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Quick, Step, Step

3 Apr

Mr. C. Pinchy by DTR.

Getting back into the groove of things here at home.  Odd to know that my season has changed.  Glad to know that cooking and food has fully re-entered my life.  I am in a big list mood, it seems that is all i do is make lists.  So here is another one to add to my posts.  The food list of 2012.

Food/Summer Goals I Want to Reach

  1. Write the class outline
  2. Take a photography class
  3. Plant my garden
  4. Bake 6 new cookies
  5. Bagatelle time
  6. Outline 2 other singles
  7. Write a short story
  8. Take a foraging class
  9. Eat more local meat
  10. Join a CSA
  11. Eat a lot more veggies
  12. Have a seafood party
  13. Have a party at the house
  14. Go to the cleve
  15. Be happy everyday
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Catching Up Big Time

27 Mar

It is the end of another wonderful curling season.  I have achieved so much and am somewhat overwhelmed by what I choose to do with my life.  Traveling to multiple states to play, trying to reach a goal that I thought was far away; but actually is closer than I thought.  So what now?  Here is a tiny list of what is to come from me in the coming weeks and months.

  1. I need to get back on track with my jobs.  I love them both dearly and I need to thank them both for permitting me to be me.
  2. Write, write, write. (I have El Bulli, the Office, and Nellcote in the hopper)
  3. Head back to the gym to get more mass built up, but to maintain my flexibility and ROM.
  4. Buy a camera and take photos
  5. Start making small videos
  6. Clean the house
  7. Build a garden outside
  8. Europe calling?
  9. Organize next season
  10. Try to keep my head in line
Everyday I try to be who I am.  I have no idea if I am doing it right or wrong.  I just am.  To live in the moment and to try to be happy.  That is what I want.  There are days I recall many moments and others when I cherish one second.  Each day I try to chase the rabbit and hope to catch it.  Yes, I love Louis Carroll.  Is my reality my fantasy or my fantasy my reality. Ha!  What a day.  Now I plan for the next.
“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense.  Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t.  And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?”– Louis Carroll

Our achievements of today are but the sum total of our thoughts of yesterday. You are today where the thoughts of yesterday have brought you and you will be tomorrow where the thoughts of today take you.”– Blaise Pasca

elBulli of Desire

29 Feb

A bit of background here.  I wrote this about 4 weeks ago, prior to the start of the new season at Next.  A lot has happened since then, like taking fifth at USA women’s curling nationals and scoring season tickets to Next.  This reflection took me about a week to rationalize and write.  You probably know that my mind works very differently then most and when I am committed to something I am in for it.  I love my work in the culinary field and I love my desire to train for sport.  This post took a lot out of me and it tested my mind.  In a few days I will be dining at Next for the elBulli menu and I will report on the meal as I always do.  First, here is my emotional rant on my obsession to dine at the top restaurants in the world.-DK

Tell me if I am crazy. Tell me if I am sane. I have the most amazing story and I have no idea how to rationalize it. This has everything to do with Next and the elBulli dinner. It is sad, possibly refreshing, and quite insane; but it really happened.  I feel my decision every day since I found out.

If you are into food, I mean serious big boy food you know that elBulli closed this past year. You also know that Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas are doing an elBulli inspired menu at their super cool and exclusive restaurant Next.  Yes, I have dined there twice and have gotten tickets for the thai dinner too. So, to some I am one lucky girl with fast fingers.  This past month; we or well the whole culinary world has been patiently anticipating the elBulli dinner, maybe not patiently; but has been stalking them on Facebook, twitter, their website, etc to find out when the tickets will hit the interwebs.

Last week Next announced that tickets were not on sale, but you could throw your name in the hat to see if you get to be a part of the first week of dinners for the new menu. What the hell I thought I’ll throw in my name as I have many times before to see if I get in. I had no idea what I was thinking or what crossed my mind when I wrote down the date. Maybe my sister since the date I selected was her birthday or the fact that my boss may want them. I had no idea; I was on auto pilot.  Nor was I prepared for the feeling that I could be consumed by these tickets, by elBulli, by the fact that my mind and my stomach craved that ticket.

