My apologies for neglecting you for almost a week. Life has a way of interfering with cooking and of course, writing all about it. However, my short absence was due to some quality time spent with good friends (and visiting a new city) so I was happy to put down the apron for a few days.
I visited Chicago for the first time last week…finally! What a lovely city. My husband and I have had a standing invitation to visit our friends for years but silly us, we dawdled about making it happen. After two years of not seeing them, though, it was time.
Chicago welcomed us with clear, bright blue skies last Thursday, allowing for my first glimpse of Lake Michigan from our hotel room. But as excited as I was to set foot on the sands of one of the five Great Lakes, this museum buff took advantage of the fair weather and walked to the Art Institute of Chicago.
The Art Institute of Chicago houses more than 300,000 works of art ranging from ancient Chinese bronzes to some of the most iconic works of our time. Naturally, an afternoon wasn’t nearly enough time to see and appreciate all the museum had to offer so we focused on some major works and vowed to return to finish the tour.
The main purpose of our visit, however, was to celebrate our friend’s birthday. Soon after confirming our visit, Georganne secured reservations at L2O, a popular seafood-centered restaurant in Lincoln Park. How fortuitous that she selected L2O since the restaurant (shortly thereafter) was awarded three Michelin stars, a distinction shared only by the famed Alinea out of all of Chicago’s eateries.
Besides the wonderful company our evening was marked by an excellent dining experience. The service at L2O was impeccable and the food simply divine. You may have already gathered from reading my other posts that I don’t frequent Michelin-rated establishments; you will more likely find me at a local hole-in-the-wall or at my neighborhood Italian restaurant, so this meal was quite a treat.
We enjoyed a multiple-course meal with a focus on seafood but my foie gras with citrus and fennel and my friend’s lamb tartare with sweet shrimp, tarragon, and pickled mango were among some of the best dishes I’ve ever tasted. And for this anchovy lover, one of the standouts was an amuse-bouche–a mini croissant stuffed with white anchovy wrapped in fresh basil. Outstanding! I highly recommend L2O.
We took a stroll along the lake the following morning before the clouds took shape, signaling the arrival of the first snowfall of the season. For more gastronomic delight, we had lunch at Le Colonial, a French-Vietnamese restaurant in Chicago’s Gold Coast Historic District. Again, the food and service were top notch but I skipped the pictures so my friends and I could properly enjoy the meal.
The remainder of the trip was spent in our friends’ home and we were treated to delicious home-cooked fare from Georganne and her daughter’s excellent chocolate dessert. Pair this with the snowfall that finally arrived, the company of great friends, a warm and cozy home and three lovable dogs, we had a wonderful time.
Since I haven’t had a chance to cook a proper meal since returning home, I thought I’d share with you one of my favorite starters. Gorgonzola and honey are the stars of this crostino–so simple and yet so good.
The only caveat is that you must like gorgonzola. Yes, this Italian blue cheese is quite moldy and strong-flavored but this happens to be what I appreciate about it. The cheese is melted on a piece of toast and is drizzled with sweet honey. The contrast of salty and sweet is a winning combination, especially when washed down with a nice glass of red wine. Typically, I would prepare this with a sliced baguette but I had a big rustic loaf which worked just fine.
Gorgonzola and Honey Toast
from Giada de Laurentiis
- Sliced baguette or rustic loaf
- Gorgonzola cheese
- Olive Oil
Preheat your oven to 450ºF. Arrange your bread slices on a baking tray and brush tops with a little olive oil. Toast for a few minutes in the oven. Pull toasts out of the oven and top with as much (or as little) gorgonzola as you like. Return to oven and allow the cheese to melt. Drizzle each piece of toast with a little honey and serve immediately.