of us at the beginning of the food tour to pace ourselves at each place since we were going to be sampling a lot. Of course I did not listen and was pretty much stuffed after the stop #2 at Taco Diablo, and we still had three more places to go! And then we got to Patisserie Coralie and I discovered probably the BEST pain au chocolat I’ve ever had in the Chicagoland area and everything was a blur after that. I literally could not stop eating that amazing chocolate croissant in all of its flaky, buttery goodness. It was so good that I brought one home to eat the next morning for breakfast and I safeguarded that pastry the rest of the evening like it was my child or something. I was admittedly a little ridiculous, but seriously, once you try one of these croissants, you’ll fully understand my crazy that came out. Don’t underestimate Evanston, there are some unbelievable eats to be found. Now go get that chocolate croissant ASAP.

Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba

Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba

Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba– One of the first restaurants I ever went to in Chicago was Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba. In addition to it’s absolutely delicious Spanish tapas and sangria, this place will always hold a special place in my heart. I’m a little embarrassed to say that I didn’t even know they offered brunch. But, now that I know, I’ll be back, and often at that. Thanks to Anna de Codorniu sparkling wine, I had the chance to experience a yummy brunch paired with cava. I mean really, does it get better than that? I think not! And, I just have to give a special shout out to Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba’s short stack of pancakes. First of all, they are the cutest little silver dollar pancakes ever. Secondly, they were warm, fluffy and already doused in maple syrup. Thirdly, the mini stack is only $2.  That’s less than a cup of coffee anywhere these days! I actually can not disclose how many orders of these amazing pancakes we had, but let’s just say, it was A LOT. And every time the waitress walked by, we put in another order. Maybe you can ballpark the number now.

Malice In Wonderland At Vertigo

Malice In Wonderland At Vertigo

‘Malice In Wonderland’ at the dana hotel– Every since I was a kid, I have loved Halloween. It’s actually very nostalgic for me because my parents would switch off each year on who took me out trick-or-treating and then to my school Halloween party, and who stayed at home to hand out candy to the trick-or-treaters. Now as an adult, I carry on my Halloween tradition, but in a very different way (ha ha)! This year I had the privilege of attending an unbelievable party at Vertigo at the dana hotel. From the second you walked into the first floor entrance of Vertigo, you were transformed into the world of Alice in Wonderland, being greeted by Alice herself with a welcome drink, traveling down the rabbit hole and encountering other characters from the story, even the Mad Hatter himself. I was beyond impressed with the decorations, all the dressed up characters and more so, the unbelievable tea party that awaited us. Mini sandwiches cut into the shapes of a suit of cards, pastries made into actual cards, beautifully decorated cake pops and so much more. Not to mention the pristine tea sets with perfect tea cups. Let’s just say, #mindblown! Vertigo always knows how to throw some great parties, but I’m not sure how they will top this one (although I’m sure they will figure out a way)! Maybe next year I’ll pay back my parents for all those years they took me out on Halloween and I’ll take them to the amazing party that awaits at Vertigo. I feel like I owe them for their commitment to making all of my Halloweens so memorable.

 

Please Note: While I was invited to these events, all opinions are my own.