Love is…

… belting out the words to “I’ll be there for you” at the Bon Jovi concert, and meanwhile your Hubs is pretending your butt is a 6-string guitar.

… texting at 1 am because you “let him loose” for one night, and he’s managed to misplace his keys, his overnight bag, and possibly his dignity, and for some reason he thinks you can help him when you’re a 3-hour drive away.

… buying clothes at Anthropologie without being asked how much you spent. In other words, understanding that every now and then a girl has to have a cute top. Or three.

… knowing our wedding picture is still on his desk at work, even if it hides behind Star Wars figurines or a Geddy Lee bobblehead.

… giving me a high-five when the guy beside me at the Gaslight Anthem concert gives me a free beer. Score!

… keeping secrets together, but not from one another.

… cooking together, even if it means you have to wash most of the dishes.

… letting him taste your BBQ sauce to make sure it’s just right.

… sometimes really simple, and really easy. And sometimes it’s a little bit tricky.

But when the result of your teamwork is one of the best steaks you’ve ever eaten, it is priceless.

Porterhouse Steak w/ Fra Diavolo BBQ Sauce & Pepper-Tomato Salad
Adapted from Bobby Flay via Food; serves 4

as is typical, Hubs always goes to Bobby Flay, Tyler Florence, or his Grill Book when he’s donning an apron. Fra diavolo is a tomato-based sauce generally spiced with chili peppers, and it adds a wonderful flavor to a grilled steak. we only grilled one steak, but kept the sauce & salad amounts the same. the sauce freezes nicely (and will be great on burgers, I’m sure), and we used the rest of the salad later in the week, with snap peas.

printable version

3 T evoo
1 Spanish onion, medium dice
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 T red pepper flakes
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
2 T tomato paste
1 c brown sugar
1 T blackstrap molasses
2 T honey
1 T chopped fresh oregano leaves
2 T chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 T chopped fresh basil leaves
salt and pepper
2 grass-fed porterhouse steaks, about 1 1/2-inches thick

Pepper-Tomato Salad
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
salt and pepper
1/4 cup evoo
1 10-oz jar of spicy calabrian peppers in oil (Isola brand)
1 red bell pepper
1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in 1/2
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

BBQ sauce
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until soft, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute. Add remaining ingredients (through basil), reduce heat to medium-low and cook until thickened, about 35 to 40 minutes. Run an immersion blender through the sauce for a bit to blend ingredients together.

Pepper-Tomato salad
Meanwhile, make pepper-tomato salad. Whisk together vinegar, garlic and a pinch of salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Add the peppers, tomatoes and parsley and stir to combine. Adjust seasoning and let sit 30 minutes at room temperature before serving.

Heat grill to high. Season steaks on both sides with salt and pepper. Grill, on 1 side, until crusty and slightly charred, about 4 to 5 minutes. Turn steaks over, close the hood and continue grilling for 6 to 8 minutes for medium-rare doneness. Baste with the sauce during the last few minutes. Remove from the grill and brush with more of the sauce. Let meat rest for 5 minutes, then each steak in two (or into slices) and top with the salad.

Bye Bye Restaurant Week! See ya next year!

Mesa Grille

This year is the second year that Chicago has done restaurant week. How I managed to NOT know about it last year is beyond me, but whatevs. At least I had three lovely dinners this year so that I am sure to not let next year’s event pass me by.

My first “restaurant week” exposure was in NYC last July. We went to see the Yankees during their final stint at “old yankee stadium”. I, of course, had other sites planned. And I don’t mean the Statue of Liberty or Wall Street. I do, of course, mean restaurants and food. A great long weekend full of sinful, lovely, scrumptuous food choices. Of course, site-seeing is nice, but much nicer if you’ve got awesome flavors of ice cream at the hole-in-the-wall Chinatown ice cream shoppe to look forward to between sites! If you go to NYC you MUST go to the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory . I won’t tell you what flavor to get, but if you’re smart, and I think you might be, get the Taro. The other 2-4 scoops you get is up to you.

So back to restaurant week. Now NYC has a much larger following in the way of participating restaurants. We found out a little too late and had to do some other things (you know, like watch that Yankees game that we made the trip for! Woo hoo!!), so we only had limited opportunity to book a restaurant. I had to use one of those nights to hit up the best thai restaurant ever: Tao. But upon dining at Tao, we saw that they did in fact participate in restaurant week, but for lunch only. Surely I can find a lunchtime day to eat there again (and don’t worry – I did). The other must-eat place was Bobby Flay’s restaurant, Mesa Grill. I adore him and of course had to partake in some southwest fare. The cherry bread pudding was spifirific. I was so excited about it that I had to be a tourist and have my picture taken outside the restaurant.

My ramblings regarding NYC’s week of course do have somewhat of a purpose on this post. Once I found out about Chi-town’s restaurant week, I wondered if it could compare to the delicious cuisine that NYC’s week had to offer. I knew the list of restaurants was a little smaller, but I examined the list closely and made my choices carefully. Since hubby and I are in class three weeknights between the two of us, we had to make the most of last weekend and our one free weeknight, so we got 3 dinners in. I had to let him pick one, and of course he chooses steakhouses and Ruth’s Chris it was. Very good, but in my mind it was nothing compared to my choices: Farmerie 58 and Carnivale – two places I had on my “outside of Bucktown places to eat” list (I have a separate “Bucktown places to eat” list just for our ‘hood). I’ll talk about the first.

I’d been eyeing Farmerie 58 on my way home every day. Now that I get to work downtown I get to drive by all sorts of eateries which essentially means that I will never ever run out of dinner spots. Farmerie 58 has a nice ambience about it. The downstairs is super bar-like and all of the dining spots are upstairs. They have a raw bar (which I will check out at one point), but this time we focused on the 3 course $32 menu. I wish I’d taken a picture of the first course (Butternut Squash veloute) – my favorite veggie – butternut squash. Yum. But here’s the other two dishes (I would have taken pictures of Chris’ food but he was already looking at me as if I’d grown antlers).

Farmerie 58 short ribs

Short ribs with potato gallette, baby carrots, cauliflower puree, and a red wine demi-glace. Aside from picking lots of fat off of the short ribs, I ate it all up. Even the demi-glace was sopped up with my fingers. I am a classy girl.

Dessert: White Chocolate Bread Pudding. I can’t seem to ever resist bread pudding. But should I? No!!!! It was served with roasted quince, caramel popcorn, and vanilla anglaise. With all of those ingredients, it just had to be good. And it was. The popcorn was really neat.

Farmerie 58 bread pudding

Are you sold yet? If you live in Chicago and haven’t been here, you have to go. It’s quite lovely.

Overall, I’d say that Chicago’s restaurant week was successful. 3 restaurants, 3 great dishes at each, and 3 memorable experiences. But with wine and drinks, over $300!! Ouch! Clearly we are staying in a for a few weeks….

Update: Sniff sniff….. Farmerie 58 is now closed (Fall, 2009) 😦