COLLECTIONS: BOTTLE BRUSH TREES AND OTHER CHRISTMAS TREES

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This display of bottle brush trees and small houses was found at the last Randolph Street Market www.randolphstreetmarket.com you will find similar trees at the last RSM of 2017 on Saturday and Sunday, December 16 and 17 from 10 to 5 along with many, many other treasures for yourself and for gifts.

We all know that Queen Victoria’s beloved husband, Albert, brought the Christmas Tree to England from his native Germany…you know I love to research my posts but unfortunately, there isn’t a book on bottle brush trees so I will regale you with photos today some with a brief note or two….enjoy.

I do have a couple of very small trees in my very small apartmenet but I am a collector of angels at Christmas.  However, we always had a magnificent tree each year.  My mother, Ruth, created miniature trees, for years, using friends and clients (we sold them in the Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago Holiday Boutique that I managed for many years, I posted about it last year, check the archives) costume jewelry to create these tiny gems….I only have a couple left, I have, over the years, given mine to her friends who wanted a token from her.

imageHere are two of Mom’s tiny jeweled trees I keep them out all year under domes, each is around 6″ tall.

imageHere is one of my collection of vintage Christmas angels holding a teenie tree.

imageA village with bottle brush trees in one of the bedrooms at Tom Hawley and Tom Mantel’s home (every room in the house as well as outside decor is in the festive Holiday spirit).

The above photos were taken by me with my iPhone 7.

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The above photos were taken just before the Council Oak Antiques, in South Bend, Indiana, Holiday Open House a few weeks ago (you may not find exactly what is pictured) by Patricia McMahon Smith’s son, Jack, especially for nenanotes.  I am obsessed with this Antique Mall, it is well worth the trip to South Bend in between your RSM vists.

While satisfiying my browsing Pinterest fetish I found the following pins, unfortunately uncredited photography but look at the many ways you can incorporate bottle brush trees and small live trees (you can plant these in your garden!) in your holiday decor.

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Just a reminder that the Christmas in Blue Island celebration is this Saturday, December 2….here are all the deets….

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And I leave you with another holiday recipe, forgive me if I posted this last year…I hope you will give it a try,  Next year I will soak the cherries in bourbon or brandy…it is truly a yummy cake that keeps well and is a greate hostess gift and/or grab bag gift.  Enjoy….

From Nena’s Recipe Box

BRAZIL NUT/DATE CAKE

12-16 oz. shelled Brazil nuts

1 lb. pitted dates

8 oz. candied red cherries

3/4 cup flour

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla

Put nuts, dates, and cherries in large bowl.  Sift flour, sugar, baking powder and salt over nuts and fruit, mix until coated.  Beat eggs until foamy, add vanilla, stir into nut-fruit mixture until well mixed.  Turn into 4 small and l medium size pans that are well greased.  Spread batter evenly.  Bake at 300º for l hour and 45 minutes.  Cool before slicing with a saw tooth knife (the cake is very dense)  I used aluminum pans with plastic covers, tie with a pretty vintage bow.  Be sure to keep one for yourself! I have had this recipe since 7th grade, needless to say, a very long time!

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WEDNESDAY MUSINGS: THANKSGIVING 2017… A FEAST TO REMEMBER

imageI like to think we could have looked like this, but alas, we didn’t!  I know Thanksgiving is behind us but we still have Holiday events to plan in the next month and through the end of the year.  I thought some of our Thanksgiving plans might have some suggestions for your upcoming get togethers and I’ve included a recipe.

Let’s start at the beginning of my visit to Blue Island with Tom Hawley and Tom Mantel for their annual feast.  When I arrived on Tuesday morning Tommy (Tom M) picked me up from the Metra and we went directly to DeMars our usual breakfast place to fortify ourselves for the tasks at hand.  Tommy had already done most of the shopping, including the two turkeys and gotten most of the ingredients for our Thanksgiving dinner for 14, of course, we had to make our way to our usual grocery store, (whenever I visit it is a must) Mariano’s, to get more goodies and forgotten stuff.  Naturally, our visit included a stop at the wine bar for our customary glass of wine, mine a lovely rosé Tommy’s a nice white.  We also picked up some cheeses and paté for that night. While perusing the aisles I found three different duck presentations, I have never seen them in a grocery before and I adore duck…I must put them on my shopping list….a duck breast, a duck confit and a half of duck, pictured below…can’t wait to try them. While I love duck I am not a fan of cooking it…I keep you updated on how it is, as Ina Garten would say, what could be bad!

