Sprouting up at the Botanic Gardens

Booth“a pair of re-imagined chairs receive a dramatic debut”

Chairs beforeLast weekend I had a terrific time participating in the Chicago Botanic Garden’s “Antiques and Garden Fair.” I was invited to provide the furnishings/set for the “Style Blogger Panel” held at the fair that Saturday. From there I decided to take on a booth and put together a small space519 pop-up for the weekend; prominently showcasing a few furniture items I had scouted for the occasion (pictured above).  Central in this dual effort were a pair of Square Chairs circa 1960s. The chairs came to me from Coyle and Herr (a most favorite resource run by my friend MB Coyle and her partner Dot Herr). They were found in a Lake Shore Drive apartment – covered in dated green and white polka dots  – and most certainly surrounded by loads of chintz (pictured above, bottom left). However, when I first saw them I instantly recognized that they had great lines and solid construction. Back in my workshop the chairs were completely reworked.  First order, I removed the skirting around the bottom and had the legs stained dark black. Next up the chairs were completely reupholstered in a felted grey Ralph Lauren flannel. As always, my upholsterer did a masterful job – maintaining the overall square effect of the chairs while softening things a bit through the subtle curved lines on the cushion. These Chairs received a lot of attention throughout the fair and found a great home on Chicago’s North Shore. Not bad for a pair of old bitties.

imageFor the blogger panel set (pictured above) I paired the Square Chairs with a few other great pieces.  An Gilded Italian Rope Coffee Table circa 1960s, a vintage Iron Chair with Moroccan Details and Brass Finials (enhanced by two new midnight blue velvet cushions), a pair of circa 1970s Victorian style Elephant Garden Stools (which I had restored by the folks at Broken Art Restoration), and a Teak “Hand Chair” (an homage to the style made famous by noted Mexican artist Pedro Friedeberg), and some great Hand Painted Throw Pillows from designer John Robshaw.

medium_reedhambiscuitsThe panel was a huge hit with solid design observations from The Peak of Chic’s Jennifer BolesStylebeat’s Marisa Marcantonio, and design historian Emily Evans Eerdmans. But the discussion was certainly dominated by the moderator, the ever-amusing Julia Reed (noted writer, Southerner, cook, Garden & Gun contributor, and a generally savvy lady). Things scribbled in my notebook while she talked: Marshall Biscuits, Sister Schubert Yeast Rolls, Spinach Madeline, VD Spinach, Tomato Aspic and Reed’s cookbook, Ham Biscuits, Hostess Gowns, and Other Southern Specialities. So typical of me, listening to a panel about home design and all I focused on was the food.

botanic gardensWhat a terrific spring weekend.  If you haven’t been to the Antiques and Garden Fair it is well worth attending. They have a remarkable mix of vendors in a truly gorgeous setting. Look for us at the garden again next spring, we are already thinking about our booth enhancements for 2014.  And in the meantime, since spring seems to finally be upon us, head to The Chicago Botanic Gardens for some terrific botanical inspiration. I was really taken by the green houses, filled with lush plants and trees in widely varying hues of green accented with small pops of color throughout (see photograph left ).  Perhaps I’ll even vary my all green and white outdoor color scheme at The Richmond this summer.  After all, a man can not live on box hedges alone.


Chicago Botanic Gardens
1000 Lake Cook Road
Glencoe, IL 60022
(847) 835-5440


A Dinner for a Duke

image“what to do when a aspiring reality star comes for supper”

imageEntertaining Royalty presents its challenges – be it the Queen of England, the King of Pop, or a friend who has a new reality show. Recently I was tasked with the final scenario, which thankfully made the pressure a bit less intense. The guest of honor – Christos Garkinos, fresh off the launch of his new Bravo show, The Dukes of Melrose. Christos was in town with his crew from Decades in Los Angeles to host a three day pop up at our store space519. Having just returned from a buying trip to Paris I decided the menu would be decidedly French. The challenge – to replicate some of the amazing dishes I had during my visit.

A fun crew convened, my three favorite local PR mavens, Kimberly Burt, Abby Dunn and Amanda Puck, uber chic stylist Annie Barlow, chef/socialite/ceo Toni Canada, artist David Csicsko (just back from a project at the White House) and his partner Chicago Tribune Editor (and fashion expert) David Syrek. Jimmy’s soundtrack of french pop provided the backdrop, Moscow Mules were pressed, and then came the main event – dinner.

Christos MontageCourse by course I presented dishes inspired by my Paris haunts. First up “Hot Dog en Baguette” Bites. Amanda and I love to go a small food stand right off the Place de la Concorde and eat their specialty – Hot Dog in Baguette. It’s kind of simple and at the same time kind of genius. They take a baguette which is partially hollowed out, insert a kosher frank, pile shredded Gruyere on top, and then put the whole thing under a broiler for a minute or so. The finished product is crispy on the outside and pillowy soft inside. Finished with a thin strip of mustard (Dijon – of course) it is culinary perfection. For the the dinner we made them just as detailed above (using my favorite dawgs from Paulina Market) and then cut them into a bite size piece. With a dab of mustard creme fresh they became a fabulous amuse bouche.

Another trick I love in french cooking is using haricorts verts (aka green beans) as a base for a salad in lieu of lettuce or greens. Au Moulin Vent (see my previous post Two Dining Gems in Paris) does a wonderful version of this concept with fresh crab meat. Drawing upon this, for the salad course I presented “Haricots Verts with Crab, Capers & Dijon Vinaigrette.” I lightly blanched the green beans and then tossed them in sea salt and a mustard vinaigrette. I topped them with fresh lump crab meat, toasted almond slivers, salt cured capers and diced boiled egg. Finished with a bit more vinaigrette they tasted incredible and looked smashing on my Hermes Balcons du Guadalquivir plates.

imageFor the “Filet of Beef Bourguignonne with Potatoes Robuchon” I borrowed from two experiences. I love the 50/50 potatoes served by chef Joel Robuchon at his self named L’Atelier. Named for their excessive 1 to 1 ratio of butter and potatoes they are divine. Now onto the beef. Last month I had a wonderful Filet of Beef Bourguignonne at Au Bon Accueil – a charmer tucked on a small street by the Eiffel Tower. Don’t confuse this with traditional Beef Bourguignon (the famed Burgandy Beef Stew). This Beef Bourguignonne is made with 1″ tenderloin filets which are pan sauteed in butter and served in a red wine reduction with bacon, baby onions and mushrooms. I did have to consult Julia Child for help with this one – and as always her recipe was spot on (as is this great adaptation from Ina Garten).

For dessert Mille Feuille with Vanilla Custard & Framboise. was not directly inspired by my trip, but by a desert served here in Chicago at the French Diner Au Cheval. My puff pastry discs were cut from Dufour Pastry (available in the frozen foods section at Whole Foods), layered with homemade vanilla custard, and finished with a delicate raspberry sauce and fresh raspberries. Served in Vintage Champagne Glasses (a favorite Christmas gift from a dear friend) they provided the perfect end note for a wonderful evening.

For additional photos, and more fun details about the evening, check out the dinner as featured on refinery29.

Dukes of  Melrose 
Wednesdays at 9 p.m. (10 p.m. Eastern and Pacific)
Bravo (www.bravotv.com)