Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Eight years ago, I moved to the South Loop of Chicago with my college boyfriend. Within about 25 minutes of us unloading our mixed array of furniture into the apartment, I looked at my future husband and said, "do you smell chocolate?" He looked at me like I was crazy.

Well I wasn't crazy. We lived about 15 blocks away from the Blommer Chocolate factory. Now a normal nose probably wouldn't have picked up on the smell of chocolate 15 blocks away and 34 stories above the small factory...but mine is no normal nose. I have been dialed into the "chocolate frequency" since I was a very young kid. I can pick up the scent of chocolate like Scooby Doo can pick up the scent of Scooby Snacks.

So it only seems natural that I have tried many a chocolate recipe in my life. One of my favorites is for Chocolate Truffles. People always correlate truffles with being very fancy, but they are actually pretty simple to make. Here is one of my favorite recipes...and your home will smell amazing when you make them!! --a

1/2 pound bittersweet chocolate
1/2 pound semisweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier, optional
1 tablespoon prepared coffee
1/2 teaspoon good vanilla extract
Confectioners' sugar
Cocoa powder

Chop the chocolates finely with a sharp knife. Place them in a heat-proof mixing bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan until it just boils. Turn off the heat and allow the cream to sit for 20 seconds. Pour the cream through a fine-meshed sieve into the bowl with chocolate. With a wire whisk, slowly stir the cream and chocolates together until the chocolate is completely melted. Whisk in the Grand Marnier, if using, coffee, and vanilla. Set aside at room temperature for 1 hour.

With 2 teaspoons, spoon round balls of the chocolate mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, until firm. Roll each dollop of chocolate in your hands to roughly make a round ball. Roll in confectioners' sugar, cocoa powder, or both. These will keep refrigerated for weeks, but serve at room temperature.

Monday, September 29, 2008

We're watching.

Inspiration board & accessory.

I have a confession to make. I'm a stalker...and a big one. I don't prowl around outside ex-boyfriends apartments, but I do obsess over beautiful items on the internet and stores...and pay them visits on a possibly more-than-healthy basis. As part of my self-induced treatment, I would like to share these beloved finds with you. Perhaps you can join in my obsession.

The first objects of my affection are the beautiful handmade clutches of redrubyrose. If you haven't already been to this wonderful etsy shop, you must check it out immediately! Rowena crafts these beautiful purses from vintage and contemporary textiles AND she has started adding her very own fabric designs as well.

As Brandi mentioned in an earlier post, you can draw inspiration for a wedding from all sorts of places. And the beautiful textiles used by Rowena in her work would be a great place to start as well. Which is exactly what I did in this inspiration board. Since Fall is now upon us, I chose one of her lovely chocolate brown clutches with taupy fern and flower silhouettes as our focal point. This may be the first time that you see her work in one of our boards, but I assure you it won't be the last. Enjoy. --a

First Row: photo by Brian Kinyon, flowers by Saipua , invitation by Oslo Press, photo of Sandals St. Lucia Grande. Second Row: Photo by Jenny Hammar, clutch by redrubyrose, cake detail by Take the Cake, Third Row: photo by Jenny Hammar, photo from The Knot, hair accessory by Muscari by Easter Yu, photo by Jenny Hammar

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Timeless drink.


Think of it as an aristocratic lemon slushie. The Sgroppino (scroe-pee-noe) cocktail can be traced to the early 1500’s, when it was served to Venetian nobility as a palate cleanser. Sgroppino embodies everything great about Italian cuisine - simple, fresh ingredients coming together for an exhilarating, one-of-a-kind sensory experience.

I suggest using this drink in one of two ways. You could easily segue from a cocktail hour into the dinner hour serving Sgroppino in between as a beautiful palate cleanser. Secondly, you could serve this at the end of the meal as a digestivo or simple refreshment. Either way the drink is memorable, refreshing and elegant!

In a small bowl, whisk together half cup Prosecco, a splash of vodka and a small scoop of lemon gelato. Pour the mix into a chilled serving glass and garnish with fresh mint.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Good to be a book worm.


Having a good centerpiece is an essential part of any party...whether it is a wedding or an intimate gathering...it is important to have that focal point. I think a lot of people get caught up in the idea of having an elaborate display of flowers in an even more elaborate vase. That doesn't always work.

