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Sharing love: Chicago’s finest Valentine’s treats

“And I’d choose you; in a hundred lifetimes, in a hundred worlds, in any version of reality, I’d find you and I’d choose you.” ― Kirsten White, The Chaos of the Stars

We love love. We love it in all sorts of forms and for so many reasons. We love our partners / spouses, our parents, our siblings, our friends, our children. We love sharing things with those we love: things that make us happy, things that make us smile, things that make us grateful. Sharing is one of the most beautiful ways to show love and gratitude.

We love our clients, readers and vendors, so in this post we are sharing some of our favorite local treats (if you are reading from outside of Chicago, don’t worry, nearly everything can be ordered online). Below are some of the most delectable and delightful treats Chicago has to offer. Each treat comes from a true artisan small business owner. Supporting them helps keeps their communities thriving and truly makes an impact on the daily lives of the owners and their employees. But this is not only about supporting small business – – these treats are truly amazing from their appearance to their melt-in-your mouth taste. To be honest, it was really hard to keep our hands off of these goodies long enough to photograph them!

Nothing warms you up on a winter night like Salted Carmel Drinking Chocolate from Katherine Anne Confections, featured here with their handmade marshmallows. Seriously, we cannot believe we ever ate store-bought marshmallows! These handmade treats are like eating clouds. And did you hear us say salted caramel? Chunks of salted caramel melt inside this delicious cup of cocoa making it rich, smooth and nearly sinful.

Salted Caramel Drinking Chocolate

Salted Caramel Drinking Chocolate, Katherine Anne Confections

Katherine Anne Confections has been creating local-focused sweets in Chicago since 2006. Their hand-dipped truffles, soft honey caramels, and pillowy marshmallows are ridiculously good, partially due to their awesome, locally sourced ingredients and local wildflower honey replaces corn syrup. Each truffle is rolled and hand dipped for an elegant look and all flavors are a twist on the traditional. Pictured below are Katherine’s passion fruit and basil truffles.

Passion Fruit Truffles, Katherine Anne Confections Basil Truffles, Katherine Anne ConfectiosKatherine also hosts monthly truffle making parties and “tasting” nights where she debuts her newest flavors.  What a fun date night with someone you love!

Bringing a new meaning to Valentine’s Day candies are these gorgeous handmade candies from Veruca Chocolates. All of these boutique chocolate confections are the brainchild of Heather Johnston, a pediatrician-turned-chocolatier. Veruca Chocolates are made for chocolate lovers with discriminating taste and an eye for beauty. Each piece is handmade from only the finest ingredients, and hand-finished to entice the eye as well as the palate.

Kiss me Caramels, Veruca Chocolates

How cute are these “Kiss Me” Caramels? We secretly snuck these into the little ones’ lunch boxes this morning. Who says artisan chocolates are only for lovers!?

Fruit Pate, Veruca

A special “in-store only” treat are these blackberry pate de fruits. Heart shaped and lollipop like. It’s always fun to stop into Veruca and see what specials they have inside.

Heather says, “I believe that opening a box of chocolates should be almost as fun as eating it. I design each chocolate in a way that incorporates color, shape, pattern and texture to indulge all of the senses.” We could not agree more! Each of Veruca’s chocolates are tiny little pieces of art (that just happen to taste amazing).

Veruca takes new twist on an old favorite with their “Turtle Love” collection. I mean, come on!

Heart Turtles, Veruca Chocolates

Personally, I don’t think any celebration is complete without pie. First Slice, an amazing, local, cafe has this awesome mission from the Chicago Recovery Alliance: any positive change. It’s the idea that each of us has the ability to create a positive change in every needy person we meet. Making a connection, whether simply eye contact, a handshake or, with First Slice, providing a meal, can really help create a positive change in someone who’s living on the street… Everybody has something wonderful in them.

