Last Minute Hors d’oeuvre for NYE

Need a quick last minute appetizer for New Year’s Eve?  Stop by Whole Foods for mini potatoes, creme fraiche, caviar and chives.  Clean and roast the potatoes until done.  Let cool, slice in half, top with a touch of creme fraiche, caviar and chives.  Don’t forget to chill the champagne.

Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams for all my friends in 2012!

Joyeux Noël & Bonne Année!

The most festive of dinners on Christmas Eve at Bistro Campagne in Chicago with friends and family included authentic French fare.  Perfectly decorated for the holiday, they serve one of the best French Onion soups in the city, and the escargot is so reminiscent of trips to Paris during this bright season!  There is nothing more satisfying than dipping crusty baguette into sauce.

Stay tuned – I will try and make a French Onion soup for the second time on New Year’s eve this year, and hope it will be that good.  If you have any recipes or pointers – let me know!

Cookie Madness

After baking dozens of cookies last weekend – there were still a few more to make.  Tis the season after all.  Esquire Magazine posted this Bourbon Ball recipe on their Eat Like a Man Blog (hint ladies – food that men really like) last week.  Since I had a bottle of Maker’s Mark lying around I couldn’t resist giving it a try.  Delicious, festive and best of all – boozy.

Pierrot Gourmet at The Peninsula Hotel in Chicago spruces up the chocolate chip cookie with hints of peppermint in their baking mix.  Just whip some butter, add the magical bag of ingredients and an egg – and voila!  A stack of minty chocolately cookies Santa will love on Christmas Night! 

Turquoise Cafe in The RV*

At the end of a crazy day during the holiday season - their lentil and french onion soups more than hit the spot.  The cuisine at Turquoise Cafe in Chicago is Mediterranean, they bake their own amazing breads, and just look at this Short Rib Osso Buco – Beef Short Rib braised in vegetables, grape seed oil, soft cheesy polenta, asparagus tips, and shaved Parmesan cheese.


Nothing screams ‘winter dish’ more than this one!

*The RV – is The Roscoe Village


*Guest Razzi – Ashley Boll & our XA Holiday Party at Bar Toma

Damn, Ashley Boll from XA, our social media co-ordinator, is a great RAZZI!

Straight from our XA Social Blog -

Last night the XA team celebrated the holiday season the best way we know how, with food and drinks. The team headed to Chef Tony Manutano’s latest restaurant Bar Toma for mouth watering pizza, gelato and delicious wine. 

The unique concept located in former Bistro 110 features a 250 seating area, wood-burning oven, wine on tap, a pizza bar, a mozzarella bar, house-made gelato, and a one-of-a-kind espresso machine from Italy. 

Bar Toma’s menu offers delicious food for everyone, even vegetarians!
House-made gelato flavors include basil, raspberry, chocolate hazlenut, chocolate chip and amaretto.
Freshly baked pastries at the espresso bar!
We started the evening off with both red and white wine.
Whole Burrata
Rock Shrimp Polpette
Rosticcino Di Abruzzo
Zucchini Pizza with pesto, mozzarella, pecorino
XA team: Yevi, Jean, Catherine, Dawn, David, James, Chris, Amanda, Alli, Laura, Victoria, Ashley

Happy holidays from the XA family!

Want to see more of the XA holiday party? Head to our Facebook page

Chocolate or Sequins???? Hmmmm …..

After a delicious lunch at NoMI Kitchen in Chicago - Kiran and I didn’t realize the BEST WAS YET TO COME!  After our Sequins for Breakfast planning meeting – JLynne introduced us to the Park Chocolate Bar, where we were like kids in a hot chocolate candy store.

I have always been a fan of Valrhona chocolate ever since I was making pastries at Cornell.  Of all the chocolates I have worked with it has the most velvety and creamy flavor, so it is a natural for hot chocolate.  It is also my choice for baking.

So, you get a steaming cup of hot chocolate splendor – and then you can add …

Cinnamon sticks or peanut butter marshmallows. (Dying over these BTW – The Bomb will love these).

Candy Canes, cookie tuilles or peppermint shavings …

Crushed oreos or white chocolate curls ….

Vanilla Sugar Marshmallows …

A shot of espresso, passionfruit or salted caramel syrups …

CHOCO ala MP – with espresso, vanilla marshmallows and peppermint shavings


CHOCO ala KIRAN – with whipped cream, passion fruit and cherry sprinkles.

Who needs sequins when you have this – the best $10 ever spent.  Kudos to pastry chef Meg Galus!  I was AMAZED!

Also a fun idea for a holiday party – just add booze!

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Honky Tonk Love, TN

Nashville – what a fun city to visit!  From Honky Tonk row to gorgeous state parks to the Belle Meade plantation – there is a ton to do – and eat and DRINK.  Here are some highlights from our trip.  The Bomb and I had a fun road trip and highly recommend the Hutton Hotel – the staff could not have been nicer or more helpful.  And we love the Nashville Essential Guide by Margaret Littman – everything on it was a winner. 

Hog Heaven was on everyone’s list as a must try - a 1/2 lb. of spareribs (bone-in) on white bread.

Hand pulled beef brisket on a bun.

Tennessee Ham – salty and smokey and heavenly at Pancake Pantry.  Hint – go in the afternoon when the lines are not so hefty.  We saw some Tennessee Ham in the making at the Belle Meade Plantation, where they sell their own label ham.

What Pancake Pantry is famous for – the Sweet potato pancakes.  Made with real sweet potatoes in the batter. It is sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon and topped with cinnamon cream syrup.  That butter is melting!

Nashville seemed to have an obsession with Tater Tots – they were on the menus at Merchants, Patterson House and here at Flying Saucer - which has one of the best beer lists we had ever seen.  They are actually called Rocket-Tots – with habanero sour cream dip.

Mountain Man-hattan at Merchants – made with all Tennessee ingredients.  I wish we had eaten here.  It reminded me of Galatoire’s in NoLa.

The best cocktails hands down were at The Patterson House – here a Dark and Stormy for The Bomb and a special concoction for me, that honestly I don’t remember.


And Sunday Brunch at Holland House Bar & Refuge – Tennessee Beignets – deep-fried biscuit sticks, powdered sugar, plugra butter & family-heirloom tomato preserves.

Nashville – we will be back for more.  Mostly because we missed trying the hot chicken at Prince’s.

Read more about Margaret Littman and The Nashville Essential Guide on XA Social.

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