Chicago Restaurant Review: Nellcote

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Could any restaurant in the entire city of Chicago be cuter?

The answer is definitively NO, it could not.

We have had the best of intentions of getting ourselves out to the West Loop for oh, the last six months now to see what all the hype was about. On our holiday seester date, we finally made the reservation and headed over on a cold and gloomy Saturday morning.

I think if we had to sum up the whole experience in one sentence, it would be, “WHAT WERE WE WAITING FOR?”

These photos do not do the decor justice. How can a restaurant be both warm and cozy and totally over the top opulent at the same time? It hurts my brain to think about such deep thoughts, but that’s exactly what Nellcote does. Gorgeous chandeliers and wainscot ceilings contrast create this warm and glowy space that we just never wanted to leave.

You’re greeted with a choice of the Times or US Magazine (naturally, I went for celebrity gossip and Ali bettered herself as an informed citizen) and if you’re as lucky as us, you’re seated with an absolutely fabulous waiter that I’m bummed is not my friend in real life. Perhaps if we keep going back enough….

We happened to be in when they were showing The Holiday behind the bar, so that was a cozy little surprise.

When we were happily snuggled in to our table with mimosas and trashy magazines/serious newspapers, I told Ali, “I’d come back even if the food tastes like dirt!”

Happily, we were a far stretch from dirt.

We were immediately served a an adorable charcuterie plate with cheeses, jams and prosciutto. As we munched away, we perused the menu and then ended up ordering purely based on our waiter’s recommendations. How do you pick just one thing when everything sounds so delicious? #whitegirlproblems

The lobster benedict had huge chunks of lobster under a blanket of smoked paprika hollandaise. The eggs were poached perfectly and melted into the hash underneath.

The simple salad served with the quiche almost stole the show – blasphemy, I know, but the champagne vinaigrette was delicious. The quiche itself was light, fluffy and so creamy.

We opted out of ordering our waiter’s recommendation of the sausage and potatoes because it just sounded like too much food (I know, who were we kidding?) but to our surprise and delight, they brought an order to our table for us to try along with our entrees. We ate every last bite of both and both will forever be tacked on to our brunch orders at Nellcote.

We sat around watching The Holiday, chatting, reading and drinking mimosas for an extra hour or two and then reluctantly headed out into the cold. We stepped one foot outside and wondered why on earth we had ever left.

We will be back for you, Nellcote! If brunch was any indication, dinner would be to die for… I’m just envisioning those beautiful chandeliers lit up at night and the cocktails arriving from behind the bar.

Fun tip – Nellcote’s NYE party sounds like an absolute blast! http://www.eventstand.com/event/nellcotenye for tickets.

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Pumpkin Spice Cookies

 

Pumpkin Spice Cookies

An office holiday bake-off requires many things: nerves of steel, buying a presentable pan to cart cookies to work and a sure-fire recipe.  Recalling my expletive peppered, off key “ohmygodohmygodthesearesogood” sonata singing when I tried the Sprinkles pumpkin cupcake, I figured the only winning recipe-route was to recreate the moist, pumpkiny goodness in a cookie.  Cake-like and full of flavor, these pumpkin cookies are remarkably easy to make.  Adapting a recipe from Food Network will get you a basic cookie recipe with a cup of pumpkin, a hefty dash of spice and lots of yummy noises from serious work-type people who don’t usually make yummy noises.

Forgive the dark pictures, the Christmas tree lighting wasn’t soft and romantic but rather gloomy and a bit gray.  But only in photos – in real life it’s gorgeous.

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Pumpkin Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients

For the cookies:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons Maple syrup
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground all spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
For the frosting:
  • 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • Zest of one lemon

 

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a mixer, fitted with a paddle, cream the sugar and the butter until light and fluffy. Add the maple syrup and eggs. Mix to incorporate. Add the pumpkin and mix to incorporate. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and cloves. Add the dry ingredients to the batter and mix well. Drop rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 10 minutes, or until lightly golden brown around the edges. Cool on racks. When cool, ice with the cream cheese frosting.

For the Frosting: In a mixer, fitted with a paddle, add the cream cheese. Beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the powdered sugar until smooth. Add milk and vanilla. Beat until smooth. If frosting is too thick, thin with a little more milk. Fold in the lemon zest. When cookies are cool spread with some of the frosting. Garnish with a whole pecan.

Copyright © 2004 Television Food Network, G.P., All Rights Reserved

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Randolph Street Market

Randolph Market Scene

 

Last weekend Laura and I made our second appearance at the Randolph Street Market, home to Chicago antique dealers, indie designers, vintage collectors and unique crafters.

I think it’s important for us all to acknowledge that I was having a really great hair day that day.