There is nothing quite like the Michigan Cherry hand pies and mini pies.  I may have been known to get a aggressive when it came to getting my hands on one of these babies. Complete perfection.

First Slice Pie

First Slice funds its efforts with a “shareholders program,” with some 100 subscriber families receiving home-cooked, restaurant-quality meals weekly. Funds from those subscriptions are used to make the same quality meals for people in need. Community volunteers, working with First Slice staff, serve often 300-plus needy and homeless each week through several social service organizations, such as Streetwise. There are three First Slice cafes (North Ravenswood inside the Lillstreet Art Center, North Ashland Avenue, and Manor Street).

Cherry hand pies. first slice

So when we think of pie, we think of First Slice and when we think of sharing food, love and knowledge, we think of First Slice. Each bite makes a big difference. Now that is a really amazing pie!

So there you have it. Delicious, beautiful and heart warming treats. These are gifts with heart, share them with everyone you love.

Happy Valentine’s Day … We love you!

XOXO,

Greatest Expectations

Tips on hotel accommodations for your guests

The very first welcome your friends and family receive upon arrival to your wedding weekend is often from a hotel’s front desk clerk. Hotel accommodations immediately set the tone for your out of town guests’ wedding experience yet are often overlooked on your to-do list. When you have guests traveling in to join you on your big day, they must have someplace to stay, and the vibe of that place will set the tone for the celebrations to come.

With the prevalence of online travel booking sites and private home rentals, it can be tempting to refer your guests to one of the many discount travel sites and let them choose their deal. This has dangers, though. You relinquish control over their guest experience and you lose the convenience factor of having your loved ones concentrated in one site, which can aid in providing amenities and transportation.

This is why we recommend investing the necessary time to negotiate a room block that will not only keep your guests together, but keep them comfortable and happy from the moment they arrive for your special weekend.

So, What are the Priorities?

As hotels expand their lists of creative amenities, guests now expect more than just a bed and shower. Start by compiling a list of important factors beginning with how many rooms you might need. Don’t forget rooms where the wedding party will get ready and your own wedding night accommodations.

What kind of properties are your friends and family accustomed to: luxury or budget; full-service or boutique? Most guests want easy access to your wedding venue, but also to major transportation hubs and local attractions. In terms of conveniences, consider a restaurant on-site for impromptu guest get-togethers or a more formally-organized hospitality suite during the day. Jot down every possible priority so you can rank them in order of importance. This list will come in handy when you negotiate with your chosen hotels.

Room Block Contracts

Armed with this information, scrutinize any contract you receive. Compare online rates to the contract rates to be sure you’re getting the best deal. Ask about attrition: it is common for a hotel to hold you financially responsible for a percentage of the rooms after certain cutoff dates. There may also be extra fees for gift bag delivery, wifi, parking or breakfast. Are more rooms available to you at the rate if your initial “room block” fills up faster than expected? Can you reduce the number of blocked rooms, and can guests cancel reservations up to a cutoff date without penalty?

We realize there are a lot of details here and the process can quickly become overwhelming. We highly suggest you enlist the assistance of a wedding planner to help streamline this process. If you are not working with a planner, a company that specializes in guest accommodations like Where Will They Stay is a great option.

Extending the courtesy of making room block arrangements for your guests is just one way to thank them for celebrating with you on your big day. Make it the first of the many expressions of love that result from your new lives together.

What do you consider the most important quality when looking for your host hotel?

Amy-where-will-they-stay-Greatest-Expectations

Amy Green is one of the founders of Where Will They Stay?, a free service which offers custom room block procurement for engaged couples. She has worked in the event planning industry for nearly 20 years, booking tens of thousands of rooms each year for conferences, conventions and special events. When staying at a hotel for leisure, she is most likely to be
found poolside!

* Featured image by Husar Photography

Custom Cocktails – Femme du Coupe

Happy New Year!  All of us at Greatest Expectations are excited to usher in the new year with a bang, and we hope you are also!  In 2016, we are dedicated to bringing you new, exciting and very valuable content.  Be sure to follow us on Facebook and keep an eye out for some amazing content.