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One of the main reasons we went shopping was for oysters for the dressings (we were doing two one with oysters and one plain).  We finally found two cans there but needed at least 4…we went to every store in the area, Tommy took me home and went to several more stores finally found one more can, we made do with three.  We figured there must have been a run on oysters…even when we asked the staff at the stores they were surprised when they went to the shelves where they should be.  It was rather like a sitcom with us staring at empty shelves expecting the oysters to magically appear!  I spent the time cutting 6 loaves of bread into cubes to let them dry a bit.  So much for Tuesday.  Oh yes, we ate the cheese and pate, more wine, watching HolidayInn and WhiteChristmas…I always shed a tear at the end of that one!

Wednesday was more prep, I made my carrot mold (see the recipe in my archives, it is really, really good) setting the table, making some of the canapes and generally getting ready…we took a lunch break to use my gift card that I won with my gift basket from the Blue Island Christmas Lights Festival fundraiser (this Saturday, it is always a treat to attend, go it you can) I attended a couple of weeks ago, I posted that gift on my Instagram.  Off we went to Double Play Saloon (and it is really an old fashion saloon, great fun!)  Had a very good burger and a Blue Island brew our total tab was $20.00….back we shall go to spend the other $30.00!  Way too much fun.  Picked up the centerpiece did a bit more prep and got ready to go back to the City to see Escape toMargaritaville…pre-Broadway.  We picked up Christine Hawley (Tom H’s sister) from work and made our way to The Dearborn for dinner, one of my most favorite restaurants in Chicago.  Always fabulous food and both the Lawless sisters greeted us and told us they were closed for Thanksgiving to give their staff time with their families, I love the Lawless family, they are THE best!  We left Blue Island quite early thinking traffic would be hideous, it wasn’t so more wine and martinis for us waiting for Tom H to join us.  imageIt was a lively fun show, I must admit I’m not much of a Buffett fan but did enjoy the engery of the performers.  Back to the Island for us and to bed to get ready for the big day….

imageThe tables ready for the guests…such fun to play in someone else’s home with their linens, china, glassware, etc.

Getting the dressing ready….do you think that is enough butter…I did perfect my knife skills (definitely not my forte!) chopping celery, onions and, of course, cubing the bread.  I’m happy to say I didn’t cut myself…yay!!!

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imageI want to do this next year…stuffing “muffins”…found on someone’s blog, sorry didn’t keep info but you can use your own recipe.  We put some stuffing in each bird and the rest in casseroles.

imageHot carrot mold slid out perfectly, I precut and plated.

imageThe Tom’s cranberries which we made a couple of weeks ago….yum, yum, yum!!!!

imageTwo of these babies and they were perfection, Tommy decided to use the Confection Oven and they were really, really perfect and delicious and cooked much faster!image

We had cocktails and nibbly bits (oh, yes I made Christy’s dip and cubed the rest of the Standing Rib Roast I had made for Tom’s Birthday a couple of weeks before and the beef from the Beef Wellington Christy had made for his actual Birthday).  Christy and Vicki (Tom H and Christy’s sister) brought some other goodies and Elenor (I have given you recipes from her recipe box on past posts and she has promised me more….yay!) brought two amazing pies…a pumpkin and my all time favorite, mince (which I also ate for breakfast the next morning, I would have eaten the entie thing it was that good!)  The guests arrived around 1:30, the Hawley’s Elenor and Harold, Vicki her husband John and their kids, Emily, Madeline and Jack along with Remus and his mother, Victoria, Ralph and us…..great festive group. Lot’s of food, wine, and great conversation.  No one went home hungry that I can assure you.

imageIncluding the squirrels, who were devouring the pumpkins on the side of the house.  It was fascinating to watch…I think they will probably explode!

Here is the menu….

