A FASHIONABLE CHRISTMAS

imageWhen these two gentlemen greet you at the door of Casa Hyder/Smith you know you are in for a great time, their annual Christmas Tree Trimming Party was not an exception.  I have been after Greg Hyder since I began nenasnotes to join me with his stories, all of a sudden he became shy and kept putting me off.  I finally said, “you are off the hook”!  A sigh of relief from him and then he thought better of it and said: “how about coming to our Tree Trimming Party and documenting it!”  Why not indeed! I have known Greg for years and Jim for just about as long.  I worked with Greg when I was still at Saks and he was always very generous with chefs from The Peninsula Chicago, where he is Director of Style and Community Relations, when I had events that featured the top chefs in Chicago, in addition he never said no to door prizes for special shows and events.  We have had many too many glasses of wine together, obviously both our sign of a good friendship!  Silly us!!!

Well, all I can say is when someone tells you they are obsessed with something believe them!  There isn’t a square inch of their exquisite home that isn’t decorated to the nines.  It is extraordinary, to say the least.  Let me take you through it, at least a little bit of it.  The scale is something else.  The tree is gigantic, I have no idea how they got it up three flights of stairs.

imagePicking out the perfect tree at Gethsemane Garden Center

imageLights on and the ornament placement begins….each area of the tree has its own themed ornaments, let’s look at some of them, there are hundreds!  Many collected on their trips and many are family traditions.

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imageimageimageimageAnd, of course, a Cubs section!!!!  Our hosts are avid Cubs fans!

imageSome baubles were held aside for the party guests, remember the theme of the day was a tree trimming party!!!!  We were told if their placement didn’t meet with Mr. Hyder’s approval off they would come (after the party!)  Pictured are Tim Emond, Becca Smith (Jim’s daughter), Julie Machmon and Jean Antoniou.

On to the Santas….

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The custom-made Cubs Santa next to the fireplace….glorious!!!!

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imageimageimageimageimageThe crystal chandelier is festooned with red ribbon and the bobeche are filled with cranberries rather than drippings of candle wax, finished with a huge ornament.

imageAnother chandelier looking from the hall into the living room.

imageThe hall from the living room into the rest of the home.

imageSanta has forgotten his hat on the bed…

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Jim’s painting over the chest in the bedroom, it is only displayed during the Christmas season, another takes its place the rest of the year.  I was quite taken with this painting.  Obviously a talented artist.

imageAnother wall in the bedroom, I love icons and have done a post on them.

imageOne of the bathrooms, of course, in its festive attire!

How about a couple of wreaths…..

imageIn the dining room..

imageAnd inside the backdoor in the kitchen….

imageThe back bedroom with its African theme gets in the holiday spirit!

imageimageimageThe drinks tables…special Christmas Mimosas, yummy!

imageThe tree in the corner of the dining room with more treasured memories

imageimageOh, and did I mention food……my oh my what a spread. Top photo the sweets table (I suggested a cookie exchange next year they were so good!!!!!) Bottom the baked ham, cheeses., paté, relishes and on and on and on……(I got a goodie bag, yay!!!!)

imageJim, Nena, and Greg in front of the tree (still wasn’t finished the tinsel had yet to be placed piece by piece by piece!) that rivals the one in The Walnut Room and this one is alive!!!!!  Thank you so much, my friends, for allowing me to share your Christmas story with my readers, I am most grateful!

The soup served was worthy of my having two cups, here is the recipe beyond fabulous but then so was the entire afternoon…

FROM NENA’S RECIPE BOX

GREG AND JIM’S CREAM OF PUMPKIN SOUP WITH CURRY

4 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 tablespoon curry powder

1 1/2 quarts chicken stock

32 ounces (4 cups) canned pumpkin

2/3 cup brown sugar

Salt to taste

White pepper to taste

Nutmeg to taste

2 cups heavy cream

Chopped chives or parsley for garnish

Serves 12

Melt butter in 6 or 8-quart saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add onion and saute for 5 minutes until translucent.  Add curry powder and cook for 2 more minutes.  Add chicken stock, pumpkin, brown sugar, salt, pepper, and nutmeg; blend in cream.  Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes.

