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September 11, 2013


Storytelling images for Tanta Chicago, a new River North spot with incredible Peruvian cuisine. Eat the anticuchos, be delighted.

Oh let’s have a little food porn, why not?

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September 2, 2013

Mesmerizing. He’s a witty man, that Chef of yours, Miss Teethbracelet.

(via teethbracelet-deactivated201312)

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January 11, 2013

Next: The Hunt (via teethbracelet)

Major butchery porn, right this way… (and uh that’s a phrase I’m guessing you’re not going to want to google). This is the first Next menu since elBulli that we are really, really bummed to miss. (As opposed to just regular-bummed.) Love us some game. Oh Chicago, why gotta be so far away. 

(via teethbracelet-deactivated201312)

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November 6, 2012

In case you wanted to know what the Election Night invites looked like.


Unfortunately, not mine.  My hard-campaigning sister-in-law was the recipient of this golden ticket!


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June 1, 2012

It’s been more than two weeks but I’m still going to post our lunch at Topolobampo, Rick Bayless’ most high-wire joint in Chicago (he’s also the proprietor of the lunch spot Xoco, among other things). I haven’t eaten at every restaurant in the country (yet) but between M. and me, we’ve covered a lot of ground — and I think it’s safe to say that Topolobampo is like no where else. 

(M. even confided that he found the meal possibly more exciting than the one we had the night before. Yes. It was that good.)

Topolobampo is a no-holds-barred celebration of Mexican cuisine, both modern and traditional — a cuisine that, judging from this crazy blog, is one of the most exciting in the world right now. Furthermore, like all of Bayless’ restaurants, they only serve sustainably grown and sourced ingredients, including seafood (no small feat).

After a round of margaritas, a plat de mer of that glorious sustainable seafood, and chips with easily the best guacamole I have ever had (secret is in the touch of sundried tomato threads and thinly sliced radish), we shared appetizers: foie gras with platano macho crisps and a deep-brown, subtly sweet and very fiery chili sauce that I could not get enough of (I asked if they sold it in bottles). Neither of us had ever had a spicy foie gras preparation — it was a revelation. The creamy fat of the foie can more than stand up to the occasion. And our other appetizer: Caesar salad (it originated in Tijuana) and melt-in-your-mouth street-style chicken, stuffed with some sort of masa situation. Equally extraordinary, if significantly less flashy.

For our mains, lamb with mole negro for him, a stunning platter of stuffed morels for me — once we saw it on the menu, we need knew we had to order it. (I always, ALWAYS consult with M. before ordering because he is for reals, the best orderer I have ever known. It’s a true skill. Half the time I think the reason why I have different opinions than others about a restaurant is because they ordered the wrong thing. There will always be boring options that the chef tosses on the menu as appeasements. M. has taught me to identify them and steer clear. His gift cannot be distilled but here’s a primer: if there are morels on a menu, especially a Mexican menu, you order them.)

Anyway. Those morels. They were — oh my god — so good. Stuffed with a cheese and corn mixture, served with an unexpectedly delicate frijole sauce, radishes, a green herb oil of some kind. Imagine a walk in the woods. And like the foie, it was like nothing we’d ever tasted before.

And that’s the point of eating out right? To eat the foods you can’t — or realistically won’t — make at home. That’s why he ordered the mole; that’s why we love BBQ and sushi; that’s why a blow-out meal is so damn exciting.

Chicago, I know other places are trendier but you’ve got a real gem in Topolobampo. I would eat there as often as I could.

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May 25, 2012

Next: elBulli

Alright kids, here it is: the big kahuna, the reason for the season: the elBulli meal at Next. 

Where to start? Maybe the beginning. I can’t remember exactly when I first heard about elBulli. I got really into food writing in 2007 so perhaps it was then. It seems to have appeared fully formed in my consciousness, a beacon of foam and light, the only mecca that would mean much to me. Needless to say, I never got a chance to go (it’s now closed indefinitely), or even close-to-a-chance to go (M. did, and he turned it down, and obviously he continues to kick himself every chance he gets). I’ve read enough about it (Bourdain’s visit, Steingarten’s visit, a profile of pastry chef Albert AdriàChef Ferran Adrià’s brother, to name but a few), that I could describe a meal to you in detail, though of course I have no idea what it was really like.

After the meal at Next I still have no idea. That’s not a criticism of Next. There’s simply no way to recreate a meal that is so critically of a place. You can’t do The French Laundry outside of Napa, you can’t do Blue Hill at Stone Barns outside of Stone Barns.

