Thursday, December 24, 2009


Wishing you all LOVE and a peaceful holiday. Real Food Rehab will be taking some time off and be back before the New Year! Yours, Dana Joy

The Real Food Rehab Holiday Gift Guide: Sandra Holl of Floriole Bakery

Sandra Holl's pastries are beautiful to look at and even more beautiful to eat. And I'm not just using flowery language when I say they're infused with character and grace because they are. She makes seasonal fruit bread pudding from homemade brioche and the flakiest, custard-style quiche and serves them warm at her farmers' market stall. I am especially fond of her insanely rich shortbread and cornmeal lime cookies. She makes it easy to get up early and trek through rain, sleet and snow to get to her because hers are the foods worth living for. Eating them sets apart a special moment in time.

WHO Sandra Holl is the chef and co-owner of the soon to open Floriole Café & Bakery in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood. Floriole has been a staple for rustic, seasonal pastries using organic and local ingredients at the Green City Market for the past four years. Sandra’s love of all things pastry started while studying and teaching English in France. Shortly after returning to the U.S., she decided to go to culinary school and started working at Tartine Bakery in San Francisco. With a little experience under her belt she moved to Chicago and began selling her baked goods at local farmers’ markets.

Mes Confitures: The Jams and Jellies of Christine Ferber. You could simply give this book as a gift but I think you may be inspired to keep it for yourself and make some beautiful jams for your friends and family. The recipes are seasonal and fairly simple but the results are remarkable. Packed in a jar with a printed label and a sweet ribbon, homemade jam is a gift from the heart that anyone would love to receive.

Chicago, IL

I am constantly inspired by the farmers and the produce I encounter every week at the farmers’ market.

I am always trying to find dishes that appeal to me, my husband and my three year old daughter. A perfect omelette made with farm fresh eggs, a little fresh goat cheese and chives served next to a simple salad is always a big hit at our house.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Real Food Rehab Holiday Gift Guide: Sunday Dinner Club

I just want to gush over Josh and Christine for a moment if that's OK. Because I've come to really love them. They've allowed me to stage in their kitchen for the past couple months and I've learned so much about cooking and using beautiful ingredients. Yes, I'm well-read and well-versed when it comes to food, but I learn by doing and they've been providing me a very generous education. They're quite a bit younger than me but they've become mentors of sorts and it just proves that you never know who your teachers in life will be or where your great lessons will come from. They are the real deal and you should know them better...

WHO Christine Cikowski and Josh Kulp are the chef/owners of Sunday Dinner, an underground community dining club in Chicago and Eat Green Foods, a line of granola bars handcrafted with local and sustainable ingredients. They also have a stall at Chicago's Green City Market selling locally sourced, pasture raised burgers and sandwiches. When not cooking or eating, they spend their time thinking about what, when and where they are going to cook and eat next.

THE GIFT Being fervent supporters of seasonal, local and sustainable foods has many known benefits — chief among them is the unparalleled flavor these foods so amply provide. We are strong proponents of keeping dollars in the local economy. However, when the Midwest turns into a veritable wasteland of cold, slush and snow, I look to Paternoster Family Farm in California to satiate our fix for fresh, delicious and responsibly grown produce. The Paternoster’s have been diligently attending to their citrus orchards in the San Joaquin Valley for over 50 years and recently started shipping Satsumas, Navel Oranges and Pomelo grapefruits direct to elated foodies and chefs alike. What better gift is there than supporting a small sustainable farm, not to mention unbelievably good citrus?

WHERE DO YOU LIVE? Chicago, Illinois

WHAT INSIPRES YOU? Seasonality definitely informs our cooking but I find we're most inspired by what fellow chefs and artisans are creating and how they continually channel their passion into their food.

