Tavola Italiana at Mariano’s

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When I was studying abroad in Italy, I discovered arancini (pronounced ah-run-chee-nee). Balls of rice with meat or cheese in the middle, this was the first dish I tried recreating upon returning back to the states because I loved it so much. I had never had anything like them before and it may be safe to say that I haven’t had anything like them since because I am pretty sure my version was not right. It felt apart, I always burned it…just not right.

Fortunately, Mariano’s (my favorite grocery store in the world) is celebrating their launch of Tavola Italiana, their exclusive trade partnership with the Italian Trade Agency. In addition to selling food and beverage items imported directly from Italy, they are hosting a ton of classes and demos led by some of the best chef’s in Chicago. When I saw the Arancini making class, I knew I had to learn how to finally master this dish I had loved.

It was a blast. Chef Rich Mancini was fantastic- he so nice and the technique he showed us was the missing link for me. Terlato Wines was on hand for a wine pairing and the sweet man who played the accordion really put the experience over the top (or as my seatmate said- “the accordion is a dying art form, is it not?”). I had the nicest conversations with people who also loved Italy and had spent a lot time there so I basically came home wanting to book a one way ticket back to the motherland. Travel talk is some of my favorite talk.

Two locations of Mariano’s will be hosting events like this through the 14th. Click here to check out Bucktown’s schedule and click here to see what Ravenswood has going on. Bravo to Mariano’s for this awesome new endeavor!

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You Can Do It: Flower Arrangements

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Having fresh flowers in my house is one of my favorite things. It’s a fairly simple but it feels like such a luxury to have something pretty around…and with Chicago winters, honestly, it’s just a good reminder that something is alive.

Usually, I buy a bouquet, come home, plunk it in a vase. Done. But with the holidays upon us, I got to thinking about if I could kick it up a notch and conquer an actual centerpiece. I swoon when I see big, gorgeous arrangements at weddings or restaurants but certainly, that could be something I could figure out how to do without the big price tag that comes from ordering them from a flower shop, right?


Adventures in Floral Arrangements. I knew I wanted to make something beautiful I could have in my home or bring as a hostess gift for less than $20. After procuring some floral foam from Michaels (any craft store will have it), I set out to Mariano’s, my favorite grocery store that also happens to have awesome blooms at killer prices. I mixed and matched, coming home with a dozen red roses, sunflowers and red spriggy thingys. What I was looking for was colors I loved together and a difference in textures that was going to make it interesting to look at. Real talk: whatever you love and makes you happy will be perfect.

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Next up: what to put the flowers in? I used a soup pot. Really. It was round and short-ish and wouldn’t show the floral foam through it. So anything that can hold water can work for your arrangement. If I were gifting this, I would buy something that I would leave with them.

After soaking the floral foam in the pot with enough water to fill to the top (do this for a few minutes, the foam absorbs a lot), I cut down the flowers to give the arrangement some height but still be anchored by the foam. Trial and error- cut a little, try it out, cut some more.

I started with the sunflowers because they were the largest stem and bloom. I spaced them out so that they would be seen evenly from each side.

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Then I filled in the gaps with the roses. I cut some shorter than the sunflowers to give the arrangement some depth but others I left the same height. Interesting and lovely is the goal here, not perfection.

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After I had a full vase of sunflowers and roses, I pieced in the red sprig thingys to add some texture. Again- I put them in where I wanted to and it just brought an interesting layer to the arrangement. (Ed. note: this is a highly technical post, as you can from the use of the words “red sprig thingys”.)

Moral of the story: making your own centerpiece is totally possible and totally easy. Having this on my table this weekend felt so fancy and I am already thinking about what I want to create for our Friendsgiving in a few weeks.  Mission accomplished!

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Link Love

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I always have a hard time getting over holidays and National Donut Day last Friday is no exception. I think this calls for a stop at Firecakes tomorrow morning.

Please consider this my wholehearted endorsement of Da Lobsta. Whoa and oh em gee.

There are Hamburger Cakes at Mariano’s. Worth noting.

Warm weather and rooftops are a match made in (Chicago summer) heaven.

I tried Dream Dinners with a friend last week and not only was it a blast to prepare everything together, my freezer is filled with really great meals ready to go at a moments notice.

These just arrived in the mail today- I think they will be perfect for summer drinks and entertaining.

Giving Thanks Week 11

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70. Surprises. The arrival of my first Alex and Ani bracelet c/o my co-friend Layne was the nicest Friday surprise!


71. Great Customer Service. I’m not saying I need a delivery of a cheese plate and wine every time I check in a hotel but I am saying it’s a really nice touch.


72. Sunrises. A reminder that there’s always a new start, literally just beyond the horizon.


73. Homemade bread. Proof that you really can make something out of nothing.


74. The promise of Spring. I bought these wedges with the good faith belief that since I have opened toed shoes to wear, Spring will come immediately. Verdict if this will actually work is still out.

75. Mariano’s. The best grocery store of all time. I miss living in the Lakeshore East neighborhood and going almost every day but my weekly Friday walk over to do my shopping is now seriously one of my favorite parts of my week.

76. Our Armed forces. 10 years ago today was the start of the Iraq war. I am so grateful for those who have served our country, anytime, anywhere.