Restaurants


We’ve recently gone to two new restaurants (I should say: new to us) that deserve a blog mention (okay, actually 4, but for the life of us, we can’t remember the other two at the moment). So, last up first…

Last night we went to Inovasi. I found it listed on Chowhound and made a reservation through OpenTable. It’s in Lake Bluff and only took us about 15 minutes to get there (why haven’t we thought about Lake Bluff before??).

In a word: deliciousness.

In more words: This is my new favorite place. The decor is upscale, sorta fancy, but the vibe is still open and friendly. The entrance area is bar and high top tables, while in back is more cozy, with a fireplace and both booth and chair seating. We were there on a Saturday night, but there were quite a few families with kids, so we weren’t the only one. Actually, that’s one of the things that was great about this place — it was kid friendly. Not like Ponderosa-no-holds-barred kid friendly, but okay for well-behaved kiddos. It was noisy, but not so noisy you couldn’t talk (but noisy enough to muffle the sounds of high pitched little kid voices). AND they had a nice kid menu, with two different portion sizes (little kids and big kids) — why don’t more places do this??

Yes, our priorities have changed some since we had The Max.

But, the food here was worthy of a Chicago city (not suburbs) restaurant. Innovative, interesting, and very good. The plates are small (and priced accordingly) so you can try multiple things. We had a diet-busting night, but it was worth it. I had these homemade cheese and potato tater tot things (yum) and a crispy chicken dish over homemade noodles with homemade bacon. Tony had foie gras (of course, it was on the menu) and it was perfectly done. Then he tried a steak tartar as his main course. That was the only dish that wasn’t quite up to snuff; the rest were fantastic. And the desserts? OMG good. We split a cherry cake thing and a lavender custard. Good stuff.

We’ll definitely be going back.

Now, for the Alhambra…we were in the city a couple of weekends ago and wound up stopping at The Alhambra Palace for lunch because we drove by it and it looked cool. Well, it was really cool. Like you walk in and go “Wow!” Actually, I think Max might have actually said “Whoa!” as we went in.

It’s like a Moroccan / Middle Eastern place and the decor is amazing. The food was also really good. (disclaimer: I have to admit that I wound up ordering the one non-ethnic thing on the menu because I was hoping Max would eat some of it. He didn’t, but it was really good anyway, so it was okay. But I wish I’d ordered some kebbeh or something instead. I did have the tabouli and Tony had something cool, so we weren’t total Anglos). And it’s HUGE. I mean seriously HUGE. 24,000 Square feet huge. Go to the website and take a look. I can’t even do it justice.

We need to go back here sometime when they have their live entertainment going. And on Tuesdays? They do Salsa dancing. Kind of a cross-cultural thing, I suppose, but I bet it’s cool. Fridays they have a live Arabic band and a bellydancer. And a bellydancing group on Saturday nights. Oh, I am so there.

So, this past weekend we had a Thai-inspired dinner party with the Dains and Bob Stotts. To prepare for it we went on a trek of epic proportions to find the proper ingredients (galangal, etc. etc.). We tried Mitsuma Market first, which is a really cool place out in the ‘burbs, but it’s really primarily a Japanese store. So Tony thought we should try Argyle Street, which he’d heard was like new Chinatown (the regular Chinatown being over by Cermak). We drove in and checked it out.

Smaller in scale, but definitely the right kind of stores. New Chinatown is really a combo Vietnamese / Chinese area. We found almost everything we needed there (and I saw “we” loosely, as Tony did all the cooking). And we ate at a little restaurant called Pho Xe Lua at 1021 W. Argyle Street, Chicago, IL 60640 (773) 275-7512.

Definitely authentic! And pretty yummy too. It’s been so long since we had decent Asian food that it was really great. Max really liked the Thai spring rolls, but he ignored the Baby Pho (sigh). Tony had his classic Vietnamese dish — some kind of “everything” soup with unidentifiable (and some all-too-identifiable) pieces of pig and cow. And I had my favorite, cafe sua da. Love that!

There were a lot of places to try, so we’ll definitely have to go again. Nothing fancy, but most good Vietnamese places I’ve been to are that way.

We had a great time in San Antonio (we were there because a library had “won” me and I was doing a vampire writing camp)…the only bad part was the weather, which was cold. Believe it or not, it was actually warmer in CHICAGO on the day we came back than it was in San Antonio. Grrr. Every time we travel, we bring the weather with us.

