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Pucker Up and Get Soft, Supple, and Ready for Valentine’s Day with Amala

Photo courtesy of Amala

Photo courtesy of Amala

Here at VODA, you know we are big fans of the organic and luxurious line of skincare products by Amala. This winter, and right in time for Valentine’s Day, they offer two products that came just in the nick of time to soothe my moisture-deprived chapped lips and dry hands. I breathed a sigh of relief, finally products that feel good and you can feel good about using.  Amala does not test their products on animals and uses plant-derived ingredients that are grown responsibly and work with your skin to deliver noticeable results.

Photo courtesy of Amala

Photo courtesy of Amala

The samples arrived in the minimal, yet elegant, signature Amala packaging. The Rejuvenating Hand Cream was in a tube with a cork-like top, the Soothing Lip Salve in an easy to squeeze, no-mess tube, both with elegant copper-toned caps.  Before bedtime I slathered on the velvety hand cream and applied the balm to my rough, dry lips.  The next morning I notice my lips felt softer and not as tight and dry. I felt my hands, it was like touching a baby’s bottom. They hadn’t been this soft in years, probably since I was a baby.

Photo courtesy of Amala

Photo courtesy of Amala

The lip salve, labeled “soothe,” is made from desert fig seed, Moroccan chamomile, and shea butter. It goes on smooth and silky and leaves a subtle shine.  By day two, my lips were back to their plump, nourished self. I noticed they were incredibly soft too.  The Rejuvenating Hand Cream goes on silky smooth and absorbs quickly without a greasy feel.  It is made with cocoa beans, Inca inchi seed, and licorice root.  This dynamic duo was just what I needed to get ready for that silly, Hallmark holiday we can’t help but love!

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Chicago 2015: The Resolution of Giving

Now that the new year is underway, everyone is looking to get a start on their resolutions.  The gyms across town are packed every night, for now.  Sales of healthy food at the supermarket is going up, for now.  You are probably even getting to work early every day, for now.  (just speculating)

If your resolution is to do some good in the world, the task of truly giving back can seem daunting.  The thing to remember is it is ok to start small, the little things add up.  The other thing to remember is that you don’t have to go it alone.  There following are just a few products/places that will donate proceeds of sales to charitable organizations both in town and across the world.  Who says you can’t enjoy a night out while making the world a better place?

 

Ronald_McDonald_HouseBIG Bar & Brasserie at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, (151 East Upper Wacker Drive) is donating a portion of proceeds from the sale of their “Home Sweet Home” cocktail (Absolut Mango, St. Germain, Mango Puree and sour mix) to the Ronald McDonald House near the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital.   The Ronald McDonald House  provides families a place to stay while their children are getting medical treatment.  You get a delicious cocktail and keep a family together at a time of need.  Cheers to that.

 

purple-asparagusDMK Burger Bar with locations downtown and in the suburbs is a mainstay of quality burgers and through their “365 Days of Giving” program, are also known for their big hearts.  Each month the DMK Burger Bar teams up with a different local non-profit organizations every month to help raise funds and awareness. In January they partner with Purple Asparagus,whose mission is to educate Chicago children, families, and communities about eating what is good for the body and the planet by bringing nutritious hands-on adventures to schools, community organizations, and farmers’ markets throughout Chicagoland.

 

lurie-childrens-hospitalLevel Two restaurant & lounge located on the second floor of the Hyatt Chicago Magnificent Mile offers guest a chance to donate to the Lurie Children’s Hospital through their is running Change for Hope campaign.   Nothing complicated about this one, guests are simply encourged to round up the change on their bill at the end of the meal.  All extra “Change for Hope” is collected and donated directly to Lurie Children’s Hospital across the street from the restaurant as a greater Room for Hope hotel-wide campaign to support Lurie patients and their families.

 

World_Wildlife_FundBranded Spirits’ Ice Fox Vodka  profits from the sale go in part to the World Wildlife Fund protecting the shrinking population of Artic Foxes that inspired the product.  Founded in 1961, the WWF is now the largest conservation organizations in the world, working on the restoration and preservation of endangered species and the environment.  The next time you are sitting back and enjoying a glass of this triple distilled premium all-american vodka, know you had a hand in saving a species from extinction. Definitely worth raising a glass to that.

