MODEL MONDAY PROFILE: KAREN RYAN

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As with all my profiles, I give my “subjects” a questionnaire to answer and the models questions, are, of course, different from my other profiles.  Karen, along with the other models I have “interviewed” for nenasnotes, was a total joy to work with, taking professionalism at its true meaning…always on time and show ready, glamorous when the garment called for that, sporty if need be, turning into a businesswoman for our Working Women Seminars, etc. Modeling is really acting and letting your audience think what you have on is the most fabulous garment they have ever seen and they must want to add it to their wardrobe!  It is all about “selling” that is, after all, the end result.  She always listened to instruction, and most importantly respected the designers (again, all my models did this, if they didn’t why book them again!!!!) Karen had a girl next door quality, relatable but with an edginess.

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imageKaren Ryan’s first composite.

Let’s see what Karen has to say about her modeling career and what she is up to now….

When did you start your modeling career, was this something you always wanted to do?

I had never even thought about being a model, even though people had always said to me, “with your height (5’8 ½”), you should model”. I had gotten an MA in journalism at the University of Kentucky in 1974, shortly before marrying my husband, Bill, and moving to Chicago.  In Kentucky, I worked for one of the original educational television stations, Kentucky Educational Television (KET).  I got to watch PBS and its wonderful programming years before most of my friends and family.  When we moved to Chicago, I eventually worked for Pioneer Press, the local suburban newspaper chain, and by the mid-’70s, had worked my way up to Promotion Manager.  As such, my staff was responsible for special sections.  We did a fashion section every Fall, and in 1977, it was my responsibility to publish the fashion section with the help of writers and a budget for a photographer we had used in the past.  Ann Taylor was loaning us the clothes, but we had no budget for a model.  My staff and the photographer, Paul McCall said, “what about you, Karen”? I was not really interested in doing it, but I was overruled.

imageFrom another shoot very space age, very of the period!

I went to a makeup shop on Oak Street, learned how to do makeup for black & white photography, and we did it!  I wish I had kept that fashion section, but my first comp has pics from the photo shoot (see comp at top of profile).  I think I looked silly in a couple of them, but that was 40 years ago!  I found out that the camera didn’t love me (my jaw is too square) (Nena’s note, I so don’t agree!!!!), so I didn’t do much print work.  I started auditioning for fashion shows and was very surprised to feel comfortable and natural walking the runway. To use an old expression, the rest is history…I was lucky enough to meet Nena Ivon and work for Saks Fifth Avenue!

imageThis isn’t Karen’s favorite comp but I love it so I am including it…apologies, Karen!

imageFrom Karen’s scrapbook.

What was your favorite Saks Fifth Avenue Show(s)?

My favorite Saks shows were the Misericordia benefit shows.  Backstage we were usually so rushed that we didn’t pay attention to the happenings outside the dressing area curtains.

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But I remember the first time I heard the voice of an angel, Sister Rosemary Connelly.  She spoke from the heart and to our hearts about the special people who live and work at Misericordia www.misericordia.com.  I should backtrack here and tell you that before we married, my husband taught special needs adults. We’ve been avid supporters of Misericordia for many years, and I joined the Women’s Auxiliary over 25 years ago. The Auxiliary does many things, but my favorite event is the annual fashion show.  I always get a couple of tables at the show and get to catch up with all my besties from our runway days, including Nena of course. (Nena’s note, I will profile Misericordia in a future post.)

imageSome of the “gang” at this year’s Misericordia Fashion Show, all profiled in nenasnotes with the exception of Debra Balchen (Candace Jordan wasn’t one of my models but did model and was a room mate of Jeaounche).  The gentleman is Avron Fagel, a dear friend to all of us and the “music guru” for all my shows!

Who was your favorite designer and why?

Adolfo, hands down!  He was so nice to the models…before we walked out onto the runway, he would say, “You look so pretty”!  Other favorites were Countess Jacqueline de Ribes, Bob Mackie, Alexander Julian, Halston, Bill Blass (also very nice to the models) I especially remember the elegance of Saks’ Jacqueline, Comtesse de Ribes’ show at The Casino. I never actually worked with Diane von Furstenberg, but she is one of my favorites and I wear her wrap dresses today!

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imageNewspaper clipping with Terri D’

What was your most favorite “behind the scenes” story?

Of all the people who assisted backstage at Saks Fifth Avenue, my favorite was Ruth Ivon, who we affectionately called Ruthy.  In 1981 we were doing a series of shows and I wore a full-length strapless gown just one week before this incident. The next week I was to wear the same gown and Ruthy could not get the top of the zipper to go up, even with me pushing it together with both hands. I was 3+ months pregnant at the time, which of course both you and Ruthy knew. She called Nena backstage, and sweet person that you are, you said: “skip it”! Who knew the body could change that much in just one week. (Nena’s note…this doesn’t only happen when we are pregnant but as we age our rib cage settles….its called gravity! and our bodies change and I would have to adjust what I pulled for my models!)

What are you up to now and how did you begin your new career/passion?

