Wednesday, January 31, 2024

NYE // Final Blog Post

After over a decade of this blog, this will be my final post. I'm still going to share outfit photos & perhaps a monthly collage of thrift store finds & other things on my fashion Instagram: the_muffin_queens_closet & some food pictures & miscellaneous things on my heath Instagram: becomingmeshel. I post more about my daily activities on my Facebook. Thank you for reading along all these years. 
Dress: V-Neck Black Sequined Midi Dress with Velvet Belt by Betsey Johnson, thrifted 
Tights: Snag
Shoes: Fluevog, Mega Munster: Original
Necklace: Green Goddess Vintage
Earrings & Bracelet: Vintage
Stats: 5'7" 38-32-42
I loved this black sequined dress from Betsey Johnson that I thrifted the week before NYE. I was all set to wear a different black thrifted dress, but sequins win. 
I had intended to wear gold glitter tights, but the glitter part stopped before the side slits & looked sloppy. 
Gold glittery shoes & purse...
I have the matching necklace to these earrings & bracelet, but I rarely wear it anymore since it is massive & overpowers me.
David also wore black & gold.
Gold glitter shoes...we found David's at a vintage shop in Asheville, worn with Fluevog socks.
We made reservations at our former favorite restaurant, Heritage Tavern (because everywhere else we wanted to go was booked because I'm a procrastinator). Their menu for the night looked delightful & we got the cocktail pairing with nice to have that as an alternative to wine. 
We started with 2 drinks from their regular menu because we weren't quite ready to dive into the meal just yet.
Then the food & cocktail pairings began to arrive...
This was the best dinner we've ever had at Heritage. And that's saying a lot as we used to regularly be captivated by their food. The Rush Creek Reserve Risotto & Shaved White Alba Truffle was my favorite course...but if I could order them all again, I would. We even got a surprise extra course, an eggplant terrine, that I completely forgot to take a picture of. The chef also gave us a board of all 3 desserts with a candle. It wasn't necessary as our evening had been spectacular, but it was appreciated & made us smile. 
A special souvenir menu celebrating 10 years of Heritage Tavern.
Our dessert cocktail came in a glass with a penguin in a top hat stem. At the end of this post, I will paste David's review of the night that he sent to them. Back at home, Carsie Blanton was playing live online. And New Year's Day...I made the best cinnamon rolls I've ever had in my life...& I'm picky. The only reason I made them was because Bon Appétit sent me a a rave review with a link to this took me 3 hours to make brunch, but worth it. There was also smoked salmon eggs Benedict, roasted potatoes with garlic & rosemary, & asparagus with more of that yummy hollandaise sauce on top. 

