Immobilized by our respective bum legs, Andy and I are holed up once more in the living room, with only laptops, DVDs, Vicodin and the sporadic company of roommates and visitors to amuse us. Summer is over. The days are increasingly chilly and gray, which adds to the sense of being marooned indoors. Indeed, this is the most time by far that I will have spent at home since before Harry's opened 9 weeks ago. I am thus afforded the opportunity to catch up on reading, movie-watching, laundry, and evidently, blogging. Despite working so much, there's been a respectable amount of dining in my life as of late, not least of all two weeks ago in Chicago. The breakdown:
Lunch: two different preparations of mole at Tepatulco, as well as ceviche and crepas with homemade cajeta. The ceviche was over-marinated and tasted slightly fizzy... not so nice. The moles (both red varieties), however, were great-- complex, rich and smooth. The corn tortillas were also fantastic, flavorful and resilient. The hot crepas were delicious except for the plantains, which were underripe, bland and starchy. Service was friendly yet somewhat inattentive, and oddly there was no agua fresca or other fruit juice in house. What's up with that? All in all, and in spite of the good mole, we could have done better for an excellent authentic Mexican meal. During the netherworld between lunch and dinner we bought gelato and chocolate from a very friendly man at Canady le Chocolatier.
Dinner: The one, the only... Charlie Trotter's. I was expecting a truly sublime meal, and that's certainly what I got. Naturally, we chose the Grand Menu (ie, "normal" non-vegetarian). I also requested to sample all of the desserts at the end of the meal, a request which was almost accomodated... I think maybe 2 or 3 things didn't appear, but we still had 6 (or 7?). Highlights from the meal... a gorgeous bowl holding monkfish, several varieties of seaweed, sea beans and the freshest salmon roe I've ever had, with hidden pools of kaffir lime sauciness and lemon creaminess.... tomato granité of astoundingly pure flavor.... a spicy yet balanced composition of, among other things, cockles, serrano and three preparations of celery (which reminded me of Michael's gazpacho at Auriga).... pickled ginger that we suspect to have been braised in lamb demi (whose scent and taste provoked in me an oddly strong association with my mom's adobo).... the shockingly harmonious flavor combination of canteloupe, feta and spearmint.... a perfect watermelon sorbet, topped with an impossibly tiny squash and its attached blossom.... a chocolate dessert incorporating Iberico chorizo..... and along with the entire meal great wines, the best of which being an incredibly honeyed and complex auslese riesling. Service was of course gracious, informed and, above all, inobtrusive. At the risk of sounding cliché, our dinner wasn't short of being.... pretty magical. But then it also had everything to do with me feeling damn lucky and happy to simply be there, sharing a beautiful experience with someone very special.
Figuring it couldn't hurt to top the night off with yet more food (coupled with the fact that we had botched our opportunity to go earlier for lunch), we decided to rush over to Blackbird for yet more dessert--- specifically the butterscotch-bacon ice cream. One cheese plate, two glasses of Tokaji wine and three desserts later, very serious food coma was beginning to take hold. The bacon ice cream was certainly awesome, but the overall combination of elements (mission fig beignets, raspberries), although plated beautifully, wasn't my favorite. The parmesan toast (like cheesy french toastix!) with peaches and olive oil ice cream was tasty but would have been much better had the olive oiliness come through. I would say my default favorite was the crepaze with rhubarb consommé and the best pistachio ice cream I've ever had-- although the promised candied celery was stringy and not candied at all. After falling unconscious on my friend's couch shortly after this orgy of desserts, we realized it was time to retire to the hotel.
The second day I struck out on my own, winding up in Chinatown. Although in search of dim sum at Shui Wah, I couldn't ignore the place a few doors down, Lao's Sze Chuan, whose windows were pasted over in press clippings. So, I did what any respectable eater would have done and ate two full meals back to back! At Shui Wah I had fried seaweed rolls (not so special), har gow (excellent), chive and shrimp dumplings (awesome), and pan fried chive dumplings (sweeeeet). Total, including tea and tip: about 12 bucks. Trying to capitalize on the time window before my hypothalamus would realize my stomach was full, I proceeded to Lao's, where I had very good cold spicy beef tendon and a huge, wonderful bowl of clam and tofu soup. In a daze of shrimp, chili oil and jasmine tea, I wandered into a bookstore a couple doors down and impulsively bought an instructional book written in Mandarin on the fine art of carving taro, daikon and carrots into frilly dragons, pandas playing the drums, monkeys grooming each others' butts, frolicking antelope and the like. Although I had a mind to return to Blackbird or Avec for dinner, I later continued the Asian eating theme of the day with a huge amount of sushi at a little place in Wrigleyville.
And thus ended the 36-odd hour Chicago Whirlwind of 'o7!
......unless you count the sausage-egg english muffin and chocolate milk I had at the truck stop during the bus ride back to Minneapolis.
It seemed so right at the time.