Category Archives: cocktails

13th Anniversary

Naoto and I celebrated our 13th anniversary on Sunday. It was such a perfect weather day–60s and sunny. spent the morning on the balcony opening our gifts and drinking coffee and then we went to the West Loop for brunch. Three cheers for our gift wrapping this year! Naoto’s gift came in a huge box, so I had to use roll wrap for it. I was able to fold some tucks into the wrapping so I had a little pocket for the wooden card I gave him. And Naoto used this lovely gold and yellow handmade paper for my gifts. He’s come a long way in his wrapping skills. The thirteenth anniversary gifts are textile and lace. I gave Naoto a pillow made with Japanese sashiko fabric. I think he really liked it. And he gave me an Irish table runner and some Irish tea, Barry’s Black, (which Presley’s head is conveniently blocking above.) We went to Saint Lou’s Assembly for brunch. We got there just as the kitchen was closing, so we were able to squeeze in our order and then enjoy leisurely cocktails and peanut butter & jelly soft serve after our meal. The cocktails were amazing, and the atmosphere was very casual and fun. We are looking forward to going back for dinner and frosé outside once the weather warms up again. After brunch, we stopped in Open Books right across the street. (Naoto was very into this Edward Hopper book.)Since we ate such a late lunch and didn’t want to venture out again, we made a mini cheese platter for ourselves and had a little happy hour on the newly lit balcony instead of going out to dinner. We drank yuzu & soda cocktails and finished out the day wrapped in blankets. I’m so thankful for such a gorgeous day, and for thirteen years with this guy.

 

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The Darling

In March, Naoto took me to The Darling for Sunday night birthday cocktails. (I’m very behind on blogging!) It came highly recommended for the drinks and the experience. We had a fabulous time.

There’s very much a speakeasy vibe here. When you go in, it looks like you’re in a weird flower shop, until the host breaks open the wall so you can enter the bar area. There are cozy leather couches and lounge-seating, and that night, there was a fire crackling in the fireplace.

We started with a Buds of May (me) and a Paddington’s Marmalade Negroni (Naoto.) Both were really delicious, and mine was served at the table from a teapot and the presentation was everything. The next round, I got the Mary Poppins, which had strawberry-flavored boba bubbles in it that popped when you bit into them. It was a fun drink, a little on the sweeter side. Naoto got the Curious George because I was curious (for lack of a better word) about it with the chocolate and banana and whiskey, and we both really liked it.

Naoto was in an especially goofy mood and made me laugh the whole night. The video is a little hard to hear, but he’s channeling Bob Harris in Lost in Translation.
Our last round was something I can’t remember and a Secret Garden (the one with the pretty flower on top.) All of the cocktails were well-crafted and interesting. We did get a few small bites but nothing was super memorable or mind-blowing. The drinks and special touches around the place make The Darling and must-return for us, probably for before or after dinner drinks.The check is presented in an old book with two tiny glasses of Last Words. We’re planning on visiting the West Loop this weekend for our anniversary, so maybe we’ll pop in again before dinner…

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Yuzu No Komachi

On our first night back in Tokyo, we stopped in to see the new Wrapple store (more on that later) and Naoto surprised me with the best dinner of our trip. He found an izakaya right in Shibuya that specializes in yuzu dishes. It’s called Yuzu no Komachi, which means “beautiful girl with yuzu.” Since yuzu is my absolute favorite thing, I was over the moon excited for dinner. And, they had private dining rooms (koshitsu) which are so cozy. I love being able to eat alone with Naoto and avoid the smokiness of most izakaya in Japan. When you walk in the door, you take off your shoes and walk along tatami mats to your “room” where you dine in peace with the door closed. You push a button as you are ready to order each course. It’s so perfect for an intimate dinner for two, or even a big party of people because you set your own pace and can enjoy the conversation with out constant interruptions.  They had tons of yuzu liqueurs from all over Japan. So each time we got a round of drinks, we tried a new liqueur with soda. Everything was perfectly tart and refreshing. Some of the liqueurs were more cloudy than others, as you can see from above, and some were sweeter than others. They were all from different regions in Japan and it was such a great way to taste a variety of them. We’ve brought several yuzu liqueurs home over the years and none are ever as good as ones we’ve tried in restaurants.

We ordered a ton of small plates, each dish just as tasty as the next, starting with fresh cucumber with yuzu pepper……and tuna tartare with ponzu and yuzu pepper…and yuzu fried rice…and yuzu marinated steak…and prosciutto, tomato, and arugula salad with yuzu jam…and yuzu miso with cabbage leaves…and french fries with yuzu mayonnaise……and we ended with yuzu sorbet. This was one of my favorite meals of all time in Japan. I’m always up for a good theme, especially when my favorite citrus is the star. 

