Tracy’s last post went back to the beginnings of our blog and our friendship. Also, it was a set-up for the post you are about to read. Tracy and I had not been in the same place since March 2010, so it was far past time for us to rendezvous, catch up and eat. We’re going to narrate this post simultaneously with paragraphs denoted by our first initial. And there will be many food pictures and jealousy (on your part). Some of the pictures are of a lower quality, because I am a champ at forgetting my camera and had to use my iPod for a lot of them.
R: Tracy got into town around4:30, I met her at 5:30, and we got this show on the road. We had decided to make roasted butternut squash ravioli with a sage brown butter sauce with a friend of mine (who conveniently has a lovely kitchen and a pasta maker.) So, we collected the things we needed (lots of butter, sage, shallots, etc) and headed out to my friend’s house.
T: It should be noted that the Basketball Player (that would be the woman with a pasta machine and great kitchen) helped make a great first night in Chicago. Music playing, a dog catching all my dropped food morsels, and new stories told by old and new friends. Thanks Basketball Player for your contribution to a great night! Now, on with dinner.
R: She already had bread started, which we soon ate with some of Tracy’s sweet potato butter, and the Garrett’s popcorn we had also picked up on the way. What took the longest for this recipe was roasting the squash, but once that was done, we were on our way to pasta. We did make one substitution, ricotta instead of cream, which was more out of convenience than out of concern for our health (brown butter sauce). Luckily, it was a great substitution and made the filling kind of light and fluffy. Tracy was in charge of browning the butter. It made the sage crispy, which added a surprising but subtle layer of texture. In my opinion, and I think my cohorts would agree, this was one of the best meals I’ve made/had in a long time. It was definitely worth the waiting and the work. Those little ravioli just melted in my mouth. And there’s a few waiting for me in the freezer still!
T: I was thinking the other day that I have had similar meals in fancy restaurants, for about $20. I think the three of us ate that night, extremely happily, for about $15 in ingredients. Not bad. Not bad. What more can be said? Fresh pasta. Fresh pasta! (and butter)
R: Tracy and I slept in on Saturday and decided to make pancakes for breakfast, but these were no ordinary pancakes. I had discovered about a year ago that grinding up raw sunflower seeds in my coffee grinder made a usable flour option. The first time I used sunflour (just go with it) to make pancakes, the pancakes came out a bright green. This time the greening was more subtle, but the pancakes were just as delicious. I used a standard pancake recipe, and added in just a little wheat flour to help the pancakes stick together. We ate the pancakes with agave, Nutella, sweet potato butter, and local honey, not all at once.
T: Don’t forget the freshly squeezed grapefruit and orange juice. A lazy Saturday morning. Making breakfast in our pajamas, eating half of it with our fingers and joking with The Comedian (Rachel’s roommate) and Murder Mystery (Rachel’s roommate’s coauthor). We finally deciding we should probably brave the outdoors.
R: After spending some time in a local independent bookstore, Tracy and I started to get hungry again. This time we headed over to Falafill, a falafel restaurant where you get basic falafel and then are able to top your falafel with all manner of mediteranean salads and toppings. Taboulah, faul, Jerusalem salad, shredded carrots salad, spicy potatoes, minted cabbage, (they usually have minted beets too, but not this time, sorry Tracy), curry aioli, pickles, pickles turnips, yogurt sauce, olives, garlic sauce, and tahini sauce; all delicious. Falafill is one of my favorite places to grab a meal in the city, and pretty much everyone loves it. What’s not to love?
T: Rachel topped our falafel. I have to say, it was certainly difficult to distinguish all the ingredients. But in the end, who cares? They were all delicious. Maybe even better all mixed together. Either way, hunger disappeared while laughing at headlines from The Onion. Now, onward!