 

 

Coral_Reef_AllianceBranded Spirits’ Motu Rum is donating a portion of profits from its sale  to the Coral Reef Alliance to help preserve the pristine coral reefs of the South Pacific.   The Coral Reef Alliance started in 1994 in Berkeley California to get the diving community involved in coral reef conservation.  Since then it has grown to a  premiere global non-profit conservation organization with initiative in reef communities around the world.  With every purchase of Motu Rum you are helping preserve this delicate ecosystem that urgently needs our help.

These are only some of the ways you can begin 2015 as your year of giving.  Even if it is limited to ordering a cocktail or picking up a bottle at the store, you are making a difference.  You shouldn’t dismiss these as trivial because again, the little things really can add up to something wonderful.  Knowing you had a hand in helping a local family stay close to their loved one at a difficult time, help keep the school kids healthy, or prevented a species in another part of the world from becoming a footnote in history, should warm your heart.  A step no matter how small makes you a part of the solution and a better tomorrow.

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A Chicago Foodie NYE

Chicago NYE 2014

 

New Years Eve in Chicago.  Time to celebrate another year in this great city.  There are the hotel parties and nightclubs which are always fun but may not be for everyone. For the gourmand/foodie in town and looking to do something a little different we have a few suggestions

 American Comfort Fare

DMK Burger Bar – Chicago and Lombard

DMK Burger Bar

DMK Burger Bar

At DMK Burger Bar, guests have a variety of packages to choose from to satisfy a range of party appetites – ranging from the single-admission ticket for draft beers, boozy punch, house cocktails, and passed Sliders (bite sized versions of DMK’s best burgers), Fries, and Shakes all night; to The King’s Table for you and up to 14 guests and including a Double Magnum bottle of Veuve Cliquot as well as two bottles of a liquor of choice and a classic breakfast served at 1 a.m. exclusively for their table.  Packages and pricing vary by location, see DMK NYE for more details.

Howells & Hood – 435 N. Michigan Ave.

Howells & Hood is home to the largest draft beer selection in Chicago.  This year guests will get to enjoy a one-of-a-kind New Year’s Eve celebration, no ticket required. Newly appointed Executive Chef Brett Neubauer presents a four-course, prix-fixe menu for guests to enjoy gourmet twists on American classics and then stay for the celebration with a DJ at 10 p.m. Additionally, a Champagne toast is offered at midnight with complimentary late night snacks for all guests. Some notable menu items and beverage suggestions include: 

  • Australian Truffle & Foie Gras Bites featuring truffle foie gras mousse, port, and espelette pepper paired with Beer – Brasserie St. Feuillien Saison, Wine – Segura Viudas Brut Reserva, or Howells Royale cocktail (Huckleberry Jam, Rosemary Simple, Bubbles).
  • 12-oz Painted Hills 60 Day Dry-Aged Rib-Eye with Australian truffle, buttermilk mashed potatoes, charred rapini, and red wine reduction paired with Beer – Founder’s Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale,  Wine -Mitolo Shiraz Jester, or Hatting in the Hood cocktail (FEW Bourbon, House Brandied Cherries, Carpano Antica, Orange Bitters).
  • Butterscotch Bread Pudding made with Brioche bread, vanilla bean custard, rum raisin ice cream, butterscotch sauce paired with Beer –  Greenbush Distorter Porter,  Wine – Milbrandt Traditions Merlot, or a Butter Beer Cocktail (Root Beer, Butterscotch, Jameson, Horchata, Cinnamon, Egg White, Cherry)

The four-course prix-fixe menu is priced at $75 per person, or $100 with beverage pairing suggestions. Beverages served a la carte, if preferred. For more details see Howell and Hood NYE.  Reservations strongly encouraged, and can be made by calling 312.262.5310 or at www.howellsandhood.com.

Of course it doesn’t end there.  The next day Howells & Hood is hosting a New Year’s Day Hangover Brunch. guests can enjoy the following feel-good dishes:

  • Doritos Chilaquiles with short rib, nacho cheese Doritos, cotija cheese, and salsa roja
  • Doughnut French Toast with banana, caramelized pecans, and bourbon
  • Cheeseburger Strata with brioche, cheddar cheese, onion, and royale
  • Blackstrap Molasses Ham & Cheese Muffin with English muffin, Irish cheddar, and over-easy egg.

Brunch is offered from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Reservations strongly encouraged, and can be made by calling 312.262.5310 or atwww.howellsandhood.com.

