Peace out…Chicago

Doug of Hot Doug's fame

Doug of Hot Doug's fame

I want to thank you for taking the time to follow my culinary journey in Chicago, and I hope that you enjoyed reading them as much as I enjoyed experiencing them.  I am not an adventurous eater by any means.  Actually, my palate tends to lean towards the bland side.  Let’s just say that my taste buds took a walk on the wild side over the weekend.  Turns out, Chicago is a foodie’s paradise.

In case you missed any leg of my journey, I have included a round-up of all my favorite blogs.  This Includes my candid reviews of flying for the first time with Southwest Airlines out of Atlanta, and some pictures that were on the cutting room floor.

Chicago's Hot Doug's electic decor

Chicago's Hot Doug's electic decor

Southwest Airlines customer service agents

Up in the air with Southwest

Review of Chicago’s Purple Pig restaurant

The best place to enjoy a Chicago-style hot dog IN Chicago

An evening at Chicago’s legendary Pump Room

My celebrity encounter while flying back on …

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My Only Complaint About Denver

As you’ve probably guessed, my only complaint about Mile High City isn’t a real complaint at all:

There is just too much beauty and entertainment in Denver. Ugh!

Although I feel like I covered quite a bit of ground this time around, when I return in April, I will take at least four days to:

  • Tour a measly quarter billion dollars of new museums including the Clyfford Still Museum (opened Nov. 2011) and the interactive History Colorado Center (opening April, 2012)
  • Get a sneak preview of the world’s largest elephant habitat, opening in the Denver Zoo in June. Elephants hold a special place in my heart, so April can’t get here soon enough! My sorority sisters might be a little envious, but I’ll make sure to tell them all about it!
  • Be a very, very fancy person at the Yves Saint Laurent exhibit (direct from Paris and Madrid) in its only USA showing at the Denver Art Museum.
  • Hike the world famous Red Rocks Amphitheatre and bike on Denver’s B-cycle bike sharing program …

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A Pleasant Flight Home

I truly enjoyed my return flight from Denver today. Although Southwest’s exceptional service and fun Valentine’s Day decorations contributed to my enjoyment, little Sarah Breeden and her mommy, Christina Breeden of San Diego, California, also put a smile on my face.

Screen Shot 2012-02-14 at 9.26.13 PM

Today was Sarah’s first flight, which she seemed to enjoy, at least until she dozed off about halfway through.

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While in Atlanta, Sarah will meet her cousin, who was born on the same day, for the first time. I wonder if Southwest can promise that all flights with infants and toddlers will be this pleasant. I don’t think that’s asking too much at all.

Screen Shot 2012-02-14 at 9.23.40 PM

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Why Go to Baltimore? Well, I’ll Tell Ya!

Baltimore Harbor

Baltimore Harbor

When I first was told I was going to Baltimore, the first question that came to mind was, What do I do in Baltimore?  Well, what I found out was there is a TON to do in the city and I barely got to scratch the surface on this two day visit.  Here are all the things that I didn’t get to do, but are on the top of my list for when I return (in no particular order):

  • Come back during crab season and have a true Crab Feast!
  • Go to the American Visionary Art Museum when it is open
  • Check out Canton
  • See the manuscript of the Star Spangled Banner at the Maryland Historical Society
  • Eat in Little Italy
  • Lunch at the Lexington Market
  • Spend an evening gulping beer at Brewer’s Art Brewery
  • Check out the National Aquarium
  • Grab a bite at the Sip & Bite Diner
  • See an Orioles game at Camden Yards and a Ravens game too!

I’m sure even this doesn’t cover it all either.

Baltimore is a really interesting city and I really dug getting to know it better.  It’s a town with little …

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Best Jokes by the Southwest Airlines Attendant on My Flight Back from Baltimore

One of the flight attendants on my flight back from Baltimore was HI-larious!!  I wish I had time to record his impromptu hijinks, but I did jot them down.  Here are his 3 best jokes:

  • During the safety routine: “In case we have to make a water landing… swim.”
  • “I hope you enjoy your 17 hour flight to Maui – oops!  Wrong flight.  Who want’s to go to Maui, though?”
  • While taxiing to the gate in Atlanta he sang to his Valentine, Southwest Airlines, to the tune of “Keep Your Hands to Yourself” by the Georgia Satellites.  Funny AND fitting.

