Bottoms up!

Friday, January 28, 2011

I've loved being Mrs. Stiletto on Weddingbee! I've met so many wonderful people and I loved sharing our wedding with such a large audience. However, I've always felt like a bit of a fraud. If you'll recall, my stiletto icon looks like this:

Yes, a sassy little Louboutin. Love. But I didn't have any sassy Loubies in my closet. Sad face! So, I finally bit the bullet and picked up a pair of (used!) Louboutins on eBay.

From a distance they look in pretty decent shape:

The bottoms have some wear, but the previous owner had added a protective layer on the sole, which I like because it feels like I have a little more traction when I walk.

Up close you can see some more wear and tear. Some scuffed leather, little gouges out of the toe, etc.

While it would have been great to pick up a sassier pair, these little Loubies are actually quite comfortable, and are a perfect work shoe. The wear and tear are what you would see typically from wearing them around a little bit, and all of the marks on them I probably would have made myself with a brand new pair anyway.

Oh, and the best part? I scored these for $200! (Awesome deal in the world of Louboutins. It is a little disheartening that this is the most I've ever spent on a pair of shoes, and they are used!)

While not exactly stilettos, at least now I can prance around showing off the sassy red sole!

Chicago Underground Dining: One Sister Underground

Sunday, January 23, 2011

For Steve's birthday this year I really wanted to think outside the box and incorporate a surprise or two, partly because I wanted to earn awesome wife points this year and mostly because he is awesome and deserves fun surprises. I've been following the underground dining scene in Chicago for awhile now, and really wanted to take part in one of these dinners.

Many of the dining clubs are super duper secret, and somewhat unapproachable. I get it, they want to maintain this elite, secretive vibe. Then I happened across One Sister Inc. Chef Iliana Regan holds underground dinners in her home, and when I emailed her to see about doing a dinner for Steve's birthday, she was all about it. I quickly got three other couples on board and we were all set for our private dinner for last Friday. All I knew was that we would be served 13 courses and we needed to bring a lot of wine!

Surprises were the theme of the evening: I had pulled off surprising Steve with an underground dining experience with a group of close friends to enjoy the dinner with us and the entire menu was a complete surprise - each and every course was playful, exciting and beautifully prepared and presented.

Let's get on to the food, shall we? (thank you to Rob for taking pictures throughout the evening!)

Course 1: Flavors of Hendricks Gin: pine, cucumber, rosewater

Think gin and bubble tea. Light, refreshing and a fun way to start.

Course 2: Blue Point Oyster: horseradish, sake, banana

Oysters make me nervous, as I've only had them once and the texture freaks me out. This oyster was amazing; all of the flavors balanced each other out, and the crispy (and delicious!) banana chip on top was a perfectly edible utensil for scooping that baby into your mouth. Love.

Course 3: Fancy Pierogi: white truffle, mascarpone, Yukon gold potato

Chef Regan makes pierogis and sells them at farmer's markets and stores around the city. If you happen across her pierogis, BUY THEM. This pierogi was hands down amazing and I would have eaten a whole, huge bowl of them if given the opportunity.

Course 4: Gumbo: smoked octopus, andouille shrimp sausage, necessary accompaniments

A deconstructed gumbo. This picture was taken before the chef poured a tasty, hot broth into the bowl. What is that cylinder, you ask? Frozen tomato water. As soon as the broth hit the bowl, the cylinder broke apart and was an icy compliment to the dish. Don't even get me started on the andouille shrimp sausage...yum.

Course 5: Pot Du Feu: winter veggies

Veggies included a purple potato, a carrot, a radish and another potato. In the center was a spaghetti squash basket with a scoop of carrot ice cream. That was definitely the star of the plate.

Course 6: Surf and Turf: scallop, duck, curry

As we sat in the dining room, I could smell the scallops and I got happy. After we were served I learned about the happy combination of scallops and duck jerky. And right in the middle of the plate was a tomato marmalade. Since I finally love tomatoes (only took 28 years for that to happen), I was all over the marmalade!

Course 7: Mad Hatter's Tea Party/Mcok Turtle Soup: foraged mushrooms, pecan, cocao, chamomile

We were served delicate little cups and saucers (not pictured) that were filled with a rich mushroom tea. I hate mushrooms and tea, but this tea was more of a rich broth and the mushroom flavor was warm and welcoming.

After the tea, we were served a mushroom gelee with coco and a mushroom ice cream sandwiched between little pecan shortbreads. Never in my life would I think I would enjoy a mushroom course this much! Maybe I'll start eating mushrooms in 2011?!

