Some Healthy Food Fun    The Wanderlust Food Diaries (of a chronic daydreamer)

(....a.k.a., "Up the Ladder to the Roof")

(A Chicago Penthouse rooftop outdoor dinner rendezvous)

On the Menu Pan seared Scallops, steamed asparagus, and honey Dijon sauce
Video How to make pan seared scallops
Music By Al Jarreau and The Supremes Rooftop Songs

"We're going up the ladder to the roof, where we can see heaven much better.........."
    --The Supremes
(From the song "Up the Ladder to the Roof")


Near downtown Chicago, overlooking that bold nighttime skyline, there was a penthouse apartment for sale. The designer must have had me in mind when he or she started his or her blueprints for this Japanese influenced, Zen oasis, peacefully situated atop a 14 story building on Chicago's near north side.

Only one bedroom, but 3000 square feet of indoor living space balanced by an insane 3000 feet of outdoor terrace space. An architectural masterpiece, the building, called the Contemporaine, has won several awards as an architectural triumph, adding to the already impressive resume of bold, creatively designed buildings in the city that invented the skyscraper, my home up until 3 years ago, which still has the most beautiful skyline I have seen (and I've seen quite a few recently), Chicago Illinois. 

I must admit, I am one of those people who is always daydreaming about what I am going to buy when "my ship comes in". Obviously, a person such as myself often thinks about where he or she wants to live. More importantly, that kind of person is in reality merely attempting to express their inner nature and personality externally.

The thing about me is that I have so many themes in my head so far as where to live and how to live, I once told someone that it would take me a thousand houses and a thousand lifetimes to express them all. My current desired expression, if money were no object, is definitely modern tropical living.

But my mind still runs wild about urban living in the rooftop condo in the Contemporaine building. I had imagined building the ultimate outdoor kitchen so I can enjoy that 3000 square foot, Asian influenced zen garden and posh outdoor living space.

I am always thinking of these cool, chic, dinners prepared outdoors for those warm Chicago summer nights. So with the Contemporaine penthouse as this stop on my never ending "Fantasy Food Journeys", for one of those warm summer Chicago nights when you are having a "hottie" over for dinner, I want to prepare something stylish and elegant, yet simple.

Thus, I think I would go simple with the pan seared scallops with steamed asparagus, and my homemade honey dijon mustard sauce.



Pan Seared Scallops

A pound or so of wild caught  scallops
2 tsp or so of grass fed unsalted butter
2 tbsp organic olive oil or coconut oil
Pink Himalayan salt
organic coarse ground black pepper

Add the butter and oil to a 12 to 14-inch saute pan on high heat. Salt and pepper the scallops, but don't over do it. Once the fat begins to smoke, gently add the scallops, making sure they are not touching each other. Sear the scallops for 1 1/2 minutes on each side.

The scallops should have a 1/4-inch golden crust on each side while still being translucent in the center. The key is not to overcook scallops or push them around in the pan while cooking. Practice makes perfect. I have found that scallops cool quickly, so I cook second helpings to order.

Steamed Asparagus is pretty easy, no recipe needed. I really love the bamboo steamers, which basically sit on top of a skillet that has been filled with water. The water in the skillet heats up, and the steam and vapors cook the asparagus. Pretty simple, but the fewer times you have the lift the lid to the steamer, the better it works.

Honey Dijon Sauce. This is a great quick and dirty dipping sauce that doesn't take a lot of effort. Once again, there isn't a real recipe here. There are two types of honey dijon sauce I do. The first is a raw organic honey that is in solid form, that I will have to put in a small pot with the Dijon mustard and cook under low heat stirring until it blends together. I add diced scallions and diced yellow, red, and orange bell peppers also. The second is using a good liquid organic honey such as Soliga, and mixing it with the mustard, thus no cooking needed. The advantage to using the Soliga honey is that you don't have to heat it up, thus keeping the awesome nutritional properties of the honey in tact. I have done it both ways and it just depends on what I am cooking. Please don't use those cheap store bought commercial honeys such as Sue Bee in the little plastic bear. Not healthy, and horrible taste compared to real honey.


Now that dinner is prepared and we sitting outdoors overlooking that captivating Chicago skyline, we can get back to talking about the "crib". The guy who bought the place though of everything a guy like me needs. From remote control indoor/outdoor lighting, even remote control scents.

There is a captivating outdoor Japanese style koi pond, and 13 foot high bonsai trees lifted to the roof by crane. There is heating underneath the trees that keeps them going in those harsh Chicago winters. I have a whole folder of my own custom additions to the condo, including the custom outdoor kitchen as I mentioned, outdoor fireplace, outdoor office, and custom outdoor sound system.

Here is the appropriately titled video from the TV series "Moonlighting" with Bruce Willis and Sybil Shepherd. Bruce made being a "clown" both cool and hip back in the 80's, and I followed in his footsteps, although perhaps I was an over achiever. Thankfully, I'm still a child at heart, but more polished these days.

And below on the right, my all time "Romantic Rooftop" song, still nice 45 yrars later :)


Unfortunately, I have recently heard that the Contemporaine has been sold.frown What a blow the mind of a chronic daydreamer. I think the cold weather of my beloved Chicago would have not done justice to my flow anyway, in that you only get 3 or 4 real months of decent weather to enjoy that vast outdoor space. Or so I try to convince myself. It's taking a little longer for my ship to come in than originally planned, but that's okay. Mentally and spiritually I live in the penthouse of the soul, and it will all externalize when, where, and how it is supposed to. And I possess the ultimate gift, which is to be 50 years old, still feeling young, active, and vibrant, like I have my whole life ahead of me. That's a blessing that real estate won't give you. 

On a happier note, I did notice a penthouse for sale on the top floor of a 60 story building in San Diego. The building is called "The Mark", and has a similar setup, 3000sf indoors, 1950sf outdoors, and better still, it is all raw space, just floors and concrete, so a person can come in and custom design to their hearts content, as opposed to working around the previous owner's vision. Warmer weather, awesome downtown skyline and Pacific Ocean view, huge outdoor living space. That's perfect for me. Upon looking at the online brochure for The Mark penthouse in San Diego, I said, hmmmmmmmmm, I could cook a great outdoor dinner for a "hottie" up there on that roof. I'm back in business!!.~dw~

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"Sail Forth. Steer for the deep waters only. Reckless O soul, exploring. I with thee and thou with me. For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared go. And we will risk the ship, ourselves, and all." --Walt Whitman



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