Wow. Talk about feeling better. The past week I have been feeling quite out of it–like I was alive (obviously) and able to function, but not truly engaged. And then, well, this weekend at the restaurant was INSANITY (seriously record breaking for this time of year–I left the resto at 11:30, 1:15, 1:00, and 12:30 Thursday-Sunday, and last night I finally go to leave at 9:15. Glory.). I ended up very behind on my sleep, and just physically exhausted. Add in doctors’ appointments, a double on Friday (leading in to the heaviest nights), and starting to run again, and I literally woke up, ate breakfast, and then fell in and out of sleep on the couch for another hour before finally sleeping a solid hour.5. I woke up feeling so much better, spend some time with Alex, had a run, and then we went bowling, went out to dinner, and are now home to watch UVA basketball (go Hoos!) and with plans of ice cream and a couch nap. Sanity, restored. Also, it was 46 degrees today. LOVE IT.
What else do I love? Talking about food! Thank you to Jenn for hosting our weekly excuse for food-porn-voyeurism.
Last week, Alex and I were able to take advantage of a few shared nights off to go out to dinner, and his day off today meant that we got our weekly date night in as well!
Last Monday, we enjoyed sushi from a local fave, Niu.
Our meal closely resembled that of Christmas dinner, but this time I only got himachi, we added the sweet potato tempura rolls
and we shared some Tom Yum soup with chicken (you know how I feel about this stuff). Barely enough room on the table!!
Wednesday night, we celebrated our 5 year dating anniversary (6 months late) and Valentine’s Day with a luscious dinner at hotspot Nico Osteria. I will come back to this in a minute 😀
Tonight (Tuesday), after bowling, we went to Hub 51, a resto/bar that I have wanted to go to for quite a while. I walk by it all the time, and I love the diversity of their menu. Plus, Alex is “fat” (his words) so he wanted to eat not as much as we typically do on our nights out, and Hub seemed like a good balance of indulge and reason, without losing flavor.
We started with Derbyshire Pinot Noir (we had shared a beer at the bowling alley) and the sweet potato rolls with Japanese BBQ sauce.
For dinner, I went with the Del Mar Seafood Salad–Poached shrimp, Peekytoe Crab, green beans, jicama, raddichio, carrots, celery, tomato, edamame, and “Hub vinagrette”–basically a suped-up honey mustard-balsamic vin. This salad was huge, and I cleared it. Definitely got my veggies in today (in keeping with current WIAW theme!).
Alex got the enchilada stack–pulled chicken, corn/guac layer, tortilla and cheese draped over top, AWESOME tomatillo salsa, pico, beans and rice. It was quite a feast, but fairly appropriately sized, and delicious.
I wish I had a picture of the pulled chicken nachos. They were not to be believed.
We loved our meal at Hub 51, and we will DEFINITELY be returning.
Now, for the star of the post. A fabulous experience, and with veggies and amazing proteins to boot.
This is THE place to go in Chicago currently. After my appointment at the Phys Med doc, I decided to go by and see if we could get a seat at the Chef’s Counter, as we were eating sans reservation but on the earlier side. Alex met me there, and the feast began.
We glasses of two different reds. I am in love with the Barbera I ordered, and Alex loved his glass as well.
They offer complementary, house made and oh-so-fresh olive oil focaccia, parmesan and green olive focaccia, and olive oil loaf, served with a beautifully fruity olive oil.
Then we over-ordered starters, and yet it was so good (and the ingredients so fresh and healthy, how could we feel bad?) that we left nothing (standard for us, but this time, totally warranted!).
Marinated Beet and Bagna Vert Fettunta with castelvetrano olive tapenade, feta (like a giant bruschetta)
Escarole and Gem Lettuce Salad olio nuovo, cara cara oranges, sicilian pistachio (FABULOUS)
Chicory and Apple Salad walnuts, parmesan, croutons, pork belly
Holy freaking cow. Every thing was amazing. The lettuce was lightly dressed and came with dressings that we ordered on the sides, but they were perfect on their own because of how beautiful they were (and seasoned!). Some people might scoff at the idea of ordering a salad (we couldn’t decide which we wanted, thus the 2), but I am greatly of the opinion that the simplest, most often overlooked dishes at restaurants are the true measures of that establishment’s quality.
Well, if tenet rings true, Nico is perhaps one of the best restaurants I have patronized. These were not throw-away dishes. They were truly memorable moments of our meals, and the pork belly was exquisite. I am not usually a big fan of high-brow pork belly, as it tends towards too fatty, like prime rib. But this was just right.
I was uncomfortably full after all of this awesome (already), and we still had mains to go! Alex got a true entree:
Grilled Swordfish shrimp-n’duja vinaigrette, artichokes, cucumber, mint
While I got an antipasti:
Grilled Quail al’Tonnato truffled peach, olives, blood orange (aioli on the side)
The swordfish was excellent, but I have to say that I love its accompaniments. My quail was perhaps my ideal dish: rustic, simple, what-you-see-is-what-you-get, but exquisite flavors of just real food. And who doesn’t love blood oranges and tinly sliced olives lending their acidity, truffled peaches their sweetness, and a touch of endive the bitter, to offset the smoky, porky-chicken flavor of the quail?
HOLY BALLS, BATMAN.
We had not a lick of room left at this point, but if we had, you better believe we would have gotten their signature chocolate torte with sabayon, pumpkin, and soaked plums. And next time, that salt crusted Branzino is going to be seriously hard to pass up.
Next time, Nico, next time.
What was the best thing that you have eaten recently?
Do you prefer dishes of higher complexity, with flavors layered for you, or do you prefer more rustic dishes with the components more separated, so that you can combine them yourself?
I am definitely of the second camp!