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Rick Bayless Garden Tour

Earlier this Spring while I was researching vegetable gardening in Chicago, I stumbled across the opportunity to tour Rick Bayless’s garden. If you don’t know who Rick Bayless is, he’s a well known chef in Chicago specializing in Mexican food and the host of the PBS series Mexico – One Plate at a Time. He’s really elevated Mexican cuisine with his restaurants Frontera Grill and Topolobampo.


The Bayless’s live in Bucktown, a Chicago neighborhood northwest of downtown. My first apartment in Chicago is right around the corner from their home. They own three city lots (!!!), with two buildings (one they live in and the second they rent out) and the middle lot is all garden. The garden includes a chicken coop, bee hive, small fish pond, patio, grape covered pergola, fire pit and Rick’s outdoor kitchen you see on his cooking show. As well flowers, plants and vegetables everywhere!








When the grapes are ripe they are used at Rick’s restaurants, mostly in desserts.



The garden directly behind the Bayless’s home is where things really get special. The tour was led by the head gardener, Bill Shores. The raised beds are custom made of Bill’s design. They are sleek, minimal and maximize production in a small space. They mostly grow lettuces, but also lots of edible flowers, butternut squash, beans and herbs. The garden produces a lot of food. Obviously it can’t supply all of a restaurant’s food, but in the summer months it produces the majority of the salad greens, mostly for Topolobampo. 







This space is at the back of the garden and its filled with new plants waiting to be planted and at the end in the back corner is the compost.


Lots and lots of mint! Think of all the mint tea and mojitos!


This dill is planted to attract pollinating bees.


Busy bee doing its thing!



On the 2nd floor of the Bayless’s home is a greenhouse. A lot of the plants move up there during the winter.


The tour lasted just over an hour and was very inspiring to see how much can be done in a compact space. Granted the Bayless’s have triple the space what most Chicagoans have, but there were a ton of ideas all around.


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August Wish List


It’s a cliche statement, but this year is flying by! August already. Soon it will be sweater and boots weather. Fall collections have been hitting the stores and quite a handful of items have gone on my wish list this month.

1. I’ve agreed to do the flowers for my friend’s wedding in September. I’ve never done anything like this before, so I’m slightly terrified, but also really excited. I flipped through The Flower Recipe Book a few months ago and it is a lovely book, so I think this will be a good guide for my big task. Wish me luck!!

2. I absolutely LOVE this rosie lamp from CB2! Marble, pink and edison bulbs, what’s not to love?! I think this would look lovely in our bedroom and give a soft, romantic glow.

3. I’ve recently made peace with the idea of buying a leather jacket despite being a vegetarian for 17 years. There’s no vegetarian police out there going to arrest me and I’m a grown ass lady! HARUMPH! I keep on going back to Zara’s site to check this jacket out. It’s so cool and rather Balenciaga-esque. I’ve heard that Zara leather jackets are pretty decent quality for the price. Does anyone have any experience with their leather jackets?

4. Nourishing Notes is a great Chicago maker. I have their Donuts make the world go round tea towel and it always puts a smile on my face and makes we want a donut. I feel I need to show the world just how deep my love for rosé is with their their new Hooray for Rosé towel.

5. Gardening + French + Sweatshirt = Fall Perfection. I am all over this Madewell sweatshirt like a teenager eating spicy hot cheetos.


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Toby’s Bloody Mary

I never was a huge lover of Bloody Mary’s until my husband Toby made me one of his. It’s spicy, zesty and the complete opposite of the bland ones of my past. This is a picture heavy post, so sit back with a drink and get ready for some scrolling.


While photographing the recipe we measured out each ingredient to give you (and us) a guide to follow. This recipe isn’t baking, feel free to alter to your tastes. The one stop I think you can’t skip is making onion juice. It makes such a difference!

  • 1/2 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 heaping tablespoons horseradish (or if you can get it fresh, that is amazing)
  • 1-2 limes
  • 1 lemon
  • Juice from half a sweet onion
  • 1 garlic clove smashed
  • 2 teaspoons green olive juice (or pickle juice)
  • 2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha
  • 1 tablespoon harissa
  • 2  quarts tomato juice
  • Vodka
  • Garnishes: celery, cornichons, olives, pink pickled turnips (aka: Torshi Lift), and Haywards pickled onions
  • Optional: A mix of mild chili powder (Toby uses his homemade guajillo and ancho powder) and salt for the rim of the glass.

1. Toast the coriander and cumin seeds in a small pan on low heat until it is fragrant. Grind the coriander and cumin in a spice grinder. 


2. Cut a sweet vidalia onion in half and blend in a food processor. Place the purée in a sieve and press to strain. You are left with the most amazing onion juice. Don’t skip this step! Alternately, if you don’t have a food processor you can grate the onion on a box grater and achieve the same purée. I highly recommend wearing onion goggles for that method. They may look ridiculous, but they actually work!


3. Smash a clove of garlic into a paste. I learned these two  garlic tips from America’s Test Kitchen. If a recipe calls for fresh garlic, but you want to remove some of the harshness from it, dip the clove in a pot of boiling water for about 30 seconds. To help mash the garlic clove, mix in a bit of salt while you are chopping. The salt acts as an abrasive and helps break down the garlic into a mash.


4. In a large pitcher, mix together onion juice, garlic, ground coriander, cumin, salt, black pepper, celery seed, horseradish and lemon and lime juice.


Yummy! Now doesn’t that look tasty!


5.  Mix in tomato juice and start adding your heat. We used harissa, sriracha and cayenne chili powder. More traditional recipes use Tabasco. Use your favorite. Keep on tasting and adjusting to your preference. Sometimes it needs more lemon. Sometimes it needs more heat. Taste. Adjust. Taste!


Chicagoans, if you are anywhere near Andersonville, I highly recommend popping into Middle Eastern Bakery and picking up some of their homemade harissa. It is my absolute favorite hot sauce. Oh baby! This is good stuff!


6.  Fill a glass with some ice and a shot or two of vodka .


7. Add Toby’s Bloody Mary mix and the garnishes. I prefer to go more traditional when it comes to garnishes; celery stalk, olives and some sort of pickle. This morning we used pink pickled turnips (or Torshi Lift), cornichons, two types of olives and Haywards pickled onions. My English sister-in-law turned me and Toby onto Haywards last year when we were visiting. They are a REVELATION! Cocktail onions suck. They’re normally mushy. But Haywards are firm and crispy. I’m addicted. I’ve found them at Spencer’s Jolly Posh British specialty store (support LOCAL!), but I see that World Market also carries them.


Note:  I’d also like to give the state of Wisconsin a shout out and thank them for the idea of a beer back. On a trip to Milwaukee a few years ago we were served tiny beers with our bloody marys and it was really nice during an overindulgent brunch. Midwest knows best!





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Boden Autumn 2014

Autumn collections are just starting to be released. Boden always has such a strong Autumn/Winter collection. They do sweaters, skirts and dresses so well. I love that their photos are dedicated to their love of London, a city I personally would move to in a heartbeat. Anything strike your fancy? I love the 60s inspired shift dress, British solider sweater and the hot pink pencil skirt.


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Lou & Grey

Have you seen Loft’s newish casual line Lou & Grey? My friend Devon just hipped me to it and I’m totally in love. The color palette is mostly muted neutrals (grey, white, cream, black and navy) with lots of stripes thrown in. The materials used include a lot of linen and cotton. The shapes and style is modern, yet simple. Check it out!


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