Keith’s Birthday

Tacos

On Saturday we celebrated Keith’s birthday. He requested almond cake and dinner at Schwa, and fortunately I was able to get a reservation. We ate tacos at Big Star for lunch, Keith had some of his favorite bourbon, and then we relaxed at home before our dinner. It was a great day spent celebrating my favorite person.

We woke up Sunday to lots of snow (which eventually turned into the fifth largest snowfall in Chicago), so Keith moved his iMac into the bedroom and we drank coffee and watched movies. My favorite was the 180 degrees south documentary. It’s set in Patagonia and now I want to go there more than ever. There was a scene where two guys were kneeling on surf boards, paddling in a little lake using their hands, and there were schools of seals and dolphins swimming around them. Incredible. Keith has wanted to do a hiking trip… maybe for his birthday next year?

Bigstar KPSchwa

Chocolate Cake with Rosemary Buttercream

Cake IngredientsOn Sunday I hosted my monthly book club, which happened to fall on my friend’s birthday. A perfect excuse for a cake. We received a set of round springform pans as a wedding gift, which I love but hardly ever use. It’s hard to justify making a layer cake when I know I’m just going to eat it all. However, I recently discovered this blog and her cakes have inspired me once again.

This cake was delicious. The rosemary added a savory element that balanced out some of the sweetness. Keith loved it, and he’s not a sweets guy or a cake lover. I loved it, and I am usually a bigger fan of the white cake / chocolate frosting combination. We have a couple pieces left for dessert tonight and I’m going to be sad when it’s gone.

Cake
I followed the Magnolia Bakery Super-Rich Chocolate Cake recipe exactly. The recipe made two 9-inch round cakes, so I made another half batch for the third layer. I made the layers a few days in advance and froze them for easy assembly.

Rosemary Buttercream

  • Four sticks butter
  • Three cups powdered sugar
  • Rosemary
  • Vanilla
  • Milk

One day prior to frosting, melt two sticks of butter in a pan with a few springs of rosemary (roughly chopped). Let the butter sit out overnight and melt it down again the next morning before straining out the rosemary. Put the butter in the fridge to harden a bit (not too much), and then mix the rosemary infused butter with two sticks softened butter, powdered sugar, a splash of vanilla and a little bit of milk. I could have used a little more, so make one and a half times if you really like frosting.

Assembly was a breeze with the frozen cakes. The frosting was thick enough to hold up under the layers but very spreadable. If you want to frost “naked-style,” I will advise spreading the frosting up to and over the edge of each layer. I had to pipe frosting in between the layers before I could smooth it all out. Happy baking!

Condo Update

Minibar2Keith and I have lived in our condo for nearly four years now. In the time we’ve been here, we’ve done some minor improvements, but mostly we’ve focused on acquiring furniture and other décor that we can take with us to our next home. Painting was always on our to-do list. We never liked the original tan/dark beige color, but our apartment has an open floor plan and tackling just one “room” wasn’t an option. It took five days of work but our now white apartment seems so much brighter.

Our new walls have been looking a little bare, but we’re working on that too. Keith purchased a fun print for above our bar. You can’t see the detail from the photo above, so here’s a close up of some of the little people. I love it.

People printCPCCPC2A few weeks ago I read about the small print show at the Chicago printmakers collaborative. We went Saturday afternoon. Most prints were under $150, and the artists using the studio space were quick to offer assistance while we browsed. We picked up a print by Sarah Smelser, perfect for a gallery wall when we get around to adding to it.

And as a parting shot – our new bed! My favorite spot in the apartment.

Headboard

January

Chicago snowJanuary in Chicago. Other than last week, we have actually enjoyed a very mild winter so far, but the temperatures are dropping and we are spending lots of time indoors. Here are a few things that are keeping us occupied.

  • Household projects – Keith and I stayed in New Year’s Eve and spent the following weekend painting our condo. We’re adding some art/photos to our walls, and we snagged a new bed frame during Room and Board’s annual sale. There’s lots of slipper wearing and candle burning over here and it’s feeling cozy.
  • Movies – I’m not usually a movie person, but there are so many good films this time of year. Plus, movie theaters have gotten really nice – reserved seating with big overstuffed chairs that recline. We’ve seen Selma, Boyhood (so good!), the Theory of Everything, and St. Vincent. The Imitation Game and Still Alice are high on my list.
  • Yoga – Our gym recently started offering hot yoga and I’m thrilled. Walking over in the cold is a bit easier when there’s a warm studio waiting. I’ve already tried a few classes and plan to sample a few more this week.
  • Restaurants – I made a bunch of reservations since our schedule was wide open in January. We tried Momotaro Friday (great sushi), we’re eating at Parachute Saturday, and I got a reservation at Schwa the evening of Keith’s birthday. I just hope they don’t cancel!

Baker MillerAnd Baker Miller. Yes, we went back.

Baker Miller

Baker Miller breakfast Toast barWe finally made it to Baker Miller Sunday; it was worth the wait. The bakery and millhouse was recently opened by the husband and wife duo that owned the wildly popular Bang Bang Pie Shop. The restaurant has a small eat-in area, maybe 8-10 tables, with a limited menu of baked goods and breakfast items. You can get bread and pie to go. The tables were filled when we arrived, but one freed up right away and they continued to turn over pretty quickly. We split the “toast bar,” a cinnamon roll, and the grain bowl, and it was an amazing breakfast. Each table has a toaster, and there is a long bar with butters and jams (the sage black pepper butter was our favorite). I will say the set-up is a bit awkward during busy times as everyone is huddled around preparing their toast. I had read a lot about the cinnamon roll, and it was good. Not amazing, but I would get it again. It wasn’t too sweet and it had the perfect amount of cream cheesy frosting. I think the grain bowl changes regularly since ours wasn’t the same one listed online, but it was really tasty with a nice poached egg. They serve Sparrow coffee with a choice of oat milk, whole milk and half and half.

On Sunday they were selling two types of bread: sourdough and sunflower seed. We bought a loaf of sunflower seed and it’s similar to the bread we toasted at breakfast, dark and crusty. We ate it last night as avocado toast with some chili – very hearty. Baker Miller is a gem, and although it’s a bit of a trek for us, I have no doubt we’ll be back for breakfast and bread.