Spotlight: Birthday Dinner at Found Kitchen and Social House

Well, you guessed it. TODAY is my BIRTHDAY!!! But it’s not just my birthday, it’s my good friend Ali’s birthday as well. Like, same day AND same year, and we’ve known each other pretty much forever (our dads worked together in the pinball/video game industry). So it was only appropriate that we meet up for a little birthday celebration!

Last time Ali came by me to Tête Charcuterie, so this time I headed north to Found Kitchen and Social House, located in the heart of Evanston. I had heard a lot of good things about the restaurant during the week, so my expectations were pretty high!

My first impressions when I entered Found: cozy, comfortable, lively, eclectic. The decor reminded me of Salvage One, antiques and unique finds every place you look. We were told there would be a 45-minute wait without a reservation (book early!), but it didn’t take that long to be seated.

Ali and I had a drink at the bar before we sat down: she a Manhattan, and a Punch special for me. That day the Punch was made from bourbon, apple cider, and I honestly can’t remember much else (must take better notes). Bourbon is a little strong for my liking, but this drink was quite tasty. I forget that some cocktails are best sipped.

We sat at the counter with a pub-height bench for two. Now, if I didn’t know Ali well, this could have been completely awkward. It was a little difficult to get in and out of the bench seating, but would be perfect for a date! We also had an excellent view of the wood-fire oven and the chefs, so that was really nice.

The menu is made for sharing, so we started with a kale and Swiss chard salad that had nuts, seeds, and cranberries with a light vinaigrette. Let’s just say my portion left my plate pretty quickly. I could eat mountains of this salad!

Then we split a bacon and leek flatbread that was also divine. I really liked this combo, with the smokiness of the bacon and light bite of the leeks. Yum…

For our entree, we enjoyed a salmon special on top of sautéed greens with more bacon! The fish pretty much melted in my mouth. I’m not a huge salmon fan, so let me tell you this was probably the best salmon I’ve ever had.

As if I wasn’t pleased enough with our menu choices, we opted for mango sorbet for dessert. Our waiter–who was wonderful, by the way!–was so sweet to put birthday candles in our ice cream. Ali and I made a joint wish (I can’t tell you or it won’t happen!), and I savored each bite of my sorbet.

This restaurant is truly a gem for Evanston. I love how they value local cuisine, have excellent service, and I enjoyed the decor. Book your reservation for Found now!

And happy birthday, Ali! 🙂

Found Kitchen and Social House
1631 Chicago Avenue
Evanston

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Girls’ Night Out: Mary Lee’s Bachelorette Party

My friend Mary Lee is getting married next month, and we recently celebrated her bachelorette party! Mary Lee and I met through our good friends Jill and Jeremy, as Mary Lee is engaged to Jeremy’s twin brother, Ryan. (They make a really cute couple, I might add!)

We started the night at Mary Lee’s twin sisters Kate and Allie’s adorable apartment in Logan Square. (Yes, lots of twins in this post!) Jill was already there prepping with the sisters when Jess (my sister-in-law) and I arrived. (Another twin fun fact: Jess and I are married to twins!)

They served snacks and cocktails, including a pink drink that was reminiscent of jungle juice in college. My gosh, it was good…and dangerous. We opened presents, took pictures (see below!), and then headed over to Orso’s in Old Town for dinner.

We were seated right away downstairs, but passed through the main dining room, a lively bar area, and piano man on our way to our table. Drinks were included in our meal package, so out of habit and nervousness, I ordered my old standby: rum and diet coke.

Bread and olive oil were placed on the table, along with family-style appetizers of bruschetta and peppers and sausage. Yum! By this time, I noticed Mary Lee and her friend were drinking French Martinis, which looked delicious. I had to try one.

There are many variations of the recipe online, but here’s the gist:

Ingredients
fresh pineapple juice
vodka
Vermouth
raspberry liqueur (recommended: Chambord)

You wouldn’t think pineapple juice would be in a French cocktail, but it was tasty…too tasty. I ordered another.

Back to the food! Next came a house salad, followed by mushroom risotto, chicken vesuvio, vesuvio potato wedges, and ravioli. And for dessert? Tiramisu, of course! Are you full just reading about it?

I’m bummed I only RSVP’d for the dinner because the girls were headed to Second City next. I had such a blast, and am so glad I was invited to celebrate Mary Lee and meet her friends. Can’t wait for the wedding next month!

Orso’s
1401 North Wells
Old Town

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Week #46 – Masa Azul

I’m a huge fan of Mexican cuisine, so when we were invited to celebrate Katherine’s birthday at Masa Azul, I couldn’t wait to see a new interpretation of some of my favorite things to eat.

First item of business: cocktails! The restaurant’s mixologist Jenny Kessler definitely brings it with her Margarita, and I followed that with a Heart of the Dead (equally tasty).

Everyone at our table had been to Masa Azul before, so we asked for their recommendations for food. We started with guacamole–good and spicy–and I enjoyed the trio of tacos. Of the four choices, I picked the aguacate (tempura avocado), baja shrimp, and carnitas. Others at the table ordered steak, scallops, and chilaquiles, too. (Yum!)

Of the tacos, all were delicious, but the carnitas taco was out of this world. The flavor of that meat guarantees my return to Masa Azul. The cocktails, too, actually.

If you’re looking for high-end Mexican, look no further than Masa Azul.

Masa Azul
2901 W. Diversey
Logan Square

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Did you miss yesterday’s Restaurant Week entry? Read about the tiki party at Three Dots and a Dash!