Candace Gatherings Global Cuisine Holiday Komanfest Thailand What I ate in....

We Survived the First Year of Marriage….and all we got was a trip to Thailand!

Photo by Julian Mackler, Rockhouse, Negril, Jamaica, Day after Blewish Wedding

People LOVE asking newly-married people the same question:

“How is the first year of marriage???”

That is QUITE the question. Do you give the expected, “It’s been wonderful!” and go about your merry way?? Or do you keep it (too) real with the “It’s mostly great, except for the times I want to kill him/her!” and laugh like it’s a joke even though you really mean it? I tend to go with a big ol’ grin and say “We made it!”

So, you’re probably wondering, how WAS the first year of marriage??

It was beautiful. It was terrifying. It was heart-breaking. It was educational. It was earth-shattering. It was hard. It was easy. It was enlightening. It was full of breathtaking highs and gut-wrenching lows. But most importantly for us, it was a strong and enduring partnership between two people who (thankfully) really, really like each other.

I can’t and wouldn’t want to give people marriage advice because every relationship is so singular. But I do have a couple of suggestions. These might feel painfully obvious, and if so, use them as needed reminders:

  • Regardless of who you are with, those highs and lows will happen. Be with someone that you can’t WAIT to celebrate those amazing moments with and who will never leave your side during life’s darkest days.
  • Take some time to learn who you are and how you operate within your marriage/relationship. We are all constantly learning and evolving as individuals, but I had to understand what type of a partner I am. Be patient with yourself and your significant other as you learn how to function as a team. Don’t get frustrated if it doesn’t organically happen immediately.
  • Spend time with each other and if you can, get the hell out of dodge! Maybe you don’t have the time or credit card points to go across the world (what, you thought we actually had the money to go to Thailand??); so road trip an hour away to a B&B or shut out the world for one night by turning off your phones and computers, make dinner, and talk to each other.

So yes, we SURVIVED the first year of marriage. If I’m being honest, I think I love Jay a little more than I did in April of 2015. And that, to me, is the biggest indicator of a successful first year of marriage.

SOOO….THAILAND????

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Okay, yes, Thailand, the important part!  Our wedding anniversary is the same week as both of our birthdays (I know, so obnoxious, right???). So for our first anniversary and 32nd birthdays we went to Thailand!! I wrote a very, very, very long post about our trip, so I’ve broken it up in parts.

Want to read about what we ate and loved??? Check out the Thailand Eats post.

What to read about what we drank??? Thailand Boozing!

Want to read about the most disappointing $450 meal ever at the TOP restaurant in Asia. Read on about Gaggan. Be warned, lots of snark.

 

 

 

 

Ethnic Food Global Cuisine Komanfest Restaurants Thai Thailand What I ate in....

What I ate in….Thailand!

For two weeks, Jay and I ate our way through Thailand to celebrate our birthdays and first wedding anniversary.  We stayed in three gorgeous hotels, that I’d HIGHLY recommend in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket.

As for food, we ate EVERYTHING. We ate fancy, we ate cheap. We ate the unidentifiable and the things we still don’t know what they were (Mal, babe, that was def chicken feet). We had a lot of hits, one major miss and only minor stomach issues, so as far as a food-based vacation, I’d consider it a win.

Let’s start with the bad. The bad was so disappointing, it has its own post. We were so excited to eat at Gaggan, the #1 restaurant in all of Asia (do you know how big Asia is?). It’s also #10 in the world. The horror….the disappointment….the amount of money we spent on it. So much sadness. Click here to read about it.

But this is a happy place – so let’s talk about the things I ate that made me HAPPY. My top eats in no particular order:

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Bars Booze Global Cuisine Komanfest Thailand Travel What I ate in....

Thailand Drankin!

Mekhong!

Like most big cities, Bangkok is a great drinking town. Want a cheap beer to beat the heat, there’s plenty of Chang. But there are also plenty of other kicked-up cocktails to be discovered.