Adjust to desired consistency with a roux (equal parts melted butter and flour) or a whitewash (flour and water).  If too thin, cook an additional 10 minutes to cook out the starch.  If too thick, add more cream.  Adjust flavor with seasonings.

Blend in a blender until smooth and creamy.  Ladle into bowls or mugs and garnish with chives or parsley.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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: CORK

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By now you know my brain wanders all over the place…take cork for an example, today’s subject!  I was at one of my new most favorite restaurants, MARISOL www.marisolhicago.com at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.  The Museum is celebrating it’s 50th Anniversary, more on that in a future post.  Back to Marisol….I have been waiting for it to open for months and anticipated a new neighborhood place to hang out and I have definitely found it!  Love the atmosphere, the staff, headed by General Manager, Sarah Martins, is amazing, they are courteous, remember your name after one visit (what??????) and smile, what a concept, and the food, yes. the food is beyond yummy.  More on this new place in yet another post, fingers crossed that Chef Jason Hammel will share a recipe or two with us.  Wait, isn’t this post about cork, you ask, yes it is!  Here is why.

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My wine buddies joined me one evening and we were having our wine when Jason, our server extraordinaire, asked if we didn’t want a bottle with our dinner, we, of course, agreed, why not…it was a lovely Gamay.  Jason opened the bottle, presented me with the cork and the first sip to taste.  Looking at the cork, I decided that I needed to do a post on cork…of course, I did.  I explained to Jason and my dinner friends that is how my crazy mind works.  It brought to my mind the reason you are handed the cork, most certainly not to sniff it unless you want to have the smell of “cork”!  It is to let you know that the cork has the name of the winemaker/vineyard on it ad that it matches what you have ordered.  In years long gone, labels became illegible but the cork with its brand endured.   There is a great article on the website VinePair in their Wine Geekly posts on “What To Do With The Cork When Your Server Presents It!” Go to their site if you want to learn more, www.vinepair.com

I then, of course, started researching cork and where it comes from, actually from the cork oak from Southwest Europe and Northwest Africa, the bark is harvested, the trees are not cut down.  Cork is used in approximately 60% of all wine corks, you now can find synthetic corks and screw tops.  It is also used in musical instruments, flooring, wall covering, the interior cores of baseballs (who knew!!!) etc. etc. etc. In my life, my Father’s drawing board was topped with cork as was his inspiration wall (great for tacking bits and pieces) in his at-home studio.

imageAs the bark looks before it is harvested.

imageThe look of the pressed cork that would have been on my Father’s drawing board and wall.

Let’s look at a few decorative ways to use corks, I love to collect them on trips (use to do match boxes but who has those anymore!!!!) here are some ways you can use them in your home.

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imageimageChampagne corks for this chandelier.

imageOf course a book on the subject, you know me and books, To Cork or Not to Cork by George M. Faber.

A couple of games…

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And in fashion…

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The Nike LeBron 12 EXT “King’s Cork” shoe from the Nike website.

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The iconic Salvatore Ferragamo cork and suede wedge made for Judy Garland in 1938.  It is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art Collections.

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Dutch designer, Jan Taminian cork platform boots worn by Lady Gaga

imageTwo exquisite headpieces by Philip Treacy for Alexander McQueen worn by Isabella Blow.

imageThis movie has very little to do with cork but it is one of my favorites and I adored Alan Rickman in anything and he is superb in this film, I highly recommend it if you haven’t seen it or see it again!

I could easily go on for pages, which I usually do, there are so many images on Pinterest and online that it is hard to stop but stop I shall.  Look for yourselves who knows you might get inspired to do a cork craft after you have opened your own bottle of wine, looked at the brand on the cork and enjoyed a glass or two!

All photos, unless otherwise noted, from Pinterest photo credits unknown.

