Thursday, March 29, 2007

Great Design

I love this:

Italian Murano Glass bowl

and I LOVE these:

Stonewear platters

Now where, oh where, can I get them??? I will find out, and modify this post...

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Spring Break 2K7

So I was listening to my iTunes on shuffle and NO JOKE, as soon as I typed in the title, "Spring Break 2K7," good ole Frank just had to sound off...
"Tall and tan and young and lovely/ the girl from Ipanema goes walking/ and when she passes each one she passes goes ahhhhhh..."

Oh, Sinatra, how you knew how to coin the allure of the beach beauty...

It was an appropriate musical interlude to my past weekend spent spring breaking by the beach. Inspired by the thoughts of sexy Ph.D. candidates sand and sun, my girls and I staged the 9-5ers weekend version of spring break at the closest locale to Ipanema we could manage: Santa Barbara. Ok, truth be told, the real reason for the coming together of good people was a dear friend of mine's engagement soiree, but given the nature of being in the singles crowd in such a party situation, we decided on an under-arching theme: "Spring Break 2k7, High-Low Edition" [cheap champagne at the beach-front condo is classique]. Despite the failure of said students to materialize, there were some seriously epic food moments, notably in the subject of kabobs.

One word: pineapple. I've seen it used with kabobs before, but never really understood the importance of THE key ingredient to the most amazing chicken kabobs you will ever grill. And I've made many a kabob in my day, but never has the success of one so clearly been achieved as when the addition of pineapple is had. Whatever chemical reaction occurs when you grill red onions, chicken, bell peppers and zucchini on a stick, sandwiched between thick slices of yellow pineapple, and sprinkled with a generous layer of salt and pepper, I don't know. But the end result is unbelievable. The chicken oozes with perfection, and the veggies take on a supple, grilled-ness (light char, slight crunch on the outside, perfectly cooked in the middle) I was previously unaware could exist.

Just make sure you soak your wooden skewers in water for 30 min. prior to adding the goods, otherwise the little wood sticks burn to a crisp.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Dining Out: Supper Club, LE experience!

My dad called the Saturday we had reservations, around 4 pm, to confirm. The voice on the other end of the phone asked him very pointedly if we would mind wearing all black. Everyone was being asked to wear all black. Say what? "Just what is this place," I wondered. Well, it's The Supper Club. From the minute you begin to think about what you will wear for the evening, the supper club in San Francisco is an experience. With food. My three sisters and I (all visiting the folks at home for the first time in ages) dolled it up. My parents even pulled out the stops with their own very chic noir ensembles. From the minute we stepped inside the unimpressive, non-descript building on Harrison between 2nd and 3rd, the experience continued to reveal layers of ridiculousness, equally mixed with delight and it was..le exciting. Diva Dan took our coats. Diva Dan is a transvestite with a great smile, a coy attitude and one hell of a rack. He also means business, especially when doling out birthday/bachelorette/anneversiary “spanks” with a knarly paddle straight out of woodshop class in Dazed and Confused. No freshman allowed at the supper club, though. 18 and up only. And appropriately. Between the flowing booze and the cross-dressing cabaret style performance art that takes place in between courses, this private dining experience (one seating a night, no in-and-out) is outta control fun. You lounge on cushions for three hours, all while being served hand and foot. Massages cost extra, but, hey, they're available. Our server was a cross between cupid and Angel from X-Men III and was particularly skilled at passing plates of food up through the balcony to more efficiently serve the upper level diners. The food was excellent— impressive, even considering it was a five course plated extravaganza for 200. Can't wait for the excuse to go again...though I wouldn't recommend a birthday unless you don't mind Diva Dan's paddle...

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Kitchen Experiments: Perfectly Im-PEAR-ed

When you set forth to make a dish for the first time, there is an established process we food people have. Usually, I rely on similar dishes I've been successful with [insert calls to my mother here for her version and advice], and scan a recipe or two for the general ground rules. I've even dug back into some culinary disasters for what not to do. And then there's the adventure of attempting a dish for the first time—from scratch—with no recipe. I turn it into a personal little contest to see if I can pull it off or not. It's fun, and hell, why not just see what you can come up with, right? However, I don't usually do this when cooking for or with someone, for the sole reason there is no recipe. It's a huge gamble on the "garaunteed edible at the end."

But I actually found myself the other day challenged to take on a dish I'd never made before, sans recipe. My challenger had suggested a dessert. And rather than heed the advice of an easily accessible recipe, we agreed to display a blatant dismissal of conventionality, and engage in some serious culinary lawlessness. What form did our anarchy take? Poached Pairs in a Sweet Wine Reduction. The suggestion was perfect, actually: totally doable, and totally destroyable at the same time. I almost smirked at the moment—it was as capricous as us challengers, inspired by a free-wheeling, total disregard for responsibility or reality that can sometimes happen when tempted by a difficult culinary adventure with a like-minded seeker.

