Sunday, July 29, 2007

Charlie Trotter's: A Love Letter

Last night, Lisa, Matt and I ate at Charlie Trotter's. My expectations for the night were high, and were more then met by each and every aspect of the evening; excellent dining companions, impeccable and friendly treatment by the front of house staff, and food who's mere memory will be making me flap my arms like a goon for months to come.

Arriving at Charlie Trotter's, we were brought to a table in the upstairs back room. The room had four tables in total, and was simply lovely and elegant. Some would say the decor itself was dated, but I think those people stink. The notion that a restaurant has to have a slick and modern look to be current is a sad one. The building itself just felt good, if that makes any sense. The picture to the left shows a few angles. In the bottom left image, you'll see the table that we sat at in the corner, by the window and wall of wine.

Matt and Lisa made the excellent decision to partake of the premium wine pairing with their meal. Due to my light-weight almost never drinks status, I asked Fletcher, who, along with Molly, a sommelier with a delightful passion for her job, were responsible for revealing our courses to us as they appeared at the table, to recommend a single glass of red for me to nurse throughout the evening.

Lisa and I opted for the Vegetable Menu, and Matt partook of the Grand. Shall we take a look? But of course.

1st Bread:

  • Individual miniature baguettes
1st Course:
  • Vegetable Menu: Machta Green Tea Tapioca with Spring Peas & Green Apple
  • Grand Menu: Scottish Langoustine with Cucumber & Ginger
2nd Bread:
  • Oatmeal square shaped roll
2nd Course:
  • Vegetable Menu: Steamed Twelve Season Miso Cake with Spinach, Easter Egg Radish & Preserved miniature carrots
  • Grand Menu: Poached Cockles with Preserved Celery, Serrano Ham & Roasted Mayan Scarlet Peppers
3rd Bread:
  • Miniature rosemary bagel
3rd Course:
  • Vegetable Menu: Tempura of Summer Squash Blossom with Capers, Zucchini & Heirloom Tomatos
  • Grand Menu: Alaskan Black Cod with Picholine Olives, Artichokes & Stinging Nettles
4th Course:
  • Vegetable Menu: Morel Mushroom Cannelloni with TIny Sage, Summer Leek Custard & Roasted Shallot
  • Grand Menu: Rabbit Loin & Leg with Turnips, Fingerling Potatoes & Mustard Greens
5th Course:
  • Vegetable Menu: Grilled Red Plums with Poached Elephant Garlic, Amaranth & Thai Long Pepper Infused Merlot
  • Grand Menu: Crawford Farm Lamb Loin & Rack with Garlic, Aged Manchego & Parsley
Palette Cleanser:
  • Vegetable Menu: Watermelon Sorbet with Sake Gelee & Cucumber
  • Grand Menu: Canteloupe (Sorbet) with Feta Cheese & Spearamint
Desserts - Shared:
  • Poached White Peaches with Rolled Oats & Lavender (Ice Cream)
  • Indonesian Chocolate (Ice Cream) with Pine Nuts & Pandan Broth
  • Organic Buttermilk with White Pepper, Toasted Milk Ice Cream & Nutmeg
  • Chocolate, Tea (Ice Cream) and Caramel
  • Another ice cream / sorbet-based dish with a red wine-based twist
  • Another ice cream / sorbet-based dish of a trio of lemon and chocolate paired flavours
Dessert - Individual
  • Small cups of gently flavoured, uncooked meringue with a stick of dark chocolate for scooping

I really believe that this was the first tasting menu that I've experienced where I adored everything that was set in front of me. Each dish, as it came to the table, became my new favourite of the night. Because I am fickle like that.