 

 

 

COLLECTIONS: VINTAGE PORTRAITS

 

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Vintage portraits a super collectible in so many ways. You can make-up your family tree if you so desire, do fabulous wall displays, research the history of itinerant painters and naive paintings….the list goes on. What is the picture that I am opening with today, it is mine, sits on my desk purchased, (if I turn my head slightly to the right it is in my view while I am at my lapto)  a zillion years ago at RSM (Randolph Street Market www.randolphstreetmarket.com is Saturday and Sunday, September 23 and 24 from 10 to 5….it is the last outdoor Market of the season, it is, of course, year round inside Plumbers Hall!) it is an oil on wood and I have decided it is me with my. Mother, Ruthy. The frame is in disrepair but I like it that way (Tommy this one is for you!!!)

Come to Randolph Street Market this weekend and find one, two or more to add to or start a collection.  I am featuring some of my favorites as well as introducing you to Melissa Parks who will be at RSM with some of her treasures. Melissa is one of my most admired and go to vendors she has amazing taste and vision with her own collections and she gathers many, many, many items to share with you when she comes to RSM, a must visit booth….and I am absolutely mad for her Instagram posts you can follow her @megillicutti, you won’t be sorry.  l’ll try to convince her to do a Monday Profile…really want to know more about her and share her story with you…fingers crossed!  I asked her to take a couple of photos of her collection of portraits that she displays with her multitude of collectibles.

imageimageimageimageEach definitely has a story to tell.  I particularly like the gentleman who is looking directly at us…what is he saying with his very blue eyes and jaunty mustache!!!! Love all of them.  Melissa, thanks so much for sharing.

Portraits have always been with us and a way not only to capture loved ones but yourself as well.  Here are a few I found on Pinterest and have added to my favorites list.  I actually don’t collect them myself, but you know I have limited space, maybe I will start with some “smalls”!!

imageIsn’t she a charmer with the pearls and magnificent hat.

imageReally, really old but I really, really like her gaze and the primitiveness of it (is that a word!!!!)

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imageI believe a Chagall…

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imageMy photo at RSM, frames all ready for your art!

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imageJust a few suggestions on how to display your collection.

Another vendor I always visit at RSM  is Kevin Gorsch, find him in the Ballroom of Plumbers Hall and follow his Instagram @redleopardcrocodilevintage.  Kevin and I have known each other for years and, in fact, spent many a Sunday getting treasures at the Sandwich Flea Market.  He has shared a couple of portraits with me to pass along to you and included his entrance hall wall where he houses his “family” portraits!!

imageA pastel done by an American in Paris at Le Montmartre.

imageA portrait of Kevin at 13 from a show in San Antonio, no art could be more than $10, it was called the Starving Artists Show, no wonder!

imageKevin done a couple of weeks ago at the Lakeview Festival of Art.

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All of Kevin’s pieces photographed by him.  Huge thanks to Kevin for sharing some of his unique treasures with us.

imageShe is my favorite find on Pinterest…I have become addicted to the site.  I have always be a “clipper” it is in my DNA both my Mother and Father were clippers and I am proud to carry on in the family tradition…I must admit I still pull things out of magazines and newspapers but with all the ways you can save on the Internet I am in pig heaven!

Unless otherwise noted all photos are from Pinterest credits unknown.

I just heard on the Channel 7 News that The Hungry Hound’s www.abc7chicago.com/hungryhound featured restaurant tomorrow night will be one of my new favs and one I reviewed several weeks ago…PROXI www.proxichicago.com.  Emmanuel Nony promised to give me a recipe so here it is….enjoy and do go to the restaurant and enjoy a fantastically creative menu.

PROXI Restauran Andrew Zimmerman, chef

Fried Fish Collars with Thai garlic-chili sauce

Serves four

8pc fish collars, about 6oz each, cleaned by your fishmonger

or 2 whole fish (red snapper for example) about 1.5-2 lbs each, cleaned by your fish monger or and fish fillets that you like (one per person about 5-6oz each)

½ cup white rice flour

2 tbsp tempura flour

1-2 tbsp salt

2 limes, cut into wedges

12-16 sprigs of cilantro

8 cups vegetable oil (or enough to fill a Dutch oven or wide pot to a depth of about 6 inches)

Sauce:

2 tsp vegetable oil

3 tbsp minced shallots

1.5 tbsp sambal oelek

3 tbsp chopped cilantro

1 tbsp minced garlic

2 tbsp fish sauce

2 tbsp sugar

¼ cup tamarind water (made from 4oz seedless tamarind and 3 cups water…warmed up…mashed and then strained)

Pre heat an oven to 200 F.

