Summertime Chi is busy. Everyone wants to find that friend of a friend who has a boat. And when that doesn’t happen, we turn our attention to rooftops and patios. So this year, I’ve decided to put a twist on dinner parties and create a patio party series.

Once or twice a month this summer, I’m taking my networking skills to my home and inviting people over for brunch or dinner. I start by reaching out to people I want to catch up with or meet IRL and invite them to come cook and dine at Windy City Cosmo’s patio.

I wanted to share with you my patio party series and hopefully you’ll find your own summer twist on dinner parties.

Windy City Cosmo Patio Party

Creating the Look:

You can have dinner anywhere – but I’m a settings person. I need the flowers, the candles, the comfort and the company. So far, I’ve had a brunch patio party and a dinner patio party.

For the dinner patio party, I brought out my Christmas white lights and strung them over my terrace. Then I picked up an Off! candle (or you can be fancy and make your own bug repelling candles). Add a lot of wine and it’s a perfect girl’s night.

For the brunch patio party, I woke up early and had a beautiful bouquet of purple roses from celebrity’s favorite florist, Ode á la Rose. There’s something about waking up to the smell of fresh roses that makes me smile. It was a hot day, but the flowers looked lavish in their signature box.

I added them to my patio table to brighten up the setting and add some plants to my concrete patio. I tried to grow my own rose garden (and only one rose grew last year), so I appreciated the help.

 

 

 

Cooking and Bonding:

Girl’s Dinner Party Edition:

It’s true that you bond when you cook together.

For the dinner party, I invited over Chicago food blogger and Time Out Chicago Tastemaker, Mary Mangia.  She’s like, “we’re making pasta.” We both split up the ingredients and bought them. It was cute because I’ve never actually cooked dinner with someone like this and I loved it. I bought fresh basil for the first time and it was just domestic af.

We opened the bottle of champagne and chopped and sautéed in my kitchen. As we let the sauce simmer and thicken, we went out on the patio and quickly realized that I didn’t own a wine opener. Mid-talk about someone’s bad date, I headed to Mariano’s to find the most complex wine-opener ever.

We ended the night learning more about each other’s careers, relationships, and how we really are just a bunch of pasta loving bitches. Case in point, we met up at Summer Truffle Festival at Eataly a few weeks later.

Can You Cut a Watermelon Edition:

Brunch is one of the best parts of Chicago summers. I use to have a designated brunch friend and every weekend we would travel throughout the city for gourmet French toast or savory chicken and waffles. But I was glad to make my go-to scrambled eggs with a side of asparagus (yes, for some reason I like this combo, Thank you Whole30), and sausage.

I’m not going to lie, I impulse bought a personalized watermelon and thought this was the opportune moment to bring it out. My friend and Instagrammer, Lee Lepe from Chicago Standard, came to my rescue and brought out his picnic skills by cutting the watermelon for me.

It was cute and we turned my basic breakfast into a lavish brunch fit for discussing when we were going to check out Happy Place (because we’re the only ones who haven’t jumped into the sunshine ball pit). We finished brunch and headed off on our next adventure – heading to Ulta to spray tan.

How to Host a Patio Party Without Cooking For Yourself Recap:

We’re in Chicago – we all don’t have rooftop pools, so the next best thing is patio parties. This is like the one time you can host from your studio apartment.

Make a list of people you want to get to know better or catch up between their Paris vacation (seriously who isn’t in France right now?).

Add some ambiance to your patio. If it’s a day party or brunch, I suggest flowers. For a dinner patio party, make sure to get some bug spray and either light up lanterns or string lights.

Don’t put all the pressure on yourself. Cooking can be very difficult. I get that you want to impress everyone, but it’s so much better when you invite Chicago foodie’s and add an activity to your dinner party. Cook the meal together – not by yourself – and make sure you have a wine opener.

Cheers to more patio parties and more connections in the city.

 

 

 

 

Amanda Elliott is a writer and speaker and a relationship builder. She believes that meeting people in person is important. After attending numerous fashion, startup, and creative events, she founded Windy City Cosmo is 2015 to help people make connections in the city as they build their businesses, start and end relationships and see and be seen. Over the past three years, the entrepreneurs she’s interviewed have become the most successful in Chicago and Windy City Cosmo won an award in 2017 for her work for female entrepreneurs.

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I Planned A Drake Themed Galentine’s Dinner Party In 5 Days And It Was Everything

Having dinner with girlfriends is the best. But add cake and Drake songs – it’s simply the perfect theme I could think of for hosting my first Galentine’s Day dinner in Chicago.

I love a good party (see here, here, and basically all of my Instagram stories). And the reasons why I love them is because they help you bond with people. This Galentine’s Day dinner party was no exception.

