City Christmas-ing

by Jenn (eating bender) on December 11, 2012

What a (Windy City) weekend! I’m still catching up on sleep after an energy-packed three days in Chicago. The holiday season is one of my favorite times of year to be in the city, and it was fun to take a trip back to visit friends and see my old view decked out in Christmas colors.

After dining and working at Panera on Thursday afternoon, I met up with Jill for a long overdue night of catching up that was kicked off in the best way possible: tickets to Potted Potter!

Potted Potter is the “unauthorized Harry Potter experience.” Written and performed by two-time Olivier Award-nominated actors Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner, the show takes on the challenge of condensing all seven Harry Potter books (and a real life game of Quidditch) into 70 minutes. Even if you need to brush up on your knowledge of a horcrux or the Hogwarts houses, if you’re a fan of the books or movies you will love this show. It has gotten rave reviews all over the world and at times Jill and I couldn’t stop shaking with laughter.

After the show, we headed back to Jill’s place to chat and watch Safety Not Guaranteed (which I also recommend). It was so good to spend some time with her before she left for her big New York City birthday trip. She celebrated 2-7 in style yesterday – happy birthday, Jill!

On Friday morning, we woke up and did some work before Lauren came over to watch a movie. Twilight, again? Why, yes. Lauren hadn’t seen the last part of Breaking Dawn yet so I was a gracious friend and accompanied her. 😉 The theater was all decked out in Christmas lights.

After the movie, we visited an old favorite for sushi: Thai Spoon! It was so good to have their miso soup, unagi and dragon rolls again. The rest of the night was spent watching Home Alone and making odd faces. I can’t really explain mine.

On Saturday morning, Lauren and I woke up bright and early to make our way down Michigan Avenue. The sidewalks were packed with holiday shoppers, which is always an experience. But it was worth it for some of the unique presents we found at cur8ed, a pop up shop in Water Tower Place that I would recommend any fellow Chicagoan visit soon! We ooh-ed and ahh-ed over all the creative gift ideas before selecting a few for friends and family.

We then made our way to Daley Plaza for the Christkindlmarket!

I had been to the market back in college with Mama Bender and was excited to return in order to take advantage of the numerous dining and beverage options offered. Between the schnitzel and sausage, potato pancakes and chocolate-covered everything, we were in awe. The market also offers its infamous spiced hot wine and German beer options in a souvenir boot. I decided to go with the Spaten Lager this year.

The hat didn’t go unnoticed. I received a few looks and comments from Bears fans – including a Chicago police officer who threatened to bring me in – but apparently my wearing it around Chicago was good karma on Sunday. We’ll see what happens when the Bears play Green Bay this weekend. Although Lauren was trying to distance herself as much as possible from my Packer-ness, we had a wonderful time walking around to examine all the intricate ornaments, dolls, clocks, toys and more that the vendors had to offer. It definitely put us in the holiday spirit!

With four miles of walking under our belt, we had worked up a big appetite. Fortunately, next up on our action-packed day was an early dinner at Fogo de Chao.

I have always heard amazing things about this Brazilian steakhouse. If you’re a meat-eater, you will love it. And even if you’re not a meat-eater, their salad bar is AMAZING.

I piled my plate high with greenery, from spinach salad topped with sun-dried tomatoes, basil dressing and fresh Parmesan cheese to perfectly cooked green beans made with red peppers and sesame seeds. There were also some delicious potatoes, a Caprese salad and mini popovers (which came in endless supplies to the table). Honestly, you could have an entirely delicious meal with these unlimited salad bar fixings.

But of course, the main reason most diners visit Fogo de Chao is the unlimited meat. Below is the official list courtesy of the website. Each diner is given a card with a red side and a green side. You put the green side up when you want the waiters carrying various cuts of meat to come to your table and give you a slice prepared the way you prefer (I’m a medium or medium-well girl).

My favorite was the Lombo, a Parmesan-crusted pork, but I also enjoyed most of the steak and chicken options. I quickly figured out what each one looked like and put up my card strategically whenever a favorite walked by – it was such a cool experience!

