I am continuing my Chicago trip and letting you in on all the activities.
I went to Chicago to see my dear friend Robert, who I have not seen since my wedding June 2010. We were due for a visit and since I could not get him to come to CA, I got on a plane to see him. He wanted to come to CA but his work schedule is crazy and getting away is tough. I find myself getting on planes a lot to see friends but the effort is well rewarded with quality face time with my friends.
Robert moved back home to Chicago a couple of years ago and I miss him terribly. We met when I was handling publicity for a high-end bridal designer named St. Pucchi. Robert was the owner’s right hand person and a very talented designer. We became fast friends and we seemed to be the only sane people around. The owner was a nutjob and drove us both crazy and we commiserated over cocktails often about her. Our connection with her is no more but Robert and I have become, and will remain close friends.
Robert is one of those people who just has an extra large heart. He wants to help everyone and is always up for a challenge that uses his immense creativity – whether it’s creating a one-of-a-kind dress for me (including my wedding dress), or helping decorate your house (he covered my last bathroom in silver-foil – it was GORGEOUS!). He also recovered all of my couches and made throw pillows and does it effortlessly and with a smile. His talent is incomparable. Martha Stewart would be incredibly jealous. Nate Berkus? Robert would easily win a design contest against him.
Robert picked me up from PUBLIC and I felt instantly special, as he had a pink rose for me in the car – so sweet! At his place, there were pink roses everywhere in my honor – even a pink rose in the bathroom. It is these little things that confirm my suspicion that Robert is a genius when it comes to detail. We lunch on homemade split pea soup – you saw the recipe yesterday. He also made homemade herb biscotti which was to die for. For dessert – homemade brownies and Lavender sugar cookies. He sure knows how to make someone feel welcome. I got to meet his and Bill’s two new pugs – Bucky and Mochi – adorable, solid rump roasts covered with fur and full of love. They both fought for my lap (that is, if Robert was busy).
We head out to Naperville – a picturesque, cute little town that has a Riverwalk. It is gorgeous! The weather was crisp and sunny and therefore perfect for a nice leisurely stroll along the water. If I lived in Chicago, I would go to this area often. Great paths for walking or jogging, rolling little hills with excellent places for a picnic or sledding in the winter. They have a dock which must contain canoes or rowboats in the summer. Whoever designed this whole park did an excellent job. We stopped in a few cute shops in the town as well before heading home.
A quick shower (their water pressure is AMAZING!!) and we were off to dinner at Bistronomic. It was not my first choice for dinner. I REALLY wanted to go to Alinea, which is ALL the talk with foodies. But they were booked for TWO months! And then I chose Girl and The Goat but they too were completely booked. Damn. Bistronomic got the best new restaurant for 2011 by Chicago Magazine so I figured it must be good.
The space is small but cozy with good lighting. The decor was sparse and homogenized. So many restaurants are into the sleek and simple look and unfortunately, this means that they all end up looking the same. It’s the Ikea-ization of the world – so simple that it is boring. Maybe the food is supposed to be the focal point but I like something visually intriguing to look at.
The appetizers were very good. Robert got sardines (blech), Bill got the grilled cheese (gourmet version of course dahling) and I got the butternut squash ravioli with a burnt butter sauce. They added balsamic vinegar to the sauce which completely overpowered everything. Now, I KNOW my squash ravioli. I have been trying them at many restaurants ever since I had the first, original version at the ORIGINAL first Todd English restaurant Olive’s in Charlestown, MA. They had a tortelli with butternut squash, sage and brown butter and after eating it, I had my very first food orgasm. It was sublime. Not too sweet, not too savory, incredibly vibrant flavors that were soft on the palette and completely satisfying. We ordered two more immediately and proceeded to eat them in silence, our eyes rolling back and our toes curling. I have yet to EVER eat any squash or pumpkin ravioli that is as good. I recall having the same dish at the Olive’s in Las Vegas and sadly, it was not as good. It didn’t taste as fresh and did not have that genius balance of flavor. Oh well.
Back to Bistronomic – For entrée, I had the short ribs and they were delicious. A bit heavy, but yummy. I can’t remember what Robert had but I know Bill had the duck. We all liked our dishes but were not wowed. Dessert was a crepe that was pretty darn good and a chocolate crème brulee that was way too overpowering in the chocolate area and had a strange consistency, so it tasted like jello chocolate pudding and not a decadent dessert made by a master. Overall, the food was good but I would not go back. There is much better food to be had. Alinea – I’m coming to you one of these days!!
Home for a brief chat and cuddle with the pugs and then to bed. Tomorrow – another day with Robert in Chicago!!