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Southwest Airlines gets in the Valentine’s Day spirit in Chicago

Southwest Airlines Valentine's Day

Southwest Airlines Valentine's Day

I LOVE (pun intended) it when someone else gets as bonkers as I do about Valentine’s Day.  I had another reason to love Southwest Airlines, they bought me a Bloody Mary on my return flight.

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My farewell dinner in Chicago at The Pump Room was one to remember

The Pump Room in Chicago

The Pump Room in Chicago

Last night my cousin Justin and his girlfriend, Desiree pulled out all the stops for my finale dinner in the Windy City.  We arrived at the swank restaurant, The Pump Room located inside Chicago’s posh Public Hotel formerly the famous Ambassador East.

This legendary landmark was established in 1938, and was a popular hangout for celebrities such as Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack entourage, Bill Murray, Clark Gable, Paul Newman, and a whole gaggle of who’s who.

I immediately felt sophisticated after stepping foot through the newly-remodeled hotel lobby, as I passed under a cluster of crystal chandeliers hanging over stark-white steps leading to the bar and dining area.  It also helped that we had reserved the booth where Sinatra had spent many hours throwing back drinks, swapping stories about broads with Dean Martin, and taking calls from The Pump Room’s white rotary-dial telephone.

The Pump Room's legendary telephone

The Pump Room's legendary telephone

But Justin had one more …

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Southwest Airlines Feels the LUV on Valentine’s Day, and So Do I

SW Vday TicketSW Vday hearts

They do!

They do!

As I enter Baltimore Airport’s Southwest Airlines Terminal, I saw that they had Valentine’s Day in full effect!  Check out the ticket counter and even in the airplane!  Again, it is another way in which Southwest is different from other airlines.  They also did some special stuff on the flight this time – more on that later.

Anyway, it is hard to not feel the love (or LUV) in this kind of atmosphere and it made me want to make sure that I also spread the love today.  So, here it goes:

Happy Valentine’s Day to my beautiful and wonderful girlfriend Elissa.  I am one lucky guy to be with a woman as amazing as you are.

Love,

Me :)

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Jordan and Christine Show Me Baltimore’s Many Sides

First and Franklin Church

First and Franklin Church: 250 years of progressiveness

When I went out to Federal Hill tonight, I met up with my good friends, Jordan and Christine who I haven’t seen in years.  They joined me for dinner and then we walked around the neighborhood looking for a drink.  Unfortunately, Baltimore kind of closes down on Monday nights and the places we checked out were closed.  Tragically, this included a bar called Illusions that is all about magic and magic shows.  Maybe next time…

So, instead we just walked around Federal Hill and they drove me around the less touristy areas of the city.  The highlights of the tour included The Block, which is not our taste, but is something to see.  It is one city block dedicated to the art of adult performing arts.  It really just comes out of nowhere and is kitschy as you could imagine.  Obviously, this is for a very particular crowd, which was not us.  This was strictly a driving tour.

We ended up in Mount Vernon at a bar called …

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Max’s Taphouse and Ryleigh’s Oyster in Baltimore Bring the Goods

Max's ext

Max’s Taphouse in Fell’s Point is beer snob heaven sans the snobbery.  This place is arguably the go-to beer destination for any beer lover visiting Baltimore.  It was recommended to me by some of the commenters here as well as by a number of locals (including bartenders at other pubs!).  And despite its reputation as a beer connoisseur paradise, Max’s has a very laid back feel.

The core of this place is its 102 beers on tap and the longest bottle list I have ever seen.  The bartender, Mike, a living beer encyclopedia, could tell me anything I needed to know about all the choices.  And for all you beer snobs out there, every President’s Day Weekend, Max’s hold a Belgian Beerfest that they take weeks to prep and stock for.  They have 100 Belgians on tap and over 200 bottles.  It is no joke.  Oh if I could stay for 5 more days!

Federal Hill is one of the older neighborhoods of Baltimore and is a food and nightlife hotspot.  It is undeniably Baltimorian.  …

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