A. A big bunch of flowers can be expensive.

B. Not everyone has a wickedly awesome vase laying around.

C. Not everyone has more than one wickedly awesome vase laying around so that you don't have to have the same centerpiece for each party.

D. It's not so easy to arrange those puppies once you have the flowers.

So I was looking around my apartment and used something that I have in large quantity to create a unique look for less - books. I chose an assortment of different sized books and covered them with some spare wrapping paper that I had laying around (thanks very much Domino Magazine). This print is pretty whimsical looking, but you could definitely do something more sophisticated or earthy to change up the look. I personally like to create different levels in any display piece, so layering the books to create "steps" for these mini vases worked really well. And then I only had to place 2 little daisies in each vase...it's hard to mess that up. But if you don't want to look for flowers, you could just as effectively use votive candles as well.

Voila! A striking centerpiece at virtually no cost or effort...my favorite kind. --a

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Glorious Cheese…….


Where cheeses are concerned, I’m prone to guilding the lily. I’m unable to curb my impulse to leave well enough alone. I am always in search of “the perfect bite” where your taste buds explode with contrasting flavors. Manchego and Quince, Saga Blue with a drizzle of honey, Camembert with a fruity red Beaujolais.

Recently I was noshing at Zampa, a fabulous wine bar and kitchen on the West Side when I tasted something so pure that it changed my whole philosophy on cheese. Yes, I do have a philosophy on cheese. Burrata, translated as “buttery” or “buttered” is a fresh Italian-style cheese, consisting of a mozzarella outer shell, with a delicious, rich center of mozzarella curd and cream. The taste is so perfect, that tampering of any kind would be a disgrace.

This appeals to me as a Hip Hostess because rarely do you find something so impressive that requires little or no work. My advice is the next time you host a dinner party place Burrata, some quality olive oil and fresh tomatoes on a plate as your first course. You won’t be sorry. --b

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

It's in the bag.


I don't think I'm alone in the world when I say that I love snacks. There isn't a potato chip or candy that I have come across that I don't like. In fact, the mere thought of chocolate covered pretzels will give me the strength to power through another 10 minutes on the eliptical machine in the morning to cancel out a potential afternoon splurge.

Now I believe that most casual parties that I have gone to in recent past - be they football party or game night - have included some sort of snack table. Usually what can be found next to the smorgas board o' chips and candies is a pile of lack-luster plastic bowls...because who wants to wash 20 bowls at midnight after the party has dispersed? Or who even has 20 spare bowls??

Here is an alternative to the ugly plastic bowl. Personalized glassine bags. They are cheap and easy to create. Take up little room in your cupboard. And you can have a different "theme" for each party. Here's what you need:

1. Glassine bags

2. Unmounted repositionable stamps (you can get complete alphabet sets for about $10)

3. An acrylic block for the stamps (between $5 -$10, depending on size)

4. Stamp pad (I used Brilliance Archival Pigment Ink because it works best on glossy surfaces)

Look how simple and fun these be..and you don't have to do dishes. --a

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Is There No End to her Talent?

Ring Pillow.

Vane, of the ever inspiring Brooklyn Bride has launched Bklyn Pillow, which is a unique modern twist on the ring pillow. No more shiny white satin with tulle, thank god.

One of the things you will see repeated on this website is that a single point of creativity can inspire your whole wedding. Who says you have to buy the ring pillow 1 month before your trip down the aisle? If the fun, fabulous textiles on Vane’s pillows make you happy then buy it now and use the colors, patterns and textures as a guideline for every aspect of your wedding.

We love Bklyn Pillow and know you will to. --b

Monday, September 22, 2008

Autumn leaves are not fallin' just yet...

Inspiration Board.
It's no secret to those planning weddings that creating an inpiration board is a great way to start maping out the look and tone of your wedding. What can happen, however, is that couples can become overwhelmed by all of the wonderful ideas available on the web, magazines, etc...and then feel like they must cram all of those ideas into their special day. An inspiration board should be just that...an inspiration. Concentrate on colors, styles, presentation. Taking a couple of innovative presentation ideas and executing them to perfection is much more visually impressive than having a mixed bag of every fun thing you've found.