Their sister location, the Old Town Pour House – 1419 N. Wells St. is also hosting a New Years Day Brunch; offered at 10:30 a.m., with similar recovery fare and some hair of the dog if so inclined.  For more information, please visit www.oldtownpourhouse.com or call 630.601.1440.

Italian Elegance

Filini Bar & Restaurant – 221 North Columbus Drive

Filini Bar and Restaurant

Filini Bar & Restaurant

Filini Bar & Restaurant you can party like Gatsby at this transformed 1920’s fete with pre-prohibition cocktails, music, and décor. Flappers and Dapper Don’s are encouraged to wear their best golden age attire and enjoy delectable Italian fare and a live DJ performance. Along with hors d’oeuvres from 9-11 p.m., open bar from 9 p.m.-midnight, and complimentary Prosecco, party favors, and dessert bar when the clock strikes midnight.

 

Peruvian Exotic 

Tanta – 118 W. Grand Ave.

Foodies looking to ring in the new year with more exotic fare we have Tanta,  a Chicago standout for Peruvian cuisine.  Chef Jesus Delgado present guests with à la carte menu items showcasing the flavors of the culture including:

Tanta Cebiche ValienteCebiche Valiente - Lobster, rocoto leche de tigre coral, and huacatay;

 

 

 

 

Tanta Scallops and Chupe

Chupe – Grilled jumbo sea scallops with organic quinoa chupe in a aji amarillo-crab broth and roasted sweet peppers, and quail egg;

 

 

 

 

Tanta CorderoEstofado Cordero – Grilled Australian rack of lamb with anticucho sauce, cannellini beans, cilantro, criolla salad, and aji amarillo (ingredients subject to change based upon seasonal availability).

 

 

 

Ring in the New Year with a champagne toast and an unforgettable meal. Reservations are strongly recommended and can be made by calling 312.222.9700 or by visitingOpentable.com. For more information, please visit www.tantachicago.com.

 

Charcuterie

TÊTE Charcuterie – 1114 West Randolph Street

TETE

TETE

This hot west loop Charcuterie on restaurant row is throwing an all-out NYE bash that is much a celebration of the good life inspired by their passion for good food and drink as it is a celebration of a new year with its endless possibilities.  As expected there will be an enormous buffet of appetizers and TÊTE’s out-of-this-world Charcuterie, a DJ and ice shot luge to keep the party going all night, and, at midnight, The Salsa Truck arrives on the scene to hand out tacos (included in the ticket) to satisfy those late night munchies.   For more info go to TETE or go to http://tetenye.bpt.me to get tickets.

 

Mediterranean Sophisticate

Travelle – 330 North Wabash Ave.

Travelle

Travelle

Chef Tim Graham and Pastry Chef Scott Green at Travelle are offering a gourmet New Year’s Eve prix-fixe menu that is an exquisite way to bring 2014 to a close. There is a three-course menu from 5-7:30 p.m. and a five-course menu from 8-10:30 p.m.

The festivities begin with a Champagne cart at your table at the beginning of the meal.  Guest will enjoy live music along with diner.

Some of the featured dishes include:

  • Salad Lyonnaise, truffled frisee, fried egg, and bacon
  • Sunchoke Soup, hazelnut and black truffle
  • Risotto, white truffle and chive
  • Duck, crispy confit leg, truffled-potato rosti, and Cognac gastrique
  • Beef Tenderloin, with brioche, foie gras, and truffled sauce bordelaise
  • An assortment of Mini Desserts.

For reservations, please visit TravelleChicago.com or call 312.923.7705. Like Travelle on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.

New Years day Travelle will be open providing hangover relief through their travel inspired eggs Benedicts menu. Guests can select any one of the Benedictine Traveler’s line-up of six selections including:

  • English Benedict with rasher of ham and hollandaise
  • Moroccan Benedict with Merguez sausage, mint, and piquillo sauce
  • Norwegian Benedict with smoked salmon, fennel, and sauce choron
  • Florentine Benedict with spinach, artichoke, and sauce béarnaise
  • Travelle Benedict with lobster, spinach and truffled hollandaise
  • Burgundian Benedict with red wine braised short rib, crispy shallot, and sauce Dijon.

Diners can pair their favorite benedict choice with a mimosa or Bloody Mary for $29/person from 11am-3pm. For reservations, please visit TravelleChicago.com or call 312.923.7705. Like Travelle on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.

