PYSANKY TO CELEBRATE ORTHODOX EASTER

THE UKRAINIAN PYSANKY…TRADITIONAL WAX DYED EGGS. SYMBOLS OF HOPE.
“These Polish-Ukrainian Easter eggs are painstakingly decorated with a tiny beeswax pen and then dipped in a succession of dyes. The different layers of dye and the wax — which is melted off the final product — create dazzling patterns that are a point of immense regional pride. There is plenty of folklore surrounding the eggs, too, and many people believe they offer protection from evil spirits. With the ongoing war in Ukraine, Pysanky are being newly appreciated as a symbol of Ukrainian resilience.” (Source unknown, photo and drawing taken from Pinterest also sources unknown)

My father and I made these beautiful works of art each year. Some with “real” eggs some wooden. Since Daddy was an artist, we truly had little treasures. Unfortunately the wooden ones have been lost to time. To me tradition is extremely important and this one brings back such happy times with him.

Here are a couple of books….there are many as well as pages and pages of templates to make your own Pysanky.

Perhaps this can be a tradition for you to start to honor the brave Ukrainian people. As we send our deepest thoughts for their peace.

UNIQUE HOLIDAY GIFTS PART 1: BRINDILLE PERSONALIZED HOLIDAY BASKETS AND HOLDAY TEAS

I will be posting unique, one of a kind experiences to celebrate the holidays in Chicago and begin by featuring the creativity of the Uber talented Chef Carrie Nahabedian. Each meal at Brindille is an occasion to remember and the exquisite creative menu experience is enhanced by the service, the wine and the unbelievable friendliness of Chef Carrie and the impeccable staff….where the front of house and wine program are supervised by co-owner, cousin, Michael Nahabedian.

Chef Carrie was always a huge supporter of many of the charity events I planned at Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago when I featured the top Chicago Chefs and their restaurants. The Chefs did their own table decor, always quite elaborate, along with tastings of their signature dishes. I would say to them, “This isn’t a competition”, to which they answered…”To us it is”! But always a friendly camaraderie, their presentations were spectacular and made the events!

Michael Nahabedian

Personalized Holiday Gift Baskets…I asked, how does a person personalize their baskets this year…..

“Each basket is custom made based on your request. Simply, send us the profile of the recipient, their preferences and we will curate a basket that will be sure to impress friends, family, co-workers and loved ones!”

A quote from Chef/Co-Owner Carrie Nahabedian on the Gift Baskets on how they came about and an example on what one can find in their baskets….

“I am a traveler in my heart and was Inspired by the hampers from London and Paris food halls––these beautiful baskets are filled with Epicurean delights, and adorned with festive holiday decorations.”

“Examples of what can be in each personalized basket that range in price from $250-$1500: Jams, confitures, chocolates, cookies, White Alba and French Black Perigord Truffle products, Greek EVOO, honeys, hot chocolate, nut spreads, Locally sourced Farmstead items and cheeses, crackers, vinegars, preserved fruits in alcohol and syrups, Holiday Panettone, candied nuts, maple syrup, Satsuma mandarin oranges, Dried fruits, charcuterie, Jambon de Bellota, mustards, Medjool dates, Hand batched cocktails, vermouths, and wines”.

MARCELLAS REYNOLDS

In addition….how about a unique Holiday experience when… “Brindille kicks off French Afternoon Tea, in honor of Marcellas Reynolds: Author of Supreme Models and (just released) Supreme Actresses. Enjoy a beautiful afternoon of delicious frivolities, as Marcellas shares his inspiration behind writing his two acclaimed books. Vogue named Supreme Models “one of the nine best fashion books of 2019” and Town and Country named Supreme Actresses “one of October 2021’s best books”. We are thrilled to welcome our friend and Chicago native into our home for this two day event. Grab a reservation today and spend a day with Marcellas as he shares his personal inspiring story along with witty anecdotes from his “behind the scenes” adventures. Both books will be available for purchase along with a signing…this is a special event you won’t want to miss!”

Details:
December 10th + 11th: 2p-5p
Arrival: 1:45p | Conversation: 2:30p
Pre-Paid Event on Open Table: $90: excludes tax + tip

Questions: brindillechicago@gmail.com | 312-595-1616
…save-the-date for their upcoming Festive Holiday Teas:
December 17 + 18
Sunday, December 19th: Takeaway tea | $70 pp for pick up between 10-12p.

