Hotels

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It would be impossible for me to adequately express how much I love hotels. I inherited this love from my mom who, despite not having much disposable income, always prioritized vacations. We managed to go on a vacation every year of my young life, something I will always be grateful for. It taught me the importance of finding ways to take a break from the everyday, as well as the obvious benefits of being exposed to new people and places and ways of living. But my feelings for hotels go beyond their role as a signifier of vacation. And let me be clear, in my adult life my love of hotels should more specifically be defined as a love of fancy hotels. Which I know leaves the rest of these words dripping with privilege and elitism. I’m aware of that, and I am also aware that we all make decisions about how we will spend our extra income. I don’t have a car, or cable, or—I’m getting defensive.

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Back to hotels: Hotels are this strange public/private space that is both your “home” and yet completely foreign and filled with strangers. They are at once comforting and stimulating. They have amenities. Pools. Room Service. Someone to make your bed every morning. Marble bathrooms with soaking tubs (or if you’re very lucky: steam showers). They have giant comfortable beds with nice linens. TV with dozens of channels. Someone you can call when you’ve forgotten your toothbrush. This is serious comfort. The stimulation comes from the public areas of the hotel. Grand hotels provide some of the world’s greatest people-watching. You overhear weird conversations and see the same people at breakfast each morning, as you try to piece together their lives. And don’t even get me started on hotel bars. All of that to say, I like a nice hotel.

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Recently the folks over at the Public hotel in Chicago invited me to stay for a night. I usually refuse invitations like this because, as you may have guessed, I am not interested in shilling for a corporation. It’s why I have never had ads on the site, and why I don’t do give-aways or other promotional stuff. But in fact, I’d already stayed at the Public and knew I liked it and so it was a fairly safe bet for both them and for me (and for you?). Bryan and I had stayed at the hotel the weekend we got married to make some logistics easier. I knew I liked the hotel, but with all of our friends and family in town I wasn’t paying a lot of attention to it. This was a nice opportunity to return and really experience the hotel as a guest who was not worrying about flower deliveries or accordion players. And why would I ever refuse a stay at a hotel?

The Public falls into this new category of more affordable luxury-ish hotels. Hotels where you are sacrificing some of the perks of a true luxury hotel in exchange for slightly cheaper rates. This is a good idea. The Public makes a great impression from the moment you enter the lobby. It is easily one of my favorite hotel designs. It’s all whites and neutrals with strong black accents and the occasional metallic shimmer. (This is also what my apartment looks like, so in some ways the Public looks like the hotel of my dreams.) It’s in the former Ambassador East, a Gold Coast glamor hotel that was popular in the middle of the 20th century. Ian Schrager took over the hotel a few years ago and transformed it into the first of what is supposed to be a new brand of hotels for Schrager. Money was saved by leaving the layout of rooms basically the same. You can see the old Ambassador East in the painted wooden doors, and small bathrooms. These were savvy compromises. Everything else is beautifully updated. And the attention payed to the lobby and other public areas is truly outstanding. One of the things I like best about the hotel is that it has a great lobby culture. People are always hanging out, getting ready to start the day in the morning with pastries and newspapers and cocktails and partying with friends in the evening. It’s lively.

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Because I write about food, I was also invited to dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, the Pump Room. When Schrager bought the hotel it came with the iconic Pump Room restaurant, which is where the 1% and celebrities had dined for much of the 20th century. The restaurant has been updated spectacularly and includes one of the most beautiful bars I’ve ever seen. They’ve managed to maintain a lot of the original glamor while making it a totally modern space, complete with a spectacular installation of glowing planetary orbs. Jean-Georges Vongerichten created the concept and the menu is very similar to his ABC Kitchen menu. We had both great food and great service at the restaurant. The raw fish we had (salmon with crispy sushi rice and tuna tartare) was especially good as were all of the vegetable preparations.

