Story and photos by Alison Ramsey
Dozens of blooming white flowers and shimmering candles in glass holders grace the center of a long dining table. Greeted with a glass of sparkling wine upon entry to the Cigale Room, Sofitel Chicago Wine Dinner guests seat themselves around the table and sip their bubbling beverages while reviewing the printed menu of culinary delights and drinks to come. The varied-height centerpieces create intimacy between clusters of conversing guests, allowing privacy within a group setting. Per French ideals, one simple joy of life is savoring food and wine that bring out the best in each other, and Sofitel Chicago is an expert in this pairing of dishes and drinks, offering fine dining experiences through its creatively curated Sofitel Wine Dinners. This series of seasonal dinners introduces guests to exquisitely prepared courses matched with wines and cocktails whose notes enhance flavors in the meal.
The September 2022 Sofitel Wine Days Dinner at Sofitel Chicago was prepared by Executive Chef Cliff Crawford, who crafts meals that embody Sofitel’s “Live the French Way” motto. He said, “I always strive to have a noticeable French influence in the menus. It can be ingredients used, such as cheeses or pâtes, or could be a modern take on French classics.” Per this ideal, the September dinner’s first course was a beautifully plated French-style tuna tartare alongside cucumber mousse and delicate cucumber curls, ponzu onion, and topped with a marquise-shaped scoop of paddlefish caviar. This flavorful delicacy was accompanied by a generous pour of golden Domaine Gilles Noblet Mâcon-Fuissé from vineyards in Mâconnais, Burgundy, France.
Sofitel Chicago began hosting these wine dinners in late 2021, and a gourmet dinner is scheduled for each of the remaining three months of 2022. The dining room’s exquisite décor changes based on the time of year, as does Chef Crawford’s menu planning. “It is really just about the season and the ingredients that are best at that time of year. It mostly revolves around produce. Wild mushrooms, for example, are one of my favorites. I love to have morels in the spring and black trumpets in the winter,” Crawford said.
The Fall Harvest Wine Dinner on October 7 will feature wines from France, Italy, and the USA, alongside seasonal spreads. The November 11 Winter Whiskey Dinner will serve an exclusive Maker’s Mark bourbon mixed into cocktails, in lieu of wine. The December 9 Art de Noel Dinner will feature holiday décor and include festive cocktails to compliment the meal.
Regarding guests at these luxurious dinner experiences, Chef Crawford said, “I would like to see them leave with plans to return. I feel we are a bit of a ‘hidden gem’ here in downtown Chicago; we are a great location, but not everyone has heard of us. I want them to feel like they have found something special.” To purchase tickets for upcoming dinners at Sofitel Chicago, please visit https://www.sofitel-chicago.com/dining/wine-dinner-series/. To round out the evening, a convenient and comfortable overnight stay in the posh rooms above can be booked at https://www.sofitel-chicago.com/.
The 5-star Sofitel Chicago is part of a French luxury hotel chain that embodies “living the French way” by celebrating life through a sophisticated and unique approach to luxury accommodations and hospitality. Its stylish avant-garde exterior is a preview of the interior’s chic design and atmosphere. Le Bar, the glass-walled bar and lounge on the lobby level of the hotel, is a trendy place to unwind and socialize while indulging in savory appetizers, flatbreads, main dishes, and desserts, and sipping unique libations like the Banana Old Fashioned. A combination of Bacardi 8-year, Giffard Banane Liqueur, Angostura bitters, Angostura cocoa bitters, and Demerara syrup, with a dark cherry and an orange peel garnish, one patron described this drink as “a really interesting take on an old fashioned. Not too sweet, and very banana, which was fun!”