There’s no better way to kick off our Guest Contributor posts than to welcome the Revae Schneider, Founder of Femme du Coupe, with a custom cocktail intended to help you welcome the new year in style! If you are looking for a creative twist to your events (think birthday parties, bachelorette / bachelor parties, wedding showers even rehearsal dinners), Femme du Coupe is the answer. This is how you take speciality cocktails to a whole new level and have a blast while doing it!


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New Year, new you, eh? In the midst of becoming a new you, you may need a cocktail! Along with trying to get your waistline in shape, there are a few tricks to ensure that you have a delicious cocktail that will keep you on the healthy track and celebrate that new engagement ring at the same time!

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New Year, New You Punch
1 bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin
1 1/2 Cups fresh lemon juice

Mix all ingredients in one large bowl for punch and top with soda water (for a few less calories) or sparkling wine (if you’re throwing caution to the wind).

(For a single cocktail, use 2 ounces gin, 1 ounce Le Sirop, 1 ounce fresh lemon juice and soda or bubbly.)

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As we throw away the slobbery blow horns and clean up the confetti, keep a few things in mind. First and foremost, fresh citrus. If it is not from the juice bar at Mariano’s or somewhere that juices fresh daily, don’t put it in a cocktail. No fake bottled lemon juice. There are all kinds of preservatives that also make it taste like Pine-Sol!

Second, moderation. The more sugar, the more calories, blah, blah, blah. But really if you’re trying to start fresh, I want you to drink something that tastes good but isn’t going to kill your hard workouts!

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Lastly, enjoy yourself! It’s a new year full of exciting new possibilities so live it up, enjoy a cocktail, and live life to the fullest or at least make sure your coupe glass is always the fullest!

Cheers and Happy New Year!

Revae Schneider, Founder of Femme du Coupe

 

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Revae Schneider, is the Founder of Femme du Coupe. Since its debuting Revae has personally taught nearly 5000 cocktail enthusiasts better ways to make cocktails at home. She was named to Zagat’s Inaugural 30 Under 30 in 2012, recognized as BizBash’s 23 New Talents To Watch, and nominated for Bartender of the Year by Eater.com. Revae also develops cocktails for highly touted restaurant concepts such as Siena Tavern and Bar Siena located in Chicago along with working with various wedding and bachelorette parties along the way.

Love is Love – Celebrating 1 Year of Marriage Equality in Illinois

Love is Love Logo

Last month we worked with an outstanding group of Chicago wedding vendors to plan and produce Love is Love, a celebration of 1 year of marriage equality in Illinois.  We had hundreds of people in attendance and it was quite the celebration!  It was such a delight being part of this event and we were thrilled to see many of our past and current same-sex clients in attendance as well.

That night, we all talked about how proud we were of Illinois and how awesome it was to see equal rights for all couples in love in our home state of Illinois.  Finally, we can say the same thing for the entire country!  We have celebrated and rejoiced for over a week now that the SCOTUS ruled in favor of marriage equality! We are seeing same-sex weddings happen all over the country, in cities and counties that some of us never dreamed would be a reality.  As a wedding planner who works with a lot of LGBT clients, my heart is overjoyed to see this wave of love wash over our nation.  This Independence Day we have something extra to celebrate.  While we know there is still a lot of work ahead for equality across races, religions, gender and sexuality, it is important to still take a moment to be thankful and celebrate our victories.  They may come slowly, but they are coming.  Our hard work and dedication to equality makes changes day by day, one step at a time.

I am delighted to share this beautiful video from my friend Keith at Poetic Productions.  He did a beautiful job capturing the Love is Love celebration for same-sex marriage.  We also have a really fun stop motion video from Doug and Doug McGoldrick Weddings.  It is a pleasure to share these beautiful pieces of art with you all.

love is from doug mcgoldrick on Vimeo.

