Sunday, January 31, 2010

Alinea

(image via Alinea)

TASTING


CHAR ROE traditional garnishes
Cocktail of Henriot Brut with Chartruse, Akvavit, and Orange Curacao

DISTILLATION of thai flavors

PORK BELLY curry, cucumber, lime
Abbazia di Novacella Kerner, Valle Isarco, Alto Adige 2008

STURGEON potato, leek, smoke
Movia 'Veliko Biancoi', Slovenia 2004

HOT POTATO cold potato, black truffle, butter

FILET DE BOEUF godard
Domaine Saint Martin Fixin-Hervelets I er Cru, Cote de Nuits 2005

GOOSE stuffing, prune, juniper aroma

DUCK chestnut, mace, orange
d'Arenberg 'The Twentyeight Road' Mourvedre, McLaren Vale, Australia 2006
EGGNOG pedro ximenez, benedictine, buffalo trace

PEANUT BUTTER dried and spicy

THAI BANANA beer, mustard, pecans

HAY burnt sugar, coffee, huckleberry
Klein Constantia 'Vin de Constance', South Africa 2004

CHOCOLATE
coconut, menthol, hyssop
Ramos-Pinto 20 year Tawny Port

BUBBLE GUM long pepper, hibiscus creme fraiche

(Sturgeon, Potato, Leek, Smoke)

In a word...Perfection.
Simply stated...The. Best. Meal. of. my. Life.
And I enjoyed it with The. Best. Friend. of. my. Life.

Alinea's dishes were as close to flawless as I have ever tasted.
deft.
finesse.
whimsy.
skill.
We visited a veritable fairy land on plate, paid respect to Escoffier, wrapped spring rolls, and ate nearly every part of a duck.
We finished this meal with bubble gum.
Every meal should end with bubble gum and laughter.
I ate the single best thing I have ever tasted in my life.
Seriously.
And yes, it contained a truffle.

The service at Alinea is
unpretentious,
confident,
humorous,
educational,
and warm.
It was as if they had been waiting for us all day and I almost felt like they didn't want us to leave.
It was an emotional dining experience.
Nearing the end of our meal I looked at one of our hardworking servers and said,
"The only way I can justify dining like this, justify being open to this experience, is knowing if you came to my house I would treat you exactly the same way as you've treated us tonight...except there would be beer."
And he said, "Hey, I like beer."
I swear I almost hugged him when we left.

No dining experience has ever made me feel as special and deserving as this restaurant did last night.
If you have the means you must go; you simply must.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Tree of Life

Leif and I will celebrate our wedding anniversary early next week and while I was puttering around the house today I remembered receiving this tree of life from some of Leif's co-workers as a wedding present. This is one of those gifts we love just as much today as the day it was given to us. Our lives have certainly grown a few more branches and our roots have surely taken a stronger hold since then.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Feet on Ice

I love shopping at the grocery markets in Chinatown.
I admired these chilly chicken feet, but alas I settled for some high gluten flour, black rice noodles, and some rice paper rolls instead...

r.i.p. JD

"The most singular difference between happiness and joy is that happiness is a solid and joy a liquid."
-JD Salinger-
1919-2010

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Working Girls

Today was unofficially take your neighbor to work day and
there was nothing like seeing these two hot working mamas, Ang and Kari, in their natural habitat! I was visiting their office for a meeting with their boss about an upcoming event and my presence pretty much derailed all of their productivity for the length of my stay. I, however, was extremely productive during my visit and managed to form a new food centric book club with them, tell a funny story, and dabble in a little match making; I even did it all without resting in a cubicle once!
I feel exhausted and over worked.
Seriously, I think these lovelies would make for some pretty amazing co-workers!
If I had a desk job I love to find them sitting on either side of me...but I have a thing about desks so we'll have to settle for a dining room table.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Twisted up with Hud

The kids were out of school today because of an institute day. We were fortunate to have an extra family member for the day. Finn loves hanging out with Hud and we made the most of our time with him! Despite the fact we went to the movies, hit the arcade, and ate at McDonald's the highlight of the entire day was working on tongue twisters in the car.
Give 'em a try...
Finn had the first hilarious slip working on this one:
I slit the sheet.
The sheet I slit.
And on the slitted sheet I sit.