GO-TO DISH WHEN COOKING FOR YOURSELF?(Christine) Since I live by myself and admittedly spend an excessive amount of time working, I gravitate towards dishes that can be made in mass and eaten over time. Lately, this has been tacos and assorted accoutrement - rice and beans, salsas and seasonal toppings of the like. I make all the parts on one day and spend the rest of the week happily consuming them in various tasty combinations. See Rick Bayless’ Mexico One Plate At A Timefor solid, user-friendly recipes.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Real Food Rehab Holiday Gift Guide:

If you're like me, and you think about what you're going to make for dinner while you're eating breakfast, then you might love a free subscription to Because each weekday morning while I'm drinking coffee and checking emails, I get a yummy menu in my inbox with a grocery list and game plan to make a delicious dinner. The other thing that moves me about this service? There's not some huge corporate parent company behind it; it's three lovely people who live what they preach; who really care about food and bringing people back to the table. Here they are now...

WHO Three of us are stirring the pot at - David and Kurt, two dads with day jobs and serious cooking hobbies, and Susan, an award-winning food journalist and author who lives – too good to be true — in France, where she founded and runs On Rue Tatin, a cooking school. It started with a craving, of sorts. David and Kurt, long-time friends, loved to cook but longed to expand their repertoire. And they wanted to help some of their food-loving, cook-shy friends produce a significant meal, worthy of serious table-time with friends and family. They envisioned a website to give really busy people the ideas and the tools to get organized and get cooking. So they enlisted Susan, the food expert, to help plan and structure menus to be delicious, seasonal, sophisticated and easy.

No more mediocre meals cobbled together last minute. No more trolling recipe websites to figure out what side dish might work with steamed halibut. No more shopping fiascos — like when you arrived home without eggplant for the ratatouille. helps you plan, prep and cook an entire meal, not just one dish. We provide a complete menu, a shopping list and a game plan – basically, we help you organize to go from kitchen to table with ease.

Our menus call for seasonal, fresh ingredients, are uncomplicated and designed to be cooked in under an hour. 'Making mealtime manageable’ is kind of a mantra for us. When you say you’re busy, we get it: you’re taking care of kids, working, shopping, maybe grabbing a workout – oh yeah, and the laundry… You don’t need another hassle! Our goal is to make food, meals and dining-at-home an easy family ritual and a daily pleasure.

THE GIFT If you're looking for something really special, how about a Japanese knife? Most people are better off with one really good Chef's Knife than a whole set of "specialty" knives and nothing is as well balanced or as sharp as these beauties from Nenox/Nenohi currently on sale at Korin in New York. The people at Korin are knowledgeable, friendly and ready to help you find a truly special knife that's perfect for that special someone. They offer a full range of Japanese and Western style knives in a wide range of sizes and prices. If properly cared for, Nenox/Nenohi knives will last a lifetime and hold an edge that most knives cannot. Think of these as jewelry for cooks.

WHERE DO YOU LIVE? New York City & Paris

We are inspired to get people into the kitchen and help them rediscover how fun and easy it can be to make and share great food.

YOUR GO-TO DISH WHEN COOKING FOR YOURSELVES? Definitely Alio Olio (click for recipe!)

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Real Food Rehab Holiday Gift Guide: Elizabeth Madden

I am endlessly fascinated by this new generation of artisanal craftspeople who are making food products using hands-on skill and exceptional ingredients in place of mass machinery and chemicals. They pour their heart and soul into these foods and I feel it is my duty as a proud and loyal American to buy and enjoy as many of them as I can. That said, I don't profess to know Elizabeth Madden, only her jam, Rare Bird Preserves. I know her jam because I am by nature, drawn to beautiful things. Her logo and packaging made the first impression, but it was what was on the inside of the jar that really sold me. Startlingly clear flavors and provocative combinations such as Fig Earl Grey, Lemon Blueberry and Plum Cardamom Orange. Uses? Morning toast and tea, a sauce for your pork shoulder or loin and I think they'd make the sexiest thumbprint cookies your family and friends have ever tasted...

WHO Elizabeth Madden is the creator of Rare Bird Preserves local, artisanal jam. The same instincts that inspired Elizabeth Madden to pursue an advanced arts degree in photography are there in the way she makes preserves: a desire to capture life, its seasons, its moments, its essence, its deliciousness. After deciding to shift from the visual arts to the culinary, Elizabeth graduated from the French Pastry School and trained with some of the world’s most renowned chefs. She found her niche in making preserves. Elizabeth blends classic, traditional French and British methods to create her own modern American style. Elizabeth is committed to seasonal, local, and sustainably grown fruit. Using artisanal methods, she blends hand-cut fruit with floral and herbal pairings to create her own signature flavors.