For example: the meal, which was conceived as a twenty-year retrospective of Adrià’s greatest hits, begins with a nitro (frozen) caipirinha and modernist interpratations of traditional tapas. We ate them sitting down, surrounded by dark wood and a single red rose dangling above each table, an homage to elBulli’s home in the Catalonia surf town of Roses, not far from Barcelona.

At elBulli, in contrast, you would be eating these on the terrace, overlooking the sea, the sun on your skin, the breeze on your lips, the memory of the famously twisty-turny drive up the mountain to the restaurant fresh in your mind. 

Once you accept that you are participating in a rather encyclopedic exercise — perhaps an even better term for it than homage — you can focus on what the meal brought to light: the evolution of global food, and Adrià’s immeasurable influence on it. Everyone remembers the scene in “The Devils Wears Prada” where Merryl Streep’s Miranda Priestly explains the fashion industry to the hapless Anne Hathaway in one withering paragraph: designers design, all others copy, and when it finally trickles down, you show up to work in a dowdy blue sweater. For many years, Adrià was the ur-designer of the food world, and I was never able to appreciate that so much as last Wednesday night.

Two examples. As we moved out of the tapas courses and into the second act of the meal, we were presented with black sesame sponge cake with miso, a 2009 creation (all courses were presented with a bit of background on their provenance). It was wild, no question, but at this point making a 40-second sponge cake with a siphon and a microwave is commonplace in a certain kind of restaurant. Just this week we had a glorious mint sponge cake at Gwynnett St. that tasted so fresh-picked it seemed the work of transubstantiation. Adrià may be the originator, but his disciples are constantly improving upon his ideas.

A fish course was particularly interesting to me, not because it was delicious (frankly, it was kind of bland) but because it reminded me so much of what fish tasted like in the ’90s. It was called Red Mullet Gaudí — flaky white fish covered in bits of pepper and tomatoes — and it was served with flair, over a plastic pillow filled with water and pebbles, an innovation of the Next kitchen that seemed like an apology for the relative blandness of the dish.

Do you remember what fish used to be like? In so many restaurants, it was the afterthought on the menu, the sad little dieter’s corner, either overcooked or just dull. The red mullet wasn’t bad — heavens no, nothing in the meal was bad — it just seemed figuratively half-baked. These days there would be a contrast to the red flavors of the peppers and tomatoes, a sprightly green oil or foam, some contrasting texture, too, but in 1987, when elBulli served the dish, it was probably quite unusual: deconstructed gazpacho and fish, together at last. My perception of the dish is an expression of the time that has passed, the immense quantities of artfully-arranged-white-fish-with-tomatoes that have been served since then, the fact that my mom made fish sort of like that when I was growing up. Long before it became common place, Adrià moved on. It was the rest of us that had to keep eating it.

You probably think I didn’t like that course. On the contrary, I found it strangely thrilling. Suddenly it all made sense. Or something like that.

Before I left for Chicago, a friend of mine, a man dedicated to high-wire acts of food-as-entertainment, asked me to report back on the deliciousness of the food. He had heard that only about a third of elBulli food is actually tasty; the rest is “just” thought-provoking. I certainly didn’t get that impression from our meal. There were a lot of outright unctuous courses, from the chicken liquid croquettes that exploded in your mouth, to the sweet carrot air with the delightful surprise of coconut milk on the bottom, to the creamy tortilla, rich with olive oil, that you got to eat with a spoon. I happily cleaned my plate (or Japanese soup spoon or martini glass or squiggly-metal-serving-thing) over and over again.

Anyway, enough from me, let’s see some food porn. I wasn’t planning to take so many pictures but the lighting was lovely, the food so pretty, and the time that it took the waiters to describe every course perfectly suited to a quick snap, that I went with it. So here they are, almost all of the 29 courses….

Nitro caipirinha with tarragon concentrate (2004).

Not pictured: the excellent, burst-in your mouth hot/cold trout roe tempura (2000).

Not pictured: the famous spherical olives (2005) — we had them as a preview course during our Next: Childhood meal.

Iberico sandwiches (2003) & coca of avocado pear, anchovies & green onion (1991). Just yummy, as tapas should be.

Pineau des Charentes to pour into our cava. Who doesn’t love an interactive element?

Golden egg (2001) & chicken liquid croquettes (1998).

Black sesame sponge cake & miso (2007).

Not pictured: chicken liquid croquettes (1998).

Smoke foam (2007). Exactly like eating a campfire (as you do).

Carrot air with coconut milk (2003). Delightful doesn’t begin to describe it. I couldn’t help but think that with tons of flavor and very little calories, this would make awesome diet food — watch out Tracy Anderson and your baby food diet, I’m gonna make millions on foam!

