Busby Bakes

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

dinner no. 29: FAIL

We were supposed to meet up with a friend and his lady who were visiting from L.A. The Husband’s flight home from D.C. was delayed. I had some work to do. We bailed on the plan.

I decided to stay home. My dinner consisted of olives, some addictive crackers, an apple, and slices of a brown sugar and fennel salame from Boccalone that a friend had brought from San Francisco.

The Husband tried a little harder. He had a sandwich from Potbelly at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (Terminal B).

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dinner no. 28: Crust/Matsutake Sushi & Steak

The Husband had taken an evening flight to D.C. He and a colleague ate at Matsutake Sushi & Steak at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (Main Terminal).

This second part is painful.

After working late, I ordered delivery from Crust:  an arugula salad and my favorite, the  sausage pizza topped with shaved fennel. I found a wad of chewing gum on the bottom of one of the slices of pizza. Mint flavored.

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dinner no. 27: Jane’s

Jane’s

1655 W Cortland (at Paulina)

Still reeling from the previous night’s extravaganza, the Husband and I agreed we should aim for simplicity. Also brevity, as we had an early morning meeting with our contractor the next day. So we headed to Jane’s, a friendly neighborhood place with a consistently fresh, yummy menu.

The Husband ordered a delicious combination of black beans, brown rice, and grilled veggies that came with a tangy yellow pepper salsa. I listened to by stomach’s plea for a light meal and ordered the salad of beets, asparagus, and oranges with a bit of chevre on the side. We added a Daisy Cutter and a glass of viognier—and we were eating like we do at home (sans the different entree thing).

We enjoyed our perch at the table in their front window. No one was sad when the table where little kids outnumbered mommies left shortly after we arrived. Way to rock the half-price bottle of wine night, mommies!

Total was $45.25 and we were home before 8. W00t!

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dinner no. 26: L2O

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. 25: Butterfly

Butterfly

1156 W Grand Ave (at Racine)

After a meat-themed stretch of meals, I was craving vegetables and non-animal based protein. And I couldn’t bring myself to force the Husband out for dinner after he worked all afternoon and evening. So, tonight’s dinner was delivery from Butterfly. Not much finesse or revelations on their menu—except for their shumai—but everything is always fresh, fresh, fresh.

I ordered garlic-sauteed tofu with broccoli, peapods, baby corns. The husband ordered spicy green curry with crispy green beans and tofu. And super-yummy baby eggrolls.

Total was $22.62.

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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. 23: Erie Cafe

Erie Cafe

536 W Erie (at Larrabee)

After a long week, I wanted a straightforward meal of red meat and red wine. Nothing requiring too much focus. No scene. No wait for a table. And quiet, which can be hard to find in Chicago restaurants. We decided on Erie Cafe, an old-school-style Chicago steak house right on the river that is owned by a relation of one of the founders of Gene & Georgetti. (But not truly “old,” as I think it opened in the early 1990s. No matter.)

Our kindly waiter showed us to a comfy booth. We ordered a bottle of pinot noir. I ordered expensive lamb chops, the biggest I’d ever seen. Also asparagus. And cottage fried potatoes. The husband ordered linguine with a generous, garlicky clam sauce. Salads arrived—iceberg lettuce, of course, with a really good vinaigrette. Our dinners were perfect. We drank all the wine. The Husband ordered an after-dinner drink. We took a cab home. The end.

Total was $150.

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dinner no. 22: Whole Foods

Whole Foods

30 W Huron (at Dearborn)

An evening return home from a business trip and a long week had me thinking that the Husband might not feel like going out. So I cheated and went to Whole Foods on my way home to procure an assembled dinner. I bought baby greens, grape tomatoes, a loaf of crusty bread, and from the prepared food counter, a gingery Asian-inspired black quinoa slaw  and grilled salmon. Presto! Healthy, protein-rich salad.

The Husband approved and said it surpassed his dinner from Panda Express last night.

Total unclear due to addition of cat food and body lotion to shopping cart. $24, maybe?

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dinner no. 21: The Purple Pig & Fornetto Mei

The Purple Pig

500 N Michigan (at Illinois)

As the Husband was out of town, I was on my own for dinner and didn’t do a thing to plan my evening until I received a late afternoon text from a friend. As she had a few hours to kill between meetings, we decided to meet for early dining and catching up at The Purple Pig, a new tapas place that’s been getting lots of attention.

Tucked down a corridor off of Michigan Ave, it’s a tile-lined noisy slice of tapas heaven. Optimists to the core, we ordered pork-fried almonds with garlic and rosemary; a lovely salad of roasted baby carrots, shaved fennel, avocado, and citrus; sardines with lemon jam; lemony ricotta and tomato-based pork neck gravy served with grilled bread; charred ramps and romesco sauce served on a terracotta roofing tile; and a glass of wine a piece. We wished there had been room for the gianduja affogato. We also wished the “Birthday Diva” crew had been sitting farther away, but judging from the singing, they had arrived long before us. Total was $33.45 each. Can’t wait to go back, this time with the Husbands.

And as I was walking to take the bus home, I got a call from another friend who was shopping on Michigan Ave and wanted to know what I was doing. So we met for a glass of wine and a sausage-goat cheese-red grape pizza at Fornetto Mei. Located in The Whitehall Hotel, the pizza bar in this place is a hidden gem and is one of the few Magnificent Mile locations that isn’t completely overrun with tourists. Please take note that I only had one slice and was home by 9:30.

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dinner no. 20: Pastoral

Pastoral

53 E Lake St (at Wabash)

As the Husband has a last-minute business trip to prepare for, tonight we cheated a little and picked up sandwiches from Pastoral to eat at home.

But that doesn’t sound right. Pastoral doesn’t make just any old sandwich. They carry some of the best cheese and bread in the city. They take their cured meat seriously. And the combinations they put between two pieces of bread are incredible. This is sandwich artistry of the highest form.

The Husband ordered a Bocadillo de la Mancha: Serrano, Manchego, greens, membrillo and dijon on a baguette. I ordered my favorite, the Canard Balsamico: duck, cipollini onions soaked in balsamic vinegar, baby greens, oozy Fromager D’Affinois,  and dijon on a baguette. Le sigh. We really should get back in the gym.

Total was $20 even.

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