Page & Plate Plugs: BiXi Beer Edition

Welcome back to Page & Plate Plugs for an edition that is near and dear to my heart, mostly because of beer. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, let me introduce you to BiXi Beer, a newish gastropub in the Logan Square neighborhood.

BiXI Beer, Logan Square's newest gastropub

If this looks totally mouthwatering to you, OH JUST WAIT. BiXi offers some of the most delicious, unique bites of any gastropub I’ve been to in Chicago or beyond, but before we even get there, let’s just discuss beer. If you go to BiXi, which, uh, you should, you HAVE to order Unspoken Rule. It’s a golden ale made with Rare Tea Cellar’s pearled jasmine tea. I actually cannot communicate to you how much I love this beer. It is the best beer. Of any beer. The greatest. Big time.

Okay, down to the food though. Feast your eyes on the gallery below, then make a reservation for dinner, snacks, or even their new lunch on their site above.

Just so you know, BiXI Beer did not pay for this review — I genuinely love them. They did, however, exchange goods for the photographs.

Wings for two, I'll Be Gone in the Dark, and partying

 Attempt #1

Attempt #1

The time has finally come for me to post my long-delayed review of what has become one of my favorite books of the year, I'll Be Gone in the Dark. First, I was going to post it with the espresso brownies. Theme: what keeps you up at night. But then we started watching The Haunting of Hill House and between that show and this book, I wasn't sleeping at all. So I started reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and put this book aside for a few days. A few days turned into a few weeks, I got too many requests not to post the brownie recipe solo, and here we are, pairing this FINALLY completed book with a recipe for chicken wings

 The final pairing

The final pairing

These chicken wings, by the way, are not a bad consolation prize as far as recipes go. Between them (made with some delightful massaman curry from my friends at Savory Spice) and the vegetarian buffalo chickpea dip recipe that’s going out to newsletter subscribers tomorrow and will be live to all you non-subscribers next week, you’ve got the start of a party.

If we can return to I’ll Be Gone in the Dark for a moment, though, I just want to emphasize that it didn’t take me so long to read this book because it’s bad. Rather, the opposite. This book rocked my world. It was happy, sad, terrifying, thrilling, and absolutely addictive. I could barely bring myself to put it down, even while it was turning me into an insomniac. It's more than just true crime, which is exactly what everyone says about it, but it is! I really, really think that everyone should read it, and not just because I want people to talk about it with. I want you to read it because I think you’ll love it. And because you’ll want somebody to discuss with too. Fair, I think.

Page & Plate Plugs: Next of Kin edition

Welcome to a new thing! This new thing (like, this post, as in you’re reading it right now) is called Page & Plate Plugs, and it’s kind of obvious that it’s going to be all about places around town at which I enjoy eating, drinking, and obnoxiously photographing everything. As in, I plug them. Get it? Okay cool, here we go.

Last week, I had an AMAZING time shooting the new brunch menu at Next of Kin Evanston. I also had an amazing time EATING the new brunch menu at Next of Kin Evanston. And drinking, of course. Basically, all-around amazingness.

First off, let’s talk about the space: Next of Kin moved into a light-filled, unusually-shaped space in Evanston across from where I once worked (RIP, me) that most recently held Lyfe Kitchen, winner of the least popular choice for lunch for the entire office in my once workplace (again, RIP, me). They reimagined the entire space and started from scratch to create an atmosphere that perfectly matches the vibe of the place: an elevated eating experience that oozes cool.

Second, let’s talk food. And drink. I’m not usually a mocktail (aka juice) person, but the charcoal lemonade they had kind of blew my mind. As did the waffles (that syrup drip, though). And the avocado toast. And the … oh, man. Everything. Check out the gallery below for what you’re really after: the gorgeous pics. Then, head over to their site to nab a table. Or, you know, just run up to Evanston and grab a seat at their gorgeous bar and let the fabulous bartenders (also featured here as hand models) take care of you. Cheers!

