Mar 23, 2007

schwa. 3.15.07 (you can see the very grainy and dark photos here. i'm missing shots of the sorbet and craig's dessert.)

after trying for 4 different occasions and not getting a reservation, craig and i finally just took what we could get at schwa, which we decided would be our 4 year wedding anniversary celebration dinner, just a month early. i can honestly say without a doubt that this was the most amazing dining experience i have ever had.

each course surprised and delighted me, and although there were one or two parts of the dishes that i wouldn't call my favorite, i didn't NOT like a single one. each course inspired me to experiment with the same unlikely pairing of ingredients at home, starting with the amuse:

1. amuse - beet truffle with chocolate and bacon, beet puree with white chocolate creme and powdered bacon fat

a great start to the meal. the truffle was incredibly beet-y, with a surprising gelatin-like texture and a creamy center with pure bacon essence. we were instructed to take the puree as a shot, which i did with enthusiasm anticipating the powdered bacon fat, but i didn't really taste it, but the puree was a fantastic flavor combination with the white chocolate.

2. oysters - steel cut oats with raisins, cinnamon and fried oysters, raw oyster shooter with almond milk

i was hesitant about the shooter at first, but it was actually very good. very fishy, but the fishiness paired with the sweet almond milk was great. the oats were fantastic, paired with the plump raisins and perfectly fried oysters, still wonderfully soft and creamy with a thin crunchy shell.

3. chestnut - chestnut purree with serrano ham, persimmon puree

it just kept getting better! craig described the puree as "fall in a cup". it was just that, wonderfully earthy, salty with a touch of sweetness, the serrano ham cubes added the touch of savory that sent it over the top. on the side were a persimmon puree and serrano ham both sliced thinly and cubed.

4. quail egg ravioli - ravioli with quail egg and ricotta, in brown butter with parmigiano reggiano

my favorite course. i was expecting to be thrown off by the raw egg center, but instead was blown away by the perfection of this dish. the ravioli was cooked perfectly al dente, the center warm and creamy, with the perfect egg yolk flavor. the brown butter sauce was intense and added a warm and delicate ending that made me sigh.

5. arctic char caviar - celery root and quince puree with smoked arctic char caviar, bruleed top and pink peppercorn

a very interesting dish, you break through the brulee to find smoked arctic char caviar atop pureed celery root and quince. this was a step down from the ravioli, but i thoroughly enjoyed eating this course.

6. lobster - butter poached lobster with brussel sprout leaves, parsnip puree, mushroom foam and black truffle shavings

easily just behind the ravioli in my favorites list, although the lobster was just a tad overcooked. craig said that two of his three pieces were perfect, but all three of mine were just a tad chewy. i quickly let that slide, though, because the mushroom foam, paired with the brussel sprout leaves and truffles made my mouth so happy i couldn't talk. it was a challenge not to lick the dish when we were finished.

7. rabbit- rabbit confit with pomegranate arils and puree, turnip puree and queso de valdeon

i found this dish rather unmemorable. it was delicious, don't get me wrong, but between the lobster and the beef it sort of got lost in my culinary memory. the turnip puree was a great flavor addition to the sweet/tart pomegranate puree and melt-in-your-mouth rabbit, but it was hard to get onto my fork as it was thinly spread about the undulating rim of the dish.

8. beef - trio of beef - tartare with quail egg, pickled tongue, braised short ribs with sweet potato puree

great presentation, the tartare was atop a plastic ice cube with the quail egg delicately balanced on top. it was the perfect temperature, very simple, not overseasoned, just the essence of beef and egg. the tongue was so tender, not too pickly, absolutely delicious. but the best was saved for last with the beef short rib. so tender it just fell apart when i touched it with my fork, and paired with the sweet potato puree it was just like heaven. we definitely lingered on this part of the dish for as long as we could. it was at this point during the meal that we both vocalized that we wished the meal would never end.

9. cheese - morbier cheese risotto with summer puree

wow, this was amazing. my #3 of the night. a little spoon with a bite of morbier cheese risotto, so strong and pungent with a tiny taste of an intense green summer puree to bring the taste buds back down. more than a taste would have been too much to handle, but still that one taste left me wanting more.

10. sorbet - rose water sorbet with raspberry puree

served atop another plastic ice cube, the sorbet was balanced in a little crater of the raspberry puree. it was so fresh and delicate, with the intense flavor of rose, it revived a flood of emotion in me, reminding me of my childhood. i couldn't put my finger on exactly what it was, but i shed a tiny tear as my feelings ran wild. i've never had a reaction to food like this, and it was a good thing, again, that it was only a taste or else it would have been too overwhelming.

