Friday, May 29, 2009

Lula's Baby Sister

(via Yelp!)

When I first moved here almost four years ago I had all these grand culinary plans of scouring the city to sample some of the best dishes Chicago had to offer. That lasted about four months when I realized traveling on public transportation in the dead of winter wasn't all that pleasant, especially since I had a plethora of affordable Thai places in my neighborhood that let you bring in your own booze without a corkage fee. Sold and sold.

And although my wallet still doesn't allow me to go hog wild with my gastronomic choices, the coming of summer and a trip last night to the new Pilsen restaurant Nightwood has really reinvigorated my desire to seek out venues that have menu options not including "drunken" or "crazy" noodles.

As with any restaurant I got to, I'm there for the food sure, but what really gets me excited are the surroundings. The interior here is, in a word, gorgeous, and mixes modern pieces (the patio will no doubt be featured in Dwell shortly) with classic elements that, if not revolutionary, are executed perfectly. Andrew was immediately taken with the vintage orange leather swivel chairs seen above that were apparently purchased from a now defunct hotel - I need to know which one! - and I had a near-ecstatic experience when I got up to go to the bathroom post-meal where I found a copious use of chunky tone on tone picture molding, a black basin and commode, and hand-painted Mediterranean tile. Bravo Kevin Heisner (Nightwood's designer)... you've achieved perfection in the potty and I say this without a hint of irony.

In a nod to Big and Little Edie (isn't everything in life though?), Andrew and I shared the chicken liver pâté with garlic potato chips as an appetizer. I'd never really considered pâté as a dining option - it just doesn't come to mind on my list of wants - much less pâté and potato chips, but I was not disappointed. If you were to take a look inside my refrigerator, you'd realize my two main food groups consist of chicken and hummus, so anything that essentially combines them into one dish is perfection.

For our main courses we ordered Nightwood's spit-roasted half chicken with a bread, mustard and white bean salad - boring but delicious - and a vegetable and white bean panini on brioche with soft poached farm egg. I know... this is highly specific/bougie language. Each dish was relatively straightforward and unsurprising. That's not to say they were mediocre by any means, just not the pinnacle-pounding dishes you get at, say, Lula. I'm chalking this up, however, to the fact that Nightwood's still in its soft-opening first week and kinks will be worked out.

Oh, and did I mention the free wine? Not that that swayed my opinion whatsoever, but it was a nice touch. Apparently Thursday was Nightwood's final night without a liquor license so they were getting rid of their casks of amontillado or something. Gracious, yes, but will it ever happen again... highly unlikely.

In toto, Nightwood is not to be missed and a welcome addition to Pilsen. I say that as a non-resident who has probably spent a total of less than ten hours there in my life... and I stand by it completely.

Full menu below (changes daily):

Mixed lettuces with radish and croutons, dressed with olive oil and vinegar 8
Spinach and parmesan salad with cucumber, hard-cooked egg, and aged balsamic 10
Chicken liver pate with potato chips 10
Marinated beets with aged Sardinian goats cheese, pesto, and pinenuts 6
Beef carpaccio with sorrel, aioli, and ash-roasted beets 12
Deep-fried Mississippi prawns with bacon-sardine vinaigrette 13
Handcut pasta with morels and stewed beef 10
Green garlic and cream soup 8

Wood-grilled cheeseburger with fries and a dill pickle 13
Spit-roasted half chicken with a bread, mustard, and white bean salad 20
Wood-grilled trout with lentils, ham hock, and cream 19
Roast beef sandwich with blue cheese, slaw, and fries 12
Vegetable and white bean Panini on brioche with a soft poached farm egg 12
Suckling pig and morel ravioli with spinach and green olives 20

Strawberry sorbet with macerated berries 2.50 per scoop
Almond tart with creme caramel ice cream 8
pretzles and chocolate 7

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Keep My Girls Kinky and a Hole in the Sheet

Good God, life can really catch up with you. What started innocently enough on Friday with a Peaches concert at the Metro, progressed to perusing the wares at IML's Leather Mart on Sunday, and ended with me getting all kumbaya with a bunch of lesbians on Monday at a barbecue. I know I should be most ashamed of looking at porn and ass-less chaps with a bunch of strangers on Sunday, but my real shame lies in singing along to an acoustic version of Wonderwall on Memorial Day.

