Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mercat a la Planxa

As I mentioned in a previous post, instead of giving gifts to my parents for holidays throughout the year, Adam and I decided to take them to a nice meal out in Chicago this year. This year, we choose Mercat a la Planxa, a wonderful traditional Spanish (specifically Catalan) tapas restaurant on Michigan Avenue, just a 15 minute walk from our apartment. The restaurant is in the Blackstone Hotel, a beautiful luxury hotel at 636 S Michigan Avenue (the red building on the left in the picture). The best way I can describe the Blackstone is "colorfully modern". The lobby is so much fun w/ elegant, ornate furniture with fun touches such as bright red overstuffed pillows and black and white movies playing on the walls. I thought it was an independent boutique motel, but apparently it is owned by Marriott. Still, I think well worth looking into if you need a place to stay in Chicago and don't know me well enough to use my guest suite;)

Here are my parents and I in the Blackstone lobby.

Back to the restaurant! Adam and I went to Mercat for my 31st birthday a while back. My birthday is in January and it was a bitterly cold walk to the restaurant, but well worth it as it made us appreciate the warm, rich ambiance of Mercat all the more:) On that first visit, Adam and I ordered the "Chef's Selection", allowing the chef to choose his favorite dishes to serve us. The more I eat out at nice restaurants, the more convinced I become that ordering the chef's selection is the way to go when it is offered. That way, you don't run the risk of ordering a menu 'dud' and you don't have the stress of trying to decide on the perfect dish. I have never been disappointed! I can't for the life of me remember what Adam and I had that first night but I remember us 'oohing' and 'aahing' at every course and that we were impressed with the liberal use of paprika. I also remember thinking we should bring my parents there. So we did!

After our bike ride and cocktails at home, we grabbed a cab for the quick ride down the street. First on the agenda- wine. None of us are big sangria fans (too sweet), so we opted for a nice bottle of red wine. My husband lived with a sommelier in college and remembers almost every bottle of wine he's ever had (which is absolutely amazing!) and recommended a red Gran Coronas Torres Cabernet Sauvignon, which was delicious. To the left is my Dad enjoying his first glass with Adam .

The menu at Mercat is extensive and since it is tapas, everyone needs to choose multiple items. This can be overwhelming. So Adam and I suggested we all do the Chef's Selection. This was great because we all got to sample the more than 15 dishes that kept arriving at our table. Every item we had was delicious. No duds. I definitely can't remember all of the dishes but they included fresh Spanish cheeses, olives, a morel mushroom rice dish that tasted like risotta (my favorite), prawns, chorizo on multiple dishes, rack of lamb, perfectly cooked beef slices w/ wonderful dipping sauces, bacon wrapped dates. Seriously, the food just kept coming! It was so fun to try all the different flavors. And, again, great use of paprika! If I was the cooking type, I would try to incorporate that delicious spice into my foods. But I'm not, so I won't ;)

We, of course, had to try dessert. Maybe we didn't have to try multiple desserts. But we did, and they were great!

My mom and I

I don't think either of my parents have ever had traditional Spanish fare and they seemed to be enjoying themselves so I hope taking them out in the city can become a yearly tradition! There are SO many great restaurants in Chicago that I'd love to take them to. Next year, we'll try to go earlier in the year when it's still warm so we can take them to the outdoor patio at Piccolo Sogno.

After dinner, we walked though Grant Park and Millennium Park back to N Harbor Drive. It was a beautiful, crisp, crystal clear fall night in the city.
A great end to a fun, action packed day!

Adam and I.

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