Fall Harvest!

It’s the best tasting time of the year! The weather is perfect and the trees are beautiful, but my favorite thing about fall is the flavors! Everything is bursting with pumpkin and cinnamon and apple and it’s just the best! As I’m gathering recipes for this season, I wanted to share some of my favorite recipes from last fall! I can’t wait to try even more fall flavors this year!

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Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Pumpkin Cheesecake Muffins

Caramel Apple Cookie Tartlets

Pumpkin Cookies

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Apple Apple Pie

 

What fall recipes are you trying this year?!

 

 

Charlie Trotter’s

I’m normally not one for restaurant reviews. Typically, I wouldn’t even put myself into the category of fine dining connoisseur, let alone the finest-of-fine-dining connoisseur. However, today I’m making an exception. I couldn’t resist sharing my recent experience at one of the nicest restaurants I might ever set foot in: Charlie Trotter’s.

Charlie Trotter’s is one if the best restaurants in the world. You can view the website for a whole laundry list of awards and acclaims including one of the “World’s 50 Best Restaurants” by Restaurant Magazine since 2004. Charlie Trotter’s offers two exquisite set-menu options, the Vegetable Menu and the Grand Menu, as well as optional wine or juice pairings designed to bring out the best in food and drink. (I clearly opted for the wine pairings.)

My Fiance and I have been wanting to go to Charlie Trotter’s for a while now. It’s something that we’ve wanted to do but had no push to actually make a reservation and go. When Charlie Trotter announced that he was going to be closing the restaurant to attend the University of Chicago to study Philosophy, we knew that our time was running out. With only a few weeks before the establishment would close its doors forever, Kenny and I made one of the only reservations we could get: 9:30 PM on a Tuesday.

With a high price tag and even higher standard for fine culinary creations, I went into this dinner with extremely high expectations. I was not disappointed.

When we arrived, I knew I was in for a treat. We were escorted up through three stories of small rooms, all of which looked like dining rooms pulled straight from a variety of French Tudor homes. Each room had a handfull of small tables, perfectly set with crystal stemware and white plates with Trotters signature ‘T’ in gold on the top. They took them away almost immediately after we sat down, but they did look lovely for their short stay.

It wasn’t long before our gold “T” plates were replaced by plate after plate of tiny, delicious courses. Each course was so unique and completely different than any other taste I’d ever experienced. Each course paired perfectly with a variety of top-notch wines that made each course even better, which was hard to believe was possible. The waitstaff was absolutely delightful and their passion for food and providing legendary service radiated through the entire meal. They were knowledgeable and friendly and totally on their A-Game. It was an absolutely delightful evening!

Charlie Trotter’s closed on August 31, so unfortunately, this review comes a little too late to allow you to get a reservation for yourself. However, I invite you to join me as I walk you through my dinner! I had the vegetable menu and wine pairing.

(I was too shy to take pictures of my meal, so unfortunately, I have no photos of my actual meal. However, I did find photos online of most of the courses, so I added those here instead.)

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Globe Artichoke with Cauliflower, Pine Nuts & Mint
This was my favorite dish! I don’t know if it was because I was so hungry or just so excited to try my first course, but I absolutely loved this. The first bite I had was the salty pine nuts with the avocado sorbet and it was just to die for. 

Poached White Asparagus with Broccolini, Manchego Cheese & Fire-Roasted Red Peppers
I didn’t love this dish. The peppers were almost the consistency of Jello and the asparagus kind of tasted like pasta. Kenny loved it though, so it was probably just me. Sadly, this was my least favorite, but it was certainly not bad by any means. 

Crispy, Silken Tofu with Georgia Peaches, Red Curry & Pea Blossoms
This was the course I was least excited about when reading the menu, but it totally blew me away. I normally dont love tofu, so I was amazed by how much I loved this! It was crispy on the outside and the inside was so soft that it almost reminded me of pound caked. And with the peaches?! Loved it! 

One-Hour Poached Hen’s Egg with Morel Mushrooms, Swiss Chard & Liquorice
I have never been more impressed with an egg. I couldn’t believe the consistency of it! The yolk and the white were almost the same texture. The white was soft and smooth and the yolk was just firm enough to hold its shape. It all just melted together in the most interesting way! I was really impressed. 

