Next & Aviary

Last weekend, I had the good fortune to visit Next and The Aviary, the new Chicago restaurant and cocktail bar from Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas. It was an incredibly decadent evening and one of the best dining experiences of my life. The theme of the first Next menu is Paris 1906 - Escoffier at the Ritz. Every detail - from the silver serving platters to the superb wine pairings - created a unique and memorable dining experience.

First course: Hors d’Oeuvres

First course: Hors d’Oeuvres. Eggshell filled with truffle-topped egg custard, toast with foie gras and apricot jam, quail egg with anchovy, cracker with pork rillettes, and mushroom and leek.

Third course: Filet de Sole Daumont

Third course: Filet de Sole Daumont. Sole and crawfish including a crawfish-stuffed mushroom and breaded sole roe.

Fifth course: Caneton Rouennais à la Presse

Fifth course: Caneton Rouennais à la Presse. Duck breast and leg with duck jus prepared using an antique duck press. You can see the duck press in action here.

Eighth course: Mignardises

Eighth course: Mignardises. Included beet pate de fruit, salted caramel and pistachio nougat. You can view pictures of all eight courses on my flickr page.


After dinner, we were welcomed into the Next kitchen to watch the talented staff at work and chat with Next Chef Dave Beran (pictured on the right).

Amuse: Bloody Mary

We were then escorted next door for drinks at The Aviary. When we arrived at our table, a server brought out bloody mary amuse bouches.

Dark and stormy

Aviary cocktails pictured above: Blueberry with verjus, sweet vermouth, rye, blood orange peel, strawberries, pomegranate seeds and peppercorns and the Dark and Stormy, served capped in a brown paper bag.

Red drink

Rhubarb with lemon balm, cocchi, gin, and Peychaud bitter round ice cubes. Martini in three glasses: aged, vermouth, gin. Truffle negroni with Campari and black truffle being poured in the background.

With seven people, we were able to sample a large number of the drinks available at the Aviary. They were all wonderful, but I especially enjoyed the Aviary take on the classic Negroni. There isn't much a black truffle won't improve, but the deep, earthly flavor combined with the bitter alcohol made for a truly remarkable cocktail.

A very special thank you to Nick for getting tickets to Next and treating me to dinner. I hope Aviary drinks and Dolly Parton tickets made up for it.

Ann Arbor, Michigan

Ann Arbor
Ann Arbor
"Bad dinners go hand in hand with total depravity, while a properly fed man is already half saved."

So cautions the 1912 edition of the Alliance Cook Book: A collection of tested and approved recipes, contributed by the ladies of the Wollaston Unitarian Church. I spent my graduate school spring break in Ann Arbor, Michigan volunteering in the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive at the University of Michigan. As a library student with an obvious interest in food, the Longone Archive had been on my travel list for quite some time. I had the opportunity to interview Ms. Longone last year and during that conversation she welcomed my interest in a visit. It is difficult to clearly articulate the wonderful experience I had in the archive. Jan is the kind of woman that is simply bursting with energy, ideas, and good stories. She has dedicated much of her adult life to collecting American culinary works that - until quite recently- were largely regarded as unimportant to many institutional collections. We have people like Jan and her husband Daniel to thank for collecting and preserving a portion of this valuable material.

Clements Library

Over ten years ago, the Longone's generously donated their collection to the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and it is now housed in the Clements Library. (I adore this bas relief quote from Professor Ulrich Phillips on the Clements' facade: "In darkness dwells the people which know its annals not.") The archive is inspiring not only due to its holdings, but also due to the small dedicated staff (like JJ and Betsy) and the large group of dedicated volunteers that work to process, catalog, arrange, and research the pieces in the collection (like Phil, Lily, and John). Some of the volunteers have been there for ten years!

I spent my week primarily working with community cookbooks from the late 19th century and early 20th century. Some of these books are the only known copies and they document the recipes, family names, and sometimes even the addresses of women who lived all over the United States generations ago. The volumes contain illustrations, marital advice, advertisements, and recipes ranging from molasses cookies to "beef tea for invalids." I also had the opportunity to work with a fascinating collection of ephemera including a 1941 menu from the Café de Paris in Chicago signed by Chef Henri Charpentier who popularized the dish Crêpe Suzette. I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to spend time with the wonderful staff and material at the Longone Archive - and I feel incredibly honored to have been able to spend time with Jan Longone herself.

Ann Arbor 2 Ann Arbor 3

When I wasn't at the archive, I was out in search of delicious food and drink in Ann Arbor. As the home to Zingerman's and a slew of other formidable establishments, this was not a difficult project. Thanks to my friends and readers who offered excellent suggestions before my trip. The deli counter above is a shot from inside Zingerman's Deli, also pictured first in this post. I had always been under the impression that Zingerman's was a single location, but in reality the Zingerman's Deli, Bakehouse, Roadhouse, Creamery, and Coffee Company are spread around Ann Arbor. (You get a t-shirt if you visit them all in one day, though this is sadly quite difficult for those of us traveling on foot.) I was happy to be able to try the superb Roadhouse bread (I hear they consulted the archive when developing the recipe years ago) and the City Goat cheese.

