Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Dinner at Takashi

Twice a year, Andy and I open our wallets and head out to a nice dinner for our birthdays. After our experience at Takashi last Sunday, we're now trying to justify celebrating half-birthdays as well.

Without any further ado, our dinner:

We had a little bit of inside help on this one. It turns out, a coworker of mine is friends with one of Takashi's servers/bartenders, Jason. We scheduled our dinner to make sure we could take advantage of this perk and at 6:45 (15 minutes early or it wouldn't be Andy) we were seated in Jason's section. Our table was right by the big windows in front so we could watch the sky turn blue, pink, vanilla, navy and gray (it never really gets black near the city's lights).

We agreed to let Jason take us through our meal, and are SO glad we did. He ran every course by us before bringing it out, and we agreed with everything he suggested. We started with some cocktails that went perfectly with the warm, slightly humid weather we'd had that day.

I chose the ginger lime martini (Ketel One Vodka, lime juice and fresh ginger syrup, whose special ingredient is lemongrass. Thanks, Jason!) and Andy had the Mayfair cocktail (Hendrick's Gin, lime juice and cucumber. yummy and refreshing!).

These drinks would carry us through our first two courses, and after that, Jason split glasses of wine between us for each course. I loved that he offered so we could completely enjoy every course with our half glass of wine (still generous pours, which made me appreciate what their full glasses must be) without worrying about a giant alcohol bill or waking up for work the next day (5 courses = 5 glasses of wine after delicious, but strong cocktails... a little much for a Sunday night).

There will be more gushing about the wonderful service later, so on to the food!

Duck Confit with Pea Custard, fresh peas, microgreens (and a tart, delicious vinaigrette I can't remember)

The most surprising thing about this dish (besides the fact that pea-hater, Andy gobbled it up) was that it was warm. I don't know why I figured pea custard had to be cold, but maybe the vinaigrette had me thinking "salad". I loved this dish, though. It was on their small plates menu only available Sun-Thurs, so I think so the fact that it was so inexpensive ($5!!) seemed almost unfair. I actually felt like I needed to pay MORE for such a rich, crispy skinned piece of duck and light, pea custard topped with cool, crisp greens.

Sashimi Plate: Big Eye Tuna with Umami-Soy, Hokkaido Scallop with Pickled Plum, Blue Prwawn with Cucumber and Eggplant

This was the most generous and delicious sashimi platter I've ever had. The scallops melted in your mouth and the three big pieces of tuna in the umami soy on a daikon salad were amazingly fresh. The shrimp was covered in a perfect heat chili sauce, and I'm glad they cooked it a bit to satisfy us Westerners who can't stomach raw shrimp just yet.

And with the next course, my life was forever changed.

Sauteed Maine Scallops and Soba Gnocchi with Trumpet Royale (mushrooms) and Celery Root-Parmesan Foam

Jason paired this course with a Pinot Grigio I can't remember that had great acid to cut through the rich cream sauce Andy was seriously THISCLOSE to licking off the bottom of the bowl (and which 6 drinks later when the chef came out to talk to us-yeah, I chatted with a James Beard award winner-Andy mentioned he wished I'd brought a bigger purse so he could take the bowl home with us). The flavorful (believe it or not) celery root/parmesan foam obscures the entire picture of deliciousness, but after my first bite, I wondered why I would ever eat anything else. Our server also mentioned that this dish was rated by Gourmet magazine as one of the best 10 dishes in the United States. Andy and I heartily agree.

Our first entree was next, paired with a dry reisling.

Sauteed Maine Skate Wing-Risotto of Spring Peas, Wild Leeks, Asparagus, Broccolini
This was my first experience with Skate Wing, and now I'm kicking myself for never ordering it. The preparation was a perfect blend of textures, the skate just browned and crispy while still moist and perfectly flaky on a bed of creamy asparagus/pea risotto with roasted parsnips and fried squash on top. There wasn't a piece of this entree I didn't love intensely. I was so afraid that we'd peaked too early with the scallops, but this stood up well and continued our perfect meal.

Enough fish, gimme some meat! (and some red wine, please. thanks, again, Jason!)