Today we are inspired by the first day of Fall. Rather than give into to inevitable fact that summer is over, this is our homage to what a fun fiesta in Mexico could be like. --a

Not your grandmother's stationary.


Invitations are such an important part of a wedding. For most of your guests, this will be their first look into what your wedding will be like. Don't be afraid to show a little personality. Your guests will be excited to see something new and different than the traditional black engraved lettering on white cardstock.

These are actually Brandi's wedding invitations and they set the tone for the wedding in a couple of different ways. First they feature Mayan art which is a large part of the culture in Rivera Maya where there wedding was held. Secondly, the artwork was drawn by the Brandi's mother. So even though she lives in Kansas, hundreds of miles away, Brandi's mom was now able to be a main factor in the overall theme for the wedding....right from the beginning.

The contrasting striped card has more of a modern tone which blended the idea of a modern hotel setting within Mexico. The colors reflect the dark tones of the wood used throughout the resort, the blue of the ocean and the green of the mangroves.

I think we can all agree that these fabulous invites lend a lot of personality to what was a very special celebration!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

I think this deserves a Green Medal.

Centerpiece DIY.

As the world’s gaze fell upon Beijing this summer, one of the most breathtaking sights was the dazzling botanical displays of the Olympic Topiary Gardens. I was glad to discover that the love of topiary’s is universal.

Since topiary’s seem to be at the forefront of everyone’s mind, it’s a great time to show how you to can display an awe inspiring topiary without all the acreage.

Below is a Strawberry Topiary that Amber and I put together for an engagement party. All you need for this little beauty are some strawberries, toothpicks, styrofoam forms and a pot. Then, voila, you’ll have a stunning centerpiece in no time. --b

Friday, September 19, 2008

Save your pedicure, skip the sand.

Destination venue.

I love the idea of a destination wedding. I was very recently married and absolutely loved my wedding. It was a blast…but it was also pretty big. And as much as you try to be in the moment and spend as much time as possible with every single guest, it just isn’t possible…unless you have a clone or two hanging around. So while I was on my honeymoon relaxing and trying to piece together the memories from my whirlwind wedding weekend, I got ever-so-slightly envious of those brides that can pull off a smaller guest list in an exotic location. But I could never do a destination wedding. Gazebos are not my taste. And sand between my toes does not make me feel pretty. Then I looked around me and realized that I was in the perfect spot for an uber-chic destination wedding.

My husband and I had the wonderful fortune of staying at Jade Mountain in St. Lucia for our honeymoon. This resort is absolutely breath-taking. And although all of the photos that I will show you are amazing, they don’t even begin to capture the way you feel each and every time you look at your surrounding…amazing. And although you can most definitely go to the beach during the day, I think a wedding using the amazing architecture and view within the resort would be most appropriate.

First, each guest would be treated with not just an ordinary room, but a sanctuary with its own infinity pool and butler service to boot. Each of the 24 infinity pool sanctuaries has only 3 walls…with the fourth opening up to a view of the Piton mountains. It is very sexy and romantic. This is the room that we stayed in:

As for the actual wedding, the entire resort involves a series of “sky bridges” that take you from the main pathway to each individual sanctuary. There are at least a dozen spots within this inner corridor that would make a lovely aisle for the bride and gallery for the guests.

And then for the reception, the Jade Mountain Club is the restaurant and lounge that services the resort. Besides boasting an absolutely wonderful 4-course menu, it also offers a sky deck that has 360-degree views of the mountains , countryside and beach. Hello…who cares about sandy beach weddings when you can have this? --a

Nothing but Truffle...


So it's Thursday night and I'm working on a recipe for an appetizer which can only mean one thing - I have been inspired yet again by a recent supermarket splurge. This time it is White Truffle Honey.