And even though I'm most certainly feeling the effects of having drunk and eaten myself into oblivion over the weekend, as the receptionist at work said, "Those really are the fun ones." I've now seen Peaches four or five times, which makes me either a stalker or a groupie - is there a difference - and she did not disappoint by any means. The lyrics, the costumes, the dance moves... everything was more refined and really showed the mark of an artist who, frankly, realizes she can't ride the shocking-sex-fiend card all the way into her golden years. Not that she still isn't being bawdy for the bawdy's sake, but now there's more than one song off the album that can be played on the radio without being edited. Not to mention that she's just produced my new favorite Halloween jam with Trick or Treat! So tasty.

Then there's IML. Oh God, IML. Well, suffice it to say that I was not really shocked by anything until I reached the booth where sounding was being performed on some dude who, I guess, was enjoying it. Oh wait, scratch that... I wasn't really shocked by anything until I passed by the booth that sold bestiality DVDs made in BERWYN! They were far and away the outcasts of the festivities since they'd been secluded to a corner near an exit and had virtually no one coming to look at their goods. Oh, and did I mention they sold knives and switchblades? No. Fucking. Joke.

But as my IML "ambassador" told us, "Leather's a dying art," which made me sad, but also made me feel I was paying my respects by taking part in a time-honored tradition of gay culture... even though I was wearing jeans and a v-neck... and left my leather cod-piece at home.

Although you might say the crowning event of the weekend came on Monday when I attended my former roommate's barbeque. Lesbians were in abundance, which I knew getting into it, but what I did not know was that there would be a lesbian in attendance who knew how to play the guitar and had a penchant for "jam" sessions on the back deck. Will someone tell me why I thought it was a good idea to smoke clove cigarettes and sing-along to acoustic approximations of Oasis songs? Oh right. There is no good answer.

So next time you find yourself on a back deck with a bunch of sing-song lesbians with questionable musical tastes, just ask yourself, "Would Peaches do this?"

And then refrain from joining in.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Television Accent

I, apparently, only have one reason to blog these days and that involves throwing parties. Not that there's anything wrong with that, it's just that the last time I threw one was a month ago (see: Grey Gardens Premiere Party) and I don't have the resources or the time to be inviting everyone over for crudités and cheap wine once a week. Not that I wouldn't love to, you know.

So for those of you who read this to stay abreast of what I've been up to -- all five of you residing in California, Louisiana and New York -- I'll say that this has been a month of personal triumphs, peppered with bits frustration here and there, but what month isn't like that? I'm finally fulfilling my Chicago-goal of taking advantage of the lake by running up and down it's shores, blisters and ganglion cyst willing, three times a week, however, the real excitement is at the workplace where I've become the official/un-official voice of my job. I was volunteered a couple of months ago to record our on hold message which I was not at all excited about, but since no one else was willing, and being the administrative bitch good sport that I am, I did it.

Cut to a couple of weeks ago when my co-worker called me with the plea, "I NEED YOUR VOICE." I was a little shocked to say the least, and long story short, we ended up recording a podcast for our association's website. It's incredibly dry, a little technical, but if you want to listen to me regurgitate medical jargon, feel free to give it a listen. I'd post a link here, but then google would probably end up permanently linking this site to my work's site in searches, and that is not okay.

It's nice to know though that the insecurity about my voice I've harbored for the last 27 years has maybe been all in my head. Or as Andrew put it: "You've got a television accent!"

And THAT, as they say, is because I grew up in Holly-wood.