Cuttlefish & coconut ravioli with soy, ginger & mint (1997). The cuttlefish stood in for pasta — extraordinary.

Savory tomato ice with oregano & almond milk pudding (1992). I’m from the Midwest, I know what a fresh-picked August tomato tastes like. Somehow this recreated it. (This would obviously be included in my modernist diet, a couple tablespoons of almond milk pudding your reward for being so good.)

Our table, mid-meal: pairings gone wild.

Hot crab aspic with mini corn cous-cous (2001). 

Cauliflower cous-cous with solid aromatic herb sauce (2001). Cubes of gel herbs along side fresh herbs; as clever as it is beautiful.

Suquet of prawns (1988). Perfect little balls of potato, perfect little prawns; nouvelle cuisine at its best and most restrained.

Potato tortilla by Marc Singla: I could eat this for days.

Trumpet carpaccio (1989): I absolutely adore mushrooms, and this preparation still feels fresh after more than twenty years.

Red mullet Gaudi (1987), over a pillow of pebbles and water (see my description above).

Nasturtium with eel, bone marrow & cucumber (2007): an interesting presentation for a savory course — a visual cue that we’re heading to dessert.

Civet of rabbit with hot apple jelly (2000). Doesn’t this look like it should be dessert? Another hint that the savory courses are beginning to wind down. 

Frozen gorgonzola balloon (2009), a light-hearted take on the cheese course that you got to eat with your hands. I just love Sandy and Megan's faces in these photos.

Foie gras flan (1999): words that should always go together. I’ve seen a number of traditionally sweet preparations that incorporate foie gras (remember Richard Blaze’s foie gras ice cream on “Top Chef”?) — but none as successful as this.

Spice plate (1996): a matching game that tests your palate — we first played as a preview course during our Next: Childhood meal. Somehow I scored worse the second time around?

Mint pond (2009): powdered mint atop a sheet of ice that you got to crack. Satisfying! (And another for my soon-to-be-blockbuster modernist diet: and for dessert, eat all the mint ice you want!)

Chocolate in textures (1997): a perfect chocolate course.

Chocolate donuts (2010), creme flute (1993), puff pastry web (1989). Yes, yes, and yes.

The farewell (2004): waving hands that hid tiny passionfruit marshmallows. (Dare you not to smile.)

A final thank you to our dining companions, Megan and Sandy, without whom we would have never had such an experience. Please come to NYC so we can show you just how grateful we are!

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May 24, 2012

I’ll Take Chicago (or: remember Leisure Week?)

Last we checked in on Leisure Week (TM), I was en route to Chicago for a four-night stay that centered around tickets to Next elBulli (thank you Megan!), but was really an opportunity to spend leisurely QT with people I rarely get to see. Here’s a glimpse into what I did, saw, and ate (but mostly ate, let’s face it)….

Saturday night it was rainy and chilly; ramen at Slurping Turtle — followed by an oozy, gooey chocolate chip skillet cookie smothered in ice cream and salted caramel sauce — really hit the spot. A night of Chicago blues, old friends, and doggy butts. In other words, perfect.

On Sunday morning I met up with these loverlies at Dose Market, a really neat monthly extravaganza of food and crafty goods. I thought everything was surprisingly cheap — which is to say, I was a New Yorker outside of New York. If you’re visiting Chicago on a Sunday that Dose is happening, I cannot recommend this enough. Though get there early to avoid crowds.

That evening, I had an early dinner with Jane at Girl and the Goat. Now, I’ve heard a lot of good things about it and I mean, yes, it was tasty — but I felt a little underwhelmed. On paper the flavor combinations were brave and exciting but in practice, I felt it wasn’t something you couldn’t make at home. However — Chef Izard (whom I loved on Top Chef) really nails the balance of cold and hot, pickled and roasted. My favorite dish was the chickpea fritters with stewed chickpeas, pickled cabbage, and mozzarella.

On Monday, I took a train to Elgin to visit with my aunt and cousins, whom I haven’t seen in quite a few years. We spent summers together when we were kids, playing pranks on our grandparents, recording talk shows on cassettes, and crafting fashion magazines with paper, yarn, and colored pencils (one was memorably called “Buety” — I was a terrible speller because I learned to read and write in phonetic Spanish before confusing English). It was really wonderful to catch up on their adult lives — growing families, round-the-world mission trips — over Thai iced tea and lunch.

On Tuesday, I visited my great-aunt Vera in her assisted living facility in Des Plaines, the suburb where she and my maternal grandparents lived for many years. Vera is my maternal grandma Leah’s sister. She was born in Tuscany, in the Luca region, and immigrated to the near north side of Chicago when she was 18 months old. Leah was born a few years later.

