Summer in the City is my favorite Regina Spektor song, so it's only appropriate to talk about my favorite time in my city Chicago. Summer has been filled with bike riding and exploring the city (Sean bought me a bike for my birthday and called it the "gift of the city" ha!), outdoor dining for birthdays, Farmer's Markets and suburban baby showers. Biking around the city is probably my new favorite activity as we've been able to cover tens of miles of the city and randomly stop and enjoy the scenery. I am a ham for the camera and luckily Sean loves to take photos with his fancy camera, so we can document along the way.
Jul 29, 2012
Jul 20, 2012
It was my dearest friends'' birthday this past week, so I treated her to a little red velvet goodness. I wanted to try a new icing technique, so I consulted one of my friends from home who is pretty much Martha Stewart's clone and she gave me some tips via the baking tool company Wilton. I think I got it down now.
1. crumb the baked cake, which pretty much means ice a thin layer first so the crumbs don't get into the icing
2. use a Wilton's 789 icing tip for a thick application
3. use a slanted icing knife to even out the icing
As for the cake, I used Bakerella's recipe, where buttermilk (ohhh yeah) is always the key ingredient and the Sprinkles cream cheese Icing Recipe.
8 oz cold cream cheese
1 stick unsalted butter (firm, but not cold)
1/8 tsp salt
3 3/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp vanilla
milk (as needed)
Beat cream cheese, butter and salt on med-low speed until smooth and creamy (about 2-3 mins). Reduce speed to low and slowly add the powdered sugar and beat until incorporated. Add vanilla and beat until just incorporated. Should be creamy and dense, like ice cream (HELL YES). If necessary, add milk, 1 tsp at a time if frosting doesn't have a spreadable consistency. I used 1.5 of this recipe to cover the whole cake.
I also wanted to make her a cute little name banner because I think colored icing letters are so last season's pinterest board. I used colored scrapbooking paper, cake pop sticks, super glue and a pencil and ruler for measuring. Otherwise, the photos should show how I made it! And then ate it!
Jul 7, 2012
So I've expressed my love for gift giving on several occasions, but now that I consider myself a full blown Chicago-an I have discovered a few go-to local shops that carry the most unique gifts for any occasion.
The Interior Designer is a difficult friend to shop for given their impeccable style, and disdain for chain stores, but Jayson Home & Garden, in Lincoln Park, will satisfy even the hardest to shop for. I scoured the store for something that wouldn't shatter in the mail and I decided on a Tatine Candle and a few fun matchbooks. I could spend hours on end in this Unique Furniture & Home Decor store, but the goods are definitely not friendly on the good ol' pocketbook. I highly recommend a quick browsing on the website for the sale that is going on right now though!
The frequent traveler is also another friend that is difficult to shop for as you have to ask yourself, what do you buy the friend that has and almost seen everything? I went to the paper store Paper Doll in Wicker Park looking for hand made cards and I stocked up on a few, but also picked up a unique little luggage tag for my friends' travels. And I know JCrew isn't a local store, but how cute is this little traveler's jewelry organizer?
Smitten Boutique has been my go-to for hand made cards since I moved to the city, as when we first moved here we lived in the West Loop neighborhood. This wedding boutique is the girly girls' dream and sells wedding, baby and custom paper products. I found the hand made cards that I wanted to buy for a few upcoming events and left with a few other goodies as I always do!
Jul 4, 2012
Last year on my birthday I was working, mid-week, in Cleveland, Ohio. Needless to say any event in Chicago could have passed up last years' celebration-by LEAPS and BOUNDS. My birthday fell on a Friday this year, so I took the opportunity to start the celebrations on Thursday and drag them out throughout the entire weekend. Nobody seemed to mind! Here's a roundup of the events and restaurant goodness.
Kai Zan Japanese restaurant was where I made my original birthday restaurant, but I ended up changing it to a larger spot as Kai Zan is a pretty intimate setting with only 22 seats in house. I found Kai Zan via one of my daily Tasting Table emails and immediately put it in my "to try" email folder. It's a charming, Japanese tapas, West Town, establishment, run by twin brothers who have been working in the Japanese food industry in the city for over 20 years. I'm always the biggest critic when it comes to Japanese food, but I was pleasantly surprised. We were greeted with a free seared tuna sushi appetizer and continued to order a ton of little plates-seafood salad, miso cauliflower, home made tofu with okra, karaage (fried chicken) and beef skewers. Very reasonably priced, good service by the chefs and best of all-in my neighborhood.
Seadog Sushi is your typical Americanized sushi restaurant, but hey I'm definitely not above a BYOB, centrally located, reasonably priced restaurant. I spent my actual birthday here with a few bottles of wine deep, and in good company. Couldn't ask for more!
The Bedford is a bar that I've visited before, but a second look always validates whether or not you like a place. The vault concept of the bar is really cool and we enjoyed all the picture opportunities!
Last but not least, Honky Tonk, is a Pilsen BBQ restaurant, and came highly recommended by friends. We had a group of 6 or 7 on a Saturday night and were able to sit down with no reservation and no problems. I like it. And boy did I leave wishing I wore the stretchiest of stretchy pants. Sean and I shared the sample platter and it was the perfect serving to get a little taste of each of the meats they have to offer.
Oh wait! One last event! Sunday funday (excuse the cliche, but what else is it?) was at my girlfriends' pool and a group of my friends surprised me as I walked into the apartment to them singing Happy Birthday-with a tray of delicious Sweet Mandy B cupcakes. A great end to a very long and eventful birthday weekend!