So today I officially have been alive for a quarter of a century. The last year has been a fantastic one, and I know the upcoming year will only be better. My 25th year has started off well, with a musical and fantastic dinner. The bad news, though, was that I realized as soon as we got to the theater that my camera battery was dead. It was a shame, too, because I was wearing a freaking cute dress and there is no proof of how hot I looked ;)
First, a bit of non-food blogging. After almost a year of talking about it, we finally decided to use my birthday as an excuse to see the musical Wicked. If you're from Chicago (or New York), I'm sure you know all about this incredibly popular show. It's the story of the friendship between Glinda the Good Witch and the Wicked Witch from the Wizard of Oz. I wasn't sure if it could live up to the hype after hearing about it for so long, but I really did end up loving the show. The characters were colorful, the sets were elaborate, and the costumes were so creative and fun. And, obviously, the music was fantastic. Let me just say, those Broadway types have some impressive pipes. Go see it; you will not regret it!
We went to the matinée, because the second part of my birthday gift was a dinner that I did not want to rush through. I've heard about Avec a lot lately, in Chicago magazine, Time Out Chicago, and even when the chef, Koren Grieveson was a judge on an episode of Top Chef this season. It is a Mediterranean-inspired small plates restaurant, and it was like no other restaurant I'd ever experienced.
I'd read online that it reminded some people of a dry sauna, and I could see what they meant. It's narrow and lots of light colored wood, and it's way smaller than I expected. They don't take reservations, but we were there pretty early, so we got in without a wait. It is set up for communal dining, so the long tables are shared by multiple groups or couples. We had a group of girls on one side that kept to themselves, but the two couples on our other side were fun to chat with. It's a setting that I wouldn't always been in the mood for, but we really had fun with the intimate feeling for this night.
More importantly, let's talk about the food. This is where I'm made I didn't have the camera. I might have felt kind of dorky taking pictures of my food throughout the meal, but I think it would have been worth it to document the delicious food we enjoyed. The chorizo stuffed dates wrapped in bacon were spicy and sweet, and seemed to be a popular dish at every table in the place. I love the way the dates are like candy that just melts in your mouth, and the spicy red pepper sauce was a great contrast. We also had chicken sausage with a fingerling potato salad. The salad had snap peas in it, which made it taste light and summery, and the Green Goddess dressing was one of Joe's favorite parts of the meal.
We also had a cheese plate, which is something I always enjoy. I'm a cheese fanatic, and we had the waitress pick three cheese that she thought we'd like. I wish I could tell you what they were, but all I remember was a perfectly balance blue cheese and a creamy soft cheese.
The last thing we had was my favorite--red pepper and tomato braised cod with caperberries, pancetta, and spicy mustard greens. The cod was moist and perfectly cooked, and the combination of salty capers, smoky pancetta, and earthy mustard greens was to die for. I was pretty stuffed at this point, but I still did my best to eat my share.
The best part of the meal might have been the pleasant surprise when we got our bill-- only $80 for the four dishes and four high-quality beers. That meant we would be able to afford another delicious meal at one of my new favorite restaurants, because it was affordable enough we didn't necessarily have to wait for another special occasion.
And just because it's fun to tell, I have to tell you about the two celebrity moments of the night. First, we had the chance to chat with Koren, the chef. She was gracious and funny, and I loved having the chance to tell her how much we enjoyed the whole experience. She seems like a very cool person, and I respect her for being a rocking chef in a field dominated by men. Then, partway through dinner, Ashlie Simpson and Pete Wentz came in to meet some friends for dinner. The star power confirmed the fun and cool-factor of this restaurant, and it was a special (and random) way to end the birthday evening.
So, go to Avec as soon as you can, and I promise you'll not be sorry. You don't even have to wait for an important event, like a landmark birthday. Enjoy!