Tuesday, July 24, 2007


I am hosting Kristin's bachelorette party on Saturday. We're starting the night at Juicy Wine Company where a sommelier has picked out three reds, three whites, and a sparkling wine for us to try. She emailed me the list today. I'm sure it will be lots of fun, if "fun" is what you call 14 bottles of wine, split amongst 13 girls in a two-hour time frame. I can't even imagine the state we'll be in by the time we reach the second spot. Yikes!

Marques de Gelida 2 bottles
J pinot gris 2 bottles
Franz Kunstler riesling 2 bottles
Placet 2 bottles
Hitching Post 2 bottles
Clayhouse 2 bottles
Chateau Labat 2 bottles.
One large plate of meat and cheese.

Monday, July 23, 2007

More coffee

Since I broke the carafe to my Mr. Coffee a couple of weeks ago, I have taken to brewing coffee in Amelia's French press. At first it was a big hassle, boiling the water and letting it steep before pushing the plunger down, ever so gently so as not to disrupt the coarse grounds. I admit it, the first couple of times I did it there was a mess of grinds floating around in my cup. I am not agile, or patient, in the mornings. I was missing the delay function on my automatic coffee maker. Filling the canteen with water, loading the filter with grinds, and pushing a button at night enabled me to stumble out of bed to what I thought was a "fresh cup" every morning.

The French Press may be a bit more labor-intensive, or at least it seems that way when your eyes are still heavy with sleep, but it makes an amazing cup of coffee. It tastes better than the stuff that was coming out of the automatic. It's much less bitter. In turn, I'm much less bitter about having to get up at the crack of dawn. Quite nice, really.

My big thought of the day: although technology is a beautiful thing (Why write in a journal when you can type so much faster in a blog?), sometimes you can't beat the old-fashioned way of doing things.

This is the one I've been using. It's a Bodum 32 oz. Chef. You should get one.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

La Dolce Vita

Question for the lot of you:

I am thinking about naming the shop La Dolce Vita, which is The Sweet Life in Italian. If you were unfamiliar with the shop, would you automatically assume we made Italian pastries only? That's not the goal, but I do like the way the words sound.

How about just Dolce? Does it make you think of haute couture fashion designers?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Cooling Off

Summer nights are meant for Margie's.

Their ice cream is just okay, but when it is smothered in their homemade hot fudge, it becomes ethereal. Seriously, it's heaven, located right around the corner from my place. Bring on the hot weather!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Meritage Again

I've had the pleasure of dining at Meritage Cafe and Wine Bar five times. It has blown me away five times. Last night, dinner with Sara and Rob was no exception. They came over with a great surprise - two large pots of fresh herbs from their own garden that they replanted for me. Amazing! Lou the basil plant now has friends: chives, thyme, oregano, flat leaf parsley, dill, rosemary, and sage. I'm a happy girl. Photos to follow soon!

Six-course chef's tasting menu, $45 every Tuesday night at Meritage

From July 10, 2007

First: Seared Diver Scallop in Melon Cucumber Soup with Speck
If there was ever a time that I wished I had my camera, this was it. What a beautiful presentation. A circle frothy, light green cucumber soup enveloped an inner circle of gorgeous melon soup. The diver scallop was placed in the center, with a bit of speck on top. The colors were absolutely gorgeous, and it tasted so refreshing. Our waiter described speck as a smoked Italian prosciutto, but we were wondering if it wasn't actually German.

Second: Pan-Roasted Alaskan Halibut with Escargot Black Truffle Ravioli in Parsnip Bisque
All through this course we talked about cooking seafood at home, and how it's near impossible to get a really great crispness without the proper heat, pan, and a few spoons of clarified butter. The halibut was nicely crisped on one side, flaky and tender inside. The real show stopper was, of course, the single escargot black truffle ravioli. It was divinity on a plate, and although it was pretty much mind blowing, one was perfect. If there had been two I might have just died on the spot. We were using the table bread to sop up the bisque at the bottom of the bowl.