Comet Coffee, unassociated with Zingerman's, is a charming little storefront in Nickels Arcade that pours the best coffee I tasted in Ann Arbor. This is not the place to go if you need a cup in a rush, but a sweet little company that takes itself seriously - and with good reason. Their pale green chairs out front had me wishing for warmer days. It would be the perfect spot to spend an afternoon with a good friend.

Zingerman's Roadhouse

By midweek I was ready to brave the buses and I took myself out to Zingerman's Roadhouse. I was tickled to find a notice for a recently passed dinner event, Mark Twain's Feast: "A Tramp Abroad," that Ms. Longone had helped to organize at the restaurant.

Zingerman's Pimento Cheese & Bacon Macaroni

The service didn't make me feel at all odd for dining solo, photographing my food, and devouring an entire bowl of Pimento Cheese & Bacon Macaroni. They also brought out the heartiest "amuse bouche" I have ever seen.

Ann Arbor 5 Ann Arbor 4

Near the end of the week, Betsy, JJ and I made a trip over to Le Dog, a tiny, red hot dog stand that is widely known for their soups - especially the lobster bisque, which is available on Thursdays and Fridays.

Le Dog: Lobster Bisque

It was quite a surprise, but it turns out one of the best lobster dishes I've tasted can be found in Michigan. The soup was the perfect treat for a chilly spring day - warm, rich, and salty. The soups go quickly, so be sure to visit on the early side of the lunch hour and order a Zingerman's pretzel roll on the side.

Jolly Pumpkin

Ann Arbor is lucky to have half a dozen brewpubs in the middle of the university district. I tried most of them and sampled a variety of beers - but in the end the best beer bar I visited was Ashley's. They don't brew, but they have a huge tap selection and a comfortable environment.


I stayed with two awesome librarians that I found through Airbnb. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that library professionals are excellent and helpful hosts, providing me with everything from beer recommendations to safe running routes. Their sweet cats (that's Basil above) were an added bonus.

Ann Arbor from Huron

It was a wonderful trip and I hope to return to Ann Arbor soon.

New York City

Just after the new year, Nick and I traveled to New York to visit with my cousin Matt and his lovely wife Ana. The trip was a very generous birthday gift from Nick. We both love long-distance train travel and he booked us a sleeper car on the Lake Shore Limited for the journey from Chicago.

Amtrak Lakeshore Limited Amtrak Lakeshore Limited
Amtrak Lakeshore Limited Amtrak Lakeshore Limited

Nick and I took the train to Portland, Oregon a few years ago (for Matt and Ana's wedding no less!) and have now traveled the apporoximate width of the United States by rail. There is something very serene and romantic about watching town after town and state after state pass by from a train car. We always meet fascinating fellow travelers and I love to imagine the fine-dining of days-gone-by as we enjoy meals in the dining car.

We arrived at Penn Station in the evening and met Matt and Ana, along with my Uncle Brad, Aunt Gayle, and cousin Lian, for dinner at a nice little French bistro named Bar Breton.

New York New York
New York New York

The next day we stopped for a bagel at Bagel Berry (a hold-in-the-wall place that had way better bagels than anywhere in Chicago) and enjoyed a windy winter afternoon at Coney Island. Nick and I have both been to New York City a number of times, but had never made the trip. We enjoyed some very mediocre food at Nathan's and then headed to Bierkraft in Brooklyn for some drinks and to get growler for dinner. That evening, Matt and Ana took us to Ali's, an Egyptian restaurant near their apartment. The food was wonderful and Ali was a warm and joyful man who made the dinner a highlight of our trip. We finished the night with a beer at Sweet Afton where I ordered my second beer of the day from the excellent (new-to-me) Captain Lawrence Brewing Company.

New York New York 1
New York New York

The next moring, we met my old friend Jason and his charming son Amory at Blue Bottle for fancy coffee. Nick ordered a cold brew that really was worth the hype, though my americano was a bit disappointing. We then made a quick stop at the Bagel Store before a fun tour of the Mast Brothers Chocolate Factory. We wandered around Brooklyn and stopped at Mugs Alehouse and the Manhattan Inn for drinks before meeting Nick's friend Nathaniel for dinner at Roberta's where we enjoyed delicious pizza.

On our last day, we took the train into Manhattan to visit Murray's Bagels, to take the 6 train through the out-of-service City Hall stop, and to share a warm winter lunch at Menkui Tei noodle shop.

While we weren't able to spend time with all of the people we had hoped, and we certainly weren't able to visit all of the places on our list, we packed a lot in for a three day trip. Thank you to Nick, Matt and Ana!