Family, Friends, and an Evening with Tony Bennett!!

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This past Saturday our family and friends joined together again for our annual trek to Ravinia Festival, for the Tony Bennett concert.

Ravinia is one of the oldest outdoor music festival’s located in Highland Pk. The venue is a gorgeous park like setting with old trees, a sprawling open lawn area, an open air pavilion where Tony Bennett actually performs. Scattered along the grounds there are wine bars, espresso bars, ice cream stands, food areas where you can pick up some gourmet treats and baked goods, and even a sit down restaurant.

If you live in the Chicagoland area and haven’t been to Ravinia, you are missing out on one of the best times!! You just have to go! I repeat!….”Go to Ravinia!” Stealing a quote from my son, “It’s just not summer unless we go to Ravinia at least once!” And it’s so true!

The whole thing about Ravinia is the picnicking that takes place on the lawn. Yes, the lawn seating is the best! But there’s a strategy to it, you have to claim your spot quickly,you must have all your plans thought out ahead of time. And when the gates open, send in your best runners to claim your spot, all you have to do is lay out your tarps and mats, and then the fun begins. We have our “secret ways” and it works every time! Did you check out the crowd?
As far as the picnic fare, you will see a whole spectrum of things, humble eating straight from a pizza takeout box, to a turkey dinner on china with candelabras. It’s fun to walk around and see the different picnic’s going on, We actually saw a small wedding reception picnic there with the bride still in her wedding gown.

This is the Pavilion where the artists perform, it’s open, and there is seating for 3200 people, but you will pay at least $75.oo per ticket. Lawn seats are $15.00 per person and you will hear Tony being piped out from all the speakers they have set up in the trees. We always manage to get near the stage where the sound is great and if we want too, we can walk up to the fence and take a look at Tony performing. Many times you will see couples dancing on the lawn.

By the way, can I just say that Tony Bennett still sounds amazing! You’d never know he was in his 80’s! He’s as sharp as a whistle, and doesn’t miss a beat! He talks to his audience, and makes sure he plays all there favorite songs. Needless to say, “Chicago” was sung!

For our group of 14, we had 3 tables that we put together to make a buffet. We had a separate table that was for our beverages where homemade Sangria was made. The gates opened at 5:00 and Tony performed at 7:30, so we had 2 1/2 hours of ” grazing” before the concert started. Everyone all chipped in a brought something! The only thing we ever buy is coffee at dessert time.
For Appetizers we had:
Brie and fig, Goat cheese with Lavender, Spinach and Artichoke Dip, Olive Salad Dip, Salsa and Chips, Feta Dip, Baba Ganoush, Hummus, and Pita Chips.

Main Courses:
Chicken Kabobs, Falafel, Spinach and Artichoke Quiche, Mini Prosciutto and fresh Mozzarella sandwiches, Breaded Chicken Fingers, Tortellini Pasta Salad skewer’s, Spicy Capicola and Mozzerella skewer’s, Mini Pizza’s of Caprese, and a Gorgonzola and Artichoke one, Stuffed Tomatoes, Roasted Veggies, Cucumber Salad, and, an assortment of Olives.

This is my son Tony, going in for the desserts which consisted of:
Chocolate Dipped Strawberries, Oreo Truffles, Mini Cheesecakes, 2 kinds of Brownies, Banana Bread, Lemon bars, and 2 different Fruit Kabobs!

It truly was a great evening had by all! Thanks everyone!

This is something I made which is great for a party, sort of a deconstructed pasta salad. In this case it is pre-cooked Tortellini that was marinaded with lemon and olive oil for 30 min’s, then skewered with fresh basil, sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and fresh mozzarella. Grate some fresh cheese over top. Mmmm!!

And finally, I just want to mention that this post makes it my 100th post!! Woo Hoo, I finally did it!
Buon Appetito Everyone!!
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  1. How did you get all that food there? That looks amazing!!!

  2. What a fun family outing you had, Marie. It reminds me of the annual jazz festival at SPAC (Saratoga Performing Arts Center) here in New York which we have been going to for more than 25 years. We pack up lots of food and drinks and meet up with friends we only see there once a year. It really kicks off our summer season. Your array of food looks beautiful. I especially like the idea of the tortellini skewers — very creative!

    And I’ll take Tony anytime — he’s a national treasure!

  3. What a wonderful menu and outing!!!
    I love the deconstructed pasta salad.
    We saw Tony Bennett live several years ago at The Performing Arts Center here in Nashville. Came out and sang Fly Me to the Moon a capella.
    People were standing up by the time he sang “me!”

  4. Marie,
    Your tailgate party looks awesome!!
    Nice presentation! Love the menu, and homemade sangria??? yummy!
    I make skewers with grilled artichokes, roasted tomatoes, bocconcini and basil, I think I will add a tortellini the next time! what a great idea!
    Happy 100th. You have had some celebrating lately!
    Regards, Stacey Snacks

  5. That looks like fun! That skewer looks so good!

  6. Wow! That sounds like one fantastic day! The food alone would have been enough to get me there. But, Tony Bennett too? Woohoo!

