Kicking off Red Carpet Season: 2013 Emmy Fashion

The 2013 Emmys have come and gone. The telecast was peppered with memorable moments including Merritt Wever's hysterically perfect acceptance speech, that out-of-control amazing choreography award introduction and Tina Fey and Amy Poehler's brilliant rescue of the less-than-stellar opening number.

But of course, for me, the best part of the night (other than my fun Voxer conversation with my friend Mary Carole in Mexico) was the fashion.

A majority of my favorites were blush colored or flesh toned gowns. There was a sea of pale pinks, delicate whites and soft nudes for which I fell hard. Claire Danes in Armani Privé took my breath away. Her faux bob, bold red lips and understated accessories created an ethereal red carpet look. While Rose Byrne's pale pink Calvin Klein column was perfectly modern and chic. The midriff cut out was edgy and sexy and cool.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Monique Lhuillier was a shimmering beauty. She was incredibly statuesque and by the end of the night she was holding a statue of her own. January Jones didn't seem all that psyched about her custom designed Givenchy gown during her interview on the red carpet. But the more I look at it, the more I love it. I'm also crazy about her hair and understated make up.

Kristen Connolly and Kate Mara brought some graphic excitement to the carpet. Connolly's Nicholas Oakwell buff chevron gown was vintage, sexy and unexpected. To me it was reminiscent of the fabulous Gatsby costumes from Baz Luhrmann's 2013 film. Meanwhile, Mara's J. Mendel seemed almost futuristic. And, I loved seeing long sleeves on the carpet. I'm always up for a new silhouette.

Confession: I did not like the "best dressed woman in the world's" dress at first. I didn't love it on the red carpet. I didn't love it on stage. I didn't love it until I saw this profile shot. And then I got it. I'm sorry I doubted you, Kerry Washington. Your Marchesa was a stunner.

But not every dress I loved last night had a muted color palate. Two were seriously saturated.

Michelle Dockery's Prada was incredible. It was utterly elegant. The minimal lines of the dress are perfectly counterbalanced by the bold color combination of the fabric. I love her teal earrings, jeweled bag and strappy shoes. She was a stand out.

But my very favorite look of the night was worn by Kaley Cuoco. This oxblood Vera Wang makes my heart flutter. Of course it doesn't hurt that the tulle skirt is tutu-ish. Lord knows I'm a sucker for a tutu. But what I really love is that the uber fluffy skirt is pared with a sheer corseted top. The mix of structure and flounce is refreshing. It's kind of hard and kind of soft and thoroughly feminine in every way. Cuoco looked fantastic.

All in all it was stellar start to the red carpet season!

Now it's YOUR turn! 
Who were your favorites on last night's red carpet?


Finding Art in Unusual Places

It's nice having friends who are treasure hunters. Jen has recently become a co-owner and founder of The Milk Shop, a place to discover vintage finds with an urban feel. She specializes in finding art and objects in unusual places for clients and hopes to encourage more people to start collecting art, no matter what their budgets may be. I'm thrilled to share Jen's latest guest post and can't wait to check out a few of these treasures for myself.


Molly was so nice to invite me back to A Foreign Land to talk about one of my favorite topics – public art – so I, of course, could not say no! Chicago is undeniably a great place to find all sorts of things in unusual places. But my favorite thing to discover are unique pieces of public art. There are the well known pieces in the plazas downtown and Millennium Park. But there are also great ones tucked into alley ways, airports, building lobbies, the “L” stops… even on the under passes. Chicago is so full of public art, it is hard to deny why this city is so rich in culture and history.

So instead of talking about the usual suspects, here are a few of my favorite harder to spot public art pieces around the city. If you haven’t encountered them yet, they are certainly worth the trip to find them!

{source: JH501}

One of my personal favorites is “Riverwalk Gateway,” by Ellen Lanyon. Located in the pedway under Lake Shore Drive, on the south bank of the river, this amazing 28-panel mural documents the rise of Chicago and the significance the river has had to the City. I often run through here just to visit this work. Her rendering is flawless and it always reminds me why I love this city.