And another because: Because I like lists, here's what I've been able to pull out as things that will be sticking in my mind for a long, long time:
  • Fletcher's excellent sense of humour. When I remarked, as I tend to do, about the laughably large size of my wine glass, he quickly grabbed a glass that was bigger then my head from some magical closet nearby, and set it in front of me.
  • Molly's deep knowledge of wine, and her delight in finding Lisa's similar love. She made recommendations for Lisa's future wine shopping expedition, and made sure to tell Lisa to use her name with one of her suppliers.
  • The plates and cutlery fit so well together, and the plating of each dish? Amazing.
  • The smell of the miniature rosemary bagels. And really, the smell of each plating, and the way that the flavours of each developed in my mouth. With each course, every forkful seemed to reveal a different aspect of each dish. Complex, but, at the same time completely understandable.
  • Favourite parts: the miso cake; the heirloom tomato sauce; the morel cannelloni and leek custard - the cannelloni was actually a morel filling surrounded by skin of leek; the flavour pairing of grilled plums and garlic; the thin layer of chocolate covering a thin layer of caramel under a scoop of tea ice cream; lemon and chocolate
  • And finally, Molly taking us on a quick tour of the kitchen, and the fact that each and every one of the kitchen staff took the time to look up from their station and acknowledged us as we tried to move through the room as quickly and unobtrusively as possible. Lisa's calling out of "behind you" caused more then one to take pause and ask which of use had worked in a kitchen. Which was awesome.

I congratulate and thank those at Charlie Trotter's for an amazing experience. And to Lisa, Matt for being so awesome and clever for coming up with the suggestion to eat there.

The end.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

July is Tourist Month

And last night, Frontera Grill was over run by the jean short wearing lot of them. I wonder how many were there because the food is excellent, and how many were there just because Bayless is famous enough to have been on a multitude of television shows. There's something very wrong about arriving at a restaurant, one that doesn't except reservations, mind you, at 5:30 to be told that it would be a good two hours before they could even think about seating you.

Thankfully, the wonderful Blackbird was able to fit us in, and I don't think we could've had a more lovely meal. The Pinenut Gazpacho was summer in a bowl, and the Buckwheat Crepes were a perfect entree to follow. The dining room was light and airy, and the front of house staff was a delight. So I'm pretty happy that we couldn't get into Frontera, to tell you the truth.

Tonight? Charlie Trotters. Dude.

At Blogher yesterday, I sat in on a couple of technical sessions - accessibility standards and traffic drivers - that made the conference completely worthwhile. I'm hoping that I'll be able to get into the panel discussion that's playing host to Amy Sedaris this afternoon, but I have a feeling that the room is going to be bursting at the seams.

Props to Blogher for:

  • Technical sessions
  • Amy Sedaris
  • Sponsor AOL's awesome swag - a Casauri laptop bag
Not so much with the props to Blogher for:
  • Unfocused Community Building session
  • Caterers who (a) put bacon in the only green salad on the buffet, and (b) decided that vegetarian baked beans would be an excellent vegetarian meal option in the middle of a sweltery, muggy summer.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Sweet, Sweet Chicago, Day 1.5

Chicago makes me smile. That's pretty much the best thing that any city can do, I think. So I guess it's a pretty good thing that that's where I am right now.

I arrived mid-afternoon yesterday, and was promptly whisked away from the utility vest wearing masses at O'Hare by my lovely, lovely friend Lisa. We headed into the city to check me in at my hotel, and headed off in search of CYCLING GOLD.

Matt, Lisa's husband, rides bikes. And when I say he rides bikes, I don't mean that he meanders about the roads like I do, I mean that he gets his ass in races and he picks up points, and sometimes performs magic tricks at the same time. Last night, we all headed down to the velodrome just outside of the city to watch some excellent athletic craziness go down. There's nothing finer then sitting outside with friends you haven't seen in person in a good year watching people ride around and around in circles, sometimes at speeds that make your head spin.

Also, athletic feats provide excellent fodder for the mocking. Because we are horrible, horrible people. Dry humping and disco? I can't even begin to tell you about it.

This morning, after the gym and food shopping for breakfast at Fox and Obel - yes, I've gotten to that point where I've traveled so much that I refuse to eat every meal in a restaurant - I walked on down to the Navy Pier for the start of the BlogHer 07 conference. Where I am now. Blogging. Because I am an utter, utter nerd. In my defense, however, the welcome session that's occurring at this very minute has devolved into what I can only describe as a 700-person theatre game masked as an introduction tool.

Theatre games give me hives. And instead of being a useful tool, they make me feel like a tool. So I have retreated to one of the session rooms, and am patiently waiting for the session-y bits of the day to start.

This evening, we're going to see if the excellently hirsute Rick Bayless' restaurant Frontera Grill will allow us to sample their wares. This is where I clap like a goon.