Monday night after my late night of curling in the land of cheese, I got the email from Next. OMG! I got the email!  No way!  I instantly dropped to my knees.  I was overcome with a full range of emotions. I could not control my anger, I could not control my tears, and a smurk was on my face. Someone asked me if I was ok. In that moment I had to collect myself and think fast.  I was at a curling club with “meat and potatoes” people.  The people who surrounded me would not understand what just happend; I realized the fact that no one would get it; get elBulli.  If I told them that I was just invited to attend the most exclusive dinner in the city and how much it cost, they would think that I was off my head. The curlers were probably thinking someone died or a bad thing just happend at work. They would not be thinking ah that poor girl can not attend dinner at Next for the elBulli dinner; that is so sad. 😦

In that instant I was totally numb. I was shaking when I made 3 phone calls to 3 fellow foodies. I was in shock. Nothing could have prepared me for the reaction to getting that email from Next and what emotions followed.  First to overwhelm me was the rationalization of my feelings, what it meant to dine there and what my desires are.  One could say it started out as dinner, then it turned into a philosophical reflection of desire, gluttony, and experience.  This existential examination of the self  that was brought about by dinner.  No one told me that this ticket would turn into both a cloud of dispar and a beam of enlightenment. My philosophy profs from college would be so proud.

Yes, I wanted to go to Next to experience the dinner of a lifetime. The ticket invite was sitting in my mailbox, but the date I picked fell on the week of my Curling National Championship in Philly. No big deal I thought. Yes, it freaking was. These were the two things I wanted so badly and I knew I could only have just one. Option 1: the dinner of my life.  Option 2:  six years of training for curling and years of desire to work my way back to represent the United States again in another sport. A battle arouse between gluttony and persistence. elBulli or curling. I wanted both; only one could win.  I suddenly thought that I could swing both.  Thank god the sound of reason stepped in and told me that a $300ish dinner could turn into a $1000 faster than I could think. For me to go to Philly then back to Chicago to return to curl in Philly would be possible, but INSANE. All I could think of was where is my sugar daddy with my G6 when I really needed it?   The inner me kicked in and said “Think E think”.  If I flew back to the Chi to eat and then flew back it would be fantastic and then cat lady crazy.  This is the kind of crazy you can not explain to non-culinary people. Normal eaters would think I am utterly insane, in fact I am already kinda nuts, but this would be institutional crazy.

Anyone who knows what I do in the culinary world and knows how persistent I am; how real I am; or how respectful I am towards the profession.  These individuals know that if there was anyone who could get tickets to elBulli it would be me. Yes, I DID. I am also big into sharing and providing opportunities to others in the realm of food. In my heart and my mind I knew that I could give up those tickets to elBulli in a moment. Once I saw the email, I was enveloped with emotion.  All I wanted to do was to hold those tickets closer to my heart and tell myself I wanted to go.  This was going to be the dinner of my life.  A dinner as if the master was there. I felt like Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka, I want it all! Why? A desire to dine at all the top restaurants in the world, to collect food memories like Pokemon. Yes! Is that shallow? How can I make sense of this?  Can you? How am I bound to this? Letting dinner go should be easy. I mean saints do it all the time, maybe that is what I am; the future saint of the culinary world. Now that is pretty funny… I had to repeat that I was not going to dinner over and over.  That I could not go and it was ok.

Some of you maybe thinking how could you give up these tickets? I thought the same. I challenged myself to sit back for one moment and think why I wanted it so bad. The exclusiveness of it, dining as if I was at elBulli, to follow the father of modernist cuisine, or a slew of other reasons. My ultimate answer was to have a moment.  A moment that I could never have again.  To eat what I only dreamed of and saw on the pages of Ferran Adria’s cookbooks or in the video I saw of his cuisine. To examine this issue more I talked with a chef friend.  After speaking with B and discussed a Master Chef teacher of ours another realization hit. How much can you really eat? How many dinners can you have that are truly novel and real? When do you get sick of dining out searching for that perfect moment? All cuisine in one form or another does becomes passé.  Or does it?  How could I trade all my training to reach a possible world championship in a sport  for a dinner?   I know what this dinner means, but looking at the entire picture is it really that important. It depends right?

Right now I am over the fact that I turned down my dinner to elBulli. Yes, I cried when I watched Grant’s videos he released for the dinner. Inside of me I have culinary faith and persistence. Although I turned down this dinner of a lifetime I can sense that the karma will come back; a second chance could be in my future.  If not for this dinner, then another experience that I can not see right now. What I am, is me. In my odd life good things happen to me and surprises are around every corner. I am no different any one else who wants to eat, I go for the experience and I’m hungry.

There will always be another dinner, another chef, another master, and another moment. Do not be consumed by the flurry of emotions that entangle you in these instances of loss. Just breathe. It is ok. It is dinner. Keep in mind that billions of other people do not understand elBulli, to them what it is, is just dinner. One can not forget that. IT IS JUST DINNER. The culinary Buddha has spoken.