Fogo de Chao also serves unlimited sides of mashed potatoes, polenta and cooked bananas.

The mashed potatoes and polenta were the best of the three, in my opinion. Lauren was a fan of the polenta and bananas, and we both agreed that Fogo de Chao is a fantastic restaurant concept.

What better way to digest after a big meal than more walking? We hopped a bus up to Lincoln Park and hiked it over to the last major event on our Satur-holiday: Zoolights!

We supplied ourselves with hot chocolate and saw our fair share of Santa…

…as well as some adorably illuminated zoo animals.

There was also an incredible light display timed with Christmas music!

I was able to capture some of the magic on video. It’s definitely worth a watch.

So cool! I can’t say enough good things about our holi-day. I may change my name to Claus.

And believe it or not, there was even more to come on Sunday! I’ll share pictures from the rest of the weekend’s activities in my next post because (and I hope you all agree) I firmly believe that a “Pinterest Party” deserves its own summary. :)

Hope your week is off to a great start! What holiday fun have you been up to lately?


1 Jaime December 11, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Love the pictures! I’m a Chicago native. Looks like a fantastic vacation. :)

2 Jenn (eating bender) December 11, 2012 at 1:53 pm

How cool that you are a Chicago native! We moved to AZ this fall after living there for seven years. We will have plenty to chat about when we meet in person. :)

3 Cara (Twinthusiast) December 11, 2012 at 2:08 pm

What an action-packed weekend! Potted Potter sounds awesome. I’ve been to Chriskindlemart back in college – so fun. Can’t believe Christmas is so soon!
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4 Jenn (eating bender) December 13, 2012 at 9:09 am

I can’t believe it, either! Much less the fact that another year is just a few weeks away…ack!

5 Kristie December 11, 2012 at 3:40 pm

Yum yum yum all of the food looks so delicious! And your pictures reminded me that at some point I’ve been to the Christkindlmarket, but I just barely remember it (the food mentions + pictures of the stands jogged my memory). I definitely need to go back now (well, next year?) since I have a more adventurous palate and could enjoy some of the adult beverages :).

6 Jenn (eating bender) December 13, 2012 at 9:10 am

Thank you, Kristie! I was most excited about being able to enjoy the adult beverages, if I’m being honest. :) It’s a jam-packed event, but totally worth it! Next year you can bring the kiddy-o. :)

7 Katie H. December 11, 2012 at 5:34 pm

Oh my gosh, I LOVE Chicago. And I want to see that Potted Potter show SO BADLY after hearing your description. I wonder if it will ever come to any other cities?? If not, I guess that’s a good reason to make another trip to Chicago!
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8 Jenn (eating bender) December 13, 2012 at 9:11 am

Chicago really is a fantastic city! I think Potted Potter has traveled around quite a bit and still has some stops on the list in the future – but yes, I think it’s a great excuse to visit! :)

9 Angela @ AnotherBitePlease December 11, 2012 at 5:52 pm

what fun pics…I live in WI and your Packer hat totally caught my attention…even though I am actually not a Packer fan…my hubby grew up in Chicago so our household is Da’Bears! I love love Chicago…your pics make me want to plan a family road trip to check out all those lights!
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10 Jenn (eating bender) December 13, 2012 at 9:13 am

We’ve got a big rivalry this weekend then, huh? :) It’s going to be a great game! I totally recommend taking a drive down to the city to see the lights. It’s so beautiful!!

11 BroccoliHut December 11, 2012 at 7:03 pm

My hometown in Alabama hosts a holiday light event at the zoo too–Zoolight Safari. I loved it as a kid and even had my 12th birthday party there (one of the few perks of being born on Christmas Eve). I look forward to it every year, but maybe sometime I’ll have to see the Chicago version :)
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12 Jenn (eating bender) December 13, 2012 at 9:13 am

Yay! I always have loved how your birthday is on Christmas Eve. Hope your countdown is out in full force. :) You will definitely have to see the Chicago version of Zoolights sometime!

