Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cumin Restaurant

It's so good we went twice in two weeks.

Cumin just opened recently in the Wicker Park/Bucktown area of town.  I'd suggest getting reservations if you try it on a Friday or Saturday since the restaurant seating is limited and starting to build a crowd following.

Our server during the first visit was a shy, demure Indian or Nepaliese gal with perfect skin and a smile ready for Ernie's corny jokes.  She was super helpful with my gluten-intolerance by pointing out all of the things I could eat, including the lentil chips that are wheat-free.  She also recommended delicious dishes including a goat appetizer and their recommended dumpling appetizer. When we ordered the dumplings, she even made it a point to bring out a separate starter for me that was gluten free! That made me feel really great that I wasn't excluded from the tasty dishes.

On the first visit with Kelly and Dan, every dish we ordered was based on our server's recommendations. It included a lamb, chicken and spinach dish. (pictured below)  The mix of spices was so flavorful but not overwhelming. Each bite was a different aroma of delicious sensations. I was pleasantly surprised about the goat. I don't think I've ever had it before and I certainly wouldn't have ordered it on my own. But based on the recos of the staff, we tried it. The flavor is a little deeper/gamier than beef or pork but not tough like lamb can sometimes be. 

Rice comes with the dishes, unlike at India House where you have to order rice separately. Who eats Indian Food without rice?!  You can also see by the picture below that the serving dishes are very modern and don't look run down like at many other Indian food places. I don't know about you, but this gives me reassurance that the kitchens are clean!

On the second visit with Chris and Sindhu, we let Sindhu take the helm and order for the table.  Again, we ordered the dumplings and this time tried the other goat appetizer.  We also had the "bangin' bertha" (I'm pretty sure you don't spell it that way but they'll know what you mean) which was roasted eggplant.  For our main dishes, there was fish masala (super spicy) for Sindhu the pescitarian and a chicken tikka masala for Chris, the fish avoider.  Something for everyone at the table.

After trying 6 different main dishes and 4 different appetizers, I can't even decide which is my favorite.  You can't go wrong with any dish at a place with this level of culinary excellence.

I would also highly recommend the Pinot Noir from Australia. I believe it's the second one down in the wine menu.  Amazingly light, a bit fruity, not woody and complimented the flavors very well.  It's not a wine for those who like woody-thick-curtain reds.  When we ordered this wine, our white-oxford-shirt-wearing server said he remembered me and Ernie from our first visit. All of the servers were happy we selected this wine because it's their favorite.

You'll enjoy the modern decor with an infusion of Eastern influence from Nepal and India.  The red walls and dim lighting with dark wood lacquer tables enhance the ambiance of the room.  I was concentrating so much on the food that I honestly didn't pay attention to the details of decoration but I'm sure it's beautiful.

Well worth the visit to Cumin.  They won't dissappoint.

Cumin Restaurant
1414 N Milwaukee Ave,
Chicago, IL 60622-9214

(Don't judge the food by their website. I'm sure they're working to improve it!)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Cookie Bar

So delicious, you won't know you're eating a gluten-free cookie.

Awhile back, Ernie and I tested out the Cookie Bar. We first learned on the Daily Candy email that they serve gluten-free cookies. It's not just your ordinary cookie; you can also make an ice cream sandwich with your choice of cookies!  (It's like Diddy Reese in LA)

This retro little shop in Lincoln Park serves a wide selection of cookies. Some traditional (like Chocolate Chip) and some unique ones (like Chipotle Chocolate Chip).  If you're looking for a gluten-free cookie or even a Vegan cookie, you're in luck! 

I had a mint chocolate chip gluten-free cookie.  I topped it with a scoop of peanut butter ice cream.  Not sure I would recommend the mint-pb combination but I still loved that I didn't even know I was on a restricted diet eating GF cookies.  It was well worth the 8000 calories that I'm sure the half ice cream sandwich stacked up to.  The lucky thing is that they often have 2-3 varieties of the gluten free cookies!  I'm itching to taste them all.

If you're lucky, you can spot one of the owners sitting at the bar counter with his iMac probably working on another screen play.  Read their fun story on the Cookie Bar website!