THE GIFT When I asked my husband what he wants for Christmas, he said “Coffee, of course." He knows I always put a bag of Blue Max Coffee in his stocking every year. Blue Max is a local coffee roaster located in Forest Park, Illinois. They are committed to organic and fair trade coffee.

For myself? I love gifts that are definitely guilty pleasures. Gastronomica is a gorgeous, smart magazine, which hits all my pleasure zones. Every issue is an amazing collection of curated thoughts on culture, history, art, and society all viewed through the lens of food. Not inexpensive at $50 a subscription, so it might not be something I purchase for myself, but I'd love to give or receive as a gift. (Hint to husband.)

WHERE DO YOU LIVE? I live with my husband Jeff and 6 year old son Henry in River Forest, Illinois.

WHAT INSPIRES YOU? I am inspired by the fleeting beauty of fruit. Each season sings to me. I try to capture that.

GO-TO DISH WHEN COOKING FOR YOURSELF? Soup! Right now my go-to meal is a comforting Roasted Butternut Squash soup with Sage. I tend to make simple dishes with lots of flavor. This soup is from Real Simple: Meals Made Easy. Roasting the butternut squash makes all the difference. Throw in a grilled cheese made with some amazing cheese and bread from Marion Street Cheese Market and I’m happy!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Real Food Rehab Holiday Gift Guide: Tracy Kellner

You know what? I don't really want to shop in a cold, cavernous space where I can get tires and wine and nylon fleece sweaters and lamb chops and a pallet of toothpaste, all in one fell swoop. That is not my idea of a good time. Nor does it meet my needs in any way, shape or form. I like supporting the little guy. I like going to a store where they know me by name. And I love a more European approach to shopping, where I can pop in for high quality products that meet my every day needs and make me feel good inside and out. And fortunately for me, I have Provenance Food and Wine right around the corner. And get this - they're bringing back this concept that I'm just crazy about, it's called customer service - ever hear of it?

This store is one of the many things I'm grateful for in my day to day life. To be able to get local, organic milk and cheese, artisanal ice cream when I'm in the mood, pasture raised beef, great wine and beer, seven days a week, it just makes my life better. So, thank you Tracy Kellner...

WHO Tracy Kellner is the owner of Provenance Food & Wine, an everyday grocery that focuses on small batch and handmade foods, wines, beers and spirits using sustainable methods wherever possible. Tracy spent close to ten years working front of the house positions in restaurants, where she learned about the synergy of food and wine and how to treat guests to a great experience. After a brief stint in non-profit, and eight years in the corporate world, she left to open Provenance Food & Wine in 2006. Provenance has two Chicago locations: Logan Square and Lincoln Square.

THE GIFT We recently brought in some of the O Olive Oils and Vinegars at the store. The oils are crushed with fruit so the flavors are really intense - there is actually some kind of chemical reaction that occurs when the olives and fruit are crushed together, as opposed to adding the ‘flavoring’ to the oil. They are great gifts that taste delicious in beautiful packaging. You can make a super-easy appetizer with them by spreading fresh goat cheese or ricotta onto toast or crackers, then drizzling with the oils and a touch of good sea salt. The jalapeno lime is my favorite – you get the essence of the jalapeno without the heat. It’s great in guacamole. The O line is made by a small producer in California who use high quality fruit from orchards using sustainable practices. They're a great gift for people who like to cook but also who don’t like or know how to cook because they're full of great flavor and simply need to be drizzled on the finished product and viola!

WHERE DO YOU LIVE? Logan Square, Chicago, Illinois

WHAT INSPIRES YOU? Honestly, most of my inspiration these days comes from other small business owners, whose energy and creativity I thrive on!

