I can’t believe that it is already snowing in Chicago! Today giant snowflakes were falling from the skies. I am resisting the urge to take my Canada Goose out of the closet – that is for when the temperatures dip below zero.
In the past couple of months I have been focused on traveling and creating Thanksgiving recipes. Thanksgiving is so early this year, I feel like it snuck up on me! I will be heading back to Maine to celebrate with my family next week – and I will be making my bourbon butterscotch pie.
Here’s what I have been up to in September, October, and November … it’s been busy …
September started off with a trip to Finland where I explored saunas, visited an allotment garden, and filmed a video with Finnair. I love Finland so much, it is as though someone combined my favorite parts of Maine and Europe.
I made it back home in time to attend a lunch hosted by Barilla were I got to meet Roger Federer and Mikaela Shiffrin. (what? pinch me!)
Then it was back home to Kennebunkport for Kelly’s wedding! It was such a fun weekend, and now that both my siblings have found their life partners, it feels like the Graham Fam is complete! (photo by Molly & Victoria)
The fall weather in Maine was so perfect that I extended my trip so that I could go apple picking. I brought exactly one apple home to Chicago.
It was lovely spending extra time with my family, and I love how uncrowded Kennebunkport is in the off season.
Less than three weeks later, I went back to Maine to celebrate my Mom’s birthday. Mom had no idea that I was flying in – or that we were throwing her a birthday party. It was so fun! Dad was in charge of inviting a bunch of their friends and we all went to a new local bowling alley. We had dinner, drinks, and cake while we attempted to bowl, some with more success than others. (I’ve linked to Jeff’s US EH shirt here).
When I returned to Chicago I spent a day touring corn and cattle farms with Illinois Farm Families. I have loved working with them and getting to meet the families who raise and grow the food that we eat.
In between farm visits, we stopped for lunch at the Lodi Tap House in a tiny town called Maple Park, Illinois. And we need to talk about the cheese curds because they are the best I have ever tasted. And I have eaten a lot fo cheese curds. The burger was top notch too. I would definitely consider driving all the way out there to eat those curds again, they are lightly fried in more of a batter as opposed to a breading, just phenomenal.
Jenny and I took another trip – we went to Traverse City, Michigan for a women’s writing retreat. I had never been to that part of Michigan, but it lived up to the rave reviews that friends have given the area over the years.
Charles and I enjoyed a relaxing staycation at the Omni Chicago – their season of smoke menu is really fun.
I went to a gin tasting hosted by Empress 1908, a gin company based in Victoria, British Columbia. They infuse the gin with butterfly pea blossoms which give it a natural indigo color. Depending on the light, the gin can either appear blue or purple. I loved the smooth flavor, you can honestly sip the gin on ice. It is also delicious in a French 75.
Sonoma County Winegrowers very kindly invited me to a wine tasting dinner at GT Prime. They wanted to spread the word that they are committed to sustainability, and that they have recovered from last year’s wildfires. The fires didn’t have a major impact on the wine industry in Sonoma since it was more of a city fire that burned residential areas. Sonoma is ready to welcome visitors – and I want to head back soon!
Charles became a US Citizen and we voted together for the first time! Then we got flu shots; it was the most responsible we have ever been.
Ashlee joined me for happy hour at Vol. 39 at The Grey Hotel. The cocktail lounge has decor reminiscent of a book filled study, and a cocktail menu that balances the classics and new creations. Food & Wine named it Chicago’s best new bar in 2017, and it is a bit of a hidden gem with a location perfect for a post-work drink.
I attended a wonderful dinner hosted by Visit Finland. The husband and wife/chef and wine director team from Ask in Helsinki came to Chicago to prepare a meal that showcased modern Finnish cuisine. The food scene in Helsinki is evolving so quickly with new restaurants opening regularly and cuisine that invents new ways to use classic local ingredients. You don’t hear too much about Finnish food in Chicago, but Helsinki is a perfect foodie destination.
Charles and I celebrated Halloween at a super hero themed party and went as 1960s Batman and Robin. And Charles learned that tights don’t actually protect your legs from the cold. He was utterly shocked to experience this.
My friend Jenn asked me to take a very last minute trip to London, so I cashed in some miles and went! I met up with a friend for dinner at Dishoom, had brunch with my cousins, and showed Jenn all around Soho. Jenn and I totally forgot to take any photos together – next time we won’t make the same mistake. (Here is a link to the striped sweater I have been living in).
Charles and I finally went to AIRE Ancient Baths and we are hooked! The candlelit space is quiet and warm, and there are a variety of pools at different temperatures, saunas, and even a float pool to explore. It’s a really relaxing a soothing way to spend an evening. After two hours of relaxation we had dinner at Dove’s Luncheonette, one of my favorite spots in the city. Dove’s has this special (which is offered on most nights) that has steak on a bed of whipped feta with corn and fried potato wedges. I love it so much that I have actually begged to have it permanently added to the menu.
I finally dined at Girl & the Goat! We feasted on goat empanadas, parmesan crusted shishito peppers, short rib, scallops, pork, and a series of desserts. The dinner was hosted by Sonoma Cutrer and we spent the night trying the winery’s Pinot Noirs. I loved getting to taste and compare one varietal from different appellations, and it helped me to understand the range of flavors that Pinot Noir can have. The Russian River Valley Pinot Noir has a smooth taste and dark fruit flavor while the Owsley Pinot Noir has spice notes. I loved them all, but they paired differently with foods. It would be fun to recreate the tasting experience at home with my girlfriends!
Lastly, an article I worked on for Travel & Leisure went live this week!