About two weeks ago, I celebrated my second wedding anniversary with my kick-ass partner/husband, Adam. This year’s celebration had a lot of live up to, considering our first anniversary was spent touring a wine region in Australia. We aren’t just your average “go out to dinner” sort of folks. We prefer a full-on adventure, complete with driving in an unfamiliar area, several different meal stops and at least two nap breaks. Hey, it ain’t easy being this chunky. I think I was trying to overcompensate for the fact that we were no longer in Australia, the land were everything kicks ass, when I decided we needed donuts for our anniversary breakfast. But not just any donuts, oh no. America might run on Dunkin’, but not this lady. I had to research online to find the best damn donuts in Chicago, and thanks to LTH Forum, I decided to visit the Old Fashioned Donut Shop on the south side of Chicago. I live nowhere near the south side of Chicago. Mistake #1. I have really never been in to the heart of the south side of Chicago. Mistake #2. I didn’t really consider the atmosphere I would be journeying into when I dressed myself and “suggested” (or told) my husband what to wear. Mistake #3. And let me tell you, the last thing I wanted to do on my anniversary was to force my husband to drive around for an hour for donuts and be the only white man in an underprivileged, African American only neighborhood…wearing an argyle sweater. That outfit alone was pretty much asking for him to get beat up. I felt like the meanest wife in the world. And it was also scary. I am smart enough to know that you shouldn’t go into a poor neighborhood flaunting your own wealth because it is asking for trouble. Because some people in the neighborhood aren’t going to care that you have so many student loans to pay to back, you are probably poorer than they are. I felt like a Grade A Asshole. But hot damn, those were some great donuts. The yeast-raised chocolate dipped donuts were crispy on the outside, but fluffy and soft like a marshmallow on the inside, just the perfect donut. And the fritter–oh, the fritter! Girl, please, don’t even get me started on that.It was the size of a giant steak, and had the ultimate ratio of crisp to tender to apple chunks to glaze. We got around 4 pounds of donuts and fritters for only $10, and were in a deep fried haze for the rest of the weekend.
I am fairly certain one of these fritters would solve the war in Iraq and feed all those starving Ethiopian babies Sally Struthers is always bitching about. Later that evening, we had reservations for a restaurant in Lincoln Park I’ve been curious to try: North Pond. Here is what we had. They opened with an amuse bouche (one bite) that had a Parmesan cracker, goat cheese and a tomato jam on it. It was delicious, the perfect combination of salty, sweet and savory.
Adam started off with the foie gras appetizer, which had saut?ed duck liver, ancho French toast, orange muscat plums, glazed purple scallion, and granola.
How can you go wrong with foie? It was crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, the sort of breakfast you wished you ate every day. I went with the celery root-cider soup with an almond-crusted seared scallop
. This was pretty good. All the components of dish tasted good, but there was nothing that really wowed me about the dish. I wanted a pop of flavor to come out of it somewhere, maybe in the form of bacon? Bacon makes everything better. Adam’s main was either duck or squab (I can’t remember) but it came with white sweet potato gnocchi, brussel sprouts, huckleberries and chanterelle mushrooms.
Again, a great ratio of sweet to savory in this dish, and Adam was a huge fan. I went with the pan roasted guinea hen with potatoes and foie gras sauce.
Another delicious dish, but by this point, I was slowing down. I was still in the deep fried coma from earlier, which was sad, but what are you gonna do? We got a side of bacon-wrapped potatoes. This really needs no explanation. It rocked. And look at that adorable little cast iron skillet!
Dessert was a light surprise that I loved. I don’t recall exactly what was in it, but there was definitely some yogurt, concord grape sorbet and granola involved.
It was the perfect end to an already food-packed day. We were also served homemade chocolate marshmallows and apricot pate de fruit (fruit gummies) with the bill, which totally rocked. The apricot flavor was so intense, it almost tasted like passion fruit. And instead of sending us home with mints or sweets, we got this little packet of seed.
How cool is that? Not only does the chef want you to eat locally, he wants to grow your own food too. I loved it. But oh no–that was not enough celebration. We woke up the next morning and went on a tour of the Maxwell Street Market, a decidedly Mexican affair, with the Culinary Historians of Chicago. The market itself has the highest concentration of regional Mexican cuisine in the city, and it is open year round. The tour itself was just okay, it was difficult to hear, there was no real structure, and people just sort of wandered and ate on their own. We had been here before, so we were really hoping to get a bit more of an insider’s tour. Perhaps I should have gone with Rick Bayless. But I picked up a few good tidbits, and am never one to deny a great taco when I see it. Here are some shots from the tour.
Whoa. That was a lot of food, and I could barely keep up with everything I was shoving down my pie hole. Those churros put us into our second deep-fried food coma for the weekend, but we still had some fight left in us. We knew we had to finish off the day with some lighter fare, so we hit up our new favorite sushi place later that night, Tank in Lincoln Square. They make a killer spicy tuna maki (my fave), and if you go before 2pm on weekdays and before 6pm on weekends, they have half-priced maki rolls. Score.
We rocked two spicy tuna rolls, an avocado roll, a Philly roll (smoked salmon, creamed cheese) and some random roll that had softshell crab, pineapple, hot sauce and fish roe.
Thanks for a great second anniversary weekend, Adam! It wasn’t quite Australian wine country, but then again, those Aussies can’t make a proper donut or rock an argyle quite like you.
~LTG! ***************************************************** Old Fashioned Donuts 11248 S Michigan Avenue Chicago, IL 60628 773-995-7420 North Pond 2610 N. Cannon Drive Chicago, IL 60614 773-477-5845 http://www.northpondrestaurant.com/ Maxwell Street Market Desplaines Street and Roosevelt Road 640 W. Roosevelt Road Chicago, IL 60607 312-745-4676 http://chicago.metromix.com/style/store/maxwell-street-market-little-italy-university-village/133691/content Tank Sushi 4514 N Lincoln Ave (between Sunnyside Ave & Wilson Ave) Chicago, IL 60625 773-769-2600