GO-TO DISH WHEN COOKING FOR YOURSELF? Sustainably-fished tuna in olive oil, kalamata olives, shallot confit and lemon zest, tossed with pasta. Yes, in a pinch it all comes from a jar, but it’s delicious and a dish inspired by friend and chef Kari Dillon.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Real Food Rehab Holiday Gift Guide: Kim Shambrook

Those who believe that cooking is drudgery should spend some time in the kitchen with Kim Shambrook. The word is out that she throws the best parties in Chicago; Cooking Parties that is, where you learn to cook and eat in a professional kitchen with a group of friends, both old and new. I like to think of her as the Ellen Degeneres of the food world; she's grounded, unassuming and incredibly funny - a real woman of the people who makes everyone around her feel good. I think it's only a matter of time before she has her own TV show and then I can say I knew her when...

WHO Kim Shambrook is the Executive Chef and owner of Bespoke Cuisine, a catering and culinary company in Chicago. Growing up in rural Roberts, Illinois, Kim had her own pig farm at the age of 12. She also learned how to twirl a cone to perfection at her mother’s diner-cum-custard stand The Lickety Split. Kim played a regular part in the daily rituals of cooking and communal feasting as a child and her love of rural culture, simplicity, and seasonal tastes inspire her every move at Bespoke Cuisine. Kim also holds a BA and master’s degrees in education which she puts to good use during Bespoke Cuisine’s signature concept - The Cooking Party. With her singular brand of culinary moxie and a talent for making people comfortable in the kitchen, Kim is living proof that good food doesn’t have to be intimidating.

THE GIFT The pleasure of cooking with people you care about means so much. So, when thinking of that perfect gift for my friends and family, I often choose a specially selected cookbook accompanied by the latest or best kitchen gadget or ingredient. Depending on who the gift is for determines what cookbook is in order. For my sister (who emulates Martha Stewart), I try and pick cookbooks that are similar in Martha Stewart style but not familiar to my sister, like Donna Hay, the queen of Australian cooking. Her gift was the Donna Hay Seasons Cookbook and a small jar of wattleseed, a spice indigenous to Australia. For some of my friends, I pick cookbooks about cuisines that interest them but maybe they’ve never tried or cookbooks from chefs or restaurants that I admire. My latest favorites are Ad Hoc at Homeand How to Cook Everything: 2,000 Simple Recipes for Great Food. I include a little note inside the gift suggesting that they pick a couple of recipes they want to try, pick a date and I’ll come over (with the libations, of course) to help them cook. It makes for a great memory – sharing good food and an experience with someone you care about.

Chicago, Illinois

WHAT INSPIRES YOU? my nieces, quiet time, thunderstorms and long and hot showers.

YOUR GO-TO DISH WHEN COOKING FOR YOURSELF? Roast chicken, root vegetables, and a big ‘ol vodka martini

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Real Food Rehab Holiday Gift Guide: Sally Schneider

Sally Schneider brings new meaning to the words, keeping it real. On her website, 'the improvised life,' she calls our attention to the beauty, wonder and richness of our daily lives and helps us to see it with fresh eyes. Finding her site was such a revelation and I'm indebted to her for inspiring me in numerous ways. In her site's manifesto, Sally explains why improvising is the perfect operating system in today's world. "Improvising," she says, "is an antidote to I can't." I am beyond delighted to have Sally and her authentic style on Real Food Rehab...

WHO Sally Schneider is the creator and writer of ‘the improvised life’, a website about improvising -- inventing, being resourceful, making-it-up-as-you-go-along – as a daily practice. She has worked as a journalist, editor, syndicated columnist, radio commentator, teacher, stylist, small-space consultant and professional chef; she once wrangled 600 live snails for an Irving Penn photograph. Her very improvisational work has been the laboratory for her posts on ‘the improvised life’, her column Home Cooking on The Atlantic Food blog, and consulting and speaking about creativity and home design. Please check out her award-winning cookbooks The Improvisational Cookand A New Way to Cook.

Everyone I know has SO much, and does not need another object, so I’ve devised an alt-holiday gift strategy. I give a card saying I’ve given a donation in my friends name to a charity; this year it will be Maira Kalman’s beautiful angel.

