27 March 2012

Vegas, baby!

For George's 42nd birthday, I surprised him with a trip to Vegas.  We had a great time & he was truly surprised!  We had delicious food, went to an amazing show, did some shopping and soaked up the "atmosphere."  We did a little gambling, too!  Here are some pics...

The show was Love at The Mirage.  It was my first Cirque de Soleil show and it was all set to Beatles music.  I can't even begin to describe it.  The actors, the stunts, the costumes, the music, the sets, the stories... just magical. 

We had lots of great meals!  We started off with lunch at one of our hotel's, The Paris, restaurants - the Eiffel Tower Restaurant.  We were floating above the strip right across from the Bellagio water show.  We definitely had the best table in the house, right in the corner of two giant windows!  I had just finished reading Julia Child's My Time in France and was determined to have the Sole Muniere (the first meal she had in France) - it was delicious!  George had the crab stuffed french toast and I think he enjoyed his meal as well.

We had dinner before the show at Holstein's in the Cosmopolitan.  We both had "grown up milkshakes" and burgers that were phenomenal - mine was topped with avocado tempurazomgyum. 

We started off Sunday morning with brunch at Rick Bayless's Mesa Grill at Caesar's Palace.  I had the chilequiles and George had pancakes and we both enjoyed delicious margaritas. YUM!

The food highlight of the trip was dinner at Mario Batali's B and B Ristorante in The Venetian.  We each had a 7-course tasting menu and shared all our dishes with each other.  It was amazing!  Here's a quick description:

George's Veneto Tasting Menu
Baccala Mentecato with fried polenta and radicchio - This was a tender white fish cake partnered up with a fried polenta patty that just melted in your mouth despite the crispy crunchy exterior. The raddicchio was also fried til crisp and gave a nice bitter counter to the sweet polenta.
Seppie Nero with risi bisi - this was a coconutty risotto-type rice (actually a Venetian rice called Cannoroli) with green peas and little squids that turned the whole dish black as you ate.  There were also little bits of crunchy pancetta and onions. One of my favorites!
Bigoli with smoked duck breast and foie gras - I'm not a big fan of foie gras and this didn't earn any more of my favor. It started with a bed of whole wheat pasta noodles, then topped with shredded duck and a rich rich butter sauce.  The waiter then grated foie gras over everything.
Squab al Mattone with truffled crema fritta and black trumpet ragu - A ridiculously flavored bird (marinating for 2 days in salt/sugar/thyme will do that...) with a mushroom gravy, caramelized onions and a cheesey/creamy brick that was slightly sweet and crunchy on the outside but oozy gooey in the middle. 
Ubriaco Fonduta with saba - a semi-melted cheese, super strong with a sweet brown sauce (not sure what it was made of?)
Cara Cara Spuma with citrus segments - Spuma is an early version of gelato and this one was flavored with vanilla bean and served with blood orange pieces in a syrup and topped with almond brittle. YUM.
Tiramisu with espresso gelato - a deconstructed tiramisu!  It was a very light espresso gelato, then a little cake with a dark coffee/chocolate sludge on the bottom, a slice of sponge soaked in coffee and all topped with cocoa meringue puffs.

Laura's Whole Hog Pasta Tasting Menu
Fazzoletti with herbed lardo and black truffle - this was a "handkerchief" pasta with herbs rolled into the pasta sheet with crunchy truffle slices and a zesty lemony sauce
Pork Trotter Ravioli with melted leeks - this was pretty basic but delish - shredded pork in raviolis with a sauce made from cooking leeks allllll the way down
Pappardelle with milk braised pork shoulder and olio nuovo - fatty fat pappardelle (almost lasagna width!) with creamy shredded pork that had just the perfect touch of brown caramelization and lots of fennel flavor
Fettuccine with norcino ragu - again, wider than what I would call fettuccine paired with crunchy pork bits, fresh parsley, carrots and a salty salty olivey gravy.
Black Spaghetti with 'nduja and sicillian pesto - this one was rough. Delicious noodles with ground-up salami and scallions. What made it rough is that the 8-lb salami recipe calls for 1-lb cayenne. Ouch!
Parmigiano Reggiano with aceot manodori - a 28mo aged parm with old balsamic drizzled on top. Perfection!
Honey Budino with honey-orange vanilla syrup - this was easily my favorite!  A mini honey souffle with a complex syrup drizzled on top tableside.

28 September 2011

The Earles are moving!

The Earles are moving this month! We are finally getting out of Laura's 1br bachelorette for a luxury duplex unit a whopping 3 blocks away. We're still stupid close to Winnemac Park, which we love and adore, and we're even closer to the trains. It's a win-win! Check out the "before" pics of our new place...

03 August 2011

Quad City Anniversary Extravaganza!

