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Waking Life

May 6, 2010

We’ve always written just whatever was on our minds or our hearts. Today I got to wake up in Pete’s arms and I’m not sure if I was dreaming or awake but I remember a lot of flowers, and maybe a few kittens. Okay maybe I was dreaming up a nightmare in an isle of a Hallmark store, but at the time it felt magical. He had to leave early to catch the train; I’m always utterly delirious when that happens. But it’s the most magical time really. I feel him shift out of bed, which always collapses my heart just a little, until I see this long, nicely shouldered shadow that saunters toward the shower and makes me slightly more cognizant of my dreams and reality, and maybe the two intertwine a little. And that makes sense. But what doesn’t make sense is the rest of the day, when I’m fully aware and fully caffeinated… I still feel like I’m living a dream.

Projecting

April 29, 2010

I weave between a multitude of obsessions these days. Basically my mind is a flickering candle, a slideshow, a rat in a maze, a Downy ball caught in a spin cycle. It’s sorta doing what it’s supposed to- it’s formulating and strategizing and creating, but it’s doing all of that for like 40 projects at once. But there are so many projects to have! We have this amazing space to create, and before that we had these amazing lives to live, which keep on being lived, and then we have the hobbies. And for me, I’ve never been huge on the hobbies. Pete- yes. The man has more hobbies than HobbyTown USA. But me, I’m a simple girl. I drink coffee, I read the internet and other things when my attention span abides, I run, I watch Law and Order, I cook, I eat, I drink and I love. The loving takes up a ton of time and energy too. I get so worked up and excited about it all the time. But anyway, so this blog basically started with one list- the whole restaurant thing. But we’re going to have to expand that at this point, because winter’s over MF-ers, and there’s WAY more to do now.

For example. Last weekend, not only did we dine out at Hot Chocolate (which was on the original list and was decent/good dinner wise, GREAT beerwise, sub-par cocktail wise, and AWESOME dessert wise), but we also say Anthony Bourdain talk some shit at the Chicago Theater, procured reclaimed barn wood from a supposedly now closed to the public storefront in Wrigleyville, designed and built two stunning wineracks from them, AND brokered an amazing deal for a vintage original Chicago World’s Fair Poster along with about the sexiest vintage French horizontal mirror of all time.  I will be posting photos of the updates soon, but I want the finished look finished first.

And now an intermission for the loving… I love how for months Pete and I rolled this beautiful idea over in our heads, imagining the space, what we wanted in it, and how we wanted to come home to this cozy, rustic wine bar setting that was all ours. We have a top floor two bedroom condo- no cellar, so we had to create a wine cellar/bar thing up amongst us. We brainstormed and Pete being the practical and able-bodied engineer that he is figured out how to make it happen. And it did! Just like that! So now we have this amazing looking, very simple, very us and elegant (if i do say so…) wine cellar/enjoying area that doubles as our dining room.

My obsession of the moment is gardening. The photo of the deck is self explanatory. It’s bad ass, and that’s just the front deck. We have a whole nother one out back. But first things first. I need greenery and lushness asap.  So I’ve been picking plants up constantly, designing in my head what I want to see while I sip my morning coffee. In the upcoming months I hope to post a grassy area, flowers climbing up the walls, flowers relaxing in pots, herbs overflowing, Mediterranean tiles lining the walls and generally a really warm inviting rooftop deck similar to something I might find in a remote home on Capri or along the French Riviera. If only we had their weather…

Anyway. This weekend we relax. Perhaps we will take votes on which upcoming summer concert could remotely consider rivaling the Atoms for Peace show we rocked at a couple weeks back. LCD, we’re looking to you to be a contender…

How it Is

April 22, 2010

I’d like to post a handful of my favorite moments of all time…

Sonoma '09

Pete at Gloria Ferrer

Everyday hammockry

No sleep till Paris

Post wine, pre nap

My love...

