I must tell you, I love the Chopping Block. I’ve taken countless classes there (everything from hands-on Sushi, Chicken 101 and Afrodiac Appetizers to demonstration Fondue and Cupcake classes). Tonight we took “Midnight in Paris” and had a wonderful time.
We made the following recipes — I plan on writing up each of these recipes separately for your review/use.
- Mussels Steamed with Fennel and Creme Fraiche
- Coq au Vin
- Celery Root Puree
- Dark Chocolate Pot de Creme
Last weekend, while were in Palm Springs, we picked up a big bag of fresh lemons. We picked these from the tree in the front yard of our friends home. We love fresh lemons. MS decided to make dessert with these and I was going to make dinner. I initially thought of making a Lemon Chicken Piccata, but I couldn’t find just the right recipe at first. Then I decided to go a bit more unhealthy and make a cream based pasta sauce with lemon as a base flavor.
I’ve never made a cream sauce before. I traditionally I like to cook things that are a bit more healthy — this obviously means I’m not a cream sauce guy. I’ve made homemade pasta sauces many times before — I love my Bolognese sauce and my pesto (made with basil I’ve grown on my lanai) is pretty damn tasty too.
The full recipe is at the bottom of this post. I found the original online and realized, just by looking at it, it needed some tweaks. I started by cutting it in half, increased the herb mixture and reduced the cream cheese and some of the cream.
Honestly, this recipe was good, but really not all that flavorful. Maybe I salt my food too much, but this recipe really needed some more salt and pepper. Both dinner guests did add more salt and pepper (and extra parmigiana too) to their portions as well. Everyone also had second helpings (and thirds for one guest).
I also loathe leftovers, but this recipe made so much food, I decided to keep it in the fridge for a bit. I heated this pasta up with a quick turn in the microwave the next day and it was just a bit better than it was originally. I still had to add more salt and pepper though.
Lemon Parmesan Chicken and Penne
Next month, I will be heading to Vietnam for a couple weeks. We will be staying in Hanoi and Saigon (HCMC) mostly. While we have most of our activities planned (bike ride, self guided walking tours, historical site visits, river cruises, etc), all of our hotels and transportation options are booked. As we make a list of things to do outside of these organized activities we are also making a list of restaurants we want to visit.
Beyond the standard street phở, which I am sure we’ll eat almost every day, I am quite sure we will find some amazing French food. I guess there are some benefits to colonialism. I’ve done some research on TripAdvisor to find great restaurants in Hanoi:
- Namaste Hanoi (Indian)
- Hanoi Social Club (International)
- Quan An Ngon (Vietnamese)
- Bun Cha (Vietnamese)
- Exchange Cafe (International/Vietnamese)
My birthday was Friday. After a minor last minute change of plans (thanks to a concert cancellation), we went to a French Restaurant in the Gold Coast neighborhood. As you all know, I’ve been taking French classes at Alliance Francaise and spent a long weekend in the fall in Paris — having French food was a great option for my birthday.
I got to the restaurant a little early and ordered a Kir Royale and sat at the bar while reading a French newspaper (my French skills didn’t allow me to fully understand the article, but I got the idea). While sitting at the bar, Kiki (the owner) and a woman (his wife? the manager? someone) came up and chatted with me for a while. They knew it was my birthday, but when they saw me reading the French news paper Kiki began speaking French to me. I explained (in French) that I am only studying at Alliance and I am a recent convert to French food. The woman told Kiki that my group must be seated in Abdel’s section. Abdel is from Morocco and speaks French fluently. She suggested I only deal with Abdel in French — that’s a tough order.
Everyone else arrives and we are seated. The restaurant is so much bigger than you’d expect. Over each table are tea lights hang in small glass globes. The bistro has open beam ceilings and reminded me of a couple of the restaurants we visited in Paris.
Abdel took our cocktail order – yes, I did order in French, but did not order for the rest of the table. I ordered a bottle of wine for the table, which was quite tasty 2003 Bordeaux. The menu selections for each guest is listed below:
Braised Short Ribs
Warm Berry Bread Pudding
RK: I don’t really remember everything RK got, so his list is not 100% correct.
Steak Pommes Frites
Traditional Lemon Tart
Sopa a l’Onion Gratinee
Rack of Lamb
Sopa a l’Onion Gratinee
Profiteroles au Chocolat
Every appetizer was completely devoured by each guest. This wasn’t the best Sopa a l’Onion I’ve ever had. It was so much better than the version I made, of course. I would order it again though.
Each of the entrees were top notch. Everyone tasted each other’s choice. Every item was better than the previous I had tasted. I think my least favorite was RK’s steak. It was really tasty, just my least favorite – it was served with a bearnaise sauce, which evidently was amazing, I didn’t try it.
The short ribs were my favorite, but I think they were too rich for a full meal – but for a quick taste it was amazing. I definitely wouldn’t have been able to finish them if they were my entree.
While I’m not a big dessert person, the Profiteroles were quite lovely. I really don’t like Profiteroles with cream fillings (are those still called Profiteroles?), I think the addition of ice cream really makes it perfect. The Crepes Suzette was perfectly prepared (in my mind). I didn’t sample the other desserts.
I had a great evening with friends and a great meal. Would I return to Kiki’s? Absolutely. I thought the restaurant was great, the food was wonderful and the service was excellent. You get amazing French food in a restaurant that looks like it was pulled out of the Marais in Paris without dealing with a language issue. If you are studying French and want to practice you must go to Kiki’s: speak with Kiki and Abdel. You cannot go wrong. I apologize for not taking photos of the food or the interior – my photos wouldn’t have done Kiki’s justice – make a reservation. I promise you will not be disappointed.
Have you been to Kiki’s? What did you think? When you are learning a new language do you try to use it as much as possible, even while not traveling abroad? Ou se trouvent les toilettes? What is your favorite French food? Where is your go to place for French food in Chicago?
One thing I enjoy doing while traveling relates to hotel porn. No, I don’t sit around the room and watch porn. I do enjoy reading the names of the porn that the hotels make available to guests. Some of these are just so funny and anti-erotic. My recent stay at the Doubletree Suites by Hilton Hotel Anaheim Resort – Convention Center allowed me to review the options at a hotel that was new to me.
I didn’t watch any of these, obviously, but they still make me laugh. Doubletree even included a nice category to help you decide on what to purchase.
- Charlie Sheen’s House of Whores – Parody
- America’s Next Top Tranny – Tranny (I don’t think that’s the proper term to use)
- Legend of the Magic Taco – Wall-to-Wall (I don’t know what this category means — do you?)
- Beggin’ for a Peggin’ – Fem Dom