My career now is grandmother!  And it’s been my favorite stage of life…the joy and love that my grandchildren bring me are unbelievable.  As I mentioned before, another passion is volunteer work, especially with Misericordia. I also volunteer at a soup kitchen once a month along with hubby Bill.  Another passion is gardening!  We have a summer home in Wisconsin which I have landscaped with very little help from professionals.  The only landscaping I kept from the original plan when we built the house in 2003 were trees and shrubs. I have planted hundreds of flowers and shrubs on my own.

imageWith Ruby when she was a baby.

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With the gorgeous grandchildren, Ryan and Ruby.

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Karen in her Wisconsin garden with Ryan this Fourth of July.

What did your modeling years teach you that you are using now?

Humility, sometimes I simply didn’t get the gig.  I never asked why, and when one door closed, another usually opened.  Some of my best fashion shows were last minute replacements. This was before the days of cell phones. Early in the business, we worked directly with the fashion director at the store. If a friend could not get in touch with the director, and could not make a show,  she would call me and ask how fast I could get to Saks or wherever.  The models were very supportive of each other, hard to believe for those who don’t know the business, and maybe it’s different in 2017, but we had each other’s back.  Some of my best friends to this day are the people I worked with back then:  Nena, Jeanouche, (I am her son’s godmother and she is mine) Shelley, Shauna, Terri, D’Arry, Dori, Elsa, Diane, Debra … I know I’m forgetting many, please forgive!

imageKaren and Jeanouche in a photo shoot back in the day have no idea what this was for?????? Interesting composition! (Definitely a Nena’s note!)

imageThe best friends having lunch at Jeanouche’s home a couple decades later, from Nena’s photo album.

imageA Nena’s note…..at a “reunion” show when I was doing a “Hooray for Hollywood” lecture and had my model girls in garments from Saks Fifth Avenue to illustrate the garments in the films I was discussing, a fun show.  They still all can, most definitely, walk the catwalk.  Karen leads the parade on the left ombre blue chiffon one shoulder gown.  Of the ten pictured,  I have profiled six in nenasnotes….I hope I can persuade the rest to come on board!!!!  This is from Nena’s photo album.

I also learned patience and grace under pressure…occasionally we had wardrobe malfunctions backstage, and had to make the most of it, walk out on the runway cool, calm and collected. And most important: posture, posture, posture! When I was in high school (back in the stone age), it was not “in” to be tall.  I slouched, but for some reason, when I walked out on the runway, my shoulders were back, my tummy was in, and I felt a confidence that I had never had as a youth.  The models who worked for Saks Fifth Avenue had the best posture on the runway because we had the best example, Nena Ivon!  Thank you, Nena.

No, thank you, Karen, for being the consummate professional, loving friend, caring individual and perfect wife, mother and best gran ever!

All photos, unless otherwise noted, courtesy of Karen Ryan.

FASHION FLASHBACK: BETH LEVINE SHOES PART 2

imageLong before Christian Louboutin, Manolo Blahnik, Jimmy Choo, Brian Atwood, Patrick Cox, Prada and Miu Miu (let alone Chanel, Dior, etc.) there was Salvatore Ferragamo, Roger Vivier, Andrea Pfister, Maud Frizon, and the list goes on…and, of course, Herbert and Beth Levine. Beth Levine and Beth’s Bootery are the subjects of today’s post.  I have always loved shoes and have worn heels since I was 13 years old, of course, heels then were 3-4 inches, not the stilettos of today (which, by the way, I wore for many, many years!) This post came about when I read about the Michael Kors buy of Jimmy Choo for 1.2 billion dollars!

I had the opportunity, at Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago, to work with Fiamma Ferragamo, Roger Vivier and Andrea Pfister (who did a last of my foot to fashion special shoes just for me…do I have any of them, the answer, unfortunately, is no!!!)  All were delightful to work with and extremely talented.  Each with their unique style creating works of art and at different times in my SFA tenure.  Vivier was the first shoe creator that I worked with, he was the hot designer of the time and did an exclusive line for SFA (actually, all those I worked with did exclusives for us, and they were extraordinary). He could not have been more charming, a true French gentleman with the utmost creativity.  I worked with Fiamma and Andrea often and sometimes did fun fashion events with them.  A few times I did vignettes using picture frames and had the model’s feet and legs outside the frames (that is all you saw) showing the most exciting of the shoe collections. The designers, as well as the clients really had fun with those events.

Now on to the Levines….I wore Herbert Levine shoes when I was in high school.  We had the most wonderful shoe stores in Chicago (the Chicago store was next door to Saks on Michigan Avenue) and in Evanston called Joseph’s and they carried all the “of the moment styles”, one new “invention” was the “Springolator”.  The Springolator shoe features an elastic insole that is designed to create tension between the shoe and the bottom of the foot to stay on the foot, without slipping off or go clack-clack when you walk.  It was “invented” by Herbert Levine and his designer wife, Beth.  It is in actuality a mule or slide but stayed on your foot because of the tension. 

imageBeth Levine as I remember her, joyful and beyond talented!

