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At Home with Kim Vallee
Bellalimento
Celebrations at Home

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It's in the Details
The Party Bluprints Blog
Pepper Design Blog
Thoughtfully Simple
Unchained Kitchen

 

Thursday
Feb072013

Raising the bar at DRUMBAR

Drumbar made quite a splash on the scene this summer, with a fabulous rooftop overlooking its posh Streeterville address...but what's a Chicago bar to do in winter?

Enter Craig Schoettler, formerly of The Aviary. Craig came on several months ago and quickly got to work developing an adventerous cocktail menu to enchant both business travelers and "been there, drank that" locals. Balanced tastes and clever presentation combine to make Drumbar a permanent fixture on the city's mixology trail. If you've been to Aviary, some of these tricks might look familiar, but they're no less enjoyable (in fact, more so, what with Drumbar's brighter lighting and less intimidating doormen).

 

Rooibos: Gin and gingerbread rooibos tea percolate in a vacuum pot, and are then stirred with a cinnamon stick to create an aromatic blend that's an ideal nightcap.

 

Smoke: First, a white oak "coaster" is gently charred. Next, the smoke is trapped by a glass, into which a cocktail of Laird's Apple Brandy and sarsaparilla is poured. Don't let this one sit around — it's more enjoyable while the hint of smoke still lingers.

 

Less flashy in presentation are the Lavender (ice cold tequila and lavender in a glass flask) and Sour (bourbon and passionfruit espuma...resist the temptation to eat the espuma on its own). Both strike me as being ideal for warm weather sipping.

Drumbar's Progressive Cocktail Menu is available on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings only.
201 E Delaware Place, atop the Raffaello Hotel

Sunday
Feb032013

Last-Minute SUPER BOWL Party Ideas

Hosting a Super Bowl party in a few hours? Don't fret! This morning I shared some tips on CBS Chicago's morning show for a Last-Minute Super Bowl Party.

 

Dine

You don't have to serve "bar food" if you don't want to. Take inspiration from the cuisines of New Orleans (Gumbo), Maryland (Crab Cakes) or San Francisco (sourdough bread, California wine). The choices are limitless, which is good when you're in a time crunch.

 

Drink

For a nod to Nawlins, serve Hurricanes. But for something more interesting, take inspiration from San Francisco's trendy bar scene and serve a Fernet Branca & Ginger Lime. Don't worry, Fernet Branca is very readily available at liquor stores like Binnys.

Fernet Branca & Ginger Lime
Into a pint glass, pour
1.5 oz Fernet Branca
1 oz Ginger-Lime Syrup*
Fill a glass with ice
Fill with club soda*
Stir gently and serve

*Can substitute with ginger beer and squirt of lime

 

Do

If you're not into the game, I highly recommend a rousing game of Commercial Bingo. May the best advertising agency win!

 

Decor

For this party, the decor is last and least! The game is the main event, so there really is no need to stress about decorating your space. But if you really want to, use what you already have. Just remember it doesn’t need to be Pinterest-worthy.
• Since the game is in New Orleans, you can use Mardi Gras decorations
• Turn tissue paper into football-shaped tissue poms
• A green cloth can be turned into a football field. Create stripes with white tape, chalk, paint, etc.
• Even real footballs can be used as decor (just wipe them off first!)

Sunday
Dec302012

Host an Orange Bowl party!

This post originally appeared in December of 2009, but I absolutely had to revise it for the 2013 Orange Bowl...

When I was a student at Northern Illinois University, our football team had the distinction of being the very worst among Division I schools. To give you an idea of how bad we were, the students rushed the field and tore down the goal posts when we won a game. Not Homecoming. Not against a rival. Just a regular game that snapped our 80 million game losing streak. The next Monday, the gameday results were featured in a two page wraparound of the student newspaper.

Back in the day, gametime = sequin time!The team steadily improved, but even after I graduated, my friends and I could casually roll up to Huskie Stadium on Homecoming morning and easily grab a primo tailgating spot just a few yards from the stadium. And then, things changed. We started winning more games, sometimes even against "good" teams like Alabama and Maryland. Sportscasters began to take notice. Alumni donated money. New buildings popped up around campus. And the tailgating area next to the stadium turned into a top-tier donor lot.

This brings me to January 1st, 2013. NIU is playing in the Orange Bowl. I don't care what the angry tangerine-hued man on ESPN says. I am beyond excited, and I know my fellow alumni are, too.

