Saturday, September 26, 2009

Review: UrbanBelly and Rootstock

Jeremy and I went with good friends to UrbanBelly last night. We were quite impressed with this counter-service BYOB joint. Very upscale dishes (with prices to match)...our favorites were the pork and cilantro dumplings, short rib and scallion rice, and the udon noodles with shrimp, coriander and sweet chili lime broth. Our orders came amazingly fast, and we sat at long communal tables. Everything had a spicy heat to it, which might not be to everyone's liking. We brought a sweet 2008 Loosen "Dr. L" Riesling that perfectly paired with this Asian food. It was a great room with accommodating service. We will definitely be back, imagining ourselves there on a cold Chicago winter night, with steaming bowls of noodles in front of us.

One of the only downsides was that our dining experience was fast - about an hour. Since it was a Friday night and we had a babysitter, we stopped by Rootstock, a new wine bar in Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood that has been getting great reviews. It was full by 8:15 p.m., with people sitting in comfortable chairs, enjoying an extensive wine and beer list. The wine list featured many wines you wouldn't find at the store at truly reasonable prices. They had a small menu with mostly savory dishes (we were informed that their only dessert was bacon toffee, made in-house. Funny aside: Just earlier that day, I was trying to think of desserts with meat in them...) Definitely worth a trip if you're on Chicago's west side.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Rosh Hashanah, part two

This post is nearly one week overdue. Last Saturday, I made Rosh Hashanah dinner #2. Fueled by ingredients from the Green City Market, Jeremy and I made an Italian Pot Roast in the slow cooker (we did 1.5 times the amount of wine and crushed tomatoes to give it more liquid and used brisket), a warm mushroom salad, and our friends brought roasted garlic mashed potatoes. It was a heavenly dinner. To finish, I served an apple cake that Jack and I had baked earlier that day. This recipe is from my mom's family:

Apple Cake
3 eggs
3/4 cup oil
1/4 cup applesauce
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
dash of ground cloves and ginger
3 cups finely chopped, peeled apples

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour large bundt pan or 9"x13" cake pan. Beat eggs on high. Add oil, applesauce, sugar and vanilla. Sift together flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Add to first mixture. Quickly add chopped apples.

Bake 60 minutes. Let cool in bundt pan for 10 minutes then move to cooling rack. When completely cooled, dust with powdered sugar.

I modified the last step - I made a glaze with apple cider and powdered sugar and drizzled it over top. Jack and I were very proud of our first joint baking project. Since then, he keeps asking "bake a cake? bake a cake?" and tries to drag the stool up the counter.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Rosh Hashanah, part one

Weeks ago, I decided I was going to make not one but two Rosh Hashanah dinners for my husband and our friends. As the weekend approached, I got a bit apprehensive. But come last Thursday night, I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.

Do other people drive to four different grocery stores to get all of the ingredients or is it just me? In Chicago, I hit Treasure Island for San Marzano tomatoes; Jewel for my King Arthur all-purpose flour; Whole Foods for my brisket; and Costco for lemons, berries and gallons of extra-virgin olive oil. I spent much of Thursday night after Jack went to sleep and Friday morning, traversing the city in search of all of my ingredients. And then, with a clean house and full kitchen, I was ready.

Friday, the turkey went into the oven mid-afternoon. I'm a white meat gal. I love Ina's herb-roasted turkey breast. It always turns out moist and delicious. My sides included honey glazed carrots and a variation on this cornbread stuffing (I used chicken sausage rather than bacon and added mushrooms). My dear friend Amy made my Mom's sweet potato casserole, which she got from her beloved Aunt Shirley:

Sweet Potato Casserole
4 cups cooked mashed sweet potatoes
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine above ingredients throughly making sure to cool potatoes slightly before adding eggs. Place in a greased baking dish and sprinkle with topping. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Topping: (may cut in half depending on size of baking dish)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup melted butter

And to fully round out the Thanksgiving-like menu, I made Jeremy's grandmother's cranberry compote:

Cranberry Compote
1 can of whole berry cranberry sauce
1 small can of mandarin oranges, drained well
1 can crushed pineapple, drained well
1 bag of frozen strawberries
1 regular-sized jar of applesauce

Stir together and let sit overnight in the fridge.

I cheated on dessert (hey, it was Friday!): pumpkin pie (surprisingly very good and I fancy myself a pumpkin connoisseur) from Costco and cupcakes from Southport Grocery.

Friday, September 11, 2009

I don't mean to brag...

...but my grocery-getting, swore-we'd-never-get-a-bigger-car 2007 blue Honda CR-V can be seen in the background during the 35th minute of Oprah's season opener yesterday. She filmed downtown, and Jack and I were picking up Jeremy from work. If you could have zoomed in to the car - as Jennifer Hudson was singing "I'm Every Woman" - you would have seen:

1. A rotisserie chicken from Jewel (I can't cook every night)
2. Children's Benadryl and Jack sporting a funny red rash on his face
3. 5 outdoor signs and 50 lanyards for a work event this weekend
4. A double stroller for our nanny share
5. One tired mommy

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Are you ready for some football?

Jeremy and I took Jack to his second Northwestern football game today. He was actually pretty well-behaved (mostly due to the bag of Goldfish crackers I let him munch on, as well as our good-natured friends who took turns entertaining Jack). I was amazed as my 22-month-old actually "watched" some of the game, noting the players running and the ball being thrown. This confirmed my theory that all men are born with a football gene.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Friday Night Special

I work full-time for a conservation nonprofit organization but on Fridays I work from home. This truly is my most exhausting day of the week because I'm also dealing with my toughest boss: Jack. Today, we had friends over in the morning for blueberry crumb cake and a frittata (spoiler alert: I make this for practically every breakfast I host - just so you know if you ever come over). I did get to some emails, phone calls and the like for work during naptime. Once Jack woke, we hit Chicago's Clybourn Avenue. Haircut at Snippet's (not a tear, thank you very much). Bagel for Jack at Panera Bread. (Good grief - Panera now has cherry vanilla bagels.) A visit to Right Start. (Jack truly enjoyed zooming around on this scooter - $99.95 price tag). And rounded it out with a grocery run at Treasure Island.

I'm tired! A perfect evening for time with my husband, a homemade dinner and catching up on our Tivo-ed Check, Please! episodes. Cooking Light's jambalaya is comforting and delicious. We rounded it out with a bottle of sparking wine: Lucien Albrecht Blanc de Blancs from Alsace. This is such a nice, reasonably priced sparkler. I first discovered it at Whole Foods in Lincoln Park. Jeremy is the sommelier in our house, but I actually bought this one. It also was a perfect complement to our dessert: cupcakes from Sweet Mandy B's, brought over by one of my dear breakfast guests. G'night!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I think my heart may burst with love

We went to Cleveland this weekend to visit my family. Jack had his first, honest-to-goodness playing-with-the-neighborhood-kids experience. He ran after two "big" kids - a 4-year-old and a 5-year-old, peering into the brush as they looked for a poor cat they were chasing and running from one yard to the next.

Eventually, they all ran toward me. And there was my Jack, waving his chubby little baby hand at me, grass stains on his overalls. God love him…he’s totally not going to find me that cool someday, but I will eat it up right now!