First, I’m going to walk you through how I planned the Drake Themed party in five days- from the Drake on a Cake to the location.

Then, I’ll share with you what we did at the party.

How We Got to Drake on a Cake Galentine’s Theme:

The theme was Drake on a Cake. How did we get here? It all started with Chicago Restaurant Week and God’s Plan.

I was having a late lunch, which turned into early cocktails with a few fab Chicago lifestyle and food bloggers.  Drake had just released the song, God’s Plan, and we started talking about the lyrics which led our Instagram-obsessed selves to Drake on the Cake Instagram account.

 

Nicole Triebe from Windy City Dinner Fairy at Restaurant Week. Photo by: The Brazen Gourmand

 

During the lunch, I met the infamous Nicole Triebe, Founder of  Windy City Dinner Fairy, who I had followed on Instagram, but we’d never met in person. And, I’m going to tell you, meeting in person is so important. 

The day we met for Chicago Restaurant Week was also the day I started to promote my new relationship podcast, Ok Cool. We started talking about dating stories in Chicago and we were swapping our worst date stories.

Drake + Good Lobster Rolls + Bad Dates = BFFS

 

After a few laughs, some mussels, and some good cider, I had to interview Nicole about Windy City Dinner Fairy for my blog. So, we set up a date to make a Drake on a Cake and learn more about how she started baking and cooking.

The Drake on a Cake: Making the Cake:

About a week later, what was just girl talk, turned into baking the Drake on a Cake. I started my afternoon with Nicole from Windy City Dinner Fairy with a bottle of champagne. She already had the eggs and some ingredients on the table. Without a recipe, she swirled the batter and tossed in the ingredients to make a double chocolate Drake on a Cake.

 

Baking a Cake with Windy City Dinner Fairy.

 

Meet The Girlboss Behind Windy City Dinner Fairy:

While her cake smelled sweet, her story of becoming a girl boss was about a 15-year long road. See, Nicole always knew what she was good at, but it took time to develop her skills and her clientele. She was working a full-time job as a Paralegal when she started her creative, custom dessert catering company, Windy City Dinner Fairy. She was catering with a friend and made pastries for a coffee shop. And then on her own, Nicole was hired as a personal chef for three CrossFitters. It was when she made cupcakes for a wedding that she realized that this was what she wanted to do. She switched jobs to be an Assistant Underwriter at an insurance company and still kept making cakes and food on the side. Her business had expanded throughout the Chicagoland area. After working two jobs, which she didn’t like very much, she was ready to incorporate her side hustle on her 35th birthday – December 1, 2017.

 

The cakes were cooling, and it was time to pop the champagne. After hearing her story, we brainstormed the best Drake lyrics. Ultimately, we went with “You The F*ckin Best.” Windy City Dinner Fairy then made then made a “You The F*ckin Best”  playlist as she finished icing the cake, and I finished the champagne. I knew that those weren’t just empty words on a cake – she really is the f*ckin best for quitting her job and making her side hustle her business.

 

We Chose the Drake lyrics “You The F*ckin Best” for The Galentine’s Day Cake. 

 

P.S. if you need a visual of what it was like to bake with Nicole, you can watch her in action with Glossed and Found, an online video magazine making a hydrangea cupcake bouquet for Valentine’s Day.

The Galentine’s Day Invites:

One Party Can Lead To Another if you just believe. Chicago influencers from Chicagogrammers came to the Drake on a Cake Galentine’s Day Party. 

I think the only thing to do with a cake is to have a party. So, I went to the monthly Chicagogrammer’s happy hour with 30 other Instagrammers on Wednesday, February 7, 2018.

Some of them had seen my Instagram stories and asked me what Drake on a Cake was.  After Chicago bloggers and influencers Alyssa Erickson from Doughscuit, Allie Barke from Alliesfashionalley, and Katie Cahnmann from Appetite_4_Adventure were interested – I decided it was for a party.

A handful of people were going to the Chicago Pizza Party like Allie Bahcall from Bahcallmemaybe, who works for Yelp and the other half had no plans –  so we choose Saturday night.

I literally met new people that night like Ratanya Bowens and said, “Hi, I’m Amanda, what are you doing Saturday night?” With the blizzard coming on Friday, I knew the more invites the merrier.

So, I had a cake. I had people. Now, I just needed a time and a place. Three days till the party.

The Place to Host a Dinner Party:

Dinner parties are my favorite thing. I realized that I’m still an aspiring cook and so I appreciate the many wonderful chefs in Chicago who introduce me to new foods and flavors.

 

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We had the Galentine’s Party at Urbanbelly in Wicker Park. We had a big table to the side with a green wall in the backdrop for the semi-private dinner party.

 

I went out the next day to a handful of restaurants in Wicker Park and talked to the managers about hosting the dinner party. All three of them were great spots – Bru Chicago, Piece Brewery and Pizza, and Urbanbelly. 

