Hellooo, bloggies!

I’m writing from the Sheraton in downtown Chicago, where I’ve been enjoying an exceedingly lovely day and a half so far! I’ve always been a big Chi-Town fan, and this trip is a reminder of why: great people, great dining, great shopping, and the same sort of hustle and bustle and energy that makes me adore NYC so much. I’m only sorry I won’t be here a little longer.

Countless readers have writtent to me for travel tips. It’s a request I rarely oblige, mostly because I rarely travel. As I often tell new friends, I am a person who has little or no wanderlust: I’m generally my happiest at home, immersed in the day to day. This doesn’t mean I don’t like travel; it just means that I don’t usually seek it out. (And let’s face it, I also can’t usually afford it.) When I can travel, however, I’m always glad to, and this week of mini-vacay gives me a chance to show you all how I handle being on the road whilst maintaining eating habits that make me feel my best.

My trip began yesterday morning, bright and early. Before leaving my apartment, I threw together some packed snacks. They included three bags of homemade trail mix: a walnut+golden mulberry combo; raisins, pecans, and coconut; and my personal fave, raw cashews, pumpkin seeds, cranberries, and raisins. I try never to purchase expensive trail mixes, raw or otherwise: instead, I use the bulk bins at my local health food store to get dried nuts and fruit en masse, and mix them up at home. Sometimes, I’ll shock myself with organization skills and put 1/3-1/2 cup servings in little baggies, too.

I also packed some of my favorite Lydia’s raw crackers:

And there was some bar action in the form of two Prana bars (thank you, Rosie, for your giveaway!), a Bumble Bar, and a Sun bar. The latter two were gifts from a client and fellow Upper West Sider. The ingredients are pretty clean, if a little miscombined, and I was excited to try them:

Typically, I don’t eat much before I fly: digesting in the air tends to disagree with my system in a big way. In spite of the early hour, however, I was pretty hungry yesterday morning, and knew it would be quite a few hours till lunch, so I whipped up one of my chocolate almond smoothies soon after rising. In the cab on the way to the airport, I sipped on this:

Flying, as we all know, is majorly dehydrating, so it’s important to load up on either juice or coconut water (or both) before you hit the plane. It’ll help prevent dry skin, constipation, and low immunity, folks, so do your best–even if it means getting an aisle seat for consistent bathroom breaks! I wasn’t checking my bags on this trip, but if I had been, you’d have also found some frozen Liquiteria juices; I’ve never had a problem putting these in checked bags, and they’re usually just defrosted and perfect for rehydrating when you land. This time, I just vowed to find a juice bar upon arrival! In my carry on bag, I also carried the obvious: carrots and avocado for a snack upon landing, if I wished.

On the plane ride over, I read this fantastic article by my dear friend Nat. If any of you are interested in EMFs (electro-magnetic fields) and their possible impact on health, I encourage you to pick this article up right away.

EMFs have been linked to health conditions from “benign” brain tumors to migraines to various cancers. I’ve recently spoken with many holistic health practitioners who believe that EMFs are a part of the risign epidemic of fertility problems, including PCOS and anovulatory cycles. As Nat makes clear, the evidence on hand is very contradictory and complex, and as of yet we have no real answers about how EMFs are affecting our health. All the more reason why we should be devoting time and effort to studying them more conclusively.

I arrived to find a lovely day here in Chicago: sunny, 50 degrees, and a little blustery, but not too bad. I also found my hotel accomodations to be super comfy and welcoming:

And was pleased to discover a fridge. Score! Hotel fridges mean the chance to purchase veggies and coconut water for snacks. Make my day, Sheraton, make my day:

I set out to do a bit of sightseeing along Michigan Ave, stopping periodically to gawk at designer apparel, Crate and Barrel dishes, and such intermittent architectural gems as these:

Before I left, I also took care to google juice bars within my zipcode, and found a few hits. When I travel to a major city, I like to identify healthy grocery stores, juice bars, and lunch spots nearby. That’s the joy of traveling to bigger cities: options abound! I found a place inside a mall nearby called Foodlife, which advertised a full service juice bar. ‘Twas a sight for sore eyes! This little place had a terrific salad bar and pre-packed salads:

It also had some healthy snacks, including a little hummus plate I decided to pick up and store in the room. One never knows when healthy snacks will be wanted, and it’s nice to have options that aren’t bars:

Next, I picked up a juice–carrot, celery, ginger, and a touch of green apple:

…which was a breath of fresh air for an ever-so-slightly-sleepy traveler. Yum!

After some more wandering, a mini-nap, some carrot+avo snacking, and some emails at the hotel, I left in a haze of excitement for my special blogger lunch! The destination?