I had several pairs especially for all my dance dresses…we wore a lot of party dresses in the 1950’s and I made most of them myself…I never wanted anything anyone else had.  My prom dress (I was already working at Saks when I graduated high school) was made of unbleached muslin, strapless, of course, and I fashioned rosettes of the muslin to applique on the skirt (with petticoats underneath as was the fashion at the time!) and tied an apricot velvet ribbon at the waist, on my feet, Herbert Levine Springolator shoes in ecru with bows in the same apricot velvet!  Actually, they looked a lot like the pump on the cover of the book at the beginning of the post but they were open toe…you get the idea. Quite chic if I say so myself….

imageimageTwo examples of Herbert Levine Springolators.

imageI had this exact shoe except in pink (me in pink!!??, interesting) the ornament was Dresden china.  I loved those shoes.

I mentioned in yesterday’s post, Beth’s collection of wooden shoe snuff boxes and the shoe she designed in their honor.  Here are a couple of other “themed” shoes that I found amusing…

imageThe racing car flat.

imageVery Mod and certainly the late 1960’s.

imageBeth’s boot revival “were made for walking” as Nancy Sinatra’s 1966 song tells us https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbyAZQ45uww They started a craze that has survived to current fashion and just get higher and higher up the leg and in heel height.

imageAdore this shoe and it came on many color combinations.

imageI am mad for this shoe the lace embellishment, the shape of the heel, a true masterpiece (could also be a Vivier!)

imageI think this is a particularly beautiful heel….just like the back of our ready-to-wear garments are seen by all so are the back of our shoes.  Wouldn’t you love to see these with a LBD for a fabulous cocktail party….please!!!!!

imagePortrait by Philip Pearlstein, 1980’s which was on loan for the Beth Levine: The First Lady of Shoes exhibition at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in 2015. Go to their blog at npg.si.edu

All images from Pinterest photo credits unknown.

COLLECTIONS: MINATURE SHOES

imageMy mini collection of miniature shoes.  They sit on my decoupaged chest that held my Father’s paints.  Interesting that the Elfinware shoes have forget me knots on them and are on a postcard of them, who knew!  Not the world’s best photo but a hard one to capture with my handy dandy iPhone 7!

My collection began many, many years ago with the wooden snuff box given to me by the amazingly talented Beth Levine when she visited Saks Fifth Avenue Chicago with her Beth’s Bootery Collection, which was exclusive to the Store.  You will read her story in tomorrow’s Fashion Flashback post.  She collected these extraordinary boxes and created a shoe, in brown leather with gold detail I adored them, (wish I had a picture to share with you) that I owned and gave to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago Fashion Resource Center, an extraordinary Collection under the supervision of the brilliant Gillion Carrara www.saic.edu

imageA close up of my snuff box.  My photo.

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imageThe two photos found on Pinterest, credit unknown.  The shoe above is what the front of my actual Beth’s Bootery shoe looked like.  A good look at the slide that opens to reveal the container for your snuff.

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imageThe two images above are inlaid with mother of pearl.  Pinterest photo credit unknown.

imageIsn’t this a beauty inlaid with silver and the compartment flips up to reveal your snuff!  Pinterest photo credit unknown.

imageMy favorite of all the wooden shoe snuff boxes…isn’t is a wonder, so very tiny with all the intricate carving…I want it!  Pinterest photo credit unknown.

My Mother collected Elfinware and we found many, many pieces at various prices, some quite expensive and others unbelievably “cheap”, all special to Mom and to me, do we see a post in the future…probably!  Made between 1920-1940 in Germany to look like Dresden the items were quite inexpensive (much like Jadelite and Depression Glass when they were introduced) and have become collector’s items.  Be sure to check out the Randolph Street Market www.randolphstreetmarket.com this weekend, July 29 and 30 from 10 to 5, you might find a piece of Elfinware or a shoe collectible or whatever strikes your fancy!

imageI have, over the years, given away several of Mom’s pieces to friends who wanted a token from her collections. My photo.

imageOne of my favorites, a Limoges snuff box, again featuring forget me knots,  Interestingly I don’t have any “shoes” with lily of the valley…I’ll have to look for one!  My photo.

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I am partial to this piece, it is English porcelain and the largest of the collection.  It has the look of Imari, don’t you agree….a charming manipulation of clay to form the ruffle on what to me looks like a shoe bootie!  My photo.

imageA similar piece found on Pinterest with handpainted flowers.  Photo credit unknown.

imageAs is my custom, here is a book for you to expand your knowledge, if you are so inclined, of the wonderful collectible world of snuff boxes.  What you say, you don’t do snuff, well just think of them as beautiful objects that you can admire, perhaps put your aspirin in one or two of them!  Enjoy….

WEDNESDAY MUSINGS: FAVORITE PINS THIS WEEK: GREEN

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I became addicted to Pinterest this weekend and found all manner of wondrous images of my all time favorite color…..green!  So why not do a post on all things green. Few words just glorious images like the above collage I prepared for the blog! I will identify my own photos, some may be repeats (sorry!) but mostly they are pins I have saved and don’t have photo credits

imageI adore color samples, here one of Pantone’s green palettes, these are the greens that are the most attractive to me, however, I do love all greens!

