Food Guide for the Windy City

Chicago. To most, a coveted city full of fascinating and powerful people – former presidents, TV and media moguls, world class athletes. To me – up until my latest visit – just another American city, often compared to Toronto, my hometown. Because of this latter bit, I have to confess I didn’t feel the curiosity I usually feel for places I don’t know much about – if it’s always being compared to my hometown city, why bother exploring it? Well, as I discovered recently, there’s a lot to be admired about the Windy City. And yes – it does remind me of the place I grew up in, but in really fantastic ways: the people are friendly, the shopping and food is world class, and it’s a relatively clean place for being such a large metropolis. We were there in the heart of the winter so our focus was on food, with a little shopping and health and wellness mixed in. Herewith, my food guide –

Shared platters at Girl and the Goat in the West Loop, Chicago.

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Vegas Again and Again…

The Wynn/Encore sister hotels on the North end of the Vegas strip have been my go-to accommodations when staying in Sin City, dating back to seven years now and they ALWAYS deliver. For this reason, I figured I would write a blog highlighting only them. There is so much to do in Vegas, in addition to Wynn and Encore (like the burlesque/ballet show that is Crazy Horse – sooooo good!) but for this blog’s purpose, I’ll stick to the sister hotels. I’ve been there a handful of times and overall, I highly recommend them, so here it goes:

First of all, let’s establish that these two hotels are side by side, owned by the same company and essentially run as one large hotel, so for simplicity sake, just assume I’m talking about one or the other, or both, unless I specifically note otherwise.

Here are my observations on ….

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The Green Island

Sao Miguel: this somewhat hidden gem is the largest and most populous island that makes up the archipelago known as the Azores. Part of Portugal, the island is less than a 6 hour direct flight from the east coast of North America and is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts who want a little culture mixed into their travels. We spent time on this beautiful island and then flew to mainland Portugal, an itinerary I suggest for a balanced, satisfying and thrilling visit.

The city centre Ponta Delgada is made up of old architecture that you’d expect in any european city, with cobblestone filled streets and small independent hotels and bakeries. I recommend taking a day to explore the city of 45,000 but the real fun in Sao Miguel is the outdoor activities throughout the entire island. We were there to shoot an episode of my travel/fishing tv show Hookin’ Up so we were well taken care of by the local tourism board, allowing us to experience a lot in a short amount of time.

One of the dozens of breathtaking lookout points on the island of Sao Miguel, Azores.

One of the dozens of breathtaking lookout points on the island of Sao Miguel, Azores.

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Mayakoba & Playa del Carmen

I love Mexico. I’ve been to three different parts of the country and I love them all for different reasons. My newest favorite location is an area just south of Cancun, called Mayakoba, which refers to a span of about 5km of resorts and beaches along the Caribbean coastline, as well as the nearest town – Playa del Carmen.

All three luxury resorts in Mayakoba are pretty exceptional – Fairmont Mayakoba (generally the cheapest of the three and the most family friendly); Banyan Tree Mayakoba and ultimately, my absolute favorite, Rosewood Mayakoba.

One of the two main pools at the Fairmont Mayakoba.

One of the two main pools at the Fairmont Mayakoba.

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TORONTO

Writing a travel blog about the place you grew up in, is somewhat more difficult than writing about a place you just experienced because of course, you must narrow down a lifetime of living, to your top recommendations.

I don’t live in the city anymore so every time I’m back in the city, I try to get in as much food, drink and play as I can.  I’ve rounded up a good mix of long standing establishments as well as newer hots spots that are sure to add to your time in The 6 (in case you live under a rock – “the six” is the latest nickname for the city, coined by Drake.)

Taking in the sun, and the Toronto skyline.

Taking in the sun, and the Toronto skyline.

To start off, although the city is now pulsing 24/7, all year round, I still recommend coming between April and December. Basically, I’m telling you to avoid the first two to three months of the year when it can be quite cold and “brown” (like the whole eastern part of North America during this time, the trees are without leaves and the ground is grimy). That said, literally all of the things I’m recommending below are still available to you all year round so if your family reunion or work conference or vacation time is January to March, you’ll still have a great time.

 

 

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Winter Travel in Whistler, British Columbia

There are so many positive and intriguing adjectives that can be used to describe the ski/snowboard town of Whistler in British Columbia, Canada – quaint (the village), lively (the atmosphere), breathtaking and sublime (the mountains), heavenly (top of the mountains) and memorable (all of it!). This blog is almost difficult to write because it’s hard to put into words the feelings you get when you spend some time in this magical place. So – the following is a guide to making a fun visit, but you really have to get yourself there in order to truly appreciate what it has to offer (like most places I suppose, but especially so for this one).

This blog features the best things to do in the winter months, however over the years it’s established itself as a great place to adventure all year round. It’s world renowned for it’s mountain biking, and has a bunch of top notch golf courses. Stay tuned for a spring/summer/fall edition of this blog later in the year.

But for now…winter…

My friend and I having fun on Whistler mountain. The three of us were the only ones skiing/snowboarding down this run.

My friend and I having fun on Whistler mountain. The three of us were the only ones skiing/snowboarding down this run.

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Michelin Star Extravaganza in Copenhagen

The evening BEFORE our big evening at the Michelin Star restaurant, Kiin Kiin, went like this:

Local Danish friend: Hey guys, where do you want to have dinner tomorrow?

Us: Somewhere delicious, you pick.

Local Danish friend: Ok, how about Thai food? I hear there’s a really good Thai place that I’ve been wanting to try out.

Us: Sounds good.

Cut to THE evening, just a handful of buds heading out for what we assume is a casual night out, sharing some south east asian comfort food…

hhhahaha….boy (girrrrrrrl), were we wrong.

We entered Kiin Kiin, what looked to be a trendy, calming but somewhat traditional Thai restaurant, sat down in a lounge area and waited for a waiter and some menus. However, what really ensued was four and half hours (4 and 1/2 hours!!) of a kind of mindf**k, being served dish after dish of unknown and never before tried ingredients. This description kind of sounds scary, but actually it was amazing!! And interesting, and hilarious at times (hilarious, often because we would be served one of the fanciest dishes we’ve ever laid our eyes on, only to remember that a couple of hours ago, we assumed we’d be eating simple Thai food in a dingy – but awesome – traditional Thai joint).
The evening consisted of 20 dishes in total, along with a wine pairing and took place in two main rooms. These restauranteurs surely deserve their Michelin Star, as it was a unique dining experience unlike any other we’d had, and was full of really delicious dishes. Herewith, a selection of what we ate that night (description in captions):

Oysters, mussels and really pretty seashells from the seashore.

Oysters, mussels and really pretty seashells from the seashore.

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