 

 

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Modern Metaphor: Park Hyatt Beijing

Photo courtesy of the Park Hyatt Beijing

China Grill Photo courtesy of the Park Hyatt Beijing

During breakfast at Park Hyatt Beijing’s lofty China Grill nobody is talking. That’s because they’ve either been stunned to silence by the dramatic cityscape displayed like Park Avenue eye candy via wrap around panoramic windows. Or, they’re too busy relishing platters of assorted, abundant Chinese delights gleaned from the immense buffet. I think it’s a little bit of both. Certainly, the restaurant’s setting on the 66th floor ensures it’s the most high altitude eatery in the city and the hotel’s location, adjacent the CCTV Tower, opposite the World Trade Center, and amid the Central Business District, makes for a jaw dropping portrayal of new Beijing’s creative urbanity.  But it’s the food that ultimately steals the show, with chefs like Daisy Dong cooking up wok fried noodles, egg pancakes stuffed with coriander and chilies, steamed buns and pan fried dumplings—all before your eyes.

Lobby Photo courtesy of the Park Hyatt Beijing

Lobby Photo courtesy of the Park Hyatt Beijing

Breakfast alone is reason enough to check into to this luxury skyscraper style hotel, but its virtues abound. Smart, swanky and reveling in China’s new found modernity, it manages to meld Oriental motifs with futuristic aesthetics. Ensconced in a trio of towers, its meant to be a city within itself, so complete guests (and residents) can work, play, dine, shop—and well, never, ever leave.  That could be a problem if you hanker to see the Great Wall. Still, it’s this cool factor that intrigues—as if you’re entering a forbidden city of a more contemporary kind.

Executive Suite  Photo courtesy of the Park Hyatt Beijing

Executive Suite Photo courtesy of the Park Hyatt Beijing

An express elevator whisks guests to the hotel lobby, located on the 63rd floor. There, awash with water gardens and encased in glass walls, it induces tranquility of a chic sort. Clean lines abound here, as they do in the guestrooms which are ample and open. All suites and rooms include screens, enormous bathrooms (complete with high tech toilets), mood lighting and well conceived work stations. Perhaps the coup da gras (suite wise) can be found on the 60th floor where nine super tony suites and a bi-level Penthouse in minimalist style, bedecked with stirring art pieces, boast views like no other hotel in Beijing.

Photo courtesy of the Park Hyatt Beijing

Photo courtesy of the Park Hyatt Beijing

Though guests may never want to leave their rooms, they should—even if they intend to never exit the hotel. The Tian Spa awaits with Eastern nfluenced treatments, Private Room serves Cantonese cuisine in an evocative,–almost clandestine–spaces, and the fitness center has two pools, one enclosed by glass that seems to float in the sky. So popular that trendy locals stand in line for hours each night, XIU, the expansive rooftop bar (actually five themed bars in one) has a guest only, express entrance.  Now that’s what I call an amenity.

Xiu Bar Photo courtesy of the Park Hyatt Beijing

Xiu Bar Photo courtesy of the Park Hyatt Beijing

beijing.park.hyatt.com

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Happy Holidays

xmas2014

 

The greatest luxury is the love of friends and family.  If you have that, you have everything.  We wish you and yours the very best this holiday season.

xo,  Xan

 

 

 

 

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Christmas Dinner at Travelle

Travelle

Travelle

The holidays are about family, friends, good will, and great food. That usually involves putting in some serious time in the kitchen.  Traditionalists however should not be quick to dismiss the idea of going out for Christmas dinner. The most compelling reason, for me at least, is simply not having spend the day cooking or the evening doing the dishes. The holiday should be about spending time with family and not stressing over dinner. Thanksgiving is somewhat obligatory, but for Christmas we have options. Travelle, located on the second floor of the Langham Hotel in Chicago, is offering a family-style dinner this Christmas Day.

Depending on how you’re feeling you could order from their “Naughty” menu, primarily rustic cuisine that focuses on (rich and substantial) meat dishes.  Notable dishes include the following:

  • Porky Bonbon with lime
  • Duck Leg Confit (duck slow cooked in its own fat) served with roasted apples and a Madeira glaze
  • Trio of Pate: Country Pate, Oxtail and Squab Terrine with foie torchon
  • Suckling Pig served with morcilla blood sausage, sweet Potato, and mustard
  • Dry Rubbed Beef Tenderloin with seared foie gras, roasted mushrooms, and kale

There is also a “Nice” menu for those getting a head start on their New Years resolutions. This menu is a lighter, healthier fare the centers around vegetable and seafood options. A few standouts in this menu are:

  • Crudité (raw veggies) with lemon aioli;
  • Lobster Bisque 
  • Grand Seafood Collection: Lobster, King Crab, Snow Crab, and Langoustine.
  • Bay Steamed Salmon with Brussels sprouts, and a cinnamon vinaigrette.

