Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Best Let's Finish Talking About Christmastime in Chicago

Like I said just last night, there are two more things I wanted to talk about from Christmastime in Chicago.

First, I made dinner on Sunday.

Owen was my assistant chef, he did a great job. Things got pretty hectic in the kitchen, but he always kept a cool head. Here he slices apples for our apple, bacon, and spicy nut salad...terrible news, though: I didn't get a picture of the finished product! Can you imagine a bunch of apple slices tossed with bacon, lime juice, bacon fat, and spicy nuts? Ok, good. You just imagined the finished salad.

Our main course was ribeye steak after the manner of a Momofuku recipe. Here are the dear pieces of meat (not deer pieces) before their adventure to deliciousness began.
First I seared them up and then the pots (because we didn't have a big enough frying pan) went into the oven for a few minutes.

Then the steaks received a mighty basting in a bath of butter, garlic, and shallots.

And then they sat and took it easy for a while...that's a vital step in cooking steak, that you let it just take it easy for a while. It's just been through a lot, you know? Especially considering how recently it was eating grass, right?

Another side: a certain famous Brussels sprouts dish.

Dinner time!

I think dinner was a success because Grandma was still talking about it the next morning.

Bonus item: Monday Lunch, Johnnie's, of course.

Monday night the Mulcocks, who are now Evanstonians, came with us for dinner at Las Fuentes. Excellent.

Some Barneses, anxious to make sure the Mulcocks are enjoying their first trip to our favorite Chicagoland restaurant.

I had the stuffed chickenbreast, I had never had it before. Also, the nine of us ate five plates of nachos. That's a new record.

Okay, pretty much I've told you all the real important stuff about Christmastime in Chicago now.

Best Let's Talk About Christmas in Chicago

So I went home to Chicago for Christmastime. I'll be headed back to New York in a couple of hours, so why not blog it all now, right?

The really cool thing about Christmastime in Chicago this year was that Grandma Barnes came out for it, too. This took a lot of the heat off of me as I didn't have to be the center of attention and everyone's favorite this time.

For lunch on Christmas Eve we went to Heaven on Seven, which I hadn't been to for so long.

Sea scallops in an oxtail jerk sauce, yo.

The traditional Christmas Eve reading of the Christmas story...

Drove around looking at the lights in River Forest,

One house by the forest preserve had two enormous deer, practically elk, on its lawn. One appeared to be working on laying an elk egg.

Our alley, time-lapsed.

Christmas Day: No pictures. Figures. Let's not be materialistic.

Christmas Day Night I saw this Pueblan place, "Cemitas Puebla", on the Food Network. It looked pretty awesome and I've learned a lot from Dave about cemitas and tacos arabes, so I took my brothers and dad to check it out.

Of course, lots of other people saw it on TV the night before, so it was packed and we waited a LONG time for our food.

Portraits of waiters...

That's the line that went out the door behind Dad.

Dad got pretty sick of waiting and eventually got his binoculars out (we probably had to wait an hour for our little lunch).

Cemita atomica, deconstructed. The verdict? The food was fine, no better than Los Portales in Queens. Not worth the wait, not worth the struggle. But when we left at 2'ish they had closed down and were turning people away from the door because they had run out of food. So that's what the Food Network will do for you if you're a little neighborhood taco stand.

That night I caught the dog wandering around on the second floor...this both never happens and is also not allowed. Sorry, Kelsi.

Meanwhile, the cat worried about his weight.

More later. (it will involve me cooking on Sunday and the Mulcocks visiting on Monday)

Monday, December 29, 2008

Best It Is/Was Ali's Birthday

Ali's birthday is today, and to celebrate, Kim threw her a surprise party back on the 6th of December. A great way to surprise someone for their birthday is to have the party more than three weeks ahead of time, but also, in order to make sure someone can make it to their surprise party three weeks early, it turns out you have to tell them you're throwing them a surprise party. Still it was fun.

We decorated cookies and the conversation took a turn in the Arrested Development direction.

Kim made Ali a Cookie Monster cake because Ali loves cookies, and probably Cookie Monster.

Uh oh, looks like Ali hated her cake. Just kidding! She liked it!

A cookie theme came together.

But there was a part of the party that was a surprise, we took Ali downtown to see a midnight showing of the Nightmare Before Christmas, one of her favorite movies.

To get there, we took the subway. Which is pretty normal.

This is me being mad at Ali for deleting pictures from my camera. That's a major no-no. As you can see, she could care less.