Miso Tortellini with Red Cabbage, Turnip Confit & Ponzu
These little guys were very interesting! They were much firmer than I expected, which made them unlike any other tortellini I’d ever had. I liked them. Weren’t my favorite thing, but they were nice!

Apricot Sorbet with Anise Shortbread & Blackberries
I so badly wish I had a photo of this! This was my favorite of the dessert courses. It was exactly what it sounds like. This one lacked the strange complexity of a lot of the other courses, but more than made up for it with the burst of flavor in each element. It was simple, but just so delicious. The sorbet was so tart and sweet, and the shortbread was actually in crumb form so you got a little with every bite. Top notch. 

Zucchini Cake & Blossom with Whipped Basil & Saffron Reduction
This one was … complicated. I think that’s the best way to describe it. I wasn’t quite sure how to eat it and what things I was supposed to eat together. I do know that the zucchini cake was super moist and delicious and that sauce with the seed things in it was amazing with it! The whipped basil was kind of weird, but if you ate it with the olive oil sorbet, it was a great combination. 

Root Beer Leaf Ice Cream with Vanilla Cremeaux & Birch Syrup Infused Meringue
There is no way for me to describe how amazing the root beer leaf ice cream was. It was just so good! It was almost minty, but with that sweet kick of root beer. Kenny and I were head over heals about it! It was such a great way to round out the evening! And by this point, we were so full that I sadly couldn’t finish the entire thing. I think I might have offended the server by not finishing it, but I was just out of room!

NOTE: I would have loved to comment on the wine pairings as well, but I honestly know nothing about wine and I think I would just describe each of them as delicious. They were all great and perfectly matched with everything we ate.

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It was just such a great experience! Charlie Trotter himself made his way around the restaurant while we were there and it was really nice to see him interact with the guests. After dinner, our server took us down to kitchen, which was so cool and unexpected! The whole evening was just so perfect!

Thank you so much, Mr. Trotter and best of luck in your future endeavors!

Planning to Plan a Wedding

I simply can’t believe that I’ve been engaged for almost a month and half now. Time flies. I don’t have much to show for my wedding planning progress. In fact, only this week have I actually seriously looked into churches and reception locations. The fact that I made five wedding-related phone calls today makes today the most productive  day I’ve had thus far.

While the actual planning is coming along slowly, I have made serious progress on something equally important: my wedding planner.

Anyone who has talked to me in the past week or so has probably heard about my wedding planner. I’m ridiculously excited about it! I wanted something pretty to keep all my wedding ideas and plans together in one place. I wanted it to double as a keepsake, something that I could look back on and see everything that went into my perfect day.

I had originally planned on simply buying a wedding planning binder. I went to Barnes & Noble and flipped through every binder they had to offer, but none of them clicked. I didn’t love them. They were packed full of page upon page of information, tips and ideas, which might have been useful, but to me they were just words. I wanted pictures and I wanted the ideas that filled the binder to be my own. Feeling a little defeated, I walked out empty handed.

But then, I walked into Paper Source. *

Paper Source is a craft/paper store chain that sells all the things I love: pretty things, sparkly things and craft supplies. The flagship, two-story location just happens to be within walking distance from my new apartment. (Fate!) The second I walked in, my problem was solved: I was going to make my own wedding planner.

Three shopping trips and wedding craft workshop later, I was finally armed with the supplies to get started. I picked up a binder, some sheet protectors and some dividers from Walgreens, and I was in business!

I started making my binder a few days ago and I’m absolutely in love with it! I didn’t really have a plan, but just kept adding things that were white and girly. A little lace here, a little sparkler there. I dont want to share too many photos, because it’s not done yet, but here’s a little teaser. Finding Paper Source is a big deal for me. You might have noticed by my lack of craft posts recently, and I think I’ve just been short on inspiration and supplies. I haven’t been this excited about a craft project in a really long time! With a craft store within my reach and lots of DIY wedding projects ahead, I have a very good feeling things will be moving full-steam ahead.

Happy crafting!

