City Mouse, Mariage Freres & the Merida Candle

eyesFirst off, thank you all SO much for stumbling along with me last week – I’m sorry I didn’t respond to your lovely comments but I leapt into mah vee-hickle to get to Chicago….

…and therein lies a tale..

So..I go pick up my lovely friend E, who’d flown in from Toronto…she’d done the Downtown Thing I decided to drag her through a couple of neighborhoods.   Chicago is like most cities – the tourist part is fab – but if you know them, the neighborhoods can be way fabber!  Lincoln Square, home of the original Merz Apothecary ..Merrrz.  First thing you need to know about Merz:  go in with  a voided bladder because they have about 300 bazillion fabulous homeopathic treatments,  beauty and fragrance items to explore –  and they do not have a public bathroom.   So armed  (or disarmed) thusly, we entered into the 138-yr old World of Merz.  Three Hours Later:  we groaned out of there, laden with beautifully scented Eiwit Zeep…and the not-so-beautifully scented (but ever so effective) Cuticura, for my menopausal face.  I suspect we could’ve spent even more time there but parathas awaited!

So it was off to Devon Avenue.  I rarely drive to Chicago, so getting to the neighborhoods for groceries essential to my wellbeing is a bit of a challenge.  So you just KNOW I lost mah nachul MIND..took the cooler and loaded up on parathas, curry leaves, ginger/garlic sauce – and E gave me some tips on how to cook new stuff(for me), like bitter melon – her bff is Tamil so I’m all up in her cooking bidness!  But first, I have to go burn a paratha.  I loveloveLOVE parathas.  It’s what I really want to do to a croissant, but haven’t the nerve!

Saree!  So….3  Queens Walk Into a Sari Palace.  Only in The Neighborhoods.  I love sari material.  In LA, Miss Portia Turbo ROCKED a sari coat…so I was inspired….we’re in this fabric shop on Devon…and suddenly the International Drag Queen contingent walzes in…Black, Asian, Hispanic – I am not joking – it really was like that old chestnut.  And totally, totally dragalicious!  Interesting cultural clash.  The ladies at the fabric store were fine with them being drag queens – but what they couldn’t wrap their heads around was the mixing of gender fashions (the men’s mojaris with a sari…omg! the look on the lady’s face..) …and the notion of adding a veil to a non-bridal sari was mystifying to them.  I’m probably going straight to PC Hell but I gotta say, it was a hoot watching these ‘more girls than girls are’ trying to explain what they wanted to achieve to these women for whom this is everyday, workaday gender-specific wear.  The sari lady did show them how to properly wrap a sari, though…and then it was AWN!  We were treated to a swirling, twirling fashion show of fuchsia and turquoise silk and lawn!  They whirled off to match size 12 mojaris  and I silently thanked Floyd for The Neighborhoods!

I wasn’t nearly as fabulous of course, though I did get some fabulous material, royal blue, with gold elephants, for $10.  Portia! Hellllp!

Tea and chow:  E is a foodie – not in a pretentious way.  She has a genuine love of well-prepared food, whether it’s a burger or haute cuisine.  I love eating with folks who love to eat good food – they inspire me to not lapse back into my regular chow.  E and I went to Salpicon, where I so desperately wanted the squash blossoms, which are just coming into season – but I didn’t know if she would…ha!  HA! Those squash blossoms came, stuffed with epazote and goat cheese and we fell on them like starving wolverines!  So you just know I’m going to yank some blossoms out of my garden and stuff the livin’ daylights out of them, right?  Of course!  The mole is another thing altogether.  I think I’ll leave that to Chef Priscilla – her mole poblano is the stuff of dreams!  And I am a lazy dog.   Oooh!  Before we greased at Salpicon, we walked over to this cute little tea shop, Porte Rouge.  For you tea junkies, this is a little slice of heaven.  Mariage Freres by the bagsful, Kusmi tea (I have no idea if the BB Detox works but it smells so damn PRETTY, just smelling it detoxes my Very Last Nerve)… I’m not a tea connoisseur (hey!  I spelled that right on the first try!) but I think I sort of ‘get’ it now…sort of.


Oooh!  Can’t leave without telling you about the Merida candle, Carlos Huber’s collaboration with Cire Trudon.  My wonky sinuses say ‘oh, HELLZ naw’ to the average candle and I admit to not having been a huge fan of Cire Trudon…until Merida.  It’s guava – but it’s the flipside of Calyx, which is my barometer for All Scents Guava.  In Merida, the entire tree is incorporated in the scent, with notes of cinnamon and mahogany – where Calyx is sparkling, Merida candle is lush and sensuous.  It’s supposed to evoke a scent memory of the Empress Carlota, upon a visit to Yucatan.  I can definitely smell the connection, with the lush ripeness balanced by the strong woods.   Andy, my stalwart Barneys SA, was stunned to find that he liked it as well; he’s got even worse sinuses than I do!  And …oooh!  OOOH!  when I get my nose mojo back, I’ll tell you all about the new Le Labo Lys 41. I admit to having little truck with the Labo schtick – but I am willing to get over it, just for this sparkling beauty.

But that tale is for another time!


