Breakfast: It must be really depressing to work for Dunkin' Donuts these days. I mean, it's one thing to work for Buick and know that Porsche exists, but at least a Porsche isn't 50 cents just like your product, and people are lining up for it and begging for franchises and throwing Beatle-hysteria scenes when you open a store in a new town.
The one thing I used to like at Dunkin' Donuts, not enough to have more than a few times a year, was the blueberry cake donut. But take-no-prisoners Krispy Kreme makes even that obscure menu item look punk-- a hint of cinnamon, extreme sweetness (which would be a problem if you were going to eat four, I guess), a delicate flaky texture; again, as with the regular doughnuts, Krispy Kreme makes everything at DD taste like Dunkin' Sawdust, or Kardboard 'N' Krullers.
Lunch: My wife's idea of a birthday treat for me was a visit to the Eileen Fisher outlet, whose sale started yesterday. Well, it's not as bad as that, since she knows that the store is just yards from Mitsuwa and in a mall otherwise occupied by mysterious Japanese restaurants. And even Myles, whose idea of lunch runs the gamut from hamburgers to French fries, has proven reasonably game for Japanese food.
So we wound up at Taqueria la Oaxaquena. How? Well, by getting a late start and then creeping so slowly along Addison that the chance of getting to Arlington Heights and back by naptime seemed on a par with the odds that Hot Chick will sweep the New York Film Critics' Circle prizes. So when we scrubbed the mission and decided just to find lunch, I made a quick scan of my mental Chowmap and settled on T. la O. as the nearest thing I'd never tried, from a cuisine that I knew she could at least tolerate. "What do they have? Do they have places to sit down?" were the immediate questions, as I tried to think of any answers I could remember from posts here more appetizing than "I think Rene really liked the brain tacos" or "RST said the entrails are parboiled in a 12,000-year-old tradition."
"This is the best Mexican food I've ever had," said my previously skeptical wife-- never underestimate the power of a waitress who flirts with our 15-month-old to win her heart over to a dodgy looking but goodhearted family restaurant. It was, indeed, an especially good chocolate mole on enchiladas. Even the fact that none of the fourteen songs she selected from the jukebox entitled "Feliz Navidad" turned out to be the Freddy Fender tune couldn't diminish the conversion experience, as memories of a childhood full of Taco Tico Tacoburgers were washed away with the redeeming power of good authentic Oaxacan food.
Dinner: Nobody (here or in print) seems to have reviewed Cafe des Architectes, the restaurant inside the wild new Sofitel hotel (the big white thing near Rush street that looks like a careening ocean liner). The only thing I could find was a capsule review by Laura Levy Shatkin in the Reader. But since the places I wanted to try for food were booked, this seemed a reasonable place to try for the scene.
The decor can only be described as Eurotrashic-- that weird way that European trendiness seems to simultaneously occupy 2007 and 1977. I haven't had this much of a restaurant reflect my image back at me in ages, and I suspect people looking for the restrooms with a buzz on routinely injure themselves thinking they're turning into a hallway and slamming straight into a well-polished elevator door. When MOD turns that look into Austin Powers camp, it's amusing; here I couldn't help but think that it was seriously trying to remind the clientele of their favorite Beirut disco.
The food was calmer, thankfully, not exactly the classical French Shatkin's review promised-- the appetizer on the prix fixe was a lobster spring roll, which I don't think was invented in Marseilles. But the rest of the items-- a nice butternut squash bisque, well-executed veal tenderloins on a flageolet-bean/wine reduction bed-- were reliably tasty and filling, if a bit international-hotel-chain-impersonal. The only downside was that, surprisingly, this very international place committed the most basic American La Maison de la Casa House mistake-- the white Riesling I started with was chilled to just above freezing, the red St. Emilion was served at a "room" temperature just below that of the bisque.