Hey!  We had an anniversary!  We've been married a whole year already.  It seems like not a whole lot has happened in the past year, but I guess there have been some big changes.  George moved into Laura's bachelorette pad, bringing along Billie the 19yo cat.

Billie really did not enjoy Genevieve and Bell at first, but she's grown to kind of tolerate them.  At least she doesn't hiss at them unless they're up in her business and that's a big leap from where we were last August.  She's doing well, other that having those annoying dogs around.  Genevieve and Bell each had some big expenses last fall.  Gen had an eye thing that needed to be removed, Bell had a cancer growing on her knee and they both needed a good tooth brushing.  They are both doing pretty well for being old girls - they turned 10 this spring!

George got his condo on the market and it finally sold this past July 1.  That is a big relief for both of us.  It is a tough real estate market out there! 

We don't have any big plans for the rest of the year.  We're slowly, tentatively looking and thinking about where we want to go from here.  Buying/renting is such a big decision and there are so many factors to consider.  There's a reason "they" say moving is one of the biggest life stressors! 

For our anniversary, we headed down to the Quad Cities with a stop in Freeport, Illinois along the way.  For George's birthday, I'd secured a spot for him to drive a real steam engine at a little club in Freeport and July 20 was the big day.  We had a great time; George got to drive and fire the engine and play train with the other guys while I relaxed in the shady breeze and talked to some local folks.  It was a nice day!  The Quad Cities was holding the 2011 National Train Festival and was just down the road, so that was a natural choice to head for the rest of the weekend.  George spent hours exploring the train festival while I relaxed at a nearby spa (are you seeing a theme here?).  We had some fun adventure dinners - one on a paddleboat cruise up & down the Mississippi and the other on a historic dining car that has been restored to its original 1930s setup.  We cooled off one afternoon with an IMAX viewing of Harry Potter - we WERE in the middle of a heatwave!  On the way home, we stopped in Rockford to visit my grampa.  He just had his 80somethingth birthday so we visited with him and took him out to lunch.  It was a great weekend with lots of time to celebrate our year together and to look forward to and talk about our future.  Here's to many, many more!

And of course we took lots of pictures!

07 February 2011

Puerto Rico!!!

We are heading to Puerto Rico this Friday. I am dying. DYING. I need some sun and some warm and some no snow. I think PR will fit the bill! First up: Three days at the Gran Melia Resort on the northeast coast.
Yum. While we're not much for golfing, I am planning on doing some damage at the spahhhhh! We have a bunch of day trips planned - the fabulous little town of Luquillo with crazy natural waterslides, "local" cafes and a gorgeous beach; hiking through El Yunque, the rainforest in the middle of the island; visiting the old forts of San Cristobal & El Morro; walking Old San Juan during their Friday afternoon festival; touring the rum distilleries; exploring the river cavern of Camuy & Arecibo Observatory... yeah, there's no way we could fit all that in in 3 days! But we'll try. We'll also cram some time in to just lay by the pool & relax. :)
Monday morning we head to Fajardo to take the ferry to Vieques. There, we are meeting up with some of our favorite people in the world - Jacqi&Jay&Claire Coleman. We have a villa in the mountains for the rest of the week.
Wild horses and chickens roam the rural island and the key here will be to RELAX. Days at the beach, nights at the villa. We have a chef coming to teach us how to cook traditional Puerto Rican meals two of the nights and we'll have a luxe dinner on Valentine's at the new W resort on the island.
The only thing I'm really bummed about? The moon is not participating. It will be full the week we're there, which means there won't be any trips to the amazing bioluminescent Mosquito Bay. No light-up plankton for us. THIS time. ;)

05 August 2010

Marriage! And photos!

We made it!  Six months of planning, a ton of love and fun, some stress and now it's all over.  Or just begun?  Thanks to everyone who joined us for the wedding or sent their best wishes on our big day.  We had a blast & hope everyone else had just as much fun.  

The honeymoon was also fantastic!  Denver is gorgeous and Glenwood Springs was phenomenal with its hot springs mineral pool, rafting, biking and cute little shops!  

We've crunched into my our apartment, which used to seem huge but is feeling pretty small these days.  We're on the hunt for a bigger place in our same beloved neighborhood of Ravenswood.  

The "kids" are adjusting pretty well for three old animals.  All three sat on the bed in relative peace with me last night while I churned out thank you notes.  Hopefully they'll continue to adapt at this pace and be besties by the time we move at the end of August.  We'll see!

The meat of this post? Photos!  Hundreds of photos have been posted by various friends and family from the wedding & associated festivities.  I've culled them all into one spot: http://picasaweb.google.com/earlepearls
(You can also just click the slideshow to the right!)

If you have photos to share, please give me a heads up and I'll let you into our picasa page to upload them directly!