In order to keep the actual surprise part of the surprise party a surprise, Ryan blindfolded Ali when we got to the Lower East Side. It wasn't until she smelled popcorn that Ali realized we were at the Sunshine Theater and then, like a mad genius, she instantly knew what we were doing.
So, yes. Happy Birthday, Ali! Both back on the 6th and Today!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Best And Now I Spoil Marley & Me

Warning: I am about to discuss the end of Marley and Me! Read no further if the non-surprising final act of the film is NOT something you want revealed to you (if you haven't already seen it) or NOT something you want to revisit (if you have seen it).


"Big Spoilers!" in 10...






Really, it's coming...




This is your last chance! Turn away!



Here I go...

The dog dies of old age? What in the world?

A month or so ago I picked up on these rumblings that Marley & Me was being falsely advertised as a charming, family-friendly life-with-a-dog film when REALLY the plot heads off in another direction towards the end. The Million Dollar Baby of 2008, if you would. So I went in to the Barnes-family viewing of the movie with my antenna up, ready to pick up clues as to what the "twist" could be. The dog dying, that would be too easy, so my main suspicion was that Jennifer Aniston would have to go. For a while the film seemed filled to bursting with clues that such a thing might happen...the most flagrant being when Owen Wilson picks up a newspaper dated late-August, 2001. Oh no! I thought. Am I watching a September 11th movie? Is Aniston going to die in one of the planes? For a minute I sat there cursing this cuddly movie for the direction it was about to go in but, nope, turns out it's not a 9/11 movie...and Wilson's entire family doesn't die in a car crash either, and nope, his wife doesn't get murdered by the man that stabbed their neighbor. The dog just gets old and dies. That's all.

Come on!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Best Gift Idea

I know, Christmas is practically over, but I saw this in Soho Tuesday and had to share.

Moss, the la-dee-da furniture store, is selling chandeliers modeled after the ones at the Metropolitan Opera made by the same people that made the Met, essentially these are Met chandeliers that they're selling...except a touch more colorful. The large one in the foreground is $170,000, the smallest one in the background $30,000. It's nice to see instances of recession-proof stores and merchandise.

Ok, got to go. Everyone is yelling at me from the den that we're about to start watching Love & Death. What? There's snow. It's a Christmas movie.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Best Eating and Learning and Discovering

This weekend Annie came to visit Ali and that means I finally got to meet this famous Annie I've heard so much about--this important event was commemorated with a trip to the Noodle Bar, of course.

Look at how, if you looked closely at these Polaroids, you'd learn the story of the night.

Ali and I split the rolled pork belly ramen. For months I've wondered what "rolled pork belly ramen" meant. I means they take the pork belly, roll it up [so that means that the cinammon roll looking thing in the bowl is the pork belly], cook it, and then put it in your ramen. Who would have guessed! And, I don't know if you'll believe this news, but it was delicious.

Ali and Annie demonstrate what we did at the Noodle Bar: ate and joked and took instant photos. These tourists, sometimes they bring the cleverest toys along with them.

Something really important that I learned two days after this meal was that leftover Momofuku chicken ramen is DELICIOUS and the perfect Sunday afternoon meal.

Also, on Saturday I had lunch with at the Ssam Bar. It's always great to eat and catch up with Pete. We had the Brussels sprouts, the new version of the hanger steak, and ordered some scrapple with bacon and a poached egg off the Ssam Bar's new "Egg" section of their lunch menu (essentially they're rolling out a brunch menu). As unappetizing as scrapple sounds when you look it up online, this scrapple (my first!) sure was excellent...I think they took it easy with the face bits and heart and heavier with the pork shoulder. As Pete has lots of amigos at Momofuku, the kitchen sent us out their new egg topped buttermilk biscuit dish (excellent, such a perfect target for liberal applications of the rooster sauce) and their new, still in-development pho. While this was all happening, Pete's friend/colleague Dave came over and they had some interesting food and business conversations and another head chef came by to show Pete this new ham they had purchased that, although quite beautiful, he considered to be too salty and jerky like...of course, he explained this as I gobbled up as many slices as I could. And Dave ordered me a root beer. I'm practically speaking in code to downplay the experience, but talk to me about this in person and I'll be a little more effusive.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Best Pre-Game Quote Ever

"Let's go out there and punch them right in the mouth!"

Must every Texas state semi-final game be played in the rain? Not that I'm mad. Just wondering.

As usual, Coach Taylor was the most manly man of the episode, but Riggins was quite the grown-up, too. Not used to seeing him outdo Lyla in that department.

It's hard to believe there's just two more episodes left in the season (and quite possibly the series. There. I said it.)

No FNL post last week because I couldn't stop shaking in terror over the same thing that made you shake with terror, if you saw it. And if you haven't yet, believe me, you'll be scared. I had to pause it and spend some time preparing myself for what was about to happen.