I have always enjoyed my visits to Brindille and put the Holiday Teas at the top of my annual Holiday tradition list….I hope you will too. (As usual this is not a sponsored post, I don’t have sponsors!!!!). The photos are courtesy of Brindille.

HOLIDAY COOKIES 2021 EDITION PART 2

Lebkuchen

More goodies to add to your Cookie Collection…..

FROM TOM MANTEL, HIS MOTHER’S RECIPE

Lebkuchen

Bring to a boil and cool 1 cup honey

Stir in:

¾ cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 TBSP lemon juice

1 tsp lemon zest

Sift together:

2 ¾ cup flour

½ tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp cloves

1 tsp allspice

1 tsp nutmeg

Stir into honey sugar mixture

Mix in:

1/3 cup chopped citron

1/3 cup chopped pecans

Put in jelly roll pan and bake 25 to 30 minutes in 350 degreeoven

Score into squares while hot

While hot glaze with lemon glaze

Beat 1 egg white slightly add 1 ½ cup sifted powdered sugar & 1 TBSP lemon juice beat until smooth.

THOMAS O’GORMAN’S BISCOTTI DI NATALE

BISCOTTI DI NATALE
My favorite Christmas Cookie is a Biscotti flavored with anise seeds and anise extract, pistachio nuts and dried cranberries.
It’s a delightful combination of flavors that reminds me of my childhood Christmases. It’s festive looking as well.
It’s baked twice at 350 degrees, once in 3 log forms for 30 minutes and once after cooling for ten minutes and
cutting diagonally into 1-inch thick slices for 10 – 15 minutes.


They will keep in an airtight container 1 week or frozen 1 month. So delicious!

The ingredients are:

4 1/2 cups flour,
1 teaspoon each baking powder and baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon anise extract
1/2 teaspoon anise seeds
1/2 cup shelled pistachio nuts
1/2 cup dried cranberries
egg wash

Christmas in Italy doesn’t end at New Years. It goes deep into January. Decorations don’t disappear. You really get to engage the festive beauty of the season from the Vatican to small precious churches. These anise biscotti reveal the grandeur of Christmas Holy Season for me. And I treasure the memory-ladened mystery they always reveal.

Two more to add to our growing collection…..I can do a Part 3…..just saying…..

HOLIDAY COOKIES 2021 EDITION

I have, once again this year, asked some of my friends to share their favorite holiday cookie recipes. I am sharing them as they were sent to me. There is still time to send me your favorite….I can do 2021 PART 2!

My Mom, Ruthy, and I made Christmas cookies for many, many years and I have saved recipes since I was a child…many clipped from magazines and now from the Internet using my New York Times Food App…love it! In addition, I collect cookbooks and have amassed a great variety…I am as eclectic in my book collections as I am in the objects in my home! Here is one from the 1950’s that has many of the cookies we included each year

We did dozens of cookies each Christmas for our holiday entertaining, trays for parties at work and tins full for gift giving. We looked forward to this tradition each year and added new ones to our tried and true favorites.

I’ll start with one of my most favorites….LIZZIES….I still make these each year along with RUSSIAN TEA CAKES….both last a long time if you can resist stuffing them into your mouth!!!!

LIZZIES
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
3 cups raisins
1/2 cup bourbon
4 cups pecan halves
3 cups candied cherries
1/3 pound diced candied lemon peel (optional)

Instructions
Soak fruits in bourbon at least 1 hour to plump.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (170 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets.
Cream butter, gradually adding sugar and eggs. Add dry ingredients, then fruit and nuts. Mix well.
Drop from teaspoon onto greased cookie sheets. Bake for 15 minutes. Cool and store in an airtight container.

CANDACE JORDAN Mouse Cookies

When we lived in Old Town, we hosted yearly Christmas parties. My neighbor Stefani Turken, made these cookies and when she brought them in, I fainted they were so cute! They were darn tasty too but it was hard for me to eat these little works of art. Anyway, if I had a favorite cookie, this would be the one!

