Busby Bakes

thoughts on cooking + eating by one who lives for the daily feast

Archive for the 'drinking' Category

New-fangled coffee

This afternoon I was treated to what is sure to be a new obsession: a latte made with house-roasted espresso, coconut milk, honey, and a sassy dash of cayenne.

Love in a cup, people.

Hie thee to ipsento, posthaste!

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dinner no. 30: avec


615 W Randolph (at Jefferson)

For the last of our April dinners out, we chose avec, which is where the Husband hatched the whole idea a few months back. I adore everything about this place but the noise.

We met up after work with a friend. The three of us huddled around the end of one of the communal tables and tried to hear each other’s witticisms over the din of a happy Friday evening. A frosty apology to the couple next to us whose facial expressions went from scared to shocked to annoyed. A hug to our waitress who rolled with it when we misheard the special of porgy as “Corgi.”

We quickly agreed on sharing all dishes and ordered chorizo-stuffed dates wrapped in bacon, served in a tomato sauce; crostini spread with English pea puree and mint oil; a very salty shrimp dish; a beautiful selection of salumi served with a sharp cabernet mustard; and a flatbread topped with lardo, lamb tongue, stinging nettles and garlic which no one liked but me.

And we ordered a bottle of a delicious French country wine, Pont de Gassac-Selection Guibert. And then another. And then went to Bar DeVille for a nightcap.

Total was $50 each.

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dinner no. 26: L2O


2300 N Lincoln Park West (at Belden)

After a last-minute rescheduling, at last it was time for our April dinner orgy. We’d heard great things from friends who have been here and had read the accolades in the press. I was excited. I love seafood. I got a manicure.

L2O is off of the lobby in the Belden-Stratford building, which is a place that’s always confused me. Happily, all traces of potted palms, shiny brass, and is-it-a-hotel/is-it-an-apartment-building muddiness vanished once inside the restaurant. It smelled like orchids. Attentive service. Shadowy wall panels. Chill music.

As I waited for the Husband to arrive I sat on a white leather sofa in the sexy, intimate lounge. I never sit on a white leather sofa. I’m rarely in a room one could call “sexy.” A nice man brought me a glass of Champagne. I ordered a whiskey sour for the Husband, who came in and sat with me in the sexy room. We were almost disappointed when it was time to sit at our table.

With hardly any deliberation, we decided to splurge on the tasting menu (12 courses) with wine pairings (9 two-ounce pours).

From the first of 2 amuse bouches to the last of 3 desserts, this was one of the most completely enjoyable dining experiences we’ve had together. We’d never had seafood treated so lovingly. Highlights included individual vessels for shabu-shabu, incredibly fresh halibut, unfiltered sake, vegetable purees and sauces that exploded with intensity, amazing wines, and the best scallop I’ve ever eaten. The breads were small masterpieces. The room was beautiful. The dishes themselves were beautiful. The newly-engaged Italian couple sitting nearby were beautiful. Our server was relaxed, friendly, and welcomed all of our questions.

And instead of taking notes (or pictures) we simply enjoyed the experience. We talked and had fun and were the last table to leave. If you can, go.

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dinner no. 24: Small Bar

Small Bar

2049 W Division (at Hoyne)

After a morning of errands, massages, and finish and fixture sourcing for our new house, we stopped for a late lunch/early dinner at Small Bar. A staple in our neighborhood, Small Bar has pleasant staff, no-frills decor, a massive beer list, and good burgers. Also dedicated soccer fans on game days.

The Husband ordered a Daisy Cutter and a straight-up cheese burger. I chose a Surly (Something?) Ale and the outstanding B’Looza burger, topped with grilled onions, blue cheese, and bacon. My burger cravings will be quiet for months to come, I’m guessing. The Husband watched the footie on the telly. I watched some jerky Arsenal fans talk down to their Manchester City brethren.

Total was $34.25.

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dinner no. 19: Bonsoirée


2728 W Armitage (at Fairfield)

I’ve been intrigued by Bonsoirée since they opened a few years ago: Asian-inspired fancy food, a French chef, BYOB, on an empty stretch of Armitage west of Western. Definitely not the norm for Chicago dining, and that spells interesting in my book, good sir.