R: We wandered the city for a while, ended up reading in the winter garden of the Harold Washington Library before meeting up with some mutual friends from Toledo, my former roommate (Ms. Executive Suite) and her boyfriend (Science Man). With our forces combined, we decided to take on Xoco, the cafe next door to Rick Bayless’s Frontera Grill.
T: That is, after munching a bit at the our friend’s hotel. Apparently Ms. Executive Suite gets free nibblies for traveling a lot. Thankfully she and Science Man were willing to share. It helped tide us over on the wait for a table at Xoco.
R: I had been to Xoco before for hot chocolate and churros, but I was excited to eat their real food. There was an hour wait, but it was totally worth it.
T: Of course it was worth it. The host ensured that we had beer and wine to keep ourselves busy while waiting. Free samples win every time!
R: I had a carnitas caldo… which is like spicy pork soup. It was really spicy. We were given bread to go with it, after the host saw us struggling with the water to spicy things ratio. My favorite thing was what Science Man had… but I don’t exactly remember what is was. It was kind of like a sandwich sitting in sauce, which seems more italian than mexican, to be honest.
T: Maybe it was the ahogada torta ( Golden pork carnitas). I had the Seafood Caldo which included mussels, catfish and shrimp in a slightly spicy tomato broth. I could have licked my bowl, but I resisted. More was yet to come.
R: But the best part was the hot chocolate at the end of the meal. I got the authentic, which is mostly just cocoa beans and water, no milk need apply. It’s just so tangy and chocolaty. Insurmountably fantastic.
T: I accidentally ordered the original hot chocolate, but was not disappointed. Mine included milk. Creamy and delicious. Great way to end a great meal.
R: And then there was a hotel party.
T: And we should leave it at that.
R: Sunday morning meant a gigantic brunch situation, because we added in The Comedian and another friend from Calvin and her boyfriend. So the seven of us met up at The Bongo Room. We did have to wait a while because that place is pretty popular, but finally we sat down to various types of benedicts, for the most part. I had the BLT benedict, with bacon, spinich, tomato, and a pesto hollandaise. Potatoes with dill! It was delightful.
T: The wait wasn’t so bad. Apparently Chicago understands that bringing a beverage to a waiting group will always make them happy! I had the spinach, roasted red pepper and feta benedict. The hollandaise. And those poached eggs. So creamy. So delightful. And those potatoes were crazy good.
R: We also ordered a plate of pumpkin pancakes for the table, which were served with some crazy maple cream cheese stuff. We were stuffed to the gills.
T: Best Choice All Day. Those pumpkin pancakes were A-MAZ-ING! I was not hungry again til dinner time. No kidding.
R: In the afternoon, we decided to just have a chill day. We watched a movie, and sat around and talked. We drank the last of my yuengling and planned to have stuffed pizza for dinner. Now I know there are differing views on the best place for stuffed pizza, but I may have found a new favorite. We went to Nancy’s on Broadway, mostly because it was close, also because I had heard good things. Listen, that pizza was phenomenal. And we stuffed it with onions, artichokes, spinach and green peppers. There was a nice balance between crust, cheese and stuffing.
T: Unlike a lot of stuffed pizza, this one managed to be fairly “light”. Rachel and I split our second piece (I mean, they are huge pieces) but I certainly got my fill without worrying about wobbling onto the Megabus.
R: I think the weekend was, at least, a culinary/gastronomical success! I still don’t know if I am keeping the sourdough starter Tracy brought along alive. I’m not convinced it’s still growing. And I still haven’t tried all the pickled/canned items I was gifted from Tracy’s larder. However, it was a blessing to see my fabulous friend and spend real time in the kitchen. We didn’t do a lot that didn’t involve eating, but we did have a lot of time to catch up with each other and our friends, which is really what sharing meals is all about.
T: A great [yummy] weekend indeed. It was fantastic to meet members of Rachel’s Chicago life and to be reunited with some of our Toledo life.
The KitK ladies wish you all a week filled with good friends and good food. Happy Eating!