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At Home with Kim Vallee
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Hostess with the Mostess
It's in the Details
The Party Bluprints Blog
Pepper Design Blog
Thoughtfully Simple
Unchained Kitchen



Insider's Guide to Ravinia on Chicagonista

Whether you live in our fair city or are just passing through, you must spend a few hours on a warm summer night at Ravinia Festival in Highland Park.  In addition to being a fabulous music venue, it's the perfect place to create a memorable evening with friends.  Starting today, I'll be posting twice a month on Chicagonista.com, and today's post features insider tips on how to make the most of your visit to this hallowed local institution (the "insider" part comes from having worked at the park for a season).  Check it out!


Operation Watermelon Bombe - Successful!

Remember this post about watermelon? Well, it inspired me to make my own version of Martha Stewart's Watermelon Bombe!

Second City Soiree's Simplified Watermelon Bombe
Serves about 8

You will need:
2 pints pistachio ice cream
1 pint vanilla ice cream
2 pints watermelon sorbet or gelato
Angel food or sponge cake
Chocolate wafers or similar cookie (I used 5 chocolate pizzelles)
3 quart metal bowl
Food coloring
plastic wrap

If you live in Chicago, all can be purchased at the brand new Whole Foods of Ridiculous Proportions off of North Avenue.

How to do it:
1) Line the inside of the metal bowl with plastic wrap, and put in freezer.

2) Soften 2 pints of pistachio ice cream. You can either do this in a mixer or just let it stand on the counter until it's soft. My pistachio ice cream was almost white, so I stirred in 5 drops green food coloring. Spread around the inside of the bowl in an even coat. Freeze until hard.

3) Soften 1 pint vanilla ice cream. Spread over the pistachio layer. Freeze until hard.

4) Soften 2 pints watermelon gelato or sorbet. I used Whole Food's watermelon sorbet, which turned out to be more like a gelato. I added three drops of red food coloring. Chop up a chocolate wafer into small, watermelon seed shaped pieces.  Fold gently into the gelato, so as not to break up the pieces. Pack into the center of the mold, but leave an inch or two of room at the top. Freeze until hard.

5) Slice about 1.5" of an angel food cake lengthwise and press it down on top of the watermelon layer.  Depending on the size of the cake, you might have to trim the edges. Freeze at least 30 minutes.

6) When ready to eat, invert the bowl over a plate. It should pop right out, but if it doesn't, use a hot towel or hairdryer to heat up the bowl while inverted. Peel off the plastic wrap, slice with a hot knife, and eat! :D


YUM! Thanks to my friend Chris for snapping this photo, as I forgot to bring my camera to his house.

Why I think this recipe is better than some of the others out there
Well, I love Martha, but hers is just too complicated. With so many quality ice cream brands on the market, I see no reason to make your own unless you want the experience of doing so.  Same thing with the sponge cake.

On the other hand, her recipe is far superior to some others that call for fruity sherbets (i.e. lime for the outer layer) and chocolate chips in place of chocolate wafers. Her ice cream suggestions are much tastier, and I personally don't care for frozen chocolate chips. Also, the cake layer is genius, as it soaks up the melted ice cream as you're eating it.

You can do this!  It's super easy.  The photo above shows my first attempt, which I think turned out really well!  I have a feeling that ice cream bombes are going to be my new "thing" when asked to bring dessert to a party...


National Donut Day!

Woo-hoo! It's National Donut Day!  God bless America...first Grilled Cheese Month, and now this.

If you can't make it to your favorite local bakery or Dunkin Donuts, don't cry...get cooking! Here's a super simple recipe from Southern Plate. No dough-making required! She's also got a killer Bismarck recipe.

So easy, so yummy.  From Southern Plate.

If you're up to making some from scratch, check out these brioche sugar donuts by Mindy Segal, owner/pastry chef of Hot Chocolate in Bucktown.  As the article suggests, these would make a great dessert!

Need more sugar? Here's a jelly donut from yet another fab Chicago pastry chef, Gale Gand.

So many options for just one day of fried deliciousness.


Local goodies on Etsy

We've got some clever Chicagoans on Etsy.  Here's a selection of delicious treats and cheeky stationary.  There's more where this came from.  Support your local crafter!


"Beer's Best Friend" cookies by buttermilkbakeshop, $14 for two dozen
(hurry, she's only in Chicago for the next few weeks!)


Peanut butter and jelly truffles by VintageConfections, $9 for 11


Little Somethin' Somethin' Tags by orangebeautiful, $7 for pack of 6.


"Eat Me" recipe card set by TerriTaylorDesign, $6 for pack of 12.


Pink Felted Flower Note Card by AshleyPahl, $4 each


Reader Mailbag: Hey, buddy...the TV stays off!

The very first post I wrote for this blog is an important one that I've cited a few times - The Party Killers.  If you've read it, you know that I am vehemently opposed to having the TV on during a party, unless you're getting together to watch a program or movie.  There was a question asked in the comments of that post, and I'd like to elaborate on it...


Hannah asks:
What do you suggest doing with the tv if it's a main part of the room's decor? There's always one guy who will want to turn it on!

Yes, Hannah we all know that guy.  Your place (and you) are decorated to the nines, you have lovely appetizers, delicious cocktails, conversation is flowing....and he shows up and wants to know if he can turn on the tube or worse, goes and does it without permission.  Le sigh.

Let's analyze this at various levels of boorishness:

Level One:
They ask if they can turn on the TV.  You say "I'd really rather not. If we turn it on, pretty soon everyone is just staring at it and not talking to each other."  If they want to check the score of The Big Game (and they can't on their phone), take a minute to go to your computer and look it up for them.

Level Two:
Unplug it before the party starts.  When they exclaim "Hey, what's wrong with your TV?" you can smile and say "I unplugged it!"

Level Three:
Unplug it AND hide remotes AND disconnect the cable/satellite hookup.  Use the same response as above.

Level Four:
If you get to this level, suggest he watch it in a separate room.  Be vigilant, though.  There's a good chance other people will find him and then you'll have several guests mouth-breathing whilst staring blankly at a flickering screen.  If that happens, it's your job to herd them back to the party.  Once your rogue guest's program is done, make sure he rejoins the group.  You can do this by popping into that room "to get something" and if he's done watching The Big Game but is now into something else, say something like "Aww...and here I thought you came to my party to see me!" or "that girl you were talking to earlier is asking where you went" or something that lets them know hey, this is not okIf that doesn't work, you can let him stay in there, or put your foot down and make him socialize, darnit.  Either way, chances are you won't see them anytime soon...probably of your own choosing.

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