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But I would like to really talk about one particular dish on the menu. I suspect that it might be the salad of our generation (is that a thing?). It started it’s life on the menu at ABC Kitchen and lives on at the Pump Room. It has been written about everywhere from the NYTimes to Food 52 and other food blogs (it’s also attributed to Jamie Oliver online- so the true history of this salad may never be known?). It is described on the menu as “Roast Carrot and Avocado Salad, Crunchy Seeds, Sour Cream, Citrus Vinaigrette”. And it is one of the best things you will ever eat. And you will eat it, even if you can’t visit the Pump Room, because my version of the recipe is below. It is a perfect mix of flavors and textures and pretty much everything you’d ever want in a salad.

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Thanks to the Public and the Pump Room for being good hosts, I look forward to returning. And I hope all of you have a hotel stay in your future.

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I’ve made some changes to the salad, most of which I learned from my dear friend and fellow food-obsessive Emily Fiffer. I use greek yogurt in place of the sour cream, it has a little more body and flavor. And I don’t bother with the croutons which always have seemed a little superfluous. I’ve also altered proportions of everything a bit. You will too.

Roast Carrot and Avocado Salad, Crunchy Seeds, Sour Cream, Citrus Vinaigrette (adapted from the Pump Room)

  • 1.5 pounds medium carrots, peeled
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon red chile flakes (to taste)
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 orange, halved
  • 2 lemons, halved
  • 1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled and cut into thin wedges
  • 1/3 cup greek yogurt
  • 3 cups micro greens or sprouts, preferably a mix of radish and beet (I used pea shoots, radish sprouts, and some baby sorrel)
  • ¼ cup sunflower seeds, toasted
  • ¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds, toasted
  • ¼ cup white sesame seeds, toasted

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the carrots and cook until just barely tender, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, with a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic, cumin, thyme, chili, 1½ tsp. salt, and ¾ tsp. pepper until crushed and pasty. Add the vinegar and ¼ c. of the olive oil and continue pounding until well-mixed. (Alternately, pulse in a blender or food processor until pasty.)

Drain carrots and arrange in a single layer in a medium roasting pan. Spoon the cumin mixture over, toss to coat.

Cut the whole orange in half. Arrange the 2 orange halves and 2 of the lemon halves over the carrots, cut-side down. Roast for 25 minutes or until carrots are golden brown. Carefully transfer the carrots to a platter.

When cool enough to handle, squeeze 2 tbsp. juice each from the roasted orange and lemon into a small bowl. Squeeze in 3 tbsp. juice from the remaining uncooked lemon halves. Whisk in the remaining 2 tbsp. oil to emulsify. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle over the carrots to your liking, reserving some for the next step.

Arrange the carrots on a serving platter. Arrange the avocado and sprouts on top. Drizzle with reserved sauce.

Dollop yogurt over the top, then sprinkle with toasted seeds. Serve immediately.

26 comments to “Hotels”

  1. Roasted orange and lemon?? This sounds really interesting, and the salad looks delicious.

  2. Tim, I love you. Is that an awkward thing to put in a blog comment? I’m sorry. It’s just, your blog makes me so happy. xo

  3. Luisa! I love you too! Samesies!

  4. Since I have no plans for Chicago in my future, thank you for the mental mini vacation. You had me even imagining the outfit I’d be wearing for cocktails and dinner. Aside from that, the salad has to be wonderful, and a “why didn’t I think of that?” combo.

  5. Awesome post! There’s a certain feeling that you communicate here and you made me ready for a night in the city! Also, “I’m getting defensive…” so funny!
    Hope all is well!

  6. Really looking forward to trying this recipe, it’s such an interesting mix of ingredients! I am a huge fan of roasted carrots, but have never thought of roasting lemon and orange right along with them, very cool idea! I’m hoping to visit Chicago soon to see the Botanic Garden and others like the Lurie Garden and Cantigny Park. I’m in Cincinnati and have never been to Chicago, which seems weird as it’s only a few hours away! Thanks for the great post!

  7. Very unusual combination, but I’ll be making that salad very soon. Your timing of this post hit home with me.

  8. My husband and I stayed at the Public -as did our out of town guests – for our wedding as well. Great memories! The staff couldn’t have been sweeter or more accommodating. And the bar and restaurant. Gorgeous! Thanks for taking me back to those days/nights!

