Sunday, February 26, 2017

Rock the House 2017

The annual Rock the House event benefiting The Oak Park Regional Housing Center and the School of Rock scholarship fund is one of my favorite nights of the year! Five chefs and ten home-brewers, hundreds of eager community members and some kick-ass musicians gather to support of duo of worthy causes.  What could be better than that?
This year I opted to offer a deconstructed version of cassoulet to our event attendees. The dish featured braised rosemary white beans, pork shoulder, andouille, chicken thigh confit, mustard, thanksgiving crunchies and microgreens.  I have to say it was a hit!
I have to say the best part of the night is hanging with all my fav peeps! Major props go out to my Leifer for helping me serve up more than 200 portions of cassoulet. He is an expert garnisher to say the least! Rock the House is one of the best parties in our village!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Dim Sum Delights...

Nothing makes me happier than having a fun Dim Sim lunch with some of my best ladies.

Disney Showcase...

Finn and the Chicago Blast Academy flew to sunny Orlando, Florida to compete in the prestigious Disney Showcase. Finn and Leif holed up in a three bedroom condo for the week-end and appreciated the world-class facilities at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. The team played four games, won them all and took home first place honors! How cool is that?

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

New Orleans: Final Day

 After a long and fun-filled evening we decided to sleep in before heading to wander around Frenchmen Street.  Taking a recommendation from our friend El, we had an early lunch at The Praline Connection. We enjoyed our casual cajun-creole fare before heading out for a long last stroll through the French Quarter.
  Shrimp Etouffee
Bread Pudding with Praline Sauce

 We spent the day looking for a piece of art to purchase to commemorate our 20th anniversary.  I am thrilled to say we found a piece inspired by Chartres Street pictured above.
After securing our painting we settled in for a cocktail on a balcony overlooking Jackson Square. It was a glorious way to spend a day!
Our final meal at Boubon House did not disappoint...this traditional BBQ Shrimp was a perfect last supper before heading home! In case you were wondering we had an incredible time on our trip.
Cheers to US!

New Orleans: Day Three

No trip to New Orleans would be complete without ordering a Po'Boy sandwich.  We did our research and it became non-negotiable to make our way to Parkway Bakery to sample their version of this iconic sandwich. And boy are we glad we did.

I mean just look at this gorgeous sandwich! It more than lived up to the hype and was well worth the wait! Following our Big Easy binge we headed to the glorious Garden District for another historic walking tour.

We explore the famed above ground tombs of Lafayette Cemetery #1 and learned about New Orleans’ unique burial practices. From there we wandered through the garden district to view the homes of Anne Rice, Archie and Peyton Manning; Nicolas Cage, John Goodman and Sandra Bullock.  We also saw the famed and very pricy cornstalk fence and visited the death site of Jefferson Davis. 

After walking for the better part of the day we ventured out for a special meal on Magazine Street at Cavan. This was by far one of our favorite dining experiences during our visit. 
Duck pastrami toast with kumquat jam, pickled cabbage, crispy gruyere
Oysters of the day with mignonette and cocktail sauce
Following our romantic dinner we headed to Snug Harbor to listen the Elis Marsalis Quartet. Leif was over the moon to take in some New Orleans jazz!  It was as close to perfect as a day can get!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

New Orleans: Day Two

 After a good night's sleep, Leif and I headed out to the Carrollton neighborhood to enjoy a late breakfast at the fabled Camellia Grill. The restaurant first opened in 1946 and remains beloved to this day for its dependable diner fare and entertaining counter service.  We both enjoyed an a prefect greasy-spoon worthy omelet before taking a lovely stroll down St. Charles Place. 
 Coming from winter in Chicago it was a true vacation delight to see gorgeous  tulip trees in full bloom! We strolled among some grogeous homes, checked out Tulane University and rode the street car all the way home!
 After a little rest in the hotel we headed out to visit Villalobos Resuce Center and take a couple gorgeous pitbulls for a stroll. I walked the affectionate and loveable Geaux-Geaux and Leif took Schmoe for a nice walk. We are big fans of the show Pitbulls and Parolees so seeing this operation first hand was pretty exciting. This rescue center is the real deal and  we made a donation at Tahyo, their non-profit pet-gift shop in the French Quarter promtly following our visit. I also had a fantastic Bloody Mary at the bar by the same name that supports their mission!
Following our jaunt with the rescue dogs we needed to refuel (of course) so we headed straight to Cochon for some pork centric Southern fare.
We started with some whole fried shrimp with pickled mustard seed hot sauce before I ate the oyster & bacon sandwich with homemade tartar sauce and pickled green tomatoes.
And I just have to say OMG...this was one of the best things I have ever eaten.  Seriously...I looked at Leif and confessed the memory of this sandwich may flash before my eyes in the moments before my death.  It. Was. That. Good.
 That gorgeous lunch was enough to sustain us through the night and our 3 hour haunted tour of the French Quarter.  We selected a historic tour  that vowed the facts about this unique are are often stranger than the fiction other touring companies often peddle.  And let me just say this walking adventure did not disappoint! We talked at length about New Orleans being a city of elegance and excess made up of sinners and saints with a myriad of unexplained hauntings. We learned a ton and even booked a second tour with the same company to enjoy later in the week.

Monday, February 6, 2017

New Orleans: Anniversary Dinner

Commander's Palace, located in the elegant Garden District, has been a New Orleans mainstay for high-end creole fare since 1893. This heavily awarded restaurant is considered to be an American fine dining classic and seemed like the ideal place to celebrate our marriage milestone.
 Shrimp & Tasso Henican
Wild Louisiana white shrimp, tasso ham, pickled okra, sweet onions,
5 pepper jelly and Crystal hot sauce beurre blanc
Creole Seafood “Paella”
Saffron scented Arborio rice cake with housemade spicy andouille,
crispy Des Allemandes catfish fillet, corn crusted Gulf oysters,
Louisiana crawfish tails and Meyer lemon mascarpone 
 We enjoyed our extravagant meal in a one-of-a-kind setting. It almost feels like time is frozen at Commader's Palace and we had settled into Kellerman's (a la Dirty Dancing) for the evening. Things were dated in the best sort of way and our meal, filled with attentive service and personal touches, reminded us of time when dining out was always a grand celebration. 
 When your day starts with a beignet at Cafe Dumonde and ends with a complimentary cordial at Commander's Place you can be pretty confident your life is as close to perfect as it can be.
Cheers to us!

New Orleans: Day One

 To celebrate our 20th anniversary Leif and I headed to New Orleans for several days of fun, food and sightseeing! It had been so long since we took a trip that we settled into our comfy digs at The Old No. 77 Hotel and Chandlery as quickly as possible and headed out the door!
 After a brisk walk were right in the heart of the French Quarter and before we knew it we had a plateful of piping hot beignets and two chicory coffees in front of us. It was a perfectly delcious welcome to The Big Easy.

We walked for hours before settling in for an oyster snack and cocktail at the Royal House Oyster Bar. We tried out the chargrilled oysters and a few of their raw offerings before walking it all off in time for our anniversary dinner!

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