Pete at Venice Beach

Lovebirds

A Taste of the New Place

April 22, 2010

The kitchen

The view

The front deck... Eventually this will be our Tuscan rooftop escape

Pete hanging our chandeliers

Dining room

Yes Yes Yes!!!

April 21, 2010

Too much excitement has kept my fingers from these hallowed keys for too long, but today the verbal drought is over!

We’re ENGAGED!!!!

As of March 26th around noon p.m. central time, Pete popped the ultimate question which just about knocked me backward down all 70 stairs leading up to our just signed for abode. Luckily, I stayed firmly planted despite the shakiness in my knees while hugging him emphatically hoping I was saying out loud the words that were pounding in my head… YES YES YES!!!

Eventually we made it into the empty house and sat on the kitchen floor, struggling to pop our celebratory bottle of Perrier Jouer and sip from the beautiful hand painted flutes that accompanied the bottle, still shaking, still hugging, still completely amazed by the moment that had just transpired.

We had dinner at Les Nomades to celebrate, which was a magical feast that completely complemented the moment. Especially all the various forms of truffle and the hazelnut soufflé.

But tangible delights aside, I think the moment held a lot of reflective properties for me- and I know for Pete as well. I’m going to go out on a limb and say I’m not the only woman in the world who’s wondered where they’d be when they met “the one;” and if they’d know what they were encountering at the time. I remember hearing stories at my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary about how my grandmother knew the day she met my grandfather that he was it for her. I love that I’m one of those lucky or crazy or coincidently fated folks who just knew when I met Pete. He was dubbed “Man of my dreams” immediately, and I told him so about five minutes after I decided it was true. I don’t really go around telling people these things at random like a giant game of love tag, so I have to say it feels as fateful as it sounds because he’s lived up to the title every day since. I love that love is such a force that you can’t even try to reason with it sometimes. It just smacks you upside the heart and tells you what’s up. Now, we’re three weeks deep into living together in this beautiful space, blowing each other’s minds daily with how much love we have to share.

Badass Bourdain

February 25, 2010

I just went up to get some espresso despite the fact that I didn’t really need it. I wanted to have the taste linger in my mouth and my foot to twitch in that oh so special way. And perhaps I’m addicted much like Anna is. It’s Thursday and generally the day of the week I treat myself to an espresso at work. Usually it’s due to fatigue that gradually wears at me over the course of the week, and by Thursday after lunch is at its peak. So when I did get up to the café, I heard a familiar theme song on the TV hanging on the wall. I didn’t see it but I knew it was Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations.” Bourdain is, likely or not, a hero of mine. Well hero might be a strong word but let’s say he’s joined the ranks of people I would like to have dinner with if I had the chance. So far this list includes Justin Timberlake for being a generally cool dude and funny to boot. Richard Branson, for being uber interesting and driven. Aziz Ansari for being a wildcard and making me laugh like crazy. And lastly, Anthony for being the brooding New Yorker that is likely to cook a fantastic meal or take me to a hole in the wall where I could get one. This time Anthony was eating his way through Paris.

I knew this immediately from the picture of a 6eme Arr. sign on the side of a building. It was the point in the show where Anthony waxes poetic about whatever city he is in. During which he attempts to pin down the root of the culture or the overarching emotion that is elicited from city. His monologue on Paris started by highlighting the French’s proclivity to celebrate the senses. He used the example of the street café with its seats pointed outwards to illustrate their love of observing life. That idle conversation can be a whole day affair and that both making and eating food should be fully enjoyed. In an effort to win over Americans that still refer to French fries as freedom fries, he tried to influence the viewers opinion to regard the French as lovers of life and all the little gifts it gives. He ended by asking that we do the same by taking the time to do the little things… like getting an espresso when you didn’t really need it because of the feelings it arouses in you. So he didn’t actually tell me to have the espresso but it wasn’t far off. I don’t think that this message was anything new to me, but there is something about listening to him that is calming. His reflections shed light on his poetic nature and soften the tough guy image he likes to portray, at the same time endearing him even more.