That’s right–one of Chicago’s oldest and most famous vegan eateries, The Chicago Diner. This landmark restaurant is known for making vegan “comfort food” — which is to say that the menu is definitely a little heavier on the faux-meats than I typically go for:

That said, it’s also packed with tremendously tasty salads, vegan and gluten-free sides, raw-friendly guacamole, and baked goods from on the premises. Thumbs up. I already knew I had a hankering–as I usually do after a plane ride–for lots of green stuff, and guacamole. After all, salad and guac is my version of comfort food!

Before we get to the chow, though, let me introduce my incredible dining companions. They were:

Mara (pronounced, I learned, “Mah-ra”), and Jenn! I have corresponded with and adored these two women for a long, long time now, and I was over the moon happy to meet them! Along with Robyn, whose blog I’ve been reading forever, and her friend Hoda:

I also got to meet my other Chicago blog crush, Ms. Val:

Who’s snuggled up there with Lin. I got to meet long time reader, former client, and friend Elese:


And the lovely Maya:

It was SO fun and exciting to catch up with these women, who I’ve written back and forth with and enjoyed so many conversations with, in person. What a dynamic, sweet, and welcoming group!! During lunch, I gawked at Jenn’s new cards for her company, Pop! media:

And then ordered exactly what I was craving: green stuff! I got the garden salad:

A double side ‘o guac:

And some steamed veg + marinara, which I didn’t end up finishing but was happy to mix into my salad:

It was all totally delicious and hit the spot. Tip to those of you who are eating veggie-heavy lunches: always pay a little extra for the steamed veggie (or roast veggie) side. I find that salads are sometimes as large as I want them to be, sometimes not; having the extra veggies on hand means you can add volume to your salad easily.

My only complaint? Onion-y guac. Which I tasted for several hours hence. 🙁

After lunch, Ms. Val presented us all with a wonderful gift! In an absolutely sweethearted gesture, Val made me a raw version of a traditional Greek dessert (melamacarona, which I actually wasn’t familiar with–thanks, Val, for teaching me!). Made with oat groats, agave, and a nutty topping, this stuff was pure heaven!

We all proceeded to “oooh” and “aaaah.” Between the professional looking cupcakes that Mara showed me (pictured on her blog today), and Val’s raw Greek pastries, it was a good day for dessert. Ladies, you both have bakeries to open. Get on it.

After the lunch (and a fairly baroque, overly complex bill-paying ordeal — harumph) we gathered outside for a group photo. My face is all scrunched up because of the sun. Way to bring shades, Mara:

Thanks, ladies, for such a lovely gathering. I’m so lucky to know you all!

After Mara graciously dropped me off back at my hotel, I rested and read for a while before getting ready for the reason for my visit: a book party to celebrate my wonderful author, Katie, and the publication of her novel, Happy Now? I rarely talk about my editorial work on this blog, and I’m not going to make a habit of it now, since my life in books and life in nutrition and blogging are worlds away. But it would be remiss of me not to tell you that Happy Now? is one of the most funny, moving and beautifully written novels I ever have or ever will be lucky enough to work on, and that you should all check it out on Amazon. I promise you that it’s a read you won’t soon forget.

The party was hosted at the sleek and sophisticated Evanston eatery, The Stained Glass, where Katie’s husband happens to be the executive chef. Loved this place! It’s both homey and grown-up feeling, and features a wonderful menu of wine and tapas. Mara mentioned to me that it was a favorite of hers when she lived closer! Lucky Katie, to be married to a man who can cook.

Before the party, Katie had graciously tweeted me to say that there would be salad and a few vegan appetizers, but that I might want to bring a Larabar (how adorable is that?). I came armed with my Lydia’s crackers and some hummus, most of which I’d polished off as an afternoon snack, but there was no need for me to. As soon as I arrived, I was touched and delighted to find that Victor, Katie’s husband, had prepared vegan-friendly appetizer options. They included an apple, raisin, and grape salad served in endive leaves, jicama rounds with spicey guacamole, and fabulous summer rolls with avocado, pickled vegetables, and spices. I was obsessed with the latter, and hope to make them for myself soon at home!

I gobbled down my plate, as well as some salad and whole grain bread that was served a little later in the evening. It was so wonderful to spend time with Katie, whom I never get to see as often as I like:

After a festive and celebratory evening, I cabbed it back to the hotel for some work, some blog prep, and some reading. A few of Val’s melamacarona may have been involved, too 😉

So that, my friends, was my first day in Chi-Town. Today will involve a blogger lunch and dinner at a restuarant I’ve been dying to try! Please stay tuned for more recapping. I hope you’ve all been enjoying a good start to your weeks! And before I go, please head over to new father Matt’s blog for my guest post on my food philosophy.