The New Year's Butterfly
{source: Ed}

The mosaic mural, “Growing 2008,” was a group effort with two lead artists, Tracy Van Duinen and Todd Osborne, and just gets me every time I drive by it. It was designed with the involvement of the Edgewater community. Residents were involved in discussions, artist-led workshops and encouraged to glaze ceramic tiles and sculpt various elements for the wall. The brilliant colors and the vibrant imagery captures your eye as you exit off Lakeshore Drive onto Bryn Mawr Avenue.

suspended sculpture 1
{source: Jason Quick}

If you are one who hurries in and out of Midway Airport, then you have probably missed this next piece. “Rara Avis,” by artists Ralph Helmick and Stuart Schecter, is located, not on the ground, but above you in the main terminal of the airport. Somewhat obscure at first, the suspended sculpture is made up of thousands of different small pewter aircraft and put together in such a way that it resembles the Illinois state bird, the Cardinal. It really is breathtaking and worth going a couple minutes early for your next flight just to find it.

Dawn Shadows
{source: Terence Faircloth}

And lastly, this next piece is located in downtown Chicago. It is sometimes hard to notice because it is INSIDE the atrium of the Madison Plaza Building. The elevated train inspired artist Louise Nevelson to create “Dawn Shadows,” a large monochromatic steel sculpture that originally sat outside in the building’s plaza. However, the building later covered the plaza with a glass atrium and instead of moving the sculpture back outside, they built the enclosure around it. It is now a lot less “public” but still can be enjoyed if you are willing to step inside.

So if you have some free time to explore the City, add these pieces to your list to check out. They are even more magnificent in person!

Thanks again, Molly, for having me!!


Like what you read? Visit Jen's WebsitePinterest and Facebook for more information.


Ooh La La, Mon Ami Gabi

One of the best things - and one of the craziest things - about Chicago is the seemingly unending list of fantastic places to eat. It continues to delight me that when I ask friends to share their favorite spot it is often brand new to me!

Today Sara of Project Soirée is sharing one of her favorite spots in the city. After reading this post, my mouth is watering and I've added another spot to the list!


We all have our "go-to" restaurants in the city and for me Mon Ami Gabi is my favorite place to bring a best friend, first date, my parents or just myself and a good book. Located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago (directly across from the Lincoln Park Zoo) this classic French bistro is by far the best in the city. The food is always phenomenal and the ambiance indoors or on the patio keeps me coming back for more.

First they bring this warm, freshly baked baguette to the table, which happens to be my weakness. That crisp crust and warm flaky center of a baguette always wins me over with a glass of sparkling rosé.

The salads and soups are out of this world so don't overlook them and go straight to the entrees. The Farmers Market Tomato Salad with Roquefort blue cheese and lemon vinaigrette is quite amazing. The combination of heirloom tomatoes and creamy blue cheese is perfection. If you visit during the summer months and you're enjoying the cozy patio then you must order the gazpacho soup. I’m obsessed with gazpacho so trust me I’ve tasted my fair share around the city and Mon Ami Gabi takes top honor.

For the entrees I would highly recommend the Trout Amandine served with hericot verts and topped with brown butter and almonds or the Salmon and Leek Quinoa with citron butter. I’m a seafood junkie and these dishes are seriously amazing since the fish is extremely fresh. It's also worth mentioning that their frites are worth ordering as a side because you'll finish them and consider ordering more (they really are that good).

At the end of the night you'll see a dessert menu appear and probably think I'm crazy for suggesting that you order something after everything I've recommended. Do yourself a favor and order the profiteroles filled with vanilla ice cream and topped with double chocolate fudge sauce and you’ll thank me later. Have you make a reservation yet?


Like what you read? Find more from Sara on her blog, Facebook, or Pinterest.


Taking a Moment to Yourself

Last fall I took a Caffenture and met Jenn Chen for the first time.

In less than a year, she has become one of my favorite people in Chicago. She is encouraging, inspiring and a really fun friend. I'm honored that she agreed to write a guest post for A Foreign Land and of course I'm excited that she chose to incorporate coffee since I consider her to be a genuine expert. 


I live a pretty solitary lifestyle. Don't get me wrong, I love the company of friends, the experience of new foods, the moments of bonding at an event. I also like my quiet moments of reflection and enjoying my own company. I think in a world of being busy, it's nice to slow down, even for half an hour.

On the weekends, my plans range from brunch to kickball to working. Many people try to cram everything cool into two short days and then end up on Sunday night being exhausted. To me, the weekend is a nice time to relax, catch up with friends, and de-stress my mind. And the best way for easing this stress (for me) is having coffee in a cafe.

Take advantage of the current patio weather and go outside! Bring a book, a crossword, or a sketchbook. Find a café with an open area, chat up the barista, and then dive into your singular activity for any amount of time. Not only are you able to enjoy a beverage that wakes you up, but you also get to work on a creative part of you that might not come out during the week.