Before heading to Thailand, I had read a lot about how Bangkok has a thriving cocktail scene. On our first night, we ended up going to two of the most innovative bars – Tep Bar and Teens of Thailand. Tep is a neighborhood bar full of locals, with a few of us foreigners sneaking in. There we got to experience Mekhong, aka Thai whiskey, which, as you can see below, has some very inventive names. If you like stronger liquors as we do, the Mekhong makes some great cocktails.

Our server encouraged us to check out Teens of Thailand, which I had heard about, but hadn’t realized was nearby. We loved the first couple of drinks at TOT, but as we neared the end, our sweet, gentle giant server approached us and asked if he could make us something special.

I had no idea that Gin and Tonics were such a force in Thailand. I spent most of my early drinking years believing Gin and Tonics were these horrific, overly junipery things that I hated – until I experienced DC’s Jaleo and Estadio and learned what a real G&T was like.

Back at TOT, our server brought me a Thai Tea Gin & Tonic, which was one of the most delightful drinks I’ve ever had. It had the citrus notes of a thai tea, but was herbal and just a tad sweet. I loved this drink so much. Namsaah Bottling Trust, which served great food, also had some herbaceous and fragrant Gin and Tonics as well, including a lavender infused drink which was incredibly refreshing during the hot Bangkok nights.

Thai Tea G&T

We spent a couple of nights at the enjoyable Hyde and Seek which has one of the largest cocktail menus I’ve ever seen. Close to our hotel, it was the perfect spot for a nightcap. Vesper also has a delightful cocktail scene and we loved Smalls‘ atmosphere (and they had Titos!).

One of the most fun cocktails I had was the Tom Yum Cocktail at Sri Panwa in Phuket. Our Phuket hotel was one of the most beautiful places on earth, and while it had some great food, I found many of the cocktails a bit too sweet. That was until I discovered the Tom Yum cocktail, which was a play off of tom yum soup. When I ordered this, I didn’t realize it’d take 10 minutes to make, but it was worth every second. The cocktail packed a spicy punch, as they used real chilies, with hints of lime and a little bit of sweetness. It was the perfect poolside vacation drink.

So, have no fear, discerning drinkers! A lot of vacation spots have a bad reputation of fruity, boozeless concoctions that leave you with a headache and not much else. Thailand, fortunately, is not one of those places. Whatever you are looking for to whet your whistle, you’ll be able to find it in the Land of Smiles.

Ethnic Food Global Cuisine Komanfest Restaurants Thailand Travel What I ate in....

Gaggan-tic Fail

I’m not quite sure how to put our experience at Gaggan into words, but I’ll try.

Words we used that night were “challenging,” “awful,” “um, no,” “oh, dear, that texture,” and “why couldn’t everything have tasted like that??” Let me start from the beginning.

When planning our trip to Thailand, we learned that Bangkok has not one, but two top 25 restaurants in the world. One, Nahm, we knew about and had planned from early on to check out. But Gaggan was new to us. It was also recently voted the #1 restaurant in Asia. That’s huge. We had to go. We booked a reservation a month out and eagerly awaited. Lauding Trip Advisor reviews and high critical claim stoked our excitement

Gaggan describes itself as a “progressive Indian” menu. A set menu at 3500++ baht is a lot for a meal in Thailand, but when you’re talking the top meal in a continent, $100 pp is easy to excuse.

We arrived at Gaggan, a colonial style white house hidden down a dark alley. Awash in uplights, it was a gorgeous setting against the dusky Bangkok night. We walked in giddy. I wish future me had been able to warn present me.

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Drinks Restaurants Richmond Travel What I ate in....

What I ate in…Richmond!

I love Richmond. I’m not sure why. I’ve been three times in the past couple of years and each time I’ve only stayed for one night. But during each brief visit, I’ve had great meals, discovered some good shopping and found some quality cocktails. This past weekend was no exception.

I met my best girl Brittany, who lives in Raleigh, there on Saturday. The halfway point between DC and the Triangle, it was the perfect meeting spot for us to hang for a night.

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As great of a time as we had, we could have hung out in a Motel 6 in east bumble and it would have been perfect. With all of our “busy” schedules, I personally value the time I get to spend with my friends who live near and far. Although it was just one night, I think we were both happy to leave the kids (hers, real and human; mine, furry and canine) with the husbands and just focus on ourselves. Brittany and I went to college together, and as much as our lives have changed since our Tar Heel days, our friendship has grown stronger with time. I’ve loved watching her become the woman she is today and am eternally grateful for her friendship.

