Sunday, November 25, 2012

Salt-Roasted Beets with Whipped Goat Cheese and Pistachio Vinaigrette

The Purple Pig made me a beet believer. When I wrote about my recent trip to Chicago (here), I mentioned that one of our stops was to this splendid destination spot for lunch on Monday. The first dish we tried from the antipasti menu was Salt-Roasted Beets with Whipped Goat Cheese and Pistachio Vinaigrette. Not a particularly big fan of beets, it was a little unusual that I would want that, as opposed to some of the other dishes, but that was the one, alas. I was in the mood. And even after eating Chorizo-Stuffed Olives and Chicken Thigh Kabobs with Smashed Fried Potatoes and Tzatziki (I know, right?), it was the beets that stuck with me.

The other day at the grocery store I craved it so badly that I bought a bunch of beets for the first time in my life, with no idea of how to actually go about preparing it. Turns out, when I got home and did a little internet searching, the recipe is wide-spread by other Purple Pig fans. And it was so easy. So I've decided to share it; I made it as an appetizer for a big belated Thanksgiving meal that my family had today. With serious help from this eHow video, it's surprisingly easy to make -- the only annoying part is peeling the beets, of course. For how much effort one really has to put into it (not much), the result is amaaaazing. Best in small quantities, as an appetizer, and/or as The Purple Pig serves it, like tapas.

Salt-Roasted Beets with Whipped Goat Cheese and Pistachio Vinaigrette

2-3 medium-sized beets
kosher salt to coat the bottom of a pan 1/4 inch
1/4 cup chopped pistachios
4 or 5 oz. (1 package) of unflavored goat cheese (creamier is easier, such as Chavrie)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil + 1 teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
pinch salt and pepper

For the beets: Scrub the beets clean and pat dry with a paper towel. Coat the bottom of a bread pan or 8x8" baking dish (depending on how many beets you use) with kosher salt to about 1/4" depth. Place beets in the pan. Cover with tin foil and roast in the oven at 375 degrees for about 45-60 minutes or until tender and easily stabbed with a fork. Pull out of the oven and allow to cool slightly, then peel the beets. Dice into 1/2x1/2" cubes and put into a bowl. Allow the beets to cool to room temperature or put into the refrigerator to cool. Best served slightly cooled, but not cold.

For the whipped goat cheese: In a mixing bowl, using a hand mixer, whip the goat cheese until it begins to get creamy. Add 1 teaspoon olive oil and blend well.

For the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk together the red wine vinegar and the pinches of salt and pepper. Add the 3 tablespoons of olive oil and whisk until it is blended well and takes on a creamier consistency.

Pour the vinaigrette over the beets and toss gently. To serve, place as many beets as desired into a small serving bowl (1/2 cup or so is nice to start), topped with a dollop of whipped goat cheese, and sprinkle with pistachios. Serves about 4-6 as a starter. 

Choppin' 'stachios.

The vinaigrette whisks up to a really lovely consistency and complements
the sweetness that the salt-roasting brings out in the beets.

Beets ready to be peeled.

Whipped up goat cheese.

It's a guilty pleasure to share my entire plate! The beets are in the small bowl in the upper
right corner, and the plate itself consists of mashed parsnips, pecan-topped baked sweet
potatoes with sour cream, turkey, marshmallow fruit salad, green beans, and corn pudding.

Et voila!

I hope everyone had a really lovely holiday weekend; it's back to the grind tomorrow!

Update 06/11/13: Check out my newest blog, Artsy Abroad, and the latest simplified variation of this recipe with a few different (better) photos.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Chicago Greets the Holidays

And we greeted Chicago with open arms.

Last month I arrived home from a roadtrip out east (which I blogged about here and here) and immediately wanted to go somewhere else. I was on a travel high. That happens when I finish a trip that I either wasn't totally satisfied with or it was shorter than expected. In this case, it was both. So within a couple days of my return to Wisconsin, mom and I booked a couple nights at the Hotel Sofitel Chicago Water Tower.

Before getting to the hotel, as we arrived in the city earlier in the day, we made a beeline for the Art Institute of Chicago, where I was on somewhat of a mission to find early 20th century European paintings, and mom wanted to see it for the first time since the Modern Wing was added. And what a place it is now -- I was impressed as a high school student when I visited that museum, and it simply never gets old. At $18 admission/person, it's a place you want to be able to invest some time. (I remember when Tuesdays were free and regular admission was something astoundingly affordable like $6... those were the days.) Sunday was busy, but not crazy, and there's a lot to see. We spent a couple of hours and felt as though we had done a solid for the arts.