I often bundle the card with a little something: like this swell $4 tasting spoon from Branch, which is the ideal shape for cooking; long and thin and slightly odd.

Or, I’ll give them some food gift I’ve made a big batch of, like some easy-to-make exotically flavored chocolates, or Alt-Malted Milk Balls, or some Dried Apricots in Cardamom Syrup. I make these in big batches to package as gifts (often with found/re-use jars, boxes, tins or gift-wrap) or to use for my own impromtu parties. (photos courtesy of Ellen Silverman)

New York City

WHAT INSPIRES YOU? New York City inspires me endlessly: all you have to do is walk out on the street to discover something interesting, an anonymous creation, like the tiny grafitti written on a rusted door that said “know hope”.

But what inspires me most, way beyond the city, is the idea of improvising, which is all about possibility: unexpected answers and solutions to be found in what we have right now.


My go-to survivalist dish when I’m alone and working flat-out is a fried egg on something with some grated Parmigiano-Reggiano in between. That something can be just about anything: spaghetti, steamed asparagus, crushed boiled new potatoes…The soft-yolk egg mixes with the cheese to become a sauce. For breakfast, I throw a fried egg on some greens like watercress or arugula.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Real Food Rehab Holiday Gift Guide: Ari Bendersky

Some of us have a voracious appetite for life that can never be sated. Ari Bendersky is one such character. He's completely flush with his own need to know what's new, what's next, what's good in the worlds of food, wine and music. And because I know I could never hold a candle to his boundless energy and constant curiosity, I'm so grateful that I can be his armchair traveler and he, my guide. Go Ari, go Ari...

WHO Ari Bendersky is the co-creator (along with Matt Marcus) of foodie, an iPhone app that delivers unique, exclusive offers to users from Chicago's top restaurants. Over the last 15 years, Ari has been a successful lifestyle and entertainment journalist writing for the likes of the New York Times, Associated Press, Huffington Post,, Advocate, Out, Chicago Tribune,, Chicago Magazine, Time Out Chicago and more, including his blog,

THE GIFT I love wine and I find that giving a bottle from my favorite wineries is a great gift—definitely better than just picking any random bottle off the shelf. I'm a massive supporter of Joel Gott and his Zinfandel is always off the hook. Earlier this year, another Napa Zin came my way: Brown Estate is one of those cult shops that when you discover it, you know you found a good thing. Want to make someone happy? Send a bottle of the 2008 Napa Valley Zinfandel. And if you're feeling festive, forget Champagne and head to Alsace where you get better deals and just-as-good sparkling wine. My favorite? Lucien Albrecht Cremant d'Alsace Brut Rosé. It has a gorgeous, coral color and is beautifully effervescent. It's crisp with delicious watermelon and strawberry notes—and it's great for any celebration or just hanging around having brunch on a Sunday.
If you really hard-pressed for a great gift, you'll never go wrong (unless the recipient is vegan or vegetarian) with a subscription to the Bacon of the Month Club from the Grateful Palate. I swear, if a slab of porcine lusciousness showed up at my house each month, I might leave a trail of drool from my front door all the way to my kitchen. I know my dog would love me even more!

But the ultimate gift? A trip to Sonoma for a long weekend of biking, eating and wining. While there are planned tours, I'd probably want to plot my own course by staying at the Hotel Healdsburg, renting hybrids from Wine Country Bikes and hitting some of my favorite wineries in the area, including Ridge, Gary Farrell, Gloria Ferrer and others. I'd eat at Cyrus and indulge at The Spa at Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn. Anyone want to go?

WHERE DO YOU LIVE? Chicago, Illinois

I am an eternal explorer; whether that is traveling to other cities or countries or just checking out what's going on in Chicago. I thrive on learning about new music, cultures, food, wine and more. Positive energy also inspires me. Life's too short to be negative or to allow negative people to bring you down. I'm also inspired by my partner, Drew Harris, who is a passionate, creative and generous soul.