  9. I feel the same way about hotels! I usually Airbnb when I am in Chicago but I might have to look into this place for my next trip.

  10. Thank you for this post! I lived in Chicago when I was about 8 years old in the early 50′s. We lived in a brownstone on E. Schiller Avenue. I remember going to the Pump Room with my parents. Memories of pineapple towers, things on fire in a chafing dish,telephone brought to the table, celebrities. My father wasn’t one of the one percent but he wanted to be and knew a few. I have better memories of The Buttery in the Ambassador West. We would go every Thursday (maid’s night out, we didn’t have a live in maid but my father wanted people to think we did!). I loved it when the waiter came to the table and made blue cheese dressing in front of us. I still make a killer blue cheese dressing. It was fun being able to just walk to places like that. I like simpler pleasures now, like finding the best tiny restaurant in the back of a Mexican meat market here in Oregon. The salad looks great!

  11. I always order that salad at ABC Kitchen, it’s my fave….Chicago is on my list!

  12. Any chance for a Lottie + Doof Drink of Summer this year?

  13. Hi Harriet, Let me see what I can do! Thanks for remembering.

  14. This salad!!! A big part of the reason why I bought JG’s cook book. And that curved gold ceiling is amazinggg.

  15. This is THE salad—love your photos of the hotel, too. Pretty. xo

  16. I knew the hotel you were talking about as soon as I saw the picture of that salad. I had it over a year ago and still can’t stop thinking about it! I, too, did a staycation at Public Chicago (I live about 1 block away) and it was just lovely.

  17. Made this salad last night and it was an incredible mix of flavours and textures. I used baby beet tops as the greens and they were perfect. This will definitely be in my summer rotation. Thanks for sharing.

  18. Ha, speaking of people-watching at hotels, last weekend I was at the bar at the Palmer House and a guest came up to the bar in just his bathrobe to order a martini. It was an entertaining scene that ended with security escorting him (and his luggage) out. How could people not love hotels?

  19. Thanks, Tim! Although I’ve been seeing different versions of this around, this is the one that grabbed me. I have made it twice this week, because the first batch was attacked by a horde of hungry teenagers before I could get to it. And I’m planning to make it this weekend as well.

  20. Hi Tim! Your blog is a lovely read. I am usually a lurker here, but you’ve lured me from the quiet. May we please talk a little more about that splendid bar? Quite specifically, I’d like to hear more about those shimmery curvaceous walls. What material is used there? Tile? Metal? Wallpaper? It is stunning, and I could just stop and stare for quite some time. Alas, I am allergic to avocado, so I will only live on this generation’s salad fringe, but I do fully intend to attempt your tomato cobbler this summer.

  21. amazing! since I got your newsletter email in my inbox I had been waiting for a moment to prepare this. I made it tonight and it was delicious! thanks for sharing, and hello from chile! ;)

  22. Hi Sara! My apologies for the delay in responding. I think it is gold leaf! I’m not positive, but it looked to be to be some sort of paint/gold leaf technique that is enhanced by lighting. It is stunning.

  23. Great blog. First time here. I happen to have a fondness for PUBLIC Hotel and you doubly confirmed it in this post. Overall: Your easy, honest conversational writing style is appetizing. Thanks.

  24. They’ve gotta find a shorter name for this. Roast Carrot and Avocado Salad, Crunchy Seeds, Sour Cream, Citrus Vinaigrette is just too long. I think I’m gonna go with your suggestion: “The Salad of Our Generation”. Easier to remember.

  25. I’ve been reading your blog for a while now, loved your review of the PUBLIC and just booked a three-night stay during our August trip to Chicago. Our wedding guests stayed at the Ambassador East nearly 22 years ago, and I’m sorry to say it was a d-u-m-p. Fortunately for our guests there was the Pump Room, bar, and great location … happy to hear of its renaissance. We’ll let them know that we booked on your recommendation.

  26. Thanks for this post. Great hotels make a trip and finding them is always fun. Filed this away for future trips.

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