Gogobot Chicago's "Snap & Brunch" event

I made this postcard at gogobot.com for free!
The travel website and app, Gogobot Chicago along with Jen Knoedl of JenTravels hosted "Snap & Brunch" today at the downtown Chicago restaurant Mercat a la Planxa. For a mere $25, attendees got a three-course brunch, access to a DIY bloody mary bar, some picture-taking tips from professional photographer Jeff Schear, and a tour of the Renaissance Blackstone Chicago Hotel by concierge Shannon Boland.

About 11 guests came to the event which began at noon with an introduction to our chef Mark Sabbe and bartender. I met Janelle Rominski, Mary Kay H., Michael, Joe who brought an impressive-looking camera, and a couple - Sophia and Andrew. The table settings were dressed up with the brunch menu, and a bunch of fun Gogobot swag including sunglasses in assorted colors, blue and silver metal bottle opener key chains, buttons, pens, luggage tags, and hi-microfiber cleaning cloth.

Salmon Benedict
While everyone was getting settled in, we got to sample the meat, cheese, and dessert station located in the center of the dining room. Our first course consisted of sweet potato-almond milk buckwheat pancakes topped with sliced strawberries, cardamom whipped cream, and syrup on the side. These were most excellent. And then came the bacon wrapped dates. They were delicious, and tasted just like Cafe Babareeba's. Our second course was a salmon benedict and peppers. The beautifully-plated benedict was made of seared skuna bay salmon, a poached egg, a sherry compressed tomato, and maltese sauce atop a potato croquette. The padron peppers, green and shaped like chili peppers were served with a yummy salbitaxada sauce. By the time our third course arrived I was feeling pretty full, but didn't want to miss out on the revuelto de conejo and cochinillo asado. The first was soft scrambled eggs, braised rabbit, brussels sprouts leaves, glazed carrots and truffle chestnut toast. The cochinillo asado was a roasted suckling pig with grilled onions and romensco sauce. I didn't like this dish so much, but I think that if it was served first, with the pancakes as dessert last, I may have liked it better. But then, if the pancakes were served last, I might not be able to enjoy them so much because I might have been too full.

The bloody mary bar had three choices of mixes - a traditional, and then two lighter mixes - one a pale green, the other pink. I went for the traditional, and added chili powder, paprika, a pepper shaped like a tiny pickle, and a celery stick. They had one kind of fun addition which was a jalapeno pepper stuffed with sausage and a watermelon ball on either side stuck on a skewer.

While we ate, Jeff shared some tips on picture taking. He said when using a smart phone he tries not to use a flash, as the lighting technology hasn't yet caught up to the camera's capabilities. He also said perspective is something that can really help flatter the subject. By shooting down from above, people are forced to look up, hiding the illusion of a double chin.

When our brunch ended we met hotel concierge Shannon Boland who gave us a thorough tour of hotel beginning with the now defunct barbershop. The floor has its original marble, and fabric wallpaper, large mirrors and chandeliers decorate the room. Twelve presidents have stayed at the Blackstone and all got their hair cut in the barbershop. Al Capone frequented this shop in part because it has a second exit. When police would enter through the front, Capone could easily slip through the side door.

Next we saw the art room which was really more of a long hallway. It's filled with really cool modern furniture, mirrors, red carpet, and artwork from Columbia College. There is a peculiar set of stairs that lead to nowhere. There are a few sprinkled throughout the hotel. They were put in by a transcendentalist architect who believed they would help spirits roam the halls.

Our next stop was the ballroom, a moderately sized room surrounded by an upper balcony overlooking the room, gorgeous chandeliers, and window seats lining the entire wall facing Michigan Avenue. We also toured the Presidential Suite and Sky room. The Sky room was so cool. Very modern and it has a sky light that you can close with a switch.

The next time Gogobot hosts an event, you should definitely go!