 

*Please note: Paper Source did NOT pay me to write this. (In fact, I paid them with my repeated and uncontrollable craft binges.)

Fall Bucket List 2012

After six years as a barista, I will always define my seasons by Starbucks seasonal drinks. Now that Pumpkin Spice Lattes are out, I’m officially allowed to start blogging about fall! Fall is my absolute favorite season. October first is my favorite day of the year, pumpkin recipes never get old and you simply can’t beat the weather!

Right along with the change in weather this year is my change of local! I recently moved to a new neighborhood in Chicago that is absolutely beautiful. I live by some of the best patio restaurants, wine bars and extraordinary window shopping in the city. Now that I have this whole new turf to explore, on top of all the other fabulous fall activities, I feel like I need to make a 2012 Fall Bucket List.

I hope that fall inspires you to explore your neighborhood and go out and do cute things! (And yes, don’t worry, there will be a Go Do Cute Things – Fall Edition coming out soon!) Here’s my top 10 things to do this fall. I will keep you posted every step of the way.

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1. Visit a Farmer’s Market (often).    
There’s a Farmer’s Market just up the street from me and all I want to do is wear a cable-knit sweater, sip my Caramel Apple Cider and peruse the tents full of produce. And then buy a huge bouquet of fresh flowers to walk home with and put in a vase on the kitchen table.

2. Try my hand at pie crust for a completely homemade apple pie.  
I’ve attempted homemade pie crust once before and failed miserably. As a recipe blogger, this is a task I MUST accomplish. I figure if I fill it with fresh apples, even if it totally sucks it won’t be that bad. 

3. Visit a local bar for a pumpkin inspired beer. 
I thought I accomplished this goal last Halloween at Fountainhead, but it turns it out it was just beer that was served out of a pumpkin, and wasn’t actually pumpkin flavored. I hear that there are several pumpkin ales and I’m excited to try at least three of them.

4. Build up my fall wardrobe with scarves, sweaters, flannel and boots!
Can you believe I’ve never owned tall, brown, leather boots? I couldn’t either! I am desperately in need of a pair this season! I know that fall attire has been in the stores for the past month, but I’ve been trying desperately to hold off on buying it all until I had a crisp, fall saturday afternoon to spend doing so. It will be a very expensive, very fulfilling, very fantastic day I just know it!

5. Not get last in my first-ever Fantasy Football Team. (Let’s go Oak Street Jenny MacAurthors!)
I’ve only really gotten into NFL football over the past two years, but when my fiance asked if I wanted to be on his league, I was extremely excited! I asked if EmJoyable was an appropriate Fantasy Football team team and it turns out that it’s not. So I opted to pay tribute to my favorite character on The League. I was an NFL columnist for a college sports website for a while, so hopefully that counts for something. I don’t expect to win, but I would just really, really like to not get last.

6. Make pumpkin seeds that don’t suck. 
I tried them last year and they were really soggy. My goal this year is to make delicious, crispy and salty pumpkin seeds that someone might actually want to eat.

7. Eat brunch outside.
And if we’re being honest, also eat lunch, dinner and dessert outside and as often as possible. My neighborhood is lined with trees and floral arrangements and I can only imagine how beautiful it will look when the leaves start to turn. Plus, I am surrounded by brunch places with cute patio seating outlined with rod-iron fences and strings of white lights. I could eat brunch on a different patio every weekend till Christmas.

8. Make a killer DIY R2D2 halloween costume.
No one seems to believe me when I say that this costume is going to be adorable, but I promise that it is! And it’s going to be easy and cheap! I hope you’re as excited about it as I am.

9. Host a fall-themed party (and make a few friends to invite to said party). 
I’m not exactly sure what this means. All I know is that I bought six wine glasses, so that will clearly be involved. There will certainly be pumpkin flavored snacks, a craft table (yes, like Mrs. Dunphy on Luke’s birthday on Modern Family) and probably a screening of “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” I just know it will be great.

10. Blog about ALL of these things!
I know I’ve been a total slacker lately and that makes me very sad. So I am making an honest vow to be better! No one likes a blogger that doesn’t blog. Let’s have a great fall together!

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What things are you hoping to do this fall?!