I’m sharing this because I’ve been watching the news lately. There’s a lot of serious stuff in this world of ours and yes we need to be informed, but we also need to remember the lighter side of life. And self-depreciation. And smile, because yes, we are surviving and we still have our sense of humor in tact.
Have you seen that Johnny Depp version of Alice in Wonderland? The one with the haughty guy rolling in money telling Alice to “remain silent” and the partygoers panting at the thought of engagement (because who isn’t lusting after the man with the most cash and the biggest title?). But Alice isn’t quite confident in this proposal. In fact, she realizes that this is what we call A Very Bad Idea and decides she needs a moment to follow that white rabbit. And off she goes to find her “muchness”, slay a Jabberwocky and discover that she is indeed the right Alice.
There are many Alices out there. And last fall some of us got together to share stories of slaying our own dragons, achieving dreams and loving people well.
We are 50 Shades of Strong.
We braved the snow, because this little place is so worth it. When you happen to be in Mundelein, you must stop in and visit Chef Claude’s Taste of Paris Restaurant & Bakery (161 North Seymour Ave 847-949-9991). The lovely Lynnette was a smidge intimidated by the idea of French cuisine, but I assured her this culinary adventure would be full of delightful comfort food, and it did not disappoint.
The chalkboard Specials menu at the entrance announced $5 mimosas, so of course I decided to partake. My lunch date and driver opted for the blood orange soda, so basically both of us were being healthy and getting our vitamin C. (humor me, people!) We started off with the rich French onion soup. The croutons, the sweet onions, the melty cheese. This was a perfect beginning on such a wintery day. While waiting for our next course, we browsed the bakery shelves and chatted up the girls behind the counter. Seductive flavors wafted over us and I nearly broke down and bought a croissant right then and there. A blip of self control emerged to save the day and I promised myself I would leave with some of these baked goodies.
We wanted to try several different things from the menu, however neither one of us could pronounce most of them. Thankfully the waitress rescued us. And before you comment, YES, I did take 2 years of French in high school. However, I also took 2 years of Spanish in college so my mind is one big jumble of romance languages. Que paso? Oui. EXACTLY. OK, back to the food. Our greens, Salad d’Epinard, was divine! I mean spinach, bacon, egg, red onions, goat cheese and house made vinaigrette; I love it all! In fact I bought fancy bacon and pricey goat cheese this week just so I could attempt to make something similar at home. By this time, I finished off that tasty mimosa an opted for a pomegranate soda, another refreshing concoction. Now, we needed a bit of comfort food and a bit of out-of-our-comfort-zone food to get the whole French experience. For comfort food, we tried the Croque Monsieur, a decadent take on a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. Not for the faint of heart, or maybe even those with a pacemaker, but perfect for this crazy cold weather. For something out-of-our-comfort-zone, we tried a savory crepe: Poulet et Fromage. The crepes we’ve known were always sweet – full of berries and things like Nutella (oooohhhh, Nutella… what dreams are made of) but this was made with chicken, swiss cheese and Béchamel sauce- just a tad different. It was a creamy indulgence of different, to be exact. Similar to the decadence of the sandwich but with the class of a crepe that only the French can provide. Our own little taste of what it might be like living the cultured life of a Parisian. But without needing to actually travel there, or speak French. Because we all know how that would turn out for me.
And then came our grand finale, our pièce de résistance, the Chocolate Mousse Dome. Enveloped in chocolate ganache and garnished with berries we savored EVERY. SINGLE. BITE. Let’s be honest, we nearly licked the plate. You can see for yourself in the photos. You must get one of these when you go there. Even if you’ve stuffed yourself silly on the other scrumptious food. Buy one and take it home or you will be sad, sad, sad. In fact, I am sad, sad, sad that I don’t have one right now. Maybe I will have to remedy that asap. hmmmm…. Well, after we finished our fantastic meal and lingered for a few moments to let it all settle, we each bought a box of French pastries at the bakery because this kind of sweet goodness was meant to be shared with loved ones. Trust me on that 🙂
“I’m like you, I like to eat– it’s ALL good!”
We knew we loved Tina’s Italian Cafe & Bake Shop right from the beginning. If Tina doesn’t like it, it doesn’t go on the menu– so we lunched and savored every tasty morsel brought out to us. And we heard a few stories along the way. Like how this started out like a little Italian grocery, but everyone wanted to sit down and eat so she kept adding tables. And how her mom, currently enjoying 70 degree weather in Italy, crochets all the table cloths. Twelve years of handcrafted Italian goodness so far; we wish her many, many more.
My date, the lovely Lynnette, insisted that I try the sausage and meatball platter with side salad – Oh. My. Word. It was so good I had to take a moment and recollect myself. And then the minestrone came, is it still considered bad manners to lick the bowl?
Then there was a creamy chicken salad sandwich with summer greens. How did I manage to keep eating you ask? Well, I’m no quitter when it comes to delicious food. I persevered.
Lastly came dessert. We lingered. We chatted. We brownie-d and tiramisu-ed and cappuccino-ed. And in the words of Lynnette, “This is better than wine. This is better than Therapy!” Indeed, Tina’s is good for the soul 🙂
I’m all about sharing my food and sharing ideas… So share with me your favorite dish from Tina’s or suggest another Lake County lunch spot for me and the lovely Lynnette… because we’re ladies who lunch. Or maybe we’re out to lunch. Or something like that 🙂