BY ALICE YORK
In Chicago, we are so fortunate to have so many destinations, both decidedly urban, and others more rustic, just an easy drive or quick flight away. So, grab your overnight bag and make your getaway!
Starting in January, all things turn pink and red, clearly signaling that Valentine’s Day is fast-approaching and the time to get a wooing game plan into gear is nigh. Taking into account the necessary recovery time after the holidays, however, we don’t always get our travel plans and dinner reservations locked down with quite the haste needed to stay competitive in the love game when February 14 rolls around.
Though we would all love to whisk away to St. Barths for the holiday to fete our love in the sunshine, or perhaps walk along the Seine hand-in-hand, daydreaming together in Paris, these types of excursions take planning sometimes more far in advance than we have prepared for. Keeping our busy schedules and cost in mind, too, something less far flung (and more reasonably priced) seems far more palatable – and can still be just as decadent, relaxing, and romantic.
We say, why not surprise your sweetie with a long weekend somewhere a little closer to home? We suggest to you a few days away in Minneapolis, the city made famous by the wonderful Mary Tyler Moore. There is no excuse not to; not only is it just a short trip away, but we have your itinerary right here!
Fly north in February? We know that premise may give you pause, but there are few things more romantic than cozying up together to keep each other warm in cold weather. And what a wonderful excuse to indulge in rich, comforting foods (and perhaps a warming whiskey or glass of Cabernet)!
Should you choose to drive, it is a very manageable six-hour drive, or by plane will only take you an hour and a half (with affordably priced flights abound).
For accommodations, we recommend the Radisson Blu Minneapolis Downtown. Recently spruced up courtesy of a multi-million dollar total renovation, the look is modern and the rooms are chic and understated, with exquisite views of the city. The location is ideal: great shopping and access to the Minneapolis’ skyway system (which is thankfully climate-controlled!) are steps away. We advise taking advantage of the hotel’s Winter Weekend Getaway Package. This offers rates starting at $139, with priority reservations and two free drinks at the FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar.
While in town, you have to make your way to Spoon and Stable, a 2015 James Beard Foundation Award semifinalist for Best New Restaurant. Located in what was once a horse stable, dating back to 1906, in the heart of the North Loop Neighborhood, the restaurant is the homecoming project from James Beard award-winning chef Gavin Kaysen. It was the dream of Kaysen, the restaurant’s chef and owner, to bring his talents back home to Minneapolis, where he grew up. The cuisine is focused on the seasonality of the Midwest, the roots of the local culture, and technically inspired by the French cuisine Chef Kaysen is known for. Some of our personal favorites are the Scallop Crudo, the Creamy Spinach, and the Spaghetti Nero. The brunch is also fantastic and the Crepe Cake from Pastry Chef Diane Yang is not to be missed.
Another dining destination we encourage you to try is Chef Mike Rakun’s Marin Restaurant & Bar. Located at the beautiful Le Méridien Chambers hotel in downtown Minneapolis, the restaurant reimagines farm-to-table dining with approachable dishes combining healthy, Minnesota ingredients with a Northern California mindset. Chef Rakun takes steps like swapping olive oil for butter or using the starchy liquid from ears of corn instead of heavy cream to thicken soups, in order to make his dishes healthier. We love the menu’s options of small and large plates, letting you pick a few things to snack on – like their superbly delicious Ham, Fig, and Blue Cheese Flatbread (on a proprietary whole-wheat crust, to balance out the sumptuous toppings) – or heartier fare like the Grass-Fed Beef Tenderloin. With transparency in mind, all items are presented on the menu with their nutritional content, a mark of Rakun’s dedication to more mindful cuisine. Marin is a great alternative to the usual heavy, winter fare, and is a can’t-miss destination while visiting the Twin Cities.
For drinks we suggest Marvel Bar, which serves up inventive cocktails with the most diverse array of ingredients you could imagine, all in a setting that instantly ups your cool factor. If you prefer beer to Chartreuse, we point you in the direction of Surly Brewing Co, where you and your love can sip some craft brews and even take a tour of the brewery.
In order to burn off some of those calories, we think walking around, shopping, and seeing the sights will do the trick. Forgo the Mall of America and buy each other a few little somethings to say I love you at MartinPatrick3, Askov Finlayson, or The Foundry, all within a few blocks of one another. Both MartinPatrick3 and Askov Finlayson, though technically stores directed at men, have furniture, design, and apothecary elements that both sexes can appreciate (be sure to ask about the new private lounge at MartinPatrick3).
The Foundry, a fantastic spot for items for the home, follows a more minimalist aesthetic, but does it in a way that is utterly inviting, not cold. From beautiful linen napkins and Italian ribbon to hand-thrown ceramics and Japanese hand-forged brass stationary trays, there are a hundred and one gifts you will want to bring back for friends and family in Chicago (though we will not judge if you choose to keep a few for yourselves). PARC – the place to find women’s clothing and accessories by smaller, emerging designers – is serene and stylish, and everything there is subtle, modern, and well-made.
Though eating and shopping are what some of the best getaways are made of, it is important to take in some culture with your significant other, too. To get your dose, stop by the American Swedish Institute. The institute is housed in an unbelievable mansion built in 1908 by Swedish immigrants Swan and Christina Turnblad – this 33-room home is like a European castle and alone is worth the trip. The Turnblads turned it over to the community about twenty years after it was built and in 1929 the American Swedish Institute was founded within its walls.
We also want to make sure you check out the Minneapolis Institute of Art when you are in town. With exhibits currently showing on American Modernists from the Kunin Collection, a Jane Austen reading room, and a special collection of Japanese and Korean art, to name a few, it is a must.
Have a great time in Minneapolis, lovebirds, and stay tuned for next month’s almost-local locale!
Photo credits: Bonjwing Photography