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Thursday, February 26, 2015

#DateNight: Food & Fashion at PM Prime

Last weekend, my husband, our friends and I had the pleasure of dining at PM Prime in Highwood. As soon as I walked in the door, I was transported to a different era. Dozens of black and white photographs adorn black walls, trimmed by sumptuous black leather booths. The bar is sleek, the light fixtures retro, and the ambiance is that of a five start dining establishment. Welcome to PM Prime, one of the best restaurants in the Chicagoland area.

Wine

We were greeted by the Sommelier/General Manager Robert Bansberg, who is no stranger to elegant restaurants.

Sommelier/GM Bob at PM Prim
Bob and I, and yes that is an MTV Award! Ask him about it when you go!
Throughout the night, he shared tales of working at the Pump Room, and engaged us in a passionate discussion of fine wine. We brought a magnum of 1978 Grand Vin de Leoville for him to open on our behalf. My husband's uncle, Patrick Leahy, was noted by Wine Spectator as having one of the world's largest wine collections at one time. He often gave birth year bottles of wine to family and friends, and I fondly recall a dinner with Uncle Pat where he did just that for me. We love to honor his memory by sharing our wine collection with family and friends, passing the love of wine and its culture.

1978 Bottle of Wine at PM Prime

 It is rare to find a restaurant that has the appropriate tools and knowledge on how to open, filter if necessary and aerate a bottle of advanced vintage, but PM Prime executed the challenge beautifully. They also have an extensive wine list, naturally.

Cocktails

I should note that you won't find a Cosmo on their martini menu- all libations are creatively concocted and fine-tuned, so the essence of the highest-quality liquor shines through. I started off with a Tiger in the White City- Tigre Blanc French Vodka, St. Germain, Hum, Pineapple and Champagne. It was a delectable, with a floral/citrus note thanks to the Hum.

Tiger in the White City at PM Prime

I then moved on to Langley's Aviation, a drink that has demanded a spot on their cocktail menu by many a patron. It contains Langley's Gin, Alpine Violet Liqueur, Luxardo, Pressed Lemon and Bubbly. I had never tasted such a unique cocktail, and the Violet Liqueur was an amazement to the senses.

The chef sent out an amuse-bouche to kick off our culinary adventure, and it was a bite bursting with flavor (and a visual feast as well).

Amuse-Bouche at PM Prime

Starters

Executive Chef Dominic Zumpano is in charge of the kitchen, and I am extremely thrilled that he is! He was nominated for the prestigious James Beard Award for Best Chef Midwest, and it shows in his culinary creations. We ordered shrimp cocktail and octopus for starters. I am such a fan of shrimp cocktail, and will have to say this ranks among the best I have ever had.

Shrimp Cocktail and Grilled Octopus at PM Prime

 My husband has the Lobster Bisque while I opted for the Wedge Salad. The Bisque was rich without being overpowering or too creamy and included hints of tarragon and cauliflower.

Wedge Salad at PM Prime
The Wedge had such a unique twist- instead of the usual iceberg chunk, they served a round of butter lettuce with the perfect mix of smoky bacon, fresh mini heirloom tomatoes and creamy blue cheese, finished off with a dollop of pesto.

Sides

For sides, we decided upon Brussels Sprouts, Potato Puree, Kennebec Frites, and Forrest Mushrooms for the table to share.

Kennebec Frites at PM Prime


The frites arrived with two homemade dipping sauces, came in a mini matchstick shape, and were crisped to perfection. The potato puree was rich, creamy, and indulgent. As for the mushrooms, the pecans and goat cheese added a little sweetness and zing to the dish. I adore brussels sprouts, and might ask them to add bacon to the mix next time (because I loved the bacon from the Wedge THAT much).

Steak

Ahh....on to the steak. Being from Michigan, I am a bit of a steak snob. I still remember going on a first date with a guy and him being horrified that I ordered my steak medium-well. It was almost a deal breaker. I now order my steaks medium-rare, and savor the flavor of a perfectly cooked filet.