The following quote is attributed to the book,  Green: The History of a Color by Michael Pastoureau published by Princeton University Press (one of his series of books on color, I ordered mine immediately from www.amazon.com!!!!) “The color green is fickle, mutable, variously the color of love, youth, irresponsibility, but also madness, debauchery, and the underworld”.  

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imageFrom Carolyne Roehm www.carolyneroehm.com using an Ikat textile for her table setting, her “eye” is brilliant in all things, whether flowers, gardens or interiors.

imageAnother tablescape from Carolyne Roehm

 

imageI not only love this photo but want everything in it!!!! It is so me!

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I could live in any of these rooms and take inspiration for not only the color and the weathered look of the rooms but all the details large and small.

imageBeautifully detailed tiles.

imageA magnificent garden path leading to a secluded nook.

imageThe entrance to Monet’s home in Giverny

imageA fantastically beautiful solarium….

imageIvy on a brick wall from a weekend in Harbor Country my photo

imageA wood in Indiana my photo

imageI am mad for this capture….an exquisite bird sitting on a fern frond

imageFerns in a Blue Island garden my photo

imageI know I have posted this but it is a beauty with the gold embellished embossed leather binding, you might find something similar at the Newberry Library www.newberry.org Book Sale this week, Thursday through Sunday, July 27 through 30  or at this weekend’s RandolphStreet Market  www.randolphstreetmarket.com Saturday and Sunday.

imageMy all time favorite tree, a weeping redbud in full leaf, also in a Blue Island garden my photo

imageCan you believe this is a cabbage!  It is amazing and HUGE, the shades of an almost metallic green are extraordinary, another shot from my Harbor Country weekend.

imageI know I did this in another post but had to feature it again, John Galliano for Christian Dior Haute Couture Fall 2006 (the Collection I was fortunate to witness!!!!) Vogue photograph

imageA truly spectacular conifer in Harbor Country, my photo.

 

www.randolphstreetmarket.com

www.newberry.org

 

 

 

BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: THE LITTLE FRENCH BISTRO

 

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Having read The Little Paris Bookshop (which I haven’t reviewed as yet!) I was looking forward to Nina George’s The Little French Bistro and I wasn’t disappointed.

I must say the beginning of the book was a bit off putting and since it is the beginning I feel safe telling you…our heroine travels to Paris and the Seine with the purpose of drowning herself, huh!!!???  She obviously has her reasons, she is running away from a forty-one year unhappy marriage. Why, you might ask, stay in a marriage that long, I think you will agree people stay in relationships for all sorts of reasons, but mostly, in my opinion, it is familiar, perhaps in some way, comforting normalcy.  Marianne isn’t physically abused but emotional abuse can be as devastating.  So she leaves and jumps into the Seine and by chance, there is a man (who appears to be homeless) on the banks of the River who saves her.  She isn’t happy about this but feels it means she must get on with her life by whatever means.  She doesn’t know what to do or where to go but starts her journey for the French coast and ends up in Brittany, which is known as “the end of the world”!  She is embraced by the population of the small town and finds work at Mor restaurant.  Quoting from the inside flap of the book “Among food, music, and laughter, Marianne finds a forgotten version of herself—passionate, (Nena’s note, yes there is an affair) carefree and powerful.”  Her past does catch up with her, literally, and decisions must be made, we hope she makes the right ones.

I really enjoyed Ms. George’s www.nina-george.com writing and how she brought the power of being oneself (even when you don’t know who that is!) to be life altering.  What I especially liked is the protagonist isn’t a 20 something but an “older” woman who rediscovers herself, obviously telling us it is never too late to be true to who you really are.  Is there a physical make-over, yes, and it is wonderful and, of course, the mental and emotional make-over. The story gives us hope that one can change no matter the circumstances nor the time of your life…live it fully!  Is there freedom to do whatever you want or haven’t tried before, absolutely and it is a delight to watch (read!)

I want to quote directly from the book, page 240 to be exact, it, in my opinion, perfectly describes the book’s meaning….let’s see what you think…

“Marianne loved the feeling of being wanted. As Marianne. As a woman.  ‘In my search for death, I found life.  How many deviations, side roads and senseless detours a woman can take before she finds her own path, and all because she falls into line too early, takes too early the paths of custom and convention, defined by doddering old men and their henchwomen—the mothers who only want the most dutiful outcome for their daughters. And then she wastes an immense amount of time ensuring that she fits the mold! How little time then remains to correct her fate.  And, yet. life as an autonomous woman is not a song.  It’s a scream, a war, it’s a daily struggle against the easy option of obeying.  I could have obeyed, could have lived less dangerously, ventured nothing, failed at nothing.’ ” 

Very profound and, again, in my opinion, spot on.

