Sunday, March 30, 2008

Cookies!


The logical process that led up to making cookies was as follows:

1. Yesterday, spent copious amounts of time watching Food Network, including an hour-long contest for the galaxy's best cookie. Also read this month's issue of Gourmet magazine. My media consumption made me yearn for edible consumption.

2. My leg's been feeling pretty damn good. Experiment #1 - Can I accurately measure dry ingredients without falling over?

3. Moving day is about a month away. It's time to start cleaning out the pantry. A quick survey of available goods includes a barely touched jar of Vegemite, a tin of Foie Gras, and several expired packets of yeast. Experiments #2-5 - Figuring out how to disengage the rocks that were once my brown sugar. I suppose I should have shut the bag a little tighter 6 weeks ago, when I last used it.

So, they're definitely not the best cookies I've ever made, but hey, I made something! Standing on one leg during the mixing process proved to be a little strenuous, but not impossible.

Tomorrow my hard cast is being cut off and I get a removable boot. Physical therapy starts too. Hopefully, only two more weeks until I'm back to work!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Excursion! Tallulah

Thank you, thank you, thank you to my fun friend Jen for bringing me to Tallulah last night. It was, hands down, the best meal I've had in the past month. That's not saying much, since I haven't been dining out often, but even if I had been to a different restaurant every day, last night's dinner would be near the top of my fantastic list.

The Tallulah space has an interesting appeal. It's nice without being prissy. Nearly everything is black or white, including the white vinyl tablecloths. Nothing can make you revert to the level of a messy toddler quite like a tablecloth that can be hosed down efficiently!

To start, Jen and I split crab and andouille fritters. They were perfectly crisp outside, soft and delicate inside. They were drizzled with a spicy remoulade and served on a bed of fresh mesclan greens.

Deciding on an entree was a challenge. The menu is loaded with goodies including seared duck breast, sweetbreads, and rabbit confit. Knowing that these items would be available at least until the season turns, I ordered the chef's special; pan roasted halibut with crab salad and pancetta, served atop a deliciously sauced mound of soft strawberries and fava beans. Our server told us it was an homage to the lovely weather we had yesterday, and that's exactly how it tasted. I hesitated at the thought of strawberries at this time of year, but they ended up being just sweet enough to pair with the balsamic reduction that glazed them. The fava beans were freshly shucked and toothy. It was actually fun to bite into them. Tiny cubes of pancetta toned down the overall sweetness and added a rich flavor to the beautifully brown-crusted halibut. The crab salad on top was good, but the rest of the dish would have been just as excellent without it.

Jen took our server's suggestion and ordered pan fried skate wing with oxtails and brussels sprouts. The veg was cooked tender-crisp and seasoned with sweet, acidic blood orange. The thin fish filet tasted clean and simple, a complete opposite of the meaty threads of robust oxtail. This dish was all about tying together opposite flavors in a way that accentuates the uniqueness of each one.

We split a helping of pistachio cheesecake for dessert. It was creamy and delicious in its traditional graham cracker crust. Tart cherry compote cut through the sweetness. Too bad the lights were turned down so low. I bet the crimson cherries on the pale green cake was gorgeous.

I complemented Chef Graves on our way out, and told him how happy I was that he'd found a new home at Tallulah. He seemed bashful, almost embarrassed of his talents. I'm a believer, and I am already looking forward to a return visit. Don't forget that Tuesday is BYOW (bring your own wine - leave the beer and spirits at home) night, and an outdoor patio will be open this summer. Sounds like a perfect summer evening waiting to happen.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

It's weird that I went this entire season of Lent without encountering a single lamb cake. Not a single one! It's funny, considering how many I've helped to churn out in past years. I'm glad to have missed lamb production, but am definitely missing work. It's been nearly 5 weeks since I've baked anything. That's definitely some kind of record for me, dating from when I started culinary school.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Tallulah - Adding Insult to Injury

Day 20 of being laid up. Writing how long it has been makes it seem infinitely longer, and the end of this is still quite far off. Since I'm off my feet, I'm also off from work. The disability package that my employer offers is just enough to ensure that I am only slightly malnourished, but still able to function when I am able to return to them. There is no wiggle room in my finances right now, just a giant hole. A black, cavernous hole.

A normal person would naturally run down a list of costs that could be minimized during a time like this, and dining out would most likely be near the top of that list. I've never claimed to be normal. Giving up restaurants completely is out of the question, and cutting back just plain sucks.

There's a new restaurant in town, and I am dying (DYING) to try it, but it will have to sit at a distance for a few months. Tallulah is the new home of Troy Graves, former chef at Meritage!

I swooned when I read it the first time, and I swoon again as I write it. I loved Meritage. I still frown when I pass by; the old sign is still hanging out on Damen Avenue, its paper-covered windows concealing what was once great. Tallulah might be the antidote. It may be the place that makes me forget my old love. Thus far, it's received great reviews. Although I wish I could go right now for a late dinner, I'll look on the bright side: When I am able to afford Tallulah in three months, the newbie chatter will have died down and it won't be crowded, the outdoor patio will be open, and I'll be cast-free.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Excursion! Omega.

Five days post-op, I am feeling pretty good. I don't have a lot of pain in my leg. Tomorrow I return to the doctor's office to have a hard cast put on.

Last night, for the first time since surgery, I ventured out into the big, wide suburban world that is Downers Grove. It was great to breathe fresh air, to feel cold, to ride in a car with my leg juxtaposed across the back seat to keep my ankle elevated for as long as possible.

The destination was hardly a question. We headed off to the timeless beacon of service, the tried-and-true establishment of 24-hour dining, Omega.




Everyone should have a staple Greek diner in their restaurant go-to list. That way, when you get the hankering for a Hobo skillet with a side of grilled calf's liver and a chocolate malt, there will be no hesitation. When you fall out of a bar at 3:00 a.m. with the desire for broiled butt steak and tapioca pudding, you won't think twice. For those times when you're watching your figure, you'll know exactly where to find a cantaloupe half stuffed with cottage cheese that's been wrapped in plastic and rotating in the cylindrical pastry case for 6 days. Yes, the Greek diner! They have what you need.

My parents have frequented Omega on Ogden Avenue for as long as I can remember. Long before they banished smoking, they ate there, and there is nothing that bothers my mother more than cigarette smoke. After church, after basketball games, and for no reason in particular, we often found ourselves at Omega. It was only natural that I would continue to go, taking advantage of Omega's late night hours during visits home from college. It was the place where my friends would meet up before we were eligible to drink in bars. Then, when were were old enough, we would convene at Omega after long booze-filled nights, probably being raucous and loud, and completely unfazed by the dirty looks thrown by other customers.

Regardless of behavior, regardless of the time, and regardless of this huge cast and crutches I'm toting around, the folks at Omega always serve with a smile. Last night our host offered me a helpful suggestion for using my crutch as a bench while sitting in a booth. He sympathized because he had somehow been on crutches 17 (HUH?) times in his life. They were extremely accommodating and the food was just as I remembered.

So, my first meal out of the house: cream of broccoli soup, turkey club sandwich, and a baked potato. It was a toss up between that and a Belgian waffle with strawberries.