Saturday, March 28, 2015

My meal at El Tapeo Oakbrook Center

I was recently contacted by the PR team behind El Tapeo, a Spanish tapas place located in the Le Meridien in Oakbrook Center. They're hosting an Easter brunch at El Tapeo next weekend and invited me to partake in their offerings. In addition to tapas and a really nice view on the ninth floor of the hotel, the restaurant has an expansive menu offering seafood, steaks and signature cocktails. It's also a very sleek space that feels like it belongs in a sophisticated downtown locale. It's nice to have something so upscale and romantic this close to home, meaning I don't have to fork over cash for parking or worry about how I'll get home.

After a warm welcome from the staff and a review of the menu with the head chef, we were ready to get to the first course of every meal: cocktails!

We got the Mediterranean pink lady and the Paraiso, as well as a number of pre-dinner tapas. From the top: bacon-covered stuffed dates, Palpo (grilled marinated octopus) and the mushroom croquettes with cilantro sauce. I enjoyed the dates, which contained marcona almonds, which were a crunchy contrast. The tomato sauce they came with was also fantastic. The vegetables served with the octopus were also really tasty. Moving on, the next course was my favorite: Spanish-style charcuterie featuring the most delectible black footed iberico pig, an assortment of olives, pickled green beans and toasted bread rounds. It was so good alongside the white wine sangria. The combo would be an awesome happy hour offering.
Why bother with lettuce when this salad has tuna?! Our salad course was a jumbo lump crab salad with avocado, blood orange gelle, chervil and toast points. It was so creamy and the seasoning on the toast complemented the salad accouterments.
For the main course, the chef recommended the paella, and when in Spain ... we order the paella, obviously. It had a little bit of everything in it - lobster, mussels, shrimp and clams over seasoned rice, served in a giant pan perfect for sharing.
On the recommendation of yelp, we ordered the seasoned potatoes, which were topped with creme freche and a tomato sauce. We also went for the setas, which is  wild mushrooms, garlic, fresh herbs and cana de cabra cheese, which I thought worked well with the earthy flavor of the mushrooms.
And finally, dessert. I didn't care that I would need to get rolled out of that place. The answer to dessert is always yes at a place like this. We went for the manchego cheesecake and the chocolate pastry, which was a lava cake served with pistachio ice cream. Paired with the espresso, the dish was molten chocolate bliss. It came with caramelized bananas and some crunchy bits under the ice cream, which was a nice contrast of textures throughout the dish.

Thanks, El Tapeo, for the awesome meal and service. Learn more about El Tapeo's Easter brunch and experience it for yourself.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Five Things Friday

1. Congratulations to Julie, my Allied Medal Display $50 gift card giveaway winner! This was a super popular giveaway, eliciting nearly 300 entries. I love my medal hanger and intend to put it to good use because tomorrow ....
I love medals

2. I'm running a marathon. I'm running my second-annual Circular Logic Marathon in West Lafayette, Ind. I am not prepared, and I don't think I can PR, but hell, I'll probably keep running this race every year just because.

3. I've had the same set of business cards reprinted by VistaPrint for the second time. The first time, the printing turned out cheap looking. The second time was awesome, except for a small oversight: I am not an Eastern Medicine Practitioner. Here's what I sent VistaPrint:

I got the new cards and on the back it says I'm an acupuncturist. I am not. I am a social media expert. I'm going to need a new set ASAP. I've never had a problem before, and now it's been more than a month since my initial order.
-Kelly (not an acupuncture guru)
I'll be getting a new set by Tuesday.

4. I got a new shipment from Cabot this week that I'm pretty pumped about. I've been mulling over firing up my square foot garden again this year, so this was just the pushed I needed. Time to get to planting this weekend.

5. Just a friendly reminder that time is almost out to enter my giveaway for a Moxie Cycling jersey. I've got three to give away to Esprit de She participants who use my code (EDS023), so make sure you comment on the post by Tuesday to let me know you registered.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Win it Wednesday: Liquor Lab 1-year membership

Hi readers! I hope you're having an awesome week. I myself am enjoying the sun and fun of Florida while working a conference ... right before tackling my second-annual Circular Logic Marathon.

Moving on, because who wants to talk about anxious things, you may have caught my Liquor Lab Review experience. In short, I had a blast learning about cocktails and imbibing with a cool set of people in a slick downtown location. If you'd like to do the same, I have an offer for you. I'm pleased to offer a one-year Liquor Lab membership valued at $175. Rafflecopter will randomly select a winner after one week, so good luck!

See you at the next Liquor Lab, lucky winner!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

My 12 hours at O'Hare Airport

I can't even believe this happened. I'm slated to do social media for a meeting in Florida and it snowed a touch in Chicago overnight.
Cue the horror music.

