Tag Archives: what the hell i have been up to

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

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.

1829 West Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60622

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

Burger Boss
7512 West North Ave.
Elmwood Park, IL 60707

Divanti Enoteca
1359 West Taylor Street
Chicago, IL 60607

Graham Elliot
217 West Huron Street
Chicago, IL 60654

2119 South Halsted Street
Chicago, IL 60608

445 North Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60610

Here Again

17 Jun

It has been a crazy few weeks.  I have neglected to update the few who read what I have been up to.

So here is something quick before I head into work.

  • Knoxville, Tenn
  • 360 Peach Vodka
  • Vodka infusions
  • Nightwood
  • Hot Chocolate
  • Davanti Enoteca
  • Random Korean place
It is a start. Ok… Got to run. I am sooooooo late.


Easter Cooking Fest

27 Apr

With the work I have lined up for the guys, chores around the house, the doggers, family drama, and way too much cooking to do; somehow I have found time to share my exploits.  Actually, I wanted to do some free writing and spill some thoughts out of my head, that will have to wait for another day.  So….


Fluffy bunnies, eggs, peeps, candy, Jesus, more candy, chicks, peanut butter eggs, ham, lamb, and _____ fill in what else evokes the image of easter.  For me and my Polish heritage it is a large lunch, blessing of the basket and some sort of edible food shaped as a lamb.  Normally there would be a cold kabanosy and a hot keilbasa, potatoes, borscht, ham, new potatoes, two crazy chopped  salads (i don’t eat them), horseradish, and bread.  Oh, how can I forget the butter lamb and then for dessert the lamb shaped babka.  Now that I am in the city with Mr. Big and the doggers I am not headed home for the holiday.  I will fend for myself.

My cooking-fest started a week back with the infamous house smoked ham.  So delicious!  Besides the ham I will set up the table for 2 to include spring peas, new potatoes, miseria (cucumber and sour cream salad), deviled eggs, potato/onion/cheese pierogi, horseradish, maybe some duck, and my cannoli cheesecake.  That is the feast including a glass of wine.

The highlights i’d like to share of the feast are the deviled eggs.  I did not get into deviled eggs until I got into culinary school and Chef Loving taught us how to prepare them in breakfast class.  The recipe he had us use was great.  It was a combination of cream cheese, butter, vinegar, s&p, cayenne, the pressed yolks, and dried mustard.  Wow.  I was surprised  by the eggs.  Why?  Well, I am an egg white girl always have been.  Not saying I dislike yolks, but I did not enjoy their yolky flavor.  Ordering eggs over hard was and still is the norm for breakfast, but now I eat the yolk.  If they come out underdone I would have to create a dam or try not to puncture the yolk.  Just was not my thing.

My yolk complex is not quite over, but I do enjoy a poached egg with, yes a hollandaise sauce. Hah.  Or on a perfect lardon salad.  There is something about the egg and it’s richness that I love and despise at the same time.  I will figure it out one day.  Back to the deviled eggs.  What I discovered in culinary school was my love of acid and how fat is really good friends with it.  The first batch of deviled eggs I made I put too much vinegar in and I loved it.  The acid lifted the rich fatty-ness of the yolk and matched my love of the white.  The butter and cream cheese assisted in my appreciation of this dish.

The other day when I was making the eggs I did not want to buy cream cheese.  I rarely use it.  I had to think on my toes and I selected my double cream brie cheese.  Why?  One has to think about the functionality of the ingredient you do not have or want to omit.  You need to identify what ingredient does in the dish.  What is it’s role or function, especially if it is a base ingredient.  This sounds like idea of substitutions is going to lead to more egg adventures in the kitchen.  A deviled cobb egg, BLT egg, blue cheese, sweet yolk, and more…. Who knows some more ideas will come up.  Plus, curlers seem to really like deviled and pickled eggs and Mr Big likes the deviled eggs I make because they are not runny.  Oh well, easter has come and gone.  Now we need to eat all the leftover food.  Enjoy.

