Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Beginning of the End- with Bonus Popcorn Giveaway!

Hello Chickens!

I don't know about where you are, but here in Chicago, when I'm all geared up for sweater and boot weather, Summer is making a last-ditch effort to hang around.  We are also in the final month of renovation.

Let's allow that to sink in a bit, shall we?

We began the renovation on the Chateau in October of 2013.  We will finish in October of 2017.  Essentially, our house went to college.  We are deeply grateful that it shows no interest in graduate school.

We are a little delayed in showing off the 99.9% finished third-floor master suite because of that .1%, but I promise that very soon there will be some good glamour shots coming your way and a room by room recap of what we did up there.  But for now, I thought I'd just share a quick pictorial of where we are now with the final phase, the first floor and the stairs.

The first floor is our bonus space.  Otherwise known as our "why the heck couldn't you have fallen in love with a two-flat?" space.  But because we are who we are, it is giving us an opportunity to create our dream entertaining spot.  While a lot of the entertaining we do involves small intimate dinners for 4-6 people, which we can do beautifully and efficiently in our eat-in kitchen, there is still the part of us that loves a big holiday celebration, and a classic old-school cocktail party.  Thanksgiving and Passover and New Years Eve.  A birthday celebration.  We also love to support the not-for-profit world, and while we don't have the means for large philanthropic checks, we do look forward to being able to donate the use of the first floor of our home to those causes as a great location to host small fundraisers.  So we have designed this space with all of those things in mind.  A large formal living room with plenty of seating and conversation spaces.  A large formal dining room that will be able to sit up to 24 people.  A bathroom with a library serving as an anteroom for comfort and privacy, as well as a large butler's pantry that can double as a bar, and a small catering kitchen.  The large kitchen upstairs and the small kitchen downstairs are linked by the elevator, which will be able to serve as a giant dumbwaiter, and there is a small powder room in the back as well.

We are at drywall on the first floor, so you can really start to feel the space come together!

This is the kitchen, there will be a stove and hood here eventually...

Also kitchen, this wall is where the sink and dishwasher will go.

Powder room view from kitchen door.

This will be the dining room!

New hallway

View of the south half of the dining room....

North wall of the dining room waiting for built-in hutch.



Future library

View through foyer and vestibule to front door.


View up the new stairs...nothing like that first coat of paint to show you where the walls need fixing,
one step forward, half a step back!


Elevator foyer off kitchen.
Pretty soon we will be able to share some fun stuff like design choices and paint colors, but for the moment we are just so excited to be at this whirlwind stage with the finish line in sight!

One of the things that working with these spaces has done is get us excited about the kind of entertaining we will be able to do.  I am super excited to host Thanksgiving in the new dining room. We are already planning our New Year's Eve menu, although that may be as much about being ready for 2017 to be over as it is about a party.  And we have already planned on our first "donation" event for a holiday party for an organization of which I am a member.

One of the things I love about entertaining is that it is sort of like a muscle you exercise, the more you do it the better you get at it.  You have read some of my tips and tricks on this blog over the years, but the one I get more and more invested in is to really be thoughtful about how I begin an evening with my guests.  And I have become a big believer in not doing big appetizers before a dinner party.  I want my guests to come to the table hungry, and if they are filling up on cheese and crudites and other pre-dinner nibbles, then why did I go to all that trouble to make dinner?  (Nothing wrong, by the way, of having a party that is heavy appetizers followed by dessert, if you love all the finger foods, it can be a fun way to entertain!)

I've talked to you before about our favorite pairing of champagne and potato chips as the perfect start to an evening.  A little salty snack to complement the bubbles, both designed to whet the appetite without ruining it.  But for a lot of people, the start to an evening is more in the cocktail or beer realm, and for those people, let me just say, the best way to go is popcorn.

Those of you who know us know that we are passionate about popcorn.  At least a couple nights a week we have salad and large bowls of popcorn for dinner.  We use a proprietary blend of yellow, white and mushroom kernels, popped in a pot with peanut oil and sprinkled with sea salt.  I think popcorn is a nearly perfect food.