Heritage Tavern New Year’s Eve Review, 2023

Our reservation was for 5:30pm, but we found ourselves around the corner at 4pm, so we called, and the answer, to our pleasant surprise, was yes, please do come in and have some cocktails as you wait for your reservation. Wonderful!
Even better, when we arrived, we were able to secure our favorite table. We ordered cocktails with pleasure.
We started with Not My Gumdrop Buttons, a delightful, festive cocktail as good as any of the very best on offer around Madison and pleasingly unique; and the Hot Sconnie, which was a solid cocktail, if somewhat lemon-forward (not that I mind, mind you). Finally, before deciding to order, we split a Mein Gluhwein, which turned out to be the best version of mulled wine either of us has ever had. Dark Horse had something really special a few years ago, with lots of concentrated grape and other fruit, which I adore, but this gluhwein avoided loads of fructose while delivering a cocktail that was supremely balanced and simply downright amazing. Next-level, and indeed, in spite of some amazing cocktails to come, our favorite of the entire evening.
We had a slightly awkward moment when our server dropped off the Snack Plates before we had a chance to order our cocktail flights. But, she took them away, took our order, and then dropped off the cocktails ten or fifteen minutes before the Snack Plates. But that’s all right, we had a quick word, and she made sure our drinks and food arrived at the same time, or close to it, the rest of the evening. Service throughout the evening was warmly attentive and excellent, with the trivial wrinkles mentioned above ironed out immediately. Couldn’t ask for better.
And that first cocktail was marvelous. Our server told us it was a take on a French 75, but what a take! The lemon on the rim perfumed every zinging sip, and the drink worked wonders with the tableau before us: The Escolar Tartare was the best version of that dish; the pork belly and tuna were excellent, and I am a particular fan of crispy foie gras and that pineapple mango compote was delightful. But for me the winner was the Nduja and Escargot. Nduja is so assertive, so heavily seasoned, that it seems to invariably be a mistake, yet here was a revelation, perfectly balanced with the escargot on its toasty wafer, and my favorite bite on that plate.  Next up, the Peekytoe Crab Salad, which was so clean on the palate that it put me in mind of sushi. I even had the thought that wasabi would work on that plate, which it might, but it wouldn’t have made the dish any better, just different. What was surprising was the cocktail pairing: On its own, not really quite for me. But with the dish, the magic happens. This became a theme we increasingly appreciated throughout the evening: The care and thought put into each dish, yes, and also into the creation of cocktails that would pair in such exquisitely lovely ways with each marvelous dish.
Then came the risotto, notorious destroyer of reputations, the dreaded death dish. I will say here what I told the server then: The dish is better than perfect. It establishes its perfection by being perfect risotto, which can go wrong so many, many ways, but then it exceeded perfection by bringing into focus elements that aren’t normally part of risotto, such as the sweet/savory balance brought with the pickled pear and truffle. Here, again, a high-wire act where one could plunge into certain doom by bringing the diner into mind of rice-pudding or simply unwanted or insufficiently sweet fruit, but no, every bite was pure joy. So many great dishes, but we had to agree, upon reflection, this was our favorite dish of the entire evening. And the cocktail — yes, it worked that same magic, again, somehow. How does the bartender keep up with the chef? That the bartender is succeeding at all in keeping up with the sorcery going on back of house, well, there is no higher praise.
Then, (if memory serves, it was at this point in service), a surprise gift from chef: Eggplant Terrine, with squash curry purée, cucumber mint mousse, pickled ground cherries, and pomegranate seeds. Not everyone loves eggplant, but if you wanted to convert them, this would be the dish to do it. Fabulous! And the squash curry purée was festive without going over the top or becoming the least bit bitter. All the elements came together for a dish that was seasonal, celebratory, and surprising in all the best ways.
The Whitefish and Lobster dish was another winner. We debated whether, with a name like Tom Kha, should it have more sauce? We didn’t come to agreement, except to say the dish was grand. The cocktail was memorable in its own right, with ingredients that again worked in beautiful harmony with the dish. I found myself licking the sumac off the glass, and reveling in the green pepper and chili notes the hummed in the coconut goodness.
For our fourth course, the Ribeye and Short Rib. The cocktail was a drinky drink, but it has a great deal to stand up to, and it does. What a great cocktail! The dish was a comforting yet original take on meat and potatoes — the potato bone was a nice touch, the jus was just right, and the cook on the Ribeye was perfectly rare. The Ribeye did come off more like Prime Rib, which I don’t mind — I imagine it may have been sous vide. Great plate, and a generous one — perhaps too generous? We could have been served at least one-third less beef, and been perfectly content, and we told our server so. I’m sure no one says such things, but it’s true. Of course, we did finish every bite, because, well, how could we not?
Then we ordered desert. We made our choices, but were served all three. Very gracious of chef to send all that on! Deserts were marvelous. The Opera Cake was easier to eat by first flipping it upside down; the chocolate just wouldn’t cut with all that softness underneath. Fantastic chocolate and espresso desert. The Profiterole was excellent. And the surprise Cheesecake was actually the equal of the other two, which was quite a surprise, indeed. Creme Fraiche made it distinct in the best way, and the pear gelee paired beautifully. We opted for the limoncello, which I forgot to ask if it had been housemade. It was certainly delightful.
Our entire evening was a special joy, a true fine dining experience: The best food, the best service, the best drinks, all coming together to make a magical night. We would have stayed longer, but we simply ran out of human capacity to enjoy any further hospitality. We are so grateful for such a thoughtful menu, so expertly executed, by everyone in the kitchen and also behind the bar, and for everyone front of house who made our evening so thoroughly enjoyable.

