If you haven’t hosted an event at Kimpton Hotel Palomar Chicago recently, it’s time to give this River North hotel a second look. The 261-room property just added 1,700 square feet of new meeting and events space to the ground level adjacent Sable Kitchen & Bar.

The two new spaces, named Canvas and Upper Canvas, have abundant natural light, an outdoor patio and an open kitchen. Canvas can accommodate up to 70 guests at round; Upper Canvas can hold 30; and a seated dinner can take place in both spaces for up to 100. Standing receptions offer a bit more capacity, with room for up to 150 in both spaces. Come summer, the back and side patios are likely to be popular for private events, says Allison Shuldheiss, the hotel’s director of catering since January this year.

In addition to the new spaces, the hotel’s existing 2,400-square-foot ballroom and 1,500-square-foot foyer have been updated with new carpeting and wall coverings. But the most exciting news for meeting planners may be two new F&B-themed breakout experiences launching this spring:

1) The Live Like a Chef package (for breakout groups of five to 10 people) includes a morning shopping a local farmers market with Executive Chef Amber Lancaster, personalized chef jackets for each attendee, an afternoon interactive cooking demo, a specialty cocktail demonstration by Sable’s mixologist and a three-course meal.

2) The Cocktail Competition package (for larger groups of 25 to 150 guests) includes three cocktail demonstrations (and tastings, of course) by Sable’s mixologist followed by a cocktail-making competition for attendees.

“We pride ourselves on not being a hotel with simple or basic cuisine,” says Lancaster. “For our new banquet menus, we wanted to be able to provide our guests with options for unique, chef-driven culinary experiences.”

As such, in addition to these breakout packages, new catering menus at Kimpton Hotel Palomar offer engaging elements like a crepe station (French crepes served alongside Nutella, bananas, berries, honey and more) or a chef’s table option (buffet-style offerings inspired by produce from Chef Lancaster’s twice-weekly visits to Green City Market). She’s also been working with Chicago-based vendors, like The Great American Cheese Collection, to source high-quality ingredients made in the United States.

“I love to source local and work with farmers all over,” says Lancaster. “It’s a great opportunity to give back to the community.”

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Have you ever wanted to tell an attendee to get lost? Well, now you can do so while maintaining your professional integrity. In conjunction with the Illinois Bicentennial celebrations happening this year, the Illinois Office of Tourism has partnered with 17 farms and orchards around the state to debut Bicentennial-themed corn and apple tree mazes for the public to enjoy.