The Cookie Bar
2475 N Lincoln Ave

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sprinkles Gluten-Free Cupcakes

I once waited in line for an hour and a half for Sprinkles cupcakes when I was still consuming Gluten filled products. I absolutely love love love their Red Velvet cupcake. The cake is so moist, soft and full with a nice balance of flavor.  It's topped with a firm cream cheese frosting that is just the right sweetness and creamyness to make a delightful treat.

When I found out Sprinkles was opening shop in Chicago, I had to check it out. Just like in LA, there was a line out the door but at least the wait wasn't an hour long.  I think the line has more to do with the inefficieny of moving customers through rather than a sheer popularity issue.  It took no less than five minutes to order, get the cupcakes packed out and pay before we could squeeze our way through the exit.

I was hopeful that the Gluten Free cupcake offered daily in Red Velvet would taste similar to their regular gluten cupcake.  Sadly, it was a dissappointment.  Although there's a cute "G" that marks the cupcake rather than their traditional button topper, the cake itself did not deliver on taste.

That sour/pungent aftertaste that you get with many gluten-free foods was clearly discernable in this cupcake.  There is the super-moist texture of the cake and the same cream cheese frosting as the original full-gluten sibling, but the Red Velvet flavor was masked by the nasty-ness of the trademark "gluten-free" after taste.  I was also hoping that other flavor varieties might be offered alongside the Red Velvet but in a world of gluten-eating people, there's only space for one cupcake flavor in the Sprinkles shop.

Bottom line: try it if you want, but don't expect it to taste like the real thing.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Charles Poliquin & Mark Houston Discuss Gluten & Heart Issues

Book Club #2

I had to miss last month's book club meeting due to work travel. Boo Hoo. Here's the next book up! Let's keep up the good work ladies!


Hello Friends! Sorry it has been so long since my last post. Did you miss me? A LOT has gone on... including our recent engagement!  We had a fantastic trip to Germany and France where we got to celebrate our engagement before coming back to the US and heading full speed into planning.  I'm going to share a shortened version of the engagement. If you ask Ernie to tell the story, it will literally take 2 hours (it has on multiple occasions already).

We planned the Europe trip back in May when we decided against Iceland (volcano issues) with the family and since I was switching jobs, I didn't think May would be a good time to travel. So we picked September. Ernie had never been to Paris and had been interested in going. The timing was the same as Oktoberfest and we couldn't resist a couple days in Munich! Augsburg is really close and that seemed like a perfectly reasonable time to check out the town Ernie was living in when we first met.  At this point, Ernie had zero intentions or thoughts of proposing there.

July rolls around.  It's the annual Lind Ave block party that he so looks forward to every year.  His brother, Scott, came into town and they planned on going on a bar crawl (that's what Ernie told me).  Something clicked in Ernie's head and he decided instead to go to a jeweler he found on Yelp and buy a ring right there and then.  The ring would be ready the first week of September so it seemed like good timing.

In Sept, we went to Lake Tahoe for my cousin's wedding.  The whole family was there and Ernie found that to be the perfect time to ask my dad for his permission. In the afternoon, we went hiking on top of the mountain. Ernie was going to ask dad then but realized I had super sharp hearing on the moutaintop and Ernie knew I could hear every word he said. Later in the afternoon, we were separated and Ernie was left with dad alone. Ernie chocked and couldn't do it! Even later at the cocktail hour, I kept interrupting him to introduce him to people, so he wasn't able to ask Dad then.  Even though his first few attempts were fruitless and finally he was able to ask dad.  During the reception (after stalking dad even to places like the bathroom), Dad disappeared. Ernie thought he maybe went back to the Villa that our family rented - so he made an excuse to go back to change shoes because his feet were cold. That's when he asked dad. It was one time that my dad had only few words but he was very happy as far as Ernie could tell.

Dad didn't tell mom or my sister until their drive back to the airport the next day.  Ernie told my brother Winnie, over shots at the reception.  Seems like everyone knew but me! His family all knew since July when the ring was purchased.

