Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Twelve Days: Ooh La La!

A big component of our holiday festivities is the celebration of my husband, Mike's birthday. The week between Christmas and New Year's is typically slow in his practice and so he often takes the day off even when it falls mid-week. Our day began at Rick Bayless' Xoco with feather light empanadas, crisp crunchy churros and dense rich egg tortas. Evening ended at Balsan, the Elysian's Parisian-style bistro.

Balsan's Executive Chef Bridget Quinlan was recently quoted by Chicagoist as saying that she was offering a kids' menu similar to the adult menu, with no fried foods and ingredients from local farmers. Learning of this, we realized that this would be an ideal place for our family celebration of Mike's birthday.

Thor enjoyed the cheese pizza and a bit of the revelatory Tarte Flambee with its pastry/dough, flaky and tender. I loved the celery root soup, its richness offset by tart notes of apple and pickled ramps. Main courses were terrific, both the rib eye, that Mike ordered, and the pork tenderloin-sausage combo, which was my selection. The biggest treat came at the very end. Chocolate ice cream and creme brulee were delicious, but the Paris Brest was a doughnut hole of perfection. Crispy choux pastry balanced with hazelnut cream and a bit of crunchy sugar - a plateful of heaven that will surely inspire a trip back.

Balsan is welcoming to children with its varied childrens' menu and gracious staff. The hostess was clearly tickled when the little locavore gave dad a thumbs up telling him he was going to the "Bar," when heading down to the bathroom, located on the "Bar" floor according to the Elysian's elevator buttons. Perplexed, Thor told me "it's not like it was my first word!" Indeed.

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