Saturday, May 8, 2010

Welcome to Huis!

My mother, the globe traveling recent retiree, is finally settling into retirement and has started up her own little Etsy shop called Huis, which means "house" in her native Dutch. Basically, she's always loved to sew, knit, crochet and embroider, etc. and now that she has extra time on her hands, she's taken to experimenting and selling the good stuff on Etsy.

I snagged the prototype of the Owly Baby Blanket for Cael and can attest to high level of adorability and softness. And if you're not in to baby things, there are lots of other things to choose from, including pillows, throws, and assorted table textiles. She's just getting started so check back often to see new listings.

In addition to what you see on Etsy, she also embroiders "birth certificates" if any new parents out there are into that (framed embroidered birth record - baby name, weight, city of birth, and a custom motif).

To help launch the new store, Huis is offering a special giveaway. The first person to buy anything receives a complimentary set of Blue Vine place mats and napkins for two. Comments and feedback are welcome!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Top Green Twitterers

Just finished a quick post for American Express OPEN Forum on Inhabitat's Top Ten Green Twitterers. These are outstanding peeps tweeting about interesting issues. From a dude who's swimming 1,500 miles in the cold Atlantic to help teach (and fund) his students, to gumshoe journalist and a sustainable dad blogger, the list is culled from other amazing top green lists and a few of my own finds.

Feel free to comment on the site or retweet and definitely add these folks to your lists!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Food + Design Meet Again with the AIA/LA Restaurant Design Awards

It's that time of year again. The call for submissions is open so if you know of any great establishments that should be on the list for consideration to win either a jury award or the People's Choice this year, let them know that they have till April 30th to submit. Rules, regs, deets and deadline listed here.

The jury includes Ben Ford (celebuchef from Ford's Filling Station), Lonnie Moore (nightlife and restaurant empresario from the Dolce Group), Michela O'Connor Abrams (Publisher of Dwell Magazine), Joey Shimoda (of Shimoda Design Group), and all-around design expert Clive Piercy (of Air Conditioned).

Should be a good competition!

Photo: Bottega Louie, one of the winners of the RDAs last year

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Blood Orange Tart-venture

After seeing Lottie and Doof's amazing rendition of an blood orange tart, I had to take a stab at it. I think Tim's turned out much better than mine, clearly. But beyond aesthetics and the fact that I'm the world's shittiest food photographer, there's just something about the citrus and the caramel that I wasn't quite crazy about.

It's a gorgeous looking tart with golden crust and vibrant, almost graphic red oranges. But something wasn't quite there for my lowly palette. That said, the buttery crust is ridiculously good and easy to make so today I'm going to make this tart with pears instead and see what happens. It might also be great with oranges with a nice healthy coating of marmalade to sweeten things up, and perhaps served sans caramel.

If Only I'd Had a Kitchen...

One of my usual stops in Paris is any one of a dozen markets. There's something intoxicating about being yelled at by vendors, sampling all varieties of olives, fruits, and other sundry goodies, the crazy smells of fresh fish, ripe cheese, and raw meat. When I lived in Paris, I'd do my weekly shopping at the big market at Barbes-Rochechuart. Unfortunately, that's a weekend market so on this particular trip I went to the Marche d'Aligre in the Marais.

This particular market is pretty cool because it's mid-week and gets way fewer tourists. There is a historic covered market area at the center of the market and a big square where the flea market is usually set up. On either side of the square stretches the long street with all the food stalls. Most of the butchers are housed under the permanent structure. And all around in the surrounding area are great bistros and boulangeries.

Strolling through the market made me wish I had a kitchen to which to retire with a basket full of purchases. Shopping here in LA - while the farmers markets and Fresh & Easys and Trader Joe's are much appreciated - is just not the same.

La Patisserie de Reves

While it might appear that all I did while in Paris was go from sweet shop to sweet shop, that's not entirely true. (I interspersed patisseries with bistros, bakeries, and baby shops!) But on a jaunt down Rue du Bac, I came across quite possibly the most beautiful patisserie I've ever seen. Philip Conticini, the undisputed king of patisserie at the moment in Paris, is the proprietor of La Patisserie des Reves, translated "Patisserie of Dreams." (Damn straight.)

While Phil may be the mad genius behind the goodies, whoever designed the space itself should get props as well. Conticini's confections are deftly displayed as works of art, placed under glass vaults suspended from the ceiling. Others are arranged in a tantalizing array in the window. From brioches to mille feuilles to seasonal gateaux, this place rocks the senses.