You are thinking where did my tickets go. Back into the tumbler?  Maybe another story for another time.  I do hope to hear back from the people who went to my dinner somewhere in the cyber world. The reaction now will be worth the wait. Those stories will tell me if I made the right choice. Until then I am still hitting my refresh button, but not as frequently as I did before. Culinary enlightenment has occurred, a sense of peace has entered my stomach. I may have had my fill and I am ready to start my new chapter in my culinary life. To share what I have had and what I will experience, to bring clarity to what it all is. The emotional attachment to the freznie of high end dining and that the perfection of food preparation can occur at home. Now that is real!

Childhood Eats & Dreams

14 Jan

Nothing can tear this girl away from her lunch box. I am not trading ANYTHING!

2012 is here.  I can not believe it.  I have so much to do, but looking back on 2011 I have achieved so much.  This is the first time I really feel like I am building something for myself.  A path for my life seems to be taking shape oddly enough.  The one I do need to do, which has become another theme of what I write about is I must keep to the map.  It is critical for me to review my goals and to stick to some kind of plan.  As you have seen I tend to wander a bit.  That is one of the downfalls of my ability to try to live in the moment; the overall randomness and curiosity I have for life.  Before I start to spiral out of control I will tempt you with this; my last dinner at Next.

Yes, I am a very lucky, but persistent chica.  Nothing can get in my way of food.  Nothing.  So, when the new dinner was announced for Next I was ready for the rat race to get tickets.  The only thing I had to plan on is when they were going to be released.  Then I could be ready to pounce.  The last two rounds a lot of the tickets were released in the morning or afternoon.  So, when I was in another insomniac web surfing stupor I was totally shocked that tickets were on sale at 1:30am.  Score!  I ended up getting a table for 2 at a more suitable time; 5:30pm.  We were going to Childhood Memories.

By the way I am from the land of the glove, the Great Lake State, the second most diverse agriculture state in the US; the beautiful and lovely state of Michigan.  For me the courses that were selected and presented with also snapshots of my childhood because the chefs and I are pretty much the same age.  Some of the foods of my childhood were nearly snacks since we cooked from scratch a lot.  Foods such as Campbell’s chicken noodle soup, Kraft mac & cheese, and Pillsbury chocolate chip cookies were luxury items.  The foods I dream about from my youth are Goober & Grape, cider & doughnuts, s’mores, frosted animal cookies (the good ones), and gingerbread cookies.  When this menu was announced I was excited to see the creativity of each course.  I did not purchase tickets to know that the food was the most extra ordinary I purchased tickets to see the thought process and imagination of a group of talented chefs.  That like many other small things makes me happy.  Enjoy the inspiration below.

Next
Childhood Memories Menu 

PB & J
Cocktail of Madeira & Luxardo Maraschino

Chicken Soup
No Noodles, a noodle of chicken
Solena, Pinot Gris, Willamette, OR 2010

Fish-N-Chips
Drawn By a Child

Mac & Cheese
A Merry-Go-Round of Garnishes
Caparone, Sangiovese, Paso Robles, CA 2006
Sarah’s Vineyard, Charbono, Santa Clara Valley, CA 2008

Autumn Scene
A Walk Through a Michigan Forest

Hamburger
McDonald’s, Buger King, White Castle…. no?
Ridge ‘Ponzo Vineyard’ Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, CA 2009

Lunch Box
Nutella Snack Pack
Wagyu Jerky
Apple-Brandy Leather
Truffled Oreo
Homemade Gunyun
Mixed Berry Drink

“Foie”sting and Donuts
Lick if Off the Beater!
Joseph Phelps, Eisrebe, Napa Valley, CA 2008

Hot Cocoa

So here it goes the iPhone Pics and insanity…………..

the surprise

our first bite, literally in this tiny box…

Peanut Butter and Jelly

Ta-da small snack of everyone’s favorite sandwich; peanut butter and jelly.  A small bundle of magic with liquid jelly popping in your mouth.

Chicken and a noodle soup

So,  I get it.  I too grew up craving the noodles and broth of Campbells chicken noodle soup.  Next makes beautiful stocks.  This time with the chilled chicken mousse they needed to watch the salt content.  Stock seasoned well and mousse seasoned well; but together almost deadly.  The one long noodle was fun, luscious caramelized pearl onions, carrots, parsley, and a celery leaf are the other components of this course.

Fish and chips including a hand drawn picture of me.

I love all the components here.  Wish the vinegar foam was stronger.  This dish had pickles, sea beans, panko, crunchy potato fan, Meyer lemon gelee, and balsamic reduction drawing.  The fish was walleye, a traditional Great Lake fishy.  Tons of creativity and very tasty.

A closer look at the fish

Hmmmm the fish.  Just good to see a different view of this course.

A different take on mac and cheese. It is not Kraft.