But enough mush – here’s what we loved!

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Where to stay: We shacked it up at the brand new Quirk Hotel. Beautiful rooms, comfy beds, great bar. Because of our new overlord, Rain, we didn’t get to check out the rooftop, so that was a bit of a bummer. But the hotel was charming and full of….yes, quirk! They also have Nest soaps and lotions and now I’m totally buying the Sicilian Tangerine soap because it smells amazing. Quirk Hotel, 201 W. Broad St.

Where to shop: You know when you set out to “go shopping”, but not actually buy anything?? We attempted to do that, but failed due to the cuteness of mod&soul. The shop owner was darling and had JUST opened her brick and mortar store. I bought this shirt and this dress, which has strategically placed lines and a deep-V, aka my two favorite clothing features. This dress is begging to be worn on a beach….if the sun ever decides to show itself again. mod&soul, 323 W.Broad St.

 

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Where to eat dinner: Food and drinks at Heritage were delicious. I advise grabbing a reservation as it is small and popular. The food Gods smiled on us and we got seats at the bar fairly quickly (which I actually love doing at restaurants). We chatted it up with owner and bartender, Mattias Häaglund, about Richmond, his restaurant and his 3-month old baby boy who he was smitten with. The Pork Fries were really good, but the Fried Broccoli and Thai style Soft Shell Crab stole the show. Served with a Japanese Mayo, the Fried Broccoli crunched and basically melted in your mouth. The soft shell crab special was two perfectly fried crabs served with a sweet, spicy Thai curry sauce and bok choy. Absolutely loved it. Heritage, 1627 W. Main St.

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Where to drank: Richmond’s cocktail scene is having some fun and I sampled way too much of it for one night. Mattias at the aforementioned Heritage made me a Belle Isle Brace Up, created with Belle Isle Honey Habenero Moonshine, a local product, and mixed with lemon, lime and rhubarb bitters. It was way too drinkable. I loved it. Damn you, moonshine.

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They steered us to Balliceaux for some Thai-esque cocktails (I promise, I eat/drink things that aren’t Thai-inspired). My Kampot in 1806 was a good twist on a Manhattan, but Brittany’s Rap Game was so fun. The rum-coconut concoction felt familiar, but mixed with root beer and served with a salty pretzel that muted the sweetness, this made me wish I was on a beach. Apparently, they have K-pop dance parties in the back which we sadly missed out on. Balliceaux, 203 N. Lombardy St.

We stopped at Saison for a final nightcap. I kept it simple with a rye old fashioned but it was well-made and $6. Perfect end to the night. Saison, 23 W. Marshall St. 

Where to order late night food: Because I obviously needed a second dinner, I called room service to ask if they were open. They were not, but directed me to J. Kogi, aka KOREAN DELIVERY. You know how most late night delivery is shit?? This was legit amazing. I got the soy garlic wings, which avoided the dreaded delivery sogginess and were surprisingly crispy and a bulgogi rib eye bowl with bacon kimchi fried rice. As Britt slept, I ate three wings, took two bites of the ribeye bowl, declared it amazing and promptly passed out. I hope I never change. J Kogi, Wherever you need it to be.

Where to brunch: Okay, so, DON’T go to where we ate. I won’t even mention it. Do check out the Roosevelt instead. We were told to eat brunch there, we did not, we regretted it. Learn from my mistakes. Apparently, Heritage also has a great brunch, but we thought it’d be a bit excessive to do dinner and breakfast there (although, I’d definitely try it on my next go round). Roosevelt, 623 N. 25th St.

Where to caffeinate: Before I hopped on 95 to join the masses heading north, I grabbed an iced red eye, French Bun and Almond Croissant from Whisk. Surprisingly, both pastries made it back to the District and Jay and I split them. Flaky, buttery, awesome. An adorable coffee shop and bakery. Whisk, 2100 E. Main St.  