Filet at PM Prime

I had the 6 oz filet with Roasted Garlic Parmesan crust, and my husband had his with a blue cheese crust and Oscar Style, which includes lump king crab. We were blown away by the quality of the steak- all of the meat at PM Prime is prime, hence the name, and it becomes very obvious why they are picky about the meat they serve. It is just that much better.

Dessert

We couldn't leave without sampling dessert. I have been to some restaurants where dessert is an afterthought, but PM Prime poured their heart and soul into these creations.

Chocolate Dessert at PM Prime

The first concoction had chocolate served 9 different ways. NINE! As for the fresh donuts with a gooey-sweet dipping sauce, I would come back simply for those.

Homemade Donuts at PM Prime

To say I am a fan of PM Prime is a massive understatement. They have poured their hearts and souls into this restaurant and it shows. I would highly recommend this for your next date night, and if you need a mid-week break, try their Supper Club! Every Wednesday and Thursday starting at 5pm, they are serving 1960s classic cuisine with a modern twist. Think French Onion Soup, Prime Rib and Chocolate Crème Brûlée, with entrees starting at $19. You can also grab a Hamm's or Miller High Life for $3- how's that for a treat to get you through the week?

Private Dining

As we were departing, I had the opportunity to take a tour of the downstairs.

Private Dining at PM Prime


PM Prime has a private dining area, with gorgeous black and white aviation photos covering the walls.

Black and White Aviation Photographs at PM Prime

The pioneers of aviation were both fearless and brave, and motivate the team at PM Prime to strive for excellence in all that they do.

Steve and I at PM Prime
Steve and I- he showed me a beautiful B&W photo of his mom that hangs above the bar
Steve, the Chief Experience Officer, used to request negatives from the newspapers when he was a little boy. What an amazing way to showcase his hobby! They are also planning a rooftop garden this spring, complete with bee hives in order to truly create as many delectable dishes in house as possible.

What I Wore

The restaurant was so impressive, I almost forgot to share the fashion portion of date night! Since PM Prime is so fabulously retro, I decided to head in a more demure direction. I chose a grey knit bodycon dress with a chain embellishment on the neck from Zara (on sale for under $20 this winter!). Although it is sold out, Topshop has a great take on the midi bodycon dress all for around $50:

Although this dress might sound plain, it is anything but. According to my husband, it was one of the most sexy dresses I have ever worn, even though it went past my knees and up to my neck! I paired it with a pair of gold BCBG d'orsay pumps (similar here, a MUST for every closet), a blush cross body bag with a gold chain (similar here), and blush, gold and crystal earrings (similar here and here).

I wore my Jean Reno 1348 glasses from Iristocracy to finish off the look and left my hair smooth and sleek with smoky eyes and a dash of muted raspberry lipstick to top it off. My nails were done in Sally Hansen's Gel Nail Color in Commander in Chic- great for the woman who only wants to paint her nails once every 2 weeks!

A huge thank you to PM Prime for having my husband, our friends and I as their guests. It was truly an evening we will never forget, and I hope you have the opportunity to experience this culinary marvel as well!

Disclosure: I was provided with a complimentary meal at PM Prime for review purposes, but all opinions are honest and my own.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Making Memories: Project Repat T-shirt Quilt

You might have seen my post about Project Repat T-shirt Quilts- I'm excited to say I received the completed product and I adore it! I boxed up all of Bryson's baby shirts, sent them off to Project Repat, and a short time later received a gorgeous patchwork quilt backed with PolarTek Fleece. He now keeps it in his bedroom where we use it to snuggle under while we read books. I then tell him stories about each of the shirts and how they fit into his life.

I love the story behind Project Repat- two guys, Nathan and Ross, started this company that branched from pretty funny encounter.  Ross was in Nairobi doing non-profit education work and was stuck in a 2 hour traffic jam. He eventually found the source of the delay: a Kenyan man, wearing a t-shirt that read "I Danced My Ass Off at Josh's Bar Mitzvah," had an overturned vegetable and fruit rickshaw. This sparked a question about how to reuse castaway t-shirts.

Here is a little info about where the quilts are made:


When I opened the package containing the finished quilt, all of the memories from the first 3 years with Bryson came flooding back.

