Monday, June 30, 2008

Date Night (and a description of the dinner in Full Pornographic Food Detail)

I bought a cute, new maternity sun dress on Wednesday at the Salvation Army (for $4, still had Motherhood Maternity tags on it). As I now had cute duds, I needed a place to go. And a sitter. My original plan was to go to the City for an early dinner at Frontera. You know, Frontera? The best restaurant in the US, according to some survey and rankings. It’s 4-star all the way. And they don’t do reservations. It’s strictly first come, first served. Taste of Chicago is going on now (and we’re boycotting), so I figured all the foodies in town would be there and we’d be able to snag a table, particularly if we went at 4:30 pm. That would require dropping Boy off with Mimi around 3:00. Did not happen.

Here’s what did happen. Chuckles went down for a nap around 3:30. At 5, I started vacuuming in his room so he’d wake up. We then called the restaurant and made a 6:15 reservation. I threw my dress on, Chuckles freaked out because I was already wearing clothes. My husband just then realized we were going out to dinner and maybe he should shower, shave, and iron a shirt. I said, “No.” Put your shirt on, wash you face, and let’s go. So, Chuckles was deposited with Mimi (to have chicken nuggets for dinner and swim in her indoor hot tub). We headed out only to hit a torrential downpour that lasted 15 minutes but put the most beautiful rainbow in the sky. People were actually pulling over on the side of the highway to snap pictures. The entire sky was filled.

We were having dinner in Gary, Indiana. Now, trust me, I know Gary is not exactly known for its haute cuisine or safe parking. I know. But, I had heard good things about this restaurant and I had been assured that the neighborhood was OK. It’s true. The neighborhood was OK. It wasn’t great, but I didn’t feel really bad leaving the car unattended on the street. After all, it was still light out. The restaurant looked like quite a dive. I was a little disappointed. People had raved. Eh, we had a reservation so we walked in the door, and I was floored. It was very nice inside. Very urban-hipster. The lighting was subdued. There was heavy fabric over the windows. We were asked if we had a preference for seating. Restaurant side or bar side. Live jazz would be coming to the bar side at 8:00. We chose restaurant side. We were led to a table. My chair was pulled out for me. The girl came to fill our water glasses and put my napkin on my lap for me. Then she complimented me on my dress. Woo Woo.

The waiter came and brought us nine menus or something ridiculous like that. There were two dinner menus, specials for the day (including the daily risotto), beer list, wine list, and bar list. It was almost comical. I got a lemonade and the man got a glass of syrah that I tasted and could have really enjoyed were I not pregnant and stuff. Next, they brought the bread basket. There were two kinds of bread. One, I swear to you, was pretzel bread. It tasted like a loaf of giant, soft pretzel. It was so very, very good. The other was a tougher European bread with large air pockets in it. They were served with warmed butter and half a head of roasted garlic. My husband was surprised when I put my knife in, removed a clove of roasted garlic and spread it right on the bread without hassle. He had never seen that before. But I am pretty sure he came to love roasted garlic and has found a new, favorite food. He wanted to know whether I knew how to do that. I do, and if he’s good, I might make it for him.

Then we ordered. We got a spinach and strawberry salad tossed with a champagne vinaigrette. It also came with goat cheese, which was unpasteurized (I asked), so I had that put on the side and the Man ate it with his salad. The salad was very good. Even the stems on the spinach were tender and the dressing was a little tangy but also sweet, paired with the strawberries, it was divine.

Next up was soup. It was a pureed squash with andouille sausage soup. It had an Indian curry flavor and it was quite good. It, too, was a hint of sweet with spice. The sausage was either very finely chopped or ground. It was quite smooth and went down easy.

Next up was the main course. We had the daily stuffed chicken selection and one of the three daily fish (Grouper). The chicken was stuffed with roasted red peppers, tomato, crimini mushrooms, and spinach. It was then rolled and grilled. It was served over a bed of garlic smashed potatoes and lightly cooked summer veggies (zucchini, green beans, carrots, very sweet onions, garlic, and some other things I cannot remember). The whole thing was artfully arranged with swirls of a very good, creamy white wine sauce. The grouper was grilled and served with a red tomato and pepper sauce that I am sure had capers in it. It was served over the same potatoes and veggies.

Lastly, we had dessert. There were 10 choices, but 4 of them had coconut. I like coconut OK, but I prefer other flavors. One of my favorite desserts is key lime pie. They had it but with a coconut crust, so I opted for a chocolate mousse with fresh berries. And I was not disappointed. The man ordered something like a chocolate volcano or a chocolate bomb. Something like that. It was a chocolate brownie with a liquid core topped with vanilla bean ice cream. Both plates were decorated with fresh berries and drizzled with an array of fruity and white chocolatey sauces.

I cannot recommend my dinner highly enough. We went to the Miller CafĂ©. Total bill with tax and tip (and without the use of coupons…Entertainment Book only valid after 8:30 on Saturdays) was a little over $80.

It was about 8:45 now and we deicded to go watch the sunset at the lakefront. It was 1.5 miles through the National Lakeshore to the beach, so we headed there. The rain had caused things to chill off and I didn’t have a sweater, so the beack trip was necessarily short. Also, we were still in Gary, and it was getting dark. We walked the beach, checked out the Chicago skyline (must figure out what building that was to the right of the Sears Tower with a giant light on top...answer: 311 S. Wacker), looked right to see Michigan City, IN's most famous site, I dabbled my toes in the lake, and we headed back to the car. It’s a good thing too because groups of teens were starting to mill about and hang out in the parking lot.

It was dark by the time we got to the Expressway. We went to Mimi’s to get Chuckles. He was laying in her bed watching TV in his jammies when we got there. He did not fall asleep on the way home. I pulled him into bed with me and he was out in 15 seconds. I had hoped that up until 10:00 would mean later sleeping, but it did not. 6:45 Sunday morning and we were at it again. But I put him down for the night shortly after 7 and he slept through until Monday morning, so it was all good.

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