Monday, July 25, 2011

My Little Black Book {in San Diego}

LittleBlackBook
Having lived here for a good long while, I've had a pretty good chance to suss out the places I like to go to get things done.  Some of these people have become friends by now, but none of them have paid me to plug them - nor would I do so if I didn't sincerely believe in their services! This is just my way of sharing my insider information, such as it is, in the hope that both you and they can benefit.  :)
  1. Shoe Repair - Leather Magic in Point Loma - Hugo and his wife Ana do fantastic quality work for a great price.  In fact, he was recently listed in Town & Country magazine as one of the top cobblers in the world.  I took him a Hermes Kelly bag that I'd had worked on by the official Hermes repair person, and he did a better job.  True story.  
  2. Florals - Carlos at Green Fresh Florals has a gorgeous shop in Hillcrest, I can buy armloads of flowers there for no more (and sometimes even less) than they cost at Whole Foods.  Also can't quibble with Adelaides in La Jolla - it's where I get my mom's Mother's Day flowers every year.  Occasionally I will also stop by Che Bella, but I don't think it's been the same since they moved.  
  3. Dry Cleaner/Repairs - I go to the Hangers Dry Cleaner in Fenton Plaza (the Ikea shopping center) in Mission Valley.  They use a non-toxic cleaning process (no perchloroethylene) and it's worth the little extra money to me to avoid the poisons.  I think their cleaning process is harder on some silk fabrics than the traditional method, but they've never lost my stuff and they give me a 10% loyal customer discount.  They're also pretty good at getting stains out, and they have a seamstress on site for repairs.  
  4. Alterations/Seamstress - For more substantial alterations, I like Charlie's Alterations on Adams Avenue.  They can also replicate clothing items if you take them the fabric and the item.  
  5. Personal Trainer - For the last year and a half, James and I have been going to Fitness Zone, a personal training studio in Kearny Mesa a couple of times a week. James has lost almost 100 pounds in that time, and I've lost around 20.  I'm in a lot better shape though.  Rob, Kris and Heidi can make you hate life and love them at the same time which is quite a feat - they have a great Pilates studio too.  
  6. Yoga - I've been doing yoga off and on for a while now, and over the years I've been to most of the popular studios  in town.  My favorite instructors teach at Prana, La Jolla Yoga Center and The Little Yoga Studio.  Gerhard Gessner is the owner of Prana, Sara Deakin teaches at Little Yoga Studio and Prana, and Carolina Vivas and Amanda McCarroll teach at La Jolla Yoga Center.  I usually go to the Little Yoga Studio since it's just up the hill from my office downtown, but La Jolla Yoga Center is beautiful - like a spa - and has a wide selection of classes.  Prana is a little more basic, but Gerhard, the owner, teaches one of the best classes in town. Jeannie, the owner of La Jolla Yoga Center used to teach there before she opened LJYC. The Little Yoga Studio is tiny, but the effect is cozy, and it has the distinct advantage of being downtown (on Cortez Hill) just a few blocks from my office.  
  7. Salon - My relationship with Rebeca and Raquel - the owners of Sashay Salon - goes way back.  We're talking early 90's.  (We also went to the same high school, though not at the same time.)  When I moved back to town from the Bay Area in 1998 I started seeing both of them exclusively, and they opened their own salon on Adams Avenue shortly thereafter - I haven't been anywhere else since.  Adam has been doing my hair for the past couple of years, since Raquel got sick, and Rebeca does nails and skin care.  Love love love them.  
  8. Cakes - When I need a birthday cake (or someone else asks me for a referral) Jenny Wenny Cakes is my go-to source.  She does fantastic party cakes with great decorations and does not sacrifice one whit of flavor or quality for appearance.  (She even uses Schaner eggs!)  She's in the process of launching her cake business, so please support her if you can. You will not find a better cake for a better price! 
  9. Gifts - I like to keep a little stockpile of gifts on hand, but when I run out or need something quick, I usually head to Pigment in North Park, Vocabulary in Little Italy, or, believe it or not - Extraordinary Desserts in Little Italy.  They have cute kid and baby items, tableware, hand creams, candles, etc.  Not cheap, but good stuff.  Pigment is great for hip housewares, and Vocabulary is a sweet little boutique with good prices - bonus, it's just around the corner from Pappalecco.  :)  
  10. Gardening supplies - When I need garden goods, I head to City Farmer in City Heights.  It's a nearly endless wonderland of plants, animals, seeds, soil, pesticides and fertilizers, and just about anything else you could need for your yard - all of it organic.   It's a great place to take kids - they have a veritable barnyard on the property and there are lots of nooks and crannies to explore.  Bill, the owner, is wonderful and full of sage advice.  I'm told he'll "taste" your soil to tell you whether it's in balance and if not, what you need to add to it.  I haven't taken him up on it yet, but I might!
  11. Veterinarian - And one more late addition to the list - our veterinarian, Dr. Dorian at Market Street Veterinary Clinic.  We first met Dr. Dorian at the Windansea Veterinary Clinic in La Jolla.  We adopted Bart at the La Jolla Farmers Market, and they handed us their card.  I had no other resources or recommendations, so I called them up.  They turned out to be fabulous, and since then our favorite vet there, Dr. Raffy Dorian, has left and opened his own practice downtown on Market Street.  It's getting harder to get an appointment when you need one, but they are worth the couple of week's wait.  Not many people I talk to say they love their vet. We've only been to one, but we wouldn't go anywhere else. 
p.s. - I'm going to do a food version of this list soon, with my favorite farmers market vendors, kitchen ware sources, cheese shops, bakeries, etc. Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