This from Bryson's first St. Patrick's Day, which is a huge holiday in our family. We took Bryson to a "family friendly" bash and I glued a mustache and beard to his face that um....kinda didn't come off.


This was from Bryson's 2nd birthday party (Cars-themed, of course)- it was the first shirt he actually cared about what was on it and has demanded that he pick out his clothes ever since.

This was from my cousin Alana's wedding- she asked Bryson to be a ring bearer, and he made it down the aisle when he was not even two years old! It was also his first trip on an airplane- such a memorable vacation for our family.

I used this shirt to announce to my husband that I was pregnant. I put the shirt on Bryson before my husband got home from work, and waited until he noticed what the t-shirt actually said. The look of confusion mixed with elation is a memory that is forever held in my heart.

And here is the finished product!

Project Repat T-shirt Quilt Finished Product

I am thrilled with the quality- the shirts all line up perfectly, and they made every effort to get the full images on the quilt. They coordinated the colors and patterns of the shirts- they put a black shirt in each corner, a red shirt and white shirt on each side, and balanced the look overall. The quilt was also surprisingly affordable- they actually guarantee the best prices online for a t-shirt quilt. I love it when a company has a great story, quality product and fair prices. Project Repat isn't just for kid's shirts- does your husband have an insane collection of high school sports shirts? How about concert t's? Vacation souvenir t-shirts? The list goes on.

Why not take those boxes of t-shirts and create a memory for yourself or your family?
Use this link to get 10% off your order: 

SO excited to see your finished quilt!! Please share pics :)

Disclosure: I received a complimentary Project Repat quilt for review purposes, but all opinions are honest and my own.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

#BubblesNBites: A Sparkling Wine and Dessert Tasting

I love to throw parties, especially ones in the middle of winter with some of my favorite gal pals, lots of bubbly and decadent chocolate desserts. Last week, I invited some friends over for a bash to show some love with a few of my favorite brands. Take a look at our lovely evening, and why not plan a Champagne & Dessert tasting of your own?


The Bubbles

My husband and I love sparkling wines- our absolute favorite is Segura Viudas Brut Cava, which we even served at our wedding. It was named as the 2013 Value Brand of the Year by Wine & Spirits and is one of the MANY sparkling wines offered by Freixenet, one of the ten largest wine companies in the world. When they approached me to sample some of their other offerings, I of course jumped at the chance! They sent a selection of still and sparkling wines, perfect for Valentine's Day and Red Carpet Events. 


Our "Sipping Station" included these 6 amazing wines:
Freixenet Cordon Negro Sweet Cuvée
Mia Rosado
Garbo Rose
Mia Moscato
Segura Viudas Brut Rose 
Freixenet Cordon Rosado Brut Rose

And the winner was......The Freixenet Cordon Negro Sweet Cuvée hands down! It was sweet without being sugary, very bubbly without taking away from the taste. The tasting notes are described as "peaches and cream" and "highly drinkable." We agree! Of course, the gorgeous Black Bottle style added to the wine's panache. 

Since I love getting creative with my cocktails, I thought it would be fun to have a "Mixology" spot! Another of my favorite brands, Wild Hibiscus, sent some of their amazing hibiscus flowers in syrup to add to the mix. If you haven't heard of them, this company actually preserves all natural whole hibiscus flowers in cane sugar syrup, and they are completely edible and delicious. When you drop one into a glass of bubbly, it creates an amazing cocktail! Wild Hibiscus also preserves these in Rose Syrup, which adds a little extra unique flavor. You can find this delicacy at many Whole Foods stores, specialty markets and online (Amazon.com and their own website). They also make cocktail concentrates, which are all natural product line which uses the color and flavor from flowers to jazz up food and drink. I just loved the gorgeous lavender hue!



I also offered Apricot Nectar and Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice as well as Raspberry Cane Sugar for the rims from the s.a.l.t. sisters, another awesome brand (see my review here)!  

Since we are in the middle of Red Carpet Season, I thought it would be fun to have a Photo Opp red carpet for our creations!

