Last night, I had the rare opportunity to go out with The Dad "on a school night." We attended a celebratory dinner for his friend, Brian, and Brian's new wife. Another pair of Brian's friends own Big Jones, a relatively new restaurant along Andersonville's north Clark strip, so they generously hosted the party of 12. Big Jones's schtick is southern coastal comfort food, but it also uses fresh, locally sourced organic ingredients. The Dad and I left the kids asleep at home with a sitter, but the restaurant has a kid-friendly menu from which my three would happily eat; I joked that they must have had me in mind when they came up with their target demographic. I had the Chicken Benne with southern greens and grits, which was really, really good -- and that's saying something as the food genre is not one that I eat often or would gravitate towards if left to my own devices. The Dad had the Tallgrass Beef Burger, which looked really good. I skipped the beer for the most part and spent most of my caloric-splurge on the Red Velvet Cake*. One of the best I've had -- delightfully moist and flavorful, with a perfectly rich and lightly tangy cream cheese frosting.
In addition to the great food, the evening was enjoyable for me because the rest of the party consisted of a cross-section of Chicagoans with whom I am not ordinarily in contact. Most people did not have children -- and if they did, the children weren't the focal point of dinner conversation. We talked about politics, the economy, the restaurant itself, obscenely rich people, the Joffrey ballet and dance education, crazy You Tube videos, Chicago Public Schools, neighborhoods, and shooting off rockets with a group of grade school kids with Mad Science.
*Red velvet cake has become a bit of a theme in my life lately, as my new friend Jenna has about 8,000 recipes for it and made some for The Girl, The Boy, The Tot and me on a recent playdate, thereby renewing my love for the red velvet cake. I've made it only a handful of times and have discovered that it is a lot of work, and it's probably best to focus on the baking that I do well and leave red velvet cake to someone with more time, more patience and more red food dye than me! Apparently, I am not the only one who is obsessed with red velvet cake; there was talk that the Trib will run a food piece on the best red velvet in Chicago. I hope Big Jones's entry makes the list.