I giant thank you to all of the outstanding vendors who came together to make Love is Love such an exceptional celebration.  Everyone at Greatest Expectations is thrilled and honored to work with each and every one of you!

Amy Beck Cake Design

Limelight Catering

J & L Catering

Entertaining Company 

Wolfgang Puck Catering

Modern Luxury Brides Chicago

ChicagoStyle Weddings Magazine

Lincoln Park Zoo

Halls Rentals

BBJ Linen

Revel Decor

Sound Investment

Greatest Expectations

SQN Special Events

Liven It Up Events

Emily Wheeler Custom Cakes

Rick Aguilar Studios

Doug McGoldrick Photography

Lofty Wedding Photography and Videography

Sprung Photo

Hendzel Productions

Poetic Productions

Beatmix Music

Okyne Medialab

Shutter Booth Chicago

KGA Garret Associates

Loft on Lake

Stand Up – Wedding Professional for Marriage Equality Chicago

All proceeds for Love is Love benefited Equality Illinois.

Celebrating 1 year of Marriage Equality in Illinois

STAND UP FOR EQUALITY MEMBERS are proud to present,

Savethedate_final

a semi-formal event commemorating the first year of Marriage Equality in Illinois!

Date: Thursday, May 28th, 2015

Time: 6:00pm – 10:00pm

Tickets Available at:: https://loveisloveillinois.eventbrite.com

Join us for an evening of specialty cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, entertainment, and photo opportunities!

Guests are encouraged to wear black attire customized with a flourish of their favorite bright color!

A portion of the proceeds from the event will benefit Equality Illinois.

Equality Illinois Logo

FAQs

What are my transport/parking options getting to the event?

We are offering valet

Where can I contact the organizer with any questions?

yes@i-standup.org

Is my registration/ticket transferable?

No

 

Our newest addition, wedding stylist and attendant, Kristine!

Kristine Fachet Greatest Expectations Wedding Party Stylist / Attendant

Kristine Fachet
Greatest Expectations Wedding Party Stylist / Attendant

We are so excited to announce that Kristine Fachet has joined the Greatest Expectations team as our Wedding Party Stylist / Attendant.  This is something we have been hoping to add to our custom planning packages for quite some time now and Kristine is simply the perfect addition to our already awesome team.

Kristine brings 15 years of theatrical costuming experience to the Greatest Expectations team.  Her meticulous attention to detail and understanding of fit and fabric will ensure your wedding party is “stage-ready” and everyone is looking their very best.  She has worked as a stylist with some of Chicago’s top hair and makeup artists, and also as a alterations expert for local bridal boutiques.  Kristine’s talents reach far and wide, including her own line of custom handbags, Sur Le Feu Handbags & Accessories.

An Evening of Bridal Luxury

Join CS Brides for an evening of opulence and grandeur at the 3rd annual “Evening of Bridal Luxury”at The Four Seasons.View an exclusive runway show by Vera Wang in addition to gowns from Belle Vie Bridal Couture.

Brides will receive luxurious, Oscar-style swag bags filled with extraordinary gifts (Greatest Expectations has partnered with The Enterprising Kitchen for our extra special treat in the swag bag).

Thank you to CS Brides for allowing us to give away  free, VIP tickets to two of our lucky Brides and their guests!

We looking forward to seeing you there!

Proceeds to benefit the Breast Cancer Network of Strength.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

6pm-9pm.

Space is limited.

RSVP required by March 13th.

312-274-2508

Purchase tickets by going to http://www.csbrides.com

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The “ELLE” Gown

Belle Vie Bridal is unveiling their Custom Couture “Elle” Gown this Saturday, March 7th.

The gown is designed by Amanda Bonnell & Giselle Gophrani, this exclusive gown has layering options for two different looks, and alterations are included with the purchase.  Giselle (The infamous Dress Nurse and Designer) will be there from 2 p.m. – 6 p.m.