Turkey

2 Dressings

Giblet and Plain Gravy

Cranberry Sauce

Mashed Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes

Glazed Carrots

Carrot Mold

Corn

Green Bean Casserole

Crescent Rolls

Pumpkin Pie with Whipped Cream

Mince Pie and Hard Sauce

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imageMy Toms with me at the feast….

imageAnd in actuality…Tommy, Nena, and Tom……

From Christine Hawley’s Recipe Box

East Indian Sour Cream Dip

Mix and refrigerate…can be used with anything, veggies, chicken, beef, shrimp…etc.

1/2 cup minced scallion or green onion

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon coriander

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1 cup sour cream

BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: FASHION FOR THE HOLIDAYS

Rather than doing a review this week, I wanted to give you some recommendations on outstanding fashion books that have come out this year along with a couple other book thoughts for gift giving for your fashion friends and, of course, for yourself.  2017 has been an extremely good year for fashion titles and I am listing them in no particular order….here goes…..

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imageimageThe first three volumes in the series of designers for the House of Dior, the first, of course, Christian Dior.  Absolutely magnificent and our very own Costume Collection at the Chicago History Museum is represented!

imageI have been an admirer of Siriano’s work since he appeared on Project Runway!  His “fierce” style has just gotten better and better.  It was my pleasure to welcome him to Saks Fifth Avenue Chicago on November 13, 2009, with one of his first Collections and I interviewed him later for a President’s Club event at Columbia College Chicago.  He was my last personal appearance at Saks, that is the day I retired!  When I have seen him over the years, he always says, “I was your last designer!”

imageBy now you probably know I am obsessed with anything Dries Van Noten…here a two-volume set of his collections, it must be brilliant! Can’t wait to add them to my library.

imageOne of several books that accompanied museum exhibitions…this one at the Met, as always exquisitely done!

imageThe book that accompanies the exhibition that is currently at the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.  Several of my friends have seen it and say it is a superb exhibition.  I can’t find it on Amazon, only on the Museum’s website if you are interested in it.

imageFrom the Museum of Modern Art in New York featuring their first fashion exhibition (I swear I have seen fashion exhibits there in years gone by, I guess not!)

imageA wonderful anthology on the long-running Bazaar.

imageThis looks amazing…a must add to your fashion library….

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And speaking of fashion photography…one of the first was Cecil Beaton and this book accompanies the film by Lisa Immordino Vreeland, who gave us The Eye Has To Travel about her grandmother-in-law, Diana Vreeland.  You know that I am mad for anything Beaton does…anxious to read this and see the documentary.

imageimageAnd speaking of DV, the man who worked with her at Bazaar and Vogue and who we immediately think of when we think fashion photography…Richard Avedon, he, of course, did much more than fashion (as did most of the “fashion” photographers) and the second book, Avedon Something Personal, goes deep into his life.  There was a fascinating review in last week’s weekend Wall Street Journal…does not paint a pretty picture, well let’s judge for ourselves, shall we!

imageThere has been so much type re this scathing “diary” that it has put it on the New York Times Best Seller List and every other book list out there. Brown, known for not pulling punches, has done it again and it is another I can’t wait to get my hands on.  Probably shouldn’t be on my fashion book list, but most certainly a book that chronicles social mores.

imageAnother one out in left field but sounds fascinating….

As usual, do let me know what you have read, your thoughts on which, if any, appeal to you and then we can compare notes.  Happy reading!

 

 

COLLECTIONS: HOLIDAY SHOPPING AT RANDOLPH STREET MARKET

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There are two more Randolph Street Markets for 2017 the first of which is Saturday and Sunday, November 18 and 19 from 10 to 5 with the preview party on Friday, November 17 from 5:30 to 7:30 to benefit The 606 Project and The Trust for Public Land.  The December Market will be Saturday and Sunday, December 16 and 17 also from 10 to 5.  Both these Markets are so much fun, not only with wonderful items for you and gifts for everyone on your list, but also fabulous food, drink (oh look, Moët & Chandon Champagne at the Friday night party!!!!), music, gift wrapping, and more…let alone free onsite parking.  Bring your list and get your gifting on!!!

I will return next week with another suggestion for a collection…could it be Holiday driven, what do you think…….

