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Our Nursery!

18 Oct

I’m taking a short break from my maternity leave to share a picture of our nursery.  Nursery inspired by our trip to Glacier National Park this summer!

Happy (Very) Belated Birthday To Me

7 Jun

This year my birthday came and went and I hardly noticed.  But, we did make a stop at North Pond, our favorite birthday tradition (and, if pressed, our favorite restaurant in Chicago).  Hard to beat last year’s North Pond birthday post – if you haven’t read it and you’re into food porn, you should – though I did snap a picture of my special Happy Birthday petit fours.

Happy

8 Apr

Passover, Easter, and Spring from sunny Chicago!

Last year at this time we were celebrating a Neopolitan Easter.  Fun!  xoxo

Publican Quality Meats

31 Mar

The Publican, one of our favorite restaurants in Chicago, recently opened Publican Quality Meats, a contemporary American high-end sandwich and butcher shop.  I’m obsessed.

We stopped in for lunch for the first time last week.  Prior to PQM opening, we had talked with Ling quite a bit about the concept and the objective (for example, we spent a long night at the Publican some months ago discussing “mother” dough, the origin of all of the house-made breads at PQM), but I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect.

The space is small and bustling – like a European market – especially at lunchtime.  It is part specialty store, part sandwich shop, part local grocer.  It is in the theme of the Publican (there’s that country, rustic feel) but has its own character, too.  The space is designed for quick turn over lunches and private dinner and cocktail hour events.  It’s an exciting space, if you like this sort of thing.  There are freshly baked breads, rows of thick cut steaks and sausages, an olive bar, complex cheeses, and special sodas and other treats.

The lunch menu includes a variety of interesting sandwiches, including a tuna muffaleta, pork belly gyro, and a special turkey sandwich with lime onions and piri piri sauce.  There are a number of soups and salads, too.  For lunch, I chose a lamb meatball sandwich – a slightly random choice for me, but it was delightful.  The meatballs were firm and slightly sweet.  The tomato-based sauce was tangy and cut through any heaviness in the lamb.  The bread was a soft, buttery white bread (like a gourmet hot dog bun, just to give you a point of reference).  The entire sandwich was topped with a cool slaw (no mayo!) for brightness.  All sandwiches come with house-made potato chips.

Delicious.

After lunch, Ling took us on a tour of the prep kitchen.  This blew my mind.  What appears to be a fairly simple operation on top is actually a complex, brilliant, food-producing machine underneath.  PQM has a meat closet filled with animals waiting to be prepped  (my way of saying butchered – yikes),

and an entire line of chefs butchering meat, making salads, sauces, sausages, and more.

It’s truly amazing.  And solidified, for me, the brilliance of Paul Kahan – his food, his restaurants, they are the real deal – there is nothing incidental or unplanned.  PQM is no exception.

Have you been?  If not, go!  You’ll love it, I’m certain.

Have a great weekend!

Professional Chicks Goes To Prison

2 Mar

Alternative title: Professional Chicks Drops Abe Off In Prison.

OK so early this week Abe learned he would have to take a deposition in Vienna, Illinois (to be clear, it is pronounced Vy-enna).  Vienna is approximately 6 hours south of Chicago.  It is a town of 1,200.  (I am getting ahead of myself but when we first got to town we asked a couple on the street if there was a coffee shop where we could sit and do some work.  They suggested we try the pizza parlor.  Huh?)  The closest airport is 3 hours away.  There is basically no good way to get there.  After looking into flights to St. Louis just so he could rent a car and drive an additional 3 hours, Abe decided to drive the whole six hours (twelve hours total).  And he recruited me for the road trip.  One benefit of working for myself is that I can take a road trip on a random Thursday, so we work up at 4:30 a.m. and started driving.