So, my lovelies! Do you have any Richmond spots that you love? What’s your favorite easy road trip from your house?? Tell me, tell me so I can check them out, I’m always up for an adventure!

xo

Chicken Healthyish Pork Recipes

Dirty Whole30

Just interested in the recipe for Slow Cooker Carnitas with Apple Slaw and Guacamole? Click here!

For most of March, I did the Whole30 Program (mine was more of a Whole28, although I did quit drinking a few days before it started).

Wait, what’d you do???

There’s a million books, blogs, articles, websites about what the Whole30 is, but it’s basically 30 days of no dairy, booze, grains, legumes, sugars, soy and other foods.

Why did you do this???

Well, a bunch of my badass friends had just done it and inspired me. I started the Whole30 because I needed a food reset. Years ago, I firmly lived in the food as fuel space. It was sad and depressing. I now live in the food as delicious fun space, which is satisfying, until my pants don’t fit. I thought this would help me find the balance between food as energy and indulgence.

And it did. I became so much more cognizant of what I was putting in my body. We all know that sugar is in everything; but it’s not until you’ve embarked on something like Whole30 that you realize SUGAR IS ACTUALLY IN EVERYTHING.

This program (and others like it) require a TON of time, planning and cooking. If you think you’ve cooked enough, cook more! Yes, you could do the Whole30 by eating roasted veggies and chicken every night. But I know I personally wouldn’t make it and would end up face-down in a pizza by day 7.  I cannot do anything where I’m bored or hungry, so that wasn’t an option for me. So, yes I ate well. Look at these perfect little compliant lamb chops Jay made me.  Continue Reading

Komanfest Non-Food Thailand Travel

Beauty in the Unexpected

I wrote this on the way to the airport to head back to the United States. I have written other iterations of anniversary posts, honest and loving, emotional and far too real. This one feels the most right. Don’t worry, food posts are coming soon. I haven’t forgotten what this blog is about. xo.

“What’s going on? Is everything okay?” He asked, a few feet ahead of me.

Walking down the streets of Phuket Town, I had suddenly paused. The afternoon was hot, muggy, and scented with sun-kissed seafood. Both of us tired and cranky, he understandably wanted to keep moving.

I stared down a…manhole? A sewer? Some sort of drainage? I’m still not sure what exactly it was. But it was a large hole that I could peer over the edge and stare into its abyss.

“Wait, come here. Come look at this,” I responded.

Walking next to a dried out creek that smelled of drought and refuse, he had assumed I’d stumbled onto something upsetting. That I was grossed out and couldn’t look away.

He walked over and joined me in looking at the most amazing, blossoming scape of bright green plants and lily pads that were both beautiful and shocking. Unexpected, but exactly where they were supposed to be.

“Oh. Wow. That is not what I expected to see. Should we take a picture?” he asked.

I thought about it. Of course we should. “No,” I surprisingly said aloud, “Not everything needs to be captured and shared. But it’ll be nice to remember. And it’s nice to find beauty in the unexpected.”

I can’t think of a better way to sum up the first year of marriage.

Healthyish Recipes Sides Soup Thai Vegan Vegetarian

Thai Curry Sweet Potato Soup

Snow storms do not make me excited. I am from the south.

Snow storms that interfere with a fun weekend meet-up in Richmond with my best friend, Brittany, make me especially unhappy.

Snow storms make Jay VERY excited. He is from Boston.

If you pray, pray to the God(dess) of your choice for us.

But as usual, we take lemons and make amazing vodka lemonades. So, let’s look at the bright side!

We are safe and cozy and warm. Jay is currently making amazing homemade meatballs (GIVE US THE RECIPE, JAY!) We kidnapped Emily and Deuce for a weekend-long slumber party. Cara needed a last minute place for Ziggy, so we have THREE dogs in the house, who love each other and are having a blast.

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Exhausted doggies. Queen Rosé in the middle on her throne amongst her men.

And most importantly, Relay Foods delivers groceries and I did not have to step foot in a grocery store. Thank GOD! (Want $30 bucks off??? Click here! Be lazy like me).