13 Katie@ SkinnyMinnieMoves December 11, 2012 at 7:45 pm

I’ve been to fogo de chao! Even though I’m a vegetarian, they do have a GREAT salad bar! Veggie friendly :)
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14 Jenn (eating bender) December 13, 2012 at 9:14 am

I’m glad you can vouch for its deliciousness! I could definitely go back just for the salad bar. :)

15 Erica December 11, 2012 at 7:57 pm

Goodness! What a packed with fun weekend! The show sounds awesome. We are supposed to go to our festival of lights this weekend cant wait! I sent you a christmas card and it was returned :(. Can you resend me your address?
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16 Jenn (eating bender) December 13, 2012 at 9:15 am

Have fun at the festival this weekend – that sounds like a lot of fun!

17 Susan December 11, 2012 at 8:14 pm

Wow – so many funtivities! :) The trip sounds awesome… looking forward to part II!

18 Jenn (eating bender) December 13, 2012 at 9:15 am

Thanks, Susan!

19 Monica December 11, 2012 at 9:22 pm

You’ve inspired me to do all of these things… I especially want to see the Zoolights and see Potted Potter! So tempted to just steal your exact itinerary and do it all this weekend… haha
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20 Jenn (eating bender) December 13, 2012 at 9:17 am

Please do steal it, haha – I loved every minute and it really put me in the holiday spirit! Only to be outdone by the Pinterest party that followed the next day. :) I bet it would be a perfect way for Patrick to unwind after finals, too!

21 Melissa @TryingtoHeal December 12, 2012 at 10:02 am

Wow, that is one great trip! You got so much squeezed in while you were there! Great people, great food, great experiences! I’m jealous of the lights, there aren’t too many places around here that we can go and see that kind of thing! I did it when I as a really little kid but don’t remember where it is. :( One day!

Happy Holidays lady!!!
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22 Jenn (eating bender) December 13, 2012 at 9:18 am

It’s kind of hard to believe looking back on it how much we squeezed into three days! Do they have any lights at the San Diego zoo? I know that’s not super close but since it’s such a big and famous zoo I bet the display would be amazing!! Happy holidays to you!

23 Alyssa @ Don't Look Down December 12, 2012 at 4:12 pm

Fogo de Chao is very delicious but I always eat way too much when I go there! They do have an amazing salad bar.
I really need to get into the city this year to see the zoo lights and theChristkindlmarket!
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24 Jenn (eating bender) December 13, 2012 at 9:19 am

I definitely ate too much, but both the salad and meat were just too darn good. 😉 I highly recommend checking out Zoolights and Christkindlmarket if you get a chance this year!

25 Chelsea @ Designs on Dinner December 13, 2012 at 10:15 am

Everyone in Green Bay is ecstatic that Will Ferrell was here to cheer our team on. It looks like you had a splendid time in Chicago!
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26 Emily December 13, 2012 at 1:21 pm

Glad you got to see all the Chicago holiday stuff even though you don’t live here anymore! Looks like an awesome weekend!! I also hit up Zoolights and Christkindlmarket and loved them both!!

27 Jenn (eating bender) December 18, 2012 at 12:05 pm

Your pictures actually helped inspire me to visit the Christkindlmarket – it just looked like so much fun! :)

28 Megan (Braise The Roof) December 14, 2012 at 12:47 pm

Wow, you hit up a lot of good stuff! I got my souvenir boot on Wednesday. 😉 Oh and Fogo de Chao is AMAZING. I want to go back there soon!
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29 Jenn (eating bender) December 18, 2012 at 12:07 pm

Hurray for souvenir boots! :) Fogo de Chao is so good that it makes me hungry just thinking about it.

30 Marianne December 18, 2012 at 1:14 am

Vancouver has a Christmas Market like that as well – I think this is the 3rd year of it? I went last year, and perhaps I’m just weird, but it was just okay. The food part was fun, but most of the gifts/crafts for sale just weren’t my style.

We also have a Brazilian steak house like that, which makes for a pretty fun date night!
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