Friday Favorites

Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed this week:

Go 'Cats!

Last Saturday was a beautiful day for a college football game, and we enjoyed watching the Northwestern Wildcats play the Northern Illinois Huskies. The home team lost, but we had fun and were grateful that the extremely drunk guy sitting near us puked in the stands BEFORE the game and that he left to pass out somewhere for most of it. Good times. Apparently a little too much of a good time for that guy.

Go Steelers!

We celebrated the start of the NFL season by watching Dan’s beloved Steelers at an Irish pub around the corner from our condo. It’s a big place with a lot of TVs to accommodate all of the Sunday games, so we’ll have a place nearby to watch the Steelers any time we can’t get the game at home. Although I’m not really a big football fan, I am a huge fan of seeing my Daniel as happy as football makes him.

Go Microwave!

 My mom told us about this genius method for cooking corn on the cob in the microwave, no pre-shucking required! It could not be easier: place the corn—husk and all—in the microwave and cook on high for about 5 minutes. We cooked 2 ears at the same time, but if you’re only cooking 1, you may want to microwave it for a little less time. When the corn is done, take it out of the microwave and let it cool for a couple of minutes. Cut off the bottom (the end away from the silks) and pull the husk and silks up and away from the cob (Be careful, it’s still hot!) Add butter, salt & pepper, and enjoy.

Go Tex-Mex!

We were little-kids-on-Christmas-morning excited for the opening of Uncle Julio’s in our area. Until we moved away from Texas, we never would have guessed things so simple as chips, salsa, queso and guacamole could bring us so much joy. The Dallas-based restaurant has some of the best fajitas we’ve ever had, and the enchiladas we had there last weekend weren’t too shabby either. (Definitely better than our homemade version.) It’s a happy comfort knowing that good Tex-Mex is now a 15 minute drive away, as opposed to a 2 1/2 hour flight.

Friday Favorites

Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed this week:

Astros win!

 We fulfilled our Labor Day tradition again this year with a trip to Houston to attend a couple of baseball games with my parents. The Astros actually won (!), Dan got to annoy me play with a foam finger, and a good time was had by all. With the daily news too often reminding us that life is short, we are grateful for rituals like these that involve spending precious time with people we love. Here’s to many more!

Walker Bros.

 We finally made it to the highly-recommended Walker Bros. for breakfast, and it did not disappoint. It’s not called The Original Pancake House for nothing—their pancakes were some of the best we’ve ever had—and we understand why nearly every weekend, there’s an out-the-door line of people waiting to eat there. A bonus for us, in addition to the delicious all-American breakfast fare, was the diner-style atmosphere with cutely kitsch decor that fondly reminded us of this place near Dan’s hometown.

Two of our favorite things

Even though the calendar says September, kids are back in school, and football season has begun, we’re not quite done with summer. Take-out fried chicken at the beach was a wonderful way to spend a sunny afternoon the Tuesday after Labor Day. We’re hoping it wasn’t our final beach day of the year, but if it was, it was perfect.

Friday Favorites

Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed this week:

Our beloved Hatch are here!

We’ve written about our love of the Hatch green chile before, but if you’ve never heard of them, they are green chiles grown in the Hatch Valley in New Mexico and only available for a few weeks out of the year. We’re not sure what makes them better than regular green chiles, but they are hands-down the best. Considering the distance between New Mexico and Illinois, as well as the lack of any respectable Tex-Mex dining options in Chicagoland, we didn’t think we’d be seeing any Hatch chiles around these parts. So we were beyond surprised and excited to see that an upscale grocery store a few towns over was having two glorious days celebrating (and selling) the Hatch green chile! We bought a bunch of the roasted chiles, portioned them out and stocked our freezer. We’re looking forward to many batches of green chile chowder this winter.

Festival

If you ever need to find us on a weekend during the summer, check any and all local art festivals. The Port Clinton Art Festival last weekend was a quick train ride north, and it was one of our favorite festivals this season. There were a ton of wonderful artists and an impressive variety of delicious food options.

That's not a crack, it's the seam in the table

 We couldn’t resist purchasing this glass bowl from the festival and had fun chatting with the artist to learn how he makes the bowls.