But while that is a great nibble for watching TV, dinner parties need a little elevation in your popcorn game.  There are a lot of recipes for herbed popcorn and truffled parmesan popcorn and other fancied up snacks, I've posted one myself.  Here in Chicago we have our own famous blending of cheese popcorn with caramel corn, you can certainly start your party there, I love me a salty-sweet combo.

I recently went on vacation and when I returned there was a box from the people at GH Cretors for me to try some of their offerings.  Much as I love the corn, how could I refuse?


I will say, while partial to freshly popped, I was pleasantly surprised with the crunch and quality of these popcorn offerings.  I probably wouldn't buy the plain salted, since I can make that myself, but the flavored ones were really good!  We had friends coming by for cocktails the evening I received the box, so I decided we should open a bag as our snack of choice.  And while the cheese flavors would have been an obvious pick, I went for the Dill Pickle flavor instead.

We were all a bit skeptical, but as soon as we started eating this popcorn we became believers. It is the perfect pairing for cocktails.  Sort of like a salt and vinegar chip, with the acid and salt well balanced and giving you that little bit of thirst for your drink the way a great bar snack should, but the dill brought something new to the party that none of us was expecting to enjoy as much as we did!  We finished the whole bag, and kept saying, "It really tastes like a dill pickle!".  As much as I definitely enjoyed both of the cheese flavors and The Mix of cheese and caramel, (I am a Chicago girl after all), of all of these the Dill Pickle will be a new go-to for a quick pre-dinner snack when entertaining, so easy to keep a bag or two in the pantry for a spontaneous happy hour.

Want to try for yourself?  GH Cretors has agreed to send one of my lucky readers a sample box of their own, along with an adorable tote bag and even a cool stainless steel water bottle! (I won't tell anyone if you fill the "water bottle" with cocktails for your portable entertaining!)

What a cool prize!

Snacks and drinks to go!

All you have to do to enter to win is to comment on this post with what you think would be a good cocktail pairing with one of the GH Cretors flavors...you can choose from Dill Pickle, Salted Butter, Honey Butter Kettlecorn, White Cheddar, The Mix (cheese and caramel), Cheese, Chile Jalapeno White Cheddar, Caramel Corn, or Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  You don't have to give us the cocktail recipe, but feel free to add it for our drinking pleasures.

Comment by 11:59PM Sunday October 1, and winner will be chosen at random and announced Monday October 2!

You can also enter on Twitter, just follow me @staceyballis and retweet the post, Facebook, like the page and comment there, or on Instagram, follow me @stacey.ballis and comment on the popcorn pic there, so you can have up to four entries to win!

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

56 comments:

  1. Cheese and caramel with a sparkling Rose!

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  2. Ooo the Mix with a little red sangria... The salty and the sweet!

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  3. Prickly Pear Margarita with the Child Jalapeño White Cheddar would be delicious!

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  4. I’d do caramel corn with a simple glass of bourbon! Yum!

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  5. Jalapeno White Cheddar with a margarita - and made with fresh lime juice.

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  6. My first choice would be a good Chicago IPA like a Daisy's cutter and the choke jalapeño cheddar! Real cocktail, a rhubarb bourbon sour and salted butter for salt and sweet.
    Love the house pics!

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  7. I feel like the Chili Jalapeño White Cheddar with a spicy margarita would be amazing!

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  8. Angry orchard with caramel corn ...yum!

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  9. I think my husband would go for the dill pickle with a nice cold glass of beer. I prefer red wine; so, I would have the organic extra virgin olive oil. My husband does like a martini now and then; so, I think the extra virgin olive oil would be good with that, too.

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  10. The chili jalapeno would go great with a "hipster" cocktail like the Sidecar! I had one at Atwood in the loop a few weeks back and loved it! Also, the bartender at Atwood is serious about his drinks; he shaves his own ice! http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2010/11/sidecar-drink-cocktail-recipe.html

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  11. Caramel flavor, paired with a chocolate stout

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  12. chilie jalapeno with a rasberry mint schrub

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  13. Angry orchard with caramel corn - yum!

