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Restaurant Michael – Winnetka

I’m BACK! Or, at least, I am trying. It’s hard to get back in the groove when you’ve taken three months (seriously? yeah…) off from blogging anything. I make no promises, because honestly I kinda feel obligated to blog more than yay! I feel like blogging! a lot of the time, but I also remember that when I do it with some semblance of regularity I become excited to post, so. Newton’s First Law of Motion. It’s for real, man. Anyway, I’m gonna ease us back in gently by talking about (what else?) food!

A couple weeks ago, we went to see a fantastic production of A Little Night Music at Writers’ Theatre. (It was stellar, but it’s over, so I can’t tell you to go see it. It’s already too late.) We decided to make it a date night and go out for dinner. I was looking for something inexpensive, because we’re trying to buy a house and we’re going to need money for fixing it up (I should totally write a post about that, shouldn’t I?) and also we have a food budget to stick to, but being that Writers’ is in Glencoe, we were limited by The Suburbs. Having ruled out chain restaurants and places that sounded very mediocre, we decided to go all out and took the theatre’s suggestion (and 10% discount) to Restaurant Michael. In summary – amazing food, top-notch service, way lower prices than comparable dining experiences we’ve had before.

Since we were pre-show diners, our reservation was for 5:30pm. When we arrived, we were pretty much the only people there. Now I know it’s not really “cool” to eat dinner so early, but I have to tell you – there is no cheaper way to get private dining. Give it a chance sometime. We were pleasantly surprised to find a prix fixe menu, and while we pondered the options, we were served the most delicious cheese puff ever. I think the rest of this post is best told in photos. Enjoy!

On the Menu This Week

Finally, a post about food! It’s been too long, hasn’t it? I know I should be rounding up all the tasty things we’ve consumed since whenever the last time was I mentioned something on here, but the truth is the idea of doing that is overwhelming enough to incapacitate me.

So, as I attempt to get back in the swing of meal planning (yeah, we have not been so good these last few busy months. We have had a lot of food delivered, and a lot of last-minute trips to the store.) – I thought I’d maybe try to resurrect that thing where I share my menu for the week with you. Here goes.

In case you’ve forgotten, we try to eat one red meat, one poultry, two fish, and three vegetarian meals each week. Designated below as (M), (P), & (V), respectively.

(V) Pasta (our default I-don’t-feel-like-cooking meal: angel hair with marinara)
(F) Crispy Fish with Tomato & Leek Saute
(M) Tacos
(V) Sweet Potato with Beets, Greens, & Almonds
(F) Maple Glazed Salmon with Pineapple
(P) Chicken, Squash, & Chickpea Salad with Tahini Dressing
(V) Ricotta Gnocchi with Leeks & Fava Beans (!!! It’s fava bean season again! Finally! Are you as excited about that as I am? You should be.)

I also bought beets for roasting (and they had golden beets today – score! I saw them and immediately thought of the golden beet borscht we had at Sprout. Anybody have a good borscht recipe?) and tossing into salad greens for any meal which feels like it wants more veggies. We’ll probably have this with the salmon and on pasta night.

This week, Julia is in tech for a show, and consequently not home until Thursday, so I get to eat the things I usually skip because of her preferences/restrictions. For example, tacos! Which I would happily eat on a weekly basis, but she would prefer to have only once every other month or so. Also? Goat cheese. Which I LOVE but she cannot stomach, so I don’t eat it as frequently as I’d like. And that salmon dish with the pineapple? I could eat it all week long; Julia finds it a bit too sweet.

What are YOU eating this week? (If it’s vegetarian and delicious, please share your recipes because I never seem to have enough of those!)

Spiaggia

Today I had the pleasure of stage managing Elizabeth and Brian’s wedding. More on that later, when I have some of the professional photos to show you. Right now I want to talk about the food I devoured at their reception, held at Spiaggia.

Roasted Beet, Apple, Prosciutto, & Goat Cheese Salad

The first course was this fantastic salad. Goat cheese, roasted beets, apples, tomato, and delicious, crispy, perfectly cooked prosciutto. It was heavenly.

Wild Boar Gnocchi

The second course was wild boar gnocchi. I was really excited to try it, since I’ve never eaten boar before. I’d expected that it would be rolled up in the gnocchi, but it was instead in the sauce, like a meatball would be. It was pretty tasty, too.

I didn’t get a picture of the cake, but it was delicious. (And you know what a cake snob I am.) A hazelnut cake with a light frosting – not too sweet.

So – if you have the chance to dine at Spiaggia, don’t pass it up!

Sprout!

