By  on August 20, 2007

CHICAGO — It seems there's a side to Gwyneth Paltrow that's not widely known.

In Chicago to promote Estée Lauder's new fragrance, Pleasures Delight, a scent that blends notes of strawberry meringue, marshmallow and vanilla, an elegant Paltrow, svelte as ever after two kids, admitted that one of her off-screen passions is food.

"I love food, I love preparing it and I love entertaining," said the blonde Academy Award-winning actress in her only U.S. department store personal appearance at Macy's on State Street Friday.

No wonder Paltrow, wearing an off-the-shoulder shimmering taupe Marc Jacobs dress with Prada sandals, connected with the fragrance that fuses food elements with floral notes of peony and lily.

"It's got this edible quality," said Paltrow of the fragrance, which was introduced at Macy's along with a 60-foot buffet table filled with iced cupcakes, flower petals, blueberry muffins and fresh berries. "It's rich, but not too flowery," she said.

Shoppers, who turned out with flashing flip phones in hand, seemed to agree, up boxes of the $65, 3.4-oz. fragrance, some of which Paltrow signed. Additionally, 40 people, including a mother and her nine-year-old daughter who was named Gwyneth after the actress, attended a VIP meet-and-greet with Paltrow when they purchased $250 gift baskets containing Paltrow's favorite Lauder products.

Paltrow, who is currently deciding between roles in two different movies, plans to parlay her love of food into a PBS show with New York chef Mario Batali, where scooping the two take a culinary and cultural tour of Spain.

"I have a great love of Spain. I did an exchange there [as a girl]," said the actress, who speaks Spanish and keeps in contact with the family with whom she stayed.

When Batali told her about the show, Paltrow asked: "Can I go?" When the chef thought she was joking, Paltrow told him, "I'm deadly serious."

"We get in a car, drive and talk, eat a lot and drink Spanish wine," she said.

When in Chicago, Paltrow likes to dine at recently opened Sepia, with its rustic seasonal fare; at Nomi, which overlooks Michigan Avenue, or at Mirai on Damen Avenue for sushi.

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