Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Martha Stewart Moment.

 Personally, I had never made a salad specifically designed to blend into a table-scape before, but last night I did exactly that! This briny little throw back was a decent little salad, but couldn't outshine the  entree during my dinner time photo shoot.  Yep, I have been channeling my inner Martha Stewart these days...making things pretty and delicious...not to mention cross marketing and branding the hell out of myself!  Lots of very fun and exciting things are coming out of Mel's Kitchen these days. Oak Parkers will probably see Rob Hart's photos sometime next month.
After the photo shoot, Leif, Rob, the kids and I all sat down and ate the set.  It was delicious meal and even the bread stick props were enjoyed by all!  It was a fun and spur of the moment dinner party to say the least!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Happily Ever After

The Elsmo Four were all awake at 4:00am today to take in the royal wedding.  I am fairly certain that I was the only one who really felt compelled to take in the festivities live at that ungodly hour, but the fact that my family humored me in such grand fashion is something I won't soon forget.  To thank them for their early rise, I provided a proper English tea and crumpets with cherry jam. 

As the sun rose we watched a real love story unfold and I couldn't help but think about how profoundly Princess Diana's wedding in1981 effected me; I learned to believe in fairy tales when I watched that wedding and grew up  just a little when it all fell apart.  The imagery of that wedding, however, has been burned on my brain for the better part of my life.  

When Andrew and Sarah wed and became the Duke and Duchess of York in 1986, I watched it live with my grandma Schmelzer on the hide-a-bed in her den.  She made popcorn at 5:00am and to this day sharing that time with her  remains one of my favorite childhood memories.  

To say that welcoming the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at the crack of dawn with my family represented a rite of passage would be an understatement.  Emma curled up and slept through part of it, Finn lamented that the lace collar clad choir boys were probably never even allowed to wear jeans, Leif cracked jokes the entire time, and I was (of course) appropriately chocked up. Taking in the splendor of today's royal wedding with Emma, Finn, and Leif reminded me once again that happily ever after is a lot more than a myth.  Sure, I may wear aprons instead of tiaras, but the three crown jewels in my life make me feel like a princess every day.
Cheers to happily ever after!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tuesday Night Rock Show

 One of Emma's favorite bands is Freelance Whales and when she and Leif discovered they were going to be playing at The Metro for an all ages show they hatched a plan to go!  Two of Emma's friends were able to join in on the fun, too.  They all enjoyed a quick dinner at Wrigley Dogs before heading to The Metro.

 The girls had a phenomenal time!  Attending a show at the Metro is certainly a rite of passage for any Chicago girl and the place was packed to the gills by the time Foals went on stage! The girls were as intrigued by the crowd as they were by the bands and even had some beer spilled on their shoes.  Leif said that all three girls handled themselves with a good deal of street smart savvy and are well on their way to becoming seasoned concert goers!

I have to say that I think my husband is just about the coolest dad ever! 
I don't think Emma would disagree.

Family Breakfast

This is one of our favorite fast and easy late morning breakfast recipes. It sticks with you through the afternoon and feels a little more special than traditional bacon and eggs.
Baked Eggs in Marinara

2C Home-made Marinara Sauce, thawed if frozen
4 Fresh Eggs
Salt & Pepper
1/4 CParmigiano-Reggiano
1 Demi Baguette, sliced into 8 rounds
Olive Oil
1 cut garlic clove
1/4 C Mozzarella
Italian Parsley

Heat the marinara sauce to boiling.  Reduce heat and make four wells in the sauce.  Crack eggs one at time into small bowls and pour one egg into each well in the sauce.  Place pan in a 350 degree oven and cook until egg whites are cooked and yolks are medium.  About 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, drizzle a little olive oil over the bread and grill until golden on both sides.  Rub toast with cut garlic clove.  Sprinkle toasts with Mozzarella and allow to melt slightly.  With a slotted spoon transfer one egg with sauce to a small bowl.  Season with salt, pepper, and Parmesan.  Garnish with toasts and parsley.
Serves Four

Sunday, April 24, 2011


Saturday, April 23, 2011

A View from the Top

*Leif and I have lived in Chicago for 16 years and Emma and Finn have lived here their entire lives and today was the first time any of us rode the Ferris wheel at Navy Pier.