#BubblesNBites Photo Opp

Here is what I came up with:

"The Red Carpet" Signature Cocktail with Segura Viudas Cava, Wild Hibiscus Flower and s.a.l.t. sisters Raspberry Cane Sugar
Segura Viudas Cava, Wild Hibiscus Flower, Raspberry Cane Sugar Rim
The Bites


I recently discovered Simple Mills Baking Mix, and it will be the only mix in household from now on! If you saw my post about the Raspberry Butter Cream Chocolate Hearts, you know how awesome this stuff is. The ingredients are all natural, nutrient-rich and the mixes make creating insanely delicious desserts a snap. The muffins are gluten-free, dairy-free, low-glycemic, soy-free, and non-GMO, made with 100% almond flour. Best part? The taste.

I created a Chocolate Strawberry Coconut Mini Trifle in a champagne glass for the party using the Simple Mills Chocolate Muffin Mix. They. Were. Fabulous. 


Chocolate Strawberry Coconut Mini Trifles with Simple Mills Chocolate Muffin Mix

Chocolate Strawberry Coconut Mini Trifle Recipe (adapted from this Coconut Cream Trifle Recipe on Living Eventfully)

Ingredients:
1 bag Simple Mills Chocolate Muffin Mix + coconut oil, egg & water according to directions
1 can coconut milk (13.5 oz)
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups heavy cream
6 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 lb fresh strawberries, cut into 1" chunks

Directions:
Make mini muffins according to mix, cool and break into quarters.
Heat oven to 350 and toast coconut on a baking sheet (about 10 minutes, making sure to toss to prevent burning).
Combine coconut milk, 1/2 cup sugar and cornstarch in a small saucepan and bring to a slow boil, making sure to stir. Reduce heat and continue to stir and cook until slightly thickened. Transfer to a different dish and set aside to cool.
Beat heavy cream for a couple minutes in a bowl and add the 6 tablespoons sugar and vanilla extract. Continue beating until stiff peaks are formed. 
Add half of the whipped cream to the cooled coconut mixture and fold in.

Assemble the trifles-
Add 2 muffin quarters to the bottom of a wide mouth champagne glass.
Add a dollop of regular whipped cream.
Add a few strawberry pieces.
Add a dollop of coconut cream.
Sprinkle toasted coconut.
Repeat, ending with coconut cream and toasted coconut sprinkled liberally on top.

I also made a Hibiscus Salted Caramel Chocolate Fondue with Wild Hibiscus Flower Salt. I added fresh pineapple, strawberries and Simple Mills Chocolate Muffins for dipping.


Hibiscus Salted Caramel Chocolate Fondue

Hibiscus Salted Caramel Chocolate Fondue 
  
Ingredients:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 bag caramels (11 oz.)
1 bag bittersweet chocolate chips (10 oz.)
1/2 tsp. Wild Hibiscus Pyramid Salt Flakes

Directions:
Heat heavy whipping cream in a saucepan over low heat. Add unwrapped caramels and continue to heat as they melt. Add chocolate chips and heat until melted, stirring to prevent burning. Add salt and mix. Place in a pre-heated fondue pot.

Of course, there were the hearts for Valentine's Day!


Raspberry Butter Cream Chocolate Hearts feat. Simple Mills Baking Mix

I also made homemade Vanilla Champagne Marshmallows using Segura Viudas and this recipe:

Homemade Vanilla Champagne Marshmallows


And I couldn't let my guests leave without gift bags, could I?? I love sending friends home with parting gifts- it gives them a little something to keep the party going. 

Gift Bag from #BubblesNBites Event

Each guest went home with a jar of Wild Hibiscus Flowers, a bag of Simple Mills Chocolate Muffin and Cupcake Mix, a Segura Viudas split with a heart-shaped straw for sipping, and a copy of my friend Beth Aldrich's book: Real Moms Love to Eat, chock full of amazing, healthy recipes for REAL moms! Thanks Beth for sharing this with us, you know how much I adore your cooking and expert advice :)

A HUGE, massive thank you to our party friends for supplying all the yummy bubbles and bites- I am so excited to work with each and every one of you on many more projects in the future. I adore these brands from the bottom of my heart; they are the crème de la crème!