Now I've enjoyed truffle honey in restaurants before...but I've never had my own personal bottle. It is nothing short of outrageously addictive. Sweet, fragrant honey that is laced with white truffle - creating a balance of earthiness and sweetness that explodes with flavor. It is likely that I alone could eat the entire jar of honey in the coming week. To help rid my waistline of the burden of this glorious find, I decided to come up with a recipe for an appetizer that will allow me to best share the wealth with others. --b

Manchego Stuffed Dates with White Truffle Honey

Medjool Dates
Manchego Cheese
White Truffle Honey

Make a slice in the side of each of the dates and remove the pits. Insert a slice of Manchego Cheese. Drizzle with truffle honey. Enjoy.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Nothing against patchouli, but…


Thankfully many people are embracing the “green movement” in creative and innovative ways. But for all of the strides that we have made in fabulous environmentally-friendly materials, the word “sustainable” still illicits the mental images of hemp necklaces, tie-dye, and peace symbols in a lot of people. Not the most attractive visual for an event unless you are in college and paying homage to Jerry Garcia.

You don’t have to throw away style to be sustainable. We came across Matchstick Garden recently and think it is an extremely cool concept…and super cute as well. Each matchstick actually contains tiny seeds within the tip that when planted will soon yield you a lovely flower or herb garden. Who wouldn’t love this as a favor at a party? It’s tiny enough to fit in your pocket or purse. And it doesn’t smell a thing like patchouli. --a

Bunny Love…

Dessert Detail.

A little over a year ago, Amber and I planned a baby shower for our friend and co-worker Christine. We decided on a Peter Rabbit inspired theme mainly because we wanted Christine and her new baby to have the Peter Rabbit collection as a keepsake and memory of the special day.

Like good little event planners we had incorporated light green tablecloths, dogwoods and white tulips. But we were still missing that piece de resistance that makes everyone ooh and ahh upon arrival. That’s when we ran across Rebecca Russell’s cake topper website, if you are not familiar with Rebecca’s work you must go immediately her site to check it out.

Rebecca hadn’t previously done any Peter Rabbit figures but did have some naked bunnies on her website that were just begging for coats. We sent Rebecca some images from the book that showed our vision and not only did she rise to the challenge but she impressed us with her eye for detail. --b

You're a Daisy if you do...


Personalization is more than just putting your initials on packaging. It is adding your mark throughout your wedding and is especially memorable if you draw inspiration from something that will be with you forever...like your engagement ring.

This point brings me to a great jewelry website that was sent to me a couple of days ago from Halley Barney who is the owner and designer of F.N.U.E. I was immediately inspired after looking at the website and thought "wouldn’t one of these beautiful pieces make a unique engagement ring?"

You know what’s coming. That’s right - an inspiration board for a wedding based on one of Halley's wonderfully creative pieces. Thanks Halley! --b

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Forbidden Fruit? Not Anymore

Cocktail Idea

The Mangosteen is called the “world’s best tasting fruit.” I think wiseGeek.com describes it best, “flavors range from strawberry to peach to vanilla ice cream.” Oh yeah…a fruit that tastes like Vanilla Ice Cream AND has an incredible amount of anti-oxidants.

The Mangosteen is round, purple and slightly smaller than a tennis ball. It grows on small evergreen trees in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and southern India. It is said that Queen Victoria offered a sizable prize to anyone who could bring an edible Mangosteen back to England, but no one was able. Even the Queen couldn’t get her hands on these puppies.

When I was in Asia a few years ago I had the fortune of trying this delectable delight and proceeded to eat every Mangosteen I could get my hands on for two weeks. At that time they were not offered in the U.S. due to FDA regulations. It is now our good fortune that the Mangosteen is being imported.

Speaking of exotic fruit. I am no stranger to the Lychee especially when doused with Vodka. They make a mean one at La Bottega, my old neighborhood hangout. But now that I am in a new Hip neighborhood and starting an adventure with Hip Hostess, I figure it is time for a new drink.

I give you the Hip Hostess Mangosteen Martini, I bet the Jones’ haven’t served this. --b

Mangosteen Martini

1 cup mangosteen syrup (can be found at Whole Foods)

1/4 cup pink grapefruit juice

1/4 cup peach nectar

1/2 cup chilled vodka

ice cubes

12 mangosteen fruit sections (fresh or out of the can)

In a cocktail shaker, combine mangosteen syrup, juices, and vodka with ice cubes. Shake or stir well. Strain into martini glasses. Garnish with 2 mangosteen fruit sections.