Monday, January 29, 2024

Mint Mark // A Christmas Carol // Christmas

Dress: Pearl Midi Dress by Banjanan via Nuuly
Tights: Snag
Shoes: Fluevog, Enneagram: Innovative
Earring & Bracelet: Heidi Daus
Necklace: Green Goddess Vintage
Stats: 5'7" 38-32-42
I love a spot of sunshine on a dreary day! I also adored the unexpected color combination with the fuchsia background paired with yellow, mustard, orange, & really warmed this dress up. I would wear this dress autumn through spring. The fit was tts for me. I sized up to a large because some of the reviews said it ran small, but I shouldn't have. Everything about this dress was perfect, with the exception of the fabric behind the buttons...there wasn't enough of it & even though the dress wasn't pulling, skin showed between the top 2 buttons, so I fashion taped it. Ironing that area might have also smoothed it out & kept it in place better. I may have bought this dress had I gotten it in the correct size. 
I'm a fan of an elastic wide shirred waist as it gives such a nice shape & that it was echoed in the sleeves so I could push them up a bit & they ballooned over made me happy. 
Purple & rust Fluevogs elevated the outfit Fluevogs always do.
This was my first time wearing this bracelet David got also may have been the necklace's maiden voyage, but I have a terrible memory. 
I first wore this outfit to have these pictures taken. As it was only a bit after 3pm...we thought we'd easily get into Lucille for more Miracle on King Street cocktails & to eat dinner. Ha! It was standing room only & 3-4 deep all around the bar. They really do a great job marketing for the Christmas season. So, we decided to go to Mint Mark, but had some time to kill before they opened. A trip to Conscious Carnivore...where we picked up baby back ribs & a duck for holiday meals. 
4:45 arrival at Mint Mark has never let us down...the lovely hostess seats us every time & we have cocktails until the kitchen opens. David's first 2 drinks: Sangrita, on draft (Corralejo Silver tequila, ginger, lime, orange, chili, passionfruit & tarragon) & Bourbon Old Fashioned Sweet (cherry, orange, Angostura bitters, simple syrup, lemon sparkling),while mine were, the Rotating Draft Cocktail, not sure it was named (Lush Impassioned Passion Fruit & Lychee vodka, strawberry? lemon cordial {our server had a heavy accent so I couldn't tell what she said exactly}, sparkling lemon & grapefruit juices) & When Are You Moving? (MMSB Limousin rye, Laird's applejack, house-made apple lemongrass cordial, honey, lemon, five spice sugar rim). 
We always like to begin with SEX BISQUITS (cultured butter, garlic honey). This heavenly delight was followed by: Smoked Whitefish Spread (creme fraiche, horseradish, toast), Foie Gras Torchon (pain perdu, port wine blueberry preserves, ice wine verjus), & Delicata Squash (chèvre, pumpkin seed, pickled chilies, mint, sweet & spicy vinaigrette). 
And that food was followed by more food...Coconut Squash (coconut crusted acorn squash, gochujang aioli, lime), Crespelle (chive crepe, Roth Kase gruyere, caramelized onion, French onion broth), & Carbonara (bacon, egg yolk, pepper, parmesan). David ordered a Blinker (Limousin rye single barrel, raspberry shrub, grapefruit, Bittercube Jamaican #2). 
And the final savory dish, Kielbasa (fuczki {Polish sauerkraut pancakes}, empire & golden russet applesauce, crispy sunchoke, sour cream). And of course...a Skillet Cookie (rye chocolate chip, brown sugar bourbon ice cream, butterscotch) with a shared Espresso Martini, on draft (State Line vodka, Kin Kin coffee liqueur, Nardini, Giffard orgeat, espresso, Regan's orange bitters). Mint Mark is delicious every time we go, which is why it's our favorite restaurant in town...& they were just nominated for a James Beard Award...they deserve to make it to the finals, as well as WIN. Barely on time to see A Christmas Carol at Capitol Theatre in Overture. We got the date wrong! We had tickets in the front row for the next night, but they could exchange them so we could stay & see the show...which we did, but then looked at the seating chart...David's finger is where this night's tickets would have us sitting & mine is our original tickets. You know how much I like the front row...we asked to get our tickets changed back & went home. 
Where 2 used pair of Fluevogs had come in the mail...those red ones were less than $100 on Poshmark...the other I found on Fluemarket. I saw this stunning pearl necklace online & saved the photo because it would be fairly easy to stunning would this look against a form fitting little black dress?! Another bargain from Poshmark...a NWT Traffic People skirt in a groovy 60s pattern. The next night, David made us spaghetti before we headed downtown to try again...
I wish they kept up these pretty sparkly lights year round, but we'll take advantage of them while they're there. Front row for A Christmas Carol...our first time seeing it. To be honest, our expectations were low since it was being put on by Children's Theatre of Madison...despite the fact they've been doing it for nearly 50 years. Why haven't we been going every time?! It was excellent. It was La Shawn Banks' 3rd or 4th time playing Scrooge & he brought that character to life. We've seen him in plays at APT & he has a great style. Fluefie from the front row (lots of fake snow on the floor). 
Christmas Day! We go overboard all year round buying ourselves & each other we said, one gift. David (I'm shocked) followed the rule we set & got me a specially made copper purse from's wonderful. I got David some socks from Pantherella & 2 vintage tie clips. Then...I made us breakfast...egg nog French toast with cinnamon swirl bread & bacon. This was spectacular. 
I take terrible videos...but here are 2 of our Christmas tree...

