Well, I was all set to make recommendations for a dinner party involving precariously tilting cakes and green-eggs-and-ham (Happy birthday, Mr Geisel) but then I realized today is also another, much more locally relevant holiday - Pulaski Day! For those of you not in the Second City and its environs, Casmir Pulaski is a Revolutionary War hero of Polish decent, and Chicago being a town with a significant Polish population, it's become a local holiday. Sort of like Patriot's Day in Massachusettes. Schools are closed, but the majority of people still have to work. It's one of those days. So, what can you do to recognize this relatively obscure day?
Mmmm....pierogi. I like mine slightly crispy and sauteed in butter. I recommend the Kasia brand, which is available in most local grocery stores. If you're stranded in a part of the country without such delicacies readily available, here's a fairly standard recipie. If you want to go crazy, invite some friends over for vodka shots, some barscht (you probably know it as "borscht" which is the Russian spelling), the aforementioned pierogi, and kotlet schabowy, (breaded pork). Finish the meal with makowiec (poppyseed cake...usually reserved for holidays but hey - this IS a holiday!).
Alternatively, head over to Podhalanka near Ash/Div/Mil for a homey Polish dining experience. They don't serve alcohol, so you'll need to do the vodka shots at home. Enough of those and you'll be tilting precariously, in effect celebrating both of today's occasions. Everybody wins!
I'm sure some of you, in some parts of this very same country, are enjoying sunshine and warm breezes. We in Chicago are not. It's one of those late winter days when all you want to do is crawl back to bed and stay there until MLB Opening Day.
I like to drink my way through the cold. Pictured above (in a too-cute mug by Intelligentsia) is Green & Black's Hot Chocolate Drink. I'm partial though, to local chocolatier Vosges' drinking chocolates (especially the Aztec Elixir). Both are available nationally. If you're in Chicago and feel like braving the elements, go to Hot Chocolate on Damen or Coco Rouge on Division. Both make a heavenly drink, and the latter sells their own hot chocolate truffles that are fab.
Yes, these are all a little pricier than a box o' Swiss Miss from Jewel. But what price happiness on a day like today? If you insist on the watered down stuff, remember they'll have it at the concession stands during those early-season Cubs/Sox games.
Yeah, it'll still be cold on Opening Day...better stay in bed until the Taste.
Recently, I helped style an event that was held in a gorgeous rented hall. I hadn't been there in ages and was immediately taken by the beauty of the space, and looked forward to gilding the lily.
According to my collegue, our client had a rough idea of what she wanted, and asked us to come up with the final design on the spot, using a selection of raw materials. While I actually enjoyed the design challenge and the finished product looked very nice, we probably could have done an even better job with some advance planning and proper tools (honestly, there were a few times when I wondered if I was on some sort of reality show..."Can Team A pull this event together in just three hours with nothing but fishing line and packing tape?")
The lesson here is this - overcommunicate your vision to anyone who will be helping you AND plan ahead! Take into account the architecture of the space. If you want things hung up, consider ceiling height and if you'll need to do any installations (3M Command hooks are a godsend!). Make sure sturdy ladders are available. If you're doing any sort of draping, remember that you're dealing with gravity, which has an exponential effect when a piece of fabric or other material has to cover a wide distance, such as the example here:
Studio in a School dinner by Van Wyck & Van Wyck, New York. Photo by Mary Hilliard
If at all possible, set up the day before. This will do two things - 1) give your decorators enough time to account for any unforeseen issues and 2) if the decorations are strong enough to withstand the night, you know there's no danger of them drooping during your party. I know getting early access isn't always possible, but if you have that luxury, by all means take advantage of it!
Normally I pride myself on being slightly ahead of the curve when it comes to trends and such. However, pop rocks martinis seems to be one that I missed. Yes, Pop Rocks. The exploding candy that you're not supposed to mix with soda (I never did that, but I did give some to my dog when I was about 7...hey, I figured if enjoyed them, she would too! She didn't.)
But apparently it's not just me. At last week's BizBash conference, I attended a seminar called "45 trends in 45 minutes" which featured some great event ideas from around the country, including the aforementined martini. When that photo came on the screen, everyone oohed and ahhed. So, if some of the best event planners in the city are new to it, I must be in good company. Here are two recipies:
Red, blue, and explosive - just in time for Labor Day! photo source
Boston Pops Martini (pictured above)
package cherry Pop Rocks
2 1/2 oz. cranberry vodka
1/2 oz. Blue Curacao
1. Start with a chilled cocktail glass and rub the rim with a lime wedge
2. Open a pack of cherry flavored Pop Rocks candy and spread on a small plate or napkin. Press rim of the glass into the candy to coat rim.
3. In a shaker filled with ice, add cranberry vodka, shake and strain into prepared glass.
4. Slowly and carefully pour blue curacao in the middle of the glass, allowing it to settle in the glass. You should have two distinct layers
5. Add a small splash of lemon/lime soda.
By Joe Perdicaro at Zebra Bistro and Wine Bar, Medfield, Ma.
Le Pops Rocks Martini
3/4 ounce Skyy berry vodka
3/4 ounce Skyy citrus vodka
1 ounce Mango Fruja liqueur
1/4 ounce cranberry juice
1/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass rimmed with honey and Pop Rocks.
By Payman Khania at Bistro 111, Chicago
Coating the rim with honey seems to make more sense, as I think the lime would make the Rocks dissolve more quickly, thus taking away from the explosive enjoyment. Either way, both sound delicious.