I knew it would be good to talk with her, to reconnect with that side of my family, a side I take great pride in (Tuscany is surely one of the most beautiful and delicious parts of the world), but know relatively little about. It was even more moving than I expected. With my birth-mother and grandma now gone, Vera and I remain the last living remnants of the direct female line. I wanted to hear as much as I could and thankfully, she is still as sharp and chatty as ever. Though very frank with her feelings about her current place in life — no one loves aging, no one loves assisted living — she was so happy to reminisce. She told me that her father, Leo, was a concert French horn player until a respiratory ailment that he picked up in the trenches in the first World War robbed him of the ability to play. She told me about my great-grandma Gemma, a woman I idolize because everyone else who knew her does (and because of this), about how close they all were, Gemma and her daughters, and about how sad the community was when my mother died young. That’s Gemma and Leo, below.

We drank coffee and ate slightly stale pastries and in those pastries I could taste it all. They tasted of my grandma and summers in Des Plaines and swimming in Lake Geneva and riding tandem with my grandpa. Thank you, Vera, for a wonderful morning.

Tuesday night we got a gang of Tumblr girls together for an excellent and shockingly cheap meal at Longman & Eagle. Lauren, KatieEmily, EmilyMegan, Erin, — what a terrific gaggle of smart and powerful ladies. Beautiful, too.

(Good gracious, please ignore the fuzzywuzzy iPhone photo of us all, which Emily graciously sent me despite it not being nearly up to her usual snuff. It’s pretty amusing that you can get a table full of Tumblrs together and produce nary a decent group shot.)

After dinner, Jane and I shut it down at Zebra Lounge, a piano bar to end ‘em all. Definitely worth stopping in if you’re in Chicago.

The heart and soul of the trip was these two right here. Jane and Trouble, Trouble and Jane. Longtime readers know that Jane was my roommate in Park Slope a few years ago (along with Andrea), and that she and I found two kittens in Wilkes-Barre, PA, while canvassing for Obama two days before the 2008 election. She is my cat-mother from another brother. Or something. Point is, I love her to bits and she’s staying with us for TWO WHOLE MONTHS this summer while she does a legal internship in NYC. We’ve got so much funtimes up our sleeves: an epic Summer Solstice party (complete with pagan rituals), Summer of Fitness, the Camp Mannahatta party, friends’ bday trips to CT and Kansas City…. It’s gonna be great.

On Wednesday, M. flew in and we moved into the Public. We spent the day with Jane traipsing around Chicago: lunch at Xoco, the Lichtenstein exhibit at the Art Institute, and rosé on its rooftop.

That evening was the big ticket item — the elBulli dinner at Next — but M. and I weren’t sure if there would be much, y’know, food in 29 courses so we stopped into the Publican, a pretty much perfect gastropub, for snacks first. The chicken liver pate with pickled ramps was my favorite, but a Minnesota girl can’t not order fried walleye and cheese curds when it’s on a menu. It’s a rule.

I was feeling so good and happy after five straight days of Leisure I spent the meal with a shmoopy grin on my face. Omg the meal is almost here!! I kept thinking.

And omg it was. And omg it was totally omg. More on that soon. If you’ve gotten this far, thanks for reading. I owe you a leisurely drink.

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May 21, 2012

Chicago in May in eminently Instagrammable.

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May 13, 2012

Dose Market this morning with my Tumblr girls Jessi, Erin, and Megan. We sampled sour cherry grenadine and apples dipped in truffled honey, snacked on donuts, bao, smoked eggs, and pickled eggplant, sipped cider and wheat whiskey cocktail, admired python handbags and outrageous vintage jewelry, brought home balls of mozzarella and bouquets of flowers — and when it came to the siren call of new scarves, we didn’t even bother to resist: yellow tie-dye for Jessi; graphic prints in purple and blue for Erin and me. The very best kind of bad influence. The very best kind of day.

Dose Market this morning with my Tumblr girls Jessi, Erin, and Megan. We sampled sour cherry grenadine and apples dipped in truffled honey, snacked on donuts, bao, smoked eggs, and pickled eggplant, sipped cider and wheat whiskey cocktail, admired python handbags and outrageous vintage jewelry, brought home balls of mozzarella and bouquets of flowers — and when it came to the siren call of new scarves, we didn’t even bother to resist: yellow tie-dye for Jessi; graphic prints in purple and blue for Erin and me. The very best kind of bad influence. The very best kind of day.

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February 9, 2012

There’s a Potbelly in NYC now! Now if only we can get an Alinea Chicago won’t have anything on us.

There’s a Potbelly in NYC now! Now if only we can get an Alinea Chicago won’t have anything on us.

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