Friday Favorites

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

Belly up!

We were out and about on a blustery day last weekend and ended up having a late lunch at a great little bar & grill called Norton’s in Highland Park. It was freezing out — we have learned that they don’t call Chicago the “Windy City” for nothing; the wind can often feel like tiny ice fists punching you in the face — so we lingered long enough after lunch to watch the dining area empty and the bar fill up with locals in the early afternoon.


Although the wind and its tiny fists of fury kept it from really feeling like 60 degrees, we finally had a day of spring-like temperatures last week! Borrowing my brother’s Minneapolis mantra: we can make it to June, we can make it to June…

Ponzu fish

We’ve mentioned our recipe for ponzu fish as a favorite before, but it is worth repeating that this is one of the best fish dishes we’ve ever had. You really should try it.

Some bunny's excited!

Here’s to a wonderful weekend! We are off to spend some time with two of our favorite small people, spoiling them to our Aunt & Uncle hearts’ content.


Friday Favorites

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


We spent last weekend in Amesbury, MA, visiting Dan’s brother and family. On Saturday, we drove through a mix of rain and snow up to Maine for a little sightseeing and lobster. About 3 minutes after I took this picture of the Nubble Lighthouse, the skies cleared and we had a gorgeous sunny afternoon. Many thanks to J, C, W and E for a great day and a wonderful weekend!


For Dan, no trip to the Boston area is complete without at least one serving of lobster. At the very charming Ship’s Cellar Pub, he ordered the “Yorkshire Lobster Supreme,” which is basically most expensive thing on the menu stuffed with the second (and third and fourth) most expensive things on the menu. We also had some of the best oysters ever and couldn’t resist ordering the Lobster Mac & Cheese for the table. Everything was delicious.

Spring posies

I am a very lucky lady, married to a guy who brings home flowers simply because 1) he knows I love them, and 2) we have a quiet weekend at home to enjoy them. 1 + 2 = Happy Kelly


We joined a cool new wine club that personalizes our profile (and subsequent orders) according to our taste preferences. They sent a starter kit with two mini bottles of white wine and four mini bottles of red for us to taste and rate on their site. Then they compiled our profiles (“Golden Child” for white and “Philosopher” for red) which they will use to personalize our quarterly shipments. It’s a fun way to learn a little more about what kind of wine you like and why.


New Favorite Breakfast Alert: avocado toast. Thick slices of good bread (we used an “Italian 5 Grain” from the grocery store) toasted and topped with lightly mashed avocado, a squeeze of lime, a drizzle of olive oil, a generous sprinkle of sea salt and a dash of red pepper flakes. Bonus points if you add a few thin slices of radish.


Friday Favorites

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


We had a fun little trip to Minneapolis last weekend to meet up with my parents and see my brother J in a play put on by the university where he works.  We all enjoyed the show, “Crocodile Seeking Refuge,” about 5 individuals from different (and difficult) parts of the world seeking asylum in the U.K. and the lawyer dedicated to helping them, at the ultimate expense of her marriage (with the role of her husband played (expertly!) by my brother.)  It was thought-provoking and well-produced, and all the actors did a great job.  Plus, my brother nailed his British accent.  Well done, Old Chap!


One of Dan’s friends from law school was in town this week and invited him to dinner at the exclusive, 3 Michelin Star restaurant, Alinea.  Since I wasn’t there, any attempt at second-hand descriptions of their meal wouldn’t do it the justice I’m sure it probably deserves.  (I didn’t go because they only sell tickets (pre-paid “tickets” instead of reservations) in groups of 2, 4 and 6, which was reason enough for me to not want to go anyway, on principle.  So there.)  But considering how much it cost, I certainly hope it was the most amazing dining experience of Dan’s life to date.  More importantly, I know that the time spent catching up with a dear old friend was priceless.

Old school sammie

When was the last time you had a tuna melt?  Until today, it had been far too long since I had one — with delicious tuna salad (this recipe is one of our favorites), sliced tomato and melted American cheese on toasted rye bread.