Kraft dinner appeared here and there when my sister and I were in high school.  Before then my family did not purchase such a product.  This course was fun and probably one of the stronger courses.  The noodles and cheese were prefect, but the true features are the small garnishes around the pasta.  Starting at 6 the circle is bread crumbs, moving clockwise you then have fresh tomato and micro-herb, pasta with annatto (which makes cheddar orange), parmesan custard, prosciutto pinwheel, an apple cube, and lastly a dehydrated Nathan hot dog.  Yes, I would have this dish again.

So very Rene Redzepi. Hidden are mushrooms leeks and more.

Ok this course was my absolute favorite.  Mushrooms roasted, sautéed, and dehydrated served with crispy leeks, sweet potatoes, and greens.  This course was presented on an open log with smoldering straw.  Both eye appealing and delicious.  The imagination used to create this dish is top notch.  This surprised me and I wanted more of this.  I hope this type of plating is used more, I know just from a recent trip to Alinea that it was.  Overall this did bring me back to the forest during a chilly fall afternoon with a campfire in the background and the lot of us girl scouts searching for edible treats in the nature that surrounded us.  Ahhhh more please.

Hamburger your way....

Another very creative and a very Dali course; the hamburger.  It consists of braised short rib, may, ketchup, baby lettuce, mayo, mustard, pickle, onion, and bread ribbons topped with sesame seeds.  They asked you to think of a burger and all I could think about was Red Knapps.  So good. The only thing I did not like about this dish was too much noodle buns and not enough onion and mustard.  The short rib was very yummy.

Trade time?

Lunch box time.  I felt like I was in second grade again.  This was perfect and made me smile.  A boozy thermos of juice, a fruit roll up, oreo-esque cookie, crunchy onion chip, beef jerky, and pudding.  No big sized kid would want to trade their lunch for something else.  Totally a fun and whimsical dish.  I love the fact that they found classic lunch boxes.  Not to mention the hand written notes inside.  Big’s said to play nice whereas mine told me mom disliked my last yelp review of her packed lunch.  So, funny and this course makes everyone smile.

Foie-sting and doughnuts

This should just be called the OMG course.  Foie gras frosting on the beater and cider doughnuts.  I could smear the frosting over anything and everything.  It is sooooo goooood.  The only issue with this dish was the doughnuts.  These puppies were not perfect fried morsels, instead they were little rocks.  Not the may west.  Really, the frosting was the best, so good.

Hmmm fire dessert

Watch out!!  On fire sweet potato pie. This dessert incorporated flamed sweet potatoes, bourbon ice cream, sweet pir crust crunchies, and marshmallows.  Plus, it has a caramel sauce to drizzle all over it.  All in all a pretty solid dessert and it tasted great.  I enjoyed the super cold and delicious bourbon ice cream.  There is a great video on this dish somewhere on YouTube, you should find it, or maybe I will.

A warm ending to the dinner.

To end the night we had hot chocolate with a shot of cognac.  A simple ending to a fun and whimsical dinner.

That is it.  That was childhood memories.  Now all I can think about and dream of is El Bulli.  I also must apologize for neglecting to write.  I will be better I promise for all those who care.  Look forward to some cool products and some free writing.  BTW I am headed back to curling nationals!

I Ate The Whole City

5 Jul

Burger, fries & a shake from the Burger Boss

The city is a wonderful and very evil temptress.
She provides me with everything I need.
She has so much to offer.
It is useless to deny her.

She has so much to share, she has so much to show.
I can never say no to her.
I can hear her calling my name and whispering sweet culinary words to me.
Resistance is not possible.
Honey I am ready for our culinary exploits.
Show me what tricks you have up your sleeves. 

Yes, well I have been a very busy girl here in the Chi.  I will briefly report on what I have been up to and share some highlights of various restaurants I have traveled to. In no particular order I have visited Aviary, Nightwood, Divanti Enoteca, Publican, Black Dog Gelato, Topolobampo, Gilt Bar, Arami, Burger Boss and Graham Elliot.  Eight new places in the last month.  Wow, that is insane.  As I stated the city is an evil, yet very delicious temptress.

This post will be treated like a highlight reel of a sports game.  I will cut to the chase and show all the exciting part, but leave off all of the fluff.

Arami a small Japanese restaurant nestled in Ukrainian Village.  The sushi and sashimi was amazing.  All the fish was fresh and melts in your mouth.  The yellowfin jalapeno roll was delicious, seared scallop was perfect, and the ramen was pretty solid.  There were many veggie options that included mushrooms.  Don’t forget the extensive sake list.  I will be back to visit again.