Soy-Ginger Caramel Pork Belly-Pickled Daikon salad, Steamed Buns

Okay, yeah, I found this picture on the internets, but ours looked just like that, I promise! (Actually, I think our mustard dollop was between our pork and steamed buns, but I figured that didn't make much of a difference.) I think I was hypnotized by the smell of caramelized meat because my camera didn't even cross my mind when this was set in front of us. The buns are like the softest white bread, but denser while the meat completely changed my mind about pork belly. Even the salad was the perfect, vinegary acid for the rich meat. We used the mustard sparingly since it was pretty intense, but I know my dad would have eaten it by the spoonful.

Time for our second entree.

Chicken in Clay Pot-Amish Chicken, Shimeji Mushrooms, Eggplant, Haricot Vert
The quality of the photos decreased as the sun went down and we lost our natural light. Good thing the food didn't follow suit. The chicken was sizzling and steaming in a citrusy, yuzu broth. How the chicken skin stayed crispy and delicious? I didn't care since I was busy shoving it in my mouth, followed shortly by the seared green beans, mushrooms and eggplant. I wanted the miso mustard on the eggplant to be bottled, but apparently Takashi isn't into retail.

Before bringing us dessert menus, Jason brought us grapefruit and coconut sorbet as a palate cleanser along with some sparkling wine. It was super festive.

As much as I live for desserts, I really didn't feel like we needed one. THAT is how good this meal was. Still, we decided on the Yuzu pudding cake since it was citrusy and light because Andy had to have dessert on his birthday (and sorbet does NOT count!)

Yuzu Pudding Cake-with diced kiwi and pineapple (I think?) and coconut sorbet

Andy also got a special birthday dessert!

Five Spice Chocolate Mousse

There was a brush stroke of salted caramel on this plate that I swiped up with my finger it was so good. I love complicated, spiced chocolate, so this was amazingly good, even though I wasn't in the mood for a heavy dessert.

We were there for over 2 hours and from start to finish, it was an incredible experience. Our server, Jason, definitely made it spectacular, so if you find yourself in the position to go, I highly recommend asking for him.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to post a Yelp review and shed some tears of food nostalgia.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Ode to a Brew Master (on his birthday)

Already so many good things
To our five year relationship you bring.
Turkey dances, monkey faces, and guitar shows.
“It’s peanut butter jelly time!” you sing.

But then once upon a Google,
You found some fun recipes to brew.
Ever since we’ve been flush with alcohol.
And now, Andy, I really love you!

Hic-cup! Hic-cup! Happy Birthday!
Raise your glass! Have one more, then we go!
Wishing a wonderful and beer-soaked birthday,
To the greatest brew master I know.

Hoppy Birthday, Andrewshus!

Friday, April 24, 2009

More Guitar

Git yer fill, 'cause Andy tells me this is the last class he's taking for awhile. It was pretty sweet listening to a constant stream of David Bowie for the week leading up to the concert. Much better than the "Buckets of Rain" days.

Untitled from Kristin Sutter on Vimeo.
Next time, I need to remember to bring our digital video recorder instead of my camera which takes up a phenomenal amount of memory (hence why I stopped before the song's end... well, that and my fingers were itching with the want to clap in that "jing ga jong e jangggggg a clap clap" part.)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Easter Sunday - Revisited

This Easter, we decided to stay in the city since Andy's parents came to us and I'm planning to head home at the beginning of May for some bridal showers.

Luckily Andrea was in town as well. And baking.
From Easter09

Don't worry, we also had scrambled eggs with ricotta cheese and chives with a side of bacon, too.
From Easter09

After brunch, we headed across the street to Lincoln Park for some bocce ball. Andrea's throwing style was my favorite.
From Easter09

Her arm was like a super fast, backwards trebuchet. Tiny arms with ridiculous amounts of oomph behind each throw.

Garrett had the prettiest extension, though, and gets points for his girly artsy finger finish.
From Easter09

Ball watcher, Eric.
From Easter09

Winter had obviously left us out of practice and not up to our usual standards of awesomeness.
From Easter09

That unfortunately meant the guys won.
From Easter09

I blamed my arm for getting tired because bocce is definitely a hardcore, endurance kind of game.

