Archive | February, 2011

PS: I Went To A Psychic

26 Feb

Love this original song by my sister.  Perfect lazy Saturday morning music.

Guerrilla Dinner

25 Feb

Before I started writing this post, I googled “supper clubs.”  Wiki says: “Supper Clubs are usually known as underground restaurants, home bistros, guerrilla dinner, secret restaurant, paladares, puertas cerradas, guestaurants, speakeasy or even anti-restaurant.”  Ha.  Spooky.

As of last night, we have done two supper clubs total.  Only one was spooky, really.  The other was, well, not spooky at all.  Both were great in different ways.

*     *     *

Before Valentine’s Day, we did a six-course vegan dinner at a loft in a secret South Loop location, hosted by the 24-Carrot Supper Club.   (This was arguably the spooky one.  See pictures.)The 24-Carrot Supper Club is an underground dining project by Heather Crosby and Valerie Bolon.  Heather is a vegan and Valerie wears a shirt that says I Heart Pork.  But they’ve worked it out in the form of an exclusively vegan, private dining event that happens once a month or so and is steadily gaining popularity.  It is in a different location each time, and the location is kept secret until just days before the event.

In this instance, the dinner took place in a loft that belongs to an artist.  Unusual work was on display all around the dimly lit, expansive space.There were mannequins and hearts made of old song books and calf skulls shaped from barbed wire.  It was all very beautiful and interesting, in a dark, Alice in Wonderland sort of way.

The food – a Valentine’s Day inspired menu – was stylized and beautiful.  While all six courses were vegan (no meat, eggs or dairy whatsoever), each dish was complex enough – in flavor, texture, substance – that we didn’t much notice.  That is, the food was good in its own right.  My favorite dish was a warm roasted carrot soup with a cool coconut cream heart and a drizzle of hazelnut oil – it was rich and delicious.  My two favorite things.  Heh.The beet, apple and onion gratin with beet coulis was striking and vivid.  It was soft and mildly sweet, with a nice, crusty top layer.For me, however, the biggest accomplishment of the night was the red velvet cake (though not red, really).  It was sweet and moist and satisfying.  How you make a cake with no eggs, milk or butter and come up with anything but dust is beyond me.  But here it is. Fantastic.

In all, a very nice first supper club.

*     *     *

Last night, we did a supper club of an entirely different nature.  This was a five-course dinner at The Experimental Station, a cultural and community center of sorts in Hyde Park.  The dinner was hosted by our friend Erling Wu-Bauer, sous-chef at the Publican, and Connie Spreen, one of the founders of The Experimental Station.

The Experimental Station is an amazing space – it is light and loft-y and open.  I loved the exposed brick and wood and beautiful wood-fired oven (where Erling worked for much of the night). 

The guests were journalists, computer programmers, educators, attorneys (hi!) and University of Chicago faculty.  There were bow ties and black-rimmed glasses (in theory, anyway – probably not actually – I just stole Erling’s joke).

It was lovely and fun the whole time.  And dinner was blow-you-away delicious, per Erling’s usual.  It was definitely not vegan, though.Every course is worth mentioning, I think.  The Santa Barbara Spot Prawns & Bar Harbor Mussels were amazing – spectacular in presentation and sweet and mild in taste.  The greens gave the dish a lightness.  And the broth at the bottom of the dish is my new favorite beverage. The Snake River Sturgeon with Oxtail and Cauliflower was surprisingly good.  I wasn’t excited about the sturgeon at all really.  But it was mild and flaky and the oxtail was a perfect salty accent.  I love cauliflower – here, it was soft and creamy and caramelized and took on a summary of all of the flavors on the plate.  Yum.The Green Goddess salad with bacon was a delight.  I happen to love Bibb lettuce and the bacon was actually beautiful, thick-cut pancetta.  All perfectly dressed.Oh em the cheese course was seriously the best cheese course ever.  Leonora cheese – a decadent, goat’s milk cheese from Spain.  A side of firm, sweet beets with oregano.  Poached (?) lemon.  Pure honey with honey comb to spread with the cheese on warm bread.  Are you kidding me?  Heaven.Then, I pretty much ate the pineapple inside out cake without hesitating.  It was exactly what you would expect, only better – lighter and not mushy at all (isn’t pineapple cake typically kind of mushy? – well anyway, this one wasn’t).  The lightly-sweet Marcona almond ice cream speaks for itself, of course.  How beautiful is that?

So delicious.

OK so – Love.  All of it.  Highly recommend doing a supper club if you can find one.  Such a fun way to eat.  Oh and you’ll probably meet new friends, too!  We met new friends both times.

Here’s a tip: supper clubs are generally BYOB; at the first one, we may or may not have helped ourselves to someone else’s wine thinking it was meant for the table.  Gulp.