For those of us who are a little of both (and really who isn’t ?), items can be ordered from both menus.

For dessert, guests may choose from a Buche De Noel (Yule Log) selection.

Another dessert option guests can enjoy is down the hall at the Parlour at the Pavilion.  Here you can indulge in a-limited-time-only North Pole Sundae.  The great thing about the sundaes at the Parlour at the Pavilion is just about everything from the ice cream to the garnishes are made in house.

North Pole Sundae:

  • House-made Egg nog ice cream
  • House-made mint chocolate chip ice cream
  • Garnished with red and green sprinkles, candy cane, and a house-made gingerbread man

In case you’re too full from dinner you could always come back for dessert. Don’t take too long; The North Pole Sundae is only available from December 21st to January 3rd.

 

For Reservations or more information please go to TravelleChicago.com or call 312.923.7705

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The 12 Cocktails of Christmas at Level Two

 

Hyatt Christmas Cocktails

The holidays are in full swing and many places are introducing seasonal flavors to their cocktail menu.  Hyatt Chicago Magnificent Mile Level Two restaurant and lounge has brought good tidings of holiday cheer by offering us for a limited time the “12 Cocktails of Christmas”. Read more…

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Travelle & The Radler: Swine & Wine Dinner, 12/11

swine_wine

 

What is more glorious than the swine.  In the hands of Executive Chef Tim Graham of  Travelle and Chef Nathan Sears of The Radler, the simple pig is risen to a level of gastronomic masterpiece.

For ONE NIGHT ONLY two great Chicago chefs will be teaming up to put together a 5-course pork based menu that will bring a grown man to tears.  Each course will highlight a cut of the beloved beast, showcasing the Chefs individual cooking style. Read more…

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“A Night at the Nutcracker” at the JW Marriott Chicago

Female ballet dancer

 

For the third year in a row the  JW Marriott Chicago (151 W. Adams St.) joins official partner, the acclaimed Joffrey Ballet, to ring in the magic of the holidays with “A Night at the Nutcracker” package available Friday, December 5 through Saturday, December 28.

Throughout the month of December the world-class dance company will be performing the enchanting holiday classic Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University.  Guests of the JW Marriott who book the “A Night at the Nutcracker” package will receive two VIP tickets to the performance as well as many extras.

On December 6, guests were treated to a one time only special ballerina meet-and-greet after the matinee show.  Also through the 28th of December the Lobby Lounge is mixing their signature drink The Dancer’s Delight, (vanilla vodka, simple syrup, soy milk, chai tea, and amaretto)

If you have a little ballerina in the family, this could be a start of a wonderful family holiday tradition (along with the lighting of the tree at Daley Plaza and lunch at the Walnut Room)  Of course if you love the splendor of classical dance, that’s fine too.

 

Photo Courtesy of The Joffrey Ballet

Photo Courtesy of The Joffrey Ballet

The “Night at The Nutcracker Ballet” package includes:

  • Overnight stay in deluxe guest room
  • Hot chocolate nightcap in-room (spiked hot chocolate for adults also available)
  • Ballerina welcome cookies
  • Breakfast for two in-room the next day
  • Two VIP tickets to The Nutcracker (additional tickets available for purchase upon request, an over $15 savings)
  • Nutcracker “swag bag” that includes a signed pointe shoe, Nutcracker commemorative program and poster, as well as a signed photo of a dancer
  • Package rates start at $429.00 with rate code ‘ZJL’ (an over $100 savings); availability December 5-28 here
  • Reservations can be made by calling 312 660 8200 or online; 72-hour cancellation is required
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Amarula – The Spirit of Africa

Amarula

Debuting in South Africa back in 1983 it is currently available in over 100 countries, second only to Baileys in global cream liqueurs sales.  Wildly popular throughout the rest of the world and yet many here in the United States are only beginning to hear about it.  So what is Amarula? Read more…

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