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  14. Honey Butter kettlecorn and this: https://www.drinkbeesknees.com/

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  15. Dill pickle and a nice cold beer! Perfect combo for me

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  16. Honey Butter Kettlecorn with Moscato Pink Lemonade. One bottle White Moscato, six cups pink lemonade, and 1/4 cup strawberry rum. Suh-weet.

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  17. Chili Jalapeño White Cheddar with a mango margarita

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  18. Dill pickle and a vodka tonic but alas I'm pregnant and not drinking so that dill pickle and something plain will have to do

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    1. Congrats, Niki! You might not be able to have a cocktail, but popcorn goes great with mocktails, and every new mom needs good tote bags. Send your shipping address to me at staceyballisinfo@gmail.com and I will have GH Cretors get your gift package out to you ASAP.

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  19. Extra virgin olive oil with a dirty martini!

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  20. Cheddar with semi dry Riesling- I recommend Dr Franks, as I am from the Finger Lakes of western NY- true Riesling country😊

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  21. Honey Butter Kettle corn with a Shipyard Pumpkinhead beer...cinnamon sugar rim, of course!

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  22. Olive oil and a sweet white wine

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  23. The Mix with pineapple vodka/cranberry juice. Yay.

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  24. Dill Pickle with the KA Cosmo - two parts citron vodka, one part couture, half part Roses Lime juice and a splash of cranberry juice cocktail.

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  25. White cheddar with a dirty vodka martini.

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  26. Chile jalapeño white cheddar with frozen horchata (with or without rum) - YUM!

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  27. The Mic with a refreshing cocktail made of La Croc Pamplemousse and vodka.

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  28. For my typical guests I'd need to put out a couple of options ... Dill Pickle & a nice dry white wine + Honey Butter paired with a robust red wine sounds about right.
    I just found your blog & am looking forward to reading through some posts to hear more about the renovation. Cheers!

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  29. The dill pickle with Bloody Marys sounds fantastic to me!

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  30. The Mix with a whisky Old Fashioned!

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  31. Chile jalapeño white cheddar with a pineapple matcha margarita!

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  32. Bloody Mary with the Dill Pickle popcorn.

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  33. Warm apple cider with caramel kiss vodka paired with Caramel Corn.

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  34. Honey Butter Kettlecorn with a Manhattan.

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  35. White Cheddar and Yuengling beer - Philadelphia area native!

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  36. I love GH Creators - their headquarters are in the same town as me - Waukegan, IL. My pairing would be Honey Butter Kettlecorn with a dry champagne

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  37. Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil with Captain Morgans spiced rum mixed with pineapple juice. Yumm!

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  38. I am also a huge popcorn fan. I think I would go with the honey butter kettle corn

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  39. White cheddar with an Amaretto sour. Old-school.

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  40. Caramel Corn paired with a Salted Caramel Martini...yum!

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  41. I would love to try the honey kettle corn with a lavender bees knees. Seems like the perfect combo!

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  42. mmmmmmmmm... I love popcorn and there's look so good. I guess I'd pair it with a nice IPA.

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  43. I think a peppermint mocha would go great with any of the popcorns now that it's fall. But if I have to choose a cocktail, then I'll go with a pina colada since that is my fav. Popcorn goes with anything, right? Just finished Recipe for Disaster yesterday. Wow, first you made me hate Liam and then I had to like him?? Need to get another book of yours now. Thanks for the great writing.

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  44. I'll take a margarita with some Chile Jalapeno White Cheddar.

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  45. Another vote for a margarita with the Chili Jalapeño White Cheddar. I would also love a bourbon on the rocks with the Caramel. There are so many great ideas posted! I also want The Mix with a Malbec.

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  46. I see so many great ideas! Another one for the margarita and Chili Jalapeño White Cheddar. Also The Mix with a Malbec and also a bourbon on the rocks with Caramel.... Yum!!

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  47. Behind with my reading, but another wonderful popcorn to try is pipcorn!

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  48. Yummm... I like Butter classy masala. popcorn packed in reusable tote bags.

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