I  recently joined a Facebook group of women led by Catherine Grace O’Connell www.catherinegraceo.com (you may recall I profiled Catherine in a previous post) The group, The Fierce 50 Revolution (name is changing) exists to empower women from mid-life on by giving each an organization to network with other women.  Do go to the Facebook site for details.  This book should be MUST reading for all the members and I would suggest, for all my readers.  It is a charming eye-opening look into the world of conforming and then becoming an independent person.

You know I like to support Independent Booksellers but in this instance, my book was purchased from www.amazon.com

FASHION IN FOOD: PROXI

 

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Friday, as you know, is all about fashion in flashback, fashion now and future fashion and with a bit of a twist on the theme I am starting to do posts on my favorite restaurants, established, dearly loved and exciting new ventures in one of the greatest food cities anywhere, Chicago. I do not intend to be a food critic but I am, most certainly a foodie. One of the definitions of fashion is “to form something into something else: to make something from something else” isn’t that exactly what we do with food….Executive Chef Andrew Zimmerman and Managing Partner Emmanuel Nony have “fashioned” an exciting new concept in food with their brand new restaurant PROXI, the new kid on the block (Randolph to be exact) which, along with Fulton one of the hottest, happening places in the City (but you will see in future posts, not the only area in this ever changing food story.)

The evolution of the Randolph Street restaurant saga began many years ago with a single pioneering restaurant, Vivo (no longer with us, and of course, the beloved Ina‘s) and look at the area now, not only restaurant heaven but total gentrification.  I remember taking cabs during the beginning of the Vivo era and the drivers thought I was mad and said: “Lady, there isn’t anything there but warehouses, I can’t leave you there!”  I would explain it was okay and they could wait for me and I would wave to them from inside.  Well, those days are long gone, now the Uber and Lyft drivers and certainly all the cabbies know exactly where to take locals and visitors for the excitement that is now “Restaurant Row”! I’ll address other restaurants throughout the City in future food posts, there are so many but, of course, I do have my favorites and I have added Proxi to that list! 

imageThis was our table and I was facing a wall of wine bottles, how appropriate!

imageThe place setting, my photo.

A few weeks ago I got a call from a long time friend, Emmanuel Nony, we go back to his Park Hyatt days, and, of course, who doesn’t love Sepia!  Always the gracious host, Emmanuel invited me and a guest to come to Proxi for dinner.  I was delighted to accept the invitation and extend my guest invitation to my cooking buddy, Tom Mantel.  Emmanuel greeted us in his usual charming manner escorted us to our table where he explained the extraordinary menu and it’s interesting concept.  I asked what he recommended for the evening and after saying he couldn’t choose proceeded to choose everything! Don’t you love it!  He turned us over to our fabulous server, Jordan, who walked us through the unique menu with suggestions along the way, he was the best.  The menu is divided into three sections (all of which will change on a regular basis), the first page was very interesting starters, which were quite substantial, the middle page was all seafood and the last page all meat.

imageI think this was the Farmer’s Market Bhel Puri my photo, absotutely delicious.

imageTempura Elotes amazing!

imageSalad of Sugar Snap Peas and Carrotss, yuzu kosho, sesame, miso brûlée my photo

The concept is to share everything and pick at least one item, each, from each page, which we did. Actually three (see above photos)from page one and the whole fish (which, by the way, was probably the best fish I have ever eaten!) the only fish we tried and two from page three.

imageOur whole grilled fish “Pescado Zarandeado”.  My photo.

imageOne of our meat courses, BBQ Lamb Ribs with mango pickle and cashews. Our other choice was Wagnyu Beef Short Ribs with Malyasian curry, sort of a medley of ribs….also my photo

We had interesting wines, I chose a Gamay which I don’t think I have seen on a menu since I was in Paris (this month the wine selections are from the Loire Valley).  Dessert was a dream.  The exciting news was that with all the food and wine I didn’t feel at all stuffed…it was superb!  We then opted to have a lovely after dinner drink in the gorgeous bar.  The place was packed, but not uncomfortably so, and it had only been open a few weeks.  It will be a HUGE success, of that I am sure.  It was fun to see and have a quick chat with my old friends Bill Zwecker, Tom Gorman and Vicki and Bill Hood.  I’m sure they enjoyed their evening as much as we did. The food was interesting, delicious, the wine extraordinary and the service perfection.  Didn’t hurt that I was with a dear friend who loved it all as much as I did.

I asked Emmanuel to send me detailed information on the restaurant.  I have culled it down a bit but wanted to share it with you.  I am hoping to have a recipe or two to share with you later.

imageAndrew Zimmeman and Emmanuel Nony

Proxi (565 W. Randolph St.), the second restaurant from the acclaimed team of Michelin-starred Chicago restaurant, Sepia, opens on Tuesday, June 13. Executive Chef Andrew Zimmerman and Managing Partner Emmanuel Nony are thrilled for this project to come to fruition after years of searching for the perfect location. Housed in a former print shop right beside Sepia, the restaurant is located at the beginning on Chicago’s renowned Restaurant Row. Proxi takes guests on a ride to the world’s most culinary rich corners. Using elemental cooking techniques and pristine ingredients, the menu celebrates the bold flavors of street foods.