Preparation Time–1 hr

Cooking Time -27 min

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup finely ground pecans
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Chow mein noodles
  • Mini-chocolate chips
  • Sliced almonds

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter and vanilla in bowl of electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add sugar; beat until combined. Mix in flour, pecans and salt.
  2. Shape dough into 1-inch ovals, tapering one end. Bake 15 minutes. Remove from oven; insert noodle at tail end and 2 almonds about 1/3 of the way from pointed end for ears. Return to oven; bake until slightly browned, about 12 minutes.
  3. Remove from oven; immediately place 2 chocolate chips in front of ears for eyes. (Chocolate will melt slightly and stick to cookie.) Dust mice bodies with confectioners’ sugar. Cool on wire rack.

PAMELLA CAPITANINI Italian Cannoli Cookies ! makes 2 dozen

Ingredients

  1. 1 cup chopped pistachios
  2. 1 10 ounce bag mini chocolate chips divided
  3. 1 cup unsalted butter softened
  4. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  5. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  6. 1 cup granulated sugar
  7. 2 large eggs
  8. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  9. 1 teaspoon fresh orange zest – optional
  10. 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  11. 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  12. 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  13. 2 cups all purpose flour

Instructions

  • Number One, In a large mixing bowl cream the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Mix in the eggs then ricotta cheese until well combined then mix in the vanilla extract, cinnamon, and fresh orange zest.
  • Number Two, Next, mix in the baking powder, baking soda, and salt until well combined. Mix in the flour. Stir in 1 cup of chocolate chips and the pistachios. Cover and refrigerate the dough for at least one hour.
  • Number Three, Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or lightly grease.
  • Number Four, Using a medium cookie scoop or spoon, drop about 1 1/2 tablespoons of cookie dough for each cookie leaving about 2 inches between each cookie.
  • Number Five, Bake cookies at 375 degrees F for about 8-11 minutes or until golden brown around the edges. Cool slightly then move to wire racks to cool completely.
  • Number Six, Microwave remaining chocolate chips on high in a small microwave safe bowl in 20 second intervals, stirring after each interval until melted and smooth. Spoon melted chocolate into a small resealable bag, clip one corner slightly, then drizzle melted chocolate over cookies. Let cool for chocolate to set.

AMY AND CLODAGH LAWLESS OF THE DEARBORN….FROM JULIANNA WESTGOR, THE DEARBORN PASTRY CHEF DE CUISINE

BARBARA VARRO FROM THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE

I don’t know about you but I need to get my supplies and get baking…..ENJOY!

MONDAY MUSINGS: HOLIDAY PIES

 

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I love pie!!!!!! Actually any pie but particularly Holiday pie such as pumpkin, mincemeat, pecan and…..you name it and I’ll eat it. Yum, yum, yum… Now about making the pie crust, I’m not good at it at all. Mom did the best pie crusts you would ever want to eat..I would work side by side with her (from the time I was little) and I either handled it too much or too little so, guess what I do, I buy Pillsbury piecrust, yes, I do!!!!  Now you know my secret. I do make graham cracker, vanilla wafer, and ginger snap crusts but in today’s post most of the pies are shortening crusts with decorative details. I thought you might enjoy trying one or two for your Holiday pies.  I’m including a few recipes as well  Happy Holiday’s!

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The cartoon above from  The New Yorker….

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Suggested toppings for pumpkin pies use your own mixture for your filling, I always use Libby’s pumpkin as shown.
B11AAC5C-2404-4E47-9141-62BEE16767810727D7F6-C863-4FBC-B279-1A44CEC982339AC80321-FDE2-4A18-BE25-4C0D73248EB354881256-B3C0-45C8-B0D7-5E6396E0F8D6FDE046E5-A053-44EB-A420-FC2A3DAC1406   I always add more brandy, a bit of lemon zest and juice to the mix and use either None Such or Crosse and Blackwell. I serve with hard sauce, I make my own but you can tart up (add brandy) to store bought.  Above photos are suggested special toppings for mincemeat or fruit pies.

Two more glorious toppings…the first is one I am doing for my mince pie, I’ll share my finished pie on Instagram,

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TOMMY’S APPLE-PUMPKIN PIE

FILLING:

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 Tablespoon corn starch

1 teaspoon cinnamon, divided

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon all spice

1/2 teaspoon salt, divided

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/3 cup water

2Tablespoons butter

3 cups Granny Smith apples peeled and sliced

3/4 cup packed canned oumpkin

3/4 cup evaporated milk

1/3 cup sugar

1 egg beaten

DIRECTIONS

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Prepare your own pie crust for a 9” pie.

