Fall Shui

Slim Paley Fall Mood BoardA post or two back I mentioned I would be returning to the subject of  autumn leaves (don’t worry if you don’t remember, we work as a team here :))

The turning of the leaves, those rusty khakis & golds, spicy pumpkin & fiery blood-red hues are one of the few things I miss about living in colder climes. Here in Santa Barbara we have just a couple of varieties of vines and trees that put on any sort of spectacle-both of which I have planted in my garden. Meanwhile…2 days away from December, I’m still waiting…

Fortunately, we were in Chicago for a week earlier this month and thanks to the  “Chef Who Knows No Bounds” Grant Achatz, we experienced a turning of leaves so inventive even Mother Nature would raise her lichened brow.

Our first stop was a highly anticipated return to “next” to celebrate my husband’s birthday. If you aren’t already familiar with next (opened in 2011), with its fabulous concept of changing “themes” every few months, you simply must put it on your list of things to experience in Chicago. The current theme is “Autumn in Kyoto” with the tradition of “Kaiseki” as its guiding inspiration.

“Autumn in Kyoto: the moon viewing, the changing hue of the maple leaves, the last crickets of summer, wind blowing through the river grass…”

I won’t spoil it by revealing the menu, which is truly half the fun-and yes, this restaurant is about having FUN in and with every sense,  but I’ll share two hastily taken, slightly fuzzy pics (was getting a touch of stink-eye from the Hubs & Older Son)

Next restaurant, ChicagoA glimpse into the level of creativity involved in this dining adventure; Live crickets (for song, not consumption) in a vintage cage perched on leaves in the centre of our table.

The collecting of crickets during the transition of Summer to Autumn is a centuries old Japanese tradition.

Apparently the male crickets do most of the “singing”

Are we surprised??

Next restaurant, Chicago. Slim PaleyA delicate and exquisitely presented dessert called “First Snowfall”

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Previous themes at “next” ;

We also heartily imbibed at Chef Achatz’s ultra cool bar “The Aviary” one night and spent our last evening in Chicago dining at his original restaurant, the amazing “Alinea”.

Yes, it’s true

We are complete Achatz-olytes. If Chef Achatz tells us he’s building a space ship that’s going to a better place, we’re on board. We probably get to eat the ship upon arrival.

Next, Chicago, Slim PaleyWoodcock, lingonberry, shallot, oak leaves at Alinea.

The leaves are set alight as they’re brought to the table so the room is infused with the visceral scent of a campfire.

“Alinea”, currently one of the Top Ten restaurants in the world and “The Aviary” are much too special to squeeze in here, so I’ll save them for another post.

a Fall Table

Earlier in the season, Grant Achatz and Chef Daniel Humm of “Eleven Madison Park” in NY, partook in some unprecedented culinary hijinks by trading restaurants for one week. How cool is that?! Reservations for “Alinea at Eleven Madison Park”  and vice versa, were made via the internet just as they are normally for NEXT and Alinea.

As you’d imagine, a furious Foodie throw-down commenced with tables totally booked in minutes. Luckily our Older Son, whose hummingbird-fast digits have been flitting across a keyboard since he was 4,  managed to secure The Dinner Date of a Lifetime for he and his girlfriend the first night. (That’s my boy :) ) Their iphone photo shows “a bed of leaves on the table which you brushed off onto the ground after a few courses” so by the end of the night the floor of the restaurant was covered in leaves.

I actually covered the entire entry hall and dining room floor of our home with leaves for a Halloween party when the boys were  young and what a gorgeous mess it was! (until the light of day…ouch)

Speaking of gorgeous messes, get a load of this tree and how the leaves have turned such a divine rusty red.

Now guess who the tree belongs to.

Oprah.

She lives here in my town.

Er, I mean I live in her town.

Well, let’s just say we’re neighbours.

Now,

this is MY tree.

It’s the exact same type of tree. On the same side of the street.  

What’s up with that??!

 Do you think Oprah’s tree knows it’s Oprah’s tree and is just being an overachiever? Are Oprah’s people hand-tinting her leaves in the night?

Or is my tree perhaps a female and therefore not a “singer”?

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For information on dining at “Alinea” or “NEXT” visit their Facebook or Twitter pages or click here

And to read my post about our first visit to “NEXT” please click : next:PARIS- 1906

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First image a vignette from my Inspiration board.

