...PLUS A PERFECT ANGEL, TOP HOLIDAY PARTIES, MY FAVORITE CHINESE FOOD IN THE CITY, PAWS’ “12 STRAYS OF CHRISTMAS,” JOFFREY HONORS, FUN WITH FRIENDS, PLUS GREAT RESTAURANTS AND MORE!
The holidays are almost over and I hope they were happy and healthy! Now it’s countdown to New Year’s and a time to reflect on all we’re grateful for. Besides the obvious, the continued good health of my loved ones, I’m so very grateful for your continued support of this blog and will endeavor to make it even better in the coming year, so please stay tuned!
There were so many great holiday parties around town that I don’t know where to start so let’s begin with one of the most elaborate and beautiful ones at the home of Michaela and Dick Parrillo. Their home, built on more than seven lots in Lincoln Park, is one of the most dramatic ones in the city – you feel like you’re in France at a grand chateau when you pull up to their driveway! The elegant, ornate four-story home was designed by architect Thomas Beeby, who also designed the Harold Washington Library Center, the Harris Theater in Millennium Park and the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Building at the Art Institute. At more than 20,000 square feet, it was furnished by Michaela, a Francophile, in the French classical manner with fine imported antiques. It was a privilege to be invited to this exclusive party with more than 60 friends. Every room was decorated differently with holiday décor that Michaela does herself. She began in November decorating the many Christmas trees with ornaments she’s been collecting since she was 20 years old. One tree was prettier than the next and rivaled the glamorous décor in the various rooms. The entryway had the most beautiful marble pattern I’d ever seen with a dramatic black wrought iron winding staircase. Guests first gathered in the wood paneled bar to mix and mingle before moving onto dinner in a magnificent dining room and library. Round tables were adorned with gilded holiday centerpieces and white orchids and, as the Dom Perignon was served, guests gave toasts. First to speak was Bruce MacArthur who thanked the hosts followed by Charlie Besser and then Dick himself who laughingly welcomed his guests saying, “It is nice to see so many of Michaela’s friends!” (Dick is CEO of United Auto Insurance Group and the recipient of the 2008 Ellis Island Medal of Honor.) The delicious dinner featured beef bourguignon and a beautiful dessert with a spun sugar Christmas tree on the plate! This party was something straight out of Town & Country - too bad for them and lucky for me that I get to cover it! Love and thanks to the Parrillos for including us and for being the host & hostess with the MOSTEST! Seen on the scene were Donna and Jon Kleinman, Susan and Bruce MacArthur, Gale and Jay Gottlieb, Rebecca and Charlie Besser, Hedwig and Bob Golant, Toni and Rick Canada, Lynn and John McMahan, Peter Schivarelli, Gretchen and Jay Jordan, Bill Parrillo, Kristina and Mike McGrath, Lyn McKeaney, Robin Berger and Mark Tebbe, Peggy and Steve Lombardo, Debbie Marchese, Mary Jo Gordon, Gale Leahy, Lee Lechowicz and Mike Tadin, Caryn and Lowell Kraff and Dede Lubeznik among many others. What a great way to celebrate the season in style! (Click HERE to view all pics!)
Supermodel Lily Aldridge was destined for fame from the start. Born in LA in 1985 to famed British fashion photographer Alan Aldridge and Playboy Playmate Laura Lyons (my darling girlfriend), she hails from a fashion oriented family. Her dream was always to be a model and this dream came true at age eight when she was discovered at her school carnival. Her siblings include half-sister Saffron Aldridge (a multi-year face of Ralph Lauren in the ‘90s), half-brother Miles Aldridge (married to ‘90s supermodel Kristen McMenamy) and sister Ruby Aldridge (one of the faces of Marc by Marc Jacobs who is already well on her way to fame as a budding supermodel herself). Mom Laura had quite a career herself with the Playboy empire beginning with her Chicago Bunny of the Year honors in 1975. Her gatefold followed with her Playboy Playmate of the Month pictorial in February 1976 and as a Bunny/Playmate, she was known for leading the march for Bunny Rights in Chicago, which was highly publicized at the time. Like mother, like daughter, Lily’s career is growing by leaps and bounds...but instead of Bunny tails, she’s wearing Angel wings! She has been seen in spreads for Italian Vogue, Italian Elle, Glamour, L’Uomo Vogue, Teen Vogue and Cosmopolitan, among many other publications. At age 18, she appeared on the cover of Spanish Vogue. In 2009, she modeled in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show for the first time and after several campaigns for the company, she earned her wings and became a Victoria’s Secret Angel in 2010. This year, of the 38 Angels appearing in the show taped in early November at NYC’s Lexington Avenue Armory, Lily was featured as one of the highlights along with Miranda Kerr (wife of actor Orlando Bloom and who wore the $2.5 million “Fantasy Bra”), Skokie’s Erin Heatherton, Chanel Iman, Candice Swanepol and Adriana Lima. Her fairytale life is continuing with her marriage on May 12, 2011, to Kings of Leon frontman Caleb Followill at the luxurious San Ysidro Ranch in Montecito, California. In addition to modeling, Lily is also setting her sights on acting...I can’t wait to see her gorgeous face on the silver screen! (For more pics, please click HERE!)