Oh, people are starting to wander into the room! So post this I will, and see you in a bit, kids.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

I Am Chicago

I'm heading off to Chicago for a while. The Job is sending me to BlogHer, due to our plans to increase participation in social media outlets. And I'm sending me to hang out for a couple of days after the conference ends to spend time with dear friends, Lisa and Matt, and their awesomely handsome and lovable furry faced boys, Otis and Eddie.

Plans for nerdiness? Check.
Plans for dining? Check.
Plans for shopping? Check.


Monday, July 23, 2007

Little Nano Lost

On Friday, I forgot my Nano, the armband it lives in, and my headphones on an elliptical machine at the gym.

I had hopes that the person who came across it would turn it in at the reception desk.

My hopes? Yeah, dashed. So, I am Nano-less.

I think I would be more upset if (a) I had bought the thing instead of winning it, and (b) I didn't have a Shuffle and a Mini sitting in the wings.

But still - I guess I just can't understand how a person can come across something that isn't theirs and just take it. It makes me a little sad. Ah, well...I do hope they're enjoying my excellent Gym playlist.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

A Keller Dish

This is what's cooking in my oven right now:

If you've seen Ratatouille, it might look a little familiar - this is my attempt at Thomas Keller's Confit Byaldi, a layered ratatouille that the film's ultimate dish, and namesake, is based around. I clap my hands! I hope it will be lovely in my belly. Expect pictures of the completed dish later on today.

Edit: Okay, so cooked, it pretty much looks the same. But maybe a little more transparent. So no new pictures for you!

Unfortunately, the NYT requires that you create an account, but it's free, and worthwhile to take the time:

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Era of Soft

For the past year or so, I've been introducing and re-introducing myself to clothing made of soft, soft fabric. Cashmere, pima and modal have changed the way I think of how clothes should feel. Man, oh man.

A few weeks ago, I started thinking about my fall wardrobe. And I bought myself two velvet jackets. Because I feel like autumn? Autumn is a fine time to become a dandy. Strangely enough, in the last two weeks, the unseasonably cold weather outside and the ice-box that is my office have allowed me to bring these pieces onboard earlier then I had anticipated. Delight!

I can't decide which I love more - the cognac sporty version, or the orchid violet military band sucker.

Well, see for yourself - what do you think?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Multiplying! Like Rabbits!

That is my fear. Why, you ask? Because I have a hankering to add another soul the the menagerie I wear around my neck. Say hello to Filou Design's Bunny from the Enchanted Forest collection:

Think I should chance being over-run by the buns?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

I Do Not Have A Time Machine

Which is a shame, as I found myself wishing, fleetingly, for one last night.

Don't get me wrong - Built to Spill is an amazing, startling band. But my favourite version of Built to Spill? 1994's There's Nothing Wrong with Love. And that's the band that I found myself wishing that I was watching. Right before I started wishing I was still as stupid as I was back in 1994, when I got crazy-enjoyment out of standing for hours in a sardine-packed-like rock club, smelling other people's sweat as they rocked out.

But it isn't, and I didn't, and I came away with the realization that I've used up all my rock-out-with-your-cock-out hanging about years ago.

That sounds full of complaints, though, doesn't it? So let me tell you about the things that ruled about the evening:

  • Doug Marsch is a controlled explosion of beautiful noise
  • Indie rock beard was representing in full effect
  • Bumping into people that I haven't seen in years
  • Opening band Attack in Black

Monday, July 09, 2007

Big. Dumb. Movie.

Transformers is a big, dumb movie. Excellent to watch with the explosions and robot transformations and effects, horrible for anything resembling a story.

Summer movie, through and through.

I wish I had liked it more then I did, but when a relic of your childhood is re-invented, it's hard not to approach it with expectations.

The excellence of the Transformers cartoon was the fact that the focus was on the struggle between two robot forces, and everything that happened with humanity? Side story. There was a certain elegance about how the Autobots interactedwith humanity, and Optimus Prime NEVER would've been the clueless, demanding brat, uttering the phrase, "My bad".

But still, stuff blows up. And blows up good.

Friday, July 06, 2007


I watch a lot of movies. A lot. I gots me a bunch o' movie channels with my cable package, and my, do I make great use of them. Thing is, this has made me into a very lazy first-run, get out of the house and into a movie theatre movie watcher.