Paris, its food, wine, and culture have already gotten a hold of me in a way I am fully cognizant of. I really love my life and the little things in it. The smell of coffee, the taste of wine, the embrace of my beloved Anna… This list goes on and on. But the idealized vision of the French and of Paris should serve as a model to slow down and enjoy. Not that all Americas will ever embrace this notion, but for those that do, Paris will never be that far away.

The TACOCAT Conspiracy Team Visits Blackbird

February 24, 2010

I consider myself to be a bit of a fair-weather conspiracy theorist. I’m into all sorts of interesting albeit somewhat eccentric and probably marginally believable tales about the dark deals made by agents of killer pharmaceutical companies, bio-terrorist acts of the government, and the anti-feminist cultural undertakings continually propagated by American media outlets (*ahem* MTV) that are rapidly corroding society as we know it- but I’ll leave all that for another day. Today I’m mostly interested in the coincidental planting of a certain “ladybug” on our bedroom wall last night. Pete and I were deep into one of our rambly philosophical discussions that somehow pounced from RAAAAAAAANDY’s mp3 of calling out rappers to figuring out plans for the house to palindromes, which led us to TACOCAT.

I’d never heard of a TACOCAT until last night, and I’m pretty sure the rest of the universe (outside of Pete’s diabolical mind) had either. Which leads me to seriously question how today’s shirt.woot.com shirt of the day was… TACOCAT!!!  WTF!

Backtrack to an odd finding on the bedroom wall for a snowy February night in the Midwest… A freaking ladybug! What sort of ladybug is out and about on a Tuesday night in February?  I’ll tell you- a “ladyBUG,” as in a cutely disguised microphone which was apparently disseminating our profound conversation out to the universe so that certain deal-a-day internet types could tap into our creative minds to come up with their next t-shirt design, as they had obviously run out of their own inspirations. However, I will forgive them because the ladybug tap idea was genius- who would ever think to harm an adorable ladybug all innocently lollying around an apartment wall? And also, maybe TACOCAT should be known the world over, because it is fairly hilarious. And finally, I’m sort of flattered, or flattered for Pete since he was the one who brought it up.

Sidenote: The crazy lump of text up there is exactly why I should spend way less time watching 24 and all the other cop shows I feed my brain while on the elliptical.

Moving on… The sweetest news in the whole of the last week is that the loan is approved and we get to move into one of the all time most bad ass pads in the whole of Chicago!!!! We are quite excited about this progression and have been melting our minds scouring the internet and any/all local furniture havens, antique stores, flea markets, etc. for neat shit to fill the place with. No doubt details will be spilled later on that end, but I’m anticipating us growing from food obsessives to DIY do-ers and producers of awesomeness in that genre, so stay tuned.

But some food stuff happened this past weekend, which was fun enough to relay. It’s Restaurant Week here in Chicago and that means we went to Blackbird for the first time. I was happy to see that this year’s list of participating restaurants seemed much better than last year, so I feel the idea is catching on in our fair city. One issue some take with the way Chicago restaurants have been using RW is that the fine dining restaurants tend not to offer the dishes they’re best known for, or they try to underhandedly get you in the door with the promise of the prix-fixe deal and then up-sell you to the regular menu which can significantly up your cost. But at Blackbird, we knew what we were in store for and we fairly happy with the results.