The menu at Proxi takes inspiration from Executive Chef Andrew Zimmerman’s lifelong fascination with the vibrant, emphatic flavors most commonly seen in street foods. Including snacks, small plates, raw selections, entreés, and large-format dishes for the table, the restaurant’s cuisine captures the vivacity of such foods in approachable, Modern American presentations using primary cooking techniques showcased on the restaurant’s wood-fired hearth. Meat, seafood, and vegetables remain balanced throughout the menu, with dishes focusing on bold tastes, including an array of exotic ingredients, wood fire, and worldly spices.

Pastry Chef Sarah Mispagel unleashes her award-winning talent on Proxi’s dessert selection to offer a range of whimsical and nostalgic sweet dishes balancing familiarity with experimentation.

Josh Relkin leads the cocktail program at Proxi, crafting a menu with an emphasis on globally influenced libations to complement the kitchen. Relkin embraces the hearth, incorporating the live fire cooking into the cocktail list, with a goal of blending familiar ingredients in an unconventional way.  Proxi also offers a selection of beers from across the world, with hopes to bring guests unfamiliar brews that they‘ve only sipped during their travels.  

The Wine program, led by Beverage Director and acclaimed Advanced Sommelier Arthur Hon, boasts a succinct, dynamic wine list that converges on a central theme to unique wines from around the world. Hon, who travels often to taste new wines and experience unfamiliar flavors, was thrilled with the challenge of creating a wine list to stand up to the kitchen’s bold, vibrant, and global flavors. Hon’s wine list will have a rotating theme, that will be changed seasonally with the menu. To start, he’s transporting guests to the Loire Valley of France to experience the wines from that region.

imageNotice the original barrel ceiling and the custom fixtures, a great blend of old (read original) and the new, stunning.

Developed by James Beard Award Winning design firm, Meyer Davis, Proxi’s elegant, welcoming aesthetic reveals a mid-century American brasserie.  The space calls out to its worldly influences while preserving existing architectural elements from Werner Printing Company, which formerly occupied the expansive restaurant. Inset with brass-framed mirrors, lightly washed wood covers the walls and rustic wood planks form the floor, though custom designed cement tiles differentiate the bar and lounge space from the dining room. A long, central leather banquette stretches out to anchor the dining room, flanked by additional tables and more leather booths along the walls. The central bar, with its stone top, leather upholstered front, and cerused wood accents, sits opposite a chef’s table donning Noir St. Laurent marble and overlooking an exhibition kitchen. Overhead, eye-catching custom light fixtures hang from the original barrel-vaulted ceiling.

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imageTwo views of the bar, adore all of it, but especially the tile floor!

Through a fresh and innovative American lens, Proxi, a sister restaurant to Executive Chef Andrew Zimmerman and Managing Partner Emmanuel Nony’s Sepia, scours the most culinary-rich corners of the globe to inspire a menu that celebrates the bold flavors of multicultural street foods through pristine ingredients. Located in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood along Restaurant Row, Proxi unites an award-winning team to transport its guests around the world, beginning with cuisine and extending to an eclectic beverage program focused on worldly inspirations and diverse, exotic ingredients. Developed by New York City-based design firm Meyer Davis, Proxi’s elegant, welcoming aesthetic reveals a mid-century American brasserie that calls out to its global influences while preserving existing architectural elements.” www.proxichicago.com.

All photos unless otherwise noted provided by Proxi.

Do go you won’t be disappointed, it is not only fabulous food but a wonderfully glorious space! Thanks so much Emmanual and Andrew for brnging this concept to Chicago, I love it, could you tell! Cookbook please!!!!

 

 

COLLECTIONS: BROWN TRANSFERWARE

imageA collection of brown transferware.  Photo courtesy of Pinterest credit unknown.

I did a post several months ago on blue and white transferware and discussed my own collection of green transferware, now here we are with brown.  Actually. these are the three colors I am familiar with (the blue and white), collections in friends homes, (the green) which I collect, or (brown) assembled while assisting with decorating a country home many years ago.  So brown it is today.  All of the colors and there are many, including pink, purple, red, even yellow, you will find examples to add to your collection or start a new passion at the monthly Randolph Street Market www.randolphstreetmarket.com which will be July 29 and 30 from 10 to 5.

“Transferware is a style of ceramics including pottery, dinnerware, and other delicate items. It uses transfer printing, a decorative technique which was developed in England, in the mid-18th century, particularly around the Staffordshire region.