Fall Back Deviled Eggs

Yield 8 halves

4 eggs

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

2 tablespoons brie, room temperature, no rind

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon champagne vinegar

Salt & Pepper to taste

  1. Hard boil the eggs.  The quickest way for me is place the eggs in a pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil.  Once a boil is reached turn off the heat and place a lid on the pot.  It should take about 8-10 minutes for the eggs to reach the hard boiled state.  If you have another technique that works use it.  There are many.
  2. Once cooked, peel the eggs, and slice lengthwise.  Pop out the yolks into a small bowl.  Clean out the whites with a damp towel.
  3. With a fine mesh colander press the yolks though it.  Now you will have fluffy yolk particles.
  4. In a small bowl mash together the brie and the butter, until well incorparated and creamy.  Add the yolk, mustard, vinegar, and mix.  You should have a paste like filling.  Taste and season it as you wish with salt, pepper, and cayenne.
  5. Arrange the egg whites in a line on the cutting board.  Using a small pastry bag and with a star tip, fill the pastry bag with the yolk filling.
  6. Begin to pipe the yolk filling into the egg whites where the yolk used to be.  Fill all the eggs with the yolk, you may have extra yolk filling.
  7. Garnish as desired, with a caper, some dill, roe, or other plush of herb.

Cleveland Bound

7 Apr

I have fallen off the face of the world again, but this time for good food, friends, and work.  Last week I scurried over to the Cleve to see some curling friends and the Boss.  The turnpike makes the trip fast, the radio stations are not the best, but it is a smooth and fast ride to the city.

I met up with my former teammates from the Kzoo nationals for some happy hour fun at Paladar, a latin kitchen and rum bar; that has slow service.  We ended up eating some guacamole with cucumber and pickled onion (it needed more pickled onion), beautiful root chip that had tortilla chips hiding in the bottom (I was not happy to see this), and yucca fries (dips were not great).  I really enjoyed their root vegetable and plantain chips with the guac, very good.  Besides the great company we inhaled their mojitos.  I splurged for the fresh mango, while Court just went with the classic mojito.  I should have ordered the prickly pear to do something new.  Shame on me.  We moved on to another restaurant after one more friend joined us.

Next order of business for eating was the B-Spot, Micheal Symon’s award winning burger joint.  OMG it is simple, good, and fun.  Plus, it was sooooo busy.  Boss said I should go and I am happy I did.  The 4 of us went to the jam packed B-spot.  Court’s hubby met up with the girls for dinner, he is too funny, he really is.  The table shared the fries & onion rings and each of us ordered a burger, well Court got the walleye sandwich; it is Lent.

  • Shroomage burger with portabella, blue cheese, Lola steak sauce, griddled onions
  • Thin Lizzy burger with griddled onions, cheddar, mayo, pickles
  • Breuben burger with corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss, Russian dressing

There were lots of interesting items like fried bologna, salami, coppa, eggs, and more to either be served alone or to top a burger.  A very fun and exciting menu.  Good sized portions too, not over the top.  All the burgers are cooked to order, there is a pickle bar, and an extensive condiment caddy at the table with a coffee BBQ sauce it is KILLER.  B-Spot also has a good number of beers on draft and in bottle, plus “Bas Ass Shakes”.  Yes, I had a Vanilla bean apple pie bacon bourbon shake. OMG it was good, next time I would want the root beer float or the chocolate espresso.  Good burger binging!

The next morning I had to drive in to see the Boss, but stop off and fetch some bread at On the Rise Bakery.  I walked into the bakery and bam, I was smacked in the face with the smell of fresh bread, yeast, sugar, and just a lot of yum.  A huge grim came to my face.  God, I love great bread.  The smell, the feel, the shape, and the taste.  This was bread nirvana.  I also met and spoke with Adam, the owner and head baker of On the Rise.  He loves his bread, I enjoyed my time with him.  A man with true vision.

The staff were so friendly and welcoming.  Just an all around great place that sells high quality, hand crafted bread.  I purchased 5 french baguettes, pain au chocolate, jam croissant, and got a cookie.  All were fantastic.  I love slicing into bread goods and seeing the layers of laminated dough in the pain au chocolate or the irregular holes in the baguette. Hmmmm I wish I had one now.

The middle of the day was so much fun.  Working with my boss, hanging with his family, and learning the ropes.  I also got to spend quality time with his wife.  I am very happy with my employer. 🙂  Smiles all around.  We talked shop about books, business, and future projects.  My heart was racing with all the excitement.  It still is.  Oh, I want to share, but I can not.  So, we will move on to more food.