Pre heat the oil in a wide pot or dutch oven to 350 F.

Have a sheet pan lined with paper towels topped with a rack handy.

To make the sauce, heat the vegetable oil in a sauce pan.  Add the shallots, cilantro and garlic.  Cook for about two minutes until the shallots are softened.  Add the samabal, fish sauce, sugar and tamarind water.  Cook about three minutes more.

Remove from heat and keep warm.

For the fish collars,  lightly season the collars with salt and them combine the rice and tempura flours.  Completely coat the collars in the flour mix and add them in batches to the hot oil.  Fry about 4-5 minutes or until lightly golden brown and hot all the way through.  As the collars are finished remove them from the oil and put them on the rack over the paper towels to drain.  Keep warm in the oven as you cook the remaining collars.

To serve:  put some of the sauce down on four plates.  Top the sauce with the fish collars. And then some cilantro sprigs and the lime pieces.

Serve.

Nena’s note…I am suggesting a wonderful dry white wine or champagne.  It is a delicious dish, enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WEDNESDAY MUSINGS: FASHION IN FOOD…SOPHIE’S AT SAKS FIFTH AVENUE, CHICAGO

 

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Today’s post is another of my occasional restaurant reviews. I wanted to share my impressions on one of my favorites, 3 1/2 years old, Sophie’s. This little jewel is tucked away on the Seventh Floor of Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago. The good news is that it has its own elevator that whisks you up to the Men’s Store where it is located.  But I would recommend you take the escalator so you can “browse” the floors (and think about adding to your fall wardrobe while doing so!!!) going up and down before and after your meal.

Let’s first discuss the name Sophie’s.  For those of you who have been following nenasnotes, you have seen several posts that have mentioned the restaurant and my December 2, 2016, post on its namesake, Sophie Gimbel.  Sophie Gimbel was one of the most important designers of the 1930’s through the 1950’s.  Do pull up the post I know you will enjoy it.

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imageThe two large photos are of vintage Sophie garments and are the first things you see when you enter the restaurant.  You can see in this photo, the bar where you can have a refreshing drink to enhance your shopping experience and/or a bite to eat.

I was invited by Chef Ron Aleman and Chris Dunstatter, Manager, to sample Chef Aleman’s new menu.  It changes 4 times a year and special items appear more often, well, needless to say, I didn’t hesitate to take them up on their offer!

imageThe restaurant, I was seated by the windows to the right.  It is a view like no other.  This space was formally the Beauty Salon at Saks, in my opinion, a waste…I can only dream of the events I could have done here!  Oh well, I’ll have to be content with eating delicious food instead!

IMG_0402My view…isn’t it perfection!!

Now for the food….Chef selected two starters and two entrees for me to taste and photograph as well as two desserts, one of which was a trial run.  I usually indulge in a glass or two of wine, I didn’t do that on this occasion.  I must mention, that the burger is one of the best in the City…I feel an upcoming post on my favorite burgers in Chicago!

imageMy first starter Marrakesh Watermelon Salad, red and golden watermelon, mint, crispy feta, on mixed greens with a balsamic reduction with an olive tapenade.  Truly photo op ready and more importantly totally delicious…and I am not a fan of watermelon nor feta, this dish completely changed my mind!

IMG_0408Next was Focaccia Soppresata, fresh mozzarella, green olives, roasted tomatoes and truffle oil.  Chef’s version of pizza!  Amazing presentation and was very good.

IMG_0418And now the entrees…Pan Seared Chilean Salmon, with green beans, grape tomatoes, shishito peppers and truffle corn sauce.  I am a major lover of salmon and this was one of the best preparations I have had!

IMG_0411Not your usual Avacado Toast…isn’t it incredibly beautiful and tasted just as wonderful. I posted this picture on Instagram and it has gotten the most hits by far of any of my photos. The ingredients, toasted harvest wheat, a perfectly cooked soft boiled egg (you can see it tucked into the greens at the top of the photo) mixed greens, radish, marinated tomato salad.  Extraordinary!

