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Saturday, November 21, 2009

More than just a deli

One of my favorite aspects of city living is having an abundance of small grocers (and specialty food shops) as close (or closer) than super-stores.  Conte Di Savoia, an Italian deli on Taylor Street, has been the grocer of choice for my Italian side practically since my great-grandparents landed in the US.

Conte Di Savoia is one of those magical places that is much bigger on the inside than it appears from the outside.  For instance, they have nearly an entire aisle of imported olive oil:

They also carry specialty ingredients, and Italian treats, like cannoli shells, anise rosettes, lady fingers and Ciao Bella gelato.  And then there's the Italian butter cookies and fine chocolates and biscotti and dried pastas... 

Besides serving up the best Italian subs in Chicago, their deli is stocked with amazing cappocollo, mortadella, pastrami, several kinds of salami and an ever-changing array of imported cheeses.

While all of that certainly makes Conte Di Savoia a destination, what keeps it on my weekly circuit of grocers-to-visit is their store product line of freshly made sauces, filled pastas, and jarred spreads.  Their house lupini are perfect - just the right amount of saltiness.  Their pepper spread is not for the faint of heart (or heat) - I recommend sticking to the medium if you are putting it on a hot dog or beef sandwich  (their hot variety should be reserved as an ingredient for stews, soups and sauces because full-strength could burn a hole in your tongue).  And their sauces... well, I rarely make my own any longer because Conte's are Just. That. Good.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

'Tis the season for tights

Even though I turn 39 in a few weeks 11 days, my inner Punky Brewster still gets a little silly for funky socks.  And while I hope bejeweled vests stay put in the past, the revival of '90s style opaque tights makes it a lot easier to dress up for a Chicago winter.

StockinGirl has it all: houndstooth tights (only the socks are shown in photos), paisley thigh highs, even winter weight opaque cotton tights in fabulous colors.

What I really love for winter is their selection of wool tights.  Yes - you read that right: wool tights.  If you live south of I-80, you might not understand the need, but us northerners need to protect ourselves from the elements!

The wool tights come in 3 varieties.  The first pair are non-textured:

Next up are the ribbed tights:

And finally a cabled version:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Airy Earth

Up In The Air Somewhere is a great name for Susan Dwyer's website as she takes heavy earth, in the forms of clay and wood (paper), and makes them light.  I love her work so much it was very difficult for me to choose only two items to highlight.

Her hand-crafted papier-mâché bowls have a gold-leafed interior.  Oh, they give off such warmth!  Can't you see them filled with ribbon candy and sitting on a holiday table?

And her factory-shaped trinket boxes - Oh My!  I'm thinking that perhaps one could stuff the smokestacks with dried flowers and keep potpourri in the bottom.  Or use the stacks for bracelets and keep other bits of jewelry inside.  The striped one could be a sugar bowl, with the spoons kept in the silo.  I could on (and on), but instead I recommend that you click the link, check out Susan's wares, and be inspired all on your own.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Delish Dolls

As a little girl, I was somewhat obsessed with Colleen Moore's Fairy Castle at the Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago.  I even had a large hardbound book, filled with detailed macro photography, that spoke to the history of many pieces in the castle, and how Ms. Moore came to possess them.

My love of the Fairy Castle comes from  my love of intricate details that take focus to achieve, and a lot of soul to envision.  It is for those reasons that I also adore Spookbot Dolls by Lori.  Her dolls are the sort that inspire a girl to make wee little furniture.  I'm sure you know someone who would love to give these a home:

Oh - I can totally see my nine year old self spending rainy Saturdays making a Fimo playhouse for the sweetie on the top.  And the gal below has zombies to fight, dontcha know?  Or maybe I'm just partial to handmade dolls that don't already come with someone else's story... :-P.

Because I said so

In order to have a place to share the really good stuff I've come across, I decided to create With A Side Of Awesomesauce.

I enjoy the good life - on a budget.  I'm always suspicious, and sometimes resentful, of spending money.  I think it is why I avoid mass-market products: the chances of being disappointed about the quality seem much greater than when purchasing from artisans and local businesses.  That's not to say that all widely available goods are crap - I'll be featuring a few of them here I'm sure - but that I tend to be happier with my purchases from "little guys".

In our current economy, I think supporting artisans and local businesses is more important than ever.  When we buy cheap imported goods, we don't just put Americans out of work - we also send those profits overseas.  When we buy from our neighbor, our neighbor can then buy from us, and we keep our resources within our communities.

These days, there's a lot out there to choose from... but that can make it overwhelming, especially when considering a purchase from an unknown entity.  I understand the thinking that at least one knows what one is getting from a mass-produced product, including where the quality is likely to suffer.

With A Side Of Awesomesauce is here to offer reviews of the really good stuff.  Please feel free to offer suggestions in comments!