Found out at the end of the day that there was the Indians home opener.  That meant, we need to leave the house NOW to get downtown.  We started off our feast at The Greenhouse Tavern that is owned by Jonathon and Amelia Sawyer.  A really down to earth, energy filled, farm to table restaurant.  To me it the Greenhouse Tavern embodies the philosophies of many midwestern chefs.  There is something different about midwestern folk.  It does draw us back to the farm to simplicity, even if we live in the bigger cities stuck in the middle.

The items on their menu are exciting and filled with fresh ideas.  I love the fact that there is poutine on the menu.  If you have no idea what that is then check it out.  It is heaven!  Below are the dishes the three of us shared.  I enjoyed all of them.  I liked the hominy and the foie clams.  So delicious.  I need to give props to them for the chicken wing confit.  This is a great idea!  I hope to see more places doing this technique with the wings.

  • Crispy Hominy with pork shin cracklins, pickled red onion & lime juice
  • Foie Gras Steamed Clams with butter, red onion brûlée, late harvest viognier vinegar & grilled bread
  • Whole Grilled Padrón Peppers with heirloom garlic cilantro pistou & lemon zest
  • Crispy Chicken Wings Confit with roasted jalapeño, lemon juice, scallions & garlic

We scarfed up our meal.  The staff were very accommodating and friendly, as they are in the midwest.  I know when I go back to Cleveland I am coming back here.  It fit my personality just so.  Plus, I loved their use of acid/citrus; overbearing in one dish, but I was happy to see its appearance.  Thanks!

The last stop before I had to head home on the pike was to Micheal Symon’s Lola Bistro.  I have only read about this place, so I was very happy we had the opportunity to quickly eat there.  The Boss gave the green light and we were escorted to the chef’s table that is nestled beside the open kitchen.  I love open kitchen’s.  The intensity, the heat, the clatter of pans, quick busting flames.  It is so exhilarating.  I can get lost in all the movement and action.

We quickly perused the menu.  Boss ordered our dishes and we were inundated with staff who were waiting to talk with him.  So many questions, so many stories.  All exciting to hear and to be around.  Below are the dishes we ordered.  I enjoyed the pork belly and the bone marrow.  The marrow is the sexiest food around.  Nothing beats it’s lusciousness, well maybe a perfect torchon.  The only thing I really wanted here to make some of the dishes pop was some acid.  Overall beautiful flavors, presentation, and service.

  • Pork Belly: butternut squash, apple, blood orange, cilantro, ginger
  • Crispy Bone Marrow: various accompaniments
  • Ceviche: jalapeno, Fresno, red onion, lime
  • Beef Cheek Pierogi: wild mushrooms, horseradish, crème fraiche
  • Sea Scallops: warm spring pea tart, english peas, shaved radish & pea tendril salad, lemon essence

During our quick meal, stories were flying around about Symon and Keller.  I could not believe my ears.  Great stories, ones I can only file away.  I am so happy that this is my future.  That these two people I am sharing dinner with are the ones I get to work with everyday.  I hear their ideas and help them as best as I can, so they can be excellent. Wow!  Intertwined in the conversation in an instant a glimmer of green caught my eye in the kitchen.  Green with a thin base of brown.  I kept watching and then it was revealed.  Thinking it was dessert, caught off guard it only came to be an entrée.  It was the scallop dish.  We had to get that and we did.

The scallops were seared perfectly and were accompanied with a warm spring pea tart, that is what we thought dessert was.  The green was reminiscent of a pistachio tart or cream.  The tart was rich and lovely, it made me think of English mushy peas.  The salad on top was nice, but the dish cried out for some more acid to cut through the richness of the tart and the scallop.  Besides this, a beautifully executed dish both technically and visually.  All in all I was very impressed with Lolas.  Another place I will return to, but I also need to eat at Roast in the D.

Dinner came to an end and the evening did to.  This was one of the best working days I have ever had in my life.  So much excitement and enthusiasm for what I do and who I work with.  I have so much respect for the two of them.  One armed with words and the other with photo.  The two meld together to make it work.  It is perfection.  I still can not get over it.  I am waiting for a pinch or to wake up.  Nope, it is really happening.  So, I wait for my text, the email, or the call from them.  Ready to hop into action, to get done what needs to get done, to ask questions, to make it work.  This is what I do and sometimes it is with a full stomach of great food.