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Naoberly’s Noodle Tour: Ramen-San

I’ve been fighting a losing battle with a cold since the new year, so Naoto’s birthday was a little bit neglected this year. But I think I made up for it by making reservations at Ramen-San, a ramen shop in Chicago. It was a pretty warm night in Chicago (for January) and it felt good to get out of the house for awhile and a hot, salty ramen was very good for my cold. First things first…the drinks! Naoto had a very cold Asahi in a frosty mug. He actually had three of them. The draft beer is run though a specialized chiller to make it extra cold. A super-cold beer is the perfect thing to drink with ramen, (or so they tell me…I don’t drink beer.) I had the Cilantro-Lime Margarita, which also has yuzu in it and you know how much I love yuzu! It was amazing, and also really nice with the ramen. Ramen-San also offers a yuzu lemonade which I will have to try next time.For our starter, we ordered the raw tuna on sesame crisps which were just enough to enjoy without spoiling our giant ramen dinner. I ordered their special for the night: a roasted garlic ramen. I have to say, this is the least photogenic bowl of ramen I’ve ever had, but it was so, so tasty. (I know it would have been more photogenic with more add-on toppings, but I can never finish an entire bowl of ramen, and really, I’m just here for the broth and the noodles.) It came with an egg, scallions, and shredded pork. The pork was so tender and flavorful. The broth was made with a garlic and miso and it would have made your Italian grandmother cry tears of joy. It was so garlicky, I honestly felt like it could have cured my cold right then and there…but really, that’s asking a lot from a bowl of ramen.Naoto ordered the kimchi and fried chicken ramen, which again, sorry for the terrible food photography, but he loved it. He even got a second helping of noodles to finish off his broth. For dessert, we shared this giant bun filled with matcha cream and coated in matcha sugar. It was incredible.

We’re already planning our next ramen outing so hopefully I’ll have another Noodle Tour update for you soon. In the meantime, catch up on previous Naoberly Noodle Tour adventures here.

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Hasegawa Happy Hour Cocktail Napkins

Hasegawa Happy Hour custom napkins

Hasegawa Happy Hour got an upgrade this Christmas! My incredibly talented coworker, Alicia, designed these mid-century style cocktail napkins for us. Aren’t they fantastic? We kind of fell off the Hasegawa Happy Hour wagon last year and didn’t invite as many people over to drink with us, but we’d like to start things up again this year. I think we need to menu plan and jump right in for January. (Because I love a good theme party!) Who’s in?

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Middle Aged Woman in Front of Her Christmas Tree

Inspired by this online article about these fabulous middle-aged women in the 1950s and 60s, Naoto took a few pictures of me with our Christmas tree this year. I put on my new blue velvet dress and I poured myself a glass of prosecco for the picture. (This lady was my inspiration.)  I took a couple of shots of Naoto and Presley. I know her face says otherwise, but she really does like to wear her scarf. Naoto liked this one because Presley is sleeping above me on the books.

I really think this is going to become a tradition. I always try to get a good picture of our tree but I enjoyed being IN the picture, too. I love the fancy shots, but maybe next year, I’ll take a risqué shot in my pajamas like this lady! (Ok, probably not.)

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Christmas: A Cocktail Story…A Tradition

Christmas A Cocktail StoryFor the third year in a row, Naoto and I held the Galaxie Safari Christmas Party at ch Distillery. Every December for the past few years, the distillery changes their menu to an A Christmas Story theme. I’ve written about it before here and here.cheers, hasegawa happy hour, ch distillery cheers, hasegawa happy hour, ch distillery We enjoyed a couple of cocktails, a grilled cheese, and some potato wedges. cheers, hasegawa happy hour, ch distilleryNaoto celebrated his status as Employee of the Year for the second year in a row…cheers, hasegawa happy hour, ch distillery, eggnog, moose glass …and I still regret not ordering a second cup of eggnog…there’s still time to return before the season is over! naoto, kimberly and presleyOh, and Wednesday was the seventeenth anniversary of the night I met Naoto…isn’t that crazy?! (Here’s an old blog post about that.) We took a little family selfie to mark the moment…you can tell Presley was really happy to participate.

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Cocktail Perfected: Twentieth Century

Twentieth Century Cocktail, vintage cocktailsI’ve been working this week on decorating and pulling out some of my Halloween mail art supplies. I’m hoping to have everything done tonight so I can enjoy the season and maybe make a cheesecloth ghost or something. It was really hot on Wednesday, so I was able to finish the balcony. Temperatures dropped yesterday and leaves are actually falling, so I’m definitely feeling like getting cozy and reading spooky books this weekend.

