Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A weekend in the City

In case you hadn't caught on, my boyfriend is pretty spectacular. For instance, my valentine's day gift was a hand painted mug (I love mugs. I have a genetic love of dishes from my mother) and today, he cleaned (!) my room (!) while I was at work because I spent the day moaning about how I hadn't gotten anything done, cleaning or otherwise, and he likes me. In addition to be amazing, his best friends have a beautiful apartment in Chicago, and have extended us an open invitation to their spare room.

So, far we have quickly destroyed it each time we visit and even hung our bath towels to dry on the edges of James' electric drums-- but James and Ariel have been very good sports.
So good in fact, that when I suggested we check out an underground supper club in town, they were not only agreeable, but excited. Chicago's version is called Clandestino, and the ring leader, Efrian, got his start with the much publicized Ghetto Gourmet interviewed in the first link. The dinner we attended was in the loft office of a mortgage company.
Well, everyone keeps asking, How was it?

It was cool. It was way cool. The vibe was awesome, the people were great, and the sense of community was visible. The food was delicious, meticulously planned and exuded soul and spirit. Menu was as follows:

Chips and 2 salsas
Flautas w/ lamb chorizo and potato
Spanish Mackerel ceviche, cured w/ lime and grapefruit
Chicken Tortilla Soup
Birria de Chivo, served in roasted poblano
Tres Leches Torte

The winners, in my opinion, were the chicken tortilla soup and the Birria, which is goat. The soup, especially, was subtle and salty and deep without being rich.

The goat though. It was my first goat-eating experience, and it was infinitely better than my over-all first goat experience, which occurred at the tender age of three at the Detroit Zoo when a goat snatched my zoo-map right out of my chubby hands and had the nerve to chew it apart it in front of me.
This goat course was sublime. It was sort of shredded, and stuffed in a pepper with a little rice and topped with a little cheese. It was tender but chewy, and I ate it quicker than I wanted to, because, well, I couldn't help it. It came with what seemed to be roasted root veggies and smear of some sort of barbecue-like sauce that, I swear, with the squash, was one of the best sauces I have tasted.

Afterward, we went to the Signature Room for a drink, which is the bar at the top of the Hancock building with spectacular, hard to photograph and easy to be awestruck by views. My scotch on the rocks was $13, and so was Ariel's amaretto and James' Bloody Mary, which was, coencidentally, too spicy to drink. It was nice though, and we were dressed for it.

On the way home, we had the cabbie take us to a liquor store and the boys went in and bought bought some beer while Ariel and I held the cab.
We may have gone to bed a little late, and may have woken up a little hungover. So in the early afternoon, we meandered through the radiant sunshine to ye old Zagat-rated corner breakfast spot, Nookie's.

It was so good I didn't even finish my eggs, and I love eggs over easy. The coffee was free and Jason had buckwheat pancakes and after, we took a train downtown and spent the afternoon in one of my very favorite places on earth (so far), the Art Institute of Chicago, which not only has some of my favorite Toulouse-Lautrec and Monet's haystacks, but American Gothic, which I find in even more surreal to be in the same room with than Surat's monster.

Did I mention that James recently graduated from the Chicago Le Cordon Bleu institute? Right.
So, Sunday James made us a fantastic pork tenderloin dinner that every bit reflected his formal education and love of food.

That night we played a make shift version of cranium and watched The King of Kong, which, was ridiculous and I recommend highly.

In the morning, Jason and I picked up a little bit and crept out, long after James had left for work at the fish market, while Ariel slept and Stan chased water around the bath tub.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Canada is just over there

The time has come: It is truly, unmistakably, most dismally, winter. The holidays have past, the sun is sparse, and the few warmer days we do have are just a cruel set up for impending blizzards. (That's right Michigan, after 20 years I've figured you out).
It would be a great time for a California vacation, except that as I figure it, it would cost the entire contents of my checking account to get there.
However, for about $18 in travel expenses you can can still spend the afternoon tasting wine.

Pictures by the mamma

Though it's easy to overlook, Ontario is just right over there, and they have their very own guaranteed vintacultural region (like Italy's DOCG in theory). In a little over an hour, you can make it to Lake Erie's north shore region, which is packed full of wineries willing to give a free taste on a Sunday afternoon. The official winery route map shows six, and we stopped at least one that wasn't on the map. There are little grape signs everywhere once you get down there.

Jason, Me, and the daddy at Sprucewood Shores

If you need a mini vacation, this is what you need to do. I swear. You don't even need a passport. And if you take the tunnel, when you get out, there's a tourist information center where the lone lady manning the giant desk will pluck you a map and write directions on it upside down AND highlight your route.