When Jay said he was going to make meatballs, it got me thinking about what my storm comfort food is. It’s cheese. Not cold cheese, but melty, oozey casserole cheesiness. So I’m definitely making artichoke goat cheese strata tomorrow. I also made Food Lab’s Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies to have on hand. You should do that. NOW. I’m also drinking rye whiskey with club soda and homemade ginger simple syrup – it’s delicious, but excuse the typos.

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Things snow is good for: keeping whiskey cold.

But let’s talk SOUPS.

I hate when people who cook say the following, but I’m going to say it – I just threw this soup together real quick. It actually is that easy. And because we give credit where credit is due, it is a riff off of How Sweet’s Thai Butternut Squash Soup. I changed a few things to make it my own, but regardless, you should go spend a lot of time on her site – she makes amazing things.

This soup can be vegan or vegetarian. You know fish sauce = umami, but if you’re being strict, you can omit.

What are your storm survival techniques?? What are your go-to comfort foods?? Did you lose power? Do you like snow storms (if you answer this, respond with where you are from – you know my psych brain makes everything research).

Be safe. Be warm. Be loved. And make this damn soup to be happy.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 diced onion
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 2 teaspoons grated ginger
  • 3 tablespoons red curry paste
  • 2-3 tablespoons brown sugar (I like mine on the sweeter side. Start low and add more later if you want.)
  • 4 cups uncooked peeled and cubed sweet potatoes
  • 3 cups stock (chicken, veggie, beef, whatever your flavor!)
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon of red miso (optional, but I used it tonight for the first time and it’s a game-changer – especially if you’re a vegan and not adding fish sauce)
  • 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon sambal or srirarcha (optional, but great for heat)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Fresh cilantro for serving

Steps

  1. In a large Dutch oven or stock pot, add coconut oil over medium heat. When oil has melted, add onions, garlic, ginger and red curry paste. Sauté for about 7-9 minutes, things will start smelling REALLY DELICIOUS. Add brown sugar, and sauté for another 4 minutes. Get those onions translucent. Don’t burn your sugar, turn it down if need be.
  2. Add sweet potatoes (butternut squash works as well, per original recipe) and sauté for another 5 minutes. You want the carbs coated in that deliciousness.
  3. Pour in the stock and fish sauce. Cover and simmer on low to medium for about 15-20 minutes or until sweet potatoes are soft. Check occasionally. (If you have kaffir lime leaves, throw them in here – but this isn’t worth stressing about).
  4. When potatoes are soft enough (remove kaffir lime leaves if you used), using a normal blender or immersion blender, puree the entire mixture. Transfer back to pot on medium-low.
  5. Add coconut milk, juice of one lime, miso and sambal or sriracha (if using. You should.) Stir and let simmer for 5-10 minutes for flavor to develop.
  6. Add salt, pepper to taste, serve with cilantro and more sriracha, and a smidge more lime juice if you have – and live your best damn life possible.
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Thai Curry Sweet Potato Soup!

Note: Emily added avocado in hers at the end, thus the avocado in the pic. Not my style, but a great add if you like! Also, she’s vegan, she needs the protein!

xoxo

Healthyish Recipes Salad Vegetarian

Kale Caesar Salad with Shrimp

If you’re here, you made it through the holidays! Congratulations! You honestly deserve a medal. Instead, I’m giving you some veggies.

Jay and I gave the east coast a run for its money these past couple of months. Thanksgiving in Atlanta with my mother and brother, Christmas in Boston with Jay’s father and a stop in New York to see his mother. It was wonderful to see everyone, but dammit I am tired.

I hate to be a cliché, but my body is desperately in need of some vegetables. It’s been through the ringer these past two (okay, really 8??) months. So over the next few weeks I’ll be posting my heathy-ish recipes.

When I’m trying to be “good,” I have found that it’s much easier for me to be healthier when I’m not sacrificing flavor. Please don’t make me eat plain, poached chicken. Fresh ingredients, lots of herbs, good quality produce and a great cut of meat always help make that easier.

Everyone has different definitions of healthy. These dishes may not be considered “clean” but it’s probably way better for you than what you’ve been eating for the past two months (sorry, I’m projecting). I personally do really well when I decrease the amount of simple carbs I eat (EVERY BODY IS DIFFERENT. I am not telling you what’s best for you). So I try to aim for lots of veggies and proteins.

