Valentine’s Day Surf and Turf on the Cheap

Many a Valentines Schmalentines have been spent drinking alone in a bubble bath. I’m not a fan of Hallmark holidays in general, and especially ones that also, typically, break most people’s New Years resolutions.

But I have to say, this Valentine’s Day rocked. We opted to stay in and cook, and did a damn fine job of it, too. I pulled some pork chops out of the freezer, and we found a really good bargain on seafood at the grocery store this week. Add some crusty bread and roasted asparagus, and voila! Delish. And inexpensive.

This feast of pork, lobster tails and opilio crab is likely to cost at least $25 an entree at a restaurant, plus wine, plus valet, plus tip, plus stupid traffic (and the traffic WAS extremely stupid that day). We figured we came in at about two for the price of one, BOGO, if you will, and didn’t have to put shoes on. Win win.

Prepping the dinner table
Prepping the dinner table
Crab + bread = winning
Crab + bread = winning

Boiled Crab Legs

(courtesy of Betty Crocker, and in case you missed this recipe the first time…)

In a big, covered soup pot, boil water seasoned with Old Bay, lemon wedges, parsley, and celery.

When water is boiling, drop crab in until submerged and cover.

If not able to fully submerge, turn the crab occasionally to ensure equal cooking time.

For live crab, cook until pink, about 20 minutes. The legs from the grocery store take about half that time.

Remove from pot, cool until able to handle, and serve with melted butter doused with lemon juice.

Prepping for Strawberry Shortcake (but this is the topic of another post...)
Prepping for Strawberry Shortcake (but this is the topic of another post…)

Old Town Gets a Fresh New Neighbor

Photo by Bret Grafton, http://photografton.com/
Photo by Bret Grafton, http://photografton.com/

When I was first invited to the grand opening of Plum Market, I pictured a small cafe / grocer much like Panozzo’s or the once lovely City Provisions, which closed earlier this year. I got dressed up to meet new blogger friends from the Chicago Blogger Network under the assumption that I’d be spending a leisurely hour or two perusing, schmoozing, and sipping on free coffee.

Boy, was I wrong.

The coffee line...
The coffee line…

In spite of massive thunderstorms that moved through overnight I arrived at Plum Market’s inaugural Chicago branch to find a line hanging out the door of a relatively massive grocery store.  More akin to Whole Foods than City Provisions, all of Plum Market’s 27,000 square feet of organic goodness were packed to the gills.  I never found any of the bloggers, I never got a free coffee (for fear of running out of my free hour of parking waiting for it), and wondered the store in somewhat of a culture shocked daze after spending three weeks in unpopulated Wyoming.

After securing my bag of “blogger income” (i.e. free samples) and navigating the store, a few key points came to mind:

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  • Grocery stores can be very beautiful.  Aside from my obsession with piles of fresh food, Plum Market goes a step beyond in it’s stunning design elements, bountiful hot and cold bars, and specialty areas.
  • People other than hipsters enjoy organic food.  I love Whole Foods as much as the next person, but sometimes being waited on by a disinterested dirty hipster is a turnoff.  The staff at Plum Market are clean cut, friendly, and very helpful.  If they can keep it that way I’m totally sold.
  • What’s good for Old Town is good for me.  Just north of Division and Wells, Plum Market is in an ideal location bordering hoity-toity-ville, gross bar-ville, and homeless-man-hanging-out-by-the-red-line-ville.  This market will easily satisfy the residents of Old Town, is walking distance to the Ruth Page Center for the Performing Arts, and hopefully will give the miserable Jewel at Clark and Division a run for it’s money.  Though grocery stores don’t necessarily make for great tourist attractions, Plum Market extends Old Town’s charm a little further to the South then the average visitor would be apt to walk, and provides a lovely stop to grab a cup of coffee and a break before turning around and heading back.

Experience Plum Market for yourself at 1233 N. Wells St. Store hours are 8am-10pm; free parking for 1 hour with validation. For more information, visit www.plummarket.com or @PlumMarket on twitter (#PlumMarketCHI).  Plum Market is also on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.