inspired

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Last week I had the pleasure of meeting one of my ‘bloggie heroes’, as I like to call him, Tim of Lottie + Doof. Tim’s site, along with The Fashion Face [owned by my uber-talented friend Erika] and Cupcakes and Cashmere were the three blogs that inspired me to start up my own. I remember upon discovering Lottie + Doof, I was so excited to jot down several of Tim’s recipes. To date I’ve made his caramel cake and pumpkin whoopie pies [yum!]. Still on my to-dos? Blood orange bars, garlic dressing, and gooey butter cake. In short, getting to meet Tim was extremely special and gratifying for me.

I have to say after meeting Tim he is exactly as I imagined; humble, gracious, and sharp as a tack with a wry sense of humor that keeps you on your toes. He’s the type to cook a four-course meal …for 40+ peoplefrom scratch… with original recipes all while donning a grin and a casual “oh, this old thing?” cool-as-a-cucumber charisma. The opposite of stuffy and pretentious [although he has every right to be]; I’d like to think Tim’s personality is the equivalent to a bowl of chicken noodle soup [must everything relate to food? uhh, yea.] ~ inviting, warm, and genuine.

Side note, kudos to Tim for his feature in ReadyMade [among other appearances in Saveur, Apartment Therapy, design*sponge, and Time Out Chicago for starters], but unlike the rest of his fanfare, this time Tim and his fiancé Bryan are getting props not for food but for their beautiful home. Congrats!

So where were we. Ah yes, like a mad science experiment that formerly existed only in my dreams, last Wednesday Tim teamed up with Sandra Holl [the prodigal mind and petite powerhouse behind Floriole], to create a scrumptious [I never use that word but it's apropos here] four-course meal with the theme of … drum roll please… springtime! Since spring decided to skip us this year it’s only fair we get to experience it on a plate.

[ wildflowers picked on a trip home]

The dynamic duo of Tim and Sandra artfully wrangled up the light, airy, fresh, earthy components of spring to create a decadent meal that left me clamoring for more. It certainly helped that I was seated [in my humble opinion] at the best table in the house, where I met several more gems: Karin, Karin’s mom [I wish.. alas, she was there only in spirit], Jaclyn, and Melissa – the unrivaled reigning queen of handcrafted syrup and the owner of Jo Snow Syrups [as swooned over here]!

Before I go into the menu, take another swig of your coffee and allow me to digress for I must sing Melissa’s praises. Melissa left behind the comforts of a full-time job to start this fun [and highly successful] venture. The day of Tim’s dinner I was tweeting with Melissa describing my excitement to meet her. To my delight, not only was I seated at her table but she also thoughtfully brought me a bottle of syrup to take home as a gift. Seriously, how sweet is she? Such a generous act of kindness and one I won’t forget. In fact, I’m putting together a post on the many different ways I’m using my prized bottle of cardamom rose water syrup… stay tuned on that.

Back to the menu:

[the snacks] a perfectly salty trio of popcorn, peanuts, and olives to compliment jo snow’s rhubarb & basil syrup beer cocktail.

[lemon ricotta ravioli with spicy asparagus] this pillow of heaven had a tangy, creamy filling with a welcome crunchy kick from the asparagus.

[sorrel soup with poached eggs] eggs + soup, why have i never tried this combo before? also my first experience with sorrel, it had a pleasantly sharp bite that contrasted nicely with the velvety texture of the egg.

[dessert] i think this was my number one but i don’t like to play favorites. let’s just say tim + sandra’s homemade cheesecake = religious experience.

So there you have it. Although I had my camera in tow, I was enjoying the company at my table too much to take photos. I did manage one of dessert:

 

[like buttah]

The team at Floriole, including Sandra and Rachel Post [Floriole's head bread baker], will be holding another dinner this summer – a pizza party to top all pizza parties! Tim let me know he’ll be on our end this time enjoying the ‘za.  We’re all looking forward to it, thanks again everyone for a stellar night. It was a real treat.

 

 

 

 

 

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Meet Foodha.

[image credit menuism blog]

This chubby guy is the official face of Menuism, a site started by two college buddies that’s dedicated to the food loving community. Aside from being the home for Foodha, Menuism is a place where foodies can trade restaurant tips and the inside scoop on favorite spots across the country.

The team at Menuism filled me in on a fantastic Facebook deal they’re running – for every new Facebook fan Menuism earns until April 24, they will donate $1 to the Greater Chicago Food Depository. This is a great [and easy] way to help people right here in Chicago. Last year alone the Food Depository distributed 135,000 meals a day. Amazing!

[image credit menuism blog]

Take a second to pop over to Facebook and ‘like’ Menuism today.

