chicago … oh, sweet chicago

I’m a Jersey girl, born and bred. And to me, New York will always be “the city.”

But after nearly a decade of living here in the Midwest …  and after many many many trips along I-94 W (both personal and professional), I’ve started to develop a real love for Chicago.

Sometimes feel like I’m “cheating” on my East Coast roots.

And sometimes I don’t feel guilty about it.

I miss urban living a lot, so my visits to Chicago fills that void for me. I can get a taste … and then go back to my “normal” life. For visitors like myself, Chicago is a magical city. While I’ll never agree that Chicago’s beloved deep-dish pizza qualifies as pizza  (I’m in the Jon Stewart “it’s-a-casserole!” camp) — I’ve had some of the best meals of my life in the Windy City. The foodie scene is  superb, no matter your price point. And while I tend to judge cities by their food, Chicago is way more than that. I love runs along the lake with the glittering skyline in the distance, window shopping on Michigan Avenue admiring things I can never afford, checking out local neighborhoods and parks and exploring the city’s landmarks and museums.

Of course, I might feel differently if I lived there (I lived in DC nearly 10 years and could write a book about pros and cons to living in our nation’s capital!). I might loathe the traffic, or the horrid summer swelter/miserable winters, or the inconveniences of grocery shopping, or how insane the city gets with sporting events. I might complain about the El service or the amount of time I waited to get into a super-sceney restaurant. But the vibe in Chicago is just awesome to me — at least as a visitor. In my opinion, it’s a cleaner, less-chaotic, friendlier NY (hello, Midwesterners!) … situated on a lake that looks like an ocean — often channeling  the Caribbean with its various hues of blue. It’s just awesome.

All of which to share that last week, I got to spend a bunch of quality time in Chicago — between a work trip Tues-Thurs and then a weekend away with Luis Sat-Sun (no kids!!), I was in Chicago more than I was home!

And while the time away in one of my favorite cities did wonders for my heart and soul, I can tell you I was not a good little Weight Watcher. But here’s the rub … I’m not mad about it. In fact, I’m almost proud of it.

I was down 5.2 lbs  as of last Tuesday and am going to give myself a few days of clean eats before checking again. But my hope is that a few days of enjoyment — coupled with lots of activity (walking everywhere) — may have evened itself out. Stranger things have happened …

The important thing to me is that I enjoyed myself. In my heart of hearts, I believe life is meant to be lived. And I lived within reason – pushing the boundaries, but with gusto.

And that’s the point … living life doesn’t necessarily mean we give in to every single thing one sees, but rather to be smart about it, and flexible, so that one can enjoy without being wracked with guilt afterwards.

Eight years ago, the thought of two full days of travel and business meals and then a romantic weekend getaway with my hubby would have set.me.off. I would have been hysterical, freaking out and analyzing and discussing every morsel I was putting into my mouth ad nauseum. I was a real treat to be around, let me tell you. In fact, I remember crying when Luis suggested a surprise day trip back in 2008, when I began this blog. At the time, I couldn’t bear to be away from  the gym and my “safe” foods and my routine. Everything had to be just so. I remember  how it was upsetting to him — he wanted to do something nice for us, and I flat-out refused to go. It was one of the worst memories of the past decade and I shudder remembering the panic I felt and the anger I misdirected at him … when in reality, most girls would have been overjoyed at the idea of a surprise like that.

That girl makes me sad. And I’m proud to say I’ve come a long way since then.

No … no nutritionist would say I ate perfectly or cleanly last week — I was certainly not a poster child for “eating healthy whilst traveling.” There was wine, there was dessert bites, there was an abundance of crusty bread dipped in (heart-healthy!) EVOO –but there was also salads and lean protein sources and you know what?

I enjoyed every last bite.

Weeks like this — when I’m not in my normal element or environment — demonstrate just how much progress I’ve made, no matter what the scale tells me.

What fun is a trip to Chicago without sampling Garrett’s  popcorn? Enjoying homemade eggplant ravioli at Piccolo Sogno paired with a fully-but-lightly-dressed salad? Sampling succulent meatballs and short rib lasagna at Bar Siena? Indulging in the most amazing French onion soup I’ve ever had at Swift & Sons? Sipping wine at the Signature Room on the 96th floor of the John Hancock building at sunset with the city spread out before us? Enjoying rustic bread at Eately?

All of those bites and tastes set me wayyyyyyy over the edge of my Points but were thoroughly worth the experience.

And that’s just it. For the U.S. city that ranks #2 in my mind and is edging close to #1 … it was all completely worth it to me.

So Chicago … sweet   Chicago … til we meet again, you’ll be on my mind.

How about you? What is your approach to special meals out? (for special occasions, fancy business dinners, etc.)

 

 

 

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