Thanks to Next of Kin Evanston for having me in! Next of Kin Evanston did not pay for this review, but did give Page & Plate free meals and drink in exchange for the chance to photograph their product. All views expressed here are those of Page & Plate, LLC.

Smoked veggie tacos, Sharp Objects, and hype

When I was little, I had a paralyzing fear that if I got too excited for something, it would inevitably turn out to be the worst thing ever. I'm fairly certain that this was a result of some totally innocent and well-meaning advice my father gave me about how sometimes, the things we are least excited for turn out to be amazing. Clearly, I was a difficult child to advise. Sorry, Dad. It was great advice. I just ruined it.

The point I'm trying to get to here is that since then, I've kept that sneaking suspicion in the back of my head. If I'm really looking forward to something, I have an irrational fear that it might be disappointing. And if I'm really not looking forward to something, I have a feeling that the universe is going to pull a fast one on me and make it a genuinely great experience. I'm not superstitious, I'm a little-stitious. 

Okay, point made. So when I got home the other day dreading what I was going to try to pull out of my back pocket to make a great dinner, veggie tacos kind of sounded lame. And, if we're being completely honest, disgusto-gross. But, lucky me, my stitious-self was right, and my veggie tacos that I really wasn't looking forward to turned out to be just plain yummy. And gorgeous.

Smoked Veggie Tacos and Sharp Objects

Conversely, I was really pumped to read another Gillian Flynn novel. I flew through Gone Girl when it was a thing, and so the prospect of Sharp Objects was exciting for me. I was, in fact, looking forward to it so much that I decided to postpone my reading until I got through a few other less exciting-sounding books. Well, guess what? Joke's on me. I hated it. 

As always, check out the review, check out the recipe, and let me know what you think of both. If you think Sharp Objects was the best book you read this year, I want to hear about it because I love a good argument. If you think that the cilantro I reference might be parsley, you're totally right and there's no argument to be had. 

Love War Stories, Apricot Almond Muffins, and Impending Seasonal Changes

I can't help but feel like summer is on a timer here. I mean sure, I'm as ready as anyone else to leave these 95-degree, 110% humidity-filled days behind, but am I the only one who starts to panic just a little when contemplating snow?

The good news is that not only do we have some time before boots and parkas rule the wardrobe, but the time in between now and then, popularly known as fall, is the best time to be a human who eats. Need proof? Get thee to a farmers' market and take in all of the beautiful produce that you thought was done growing. And if you're anything like me, you'll start to hyperventilate about all of the amazing food you want to cook with this fresh produce and how little time you have to cook it. My advice: don't worry. Take a deep breath. Then, go talk to your farmer and order in bulk. I came home last weekend with 20 pounds of tomatoes and 10 pounds of peaches from Mick Klug farm, and I couldn't be happier. 

Apricot Almond Muffins and Love War Stories

I spent the morning canning plain tomatoes, roasted tomatoes for pizza and pasta, and making crazy salsa that I promise I will post the recipe for, and I couldn't be happier. I feel a little less terrified at the prospect of winter, especially because I just made these gorgeous apricot almond muffins, which would be just as delicious with dried apricots. Probably. And they would definitely still match with Love War Stories by Ivelisse Rodriguez, which rocked my world. 

TLDR enjoy summer while it lasts, steal a little summer for your winter, and read the books I tell you to read. Cool. Happy Sunday eve!

Feminist Press provided a copy of Love War Stories to Page & Plate for the purpose of this independent review. 

Walking a line: turkey burgers and Betwixt-and-Between

Here is the thing about being a vegetarian: people assume that you either hate all meat-eaters forever until the end of the world or that you hate fun or both. For me, it's both. 