IMG_0423Dessert was this lucious panne cotta on a cake base surrounded by a medley of fresh berries, a berry puree with a dollap of lightly whipped cream, not only gorgeous to look at but a delight to eat.

IMG_0428Oh, my goodness, the finale and at the time wasn’t on the menu….grilled fresh peaches with candied pecans and a scoop of ice cream….unbelievably good!

I do have to admit I only ate portions of each dish (why didn’t I ask for a doggie bag, I must have had a brain lapse!) but could have devoured each.

Do stop by and have a wonderful meal at a leisurely pace and a break from your shopping you won’t be disappointed and do let me know your thoughts after you visit. By the way, there is a private space to have a lovely gathering that holds up to 15 people.

Chef Aleman will share another of his recipes in a future post.

The food photos are all mine, the interior shots are from Sophie’s and others are from Pinterest photo credits unknown.

Here are a couple of summer drink recipes (I think they can be year round) from my recipe box.  I made these while visiting last weekend on our way to the eclipse (at home not during the drive!!!)

Nena’s Red Sangria

This recipe comes from the late Larry Dobson by way of Spain so very authentic.

1 bottle dry red wine

1 large orange squeezed plus 1 large orange thinly sliced

1 large lemon squeezed plus 1 large lemon thinly sliced

12 maraschino cherries with juices

4 jiggers brandy

4 jiggers Cointreau

2 Tablespoons sugar

Combine ingredients, stir cover and chill over night.  Spoon fruit into glasses pour in wine and top with a splash soda water just before serving.  Be careful this is potent!!!!

Tom’s White Sangria

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1 bottle dry white wine

1 lime sliced (additional for garnish)

1 lemon sliced (additional for garnish)

2 ripe peaches cut into wedges

3 ripe green apples seeded and cut into wedges

1 pear cut into thin slices

A hand full of seedless green grapes

3 shots of Calvados or pear brandy

3 shots of Triple Sec

Combine all ingredients and chill overnight.  Spoon fruit into glasses and pour wine over fruit, top each glass with a splash of soda water.  Enjoy, again potent stuff but really, really good,.

 

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!!!!

 

 

PROFILE: ME!!!

imageThe sketch is for some anniversary and by a dear friend……..

I hope you don’t think I am being very self-centered in profiling myself, I thought it would be a fun exercise to answer my own questionnaire.  You already know so much about me, my likes, my obsessions, highlights of my career, etc. but perhaps, just perhaps, I can give you a bit more insight into Nena!

Here goes….

WHEN WAS YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION OF YOUR TALENT AND HOW DID THAT PASSION BRING YOU TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW:

I don’t know that I would call my career talent so let’s say when did I realize what I wanted to do…I always knew I wanted to be in “fashion” I just didn’t know what part of it.  Did I want to model, be a designer, be in public relations, advertising, or what!!!???  I had been on many “high school” boards during school both downtown and in Evanston.  That intensified my interest.  Being the daughter of a commercial artist I was very familiar with advertising.  I had begun sewing as soon as I could hold a needle (Mom gave me a beautiful sterling silver thimble with cloisonne on it, I could never use it, can’t stand the sound of the needle hitting the metal of the thimble!) Evanston Township High School offered a dress design course in the art department, (the head of the department was a dress designer at heart) my Junior Year.  I loved the class and did so well I was asked if I wanted to take it again for my Senior Year and do what ever I liked…I did!  I never modeled, but did teach modeling at a local “charm” school while I was in high school…loved doing that.  One day, when I was a Senior in high school I put on my hat and gloves (yes, you heard that correctly) got on the bus and went downtown.  For some unknown reason I felt one needed to know retail before you could do anything else in the business, after all that is where the product ends.  We usually shopped at Marshall Field’s and Saks Fifth Avenue, the first stop on the bus route downtown was Saks.  I got off at Erie and Michigan and went to the Personnel Office (AKA Human Resources), interviewed (lied about my age) and got the job selling in “Debutante Sportswear”…what I thought would be a summer job became a career!  By the way, during that year I found I was a very good sales person, no magic formula just treat people the way you want to be treated and keep up with the trends.  The working title of the book is “A Hell of a Long Summer Job!”  Luck, being in the right place at the right time, the Personnel Director believing in me….who will ever know.  I have taught in all the local fashion schools and have been at Columbia College Chicago for many years, I love to teach and see my students grow and learn more about an industry that I am passionate about  I am still doing lectures, an occasion fashion show and, my new passion, NENASNOTES.

WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU HAD MADE IT:

When I got the job in the Fashion Office and each and every day for the 53 years, where did they go….I knew that it was, in my opinion, a perfect fit.  I always thought I had the perfect job with the best retailer in the world, I still feel that way. I wanted to be one of one and not one of thousands in New York or elsewhere.  The job grew through the years and, of course, changed not only with fashion but with technology.  I happen to love to work with figures as well as knowing what garments to show to each audience, and adding technology just enhanced the job.  In retail you must be very, very open to change.

imageFashion Group International Chicago Gala, given in my honor, in the Ballroom at the Chicago Hilton (one of the most glamorous and magnificent rooms anywhere!!!!) My wonderful models and I didn’t have to dress them!!!  I have profiled 8 of them…let’s hope I can get more to participate, they all have such wonderful stories to tell. Photo courtesy of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.

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

I firmly believe you need to love what you do you or you will be miserable.  Having said that, I have always wanted to have a independent bookstore/tearoom/needlepoint shop or a bed and breakfast, but instead I am a blogger, who knew!

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE MOVIES, BOOKS, THEATER (IN ORDER OF PREFERENCE) TYPE OF MUSIC

Movies: I am particularly found of Musicals, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers films in particular, all the 1940’s musicals and, of course, My Fair Lady and Gigi. love them. Recently found LaLa Land charming. I adore Film Noir and The Thin Man series. My most favorite film is Gone With The Wind, in my opinion, everyone was brilliantly and perfectly cast.  Love all the original Disney films, especially Fantasia.  Of course, any fashion documentary or films based on fashion personalities or fashion in general…what could ever top the original 1939, The Women.  Obviously, I could go on and on and on……I do love a good movie.

Books: I devour books, always have.  I couldn’t take gym in school so I lived in my school library.  The Evanston Public School system has amazing schools not only in their teaching but in their buildings.  My grammar school, Oakton, had incredible mosaic tiles (I’m sure they still do, note to self must do a visit!) and it was not only a place that set all of us on the right track with reading, writing and arithmetic…but also with art….and in my case an even greater love of books.  My home was filled with books and I was read to from birth and then read to myself as soon as I could.  Hard to choose one book…Let me mention these authors rather than one book….not in any order: Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, Agatha Christie, Virginia Wolff.  Current authors, Louise Penny, Charles Finch, Charles Todd, Cara Black (a review on her new book next week!).  Genres: most English Mysteries (don’t like thrillers, horror or fantasy), novels based on historical figures (concentrating on artists and authors) and, of course, fashion books….it seems to be my goal to own every fashion book printed (I have around 1000 now!)

Theater: 1. Musical Theater 2. Legitimate Theater 3. Ballet 4. Opera 5. Symphony

Type of Music: A very long list (basically the only types of music I’m really not into are Hip Hop, Rap and Country) Here goes….Frank Sinatra, Broadway cast albums, Stanley Paul and his Orchestra (or just him playing piano!), old time Rock and Roll, Simply Red, Adele, Bobby Short, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, anything Gershwin, Porter, The American Songbook, Jazz, Chopin, Mozart, Strauss, etc. etc etc.

YOUR HOME:  Very eclectic, a mix of antiques, Randolph Street Market finds, www.randolphtreetmarket.com, lots of art, needlepoint (mine), layers of textiles (in particular, paisley shawls and crazy quilts) and lots and lots of lily of the valley pieces! And, of course, stacks and stacks of books. I guess we could call it Boho!  I have shown you many of my collections more to come.