Who wants some salsa?

Anybody need some jalapenos? The plants in our little terrace garden have produced way more jalapenos than we can use before they spoil, so we harvested the ripe ones (and there are still a ton more on the plants!), filled up four quart-sized ziplock bags and stuck them in the freezer. As a Texas girl, it makes me happy to have an entire shelf of our freezer dedicated to green chiles and jalapenos.

Behind the scenes of a winning team

While it’s not necessarily my favorite (*understatement alert*), football season is pretty much the best time of year according to Dan. He especially enjoys the fantasy football league that he has participated in with his brothers for more than a decade. They had their draft last night, and Dan tells me that he’s got a good line-up for his team formerly known as the Texas Trainwrecks. Now that we no longer live in Texas, he needs to come up with a new team name. The Illinois Windburn is the top contender currently, but he’s open to any and all suggestions.

Friday Favorites

Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed this week:

I'm on a boat...

My brother J and his boyfriend came to visit us last weekend, and we loved showing them around. We’re proud of our home and the life we’re building here in Chicagoland—sharing it with our people makes it even more special. And we still think that the architecture boat tour is the best way to see the city (even when the tour guide’s best—only?—interesting quip of the day is “art deco echo”).

Pizza pie

We forget how good this potato leek pizza is. With pre-made pizza dough from Trader Joe’s and already-cooked bacon leftover from the weekend, it’s also really quick and easy for a weeknight meal.

Wallpaper

It only took 9 months of living here and several visits from family to finally update our condo’s white walls, at least in two of the bathrooms. I found this “Devine Color” line of removable wallpaper at Target and used the “Compass and Gold” in our foyer powder room and the “Firefly“ (with coordinating paint) in our guest bath. I’ve never installed “real” wallpaper, but I have to imagine that the peel-and-stick, remove-and-readjust aspects of this wallpaper make it easier to hang than the kind you glue to the walls. Or at least that’s what I tell myself when I look at the entire corner of 2-3 wonky seams that I messed up and need to fix.

Shrimp boil

Dan sometimes gets strong, random cravings that dictate our next meal, such as shrimp with Old Bay seasoning. Hence, Friday Night Shrimp Boil at Casa de Conrad!

Friday Favorites

Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed this week: Madison

Dan had a quick work trip to Madison last Friday and I went along for the ride. It’s a great little city and we thoroughly enjoyed our 27 or so hours there.

The Terrace

One of Dan’s friends from work went to law school in Madison and after they were done with work, he took us to the Terrace at the University of Wisconsin’s Memorial Union. Described as “Madison’s most popular back porch,” it’s a lovely spot to unwind for a few hours on a beautiful Friday afternoon in the summer, sipping cold beverages, listening to live music and watching the boats and people. Even though it’s a huge outdoor space and was pretty crowded that day, it still felt relaxing and intimate—like hanging out on the back porch with friends at your favorite neighbor’s house.

Band

Dan’s friend talked up the Madison farmer’s market quite a bit, so we had to see what the buzz was about Saturday morning. Wow. The market is HUGE, with vendors of all kinds stacked booth to booth all the way around the Capitol Square. Quite impressive! Street musicians were playing throughout the square as well, including this band that could have been auditioning for the movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou,” costumes and all.

Lunch

Our trip to Madison would not have been complete without sampling some meats in tube form and various kinds of cheese. The trio of cheese spreads and “Wisconsin’s Best Wurst platter” at The Old Fashioned did not disappoint. (Not pictured—only because it wouldn’t fit in the picture with the other food—the giant plate of fried onion strings that I had to force myself to stop eating. It’s probably a good thing for our health and waistlines that we don’t live in Madison.)

"The bag or the bat?"

Shout out to Dan’s brother J and our sister-in-law C for recommending the Showtime show “Ray Donovan” to us. It’s a little like a Boston version of “The Sopranos” meets a Hollywood version of “Scandal” and is hands-down our current favorite show on TV.