Some close-ups of ornaments I especially like...I've had that devil for decades, the bat we got at APT this past summer, & I was thrilled to find 2 things I love represented in sparkling glass...a Moscow Mule & a gramophone. 
That peacock is the Old World ornament that started it all back in the 90s. It was a gift from a nail client who collected Old World...I am forever grateful to her for bringing this beauty into my life. A Madison capitol building ornament I got at Little Luxuries over 20 years ago, an after Christmas last year acquisition from Sur la Table...pig parts, a basket of strawberries, & Christmas lasagna (I used to make 3 kinds of lasagna for Christmas dinner for years & years & have friends was a tradition that died with Covid). 
This Christmases dinner...roasted duck with sweet potatoes. I also wore this dress to get a lymphatic massage with Courtney, where I told her about a lump in my calf...she was worried it could be a blood clot & wouldn't work on me. So, I reluctantly took myself to urgent care where the nice receptionist told me they didn't have an ultrasound machine (sometimes it pays to blab on) I went to the ER. This was especially annoying as I had *just* been to see radiology the day before & I mentioned it to them...& the doctor told me I should go to urgent care & get an ultrasound if I was worried...he says with the ultrasound in his hand to look at my thighs.  Our healthcare system is so messed up. Luckily, thanks to talking, I told this story & got pushed through quicker than normal because the initial doctor I saw felt bad & told me he was sorry I got the runaround. I was really looking forward to going to Orange Tree Imports to get some sale ornaments (they aren't open the day after Christmas), but I spent the day in the hospital instead. I'm making it sound like not too big a deal...but just so you know, I cried & threw a fit about having to go to the ER. The next day...Orange Tree Imports Old World ornament shopping! These Coach duck boots David found me at Retique get worn nearly every day since it first snowed. 
David's first trip to Aldi...& my first since the 90s when I went with Brian a few times. I was looking for a special holiday sparkling water they had around Thanksgiving, Pumpkin Spice, but I waited too long. Back at home my first iridescent leopards dress arrived from Farm Rio...along with a vintage rhinestone belt I found on eBay. The colors in this dress are much more vibrant than the sweater dress version. But you already know...I found that one on a deep sale too, so I have both. 

Sunday, January 28, 2024

10 Day Staycation Begins // Amara // Thrifting // Tattoo

Dress: Little Seashell Maxi Dress by Spell via Nuuly
Tights: Snag
Shoes: ?, thrifted
Purse: Portland Leather
Earring: Wendy Baker
Necklace: The Embellishing Room
Bracelet: Vintage
Stats: 5'7" 38-32-42
This pretty dress was flowy, light, & easy to wear. In addition to seashells, pumpkins, & flowers...there is a border all around of mermaids on the bottom. I was confused by the pumpkins as they didn't seem to go with the water theme of this dress, but I like pumpkins & they definitely went with the warm orange & yellow fabric. There is a slip, but it is very short. My only complaint about this dress was it came to me super worn out & faded with a few tiny holes...I mostly wore this for errands & in dimly lit places as it wasn't nice enough for anything else. Too bad, I'm guessing this dress was spectacular earlier in its life. 

This dress would have been more at home with sandals...but this was December, albeit, a warm one. 