It's worth it right now just the see the vast amount of van Gogh on display. I could look at those all day.

The Bedroom, Vincent van Gogh, 1889
We had lunch at a cafeteria-style place across the street from the museum and then went to find our hotel.

We were in love at first sight, let me just put it that way.

Sofitel Chicago Water Tower in the late afternoon from the corner of Wabash and E. Chestnut
When we arrived, we took advantage of valet parking because in-and-out privileges are always nice, but we didn't even end up taking the car out again. With only one full day in the city, it's no surprise. The French hotel brand lived up to its origins -- everything was French or themed as such, all of the information bilingual and the employees greeted you in French as well. The architecture of the building is really something, and its interior decoration is just modern enough to feel edgy and young, but just traditional enough to keep it from being uncomfortable or cold. The service there was top notch and the room was just fantastic, not to mention the feathertop beds. Tres magnifique!

Chicago is a very common destination for us Wisconsinites because it is so deliciously close, yet far enough away that at about a four hour drive, you feel as though you've gone somewhere. I used to go to Chicago in the summers quite often with my dad, who is and was a full-time artist and would exhibit his work in Old Town and Gold Coast shows. As a teenager, I spent a lot of time wandering down the streets and checking out the shops -- before I even had a job. I have a very nostalgic connection to certain parts of Chicago -- namely Old Town, Lincoln Park, and the Gold Coast neighborhoods -- and of course the Magnificent Mile. I remember when Virgin Records had a store on the corner -- I always had to hit that up. But it is no more.

Anyway. The first night we decided to grab dinner at Francesca's, of which there are many, but the closest one was on Chestnut, very close to the hotel, so we walked there. The holiday lights had just been strung on the trees, so the atmosphere downtown was really lovely.

We took an evening stroll down Michigan Avenue to check out all the lights and window shop. Burberry was looking quite nice (the aubergine velvet coat, particularly!) and since it was so warm for mid-November, it was quite comfortable in our light jackets.

Next time I'll remember to bring a regular camera instead of my phone, but you get the idea!

The following day, we did a bunch of shopping along the Magnificent Mile, and I ogled all sorts of garments at Zara, Topshop, and Allsaints Spitalfields (which is a place that anyone can feel free to buy me things from, as much as you want!). Mom found some great deals at some of her favorite stores, and we enjoyed an amaaaaaaazing lunch at The Purple Pig on Michigan Avenue. It's absolutely the best place I've eaten in the last several months -- family style Mediterranean and the service is wonderful. Just the best. It was one of the goals/highlights of the stay!

For dinner we stopped at Sofitel's Le Bar for cocktails, where I had an absinthe-dashed beverage enticingly named The Monkey Gland, and then it was across the street to McCormick & Schmick's for dinner.

We took a stroll down Rush Street and passed out in food comas not long after.

The next and last day we spent the morning having coffee on Rush, window-shopped a little more and then picked up a friend and headed out to the suburbs. My mom was meeting a long-time friend for lunch, so I tagged along with my friend and we also had lunch before jumping back on the interstate and heading north for home.

It was a truly amazing little mother-daughter mini-vacation. I couldn't have asked for anything better. And it was the perfect recipe to inspire and at the same time sate (for the moment) my wanderlust, so that I can now focus on my next big trip: EUROPE.

Cheers, lovelies!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving from Wisconsin!

And from the most nontraditional celebration I've ever experienced. And yet quite possibly one of the yummiest. But don't I feel that way every year? Yes. Yes, I do.

This year, Thanksgiving is split into two celebrations because my dad is currently on the road (in Iowa as we speak, on his way back from a nearly two-month visit to the west coast) and won't be with us until tomorrow. Our second and all-inclusive turkey dinner will be on Sunday. But tonight my youngest sister is visiting on holiday break from college, and my other sister stopped by with her fiance and his daughter. My grandparents dropped in with the all-important bottle of wine. And one thing we were not short of this year was wine!

