What this Chef does on her birthday

*I’m going to try and cram in as much as I can about my bday into one post..forgive me if it gets choppy

My birthday has a horrible track record.  Something always goes wrong or I don’t get to do what I wanted or worse no one shows up to the party.  My husband wanted to end that track record and really went out of his way to give me the best birthday ever.  The kids were even kidnapped by my MIL for the night so we could get a hotel room in Chicago and just relax. 

By the time the afternoon hit I was soooooo ready to go.  Maddie had been teething all night and refused for me to let her go.  Bella had decided to ruin more of mommies makeup….yea I was so ready to leave.

The hotel was in walking distance of everything we were planning to hit so as soon as we checked in we walked to the Chicago French Market.  We grabbed a quick bite at Pastoral, a yummy manchego Serrano ham sandwich and some Belgian fries with this ridiculous green tomato and chili mayo.  Sadly on the walk back to the hotel I dropped it.  I think the people walking around us thought I was insane as I started screaming profanities and stomping my feet.

Once we were cleaned up we headed to Gilt Bar.  I was not allowed to take the camera to dinner and our phone died so sadly I do not have pics.  I will say that it was one of the best meals I’ve had in a very long time.  Not only was it tasty but it was the first time I have gone to a restaurant where the plates were perfectly portioned.  We got “toast” to start off with.  Yummy roasted garlic with sweet balsamic and bread.  Then for the main course I had ricotta gnocchi with pancetta and ramps. THE BEST dish ever!  Even compared to Michael’s raspberry pork belly it was the winner by a long shot.  I can’t even begin to describe how perfect it was.  I LICKED IT CLEAN.  I strongly suggest getting the gnocchi and a “Dark And Stormy”, ginger beer, lime, and rum ftw!  It was like an adult limeade.  I could have just stayed at Gilt all night.  The food, atmosphere, and drinks were perfect.  I left there feeling completely satisfied and not overstuffed at all.

Then off to Aviary we went.  We got there around 8ish and there was no line in sight.  The bouncer took our names before we could go in so the hostess could greet us by name.  We chose to sit in a booth bc there was no way in hell I was going to stand all night as much as I wanted to see the kitchen.  They gave us a amuse bouche to start off with, a little strawberry margarita our waitress called it.  Aviary is beautiful, but I have to admit when the waiters sound like actors/actresses and the decor is super posh I get very intimidated.   The Pineapple was my drink of choice and Michael got the Blueberry (the wheel thing).  My drink was good but not what I was expecting.  I really didn’t taste pineapple at all, not even a hint, but that was probably due to the Chartreuse.  Michael’s was super cool since it changed flavor/color as it sat.  Everytime he poured it was a completely different experience.  We also got some bites.  Crab with pickles and the Melon (see pic below).  The melon had so many beautiful flavors.  It was the only thing that blew me away at Aviary.  I have more pics on my flickr thanks to Jewel who sent me her pics of the evening since our phone died after the melon shot.  So how did I feel about Aviary?  Was the presentation what I was expected?  Yes. Where the drinks what I thought they’d be? No.  They were beautiful drinks, but I’m surprised that the flavor was not as wow as I thought it would be.  Did I have fun going? Yes, but I don’t think we’ll go again anytime soon.


 So after one drink at Aviary we headed back to the hotel….at 10:30 and fell asleep as soon as I hit the pillow.  I sorta regret not partying all night, but its quickly overshadowed by the best sleep in a long time.

So on to day 2!  First up breakfast from the Dougnut Vault.  By the time we got up and checked twitter there was already a line of 30 ppl.  So I stayed in bed while hubs go the goods.  Michael came home with 2 huge boxes, which come to find out was only a dozen doughnuts.  This babies are huge, flavorful, and the best doughnuts I have had ever.  I can see why there is such a big line everyday for them.  Do I have a favorite? Yes EVERY SINGLE DAMN ONE.

After gorging myself with doughnuts I got dressed and we walked down to XOCO because how can I not have mexican food on my Cinco De Mayo birthday.  My advice it to get there way before 11 because it fills up fast and gets very cramped.  Hubs got seafood caldo which i did not care for and I got pork belly fideo.  It rocked my world and cleared my sinuses.  It was soo spicy but soo good.  To make things even better I saw Rick Bayless walking around with his tasting spoon.  Sadly he was way to busy to take pics with me 😦  We are definitely coming here again very very soon.


After lunch we packed up and left the hotel for major birthday shopping.  So what does a Chef Gal get for her bday?  Well Chef stuff of course!

First stop was The Spice House to stock up on things we need in the kitchen.  A must go for any culinary person.  They have the best prices and everything you could possibly need.  Also there all super friendly.  Then off to Old Town Oil where they have beautiful silver containers in the shop to showcase their oils.   We always try every single one when we come to the shop.  I’m in love with their balsamic which are good enough to drink from the bottle.  Every time I go its hard not to buy everything.  It’s definitely one of my guilty pleasures. 


 Our third stop was Pastoral again, but this time the one-off broadway.  I was amazed at how reasonable the prices were for their cheeses and loved the fact they were willing to open every single one of their cheeses for us to try.  Hanging with the staff was like we had been friends forever.  I even made a twitter connection with the made behind the @ which is always fun to do. 


Look at all the yum in this picture!  Even the blue cheese (which Im allergic too) that michael got is beautiful.  You can see it in flickr pics.  Yet another place we will be all the time when were in town.

So our last stop since the rain was quickly coming in was Vanille Patisserie  were I got to meet Chef Dimitri’s wife Chef Keli.  Who also had her birthday on Cinco De Mayo like me!  She even snuck me a few extra macaroons which I quickly ate up.100_0543

Don’t you wish you could have some of these babies? 

My birthday was the absolute best birthday ever.  I just hope Michael realizes that he has a lot to live up to next year.  I have to say some of the best highlights were the comments on my earrings and the freaking out when I took things out of my hat purse.  Thank you to everyone for the birthday wishes as well.  

More birthday photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/chefbizzaro/

Here’s a list of my birthday goodies I got.


San Daniel proscuitto, Rosemary manchego, Little Darling Brunkow Cheese, Oakvale Smoked Gouda (which is sadly the last ever), Quince Paste, Lemon Grass, Lavender, Mexican & Madigascar Vanilla Bean, Cocoa Nibs, Saigon Cassia Cinnamon, Mexican Vanilla Extract, Cinnamon Pear Balsamic, Honey Ginger White Balsamic, Crystalized Ginger


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