Story by Carol Stigger
Photography by Carol Steigger, Lookingglass Theater, Driehaus Museum, Manos Angelakis


Chicago Reflections

Cozy in Chicago
in Winter?

Snow, cold, and hat hair are the typical Chicago winter experience. But my sister and I grew up here. How bad could it be, we mused on an autumn afternoon as we planned our Chicago winter getaway.

“Unfortunate,” was our understated response to the weather forecast. We are no longer teens who love to ski.  We are grandmothers who walk carefully in sensible shoes. “Silk long underwear,” my sister advised. “Lumavera facial care stuff,” I added, thinking the weather would put my latest find in anti-aging facial creams to the test.

Chicago Suite Livingroom

Fortunately, we had reservations at BridgeStreet on State and Grand. BridgeStreet is a collection of short-term rental luxury apartments. Arriving cold and windblasted, it was lovely to settle into our suite on the 27th floor. Floor to ceiling glass encloses three walls of the living room, and the complete kitchen includes a good corkscrew and bread knife. Both bedrooms have bathrooms with floor to ceiling luminescent walls, giving a spacious feeling to already spacious rooms. Free wifi and access to the adjoining Hotel Palomar’s spa and pool are additional amenities.

We felt surprisingly cozy, but our agenda needed serious readjusting  to avoid frostbite.  We’d both visited the Museum of Natural History and the Science and Industry Museum as students, mothers, and grandmothers. We decided to focus on the River North neighborhood where we were located, saving the Art Institute and Russian Tea Room for a warmer time.

Chicago Eataly Espresso and sweet

Meals on Heels

River North has the largest concentration of art galleries in the U.S. outside of Manhattan, but our focus that day was artisan food. The recently opened Eataly is just two blocks from BridgeStreeet, and offers all the flavors of Italy. This two-story edible Italy offers every flavor of Italy you can imagine. Not your typical ambiance, with white walls and ample open spaces, but all the products are imported.

We started at the coffee bar with espresso and warm-from-the-oven cookies. We moved on to the Nutella bar and purchased pastries stuffed with Nutella for breakfast the next morning. The gelato bar offered tempting treats, but we decided to save that indulgence for  Spring. Upstairs, the wine selection was overwhelming, but we agreed on a white wine from the vineyards of Umbria, which we had last enjoyed on a rooftop terrace in Assisi.

We ordered pizza topped with ricotta cheese, yellow squash, and basil. It was our only cold dish of the trip, and the combination of flavors suggested that summer would arrive eventually.

We finished stocking our kitchen with Salumeria Biellese cold cuts and Giolito cheeses from the Piedmont region, walnut bread from the bakery, and fresh fruit. A delightful find, aside from the irresistible Venchi chocolates, was herbal soaps, creams, and perfumes from Florence’s Santa Maria Novella pharmacy, founded in the 1200s and made famous by Catherine de’ Medici during the Renaissance.

After spending the afternoon in “Italy,’ we opted for the Sable Kitchen and Bar, which is connected to BridgeStreet.  Sable turned out to be a gastro lounge combining l940’s glamour with modern touches.  Its 40- foot bar is one of the largest in Chicago, and mixing stations are highlighted with quartz light boxes. Worth a visit if only for the ambiance, but we were delighted after our long day to learn that we could order from the menu and have the luxury of eating in our suite.

Later, while Lumavera age-defying serum repaired the day’s damage and we were snuggled in our robes, Sable delivered our order of veal meatballs in a gorgonzola-walnut cheese sauce, plump potato and cheese pierogi with caramelized onions and sour cream, and the ultimate in comfort food: baked mac and cheese -- but Mom’s was never made like this, with cheddar, gruyere, cream cheese and taleggio.

Cozy took on a dimension never imagined in our ice skating days. From the 27th floor, we watched the blinking lights of State Street and snow swirling  around us as we enjoyed some of Chicago’s finest food in our elegant, warm, quiet room.

Chicago Tiffany Lamp

Chicago Gilded and Glossed

The next morning we walked three blocks to the Driehaus Museum for a guided tour of Chicago’s grandest mansion preserved from the Gilded Age and renovated by Chicago investor and philanthropist Richard Driehaus.  He added one of the world’s largest collections of Tiffany glass and selections from his private art collection. This three-story mansion was constructed in 1879, and some original furnishings remain. The rooms are conservatively furnished with period pieces, artifacts from the 1893 World’s Colombian Exposition, and explosions of Tiffany glass. 

Among its many treasures are the original oak dining room table that holds a Tiffany silver punch bowl first exhibited at the 1893 fair. Iridescent Tiffany goblets glow on a hand-carved wooden sideboard. Upstairs, a 1910 Tiffany lamp made of nautilus shells and amber is one-of-a-kind. Sold for $550, it is priceless now. A brief tour of the servants’ quarters brings one back to reality, but with a gladness for artists such as Tiffany who give us vibrant  images that last a lifetime.

Chicago Street Car

Our next stop was the nearby Chicago History Museum celebrating its 150th Anniversary of displaying Chicago artifacts and historical documents. Now a modern, expertly curated museum, visitors can see Chicago emerging from a fort to a world class city through dioramas that include the infamous fire of 1871. (No, it was not started by Mrs. O’Leary’s cow, although her barn was the first building consumed by the conflagration that killed three hundred and left 100,000 homeless.) Highlights include the original “L” train, Chicago sports memorabilia, items salvaged from the fire, a jazz club, and fashions, appliances, and toys from Chicago’s historical storefronts. The museum provides the definitive description of the Chicago-style hot dog:  yellow mustard, onions, pickle relish, tomato wedges, hot peppers, celery salt, and a kosher pickle piled on a poppy-seed bun.

Chicago Little Prince and pilot

Through the Looking Glass

We did not eat hot dogs. We enjoyed an ensuite dinner of Italian salami, cheese, bread, and wine before attending a performance of France’s most beloved story, Le Petit Prince, at the Lookingglass Theater.

The theater is inside Chicago’s historic Water Tower, and getting to the theater requires a walk past huge water pipes and gears. After this industrial-age stroll, the theater lobby is intimate and welcoming. The seating and stage are configured differently for shows according to the most esthetic presentation. Le Petit Prince included a toy plane soaring over the audience, bubbles and balls popping and bouncing around the room, and actors hovering over the audience in their personal planets constructed of iron balls.  The performance was true to the story with creative presentations of the Prince’s rose and his fox.

For my sister and me, the performance evoked memories of our mother reading the story while we snuggled in our beds -- a fitting finale to a cozy Chicago visit -- in winter.


With thanks to Bridgestreet Residences

Lookingglass Theater

Driehaus Museum




© February 2014 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.