 

 

 

 

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[whale-print paper from vineyard vines {thanks mom!}. letterpress calendar from chicago-based orange beautiful]

Some ideas to warm up your Wednesday…

  • try a new recipe
  • treat yourself to a new pair of shoes[or in my case, some fig vanilla black pepper syrup i read about to drizzle over ice cream, coffee, tea ... so many possibilities]
  • go for a light jog [bundle up if you're in chicago... brrr! spring has not sprung, not even close]
  • make some homemade trail mix to snack on throughout the day when you crave something salty and sweet [mix 1/2 cup oven roasted almonds with sea salt + 1/2 cup raisins.]
  • take a moment to enjoy a breath of fresh air
  • start a new book [i'm reading 'a thousand splendid suns' by khaled hosseini right now {thanks deirdre!} and am hooked.]
  • make a simple piece of jewelry [last fall i took a class at caravan beads at lincoln + roscoe. they have all sorts of cool beads that will get your creative juices flowing.]

[a bead-ish looking jelly bean]

What are some of the ways you spice up the midweek mopes?

 

 

 

 

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I give people a lot of credit when they take a gamble, stick themselves in what could be an uncomfortable situation, and thrive. After all, that’s how great things happen. You take a risk and as my dad says, “you make your own luck”. Still, it’s no easy task [or so I think] to get up in front of a crowd of people and perform, but maybe that’s why they’re up and I’m down here.

This weekend I saw Vince’s brother John and their family friend Brian perform in their brand new band, “Two Micks and a Mike” [yep, try not to crack a smile]. Every year the Irish-American Alliance [a Chicago-based organization started by Vince and John's dad] holds a St. Patrick’s Day party at the South Side standby Cork & Kerry. It was at this very party that “Two Micks and a Mike” made their big time debut.

[photo credit: chicago bar project]

I so appreciate when someone is passionate about something -be it food, ping-pong, fashion, scrabble, whatever it is- and given that both John and Brian grew up in Irish homes, music is in their blood. They know the stories behind each song they sing and they’re eager to share them [especially after a few pints of smithwick's].

The music, the night [which lasted until the wee hours of the morning... those micks sure know how to party], and the entire scene made me even more excited for St. Patrick’s Day.  You can bet I’ve got my green [yes, green] hot cocoa and Baileys ready. Only nine more days to go!

PS: You can get into the St. Paddy’s spirit and check out Two Micks and a Mike for yourself. Their next gig is on St. Patrick’s Day at Marlin’s, roughly 15 minutes south of the city [7236 39th Street, Lyons, IL 60534]. Marlin’s is a great local watering hole with all sorts of beer on tap. A word to the wise – stay away [far, far away] from the Pinot Grigio. Indeed, it sounded good to me at the time and I instantly became that girl. Stick to the basics here, trust me.

 

 

 

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[special delivery from my valentine]

{I was half in love with her by the time we sat down. That’s the thing about girls. Every time they do something pretty, even if they’re not much to look at, or even if they’re sort of stupid, you fall half in love with them, and then you never know where the hell you are.}

J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

{Love one another and you will be happy. It’s as simple and as difficult as that.}

Michael Leunig

Wishing you a very Happy Valentine’s Day!

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I really like the notion that even on the darkest of days there is an exuberant spirit within us all: we just have to remember to turn on the light.

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As I’ve mentioned, Giada DeLaurentiis is one of my favorite chefs and TV personalities. Giada was trained at the renowned Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, and while there she picked up on the Parisian philosophy surrounding food, which is essentially quality over quantity. A great Parisian meal could entail several hunks of exceptional artisan cheese, some crusty, thick slices of French bread, and a glass of wine. It’s a simple but fulfilling meal.

Last night I took a cue from this philosophy and made a clean, Parisian-inspired meal of my own. It’s all about incorporating a myriad of rich flavors without being overindulgent. Although a departure from my traditional comfort food go-to, spaghetti, it’s a dish that is satisfying in it’s own right and is just as fun to eat as it is to prepare. Bon appetit!

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What a year, huh?

The words that come to mind when I think of 2010: faith, growth, change, renewal, fulfillment, and strength. This year brought on it’s own set of scary challenges and unexpected curve balls but despite said bumps-in-the-road, it managed to be one of my happiest years in recent memory. Tears were shed, laughs were had, wine was drank, hands were held, roadtrips were taken, and stories were shared.

This year I intend to bake more cookies, learn how to cook a proper Pad Thai, play more tennis, and master the elusive art of keeping my closet organized. The latter may be a bit far-fetched but I’ll certainly give it a shot.

May 2011 be a year of triumph, joy, and sparkles.

{all images via we heart it}

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[mom + dad]

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On this Veterans Day I’m very thankful for two things: airplanes and our soldiers. Sending love to my grandpap Eddy Esposito who served in World War II and my great uncle Robert Morasco, a member of the Army 10th Mountain Division who was killed in action in Italy during World War II. Thank you to our brave soldiers who courageously fight for our freedom every single day and enable us to live in the best country in the world.

I’m also grateful for planes and, in particular, Southwest airlines. Southwest made it a breeze to fly home for a quick trip at a price that didn’t break my [fragile] bank. While waiting for my flight, Southwest offered postcards for people to write a message to our troops.

Let freedom ring.

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