People who know me know this: I have very few secrets. Maybe I read too much Dr. Seuss as a kid, or maybe I was interested in psychology too early, but I offer up information about myself like a flower does pollen. So when I recently let it slip that I have an obsession with donuts, I think my fiancé Neal was a little surprised.
I wasn’t allowed to eat many sweets growing up, and there were rarely any in our house. My mom occasionally bought coffee cake or, my favorite, boxes of Entenmann’s Donuts. I loved the mildly spicy powdered cinnamon ones best. They were cakey and just a little sweet, and they would almost dissolve into a glass of milk. When the cinnamon ones were all gone, I would furtively sneak the plain cake ones, thinking no one would notice.
Trying to find a wedding venue has been like trying to decide what to eat for dinner when you’re too tired to cook and too hungry to decide. When the only coherent thoughts you have are about what you don’t want. I don’t want a hotel wedding. I don’t want to get married on the beach. And I definitely don’t want to get married at a ranch in the middle of a suburban industrial park with cars whizzing by on the freeway in the background. Yes the Victorian house on the property is beautiful. No, it’s not interesting enough for me to forget about the Self-Storage and the tile showroom I passed driving up to it.
I’m not as bitter about wedding planning as I was in my first post about the subject. I’m actually starting to enjoy it, thanks to my wedding planner, Emily, who has taken over all the research responsibilities. Now I can click on the myriad links she sends me leisurely. I can rule places out with a glance, and I don’t have to worry about hurting my mother’s feelings. And I can sit in my pajamas all day and flip through the stacks of wedding magazines my friend Suzy so thoughtfully lent me. None of this makes finding a location for both the ceremony and the reception that suits our budget any easier, however; it’s just less stressful.
But with most of my free time devoted to the business of getting married, and Neal hunkered down at his desk, working into the wee hours every night trying to finish a side project he took on months ago, I haven’t thought much about romance. Continue reading
I have teamed up with the super-awesome wine shop K&L Wine Merchants (who also happens to be my employer!) for this year’s Menu for Hope, a campaign to benefit the UN World Food Programme. Started by Chez Pim after the incredibly devastating tsunami in Southeast Asia, Menu for Hope combines the efforts of food bloggers around the world to serve a higher purpose, namely getting food to those who need it. This year’s campaign is already underway and will continue through Christmas. The proceeds of this year’s Menu for Hope will benefit the school lunch program in Lesotho. This program sources food locally, supporting the local economy, and helps keep the kids in school, which can help end the cycle of poverty. It’s an incredible cause and one we’re thrilled to be a part of. Menu for Hope IV raised nearly $100k to feed the hungry.
So what does this mean?
There are a whole host of food-related goodies being raffled off for your charitable donation. For every $10 you donate, you earn one virtual raffle ticket to bid on a prize of your choice. At the end of the campaign, the raffle tickets are drawn and announced on Chez Pim. My dear friend and amazing writer/photographer Matt, of MattBites, is the West Coast coordinator, so check out his site to see all of the prizes available from the West Coast partners.
Hold onto your hats wine lovers. K&L Wine Merchants and me, SpicySaltySweet, are offering two magnums of Bordeaux with a combined retail value of $500!
2005 Pichon-Lalande, Pauillac (1.5L) This Left Bank second growth comes from the 2005 vintage, possibly the best vintage ever in Bordeaux and definitely among the top five. Beloved by the critics, the ’05 Pichon-Lalande was rated 93 points by Wine Spectator and 90-92 points by Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar. Wonderfully aromatic and elegant, this wine has ripe, sweet black cherry aromas and flavors, spiked by currant, anise and spice box on both the nose and palate. Not a powerhouse Bordeaux that thinks it’s a California cab, but a beautifully integrated wine that will continue to gain complexity in your cellar over the decades.
1999 Cos d’Estournel, St-Estèphe (1.5L) This inimitable second growth Bordeaux is already starting to show, though like other top-notch Bordeaux it can continue to age for decades. Made by the talented Jean-Guillaume Prats, the 1999 is an elegant blend of 65% cabernet sauvignon and 35% merlot made from the estate’s best fruit–only 40% of the year’s harvest went into this grand vin. We love its mineral notes and classically restrained structure. Robert Parker says: “The dark ruby-colored 1999 Cos is a supremely elegant effort. The wine offers notes of dried Provencal herbs, smoke, licorice, black cherries, and cassis. This medium to full-bodied St.-Estephe is cerebral, intellectual, and refined…”
Special Note: Due to the complex shipping rules in the U.S. it is illegal to ship alcohol to the following states: DE, FL, GA, IA, KY, ME, MD, MI, MT, NH, NC, OK, PA, RI, TN, UT, VA, but there are plenty of non-alcoholic prizes to bid on.
1. Choose a prize or prizes of your choice from our Menu for Hope at Chez Pim. The code for this prize is UW25.
2. Next, go to the donation site at FirstGiving to make a donation
3. For every $10 you donate, you will get one virtual raffle ticket. **Please specify which prize you’d like in the ‘Personal Message’ section in the donation form when confirming your donation.** You must write-in how many tickets per prize, and please use the prize code.
For example: If you make a $50 donation, you will get 5 raffle tickets that can be applied however you like. You can put all 5 toward UW25 (you would write: 5xUW25) or 2 tickets for EU01 and 3 tickets for EU02 (write: 2xEU01, 3xEU02) Please feel free to email me questions if this is not clear, the system isn’t perfect.