Soulwich

In a “lemons to lemonade” moment, we salvaged a disappointing dining experience at one restaurant with take-out from another. All week, we had looked forward to Thursday night, when we planned to sit outside at La Macchina, eating a delicious dinner and watching the final “Let’s Dance Evanston!” concert of the summer. From the moment we were seated at La Macchina, the service was deplorable. Dan finally had to go inside to ask for someone to even take our drink order, and they sent one of the cooks out to attend to us. He brought us our wine and appetizer, but no one ever spoke to us again, until Dan again had to go inside and ask someone to send out the check. Unhappy and still hungry, we passed by Soulwich on our way home. We’ve been wanting to try their food, so we got the Indonesian Ginger BBQ Pork sandwich and homemade Asian slaw to take home and share. Both were so delicious that we ended up glad that our initial dinner plan fell through.

 

Friday Favorites

Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed this week:

Breakfast tomatoes

Our patio-grown tomatoes are finally ready to eat, and we enjoyed the first batch with one of our favorite breakfasts: tomatoes, hard boiled eggs and crackers with cream cheese.

More tomatoes

Tomatoes are in season at the farmer’s market as well, so we bought a bunch last weekend to make Sunday Sauce from scratch. Flash boiling and peeling the tomatoes was surprisingly easy to do, and the sauce turned out great. We plan on making more in the coming weeks and stocking our freezer with sauce to thaw in the winter to remind us that we will eventually thaw out as well, and summer will return.

Mancala

The word “mancala” means “to transfer” in Arabic and refers to a strategy game that involves moving stones around a board. We first played it with our niece and nephew and have recently become rather addicted to it. We have electronic versions on our phones and on Dan’s iPad, as well as the tabletop version. It’s fascinating because no matter your strategy (or lack thereof, in my case), the outcome of every game is different. Each game is pretty quick too, perfect for several rounds at the bar attached to our local movie theater, with some popcorn and a couple glasses of wine.

Zoodles!

 New Kitchen Toy Gadget Alert: We have purchased the spiralizer. For our maiden voyage, we used it to cut long, thin strips of yellow zucchini “pasta” (a/k/a “zoodles”) to serve with leftover Sunday Sauce. It was equally delicious and easy. We peeled 3 large zucchini (probably could have done 4), cranked them through the spiralizer, squeezed out the excess moisture with paper towels, sauteed the zucchini in hot olive oil in a skillet for about 2 minutes, then added a little of the heated sauce to the skillet, covered it and let the zoodles steam for a few more minutes. We topped the zucchini with more sauce and garnished with parmesean cheese and chopped basil. Zamazing.

So. Many. Tomatoes

We paired our zoodles with a Caprese salad made with our patio-grown tomatoes and basil, along with farmer’s-market-fresh mozzarella and olive oil. We’re eating well this summer.

Friday Favorites

Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed this week:

Vase

When our friends from Dallas came to visit a few weekends ago, they brought us a beautiful and unique vase as a housewarming gift. The vase is pretty enough on its own, but looks even better with some snap dragons from the farmer’s market.

Cake

Last weekend our home owner’s association hosted the annual “building social.” It was a nice way to meet and chat with some of our neighbors, one of whom brought this huge chocolate cake with a picture of our building on it. And peace signs. Let’s just say he’s kind of an eccentric guy.

Festival

Another summer weekend, another art festival. We certainly aren’t complaining, and we thoroughly enjoyed the Ethnic Arts Festival out by the lake.

Tru

One of Dan’s best friends from law school was in town this week and treated us to an amazing dinner at Tru. Although the restaurant is a bit on the formal side (removing your jacket is frowned upon, even while seated at the table), the service was impeccable and the 11-course meal was deliciously inventive. But the best part of the evening was Dan getting to catch up with his old friend and both of them regaling me with tales from their law school days.

Friday Favorites

Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed this week:

So let's dance!

While walking to dinner one night, we randomly came upon a gathering of people listening to live music and dancing. On six Thursdays during the summer, our little city hosts a free event featuring a dance lesson with accompanying music in a different dancing style each week. We didn’t partake this time, but enjoyed the music and people watching as we dined al fresco at a nearby restaurant. Summertime here is pretty great.