A film has to make me madly excited to actually want to make the effort to see it when it first comes out. And so far, this summer, Ratatouille is the only film that has made me want to sit in a dark room with overly talkative strangers.

I made use of today's corporate holiday to take myself out to the movies, and dammit, am I glad I did. On paper, Ratatouille seemed like a film that was made for me to adore. A kitchen based on five star restaurants in Paris? Check. Dishes based on the time animators spent interning in Thomas Keller's (who has a bit-part as a restaurant patron in the North American version) French Laundry? Check. A witty, talking rat who wants to be more then he is told that he can be, with an overwhelming love of food? Dammit, check!

Yes, Ratatouille is a Disney / Pixar production. It is also one of the most well written films, catering not to babyish and cloyingly sweet dialogue, but in passionate belief and love of embracing your own talent to succeed.

I think I really fell in love with this movie when Colette, one of the chef's in the restaurant's kitchen, lays out the truth of what being a woman in the culinary world is like, as well as the truths of the kitchen - including the importance of a clean workstation, and how to properly hold your arms when cooking. It's smart - a real and true rarity in widely released films these days.

Writing aside, it's also an amazing, beautiful piece of artwork to watch. At times, I forgot that I was seeing something that was animated - the movement of fur, the reflective metallic surfaces of the pots and pans, the emotive facial expressions...I could go on - but watch the trailer for yourself, and you'll see what I mean!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Crapsticks - I've Been Tagged

8 Random Things About Me - This is Amblus's Fault

I respond poorly to compiling these kinds of lists. My first reactions is always fear that I'll never come up with enough things to fill up all the slots o' random - not because I have nothing to say, but because everything else I post about is randomly chosen bits of random randomness. If you've spent any time here, you know of my fascination with pirates and read-a-thons and clothes and revealing the random minutia of my everyday life. Lists like this kind of make me wish that I had decided to create a theme-blog, so I'd have things to talk about that you haven't read before.

I confess that there are things that I don't generally talk about here. For instance, I really do shy away from posting about work. Okay, so I might tell you about how I have been known to doing The Robot in the middle of my department's workspace, or how I'm attending a Usability / Information Architecture / Social Media conference for work, or how I use my co-workers as guinea pigs for my kitchen experiments, but that's as deep as I'll go. For some reason, things like what goes on at my job seem like a far too private thing to talk about on-blog, and to do so would simply lack professionalism. Says the woman who breakdances in the middle of her office.

Sometimes, the idea of being succinct and I have wars. WARS OF WORDS.

I think random capitalization is still shit-hot funny. Also on this list of things that have been, and will continue to be, over-used by me because I will never find them not funny are: shaking a fist at the sky; throat punching; and buying matching sateen jackets with a gang name written across the back, a la The Pink Ladies. I also have a sneaking suspicion that I am no where near as funny as I think I am.

Nigel Barker is my #1 Reality TV Show boyfriend.

I used to think that I if I came into a windfall of cash that I wouldn't be able to hack the life of the idle rich. I don't think that any more. If you are a bargazillionaire, please write me into your will.

For a while, I seemed to move to a new home every year, for work, or grad school, or...okay, only for work and grad school. I have no reason to move now. I own my own home. I own my own home that feels utterly and completely like me. And yet? I am itchy. I kind of want to move to a new house. Just because I want to be in a new set of walls. I am aware that that makes no sense, and put the kibosh on the urge every time it surfaces.

I'm disappointed by the lot of you (I SEE YOU) that have clicked through to the comment page on the post prior to this one and not said anything. Especially you kids that have done so from a computer connected to my workplace network. And I have just outed myself as (a) scary, and (b) a nerd that knows the server address of my place of employment.

I'm not going to tag anyone, and most of the people who I would poke at have already done this one.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Why Are You Here?

A few months back, I talked about why I blog. Now, I want to know: why do you read me?

And yes, dammit, I'm trying to get you kids to talk to me - I know you're there! Looking at my site stats, I'm averaging about 800 readers a week, and I know a mess of you have subscribed to my RSS feed. Why don't you talk to me? Am I that scary?

Talk to me, dammit!