The higher floors of Sofitel Chicago offer a wide-windowed, stunning view of the bustling city below, while an easy flick of a switch lowers the blinds for privacy and comfort. In the European way, the fluffy bedding provides a warm nest in which to rest beneath a soft duvet with no need for a top sheet. Room bathrooms are supplied with bath and skin products by LANVIN Paris, a soft white robe, soaker tub, and rainfall shower. Luxurious and cozy, Sofitel Chicago provides home-away-from-home accommodations that pamper and allow for chic indulgence.
Further celebrate the art of living—l’art de vivre—and say oui to a nearby adventure that will bring the soirée to new heights. A mere five-minute walk from Sofitel Chicago, you can experience elevation to an even higher viewpoint of the city, at 360 CHICAGO, the top of the former John Hancock Center. The observation deck sits 94 floors high (1,030 feet above the Magnificent Mile) and is the home of Chicago’s highest thrill ride, TILT. To get to this height, you first stroll through an exhibition celebrating the history of Chicago and nine of its culture-rich neighborhoods. A quick 20-miles-per-hour elevator ride then lifts you to the glass-walled, 17,000-square-foot level that allows breathtaking 360-degree vistas of the city and lakefront. On a clear day, you can even see four states from this lookout deck!
An add-on to the observation deck entry is a ticket to experience TILT, where guests 42 inches and taller can spend 2-3 minutes safely angling forward over the cityscape and peering downward through the glass window. While excited participants tightly grasp handles to their right and left sides, the glass wall is set into action in a series of motion profiles, allowing people to feel the sensation of leaning out into the sky and over the skyscrapers. Energizing music builds as the windows tilt farther and farther out at each interval, causing some people to close their eyes, some to giggle nervously, and others to shriek in terror. At night, colorful lights outline each panel separating participants. In “Extreme” mode (an experience that requires a prerequisite signing of a safety waiver), a window can even slide open for guests to enjoy further thrills and feel the city breeze. Trying out the basic mode, with its increasing angles and exhilarating music, Megan Pletzer from Madison, Wis., said, “You think it’s done, and then it just keeps going!”
A general admission ticket to the observation deck includes entry to the brand new CloudBar, which officially opened on September 14, 2022. Owned and operated by Magnicity, a Paris-based company, 360 CHICAGO’s CloudBar is a novel, sky-high bar and lounge that magnifies the best of Chicago by featuring local food and beverage partnerships and décor by area artisans. Magnicity CEO, Alexia Vettier, said, “We want each Magnicity location to act as a true city ambassador for our guests—encouraging exploration of the vibrant neighborhoods within our cities and forging new adventures and experiences. We are thrilled to introduce our brand-new bar concept with CloudBar.”
Photos above courtesy of 360 CHICAGO.
The Gettys Group Chicago design team fashioned the area to give people the feeling of “floating in the air.” Numerous reflective surfaces (including the ceiling, drink rails, and back wall) echo the spectacular sights visible through the floor-to-ceiling windows. Modern European lounge furniture and stylish lighting coupled with customized, original graphics by Chicago-based muralist Lauren Asta emphasize the blended cultures found in the city.
At this great height and surrounded by inspiring art and lights, you can also stimulate your sense of taste with snacks and sips from CloudBar’s offerings. The “Feeling Tilt-sy” cocktail carries on the “TILT” theme, served in a unique glass that leans to one side. Another colorful drink emits a haze of white mist from its lime-accessorized martini glass. Exclusively available at CloudBar is the Magnicity Pilsner, created by Moody Tongue brewery in partnership with 360 CHICAGO. Other true Chicago brands and products can be found at this exciting altitude, including wares from Garrett Popcorn, Vosges Haut-Chocolate, Carol’s Cookies, Kit Kat Lounge & Supper Club, and Kikwetu Coffee Company.
Photos above courtesy of 360 CHICAGO. Pictured at center above is artist Lauren Asta.
This space in the clouds is also available to be rented for private events, weddings, and parties. For information on event reservations, please visit 360chicagoevents.com. Relax at cloud level with besties and beverages, elevate your mood, and let the spectacular city views fill you with joie de vivre, the joy of living.