**Long and photo-heavy post ahead! Rather than spreading this weekend's events out through 3 or 4 posts, they're all going into one long post. Don't say you haven't been warned!**
Why is the post title in French? You'll soon find out...
As an anniversary and wedding gift, my mom's best friend (you know her as Eo) treated Adam and I to a weekend of our choice at the Sofitel Chicago. After a very stressful last two months, we opted to spend this past weekend in the complete lap of luxury that was this magnificent hotel.
My sister, Leigh, is the assistant pastry chef for the Sofitel, and we were very eager to see her work. When we arrived Friday night, we were greeted in the lobby by some of the most magnificent flower arrangements I've ever seen.
The check-in began with a cheery "bon soir!" from the clerk (good evening in French, which apparently everyone in the hotel speaks), and before we knew it, we were on our way up to the 16th floor to see our home for the weekend.
We were greeted with a surprise from Leigh!
A bottle of champagne (really, from France!), caramel popcorn, shortbread cookies, housemade hazelnut chocolate spread, assorted chocolates, and fruit geleés.
They were devoured fairly quickly, and we headed down to the lobby to say hi to Leigh. I regret not getting a photo with her; she looked so official and professional in her chef whites! We got some suggestions for Friday's dinner from her since we were having dinner at the hotel Saturday, and headed back to our room.
Reservations were a little hard to come by this weekend as it was the final weekend of Chicago Restaurant Week. Restaurant Week is when many restaurants offer a more affordable prix fixe menu so that people can eat at restaurants they wouldn't normally try. We lucked out and found a reservation just up the street from the hotel; a new modern French bistro called Bistronomic.
We opted instead of the prix fixe Restaurant Week menu to go with some of their regular dishes. They feature small plates dining, designed, like tapas, to be shared. We began with a påté:
And I had a glass (ok, two) of Pinot Blanc:
We then had one of our favorite dishes of the evening, tuna tartare with avocado, watercress, and baguette crouton. The presentation was fantastic!
We then shared two smaller dishes, a gnocchi with a light cream sauce, butternut squash, and parmesan
And bay scallops with roasted vegetables and a truffle "foam".
And then, since it was a special occasion (you know, Friday) we got dessert. Adam's was a white chocolate bread pudding with creme anglaise to pour on top:
And mine was a dark chocolate and vanilla creme brulee.
I hated it.
We returned to our room for the night at that point, and awoke Saturday after a great night's sleep ready to explore the city. After a leisurely room service breakfast which came with a gorgeous orchid on the tray
We ventured outside in the "wintry mix" weather to walk around Michigan Avenue, do a bit of shopping, and play "tourist" for the day. After a couple hours, we hopped a cab to Old Town Social for lunch (can you tell this was a food-centered trip?) Adam got biscuits and gravy and I ordered shrimp and grits.
All this made me want to do was a: take a trip to New Orleans and b: replicate this at home. I'll be doing that soon. This was rich and spicy, but not in the same way that most food is spicy these days. I didn't even realize it was spicy until I was halfway through with the dish, and realized that hey, my mouth was warm. Thanks for a great brunch, Jared!
After some more walking (to aid digestion you know), a little shopping, and lots of reconnecting, we decided to go relax before primping for our fancy dinner out. We'd just mentioned to each other that we were getting hungry when there was a knock on the door. It was room service with an "afternoon treat" from Leigh!
It was an exquisite tray with:
citrus olive oil cake
Madelines, cherry chocolate financier cake, and pound cake
and whipped cheesecake with gold leaf and blackberries
If that's not a perfect afternoon snack, I don't know what is! I set to primping, and put on my new dress (which you'll see on Thursday... it's a VERY exciting week here!), and we headed down to the restaurant, Cafe des Architects
Leigh came out to see us, and we were instructed to order what we wanted from the Restaurant Week menu, and she'd take care of desserts. We happily agreed, and I ordered a perfectly frilly pink girl drink: a Pomegranate Martini.
The bread basket arrived, complete with garlicky tapenade
Then, complements of the chef, came a plate of four oysters with horseradish cream and tomato granita.
I'd never had an oyster before... but these were delicious! Salty, cold, and a little fishy... I can't say I'd order them on my own, but I wouldn't turn them down if I were offered them again!
Both Adam and my first course was a bouillabaisse, a fish soup with saffron, clams, mussels, and shrimp.
It was delightful! The saffron added a flavor we're not used to in everyday life, the seafood was perfectly cooked, and a touch of cream made it something really special.
Our second course came out not long after; monkfish, bulgur, and spinach for me; filet mignon and bernaise sauce for Adam.
The monkfish had a similar texture to catfish, but tasted rather like lobster. The bulgur and spinach made for a light but satisfying main course. As for Adam's steak, he said "I could've cut it with a spoon!"
Then the desserts started coming. When Leigh said she'd "take care of dessert", she wasn't kidding! She placed our designated desserts in front of each of us, and then a couple desserts to share.
Passion fruit dark chocolate opera cake, chocolate sauce, passion fruit "pearls"
And for Adam:
Valhrona Caramelia chocolate cremeux, caramel sauce, financier/popcorn streusel, and popcorn sorbet
And to share:
Vanilla chiboust, cassis gelee, citrus, berries, and creme anglaise
Assorted macarons, chocolates, and raspberry pate de fruit
Where to begin? The chocolate passionfruit opera cake is, quite possibly, the best dessert I've ever had. The chocolate wasn't too sweet, the passionfruit was tart, the mix of textures was the stuff of dreams. I really don't have words...
Adam's cremeux was like the most decadent pudding in the world, but had a touch of whimsy with the popcorn streusel and sorbet.
I don't know that I'd ever had a chiboust before Saturday night, but I can say with confidence that it had a combination of textures and flavors that were unlike anything I'd ever tasted. There was exceptional tartness combined with extreme sweetness that balanced each other out in a perfect dessert.
And, can I just tell you, my sister makes the best French macaron I've ever had. EVER. I'll dream about that red one...
In a wicked sugar coma, we retired to our room and awoke refreshed...and hungry!
We went down to Cafe des Architects for breakfast, and were greeted again by Leigh! She came bearing surprises...
Clockwise from top right: 2 eggs atop turkey hash, smoked salmon plate, hazelnut chocolate torte; fruit, yogurt, and granola parfait; fresh mango juice; praline cream puffs; dessert plate; tiny tiny jam; coconut mousse
That's right. We got breakfast dessert. Allow me to enlarge a couple of those for you:
Ok, I'll stop now. I've tortured you enough... the moral of the story? Come to Chicago. Stay at the Sofitel. Eat at Cafe des Architects. Order lots of desserts.
If you've made it this far without having to run to the kitchen for a snack, kudos to you. If you've made it this far, period, well done!
A huge thank you to Eo for treating us to such a phenomenal weekend! It was much-needed, and much enjoyed!! Thank you to Leigh for treating us to some of the most amazing desserts we've ever had!