My contribution was the putting-together of sangria, which one could say came from a recipe, but was mostly my own throw-stuff-in concoction. As follows, the way I made it, with ideas:


About 2-3ish cups of fresh cranberries (or one of those little mesh bags)
2 large crispy apples, such as Granny Smith or Honeycrisp, diced
1 cup Patron Citronage
2/3 cup granulated sugar

1 750ml bottle wine, chilled (red, white, blush, whatever you want!) -- I split a sweet red and a rose blush.
1/2 cup Patron Citronage
1/2 cup cranberry juice

(Optional: Would be AWESOME with a little fizz: substitute part of the wine with champagne, or add club soda and more wine)

Mix all of the ingredients for the fruit mixture together in a bowl or container, then seal and refrigerate for 4-6 hours, or overnight if you've got the time. Pour the fruit into a large pitcher or dispenser and add wine (and/or champagne if you choose) and the last of the Citronage. Stir. Serve chilled over ice.


The best thing about sangria is that it can be made pretty much however you want to make it. This was a fall inspiration from Toasts & Tastes, the first recipe listed there with many other ingredients. What I made was based partly on what we already had available, so we cut out the port and used sugar instead of the syrup. The sugar could be adjusted however you'd like to accommodate varying tastes for sweetness -- this does turn out quite sweet. But then again, that's the way I love my sangria!

Aside from this yummy drinky, mom put together olives and tapenade, bacon-wrapped chicken thighs, asparagus, corn, sweet potatoes and a pumpkin pie with homemade whip. My sister contributed some Martha Stewart-inspired homemade cookies that rivaled Pepperidge Farm's Brussels cookies.

A nontraditional dinner as far as Thanksgivings go -- but what a dinner! I'm so thankful to have been able to spend some time with family today. And then we went to see Lincoln at the theatre. (Go see it!)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Next time I'll post a little something about my recent trip to Chicago. 

Cheers, lovelies!

Friday, November 16, 2012

New sleeves for a new blazer...

I officially completed this jacket tonight -- actually, I started it this afternoon, but such is my attention span with these things that if it had taken more than two hours, it might as well have been a millenium. It took "a lot of patience" and no real plan. Everything was done by holding up this piece of fabric to that length of fabric, trimming here and chopping there, and hoping against hope that I wouldn't mess something the hell up.


I did have to lock my cat out of the room, however, as he was insane about all of the thread and scraps of fabric everywhere.

Alas, the first crafty-sewy thing I've done in months and months: new sleeves for a basic black blazer!

The shirt was this ridiculously awesome find at Goodwill last week. It was gigantic (I'm saving the rest of the shirt for a later project, whatever that turns out to be.) It was too baggy to wear as a tunic because it bulged in all the wrong places, so the next step was to try to figure out what sort of project I could use the rad fabric for. And yes, it is metallic! It shimmers just a little.

I had a super basic black blazer (I have a few of these, actually), and decided I would cut one up, or at least chop off the sleeves and give it new ones! So I chopped the sleeves off the shirt, shaped them up to the measurements (roughly -- none of this was done to standard, mind you, I don't have the patience to even find the tools let alone use them)... I used my sewing machine to fix the seams on all of about 20" of fabric total, and hand-sewed the rest.

What I needed to maintain was the shoulder padding in the blazer, and since the sleeves were already constructed, using a sewing machine was out of the question. I've been inspired by all of the rhinestoney, embellished trends going on right now, such as Topshop's"Rock-oco". Anyway.

Et voila! This is a picture of me looking really proud of myself and trying not to rub it in your face:

Check out those freakin' sleeves! I die. I'm so wearing this every day.

Well, in my dreams.

Ideally, it will eventually have embellishments such as little pearlescent and silver-metallic beads. But I have no patience (again) for this tonight, so the sparkliness of the fabric will have to suffice for a little while.

I'm giving myself a pat on my own back right now, but seriously. This is a minor wakeup call that sometimes the best things come from our own brains -- and thrift shops. :)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Staves - Dead & Born & Grown

Aha! I've found another treasure.

No surprise I scour British music blogs, is it?

The debut album for Watford-based The Staves, Dead & Born & Grown is a sweet, flowing, calm, folksy album that is just perfect for a fall evening with a cup of tea and some friends or a kitty on the lap. The Guardian describes their folk sound as that of "post-Marling, post-Mumford," and I would have to agree. It's charmingly mellow, and the vocals are, in my mind, the gems of this record, leading us through the gentle melodies with less of a banjo-crazed Mumford & Sons, and softer harmonies than Laura Marling. I love both of the aforementioned, but The Staves, I think, are set to add their talents to the current string of amazing folk acts to come out of England.

