Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Vacation Part 4: Eating Out

I knew going into vacation that eating out would be one of the hardest things for us to do. I've seen kids menus, and I know what kind of looks you get with a toddler. To make things at least a little bit easier, I packed a selection of fruit/veggie snacks, some yogurt, and string cheese. I had a cooler on the train, and a fridge in our room. One of the main issues I have with kids menus is their lack of vegetables and fruit, so the fruit I packed was pears in individual cups. I figured it could help keep M more regular. Unfortunately they only come packed in light syrup, unlike the cans which you can get packed in juice.

Breakfast was easy, since M would eat some fruit, some eggs and toast. Lunch was much harder. As always, kids menus have nothing but fried food. I ordered extra sides of veggies when I could, and hoarded her fries for myself. I also got out the pears.

Dinner was the more of the same with one amazing and wonderful exception.

When A and I first started dating, he impressed me with the fact that he had cooked something out of a Rick Bayless cookbook. It was even vegetarian, something I was at the time. He really hasn't cooked more than toast or grilled cheese since then, but it set up our third date when I made homemade tortillas for him. Our mutual love of Mexican food has continued since then. Because of this, we knew when we finally made it to Chicago that we wanted to go to Fronterra Grill or one of the other Rick Bayless restaurants. As far as celebrity chefs go, he annoys me the least and impresses me the most. As the kid of organic farmers, his commitment to local product means a lot.

However, it is fine dining, and fine dining and toddlers don't always mix. Fortunately, Fronterra Grill is a casual environment. Reservations not required, jeans not looked down on. We timed our schedule so that we were there when it opened for dinner on Tuesday, and got immediately seated outside. Something that I think is good with a kid. The invevitable noise is less noticeable. (and fortunately that crowd doesn't seems to smoke at all) Our food was in my top all time food experiences, including when I lived in NYC and ate at nice places regularly. (and Fronterra so tops Bobby Flays food, no question)

However, their kids menu and treatment of M was what had me the most impressed. Nowhere on their kids menu was there anything that was dumbed down, there were only smaller (and affordable) portions of the adult menu. That included a salad. (wow!) We went with a quesadilla, but a Mexico City style one, since we know M loves cheese. It was a corn masa turnover type thing, that was easily gobbled down. She also mastered the use of a spoon and ate her whole bowl of charra beans. (pintos simmered with bacon and spices) We were able to order early to get her food in, they gave us crayons, and the staff talked to her. That included staff from his high end restaurant next door. M, for her part, behaved well, only having a little issue as the meal was ending. My only request would be that they have an alcohol free dessert option, since M was left out of that experience. Even if it was just fruit or ice cream.

I know that when we go back, since I still need to see the sea otters, that we will return. Just to show my appreciation, I've sent an email off to the chef, and we made sure to leave a large tip.

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