There were a few unanticipated aspects of our trip.  First, there are more people on the road than you would expect at 5:00 a.m.  Second, the drive downstate is peaceful, and became increasingly beautiful as we went.  As we drove south, the weather was increasingly warmer – from 30 degrees to 60+ – which makes sense if you think about it.  I mean, by the time we got down to Vienna, we were not far from Nashville and Memphis (these are in different directions, but close to Illinois it turns out).  The trees had leaves on them again.  It was like traveling through the seasons, which was nice.  Half way to Vienna there was a massive cross by the side of the road, too.  It’s hard to appreciate the size here – it was truly towering.

While it was still early, on Kate’s recommendation we stopped in Champaign, Illinois for delicious fresh brewed peppermint tea from Aroma and pastries from Pekaia.  Small town specialty pastries are my favorite, and I had the best almond croissant I have had since Hendrickxs.

Abe’s deposition just so happened to take place in a prison.  The deponent, a witness to a roofing accident, has since landed himself in jail on various armed felony counts.  I felt like I was dropping Abe off at a super weird school where either suits and ties OR orange jumpers are mandatory and the school is surrounded by a large barbed wire fence.

I found a McDonalds, the only place in Vienna with Wi-Fi (love it – by the way, the pizza parlor did not have Wi-Fi), and waited for Abe to get done.  After, we stopped at La Fiesta for some (surprisingly decent) Mexican food despite being in a strip mall, and then headed back 6 hours virtually without stopping.

Twelve hours of driving later, we were back in Chicago just in time for an episode of Battlestar Galactica and more tea.  For some reason, it felt like we had been away from home for a long long time.

PC Deviation

14 Jan

We had a little deviation from the Professional Chicks once a day post so that this Next post could get its due attention.  I suppose now we can move on.  There are fewer than 10 days left in this PC posting experiment, by the way!

So last night we saw Mission Impossible at the IMAX at Navy Pier.  Niether (the movie nor the location) sounded all that interesting to me.  But, I was wrong about both.

Navy Pier is beautiful in winter – there are no tourists, and the ferris wheel (which was invented in Chicago as a response to Paris’s Eiffel Tower), glows across the entire thing.

Mission Impossible is kind of an awesome movie, too (especially on that crazy IMAX-sized screen).  Tom Cruise can still make it happen, 25 years later.

Next – Spoiler Alert

12 Jan

[Please do not read this post if you intend to visit Next for the Childhood menu.  This will undoubtedly ruin the surprise.]

I have been dying to go to Next.  And it took a truly ridiculous effort to get tickets.  (To explain, if you haven’t heard, Next is a restaurant that operates much like a concert.  You buy tickets to attend.  Price of admission includes tax and tip.  Since day one, the Next concert has been sold out.  There is a wait list to get tickets.  Some tickets are released daily via Facebook, but those are hard to come by.)  But I did get tickets eventually, and for the menu I was most excited about – Childhood.  (This is the other piece that needs to be explained.  Every three months, Next changes its menu entirely.  Each menu is a theme-based tasting menu.  So far, Next has done Paris, Thailand, and Childhood.  Next month is a tribute to El Bulli, one of the world’s best restaurants – closed recently.)

OK so, onto the experience.  For those of you who have followed this blog, you know that it is generally positive in tone.  It is a blog about things I like that I think you will like, too.  It is meant to be lighthearted – a diversion from everything else.  I would love to rave about Next, much like I raved about Alinea in this post (Next and Alinea are both owned by Chef Grant Achatz) but, I also want to be honest, and cannot bring myself to speak positively about Next (not only because the meal was mediocre, but because of the experience after).  I almost skipped the post entirely, in fact.  The pictures are interesting, though, so in the end I guess I’ll share.

We went to Next with our good friends Patty and Ryan.  The experience is fun (well, until you feel like you are going to die – see below) – you will get a kick out of the nuances.  And childhood is definitely invoked, in the flavors, concepts, and presentations of each dish.  But, unlike Alinea, the gimmicks were significantly more pronounced than the food itself.  For all of the hype, this should never be the case.

We started with a present.  Always nice.

Inside was a fried ball of peanut butter and jelly sandwich on a bed of crushed peanuts and dehydrated jelly (maybe?).  The ball was too deeply fried – I tasted oil more than anything.  But it was cute in theory and an easy way to get into the childhood spirit.

