So indeed, Bonne Annee et Bienvenue a` 2009! Since we last spoke I've run off to California, had California's warm physicality all about move into Wicked Park for a few weeks, I've run off to chase gators in Florida and then gone on many many adventures back in Chicago. And you know that when I start in with adventures, they are almost always edible so I think you will be happiest to see them for yourself. Click the photostrips to see them enlarged, if you so desire to to catch the glint of butter or a trace of stubble.
December kicked off in the style of my choosing...with the ones that do Christmas best. Dyl and Max braved snow and candy cane-loving Bernese Mountain Dogs to visit Santa and we came home to construct what would be my first gingerbread house. Perhaps my last gingerbread house (messy!) if it weren't so cute. Nice face, Max.
The following week was a blur of holiday parties. Some with friends, some for work but one particular Christmas brunch loomed in a very distant California. I left on my maiden voyage to LA less than 36 hours after purchasing my ticket and was back in Chicago about 36 hours after that. 110% worth the trip. Photostrip #1 is the first stop after LAX- Venice Beach. That's what December looks like out there, peeps. Crazy.
Stop #2 at In-N-Out in Hollywood. Just as good as everyone says and Animal-Style Fries? Thank God I don't have actual access to those. Bejeez.
SO, it's true, I had NO time in LA and no notice to give anyone (most of my friends didn't know until I came home. Our own SO@24 was the exception because I came home tipsy two nights in a row to have him talk me out of my proposed field trip over Gchat. Funny thing is, he did not. Instead, he drove out to Hollywood's Cat & Fiddle where he, Jaimeson and I had beers and sat next to Jason Segel and talked about wrestling and girls and acted completely normal despite totally surreal surroundings. If you ever wondered, he's fantastic. You were pretty sure about that already though.
Saturday nights in LA. I could tell you that we spent the night looking bored, straddling velvet ropes into Hyde or somesuch nonsense but you wouldn't buy it and I would have the very strange sensation of incoming vomit at the prospect.
As it turns out, there's much more to LA. The first half of our night was spent above. We went food shopping, bought wine from Jaimeson's "dealer" at Greenblatts, came home and I made Raspberry cream cheese stuffed French toast for the following day while J kept wine glasses full and filled that adorable bungalow with a lot of music. We do okay.
We did eventually have an amazing dinner at The Village Idiot on Melrose (the beets! the Brussels sprouts! nom nom nom) and then on to the Hotel Cafe and finally Piano Bar but by the time we went to bed I'd been up 24 hours and was ready for a nap.
I say nap because I only had 36 hours damn it and UP WITH THE SUN. By some miracle of persuasion and the innate spirit of a tour guide, Jaimeson totally humored me by taking me on his Runyon Canyon circuit, up up up up to wear I could see the Hollywood sign (and everything else) and pre-pay a debt against my soul for the sins of the brunch to come.
Putting the Rock back in Rockwell. CB and Jansen had the original idea for a holiday brunch at the house and then I showed up after J and Jansen were getting super festive with the decor. 50-60 people rolled through open house style, each bearing champagne and more food. Scones, grits, coffee cakes, salmon, day old Dominoes stolen from a studio mid-recording session...an amazing and motley crew. 20 bottles of champagne lost their lives that day and based on my nap later, they did not die in vain. So much fun and I'm thrilled that I now know why I get to be so excited to return!
On of the tour highlights in Santa Monica was the British Imports store. J would later not remember why exactly he pointed it out other than a passing knowledge of his girlfriend as a fellow anglophile. What he could not have known was that I had spent the week previous looking for two remaining ingredients for Sticky Toffee Pudding, ones that could only be found at an import store (black treacle and golden syrup). I kept my promise when J showed up with the ingredients in tow about 4 days after I returned to Chicago. Momma Jaimeson and D (Brother Jaimeson) came over and for a sticky first attempt, it turned out quite well. Still not Randall & Aubin but I've got time:)
A day or two later it was cold in Chicago. I mean REALLY MEGA FRIGID. Even with heat, I still
don’t know how I would have survived without two personal heaters,
one both furry and devoted to TKTC proximity.
Of course it was on the coldest of those days that the wait needed to end. I needed a pilgrimage to Hot Doug’s in Avondale and it was decided that the brothers would act as encased meat escorts (ha) to see it through. Look at that spread. Everyone ordered two and I, per my usual, took FoodMomiac’s advice with a spinach/feta Loukaniko with olives and halumi then a classic Chicago dog. The boys got Catalonians and something with blue cheese and almonds and we all shared DUCK FAT FRIES.