To all of this… Thank you M & D.

28699 Chagrin Boulevard
Woodmere, OH 44122
Phone: 216-292-5567

28601 Chagrin Boulevard, Suite 900
Woodmere, OH 44122
Phone (216) 896-9020

On the Rise Bakery
3471 Fairmount Boulevard
Cleveland, OH 44118-4265
(216) 320-9923

The Greenhouse
2038 E 4th Street
Cleveland, OH 44115

Lola Bistro
2058 East 4th Street
Cleveland, OH 44115

Sprouting Projects

9 Mar

As promised I will let you all in on what is growing in my kitchen, my projects.  I have my garden growing right now, I have sun gold tomatoes, moon and stars melons, sumter cucumbers, Florentine tomatoes, and eggplant.  Yeah!  I am very excited that the Italian tomatoes grew.  They taste great and are fairly large.  I am also going to get some climbing beans, maybe a pumpkin or two, zucchini, and peppers going.  Not to mention to revive the kick ass herb garden I got when we bought the house.

2 weeks in the sun in the little green house.

In other kitchen news I have been busy making biscotti for a boss.  I am sure the post will make it up one day on his site.  Biscotti are interesting cookies that last for a while, especially if you make a lot.  Dunking biscotti in milky coffee  or in a latte is great.  I would rather have a glass of Vin Santo to go with it, but I need to find a good bottle.  Hmmmmm I feel a wine adventure coming up with my obsession with sweet and stickies. For now I will stick with almond and chocolate chip.

Beets have also invaded the kitchen.  I made a Russian borscht with a beef short rib broth base from the March 1997 Bon Appetit.  Most excellent results with the recipe used.  The beets were roasted in the oven for an hour and a half, cooled, then peeled, and diced; with gloves on (so my hands don’t turn red).  The other cool beet project was a sweet pickled beets.  I have never pickled a beet, but I sure do love beets.  I did not start my love affair with beets until 2001 when I visited New Zealand for rugby.  Before then I would not eat them, they tasted like dirt; kinda funny since I am Polish and we always had them for Sunday dinner.  Now they are a power root vegetable for me & Mr Big.

For the pickled beets I used cider vinegar, water, salt, white sugar, brown sugar, cloves, cinnamon stick, and all spice berries.  Brought it to a boil then added the battonet of beets and simmered it for 20 minutes.  Then allowed it to cool and put it in a glass jar in the cooler.  I need to wait a few weeks and then boom, beet time.  Cool project.  Thanks Cookbook Archaeology.

The last thing I want to mention is that I did my first canning project.  Yeah, I know I am all over the show, but that is how my head works.  It is going to work this way until I actually sit down and get some focus in this blogging endeavour. I hopped on to Punk Domestics and found a sister post about canning clementines.  I had a bunch laying around and I went a head and did it.  Thank you Arctic Garden Studio and Simply Canning

Yes, I boiled, sanitized, made a sugar solution, and canned.  Check out these pictures.

I must say there is a lot going on in my head.  I need to practice saying what I do for my job, the adventures I go on, my curling path, and my life in general.  The spring is coming and focus is needed for the future of this blog and for me.  All in all it is a lot of fun.  Smiles or at the very least a smurk everyday. Ciao!

2011 Really??

7 Jan

OK… OK… I have been bad.  I have not written in quite sometime because of many reasons.  Like what?  Well work, moving to a new house, curling, testing recipes, traveling to Detroit, Christmas with my family, and so on.  I have managed to reflect on a lot of things that I do throughout my day and in my life as it stands now.  Some conclusions: kick ass.  Other conclusions: seem kinda cloudy.  I sound like the magic 8 ball.

In the meantime projects that have been completed have been:

  • Holiday Cookies
  • Breads: Bagels & Bagels
  • Ipad stuff (I also got one for Christmas)
  • Curling Stuff

In the mix projects are:

  • New Book
  • Charcuterie
  • Writing Class
  • Posting Recipes
  • Curling Playdowns

I know that I need to challenge myself each day.  I need to re-read the classic books that have molded me to be who I think I am.  I can not be afraid of who I really and where my interests are taking me.  The plan stands and I will succeed.  Oh, and I am going to Europe this summer.

I will post a Mexican brownie recipe and veggie chili some time this week.