Header photo of Kendra Spears via Vogue

Time Traveling in Chicago

Omg- Aliens, Raptures, unpaid ransoms (even though I’m so worth it :)) it’s no wonder I haven’t been able to get a post up this week!

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But not to worry, I’m safe and sound in one of my favourite cities;

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Chicago

And looking forward to going on a culinary time-traveling experience tonight,

NEXT

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I promise to report back with all the details, and hopefully a few photos (if possible without a flash)

Right now, my menfolk are waiting for me…

Have to go out for some serious walkies to prep our palates for Paris 1906!

More later…

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My Kinda Town Chicago Is…

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We LOVE Chicago!  I thank everyone sooo much for all your wonderful suggestions.  I’m saving them all for our next trip to this wonderful city, which I hope will be very soon.  We made the most of every moment that we had, but as usual,  I just wish we’d had more time.

I took your advice and went on the Architectural Cruise…

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Our guide was a student of architecture and was incredibly knowledgable.

It really made me want to read books about the history of Chicago- what a fascinating city.

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Our hotel as seen from the water.  Easier to look up than down!

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The highlight of our visit was definitely our amazing dining experience at ALINEA and believe me, my expectations were dangerously high.  There is no possible way for me to do justice to the culinary ride that Grant Achatz took us on, so I will just let my photos do the talking.  Understandably, the restaurant doesn’t allow flash photography, and I had to surf the precarious wave of wanting to photograph every dish, but still appear vaguely cool- not easy, as you can imagine, but I so wanted to share at least some of these delights on Slim!

Bon Appetit!

I’ve seen the future of cocktails and it’s looking solid

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This was perhaps my husband’s favourite. Heirloom tomatoes with 8 different accompaniments- each one a delightfully intense surprise.

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First layer of the King Crab presentation.

I can’t describe the texture of that little floating cloud of Heaven!

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Second layer

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Third layer

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This was a little shooter of pure Ecstasy  - a hollowed ball of buttery horseradish filled with fresh Apple and celery juice. The ball pops in your mouth then melts, releasing the delicious and intensely fresh juice.

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Lamb & Peach. The picture says it all.

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One part of a three course shrimp presentation; a shrimp ‘breadstick’ that would bring tears to your eyes.

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Black Truffle Explosion.  Literally. They warn you to keep your mouth fully closed when you bite into the ravioli. Exceptional.

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“Bubble Gum” A test tube that you toss back all at once- a combination of Long pepper, Hibiscus and Creme Fraiche that tastes like gourmet bubble gum.

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The grand finale- a rubberized table cloth is brought to your table upon which Chef Achatz, his very own self, spreads out the fabulous assortment of tasty confections above.  You just sort of moossh it all together like a decadent finger painting class and I guess that is partially the point.  Alinea engages all the senses and brings out the child in you again.  Dining here is FUN! There wasn’t a single dish that didn’t make us giddy with delight.

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Chef Grant Achatz, who looks like a kid!

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The frozen log of chocolate that Chef Achatz smashes up at the table

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The Menu

Oh yes-  we also loved our Sommelier with the T-Rex hair

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A chocolate bar in our kitchen at the Trump Hotel

We stayed at The Trump Hotel in Chicago for the first time and I must say it was super nice. We had a big room with a fireplace and a grand view of the city. Very understated and contemporary in silver, grey and black. Gorgeous bathroom and a comfortable bed. We were worried we’d been given a Japanese businessman’s suite as the first few times I called down for anything they said “Good Evening Mr. Morimoto”.  I quickly checked the closets for any suits (that might fit me :) ) and avoided making any further calls the rest of the night. There was even a state of the art kitchen, complete with a Nespresso machine- my new favourite thing!

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The view from “Mr. Morimoto’s suite”

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It’s the little things…I loved the fresh cream from I assume a local dairy?

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With the little time I had before my cruise, I swung by Jayson Home & Garden and took in their “Flea Market”.  It was a lovely blustery afternoon. The pumpkins and smell of the wood burning stove outside their tented market – Happy signals of the arrival of Fall

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Pumpkins at Jayson Home & Garden

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Top Hats at Jayson- Imagine the sights they saw in their day in Chicago.