Holy moly…do NOT get more than one order of these because your heart may explode. And it would be a happy heart in nirvana at the moment of combustion but still. A few fries are enough to get tantric over. All in all, even though I was sick and it took my fingers and toes 25 minutes to thaw (there is ALWAYS a line), it was worth it. I may get crazy and do it again. After a juice fast or something:)
That night the celebration continued with a joint house party between the apartments of two of my best girls- Caro (the technical hostess) and Mols. The brothers and I had continued our Saturday weaving around Ravenswood Manor, shopping in Andersonville, stopping for homemade glug and books at Book Cellar in Lincoln Square.
The glug in particular (seasonal Swedish mulled wine with an extra kick in the pants included, served warm) helped my ill-disposition and suddenly I was feeling a little too good. Good enough to power through Christmas punch too. A LOT of Christmas punch. The photo is hazy and it is not the camera’s fault. Yikes. One holiday party a year must get a little fuzzy I suppose and this one was in especially good company with my best girls and the post-Bulls game brothers. I was very merry till morning (5-ish) at which point I briefly died and was put to bed. (Shakes head)
Let's just say I was less than chipper the next morning. The silver lining to waking up with an empty tummy (urgh) is that it justified a first day of Hanukkah feast. Cooking does make me feel better and soon there was challah French toast afoot with latkes and homemade applesauce. And because I’m only half Jewish, we had maple bacon too (Bake at 400 for 10-12 minutes or to desired crispness). The whole thing was completely delicious and we ate heartily before taking to the couch for the remainder of the day.
Now you will notice a bit of a blank spot. I’m sorry for this because we really did have a nice family Christmas in Florida. Downtown Sarasota is very cute, the weather was beautiful and Santa was very generous. It is my own fault that I slept and read the bulk of the time. We saw Slumdog Millionaire (EXCELLENT) and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (really good). I finished Corelli’s Mandolin and picked up They Shall Know Our Velocity! I was rarely near the computer and rarely stayed up past 11. I came home warmed and rested and just in time for New Year’s.
New Year’s Eve is a beast I hate dealing with. Everyone gets all persnickety and hedonism take a backseat for awhile. And I’m not a bar party girl 99% of the time. I’d like to be but I just end up guzzling champagne and making up reasons to “go outside for a bit” to get a way from the crowds. Luckily, I’m not dating a New Haircut. Quite the opposite actually.
So what did we do for New Year’s? We went down to the meat-packing district and picked up 25 oysters for $12 at Rubino’s, a beautiful leg of lamb and several bottles of wine and champagne. Then we went over to D’s and cooked. And drank. And listened to Bollywood tunes and shucked those little suckers for just over an hour (how vulgar!). They tasted all the better because we broke a sweat in the process and managed to get all but a couple open. Lemon and heavily horseradished cocktail sauce and wow. WOW. Put me back on Cape Cod.
While D and I were charged with the manhandling of mollusks, Jaimeson took on the meat. The man is a machine and I get a little embarrassed of my own incongruous chopping patterns when I watch him dice. Look at that. GORGEOUS. Three hours in the oven, bathing some potatoes in its juices at the end there, and it was falling off the bone.
Per New Year’s Day, I should probably be ashamed of myself. After making breakfast and espresso (in J’s new cup from Santa), we all but rejected society until 3pm. It was the perfect start to 2009, in my humble opinion. Eventually I tied on my new lime green apron and set to work making key lime pie. Which I don’t even have a photo of. It was SO COMPLETELY EASY that I was done before I remembered to pull the camera out. Nellie and Joe’s key lime juice is the best I’ve encountered (great rec from Mom) and it was their recipe I used. I’m not the first food-blogger to sing their praises either!
I’m embarrassed because many times there’s a difficulty to deliciousness ratio that must be maintained with pie. A ready-made graham crust + three ingredients (14oz sweetened condensed milk, 3 egg yolks, ½ cup key lime juice)? I had to make whipped cream in the 15 minutes it took to bake because I felt guilty at how easy it was.
We jetted off to the north north lovely suburbs to J’s hometown for dinner with his mom and dessert with his dad. This was actually my first time to meet Baba and it turns out key lime pie is his favorite. He had two pieces. Assuming that’s where Jaimeson’s sweet tooth comes from, many pies could qualify for favorite status but I was pleased nonetheless and it was fun to look from one to the other as they told stories. Charming, the both of them!