As you know I am obsessed with RSM and attend each month and share many of my finds and suggestions for collections on my Thursday posts. Do mark your calendar and join the festivities, I’ll be watching for you!

WEDNESDAY MUSINGS: A POLL

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I have been asked why I’m not doing HOW TO DRESS posts (I’m not even going to put an age here, find it unnecessary!)….when I began nenasnotes a year ago it was my intention not to do make-overs, street fashion, and most certainly no selfies!!!!  By now you know my background is retail and dressing clients on a regular basis, which I still do along with closet cleansing, personal shopping and general “how to pull yourself together” physically, not emotionally, but don’t they go hand in hand, I tend to think so.  Dressing well is not an age, size, gender nor need it be economically challenging.

Since this question is coming up more often I thought it might be interesting to take a poll and see what you would like me to do.  I would do make-overs or suggested ways to dress and do make-up, hair, etc. once or twice a month.  I have a couple of thoughts on how to do these posts with a twist.  I would be most appreciative of your comments….yay or nay….use the comment area below to let me know your thoughts or you can answer me on Facebook or Linkedin.   I am most appreciative of your support, thank you!

imageI think I have posted this wonderful Norman Rockwell drawing before but it is one of my favorites, so much so it is the screen saver on my iPad!

Both images from Pinterest, credit unknown.

BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: THE PARIS SPY

imageI have been a fan of Susan Elia MacNeal since her first novel featuring our heroine, Maggie Hope, Mr. Churchill’s SecretaryThe Paris Spy was a bit heavier than her previous books and perhaps this wasn’t the time for me to read it.  It has been very gloomy in Chicago the past couple of weeks and this did not lift my mood.  That being said, it is well written, the research extensive and I greatly appreciated the addition of the books MacNeal consulted and has listed for us, for my TBR list.

We find Maggie in Paris waiting to start her assignment, as an undercover agent, from the British.  We are in the midst of the Nazi occupation of France.  Maggie has gone to France to find an operative, who hasn’t been heard from, and her half-sister, having bought her way out of a concentration camp, has gone missing.  She, of course, is on assignment to gather as much intelligence as possible and report back to London.  Her cover is that of an Irish socialite (Ireland was neutral during WWII) in Paris for her trousseau for her upcoming wedding and when “her” Louis Vuitton trunk arrives, at her safe house, she changes into her Chanel Couture (of course she does!) and goes to the Ritz, which, as we all know, is a Nazi stronghold. As she is registering at the Hotel she encounters none other than Gabrielle, Coco, Chanel who takes her under her wing.  (It seems that the last few books I have read and reviewed have referenced either Christian Dior or Chanel.)  Chanel takes Maggie, aka Paige Kelly, under her wing and actually to the ballet that evening where two of Maggie’s friends, Hugh, a former lover and his new amour, Sabine, are performing.  After the performance, they go to Maxim’s and the plot thickens. During the evening Chanel discusses her feeling for the Nazis among other things, quite shocking (read Sleeping with The Enemy: Coco Chanel, Nazi Agent by Hal Vaughan and come to your own conclusions!)  I am making it sound very glamorous, it is anything but.  The story is brutal not only in the devastating occupation of France and the humiliation of the Parisians but in the actual brutality of the captors with their “guests” thankfully we are spared the worst of it, but still hard to read.

Will Maggie/Paige find who she is looking for, will we learn who the double agent is (he sides with the Germans because he “prefers Fascism to Communism” what a choice, who would want either!!!!)  The heroes of the story are the women who see things are not what they seem in transcriptions and report them only to be ignored…seriously…and they are very strong women to be sure, some things don’t change do they!.

Two passages I wanted to comment on…the first is Chanel’s remarks on page 204 Maggie has attended the Nina Ricci Couture show and encounters Chanel as both are coming back to the Ritz.  Chanel asks Maggie how she enjoyed the presentation to which Maggie responds: “I liked the red especially, but someone with my coloring (she is a redhead) really can’t wear that color.”  Chanel: “Yes, I heard there was a lot of red—and sable.  And the wedding dress?”  Maggie:  “Beautiful.  But it might be a bit much for me.  Perhaps an ivory silk suit might be better for these times.”  Chanel:  “Nonsense! We must embrace excess—especially these days!  We’re dancing on the edge of a volcano, after all…..”   Interesting ñ’est pas!

