Branching Out At The Arboretum

I am a bona fide, certified city girl. That’s pretty much a requirement for my job but it can mean that I tend to forget there is life outside the city limits. I do leave Chicago frequently, but only as long as it takes to pick up my son and race straight back to my comfort zone. As many of my suburban friends will tell me, however, the fun stuff doesn’t stop at the edge of Cook County. In fact, last week I found a few spots that are worthy of a drive all the way out to – gasp! – South Barrington!

Truth be told I didn’t really discover them, in the sense that Columbus didn’t discover America. The Arboretum was already there; I just didn’t know about it, even though I’ve driven by countless times. I was there for “Uncorked From The Heart”, a progressive wine tasting that invited guests to visit six spots and sample wine (or cocktails) and cuisine, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the American Cancer Society.

As a member of the press I was invited to bring a guest to a special preview in Gold Class Cinemas. I kept wanting to call it Gold Coast (see – city girl), but it really is first class. The seats are comfortable, wide recliners that lean back so far you can see the ceiling without craning (if you’re so inclined). We had a choice of two cocktails from the bar set up near the screen, and as we watched previews servers came around with cuisine that was decidedly better than the standard popcorn and nachos fare: Chipotle crab salad, mini Philly cheese steak, mini flatbreads and mixed berry cheesecake shots (missed that one).

Next we took the shuttle to Pinstripes. This bowling and bocce bistro served a variety of red and white wines and different pizzas and flatbreads. After that was L’Eiffel, with knowledgeable oeniphiles pouring the wine and an assortment of hors d’ouevres and desserts. Favorites? The escargot and a little ball of chocolate-y goodness. Since they had live jazz we were tempted to stay there longer, but we had three more stops to go.

The shuttle once again arrived right when we needed it and took us to Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant. I’d been to the one in Orland Park for a wine dinner, so I was excited to see it on the list. So, apparently, was everyone else. The room was packed with guests trying their wine and flatbreads. The only place more crowded was Ruth’s Chris, which was to be expected since they were serving Steak Diane and Coppola wines. 

Our final stop was Acquisitions. A home design store, it was the sole non-food and beverage spot on the list. By this time we were full so we skipped the proferred tapas, but we did have a glass of sangria before heading back to Gold Class and reclining once more.

When we were at L’Eiffle I had noticed they had traditional absinthe fountains, so we decided to head back for some strong liquor and some smooth jazz. On the way we made a quick detour to Anna Shea Chocolates. (Picture a woman driving along very considerately, then screech! Chocolates! Turn! Park! That was me.) These have to be the most gorgeous chocolates I’ve ever seen. Each one looked like a work of art and seemed too beautiful to eat. However, I happened to have a card for a free bon-bon, and then the lovely lady behind the counter told me that everyone gets a free one when they visit! That’s worth the drive out to I-59 alone. I did eat them, and they were works of art within and without.

Finally at L’Eiffle we enjoyed some Pernod while listening to too-loud jazz. If at any time during the evening I might have felt out of my element, that was erased when someone I knew approached me at the bar.

The end result of all of this is that, while I’m still an unabashed urbanite, I’m more than willing to venture out to the land of the suburbanites. I may even stay awhile.







Leave a Reply