KIDDING. Geez. As I think I've preached before on this blog, I'm a vegetarian because I simply prefer not eating meat, and that is that. I'm not overly picky about chicken broth in risotto or gelatin in pudding or anything. I always try at least a bite of the meat that I cook because I have a deep paranoia that one day I will accidentally give someone food poisoning and then be blamed for that person's demise as I, the vegetarian, stand over them, totally healthy and laughing.

There are a few foods that I make a definite exception for and indulge in more than just one bite: shrimp is one. Salmon also makes the list. These turkey burgers, with the delicious addition of feta cheese (hello) and spinach, are another. Thanks, Mom! (No, seriously, it's her recipe, and she ROCKS it.) They walk the line perfectly between a healthy choice for your body and the planet AND between tasting as indulgent as a half-pound burger stuffed with extra cheddar cheese. I did them on the stove, but they get EVEN HEALTHIER if you toss them on the grill. Just be sure to use a sheet of tin foil to prevent them from falling through the cracks.

Also walking a line, in my opinion, between a story collection and a book of philosophical essays, is this week’s book from Coffee House Press, Betwixt-and-Between. While it does win the title of the most beautiful book cover I’ve seen this year, I just couldn’t connect with the text and author Jenny Boully’s message. Check out the review, give it a read, and prove me wrong.

Coffee House Press provided a copy of Betwixt-and-Between for the purposes of this independent review.

WE BACK with Sweet Jerk Pork Chops and Missing Persons

HELLO. If you follow this blog enough to notice that I didn't blog last week, I mean, wow. Thanks. I'm truly honored that you noticed my laziness. You have my congratulations and respect. To reward you, I will now return to my regularly scheduled content. Bam.

Between weddings, holidays, and time off, I've had plenty of time to cook up a storm. However, between days of 97 and 101 degrees with one hundred percent humidity, I wanted to do anything BUT cook up a storm. For those of you who are with me and have a grill, welcome. I have a great recipe that you can do on your grill without heating your house up a single degree. For those of you who are with me and don't have a grill, bear with me, heat up your house a tiny bit, and enjoy these delicious sweet jerk pork chops anyway. You gotta do the best you can with what you have, and in this case, what you have are some sweet spices and barbecue sauces from Savory Spice Shop (thanks, guys!). 

While you're sitting in the room furthest from the kitchen avoiding the heat pouring from your oven (I feel you), might I recommend checking out Stephanie Carpenter's Missing Persons? It's a beautiful little collection that just miiiiight make you forget how big your hair has gotten from the humidity. But no promises. It's silly to promise anything when the humidity is this high.

Sweet Jerk Pork Chops and Missing Persons

Which is more addicting: this tahini tea cake or Idiophone by Amy Fusselman?

The title of this blog post is a trick question because I honestly cannot figure out the answer. HAH. Got you! Got me? AH. I don't know! Which, by the way, is a great problem to have. And it means you should really bake this tea cake and pre-order this book

 WHAT A POWER COUPLE. 

WHAT A POWER COUPLE. 

I mean, Idiophone (out in July from Coffeehouse Press!) was SO unexpected and wonderfully weird and artsy that I expected not to like it, but I actually REALLY loved it. I couldn't put it down. I finished it in about an hour. No, it's not super long, but still. An hour. On the train! While people were talking and being generally distracted. I think that really says something. 

And this bread. Cake. Whatever. Man. I took a bite and was underwhelmed. Then I took another one, and I was like "wow, this isn't nearly as bad as that first bite," and now here I am like half a loaf later, and I don't know if I like it, but I can't stop eating it and I definitely haven't brought any to work to share. I don't know, you guys! Help! Do I hate it? Do I love it? Am I just really, really selfish? Help a blogger out, make the cake, and leave a comment with your verdict.

Coffee House Press provided a copy of Idiophone to Page & Plate, LLC for the purposes of this independent review.