Since moving to Chicagoland we’ve become a bit obsessed with weather, and one of my favorite ways to check the temp is via the free “Weather Whiskers” app on my phone.  It gives me the current temperature (with a cute picture of a cat!) and forecasts (“furrcasts – ha!), and allows me to program in other cities so I can stalk the weather where friends and family live.  Today, finally, the cat is not wearing a sweater or a coat!

Friday Favorites

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


We found a great local place for Korean food (other kinds of Asian food too – their menu is huge), with kimchi that meets with Dan’s approval.

Bobby's BBQ Sauce

Next time you’re having steak, whip up a batch of Bobby Flay’s sauce:  1/4 cup Dijon; 1/4 cup whole grain mustard; 1/2 cup molasses; 3 tablespoons prepared horseradish; 2 tablespoons honey; 2 tablespoons ketchup; and salt & pepper.  It would probably go well as a dipping sauce for roasted chicken as well.

Purgatory Egg

We have a new dish for the breakfast rotation:  eggs in purgatory.  Heat a little olive oil in a small skillet, add a clove of minced garlic and a dash of red pepper flakes and cook for less than a minute.  Add a can of chopped tomatoes (we cooked ours in 2 separate batches and used half the can per batch) and cook for 1-2 minutes.  Make a well in the center of the skillet and add an egg to it, then season the egg with a little salt & pepper.  Cook until the egg is done to your liking (we like ours with the yolk still a bit runny.)  Serve with toast.  (We served ours with a little spinach too.)

Aw, nuts


Planters’ “Sustaining Energy Mix” packages of nuts and chocolate make a great snack, with 10 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber.  Apparently they also make a pretty good cat toy.  (No, we didn’t let her eat any.)

Friday Favorites

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

Cloud bread

We thoroughly enjoyed the dinner we had several weeks ago at La Macchina, one of our favorite local Italian restaurants, and it turns out that they serve a pretty amazing brunch as well.  We had our first ever taste of croque madame (basically the best grilled ham & cheese sandwich you’ve ever had, with mornay sauce [bechamel + cheese = heaven] and a fried egg on top) and wondered where this delicacy has been all our lives.  We were also pleasantly surprised when our server brought out a plate of their signature house “bread” to start our meal.  We don’t know what their official name is, but calling these light-as-air dough miracles “bread” seems almost criminal.  As perfect as they are with salami and cheese as a dinner appetizer, a light dusting of powdered sugar transforms them into the greatest bite of the day’s first meal.

Lamb feast

We caught a recent episode of Nigella Lawson’s cooking show where she made “lamb cutlets with mint, chili and golden potatoes” and promptly added the dish to our dinner line-up for the following week.  We loved everything about it, including how easy it is to make.  The lamb is marinated in olive oil, red pepper flakes, dried mint and celery salt, then pan-seared in a skillet until medium-rare.  Using the same skillet (with rendered fat from the lamb) to brown the par-boiled baby red potatoes is genius.  Serving the lamb and potatoes family-style on a bed of arugula (or “rocket,” as Nigella calls it) made us feel like we were having a fancy dinner party, just the two of us.

C'mon Spring!

According to the weather reporter on the local nightly news, normal temperatures for our area at this time of year should be in the 40s.  That’s just mean, considering how we are currently (STILL) experiencing temps in the teens and 20s, with a few days in the single digits here and there and sub-zero windchills.  If I can’t have Spring outside any time soon, I’ll have to make do with blooming branches inside.  I picked up some forsythia at Trader Joe’s last week and the blooms brighten up our foyer nicely.

Need a better name

If you’ve never tried them, cheese curds do not sound very appetizing.  But done right, they are a light/cheesy/melty treat.  Done wrong, their name suits them perfectly.  Lucky for us, this place and this one do them very, very right.

Only slightly creepy

I got to have lunch with Dan at his office this week, a/k/a “Kraftown.”  It’s an impressive facility with a young, hip, creative and inspiring vibe (yet somehow, they still let Dan work there **rimshot**).  I enjoyed seeing the place where Dan spends his weekdays, and we had a great lunch with his colleague who also happens to be an old friend.  The food at the cafeteria there is surprisingly good (and un-cafeteria-like.)  Dan has raved about (and sent me pictures of) the Thursday buffalo chicken salad since the week he started working there.  I’m happy to report that the salad lived up to every bit of the hype.

