gem of a weekend

food detective

Categories: Appetizers, Salads and Dressings, Veggies and Sides, Supper, Dinner Party, Sources, Eating Out, Fête Fact, Posted on November 18, 2019 by Sandy Bergsten

Two weeks ago, the stars aligned, and my college roommates and I finally got together for the first time in over seven years. Upon seeing each other it was if the last thirty-eight years literally melted away. What a tonic for each of our souls. We laughed, we reminisced, we held one another, and of course we ate (disclaimer: there was also a little shopping and red wine involved).

Friday, we converged at Small Cheval and caught up over what are probably the best cheeseburgers on the planet. We then headed over to Wicker Park do a little shopping. At Felt, Kat (the owner, who is known as the jean-whisperer) did not disappoint! Bags in hand we headed back to my apartment for cocktails and dinner. Earlier that day after picking up Missy on the Blue Line from O’Hare, the two of us stopped at Paulina Meat Market for some of their incredible sausages. 

For cocktails I served up some of that amazing trout dip from Fahlstrom’s Fish Market

In my freezer I had some of my cheese tartlets, so I popped those in the oven.

I wanted the focus of the dinner to be on conversation, so I kept the menu simple. Smoked Italian sausages with course mustard, roasted broccoli, and sweet potato fries.

Served up with a sublime sriracha crème fraiche, that’s a breeze to make.

The next day we headed off to Armitage for a little lunch and a requisite visit to Lori’s Shoes. Afterwards, to Liz’s delight, we took a break from shopping and set off for a brisk hike on the 606 (Chicago’s version of NYC's High Line). 

Saturday afternoon we grabbed all our bags and headed over to Robin’s for a sleepover. We noshed on cheese and crackers, then headed over to Etta in Bucktown for an incredible meal. 

I laughed as we entered, because what looks worse than a table of four women (i.e. high maintenance, complaining, and low tipping). When they brought us to our table, we spied a comfy booth away from the fray and asked if we might be seated there.  Happily, we were, and the fun began. We did not disappoint our amazing waiter Joe. We followed his culinary lead and ordered a myriad of small plates. Rack roasted oysters, marinated hamachi crudo, ricotta pillows, autumn squash salad, fire pie, bucatini cacio e pepe, and cavatelli Bolognese. And his perfect wine suggestions.

The dinner was truly a feast. Among it all what really stood out was the little gem salad with avocado, scallions, kohlrabi and creamy lemon dressing. After a couple glasses of wine, I went into full food-detective-mode (to the amazement of my classmates) and riddled our wonderful waiter with questions on how that dressing was actually made. Turns out the secret ingredient is crème fraiche.

To create this crème fraiche lemon dressing combine the grapeseed oil and white wine vinegar.

Whisk in fresh lemon juice.

Lemon zest.

Dijon and honey.

Grated garlic.

Whisk until emulsified. 

Whisk in the crème fraiche, salt and pepper. Taste for seasoning. 

The dressing can be made and stored in tightly covered container for 2-3 days.

How excited was I to find little gem greens at Whole Foods?

I couldn’t find kohlrabi, so I subbed in some fennel.

Thinly sliced.

With cubes of ripe avocado, figure one tablespoon of dressing per person (large handful of greens) plus one tablespoon of dressing for the tossing bowl. 

This weekend hit so many highs. There is nothing like truly connecting with some of your oldest and closest friends. For us all to be finally all together after all this time was truly a gift. Getting the recipe for an incredible salad dressing, well that was just an extra little gem.

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