  7. Sara, Lots of coolers!!

    Barbara, Tony’s great isn’t he?

    Mary, He’s such a class act, to this day!

    Stacey, My daughter made the Sangria, it was Yummm!

    Kevin, It was total fun!

    Susan, We look forward to it every year, and plan way in advance. We all love Tony Bennett!

  8. Wow, what an event. Let’s see .. great food and Tony Bennett… doesn’t get any better than that! The skewers you made are a great idea!

  9. What a great program. Good music and delicious food with friends around, perfect!

  10. Such an impressive spread! I just had to click on that first picture, enlarge it, and check out the beautiful presentation. Such great fun! When you talked about claiming your spot and sending in your best runners, it reminded me of our reenactments of the Oklahoma land run. I’m still wondering how you got that rug there …

  11. On top of all that, there were even flowers on the table. Such style – love it!

  12. I agree Elaine, It doesen’t get any better than that!

    Odete, It was!

    Michelle, The rug is actually an outdoor mat, it is made for the out doors,it has a light plastic coating, it can be rinsed and wiped off easily, under that we have a huge tarp, both are very lightweight and fold up small. We use to carry in all different blankets which were heavy and hard to transport. When I found this mat it was the best solution, and it looks nice too with it’s flower design.I consider it one of my best finds! lol!

    Sally, People bring in all kinds of flowers,I’ve seen a huge bouquet of Hydranga’s from someones garden, just beautiful! They do add a nice touch, don’t they.

  13. When I was growing up, we’d go to the Tanglewood Festival in the Berkshires of Massachusetts at least once a summer, and the set-up was the same – and the pre-concert feast was a great part of the fun!

    And oh, I LOVE Tony Bennett! It sounds like such a wonderful evening.

  14. What a stylish spread. Doing this at Ravinia is an art form. I havent been in a few years. CS and just havent gotten it together yet!

  15. Your group of friends and familywas probably the envy of everyone around withing a mile radius with that spread:D

  16. Congrats on your 100th post! I love your blog!

    Wow, what a spread! Can I be invited next year?:)

  17. What a way to celebrate your 100th post!!!!! The picnic is outstanding. Far from the normal BLT sandwiches and coffee…Brilliant!

  18. Many Many congratulations on your 100th post Marie, Your evening with Tony Bennett looks and sounded wonderful, you made me giggle about having the best runners haha, the food looks amazing and I am going to try the skewers, your sunflowers are perfect for your table. Kathy.

  19. How fabulous! And your skewered tortellini with artichokes, mozzarella and sun dried tomatoes looks wonderful! Great idea Marie, I have never seen this kind of a presentation! 🙂

  20. Wow…you guys go all out! I’m always amazed at the cool things people do at Ravinia. I think I’m going to have to steal your pasta salad skewer idea…that is genius!

  21. Looks like you had a great day!! Love your tortellini on the sticks they look amazing and so unique. You are one clever cook!!


  22. I’ve enjoyed each and every one of your 100 posts, Marie! You go, sista! xox

  23. Oh man those deconstructed pasta salad sticks are awesome. I think I will have to “borrow” that idea for my Labor Day party!

    Looks like you all had a great time – and great weather! Thanks for sharing.

  24. Now that table was fit for a King, an “Italian King” at that.

    Holy cow…you guys know how to eat, let me tell ya!!! I miss my Italian family back in Boston, and when we would all get together, the food just flowed like your table did!!! What a wonderful evening you all must of had…and such great memories with Tony!!!

  25. Wow. This takes picnicing to a whole other level. I hope the amazing spread didn’t distract Tony too much.

    I went to an Italian reception last year and was blown away by the food. The anitpasto, alone, was more food than I’ve ever seen at a reception.

  26. Happy 100th post! What a terrific job you’re doing.

    This sounds like a wonderful event… I love to do these sorts of outdoor things with food and friends involved. Glad it was fun!

    btw… is my feed working for you now? I played with the feed a bit and I’m wondering if that fixed things…

  27. I love Tony Bennett! He was presented an honorary degree at my son’s college graduation from George Washington University, a few years ago, and he sang a few songs.

    Your feast looks so abundanza! I love the sunflowers centerpiece and even that you put a carpet under the table! Thank goodness the waether was good — what do you do if it rains?

    Your totellini skewers look delicious and easy to serve and eat…great idea for a party!

    Hugs, Pat

  28. What a great way to enjoy a summer concert, love the pics and food!

    I attended a big band concert in Lakewood Park (right on the banks of Lake Erie) one summer, and the acoustics were fantastic. I was just a teen, and I still recall that summer concert as a highlight of my summer 🙂

  29. What a fun night! That food looks out of this world Marie! Very nice. I love the tortellini kebobs! Too cute.

  30. Wait – you’ve gotta tell me more about this deconstructed pasta salad – this is GENIUS! Do you hear me? Genius!

    This precooked tortellini – did you cook it and then skewer?

    OMG – you need an award for this.

  31. Jen, That sounds like lots of fun!

    Courtney, You and your CS have to go, check online for the concerts, if not this year, next for sure!

    Val,lol! We did have some people taking pictures of our layout!