Course 8: Ice Cream Cone: bacon, black pepper, Koval whiskey

Unlike other bacon desserts where the bacon overwhelms everything, this bacon ice cream was subtle and was complemented nicely by the Koval whiskey caramel. The black better cone was a nice, savory addition.

Course 9: Lamb Tartare: almonds, egg yolk

So far in this dinner, I had been served two things that I do not eat - oysters and mushrooms. Tartare is yet another on the "no" list for me. I didn't even think twice while devouring this dish. I had no clue that tartare could be so, well, tasty. The tartare was topped with almond pink pepper gnocchi. Perfect.

Course 10: Red Wine Short Ribs and 19th Century: black trumpet blood pudding, mushrooms, grapes, truffle marshmallow

One of the favorite dishes at the table. The short rib was perfect, I think the blood pudding was just as good (something else I'd never had), and yes, you red correctly - truffle marshmallow. Heaven on a plate!

Course 12: Nachos

Tasty little bite - tortilla puff with an aged cheddar and jalapeno foam. I could have eaten many, many more of these.

Course 13: Gobstopper: peanut butter and jelly

At the end of the dinner, I think the gobstopper was the most talked about course. I don't even know how to describe it...a peanut butter shell, a bread layer underneath, and a concord grape filling.

Here's a shot of the inside to give you a better idea. But really, you just need to hit up one of these dinners and hope that you're lucky enough to be served a gobstopper of your own!

Lucky Number 13: Earth: beets, chocolate, dandelion

These beets were paired with a dandelion custard and a chocolate sauce. I struggle with beets because they definitely are the epitome of "earth." Steve loves them, so as soon as I saw this dish come out, I knew he'd be thrilled. I finished every last bite of this dessert, but beets are still on my "not sure what to think about you" list.

There were so many things I loved about this was fine dining but still very approachable. The dinner wasn't as protein heavy as other tasting menus I've done, which means you didn't walk away from 13 courses feeling overwhelmingly full. We had a friend with us who could not have gluten and Chef Regan modified courses for her as needed. And finally, it was a fun, exciting and personal dining experience that you can't get anywhere else.

All I need is another excuse to go back "underground" and experience Chef Regan's exquisite food!

Gearing up for "Aloha"

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Yes, that's right - in exactly 5 weeks and 1 day, Steve and will be on a plane headed toward...Kauai! In the midst of this cold and miserable winter, nothing sounds better than jetting off to the land of leis, luaus, and hula.

And all of those things are great, but when I think of Hawaiian vacations what I'm really thinking of are all of the sitcoms I watched while growing up. Nothing beats kitschy family comedy transported to a tropical paradise...

The Saved by the Bell gang taught me that good friends travel together. Sure, they went to Palm Springs one time, and even spent the summer working at a beach club. But when everyone (including Mr. Belding!) went on a Hawaiian vacation, that really meant something.

I've had to knock creating a "Clipboard of Fun" off my travel "to do" list, as things didn't work out so great for Danny Tanner on Full House. Danny's rigorous sightseeing schedule left them stranded on a deserted island that turned out to be the actual island they wanted to be on, but they didn't find out until they had been "stranded" for the entire day. Talk about drama.

If there's one lesson I've learned from all of the Brady Bunch episodes I've watched, don't pick up any ancient tiki statues while in Hawaii. Symptoms from carrying around these statues include your big brother Greg getting hurt while surfing, a tarantula almost attacking your brother Peter, and you almost get hit by a wall hanging. Remedies include returning the statue to an ancient burial ground and ending your trip with a big Hawaiian party where people think you're special because you have a lot of kids. And a housekeeper.

And finally, the number one lesson I've learned from TV about Hawaiian vacations is that no trip is complete without having the perfect theme song. On Growing Pains when Mike fell in love with the Hawaiian tour guide, they played Christopher Cross's "Swept Away." Come on, sing it with me:

I was swept away
No one in the world but you and I
Gotta find a way to make you feel the way that I do
I was swept away
Without a warning
Like night when the morning begins the day
I was swept away

I know for a fact that this is the best Hawaiian vacation sitcom theme song because just today, as I was pulling together ideas for this post, this song came on my cubicle neighbor's radio (that she keeps on ALL DAY LONG). It's like I thought of the Seavers and BAM! I literally was swept away right from my desk.

You may be thinking this post is silly at best, but I seriously do think of each and every one of these episodes when I think about Hawaii. If I could get them on Hulu I would watch them all in preparation for our trip.