It is always a challenge deciding where to go in Chicago for special occasions since almost EVERY restaurant in town is a good choice. For our annual Girls Night Out Holiday Dinner, we wanted to do something completely different, something with a Chinatown connection. This is where celebrity chef, restaurateur and dedicated community server Tony Hu entered the picture. Illinois Restaurant Association President Sheila O’Grady came up with this idea after writing a fascinating article in TCW about Tony. His Tony Gourmet Group includes Lao Sze Chuan (2172 S. Archer Ave.), Lao Shanghai (2136 S. China Place), Lao Beijing (2138 S. Archer), Lao You Ju (2202 S. Wentworth) and Lao Hunan (2230 S. Wentworth). Sheila made reservations at Lao You Ju and, of course (knowing Sheila!) brought champagne but it was Tony himself who wowed the group with his extensive knowledge of food and wine and did I say charm? His charm alone would attract a large clientele even if his food wasn’t fantastic, but it is! I highly recommend this group of restaurants. Each one offers a different flavor of China and Taiwan and it shows a part of our city’s dining scene that many people don’t often get a chance to experience. Ask for Tony...and be prepared to chat! :)
Another top dining experience can always be found at the Peninsula, but it was a very special occasion that warranted a cozy round table in a nook in the back corner of this elegant room decorated (literally!) to the ceiling with magnificent holiday decor. It was dubbed the Special Friends Luncheon and I couldn’t have been more honored to be included with Hazel Barr, Amy Wimer, Mary Ann Rose, Zarada Gowenlock, Jean Antoniou, Mary Pat Burns and Sheryl Dyer. GM Maria Zec and Catering Director Greg Hyder hosted and Chef Kai Lermen prepared a delectable menu that included striped bass, butternut squash risotto with parmesan and the most delightful holiday dessert selections you’ve ever seen. Big plans are coming for the Pen...can’t say what, but Chicago will be thrilled! :) (To view all pics, please click HERE!)
Donnie Madia’s Blackbird on Randolph still packs them in and it was a great treat to spend a night there with friends Gayle Anthony, her sister Julie Weindling and Paul Iacono. Another great evening was spent at Jim Lasky’s The Southern on North Avenue (their fried chicken is to DIE for!) with friends Hedwig and Bob Golant, host Rhonda Sanderson, John Amato, Sheryl Dyer and Alan Sax. “I wonder what Piglet is doing," thought Winnie-the-Pooh, "I wish I were there to be doing it, too." (To view more pics, please click HERE!)
I am so proud of The Joffrey Ballet’s Nutcracker! Have you heard the news? Goldstar, an online ticket seller, selected our Nutcracker as the country’s best-loved Nutcracker based on member reviews and ratings. The Joffrey’s Nut beat out more than 50 productions from around the country to earn this title! Additionally, they will receive a cash prize for their educational programs. I am also thrilled to report that for the first time, the Joffrey’s “Couture & Cocktails” party has made Biz Bash's “Chicago’s Top 100 Events” list. Kudos to The Joffrey Ballet who is racking up more wins than Meryl Streep!
I know that holiday gift giving is over but that doesn’t mean a New Year’s gift is out of the question! My suggestion: Beth Aldrich’s fabulous and informative book, “Real Moms Love to Eat.” Aldrich says, “Diets make everyone feel tired, empty, stressed and unfulfilled. In my book, I explain how to eat the foods we love with some tweaks – learning how to control indulgences, understanding why we crave what we do and how to still enjoy our dysfunctional food friends (salt, fat and sugar) all with just a little makeover.” Congrats Beth on a wonderful book that includes not only tasty recipes but an interesting life story along the way!
Every year, the Illinois Education Foundation, which supports 250 scholars at colleges around the state, has an evening for these scholars called Suited for Success planned this year at the Standard Club on January 21st. And even though this is a closed event for the young students, IEF needs your help in finding donations of new or gently used, current high-quality business/interview suits for men and women by January 14th. Davis Imperial Cleaners has graciously donated the dry-cleaning for all donations and the tailoring has been donated by Brooks Brothers. Allen Edmonds and Lori’s are also donating a new pair of shoes to each student! (Let’s make sure we patronize these charitable companies!) IEF empowers low-income, highly motivated community college students to succeed in school, in work and in life. Please help...this is a wonderful way to clean your closets for a wonderful cause! Donors can email email@example.com for pick-up and drop-off logistics. (Pics by J. Geil)
Chuck and I were so proud to be a part of PAWS’ “12 Strays of Christmas” adoption event which began on December 13th. Chicago personalities including Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, WGN’s Steve Sanders, Brotha Fred (host of Kiss FM’s morning show), US 99’s Lisa Dent, Sun-Times’ Elizabeth Hamel, WBBM news-radio’s Julie Mann (with niece Lauren), Radio Disney’s DJ Angela and Tribune reporter Bill Hageman and wife Dona joined together in an effort to find homes for dogs and cats at this time of the year. Leading Chicago area shelters with nearly 2,763 animals transferred from Chicago’s Animal Care & Control (ACC), PAWS Chicago has helped reach an all-time euthanasia low of 10,599 cats and dogs in 2010. The magnitude of this progress is best seen when compared to the 26,394 animals euthanized there in 1997. With special holiday hours through the end of December, the PAWS website and the Adoption Center will feature a special group of animals available for adoption each day. As pets at the Adoption Center find new homes, PAWS Chicago will be able to take in more homeless dogs and cats, saving more lives. PAWS Chicago will be taking in extra animals from Chicago Animal Care & Control throughout the week to find as many homes as possible before the year is over. Please help the helpless at www.PAWSChicago.org. (For more pics, please click HERE!)
Thanks for being here and here’s a toast to 2012! I am wishing you all the best, biggest, brightest and happiest year ahead! May the best of this year be the worst of next!
P.S. Here’s what the Connors family “cooked” up for their Christmas Eve Dinner! I love these PEEPS! :) If you would like to follow tennis great Jimmy Connors on Twitter, he’s got some cool insights into the world of sports - among other news! (For more pics, please click HERE!)