Somewhere in the course of our afternoon, I noticed a little tweet from FoodMomiac about an 8 mile commute for bagels. I worked it out in my head and figured she must be heading north and wondered what little treasure she’d discovered. I had no idea.
New York Bagel & Bialy in Skokie/Lincolnwood is open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, cash only. It is one of the top 3 bagels of my life. Maybe the best. For about $20 we walked away with 6 mishmosh/Everything bagels, 2 tubs of homemade chive cream cheese (omygoodness), two Dr. Brown’s sodas (Diet Black Cherry ftw), ½ lb Nova Lox, a red onion, a tomato and a piece of raspberry cheese rugalach because it just looked so good. Amazing. We dropped bounty off at D’s and ate like royalty for the next two mornings.
This brings us into the last two nights- the end is in site! By Sunday, my ability to suppress office thought was getting impaired. After a predictably delicious/entertaining brunch at Milk + Honey with EpiChem & Elle Michelle, I was compelled to open my laptop again and start prepping for the full week to come. It was during this little Google Reader session that I came across a MattBites post on citrus. It was beautiful (seriously, make the jump) and had all sorts of delicious ideas for the citric bounty bestowed on us by J’s mother (6 grapefruits, 10 oranges).
The two main takeaways were a roast chicken stuffed with lemons, rosemary and garlic and an Avocado Grapefruit salad on Boston lettuce. So we made both- my first whole roasted chicken!- paired with mashed potatoes with steamed rainbow chard. Glorious from every angle.
And then last night. Monday night. I actually wrote the vast majority of this post last night, leaving this one for tonight so I would have some distance and perhaps a little less bias from my Monday night dinner with my ladies of the lis. Every Monday we get together. Every single Monday that Gossip Girl is on and even some that aren't (try not to judge, I don't even have cable but I do enjoy the repartee and particularly the opportunity to dish internally). We hustle between houses and there have been many documentable meals shared, even the semi-homemade ones are delicious (Home Pizza Co. WHOA) and the laughter is abundant.
Last night was
And in conclusion...
1) Please see the Emily Leonard painting I was presented with for Christmas. I was a little blown away as she's been a favorite artist for a few years now and it's my first real piece of art. I still can't believe he did that. Truth be told, watching him be so excited watching me be so excited was really most of the present and I'm excited to be able to hang a beautiful reminder of that on my wall.
We found a creative framer and I'm now counting down the days till I can pick it up at Four-Sided. I look at it and I kind feel like I'm out-punting my coverage to have something that gorgeous in my apartment. Going to try to play up, as it were. That's the only sports metaphor I know how to use appropriately, don't get used to it. But do get used to glassy stares and dumb grinning. LOTS of that going around.
2) Hometown Adventure Series- Jaimeson is a Chicago boy. I am adopted. We are moving through this city one neighborhood at a time and falling in love with it a little deeper. This was taken in Lincoln Square just outside the Chopping Block. Photo #4 was taken of the Brothers in the Seminary building at the University of Chicago (just above a fantastic bookstore). We ate in Chinatown, we shopped the Sweden Shop (RAD) and we drank like Scottsmen. I'm having a ball and it's helping with the wanderlust.
3) Of course Jaimeson got me an incredible painting and my prize under his tree was a lamp. But in my defense I still love the lamp and thought of him as soon as I saw it. It's rad and has a lovely spot in my kitchen before following J back to California in a couple weeks. We had a very artistic Christmas:)
4) Damon and Momma J are from the same "spoil the girl rotten" school of thought that J is. Squealing commenced within the millisecond of me figuring out what was in the box. A 7" hollow edge Pro S Santoku from Henckels. With a matching paring knife. I've never owned a knife that cuts bagels like room temperature butter. And the new game is to see how thin I can slice any. given. thing. Obsessed.
You will see it peppered throughout this post because it rarely leaves my hand, something that is somehow endearing to J rather than disconcerting. "First girl I've dated where there's a minimal chance she'll use it on me" was the direct quote, I believe.
As appropriate a sentiment as any to end on. It's hard to avoid the Januaryism of thinking back this time last year but maybe I don't want to. I like to think about it. I like to think about it a lot and I giggle at the thought of a wine date with my January 2008 self and catching her up on what's ahead. Love, food, bold moves, international intrigue...
Yes, I'll have another round of that but make 9 a double.
Love, (so much that it draws the blood clean out of my toes sometimes and makes them tingle)