Bean

Our dear friends and their two kiddos drove all the way from Dallas to come visit us this week, on their way to a family reunion in Wisconsin Dells. We had a great time showing them around our ‘hood and doing a little sightseeing in downtown Chicago, including the obligatory tourist trip to the Bean (I mean “Cloud Gate“) in Millennium Park. The kids had fun creating optical illusions with their reflections, exactly none of which I captured with my phone’s camera. All of our friends are what we miss most from Dallas (even more than Tex-Mex!), and it was wonderful to have them here to share a glimpse of our Chicagoland life.

Tilt! (OMG)

Another must-see during our Chicago tour was the view from the observatory deck on the 94th floor of John Hancock Center. Our friend Matt was the only one of us brave enough to try the new Tilt! feature, which allows you to lean 30 degrees out from the building and look down to the street that is 1,000 feet below. Nope. Matt said it was awesome, and we sincerely took his word for it.

Leggo my Liege waffle

We recently tried the authentic Liege Belgian waffles from a little cafe near our condo, and they did not disappoint. The waffles are made with dough instead of batter and are dusted with pearl sugar (imported from Belgium) that caramelizes on the outside of the waffle when it is baked in a special waffle iron (also imported from Belgium). Topping options include homemade whipped cream, Nutella, and fruit. You do not want to put syrup on this waffle, lest you ruin the lightly crispy, sugary outer crust by making it soggy. We may never eat any other kind of waffle again.

Cuban Sammie

Ever since we saw the movie “Chef” (which we highly recommend), we have been craving a good Cuban sandwich (also a good grilled cheese sandwich, but those are more readily available). We found exactly what we were looking for at the aptly named Taste of Cuba restaurant, and we’ll go back there the next time we are jonesing for that perfect combo of thinly sliced ham and roasted pork with cheese, mustard and pickles, expertly pressed between two slices of buttery bread.

Friday Favorites

Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed this week:

 

Festival creepers

 We love a good arts festival, and there was a nice one in our town last weekend, with lots of unique art and jewelry.

Cutting board

 We picked up this cool cutting board at the festival.

Sammie

 The chef at Found, one of our favorite restaurants, is a genius and has come up with yet another crave-worthy dish: a sandwich with house-cured salmon, caper cream cheese, radish relish and sprouts on rye.

America!

The weather today was absolutely perfect for attending the local Fourth of July parade. We’re headed to the beach soon to stake out our spot for watching fireworks, and we hope that you and yours are enjoying the holiday as much as we are. Happy 4th!

 

Friday Favorites

Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed this week:

Special Day

Dan’s mom had a milestone birthday (rhymes with schmeventy) last week, so her family and friends gathered together in central Pennsylvania to celebrate with a pig roast, as one does. It was a great party, and the birthday girl had a happy day indeed.

Some Pig

Of COURSE we took a picture of the pig and posted it here — have you met us?!? It’s rather humbling to see the face of your food before you eat it, and it reminds us to more often think about the origins of what we’re eating.

Tomats!

Speaking of which, some of our food is going to be coming from our very own terrace soon! Our patio tomato plant is doing well, and we have a bunch of little tomatoes that should be ripe in the next couple of weeks. We’re looking forward to making these scalloped tomatoes with our first harvest.

U-S-A!

 Who’s watching World Cup soccer? Quite a few people at Dan’s office, it seems. They put yesterday’s USA vs. Germany game on the big screen in the common area, and people brought their laptops so they could work while cheering for Team USA. Patriotism and productivity, for the win!

Beer flight

A new craft brewery just opened in town, dangerously close to our condo. Smylie Brothers Brewing Company is also a smokehouse where they make their own BBQ. They also have a wood-fired oven for pizza. And they have a hip-yet-rustic, two-story indoor space that includes a big fireplace in the lounge area. They also have a spacious patio where we sat last night and watched the cool, misty fog roll in from the lake as we finished our delicious dinner. It’s good to live in Chicagoland in the summer.

What did YOU do at work today?

Apparently, it’s also good to be working at Kraft Foods, where all the employees were treated to lunch and an acoustic performance by country music star Brad Paisley this afternoon. Tough day at the office!