So here, I present some moments for you to enjoy in various ways, paired, obviously, with coffee.
  1. Coffee and a donut at Heritage Bicycles. Heritage uses Stumptown coffee and Glazed & Infused donuts on the weekends. This one is a very decadent lemon glazed donut. They also have a fantastic patio and those Chicago parking space-turned-hangout areas.

  2. Coffee and a book at Intelligentsia Coffee in Lakeview. Since their reconstruction, this particular location has opted for more tables and chairs, but you can still sit in plastic armchairs on the side or watch passerbys on their patio.

  3. Coffee and granola at Caffé Streets. Their outdoor patio is stellar. You get a place to spread out and watch people go about their mornings. If you arrive before 10 am, you'll probably have the patio to yourself.

  4. Coffee and croissant at Ch'ava Cafe. I can not say enough positive words about Ch'ava. They serve in table-top style. You sit down, wait for your coffee and food, and they bring it out to you. Nearly all their food is made in-house (baked goods are delivered from Beurrage Bakery) and it is honestly one of the best cafe-food menus in the city.

  5. Coffee and fresh flowers at your home (or a cafe). Never underestimate the power of fresh greens. The below was taken at CityGrounds, but you could also grab some cuts from the farmer's market and enjoy floral whiffs while sipping on your coffee.

It's been a pleasure taking some moments with you. I hope you're able to find some time to enjoy coffee [and its pairing] to yourself this Sunday.

How do you like to start your Sundays?

Like what you read? Find more from Jenn Chen on her Website, Instagram or Twitter.


Olivia Eats (and Bikes) Around Chicago

It's great to see Chicago through another newbie's eyes! Today I'm excited to share a guest post written by my friend Olivia. I'm so grateful she agreed to contribute. Not only does her Instagram directly translate into my never-ending "must eat soon" list, she has planned what sounds like a really fun day of food and activity. I can't wait to put her itinerary to good use once we get back! 


As a professional dancer and food lover, I have found that the two passions do not necessarily compliment one another. Embarking upon my new "adult" life in Chicago, I have come to the conclusion that it is my duty to make the two work for me. Luckily I have found a third passion, biking.

Okay, now I'm going to start gushing over this awesome city. The new bike share program, Divvy Bikes, is perhaps the best thing to happen to Chicagoans since the recent donut boom. (Ya, I'm talking to you Glazed and Infused.) Biking around the city allows us to "burn a few" in order to enjoy the amazing food this city has to offer, sans guilt. So here it is, a day of eating and biking in Chica-yummmmm.

First step, find the closest Divvy station and rent a bike for 24 hours for just $7. Or better yet, use your own!

By the Addison brown line you will find a cozy little restaurant called Endgrain. I already tempted you with donuts so I feel obligated to get you a donut for breakfast. The new kid on the block is the "doughscuit" a donut biscuit hybrid. Thank me later. Treat yourself to one of these and a coffee for just $5. If you need a little more substance try one of their breakfast sammies on a buttermilk biscuit. If you want something lighter, check out their baked egg dish, complete with squash blossoms and chèvre.

After breakfast hop on your bike and head south. At Damen and Milwaukee you will find yourself in Wicker Park. Here you can spend some time in one trendy shop after another. My personal favorite, Rudy's Roundup, is a kitschy gift shop with vintage flair.

After a three and a half mile bike ride and some shopping you are sure to have worked up an appetite. You can find my favorite salad in the heart of Wicker Park at Antique Taco, a vintage taqueria. The Antique Taco salad is perhaps one of the most well rounded meals I've found; light yet filling. Antique Taco also keeps it seasonal by adding the freshest daily produce. My last Antique Taco salad was crowned with plump strawberries that complimented the bitterness of the kale and rounded out the salty peanuts and cojita cheese. You will not be disappointed. If you are still hungry, get an order of their killer tacos. The beer battered fish are a personal favorite.

The last stop on my foodie tour is downtown. After you are finished in Wicker Park head east. You could spend the rest of your day shopping on Michigan or perhaps take a stroll around Lincoln Park Zoo. Another personal favorite to check out, The Chicago History Museum. The options are endless.

At Clark and Grand, Restaurant Beatrix awaits you. This menu is dripping with fresh ingredients. They have everything from turkey 'neatloaf' to chia seed pudding. Also, for all of you running away from the gluten monster you will find safety at Beatrix. The gluten free options are outstanding, in fact, the entire dessert menu is gluten free. Yes, you heard me. For dinner I suggest the turkey neatloaf. It's like mama's cookin' minus the guilt. Hydrate that bike ridin' bod with one of their fresh squeezed juices. Blueberry basil, anyone?