Comprised of sisters Jessica, Emily and Camilla Staveley-Taylor, The Staves seem set to take the indie kids on their next musical journey, and will probably appeal to fans of Emily and the Woods or Daughter. Dead & Born & Grown is to be released tomorrow, November 12, in the UK from Atlantic. No word yet on the US, but as you can imagine, I'm waiting. :)

And of course, so that you're not left wondering whether you'll ever heard it, the album is available to stream in its entirety here, so enjoy it while you can while the US awaits a release! Also, in the meantime, if you're just curious, available on Spotify or iTunes are their two EPs, Mexico (2011) and The Motherlode (2012). 

"Motherlode" from The Motherlode EP:

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Happy birthday Mom!

Mom and me, in1987? 1988? Somewhere around there.
It is my beautiful mumsie's birthday today!! She is the best. One of a kind. Absolutely loverly. Creative, bold, talented, patient, strongwilled, supportive, generous, open-minded, and all the wonderful things one could possibly think to say and more, because she's my mom. :) So happy birthday, mom!!! Love you.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Edinburgh, here I come?

Photo by David Monniaux
Ah, Edinburgh. I have never been there. It's funny, really, that I was in Scotland for the first and only time in the spring of 2011 with my family, and I saw neither Glasgow nor Edinburgh, the two places that I am considering for school in less than 10 months.

I just need to pause for a moment while I consider this whole 10-month time span, because we're talking, like, 10 months until classes begin. That means quite a bit shorter than that, really, before I'll have to be ready to go, or in fact, be there, wherever 'there' is.

I've been accepted unconditionally (grad application lingo for "you don't need to submit anymore supporting documents in support of your application") to the Edinburgh College of Art, which became officially a part of the University of Edinburgh in 2011. As I understand, the college historically was like many fine arts schools in the respect that it didn't offer any sort of art historical training, but now, merged with the University, it does, and still maintains its official name of the Edinburgh College of Art. Not to mention it's practically next to that lovely, and very famous, Edinburgh Castle (pictured above).

I haven't chosen which school to attend yet because it's difficult. That's just the bones of the decision process right there: it's hard. There are a lot of factors to consider, and not the least of them, money. Money, money, money. It's huge. I hate it. And I love it. It's good to get it, it can be fun to spend it, sometimes not as fun to spend it, and it makes your gut tie up in knots when you want to invest it. And I say "invest," but what it really feels like when it comes to education is "gamble."

After a few years out of the academic scene, I've come to terms with student loans (mine are about average, perhaps a bit below, but no less substantial and a pain in my rear). I've also come to respect that education is an investment. The turnaround is that you can advance your knowledge and understanding, and if you do it right, can advance your career. And in my case, in terms of a career in art history, advanced education is pretty much a necessity. One might argue that a bare-bones resume for a career as say, an assistant curator at a museum, would include a Masters degree, but a PhD is often preferable. And since I've been out of university for a few years and am now absolutely, positively sure that I want to be an art historian, the decision making falls to where, and how, and how much.

I've mentioned previously that I've plenty of scholarship applications to write -- and now I've got a few more. Edinburgh is arguably more prestigious, and with that comes a jacked-up price tag. Of course it would. In the end, will employers look at my school history and think, Oh, Edinburgh? Or, Really, Glasgow? Well, yes. They will. Grades are important, sure, but the quality of the work and institution speak volumes. I've learned that about UW-Madison. People know the school when they hear it. That means something. And then when they see you got A's there -- well, that's really something.

So anyway. I'm off track. The next few months will mean a lot of work, but I'm prepared to do what I can in order to make an informed decision that will benefit my future -- and future studies, if it comes to that (because let's face it, I want and will probably someday get a PhD). Glasgow and Edinburgh, I hear, are vastly different types of towns. I would love either and both. So now... time and potential (!!!!??? Do you hear me, universities, pleaseeee!!) scholarship money will tell.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis

Epic classical listening right here. By about 10:50 my heart is just melting. This is, in my mind, the premiere recording of this composition by Ralph Vaughan Williams, "Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis," performed by Sinfonia of London. They recorded this particular version, released by EMI, in a church in London in the middle of the night to decrease any effects of outside extraneous noise. The strings just utterly resound. It's amazing. I know next to nothing about classical music, but I find I'm beginning to grow a fondness for English composers, and this song I credit as the reason I'm even remotely interested in classical music suddenly.

Perfect with a glass of wine and a few minutes of sitting back and just absorbing the sound. And then, if you love it, "Norfolk Rhapsody" is another tune by Vaughan Williams well worth checking out, and not as lengthy.