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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.

Childhood Memories Menu 

PB & J
Cocktail of Madeira & Luxardo Maraschino

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

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

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!


Turkey Lurkey Menu 2011

22 Nov

Turkey Mise en Place by Donna Turner Ruhlman

Thanksgiving Menu 2011

Roast Cider Brined Turkey

Winter Fruit Stuffing

Brussels Sprouts and Pancetta

Green Bean Casserole

Homemade Gravy

Deadly Mashed Potatoes

Roasted & Sugared Acorn Squash

Classic Potato Leek Soup

Cranberry 2 Ways

Classic Spinach Salad

Pumpkin Tart

Goat Cheese Cheesecake with MichiganWindmill Cookies

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.

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


Next- Paris, 1906 Menu

12 May

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


Next Restaurant
953 W Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 226-0858

Facebook Fan Page

Reservations Only, via the website
Tickets must be purchased