In a skillet combine brown sugar, corn starch, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon salt, add the vanilla, water, butter and bring to a boil stirring.  The mixture will thicken creating a caramel sauce.  Add the apples and continue cooking over medium heat for 4-5 minutes stirring constantly.  Pour mixture into the unbaked pie crust and set aside.  Whisk together pumpkin, evaporated milk, sugar, egg, 1/2 teaspoon, nutmeg, all spice and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Pour over the apple layer.  Bake at 375 for 50 minutes until a knife comes out clean.  Cool completely before cutting.  This pie should be refrigerated.  Serve with whipped cream

TOMMY’S PECAN PIE

Heat oven to 400 degrees

Prepare your own pastry pie crust

Beat together with a beater

3 eggs

2/3 cup sugar

1/3 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup melted butter

1 cup dark corn syrup

Mix in 1 cup pecans

Pour into pastry shell.  Bake until set and pastry is browned.  Bake in 400 degree oven for 40 to 50 minutes.

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Isn’t this glorious….let’s all strive to create something fun, pretty, perhaps a bit over the top, why not it’s the Holidays, the most special time of the year!  Most of all relax and enjoy the season!

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All photos from Pinterest, photo credits unknown as is the top illustration. Above  illustration from Norman Rockwell.

 

 

 

WEDNESDAY MUSINGS: HALLOWEEN STORIES

F2CD6998-FFAF-4173-B2F7-41F8C33A07F6I have mentioned that I am asking my friends to be guest contributors to nenasnotes    so on this special day, Halloween,  I am featuring several stories from Virginia Heaven, a historian, teacher, author, curator, raconteur and very good friend, which she has entitled “Halloween: Culture Is Everything”.  You are in for a treat.

6DBC8FC5-499C-4B87-A986-51C3751BF989 This vitrine is up all year in Virginia’s home.  She likes to use her huge collections differently each year and, of course, constantly adds new items…that is what a collector does!  Speaking of collections be sure to check out the Halloween blog post I did for the  Randolph Street Market.

Story #1

Now, I love Halloween (well, the sweet kind). It’s magical because it’s really fun and kind of scary for me all at the same time. I’m from London and in my day (and neighborhood) Halloween was not celebrated. Although there is ample evidence that it was celebrated all over the UK as All Hallows Eve.

When I first came to America, Halloween fascinated me and I gradually began to gather a few decorations, and I loved pumpkin carving. But most of all I loved the children coming around to get their candy. All those kids dressed as their heroes or some fantastic creature, how fun is that? And the tiny ones are so funny!

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When my cousin (who is like my sister) had her first three kids, they lived in a small English town where there was no Halloween celebrations either. So, I would pack up a box in September of all the fun Halloween things I could find and post it off (all big boxes were sent by ship then, remember?) and her kids were the only ones in the town to have a Halloween party which made them very popular! They are all in their 30s now but still remember the box arriving each year and the excitement of opening it to find what was inside! By the time her last two babies were born (now in their 20s) Halloween was popular in Britain too, but I still sent boxes of American Halloween tchotchkes for the parties!

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Story #2

I was dating a guy (who later became my husband, but after this stunt it was by the skin of his teeth!) who loves haunted houses at Halloween. He insisted that I would find it really fun, it was part of his Halloween “tradition” that he wanted to share with me. We found one in Milwaukee that looked pretty good and off we went.

I began to have misgivings when I realized it was a derelict building entirely made over into a pretty spooky looking house. We entered. The actors were excellent, the scenes superb, the lighting magnificent and after the first “scare” I didn’t stop screaming! At first my date, and presumably the actors, thought it was all in good fun, until it was evident I was actually traumatized. I’d never seen anything like this; I put my coat over my head (sobbing) and was led outside. The people in line were very excited when they saw the state I was in—“wow! It must be great!” I heard someone say…

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Needless to say I have never entered another Haunted House, and after about five years I forgave the man I married, but I still shudder at the memory.

Story #3

I have been to Mexico twice to celebrate The Day of the Dead. The first time was after the loss of my Father and a beloved Aunt. I went to Mexico City by chance was still grieving but, I had a wonderful time. It was colorful with alters everywhere and in the Zócalo there were orange marigolds and magenta cockscomb flowers laid out in patterns: beautiful. It was a wonderful and strangely healing experience because there was an acceptance of the inevitability of death rather than a resistance to loss.

