Wednesday, December 28, 2011

where we ate: xmas 2011 edition

thanks to my pesky ear infection, we laid low and close to home for most of this vacation. lucky for us, close to home still yields a ton of great food choices.

arrived on 12/22 after 17 hours in the car, so no energy to do a lot of anything, and no real desire for anything heavy (especially after happy hour milkshakes at steak and shake back in Ohio). We ordered some sushi from Itto's, an old standby that's two blocks from my parents' house: inari, tamago, caterpillar roll, veggie maki of some sort, and some goma ae, my favorite preparation of spinach.

12/23: went on a grocery expedition and ran other errands, with a stop at Char Dog, aka Wiener's Circle: you know it's a neighborhood institution when it has its own wikipedia entry. My favorite local pad thai for dinner from Noodles in the Pot.

christmas eve: My parents go out to breakfast together every Saturday morning. This weekend we joined them, along with my sister and her boyfriend. We went to Marmalade, a new-ish spot run by a former chef at M Henry, another of their favorite breakfast spots. The menu here was inventive, with lots of sweet and savory options. I ended up with the euro breakfast: Butternut squash, applewood smoked bacon, leek, and scallions wrapped in a crepe; accompanied by two eggs, any style, house potatoes, and cranberry cognac chicken sausage, finished with a red wine reduction. This is my favorite way to eat: little bits of everything, all well-balanced and harmonious. Tim had an eggs benedict variation of some sort, and ordered the chorizo on the side so that I could snack on it. Saturday nights growing up, every weekend since I can remember, we have had Chinese food. Our restaurant of choice has changed over the 30+ years of this tradition. The first place I can remember us ordering from was called Paris Inn, which was a couple doors down from a movie theater, and also about a block from our jewelry store. Our current go-to location is Jade East. Sweet and sour chicken, char siu chow fun, chow mein, and fried rice, every week, without fail. This food tastes like nostalgia to me. I can't get enough.

christmas day: lots of cooking! I am very lucky that both of my siblings are accomplished cooks, with similar tastes. brunch: baked french toast with berries and fresh whipped cream, peach cobbler, geoff's breakfast hash (potatoes and bacon and other good stuff), soyrizo with rice, spinach crustless quiche, chicken sausage, cantaloupe, grapefruit, mimosas. Dinner: turkey, slow braised (slow cooker) brisket, baked sweet potatoes with brown sugar, garlic mashed potatoes, stuffing, braised and glazed brussels sprouts, arugula salad with roasted beets, (and walnuts and ricotta salata), cranberries, rice, cheddar garlic biscuits, key lime pie, banana cream pie.

12/26: leftovers for breakfast, because who can pass up good post-holiday leftovers. Edwardos stuffed spinach pizza with our friend Jeremy while we caught up on watching our friend Jason on Jeopardy and played a couple of games of Scrabble. A healthy dinner of popcorn and milk duds while watching Hugo (what a sweet movie and what beautiful effects! now I must read the book).

12/27: Salt and Pepper diner for some excellent pancakes - somehow, everyone in my family prefers thin, chewy pancakes to light and fluffy ones. I didn't realize this until this year, when we randomly got on the subject of pancakes. I don't remember eating a lot of them growing up, and I definitely didn't eat them thin and chewy when mom made them at home. We did go out now and then for Dutch Baby pancakes at Grannys or Original Pancake House, but I am still intrigued that we all independently arrived at this pancake style as we've gotten older. Tim wanted to trek out to a brewery that he's been eyeing for years, so we hiked out to Indiana to check out Three Floyds. Beers: Robert the Bruce, a dark brown Scotch Ale; Black Sun, a coffee-y stout; a four beer sampler; and an Arctic Panzer Wolf (their website says: "9.5% ABV 100 IBUs. A massive IPA that will leave your palate its hapless victim". Scorched earth is our brewery policy"). Also fries for both of us, a bowl of homemade ramen in dashi broth with pork belly and a soy-infused egg for me (all pub food should be this good!), and mac and cheese for Tim. I drank one beer, and promptly slept all the way back to Illinois once we got in the car. Walked a bit of this food off at zoolights at Lincoln Park Zoo, and finished the night with two episodes of the new Sherlock Holmes on the bbc, and some ribs from Carson's, which has been around since right about when I was born. They pale in comparison to Dinosaur BBQ and some other favorites of mine, but they do the job.

12/28: Mom made breakfast! French toast, chicken sausage, bacon and fresh fruit. This was a filling breakfast, and I am also a little burned out on eating, so lunch ended up being baguette, cheese and fruit. Ventured out for one final meal in the neighborhood, Vietnamese at Simply It (which is a silly name). Tim had a vegetarian pho named Erika (no idea why) and I had Bun Bo Xao va Cha Gio: marinated beef, rice noodles, egg rolls, and a bunch of veggies on the side (bean sprouts, lettuce, onions, cukes, pickled carrots), all accompanied by a chili fish sauce. We couldn't leave town without a cupcake, so the last stop of the trip was Molly's, where I got a mixed berry and a cookies n creme (split both with sister's boyfriend) and Tim had a butterscotch caramel.

And that brings us to now. Tim's asleep since he's driving 17 hours tomorrow, while I capture all the culinary goodness of this trip. Aside from Marmalade and Carson's, all of these foods can be acquired within a square mile of my parents' house. I get so spoiled when I come back here.

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