Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Went Thursday with dinner club. AWESOME atmosphere. Adored our server (some girl with dark hair). Becker asked her if it was the old Marche (it is) and it launched into her taking us on a tour of what they are developing out back. There's a full champagne tasting room. All dark wood and marble. Then you walk out these french doors. They have this back actual alley that's been blocked off. Cobblestone-y, brick patio alley. Old French style poster ads are kind of plastered on garage doors and light strings illuminating the area. They plan to have tables back there. You access that area not thru the crazy bustling restaurant but down a little cobblestone pathway? I have no idea if this is true or not, but it also literally looked like a Hollywood set it was so perfect.
Seeing that was the highlight for me. We got 3 pizzas (margarita, sausage and mushroom (fave), truffle and fried egg); the asparagus salad; some skate fish thing (with persimmons I think?), to me too salty but a great consistency; and the steak (ribeye?) thing with pearl onions (yum!). Fancy shaved asparagus with dark walnuts and shaved parmesan. I'd like to try to recreate this at home. It's the kind of thing I could eat a huge bowl full..
Crazy friendly staff. Did not care at all that we were easily 20 minutes late for our reservation once everyone got there. Before dinner drink service was SLOW, but I guess if you order a specialty cocktail, the kitchen staff gets involved and well -- so duh, it takes longer. BUT yum. My "vodka" cocktail was delicious. It had mint in it. Not sure what else. Awesome contemporary music was kind of blaring (our server said it wasn't as loud as usual – Serious?) overhead. It is a huge, high-ceilinged place, with chandeliers and large pillars, and the poor acoustics are the only drag result of a super cool, simple, modern and antique architectural space.
So it was noisy. Our table of 8 turned to 6 was unable to hold one conversation. One solution is to go with a way bigger party, so it doesn't matter you can't hear everyone. But I would love to go back for an early dinner with a party of four or to sit at the bar for appetizers and cocktails right after work. Or brunch! Then watch the place fill in and leave when I couldn't hear anyone anymore. Although, I do think some time around midnight is when it's heightened sound and not being able to hear a single word anyone is trying to tell you, is part of what makes it so much greater.
And anyway, then there was this floor to ceiling wall of individual fresh lavender stem vases. Sorry but that's cool. Sitting outside in the summer would probably give you the perfect mix of music, vibe and talk-ability. I'd totally like to go back.
Friday, May 11, 2012
On Monday I went and visited my friend Karen and walked around her yard a bit to get some inspiration for my own. The varying colors, textures, heights and patterns were wonderful to soak in. Disappointed I didn't take a shot of the flowing rocky creek in the backyard. The property is beautiful and also peppered with interesting wood and iron sculptures.
On Sunday I plan to visit the nursery and have Jose over to estimate some planting. I am leaning toward putting in 3 evergreens and a colorful deciduous in the back left corner, and possibly some hydrangea for the back right. This will be the big push this year in addition to dragging out the railroad-tie border and then extending and reshaping it to create a more organic flow.
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Two weeks ago, Marcia and I went to a book launch party for Ameila Levin's cool new cookbook, Chicago Chef's Table, which features over 50 of Chicago's best chefs, restaurants and recipes. It's a beautiful book, well designed with wonderful photography – a great addition to any cook's library, but especially for one with ties to Chicago.
The party was hosted by Province, and we got to enjoy not only champagne and several passed appetizers, but a 5-course dinner with accompanying wines, all put together by the restaurant's chef Randy Zweiban. It was amazing! I wish I had written down the appetizers (bummer!), but here's what we had for dinner:
Course One: Nichols Farm Asparagus Salad | goat cheese, pretzel chip, preserved lemon. Tomero, Torrontés, Medoza, Argentina, 2009.
Course Three: Alaskan Cod | fingerling hash, piquillo romesco. Hermanos Sastre, Tempranillo, Roble, Ribera del Duero, Spain, 2008.
Course Four: Becker Lane Pork "Cubano" | Nichols Farm black beans, rice, orange mojo. Cedro do Noval, Syrah/Touriga Nacional, Vinho Regional Duriense, Portugal, 2007.
Course Five: Chocolate and Orange Flans | orange-dulce de leche ice cream, orange salsa. Casa de la Ermita, Late Harvest Viognier, Jumilla, Spain, NV.
One more thing. I think my favorite of the meal was the Tortilla Soup. I just happen to have the recipe!
Chicken Tortilla Soup by Randy Zweiban. (Serves 8)
3 chicken legs
3 chicken thighs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6 cups canola oil, divided
6 white corn tortillas, cut into 1/4-inch strips
1 cup diced red onion
6 tomatillos, diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 serrano chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced
3 medium red peppers, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
2 quarts vegetable broth or stock
For the avocado relish:
1 ripe Haas avocado, peeled, pitted, and finely diced
1 tablespoon minced red onion
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon chopped fresh cilantro
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 350°F. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat two tablespoons of the oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Saute chicken until nicely browned, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove from pan, set aside.
Add remaining oil to the pan and heat to 175°F, checking the temperature with a thermometer. Return chicken to pan and cover with lid or heavy-duty foil.
Roast in oven for 35-40 minutes or until meat is fork-tender. Remove chicken from pan, reserving the oil. When chicken is cool enough to handle, shred, discarding skin and bones.
Heat the oil back up to 325°F. Fry the tortilla strips until crispy, about 1-2 minutes. Drain the strips on paper towels. Pour off all but one-quarter of the oil.
Heat the remaining oil over medium heat. Sauté the onion, tomatillos, garlic, and chile until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the peppers, broth, and all but 1 cup of the crispy tortillas.