autumnal (and edible) elegance

by pieces of moments

. . .

I’m a step or two behind these days. A tiny army of unwashed dishes has appeared to wage war against my sink that by habit is usually empty and clean by the end of the day. I successfully found a patch of time for preparing and roasting a chicken, but have yet to find the time for the making of homemade chicken stock. I haven’t written anything to speak of here for far longer than I care to contemplate or confess. It’s a busy, busy, time.

There are concerts to attend, meetings, daily little chores that need attention, interviews for which to prepare, completed interviews to write up (including one with rising music maker and delightful conversationalist, Tim Halperin – watch for that article soon!), essays, annotations, letters, and emails to write, books, magazines, and articles to read. There are phone calls to make, plane tickets to book, and glorious friends in glamorous cities to visit. And if all that were not enough, there is the wardrobe to be done. It’s full on into fall and I’ve only picked up an item or two to fit my autumnal vision…which is a few ideas culled from the Spring 2011 RTW shows incorporated with fall/winter standards (and now you know my secret to staying one step ahead – shhhhhhhh – don’t tell!) and pulled together with a color scheme reminiscent of Monet’s Haystack paintings.

In the midst of all this flurry of activity, I sit here typing to you with the most delicious aroma wafting through my apartment. I absolutely despise being cold, so with my radiators happily pushing out luscious heat to chase the chill I decided to ramp the whole process up by tossing perfume sample strips cut from magazines atop the coils. Brilliant move. Don’t you love the simple pleasures? A little light pink nail polish, some heat, and a Gucci perfume ad strip. Elegance is free, darling – simply a state of mind.

Speaking of elegance, Laura, one of my lovely friends from my days living in Cambridge has relocated to Chicago, a fantastic turn of events for my pallet and creativity. Another dear friend (and former roommate-until-recent-relocation-of-Laura), Jenny (or as I called her, “Meymot”…yes, there’s a story), came for a visit. This was joyful for several reasons: among those because I missed them (obviously), and also because these women know how to live, and moreover they know how to eat. I have had some of the most beautiful snacks and meals with them. Our Saturday poker games were less about the cards in our hands than what bowls or plates we chose to hold our scrumptious haul from Russo’s grocery. I absolutely adore dropping an obscene amount of money on eating out at fantastic restaurants because I love to invest in memories and experiences. So, you can imagine with what glee I perused the menu when Laura suggested we dine at North Pond in Lincoln Park. No dipping the toes for us – we dove straight in from the amuse-bouche to the starters, the main course, dessert, and coffee. I will refrain from telling you every last detail (this is not a food blog after all, and I’m less of a critic and more of a curator when it comes to comestibles), however, I will say that night our table was graced with everything from quail to palm hearts and tuna tartar, duck, salmon, a mini parade of sauces, and beautiful vegetables grown and selected from a list of farms one can find on the restaurant’s website. It was artful yet approachable, coolly elegant yet warmly casual, and the staff extremely efficient and friendly. The entire operation is housed in a charming art nouveau/arts and crafts/Frank Lloyd Wright-ish cozy structure quite literally placed on the north edge of a pond. If I have any criticism it might be at times the flavor subtlety was overwhelming. In other words, at times the flavors murmured to the point you couldn’t quite understand them clearly. It’s tremendously difficult in the science of cooking to preserve the integrity of each flavor as it is welded to another in the heat of the kitchen. One can speak softly and yet enunciate rather than unintelligibly whisper. Perfect balance is hard to achieve. Nonetheless, overall we loved our meal and contentedly tossed our plastic on the table when the last drop of decaf French press was gone…with the assorted chocolate creations, fig and hazelnut tart, and brown butter ice cream, that is.

More soon. In the meantime, check out my friend the outstanding British pianist James Rhodes’ brilliantly fun-yet-sophisticated new website, as well as this article on photographer Corinne May Botz in the NY Times.

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