Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Birthday Dinner

My husband's birthday is October 13th, and I'm beginning to plan the birthday dinner party for him and his family. There will be six of us, and when I cook for six or more people on a weeknight, I generally like to do a one-pot meal (like gumbo, or chicken stew, etc) that I can possibly make ahead. For Chip's birthday dinner, I'm thinking about making Indian food.

I have a few go-to Indian dishes that I make regularly. I really like these Chicken Kebabs with Cilantro-Mint Chutney. I have two tomato-based chicken curry dishes that I go back and forth on, both from the All Recipes website: Indian Chicken Curry II and Fragrant Chicken Curry. Both are good, but neither of them really blow my socks off. So, I thought I'd ask you guys! Do you have a "blow-your-socks-off" chicken curry recipe that you can recommend?

So far, I am leaning towards this Chicken Tikka Masala recipe that was featured on one of my most favorite blogs, Posie Gets Cozy. It is by no means a healthy recipe (see that butter? that heavy cream?), so I probably won't be adding it to my regular rotation, but it might be good for a special occasion.

Chip's family all love Indian food and aren't scared of spicy dishes at all, so bring on the curry recipe recommendations!

Saturday, September 11, 2010


A few weeks ago Chip found out that he had to go to the Chicago area for a work meeting on Monday. I'd been wanting to go to Chicago for quite some time. I'd never been but heard great things about the city. We decided to fly in Friday night, then I would head back home Sunday afternoon. Like all our trips, our focus was on eating!

Friday night we hit up Blackbird for a late dinner. In 2004 Blackbird Chef Paul Kahan won the Best Chef: Midwest James Beard award. I'd read about this restaurant in Food + Wine and was really looking forward to having dinner there.

Blackbird is very hip, modern, and sleek. The white walls are illuminated with soft hues from hidden lighting. The effect was a brightly lit dining room with lots of energy. The food is contemporary fare creatively plated using local ingredients. To start I had the fluke tartare, made with local fluke fish (which I'd never had). It was delicious, and the dish left me wanting more. Like, a lot more because it was 9:30 PM, and I was starving. Entrees came, and I was disappointed that again the portion was so small. I was still hungry, and the entree was over $30! I had a wood-grilled sturgeon with garlic-braised snails. It was served with overly salted napa cabbage. The fish was cooked perfectly, however, and the snails were really yummy. Yep. I said it. Those snails were great!!

My dessert was yummy, but after dropping over $200 on a so-so meal, we were ready to get out of there. We walked down the road to the Girl and the Goat, Stephanie Izard's restaurant and pub. For those of you that are Top Chef fans, you'll remember that she beat out Richard Blais in a close competition in season 4.

We LOVED the aesthetic in her restaurant. Chip described it as a warm industrial design, and I think that description fits. When we walked inside what hit us first was the aroma of the wood-burning oven from the kitchen. Delicious. Chicago is a railroad town, and the massive dark wood beams and walls throughout the restaurant reminded me of tar-stained railroad crossties. I loved every bit of it. We didn't want to leave! (These photos are a bit too dark. I would love to lighten them a bit with photoshop, but I recently rebuilt my laptop, and I can't find the photoshop disk right now. Not good at all! I really hope I find it!)

We slept wonderfully in the Westin's "heavenly beds", and Saturday morning we walked to a delicious brunch at Orange (near our hotel). After brunch we headed to Michigan Avenue to walk around a bit and try not to spend too much time shopping.

We walked down to Navy Pier then to Millenium Park to see "The Bean" (aka Cloud Gate). We rounded out our afternoon with a late lunch a Pizano's Pizza to have Chicago-style deep dish pizza, a long visit in the Art Institute of Chicago, and a stroll through Lurie Garden in Millenium Park.

Saturday night we tried our luck at getting a table at Frontera Grill, Rick Bayless's award-winning Mexican restaurant. We placed our names on the list at around 6:45 PM (hostess said a 2-hour wait), then headed to the riverside for drinks. We got back to Frontera around 8:15, grabbed a seat at the full bar, and had more drinks and some FABULOUS guacamole! We waited another hour for a table, and they finally sat us at a table IN THE BAR... I was a little pissed that we didn't get to sit in the dining room. Maybe that colored my food experience there, but the chicken mole just wasn't all that it was hyped to be. It was a bit cold. Maybe I just don't like mole? I probably won't ever order it again anywhere. Chip had duck and sweet potato enchiladas, and those looked really good.

Sunday morning we took an architecture river tour, and it was so cool! It was hot outside on Sunday, and we were glad we got on the 10 AM tour.

After the boat ride, we grabbed a quick lunch in the Oyster Bar at this great seafood place called Shaw's Crab House. The food there was great. I had some Conneticuit oysters on the half shell and shrimp cocktail. Mmmmm... then, I had to catch my plane back to Mississippi!

I can't wait to go back to Chicago! There was so much we missed out on because we really just did not have enough time there. Apparently there was a real 42,000-year-old baby woolly mammoth at the Field Museum and an awesome Hubble 3D movie on at IMAX. I hate to have missed out on those! When is Jackson gonna get an IMAX? I love the space and ocean movies!