Herb Spiral Tart, The Female Persuasion, and Some Plugs

I KNOW. I missed a post last week. I was doing so well. I was on such a roll (that's foreshadowing for today's recipe by the way). BUT, I'm also not going to apologize because life gets busy, I'm not perfect, and I can't hold myself to unreasonable standards. I am zen, calm, and totally excited to share what I meant to share on Thursday with you TODAY, which is Tuesday.

Plugs of color are important in every day life (especially when it's summer), and that's why I'm so excited to show you today's recipe for herb spiral tart and the absolutely gorgeous cover for The Female Persuasionboth of which are excellent choices for summery days that feel like the depths of fall and kind of look like it too with all of this fog, hem hem CHICAGO, get it together.

In other plug news, I've been really into the newest section of the New York Times's daily newsletter, called What We're Reading, and so I'm going to hop on that band wagon and tell you what I'm consuming (therefore covering food, books, articles, television, etc., how clever) at the moment that I think you should consume too:

  • Laurnie Wilson's piece on Life After Anthony Bourdain, which hits hard and hits home. (And really, anything else on her blog, which is worth your subscription.)
  • Haley Bryant's piece on The Humanity in Data, a brilliant exploration of data, how we collect it, and what it means to us as humans in this moment. 
  • Surfing Merms, a new project by CJB, where feminist mermaids come to life.
  • Faces Places, a documentary on Netflix that made me cry for no reason other than it was very sweet and in French.

COOL. See ya Thursday. Promise.

Spicy Summer Salad and Dead Girls and Other Stories

Man, talk about an attention grabbing blog post title. 

Today I'm going to wax poetic about salad. I was chatting with a friend over the long weekend, and he told me (TO MY FACE) that he believed anyone who says the like salad is a liar.  I was frozen in place. How could he think this? I liked salad, right? Am I the only one who likes salad? Have I forced Colin to eat salads, thinking he loved them, when all the while he was disgusted behind my back!? (No clue, I love it, no, and no, he likes them.) 

OKAY so here is my defense of salad: if you don't like salad, you haven't had a good salad. You've had some gross, watery lettuce glued together with Ranch dressing. Here is the beauty of salads: you can put whatever you want on a salad. It doesn't even have to have lettuce! I hate lettuce! But I LOVE SALAD. Because I make amazing salads that have all sorts of fun veggies and cheeses and dressings, and they all go together and make delicious bites you feel good about eating. I love salad because salads are beautiful and unique. As evidenced by today's recipe for a spicy summer salad. Go make it, all you non-believers. You'll believe me then.

In other things that are unique and beautiful, today's book by Emily Geminder, Dead Girls and Other Stories, came from Dzanc Books, who were kind enough to send it my way for a review. It was a wild ride, and you should definitely check it out. Very, very interesting, and very powerful.

Dead Girls and Spicy Summer Salad

Note: Dzanc Books provided Page & Plate, LLC a complementary copy of Dead Girls and Other Stories for the purpose of this independent review.

Apricot Ginger Cake and The Reservoir Tapes

This week I did two things with incredibly impressive speed: bake a SUCCESSFUL and non-traumatic cake and breeze through Jon McGregor's upcoming book, The Reservoir Tapes.

The Reservoir Tapes and Apricot Ginger Cake

I was pretty pleased with myself -- not going to lie, mostly because I baked a cake without crying into the icing. As you may recall from my birthday cake, layer cakes are ... iffy at best for me for no other reason than I struggle with patience. It's fine. I'm learning. BUT with this cake, it went so smoothly I almost wondered if my guardian baking angel was like "GIRL, ENOUGH ALREADY" and swooped down to ice it for me. I think it was helpful for me to have company while baking / assembling in the form of Cait, the face of a fabulous style blog and Oeil Jewelry. Whatever the case, this cake turned out to be the best I've ever made, so go run and get the recipe. Another bonus, by the way? The ginger liqueur that gives this cake a kick of flavor was made by Chicago's own Koval Distillery. Win-win-win-win-cake.