Good Friday Pizzas

Yesterday evening we continued our Good Friday tradition with the Gills and enjoyed an assortment of Sue's incredible home-made pizzas!  She has a way with the crust and her creative toppings never disappoint!  Wine flowed as she rolled the dough and all of us settled in to enjoy a trio of memorable pies!
Fontina, Mushroom, and Truffle Oil

Pancetta, Aged Romano, Egg, Frizzled Sage, and Olive Oil

Roasted Beet, Gruyere, Walnut, and Arugula

Honestly, I look forward to this evening more than our friends could ever know.  I find myself thinking about that beet pizza at various points throughout the year and actually crave it in the week I know I'll be eating it!  Thanks for another amazing evening, friends! 
Every Friday we've spent with you has been good and this one was no exception!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Tasting Night.

Yesterday evening I hosted my final tasting night for the Irving Staff Appreciation Committee.  I made a lovely altar to honor our bracelet mascot, set out some wine and a Thanksgiving feast!

The food is totally delicious and I firmly believe our staff will more than enjoy their lunch next month.  Personally, I can't imagine a better meeting!  Folks get to drink a little wine, enjoy a memorable meal and walk away with a fist full of cash!  Of course, reality will set in for the two people who agreed to cook thirty-five pounds of potatoes and the turkey roasters are going to have to embrace the idea that those birds will have to be in the oven at 6am, but that's why I run this meeting like a great big bribe! 

At the end of the evening I was distressed to find that our coveted bracelet mascot had gone missing once again!  Thank heaven, I found the wayward jewelry in my mailbox the next day!
I have a feeling it is going to be an incredible year for this committee!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wordless Wednesday...

...or better yet, speechless Wednesday.  
We knew it was coming and now it has arrived.
Some days leave you feeling like there just isn't much left to say.
This is one of them.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Kuma's Corner

Yesterday, we headed into the city with Kaberi, Vik, and Nadim to wait in line (really, it went around the corner) for a table at Kuma's Corner.  We knew were about to enjoy a heavy metal tinged burger with a name like 'Iron Maiden,' 'Metallica,' or 'Slayer,' but I honestly had no idea just how worth the wait they would actually be! Amazing.
Finn, quite literally hung around for the half an hour before the doors opened (thanks for the great pic, Nadim) and we gave this beautiful mom-to-be a gift for her little-one.  We love giving Mysterio t-shirts and it predicted Vik and Kaberi's baby will be a dog show judge!  Too cute!
When the doors to Kuma's Corner opened we split our party and managed to snag the last table in the first seating.  Phew!  If we hadn't we would have had to wait at least an hour longer, but to be honest I think the food would have been worth a wait that long, too!
Our adorable tattooed server dropped the f-bomb within minutes of greeting us and when we didn't even flinch she probably figured it was okay we had the kids in Kuma's edgy environment despite the fact that we probably looked about as suburban as our family ever does and there are pictures of naked women in in the men's room!  Outside of the wait staff at Alinea, she was, hands down, the best server we've had in very long time.  Funny, attentive, authentic, and hard working...just a total pleasure to be around!  She also reminded us that polite kids are universally appreciated and showered me with compliments about our kids.  That was just about as delicious as the burgers!

We started off by following Kaberi's recommendation and picked up an order of Mac n' Cheese for the table. We embellished ours with broccoli and peas because I was pretty sure our meal would be a little short on veggies, but even with our "healthy" additions, this dish was all about the cheese and pretty much flawlessly executed! It didn't even need a pinch of salt and that is pretty incredible considering dairy deadens flavor in an instant; one bite and I knew these people knew what was up! 
That mac n' cheese is not to be missed and even though we could have easily scarfed down the entire plate we opted to take most of it home to leave room for at least some of the 10oz burger each of us had on the way! So...what burgers did we order?

Chorizo Red Potato Hash, Pico de Gullo, Cayenne Avocado Cream, Tortilla Strips.

BBQ sauce, Cheddar, Bacon, Frizzled Onions

Led Zeppelin 
Pulled Pork, Bacon, Cheddar, Pickles

Our Famous Kuma Burger 
Bacon, Cheddar, Fried Egg
Here is the thing...this was a crazy good burger that totally lived up to the hype.  Despite a jammed restaurant and a two hour wait for a table, three cooks were pumping quality fare out of a kitchen the size of a closet at an astonishingly fast rate.  I have never really seen anything like it!  I would go back in a second because any burger topped with a fried egg is divine, but the Kuma burger takes this concept to a whole new level! It was a delicious mess! The egg was perfectly cooked, the burger was nicely seasoned, and the pretzel bun had enough texture and flavor to stand up to all that moisture.  They add in a little bacon and cheddar to round out the dish and it almost felt like eating breakfast on a burger and that was perfectly fine with me!  That sandwich matched right up with my Bloody Mary mind-set! Oh...and skip the fries. Their chips are fan-freaking-tastic!