I knew it was going to be a crappy day as soon as I got into my Uber. It took me 45 minutes to make a trip that normally takes 25, and I was worried I wouldn't make it on time. I could see the plane at the gate, and our flight was on t
ime, then delayed, then canceled.
Luckily, I was right by the check in desk and immediately got on the next direct flight ... at 2:10. Everyone else I work with on that flight was booked onto a 2:50 connecting through Miami.
I'm VIP on the wait list
I waited, waited and waited. Check my e-mail, worked on long-term projects, bid my time.

I got on the second flight and they took my carry on at the gate because it was so full. We sat and sat, then found out that there was no pilot. Then they said it would be another two and a half hours until we had a crew and asked us to vacate. Then it was canceled.
And they still had my bag.

I had to wait another two hours for my bag, and was booked onto a 2:10 flight today. Luckily, I took the first flight out today on stand by, but that was only after 12 continuous hours at O'Hare with the possibility of a repeat again today.

God bless smartphones and credit cards.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Liquor Labs 11: A barrage of beer beverages

Cedric of Liquor Labs contacted me a while ago about his business venture, which is an underground dinner club of sorts focusing on elevating and refining the world of cocktails. His concept is that people join a club for an annual fee, then get exclusive invites to pop up parties themed around different liquors. The location is announced just a few days before.

I was super excited to see a beer-themed night on the books, because I am a beer geek through and through. I don't drink often, but when I do, it tends to be beer. This particular event was hosted at The Chop Shop downtown, which I've never been to and felt not quite cool enough to be at. Nonetheless, we got a table at the front of the room and sat down to start imbibing. We waited about 40 minutes for the event to start and get kicked off with our first beverage. How it worked was there was a six-course menu of drinks paired with small bites to be shared by the table.
Look at all those noms! My favorite drinks included this beauty:
It's a porter-based cocktail infused with coconut liquor and topped with coconut flakes. It was so, so good.
And this dessert was divine:

The dessert was a panna cotta with balsamic infused berries, which was more savory than sweet, and complemented the dessert drink deliciously. It was my beloved Not Your Father's root beer topped with vanilla ice cream. So creamy, so boozy!

The Sleepy Hollow, which is on the left, was also amazing. It was even better as the ice melted and it mellowed.
This was a very cool experience - I learned a lot about how to blend my favorite beers into cocktails and enjoyed some really great charcuterie in a new environment. It's also great to see mixologists doing their thing and applying all their talents in such an intimate setting. It was easy to ask questions and learn more, as well as network and make new friends.
Want to try Liquor Labs for yourself? Stay tuned ..

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Three Things Thursday

1. I'm finally feeling back to myself. After a visit to a minute clinic, antibiotics, boxes of kleenex and a humidifier, I think I'm in good health again. I've gotten in a few runs this week and hope I didn't do much damage as I'm running a marathon a week from Saturday. Eek.
2. I'm happy to be back to normal because I have a really cool event to attend tomorrow night. I'm going to a meeting of Liquor Lab, which is a pop up, underground gathering of beverage enthusiasts. It's a membership-based club with monthly events themed around different spirits, with the location announced at the last minute. Think Diner en Blanc except for alcohol. I can't wait to see how it goes.

3. Sorry, Aaron. And also, sorry BuzzFeed, my student newspaper used that headline like a decade ago. The highlight of this scandal thus far is Aaron Schock's dad.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Win it Wednesday: $50 Allied Medal Hangers Giveaway

Hard-earned Ironman bling
I race for bling. I'm super transparent about this. My medals are very important to me. Sure, they're just trinkets that cost pennies on the dollar, but they represent hours upon hours of work and sacrifice and research and conversations. I have my medals hanging up in the basement with race posters and photos to remind myself what I've accomplished. It's a nice boost when I'm feeling down or wondering why I'm awake at 5 a.m. again to workout.

So it's only natural that I take care in how they're displayed. I got my Allied Medal Hanger two years ago and have proceeded to fill it with memories and mementos. I love the way it looks, the message and the company. I was excited to see the revamped, which now includes a very nifty customizer tool. In honor of this new gadget, which allows users to choose from a plethora of display options to create the perfect medal holder, Allied Medal gave me a $50 giftcard to raffle off. 

I love this tool - you can mix fonts, add images and logos, move things around, change the height and width and add room to grow with up to three bars. This would be a great gift for any athlete, including runner, skaters, skiiers or anyone mildly competitive.  

I'm using Rafflecopter for this giveaway, which will randomly select one winner in a week. I'll announce the winner here in next week's Three Things Thursday post. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway