champagne, cheval, chicago

Oh hi! I missed you! 

Not going to lie, stepping away for a little bit was a beautiful feeling. I've been so crazy-busy and on-the-go lately! Moving, weddings, friends in town, and now packing and prepping for a European has been frantic in the best and worst of ways. Given that I finally have a little space to breathe again, let's hit rewind to a couple weeks ago for Jonathan's graduation! 

Mom, Dad and I hit the road at the ungodly hour of 5am the Thursday before Jonathan's weekend festivities, with the plan to spend the afternoon and stay overnight in Chicago! I was crazy excited - Chicago's one of my favorite cities and is home to many of my very favorite people! That said, coop me up in a car with nothing to do but work for six hours, and you get a lot of this... 

Clearly I missed my calling to be a Snapchat Emoji artist. Slash this is just the first of many that I sent to my patient, long-suffering group of favorites. Thanks for not blocking me, know who you are :) 

We pulled into Chicago a little after 1 and checked into the Palmer House, which I am convinced is heaven on Earth. That ceiling! Will never get old. 

After a little room-shuffling and some much-needed freshening up, we did what Schwegmans do best and hit the lobby bar to start the afternoon right...with champagne. 

Or, if you're Papa Bear, a classic Manhattan. 

Hilarity ensued with various luminaries of the Chicago legal sector, and as soon as we were sufficiently bubblied up, we headed out to hit the town! 

Our first stop was the Art Institute, where I totally thought we were actually going to go in and, you know, look at the art. Little did I know that Dad's preferred method of visiting the Art Institute is to begin and end in the gift shop, with a nice interlude of more gift shop in the middle. Really, I should've guessed, ha! I was appalled for about 30 seconds before we all agreed that it was way too nice out to spend the day indoors. With that, we headed a few blocks up to the Park for an obligatory stop at the Bean. 

This is candid, and I'm obsessed with my precious, totally in love parents. 

The photo below may be one of my all-time favorite photos of my dad and me. He proceeded to make jokes about the bean-counters at the Bean, and I laughed because a: we are ridiculous and b: I always laugh at my dad's total dad-jokes. 

Strolling up Michigan Avenue with a stop to revisit one of my favorite quotes and admire the various rock/stone chunks at the Tribune building...

...and pausing to admire the tulips, which were at their peak the weekend we were there. I absolutely adored the different colors and how gorgeous it made the entire stretch of Michigan look! Apparently New York does it with daffodils, which in my book would be even better because they are, obviously, my undisputed favorite. 

Water Tower Place's drifts of white tulips, for example, made me incredibly happy. As did the blue skies, sunshine and warmth...our last dose of seasonally-appropriate weather for the entire weekend! 

There were various other stops made...a bathroom break at Michael Jordan's bar, a chocolate binge (on Dad's part) at Ghirardelli, and a little window-shopping at Gold Coast Motors...but we had our priorities straight and soon hopped a cab to the day's real destination...

I've been hearing about how amazing Au Cheval's burgers are for literal years, and we decided to make it a must-stop on our trip! We arrived around 5pm to, as we had been warned to expect, an hour wait. No worries here...we quickly topped up our champagne buzz and enjoyed the people-watching at Haymarket Brewery (which I visited with Laura last June!). 

Speaking of Laura......!!!!!

My beloved life coach and dear friend has continued to be completely the best this year - she's leveraged her standing as a total rockstar to try to help Jonny get in with her company, she's talked me off more ledges than I could possibly enumerate here, and she's kept me inundated with a steady stream of precious puppy pics and moving commiseration. Who better to house a burger with? Bonus: this was the first time she really got to meet my parents...the Frozen Four in 2011 totally doesn't count. Unsurprisingly, they adored her, because the Schwegfam knows good people when we find them, and Laura is GOOD people. 

You know what else is good? 

The Cheval burger, with thick-cut Duroc bacon. Drenched in cheese, dijonnaise, and with the perfect amount of pickle crunch. The single burger is actually a double, and the double burger is actually a triple, and the bun is perfectly seared. Bottom line: the Cheval burger is completely worth the hype...and the consensus at our table was universal. 

We also split a couple orders of these obscene fries...served covered in melted Gruyere/mornay fondue, with a side of garlic aioli and a fried egg crown. It's really a small miracle I didn't need to be rolled home. (Also: proved my theory that champagne pairs perfectly with burgers!)

Full and happy, we headed back to the Palmer House bar to rendezvous with yet another Notre Dame love, Marina! 

We were shamelessly those girls...champagne and Negronis abounded as we girl-talked about everything under the sun. Hot current guys, exes we regret, work frustration and awesomeness, and best of all, hopefully a Minneapolis trip for these two in the next several months! 

Days and nights like these are why Chicago IS totally my kind of town. Best possible way to kick off a fantastic weekend!