On Feeling Oddly Inspired.

Collage
The last few weeks have been a real bear, for reasons I won't burden you with - but something strange is happening at the same time. When I should probably be feeling unhappy or sorry for myself, I haven't been at all. Instead, I've been feeling especially lucky to be here, spending my time doing things I want to do with the people I love. I've also been unusually inspired by all of the amazing things that come my way each day through the wonders of the internet. Pinterest has been a real boon for finding amazing things to look at and think about each day - and it only takes a minute, unlike blogs which can lead to hours and hours of poring over posts.

Not that blogs aren't inspiring me too... I've fallen head over heels for Diana's blog Miss Moss, not to mention her Tumblr - which is magically updated with about eighty inspiring images a day.  I'm also completely sucked into her other Tumblrs - BKFST, chronicling beautiful breakfast meals from around the blogosphere, and Home is Where the Couch Is - where I find many of the pics for my "Casa Encantada" board on Pinterest. 

Joslyn's recent post about this blog chronicling the daily routines of artists, writers and other prominent people also captured my attention.  The accounts are utterly fascinating, and have prompted some serious examination of my own routines (or lack thereof...)
Pantry at Delancey
Then there's the phenomenal display of skill, style and strength that went into the renovation/construction of The Pantry at Delancey, as described in  Brandi's post about the process on her charming blog I Made That! I have fantasized in that past that if I were to suddenly lose my job,  I would take on some serious construction projects around the house.   I harbor this secret belief that I am handy because I inherited it from my grandfather - though I've never attempted anything more strenuous than screwing a picture hanger into the wall.  I kind of doubt this theory will ever be put to the test, but it would be interesting.
luisa wedding
Next, the beautiful, utterly magical wedding of Luisa Weiss, which recently took place in Italy.  Both she and Molly of Orangette wrote posts about it that have stuck with me for a couple of days now.  It strikes me as the perfect celebration.  Not overly precious (no cupcakes, balloons, mason jars or mustaches in sight) just lots of family, friends, fantastic food and a stunningly beautiful setting - not to mention the gorgeous, glowing couple.  Read more about the details here. Photo by Molly of Orangette

And finally, last but not least, I was reminded earlier today of how much I am dying to see the Bill Cunningham New York movie by Victoria's post about going to see it at the Castro (if only I still lived in the Bay Area!)  I missed it when it was at the Ken, and it's not coming out on DVD until September.  I'll keep checking pay per view in the meantime, but I bet it will be a while.   The preview is beautiful - I've already watched it twice today.   I love the part where he says the key is to not take any money.  It's both completely insane and utterly brilliant - with a huge dose of charm thrown in.  Just like the man himself I suspect.


