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Archive for May, 2007

Ahh yes….the great argument regarding “pink” wine.  I am a devoteé of true pink wines in the summertime.  White Zinfandel does not count.  Pinks scream “warm, breezy evenings on the porch” without the hot flush of a true red wine.  Charmed and I were perusing the local Sam’s Club Tuesday when we encountered this:

It’s Codorniu Pinot Noir Rosé.  Not only was it pink but it was fizzy AND pink!!!  I was excited!  This lovely brut cava spoke of raspberries and strawberries with a hint of citrus on the finish.  It was only $10.50.  Yesterday was the last day at my job and we felt the need to celebrate a bit.  I didn’t feel the least bit crazy dragging out my Waterford Peace toasting flutes for this inexpensive sparkler. Charmed made a pithy toast to “May you find peace….” and after I glared at him over my glass while trying not to laugh, he choked on his cava a bit.  Serves him right.  😉 

In seriousness, I don’t think you can go wrong with Spanish cava.  I’ve found the price to always be affordable and the offerings to be quality.  I enjoyed this sparkler, Charmed’s pseudo-toast, and my (hopefully!) new-found peace.  You can read more about Codorniu and their offerings here.  I’ll be heading back to Sam’s for more!

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We had to make a quickie journey to Chicago this weekend so that Charmed could get more pages for his passport and then send it off to the consulate for his visa.  What better opportunity to sample some fantastic food in the city!

We chose Osteria Via Stato, a Lettuce Entertain You restaurant.  In a word, YUM!!

They offer an interesting approach to dining – the “Italian Dinner Party.”  Basically this is a Prix Fixe menu, however, instead of bringing you one item for each course they bring you ALL OF THEM with the exception of the main entree which you select.

We saw the cocktail list and had to begin with a seasonal elixir.  I chose the Strawberry-Rhubarb Mojito and Charmed had the Caipirinha that was made with red wine.  Both were very interesting twists on the originals.

For the Antipasti we had House-Cured Olives with Lemon and Rosemary, Italian Vegetable Salad, Parmesan-Crusted Onion, Mozzarella Boccacino and Braised Veal Meatballs.  These servings reminded us of Spanish Tapas in their presentation and quantity.  Below are the onions and meatballs.

On the onions, anyone who knows me will tell you, “Lucky doesn’t like onions.”  This is very true.  I love garlic, but I will never deliberately put an onion in something I eat.  Now, I won’t go so far as to pick out onions in a dish – if they’re cooked in, I can taste them and it’s not a problem, (but I’m probably thinking that the dish would be better without them.)  These onions though?  Unlike anything I’ve ever tasted.  Super-sweet, and with the cheese?  Heaven.  I had seconds of these.  I even took some back to the hotel!  (Really, Mom….I haven’t been abducted by aliens!)

Next they brought us two different kinds of pasta – Gemelli with Brown Butter and Sage and Pappardelle with Chicken Ragu.  At this point we also decided to take advantage of their “Just Bring Me Wine” program to accompany the meal.  They have three levels of quality / price for their wine flights.  We chose Level 1, the least expensive, and for $15 each we received three different wines and generous pours of each to accompany the meal.  Our first offering was a dry white – Pipoli Aglianico “Chiaro Bianco” Basilicata 2005.  This was light, crisp and citrusy with mineral tones on the finish. 

We then received our entrees.  For the main course, we were given fourteen different choices.  I chose the Pan Roasted Sea Scallops and Charmed chose the Pork Shank. 

 

The scallops were fresh and cooked to perfection.  They had just an edge of browned crispness which stood nicely against the bite of leeks, the softness of mushrooms and richness of the truffle brown butter.

The pork shank was tender and falling off the bone as the waiter served it.  The broth was fragrant with root vegetables, garlic and onions.  Together the flavors were harmonious, creating a wonderful stew reminiscent of comfort food from a cold winter’s meal.