I have to write one note to point something out — see the picture with Max where he’s holding hands with a guy? That’s Angel. You should click through to get the larger picture so you can see Max’s face. Angel was part of our wait staff at Oloroso one night. The restaurant was great but the best part for Max (aside from a bunch of Mommy’s mushroom soup) was Angel. He just loved him. He’d wave whenever he came around and gave him lots of smiles.

Max always loves waiters and waitresses, but Angel he really liked. 🙂 He was a great guy!

Oloroso we’d definitely recommend while in San Antonio. Really good food and nice atmosphere. And friendly people. 🙂 We also really liked Boudros, which is on the river (kind of suprising it wound up so good, since a lot of the places there just seemed really touristy). Max really liked the guacamole risotto there (they made him up a plate and boy did it come out from the kitchen fast! I think they wanted to keep baby happy).

G/M Steakhouse reminded us of Coney Island in St. Pete. Even though it was right across from the Alamo, it did have a local dive kind of vibe to it. It was actually a local guy who told us about it.

Our first night (since I’m talking about all the stuff we ate) we ate at Acenar (Hot Mex Cool Bar). It was very trendy and cool. It was pretty good too. Max actually behaved least well there (though he wasn’t that bad), but it was after a day of travel AND we wound up sitting in the back. I’m sure they thought that would be better with the baby, but Max is actually much better behaved if he’s in the thick of things where he can see stuff and flirt. He’s a HUGE flirt.

This weekend was just absolutely gorgeous. The weather was perfect. On Sunday we decided to go apple picking. Based on what some people in the neighborhood had recommended, we decided to try Homestead Orchard (11802 Charles Rd., Woodstock, IL 60098  815-338-7443) in Woodstock, Illinois. It was a nice little place, not at all commercial. The apples were fairly picked over (next year we probably need to go earlier), but we managed to fill two peck bags full. Max definitely LOVES his apples. I’ve already made one batch of applesauce out of the new apples (I keep a bunch of this on hand since he loves it). I just need to buy one of those crank apple peelers or else my thumb is going to fall off.

Mmmm, apples!

Mmmm, apples!

Beautiful day for apple picking

Beautiful day for apple picking

Max in an apple tree

Max in an apple tree

We also stopped off in downtown Woodstock to check it out. It’s a cute place with a nice little historic square and park. We found my book (!) at a nice little bookshop called Read Between the Lynes (129 Van Buren St. Woodstock, IL 815-206-5967). They had a nice selection of books and a great dog. I signed my book while I was there (they had just one copy, but she said it had been selling, so that’s awesome!). Under the “it’s a small world” category, she’s a friend of Jackie, who lives here in Prairie Crossing and had owned Under the Sycamore Tree, that lovely bookshop that closed. 😦

We also stopped and had lunch at La Petite Creperie (115 N. Johnson Street Woodstock, IL 60098 815.337.0765), which was also great. We had some of their Sunday Brunch dishes (yummy french toast for me and steak and egg benedict for Tony…and a mushed up banana for Max). They have lots of event dinners with great themes, so we’ll definitely have to go back. Tony’s thinking maybe for his birthday. Too bad it isn’t a little closer! But it’s a nice drive.

La Petite Creperie

La Petite Creperie

This is going to be kind of a wide-ranging, catching-up kind of post.

The Peacock Fine Indian Cuisine, 700 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Vernon Hills, IL 60061 (847) 816-3100

We had to pick up something out in Vernon Hills yesterday night so we decided to try this little Indian place in the same shopping center. Interestingly, I looked up reviews of it just now while searching for a website for it (apparently, there isn’t one) and they are pretty much divided between people who LOVED it and people who HATED it. The people who hated it either hated the food or the service.

Well. Honestly, our experience there was really good. The service was friendly and attentive (so attentive, in fact, that when I asked him if he could recommend a place for dosas he told me to just call him ahead of time and he would make me one anytime I wanted), the food was good and seemed authentic (based on our experiences at other Indian restaurants around the country) and was served hot and in a timely manner. Tony had Rogan Josh and I had Muga Makhani (butter chicken…probably the most heart-clogging thing you can get at an Indian restaurant, but also one of my favorites…I used to get it all the time at a place in Clearwater). So I would definitely recommend it. The sauces were definitely dead on and had a nice spice level to them (i.e. they didn’t dumb it down for the pale folks).

They also have a lunch buffet, though I have no idea how that is. I’m always a little leery of buffets, so maybe that’s where the bad experiences mentioned in online reviews came from. No idea. The dinner was a little bit on the pricey side, but not heavily so. I’d recommend it. Oh, and a plus was that at least 3 Indian groups came in to dine or get take out while we were there. That’s usually a good sign.

