Saturday, June 13, 2015

chef's choice

Omakase (Chef’s choice) from Japanese "to entrust"

This style of dining essentially offers the chef the choice of what to serve you based on what he feels best represents his skills, while using the freshest fish that is available today. Expect the chef to be innovative and surprising in the selection of dishes. The meal can be likened to an artistic performance by the chef.

we met our friends at Kuni's in Evanston on the early side - but found the sushi bar already nearly full! It turns out the Japanese Consul to Chicago and staff members were eating there and had the full attention of the eponymous Kuni. Still we managed to get a good meal despite his split attention.  We started with seaweed salad and oysters (the sake box was filled with very nice sake - about which I know not a thing....)

the oysters were terrific

then we went on to other things- udon in rolls and tempura fried- served in broth-

yellowtail jaw (I am only repeating what I was told) it turned out to be extremely tender mild white fish that pretty much fell off the bones - not a tiny boned skeleton but large bones easy to pick from

the next dish with quail egg and salmon and tuna and green onions was mixed up and the "glue" tasted just like glue  and was stringy and slimey all at the same time- clearly an acquired taste - our friend said not many "round eyes" like it---- so I fell in the category of true to form...LOL - next time I won't mix it up but just eat the parts I like LOL

tempura shrimp balls - a great course to follow the challenging one -

then on to sushi

I also got salmon roe (YUM) to make up for the uni I choked down LOL- and we had shrimp heads for some crunch with sriracha mayo (another YUM)

the palate cleansing end of a veggie roll -

so we all had plenty to eat and when we left the restaurant we found it raining and the Blackhawks up 1-0.  A mixed bag...  tomorrow dinner with Ross and Dario and their darling almost two year old Andrea! We haven't seen them in ages so it will be good to catch up.  Then Monday a Chaine event at Eataly - progressive dinner through some stations and several of their restaurants... Wednesday the upcoming next menu: Tapas -  so a couple more meals before Phil leaves town... stay tuned....


Eataly Chicago boasts 23 eateries. On the 1st floor: Il Panino di Eataly, Il Gran Bar Lavazza, Nutella, Làit Gelateria Alpina, Il Gelato di Eataly, La Pasticceria di Luca Montersino, Baffo Ristorante e Enoteca. On the 2nd Floor: La Birreria, La Rosticceria, La Piazza with La Mozzarella, Il Crudo, I Salumi e Formaggi and Il Fritto, La Pizza & La Pasta, La Focacceria, Il Pesce & Le Verdure, Osteria di Eataly, Caffè Vergnano, Vino Libero and La Scuola

So those look like something you might want to come back for don't they?

reporting back

on the concert at SPACE late last night-

above a close up of the way cool light fixtures in the club and below - our table 11 menu holder-

the one word review- outstanding!

so here are the two featured artists- and artists they were-

Janiva Magness - is an American blues and soul singer and songwriter. The Blues Foundation named Magness the B.B. King Entertainer of the Year in 2009, becoming only the second woman, after Koko Taylor, to be so honored. In the same year, she was named the Contemporary Blues Female Artist of the Year, which she had already won in 2006 and 2007, and was nominated for again in 2012. Since 2006, she has had 22 similar nominations. "Magness is a blues star."

Doug Macleod - is an American storytelling bluesman. Although now associated with his home in Los Angeles, he has lived and worked in North Carolina, St. Louis, Port Washington, New York, and Norfolk, Virginia, where he was stationed in the United States Navy. He became acquainted with the blues in St Louis in his teens and started his career playing country blues on acoustic guitar, finding that singing eased a chronic stutter and helped him to eventually overcome it. Although predominantly associated with acoustic guitar, his skills were developed as a blues bass player, and honed by his subsequent journeys into jazz and electric blues.

so we started the night with a stop at Edzo's - for a char grilled burger for Phil and a crispy griddled burger pour moi... shared "old fries" and topped off our retro meal with milk shakes... can't go wrong there...

Doug played first starting right before 10pm - and he was downright amazing on guitar - his blues singing was very traditional spiced with some humor and upbeat interpretation of some low down tunes.  Really terrific surprise - we loved him!!! hope to see him again (maybe at Bradenton Blues Festival in the future)

and then Janiva- and she commands with the voice of a woman (no little girl folkie whispery voice for her) - came out and knocked the socks off everyone - - - 

some heavy hitters in the guitar back up - three varying leads and even Doug came onstage for a number near the end-

the concert ended at 1am and we headed home in awe of the talent on the small stage last night- we heard four terrific guitarists and Janiva's blow you away vocals... the small but appreciative audience left murmuring accolades to their friends as they entered the cool night air...

tonight Omakase - so always more to return for....