Aviary, Grant Achatz’ bar.  Decent drinks, cool atmosphere, kinda like a library in noise, and some of the bites were good.  I loved the foie, cheesecake, and waygu bites.  I the food was a wee bit bigger.  This place will be killer in 6 months to a year.

Black Dog Gelato, a kick ass gelato shop in Wicker Park.  Normal flavors to crazy flavors.  I enjoyed my salted peanut, mexican chocolate, and malted vanilla.  Yet, another place I will return to in the summer.

Burger Boss, an interesting burger place that could be a lot better, but showed a solid burger performance.  The fries were great and the shakes were ok.  I will go back here when I am hungry for a better burger.

Divanti Enoteca, an Italian small plates restaurant nestled in Little Italy.  OMG it is very good.  Salumi, cheese, pastas, pizzas, risotto, and much more.  The desserts are not that bad either.  The menu is also seasonally driven.  Do not pass up the truffled egg and the roasted tomato sausage pasta. Returning here is a must.  Also no rezos.

Graham Elliot, downtown star chef place.  Trendy, but so much fun.  The staff are wonderful and you can not miss the foie pops.  It’s a fancy place that is so laid back, has a solid beer and wine program, and Gabe’s desserts are becoming stellar.  We closed this place down on a Monday night.  Fantastic.

Nightwood is tucked away in Pilsen.  Although it is right off of Halsted you can not miss this place.  It looks kinda dark, but you need to try it.  The menu is seasonal, wine selection is fabulous, and there are many interesting ingredients especially with the use of grains.  One aspect I enjoyed was the wood fired grill.  They have a wood grill inside that they grill the meats on.  So there is a subtle essence of smoke on the steaks.

Topolobampo.  Nuff said.  A Chicago classic helmed by Rick Bayless.  Amazing food and a bit overpriced.  I get the price is mainly due to labor because the sauces take a long time to make, but really?  Anyways that is me being picky.  Great food, I had the Yucatan menu and it was delicious.  Dishes incorporated habaneros, shrimp, pork, eggs, and more.  A symphony of mexican flavors that made me want to go back to Cancun and binge eat.  I will return for special occasions.  Frontera and Xoco are next on the Bayless front.

Arami
1829 West Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60622
312-243-1535
www.aramichicago.com

Aviary
955 West Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 226-0868
On Facebook for the most up to date info. Yip, that is how they roll.

Black Dog Gelato
859 North Damen Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622
773-235-3116
www.blackdogchicago.com

Burger Boss
7512 West North Ave.
Elmwood Park, IL 60707
708-452-7288
www.theburgerboss.com 

Divanti Enoteca
1359 West Taylor Street
Chicago, IL 60607
312-226-5550
www.davantichicago.com

Graham Elliot
217 West Huron Street
Chicago, IL 60654
312-624-9975
www.grahamelliot.com 

Nightwood
2119 South Halsted Street
Chicago, IL 60608
312-526-3385
www.nightwoodrestaurant.com 

Topolobampo
445 North Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60610
312-661-1434
www.fronterakitchens.com

Scarfing Down Escoffier at Next

1 Jun

Pressed duck and potatoes at NextThe hottest ticket in town and I managed to get a spot.  Two at 9:30pm on a Saturday night.  Yes, a bit late for Mr Big and I for dinner.  But hell, it’s Next and I need to go!  I was so giddy to go.  Like going to a high school prom, even though our school did not have one.  Dressed up and ready for a true dining experience.  Mr. Big and I were ready, so ready.

We contemplated taking a cab or hiring a limo because we knew we would be libating, but we drove instead.  Mr. Big is fine, me on the other hand a few drinks and I am off to the races, too smiley, and way too distracted.  Next is located in the Fulton Market area of Chitown, alongside other restaurants such as the Publican, Moto, and the Girl and the Goat.  This area is very trendy and hot.  Oh, I can not for get Aviary, the second Grant/Nick project that opened up over two weeks ago.  Aviary is a modern bar and I hope to go there soon on an adventure with some friends.

Back to Next.  We find a close parking spot, and I am tagged in to parallel park.  Yup, that is my secret skill, I can pull any car into a tiny spot, and make it work.  It is a true skill.  We hop out of the car and scurry down the dark road to the restaurant while we battle the head wind trying to stop us and make my dress fly up.  The image of me in my poofy retro All-Saints black dress and kitten heels running is quite funny.  Then me holding my dress down just makes me laugh.  We walk up to a door that has a long line and I am pretty sure that this was Aviary, and it was.  I was greeted by the door man who was more like cool special forces to ask what I needed.  I meekly said, we are here for Next, we have reservations.  He talked into his wrist piece like secret service to indicate that we were here and he escorted Mr. Big and I to Next.  Yea, it was pretty neat and Mr Big got a laugh out of it.

