On my real birthday, we had some "small plates", wine, and desserts at MK, which was absolutely fabulous. The place was a little stuffy, and filled with overdressed businessmen and older couples, but our waiter was congenial and we had a good time. I would really love to go back sometime and sample their dinner menu, and perhaps even the prie fixe menu - which runs at about $85 for five courses, I think. I forgot my camera, so you'll just have to take my word for it that the desserts were beautiful! AND they brought me a complimentary cookie plate with "Happy Birthday Lisa" written on it in Chocolate. YUM!
On my pre-birthday, I enjoyed dessert and wine at Sola with my friends Laurel, Amy and Jenni. I had heard good things about Sola, but I must confess that I had an alterior motive for wanting to go there that night-- I read on Metromix that Dale Levitski, Chicago's current representation on Bravo's Top Chef, was working there in his time between the show and opening his own place in Chicago. The article said he'd been doing a number of jobs around the restaurant, including bartending and front-of-house, so I secretly hoped we might catch a glimpse of him while we were there.
Imagine my surprise and delight when we walk in, and there he is-- WAITING TABLES. And imagine my FURTHER surprise when we get sat AT ONE OF THEM. I almost lost it like a early nineties New Kids on the Block fan. Whaaa!
Dale was super cool -- really down to earth and charmingly amused by his newfound celebrity. I did ask him for a picture - to which he gracefully obliged, saying "it's cool, it kind of happens a lot now". In between desserts and bottles of deliciously sweet wine, we picked his brain on what his experience has been like on Top Chef.
We asked him if he still kept in touch with anyone from the show, and he said he did - with a bunch of people, including Sara (he had just received a text from her a little while ago), Casey (who he had already talked to three times that week).
Is there anyone in the house that everyone hated? Not really, he said-- apparently, even Hung was pretty cool. He guessed that Micah was the only one who people didn't really like, but she was missing her family so it's probably good she got kicked off when she did.
Amy asked why Dale thought it was that the chefs seem to make stupid mistakes sometimes, like overcooking rice. He said that when you're under the pressure of time and space constraints, it becomes easier to make stupid errors. One of the stupid things he said he did was cut himself, which he never does. He shared that he cut himself three times in the first episode -- and that Tom Colicchio definitely noticed and gave him a look. In so many words, he repeated what he's said on the show, many times: It looks so easy when you're sitting there watching it on TV, but it's not -- it's really hard.
Finally, we asked him if he won, and he predictably dodged the question by telling us that no one knows yet -- they're announcing the winner on a live show in Chicago on October 3rd. I'm guessing he probably has a confidentiality agreement he has to honor, which makes sense. While my feeling is that he probably won't win up against the talents of Casey and Hung, he did advance to the final four and the finale in Aspen on this past week's show, so who knows! I'll be rooting for him for the next two weeks.
Oh, and this is what we ate:
I got the Baked Hale-aska - a play on baked alaska. A chocolate cake square topped with ginger ice cream and meringue, with a raspberry sauce.
Jenni got a pineapple - macadamia treat that I forget the name of.
All in all it was a WONDERFUL pre-birthday!