Week #7 – Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras Party

So, the point of my blog is to see and do things I’ve never done in the city. Technically, I didn’t go anywhere new, but I did host my first-ever Fat Tuesday party!

Ten of my girlfriends came over on Tuesdsay to enjoy some of our favorite high-calorie indulgences. I prepared two new items for the party: jambalaya in my slow cooker (I put a little less heat than what it called for, and totally mushed up my rice…grrr!) and a signature cocktail I found on Pinterest called the No-So-Fat Tuesday Cocktail. I especially liked the cocktail because it felt like I was on vacation, and wasn’t overly sweet.

I didn’t do much on the decorating side of things, other than hang a garland of Mardi Gras masks over the sofa, put out some funny napkins (see below), and  a ceramic cowgirl boot my 2-year-old niece and I made at the Craft Studio in NYC. I got beads for everyone to wear too. Gotta accessorize!

The girls brought tons of food, including an authentic King cake shipped from New Orleans, paczkis with fresh whip cream and strawberries (Lauren did special research to find these beauties!), muffaletta sandwiches, decadent bacon mac and cheese with caramelized onions, twice baked potato bites, homemade rosemary bread, spinach dip, artisan cheese and crackers, hummus and veggies, and brownies. We were left with plenty of leftovers!

The King cake was a big hit because everyone wanted the plastic baby (whoever finds the plastic baby in the cake gets good luck!). My best friend Bridget was the lucky lady to get it! Mel (my sister-in-law who brought the cake) also said whoever finds the baby brings the cake next year, and everyone agreed that we should keep the tradition alive next year.

What did you do for Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras?

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Week #7 – Rare Tea Cellar

If I have to choose tea or coffee, nine times out of 10 I’ll choose tea. Why? I’ve been drinking tea since I was a little girl. (Not sure if that’s healthy or not, but I think I turned out okay…) My mom is a big tea drinker, and she would always make us black Lipton tea with sugar or honey and half-and-half. Nowadays, I’ve gone mostly herbal, with my favorites being chamomile, rooibos, ginger (which I’m drinking as I type), and green tea.

My co-worker and friend Ellen recently emailed me about a charity event at the Rare Tea Cellar for The Night Ministry, an organization (that offers housing and healthcare to those in need) that she’s very involved in. Here was her description of the event:

“Rare Tea Cellar supplies tea and fancy-shmancy ingredients (hello, truffle flavor pearls and bourbon smoked black pepper) to restaurants like Graham Elliot, Alinea, and Girl & the Goat, and they’re opening up their warehouse to us for a shopping night. There are going to be samples of their ingredients and teas, plus appetizers and cocktails by Adam Segar (Lettuce Entertain You mixologist and creator of Hum).”

Um, how could I say no to this one? I asked Nate to come with, and he happily agreed. (Sorry, ladies, my husband IS the best.) When my co-worker and friend Erin, who I recently flew to NYC with, said she wanted to go to, I was looking forward to it even more.

So the date of the event arrives and Mother Nature decides to throw a sloppy, slushy mess all over the city, but I wasn’t going to stop me. (I even told Nate he could drop me off at the Brown line and I’d go alone, but he still came with—and drove. Sorry again, ladies, he’s all mine.)

We pulled up to row of warehouses, and I could see the teas on the shelves in the warehouse through the window. Already getting excited! We checked in to get our wristbands and immediately found Erin and Ellen. Erin came with us to get drinks (warning: shopping while drinking is dangerous!), and we all decided to get the blood orange punch with Templeton Rye. Yum. They also had hot herbal teas they were using to make their versions of Hot Toddies. Oooh.

This warehouse is a feast for your senses. Exotic teas to look at. Science-looking contraptions to distill the teas. And they let us smell so many things! Some sweet, some sour, some let left you with a strange look on your face. The warehouse has an amazing inventory (think watermelon powder and balls of  vintage floral tea) of rare finds from around the globe and a really knowledgeable staff to help make sense of it all. Erin and I walked around, taste testing different items stocked in the warehouse. We started simple with bourbon-infused sugar (sweet, but smoky), moved our way to citron vinegar (sour but citrusy delicous with a bite at the end), and caramel flavor pearls (consistency of tapioca beads that explode with sweet flavor). I also tried the warm gingerbread rooibos tea, which was the perfect ending to my successful taste test.

We ended up bringing home the bourbon-infused sugar and some strange tea called Pu’erh. The sales person explained that it is a dark tea from China. It looked so different, I had to give it a try. (Will follow up when I brew it!) ** Note: A portion of the proceeds from all purchases went directly to The Night Ministry!

I was so glad Nate (who thoroughly enjoyed the Radiohead playing all night) and I could attend such a unique event for such a good cause. Thanks for inviting me, Ellen!

Note: You can buy Rare Tea Cellar’s goods from around the world on their website. Visit now!

Rare Tea Cellar
3701 North Ravenswood Avenue, #101
North Center

Learn more about The Night Ministry at www.TheNightMinistry.org.

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