Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sorry for the Hiatus…we ran away to Chicago.

Chicago- Day 1
A few months ago, one of our favorite musicians, Ben Harper, announced that he was going to be doing a couple shows at the Vic Theatre in Chicago.  I immediately bought pre-sale tickets for the Friday 7/1 show.  We decided to go ahead & make a long weekend out of it, and spent Friday-Sunday in Chicago…a city that I L-O-V-E, love.

Friday morning we departed at around 8:30a (45 minutes behind schedule).  The weather did not cooperate for driving…we drove through some pretty heavy storms with vertical lightening.  We kept hoping that we would get to see lightening strike one of the windmills on the wind-farm north of Indy, but it didn’t happen.  Around the time we got to the MerrillvilleIN area, it was POURING.  Luckily we had already predetermined that we were going to make a stop at the Albanese Candy Company to pick up some of the “World’s best Gummi’s.” 

When they picked this as their slogan…they weren’t lying.  The hubs & I have already been to the Albanese Candy factory before, along with placing orders from their online store.  They have THE BEST gummies in America in my opinion (& I consider myself to be somewhat of a gummy expert).  Their gummy bears are particularly excellent. They are soft, chewy & explode with flavor.  My favorites are the pineapple, mango, strawberry & the concord grape flavors (yes…concord grape!!). Walking into the Albanese Candy factory store is like walking into a non-creepy version of Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory…sans Umpa-Lumpas. They have incredibly friendly workers, an endless supply of goodies in acrylic cases (things they manufacture & other popular confections), and a HUGENORMOUS chocolate waterfall that comes from the ceiling.  The other awesome thing about this location is that they have glass windows at the back of the store so you can see the manufacturing floor where they make the gummies.  There is also an audio tour you can take that explains what you are seeing.  As someone who 1) Loves gummies AND 2) Has a weird fascination with manufacturing processes (Science Channel “How It’s Made” junkie)…I could stand there & watch forever.  While we were there, there was a cascade of green apple gummy bears flying off of the conveyor belt.  Overall, this was an excellent choice of location to ride out the storm.

This is a floor was too rainy to get a good shot of the
outside sign.

The candy factory.  The rain had cleared up some by the time
we had left.  I love that it looks like they built a factory onto
the back of an old farmhouse.
Blurry...but you can get a general feel for the place. The glass
windows in the back are where you can watch the manufacturing
of the gummies.
12 amazing flavors of gummi bears. Except
watermelon...personally not a fan of watermelon.
Huge chocolate waterfall (cascades down the
outside of a pipe)
Once we were back on the road, we attempted to book-it to Hot Doug’s in Chicago.  I have seen Hot Doug’s featured on several different travel/food shows & articles…and REALLY wanted to try some of their dogs & duck-fat French fries (served Friday & Saturday).  Alas…between our delayed start, the storm delay, & horrendous Chicago traffic, my dream did not become a reality this Chicago trip.  By the time we reached Hot Doug’s, there was a line stretching over a block long.  Since we still had to park the car, check into the hotel, eat some sort of lunch/dinner & make it to the Vic Theatre in time to get a good spot in line…we decided that we didn’t have time to wait.  Bummer L.  Hey Doug, expand your store!!

So from there we ventured into downtown Chicago, parked our car in the Millennium Park Garage, and walked to our awesome hotel, Hotel Monaco (review coming in different post).  After checking into the hotel, we took the recommendation of the concierge (who also gave us a coupon for a free appetizer) & headed across the street to the Emerald Loop for a really late lunch (around 3:00pm).  For our free appetizer we ordered their Spinach Artichoke Dip ($8.95).  It wasn’t the best I’d ever had, but it was creamy, cheesy, piping hot & had huge chunks of artichoke in it.  It was served with warm pita & tortilla chips.  It hit the spot for our hunger, after the let-down of “no Hot Doug’s” and the sugar-high we were coming off of from the Albanese Confectionary.  For my meal, I ordered the corned beef sandwich ($9.95), which according to their menu was a specialty of the restaurant & made with home-made corned beef.  Overall, I was pretty disappointed with my lunch.  Normally, a place claiming to be an “Irish Pub” has at least semi-decent corned beef.  Not so for the Emerald Loop.  The beef was tough & cut way too thick considering the toughness.  The flavor of the beef was lacking any sort of potency of seasoning or distinguishing flavors.  The corned beef was served with thin sliced, mundane Swiss cheese (Kraft perhaps?), & between dark rye bread that tasted exactly like Pepperidge Farm bread.  It was served with fries that were hot, but tasted like a frozen Sysco product.  The Hubs had a better lunch than me.  He ordered one of their specialty burgers called the “Crazy Twist Emerald Burger”  It was a thick-cut, charbroiled burger topped with grape goat cheese, pancetta, pickled onion & mushroom aoli, served with lettuce, onion, tomato & French fries ($11.75).  He gave me a bite of the burger & toppings…it was quite tasty.  

From lunch we meandered our way up to the Vic Theatre.  We arrived Super Early (5:00pm), considering that the gates didn’t open until 6:30p.  We were #8 & #9 in line for admission.  All but 2 people in front of us in line had been to the prior night’s show in Chicago.  We could hear Ben Harper singing/soundchecking while we were standing outside, so that was cool.  But what was REALLY awesome, is that on his way out to dinner before the show, he had his van pull over so he could tell the dozen or so of us standing there how awesome we were for coming that early, how much he appreciated it, & thanked us for coming to his concert. Then he blew us kisses. It. was. awesome.  We wanted to arrive early for the general admission show so we could get 1st row in the balcony for the concert (seats—compared to standing on the floor).  We COULD have had front row spots standing by the stage if we wanted to.  I think we made a great choice though…because our legs & backs would have been KILLING us by the end of the concert.  We’re getting old. The Vic Theatre turned out to be an awesome concert venue.  It was small (for Indy people, think about half the size of Vogue), & the acoustics were GREAT.  I would love to go to another concert there.

The concert. was. amazing.  The Orbans opened the show with a great set.  They are a band I had never heard of before that night, but I downloaded their album off of iTunes when we got back to the hotel.  They are a fun group out of Texas that has a rock/alternative sound that [to me] sounds like an interesting meld of Oasis, Stereophonics, with some underlying Texas country sound.  Highly intriguing & enjoyable.  Personally, my favorite songs of theirs right now are “Darlin My Dreams,” “Alibi,” & “Songs We Sang.”  I highly suggest buying their album…love it.

After a short stage re-working, Ben Harper came on stage.  The concert was AMAZING.  I’m pretty sure they played until their fingers bled…because I think the concert length for their set was >3 hours by the time the final encore ended.  He played a lot of my favorite songs, and ended the night with an acoustic version of “Not Fire, Not Ice”…which is my FAVORITE, and is especially meaningful to the Hubs & I since we used it in our wedding. Overall, it was one of the best concerts I have ever been to…simply amazing.  That night I wanted to drop everything & become a Ben Harper groupie.  

Oh Ben Harper...
Singing a capella, without a microphone...powerful & amazing.

Although technically this should fall under Day 2 events (since it was well after midnight), after the concert we walked down Belmont Street to see what was still open for food.  We decided to just go the “quick, easy, cheap & familiar” route & split a sub from Subway. After that we hopped on the Red Line back to our hotel, to rest & relax until we began Day 2.


  1. I am now craving gummies!! It sounds like you had a great trip and we are thinking of a trip to Chicago as well and will have to check out the hotel you stayed at.

  2. You should check it out! Make sure to check out the special packages/rates on the website & compare them to the deals on When we were planning, the room was a lot better deal on the Kimpton page.