wow! it seems like forever ago that we were in snowy, wonderful, and very food-filled chicago. but it was only 3 weeks ago, & i am dying to tell you all about it! the best vacations are the ones where there’s not a huge agenda or a ton of pressure. and that’s exactly what the weekend was all about.we stayed the first couple of nights with evan’s dear friend, joie, & her new husband, todd. she is a fellow blogger, music devotee, & supreme fashionista. he is an extremely talented musician and one of the most genuinely nice guys i’ve ever met. they both have that great combination of being super fun and laid-back at the same time.
we started the weekend right as i had reservations at boka, one of the few restaurants in chicago to get a coveted michelin star. very cool that just a few weeks before the trip we found out that chicago was being awarded an extremely rare and special food title: one of only 3 cities in america to be michelin star rated! right now only nyc, san fran, and (now) chicago are rated in the united states. pretty good timing for us, right?!
we arrived at boka exactly on time and full of anticipation. the atmosphere is really sleek and intimate with large white sheets billowing from the ceiling. they set us in a corner booth and explained we could do either the tasting menu (there were 3 to choose from, depending on how many courses) or order from the menu. tough choice! we opted to not do the tasting menu (which i usually do) because we were all in the mood for something specific, plus the appetizer list had two of our favorite things: beef carpaccio and baby octupus! if we’d gotten the tasting menu we couldn’t be guaranteed those tasty morsels would make the cut.
i think we made the right choice as the kitchen was super nice and split the appetizers up for us (which made it seem like we were getting more bang for our buck). the angus carpaccio was silky smooth and super tasty with a parmesan foam and these yummy blue potato french fries. the baby octupus (which is just funny to say) was tender and flaky accompanied by an awesome eel terrine and arugula purée.
dinner was a tasty medly: e getting the veal cheeks; todd, the rack of lamb; joie, the scallops; and me, the duck ragu. i tasted everyone’s dish and thought they were all really great. especially e’s braised veal cheeks with crispy sweetbreads and creamy grits. it sounds heavy but really wasn’t. just full of flavor and spot on texturally. mine was divine: a homemade bigoli with duck ragu and aged parmesan. the bigoli (a long spaghetti with a hole in the center, originating from venice, similar to bucatini, which is a bit more popular) was perfectly al dente. the duck ragu was fork tender and had a slight sweetness. i dream of having this dish again. i love homemade pasta & in fact got a pasta attachment for my mixer from e for christmas. it’s on the top of my long list of food goals to conquer in 2011!
dessert was wonderful. we actually wanted to do the dessert tasting but were already stuffed and didn’t think it would be wise. the waitress (who actually used to live and work at one of our favorite places to taste wine in dallas and whose boyfriend worked at one of my favorite restaurants) overheard we were celebrating a birthday and surprised us with the peanut butter, bavarian cream, & frozen salted caramel dessert. omg. the sweetness of the cream and peanut butter combined with the saltiness of the caramel was off the charts. we seriously could not believe how tasty & unique it was.
on a drink note we had a nice merlot blend with dinner, something that could go with our varied menu choices from fish to veal to duck. but the highlight there was really the cocktail menu. there’s the usual list of specialty cocktails, but at the bottom is a “design your own drink” option with only 2 requirements: type of liquor and flavor profile—the talented bartender takes your choices & runs with it (i’ve never seen it anywhere and would love for someone in dallas to “borrow” it so i could try it more often). i went with gin & spicy, e chose gin & bitter, while joie surprised us by picking tequila & sour. they were all very different in appearance and taste, and we all liked our own the best. and even though we were told what was in each glass, the drinks can never really be re-created, and isn’t that the sign of a truly great experience?!