Ok, so the Twentieth Century is not a true Halloween cocktail, but there is a hint of chocolate so we can consider it grown-up Halloween candy-esque. I had this cocktail for the first time at Fitzgerald’s a few years ago and it’s a favorite classic cocktail of mine. It was created in 1937 as a nod to the Twentieth Century Limited, a train that went between Chicago and New York City from 1902 until the 1960s. You might think it sounds weird with the creme de cacao and the lemon…it is strange but it works. Trust me.

Twentieth Century Cocktail

1 1/2 ounces gin

3/4 ounce Lillet Blanc (We use Cocchi Americano if we have that on hand instead.)

3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 ounce white creme de cacao

Add all ingredients to a shaker filled with ice. Shake until fully chilled and strain into a coupe. Enjoy on a chilly fall night. (Or a warm summer night…it works.)

P.S. Two true Halloween cocktails: Purgatory and Corpse Reviver #2

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Tanabata Time Again

tanabata, cats watching fireworks, japanese postcardsIt’s Tanabata time again! Naoto and I are throwing another mini Tanabata party, complete with Japanese picnic foods and sushi. And I’m making spumonis for the first time all summer. The weather is perfect today for another summer celebration! Hopefully I’ll have some pictures to share next week. Have a good weekend!

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Thank You for Being a Friend

golden girls gala, friends on the lanai, golden girls party, kaftans, peignoirsA couple weeks ago I threw a party that has been on my theme party list for a looooong time -actually since before the Mrs. Roper party- The Golden Girls Gala! I love The Golden Girls. It’s my favorite comfort TV and I’ve seen most of the episodes at least ten times each. I love the girls’ style, especially their pajamas. (It makes me want to up my pajama game.) I love Dorothy’s sarcasm, Blanche’s confidence, Rose’s innocence, and Sophia’s attitude. This is my favorite Golden Girls moment:

It’s hard to say what my favorite episode is…maybe “Yes, We Have No Havanas” (Season 4, Episode 1) where Blanche and Sophia fight over the same man? Or “A Little Romance” (Season 1, Episode 13) where Rose is dating a little person and the other girls handle meeting him with…awkwardness. What’s your favorite episode?
golden girls paper dolls, golden girls, paper dolls, golden girls gala decorationsI found these great Golden Girls paper dolls and used them to decorate the food table. golden girls decorations, golden girls, blanche, dorothy, rose, sophiaI ordered these Golden Girls faces from Paper Party Parade on Etsy. I used them to make little cheese picks. golden girls gala, golden girls banner, golden girls, blanche, rose, dorothy, sophiaAnd I used the leftover circles to make a garland with some Golden Girls postcards from my collection. I’ve used the gold glitter rosettes for a thousand parties and I think they’ve met their end. They have served us well…golden girls decorations, golden girls, blanche, dorothy, rose, sophiaWe mostly hung out in the kitchen where Naoto made pizzas (reminiscent of Sophia and Max’s pizza shop in “Sophia’s Wedding” from Season 4, Episode 7.) We ate other 1980s snacks like cheese balls, Crunch-n-Munch, and Pop Tarts. And we ate guava cheesecake because of course…we had to eat cheesecake.golden girls decorations, golden girls, blanche, dorothy, rose, sophiaWe eventually made it out to the lanai to enjoy dessert and cocktails. I encouraged everyone to dress “in costume” and it was a fabulous variety of Golden Girls interpretations. I wore a peignoir set. (My mom was shocked that I was going to wear it in front of guests, but it covered as much as a summer dress would, so I figured it was fine.) My peignoir set was borrowed from my mom (she, too, has fabulous pajamas) and it’s not as colorful and luxurious as Blanche’s, but it worked for the party. Karen wore a very Dorothy outfit, long and loose. (She also borrowed from her mom’s closet!) Robyn wore the most fantastic 1980s working girl outfit, bright colors, bold necklace, neon sunglasses, clip-on earrings!! (You can see her at the top picture.) Donovan and Kathy both wore wonderful kaftans that were casually fabulous. And Jackie found a hilarious t-shirt of The Girls and the moon. golden girls decorations, golden girls, blanche, dorothy, rose, sophiaI made a Golden Girl punch based off a recipe I modified from Serious Eats. I’ll share it soon. It was a hit, though we ran out of some key ingredients and I had to save us with Aviations later in the night! golden girls decorations, golden girls, blanche, dorothy, rose, sophiaOf course at the end of every party I always think about the thousands of ways I could have decorated better or hosted better, but I think everyone had a good time…and really, that’s all you need with friends.

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