The second refers to using actors, decorators, and designer, all in the US Army, to build “fake” tanks and other equipment to fool the Nazis into thinking the Allies were where they weren’t…see pages 206-207.  This is what Bill Blass did during the war. He told me about it and said it was a great pleasure to be able to divert the German army by creating “stage sets”.  See his autobiography Bare Blass for further details on this operation.

This book gave me more information on the British spy system used during WWII than I knew or suspected and I must say I definitely didn’t expect the ending…obviously there is more to Maggie’s story to be told!  Let’s see what MacNeal has in store in book 8, I for one will be eagerly awaiting it.

 

 

PROFILE: THE LUXURY GARAGE SALE LADIES

imageBrielle Buchberg and Lindsay Segal in Toyko.

When I began my blog a year ago two of the people I wanted to profile were Brielle Buchberg and Lindsay Segal the Co-Founders of the extraordinarily successful Luxury Garage Sale  www.luxurygaragesale.com  It has taken a year to finally have this happen and I am delighted to have my first joint profile with two very savvy and delightful entrepreneurs.  I have known the ladies for years and have consigned with them many times over those years.  I am obsessed with their great eye for trends and for what their clients are looking for (or better yet, didn’t even know they wanted!!!!)  Sticklers for quality merchandise, they don’t disappoint.

Let’s hear from these on target businesswomen and get a glimpse of their lifelong friendship and their closely knit business and personal partnership. I know you will find their story engaging.

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB

B: As a kid, I worked at my grandparent’s antique store in Lincolnwood on the weekends,  In high school, I used to work with teens with special needs, shadowing them on their jobs. When I graduated from college I worked in PR before working as a corporate event planner.

L: When I was in grade school, I worked as a bagger at a grocery store- haha! My first job out of college was at Vogue.com as an editorial assistant

BRIEFLY, DESCRIBE YOUR CURRENT OCCUPATION

B: We are co-founders of Luxury Garage Sale (LGS) a designer consignment business. We mostly focus on branding and client experience initiatives.

WHEN DID YOU DISCOVER YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION OF YOUR TALENT

L: We launched LGS in 2011 after seeing a hole in the market for a luxury consignment experience that delivered white glove service and curated offerings – both for consignors and buyers.

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imageLUXURY GARAGE SALE BOUTIQUES.

WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU HAD “MADE IT” EXPLAIN

B: We had our first pop-up shop in early 2011 and had a line around the building to get in. Most of the local Chicago media outlets covered it and we knew immediately we were on to something!

HOW DID YOUR ORIGINAL PASSION BRING YOU TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW

L: We have always been interested in expressing ourselves through fashion. We saw a need for LGS in the market and were able to turn our innate passion and strengths into a thriving business.

WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN YOUR ALTERNATE CHOICE AS A CAREER….WAS THERE ONE

L: I was styling prior to starting LGS and would have most likely continued down that path

B: I was content as a corporate event planner but honestly can’t say what I would be doing today if we hadn’t started LGS.

HOBBIES….

B: Shopping :). We are both foodies and like to try new restaurants. Mostly love spending time with our kids!

HOME….MODERN, TRADITIONAL, ANTIQUES (WHAT ERA) ECLECTIC DESCRIBE

L: Mid-century modern meets Hollywood Regency. We both have very similar aesthetic and actually have a lot of the same items throughout both of our homes. My style leans a little more modern and Brie’s is slightly more traditional.

WHO WOULD YOU HAVE AT YOUR FANTASY DINNER AND WHAT WOULD YOU SERVE (10-12 GUESTS)

B+L: Simon Doonan + Jonathan Adler, Iris Apfel, Gary Janetti,  Karl Lagerfeld, Jessica Seinfeld, Stephen Colbert, Andy Cohen, Jeremy Scott, Jill Kargman, John Legend + Chrissy Teigen, Leslie Jones, Takashi Murakami, Barack Obama , If they don’t have to be living then John Lennon for sure! Of course, both of us and our husbands!