But this is the one to try if you really want to get an elementary school boy belly laughing:
One smart fellow, he felt smart.
Two smart fellows, they felt smart.
Three smart fellows, they all felt smart.

The laughter was just precious!
Thanks for sharing our day Hud!

Clubbing and Chowing.

Last evening, after a long and busy day, we dropped Emma off at the Double Door for a pretty hip 13th birthday party! I remember going to shows at that nightclub back in the day and dropping my daughter off there felt oddly full circle. A hypnotist, DJ, and an airbrush tattoo artist provided more than enough entertainment for the hundreds of kids in attendance!
While Emma was clubbing it up, we were chowing down with some friends around the corner.
Piece Brewery and Pizza is pretty much first rate!
Seriously some of the best thin crust pies I've had in quite a long time!

Guessing Game...

I did something spontaneous and brave today.
It involved Brussels Sprouts, Sur la Table in Naperville, wearing the number 229, standing in line for 3 hours, and talking about myself.
It did not go poorly and I would do it again in a second.
Leif and the kids bought me the nice red spatula as a "you rock and we are proud of you gift!"
Any guesses?

Little Snuggle

All winter long Lucy snuggles up in warm blankets like a baby.
I find her to be pretty much irresistibly adorable!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Dinner for four...a repeat.

Last year we hosted a January dinner for four for two of our favorite people.
Tonight we officially made it an annual affair!

Asian Contrasts
Crispy Crab Wonton with Sweet and Spicy Dipping Sauce and Steamed Ginger Shrimp and Spinach Dumpling with Golden Garlic and Hoisin Paint
Earthy Cream of Nine Wild Mushroom Soup

Baked Goat Cheese Salad with Golden Beets, Asparagus, Apple, and Cranberry
Sweet Potato Ravioli with Sage Brown Butter, Chilies, Pine nuts, and Frizzled Shallot.
Smoked Paprika Dusted Halibut with Fried Brussels Sprouts and Spanish Potato Omelet

Mocha Pot de Creme
Cheers Gills.
We can't think of anyone better to have at our table!
XOX
We're already looking forward to next January...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

For the love crocs...

I have professed my love and loyalty to the ugly croc on this blog once before, but after serving as a buffer from being electrocuted in the street, I really didn't think I'd ever find myself in a situation that would require me to express gratitude for these holey orange rubber shoes again. But I have.

I admit my volunteering has spun out of control on several occasions. I have, in the past, glued my fingers together making hundreds of Diwali candles, assembled countless microscopic tamale type things called humitas, and filled more than a few plastic ketchup bottles with Atomic Fireballs all in the name of helping worthy organizations. I have run a committee that should honestly inspire the next Christopher Guest film and I know the importance of carrying a pocket copy of Robert's Rules of Order...seriously.
I am a seasoned volunteer.
My motto should be will work for free.