11. dessert -me- chocolate brownies with some sort of ice cream, one of which was coated in finely crushed nuts (i'd had a lot of wine) -craig- pretzel crusted dates stuffed with caramel and mustard seed, anchor steam foam, pretzel sticks, tumeric ice cream

at this point we were offered some dessert wine that the table next to us had left behind, and we gleefully accepted. then the desserts came out. craig had the dates and i had chocolate brownies. craig's dish was a great flavor combo with the cooling creamy ice cream, salty pretzel, sweet dates and tangy mustard, but i felt that it was a bit too much for me. (though i've been salivating over the memory of the flavors ever since) at the time i very much preferred my chocolate brownies with ice cream, although unfortunately i don't remember the details. two+ bottles of wine will do that.

Mar 16, 2007

5 things i didn't expect from my dinner at schwa last night:

1. to really really REALLY enjoy the quail egg ravioli. i was hesitant about this course, and expected to be thrown off by the texture, slimy, raw and eggy....but instead it was delightful and probably the best thing i have ever put in my mouth. fo real. definitely the highlight of the dinner for me.

2. to overhear a conversation about glory holes.

3. to discover that the person discussing glory holes was someone we knew. in a 26 seat restaurant on a random thursday night, neither of us living in the neighborhood, and we see shylo, at the table next to us no less. it's a small small glorious world.

4. to be served the leftover south african dessert wine from the table next to us after they left. thanks shylo, it was delicious!

5. to shed a tear. the only course we forgot to photograph was a rose water sorbet palate cleanser. i got a little emotional tasting the rose water, it brought back memories of my childhood, of my mom, feelings of warmth and comfort and calm. considering how overwhelmed i got, it is a good thing it was only one bite.

i'll do the full round of photos and reviews this weekend after hubb adjusts the color in all of the pictures he took (it was really, really dark, and by the end of dinner all of our candles had gone out.) but it is safe to say that this was absolutely without a doubt the best meal i have ever had in my life.

Mar 15, 2007

this week has been a roller coaster. i went through this random bout of depression last week, which ran into this week making me rather useless and lumpy for a few days. i'm sort of back to normal, but it's taken a few major events to bring me back up. in no particular order: a new toy at work, a new dress...for DINNER AT SCHWA TONIGHT!, baking the most delicious muffins ever, joining my condo association board, and getting below my hump weight (the number i haven't been able to crack for 3 or 4 months....until this week. hopefully the downward trend on the scale continues). oh, and great news a large portion of my friends, which always cheers me up...a big fat congrats to the newly engaged, newly impregnated, soon-to-be homeowners, and all the other happy people i know.

one of my best friends is pregnant, 7-1/2 weeks. i have lots of other friends who are with child, but this one is my only local one, so i'll get to intimately observe her progress, the joys and the pains. she only found out two weeks ago, but with the sharing she's done so far, i'm beginning to question my desire to actually ever have children. really. the world is overpopulated anyway, and i don't have the strength to be nauseous all the time.

the seasons are finally changing, which is probably the impetus for all of these life changes people around me are going through. me, i'm sick to death of knee high socks and scarves, and the first few days of this week made me crazy with their cute shoe allowing warm temps. i am desperate for days of skirts and tank tops and flip flops and sweating because of the sun and not the sticky overdressed people on the bus. all i need is a change in wardrobe right now.

everything really is going just wonderfully for me right now, i just need to wrap myself around it all and stop dwelling on silly things. it's just silly. and silliness isn't going to get me anywhere. but that's probably my problem to begin with; right now i'm not going anywhere. just coasting. which is incredibly distressing to me.

Mar 9, 2007

10 things i've been doing rather than blogging:

1. watching the sopranos (we're on disc 2 of season 6!) and a few good movies (the science of sleep - LOVED it, babel - liked it...but am still depressed)
2. taking some photos, mostly of myself.
3. cutting my own hair because i can't get in to see my stylist to lighten up the back.
4. still trying to decide where to go next month for our anniversary. leaving the country is out because i'm not so sure i'll have a valid passport by then. everything is up in the air, and i'm almost considering a few days off work to just relax in chicago.
5. daydreaming about springtime and little cute shoes.
6. finally getting the office cleaned and decorated.
7. getting back into having cheap dates with the hubb.
8. getting amped up for schwa next thursday! (most definitely NOT a cheap date, but that's ok.)
9. ignoring the fact that my taxes need to get done.
10. starting posts then getting distracted and never finishing them.