You've worked hard today, don't you think you deserve a treat? Check out their pastry case that accompanies the coffee bar. Although not everything is gluten free, it is all delicious. I suggest the oatmeal butterscotch cookie. Did I mention it is the size of your face? Perhaps it is one to split...or not.

Hopefully, this can serve as a guide to eating in this wonderful city of food without feeling like a bloated, grumpy tourist. The fresh ingredients so many restaurants use should be celebrated and balanced with an active way of life. So get out there, Chicago, and enjoy.


Like what you read? Find more from @olive_eats on Instagram and Twitter. 


The Happy Show

The 4th floor of the Chicago Cultural Center is currently being occupied by designer Stefan Sagmeister's The Happy Show. Part art installation, part research exhibit the The Happy Show is a can't miss Chicago event.

The Happy Show - Chicago

I had the pleasure of spending an hour wandering through the exhibit last week and was intrigued by the multi-media presentation. A combination of video, photography, life-sized infographics, hand-written commentary and more, the viewer is presented with some of the findings from Sagmeister's ten-year quest to train his mind to be happy as one might train their body to be fit.

Sagmeister is a designer by trade but was compelled to use his gifts and skills to do something other than sell. He is on the brink of releasing a feature-length documentary on his happiness exploration entitled The Happy Film.

The Happy Show

Sagmeister's sense of humor is felt throughout the exhibit and his design sensibilities turn the social data he has collected from psychologists, anthropologists and historians into art. He mixes fact with anecdotal musings to create a compelling and fascinating experience.
"Like everybody else I have six basic emotions: Sadness, Surprise, Anger, Joy, Fear and Disgust. Only one of them is positive, one is neutral and all the others are negative. 
Which is why I'm more attracted to negative news than to positive ones. And so is everyone else, which explains why every attempt to publish a positive newspaper failed within weeks. 
Even if I read blogs depicting my own work, one negative comment seems to cancel out two dozen positive ones. I've spent more time contemplating a single negative review on our latest work then the thirty positive one."
Stefan Sagmeister

The Happy Show

The exhibit will run until September 23, 2013 and is free of charge. Please, don't miss this thought-provoking and utterly entertaining installation.

What's making you Happy today?

*If you aren't in Chicago but are interested in Sagmeister's work, he has written several books including Things I have learned in my life so far and Made You Look.


Mmm Mmm Monday: RL

I have a confession to make. When I heard we had reservations at RL I wasn't all that excited. My thinking was, "With all the fantastic restaurants in Chicago, we're going to eat in a joint attached to a clothing store?" To say I had low expectations of the food would be an understatement.

RL cappuccino

I haven't been so happy to be dead wrong in a very long time. I guess that just shows I'm still learning about Chicago AND its culinary scene.

Our meal was a delightful surprise. My main course, the Seafood Pappardelle was decadent. It was virtually overflowing with Maine lobster. Meanwhile, two jumbo scallops worked hard to steal the show. But the entire dish was doused in a rich truffle cream sauce {complete with shaved black truffles} that tempted me to lick the plate. Had we not been in such a swanky establishment I might have seriously considered it.

The decor of the restaurant was exactly what one might expect from Ralph Lauren. Rich leather, dark wood, and white table clothes contributed to the very "clubby" feel. An abundance of eclectic art and photography covered every inch of wall space in the intimate dining room. Though there isn't much square footage in RL they take advantage of what they have expertly.

Our waiter, Christopher, was attentive and knowledgeable and had a fantastic sense of humor. He was not only a spectacular server, he kept us laughing and took the edge off what could have easily been a very buttoned-up atmosphere.

Seafood Pappardelle Untitled

The group had several occasions to celebrate that evening and he took note when we mentioned them all. He even remembered them, in chocolate sauce and candles, on our desserts.

Ladies Who Supper

I came away from our meal at RL feeling much like I do about Lauren's clothing line. The top notch materials were woven together expertly and presented with a comfortable, upscale, stylish flair - and they had a price tag that reflected their quality. Everyone at the table raved about their starters, entrees and desserts. This fantastic meal kicked off a long weekend with my Mother-in-law and a few of her girlfriends {see the ladies above} and won't soon be forgotten.

When was the last time you were happily surprised by restaurant?