Shame That Tune

23 Feb

My friend Abraham Levitan (of Pearly Sweets and the Platonics, when I first met him; now of Baby Teeth) warbles when he talks and warbles when he sings.  He is Mick Jagger meets Bruce Springsteen meets a cuddly cartoon pony . . . who is very tall with curly blond hair and a huge, endearing smile.  What?

Anyway, Abe is completely compelling as a performer – talented and clever and hugely entertaining.  If you can see Baby Teeth perform, you should.  They are great.  But this post is about one of Abe’s side projects that I had been meaning to check out for some time.Shame That Tune is a variety show of sorts hosted by Abe and Brian Costello at the Hideout on Wabansia and Elston-ish.

It is a completely random, ridiculous thing.  And it’s so funny.  This is (loosely) how it goes:  A contestant spins a wheel.  The wheel lands on a band, singer or music genre. The contestant shares something about his or her past in monologue-form – something vaguely embarrassing or in the style of a confession is preferred.After the monologue, Brian Costello interviews the contestant.  Actually, he just says hilarious things and the contestant laughs and tries (but fails, obviously) to offer something equally funny in return.  (By the way, Brian Costello is witty and quick and has that ironic public radio tone of voice that is so this gen.  Loved him.)Meanwhile, Abe sits at his piano and takes notes of the monologue and interview.  Even his profile is smiley!When the interview is over,  Abe plays a song in the style of the band, singer or music genre chosen by the wheel-spin.  The song summarizes the contestant’s story; rather, it highlights the most embarrassing points of the story.

Several contestants do a monologue and at the end a winner is chosen by the sound of audience clapping.  The prize is cupcakes.  Or something.

The point is, this chaos of spoken-word and conversation and music is unlike anything you’ve attended before, I’m sure (because it’s too weird).  You’ll laugh a bunch.  And it’s all quite impressive, too.

This is a perfect Chicago thing to do and a fun thing to do with the early part of your Friday night (STT starts at 6:30 p.m. on the second Friday of each month).  Don’t miss the next one (get there early if possible – it was standing room only when we arrived right on time).

At least join Baby Teeth’s (e)mailing list.

The Big Meal

20 Feb

After reading a review in the Chicago Tribune, Abe bought tickets to the Friday night performance of The Big Meal at the American Theater Company.  The American Theater Company is a small, independent theater on Lincoln and Byron.  From the outside, you wouldn’t think much (though it has that Chicago-brick signature that I love). 

On the inside, it’s exactly what you would expect – unfinished floors and a makeshift box office, posters, small stage and lots of seats in the round.

The Big Meal is a small story about ordinary lives.  But it’s incredibly well-done.  There is one set – a dinner table in the middle of the stage. When the play opens, two twenty-somethings – Sam and Nicole – are bantering and flirting at the table.  80 minutes later (minutes are years here), the two are married, have children, lose parents, have grandchildren, lose children and grandchildren and grow very old themselves.  This all happens around the table, as family often does.

The amazing thing is that eight actors total play all 30 or so (? – I completely lost track) family members (including the younger and older versions of each other).  With the change of jewelry or a hair accessory, a daughter becomes a single mother becomes a grown up great-granddaughter; a son becomes the son of himself becomes the son of the single mother and goes off to Iraq.  It is slightly confusing.  But completely works (you get the gist, anyway, even when you don’t know who is who).

The family is loving, hostile, happy, sad, close, far; your family, really.  And everyone is always moving.  Literally.  On and off stage, from one chair at the table to another.  It is a living family tree.  An approximation of the American life.  On speed.  Ultimately, it was a moving and sad story.  A foreshadowing of things that will come.

I truly loved it.  Art like The Big Meal is a big part of the reason we live in Chicago.  Such great stuff here.

Oh but – you’ll need to be sharp to keep up with The Big Meal.  So, do not enjoy this homemade ginger cocktail with star anise and fresh cracked pepper at Sola beforehand.  Definitely enjoy it sometime, though.

Abe’s Dream Brunch

19 Feb

This morning, Abe asked me to make him a dream brunch.  His or mine?  Either.  OK.

Quick analysis: the best part about brunch is indulging in rich, comforting food in the middle of the day.  The worst part about brunch is ordering.  No matter what you choose, someone else ordered better.  It’s a real problem.  So, at a minimum, a homemade dream brunch has to have something for everyone, right?

Dream Brunch Menu

Strawberry & Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast

Lyonnaise Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

Chicken Apple Sausage (or any sausage or sausage substitute)

Ingredients for French Toast

Loaf of challah bread, sliced thinly

4 oz of cream cheese (regular or reduced fat)

1 cup of fresh strawberries, diced

Zest of one orange (if you don’t have a Microplane, please buy one – it’s the best kitchen tool ever)

Honey

4 eggs (or 3 large eggs)

2 cups of milk (I used 2%)

Juice of one orange, fresh squeezed

Cinnamon

1 cup of orange juice (no pulp)

Directions for French Toast

Pre-heat oven to 425.  Using an upright or hand-held mixer, combine cream cheese, strawberries, orange zest and honey to taste (1-2 tablespoons of honey is likely sweet enough).