– OR – 
An Appropriate Day* on Which to Remember This Blog Exists
(and Therefore Write Something)

So. It has come to my attention multiple times and from multiple sources this week that, oh yeah, this blog exists. And also? I’ve written nothing in it since October. I could give you excuses, but who cares? The point is, here we are, and I have some food to share with you. And I’m thinking, in the future, I will be sharing other things that I make. Like, clothes and stuff. And maybe some posts just about life, where no stuff is even made at all. [Travesty!] Plus, I don’t believe in guilt.
Five years ago, my hair was short and long enough to be an appropriate length for a Louis XIV-era pageboy. Which is what I was dressed as for schlepping the scenery around Remy Bumppo’s production of Power. Julia had worked on their previous show, and so she decided to come to the opening night to support her friends in the production. At the party which followed the performance that night, our eyes met across the crowd, and we’ve basically been inseparable ever since.**
Anyway…. Julia surprised me with a super fancy dinner at Dale Levitski’s (of Top Chef fame) restaurant, Sprout. Which was AWESOME. Their deal is you get your choice of dishes for an appetizer, entree, and dessert course, and the chef decides on a soup/salad and cheese course for you. Total of five courses, if you’re counting. They also have a wine pairing option, and I have to say – it was phenomenal. I don’t remember exactly what I drank, but I do remember that the food made the wine taste better and vice versa. Here’s the rundown:
To start off, we were presented with a delicious baguette and white bean butter. It was reminiscent of hummus and rather tasty.
For the first course, I had smoked duck breast with foie gras foam, cornbread, and sour cherry sauce served with greens, cucumber, and pickled ramps. Overall, it was excellent, though I did not really care for the foam. It was very… foamy… and not very foie gras-y. Julia had a seared scallop with salmon, pineapple, soy beans and mixed greens. The bite I stole was fantastic.

   

As you can tell, we enjoyed it, because we both cleaned our plates before it occurred to me that I wanted to take a picture.

Before I tell you about the second course, there’s something you should know about me: I HATE PICKLES. Hate, hate, hate them… a LOT. [Except for that one time a few months ago when I was suddenly craving pickles and so I ate about 5 of them and they were really good. And before you ask – no, I wasn’t pregnant.] You can ask my wife, my sister, my best friend, or anyone else who knows me well, and they will tell you that whenever I’m served something that comes with pickles… I am offering it to them for eating. Because I will not have that.
So, the second course was a soup (Chef’s choice) – a play on Borscht, with a twist – instead of the customary red beets, they used golden beets and it was topped with…

 
a pickled pickle!

Well, guess what, friends? I ate that pickled pickle and it was delicious. The soup itself was also wonderful, and I am pretty sure I said something to the effect of, “I may like this better than the really awesome duck I just ate.”
Oh, but then there was this:

That’s rabbit with truffle gnocchi, pistachios, peas, a super-thin sliver of cheese (something hard, maybe Parmesan?) and arugula over some kind of wonderful, creamy sauce. It was rich and wonderful, and I couldn’t stop eating it. Except that I had to take a break about halfway through because it was also quite filling. I wondered if I’d be able to finish it all. And then I contemplated – out loud – the possibility that I might not have room for dessert. Um…. what?? That is unheard of.
While I was having these dilemmas, Julia was enjoying a seaweed and mussel dish with beef sashimi and sesame broth. As he poured the steaming sesame-chili broth into the bowl, our delightful waiter informed us that the reason it was poured table side was so that it would cook the beef ever-so-slightly as it sat in front of us. Neat. Julia thought the dish was amazing.
Next we had the other Chef’s choice, a cheese course. I was expecting a small assortment of exotic cheeses, but what came out was the fanciest grilled cheese I’ve ever seen. It was made with an organic, aged Cheddar from Canada, coupled with apple slices and caramelized onions. Next to it on the plate was a bit of raisin-mustard to spread on it. I failed to take a picture, but despite my full belly, I finished it in short order.
And then, it was on to dessert. (Now, remember earlier, how I was so full I thought I wouldn’t have room? I definitely didn’t. But that didn’t stop me from trying.) Lately I have been eyeing the rhubarb as it’s started to show up in the grocery stores, so when I saw it paired with strawberries and goat cheese gelato in the dessert choices, I had to have it. In case you weren’t paying attention, I just said goat cheese gelato. Wow. It was a giant plate of yummy.
Which I COULD NOT FINISH. Because I was TOO FULL.

Luckily, Julia was there, and after she finished her dessert, she took care of mine too.*** And by the way – she has a serious aversion to goat cheese. So she really took one for the team this time.

Lillet. It was very good, but more citrus-y than I like my desserts.
After we finished our dessert, the waiter came back – and not with the check! Instead, he was carrying two glasses of champagne, on the house, to help us celebrate five years together. Which, he declared, was a really, really long time in gay years, and therefore worthy of their best bubbles.

– The End –
(of the first five years)
Oh, wait! I almost forgot: once the meal was over, we headed to a theatre because Julia had some costume fittings to do for an upcoming show. It just so happened to be the very theatre whose lobby we’d met in five years prior. So, we had a chance to revisit the night we meant in a very literal sense, and Julia snuck in a card, some chocolate mousse truffle things (which I was still too full to eat) and a strawberry plant. Because a few weeks ago, I mentioned that I saw them outside the grocery store and almost bought them because I desperately want to grow berries and veggies, but didn’t because we only have a porch, not a yard, but then after that, the parents of the girl I nanny offered their yard up for anything I felt like growing… so it was really sweet. 
Here are some really terrible cell phone camera pictures of us attempting to look cute in said theatre lobby:

*well, it would have been appropriate if I had actually written or posted this on that day. But I digress…

**yeah, so there was that whole thing where Julia dated another girl for two months while I pursued her relentlessly, but eventually she realized she felt the same way about me as I did about her, and that’s what really matters. [If you want the full story, ask and I will write a post about it for you.]

***Because that’s what married people do – take care of each other(‘s unfinished food.)