Friday, June 12, 2015

the rest of the week

that flew by- well let's see-

a concert on Saturday night at Folkstage at WFMT- Small Potatoes-

dinner with friends on Sunday night at Cafe Marbella -

dinner with wine buddy and partner Neil on Tuesday at Knife & Tine (OMG I cooked on Monday- how did that happen?)

an unexpected dinner with wine buddy and BFF, Mon, at goosefoot on Wednesday,

Bad Jews at Theater Wit on Thursday

and tonight a concert at SPACE in Evanston (more on that one later) -

Since opening its doors in 2008, SPACE has brought thousands of world class performances to Evanston audiences.  With a rustic and warm ambiance and state-of-the-art technology the venue has become a favorite amongst musicians and music fans of all ages.  SPACE doesn’t fit standard labels such as “jazz club” or “rock club.”  It is a place where music fanatics can get closer to their favorite music and have a uniquely intimate and memorable experience.

tonight Janiva Magness -

this week was also my annual round of doctor visits - eye doc Monday (thanks Dick!) derm doc Tuesday (thanks Laura!) and "women's imagining" LOL Thursday... I am not faint of heart - annual mammography- my mother died of breast cancer and her mother did as I go religiously (despite having no religion- LOL)

so our days fly by and plans get made- next week - three dinners on the schedule before Phil leaves on Friday for the Clearwater Festival with Jeremy & Angela... "and no moss grows on a rolling stone..."

Oh My!

I almost hesitate to begin on this one... but in fairness to my open view policy - here goes. Last night we saw Bad Jews at Theater Wit. I am really at a loss here- this play was seriously funny in an awful way. I laughed harder than I have laughed in the theater in ages. Some of the laughter was mirthful and some was in horror- sheer horror of what the characters were saying to each other.

better get the disclaimer out of the way first- as I have mentioned before I am a-religious (as in have none) and so I hesitate to criticize other religions and won't here but what I will criticize is fanaticism in any form.  My personal experience in life has been that anyone who TELLS you that they are a good Christian probably isn't really, and quoting scripture - the Koran, the Bible, the Torah has in my experience been used as a sword for bashing some other point of view.... yet I know truly good people who are devoutly religious - just not PUBLICALLY so. And I am less open when someone is SELLING me a point of view or belief  than demonstrating living that tenet.

But on with the review- the play has four characters- Jonah (who seems clueless about how to stand up for himself) his brother Liam (who stands up just fine) their cousin Diana (who insists on being called by her Hebrew name- a monster in religious fanatics clothes) and Liam's girlfriend Melody (a innocent bystander in pretty much all ways.)

Here is a blurb from the website about the play-

Nothing brings out the worst in a family like a funeral. Daphna is the most devout Jew in the Feygenbaum family. (Just ask her.) Her cousin Liam is the most deserving first-born. (Just ask him.) Don't ask Liam's brother Jonah anything. In this savagely funny comedy, long standing (and not-so-buried) antipathies boil up in a battle between two cousins over a treasured family heirloom. Stir in the identity curation and you get one of the funniest, wisest, most excruciating plays you'll see this year.

From the opening lines of the play Diana is mean, dishonest and manipulative but she uses her extreme Jewish beliefs and ethnicity to justify some of the most egregious behavior to her relatives you could ever imagine.  She is a shrew who uses her religion to put others down and make herself right and everyone else, not only wrong, but a less worthy person than she believes herself to be.  She is the ultimate "Shonda before the Goyim" type that makes assimilated Jews cringe and anti-semites smirk victoriously. There is no way to begin to describe how ghastly this woman is.  Her horrific behavior peaks when she physically attacks Liam's fiancee for a piece of jewelry she believes she should have as the "uber Jew" in the family.

The set up for the interactions is the death of the beloved grandfather, Popi, a holocaust survivor who brought only one thing out of the camps with him a small gold Chai which he had kept under his tongue for the two years to hide it from the Nazis. This symbol had a family history as substituting for a ring during proposal of marriage and it is to that end that Liam acquires it to propose to Melody even before Popi dies.

Diana loses all sanity about Liam having the Chai and even more so about bestowing it as an engagement token upon Melody (a sweet and innocent non-Jew of typical mixed Northern European American immigrant background)  Diana berates all present that only SHE could be the rightful heir to this religious symbol based upon her (and hers alone) piety as a Jew.  Liam makes lucid points about the flaws in her alleged beliefs.  This isn't an intellectual argument; it's a civil war.  And to give due where it should be given - Diana makes a cogent argument for the necessity of having some of the population be of deeply held conviction if the religion is going to survive another 5,000 years.

Where she, and the play, fails - she is not that person- she does not have any of the goodness that the truly pious have - she is the ultimate narcissistic, egocentric, resentful, envious, righteous character and she will do anything she needs to do to manipulate to the outcome she wants including completely fabricating stories from whole cloth.

There are many discussions that could and should be had about the problems of assimilation and the loss of religious identity - especially in view of the historic costs of holding those beliefs that the Jews have borne. This is not that discussion.  It is however a dark, blackest of black, comedy that brings forth sharply defined reactions to the characters and their situation.  And it is continuing its run in Skokie when it leave the Belmont Avenue based Theater Wit.