So when friends suggested we go for a special 5-course dinner with wine pairings chosen by Cellar Rat, I had to say yes. We enjoyed a truly amazing array of seafood with incredible wines. Gluttons, all, we wished it were an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Here’s the menu:

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dinner no. 17: Big Star

Big Star

1531 N Damen (at Pierce)

Lured by the gorgeous weather, the Husband and I set out for a very late lunch/very early dinner at Big Star, our local honkytonk. The crowds at this place are legion. We had no delusions about finding a table on the parking lot patio, so we headed inside to check out the bar. Luck found us standing right behind two people who were getting ready to leave.

Say what you will about the scene, the food here is seriously fantastic. And they play great music. We ordered chips and salsas, and tacos: 2 of the outstanding poblano de rasas, an al pastor, and a pork belly. The Husband drank micheladas and some rye. I’m a sucker for the smoky house margarita.

Celebrity sitings included Hot Doug (we think) and Sally Timms.

For the thrifty diner, this place can be a great value. Unless you order too many rounds. Cash only, and I can’t find my receipt.

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dinner no. 15: Revolution Brewery

Revolution Brewery

2323 N Milwaukee (at Belden)

Thursday’s late night plan was to meet up at a bar for drinks with a friend in from San Francisco. We suggested dinner first, and San Fran Man and others joined us at Revolution Brewery. Beer factory in the back, bar and grub in the front, and a less heavy on the people’s power theme than I’d expected. Our group assembled at the bar and eventually our hungry selves were given a table.

Someone ordered plates of cured meats and cheeses for the table. After much deliberation, a friend and I split an order of the grilled calamari steak, which was served with asparagus and a New Orleans-style remoulade sauce. The Husband ordered the burger with an egg on top, which my sample bite made me want to come back. House-made bun, baby.

Total was $28 a person, I think.

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dinner no. 08: drink, rinse, repeat

The Husband and I each had work-social plans right after clocking out. Our plan was to meet up at a vegan place in River North for a healthy dinner. Of course that’s not what happened.

The Husband had an after-work meeting to get his affairs in order. I went to O’Callaghan’s (29 W Hubbard) to meet with work friends. (This place was the scene of many a fun night when the Husband and I were first dating. Sigh, reasonably young and in love.) At around 7, the Husband walked into the bar. And so we lingered.

We really don’t need to go into details here, do we? Too late for good-intentions dining—but too old for the drink-your-dinner routine—we ended up back at The Bluebird. We split the beet salad and the Jamon serrano/manchego flatbread. And yes, we had another round.

Don’t know what was spent on beverages. Receipt from Bluebird was $39.23.

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Wisconsin’s finest


The Husband and I spent the past weekend in Viroqua, Wisconsin with his family.  Twas beautiful, rural, hilly, beery.

Saturday morning we went to the farmer’s market. Small but some good finds among the baskets and beaded what-not. And a vibrant, friendly vibe. Bored Amish kids hung in the buggy while mom and dad sold deep, dark, grade B maple syrup. Chatty, pink-cheeked farmers sold seedlings, rhubarb, and spring onions. I scooped up a couple of jars of picked veg: baby brussel sprouts and asparagus.

Dinner on Saturday night was outstanding local prime rib at the
Olde Town Inn in Westby. We felt a bit guilty upon leaving the restaurant when we noticed a herd of cows across the road. Um…thanks?

On our way home, we stopped in New Glarus, a super Swiss Miss-ed town. Seriously, even the Citgo looked like a chalet. But we were there for the beer. New Glarus Brewing Company makes delicious, small-batch craft brews that aren’t available outside of Cheesehead territory. So we stocked up. Those Old Style tall boys in the fridge had better make room.

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Speaking of cocktails…

A friend visiting from out of town was in need of grown-up pursuits, far from nursery or playground. I took her to The Violet Hour, truly the most civilized bar in Chicago. The chill/luxe atmosphere of flickering candles, high-backed chairs, and low-lit chandeliers fosters quiet conversation. Which is the perfect vibe for savoring the outrageously delicious cocktails. People, this place is serious: they make their own bitters. And they won’t let you in unless there’s a chair for you. Go early, there’s usually a line after 7.


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