We walk into Next, surprisingly light inside, I thought it would be a bit dimmer.  The place buzzed with life from the diners, the floor staff, and the kitchen that is encased in glass.  The hostess was very nice and asked me for my name and I offered my ticket.  Off hand she said you are fine you don’t look shady.  I think that comment set the tone for service for the rest of the night.  Refined but relaxed.

Our two top was nestled beside a gigantic wooden wall.  Meep, I wanted to see the kitchen, but the dining room was packed and I am fine with where we sit.  Beside us was a group of 4 talking about the worlds problems and how awesome they are, an all around arrogant table of we have and  you have nots.  Side note here.  I am actually more critical of diners at restaurants than I am of service or staff.  I find many diners disrespectful to staff and the chefs who prepare their food, especially when the diners truly exhibit arrogance and ignorance.  It is one thing to go into a place opened minded, but it is different when one expects certain items because the diner has social status or money.

Back to dinner.  So, we are ready for an Escoffier dinner.  I have briefed Mr. Big over the years on who this man was and how important he was and still is to the cooking world.  For god’s sake he document the framework of french cuisine and created the brigade system.  The server came over poured our bubbly and gave us our intro menu to Escoffier; and why Paris, 1906- Escoffier at the Ritz was selected for the first series of dinners at Next.  One reason: to pay homage to THE forefather of cuisine and dining.

The first taste that was presented to us was a gougerette with mornay sauce center.  A delicious pate a choux kiss filled with a smooth mornay center.  It was gone in one perfect little bite.  Actually, I would have enjoyed a few more of these little guys.  Then we were quickly transitioned to the spectacular platter of hors d’oeuvres.  This platter is a visual spectacular consisting of various shaped, textured, and technically different items.  Hors d’oeuvres is a French word that translates to “outside of the work” or “outside the main course”.  They are normally comprised of small bite sized items that are served before the meal and they are also associated with cocktail parties.

A silver platter was presented to us that held two of everything.  The platter had truffled eggs with salted cod, torchon en brioche,  soft boiled quail egg and anchovy, pork rilletes, rabbit boudin blanc sausage, salmon barquette, and a leek-mushroom bite.

Platter of hors d'oeuvres at Next

Looking more closely at this platter the truffled eggs with salted cod are a main highlight and could stand on its own as a starter.  Creamy, truffly, perfectly prepared salt cod served in a hollowed out egg shell. Perfect.  Next we ate the salmon barquettes and this was ok.  The pastry was thin, but the filling did not reach the expectation I had in mind.  I thought the ones that we made in school had a more balanced in flavor.  We moved on to the pork rilletes.  Delicious!  Seasoned very well, smooth, small fibrous portion of pork.  Yes, more please.  The soft boiled quail egg and anchovy was another beautiful one bite delight.  It is visually strong hors d’oeuvre and it matches in flavor.  The salt on the anchovy cuts the fat of the quail yolk.  I was looking forward to rabbit boudin blanc sausage, but it was overpowered by the crunchy toast beneath it.  The farce was smooth and seasoned well, but the bread prevailed.  Leek-mushroom bite is an interesting take on mushroom duxelle, not as creamy, seasoned extremely well, but the idea of making the mushroom farce and then using it as a filling with blanched leeks was very ingenious.  To cap off the end of this fabulous platter was the perfectly executed torchon en brioche.  What is there not to love about buttery brioche and torchon?  I could have this all night long with it’s fruit garnish.  This is an exciting platter and sets the tempo to this dinner.

Chicago Magazine has an up close look at each element of this platter.  Take a peek.

Next up is the turtle consomme that was garnished with paysanne vegtables.  Tradtionally turtle soup is garnished with sherry because it is poured into this soup; instead the soup was paired with a sherry equse wine (Domaine de Montbourgeau l’Etoile ‘Cuvee Speciale’ Jura 2005).  Another great play on this classic soup.  The consomme was presented tableside in a teapot by the server and he pours the clarified stock into the bowl.  Nice!  I hope restaurants return to serving consommes sometime soon.  They are a simple and classic soup that can be garnished so many ways.

Stop the presses.  The presentation of the seafood dish was incredible.  Introducing: sole and crawfish.

Sole crawfish dish at Next

Sole has sauce normandy, crawfish/sole forcemeat in crawdad head (which is blanched), stuffed mushroom with crawfish, breaded roe.  Amazing.  I could have had this dish all night long and drank up all of the sauce to go along with it.  A perfectly executed classical dish.

Next round: Chicken

Poussin, foie, cucumber, farce, and dill at Next.