Friday Favorites

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

Tex-Mex Quest

One of the things we miss about Dallas is the availability of Tex-Mex restaurants.  Although Mexican food (as we know it) is not nearly as prevalent here in Chicagoland, we look forward to trying it when and where we can find it.  While running errands last weekend, we drove out to a shopping area called The Glen, for the sole purpose of trying the Mexican restaurant there called El Jardin.  It wasn’t quite as good as some of our old Texas favorites (Mi Cocina and Chuys:  you are sorely missed), but El Jardin met several of our Tex-Mex requirements pretty well — balanced margaritas (not too sour, not too sweet); salsa with fresh-roasted flavor; well-seasoned chicken in the flautas and excellent char-grilled flavor on the carne asada.  We’d go back there.

Olive Oil

We’ll also go back to The Glen for the shopping opportunities, including a shop that sells a wide variety of olive oils and vinegars.  It was interesting to taste some of the different oils and pick up subtle flavor notes and profiles — almost like a wine tasting.  According to the sales clerk, the taste of the olives can be influenced by other types of trees growing near the olive tree.  I used some of the olive oil we bought that day to make this vinaigrette the next evening, and Dan picked up a very slight apple flavor in the salad, even though there were no apples in it.  Dude either has a really sophisticated palate, or a very active imagination.

Ice Walk

We took advantage of balmy temperatures in the 30s (did I really just type that?) and calm winds last Sunday by walking over to the lake to see how much of it is frozen.  From what we could see, a good bit of the lake is iced over, with huge snow drifts along the banks and ice crystal formations at the edges.  It was really beautiful to see.

Thawed Grill

A couple of slightly warmer days this week also meant that Dan could be outside on our terrace — without coat, hat, gloves and scarf — to grill our dinner.  The BBQ game hen was the perfect little sneak peek into what will surely be an amazing start to the grilling season this spring.  In about 3 more months.

Magnet Fancy

We don’t currently have a backsplash in our kitchen, which doesn’t really bother me at this point, except for the wall space above the kitchen sink.  Until recently, doing the dishes involved staring at a blank white square that was slowly acquiring splatter stains and spots (and was slowly driving me insane.)  So I stuck a big, faux marble-patterned bandaid on the problem by hanging our old magnetic dry erase board in the space.  I tried to make the board look more kitchen-y and less office-y by covering it with self-adhesive contact paper in a marble pattern (found at our local Lowes.)  We can’t write on the board, but the magnets still stick through the contact paper so we can use to board to put up notes, our grocery lists and our weekly menus.  And I can just wipe down the contact paper if anything splatters up there from the sink.  Sanity saved.  (For now.)

Friday Favorites

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

Monk contemplates winter

Dan turned another year older on Monday, and nothing says “Happy Birthday!” quite like a cherubic stone monk holding a small bowl with a snowball in it.  The monk caught Dan’s eye while we were shopping for dining room chairs at Pier One.  It’s pretty rare for Dan to take an active interest in anything related to home decor (anything that doesn’t have a remote control or involve a trip to Best Buy anyway), so I surprised him by ordering the monk for his birthday.  We both enjoy seeing Monk out on our bedroom terrace every day, serene and peacefully oblivious to the bleakness, no hope for Spring wintery conditions around him.

Gift of laughter

In further celebration of Dan’s birth, we took the train downtown for an AMAZING dinner at Le Colonial and a show at Second City.  For our first course, we split the Pho (oxtail soup), which our knowledgeable and extremely charming waiter deemed to be the best in the city.  We wholeheartedly agree, even though we’ve never had pho at any other restaurant in Chicago, and have only ever tasted it one other time, in Dallas.  But it’s hard to imagine any better version of this particular soup (outside Vietnam of course.)  For entrees, Dan had the “Ca Chien Saigon” (crisp, seared whole red snapper in a light, spicy-sour sauce) and I had the “Tom Xao Sate” (sauteed shrimp, asparagus, onions and scallions in a light sauce of sate spice, chili and garlic.)  Both meals were excellent.  My asparagus was so good that the shrimp was almost a distraction, and the sauce on Dan’s meal had us both practically licking the plate long after the fish was all gone.  Not to be outdone by our meal, the comedy show was every bit as funny and entertaining as one would expect from the place where Bill Murray, Tina Fey, Steve Carell and countless other hilariously talented people got their start.  We wrapped up the evening by catching a cab back home and grabbing a couple of slices from the pizza place around the corner.  Not too shabby a Friday night for a couple of crazy 40-somethings.  Happy Birthday Daniel!