By Appointment Only 312.751.2222

I don’t have an image of this dress to show you because the event on Saturday is the big “unveiling”  … Once I get my hands on one I will update!!

While Sipping a Glass of Champagne With …

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Ken Severin, Weddings by Blue Plate catering extraordinaire!!

It took me awhile to pin Ken down for this interview so lets not wait a second longer …

 

Good Afternoon Ken, thank you for joining me for a glass of champagne.  Can you tell me how you got into Catering?

Oh, I guess this all stems from my mother.  When I was younger, my mother would entertain a great deal.  So, I guess my love of food and entertaining comes from her.  I imagine the catalyst for my career was that day when I was nineteen, studying French in Paris and just happened to wander into the doors of the famous Le Cordon Bleu de Paris.  The next thing I knew I was enrolling into their program.  (It was an opening which had just become available as someone had withdrawn.  The program started the next week)!  I completed the Cordon Bleu’s Grand Diploma a year and a half later.  Then, one thing just led to another.    

You have been in the business a long time, what do you love about it?

I love the moment when all the elements of a party come together, and the client is very content.  I like knowing that I contributed to their happiness.  

What do you not love about it?

Oh, well, it’s never fun when the party’s over, right?

Where is your favorite venue to work in?

I have very modern taste.  So, I enjoy venues such as the Ivy Room, the River East Arts Center, Prairie Productions and A New Leaf.  In particular, I enjoy working at the Ivy Room as I adore their venue rep! (we here at Greatest Expectations approve of this shameless plug for Donna at The Ivy Room because we adore her also! Stay tuned to future Champagne interviews because we hope to sit down with Donna soon.)

What are your three favorite items on the Weddings by Blue Plate menu?

Blue Plate’s Executive Chef, Paul Larson, always continues to amaze me. At a recent menu roll-out, in particular, I enjoyed two hors d’oeuvres: an organic grit cake with a sweet corn succotash and a risotto “pillow” with mascarpone, golden raisins, brown butter and sage. 

What are your three favorite desserts on the Weddings by Blue Plate menu? 

I enjoy many of Blue Plate’s desserts.  In particular, I enjoy our petit strawberry-rhubarb crisp, our mini caramel mousse “bombe” and our French macaroons.  (you guys have heard me go on and on about those tasty little Blue Plate sweets, how could I possible leave this all important question out of Ken’s interview!)

If you were not in catering what would you be doing?

A wedding consultant.  (I am so glad Ken is not my competition!)

What is your favorite color? Fashion Designer?  Restaurant?

Well, I’m not too much into fashion.  But, I do like the color green, and I have a lot of favorite restaurants.  My current favorites are Sola and Blue Plate’s restaurant, Bluprint.  North Pond Café has always been a favorite of mine.  

If you could design your own wedding (or special event) what would it  look like?

I would want great food, great wine, and great company.  For me, that’s what it’s all about.  

Do you travel often?  What was your favorite place to visit?

I don’t know if you’d say that I travel often.  I do, however, go each year to the Stratford Festival of Canada with my family.  We all enjoy theatre very much.  

What is your favorite thing about working with Greatest Expectations?
You make everything appear so effortless!  And you surround yourself with some wonderful people.  I like everyone with whom you choose to work.  

 

Thank you Ken! Those are very kind words and we appreciate them very much. It is always a pleasure to work with you and the Weddings by Blue Plate staff.  We look forward to a continued and growing friendship and partnership with you.

Here is a “retro” picture of our friend Ken. He refused us a current picture but we got so much enjoyment out of this one we could not leave it out.  My little PSA, however, Ken is smoking a cigarette in this picture.  We just want to go on record as saying we do not advocate smoking in anyway and are great friends of The American Cancer Society.  I duly shamed him for having a smoke in his hand when I first saw the picture 🙂

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