The staff was really friendly, which is always a nice way to start a meal. Blackbird is has a very modern, all-white, clean look to it, but its small size creates a feeling of intimacy, which I was surprised and happy about. From our seat we could easily check out what the kitchen staff was up to and get a glimpse of the entrees that we would soon devour. I started with the salad, which while beautifully presented in a fried potato nest, lacked flavor. A few weeks back I was at Daniel Boulud’s DBGB’s in New York and was served a salad, similarly topped with an egg (theirs was fried, not poached)- but the salad at DBGB’s was mouthblowingly good, packed with flavor from the accompanying mushrooms and duck confit. So I say Patrick Fahy’s team needs to take their awesome potato nest idea and throw in some strong earthy flavor for me to be more supportive. Pete, on the other hand, had a deliciously flavorful mussel soup in a spicy saffron broth- which had us both licking the bottom of the bowl. For entrees he also picked the winner- the duck- which was killer. It had plenty of fat lining its edges which just tasted like seared foie gras had been melded to the breast and it was fabulous. I had the pasta, which was tasty, but not much more special than something I could do at home. Granted, I sort of knew that when I ordered it, but I was still curious. The desserts were both tasty- I preferred the tangerine dish because it was stunning to look at and I loved the freshness of it. I think Pete liked the chocolate better, so there you go.

So, if you’re headed to Blackbird for RW, order the mussels and the duck, and both desserts and you’ll walk away happy and very well fed!

I must now step away from this entry due to the fact I can only half see it, because one of my contacts has once again tried to commit contact suicide by leaping off of my eyeball. That’s the second time this week a-hole!!

Rockcats and Swoons: Valentine’s Day ’10

February 16, 2010

Valentine’s Day. For some, it’s a day for rose petals, lingerie and heart-shaped chocolates; for others, it’s just another day. For us, it’s a day to sit in darkened rooms and watch a bunch of bizarrely talented cats rock the fuck out!

When I awoke upon the morn of our Valentine’s Day, I had no earthly way of predicting what I was to behold later that afternoon. I did, however, have one request: “Can we play with kittens today?”

I didn’t realize it at the time, but this benign and sleepy request that I put out into the universe with a groggy post-kitten playing dream voice made my lover squirm and wonder how I’d managed to figure out his Valentine’s Day surprise, when he’d left no tangible evidence of it anywhere that he could think of. But I soon found out that yes, we could play with kittens that day! We were going to the Gorilla Tango Cat Circus!

But first we had to make Grand Marnier Creme Brulee with my brand new valentine kitchen torch of awesomeness! Pete planned the whole day according to a few things that make me wildly happy, including both cooking and kittens, and a few other more intimate things I won’t go into… But regardless, his plan was airtight in making me smile the whole day through.

So let’s discuss this cat circus, shall we? The cat circus is composed of roughly 15 cats of various ages, shapes, colors and personalities who have all been taught and assigned tricks that they choose to perform or not perform as their wills dictate in the moment. Don’t be alarmed if you happen to attend the cat circus and spend the first 5 or 10 minutes watching other random animals such as rats, chickens, ground hogs, lemurs and ferrets crossing tightropes or driving toy cars. They are essentially the straight outta SXSW openers to the Lolla cat headliners.

Once the real show begins, the “Acrocats” regale the audience with their mind-bending abilities to jump through small hoops, hop from stool to stool or shoulder to shoulder, push grocery cats, roll over and ring bells. Then there’s this somewhat hilarious bowling/bell-ringing competition between the head cat, Tuna, and the chicken, which the chicken technically won but wasn’t half as cute as Tuna, who’s adorable white paws stole my heart.

Then comes the finale, the hardcore rockfest performed by none other than the “Rockcats,” who are pretty much the Sex Pistols of the cat rock community. True anarchists at heart, this band does what the fuck they want, when the fuck they want- audience be damned. Tuna’s the band manager but chimes in occasionally with the bell, while another cat shreds on his ax, another sticks to flat chords on his keyboard and the real rockstar of the group, Dakota, pounds it out on the skins. It was intensely entertaining and the band was even kind enough to pose for pics after the show.

After that it was feast time. I got to sit around sipping champagne, chatting up my lover as he diligently prepared not one but four different purees for our three course menu du jour which included: pan seared scallops with bacon chestnut puree, roast squab with chestnut, carrot and root vegetable purees, and the aforementioned Grand Marnier creme brulee, followed by hand pressed espresso.

