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!

  • 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 says:

    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.

    • Musette says:

      We may do another event in Chicago sometime – let’s hope the weather cooperates. Last weekend was perfect Summer weather, then it turned into October. Now it’s thinking June….weird!


    • Diana says:

      I’d second that idea for a Chicago trip. I moved from NC to the northern suburbs of Chicago in Feb 2013 but have been to the city exactly once for a 4 hr work function. I don’t know anyone to show me around and I don’t want to wander blindly, so waiting to find some type of tour that caters to those who love perfume, tea, ethnic foods, etc… I’ve only seen historical tours thus far.

  • 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 says:

    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…

  • 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 says:

    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.

    • Musette says:

      Oh, my dearest – you made that trip SO worth it! OMG! I forgot ALL about the bathroom! LOL! You peed about 32lebentybillion times!

      I had such a wonderful time with you!


  • rosiegreen62 says:

    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 says:

    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

    • Musette says:

      The coat is so stunning I can’t breathe, for the beauty of it!

      Harney & Sons? Must let Ann know. I’m lucky to make Constant Comment! oh, and Hibiscus, for iced. And peppermint for allergies. But that’s about it. I am a teaphilistine. There. I said it.



      • Ann says:

        Oooh — thanks! I have only tried one or two of the Harney teas (the little store near me that carried it went out of business — boo-hoo), but must sample more.

  • rosarita says:

    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.

    • Musette says:

      hi, babydoll!!! I was hoping to see you on here! We’re having the same gray weather – greasy drizzle…did I sleep through the rest of summer? Is it October? I’m in a freaking JACKET!

      Cuticura is PERSACKLY the same. And the minute I took it out of the box, the smell!…….right back to my teens.

      Come to Chicago. You’re just around the corner. I’ll meet you!


  • Ann says:

    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 …

    • Musette says:

      Ann, the first thing I said to Erin, when we were in Porte Rouge: “omg. I would NEVER get Ann out of here! LOL!” Mariage Freres for dayz, bay-bee! And you would love Merz!


  • Ramona says:

    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 =)

    • Musette says:

      Merz is a must-do! It’s easy to park, if you are driving. If you aren’t, the El stops right there! If you’re going downtown, be sure to see Andy at Barneys – let him know I (Anita) sent you – he’ll hook you UP!


  • Martha says:

    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.

    • Musette says:

      Devon Avenue is the hub of Little India (Devon is the E/W street, Western is the N/S) – west of Western has the bigger shops and the two giant grocers. East of Western are smaller shops with more ‘American’ shops interspersed. That would be a fun trip!


  • patriciaC says:

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

    • Musette says:

      It was a blast! And you would’ve been welcome (E was soooo gracious, as I slooooooowly made my way through the grocer’s. Lemmetellya…Wyoming does NOT have a huge Indian contingent, though our new grocer is Pakistani – hmmmmmI wonder if I can get him to order parathas and bitter melon….

      • patriciaC says:

        oooooh worth a try i’d say-I would have been a giggling mess if i was their with you!

  • jilliecat says:

    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 says:

    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)

    • jilliecat says:

      Lavanya, I just had to tell you that I love your name! It was my much loved grannie’s middle name, and it is very rare – I’ve never known anyone else called this, although I did find a species of rose named Lavinia, and I now grow a little shrub of this in her memory.

      • Musette says:

        it is a lovely name! and Lavanya, go back and check out the LA Scentsation recap. You’ll see Portia’s astonishing coat, which started it all! You can also check it out on the Posse FB page.

      • Lavanya says:

        Thanks Jillie..that’s so sweet that you grow the rose shrub in your granny’s memory..*hugs*

        Musette- I went back to the post and saw the lovely coat (the peachy pink one correct?)..Now I need to find somebody to make one for me..:)

  • Lynley says:

    – and fabulouser (yep that’s a word 😉 ) stories 🙂

    • Musette says:

      Since the strangest things seem to either happen to or around me, I’m sure I’ll continue to have a repository of wackadoos for y’all! xoxoA

      ps. you ‘do’ know me. this? this is Pretty Much Me.

  • Lynley says:

    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

    • Musette says:

      Oh, my poor dear! I’m so sorry to hear you’re having such a rough time – I know those times and I wish I didn’t. SO glad I can be a little ray of sunshine (again, I KNOW those times and hon, those rays do help, don’t they!).

      Sending you hugs and best wishes! Things will calm down soonest. They did for me. They will for you, too!


  • Lizzy says:

    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 🙂