Watcher Origins Pt 1: Street style

With renewed hopes to blog more, I’m dedicating a few posts to the origins of what ultimately became The Watcher: street style and food. There was never a shortage for subject matter or inspiration - I found details at every corner and on every table. Whether it was unfashionable or poorly presented, I sought to show the ordinary in a different light. What was lacking, however, was the skill to capture what I saw and the platform to share it. Eventually, The Watcher became a training ground for writing, posting, Wordpress templating, and marketing before I understood what marketing was. There was no focus until I decided that international culture in Chicago is a common thread across my posts, and as much as my Instagram doesn’t reflect it now, street style as I see it has always been a subject of my creative origins. 

Here are a few select scenes from past travels. 

Greg BirmanComment
Press Room

In a neighborhood that went from meatpacking to under-the-radar-cool to a burgeoning luxury rental market every Northsider is “suddenly” discovering, intimate sneakaways are recently hard to come by. But if you rush past the Parlors and the glitzy glorified taco stations up and down restaurant row, you’ll come across an intimate, subterranean, wine bar in the lower level of the recently acclaimed Publishing House Bed and Breakfast.

The Press Room, a small plate establishment boasting essential wine pairings and instagrammable charcuterie boards is elevated (no pun intended) yet approachable. Chef Jeff Williams cooks up American cuisine with French and Italian references, with dishes like the confit potatoes, burrata, and chicken liver mousse, and a dessert list that includes crème brulee topped with salt flakes. The Press Room is ideal for a pre-dinner or late night digestif, or (in our case) a dark and cozy hideaway from the lights and crowds of the West Loop.

Greg BirmanComment
Cyber Monday Holiday Staycation

Over the last few years, Nika and I have been traveling at spring time, usually in March for her birthday, which basically means we're in town for the holidays and saving for that trip. Even still, we like to reward ourselves with a staycation locally, since it tends to be slow at work and there's so much to do in the city. It has become such a tradition for us, that we even got married at a hotel in December.

This past year, we've been spending a lot of time at the Peninsula for dinners, afternoon tea, events, and stays. You may have seen a few posts here and there, but I decided to share a few more photo highlights in this post, along with some details on their Cyber Monday offer. Check out the deal after the photos! 

It's hard to stay anywhere else, so if you're in town this season, treat yo self and book before EOD Monday to take advantage of these deals. Use code CHCYBER for 30% off on luxury guest rooms from December 17 2017 through April 30 2018 via or book an experience with a gift card. You'll get 10% applied towards a dining experience or spa treatment with a gift card of $300 or more.

Happy Staycation!     

Greg BirmanComment
Introducing Mr P.

Autumn in Chicago is always the most exciting time of year when it comes to dressing true to my style. This year, it got even more exciting with the release of MR PORTER'S private label collection, appropriately named Mr P.

To help celebrate the launch, I checked out a few of my favorite looks from the collection, and without much effort or surprise, they quickly worked their way into my day.

The high point is finally owning a rollneck sweater, which is one of the most versatile pieces you don't yet have. For reference, your high school buddy calls it a turtleneck. Dress it up with a shawl collar for a holiday reception or wear it under a work shirt on your (my) day off.

The less subtle piece is the double breasted herringbone overcoat. While the design is extremely traditional, the soft blend and unstructured lining makes it feel like a casual robe. It can easily become a daily staple, downplayed by some white kicks and a hat.

That's just Mr P. my way.

Check out the collection and follow the world of Mr P. on Instagram.

Greg BirmanComment
Taste of Peninsula

If there's one cheat day you're scheduling ahead for this year, make sure the Chocolate Bar at the Peninsula Chicago is at the top of your days with #noKale. I'm one of the few people I know who can begin any meal with dessert first, and in this case, you can't blame me. Out of the three dining options at Peninsula Chicago, the Chocolate Bar at The Lobby Restaurant, is by far the most decadent. Think, plates and plates of chocolate glazed marshmallow lollypops, pistachio chocolate cakes, macarons, and a made-to-order hot cocoa bar with options for those of us who are dairy-free as well. But Peninsula's extravagant dining offerings don't just end (or begin) with their dessert selection.

Come fall, Peninsula's Shanghai Terrace restaurant pays homage to the Chinese Mid-Autumn festival and offers guests a taste of handmade moon pies (American style); a beautifully crafted miniature pastry made of flour, butter, and sugar, topped with a Chinese emblem representing the traditions of the holiday. And, of course, if you're a Peninsula regular, don't fret - Executive Chef Toni Robertson says Peninsula's famous Club Sandwich isn't going anywhere any time soon! Whether you're into a more casual dining option at Pierrot Gourmet, an intimate dinner at The Lobby, or a festive cocktail hour at the Shanghai Terrace, Peninsula delivers a grand culinary tour. 

(words by Nika Levando)

Greg BirmanComment