In Review: Cocello

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The Negroni became our cocktail of choice on our honeymoon. One part gin, one part sweet vermouth, one part Campari and garnished with an orange, this bitter cocktail has been a favorite of mine since I studied abroad in college. After having one for the first time in Rome, my husband declared that he would try one every night until he determined the best Negroni in Italy (verdict: a tie between The St Regis Rome & La Sireneuse in Positano).

Upon our return to home sweet home Chicago, the quest for the best Negroni continued. When our buddy JD told us that Cocello in River North had FOUR different kinds of Negroni, well, it’s all Ryan has been able to talk about when discussing restaurant resos. And since it’s owned by the group who also does Bavette’s, one of our absolute favorites, he didn’t have to twist my arm so on Saturday, we made it to Cocello.

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The cocktails were fantastic and with every dish we ordered was just better than it should have been. This regular ol’ meatball? Exploding with flavor! The marinara sauce? Perfection. The cacio e pepe and orecchiette with sausage were perfectly prepared with the pasta being perfectly al dente and, again…exceeded our expectations. Everything was just so, so good.

The restaurant itself was beautiful, cozy and classic with a relaxed, comfortable vibe. We tucked in to our table by the fireplace and had the loveliest little date. We were too stuffed to dig into dessert or their list of delicious looking after-dinner drinks but there’s always next time. And we had such a lovely meal and evening that there will definitely be a next time.

Verdict: high fives and clinking glasses all around!

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White Christmas at The Music Box Theater

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You guys.

I included it in my Chicago Christmas guide but nothing could have prepared me for the spectacle that was actually attending a showing of White Christmas at The Music Box Theater.

You have to go. Seriously. A Christmas 2015 PRIORITY.

We went at noon on Christmas Eve with my mother, excited to see a favorite movie on a special day and there were carolers as we stepped inside the door. Totally unexpected. As was the enthusiasm of everyone working there. Same with the quotes from other Christmas movies on the bar menu wall. The man taking our tickets proclaimed we were in a great section (okay?) and said he believed in me. My husband said it meant he believed in me to find our seats but I will take it as he believes in me in general.

The carolers were actually part of the Chicago Chamber Choir and took to the stage for a full performance. At the end of a rousing rendition of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” (you guessed it), SANTA CLAUS CAME TO TOWN.

 

Santa then led a singalong of every Christmas carol you have ever heard of.

All of this with an audience that was either wearing matching shirts, antlers, velvet capes (seriously) and carrying jingle bells. Which they rang every time someone in the movie said the word “Christmas”.  I look over and Ryan is engaged in a conversation with the lady wearing a light up necklace sitting next to him and it was her family’s 13th year doing this and her sister just showed up married on Thursday and couldn’t believe we didn’t bring our own bells (note to self: BYOBells next year).

Whoa.

It was such an ordeal, Christmas spirit on steroids. (Not) surprisingly, I cried so hard at the end of the movie. I have seen White Christmas a thousand times but it was to the point where we had to sit a few minutes for me to compose myself after the curtain had closed. I was just so happy. And it finally snowed in Pine Tree, Vermont.

In conclusion: when these tickets go on sale next year, buy them and go. Bring your own bells. And maybe decide on a matching group outfit.

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Link Love

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You’re never too old for Christmas jammies.

Grace Atwood and her blog Stripes & Sequins are definitely on Santa’s “nice” list this year- loving the #AsGoodAsGold guest post she did with Megan Runser.

’tis the season for bubbly…and apparently, everything we know about champagne glasses is wrong. Oh.

9 simple, not complicated tips for holiday table settings.

The Tile App is genius. There is nothing more frustrating than losing your keys/purse/etc.

Downtown Chicago during the holidays…I love seeing these old photos.

The last episode of Serial comes out tomorrow and this Funny or Die video cracked me up. Mail Kimp.

Holiday Bucket Listing

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Caroling at Cloudgate, Zoo Lights, impromptu cocktails, shopping…this weekend really took a bite out of my holiday bucket list. My family was in town to celebrate Christmas and it was such a fun mix of old traditions and new. The unseasonably warm temperatures was certainly something new; I am so used to doing our family festiveness while the biting cold hits my face! While I do love how beautiful Michigan Avenue looks covered in snow, being able to get away with wearing a blazer while running out to get one last gift for our celebration was quite a treat. And this city is just begging to be photographed in all of it’s holiday glory which was nice to be do without removing gloves every two seconds.

Still on the holiday deck: “White Christmas” viewing at The Music Box Theatre and somehow find that Santa Train. And maybe bake some cookies. If anyone has a recipe they love, please share!

Tavola Italiana at Mariano’s

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When I was studying abroad in Italy, I discovered arancini (pronounced ah-run-chee-nee). Balls of rice with meat or cheese in the middle, this was the first dish I tried recreating upon returning back to the states because I loved it so much. I had never had anything like them before and it may be safe to say that I haven’t had anything like them since because I am pretty sure my version was not right. It felt apart, I always burned it…just not right.

Fortunately, Mariano’s (my favorite grocery store in the world) is celebrating their launch of Tavola Italiana, their exclusive trade partnership with the Italian Trade Agency. In addition to selling food and beverage items imported directly from Italy, they are hosting a ton of classes and demos led by some of the best chef’s in Chicago. When I saw the Arancini making class, I knew I had to learn how to finally master this dish I had loved.

It was a blast. Chef Rich Mancini was fantastic- he so nice and the technique he showed us was the missing link for me. Terlato Wines was on hand for a wine pairing and the sweet man who played the accordion really put the experience over the top (or as my seatmate said- “the accordion is a dying art form, is it not?”). I had the nicest conversations with people who also loved Italy and had spent a lot time there so I basically came home wanting to book a one way ticket back to the motherland. Travel talk is some of my favorite talk.