RESTAURANTS:  Everest would be #1 without question, I have never had anything less than a spectacular meal there and Chef Joho has done many special occasion dinners for me! Les Nomades, RL, Deca at the Ritz Carlton, Shanghai Terrace at the Peninsula, Sophie’s at Saks, The Dearborn, Shaw’s, RM Champagne Salon, Kiki’s, Pelago, Uncle Julio’s and Su Casa, RH Three Arts Club Cafe, I’m very fond of Alpana Singh’s restaurants, just about any steakhouse in the City and anywhere I can get a good hamburger and, of course, any Lettuce Entertain You restaurant, Rich Melman is a genius!  I’m a foodie, also am fond of a great glass (or two) of wine and I love the wonderful variety we have, the food is, of course, important but the atmosphere and who you are with are primary.  Love, love, love all the roof “top” terraces we now have, they are amazing.  In addition, all our wonderful private clubs.

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE PLACES THAT YOU HAVE TRAVELED AND WHERE DO YOU WANT TO GO:

I spent many vacations in New York and I adore it to this day…I am an Urbanite and love, love, love big cities, including my home town of Chicago, you do realize that Chicago has CHIC in it! Next would be London and the English Countryside.  Then Paris, I have only been once so can’t really talk about it as much as I would like.  I adore New Orleans, would have, in another life lived there.  Stratford, Ontario Canada, not only for it’s theater but for it’s atmosphere and it’s fabulous restaurants, again I would live there in a minute.  I was fortunate to travel to Russia several years ago and it was a major epiphany…Moscow in particular, magnificent…The Hermitage in Saint Petersburg wasn’t bad either!!!  Where would I like to go…Marrakesh, Cairo, India and China, back to Paris and England.  I do love a cruise, I would sail on the Queen Mary II any day of the week.  A cruise to South America or the Mediterranean would be nice, any offers!!!!???? Oh, I almost forgot, The Orient Express. I had better pack my bags…..

FAVORITE CHICAGO STREET ART:  Oh my, yet another toughie…I’m going to “cop” out and say our architecture, we are, after all, the birth place of modern architecture.  Aren’t we lucky to have ALL the magnificent pieces not only outside but inside public and private buildings.  I will be doing many posts on our street art.

WHO WOULD YOU HAVE AT YOUR FANTASY DINNER PARTY AND WHAT WOULD YOU SERVE…

I am going to take “author’s” license and do a dinner party of 20 (not the 10 to 12 I have allotted my other Profiles to have!) at one long “King” table in the Chicago Rooms at the Chicago History Museum www.chicagohistory.org and change seats between the second and third course, not the heads of the table but the two sides…there will be a seating plan, could be fun…and then for after dinner with demi-tasse, cordials and sweets we will all move into another room and be at 5 tables of 4, also seated and again with different people than for dinner, for more intimate conversations.  Stanley Paul and his Orchestra will play only my favorite standards and Frank Sinatra will entertain us with a few songs!  Perhaps we can get Coco, Fred, Cole and Stephen to join in!!!  Heaven.

The Guest List (in alphabetical order):

Fred Astaire

Cecil Beaton

Gabrielle Chanel

Christian Dior

Carl Faberge

Lucile Duff Gordon

Christian Lacroix

Française Lasage

Norman Norell

Irving Penn

Paul Poiret

Cole Porter

Stephen Sondheim

James Tissot

Diana Vreeland

Vita Sackville-West

Else de Wolff

Virginia Wolff

My Father (at one end of the table)

Me (at the other end of the table)

My favorite caterer would supervise the dinner, with Ruthie, my Mother, overseeing all details, I think Flora Danica as the china, why not (both would prefer being “off stage” and they would join us for the “after-party”)…the menu would be :

Cristal champagne before, during and after!!!!!

Cold beef consomme topped with sour cream and chives

Cold poached lobster

(Everyone changes seats here with another glass of champagne)

Choice of Beef Wellington (my recipe) or Salmon en Croute with seasonal vegetables

Micro greens with Tom Mantel’s secret vinaigrette salad dressing

Baked Alaska (my recipe)

HOW DO YOU WANT TO BE REMEMBERED:  Wow, that is a very difficult question…to answer and not sound full of oneself…I guess a person who used her career producing fashion shows, special events, chairing galas and being president of many boards, to not only raise substantial funding for many, many organizations, but more importantly to raise awareness of those causes.