4. If your company matches your charity donation, please check the box and fill in the information so we could claim the corporate match.
5. Please allow us to see your email address so that we could contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone.
If Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, Repeal Day, which wine-lovers and cocktail hounds alike will be celebrating this Friday, runs a close second. Repeal Day marks the passage of the 21st Amendment to our constitution, effectively overturning the 18th, which banned the manufacture, sale and transportation of alcohol in the U.S. for 13 long, dry years. But while everyone is running around Friday, celebrating the 75th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition by getting appropriately schnockered, I thought I’d pay tribute the creative spirit—the speakeasies, the wine bottles market “for medicinal purposes” and, of course, the moonshine—that helped Americans survive the Noble Experiment by offering up a recipe for some homemade hooch.
Thanksgiving is, hands-down, my favorite holiday. Any day dedicated entirely to eating, drinking, friends and family gets my vote under most circumstances. But Thanksgiving has the added benefit of being about gratitude, and I have a lot to be thankful for.
This will be a special Thanksgiving, the first, I hope, of many with my cousin and her family. It’s long been a dream of mine—complete with long rustic tables piled high with food, kids feeding dogs Brussels sprouts and someone gnawing on a turkey leg under the table—to have a big, family Thanksgiving. Maybe I’ve watched too many romantic comedies, but that’s what I want. Too bad my cousin’s son Max is a self-imposed vegetarian; I can easily imagine his sticky hands wrapped around a turkey leg the size of his head.
Fall is by far my favorite season and, since the trees here refuse to play dress-up in their crimson, persimmon and gold-colored October wardrobe like a stubborn child refusing to have fun, it’s the one I have to work the most to capture. Autumn comes in from the edges in Southern California. It’s most obvious in the morning—when the light is a little more slanted, illuminating the palm trees and mountains to the east with a pumpkin-tinge—and in the evening, when Orion rises in the sky, the stars on his belt sparkling like Paris Hilton’s bling. It creeps in at the farmers’ markets too, with apples and winter squashes peppering the farmers’ tables along with grapes and figs and dates.
Nature has put on her Technicolor dreamcoat and cast a verdant spell across California’s brown hills. Last weekend I found some gorgeous wild fennel tucked in amongst the daisies and sage in Runyon Canyon, it’s bright green fronds fanning the smaller plants in the breeze. I didn’t pick any, but fully intend to go back with a bag and a little gardening shovel to pluck out a licorice-scented bulb or two. I’ve also been on the lookout for ramps, the garlicky wild leeks prized by chefs; they’re bound to start popping up soon. Though, since there growing season is so short and the flavor so sought-after, I doubt any will remain in the ground long enough for me to find and pick. I’ll just have to watch restaurant menus to get a bite while I can.
The farmers market is awash in green, too. Fava tendrils hint at the broad beans to come, graceful, tender asparagus line stall after stall like crowned guards and snap peas and English peas pour out of baskets, crisp pods beckoning like the Jolly Green Giant’s fingers.
Last Thursday was the Vernal Equinox, the day in the Northern Hemisphere when the night and day are essentially the same length. It is also the official start of spring and my second favorite time of year after fall. But living in Southern California, it’s easy to get a little detached from the seasons—the daffodils, cherry blossoms and tulips started blossoming at the end of February and I’ve returned to wearing flip flops most days—but I find that cooking always keeps me in time with the earth’s clock. Feeling springy, I decided to host “Easter” dinner for a few friends, a slightly surprising turn of events since I’m Jewish. Yet no sooner was the guest list confirmed than I found out I was supposed to work Sunday brunch at the restaurant I’ve been moonlighting at. Rather than cancel I decided to pick a simple menu, prep Saturday and have Neal do a bunch of the cooking while I was at work.
I have long counted myself among the Valentine’s Day-haters, a scowling anti-cupid. And my hate was the self-righteous kind, the disdain of the enlightened, of someone who didn’t buy into a holiday concocted to sell more greeting cards and chocolate—something like a Valentine’s vegan. But then I fell deeply in love. And suddenly, like someone who had deprived themselves of bacon and butter too long, I fell off the deep end.
Butternut Squash, Asiago & Walnut Ravioli with Brown Butter
Why are people so willing to start off the New Year with pie-in-the-sky expectations—thinking New Year’s Eve is going to be some transformational event—only to go to a large party, get sloppy drunk and end up in bed with a stranger? No wonder New Year’s is always a disappointment? I’m not trying to be Negative Nancy here, it just seems our New Year’s traditions are, shall I say, a little lacking.
What we know as New Year’s Eve is, essentially, an arbitrary designation made by two Roman consuls in 153 BC. Before that, the holiday was celebrated on March 15. And there are plenty of cultures that don’t even follow the Roman calendar, celebrating their New Year in the fall like Rosh Hashana—the Jewish New Year, or February, like the Chinese.
Normally, having spent much of my adult life in the restaurant business, I work on New Year’s Eve. The money is fantastic and, unlike my non-working friends, I wake up January 1st feeling refreshed. But at the beginning of December my dear friend Brooke, of Foodwoolf, and I were eating lunch at Joan’s On Third, when our cheese-pusher, Chester, mentioned he’d just gotten in the sausage for a traditional Italian New Year’s dish, cotechino con lenticche—cotechino with lentils. Continue reading