Tag Archives: chicago

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.

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 – November Recap Part 2

As I mentioned in my last post (read about it here), November was so busy that I had to split up my post into two parts. Here’s Part 2:

'Chocolate At The Pen' Dessert Bar

‘Chocolate At The Pen’ Dessert Bar

Chocolate at The Pen– I love that The Peninsula always has something exciting planned up their sleeve. From the awesome soiree this summer, to the Mid-Autumn Festival in September and more recently, the ‘Celebrate Chicago’ menu that highlighted some of the best dishes of Chicago at all Peninsula properties around the world, there is never a dull moment at this fabulous place. And, now with the holidays The Peninsula is definitely worth a visit to see all the beautiful decorations, indulge in the special holiday afternoon tea and to show off your skills at the outdoor ice skating rink on the terrace.  I recently spent one of the most fabulous evenings ever at The Peninsula here in Chicago. The evening started off with a drink at The Bar (that’s what it’s called!), to an absolutely wonderful dinner in the open area called The Lobby, finished off by the famous ‘Chocolate at The Pen‘ for dessert. If you haven’t heard about this, it’s a MUST try (this extravagant chocolate dessert bar is available every Friday and Saturday evening). Think of the most beautifully presented mini desserts, a hot chocolate bar, an endless selection of specialty chocolates and truffles, ice cream, macarons, fondue and the list goes on. Pretty much anything you can imagine that can be created with chocolate is there. I actually spent more than 15 minutes just scoping out all the options because I was so blown away by all the options and couldn’t decide. It’s a chocolate lover’s paradise and is something that should be on everyone’s bucket list. Oh, and the string duo of musicians that played pop music all evening, including artists like Lady Gaga, Tove Lo and Madonna to a name a few, were literally the cherry on top. Great live music and an exquisite chocolate dessert buffet? Best. Night. Ever!

Atout France Press Event At Everest Restaurant

Atout France Press Event At Everest Restaurant

Atout France– Thanks to my dear friend Ashley Gilday, I was able to take her spot (since she was unable to attend) at a press event on tourism to France. The event was held at the highly reputed Everest Restaurant, so discussions about travel were ensued over an elegant meal. Hello, could this be more up my alley? (As a side note, this event was scheduled well in advance of the recent terror attacks on Paris, and while the group actually considered canceling the press event out of respect to those that lost their lives, they decided to proceed with the event with a reminder that “we can not let the terrorists win”). After a moment of silence to honor those affected, we proceeded with an amazing three-course meal as we learned about events planned for 2016 in France. In addition, we watched stunning videos that captured and highlighted different areas and attractions around the beautiful country (and made me realize I have a lot left to explore in France). Rail Europe was also present to help showcase train travel within France as well as connections to other countries around Europe. By the end of this event, I was ready to head straight to O’hare airport and buy the first airline ticket available to France. Never put it past me.

Private Dinner Hosted By Radish

Private Dinner Hosted By Radish

Radish Healthy Meal Delivery I don’t know about you, but I think one of the coolest things I’m seeing in our world today is the intersection between food and technology. It truly amazes me on a daily basis how we have access to pretty much anything we could want, all right at our fingertips through our smartphones. One of the newest innovations to hit the Chicago market is an awesome, healthy meal delivery service called Radish. Each day there are freshly prepared dishes, all ranging between $3-$4 each (you choose 3 dishes per meal delivered), with beautiful photos, ingredients and nutritional information listed right in the app. All of those things are appealing, but here is the best part; if you live within the delivery zone, your meal will arrive to you in less than 20 minutes! That’s amazing. I tried out the service and my food came in less than 10 minutes, which I was truly blown away by. Not only that, I absolutely love that every evening there are always at least three or four vegetarian and/or vegan options to choose from. On the evening I tried out Radish, I got a delicious and hot vegetarian burrito bowl, a beet salad with avocado sauce and a Greek quinoa salad. Fresh, healthy, delicious and delivered right to my door. If you would like to try Radish, download the app on your smartphone and use the code vegtourist to get $10 off your first meal! That’s actually one free meal in which you can try 3 different dishes. What’s there to think about? Try it out!

Squashfest Hosted By The Chicago Reader

Squashfest Hosted By The Chicago Reader

Squashfest– You all know I love the show Top Chef, so it should come as no surprise that when I was invited to a Top Chef style event, it was an immediate “yes” for me! Hosted by the Chicago Reader, Squashfest took place at the restaurant State and Lake at The Wit Hotel and the theme of the night was squash (duh). Each restaurant had to prepare one savory and one sweet item from squash and then we the attendees had the opportunity to vote on our favorite from each category. Now, usually at these types of events I don’t get to sample many of the options because they can not be prepared vegetarian. But, this event was awesome because many of the dishes were either already vegetarian, or very easily could have the meat omitted. My kind of event!! Besides, it truly felt like the show Top Chef because each chef was there preparing and plating for the guests while they were trying to vie for our vote. So much fun and I always love bringing out my inner Padma Lakshmi as I critique and rate dishes.

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