Enter, Kale Caesar Salad with Shrimp! The dressing and crouton recipes come from Bon Appetit’s Classic Caesar Salad recipe. I started using kale instead of romaine because it has a bit more nutritional value and I love the way it holds up.

Okay, let’s talk anchovies in the dressing – even if you don’t love the idea of them, don’t completely cut them out. I modify the amount in ours because Jay doesn’t love the fishiness, but you will miss that much-needed umami if you get rid of them completely. And yes, this dressing is worth the work. As are the croutons, which I know sounds really unnecessary. Just try them once (a loaf of bread, olive oil and 10 minutes – SO WORTH IT) and you’ll be shelving the boxed ones in no time.

Shrimp is optional. I usually do a quick lemon, olive oil marinade, let sit for 15-30 minutes, sauté and cool them down. Throw on a little parm and you’ve got an awesome, fresh, totally homemade Caesar salad! Aren’t you so amazing???

Ingredients

Salad Parts

  • 1 Bunch of Kale
  • ½ lb of thawed shrimp
  • Juice of one Lemon
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Homemade Croutons
  • Homemade Dressing
  • Extra Parmesan Cheese

Homemade Croutons

  • 3 cups of 1 inch torn pieces of a bread loaf (I like a good whole wheat loaf.)
  • 3 tbsp of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Homemade Caesar Dressing

  • 3-4 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained (I sometimes cheat and use anchovy paste. If going in this direction, use ½ tsp per fillet you plan to use. Original recipe calls for 6 fillets so if you want more GO FOR IT!)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus more
  • ¾ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Preheat your oven to 375.
  2. Mix the juice of one lemon, ¼ c olive oil and herbs. Toss your shrimp in the marinade and place in refrigerator until ready to cook.
  3. Toss the bread with the 3 tbsp of olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread on baking sheet and bake in preheated oven for 10-13 minutes. These can easily burn, so peek at them around 10 minutes to see what’s going on.
  4. Time for the dressing! Chop the anchovies, garlic and pinch of salt together. Smash into a paste. Scrape this into a medium sized bowl.
  5. Whisk in your egg yolks, 2 tbsp of lemon juice and the mustard.
  6. Drop by drop add in the olive oil while whisking, eventually streaming it. Then do the same with the vegetable oil. You want to add both of these slowly as you want the dressing to properly emulsify, rather than become a broken mess. Keep whisking until dressing is thick and shiny.
  7. Give your forearms a rest. Then whisk in parmesan. Season with salt, pepper and more lemon juice to your personal taste.
  8. Turn a pan on medium heat. Add 1 tbsp of olive oil and add your shrimp to the pan. Season with a bit of salt and pepper and sauté for 5-7 minutes, until shrimp are pink and cooked through.
  9. Remove your kale greens from the stem and chop as you desire (I like a fine chop on my kale, some prefer big leaves). Toss greens, shrimp, your amazing croutons and dressing together. Top off with some ground pepper and a little more parmesan cheese and VOILA! HOMEMADE DAMN CAESAR SALAD!!!
Chicago Global Cuisine Restaurants Travel What I ate in....

What I Ate In….Chicago!

I casually strolled into the reputable restaurant, expecting to breezily get a table. I assumed the folks standing around were just there for drinks and headed to the host stand and requested a table for two.

“Hmm, yes – that’ll be about a 30-45 minute wait, and that may bump into when the kitchen is closing, so you may not get to eat.” Wait.

No, I was not at some new hot spot in New York at 10:00 on a Friday night. I was in Chicago on a Thursday at 2pm! I knew the Chicago restaurant scene was SERIOUS (do you know how many bars and restaurants they have that you have to pre-purchase tickets for??), but I was not prepared for potential lunch rejection from what I lovingly dub an upscale diner.

Fortunately, after about 25 minutes, our names were called and we were sat at Au Cheval. And Lord, am I glad we were. I would describe Au Cheval as kicked up diner food. Everything we had was a better version of comfort food that we love. What we ate and drank: Continue Reading