Posts Tagged ‘birthday dinner’

Enoteca Roma, Wicker Park

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

he said:

It must be the place to have birthday dinners in Chicago. I’ve been to maybe 5 birthday dinners since I moved here, and Enoteca Roma was the site of two of them–the first one I’ve ever been to here, and my most recent, which was a few weeks ago.

The first time, I had no idea what to expect. This was back when the lady and I were still long-distance relationshipping, and I flew in from New York on a Friday when she had plans. There was nothing definite scheduled between us*, so I took a cab to meet her at her friend’s birthday party. At Enoteca Roma. I thought I’d be eating a cardboard burger at the airport, and I ended up with one of the best Italian meals I’ve ever had.

So when I found out we were going back, I couldn’t have been more excited.

*If you’ve ever made regular trips between Chicago and New York, you know why we didn’t clear our schedules. Seriously, like 75% of the time the flight is delayed.

The deal with Enoteca Roma, and the reason I think it’s such a hit with the birthday crowds, is the Mangia Mangia meal. It’s a never ending parade of deliciousness.  They cater the portions to the size of your party, though with the amount of food they bring out, I think they may have trouble counting. They could have fed a party twice our size.

I’ve also heard good things about the supposedly awesome back patio, though I’ve never eaten outside, and the connected bakery, Letizia’s, though I’ve never had room for dessert.

So, the food. You start with cheese, meat and bread.  And let me tell you, they had me with the smoked and cured meats. I could have put this course on an endless loop and died a smoked, cured and happy man.

Then comes the bruschetta and salad, which would be a highlight in most cases, but here, they’re surrounded by such greatness, you forget about them. I hope these dishes don’t mind, because we were good friends at the time, but by the time the end of the meal came, we’d grown apart.

After this course, it gets serious:

Mussels. Delicious, with plenty of bread to soak up the stew.

Polenta topped with a meat sauce. Kapow. But don’t fill up, we’re only halfway through.

Italian sausage. Tasty and moist, though a little outdone by the other courses.

And assorted pastas. Noodles, raviolis, white sauces, red sauces. It’s just one after the other, delicious dish after delicious dish.

I think that one more reason that this is such a popular birthday spot is that most people can only manage to enjoy this much good food once a year. This is some wonderful Italian food. I can’t wait for my next friend’s birthday party.

she said:

The Mangia Mangia meal is exactly what you should not be eating just weeks before you have to squeeze into a wedding dress.  I don’t care.  It was worth every creamy, cheesy, carb-laden calorie.

Unlike my guy, I am not a fickle friend to the bruschetta.  This wasn’t  bunch of diced tomato crap scooped onto bread.  Oh, no.  There were ten different kinds!  To name a few: black olive pate and capers, cannellini beans and red onions, strawberries with mascarpone and balsamic reduction, pear with honey and parmesan, brie and apple.  I couldn’t get enough of the stuff.  I will never forget you, sweet bruschetta.

Then came the tableside polenta.  Total one upper.  Like a messenger from the heavens, our waiter poured the warm cornmeal onto a slab of cool marble.  With loving precision, he topped it with spoonful after spoonful of sauce.  Since there were several vegetarians at the table, he covered ours in quattro formaggi, a creamy four-cheese medley that’s making my mouth water as I type.

And the pasta.  Oh, the pasta.  The orecchiette overflowed with garlicky, peppery flavor.  Nothing,  however, could have prepared me for the ecstasy that was the homemade pear ravioli, served in a walnut cream sauce.

I’m all for making dinner at Enoteca Roma a birthday tradition, but why limit it to birthdays when there are so many days that could be turned into perfectly good excuses to feast?  I mean, what’s wrong with Groundhog Day?  Nothing!  Or Pulaski Day?  Or how about Secretary’s Day?  Secretaries love spaghetti!  And don’t forget Flag Day! And Tax Day and Earth Day and Derby Day and Opposites Day…

Moto, Fulton Market

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

she said:

I first heard about Moto and Chef Homaro Cantu at the Museum of Science and Industry, where there was an exhibit called something like, “The Future is Now.”  The exhibit included video of Cantu making sushi with an inkjet printer and pulling other crazy sciencey stunts that I’m just not smart enough to recall.   I’ll admit, nitroglycerin infused fig bubble* doesn’t exactly make my tummy rumble, but I was totally fascinated.

I recently had a chance to check out Cantu’s edible experiments first hand when we went to Moto for my birthday.  Somewhere in-between the fourth and ninth courses, Guy said, “Ya know, this feels more like a magic show than a dinner.”  I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Imagine how you’d approach food if you developed sudden semi-amnesia.  The first course (after the edible menu), for example, looks exactly like a mini-breakfast, complete with scrambled eggs, an English muffin and hash browns.  So you think, hey wait a minute!  I remember breakfast.  You don’t.  The eggs are some kind of orange meringue thing, the muffin is garlic foam with a swab of cornmeal on top to resemble butter and the potatoes are, I think, scallops.

A sugar cube might be dehydrated truffle. Paper might be garlic bread. Cigar ash might be sesame.  Don’t trust your eyes.  Is it postmodern?  Metacuisine?  Not really sure, but it’s a total adventure.  Oh, and it tastes good.

Since Moto, Guy and I play a fun game where I pick an object – any object (a calculator, a necklace,  a cat) and present it to him , announcing the name of a popular food or dish.  For example, I might pick up a piece of dirty glass from the sidewalk, turn to him, and say, with gusto, “Brownie!”  It’s a hoot.

*Nitroglycerin infused fig bubble is not an actual dish.  You shouldn’t try to make it.  Figs are gross.

he said:

Not only do we both love going on adventures to new restaurants, but we’ve been talking about Moto for almost as long as we’ve been talking to each other. So it seemed like the perfect gift.

And I think it was. Actually, I know it was.

Eating at Moto was an experience that we will remember for the rest of our lives. It was our first birthday together, but more than that, it was a singular experience, unlike anything I’ve written about before.
Molecular Gastronomy

Moto is part of the food movement called molecular gastronomy, which according to wikipedia “is a scientific discipline that studies the physical and chemical processes that occur while cooking.” But that makes it seem like a scientific meal. As Gal said, I think it’s more correct to say that it was like a magic show.

Here’s video of Cantu talking about how he makes his magic. Not one thing that he makes in this video was on the menu the night we went, which makes me want to go back all the more.
A Unique Experience In Every Way

 I’d recommend this restaurant a hundred times over. The staff was extremely attentive and helpful, without hovering or being overly involved. They knew so much about the food, as though they prepared it.

I’m sure if you’ve read this far, you’ve gotten an idea that it’s a pricy meal. If this was Yelp, we’d have $$$$ next to the name. But I’d say it is definitely something worth doing on the most special of occasions, like celebrating the birthday of the woman you love.  Just be prepared to fork over some loot… and then perhaps eat the fork.

Overall, it was the best dining experience I’ve ever had, thanks in no small part to my dining companion.