Friday, February 22, 2013

Sometimes Valentine's Day Doesn't Suck

 photo vadi_zps76003862.jpg I really like my guy, but I still hate Valentine's Day. I don't like to have to be 'romantic' when told. Besides, I'd make him a fabulous dinner any night of the week. And is it me or is the word 'romantic' a little icky? Nevertheless, it is our first Valentine's Day together, and it doesn't seem like the right time to make a stand. So the conventional approach wins.

Dinner for Ian on Valentine's Day:

I know that's only four items, but there were sub-recipes! And because I fell asleep right after dinner the night before, I had to get up and prep from midnight to 3am. Doh!! But when you realize you want to spend many Valentine's Days with someone, you want that first one to be perfect. So peeling brussels sprouts, making candied walnuts and mashing sweet potatoes until 3am seemed a small price to pay. It was so worth it. I didn't think I liked duck, but oh, it was good! He was in charge of the wine. The pinot carried the flavors of the duck and cherries seamlessly from one bite to the next. And the late harvest dessert wine was like sweet, silky honey with the figs and stilton. It was a perfect night; everything was sparkly, new, hopeful and enthralling, for no reason in particular. Not something I experience very often. As a bonus, the leftover duck breast, brussels sprouts and sweet potato made a hella tasty flatbread a few days later. Valentine's Day 2013 FTW.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Next Restaurant, Chicago
The Hunt

 photo nrsmt_zps54b2a299.jpg Schwa was Friday night. Saturday night: Next Restaurant's The Hunt menu. Robyn and I were a little apprehensive about it being too meat-centric, but they used the term 'hunt' loosely to include foraging. So the first course was a glass box filled with maitake (hen of the woods) mushrooms and a few courses later, a preserved carrot, sliced and fanned out to create a lacy, fringey mini-sculpture. True, we were served some meaty things that I wouldn't have thought were edible. For example, the venison heart tartare, which was delicious, and squab brain, which we were instructed to suck out of a tiny squab skull. Oh yeah.  Most of us agreed that the Sturgeon and Caviar was the highlight, food-wise: a butter-poached medallion of sturgeon atop a bed of sunchoke, with caviar beurre blanc drizzled around the plate. But the quote of the night? When course #7, the Woodcock Jolie, was announced, Andra blurted out: "How much cock can a woodcock cock if a woodcock could cock wood?" I almost did a spit-take. I'm so classy. Even our server Jen couldn't surpress her giggles; it was like seeing one of the actors start laughing during an SNL sketch. We then had a discussion with the sommelier about California, Oregon and French pinots and then our photo op in the kitchen. Then, sadly, after 4 hours, another dinner at Next had come to an end.

Next: The Hunt
Full Course List
Hen of the Woods
Catch of the Great Lakes
Cellar Aged Carrots & Onions
Duck Tongue, Cider Vinegar
Sturgeon & Caviar
Woodcock Jolie (Ba-hahaha!)
Pressed Squab
Fallen Leaves & Kidney
Bison & Bearnaise
Marrow Brulee
Maris Otter
Tire D'erable

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Schwa Restaurant, Chicago

 photo scw1pg2_zps74297880.jpg

"Put it in my mouth!" were Andra's first words when we got to our table at Schwa. Even with Jay-Z playing loudly in the background, her words hung in the air, like a challenge. I think we got a raised eyebrow from our server/chef/host/future dance partner. Schwa is one of the top 5 hardest reservations to get in America. In America! Yet, somehow Amanda scored us a table. This article in GQ explains a bit about the food and air of intrigue surrounding chef/owner Michael Carlson (he wasn't there that night). So after 10 courses, 4 bottles of wine, 8 shots of Jameson's and some beers we turned the dining room into our own private foodie nightclub. You can see from this tiny, embarrassing photo that questionable behavior is tolerated and perhaps even encouraged at Schwa. And that's one of the tame pics. Other people were actually still eating while we were donning aprons and getting our freak on. I got the feeling that wasn't the first time this happened, though probably not on the nights when Michelle Obama and Thomas Keller ate there. Then there was that quail egg yolk in my mouth. The four of us agreed: most fun dinner ever.