I am particularly devoted to our local elementary school; after eight years of volunteering at Irving, I thought there wasn't much they could throw at me that would surprise me.
Until today...
Today, I was called upon to help with preparations for a Zero Waste Grant Irving is in the process of applying for. I jumped right on board because I am all about going green.
I just didn't the think "green" in this volunteer opportunity referred to the peas in the lunchroom trash or me turning a putrid shade of green, but dude it totally did.
I spent a good portion of my afternoon sorting and weighing the garbage produced by the school in one day. I started easy with paper and junk mail and rapidly moved up the ladder (with a few hearty souls) to the lunch room waste.
OMG...can you say five garbage cans full of chicken nuggets, bologna, cheese, half eaten apples, soggy cookies, solidified macaroni and cheese, yogurt cups, cans, napkins, Cheetos, and one uneaten Butterfingers. As we started schlepping this slop I was never so happy to have laytex gloves and rubber shoes in my life. I also have to say I was really grateful it was not Salisbury steak, Sloppy Joes, or spaghetti and meatballs day in the lunch room....at least chicken nuggets are solid...that is the best thing I can say about them.
In the end we ended up with more than 15 pounds of wasted milk, countless sporks, more than 50 pounds of paper, and about 3 zillion peas.
Parents...if you think your kid is eating their lunch...I am here to tell you they are not.
On a personal note:
You see that unopened yogurt by my orange croc...the one next to that bag of half eaten meat and diary? That yogurt was from Finn's lunch and I totally sorted it out of the garbage.
Can you say busted?
Needless to day I totally freaked Finn out when I told him I found his uneaten yogurt while I was digging through the garbage at his school today. Mom's don't get much cooler than me and no-one can accuse me of failing to go the extra mile to find out if my kids are eating their healthy lunches.
I am pretty sure this particular type of parental sleuthing will be a one time only effort.
This was a Big Yuck.
I hope this grant gets funded.
A lot.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Everybody Can Dance...

Last Sunday Emma participated in an Everybody Can Dance workshop at the Academy of Movement and Music. I am thrilled Emma has the opportunity to enhance her study in this manner...she is not only becoming a better dancer, but a more well rounded person.

(still photos created from video footage by Michael Dutka)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Thawing...

The sun finally showed it's face today and
the ice and snow started to break down under the pressure.I know there are still sixty days until spring, but the weather today and a brisk walk in the sunshine got me to thinking about my new chanticleer pear tree blooming again.
I am pretty ready to see some signs of spring around here!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Dinner Scene

Dad: Finn, are you anxious to go back to school after this long week-end.
Finn: Well kind of yes and no.
Mom: What are you looking forward to?
Finn: Oh you know, I am just looking forward to getting back in the jig.
Dad: What?
Mom: Do you mean back in the groove?
Finn: I am pretty sure I mean I'm looking forward to getting back in the jig of things.

We're pretty sure Finn was looking forward to getting back in the swing of things!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Brunch

This morning we had a few neighbors over for a casual brunch. I was particularly proud because Finn made the egg casserole and Emma made the French Toast! Ang brought some delicious Monkey Bread Muffins and Matt brought some ridiculously yummy Maple Black Pepper Bacon.
It was a wonderful way to start our Sunday.
I have to say sweet breakfast items are not usually my cup of tea, but this French Toast was certainly something special...
Over Night Blueberry French Toast

1 loaf day old French Bread, cut into 1" cubes
2 8oz pkgs cream cheese, cut into 1" cubes
1 C fresh Blueberries
10 eggs
1 1/2 C milk
1t pure vanilla extract
1/3 C pure maple syrup

1 C Sugar
2T Corn Starch
1 C Water
1 C Fresh Blue Berries

Place half of the bread cubes in a greased 9x13 glass baking dish. Sprinkle with the cream cheese cubes and 1 C blueberries and finish with the remaining bread cubes. Whisk the eggs, vanilla, and maple syrup in a large bowl and pour evenly over bread mixture in prepared pan. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Allow French toast to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking uncovered for about 50 minutes or until set.

Meanwhile, combine the sugar, cornstarch, and water and whisking until mixture boils and thickens. Add the remaining 1C blueberries and cook until berries burst. The sauce will thicken like pie filling.

Serve the sauce over the baked french toast and enjoy.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Dinner for four...plus one.

The Menu:
Creamy "creamless" Tomato Soup with Chives
Pecan Encrusted Baked Goat Cheese with Apple, Asparagus, and Cranberry
Prosciutto Wrapped Pork Tenderloin with Spinach and Pinenut, Cremini Mushroom Sauce, Rosemary Potato Tower, and Smoked Paprika Green Beans.

