Bar Lolo's new look.

Bar Lolo's new look.

Hey, Lolo! (Sorry … Bar Lolo.) So great to see you the other night. It’s been a while, and we have to say you are looking good. Really good. You’ve taken some time to focus on yourself, and it has paid off.

It looks like you’ve kept the best of what attracted us to begin with, and made a few small, but standout changes. First, we adore the pops of color — those coral-crimson chairs and bar stools, the wall of colorful paella pans and the natural wood wine holder really stand out against the cool putty colored walls and floor. And the blinged-out longhorn cow skull over the door proves you haven’t lost your sense of humor. We’re also totally digging the fact that you’re really getting back to your tapas-bar roots. The high wooden tables along the window scream Madrid. I see J and I and our fellow neighborhoodies dropping in after work for a glass of Albariño, cider or a cocktail, and a few small bites before a night on the town.

You’ve also made a few positive changes to the menu. We sampled quite a few tapas last night, including our longtime favorite shredded romaine salad, but I have to say, those specials you whipped up: Warm mission figs topped with Serrano ham and Gorgonzola? Are you kidding me? I thought I’d died and gone to heaven with that salty-sweet medley. I’m so glad we placed a last-minute order for the special paella croquettes — crispy fried spheres, perfectly proportioned, oozing with hot saffron-scented paella, chicken and shrimp in the middle. Incredible. We also love that you ditched the full-size burger in favor of delicious mini lamb sliders. Such a treat. And though we didn’t need them, we could not resist the  piping-hot churros with chocolate and honey dipping sauces. You really outdid yourself.

It was good catching up, Lolo. You look good, and you seem to have your groove back. The makeover has done done wonders, and I hope it gets you the attention you deserve. Maybe we can hang out sometime?


Caramelized, roasted tomatoes topped with fresh rosemary and thyme.

In Salt Lake City, J and I lived in a sweet little Victorian cottage in the 9th and 9th area. The house itself was a charming brick structure with a large backyard, and a good-sized, sun-soaked garden perfect for growing tomatoes and herbs. I’ve never considered myself a gardener, but somehow growing delicious tomatoes in the hot, arid Utah summers took little effort or skill. As long as you got them in after Mother’s Day, kept them watered and guarded against late frost and pesky snails, they pretty much grew themselves.

Starting around mid-July, we’d start enjoying the ripening Early Girls, Beefsteaks and Roma tomatoes in salads, fresh tomato sandwiches and pasta sauces and by September, you couldn’t turn around without stepping on a tomato. Well, now, where did you come from, my pretties? So plump and delicious, the mouth waters. All the better to eat you with!

Sometime in the mid-90s, I came across a recipe for oven roasted tomatoes with fresh garden herbs. Perfect for the end of September when the cricket thrums slow to the tempo of a porch rocking chair, these tomatoes go in a low oven for at least three hours. As they slowly give up their juices, they fill the house with an aroma so herbaceous and now familiar to me, it is a powerful symbol for the arrival of fall, and the comfort of home.

I make these tomatoes at least once a year in the fall, even though it’s been more than 10 years  since we’ve had the “problem” of an exploding tomato population. What a shock it was moving to Chicago, and having access only to bland, waxy, hard grocery store tomatoes. Even so, this simple technique vaults even the most anemic tomatoes over the brink of caramelized deliciousness. Incredible on sandwiches, wrapped in a warm corn tortilla or munched straight off the cookie sheet,  these gems  don’t last for more than a few hours in our house. But if they did, I imagine they’d also be delicious on pizza, in pasta or atop crostini. Ladies and gentlemen: Welcome to autumn.

Slow-roasted Tomatoes

10 to 12 Roma tomatoes

4 tablespoons kosher salt or sea salt

4 tablespoons sugar

1 to 2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper

Extra virgin olive oil

1/2 to 2/3 cup finely-chopped fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary, sage, basil)

Pre-heat the oven to 250 degrees F. Line two cookie sheets with aluminum foil or a Silpat liner. Cut the ends off the washed tomatoes; cut into thick crosswise slices. 1/4 to 1/2 inch wide. (The thinner the slice, the more the tomatoes shrivel. I prefer thinner slices.) Arrange the tomatoes on the cookie sheets, and drizzle each slice with a bit of olive oil. Turn the slices over, and repeat on the other side.

Mix the salt, sugar and pepper in a small bowl. Sprinkle a large pinch of the mixture on each tomato slice. Sprinkle on herbs.

Roast for three hours or until the tomatoes start to dehydrate. (If your slices are thicker, they can stay in longer. Just don’t let them burn.) Or, roast for two hours , turn off the oven, and leave overnight.

Refrigerate in an airtight container — that is, if they last that long.