If you're not going to the Orange Bowl itself (which, le sniff, I am not), or a sponsored watch party, the next best thing is hosting an Orange Bowl party at home. Take inspiration from the Cuban cuisine of Miami, along with some tropical touches.  Some ideas to get you started:

DISH: Serve Mini Cubano Sandwiches, Cuban Shortbread Cookies, and Citrus fruit salad

DRINK: Orange basil mojitos by Recipegirl.com (photo from Fine Living)

DECOR: Spruce up your space with oranges and cloves in addition to a general football motif and team colors. Also stock up on these Cayman 7" plates from CB2. And remember...

 

GO HUSKIES!
(Hello to my 'Nole friends. My love for you will return on January 2nd.) 

 

More football watching merriment:
Rose Bowl
Sugar Bowl
Fiesta Bowl
plus general football party tips

Sunday
Dec022012

Keep Kitchen Remodeling COSTS from Adding UP

There are two things I don’t love about my kitchen, shown above – the color of the cabinets (cherry was so chic eight years ago) and the backsplash (::ahem:: there is none). One thing at a time, right? I asked Joaquin Erazo of Case Remodeling/Design for some advice on the cabinets, and here’s what he had to say:

A complete kitchen remodel can be a big investment. Installing new appliances, updating the flooring, countertops, lighting, painting… the list of tempting to-do items is seemingly endless! If you’re trying to minimize kitchen costs for a remodeling project, you need to employ two strategies – prioritize the big expenses, and determine where you can cut corners.

Photo source: Pinterest

Homeowners looking to update their kitchens often start with their kitchen cabinets, as these improvements will likely cause the biggest notice of change (I hear that!). However, replacing kitchen cabinets can also be the biggest budget buster. An easy way to cut kitchen costs for remodeling is to identify whether cabinets should be replaced, or if they can be refaced or refinished.

Photo source: Pinterest

Before you make a decision on the type of cabinet remodel needed for your space, take a good look at your kitchen.
Reface or refinish if: you are satisfied with the current layout.
Replace if: your kitchen cabinets are not functional or if you want a completely remodeled kitchen.

Here’s the difference between the three:

  • Refacing: Refacing is the process of replacing doors and drawer fronts and recovering the remaining surfaces with laminate, paint, or veneer. Refacing jobs are easy and relatively quick to complete, plus they cause limited damage to walls and other surfaces in your kitchen.
  • Refinishing: Refinishing is the process of repainting all existing surfaces with a fresh coat of paint or varnish. For an added twist, consider replacing the hardware (hinges and knobs) Refinishing is the most affordable, fastest, and easiest remodeling option for your kitchen cabinets.
  • Replacing: You can probably guess this one! If you’re looking for a bigger impact with your kitchen , you should replace your cabinets. The total budget for replacing will depend on the type of materials you select. Stock cabinets will be much cheaper than custom-made cabinets.

Photo source: Pinterest

 

No matter which route you choose, changing the look of your cabinets is a great way to breathe life into an outdated space, or just give it a little lift.

What do you guys think? Should I refinish my kitchen cabinets? As you can probably tell from the photos above, I’m a bit obsessed with white cabinets!

Thursday
Nov012012

Five Foreign FINDS for unique GIFTS

Oh dear...gift-giving season is upon us. We all have that person who's impossible to shop for, right? Well, perhaps they'd like something unique from one of these five international sources. All are inspired by some traveling I've done, all ship to the United States, and all are sure to make an impression!

1) SPAIN: Lladró Porcelain. This beloved Spanish brand creates pieces that can sometimes be a bit fussy for my taste, and they're expensive to boot, with pieces regularly in the thousands. But they also have hipper and more wallet-friendly alternatives, such as this cool "Egg Cup" sculpture, a more affordable $110.

2) AUSTRIA: Imperial Torte. It wasn't until my last night in Vienna that I tried our hotel's eponymous Imperial Torte. A pity - I'll just have to go back. I much prefer this heavenly chocolate/almond creation to the better known Viennese export, the sachertorte.

3) UK: Christmas Hampers. No one does a good hamper ("gift basket" to us Yanks) like the English do, and Fortnum and Mason does one of the best hampers in the UK. They will even ship to the USA, should you get a tea and biscuits craving like I do, on the regular.

4) THAILAND: GOODJOB Bags. I was immediately drawn to these "Blossom" bags at a department store in Bangkok. So glad I whipped out the plastic for a tote... it's one of my favorite purchases ever! I've only found one online outlet that will ship GOODJOB to the USA, and while it's expensive, it beats airfare to Thailand.

5) FRANCE: Maison Georges Chocolat. J'adore traveling with the mister, but sometimes a girl needs time on her own. On a cloudy morning in Paris, he went off and studied WWII memorials while I hit the shops in Marais, where I literally followed my nose to the Maison Georges near the métro St-Paul. One bag of bon-bons later, I had an edible souvenir of Paris (that lasted all of two days. Oops.)

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