 

I knew I wanted a semi-private event space where I could set up some type of decor. I ultimately chose Urbanbelly because they had this beautiful green backdrop and a nice table space with a corner area for us to drop our coats and purses and do what girls do best – relax and talk. Plus, the manager, Elizabeth was so nice.

The Decor:

If ever there was a time for a Target Run – it’s for a party. Target has really cute decor for $1 or $3. I picked up some cards, balloons, some pens and stickers, and a few photobooth props.

 

Appetite 4 Adventure and AlliesFashionAlley were some of the Chicago bloggers at the Drake dinner party. 

 

Plus I got some champagne gum as a palate gum. It made a great conversation piece.

The Night of The Drake on a Cake Dinner Party:

Let me just say, I loved everything about this party. Urbanbelly in Wicker Park had the table reserved for us with water and chopsticks already on the table.

We all decided on which Ramen and dumplings to order – don’t forget the dumplings. They are small, but flavorful. I got the beef and cheddar and the chicken curry. They were so good! And then I ordered togarashi fries for the table. Which were perfect in between good, spicy bites of my chicken ramen.

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Last night was messy, funny, and as real as a Drake song makes me feel. My dreams came true – I threw a Drake themed dinner party for Galentines Day. We made Valentine’s Day cards from Drake lyrics and had a Drake on a Cake. I went to a few restaurants to host the party and @urbanbellychicago was wonderful and made us feel special. After ramen, some dumplings and piña coladas, the manager brought us amazing ice cream shots and pb&j ice cream – soft serve with crunchy peanut butter and huckleberry jelly that even @seriouseats recognized as some of the best ice cream in Chicago. The food was amazing! And I had never been there before. Getting a card written from Drake lyrics made us all laugh and most of all I had amazing company. Cheers to week of love and laughter 🥂

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I had never been to Urbanbelly before – but everything was good and everyone loved it. I learned that the master chef is renowned Chicago chef, Bill Kim, who has been awarded a Michelin Bib Gourmand and the StarChefs Rising Stars Award.

One of the best parts of Urbanbelly is their cocktails and desserts. Seriously these can be extras and often overlooked when having a big bowl of ramen. But, we had to try. They have house-made signature cocktails including a new pina colada inspired cocktail. I went for the cider.

Making Valentine’s Day Cards From Drake Lyrics:

After we shared dating stories and caught up on life. I had everyone put their name in Valentine’s Day bag. We all wrote out Valentine’s Day cards to each other using Drake lyrics. I think this was one of my favorite parts of the night!

 

We pulled names from the Valentine’s Day bag to write personalized notes using Drake lyrics. 

 

The best Valentine’s Day card made via Drake Lyrics was:

Katie,

Tonight was your night. Go get you some lobsters and shrimp.

You smart and you know it. I get it. I get it. You outdo those pimps.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Love,

Sam

I mean Drake lyrics written as a card had us all laughing.

The next part was dessert. The manager surprised us and brought us some of Urbanbelly’s dessert to try and it was seriously amazing. If you only have room for one dessert – order the shake shot. I was confused when they put a mason jar filled with soft serve and shot glasses on the table – but taking a shot of ice cream is now one of my favorite shots. UrbanBelly’s shake shot has vanilla soft serve, Vietnamese iced coffee & chocolate crisp on top.

 

After Ramen, we took cake shots – which are just as amazing as they sound. 

 

I’ve never tasted peanut butter and jelly in ice cream form – but it was better than the sandwich. They take crunchy peanut butter and mix it with berry compote into the vanilla soft serve. Then, we also sampled the soy caramel soft serve.

Finally, it was time for the cake behind the party – Drake on a Cake. Urbanbelly cut the double chocolate cake and served us. The homemade frosting was so good!

Happy Galentine’s Day:

Our bellies were full and my heart was filled with joy. I’ve always wanted to throw something ridiculous like a Different rake on a Cake party. Celebrities have been my muse for several parties. For my 25th birthday, I threw a 1989 Taylor Swift party and we shut down the bar to make a music video to Shake it Off.

 

We finally got to eat the Drake on a Cake. 

 

So, that’s how you throw a party in five days. Hope you have a great Galentine’s Day and thank you for reading Windy City Cosmo! Remember, you’re the f*ckin best.

Amanda Elliott is a writer and speaker and a relationship builder. She believes that meeting people in person is important. After attending numerous fashion, startup, and creative events, she founded Windy City Cosmo is 2015 to help people make connections in the city as they build their businesses, start and end relationships and see and be seen. Over the past three years, the entrepreneurs she’s interviewed have become the most successful in Chicago and Windy City Cosmo won an award in 2017 for her work for female entrepreneurs.

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