We would have Kai Zan cater sushi. If we have no budget and logistics aren’t an issue then we’d serve steak from Shima in Tokyo. I hardly ever eat meat and I dream about that meal… Also donburi from Honmura An also in Tokyo…and Sake – Kanpai!
If we have to cook said-meal then I’d just have them all over for Passover at my house. Jewish holidays are my specialty 🙂 If Lindsay were cooking, she’d make pasta on pasta on pasta!

FAVORITE CHICAGO STREET ART

“Monument with Standing Beast,” by Jean Dubuffet for a few reasons… 1. We both love black and white and 2. When we were in middle school we both loved photography and took a trip downtown one day with Lindsay’s dad to shoot sites around the city. We took a million pictures of this sculpture and I’ll never forget it! 

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FAVORITE VACATION SPOT VISITED AND/OR ON YOUR GO TO LIST

B: TOKYO!!!! We went together with our husbands in 2015 and had the most incredible time. We ate our way through the entire trip!

L: Italy (Tuscany and Rome)  as a close second.

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Jason Buchberg, Lindsay Segal, Brielle Buchberg, Lou Jacobson

The picture-perfect families….

imageLindsay Segal and Lou Jacobson with their precious little one…

imageThe Buchbergs, Jason and Brielle with their adorable girls.

imageThe Buchberg Childeren…Aiden, Sloane and Harper…

FAVORITE NEW CHICAGO RESTAURANT

B: We both LOVE Kai Zan!

L: Sushi is our top choice. I am also a big pasta eater… I am a huge fan of Monteverde.

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR LIFELONG FRIENDSHHIPimageTop photo 1988 bottom photo early 1990’s

B: We have been friends since we were 3! When we were younger we were always collecting things. Back then it was stickers, erasers and beanie babies and now it has moved to vintage fashion! We reconnected after college when Lindsay moved back to Chicago and after a quick conversation about the need for a luxury consignment business decided to start LGS! As they say, “The rest is history!”

imageLindsay and Brielle fashionable even then for Halloween. Two-headed monster costume made by Brielle’s Mom, 1989.

imageBrielle and Lindsay

Brielle’s Goldman Family Pancake Recipe

My kids and nieces demand these every weekend for breakfast 🙂


PANCAKES

3 cup unbleached flour
6 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoon sugar in the raw
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
4 1/2 cups skim milk
6 tablespoons melted butter
6 eggs beaten (use only 3 of the yolks)
3 tablespoon vanilla
 
Mix all dry ingredients in smaller bowl
Mix all other ingredients in a larger bowl
Then add dry ingredients to wet ingredients
 
Drop by large spoon onto hot griddle

Lindsay’s Pasta with Vodka, Parmesan and Basil from Bon Appetit

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ½ shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 small garlic clove, finely grated
  • ½ cup tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons vodka
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound fusilli
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 ounce finely grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
  • Heat oil in a large skillet over medium. Add shallot and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until paste is brick red and starts to caramelize, about 5 minutes. Add vodka and cook, stirring constantly, until liquid is mostly evaporated, about 2 minutes. Add cream and red pepper flakes and stir until well blended. Season with salt and pepper; remove from heat.

  • Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid. Add pasta to skillet with sauce along with butter and ½ cup pasta cooking liquid. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly and adding more pasta cooking liquid if needed, until butter has melted and a thick, glossy sauce has formed, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add 1 oz. Parmesan, tossing to coat. Divide pasta among bowls, then top with basil and more Parmesan.

  • Do Ahead: Vodka sauce can be made 5 days ahead; cover and chill.

WEDNESDAY MUSINGS: JOFFREY BALLET CHICAGO

imageThe Joffrey Ballet Chicago’s Nutcracker comes to the Auditorium Theater on   December 1 and performs through December 30.

I have always had a passion for ballet and took ballet for many years, I must admit every time I see a ballet performed I am on pointe up on the stage, well at least in my mind’s eye! Perhaps it is my Russian heritage and perhaps I have a ballet gene or perhaps it is because my Father had the privilege of seeing both Pavlova and Nijinsky.  I can remember the many, many times sitting on my Father’s lap (and eventually having my own seat) with huge eyes loving every pirouette, pas de deux, the music, the magnificent sets, and the costumes, all of it! It has been my pleasure to see many of the world-renowned dancers from the Ballet Russes de Monte Carlo, Sadler’s Wells, American Ballet Theater, New York City Ballet, and, most importantly our very own Joffrey Ballet! All these companies performed in Chicago and I saw both New York companies in New York as well and the Joffrey when it was in NYC.