If you're lucky enough to buy something delicious to take home, the distinctive pink pyramid packaging is enough to tell you that you're about to ingest something that belongs in the gastronomical Louvre. La Patisserie des Reves is the very definition of eye candy for the soul and for the palette. I do believe I left a few drool marks on the glass outside.

East Meets West to Make Sweet, Sweet Love

I happened to book a hotel right next to Sadaharu Aoki's Vaugirard boutique. His shop is less a bakery and truly more of a boutique....(or sweet heaven on earth). White, clean and clinical, all the attention is directed naturally towards to the colorful rows of masterful and delicious desserts.

Classical french forms made with distinctly japanese ingredients. Eclairs, financiers, cookies, tablets of chocolates, rainbow colored macaroons, jams, truffles, cakes. My favorite was green tea eclair. Simple, straightforward, unpretentious and too yummy to describe. I kind of want to cry just thinking about it. Luckily, for those of us who don't live in France, Sadaharu offers an online boutique. But nothing compares to the real thing. Next time you're in Paris, go indulge.

Montmartre Moment

It was a sign that I managed to fly into Paris without hitting any of the airline strikes. Luck was on my side. The clouds even cleared while I was strolling around Montmartre. Even though it's been years since I lived in Paris, it still feels kinda homey. And even though Montmartres is one of the biggest tourist destinations in the city, it's still my favorite hood. I always like being
slightly above the city (looking down on the plebes...). Even on a cold winter day, the place was packed with tourists. But yet, the charm is still there.

You can still always find a windy little side street with no one on it. A traveling musician camped out on the steep steps, belting out American tunes in a heavy but non-descript accent. Painters braving the cold on Place du Tertre, hawking their Montmartre caricatures. Ah, I just love the hood.

Weekend in the Western Highlands

I'm no stranger to mountains or pretty landscape. Having grown up in Switzerland, the Alps kind of dwarfed any mountains that I've since discovered. Living in California, the foothills are a permanent backdrop to everyday life. But there's just something different about the landscape in Bonnie Scotland. I guess time has softened the lines of the Western Highlands, so while the snow capped Bens are impressive, they seem softer, less foreboding, less jagged. Frankly, the Bens just seem older and wiser. Fresh water lochs meet salt water lochs, which in turn meet the cold expanse of the sea. There's just something wildly romantic about the landscape. If I ever get around to writing a line of bodice-ripping novels, I know where I'll be sequestering myself!

Geese landing on Loch Lomond

Sunset on Loch Lomond

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Cafe Flourish Makes Me Eat My Words

I typically only have a few cooking/eating rules. No salad is complete without a little bacon, chicken, or steak on top. Cupcakes need to be made with flour and lots of sugar. When in doubt, add cream. If something's missing, add butter.

While I totally get why people like vegan, vegetarian, and macrobiotic foods, I just can't say that I do. I've always felt a bit cheated when I've left the table after past adventures at vegetarian eateries. Something always feels like it's missing and I end up needing a taco fix. Today, however, I have to eat my words (instead of emergency tacos).

I tried a surprisingly satisfying tempeh reuben at Cafe Flourish and have to say that their organic plant-based cuisine - what I tried of it - was entirely delicious. I think I might actually have liked the Love, Rueben better than its meaty cousin, with its marinated tempeh paired with russian dressing, avocado, soy cheese and moist rye bread.

While I didn't try it, my friend ordered the Simple Pleasure, an avocado drizzled in truffle oil and topped with sea-slated grated carrots with a spritz of lemon on the side and a nori square to finish. Granted I'd eat pretty much anything drizzled with truffle oil - avocado, omelette, or paper towel, but this little dish sounds totally yum, right? Fresh, tasty, filling, AND healthy.

The gluten-free brownie was even more impressive; chocolatey and decadent. Just the way a mid-day dessert should be. The carrot cake cupcakes also looked really tempting with their perfect icing inviting a finger test. There was only one of each left in the display case by the time I thought to take a picture. By virtue of the fact that they go so quickly, you can guess how good they actually were.

While Chef Sarasai was loathe to part with her secret recipe for the amazing brownies, she actually gives occasional cooking lessons at Sur La Table at the Farmers Market for those dying to know more about her food.

So there. I admit it. I was wrong. Food that grows on one leg can actually be very tasty, even without the addition of cream, butter, or sugar.

I apologize for the shit-tastic photos but I ate the subject matter before I could shoot it. Oops.