Two locations of Mariano’s will be hosting events like this through the 14th. Click here to check out Bucktown’s schedule and click here to see what Ravenswood has going on. Bravo to Mariano’s for this awesome new endeavor!

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Follow That Train!

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Raise your hand if you chased down the Santa Train last night on your way to the grocery store.

Oh, that was just me? Okay.

Sitting at a stoplight on my way to restock our barren refrigerator, I spotted out of the corner of my eye the most festive El of all time and lost my mind. Sorry to everyone on the street corner who had to hear the “SANTA! TRAIN!” screams that were coming from inside my car. Basically, seeing the Santa Train is the highlight of my year and all I could think was “follow that train!”

I didn’t see it again and my straight-shot drive to Mariano’s became far detoured but it was really fun. 364 days of the year, the El makes me want to bathe in anti-disinfectant but on the day it’s the Santa Train…all aboard, Christmas people.

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Ice Skating at Millennium Park

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To make good on the one Christmas Bucket List item that seems to always go undone every year, I planned an outing last night for my work team that included ice skating at Millennium Park. I cannot, cannot, cannot believe I have never been! It felt so great to be outside, the lights of the city and twinkling from the trees bounced off the Bean so beautifully and it was a blast. It was a great team building activity and as I did a few solo spins around the rink to take it all in, I couldn’t help but think that I was in the middle of a new favorite holiday memory. I guess you should never underestimate the power of a little good, simple fun, right?

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A Guide to Christmas in Chicago

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The holiday season is here and I don’t beat around the bush in claiming that Chicago is the best city in the world to enjoy the holidays. It is just a fact. But if there is anything negative about all of the holiday awesome in our fair city it is that there is so much- how do you possibly know what is happening and when and make plans to do it?!? That’s what I am here for. Below you will find links, dates and details for all sorts of fun Chicago Christmas goodness. Mark your calendars, friends!

Tree Lighting at Daley Plaza: November 25th at 5pm

Thanksgiving Day Parade: November 27 at 8am

Christkindlmart: November 21-December 24 Sunday-Thursday 11am-8pm, Friday-Saturday 11-9pm; this German open-air market is open in the Daley Plaza to satisfy your craving for mulled wine in little boots, ornament shopping and wiener-schnitzel.

Wreathing of the Lions: November 28th at 10am the beloved Lions at the Art Institute get their traditional evergreen wreaths and following the ceremony, families are invited inside the Ryan Center to create their own wreaths, totally free.

Zoo Lights: November 28-January 4 frpm 5-9pm (check the website for specific days as it’s a bit inconsistent and you would hate to be stuck outside the gates with your spiked roadie. Or not…)

BrewLights: December 3rd from 5:30-9pm- $40 will get you a dozen holiday beer samples that you can use to keep warm while checking out the Lights.

Southport Holiday Stroll: December 5th from 5-9pm; free cocktails, shopping, sales, more free cocktails, a sleigh that acts like a bus to transport you up and down Southport (for free!), Victorian carolers and Santa & Mrs. Clause. Such a quaint experience for such a big city.

Ice Skating at The Peninsula: The “Sky Rink” opened last Saturday and sits 4 stories above Christmas-ready Michigan Avenue. Combine that with spice wine and you’ve got my kind of outdoorsy activity. Open Monday through Friday 3-8pm, Saturday 12-9pm and Sunday 12-6pm.

Ice Skating at Millennium Park: Monday-Thursday 12-8pm, Friday 12-10pm and weekends from 10am-10pm

Caroling at Cloudgate: Fridays at 6pm starting on November 28th until December 19th, choirs will lead a community singalong in front of the Bean. Mark this down as the most festive thing you could possibly do. I sang my heart out last year.

30th Annual Music Box Theatre Christmas: December 13-24th, The Music Box Theatre does showings of It’s A Wonderful Life and White Christmas. Sometimes Santa shows up and there’s a group singalong. Gosh, I love a singalong.

Kris Kringle’s Kandy Kane Ball: Festive cocktails for a cause at Joe’s on Weed on December 13th from 9pm-12am. Proceeds benefit Chicago Children’s Charities and don’t forget to bring a toy to donate at the door!

Claymas Christmas: December 21 at 9:30pm- Holiday improv. These guys are hilarious.

CTA Santa Train: November 28- December 23- check the schedule for when this hub of Christmas cheer is on your tracks. It smells like cinnamon, Santa and the reindeer are on a flatbed and the inside is covered in decorative holiday awesome. So, basically, the only time during the year when you actually want to get on the El.

Joffrey Ballet’s “The Nutcracker”: December 5-28; Joffrey is one of the best ballet companies in the world and to see them do The Nutcracker is so special.

 

Love Actually Is All Around

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One of my favorite movie scenes is in Love Actually when people are meeting their loved ones arriving at the airport. Something about the hugging and smiling and Hugh Grant saying that “if you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky suspicion that love, actually, is all around” that makes me tear up.

I have been to Midway Airport 15+ times this year to fly out for work travel; I don’t hate it but I wouldn’t exactly call it my happy place. But last night I went to pick up my best friend who was flying in from LA and I had so much fun. I was a few minutes early and was so happy to be standing at Arrivals, watching people come out. Big hugs and hellos, kisses and handshakes, going back in for that second hug…I didn’t know people actually parked cars and met people at the airport anymore and I love that they do. It was totally Love Actually last night at Midway…and then it was my turn to give my friend a huge hug and touch her belly which is growing my new best friend that will arrive in February. Pick up people from the airport is where it’s at, I tell you. A instantaneous happiness burst.

Love actually IS all around. In this season and all of them. That’s so cool to remember.