Cooked  cucumber roll with chicken forcemeat and dill surrounded by a thin layer of salt pork and chicken with foie gras glaze.  Simple and very yummy.  I want to make the cucumber and chicken forcemeat part, BTW yes this component was warm.

Next Round: Le Quack

Pressed duck and potatoes at Next

The highlight of the dinner was this course.  The classic duck press dish.  Duck breast and leg perfectly cooked, demi glace sauce, potatoes with comte.  All around yum.  Another fantastic course.  Nothing to really complain about, but just a solid dinner thus far.  A great time and fab food.

Next: Salad, yes salad.

This salad was very pleasing to the eye because fo the colors and the edible flowers.  It is a a lightly dressed salad of nasturtium blossom, asparagus and radish.  Salads were normally served last to act as a digestif and a palate cleanser.  This is something that I would love to see come back into fashion.  I love salads at the end of dinner; light, refreshing, and cleansing.  All the flavors were fresh and smiles were had by all.

The forgotten course

No sorbet course for us 😦

No idea why.  It was listed on our menu, but we did not have it.

Next up:  Da Bomb! Boom!

This bombe is the bomb at Next

Yes, I need to write the bombe was the bomb!  It was.  You do not see this application all that often, unless you are formally trained by a french pastry chef.  I was.  This bombe was balanced very well it was composed of a cocoa shell, rum ice cream, chocolate center, a chocolate cookie bottom and rum-soaked cherries on the side.  I tend to dislike chocolate at the end of a large meal because I find it too heavy, but Grant and his staff can serve me anything.  They know how to deliver heavy items in a light way.

Nearing the end….

Time for coffee, the last part of our port and mingnardises: beet pate de fruit, salted caramel, cylinder of nougat, and almond stacks. The pate de fruit was great, but I really loved our extra gift from the staff. TORCHON!!!  Merci!!!

At the end of dinner we were escorted into the kitchen where we spoke with one of the chefs.  I babbled too much because of the amount of wine I had; plus I utterly adore Chef Grant and his vision.  I still shake my fist that I did not get a call back, but I still respect and pay homage to our current great chef.  The fact that Chef Grant and his staff selected Escoffier as the first dinner at Next means a lot to me.  It shows me that he gets it.  He gets the foundations of cuisine, the roots.  I am glad that I got to see a preview to this two years ago at Alinea, but now I got to see the real deal.  Was it worth it?  Yes.  A million times yes.  I love it and I want more of it.  A tribute to Escoffier is a beautiful way to launch a new concept by such a wonderful staff and visionary chef.

I must say that the most interesting part of dinner was the service.  To me it was very laid back.  The server presented the food and wine the way he or she saw fit.  If you had a question and were intrigued by the food they spoke more.  If not they gave a brief description and then walked away.  I could see that the dinner Mr. Big and I had was presented differently by the server at the table beside us.  I guess this is reading and adapting to your guests.  We tend to talk a lot and ask a lot of questions at restaurants like this.  Why?  Because we love the food, the vision, the service.  The whole experience!  Anyways….I know I will return to Next in the coming year for another fantastically presented and prepared meal.  If you do not make it out to the Paris dinner make it out to at least one. Fin.

Next
Paris 1906

Hors d’Oeuvres

Chateau d’Orschwir Cremant d’Alsace Brut

Potage a la Tourtue Claire-907

Domaine de Montbourgeau l’Etoile ‘Cuvee Speciale’ Jura 2005

Filet de Sole Daumont-1950

Olivier Merlin ‘La Roche Vineuse’, Macon 2008

Supremes de Poussin-3130

Chateau de la Liquiere ‘Les Amandiers’ Faugeres 2009

Carre d’agneau-3476

Michel & Stephanie Ogier, Cote-Rotie Rhone 2003

Caneton Rouennais a la Presse-3476
&
Gratin de Pommes de Terre a laDauphinoise-4200

Domaine Brusset “Les Travers” Cairane 2006

Salade Irma-3839

Sorbet Sauternes

Bombe Ceylan-4826

Qunita do Infantado 10 year Tawny Port

Mingnardises
Cafe-The 

Da Doughnut Vault

2 May

The Vault Entrance via DV website

A crazy internet sensation here in the city.  The doughnut.  The luscious, fried, glazed, sugar dusted doughnut.  I was attacked by the Doughnut Vault via twitter and facebook with the lusciousness of these fried dough beauties.  Then thoughts of doughnuts invaded my mind.  As Homer would say “hmmmmmm doughnuts”.  All I could do is read about them, follow how quickly they would disappear, and think I NEED DOUGHNUTS.  NOW!  The question really is.  How are they?  And is it worth it?  Not just the doughnut itself but, the wait and the money.  Here is my Doughnut Vault quest.

