Eating and reading are two of my favorite things, so I simply couldn’t resist an invitation to a dinner party last week at Kiki’s Bistro to celebrate the launch of a new mystery novel, “Hunting for Hemmingway” by Diane Gilbert Madsen. The selection of Kiki’s Bistro lent the whole affair a connection to Hemingway himself since Kiki used to feed the author often, and diners, some of whom came festively dressed in period costume, started off the evening with a signature Hemingway martini in hand.
It had been too long since I’d eaten at Kiki’s, and I’d forgotten how much I love the atmosphere there. Intimate alcoves, comfy corners, and low lighting inspire a casual, fun, and homey dining room (although that low lighting makes for lousy picture-taking, and my shots just don’t do the room or the food justice).
The food was excellent — much better than I remembered. Cooked in the classic French style, it seems that literally everything was soaked in butter, but you’ll hear no complaints from me. We had a three course menu with a few selections from the regular menu to choose from for each course, and I went with the waiters recommendations. For a starter, I feasted on the mushroom fricassee, served in a rich, creamy brown gravy that was a melt-in-your-mouth sort of good. I sampled the mussels as well, and they were also very tasty but not as good. Still, the mussel sauce passed inspection — meaning that it was great to dip bread in — and my table mates raved about it.
For my entree I had lamb stew, and here again, the reduction sauce was impeccably done, ultimately blowing the salmon I tried right out of the water! The steak was also worth a hefty bite or two, and that plate was dominated by an excessive portion of frites. That was a little intimidating but nice to nibble on.
For dessert we had a lovely chocolate mousse and lemon tart — both hit the mark — and topped them off with a little bubbly and literary chit chat. My friend Amy and I had the pleasure of sitting with John Berry, the chairman of the Earnest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park, and his wife, and as a result my “to read” book pile has grown quite a bit! Not only is Madsen’s novel now on my list, (Who can resist a tale of intrigue woven around the idea of finding the stories and poems Hemingway’s first wife lost on a train in 1922?) but I intend to pick up some of Hemingway’s short stories too. Hemingway and I have always had an uneasy relationship. I wasn’t a big fan of “Old Man and the Sea,” but in college I loved “And the Sun also Rises.” After such a delightful evening of food, drink, and conversation — with Hemingway at the heart of it — I’ve decided it’s time we got reacquainted.
We were invited to this event as members of the media and food, books, and book promotional materials were provided free-of-charge.