No, not all the wine was amazing. Quite a bit of it was watery. (I'm willing to attribute this to the relatively cold growing season) But the merlot-cab at Colchester Ridge was excellent, and the Mastronardi cab franc was quite nice too. And, Windsor has quite a few nice restaurants that are remarkably cheap (we have been particularly impressed with Mezzo, though we researched quite a few others that looked nice-- they just didn't serve lunch.)

In short, it was a satisfying Sunday. We drove back to Windsor along the river as the sun was setting, and as it grow colder outside we relaxed in to the front seats and didn't even have to look at each other to know that this was good. When we got home, we fell asleep on the couch in a heap, waking up just in time for a round of scrabble before bed--
And if that's not vacation, I don't know what is.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Weekends, for me, aren't quite the relaxing opportunity for doing all the thing that get pushed aside all week-- I work until midnight Friday and Saturday, which severely limits my ability to relax in general (if you've ever accidentally tried to go to Trader Joe's on a Saturday afternoon you'll understand why), not to mention my ability to do weekend-type food things, like cook or go out. As a result of this, if I don't have a solid plan and alarm set for Sunday, I am highly predisposed to accidentally sleep all day, and spend the early afternoon eating peanut butter and jelly on frozen waffles while drinking coffee and getting lost in the internet.

I am pleased to announce, however, that I did an excellent job of doing stuff this weekend.

Friday after work we headed out to Sidetrack's for post-work beer. While this really isn't anything unusual, I did want to mention that while Sidetrack's occasionally has the worst service of any restaurant in the Ypsi-Arbor area (it occasionally takes a strong combination of luck, persistence and a touch of bitchy-ness to get a waiter) they also have a great selections of beer on tap (such as Bell's hop slam currently) and the kitchen is open until 2am. Sidetrack's is know for their burgers, which are excellent, but my favorite is their wacky selection of bar-food appetizers-- particularly beer-battered and deep-fried pickles. If you've never had a deep-fried pickle, you really should, and Sidetrack's are far better than any others I've had. They also deep-fry battered artichoke hearts, and make a mean veggie slider. Click here for the menu-- also of note are the Irish egg rolls, which are just so grossly delicious.

On Saturday, Jason and I went to Morgan and York for lunch. M&Y do made to order sandwiches at the deli counter, and while they're giving Zingerman's competition for the most expensive sandwich in town ($10-11) Morgan and York's offerings are subtler, and more inventive. Last time we went, I had shredded beets and spicy ham, this time I went for Bresola and artichoke. What these sandwiches lack in size is easily made up for in flavor, not to mention that it just feels good to hold hands and slowly wander the shop while your sandwiches are made, reading bottles and chocolate bars and vinegar descriptions. Its a lovely way to spend part of a sunny Saturday afternoon before work. And, least I forget, they have this ridiculous Zucchini soup (its in the bowl up there) that's only $12 for a whole quart. The soup doesn't have any cream in it-- but it's creamy and thick and just a little bit spicy and comes with a little cup of mancheigo to sprinkle on it, and somehow, it feels very forgiving. It is a nice soup.
I will warn you though, that while you wander around and look at things in a way that's a cross between a kid in a candy shop and an afternoon at an art museum, you are likely to find something that is out of your budget that you convince yourself would be ok to try because it's Saturday, and the sun's out and you have a quart of forgiving soup waiting for you.
We ended up with a six-pack of Bell's hopslam.

There it is, hangin out on my windowsill.

a six pack of beer doesn't sound so bad, except that this particular six pack is $18.50. Yes, that 1 is supposed to be there. Hopslam is one of Bell's specialty beers, that is only available seasonally. Why is it so expensive? Well, part of it is that it's a seasonal specialty. The other part is that it's 10% abv. In our defense, we didn't notice the price tag until after it was rung up, and at that point, our gulit about putting it back overrode the gilt about spending $3 a beer.
Is it worth it?
Not really. Don't get me wrong, the stuff is good. Its brewed with honey, which gives it a light citrusy flavor and completely overrides the bitterness of the hops. I liked it a lot, and I do not like IPA's-- i'm a wheat beer girl. Not to mention that one bottle left me completely buzzed, a task that generally takes about two and a half. But, I don't drink to get drunk I drink to you know, enjoy, so the fact that it got me there twice as fast wasn't exactly a posetive.

Verdict: If someone like you enough to buy you one, go for it. I doubt you'll be disappointed. But it's not twice as good as the rest of Bell's beer, so I wouldn't reccomend spending twice as much on it.