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Some years later I was in Oaxaca at the same time. That time was very different, just as moving but more visceral. I was taken to a graveyard where families sat around graves sitting with and laying out offerings of food to the dead. It was very dark and the graves were mounds of earth with simple crosses. Death felt present rather than removed under heavy stone monuments. As the night progressed more and more people arrived and they brought candles and flowers and eventually it was as light as day in the candlelight and the atmosphere was quietly celebratory. It was a very beautiful and soulful experience.

1C1E9001-D7CF-49CF-8B83-D36DD3A46AC7989C7D1E-40FF-4599-B860-1BF26425BD000E22D125-1FFC-46F7-9F96-DD2D77FEB59A37AF4589-C754-4D30-AF64-205E86D503F7All above photos courtesy of Virginia Heaven….a million thanks for the wondeful Halloween memories and the awesome decorations….what a way to begin my guest posts!!!!!

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Above photos from Pinterest photo credits unknown.

Love these charming plates from Williams-Sonoma.

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Hope I get these in my treat bag……

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EASTER BUNNIES: WEDNESDAY MUSINGS

71087135-6488-4DE9-8A23-937746C049FFIn last year’s Easter posting I highlighted wonderful Easter eggs (actually eggs in general, including my collection) I’m featuring our hopping friend the Easter Bunny this year in many guises. When I was visiting Council Oak Antiques last week I found a treasure trove of Easter items that I wanted to share with you. Above is a wonderful painting of two charming rabbits sharing a cabbage leaf.

C1F1AF83-53BF-4884-BC07-CAFDAC509222A little boy with his pet bunnies in this delightful Victorian print. Love the nostalgia.

Always peek into corners and shelves where you will discover hidden treasures and look offseason as well you will find adds to your collections year round.

Oops…do I see a lamb by a basket of eggs…well this post is celebrating Easter and the arrival of Spring after all!!  And I love the cart of carrots. The vignettes of each vendor is lovingly executed.

I do have a couple of bunnies….one a Royal Crown Derby, I was lucky to visit and tour the factory on several occasions, (an upcoming post for sure!) that was given to me by a dear English friend who happened to live in Derbyshire. One of my fondest objects.  Isn’t he a beauty.

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Here is a cutie pie holding on to her duckie, she is a handpainted wooden fierce young lady that I acquired, many years ago, at the Randolph Street Market the March Market is this Saturday and Sunday, March 24 and 25 from 10 to 5 always the place to spend a fun day browsing the extensive collections, gaining knowledge from the vendors, sipping a delicious Bloody Mary that Candy superbly prepares for you and snacking on Artesian food. Bring your friends and make a day of it.

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A Sabino piece from my collection  D391567D-5E4D-443E-B137-9F1CA2BBD1D1

A reminder to read Paisley Rabbit and the Treehouse Contest yourself and to every child, you can find. Read my review on nenasnotes posted on February 27th ,

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What would Easter be without candy?  Nothing, in my opinion, I give up sweets for Lent and usually stuff myself with goodies Easter Sunday I don’t see this year as being different (FYI as a child we celebrated Russian Easter as well…I thought that very, very cool and Daddy did the most incredible eggs for both Easters….again, lucky me!)

I don’t eat Peeps but they are a part of any full Easter basket, to be sure, along with rich chocolate bunnies. Yum, yum!  Photos from Pinterest photo credit unknown

It seems live bunnies are wonderful pets as you can see Mike Hines, the deliciously creative florist of epochfloral, (profiled on nenasnotes on December 5, 2016) has had Murray Sparkles for eight years since he was a baby bunny, now a big boy!! The young Mike is pictured with his childhood friend, Mr. McCloud. In Mike’s words ”I’ve always been a sucker for a bunny.” Photos courtesy of Mike Hines

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I found these precious plates, along with other pieces in the set, on the Williams Sonoma site, love them!!!!!

How are you celebrating Spring, Easter, Passover…..do share your traditions and perhaps a recipe or two. I think I will do a leg of lamb this year and have leftovers to do the lamb curry that I shared with you a couple of weeks ago. Easter dinner followed by lots and lots of sweets!!!!!!

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All photos unless otherwise noted taken by me with my iPhone.

CELEBRATIONS: CHAMPAGNE!

imageI do love a great bottle of champagne and when better to have it than New Year’s Eve (I say any day, but that is just me!). I thought it might be a bit of fun to look at its beginnings and how it is served.  As with any alcohol drink responsibly….

