October dinner at work

October 29th I was honored with tickets to a fancy dinner. For those of you familiar with Floriole’s monthly dinners you know they really are quite spectacular. I still can’t believe that a café that has perfected breakfast and lunch can create food that, in my opinion, is fair competition to any dinner joint in town. The most recent three-courser drew inspiration from fall fare.

This is a place that produces each and every item served on the menu from their little (efficient) kitchen space. I mean everything — the bread to the preserves, pastries to the candies, tarts and the rooftop herbs garnishing the housemade soup. Everything. What an honor to work there.

Food: butternut squash apple soup with pumpernickel croutons and kale chips
Place: Floriole Café & Bakery
1220 W. Webster Ave.
Chicago, IL 60614


Red wine braised short ribs, potato purée, roasted root vegetables, gravy (more kale chips)


Warm apple tart, brown butter/apple cider ice cream


Impressive, no? Next month’s dinner: November 13th, goose cassoulet. Uhhh, yum?


tandoori chicken

Indian for lunch. I felt like meat (a bi-annual craving), but still went white. All-in-all, impressed. Hit the “meat spot,” if you will. The tandoori tasted BBQ-y. The lamb lit my mouth pleasantly on fire.

Food: tandoori chicken, lamb in spicy mystery green sauce, rice, mango lassi
Place: Essence of India
4601 N. Lincoln Ave.
Chicago, IL 60625

Sometimes I can’t understand the logic behind garnishes/accompaniments — take the shredded carrots, raw white onion, and undressed greens here. Do they….think I’m going to eat that with my rice?

Stay tuned — fancy dinner tomorrow evening at my place of employment, Floriole!


aaand…. revamp!

I know I have said it before, “I’m sorry I haven’t updated this in a while!” “Whew, it feels like it’s been a long time since a blog post!” blah, blah, blah…

I think the roadblock to keeping this blog current, my hang up if you will, was simple: I read so many gorgeous, well-written, *ahem* commercially funded food blogs, how could mine ever compare? How could I ever be able to spend enough time and give enough energy to a blog instructing people what/how to cook? Showing everyone my beautifully grown-up kitchen? Showcasing spotless photos of magazine-quality plated dishes? The answer is simple: I can’t.

Writing this truly does make me happy. I just need to add fulfillment in there too. So, I need to go another direction. Now here at allisoncooks, I will not only show you what I have prepared in my kitchen, but also foods I have sampled around Chicago. I take pictures of everything I’m about to eat anyway — why not just post them up with a little blurb?

Food: croque monsieur, greens, iced coffee (and Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk — meh, it was just OK)
Place: Café Selmarie
4729 N. Lincoln Ave.
Chicago, IL 60625

The vinaigrette was nice and zippy. I could have gone for a little more béchamel on the croque, but my thighs are probably happier there wasn’t.


Tomorrow it is supposed to dip into the 40’s here. Jacket –> coat?


to Chicago!

One of the perks of being up here in Madison is being within sane driving distance of Chicago. I used to think driving more than a half hour made any destination unworthy, but something about heading towards those big buildings and lake shores makes it all worth it. I would probably make the drive if only to get Intelligentsia coffee and ride the L, call me a nerd all you want. Who knew you could be in love with a public transit system?

This time my excuse to head down to Chi-town was a one-day culinary school experience at The French Pastry School, a super-fancy pastry school right next to the *ahem* Willis Tower downtown. A friend generously gave me a gift certificate for the program a few weeks back and I have been counting down. It was my first formal culinary experience and I’m still confused as to how I thought there was a possibility to walk away not liking it:

school (love) + cooking = obvious fit

Needless to say, I had a great day. We made dark chocolates filled with caramel ganache (hard!) and a roasted pineapple in a vanilla butter reduction, topped with mango sorbet, reconstituted basil seeds, pecan espresso tuiles, and a honey lemon madeleine on the side. Whew.

School aside, my favorite moments visiting Chicago occurred in the surrounding neighborhoods rather than downtown. I have particularly fallen in love with the Lincoln Park/Wicker Park/Lakeview area. Duhh. Who hasn’t. This past trip I got to stay with my cousin, Kara, in Wicker Park. She lives above a handmade craft/vintage clothing store, right on a main drag — café next door? Check. Cute bay window to people-watch below? Check. Nice digs. She works at a restaurant downtown, Sable, and I was lucky enough to get in last-minute on a busy weekend night. Gotta love that family discount connection. I had the veggie sliders and corn crème brûlée. Wow. Good cocktails don’t hurt either.

I also managed to hit, once again, my favorite café in town, Floriole, with my good friend, Matt. I read about Floriole, I think, awhile back in one of the many food blogs I follow, Lottie + Doof. It’s in the Lincoln Park-ish neighborhood, near DePaul University. If you ever have a chance to go, I can’t recommend it enough. I’ve been for coffee, breakfast, and now lunch. Hopefully Matt and I can continue the tradition of visiting there each time I’m in town. (Any takers?)

I made it to almost all of the places on my ever-extending list. Even tracked down Ann Sather, a place Rachael Ray visited for marscarpone-stuffed, batter-dipped, fried french toast sandwich thing. I couldn’t go that far, but you can see even their regular cinnamon rolls are monsters — look at them compared to my measly fork!

There was one place I was unable to cross off my list, however: I have tried three separate times, without success, to sink my teeth into some hot churros from Rick Bayless‘s Xoco. It will be conquered, though. Don’t you worry about that.

Recipes to follow soon!