Third: Heirloom Tomato Salad with Green Curry Poached Lobster and Thai Basil
Huge slices of red and yellow tomatoes that were marinated in olive oil. I like my tomatoes a little firmer, but these were falling apart. It was the only dish that was too large to finish. The chunk of lobster had nice flavor but was a little bit tough. The Thai basil was harvested from their backyard. (Sidenote: Meritage is right down the street from my place. Now I know where I can harvest some Thai basil. Kickin!)

Fourth: Ginger-Peach Sorbet
Very gingery but not at all astringent, very refreshing, and so tasty that I didn't mind at all when it appeared again in the dessert course. It was that good.

Rob picked a bottle of Foxen Chenin Blanc, which we greatly enjoyed through the first four courses. It was very crisp, and just what we were looking for to break summer's heat.

Fifth: Grilled Ostrich with Organic Baby Beets, Balsamic Grilled Escarole, and Black Raspberry Reduction
My first time eating ostrich, but hopefully not my last. I have had game meats at Meritage a few times and always enjoyed them. These guys know how to cook meat. Slices of meat, slightly crisp outside and pink inside, were plated over the veg. I have never had a fresher, crunchier beet, and we discovered that its fronds were also quite tasty. The balsamic glaze and black raspberry redux came together to make a succulent sweet sauce. Amazing.

Sixth: A trio of desserts that we shared. This is how the kitchen gets ride of things left over from the weekend, but as long as it still tastes fresh, who cares?
Mango Meyer Lemon Creme Brulee
I'm not a creme brulee eater. I never choose to order it, since it's always on the menu. This one was good though, perfectly cooked to golden brown perfection on top while the custard underneath remained silken. The mango-lemon combo was subtle.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Terrine
I shared this dessert on a different trip to Meritage with Brian. If you want to know the mouth feel of velvet, eat this. Nothing's smoother. Served with malted chocolate ice cream, crushed peanuts, and chocolate ganache sauce. Man, I feel bad for all these kids growing up with peanut allergies. They don't even know what they're missing!

Cognac Pear - Very clean, light flavor. My favorite of the sorbets.
Cranberry Basil - Sara said it tasted like pizza, and it kinda did, but in a good way.
Ginger Peach - Making it's triumphant return.

Sara ordered a 2004 Ponzo Zinfandel by Ridge that came with the Ostrich course. It was fruity and delicious. Our server commented that she couldn't have paired a better wine with the ostrich, even though we had no idea what dish was coming out next.

Great food, great wine, great company. Nice Tuesday night!

Monday, July 9, 2007

And if you don't know...now you know.

I am opening up a pastry shop in Wilmette. Give yourself a moment to freak out. I needed one when I realized the amazing opportunity I was given.

A few months ago an old coworker put me in touch with her friend who is a restaurateur. He owns a great sushi place and is interested in expanding his business portfolio into the pastry world. His sushi spot is quite successful, with a second location on the way. He's got fantastic credentials and preapproved financing but wants someone to run the pastry place for him. After all, sushi is sushi, and baked goods are a whole other story.

After several meetings, the planning is finally underway. I've been struggling through a lot of research, and hoping that this is the boring part. Sourcing vendors - who's going to deliver cake flour at the most reasonable price? Where can I find raspberries that aren't frozen? How much will we pay per year for pest control? I've been doing a bit of menu planning also, but it's still in the infancy stage, so all I'll say is we're going for the highest of high end. Everything will be eaten first with the eyes, then with the mouth. Pretty, pretty, pretty.

I feel like I've brainstormed for hours with numerous people about naming the place, but still I've got nothing. Feel free to throw things out. I'm all ears.

We are hoping to open in February or March, which is not the busiest time of year for a pastry shop to cut it's teeth, but perhaps it will be good to ease into things.

Most days, I am pretty sure I can pull this off.

Monday, July 2, 2007

A few weeks ago, the power went out as I was midway through cooking dinner. I just think that the picture is really nice.