I was surprised at how fast I made it through The Reservoir Tapes because I've been reading a lot of dark thrillers lately and thought I was going to take a bit of a break. After I opened the package from Catapult Books, I went to put this book on the bookshelf, looked up, and realized I had gotten halfway through. Yep. That good. Check out the review, then head over to pre-order it from Catapult.

Note: Catapult Books provided a pre-release copy of The Reservoir Tapes to Page & Plate for the purposes of this independent review.

Smoked Maple Scones, The Power, and Packing a Punch

When I walked out of the Savory Spice Shop in Lincoln Square after picking up the spice samples they had set aside for me, I was looking at two small-ish bags of sugar crystals thinking about what recipe I had that only needed a teaspoon of sugar and how that could possibly do this spice a justice. 

Smoked Maple Scones featuring Savory Spice Shop
 Here is a picture of me explaining to Colin that just because I am eating a scone with bacon in it does not mean I am a disappointment to vegetarians everywhere. There is an 80% chance that I was saying "I'm telling you..."

Here is a picture of me explaining to Colin that just because I am eating a scone with bacon in it does not mean I am a disappointment to vegetarians everywhere. There is an 80% chance that I was saying "I'm telling you..."

Because I am the patron saint of impatience, I opened the bags when I got to the car and took a sniff and was basically knocked on my butt by how powerful that little bag of sugar smelled. I mean WOW. And then, of course, I wanted to dump some in my coffee because whiskey, sugar, and coffee all sound like things that belong together, and again, lots of impatience. But I managed to resist the impulse, bake the sugar into smoked maple scones, and then promptly devoured those instead. See? It all worked out. And lemme tell you, that sugar packs a punch on those scones. They're like little left hooks that you want to eat for brunch. So cute! AND, I made a video so yeah, worth your time.

Also, I read The Power by Naomi Alderman on a train in Ireland and it was so engrossing that I basically didn't even care we were driving past castles. Almost. But still: it was a book that slams you with realness and then walks away into the distance to leave you with your thoughts. I'm not going to be like "feminist dystopian fiction is the new beach read!" but it kind of is.

Read the review, read the recipe, and check out the Savory Spice Shop. They have some seriously awesome spice blends that I'm dying for you to try, and they were kind enough to give me some for free, so look for more recipes with their stuff coming your way!

Smoked Maple Scones and The Power by Naomi Alderman

Nutella Banana Bread, Friendship Bread, and Building Foundations

My understanding of buildings, construction, and even sandcastles is limited at best, but I've had a hand in too many failed cakes not to understand the importance of a solid foundation. (See the near disaster that was my birthday cake this year as exhibit one.) But today, we're all about those solid foundations.

 Just so much drool.

Just so much drool.

The recipe of the day is an updated take on Mammaw's classic, constant banana bread recipe: Nutella banana bread. DROOL FACE EMOJI. Also, real talk: Mammaw is a goddess, and if you had tried to tell me that this recipe could be improved simply by adding such an extra, millennial ingredient, I would have slapped you. But having eaten probably about half of this loaf since it came out of the oven, my stance has softened. Do stances soften? I don't even know, but the point stands: there's nothing wrong with building on the solid foundation of a classic recipe to make a sexy, updated fave.

I actually got the idea from today's book, Friendship Bread by Darien Gee. In the book, her characters use the original recipes to make a bunch of crazy loaves, and I was very about it. I was also about how everything really worked out for everyone in a way that was so relieving it was almost shocking. (I'm experiencing Game of Thrones again as Colin watches for the first time, and it's traumatizing me.) Check out the review, and let me know what you think! 

The moral of today's post is that as long as you have a good foundation, you can add Nutella for anything. Right? Right.

Page & Plate Note: Darien Gee provided a copy of Friendship Bread to me for the purposes of this independently written review. The views expressed here are mine and mine alone. Want to see your name and book here? Email me at pageandplateblog@gmail.com to talk shop!