Then we were served a bowl of (luke warm) chicken noodle soup.  Next opted to make the noodles out of chicken – get it?  Due to my aversion to chicken, I decided not to think about this and just eat.  It was fine.  The mound of hollandaise that was meant to be swirled into the soup made it more delicious than it otherwise would have been.

This next dish was a play on fish and chips (with a picture of me fishing – each of us had a character on our plates meant to resemble us).  This was not my favorite dish.  The “cucumber wave,” as they called it, was a row of sliced, warm cucumbers.  The fish itself was mild – certainly a nice quality fish, though nothing special.  The fried caper bundle in the corner was incredibly salty – almost inedible.

My favorite dish of the night was the macaroni and cheese.  A creamy, rich scoop of the pasta dish was served with various, interesting accompaniments.  Each bite was different, depending on what accompaniment you chose to scoop up along with the mac and cheese.  The apple jelee was one of my favorite accompaniments.  I did not care for the dehydrated-powerdered hot dog accompaniment.  It was essentially a powder that had been reduced down into the most intense hot dog flavor imaginable.  Nothing about that (texture, flavor) is particularly appealing.  The cheesy crusty circular accompaniment was a good one, too, meant to emulate the crust that forms when mac and cheese is baked.  The noodles in this dish were strangely firm – not al dente, but almost chewy.  Still, a favorite overall.

This next dish was designed to look like a forest.  It did.  It was beautiful, actually.  But the white powder sprinkled over the top – dehydrated mushroom butter – made it salty, again, and heavy, despite it being a vegetarian mushroom dish.  There were some nice leafy crunchy things here, but that’s about all.

The following dish is hard to explain.  It was a play on a fast food hamburger.  I didn’t eat these much in my childhood, so maybe I am not the best person to weigh in, but this is how it went: greasy short rib covered in thin “bun” layers.  The texture of the bun was similar to a kraft single.  The bun tasted good, actually, but after dinner, when I was in the depths of despair (again see below), the image of the flat, cheesey bun “puzzle pieces,” as they were called, kept coming to mind.  And not in a good way.  On a positive note, the house made ketchups were really good!

After the burger, we got to play with lunch boxes.  We each had our own different throw back lunch box.

Inside were items like homemade fruit roll ups, homemade beef jerky, homemade Oreos, and a chocolate-banana-hazelnut pudding in a Tupperwear container.  This was cute, though again not particularly exciting food-wise.  I didn’t really want to eat anything in my lunch box, but I had fun taking it apart and sifting through it.

By the time the next dish came, we were all a bit overloaded on the sweets (it was the assortment of sweets in the lunch boxes, I think).  The idea here is great – batter for licking and little apple fritters for dipping.  The batter, however, was foie gras flavored, which, at that point in the night, was a little much.

And onto another dessert course.  Here, sweet potatoes were lit on fire (I thought we were making s’mores) and then placed on a dish of marshmallows, bourbon ice cream, and toffee sauce.  I was too full to eat much of this, but the camp fire thing was cool.

Last, hot chocolate, which we didn’t get to finish because we were asked us to leave our table under the guise of a kitchen tour.  For the tour, we stood in the tiny Next kitchen for a moment and then we were shuffled out the door.  Oh well.  The hot chocolate was cold, anyway.

I should mention, throughout the meal, there were a number of different alcoholic and non-alcoholic drink pairings (the non-alcoholic pairings were most interesting – house made ciders, teas, sodas, shakes).

I liked the brown butter chai and the shot of oolong tea, especially.

In all, an interesting diversion from the every day dining experience, but nothing to get super excited about.

(And finally, here’s where Childhood met our actual childhood – the four of us all became violently ill from something we ate and spent the next day in bed.  When Abe skips school because he’s sick, you know it’s bad.  We emailed the restaurant and they remarked that it was “unlikely” that the four of us got sick off of the food and that we were probably just “moderate” diners who were not accustomed to the type of food served at Next.  Ha.  I’m so sure.  Leave any thoughts about how to handle that situation in the comments below!)

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