Now that we're all out of college and either working or working on a PhD, my friends and I are pretty busy. Between husbands, babies, managing a whole department at a Fortune 500 company, overseeing a department at a library and becoming a doctors, I barely get to see these ladies. We've always made it a point to get together once a year, even if we have to plan four months in advance.
This year, my friend cashed in on the best connection I've ever seen. Her uncle works at the W Chicago Lakeshore, perhaps the cleanest, most trendy establishment I've ever been to. Her uncle was nice enough to get us a family discount, send us a bottle of wine and call us just in time to watch the fireworks over Navy Pier from our room on the 21st floor.
Because we live life on a budget, we made lunch our big meal. One of the ladies pick the Grand Luxe Cafe and I'm quite glad she did. I've heard about this place before and it's quite the experience. The interior at the Chicago location, one of just a handful in the county, features a large staircase and a huge seating area that manages to still feel cozy thanks to whimsical decorations, generously spaced-out tables and strategically placed room dividers.
The food here is all about presentation -- heaped mounds of greens with soaring arches of green onion strands and generous portions of extras such as chunks of seasoned bacon, crunchy tortilla strips of blue cheese hunks.
I was also a big fan of the bread. It came straight out of the oven and tasted like it might have been proofed on site.
I ordered the lunch portion of salad and pasta, which was the basic house salad and pasta telephono. The menu said the pasta was a rich tomato sauce blushed with creamed and baked with a crunchy crust. The salad had a delicious honey vinaigrette and was quite tasty. I was of the opinion that the pasta was a little average -- it would have been nice to get a pasta with a little more texture. The sauce was very rich and flavorful, but the baking and creation of the crispy crust left the pasta a bit dry. Oh well, it was still yummy.
The piece de resistance was the cookies. At the end of the meal, one of the ladies ordered a fresh batch of chocolate almond cookies, which arrived in a little box that we took to our hotel. It smelled delicious the whole way home and I couldn't wait to have a few. The cookies melted away in you mouth and were quite rich without being overwhelming. I suspect at least two different chocolates were used in the cookies to produce the flavor. And for $75 for five people, the meal was a bargain.
Oh how I love girls' weekends.