Speaking of pizza, we were pleased to discover that this little Italian restaurant in our neighborhood has really good thin-crust pizza, some with unexpectedly delicious topping combinations.  I’ll eat olives with just about anything, but would never have thought they’d work so well on a pizza with salami and onions.  It’s a good thing that Tuesday is half-price pizza night, because we have lots more flavor combos to try.

Dining room art

Our dining room may not have any chairs in it yet, but at least we have art up on the walls.  I was inspired to hang the pieces this way (high and vertically “stacked” with the smaller ones at the bottom) after coming across this post about the European way of hanging art in a stacked manner, especially after seeing the images from Highclere Castle, the setting of one of our all-time favorite TV shows.  If it’s good enough for Downton Abbey, it’s plenty fancy enough for our little Chicagoland condo!

Hallway rugs

Finally, I feel compelled to share my new favorite source for rugs, which I found through this wonderful and always-inspiring design blog.  (I know, for a food blogger I sure do spend a disproportionate amount of time reading design blogs.)  eSaleRugs is an awesome site for finding very affordable (as well as crazy expensive), good quality rugs.  We’ve bought several rugs from there since we moved and have been more than happy with all aspects of the purchases.  It’s easy to search and filter the huge selection on the site to find exactly what you’re looking for, the rugs are packaged well and ship really quickly, and did I mention that they are high in quality, yet low in price?

Friday Favorites

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


We tried a new local Italian restaurant this week and were quite impressed.  La Macchina Cafe is a cozy little place decorated with vintage auto and industrial memorabilia (“la macchina” means “the machine” in Italian), and it has a cool neighborhood atmosphere.  The menu is pretty perfect in its simplicity, focusing on authentic Italian classics that are surprisingly reasonably priced, especially considering how good everything was that we tried.  Although we don’t usually order dessert, and we were pretty full from the “taglieri” (breadboard) of meats and cheeses followed by our pasta courses, you really can’t eat at an authentically Italian restaurant without trying the gelato.  It was just as delicious as everything else.  Bravissimo!


We couldn’t let our leftovers from La Macchina go to waste, so we had them for breakfast a couple of days later.  Around our house, if you put a fried egg on something, that transforms it into the morning meal.  The runny yolk acted as a sauce of sorts to tie the two different kinds of pasta together.


New Favorite Soup Alert:  Thai coconut curry — original recipe here, as adapted by this talented lady.  We made it with chicken, but the chicken itself was kind of bland and didn’t add much to the soup.  Next time we’ll make it with shrimp, adding it near the end of the cooking time since shrimp cooks quickly.  A few of the ingredients are a bit unusual (coconut milk, Thai curry paste, lime leaves and lemongrass), but we found all these items at our local Whole Foods.  The Thai curry paste and dried lime leaves (“kaffir”) were in the Asian section, lemongrass was with produce and the coconut milk was in the baking section.  The recipe calls for two cans of coconut milk, so we used one “light” and one regular.  You’ll need at least one can of regular coconut milk because the light milk doesn’t have the cream stuff on top that you use to saute the curry paste and cilantro stems to start the recipe.  It sounds kind of complicated, but this soup is really easy to make and is so good that it makes you want to punch all other soups in the face (Dan’s ringing endorsement.)

Prairie Moon

On the recommendation of one of Dan’s colleagues, we had dinner at Prairie Moon the other night and loved it.  They have a wide variety of “American dining” menu items, including seven different kinds of burgers, and a great selection of “small plates” for the times when we want a taste of several different dishes or can’t decide on a single entree.  And the restaurant gets bonus points for being really close walking distance from our condo (especially during this winter of polar vortexes.)