    Lisa, Sure, anytime!

    Nina, Thanks so much! lol!

    Kathy, It’s like running to get some prime real estate!

    Thanks Laurie, I think next time I would use a colored tortellini, what do you think?

    Rebeccac, It’s yours to steal!

    Anonymous, thanks, it’s so easy!

    Maryann, Likewise bud!

    Lisa, It’s yours to “borrow” lol!

    Knitting, Aww thank you. Sounds like you have a great family back in Boston!

    Psych, Yes, us Italians tend to go a bit overboard!!

    Thanks Lori, Yay, It’s working!

    Hi Pat, It just can’t rain! In fact all day they said rain, and when we were waiting in line to get in, it started to drizzle for a couple min,s then it stopped. Thank goodness!!

    Ohio, That sounds great! and you still remember today!

    Jenny, Thanks they’re so easy!

    Darius, You’re too funny! Yes, you precook the tortelini, then marinate them, and then just put everything together. Soooo easy!!

  32. A college friend of mine, well actually many college friends from Chicago use to go on and on about Ravinia ad how wonderful it was. It’s great to see some pictures. I had no idea it was such an elaborate picnic affair. Fab skewers too!

  33. Congratulations on the 100th post!

    The pasta on a stick is a great idea for a picnic. My kid will love it; he’s all about the skewer these days.

    I loved hearing about Ravinia. We don’t have anything of that sort here. There used to be movie night under the stars, but it hardly compares to Tony Bennet.

  34. How fun and you guys sure know how to do it up right!!! I grew up in Toronto and we know all too well how great the lawn seats are!!!

  35. it definitely looks a fun outing not to be missed! wow! that’s fun!

  36. What a beautiful spread. How did you keep all of those people from invading your buffet? If I had been there, I don’t think I would be able to help crashing the party and I am such a “good girl” it’s pathetic.

  37. Congratulations on your 100th post 🙂

    Wow that looks like an amazing night, and what an fantastic feast…The table decoration is ordinary picnic then 🙂

    How did you manage to get it all there??

  38. Dear Marie, what really nice pictures!! The day look wonderful and the food !!!! I think was happy moments!!! xxxGloria

  39. Dear Marie,
    Thank you, for the lovely gift. Your package arrived safely and I am truely thrilled and will take great pride in using these in my kitchen. I happen to love olives and olive oil, so everything will come in handy, and the tomato dishcloth is so bright and cheerful, it made my day! Here’s to another year blogging! And congratulations again!

  40. Marla Hi! I’m glad you now have a visual!

    Dee, Thanks! We are lucky to have Ravinia here.

    Judy, You’re right, the lawn seats are the best!

    Big Boys, It’s total fun!

    Short disorder, You could have crashed our party, no problem! Obviously we had plenty of food! lol!!

    Hi Anne, We have a cart that carries the heavy stuff like our tables and coolers, and of course everyone carries all sorts of things. We have it pretty organized now.

    Gloria, It was a great day!

    Thanks Michelle, I’m glad you like everything!

  41. Marie- Your food looks amazing! Such an awesome and professional spread. The whole night sounds like so much fun.

    Congratulations on your 100th post!!! As said many a time, your site is fabulous.

  42. This looks like so much fun Marie!!! There used to be a place like this in VA that I used to go with my mom every summer and I loved the picnic part the best! But I promise we never had any picnic as elaborate as this! I doubt many of your fellow concert goers did either! This is some fabulous feast! 🙂

  43. seems like you had a lot of fun. And wow thats a gr8 spread of food. The deconstructed pasta on a stick is genius. Congratulations on you 100 !! thats a big one !

  44. Hi Marie, I cannot wait until the 5th September, “Everyone want’s to be Italian” looks like a lot of fun. I will be first in the queue. Have a wonderful weekend, Kathy

  45. Happy 100th post!!

    And this look like such a great time. I love Tony Bennett and when you pair his singing with good food and good company? Perfect.

  46. Hi Marie – congrats on your 100th post! All great!

    So happy to hear about your Ravinia night, especially after your comment on the Hollywood Bowl.

    I especially like your tortellini skewer. I’m going to steal it.

    Hey, no mention of the schlepping? Nice to have Tony and other strong men to bring in your amazing spread.

    And oh, I like your centerpiece too! Glad you had so much fun. Chicago is my kind of town!

  47. How fun!!!! My friend Ashley (Serendipity Soap) just moved to HP. She was telling me how she can hear the concerts from her home. Maybe she was there too…. who knows. If I am ever in town during one of these concerts I’ll have to make sure I sit with you – you have quite the spread!

    Big hugs & kisses to you! I certainly have missed you. Vacations are over, school is back in session & all is good in the world over here!

    Tanti baci, bella,

    P.S. 100 post?!?! Incredible! The best part is that they are all worthy – I love your blog.

  48. Your posts never fail to make me nostalgic, Marie. All of that amazing food, good company, and terrific music–what’s not to savor about that?

  49. I love this sort of an evening! What a beautiful tradition for you and your family xo
    Many Congratulations on your 100th post- I am enjoying all of them 🙂

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