{photo collage: clockwise - image from Home is Where the Couch Is; Cafe Stella in LA on 7.3.11; Intelligentsia coffee on 7.2.11; salmon sandwich from BKFST; bar set up at our house last Sunday, 7.10.11; brunch at Farm House Cafe on Sunday, 7.10.11;  Peanut Butter cheesecake brownies, made with leftover peanut mousse from this on 7.10.11; Pizza at Pizzeria Mozza on 7.1.11, and us on a hike in Griffith Park in LA, 7.2.11}


Rainbow Brights

Pinterest Pics
 Lately I'm finding myself magnetically drawn to rainbows of bright color. Maybe it's their mood lifting qualities, maybe it's the fact that they remind me of being twelve years old all over again (though the unicorns are conspicuously absent.)  It's hard to say.  All I know is they're working for me!  Beaded charm bracelet from A Merry Mishap.
Pinterest Collage
Shoshanna dress, ladies via Tommy Ton for Style.com, Polo Player Nacho Figueroa's Kitchen via Elle Decor
Pinterest Pics
Fruit in Brazil - via Ana Degenar of Live and Enliven
Pinterest Pics
Friendship bracelet DIY - via Honestly WTF
Pinterest Pics
70's Rainbow Striped Kids Room - via ohdeedoh
a very happy 30th birthday to my sweet husband!
Rainbow Birthday Cake - via Emily Weaver Brown on Flickr

{All images found through Pinterest.}

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Frozen Chocolate Peanut Dacquoise

Frozen Chocolate Peanut Dacquoise
I made this for a 4th of July party the other day, and it was such a hit (if I do say so myself!) I figured I'd better write down the recipe and share it before I forget what I did.  I found the original version of this on Bon Appetit's website - I love desserts made with meringue layers, and I love the idea of putting peanut butter into a fancy sounding concoction like a dacquoise, which is usually hazelnut meringues layered with buttercream or whipped cream.

The main differences between my version and the original are that I froze it and I added more peanut butter to the mousse layers.  I also changed a few things about the method and order of steps in the recipe.  Don't let the layers scare you away - this really is not difficult at all.  The finished dessert is cold, creamy, crunchy, smooth, salty and sweet  - with the peanut mousse accented by crisp/chewy layers of meringue and velvety ganache.  It's a little like a Vienetta, that layered frozen ice cream cake that's only available in Europe now, but about 10 times better. Definitely something to make when you have people to share it with, lest you eat it all yourself.  (If you're anything like me, anyway.)  This recipe makes two desserts - each one serving about 8-10 people.   That is a lot, but given how popular as it was and how long it keeps in the freezer, I don't think you'll have to worry about getting rid of it.
Chocolate Peanut Dacquoise
Frozen Chocolate Peanut Dacquoise
adapted from Bon Appetit

Ingredients:
meringue layers
2.5 cups salted peanuts  (I used Trader Joes crunchy peanuts - the original recipe suggested skin on Spanish peanuts.  I'd use anything but dry roasted.)
1.5 cups of sugar, divided into 1/2 cup and 1 cup
10 large egg whites at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract

mousse
1.5 cups salted chunky natural-style peanut butter
.5 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
2 cups well-chilled heavy whipping cream, divided
sea salt

glaze
.25 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
.25 cup sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/3 cups bittersweet chocolate chips
Pinch of fleur de sel or sea salt

Preparation:
1) Make the chocolate ganache glaze:
Whisk cocoa powder and sugar in medium saucepan. Gradually add 1/4 cup water, whisking until smooth. Whisk in heavy cream. Bring to boil (or near boil) over medium heat, whisking frequently. Reduce heat to low. Add chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth.  Stir in the pinch of salt.  Let stand at room temperature until cool and slightly thickened, stirring occasionally, about 2 hours

2)  Make the mousse:
Using an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, beat 1 cup of whipping cream until stiff peaks form.  Remove to a large shallow bowl and chill.  Put peanut butter and brown sugar in the mixer (using the whisk attachment) and  blend until smooth.  With mixer running, gradually beat in 1/2 cup cream. Add another 1/2 cup cream and beat just to blend.  The mixture should be smooth and runny.   Fold peanut butter mixture into whipped cream  in 3 additions. When the mixture is almost blended, taste it and fold in some finely ground sea salt to taste - it will depend on how salty your peanut butter is.  Chill until ready to use.

3)  Make the meringue layers:
Preheat oven to 275°F.  Line large baking sheet with parchment paper, or if you have them, use Silpats to prevent sticking.

Grind the nuts with 1/2 cup sugar in processor until the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs.  Line two half sheet size jelly roll pans with parchment or Silpats.

Using electric mixer with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites until foamy. With mixer running, gradually add remaining cup of sugar, beating until meringue is stiff and glossy but not dry.  Add ground nut mixture and fold gently just to blend.  Immediately spoon meringue onto parchment or silpats and spread to form 3 uniform rectangles  in a row on each pan about half an inch thick, using about 2 cups meringue per rectangle.