The ability to play music in several rooms of our home simultaneously is not something we ever thought we particularly needed or wanted, but the Sonos wireless speaker system changed our minds as soon as we set it up.  We certainly don’t *need* music in every room at the same time, and Dan has (thus far) resisted the temptation to purchase speakers for all three bathrooms and our storage space, but having music piped through a few speakers in key spots (living room, kitchen and master bedroom) is a fun luxury.


Friday Favorites

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


Last weekend we walked over to our local movie theater (it’s that close!) for dinner and a show.  The theater has a great little bar where you can get “real” food (meaning something other than popcorn and candy) and drinks (meaning beverages of the adult variety) before or after your movie.  They also have live music on Friday and Saturday nights.  The atmosphere is cool, with leather couches and chairs or more traditional bar-style tall tables, and a huge wall featuring old movie posters along the 50-foot ceiling side of the room.  The food was good — upscale but un-fussy bar food.  Having the bar adjacent to the theater makes for an entertaining evening, and can make certain movies less depressing even more enjoyable.

Pre-bird breakfast sammie

One of our favorite breakfasts lately is a sandwich made with turkey sausage, pepper jack cheese and a fried egg on a toasted English muffin.  It’s quick, easy and relatively healthy.  We use these turkey sausage patties, which come in a 12-pack.  When we have this breakfast, we usually cook 6 patties (they are small — 2 per sandwich plus a bonus patty on the side), then freeze the other 6 for breakfast another time.  While the sausage cooks, toast the English muffins (we like this brand, found near the eggs at the grocery store), then place a slice of cheese on one half of the muffin to melt.   Spread a little butter on the other half of the muffin if you want.  When the sausage is almost done, cook the egg — we have a tiny non-stick skillet that is the exact circumference of an English muffin, for a perfectly-sandwich-sized fried egg every time — then assemble the sandwich and enjoy.


In unrelated, condo decor news, this small brass cow skull that I recently found at Urban Outfitters sits on an end table in our living room and reminds us fondly of Texas.

Yes, let's

And this new print, also from Urban Outfitters (guess what store happens to be really close to our condo?) hangs on a wall in our home office and reminds us whimsically of a Wes Anderson film.

Friday Favorites

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


Last weekend we went to the Italian market/food court/wine store/gift shop/etc, etc that is Eataly.  Wow.  The place is huge — two floors packed with all things Italian (and packed with customers/sightseers like us.)  The store (so much more than a “store”) is organized by stations, with everything from pasta (fresh and dried), cheeses (so many cheeses) and cured meats, other meat and seafood, olive oils and vinegars, pantry items, kitchen gadgets, wine and other beverages and chocolate and other sweet treats.  They even have an entire station devoted to nutella.  Plus more stuff that I’m sure I’m forgetting.  It’s apparently always crowded and can be a little overwhelming, but it’s a really fun place to wander around with a glass of wine if you are into food and Italy even just a little bit.  They also have several restaurants, of which we did not partake because the lines were long and we had just had a lovely brunch with friends at this cool place.  But we’ll go back to Eataly for sure, next time with hearty appetites and a researched list of items to purchase.

Cowboy Steak

Dan was super excited to find an excellent local butcher in the next town north of ours.  They have a great selection and whatever they don’t have, they will order for you.  Wide variety notwithstanding, the shop also has a friendly, small-town feel.  Case in point:  while Dan was chatting with the guy behind the counter who was cutting the steak Dan ordered and mentioned that we are new to the area, the guy said if he hadn’t been the only one minding the shop that day, he’d pour them a couple of beers so they could sit and chat more about Chicagoland and meat and stuff.  So neighborly!

New couch

We were both super excited to have the furniture we ordered months ago in Dallas FINALLY get delivered to our condo.  Our favorite piece is probably the new off-white (a walk on the wild side for this clumsy, spill-prone girl!) sofa in our living room.  It’s big (but not too big), fancy yet comfortable, and we think it fits our new space really well.  We like to think of it as “grown-up” furniture (especially compared to the futon “couch” we have been using since we’ve been here.)  We still have a way to go before the condo really feels like home (I’m looking at you, artwork stacked on the floor and still unpacked home office), but we’re slowly and surely getting there.