It usually involves a bottle of wine and something simple. I'm a big eater but not a huge cook. I craft simple dishes: salad, pizza, pasta. I love grilling chicken with a great rub. I'm a big fan of Chicago-based rubs, Urban Accents, and love making a spicy shrimp stir fry with massive amounts of fresh, colorful vegetables. And, in summer, I make a mean guacamole with fresh mango, tomatoes, red onion and habanero peppers.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Real Food Rehab Holiday Gift Guide: Fred Bamesberger

The way Fred Bamesberger and his family live is something I aspire to. There's a warmth and thoughtfulness in every detail of their surroundings. Everything he designs is decidedly modern but his materials are of the earth and his techniques are often those of centuries-old craftsmen. Sharing a meal at their home is always a treat because Fred applies the same resourcefulness and skill to his culinary endeavors as he does to his design practice; his meals are rich in organic materials and always impart the most delicious workmanship. Take it away Fred....

WHO Fred Bamesberger is an architect who designs everything from buildings, to furniture, to objects and jewelry. His work reflects a commitment to optimism and the power of creative architecture to affect change. He creates spaces that offer their inhabitants a balance of serenity and playfulness, comfort and discovery. Above all, he wants his work to contribute to the lives and landscape that will come after our own. To that end, he is conscious of creating durable and environmentally sensible solutions that last.

THE GIFT I always struggle with the gift. You want to give something special, personal, authentic, but not too expensive. My wife Leslie and I usually make gifts for friends and family from our garden. Some of the past years' gifts have included Bosc pear butter, hot pepper jam, or limoncello from our very missed lemon tree. Other years it's more complicated, like the walnut tray with an inlay of cut whole walnuts. This year is a bit different. I'm recommending the new Momofuku Cookbook. It's fun, and well written in a style that accurately and authentically reflects the attitude of its author David Chang. He shows how to take something as humble as ramen and turn it into Art.

WHERE DO YOU LIVE? Valparaiso, Indiana

WHAT INSPIRES YOU? Everything inspires me. I'm inspired everyday by the landscape and nature surrounding me, and I want to share the things that move me. I try to take time every day to walk and see and listen to the flora and fauna surrounding me. Gardening and teaching my daughter Ruby to get dirty, inspires me. We recently rehabbed an old farmhouse nearby and share this with people who want to slow down and recharge. When we need a break from the slow-life, we head to NYC to relax. This past trip we were inspired by the Pork Buns at Momofuku Noodle Bar.

GO-TO DISH WHEN COOKING FOR YOURSELF? I like to grab some of our oven roasted tomatoes. We take the surplus heritage tomatoes during peak season in the summer and roast them with salt, pepper, garlic and olive oil and fill up the freezer. A pack of these can turn into a pizza, pasta sauce, salad, or a simple side dish of its own.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Real Food Rehab Holiday Gift Guide: Chef Paul Virant

So far, I have only three regrets in life. One - not going to Sydney, Australia when my best friend was working there for a year. Two - not buying the most drop-dead-gorgeous, turquoise silk, Rozae Nichols dress (on sale!) that would've been in style forever and Three - not eating at Paul Virant's restaurant, Vie, a helluva lot sooner.

I could kick myself for all the years I spent not eating his food that I'll never get back! What was I thinking? This past summer, I had the good fortune to be taken to Vie for my birthday for the first time. It was the best restaurant experience I've had in years, hands down. I don't claim to be a restaurant reviewer, so the best way I can describe it is like a stylish neighborhood joint that just happens to serve three-star food. The service was charming and laid back and the food was simple, seasonal and so, so soulful. There was love on my plate, this I can tell you. And now, I bring you Chef Paul Virant...

WHO Chef Paul Virant was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. He has a bachelors degree in nutrition and studied culinary arts at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. His restaurant Vie, located in Western Springs; a suburb just west of Chicago, serves modern American food with a heavy emphasis on Midwestern seasonal products and specializes in traditional methods of food preservation such as canning and charcuterie. Chef Virant was named Best New Chef 2007, by Food & Wine Magazine and just recently competed on the TV show, Iron Chef America on The Food Network. In 2010, Vie Restaurant will be launching its "Tribute to the Farmer" series beginning January 28th, March 4th and April 22nd. Details to follow...