And thanks for hanging with me, as I fight my way through crop dusting time.  My eyes are like boiled eggs and my nose…oh, Itchy McItcherson!  Perfume is torture right now, which is why you get the travelogues!  It’ll get better soon, I promise!

theperfumeddandy August 1, 2013

Dear Posse Merrrz sounds amazing. Reading a little piece of love like this makes one want to go and appreciate on's own city's treasures a little more. Time to take a trip to London's old apothecaries I think and for that and sharing your journey I thank you. Yours ever The Perfumed Dandy

maggiecat July 31, 2013

Now I want someone to organize a field trip to Chicago - where I was born, but since we left for Florida when I was 8, I didn't get a chance to really discover what the city had to offer! It's unbearably hot here in Dallas, and I've taught all summer, and didn't go anywhere except for a few days to a conference a few hours away, and I need a vacation and...sorry, let me go get some cheese and crackers to go with this whine...back now. Anyway, someday, somehow I want to go on a trip with some of you. So there.

Jennifer Counts July 31, 2013

I've never been to Chicago but everyone I know who has been there talks about how awesome it is. Your trip sounds like so much fun. Your sari shop experience sounds pretty

mim666 July 31, 2013

Bitter melon! please tell me how to do this if you know.... Just made some Indian food this weekend, finished the last bit of huge pot of curry yesterday...favorite part was making buttery-but-light saffron tuiles. very saffronny. Need more saffron now. Sounds like a blast, neighborhoods are great...have only been to Chicago once and then only downtown and where friend lived. Should go explore my own neighborhoods...

Jessie Bryant July 31, 2013

I love your story. I also went to Chicago few years ago. I had so many memorable moments there. BTW, I also love Merida! :-)

eatigs July 31, 2013

I'm relieved you didn't include how many times E went to the bathroom at Salpicon. Hehe. Wasn't that waiter the most lovely man? Thank you, thank you, sweetheart, for hearing my plaintive cries, and using all that petrol and psychic energy to haul my burnt butt all over your most beautiful of cities. I will be forever grateful. Work was nutty when I returned, but that story you told me on Tuesday night (and the way you told it) will sustain me for weeks - I haven't laughed so hard in a very long time. And after this post, I want to pan-fry croissants! What fun to have such multi-sensory memories of a wonderful trip: the blazing colours of "my" Toulouse Lauctrec at the Art Institute, the breeze on the boat and the lather of eggwhite soap, the squash blossoms and your pork tacos and the liver mousse at Schaefer's and my roasted brussels, my joy at finding grapefruit Steigl, the decadence and the langour of the Merida and you working the Lys 41 and that Tom Ford lipstick (man, you ROCKED that lippie), the heart-breaking waft of apricot and marigold when I cracked my MF Bolero tin last night. Thank you, again.

rosiegreen62 July 31, 2013

I love to share your adventures through the blog. I am sending you good vibes to survive through 'crop dusting season' its one of the worst times of the year for allergens. Cheers, Rosie

Portia July 31, 2013

YAY!! More FABRIC! Did the coat fit? Can you have it copied? Also, have you tried Harney & Sons teas? They are FAB U LOUS!! Portia xx

rosarita July 31, 2013

Oh, Ms A, I love to read whatever you feel like writing: Chicago adventures and general travelogues, chicken tales and garden trevails. You have a gift. I want to go everywhere, esp. the sari shop - it's cool and rainy and dark today, and I can almost see and feel that glorious fabric. And Cuticura soap! Is it still that dark blue gray color? I remember it clearly from childhood; first my older sister used it and we used to carve things out of the soap bar for the Barbies (little chairs & stuff) then I used it myself through my teens. I would recognize that smell in a heartbeat.

Ann July 31, 2013

What a great post, darling! So glad you had such a fab time with your friend. You definitely deserved it after the bumpy road you've been down. I want to go 'sploring more in Chi-town one day as well (if you could ever get me out of Barney's, that is, ha!). Hugs to you ...

Ramona July 31, 2013

Lovely post and as I am headed to Chicago in October, I will make sure to take a peek in Merz- just followed the link in the post and found out it is only about 10-15 away from where I will be staying. This could be an all day event! Thanks Musette =)

Martha July 31, 2013

Loved the travelogue. I am a mere 8 hour drive from Chicago and would like to know where you went to get the sari material. Your day out with your friend made me long for a trip to Chicago with a fun girlfriend.

patriciaC July 31, 2013

I would like to have been with you sounds like so much fun!

jilliecat July 31, 2013

Musette, you have brightened up a very dull and dreary day with technicolour images of the swirling fabrics in the sari shop - how beautiful. And I could almost smell the teas and the candle. Do you know, I seem to remember that many, many years ago Prescriptives actually sold a Calyx candle .... I never got one, but I reckon that it would have been good. Hope your nose starts behaving soon.

Lavanya July 31, 2013

Loved your previous post (and this one too)..I was especially interested by your mention of Anitra Earle and proceeded to spend the evening googling her..As of 2005 she stills seems to be perfume 'detecting'..:) Sari coats-oooh! I am tempted to covert a couple of my saris to coats now (I've been contemplating bags, cushion covers and skirts but a coat sounds NICE)

Lynley July 31, 2013

- and fabulouser (yep that's a word ;-) ) stories :-)

Lynley July 31, 2013

Oh Musette. How I thank you. I'm having a crap day in a very crap week and don't know if I want to cry or kick someone, but what a ray of sunshine you are :-) you never fail to cheer me up. You're a blog angel. I don't know you but wish I did. Thankyou for you're fabulous sense of humour

Lizzy July 31, 2013

Oh, Mariage Freres and Kusmi teas--HEAVEN!! If only I could wear MF Marco Polo or Eros, or Kusmi's Prince Vladimir or Label Imperial :)