Re_Nena_Ivon_018.jpg

Some of the world renowned designers who came to the benefit of the Saks Fifth Avenue Chicago Place opening September 1990.  The black tie event benefited five charities, Beverly Blettner, seated behind Bob Mackie. was the over-all chair of the event.  Beverly and I worked on numerous events together.  The designers from left to right: Adolfo, Carolina Herrera, Pauline Trigere and Bob Mackie, all of whom I worked with on numerous events.  I have profiled Pauline, I will do in depth Fashion Flashbacks on the others in coming weeks. Photo courtesy of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.

COLLECTIONS: FERNS

imagePteridomania: the Victorian fern craze probably from 1837 to early 1900’s.  A magnificent solarium in a Victorian home with ferns and palms.

I caught the fern “illness” years ago.  I have always loved the look of them and usually have one in my handpainted rattan fern “basket” which actually sits right behind me as I write my posts.

imageA closeup of the detail on my fern stand.

imageA fern fossil, they have been on Earth for over 300 million years, imagine!!!!!

The only problem is that they shed and the clean up is a full-time job!  Since I’m not a Botanist I won’t try to go into the details of ferns I will leave that to you, my readers, to explore for yourselves if you want more information.  I would, however, recommend the following book for your enjoyment, it is quite wonderful.  I am going to fill this post with wonderful images most of which I got from Pinterest without photo credit others I will credit.  Enjoy….

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imageCovers of two vintage books on ferns. The covers alone are display worthy.  Look for special vintage books at Randolph Street Market this Saturday and Sunday, May 26 and 27 from 10 to 5.  In addition, the Printer’s Row Lit Fair is Saturday and Sunday, June 10 and 11.

imageFiddlehead ferns, see the bottom of the post for a fiddlehead fern recipe, no longer in season, but have at the ready for next year or you can substitute asparagus!

imageThe beauty of nature in a fern frond!

imageFerns in the garden photo taken by Tom Mantel this week, glorious.

imageA beautiful closeup from the same garden also a photograph by Tom Mantel.image

imageTwo photos of another variety from the same garden and same photographer.imageThe Chicago Garfield Park Conservatory Fern Room.

imageFrom Carolyne Roehm’s garden, she is a genius with decor and gardens and thankfully shares her expertise with us in her many books…love everything she does!

imageImage from Pinterest photo credit unknown.

imageAnother photo from Pinterest…love this variety.

imageWallpaper image also from Pinterest photo credit unknown.

imageAnd a fern botanical fabric also Pinterest, photo credit unknown.

imageI am mad for this image…so much so I am using it as my screen saver on my iPhone!

imageAnother solarium, let’s move in!!!

imageA silver wine caddy, yes, please!

imageOr pearl handle fern engraved flatware.

imageOr perhaps a handpainted piece of Limoges…

imageOr a beautiful Majolica pitcher.

imageA wonderful Philip Tracey hat, yes, I know a bit of a stretch….

imageA Vogue photo of John Galliano Dior Haute Couture Fall 2006 (I saw that Collection in Paris, it was magnificent) next to another fern variety, isn’t it a beauty!

imageNot necessary fern botanicals but a look you can emulate when you collect your prints.

imageFrom my collection of Botanical prints (along with other “paper”) that I collect from the Randolph Street Market vendor, Paper Patty, located on the Third Floor, don’t miss the vendors up there, it is the first place I stop each month!  My photo.

imageMy favorite of all, it looks like lace!  Again from Pinterest credit unknown.

Recipe from The New York Times Cooking App (if you don’t have it get it you can save all your on-line recipes on it as well as see all their recipes, I love it, one of my favorite apps!)

Cassolette Of Morels, Fiddleheads and Asparagus
by Jennifer Lang

Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Yield: Six first-course servings
https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/8364-cassolette-of-morels-fiddleheads-and-asparagus

www.randolphstreetmarket.com

www.printersrowlitfest.org

www.amerfernsoc.org

www.ebps.org.uk