After play time was over, we headed home where Andy turned on The Masters golf tournament and I was asleep before my butt even hit the couch cushion.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Perils of Non-fiction

Just submitted a story to my writing class that started as a character exercise about a guy I went to high school with. I wrote it with the intention that it would be seen by my teacher and no one else. When she emailed to ask if she could share it with the class, my ego said, "Of course!" before my brain had a chance to evaluate the situation.

It's weirdly horrifying; putting real people from my past out there for other people to see from my point of view--with all my bias. I'm pretty sure no one in my writing class has any direct connections to Cincinnati suburban public schools, but I'm still a little anxious it'll somehow get back to him.

I always assume people don't want to be written about. The idea of someone else writing things about me, things I have no control over, really freaks me out.

(I do love to write about myself, though, if you haven't noticed.)

In other news, some advice:

Don't feed your dog with one hand and yourself with the other. You'd be amazed how easy it is to mix that up.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Random Facts About Milo

  • When on our walks, Milo immediately goes into stealth mode, slinking close to the ground if he sees any dog/person/squirrel/etc. coming toward him. His stubby, fuzzy legs have yet to inspire fear in any living thing. I'm not sure how the occasional plastic bag he stalks feels, though.

  • Milo doesn't like most dog treats. I know this, but often forget when walking down the treat aisle and now we have 3 cups of useless doggie ice cream sitting in the back of the freezer.

  • Like a good Sutter family member, Milo LOVES cheese.

  • When he first wakes up, Milo will put both paws in your hand and splay his back legs out so you can give him a morning stretch.

  • His furry paws and our hardwood floors don't mesh well. There are lots of cartoon-like running into the wall situations. He still hasn't learned to put on the brakes 5 feet before he really should.

  • He is terrified of anything dropping or falling to the ground. Seriously, a throw pillow makes him run for cover like an air raid siren. If I drop the remote one more time, he may need therapy.

  • He does awesomely hilarious aerial breakdance moves when we hold him over the bathtub. "Must. Avoid. Water. As. Long. As. Posssible."

  • He loves playing with ginger kids and babies.

  • Before he eats them.

  • The 6,395 times he's tried and failed to jump onto the bed haven't sunk in yet. I like to think of it as optimism rather than a probable sign of brain damage.

  • His tongue is too big for his mouth. I know this, but pretend to be surprised when EVERY SINGLE PERSON on our walks points this out.

  • The first night we got him, I had buyer's remorse.

  • I now have remorse for my buyer's remorse.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Beer Label

I hope I'm not ruining the Saturday debut with this, but wanted to share the beer label I made for Andy's new home brew.

It's a blonde ale that got its name from Andy's new found hubris (called out by Eric) at his twice demonstrated beer-making skills. I helped cap this batch, so I consider taking half the credit a reasonable exchange after spending 20 minutes on my knees (HI-OH!) with the bottle capper.

Andy also created a label of his own that's a little classier, but I think mine kicks ass.

I've been waiting for a chance to "I told you so!" his ass for buying all the equipment, but so far my taste buds and I are impressed. I'm even thinking of making our second bedroom the full-time beer making/storage facility, especially if it means keeping the fridge stocked with tasty Belgian-style ales.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Burgers and Pup Hoodies

Spent last weekend in Columbus which meant Thurman's on Friday night. Finally, back to Ohio for the best burgers I've ever had and these little lovelies.

Pretzel Bites.

Best thing I've ever put in my mouth.

Well, maybe except for this.

Or this.

We came SO close to finishing this time! I blame the two pitchers of beer for the slow down. We started out so strong!

(Don't ever say I'm not willing to post bad pictures of myself on this blog.)

It was a fantastic weekend filled with an awesome trip to Athens that I'll have to chronicle in another post since I don't have the energy to resize all those photos tonight.

I did pick up a little something for Milo while hanging around our old college town.

Yeah, it's even cuter in person. Trust me, it's possible.

Jenny couldn't keep her hands off of him.

He might not've liked it quite as much as we did, though.

Don't worry, he eventually came out from under the table when I promised not to dress him up any more that night.