Hey, guys! Guess what?
…it’s blackberry season! A.k.a. that time of year when you can actually score a pint of fresh ones for a semi-reasonable price!
But, beyond that, I have some pretty big news to share (and yet another excuse for why my posts have been so sporadic lately)…
On June 27th, my then-boyfriend/now- fiancé, Nick, surprised me with a day packed full of great food, great scenery, and one very important question. But let’s backtrack to about 8pm on June 26th…
I received an email from a secret sender that linked me to this adorable invitation/itinerary. For those of you who might not know, Nick is singlehandedly responsible for building the Kailley’s Kitchen website. Between his coding prowess and eye for design (along with a little input from me), he created the gorgeous website (okay, I’m a little biased, but still) you’re looking at right now. And he used those same skills to build the invitation from scratch, too (which he later explained was designed to look like the media event invites I often receive from PR companies through my non-blogging job as a food writer).
At this point, I knew something was up, but wasn’t sure what. And all the locations were secret, so I had no clue what he had in store.
So we woke up the following morning and found ourselves at Beatrix for breakfast. We had a good meal (Belgian waffles with vanilla syrup, strawberries, and sweet cream FTW), but I couldn’t help but wonder why, of all the breakfast spots in the city, he chose this one. Don’t get me wrong– it was great, and I was very appreciative, but when I think “Chicago breakfast,” places like Lula Cafe and Dusek’s come to mind.
After we ate, he took me on a walk through downtown, strategically stopping in front of the restaurant that we had had our first date at (Rosebud on Rush) back in 2011– we reminisced about the myriad adorably awkward moments we shared that night, and then kept walking.
Finally, we ended up at our “morning event:” An architectural tour of Chicago by boat. This is something I’d been dying to do since I moved to Chicago four years ago (and have pestered Nick relentlessly over the years to take me to). Whether you’re a born-and-bred Chicagoan or a mere tourist, the tour is 100% worth your while (and whatever money you have to spend to do it); seeing the city from such a unique vantage point made me appreciate it and love it even more than I already do.
Once we returned to land, Nick casually mentioned that we’d need my car for the second portion of the day, so we went back to my apartment, grabbed my car, and carried on to lunch…
at Dove’s Luncheonette!!! Dove’s has been at the top of my bucket list since it opened, and I was beyond excited and surprised when Nick led me by the hand right through the door. I devoured as much of the chorizo gravy-drenched chicken fried chicken (and obviously I opted to #putaneggonit) as I could, and honestly, it was the BEST DAMN CHICKEN & GRAVY I’ve ever had.
After gorging ourselves at Dove’s, we got back in the car and started heading North…
and ended up at the Chicago Botanic Garden. As we wandered the beautiful gardens, Nick asked me if I’d caught on to a “theme” yet. Completely perplexed, I told him, “nope!” and continued to rack my brain for whatever theme it was I wasn’t seeing.
We walked through the vegetable garden, the prairie grass, and past the butterfly garden, and he suddenly pulled me off the path to a secluded spot by a park bench. He asked me again if, based on where we’d be so far, I knew where dinner was going to be– that there was a theme. And again, I had no idea. So he pulled the itinerary back up on his phone and asked me to read through it again.
I reread the part that reads, “This EXCLUSIVE itinerary was inspired by one of Chicago’s most up-and-coming and inspiring young professionals,” and it finally clicked– the food-focused part of the itinerary is the exact itinerary I wrote for Michigan Avenue Magazine following this year’s James Beard Foundation Awards; for post-coverage, I had decided to craft a one-day dining guide that pays homage to Chicago’s award winners: Beatrix for breakfast because Rich Melman of Lettuce Entertain You won the lifetime achievement award, Dove’s for lunch in honor of Donnie Madia winning Outstanding Restaurateur, Brindille for dinner because it won Outstanding Restaurant Design, and drinks at The Violet Hour since it won Outstanding Bar Program.
As soon as I realized what Nick had done, I started crying. He proceeded to tell me how proud he is of me and how much he supports me for chasing my dreams and choosing a career path less traveled; he told me he reads every single thing I write, even when I might not realize it, and wanted to make the day about celebrating me and my passion for food and writing by making one of my articles come to life. Truly, it was the most thoughtful thing I could’ve ever imagined.
…shortly thereafter, he got down on one knee and proposed to me. Much of what happened next was a blur, but this much I know to be true: He made me the happiest, luckiest girl in the solar system (for some reason, “the world” just didn’t seem big enough).
We enjoyed a beautiful dinner at Brindille that night, and the rest is history!
As for now? Well, wedding planning is already well under way, and I’d love to bring you guys in on it! Starting soon, I’ll be including a monthly “wedding diary” installment here on the blog to give you an inside look at how we’re tackling planning our dream wedding. Stay tuned! <3
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
- 1 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 Tablespoon dried lavender
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
- 3 cups blackberries (fresh or frozen)
- ⅓ granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon dried lavender
- Confectioner's sugar (optional)
- Whipped cream and/or ice cream (optional)
- Mint leaf for garnish (option)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and thoroughly crease a 10" round baking dish (or two 6.5" pie dishes)
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and dried lavender
- Add milk and vanilla extra and whisk until just combines
- Add butter and whisk
- Pour batter into prepared baking dish
- Top with blackberries, then sprinkle with granulated sugar and dried lavender
- Bake for about 40 minutes, until lightly golden and springy when gently pressed