Spread approximately two tablespoons of the cream cheese mixture onto a slice of challah bread.  Place another slice of bread on top (make a sandwich, basically).  Repeat until you run out of the cream cheese mixture (approximately 6-7 sandwiches).  Set aside.

In a bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, fresh squeezed orange juice, 3 tablespoons of honey and lots of cinnamon (I don’t think you can ever use too much cinnamon – if you need a measurement, go with 2 tablespoons).  Continue whisking until the mixture is smooth.Pour a thin layer of the milk mixture (about a quarter of the mixture) into a baking dish (I used a glass, 9×13 inch baking dish).  Arrange the sandwiches in one layer on top of the milk mixture – squeeze them in if you have to. 

Pour the remaining milk mixture over the sandwiches.  The milk mixture should come up as high as the sandwiches but does not need to cover them.  It’s OK if it does, though.Bake in the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes, until the milk mixture is the consistency of custard and the bread is lightly toasted on top.  The result is a cross between french toast and bread pudding and custard – yum.

In the meantime, add orange juice and 2 tablespoons of honey to a pan and simmer until it reduces to a thick, syrup-like consistency.  Keep warm on low heat.

Ingredients for Lyonnaise Salad

Large handful of bite-sized frisee or baby lettuces

4 slices of bacon (or bacon substitute – I used turkey bacon), cooked until crispy and cut into thin strips

Juice of one lemon, fresh squeezed

1/4 cup of olive oil

Salt & pepper to taste

2 poached eggs (Joy of Cooking has the best directions for cooking eggs various ways)

Directions for Lyonnaise Salad

Place your lettuce in a bowl.  Add bacon strips. 

Set aside.  Pour lemon juice into a bowl.  Slowly drizzle olive oil into bowl with lemon juice and whisk constantly.  The lemon juice and olive oil will emulsify (combine) – if they are separating, whisk more vigorously.  Right before plating, dress the salad with the lemon and oil dressing and salt and pepper.

In the meantime, prepare your sausage according to the directions on the package.  Or make your own sausage?

Plate dressed salad.  Gently place a poached egg on top.  Add fresh cracked pepper.  Plate french toast and drizzle with orange, honey syrup.  Plate sausage.

Dream. Brunch. Obviously.

The Book Works Del Mar

18 Feb

Before leaving San Diego, I stopped in one of my favorite bookstores of all time – The Book Works – in Flower Hill in Del Mar.The Book Works is a relatively small store (in fact, they were rearranging things this week in order to create some additional space) but it has an amazing collection of books in all genres.

The books are displayed easily – there is no particular structure to the various book-arrangements – and beautifully along side stone statues, faded old posters, vintage chests and trunks, antique desks, pots, plants and other random things.

I love the Home and Garden section and the collection of beautiful journals and cards.

The Book Works is a lot like your favorite eccentric person’s home.  It’s also a bit like a treasure hunt (which I guess is a different way of saying the same thing).  This time, I found a hanging horse, a little lamb (I think), old brass instruments and an African rug.

The Book Works has featured events almost weekly, including presentations, readings and discussions on various topics.  In the upcoming weeks, events include a discussion of St. Louis and the cultural civil war, put on by The Book Works and the Harvard and Yale clubs of San Diego, and a reading by author Susan Vreeland.  And every Friday night for as long as I can remember The Book Works and Pannikin (coffee shop connected to The Book Works) host live music.  It’s fun.

OK so – enough chit-chat.  Get a white hot chocolate at Pannikin and walk around in The Book Works.  So worth it.

I Heart – Things In K&S’s Home Edition

17 Feb

After an insanely long day yesterday, I made my way to Kim’s and Sunil’s in Venice Beach. In the morning, I meant to take photos of their entire amazing home but got caught up in the details instead.

The Hockney-inspired guest house is Abe’s and my home-away-from home in Los Angeles.  It is minimal and calm and I love the light in there.  Perfect morning room.  The baby room is the most original I’ve seen – I adore it.  The Blick alphabet decal in black with the green and  yellow hanging Chinese lanterns are so cute in a totally unexpected way.    This glass top and metal coffee table is Sunil’s recurring project – he changes out the display often and it’s always clever and interesting.  This time, tickets to the hundreds of shows he’s seen in recent years were on display.  I’ve seen black and white photos in there, bottle caps (though I think I may have just made that up) and colorful science magazines.  This table is in the middle of the living room and much dialogue centers around it.  No coffee table book required.    Speaking of books, check out this fantastic bookcase.  It was designed for this beach house specifically, and spans the entire length of the wall in the living room.  Incidentally, the books make perfect wall art. Finally, the house is adorned with Kim’s orchids – beautiful like she is.I love love being in this amazing space.

And Waves will give you a little wink on your way out. 

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