My only tip off happend right before we left for the airport. I shut down my work computer. I realized that I didn't put my out of office on so I restarted. Since the computer was already fired up, I took the time to input our recent reciepts into our budget spreadsheet. I found a parking reciept from a chicago parking meter. I knew the time (5 something PM) was when I was still at work. It was a 30 min ticket and I had no idea what it was for.  I went on the chicagoparkingmeter.com website and inputted the meter number... brought up a google map of wabash!  Here's an IM convo with my buddy Chris aka "walking google" that basically sums up what was going on in my head (slightly edited to shorten content and fix spelling):

Me: so I'm totally a stalker. I collect reciepts to update our budget
Me: and I found one for parking
Chris: that's unreal!
Me: on a day/timethat I know I was still in the office so I figured it was Ernie's. then I wondered what the heck he was doing. so went to chicagoparkingmeeters.com. looked up the booth
Chris: uh oh. wabash
Me: and it's next to "chicago diamond experts", like 1 block south
Chris: !!!!!!! CINDY!  you weren't supposed to look!
Me: well it was just a parking reciept!!!!!!! how was I supposed to know
Chris: you little sleuth!
Me: well now I feel stupid. b/c my hopes are high now and if something doesn't happen then will I be dissappionted? or excited that somethign might happen soon?
Chris: !!!!!  have fun!  i hope you get engaged ;)
Me: hah thanks. how did you know it would be at wabash
Chris: i suspected that's where the story was going. either there or a strip club. lol
Me: what's at wabash
Chris: all of the jewelers are on wabash
Me: oooh. i didn't know
Chris: between madison and randolph/lake

So of course, I thought something was up. I never keep secrets from Ernie but I didn't want to blow his cover or anything. I had to sit there for the whole plane ride in wonderment.  It was giving me anxiety and I couldn't sleep on the plane! If you know me, I can't hardly keep my eyes open when the engine starts running.  Ernie couldn't sleep either because he was rehersing his "speech" and making cry baby faces because he gets really emotional. It was a rough and long flight!

When we arrived to the airport, Ernie's baseball team was there to greet us with signs! It was so exciting!  I didn't think anything would happen in Augsburg because I knew that Robert, or "Ic" as he's called, would be with us the whole time.  But then I was bummed thinking it could be in Paris - that's so un "us".  So then I thought that the reciept meant maybe he just went for an initial browsing and nothing was going to happen so I put my guard down.

We got back to Ic's, showered, sat and chatted with Ic's parents for a bit, then headed out into the town. Ernie showed me around Augsburg. We walked all over town. Then, Ic and Ernie started speaking in German and Ic ran off to go check out what time the bell tower closed.  I asked Ernie what they talked about and he just said that Ic was tired of speaking English b/c he's not very good at it (a lie) and he was going to check when the building closed. Ernie said Ic had to run all the way up the stairs b/c the ticket lady is at the top of the tower and it didn't make sense for all of us to go up there.  "Reasonable," I thought. Then I got those first date jitters thinking "omg we are alone!" We walked down Maximillian Strasse and I thought he was going to take me somewhere special. But then I saw Ic running back over by us.  "Nevermind," I thought again.

We visited another friend for lunch at his Falafel stand. Ernie was getting weird and it seemed like he was stalling or something. He kept asking Ic if it was time to go visit this bell tower. Ic said "not now" or "not yet" a few times. Then, at 2:10pm, he goes "ok we go now!" So we walked over to the bell tower.  I didn't notice til the way out, but right outside the bell tower, there was a sign posted with the opening hours. 

Ernie ran all the way up the stairs and kept pushing me to make it up faster. Right at the top, he ripped a falafel fart in my face! Nice work Ern.  Then the ticket lady saw us, Ic said something to her in German which I later learned was "The couple getting engaged are here!" She got really excited and then Ic says to us, "OK Ernie now you go up." There were 15 more steps to the very top. A few people waited on the level with the ticket lady.

The top was empty with not a tourist on site. I was oblivious and taking pictures out the window asking Ernie to point out this and that. Finally, he was like "give me that camera, I'm going to take pictures of you."  But he was really just trying to get the camera out of my hands.  Finally, he got my attention. We were standing in the middle of the bell tower and he started on the little speech he memorized. I don't remember all of the details other than my first words were "NO WAY!"... and then as he got on his knee I said "OH MY GOSH!" He had to ask a couple of times before I finally answered him!

I was still in shock when Ic popped up out of the stairwell and exclaims, "Is it done?!" and he was holding up a bottle of champagne and some cups.  Ernie popped the cork - which ended up hitting the main bell and ringing the bell - and we celebrated our engagement!  Here's a pic of Ic!

Afterwards, we went to go buy me a Dirndl for Oktoberfest the next day :)
Here are also some photos of our "engagement session" in Paris! I had scheduled the photographer completely unknowing of the engagement.