Of course, there are many ways to serve it, I really prefer a coupe but others swear by a flute and there are so many new shapes of glasses that can make your bubbly even more special.  I think when having a large crowd which is what I will be with this year, flutes are the answer unless you have wait staff to pass on gleaming silver trays! I found a great selection today on one of the blog posts I follow Remodelista.

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Champagne is both a region and a wine. Only sparkling wine produced in Champagne can be called Champagne. Other sparkling wine produced elsewhere in France or around the world cannot legally be called Champagne. They are sparkling wines.  The Romans planted vines in the region in 57BC according to the World Food and Wine website (a fabulous resource for all things food and wine!)  After the French, the English were one of the first to embrace the wine and are still one of the largest consumers.  We think of the monk Dom Perignon as the first to develop champagne…rather he tried to perfect it in the 1660’s trying to eliminate the bubbles which were, at the time, thought to be a flaw in the production.imageA photo from Pinterest of some of the top brands…..we are having Veuve at this year’s celebration, and plenty of it I might add!!!!  My favorite of all time is Cristal followed by Krug and Dom Perignon.  A good Preseco is also a great choice. Let me tell you about my first experience with Cristal…I was honored to be one of a small group of the Chicago History Museum Costume Council members (I was acquisition chairman at the time) to be selected to be photographed by the world-famous photographer, Victor Skrebneski, for a spread in Town and Country (many years ago)….that is a story unto itself…another time! After all of us were photographed we were invited to dinner at Les Nomades (one of my all-time favorite restaurants in Chicago) very glamorous and beyond delicious…we were all, of course, dressed to the nines and had a sensational time. A few days later a bottle of champagne arrived at my home.  I put it aside and was having a small dinner party several weeks later, nothing special just a mid-week event for four.  I thought I have this bottle of champagne put it on ice and have it.  At the time I was unaware of the brand and found it quite charming in its packaging and clear bottle.

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We all enjoyed it very much and I decided to get a couple of bottles to have on hand.  When I went to my local liquor store I almost fainted at the price…no wonder it was delicious.  The cost, by the way, should never dictate your choice and as with any wine, it can go off.  It is still my favorite and a rare treat.  Another shocker was on a trip to the UK I was asked to pick up a bottle of Krug (I hadn’t had it before) and said not a problem…again being naive I wasn’t thinking price and again was stunned when I made my purchase and upon researching both these brands found them to be two of the most expensive.  Well, I have never questioned my taste in food and wine I do, however, find that the treats are limited to special occasions.  There are, of course, various vintages in champagne as in wine.

I found a couple of books that you might like to add to your library for more detailed information.

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I found so many variations on champagne cocktails on so many blog posts that I became mind boggled…..I like mine either “straight” or a classic champagne cocktail which is very simple soak a sugar cube in bitters drop into your glass and fill with champagne….yum, yum, yum!  A sprig of rosemary seems overkill to me but to each his own.

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imageAnd then there is the tower, it seems to be the fashion this year!imageI’d like you to meet my escort for New Year’s Eve (we constantly live in hope!!!!!)

 

Enjoy your celebration and let’s all look forward to a New Year of health, happiness, and peace!

 

NEWS JUST IN……

Saks Fifth Avenue has reason to celebrate the New Year and raise a glass or two of champagne as they welcome their new Vice President/General Manager, Matt Brown.  They have shared his information with me to share with you.  I met Matt yesterday and I know he would love to meet all of you, you will find him charmingly down to earth. Do drop by the store and say hello.

 

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Chicago – Dec. 21, 2017— Saks Fifth Avenue is proud to welcome Matt Brown as the new Vice President, General Manager of Saks Chicago at 700 N. Michigan Avenue. Matt joins Saks Chicago in this position with nearly 15 years of experience in the retail and spa and wellness industries and will manage the day-to-day operations of the 180,000-square-foot, multi-floor retail destination.

“I am looking forward to taking this next step in my career as Vice President, General Manager at Saks Chicago. It is an exciting time for retail in Chicago, as the city thrives, and I couldn’t be any more proud to manage such a prestigious retail destination,” stated Brown.

Brown spent the past seven years of his career at Saks, holding positions of increasing responsibility in store leadership, most recently acting as Vice President, General Manager of Saks Philadelphia. Prior to joining Saks, He held various management roles in the spa and wellness industry.

 

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.