Diaglogue was blithe with a dash of audacity: How much poaching liquid? Who cares! What kind of wine? The Muscato, clearly. One vanilla bean or two? Suprise me. Nutmeg, cinnamon, freshly ground pepper? Hell, throw them all in. Did it need something sour? A dash of raspberry vinegar, perhaps? Are you grossed out yet? Never! It smells too spicy...I dare you to drink the poaching liquid... Why don't we just add some sugar instead? Brilliant!

And the success of the dish wavered constantly—between moments of faith it would end up a genuis creation, and moments where there is nothing but extreme certainty it's headed for the trash. But you can't have any expectations when discarding the recipe—like I said, there's no garauntee it's edible at the end. The case in point is that the pears were a bit overdone and the reduction destroyed by a microwave attempt to reheat it. But I'm not one to give up easily. And that's where you remember to improvise. Because served a la mode, the nuanced hint of sweet spiciness that had infused into the pears was startling delicious. Well-worth a future attempt with a few adjustments. So given the right circumstance, I highly recommend trying a new dish and challenging yourself beyond the recipe. Because sometimes NOT following the rules can be unpredicatbly yummy. Not to mention, entertaining.

For a sure-fire recipe I love for Poached Pears, Click Here

Thursday, March 15, 2007

To Do: A Thursday Trifecta, Silver Lake Edition

I used to go to the wine tastings at Silver Lake Wine fairly frequently. And then I became more discerning when loads of people started cramming the place and the free Hors d'oeuvres (paired for the wines of course) would run out way too fast for my pre-dinner appetite. I still receive the shop's email blasts, and every once in awhile a certain flight sounds good enough to brave the scene. Tonight's flight is all about the bubbly...a red and white flight to choose from. I'm there!

Afterwards, I will go to Pho Café and finish up at Pazzo Gelato for my new favorite triple scoop: The neo-neopolitan: Farmer's Market Strawberry, Dark Chocolate Martini and Madagascar Vanilla Bean with Limone. Nothing like a Thursday Silver Lake Trifecta: Buzz Wine, Binge Pho, Binge, part II Gelato.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Bits & Bites: Yay! Wednesday is Food Section Day

Oooooh! PINKBERRY, you've been warned! The NYT put our L.A.-based tasty treat/trend of the year winner in check with a new competitor today. Full article here Too bad the enemy has got nothing on Pazzo Gelato in Silver Lake...

From the SF Chronicle, I highly recommend printing out Georgeanne Brennan's piece on Irish Cuisine, full article here Brilliant. Not only do I have a completely new perspective on Irish food, but the recipes make me want to throw a St. Patty's Day party. Lucky Irish.

Baby artichokes, are, as Russ Parsons points out in today's LAT's Farmers Market column irresistible. They taste just like the big ones, but they are so much cuter. I'm thinking fried baby artichoke hearts served with a side of Romesco sauce, yum.

My mom's fail proof method for fried baby artichoke hearts:
"No recipe, I just clean and quarter the hearts. Keep them in lemon water to reduce browning. Dry and dust them in a little flour/cormeal mixture, and then deep fry. A little salt and romesco sauce."
Thanks Bethina425. You rule.

We all know Trappist monks have been brewing ale for centuries, but did you know what Trappist nuns in Rome are known for? Sour black cherry preserves... Click here. Delicious!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Wine Tasting in Napa Anaheim

On Sunday, the roomies and I went wine tasting in Napa. And it was all three of our first times! Well, sort of. Technically, we were simulating the Napa Valley tasting experience at Disney's California Adventure Park. In Anaheim. It was a sweaty 85 degrees, and after two hours of Disneyland, we wanted adult beverages. Alcoholic ones. After the tasting, we purchased a lovely, horribly overpriced bottle of rosé. Don't get me wrong, it was a very nice wine, but what sold me was the promise of a "frisky finish." WTF? I suppose that's part of the tourist-driven copy created for just such a simulation. I sort of wished it meant that after you finish tasting it, you become uncharacteristically frisky. Considering what followed, there may have been a grain of truth to the label. After polishing off the bottle, a stroll through Hollywood led to a detour in San Francisco. We needed food, and we were undoubtedly frisky. And so it goes that somewhere between the Mission Tortilla Factory and Pacific Wharf Distribution Co., we tamed our buzz with the most amazing burritos I've ever encountered. Amazing in a "simultaneously the worst AND best burrito of all time" sense. In a "Taco Bell" sense, but not so fast nor food, really...utterly delicious.

And then we used our little "park hoppers" to go back to Disneyland—the happiest place on earth, where all your dreams come true...

Friday, March 9, 2007

Gourmet Astrology

So I read my horoscope everyday. I don't put much stock in what they say, but it's still fun to read. So you can imagine my delight when I found my culinary horoscope! I don't believe one word of it, but it was entertaining to know that somewhere, someone figured that anyone born between January 20-February 18 should stay away from the sweets...

Check yours out!

click for your horoscope