This is not for the faint of heart-  here are some excerpts from reviews that give you an idea of what you are in for-
  • Nuanced questions about cultural identity and assimilation and a lot of nervous laughter! Tremendously disquieting
  • Daphna utterly mesmerizing as she dances through Jonah's apartment, performing a kind of scorched-earth psychic ballet. 
  • A stellar piece of emotional bloodsport... jugular-slashing cast... a heartfelt, almost rabbinical debate about what it means to be Jewish. It’s interested in cultural memory, institutional religion, and the tug-of-war between progress and tradition. 
I will leave this one up to you - as I said it is not for the faint of heart...

Monday, June 8, 2015

a new tablet

to use on the road to post - after years of fighting with the iPad I have gone Android... so this is my first post done with the tiny tablet (bigger than a phone but smaller than the iPad)

key things are typing- so far so good

and then photo uploads - which came from various folders and apps - a test which has gone pretty well but I am still not clear how to get these to size to how I want we will have to keep working...

update on the sizing- it can be done on the tablet - just seems like it all has to be saved and then modified as to the size of photos- will keep working on this but am pleased at the ease so far!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

our 2 favorite Amsterdam meals

So we ended up being split about our favorite meal in Amsterdam. Phil's vote went to Bord'Eau (which I also loved) and mine went to Restaurant Vermeer.  I put them slightly ahead of Bord'Eau based upon the edgier approach to the fine dining experience.  Both were fabulous meals with excellent service.  Each had a terrific sommelier to assist with wine lists that were also both full of options we liked.

I liked the quirky note of servers in blue blazers and converse style navy tennis shoes (Vermeer) as I found it just the note of casual the quite stark decor needed to make it more welcoming.  The dining room at Bord'Eau has a really lovely view over the canals (so it gets the edge for the view) and for groups a really fun location of a dining area surrounded by the "wine cellar".  These two restaurants are about as evenly matched as you could find and I suppose that is why our votes were split.  And in the end you couldn't go wrong at either of them.

So off we go into the two meals- I am going to do these individually rather than compare course by course. Both meals started with numerous amuse bouche courses that were delightful (even playful in the case of Vermeer) and both offered seasonal menus that focused on what was fresh at the moment.

jellied consume of chicken-

the crab beignet and crab meat covered with avocado-

what was underneath once you ate the beignets-

an oyster in a a custard with pearls of oyster "juice"

a  bone marrow flavored potato- topped with caviar

the spring green mix with couscous - very fresh tasting

the lobster course-

the fish course-

the lamb - "stuffed" with lardo to make it evenmore succulent-

the miso soaking segment of the slow cooked foie gras course - which is shown below it-

the astounding green apple flavored dessert

the strawberry dessert with meringue - very seasonal!

So that was Phil's favorite and now on to my favorite meal of the Europe trip (not just Amsterdam)

excellent crisped cheese to begin- and "bread sticks" that had a fibrous crunch like celery - so clear they were not bread...LOL

passion fruit and some sorbet? - unfortunately the amuse were not memorialized on a paper menu and therefore I have to let memory serve (good luck with that!)

this course I do remember because they took dry ice and used it table side to whip up a creme fraiche and chive sorbet for the incredible golden beet and red beet sauce that was served as the next amuse-

then the menus arrived - so no matter what you ordered you were already wowed by the amuse selections!

and this is the tasting menu we had- truly epic meal for our last night in Amsterdam!

as we perused the menu our final amuse arrived - a palate cleanser to prepare our selves for the amazing courses to come... (wish I could tell you what it was LOL)

and we begin with scallops with caviar and ketchup made from red cabbage--- described as scallops- carpaccio with black radish, salmon eggs and red cabbage ketchup

poached lobster with rhubarb and avocado - with rhubarb and lobster bouillon- and although not named some kind of sea vegetable as a garnish...

my favorite course (it reminded me of something Jake Bickelhaupt would make at 42 grams) the morrels with cauliflower and a grain (I think barley) and hints of almond flavors- this dish was FABULOUS!

each table had a centerpiece with ceramic fruit and a candle in a wooden bowl -

the next course- white asparagus as the side to the halibut with a carrot sauce-

the sweetbreads were just as good as the previous courses- this time with green asparagus-

the pigeon course- which was too gamy for me but luckily I brought my (squab) pigeon loving husband to help out on this course-

an intermezzo - a terrific white asparagus sorbet with white asparagus panna cotta and crunch of ?

then a beautiful strawberry dessert - with passion fruit ice- and meringue

then three post desserts to really put us over the top!

these sticks were all "cookies" of various sorts!

a really perfect way to end our trip- or almost end it. We were leaving the next morning and our hotel offered a Tesla taxi to the airport and since we don't foresee ever owning a Tesla we decided to take them up on it and ride in one....

Phil loads luggage with the driver-

gets in and then after we arrive - stands for a photo!

so a terrific trip - lots of great art, great food, and mostly blue skies! This is my last post from the nineteen days away in May - but there is always plenty to do at home so stay tuned - - -