THE GIFT A wonderful gift anytime of the year is preserved or canned local produce. Ideally, this would be done by you, handcrafted with love for your family and friends. This task is not always realistic for everyone, and fortunately many local farmers and food artisans produce these delicious accompaniments. Shop Green Grocer Chicago and Green City Market for products from Seedling Fruit, River Valley Kitchens, Hillside Orchards and Kinnikinnick Farms to name a few. They make preserves, pickles, tomato sauces, etc., that they grow and capture at their peak in a jar for future enjoyment. This type of artisanal skill is something that's a large part of our focus at the restaurant, so looking to 2010, consider taking a preserving class at Vie beginning in May and offered throughout the growing season. Someday, maybe, we will sell our own line of preserved items, until then, happy sourcing and happy learning this old school craft.

WHERE DO YOU LIVE? I live in Hinsdale, Illinois with my wife Jennifer and two boys, Lincoln and Zane.



A sandwich (hot or cold) with pickles of course...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Real Food Rehab Holiday Gift Guide: Anna Johnson

Anna Johnson is a name you might not recognize in the world of design, but she's been quietly making a name for herself amongst designers and collectors simply by virtue of her discriminating eye and excellent taste. Anna knows the nuances of every great designer, whether iconic or obscure, and her antique booths are a treasure trove of objects, art and furniture merchandised so beautifully that it is hard to walk away unscathed. I have eaten many a meal with this lady and even if it's 8 am on a Saturday, she always shows up looking like a combination of That Girl and Elke Sommers rolled into one. Welcome to the splendiferous world of Anna Johnson...

WHO As an extension to my work as a painter I sell vintage and modern antiques through my business, Studio A, located in my booths at the Edgewater Antique Mall and the Ravenswood Antique Mart. The objects shown here are at the Edgewater Antique Mall. My buyers include designers, dealers and collectors from Palm Beach, Miami, New York, Connecticut, California, Paris and, of course, Chicago. Thomas O'Brien and Nate Burkus come to mind. I recently sold a sleek, silvered pair of vintage candle holders that were gifted to shoe designer Brian Atwood by his mother.

Abalone mosaic and silverplated copper pitcher – Mexico - 1970s ($295)

Teak cheeseboard – Denmark – 1970s ($45)

David Anderson stainless steel cheese knife and cheese slicer – Norway – 1960s ($135)

Abalone and reticulated silver fish bottle opener – Mexico – 1970s ($145)

**Prices are 20% off through December 25.

THE GIFT An invitation to Tahoora in Chicago's Little India at 2345 West Devon Avenue where, on weekends, you can feast for $5 on Halwa Puri, a traditional Pakistani breakfast that includes a sweet and savory combination of sweet halwa, spicy chick peas, piquant chutneys, hot puris (in photo) and sweetly spiced chai.

Edgewater, Chicago, IL.

WHAT INSPIRES YOU? I look for sleek, classic lines. Fussiness annoys me; although decorative flourishes can be transcendent as long as they're like stunning earrings on Audrey Hepburn. The elegant work of designers like Jean-Michel Frank, Gio Ponti, Maria Pergay and Gabriella Crespi can practically make me faint, but over-the-top designers like Serge Roche and Aldo Tura are also seductive. Nevertheless, great style interests me far more than provenance. My approach is eclectic; I like surprises that heighten our aesthetic experience. Pleasure comes from being receptive to challenging, beautiful color and shape combinations that enrich our daily lives.

If I were limited to owning one thing, I'd choose an ancient Grecian black or red figure urn. In his “Ode to a Grecian Urn”, John Keats distills the secret of truly fine design, food and living choices to their essence. To paraphrase: Beauty is truth, truth beauty. That is all ye need to know on earth.

My schedule is pretty full, so when I want something quick and nourishing, I slice queso fresco, place the slices between two small corn tortillas, microwave this for 45 to 60 seconds and then sink my teeth into this sumptuous treat.