Since not everything in life can be learned from TV (sad but true), do you have any suggestions on where to eat and what to do in Kauai? It will be a quick trip because Steve is shooting a wedding there...we'll have 3 full days to ourselves. Any helpful hints would be welcomed and appreciated!

Fresh new face!

Monday, January 17, 2011

For Christmas, Steve really knocked one out of the park with my gift - he arranged for a one-on-one class with the fabulous Sonia Roselli. I'd heard great things in the past about Sonia's classes, but always thought it was more of a frivolous fun activity vs. a necessity. After taking the class, I can vouch for it being an absolute necessity for me! Why, you ask?

Well, this just wasn't any old class. It was Sonia's "Makeup Bag Makeover." Which meant I had to bring in all of my makeup odds and ends and have Sonia evaluate what I had before any makeup was actually applied to my face. After moving everything into a pile that was 2+ years old, it was revealed that 90% of my makeup was ancient. I'm embarrassed to say that in that pile was the eye shadow I bought for my junior prom. In, umm, 1999. Who carries around makeup not from this decade?! Me.

Turning to what was left in the "new-ish" pile, Sonia let me know how it was. She kindly told me that the blush I was wearing every day was what you'd typically put on a little old lady (doh!) and some of the eye shadow colors I thought were perfect would look great on Hally Berry, not moi. Crap. Not only was this a class, it was really an intervention. On Sonia's encouragement, almost all of my makeup went into the trash.

After the ancient eye shadows, the rancid foundation (which, for the record, I never wore), and the granny blush were gone, we were able to salvage the following: a few eye shadows, some lip glosses, concealer, and mascara. And then, we went to the makeup chair.

I learned a lot from Sonia. I now know how to mix and apply a tinted moisturizer using the most AMAZING makeup brush in the world (I think Sonia compared it to bunnies hitting you in the face, it's so soft). I know what colors to buy and how to use the "fun" colors - purples, greens, etc - to create a great evening look. Sonia taught me to apply powder liner (I was doing a sad job of applying liquid liner), gel liner to give me an evening look, and she showed me the perfect shade of blush.

I know that Sonia kept it simple for me, because I definitely needed to master the basics. I walked out of the class feeling confident that I could do a decent job of replicating some of the tips and tricks Sonia taught me. I distinctly remember getting ready for my engagement shoot two years ago and having a complete emotional breakdown because I didn't know how to apply eyeliner well and I felt like a female failure. I wish I had taken this class years ago.

Just for fun, Sonia also threw some lashes on me. LOVE me some lashes! I like how fresh and clean my look is, and how Sonia played up my eyes.

I really just made Steve take this shot so that I could study specifically what Sonia did on my lids. Yes, I'm a nerd like that.

At the end of the class, I of course needed to replace all of the makeup that we had thrown out. Since Sonia offers 20% off of her products after taking a class, I was able to stock up. I walked away with: foundation, powder, cream blush, powder blush, eyebrow powder/wax, an eyelid primer (keeps shadow from creasing - love it!), and the amazing stipple brush that I mentioned above - I can use it to apply my foundation, blush, powder, etc. I definitely learned that less is more, and I'd rather have a few fabulous products over a drawer full of products that are just wrong for me.

Now I'm gearing up for another class - Sonia offers a brush class where not only do you get to learn how to use all of your brushes, you actually get a 12-piece brush set as a part of the class. I'm so there! Check out Sonia's blog for details on all of her 2011 classes.

I really wanted to make a lot of positive changes in 2011, and gaining a fresh new face was a fabulous start!

Christmas Dinner

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Yes, I realize it is January 16 (Steve's birthday, by the way!) and I'm just now blogging about our Christmas dinner. If you'll remember, I blogged about our Christmas dessert on December 28, with the best of intentions to share our dinner soon after that post. Sigh. Time just goes by too fast! But I couldn't let any more time pass without sharing this fabulous food.

To decide what to make, we busted out our trusty Top Chef Cookbook. Since we're avid watchers of the show, it's been fun to thumb through this cookbook to read recipes of some of our favorite dishes from the show.

Since we've never worked with scallops before, we chose Dale Levitski's seared scallops with purslane and marinated grapes as a starter. We bought four big, fabulous scallops from Whole Foods and Steve seared them to perfection. We did have to substitute dandelion leaves for the purslane.

The grapes were marinated in EVOO, tarragon, rice wine vinegar and lemon zest...awesome.

For the entree, we landed on another of Dale's dishes - seared elk loin with cauliflower and fingerling potato mash, and pickled cauliflower. Turns out, Whole Foods doesn't sell elk, so we subbed in veal loin.

