Several months ago, we decided to head to Chicago to see David Gray in June. We booked our hotel. We very excitedly made reservations at an always-booked-forever restaurant. And then... we couldn't get tickets. It was my screw up (although I still blame Ticketmaster), and I've been pouting ever since. We decided to go to Chicago anyway. And then realized we couldn't. Then found out we could. Then couldn't. Then... in the end... We were able to go. AND THEN..... we went and skulked around House of Blues, were DG was playing. I gave the ticket girl my best puppy dog eyes... nada. So we left, feeling extra pouty because HofB is SO small and would have been so great. We walked around for a few minutes, then as we were about to walk by again, Brad had to pee. Of course. I scowled a bit - more salt to the wound! But we went in, and while I was standing making sad eyes at the evil sold out sign, a family approached us and asked if we wanted to buy their extra tickets. Uh, duh! And, because no one pays any attention, we ended up on the main floor (general admission) for just about the same price we would have spent for the 2nd balcony tickets I originally had my hands on. Sometimes, things are just meant to be.
Of course, the show was great. How could it not be?
But before it was time for the show, we had a very highly anticipated meal to get in our bellies. Delicious Mexican food from Top Chef Masters winner Rick Bayless at Topolobampo.
We were discussing dinner again tonight, and Brad said the words, "I think it may have been better than Gordon Ramsay in London." I gave him a look (I mean, it's GORDON) and told him they aren't even in the same world for accurate comparison, but his comment speaks for itself. This food was out of this world. And there wasn't even any cheese in our meals!
First up, cocktails, of course. Well, Brad got beer (boring). I went with a seasonal mojito, the basil-mango. (Why haven't I been doing this all summer with my basil crop?!)
Just the perfect blend of everything. Not too sweet but not bitter, basily, and just the right amount of boozy. And yes, I did have two, thank you.
Instead of chips and salsa, we were presented with guacamole - and jicama and crisp cucumber slices for dipping.
I hate garlicy gucamole. I mean, it makes me sick as a dog. But I also just want to taste the avocado. And that's exactly how this was - just smooth and creamy avocado. When we ran out of dippers, I was tempted to scoop the rest up with my spoon (luckily, we got some chips with our appetizer, so not a drop was wasted.)
For an appetizer, we decided on a trio of ceviches - it's like Mexican sushi! One was shrimp and squid in lime and orange, one was avocado-tomatillo guacamole topped with chopped yellowfin tuna and mango salsa, and one was albacore with tomatoes, olives, and green chiles.
If I close my eyes, I can still taste the tuna/avocado/mango (in the middle). That one was my favorite, but the other two were also amazing. Brad's favorite was the albacore (on the right), but every time he tasted a different one, he said, "well, maybe this one is my favorite." Regardless, we loved them all - and I could have eaten this entire appetizer by myself and/or would happily eat this as a meal.
And then there were the meals....
Brad had read that Rick B. won Masters with his mole negro. (From the menu - Carne Asada y Barbacoa en Mole Negro:
Wood-grilled Premier Wagyu ribeye & slow-roasted
Crawford Farm lamb in classic Oaxacan black mole (chilhuacle chiles
& 28 other ingredients), corn husk-steamed chipil tamal, unctuous
black beans, smoky green beans.) So he got that... And I think that's what tipped Rick over Gordon on the yum scale for Brad. (I snuck a bite of his tamale - mmmm.)
I was torn between the seafood options, and also considered the vegetarian option with stuffed squash blossoms (cheese!), but I knew I had a long night ahead of me and didn't know how well all the beans would sit. I opted for the soft-shell crab (which I am currently obsessed with). (From the menu - Jaiba de Concha Suave, Salsa de Chile Ancho y Cereza:
crispy soft shell crab, robust ancho-cherry sauce,
savory black barley, tequila-pickled cherries, charred radishes. He he he suave.) Btw, I need to get better about taking pictures of what Brad eats - I'm sure he feels left out (ha!).
Nothing here disappointed. I mean, I would have happily taken FOUR crabs instead of three, but, you know, I lived. I really loved the farro and mushrooms, and the little chunks of veggies served with it, too (beets, maybe?). The tequilla-pickled cherries were perfect. And they all wrap up perfectly in a fancy taco - they bring you fresh corn tortillas, should you decide to use them, and I made two small ones while savoring the majority of my meal taco-less.
There was also dessert (a thin chocolate cake with ice cream), but that coincided with my second mojito so, I have to be honest, my memories of dessert aren't as strong as the rest of the meal. A (unusually delicious) cup of coffee followed.
It may be somewhat important to note that everything had cilantro in it, and I didn't want to be that girl so I didn't ask for anything without it... And I loved everything and nothing tasted like soap. So perhaps I don't hate cilantro after all? I will tread lightly and will begin to re-explore this.....
Needless to say, it was a perfect 24 hours in the big city. I feel so blessed to live so close to such a great city (while also living full time at the beach). And now I am hungry. Dang it.