Don’t you kind of wish we still wore hats?

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I also visited this beautiful shop called “Branca”

Tres chic!

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And when we were finally ready to eat again… we had  late night martinis and Steak Tartare at RL- Yum.


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PS. I was only ever so slightly miffed that we weren’t able to make it over to The Violet Hour, but I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.  After all, tomorrow…

is another martini.


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Sunflower Serenade

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Today was officially the last day of summer. Sniff… big tear drop falls into Ugg boot.  I will now embrace you Dear Sunflowers, paintbox sunsets, comfort foods and cashmere.  Actually, that doesn’t sound half bad, does it?!  I’m returning to the East Coast towards the end of the week, and although I’m a tad too early to enjoy the turning of the leaves, I do have a few things on the agenda to look forward to.  Firstly, I have dinner booked at Alinea , recently voted the best restaurant ever in Chicago. I’m so excited. I’ve been studying Grant Achatz’ incredible cookbook beforehand as I’m an Alinea Virgin.  Sadly, I hear the 23 course tasting menu has just been slashed to a mere 16.  The nerve of some people.  Do you think I should bring some crackers in my pocket just in case?!

I haven’t been to Chi-town in a few years but it is one of my most favourite cities to visit.

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Sassafras Cream with Mandarin Ice on a bed of Root beer reduction and shortbread crumble at Alinea

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Charles Burchfield

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After Chicago, our itinerary finds us back in NY where I plan on taking my older son to see the Charles Burchfield (1893-1967) show at the Whitney.  I saw it the last time I was there and found it quite moving.  The manner in which Burchfield painted… repainted…and painted again, revisiting and enlarging the same canvases over the course of many years is just fascinating to me.  This workman-like approach to achieving such delicate beauty…it’s very humbling.  After a stint designing wallpaper (one you will see below) Burchfield decided he would quit his position there and devote himself entirely to his art. Almost immediately after leaving his job, the Great Depression set in.  No Picasso or Singer Sargent was poor Charles. While some of his paintings do portray the bleakness of the Depression era, many others positively vibrate with beauty and light.  The show is on until October 17th. Try to see it if you happen to be in Manhattan.

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Heatwaves in a Swamp paintings by Charles Burchfield

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My son and I also have tickets to see “Gatz”, a SIX HOUR long production of The Great Gatsby!   I’m already worrying about what to wear to be comfortable.  Don’t you love that my son said he would go with me? My husband’s response…mmmmm not so keen… complete Road Runner cloud.

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And now, just a little Early Autumn Colour Inspiration;

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I  love Sunflowers against a white marble counter top.  The white flowers  mixed into the arrangement grow like a weed in several places up my driveway.  I have lavender ones too-  I’ve no idea what they’re called.

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‘Childhood’s Garden’ Charles Burchfield

What a glorious painting, don’t you think?

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Vegetable Tartine  Photo from Playingwithfireandwater.com

I’ve talked about this website before,  but for newbies to Slim Paley;  Do NOT go to this website unless you are feeling very, very secure about your cooking abilities.

Like Angelina Jolie secure. Like Giselle in a bikini secure.  OK, now don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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‘Noontide in Late May’  (1917)  Charles Burchfield

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A Charles Burchfield designed wallpaper.  One room is completely papered in this at the Whitney.

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Happy!

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I’m sharing with you one of my very favourite things – Our beloved enamel refrigerator from 1910.  It was part of an outside walk- in refrigeration room when we bought the c 1895  house.


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Vincent Van Gogh

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.A Gardening Favourite.

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.I don’t think any credit is needed here :)

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Dandelion Ranch

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Cherry Tomato pyramid at the Chelsea Garden Show

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Both photos from Playing With Fire & Water

Did you go?  I told you not to!  You should listen to me!  PS.  Do you think she evvvveerr sleeps??


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Picasso’s Self Portrait

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Photo from Alinea


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My wee little traveling watercolour set from Kure Take Co. Japan

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So I’m crazy about my new camera,  but now I’m inspired to get my paints out too!

The real challenge is to find the time…

Oh Dear.  Somehow I bet Charles Burchfield never said that :(

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Alinea

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Does anyone have any Chicago tips? Shopping, dining, walking?

I’ll trade you NY info for Chicago stuff!

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