Dale makes great sauces, and Steve had fun with this one! It was originally a huckleberry-blackberry sauce, but since we couldn't find huckleberries we did blueberries and blackberries. I'm bummed this picture is out of focus, but you can still see the berry goodness.

I've always wanted a reason to buy star anise, and lucky for me we needed it for the sauce! Along with peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, cloves and bay leaves.

As the sauce cooked, it began to look and smell amazing.

The night before, Steve had put cauliflower florets with shallots, sherry vinegar, sugar and salt in a container so that it could pickle.

While making the sauce, he had made a cauliflower and potato mash that included goat cheese and dried cherries.

After searing the veal, he plated everything, topping the dish with toasted pecans. Everything turned out amazing, and it was the perfect winter dish - warm and comforting with great layers of flavor.

The Christmas festivities were a little bit too much for Charlie - he was passed out with his new toy while all of this cooking was happening!

Again, all I can say is "Mmmmmm." It was a perfect Christmas dinner for two!

New year, new bag

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Right now, I'm at work and Charlie is at home lording it over my new work bag. He'd better be keeping his paws off!

My current work bag is pretty trashed, so I thought I'd treat myself to the Melie Bianco Candice, purchased from Piperlime.

Here's a better look without Charlie's big nose gettin' in the way:


And, you know, since I was already browsing on the Gap/Banana/Old Navy/Piperlime site, I decide to pick up a few other lovelies to start the year off right, include this ruffle bib dress from Gap. I die it's so amazing. Seriously, for how cute it is and how hecka cheap I snagged it for, it's pretty darn amazing.


I highly recommend you reward yourself as well for making it into another year!

Welcoming 2011 & Tomatoes

Sunday, January 2, 2011

I'm so excited to share all of the fantastic posts I have lined up to start off the New Year...I have a back log of fabulous, fabulous food that Steve and I have been cooking over my break from work - including the rest of the phenomenal food we had for Christmas! I posted about the dessert I made, but that's nothing compared to what Steve made us for dinner.

For a pre-dinner snack before celebrating New Year's with our great neighbors/friends Rob and Jill, I made a tart. I've made this cherry tomato tart from La Tartine Gourmande a few times in the past...but I've never actually tasted it before because I always hated tomatoes! But, since I welcomed tomatoes into my eating regime in 2010, I was able to find out first hand just how scrumptious this tart is!

In the past I've used store-bought puff pastry for the crust, but this time around I made a pâte brisée which I think worked very well, and is much cheaper than buying puff pastry at Whole Foods.

And, with the extra crust I cut out a little New Year's message!

A close up of the tomato-y goodness:

I hope everyone had a safe and wonderful New Year's and are enjoying the start of 2011!

Cherry Tomato Tart
From La Tartine Gourmande
(For a 14 x 4.5″ rectangular mold, serve 4 small portions)


  • About 9 oz puff pastry or pâte brisée (see recipe below)
  • 14 oz cherry tomatoes
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon mustard à l’ancienne (note: I used Dijon)
  • 3.5 oz fresh goat cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon chopped sage leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped mint leaves
  • A few black olives
  • 1 teaspoon fine sugar
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts


  • Roll the dough and place it in the mold. Make holes with a fork and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  • Preheat your oven at 420 F and precook your tart for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool slightly.
  • Slice your tomatoes in halves.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a non-stick frying pan and when hot, add the tomatoes and cook on high heat for 2 minutes.
  • Then add the chopped garlic and sugar, and cook for 2 extra minutes, tossing them. Remove and set aside.
  • Mix together the egg and the goat cheese. Work to get a homogeneous consistency.
  • Add the chopped parsley and sage. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Turn down the oven temperature to 350 F.
  • Spread the mustard on top of the tart and then spread the egg/cheese mixture over.
  • Arrange the tomatoes on top and cook the tart in the oven for 30 minutes.
  • Remove and let cool before adding the sliced olives and the chopped mint.
  • Dry roast the pine nuts and sprinkle them on top. Eat the tart hot or warm.
Pâte Brisée
From La Tartine Gourmande

  • 1 1/2 cups All-purpose flour
  • 7 Tbsp cold butter (or margarine)
  • Dash of salt
  • Cold water (about 6 to 7 Tbsp)


  • To make the crust, place the flour in the bowl of a stand mixer and use your hook attachment.
  • Add the salt and cold butter cut in pieces and start mixing.
  • Slowly add cold water. Add enough so that the dough detaches from the bowl.
Note: I just used my pastry cutter instead of my mixer, cutting in the butter and then used my hands to work in the cold water until I had a cohesive dough.