I found these shoes thrifting years ago at Savers. I stuck several pads on the heel, but even then, these shoes were huge on me. Another item for the donation bag. I will miss them. 
My make-up with this outfit included...Mildew eyeliner & eyeshadow by Urban Decay, KVD eyeshadow in Analogue & Legend, NYX lipliner in Pumpkin, Hypnotic Rust lipstick from Make Up For Ever, & OPI nail polish in A Woman's Prague-ative. 
I first wore this dress for a short day at work...the last day of work before we took 12 days off. We were ridiculously excited for a Staycation. I thrifted this coat for $15 & found $20 in the pocket. I finished work before David, so I ran some errands...Vinny's on the west side...I probably should have bought that bright Zuri dress, but I don't care for their tent like loose fit & can a white woman really wear those prints? But it was a $150 dress for $10...I could have experimented? 
Picking up pecans at Trader Joes. Yay! Reunited with Super Boo! We had late dinner reservations at a new to us restaurant, Amara. But first, selfies/usies in a little holiday decorated hut built for that purpose.
Walking by Anthropologie on our way to the restaurant...I had to try on some sale dresses. That black one was a size small, & the green was the same style in an extra small...both were huge...who would these look good on?! Arriving at Amara...they are owned by the same people as Lucille & Merchant. It's kind of puzzling why we'd never been here...but it's on the west side of town, so really only makes sense after work. 
Bad first impression, they were out of the ingredients to make their cocktail special that I ordered, Felix Felicis (State Line London dry gin, cream sherry, orange juice, ginger syrup, Peychaud's bitters)...& our waitress wouldn't tell us which ingredient it was...weird. Cream sherry? I mean, they are steps away from a grocery store, so what's up? Anyway, I had to go with a Pomegranate Holiday Smash (vodka, pomegranate & orange syrup, lemon juice, smoked cinnamon, mint, sugar rim) & David chose Christmas Punch (Tuscan red wine, Grand Marnier, gin, apple, cinnamon, rosemary). Both drinks were delightful. First up for food...Fried Baby Mozzarella (breaded & fried ciliegine, smoked chili & tomato sauce) & Angry Shrimp Spiedini (chili & garlic shrimp, marinated artichokes, salsa verde). 
Cocktail #2: for David, Italian Paloma (tequila, homemade pompelmocello, lime, blood orange soda), while I had a Honeycrisp & Cherry Mule (vodka, honeycrisp & tart cherry shrub, ginger beer). More food to share...Lasagna Fritto (fried lasagna skewers, Italian sausage, mozzarella, smoked chili & tomato sauce) & Calamari (lightly fried squid, peppercorn blend, pickled long hots, giardiniera aioli). This is now my favorite calamari in town. 
Third round of drinks: David chose a Cranberry Old Fashioned (bourbon, cranberry orange Demerara, Angostura bitters) & I picked Golden Twist (State Line London dry gin, Cynar, cinnamon syrup, cocoa bitters, absinthe). Finally, mains...for me, Porchetta (Heritage Farms pork shoulder wrapped in crispy skin pork belly, braised leeks, buttermilk cream, brussels sprouts salad, apple mostarda, chive oil) & David had Paccheri (shredded beef cheek ragu, tomato grodolce, breadcrumbs, SarVecchio). So. Much. Rich. Food. That brussels salad with mine was nice & vinegary, so it was essential with the fatty pork...& delicious. We thoroughly enjoyed this meal & immediately bought a bunch of gift certificates at Costco for when we come back...$75 for $100. We had already bought one to use on this dinner to see if we liked it. We liked it. 
Small haul from Vinny's...including 3 paisley silk ties for David. I am constantly at the hospital...once a week for an appointment with Interventional they can check my drains & put new ones in. I went to the beauty supply to get some things...I keep my license up just for this reason...1/2 price. 
Dinner...Cabbage & Kielbasa with Rye Croutons. A trip to Costco...they had this amazing set of zodiac sign glass bottles filled with was like something out of the 70s. And...another trip to the I said, I wore this dress mostly for errands.
On my way home, I made the excellent decision to stop at Vinny's on Willy St...just look at all that sparkle *swoon*...they had racks of it for NYE. 
I tried on other things too, including that vintage plaid wool skirt. 
My find of the day was the black sequin Betsey Johnson dress below. Oh! And a vintage burgundy trench coat. David made a beef roast for dinner & I roasted some potatoes. 
And...the final time I wore this dress was to get a lymphatic massage with Courtney...then a tattoo with Mar, but Mar texted me they had car issues & were running 30 minutes I bopped into Vinny's again where they were having 50% off all of the remaining NYE items...what?! 
Poor Mar, I was 20 minutes late for our appointment...but, shiny! 
Mar freehanded paisley patterns in all the blank spots on my right lower legs are completely filled & what?! Rose gold glitter heels & other fancy things. I wonder if they do this every year & I miss it completely...must stalk Vinny's next if I don't already.