Phooey on you, Old Man Winter. We’re tossing off our wooly layers, turning up our frostbitten noses at you, and finding creative and cozy ways to thaw out for awhile in Chicago.
When we can’t afford the airfare (always), we mimic our favorite sun-drenched destinations with a visit to Lincoln Park Conservatory (2391 N. Stockton Dr.) or Garfield Park Conservatory (300 N. Central Park Ave.). We close our eyes and breathe in the gentle, sweet-earthy fragrance and dream of umbrella drinks. Under the stunning glass roofs of these two historic structures, the palms, ferns and orchids, and the gurgling ponds and trickling waterfalls fill our lungs with oxygen and our souls with serenity. A different kind of tranquility can be had at the Primitive showroom (130 N. Jefferson St.) where the hushed Buddha and Meditation rooms allow time for reflection, introspection and spirituality. Maybe you’ll be inspired to take home a sacred Tantric Lingam stone from the Narmada River in India.
We’re talking eyes-watering here. Choose the “insane” sauce for your Death Valley wings at Cactus Bar and Grill (404 S. Wells St.) and you’ll literally be required to sign a waiver. At Chicago Curry House (899 S. Plymouth Ct.), it’s the lamb vindaloo, with hot peppers and “fiery hot gravy” that gives new meaning to the word smoking hot. To give its Mixto Cebiche a kick, Tanta (118 W. Grand Ave.) uses the rocoto pepper, falling on the Scoville heat scale at a whopping high as 250,000 units (compare that to Tabasco sauce that doesn’t get hotter than about 7,000). We warned you.
After gliding a few times around the Millennium Park ice rink, the ice seems to creep up right into our bones. Get that wonderfully opposite “ahhhh” feeling at The Gage (24 S. Michigan Ave.) with a mug of Anne’s Spanish Coffee, spiked with Plantation Rum and Tia Maria Liqueur, mixed with cream and a touch of cinnamon. Craving that grownup version of that cocoa your mom used to make? Look no further than The Dawson (730 W. Grand Ave.) whose cutely named Ski Bunny is the hot mama with double the rum, Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy, the complex French Bonal, chai tea, and topped with yellow chartreuse and tonga bean cream and cinnamon, and there you go.
One of the most joyful sounds of winter? That snap, crackle, pop from a wood-burning fire. Downtown, ROOF at theWit (201 N. State St.) turns up the heat with its enormous fireplace surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Loop buildings. And now, for that group selfie‑in front of the flames of course‑over a punch bowl of Pear Pressure, blended with Avion Reposado, Scrappy’s Chocolate Bitters, rosemary, fresh lime juice and housemade poached pear syrup. Just the thought of the fruity flavors should winterize your icy mood.
Even before we get there, we like the sound of this: The Clarity Chamber. It’s Valeo’s (151 W. Adams St.) modern version of a Hammam, a traditional Turkish bath equipped with heated stone benches, floors and a fireplace. Time-crunched travelers can defrost with the Re-Pressurize treatment, a 50-minute express service with time in an infared sauna, steam bath, and back, neck and shoulder massage. Won’t leave your hotel, come hell or Polar Vortex? Renew Spa (312.526.3891) can come to you with its mobile massages.