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But I digress.  We marched ourselves through rain, wind and the west loop and headed to scoop up last minute Christmas presents and hopefully score some jewelry while we were at it.  We had only been during the summer when the parking lot was jammed with vendors and empanada hawkers, so while we weren’t quite sure what to expect.  The pared down, indoor-only venue was certainly less overwhelming, but we still had a great time perusing vintage Chanel and pawing our way through bins of antique necklaces.  Can’t wait until next time!

Randolph Market Jewelry

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Happy Friday!

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Happy, happy Friday, friends! The world didn’t end today! Tis the season to be jolly, indeed.

We have our respective Christmas dinner dates with the manfriends tonight and then we’re heading home to hug our family and immediately put on stretchy pants for the glorious few days ahead.

If you’re new to our blog and have landed here as  part of a rather strange surge in traffic from the term, “Emily Maynard Coral Skirt” — welcome! Nice to meet you 🙂 We don’t talk about Ms. Maynard all that often, but we’re glad you stopped by anyway.

There’s an awful lot of people to keep in our thoughts this holiday season — lots of craziness in the world lately, and we’re definitely counting our blessings. Thanks for reading, and have a very merry Christmas. (or happy holiday, whatever you may celebrate!)

Cheers!

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Christmas-Music

We are LOVING this awesome holiday playlist  that we stumbled across over at hiphipgingin!

 

Spicy Shrimp Salsa

Spicy Shrimp Salsa

This recipe is simple and easy, and completely delicious.  Perfect for a football game or a girls night in, throw together these ingredients, pair with handful of baked tortilla chips and enjoy your little heart out.

Ingredients:

  • Ripe tomatoes
  • Red onion
  • Cilantro
  • Lime
  • Cooked shrimp, peeled and cleaned
  • Lime
  • Salt
  • Chili garlic paste – because we just can’t seem to make a recipe without it
  • Olive oil

Directions:

  • Chop all ingredients.  Combine.  You’re welcome.

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End Table Makeover

Side Table Makeover

 

My end tables needed a makeover.  I had a set of 4 folding tv trays, handed down to me through at least 2 separate owners and originally purchased at Target.  Good, solid tables, but boring.  I figured they needed a bit of a makeover and got to work.  I painted the tables themselves a glossy white with a high hiding latex paint, and stained pieces of wood alternating colors.  Top the tables with the wood strips and shellack the hell out of the surface and the makeover is complete!  Yes, I’m leaving out the part where I stained my hands (and a now hidding wineglass) brown with wood stain, practially asphyxiated myself with varnish fumes and lost a fingerprint to a hot glue gun, but I still think it was totally worth it.

 

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*I borrowed the before picture from June and Bear who made even the “before” look better than I ever could.  See her sweet and stripey table makeover here!

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Homemade Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Pot Pie

Sometimes a little comfort food is necessary.  The holidays are fast approaching and as the cold weather sets in, it’s certainly understandable to crave a little home cooking.  This pot pie recipe is direct from Ina Garten, who I assume MUST know her shiz when it comes to a flaky crust and hearty filling.  Though in the interest of full disclosure, this Chicago version uses puff pastry from the freezer isle.  It’s amazing, get on board.

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Ina Garten’s Chicken Pot Pie

Ingredients

  • 3 whole (6 split) chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups yellow onions, chopped (2 onions)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups medium-diced carrots, blanched for 2 minutes
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen peas (2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen small whole onions
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves

For the pastry:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup ice water
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
  • Flaked sea salt and cracked black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the chicken breasts on a baking sheet and rub them with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, or until cooked through. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then remove the meat from the bones and discard the skin. Cut the chicken into large dice. You will have 4 to 6 cups of cubed chicken.

In a small saucepan, heat the chicken stock and dissolve the bouillon cubes in the stock. In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the onions over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent. Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the hot chicken stock to the sauce. Simmer over low heat for 1 more minute, stirring, until thick. Add 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and heavy cream. Add the cubed chicken, carrots, peas, onions and parsley. Mix well.

For the pastry, mix the flour, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the shortening and butter and mix quickly with your fingers until each piece is coated with flour. Pulse 10 times, or until the fat is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the ice water; process only enough to moisten the dough and have it just come together. Dump the dough out onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Divide the filling equally among 4 ovenproof bowls. Divide the dough into quarters and roll each piece into an 8-inch circle. Brush the outside edges of each bowl with the egg wash, then place the dough on top. Trim the circle to 1/2-inch larger than the top of the bowl. Crimp the dough to fold over the side, pressing it to make it stick. Brush the dough with egg wash and make 3 slits in the top. Sprinkle with sea salt and cracked pepper. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling hot.

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Winter Whites

In the past week, I have hit my nose on a drawer (resulting in a lovely mid-schnoz booboo and highly attractive swelling), dropped and shattered an entire jar of spaghetti sauce, face planted on the sidewalk after trying to jump over a puddle in heels (yup), and burned a hole right through a shirt.

It would be the Understatement of 2012 to say that I’m a klutz.

Sadly, this means that a white-on-white winter ensemble is not likely anywhere in my near future, but a girl can dream.

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