The DV is located behind the Merchandise Mart, nestled in to the fantastic restaurant the Gilt Bar.  DV is tiny, you could miss it, but you won’t because of the large blue menu outside and the line of people waiting to order.  The only options are the doughnuts (vanilla, chocolate, chestnut, old fashion, gingerbread stack <you get 3!>, and sometimes a flavor of the day> and coffee, plain coffee.  So simple, so easy, and a great concept.

Right now there is a limited amount of doughnuts being produced each day.  When they are out they are out.  People don’t like this, but I actually find this refreshing.  The DV is creating a demand for their product and growing a strong base of followers who want their doughnuts.  I enjoy the fact that they respect the doughnut and their ability to create a high quality product.  Making doughnuts from scratch is a lot of fun, but it is a lot of work.  It is not like a Dunkin’ Donuts kind of operation, this is quality made with quality ingredients and care.  This is the real thing.  Thank you!

My quest for the elusive DV doughnut was exiting.  I planned to get there near 9:00am and I did not get there until 9:30am on a weekday.  So, I am working an hour behind on getting the doughnuts.  I drove there from the west-side and got a parking space right down the street from DV and Gilt.  The only thing I could think about is that I wanted a doughnut.  I wanted something.  I scurried down to the line that was only to the corner of the street.  I was surrounded by other doughnut waiting fans on a chilly Tuesday.  The day was thinking about rain, but it did not.

Slowly the line moved.  Only 5 or 6 people can fit inside the vault.  No really, it is that small.  A person leaves the shop with a box, <damn you, doughnut hoarder!> or a with a bag <yea, doughnut taster!>.  Then another enters the shop.  Some people come out and say….”no more vanilla”.  Yes this does happened and did happen.  Just like they post on FB and on Twitter.  The guests come out and tell the people in line that items are out.  I was worried and rightfully so.  I missed the vanilla, the chocolate, and then I missed the chestnut by 3 people. F@#%!!!

Inside the DV waiting.

All that waiting, about 40 minutes to come home with 2 doughnut stacks and 2 old fashion.  Hey, I am not going to complain.  I got something.  Some people leave the line because what they wanted ran out.  I was committed to the process; to my quest.  Was I disappointed that I did not get my chestnut?  Yea, but its ok.  It is the biz.  They got what they wanted, the sale, happy customers, and a hook.  The hook is I have to come back and get that doughnut flavor I wanted. Incredible!   I got my doughnuts and I got out of there as fast as I could so I could taste them at home with Mr. Big.

Gingerbread Stack and Old Fashion

First thing… The gingerbread stack is 3 doughnuts, not 1.  So $3 for 3 doughnuts.  Cool.  The stack is dusted with sugar and spice reminiscent of a doughnut I would get at a cider mill in the fall.  The first bite was like heaven.  Light and fluffy, very flavorful, and a balanced gingerbread spices.  A solid doughnut.  Not mind blowing, but very delicious and addictive.  After each bite all I could think about was a glass of apple cider.  Thumbs up to the gingerbread stack.

Old fashion.  Most people shy away from this doughnut, too plain, too simple.  All I have to say is do not pass this one by. Super moist inside, sweet, but not overly sugary; dense, but not heavy.  The glaze on it enhances the doughnut.  This is not flashy, but perfectly made.  I should have ordered more of the old fashion and I will.  This is a great $2 doughnut.  If your coffee is crying for a sugary friend, make this your coffee’s new BFF.

Empty Doughnut Bag From DV. Simple. So Classic.

All in all, the Doughnut Vault is worth the trip.  Each person’s idea of the perfect doughnut, cupcake, or ice cream is different. Some seek something more complex, more edgy, more classic, or mind blowing.  Some even search for perfection.  The fact is that individuals either grasp on to two ways to discover their of perfect flavors.  This idea is for another time.  And, yes I will be back to the DV to get what I wanted.  The chestnut doughnut.

Tip 1:  You want a doughnut from the DV?  Go early.  You are going to have to wait.
Tip 2:  If you want to make sure you get a doughnut from DV, go when the weather is bad.  Go when there is rain.
Tip 3: CASH, CASH, CASH
Tip 4:  Do not discriminate any of the doughnuts.  Love them all!

Doughnut Vault
401 1/2 N. Franklin Street
Chicago IL 60654
http://thedoughnutvault.tumblr.com/

Hours:
Sunday & Monday: Closed
Tuesday-Friday 8:30am-until out of doughnuts
Saturday 9:30am- until out of doughnuts