In other news…

Station Village at Prairie Crossing is starting to look pretty dismal. First the bookstore, Under the Sycamore Tree, closed due to health issues of the owner. Then the Prairie Croissant Cafe closed because they felt they couldn’t be true to their upscale organic coffee/cafe vision in these economic times. And now the Affinity Boutique is closing so that the owner can concentrate on her more profitable wholesale jewelry business. So that’s three stores in as many months. Gone. All for different reasons, but the end result is the same. I’m very sad about it. I was going to the cafe at least once a week and I made sure to order all my books from the bookstore. Heck, all the clothes I’ve bought myself lately (which, admittedly, aren’t a huge amount what with the baby and everything) have been from either Affinity or Little Skye. I’ll keep on supporting the stores that are there and hoping that new ones come in to replace the old ones.

And lastly…

I have a cousin in California who is gay and he emailed everyone in the family today about the upcoming election. He’s a lovely guy (and knitted Max an awesome little sweater) and he has been with his partner for 10 years. Two of the nicest guys you can imagine. They finally have the right to marry in the state but that right is in jeopardy because of Proposition 8. If you live in California and are able to vote, I ask you to please consider voting No on Proposition 8 in November.

I definitely don’t want to get into a discussion about right or wrong or morality or any of that (for the most part, I think people feel the way they feel on this issue and nothing I say here will change that)…I will just say that, to me, it’s about the people and it *is* personal (and it *should* be…we’re all people and we all experience love and hate and all the things in between). And I know my cousin. He’s a great guy. He loves his partner. They’ve been together for more years than many straight couples I know (and get along better than a lot of them too). He deserves the right to declare his commitment and love.

I’ll get off of my soap box now. Next post…back to our normally scheduled Max attacks!

Max in his jumpy seat

Max in his jumpy seat

We got Max a jumpy seat while his Pop-Pop and Mom-Mom were visiting. He’s very sproing-y. 🙂 He’s also starting to walk all over in his little red car, having progressed from scooting backwards to going forwards pretty darn quickly. He’s also making progress on the crawling front…he can stick his butt up in the air now and scootle forward. Pretty soon we’re going to have to be baby proofing the house.

Max hanging on the porch with Daddy

Max hanging on the porch with Daddy

Lovely weather we're having, says Max

Lovely weather says Max

The weather has been really nice the last week or so. We even went out to the Mundelein “Barefoot Bay” water park this past weekend. Max really liked it, I think. It completely wore him out, however. He almost fell asleep mid-kick while I was holding him in the water. We’ve also spent some time out on the porch, just hanging out.

We also went to Miramar Bistro (301 Waukegan Ave, Highwood, IL 60040 • P: 847.433.1078). It’s got a great European feel with outdoor tables and white-shirted waitstaff. Great food as well and cool decor. Very city-feeling. We’ll definitely be back. We’d noticed it a while back on the way back from Ravinia one night — it had been hopping at 11 PM when we drove by. 

We happened to be in Highwood for an art festival on Saturday (small, but nice, and included an artist Guo Ji Liang that we actually have a picture from that we bought down in Florida at an art show–we’ve got one of his Southern China photos) and decided to try it out for lunch. Tony had the Croque Monsieur (awesome) and I had a specialty Italian sausage wrap (also awesome). I wasn’t in love with their fries (they have the Steak n Shake kind of skinny skinny fries that go cold as soon as you put them on a plate), but everything else was great. I think we’d have stayed all afternoon if we hadn’t had to feed Max.

Okay, so before you look at the photo below, I would first like to state for the record that a) no babies were harmed in the taking of this photo and b) no, we didn’t put any lipstick on him, there was just some weird lighting effect with the camera and c) I have no idea how the picture came out like it did. But it sure is funny. You actually should click through to the full size version to get the full effect.

Without further ado, here’s Max, our little Goth Baby.
And, as you can see in this picture taken mere moments later, our boy really didn’t have any black lipstick on. Honest Injun.
In other news…we tried Foldovers the other day. Had their thin crust, hand-rolled pizza (a multiple cheese & garlic one) and I also stopped in after a post office trip and had one of their chicago dogs (it’s located in the strip mall by the post office, where a different pizza place used to be). The pizza wasn’t bad at all and neither was the dog. We’ll have to try their signature product: the foldover and see how that is. They sound intriguing. Well, as intriguing as delivery food can be.

Next Page »