The process starts with an engraved copper plate similar to those used for making paper engravings. The plate is used to print the pattern on tissue paper, then the tissue paper transfers the wet ink to the ceramic surface. The ceramic is then fired in a low-temperature kiln to fix the pattern. This can be done over or under the glaze, but the underprinting method is more durable. The process produces fine lines similar to the engraved prints in old books. Before transfer printing ceramics were hand painted, a laborious and costly process.”  From Wikipedia (never know how much to believe from this site but this seems accurate).

imageHere is a small portion of the collection I amassed several years ago.  It is a complete supper set found in various antique markets both here and abroad.  I started this collection before RSM began but have found items to add to it recently at the Market. I didn’t want anything very flowery nor with people but rather English scenes and a flower or two.  I don’t remember where I first found what I wanted for this country house but it just grew from there.  I do remember I was doing a fashion show out of town and went antiquing at a local mall on our way back to Chicago and happened to glance down into a case and there was an entire set of the exact pattern I was collecting…if you are a collector, you can only imagine my excitement…had to run out to find a cash machine and hurry back to make my purchase.  I have, as mentioned, added to the collection over the years but the place settings are done.  I add a pitcher, a platter, a bowl, etc. when I see them.  I particularly like the salt and pepper shakers on the top shelf, they were in the antique mall collection.

imageThe platter at the top of the breakfront was found at an antique market in the English country side.  I carried it and several other pieces back with me on the plane home, I was, for some unknown reason, upgraded to first class on the flight and my treasures were stowed very carefully by the flight attendant, she must have been a collector as well!

imageMore of the collection displayed on a rough white plaster wall.  I think very country, don’t you agree!

imageA group of pitchers found at various times on various treasure hunts.

imageI would love to find a similar cheese dome, isn’t it smashing!  Love it!  Pinterest image credit unknown.

imageGreat collection of plates from Pinterest photo credit unknown.

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imageA couple of reference books found on www.amazon.com

 

Photos are all taken by Nena with an iPhone7 unless otherwise noted.

Some sites to investigate:

www.marthastewart.com  Transferware article….excellent information

www.marthastewart.com  video Transferware Questions

www.marthastewart.com  video How to Display a Collection in a Cabinet

www.transcollectorsclub.org

I thought since we are English today why not a typical English “pudding”….

ENGLISH SUMMER PUDDING

imageEnglish Summer Pudding Pinterest photo credit unknown.

2 tablespoon water

150g (5oz ) sugar

450g (1 lb) washed, mixed summer fruits, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries

100 to 150g (4 to 6oz) day old white bread, sliced and crusts removed, I use the divine Authentic French Brioche from either Mariano’s or Whole Food, I am totally addicted to it…or day or two old store bought pound cake, the technique and amount remain the same

Whipped cream, ice cream or your favorite home made custard

METHOD:

Stir the water and sugar together and bring to a gentle boil. Add all the berries and fruits except the strawberries. Stew the fruits very gently and not for too long.  They should simply be softened but still retain their shape. Once you feel they are ready put to one side (juice and all) and leave to cool.

Cut the slices of bread or cake, into half then each half into triangles. They do not all have to match perfectly; you will use these to line a 1½ pint/700 ml pudding basin.

Start by lining your pudding basin with cling film. Then continue by dipping a couple of triangles in the juices of the stewed fruits. Lay these in the bottom of the dish and then continue the same way but lining the sides of the basin with bread slices ensuring there are no gaps.

Once completed, fill with the stewed fruits including the strawberries. Cover the top with more juice dipped bread slices. Make sure not to add too much of the juices from the fruits as this may cause the bread to lose its shape. There must be enough to soak into the bread, though.

Place a saucer on the top of the basin and weigh down with something heavy like a tin of tomatoes or beans is ideal. Place in the refrigerator and leave overnight.

The next day, turn the pudding out onto a pretty serving plate, preferably a piece of your transferware, and serve with either the whipped cream or make some lovely custard sauce. If you are lucky enough to have scorching sunny weather, then serve with ice cream and champagne or dessert wine.  Yummy, yummy. yum!!!!

 

 

WEDNESDAY MUSINGS: GARDENS PART 2

imageMy garden cherub (originally in my Evanston garden) now residing in a lush garden in Harbor Country, Michigan.

Today’s post is the continuation of my story on gardens I have visited and all photos are mine.  Some older than cell phone cameras so they might be a bit “off”, sorry about that!  Again, not a lot of text just a comment here and there. Enjoy lazy summer days.

imageMichigan or France….this one is Michigan with day lilies, hedges and beautiful trees around water….

imageHere we are in Giverny www.giverny.org a side trip when I was in France for the Haute Couture shows in 2006.  It was the hottest summer France had ever had, it was quite brutal and there wasn’t much color, grass was brown, blooms were not at their peak, but it was lovely in Giverny, loved it but then I have always been a sucker for Monet, especially his water lilies and it was like being in one of his paintings.

imageGiverny

imageMichigan

imageOur Monet at The Art Institute of Chicago www.artic.edu

imageMore Michigan and actually I think these are lotus flowers. “The lotus flower represents one symbol of fortune in Buddhism. It grows in muddy water, and it is this environment that gives forth the flower’s first and most literal meaning: rising and blooming above the murk to achieve enlightenment.”  Taken from www.buddhists.org

imageMonet’s home and studio in Giverny, glorious!

imageA charming home in a Michigan garden.

imageA vignette with Lutyens bench in the walkway next to the house.

imageMore Giverny

imageTrees being trained over an arbor in Michigan.

imageThe white garden and trained arch shrubbery at Sissinghurst, my Queen Mary II trip in 2004. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/sissinghurst-castle-garden

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Two views of Sissinghurst, 2004

imageA hidden treasure at Sissinghurst

imageNena in the Sissinghurst formal garden

imageSissinghurst path

imageMichigan garden path

imageBack in France, 2006 and Paris in the Jardin du Luxembourg on my last Sunday, glorious day.