We were also presented with two side dishes – Calabrian Roasted Potatoes and Roasted Asparagus.  Both were very tasty, but at this point I concentrated more on the main course knowing that I was getting VERY full! 

We were brought two wines to accompany this portion of the meal since we were slow in ordering the wine service.  The first was a 2004 Stella Montepulciano Abruzzo.  Very round tannins, big red fruit.  The second was a 2003 Romio Fiorli Sangiovese Emilia-Romagna.  This wine had more bite than the first with harsher tannins.  The fruit here was bright cherry.  We enjoyed both immensely for their respective qualities.

We finished our meal with Basil Panna Cotta.  This was not included on the Italian Dinner Party menu – we just had to have it.

The cold creaminess of the dessert paired well with the spicy, minty flavor of the basil.  This was served with candied orange peel but it wasn’t crispy.  It had obviously been slow cooked until soft but was it fantastic!  I’ve already charged Charmed with making this in the future.

This meal (not counting cocktails ($6 @), the dessert ($5) and the wine service ($15 @)) was only $35.95 per person!  If you wanted more of the Antipasti or the Pasta courses, you had but to ask and they appeared!  I highly recommend this as a change from Maggiano’s (another LEY restaurant) where they serve huge portions of one Italian dish. 

Osteria Via Stato        620 N. State St.  Chicago        312-642-8450

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Well, that’s what she calls it, anyway. We’re lucky kitties that live in the country and our Mama has made sure that even when the grass looks like we need to raise some goats our catnip patch is in good shape. We just got in our first harvest.

That’s me, Toby, doing a little quality control. I was voted “Most Likely to Enter a 12-Step Program” due to my love of ‘nip. Lucky keeps us a stash of dried catnip on the dining room platerail and when I am jonesing for a fix, I just try to climb the doorframe. EVERY kitty in the house knows what that means and they come runnin’!

Ahh….we love our Mama! Time to bask in the glory of my buzz on the floor with Oscar…

You can check out what all the other kitties are doing for their weekend at The House of Mostly Black Cats!

Pleasantly stoned,

Toby

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Charmed is a culinary genius.  I accept this.  I am lucky to be able to make spaghetti (boil noodles, open jar of sauce to simmer in separate pan – dinner’s ready when noodles are cooked.) so to open the fridge, survey the contents and pull together a meal of the bits is like….well, amazing to me!  (I know most of you do this all the time…..)

From hosting Italian Night we had leftover alfredo sauce and chicken.  We had some broccoli in the crisper.  He knew there was shrimp in the freezer.  There’s pasta in the cabinet.  He had some mushrooms and a sharp knife, so Lucky and Charmed had dinner!

We paired this with a lovely 2000 Merryvale Dutton Ranch Chardonnay.  I’m in the process of cellar cleaning.  This was a perfect match with oak and butter with a surprising amount of pear and crisp fruit for a wine of its age.  It complemented the fattiness of the alfredo and the smokiness of the chicken while not overpowering the shrimp.

While this wasn’t a culinary masterpiece, it made us very happy.  Cheers to leftovers!!

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Anthony’s = Dismal

A little backstory for you… Anthony’s is a “Supper Club” and started out as being exclusive…  The owners originally stated that they were going to charge for a membership and everyone would have a keycard, etc., etc.  In Danville.  Illinois.  Yeah.  Can we say “lead balloon?”  In April the owners got wise to the fact that business was a smidge slow.  They decided to – GASP! – allow just ANYONE in!!  And….even worse….in casual clothing!   Charmed and I were discussing the change of heart with a friend (G.E.) on Friday night.  No one wanted to cook so we decided, as the common rabble, to give them a try. 

