hello! a week ago sam and i were just boarding a plane back to new york - we had the most fantastic week in champaign & chicago, it was tough to head home knowing i'd be working ten days straight upon my return. we landed in chicago last thursday, right as temperatures peaked in the worst heat wave in chicago in years - the perfect time to schlep luggage to and fro before taking the red line down to meet my little sister, who picked us up and whisked us away to champaign, where she lives and goes to school.
we had a great dinner that night at big grove tavern then went to mike & molly's for some more beers and a little swing dancing - a great band was playing, and esther and i took classes together years and years ago so we literally kicked off our shoes and danced until the band went off (i have the blisters to prove it.) it was a great time.
pardon my softball player calves. too many years at second base.
top: ann taylor loft
shorts: need supply
shoes: carven (similar here)
the next day was the main event: a big dinner party for esther's birthday. we planned the menu in advance, so sam and i had stopped at publican quality meats to snag some duck confit to make what is now an old standard of hers: duck, arugula, and ricotta ravioli. (she made it the first time about a year ago, and i posted the recipe here.) she made the filling while i got to work making the pasta dough, rolling, and filling the raviolis.
also on the menu were the truffle oil and goat cheese stuffed fingerling potatoes, a constant at me &sam's dinner parties; various kebabs; and a watermelon salad that esther spotted and modified from one of my favorite food blogs, luxirare.
my cutie pie little sister, spicing away
you guys, this salad was so, so good and so easy. perfect for this crazy hot, sticky weather we've been having. even sam, who is pretty anti fruit-in-salad, was blown away by it. do it.
the food all turned out fabulously - we were sure we'd have too much but by the end every bit of food had been nibbled away.
we served the ravioli in a brown butter, pine nut and sage sauce.
once the plates had been cleared away, and people had moved outside for, well, mostly more drinking and chatting, i set about putting dessert together - grilled peaches with a vanilla bean gelato i'd made earlier in the afternoon. i didn't bother to clean the grill before putting the peaches on, and i think it actually was a nice touch - there was a slight hint of meatiness from the sausages we'd grilled for lunch balancing the sweetness of the peaches and gelato. i marinated the peaches in sweet white wine and honey before grilling them, and drizzled the whole thing with a tiny bit of olive oil and topped it off with sea salt. it was divine.
all in all, a fantastic meal and such a fun night. cooking for other people is, no question, my favorite pastime; sam is always amazed that i bake all day in a hot kitchen then come home and only want to cook some more. i'm pretty darn lucky to get to do what i love all day.
more from me, including some pretty big news that i can't share just yet. thank you so much for reading!