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imageAnd another lovely Sunday this time 2017 and in a Michigan country garden

imageFreshly picked from the garden for a cold soup, how delightful to forge for your own dinner and carry your bounty back to the kitchen in a trug, seriously, how wonderful for a major City Girl to play Country Girl at least for a few days…….

Shall we now have a recipe….I’m thinking a cold cucumber soup, the Swiss chard soup we made with the ingredients above took a long time and was cooked plus we kept adding and adjusting ingredients and I didn’t write anything down, sorry…so let’s do a noncooked soup.

CHILLED CUCUMBER SOUP ADAPTED FROM FOOD AND WINE

Ingredients

  • 2 large European cucumbers (2 1/4 pounds), halved and seeded—1/2 cup finely diced, the rest coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt (Nena’s note…I would do half sour cream and half yogurt)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 small shallot, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove (Nena’s note…I always use the jarred minced garlic not as strong but gives the flavor)
  • 1/3 cup loosely packed fresh dill
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons loosely packed fresh tarragon leaves
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • Salt (Nena’s note….don’t skimp, always taste before adding more!!!!)
  • Fresh ground white pepper
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped (Nena’s note….I didn’t find this necessary but up to you)

How to make this recipe

    1. In a blender, combine the chopped cucumber with the yogurt, lemon juice, shallot, garlic, dill, parsley, tarragon and the 1/4 cup of olive oil. Blend until smooth. Season with salt and white pepper, cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight. Season the soup again just before serving. Pour the soup into bowls. Garnish with the finely diced cucumber, red onion and a drizzle of olive oil and serve.

      I would serve as a first course for dinner or perhaps in demi tasse with a glass of sparkling wine before dinner or a main course for a light lunch with a salad of all the summer bounty, lightly dressed, crusty country bread and, of course, a lovely light white wine….enjoy!!!!

 

BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: PEKOE MOST POISON

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Yes, I do read a Cozy Mystery now and then…to me, they are like an Intermezzo between dinner courses, they cleanse your brain, it doesn’t have to work too hard and the characters are all familiar.  I find that especially true with Laura Childs’ Tea Shop Mysteries I have read almost all of them.  I also like her Scrapbooking Mysteries series, they are set in New Orleans, one of my most favorite cities in the States, I’m not a scrapbooker, oh wait, I do love Pinterest and have always been a clipper, do those count! www.laurachilds.com

Pekoe Most Poison, while being formula, which is why I like Childs, is a good read and a much needed break from some very heavy reading that quite frankly I gave up on and will start again later.  You can easily sit comfortably on your deck, by the water, in your garden and read while sipping tea, of course, or in my case on the South Shore Train going to and from Michigan City, Indiana one day last week.  The protagonist, Theodosia Browning, owns a tea shop in charming Charleston (which always plays an important role in the stories) along with her staff, her tea sommelier the debonair, Drayton, her chef the young, Haley and, of course, her dog Earl Grey.  As always, I would suggest starting with the first of the series just to get the lay of the land, but I’ll leave that up to you.

The murder in each story always happens quite near the beginning of the book and gives you many, many suspects along the way.  In addition, and an addition I really like, you get to know Charleston’s charm as well as the surrounding area.  Theo was a marketing whiz and decided to change lifestyle and became the owner of an extremely successful tea shop.  She, Drayton and Haley plan not only the day’s breakfasts, lunches and tea times but also host themed tea parties in each book, sometimes several.  The recipes included are always delightful and sound quite delicious.  I am a tea drinker and have found many of Drayton’s suggestions interesting and Childs gives a list of purveyors at the back of each book.

This book opens with a “Rat Tea” (a Charleston tradition) being given by one of Charleston’s wealthiest women (her money not her husbands), Doreen Briggs, in her elaborate mansion  During the course of the party Doreen’s husband, Beau, drops dead…we learn from poison. The police arrive with a new detective, Detective Pete Riley, who, of course, is fabulous (will this develop into a romance…Theo usually has a beau in each book, we shall see!).  Theo has helped the police in the past, much to the dismay of Detective Tidwell who is out of town for this book and has just met Detective Riley.  We find out much about Beau’s soon to be opened Gilded Magnolia Spa.  Learn about misappropriated funds, an overpowering PR woman, Starla, Beau and Doreen’s family, and many of the usual cast of characters from previous books.  A grant that Doreen is holding over Drayton’s head to “blackmail” Theo into getting to the bottom of the murder.  As always twists and turns, but a fun romp none the less…my little gray cells didn’t have to work very hard and they could take a breath.  When you want a “book breath” why not cozy up with a cozy!