Archives for September 2012

Billy Corgan’s Madame ZuZu’s Tea Shop Opens in Ravinia

Billy Corgan’s Madame ZuZu’s Tea Shop Opens in Ravinia

I have a confession.  I really don’t like coffee.  Seriously.  As a self proclaimed “Anglophile,” I have no shame in declaring that I am a proud tea drinker.  The problem?  There are few independent tea shops on Chicago’s Northshore and none that I am aware of in Highland Park.  Sure, I can get a chai or pomegranate tea from our friendly neighborhood Starbucks.  But since my post-college days as a so-called “above the fringe” intellectual when I hung with my other barely employed Gen-X friends in the late 1990’s and blamed the “man” for my not being able to get a job, I have yet to find a comfortable spot to sip a cup of tea and read the latest edition of the New Yorker (on my iPad, of course.)

Fast forward (eek!) twenty years and I think that I have found the space and it’s right in my neighborhood!  Yes, a Gen-Xer himself and one of my musical heroes from the 1990’s (and beyond), Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins) has opened up a fantastic (but small) tea house, Madame ZuZu’s in Ravinia Illinois (528 Roger Williams Ave, Highland Park, IL 60035, USA). Where once was a cute US Post Office, now stands a funky tea shop.

If you are a tea snob (like me), you’ll be impressed with the variety of teas offered from all over the world.  Because the tiny shop was MOBBED, I didn’t get a chance to try them all but I am really intrigued with the list.  Here’s just a sample of the names that caught my attention.

  • Assam Manjushree: A black tea from India
  • Gyokuro: Green from Japan
  • ZuZu’s Gunpowder: Black and also from China
  • Malawi: Black from Africa (I cannot wait to try this one having just returned from the continent!)
  • Organic Honeybush Tea: Rooibos from South Africa
  • Pai Mu Tan: An Organic white tea from China

And for those of us with coffee drinking mates and spouses, yes, ZuZu’s also sells Intelligentsia coffee.  Pastries, while not made in the shop, are from one of the arguably best bakeries in the Chicagoland area: The Bent Fork Bakery.  According to the article in yesterday’s Chicago Tribune, the tea, priced from $3.25 to $6.25 for a 12-ounce pot — is just a way to get people in the door.  The article quotes Corgan as saying  “What Zuzu’s really aims for is to provide a level of human interaction that can’t be achieved through social media.”  Personally, putting down the smart phone and iPad to share a pot of tea with a friend does sound idyllic.


Finally the shop seemingly transports its patrons to the rumored tea houses of the 1930’s Orient where one could get a great cup of tea and a perhaps a hit of opium.  While I didn’t expect to see an opium den in the back of the shop, it does have a sexy, Asian feel. I fell in love with the red and black wallpaper and the art deco lamps.



Madame ZuZu’s opened on Thursday and I might suggest that you give it few days to let the tourist and press traffic die down.  (At least I am hoping that it will dissipate…soon.)  As it was, I took advantage of all of the press coverage and convinced Mr. Corgan to take a picture with me.

Note to self: I should have listened to my mother: Never go out of the house without doing your hair and putting on some make-up!  This photo was snapped right after walking the dog for 30 minutes.  Let’s just say, I should have taken a moment to assess how I looked.  Live and learn.  Live and learn.  


Zumba! Watch Out! Cause I’m Dancing Your Way

Zumba! Watch Out! Cause I’m Dancing Your Way

Remember when it was fun to dance? Do you even remember a time when you didn’t feel the least bit self conscience about “shaking a tail feather,”  letting loose and just having fun?  Me neither. Until I discovered ZUMBA.


Recently, I realized that I had Spin class fatigue, and was really tired of it being my only source of recreation.  It was time  to mix this physical fitness thing up a little bit.  As luck would have it, I ran into Melissa Kerpel, one of the Northshore’s most renowned Zumba instructors at the Highland Park Fashion show. I asked her if it was true that a little Jewish woman with absolutely NO RHYTHM, and responsible for a 9 year old girl (i.e. I couldn’t get a sitter) could actually get a great workout if she attended a ZUMBA class.  Melissa insisted that (a) having “white man’s rhythm” (MY WORDS, not hers) was not a good enough excuse to miss out on the fun (b) I could bring my 9 year old with me and (c) the class was about having fun, not following the steps perfectly.  I was convinced.


What did I have to lose?  The first class was free and K and I didn’t have any plans.  We decided to give it a try.


Tonight K and I put on our dancing shoes, grabbed some water bottles and drove the .2 miles to the child care center by day/Zumba instruction facility by night.  Note: it’s only taken me 3 years to muster up the bravery to go to one of these classes and even now I need to hide behind my child!   Anyway, the first thing that I noticed?  I was one of the youngest women in the room and (thankfully) I knew absolutely no one!  So, I relaxed a bit, did a few warm up stretches and tossed as basketball around with my daughter while we waited for class to start.


Once it began, it started with a bang!  I mean literally A BANG! Melissa and another instructor, Kate Wettergren, kicked the dance class off with a combination of Samba/Afrikana music and the class started moving!  Forget my initial impression that ladies older than me couldn’t bust a move!  There were moves busting all over the place!  I could not keep up with the more veteran Zumba dancers.  That room was rocking & hot.  And I can honestly say that the hour FLEW by.


It wasn’t always easy to keep up with the class but both instructors were energetic, funny (yes, facial expressions count) and encouraging.  They looked like they were having a great time and as a result, I had a great time too!  By the end of the class I was sweating (that’s a good thing), a bit out of breath and K had not started wandering the halls of her old pre-school out of boredom.  She got in on the dancing too and even, at one point, told me that I was not “thrusting my butt enough!”  Hmm… not sure how I feel about that. I didn’t even worry that someone would see that I was making tons of mistakes.  I don’t think that anyone noticed or cared.  Everyone seemed to be doing their own thing anyway.


So will I take another class again?  Absolutely!  It was so liberating to just let loose and dance my heart away without concern that I wasn’t doing the steps properly or following the class perfectly because I was just having fun!  So I encourage you to give this Zumba thing a try.  I promise that it’s not the old aerobics class you remember from the 80’s.  This class is actually a workout masquerading as a PARTY!  And that, in my opinion, is the best kind of workout, don’t you agree?

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