Immediately bake meringues until light golden brown all over and dry to the touch, about 1 hour 20 minutes. Transfer to rack and allow to cool slightly - if using parchment, remove the parchment while the meringues are still slightly warm and then allow to cool completely.

To assemble:
Line a flat plate or serving platter with a piece of wax paper or parchment and set one meringue on top. Spoon glaze evenly over the top of the meringue and spread by pushing to the edges using a small offset spatula.  Top with a layer of mousse about 1/3 inch thick.  Set another meringue on top and continue to layer until you have three layers of all 3 components - ending with ganache.  (If at any point during this process your mousse or glaze become runny - just refrigerate everything until they firm up again.)   While glaze is still soft, top with a line of chopped peanuts running down the center.  If you have leftover glaze, save it.

Place the desserts in the refrigerator 6-8 hours or overnight.  During this time the meringue will soften a bit.   Use a sharp heavy knife to trim rough edges of entire dessert to form a perfect rectangle.  Clean the knife as needed with hot water to keep the edges neat. I think it's pretty with the sides exposed to show the layers, but if you want to, you can also re-warm the leftover glaze and use an offset spatula to spread it over the sides after you trim it.

Using a spatula, transfer dessert from parchment paper to a serving plate or platter. (If you have some leftover ganache handy, you can use a dollop to anchor it to the plate.)  Freeze uncovered for half an hour to an hour.  Once the outside of the dessert has hardened, wrap it well in plastic wrap, and return it to the freezer until ready to serve.  To serve, slice into portions while still frozen.


Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Sunset Junction - Los Angeles

LA & the 4th of July
We just returned from a fun weekend in Los Angeles - Fri-Sun so we could be back in town for the 4th. We went to celebrate a birthday, but like good little hedonists, we slipped a second night in there for some extra fun. We had lunch at Pizzeria Mozza (as usual) and went to see the Tim Burton exhibit at the LACMA - which was great, but awfully crowded. I want to go back and check out the rest of the museum - I'd never been before and we only had time for the traveling exhibits this time. The "Gifts of the Sultan" was great too, so don't miss that if you go.
LA & the 4th of July
We stayed in a great little place in Los Feliz - the Los Feliz Lodge - which we found by looking for accommodations close to the party location (on Vermont Street). It also turned out to be just down the street from this great little corner called Sunset Junction. The coffee shop Intelligentsia, the Cheese Store of Silverlake and Cafe Stella are all located in a row in this cute little building - like a little slice of hipster foodie heaven.
LA & the 4th of July
On our first morning we drove over for coffee and a pastry before heading out on a hike in Griffith Park - just up the hill from Los Feliz. The coffee was good, but what really got me was the French encaustic tile floor. I love it.
LA & the 4th of July
I poked around in the Cheese Store - it was well stocked with attractively packaged condiments, pickles, crackers and other pantry items. They make sandwiches which they sell for $7. and of course, they offer a kick ass selection of cheeses. We also peeked next door at Cafe Stella - and decided to have brunch there the next day with some friends.
LA & the 4th of July
It turned out to be a good choice. We started with some deliciously decadent pastries and coffee (which they brought over from next door) and then moved on to some interesting brunch dishes - like James' Moroccan eggs with lamb merguez sausage...
LA & the 4th of July
Hilary's Croque Monsieur - a baked ham and cheese sandwich served with a butter lettuce salad...
LA & the 4th of July
And my sherry mushroom eggs on ciabatta bread with cheese and arugula. This was by far the best egg dish I can recall eating in a long time. (If I'm not mistaken I believe they make something similar at Cafe Chloe.)
LA & the 4th of July
Here are some photos of our accommodations. They only have a four rooms - two studios and two one bedroom apartments. The decor is cute, the price is right and the location is great. We liked it just as well as our other spot in Hollywood, the Villa Della Stelle - and it cost just a little more than half the price per night.
LA & the 4th of July
This was the view from the front porch...
LA & the 4th of July
And the living room...
LA & the 4th of July
All of Los Feliz is within walking distance, and a good bit of Silverlake too if you have on comfortable shoes (including the Junction.) There are great boutiques like the Mohawk General Store and Vivier and Bentley in the area, and the hiking trails of Griffith Park and the Greek Theater are just up the street.

Yes, I can definitely see us going back for another weekend visit soon!