My first encounter with the Joffrey was many years ago when they made their first performances in Chicago. my friend, Barbara Varro, who was with the Sun-Times at the time, was assigned to write a story about Mr. Joffrey and Mr. Arpino and we went back stage after their performances of The Green Table and Trinity (still my favorite of all their repertoire!) and either that year or another season we saw Twyla Tharp’s Nine Sinatra Songs premiere which was costumed by the late great Oscar de la Renta!  Brilliant in all respects.  Being in the dressing rooms and on stage of The Auditorium was extraordinary and guess what I did it again last Sunday….let me explain.

I wanted to see Giselle and the only available date I had was the last performance the matinee on Sunday.  Fortunately my dear friends, Brian Smith and Geyer Morford, wanted to attend, yet again, and went with me, after a lovely brunch at Cochon Volant.  All  I can tell you is that I was as wide eyed as I was when sitting with my Father…it was magnificent and the performances were a world premiere of Lola de Ávila’s adaptation for the Joffrey…you can be sure it won’t be the last time it is performed by this amazing company. The production was flawless and a perfect tribute to Artistic Director, Ashley Wheater, who is celebrating his 10th anniversary with The Joffrey Ballet Chicago! www.joffrey.org

imageChristine Rocas and Dylan Gutierrez

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Victoria Jaiani and Temur Suluashvili

imageThe Joffrey Ballet Chicago Corps de Ballet

After I caught my breath we went back stage, nothing more magical then looking out at the house, which is breathtakingly beautiful from every possible view, Sullivan most certainly knew how to do buildings exquisitely…and bumped into Ashley anther treat for my day.  Saw a couple of the ballerinas greeting their little admirers…ah memories!  I am so fortunate to have the Executive Director, Greg Cameron, Chief Marketing Officer, Brian Smith and former Joffrey dancer, Michael Anderson as my special friends and to call Ashley a new friend as well….lucky Nena!

To continue it’s 2017-2018 season The Joffrey presents it’s sensational adaptation of The Nutcracker which premiered last year in a production choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon.  The Ballet journeys inside Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair, a fascinating concept and truly a spectacular, it not surprisingly opened to rave reviews, an annual must-see for all ages. I must admit I was a bit skeptical, the original Joffrey production was one of the best I have ever seen and I have seen many really great ones.  I needed not to have worried the new production exceeds all expectations.  Get you tickets immediately!!!!

imageimageScenes from The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker is one of my all time favorites, isn’t it everyone’s….for several years Saks Fifth Avenue did a series of Platinum events for our top clients and they could choose from several offerings of events you couldn’t buy and they were limited to 10 couples, one of which was the Joffrey’s performance of The Nutcracker at the Rosemont Theater before they officially became The Joffrey Ballet Chicago.  After the performance we had a sit-down dinner in a private room at the Theater and seated one or two of the performers and Mr. Arpino at each the tables (Michael Anderson recalls being one of the dancers in attendance).  I had authentic German Nutcrackers as the centerpieces and each guest received one as their parting gift.  I must admit the evening was a huge success.

Coming in Spring 2018 Modern Masters, February 7-18 and Midsummer Night’s DreamApril 25-May 6 and a very exciting Fall program to be announced in the near future.

How fortunate we are to have The Joffrey Ballet Chicago as part of our amazing cultural scene, this year has been a year of announcements for The Joffrey, their announcement of their move to The Lyric Opera House in 2020 (they came to Chicago in 1995).  Ashley’s 10th Anniversary, the upcoming The Nutcracker Behind the Scenes documentary on Thursday, November 16 at 8:00 on WTTW www.wttw.com/nutcracker

Chicago loves its culture and particularly its ballet, lucky us that The Joffrey decided to make Chicago home…can’t even begin to wait to see what is in store for this world class dance company!

All photos for nenasnotes courtesy of The Joffrey Ballet Chicago.

Photos by Cheryl Mann