Last night I cooked dinner for my cousin and her friend, Scott. Midway through the meal my friend Rhonda came by to pick up her daughter and pulled a rocking chair up to the table and finished eating with us. I can't think of a better unexpected dinner guest!
It was a cozy evening and the food was quite delicious.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Salt Cellar


This darling little salt cellar is about the size of a thimble, but it evokes a pretty big history.
Salt was a valuable commodity in the middle ages and the word "salary" originates from the word salt. Consequently elaborate salt receptacles displayed on dining tables served as symbols of a host's prestige and seated guests could instantly determine how important they were to their host by their proximity to the salt on the table.
In the 1940's individual salt cellars with their tiny silver spoons , like the one above, became fashionable, but were quickly replaced by the enduring salt shaker in the 1950's.
Personally, I don't put mine on the table for a couple of reasons. I don't think properly prepared food should ever require extra salt...if someone asks me for it I know I've screwed something up. Secondly that whole "guest orientation to salt" history thing makes me nervous...God forbid I put someone special too far from the salt and they feel slighted. Who knew a salt cellar could turn you into a bad hostess! So I use mine in the kitchen and keep it filled with fine Trapani Sea Salt I use for cooking and I love it more every day!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Indulgence

Some people joke that housewives
sit around the house eating bon bons all day.
Anyone who has experienced the "stay at home" way of life can tell you that quite the contrary is true and often involves a toilet brush.
And after enough stain removal, floor scrubbing, dinner cooking and carpool driving it comes time to take a mental heath day.
Today I ate bon bons so to speak.
My foodie friend, Tee, came over with
an array of cheeses and fruit.
We ate baked brie and dark chocolate.
We talked about nothing and everything.
We watched, What's Cooking?
We drank a tid-bit of champagne and
promptly downed a pot of coffee
It was our version of a vodka and Red Bull.
It was a cozy afternoon and I felt indulgent.
I'll be back to the toilets tomorrow and looking forward to my next mental health day.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Haiti


DONATE.
or

Click the link below for more information:

http://my.barackobama.com/Haiti

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Bowling Buddies

This afternoon I was able to chaperone Finn's Circle of Friend's bowling field trip.
Circle of Friends is a wonderful Irving club that brings special ed and regular ed students together in school on a regular basis. Finn has been a part of the group for three years and this was their first outing; I think everyone had a marvelous time!

Honors for Emma

This morning were able to attend the 7th grade honor roll breakfast to celebrate the academic accomplishments of Emma and her friends.
Congratulations! We are proud of you!

A Boy and his Cat

Sometimes I forget get what a big part of our lives our most quiet companion is.
Our cat, Jordan, and her favorite family member Finn sleep like this all night every night.
How sweet is that?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Ode to the Zing

With all of the detoxing going on around here I look forward just about anything with flavor these days. I am allowed to add some balsamic to my copious amounts of raw vegetables and I have been opting for just a little bit Zing!
Get this...we had a holiday party a while back and a couple of our guests reduce their own Balsamic and gave us a bottle as a holiday gift. Combined with a little olive oil, balsamic makes a lovely dressing, but after investing time in reducing it slowly, everything changes. The result pours like a thick velvety syrup and pairs beautifully with meats, salads, and even ice cream! Zing possesses many the qualities of the finest aged balsamic I've ever tried and frankly, has saved me from having a detox melt down!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Among friends...

This week-end we headed to Wauwatosa, WI to spend some time with our dear friends Ed and Miles. We poured some sparking wine, enjoyed some fine cheeses, cooked up an incredible surf and turf dinner, and played Rock Band until late in the evening...




Thanks Minters!
Spending time with you is always first rate.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Timber...


I find all of these discarded trees strewn about our local alleys just a little bit sad.They are the Cinderellas of Christmas...they got all dressed up for the party and then the clock struck midnight...and everything changed...
They are Blockbuster after Netflix...
The are Lindsay Lohan post Mean Girls ....
They are the super-models who gained twenty pounds...
They are MySpace after Facebook...
They are Beta after VHS...
They are the McDLT of trees...
They are the Milli Vanilli of the season.

Some superstars just can't make a comeback!
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