It said in the CN article that reservations were recommended so we called ahead for 8PM.  When we arrived, there were two other tables dining in what I believe to be a 15 table restaurant and two women seated at the bar.  It was exceptionally dark.  So dark that I couldn’t take photos without alarming everyone in the room.  Didn’t bode well.  Our servers, one of whom who was training, were certainly gracious but couldn’t make up for the lack of fresh specials (everything on special was frozen) and the wines missing from the already short wine list.  When our (3rd choice) wine was served, it was brought to our table already open, wrapped entirely in a linen napkin so that the label was not visible, and then poured directly into our glasses without allowing anyone to sample or even smell the wine.  After it was poured, the server proceeded to stuff the cork back into the bottle upside down.  I cringed and as soon as her back was turned, removed it from the bottle.

Charmed and G.E. chose to order the sirloin, medium rare with vegetables and baked potato.  I thought I’d try the catfish.  G.E. also ordered us an appetizer plate with shrimp, bruschetta and mushrooms.  The appetizer was the best part of the meal and even then, the combination of peppers and mushrooms didn’t seem to go right together.  The shrimp and bruschetta were okay – nothing fancy, but tasty. 

The steaks.  Well, they weren’t sirloins.  The server assured us that they were, but both Charmed and G.E. know their cuts of meat and these were very, very tough and difficult to cut.  (Even to my untrained eye, these looked like no sirloins I’ve ever ordered!)  The server went to the chef and he prepared one “filet” for them to sample since they weren’t happy with their “sirloins.”  While this wasn’t a “filet” as in “filet mignon” (I’m not sure if they were just using the term “filet” as a verb) it was certainly better and the steak knife easily moved through the meat.  Charmed and G.E. nibbled a couple bites of the pseudo-filet with their potatoes and we all essentially gave up on the food and decided to finish our wine.  I can say that the server DID take off half of the cost of the “sirloin” meals.  Totally more than I expected to have happen.

I am very, very disappointed.  I would think that an establishment attempting to cater to an upscale clientele will have a relationship with a butcher / meat purveyor from whom they can purchase fresh cuts of meat and not rely on the same supplier that brings in everything else.  This is Central Illinois!  Land of corn-fed cows!  How hard can it be?  Ahh…but is it cheap enough? 

Sadly, I don’t think Anthony’s is long for this world.  I hoped for it in the beginning – even with the original pretentious plan – to be another option for upscale dining.  This meal was ANYTHING but upscale.

Oh, and the April CN article also stated that there was an Elvis Impersonator scheduled to perform on the 18th.  If he did, he was gone by 8PM.

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Our Mama’s crazy….or just busy….we’re not really sure on all these human emotions.  For us it’s “on catnip” or “off catnip.” 

She was sorting for a rummage sale today and we decided to help her. 

 

We kept her boxes warm.  She’d shoo us out and we’d hop back in.  She said that wasn’t helping. 

She sorted papers.  We went sledding on them.  She said (much louder!) that we weren’t helping. 

We decided to then just fight in the middle of the floor and pull each other’s hair out.  She said that if we didn’t go play elsewhere (She said something about a place called “traffic” but we don’t know where that is!) and stop helping that she’d put price tags on us and give us away if no one would buy us.  She used funny “bunny ear” fingers when she said the word “helping.”

We’ll be under the bed until the rummage is over Saturday afternoon.

Nervously yours,

Toby and Egbert

P.S. – There are other cool cats blogging here that probably aren’t under the bed.

P.P.S. – Mama said that we had to come back on here and tell you that the rummage sale is over and we were not sold.  We live here to pester her another day!  Hooray!

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I finally did it.  I got up the nerve to say (politely), “Take this job and shove it.”

After many months of soul-searching (and complaining!) I wrote the letter and said goodbye.  While I will miss the people I worked with, the management (or lack thereof) will not be a sad loss. 

To those of you who have supported me through the past 2.75 years, you’ve been invaluable.   To those of you I’ve just gotten to know, I look forward to having the opportunity to do more here and in other facets of my life.

Here’s to the beginning of a new life……whatever it may bring!

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