Kuma's Corner is not for the faint of heart; is a heavy metal centric carnivorous experience!  All four of us would go back for the burgers and Finn would happily go back for the burger and another trip to the bathroom!  He left Kuma's Corner a little more manly that he was when he arrived!
2900 W. Belmont
Chicago, IL

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Send-Off.

Our best friends are moving away and we are pretty darn sad about it for selfish reasons, but we also know that the Pfour will love life "up the road" in Wisconsin!  Our entire family is mourning the fact our friends will no longer be a part of our daily lives, but we are confident we are going to make some pretty fantastic memories together in the future!  After all, Leif and Brian have been best friends for about thirty years!  I think it would take more than ninety miles of interstate to break up that relationship.  So...what about saying good-bye?  Pen, Aim, and I planned a grand celebration of friendship through food for Brian and Ang in hopes of sending them off on their new adventure with a head full of memories!  I think we totally succeeded.
We started the evening off with an assortment of memorable appetizers in the living room. We were supposed to enjoy them on the deck, but it always rains the first evening we'd like to entertain in our back yard and last night was no exception! Penny did an amazing job of selecting items her family had enjoyed sharing with the Pettits during their annual Christmas Eve celebrations. We served everyone a Pimm's Cup with the hors d' oeuvres because no-one had ever tasted Pimm's before the Pettit's introduced us to it.
Pimm's Cup
2 oz Pimm's No.1
Ginger Ale
Lemon slices and Cucumber slices

Pour the Pimms over ice in a chilled high ball glass.  Add the soda and a lightly squeezed lemon slice.  Stir gently and garnish with cucumber slices.

After finishing our appetizers we moved on to a course we served in the dining room and called "Looking Back on a Birthday."  When Ang turned forty Brian asked me to help him throw her a party and I put together an Asian inspired buffet. In memory of that special day I set the table with an Asian theme and put out some individual take out boxes that featured chicken dumplings, asparagus, bok choy and pea pods.  They were quite delicious and paired beautifully with out "spa water."  Penny had never had cucumber water before she met Ang!

No birthday party is complete without presents and this celebration was no exception!  We passed along the Alinea cook book and the Frigs passed along a deviled egg plate, but the Tillotsons stole the show with instructions on how to make Graham's  miraculous campfire starters!  It was just awesome!

From there we moved on to the living room to enjoy a "Freezer Section Resurrection."  The Frigs enjoyed making pizza with the Pettits on Easter one year and Chris recreated a favorite pizza from that evening for all of us to enjoy; it featured prosciutto, corn, and arugula.   We served them on Home Run Inn Pizza platters because of a culinary short cut I once took! In addition to serving the gorgeous pizza, Chris organized an incredible Belgian Beer tasting!  I also returned my copies of the Pettits' house keys with this course.

We orchestrated a quick centerpiece change in the dining room and moved onto "The Feverish F#%k Off" and "Pasta Perfection."  The first was just a little nip of Limoncello to remind our naughty husbands of a night when that potent drink got the better of them and the second was a lovely portion of Pasta Bolognese to commemorate a dinner party disaster!  We also sipped on a bottle of 85-10-5 wine that we enjoyed with the Pettits on Christmas.

From there we braved the wintry weather and "Clustered Around the Campfire" for Aim's famous s'mores and Dejan's cold Budweiser! We have all spent many night around the campfire together and this seemed to be a fitting way to end our evening, but not before downing a flaming Sambuca shot to ensure health, happiness, and prosperity. We passed along a framed copy of the evening's menu for Brian and Angela that Aim had beautifully designed. I honestly don't think we could have planned a more perfect send off for our friends and as much as we hate to see them go I am sure looking forward to their visits!
"Fan the sinking flames of hilarity with the wing of friendship; and pass the rosy wine."
-Charles Dickens
You'll be our friends forever, but we'll sure miss having you as neighbors.
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