Spunge Design: Baby Crap I Actually Like

It's inevitable. Brian and I are going to have to acquire a whole bunch of things for the sprout that I never in a million years thought I'd have to find. With all the other things on my mind right now, it's kind of the last thing I want to think about, but Spunge Design's adorable handmade eco-baby blankies actually make me look forward to the whole baby crap acquisition process.

In Spunge Design's case, I really shouldn't say crap. Their blankies are really adorable, made from certified organic and natural fibers using environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing methods and super reasonably priced at just $27. Each 40" x 40" blanket boasts bright, vibrant, and cheerful designs by graphic designer, design school instructor, and modern mom Preeti Ayyangar. Flip it over to enjoy a bold solid color. Her take is refreshing and sunny and totally appeals to an adult's aesthetic as much as it does to a kid's imagination.
Check out Decor Demon to see a recent profile story and more gorgeous pics of Preeti and her pretty blankies.

Rest assured that these babies will be on our very short, sweet, and completely voluntary baby shower gift registry when (and if) I ever get around to making one.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Waiting on an Autumn Muse from Lithuania

So I've solemnly sworn NOT to buy any fugly maternity clothes, and dammit, I'm sticking to it. One: I hate pastels. Two: I hate the idea of spending money on stuff I'll never wear again. Three: I love clothes and I don't want to sacrifice what little sense of style I have just because I'm gestating. So as I hit the 3-month mark and start to develop the inevitable pooch, I've been getting my Etsy fix, digging through the many amazing little shops to find some comfortable and versatile alternatives to moo moos and pastel crap with appliques. (Yes, I know maternity clothes have come a long way, but it's just the principal. No offense to any maternity clothes makers or wearers...)
I'm currently impatiently awaiting an Autumn Muse all the way from Vilnius. I love LeMuse's sexy, drapy, and totally form-forgiving designs. I imagine it will kind of be like wearing a giant sock. One that can be work with naked shoulders or without. Best part, I'll still be able to wear it after the kidlet is born. Hell, I might even be able to fit the baby in it, bjorn and sweater all in one. Very national geographic, but who knows, I might be comfortable. I probably won't look as good as this pastoral Lithuanian damsel, but I'm gonna try!

Short Note: Cube's Blood Orange Soda

Once upon a time, I used to frequent Cube Marketplace & Cafe for lunch. Back then when you ordered an italian soda, it was one of those lovely little San Pellegrino bottles or cans. Today, it's something altogether different and delicious. While it takes a bit more time, the folks at Cube will squeeze the oranges and serve the soda up in a large carafe; slightly frothy, skillfully mixed and perfectly p├ętillant. YUM. Nuff said.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Southern Fried Lunch at Larkin's

Let me start by saying that this is NOT a yelp review! I just feel like certain neighborhood joints are worthy of chronicling, and Larkin's is one of them. Every time I go to the Trader Joe's in Eagle Rock, I drive by this quaint little cottage restaurant/cafe and I keep making a mental note to go back and try it out. This week, I finally remembered and lunched at this soul food joint with a friend.
Formerly an unsightly car dealership, Larkin's now has some undeniable curb appeal. It looks more like your aunt's house than a restaurant. A wrap-around veranda accommodates smokers and brunch-ers on warm days. The interiors are equally homey with cool little details like doors doubling as tables, wallpaper in the dining room, and tin ceiling tiles. The banana leaf-shaded outdoor patio reminds me of some of the old joints I used to frequent in college back in New Orleans.
And the Southern comfort food? It's spot on. Unfortunately, even though everyone keeps telling me I'm eating for two, I couldn't fit more than one major dish on this visit, but MAN was it major. The fried chicken is amazing. I'm for serious, yo. I'm not sure if the rub is made with cornmeal but it's perfectly crunchy with a hint of sweetness. The spicy greens could make even a vegetable hater reconsider and the refreshing cabbage and apple slaw also did not disappoint. My friend had a huge dollop of very delicious looking mashed potatoes slathered in a vegetarian gravy that is apparently deceiving in its deliciousness. We washed everything down with the best sweet tea I've had this side of the Mississippi (served in jars!).

My only regret, I should have ordered some mac and cheese to test it out. I'm definitely heading back to check that out, plus the various po boy sandwiches and the selection of barbecued meats (which all come slathered in "black gold" - Larkin's trademark bbq sauce that apparently gets you right behind the ears). I must find out exactly what that means.

If you can figure out their slightly confusing hours, I'd definitely recommend this place for a leisurely lunch or a casual dinner.

I stupidly forgot to take photos of the food...