The squab was an adventure, since you buy it head, feet and all and have to get a little 6th grade science class on the thing before soaking it in butter and tossing it in the oven, but Pete handled it far less squeamishly than I would have. He does that with many things, namely the squabs and also centipedes, which send me screaming out of rooms within seconds of spotting their mousy colored nastiness. Then Pete smashes them to bits and pets my head which generally calms me down enough that I can reconcile with the bathroom instead of swearing off it entirely and just peeing in a corner of the bedroom- so that works out well overall. I can’t deny how proud I am to wrap my arms around every inch of my 6’5″ man of men and call him mine, for he is wonderously sweet to me and his cooking is exquisite. So I couldn’t help but shower him with a few gifts I scrounged together for him 🙂

So Valentine’s in the Pete/Anna universe was hilarious, adorable and quite tasty. Kinda like just another day, so maybe we fall into that category after all.

Protected: Pete chatter

February 11, 2010
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Cracking the Code

February 10, 2010

If I ever had to defend or rationalize my enthusiasm for dining out, I’d go with one word: research. It’s not simply a fondness for epicurean divinity, it’s step one in my personal DIY universe, wherein I try fabulous food created by professionals, and try to recreate it in my own kitchen. I’ve done this successfully only a few times. If anyone’s ever sat under the billion and a half chandeliers at NYC’s Pipa- I can make the mushroom coca and grape/asparagus salad including dressing almost exactly. I’m still working on discovering the secrets to the spicy sauce they serve with the arepas as Caracas in the East Village, more on that later…  But my latest victory is recreating the Red Rooster’s Pan Seared Salmon in Cabernet Reduction.

Red Rooster is one of my favorite restaurants in Chicago. It’s an adorable, cozy, tucked away, sparkly little date spot that shares a kitchen with Cafe Bernard in Lincoln Park. Pete and I had our first official date there a couple years back, so yeah, okay there is certainly some sentimental value attached, but that doesn’t detract from the quality of the fine French delicacies that have spilled from the warmth of their kitchen and into our bellies and hearts. It was between those wood paneled walls that I first tasted the fat rolls of the gods- seared Foie Gras- and it was there that I tried a dish with a sauce so overwhelming that I first described it as liquid love- the Cabernet Reduction.

Okay so here’s how I did it.

3 tablespoons of butter

2 minced shallots

1 bottle of cabernet sauvignon (I used Yellow Tail and it turned out great)

juice from 1 lemon (separated- half for the fish, half for the sauce)

1/4 cup seedless raspberry preserves

2 tablespoons of flour, added a little at a time

ground salt/pepper to taste

4 6 oz salmon filets

fresh raspberries, for garnish

——————————————-

First you want to melt 2 tablespoons of butter, then toss in your shallots and stir until they become tender. Add the bottle of wine and bring the heat to medium/med-high. You want the wine to simmer somewhat rapidly until it reduces by half. This can take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. Whisky in your raspberry preserves and lemon juice, salt and pepper. Check the consistency of the sauce. The goal is for your sauce to be syrupy so it nicely coats a spoon. You may need to add some flour, but do so slowly and whisky briskly as you add it so you don’t form any clumps. Continue to simmer the sauce until you get the consistency you’re looking for- this may take another 10 minutes or so.

While your sauce is simmering, soak your salmon in lemon juice, salt and pepper. When you’re ready to cook it, pat the fish dry. Heat oil or butter in a frying pan on med-high heat (do not use a non-stick pan). Once the oil is hot, put the fish on skin side down and allow to cook for about 4 minutes or until the fish begins to turn a lighter pink about half-way through. Turn the fish and allow to cook for about 3 more minutes (depending on the thickness). When you remove the fish, it should be seared brown on top and cooked to the desired rareness in the middle.  I like mine a bit rare so the fish is pink and tender in the middle.

Spoon the reduction over the fish, and garnish with raspberries.

Great sides for this include roasted fingerling potatoes, asparagus and/or wilted spinach with mushrooms and balsamic glaze.