In Baby Love, Design, Out of Town on April 10, 2011 at 10:08 am
We’re back! It feels like the past week spent at my inlaws’ place in Gulf Stream was something out of a dream. A very, very good dream. Mornings at the beach, lunch poolside, lazy afternoons kicking around a ball in the garden.
We saw sharks and snakes. We saw butterflies and birds.
We picked strawberries and tomatoes with the cousins—and there was ice cream. Lots and lots of ice cream. Mostly chocolate.
And then we woke up. It was a particularly rough landing as we returned to a construction zone, our house having been sandblasted the day before we got back.
But there’s a happy ending to this messy story. I’m once more in the throes of my very favorite obsession: PAINT! (A topic I fear I may have exhausted last night at a chic dinner party hosted by our friends Lizzie and Matt.) Yesterday the crew hand-troweled the final coat of stucco on the exterior of the house in the most delicious shade of gray. I’ll post some pics later on. But first, I must obsess a tiny bit more about what color to paint the trim. I was so sure it would be cream. But now I’m leaning toward something a little more dramatic. To be continued…
In Drink, Out of Town on January 24, 2011 at 1:08 pm
Thank those of you who have emailed about my “Backbreak Mountain” column in the February issue ofBon Appétit magazine! It’s a story that I’ve wanted to write for a very long time now, but I could never have imagined just how much the experience would change the way I felt about a glass of wine. Most of all I am grateful to Doug, John, Elias, David, Uriel, Andy and the Shafer Vineyards team. You guys ROCK. I also wanted to share some photos from that night. Before this experience, I considered my greatest physical accomplishments running the Los Angeles Marathon in close to 90-degree heat and enduring childbirth (in that order). But neither of those events was as physically taxing as picking 11.75 tons of grapes on the side of a mountain in the middle of the night. These photos were taken after about three hours of backbreaking work picking hillside Cabernet Sauvignon in Shafer’s Sunspot vineyard. I lasted about four hours. These guys barely broke a sweat. And then they picked another vineyard. Hard core. Punk rock. And why we love our hillside Cabernet just a little bit more.
Photos by Andy Demsky
In Drink, Food, Out of Town on January 23, 2011 at 11:55 pm
It’s not enough to produce South Africa’s best wines. Or to have one of the most welcoming homes I’ve ever set foot in. Or to be a totally charming couple and warmest of hosts. No, they have to be great cooks, too. Meet Olive and Anthony Hamilton Russell. A week ago I was sitting on their veranda overlooking the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, with a glass of their stunning Chardonnay. I mean, pinch me.
As you drive up to the farm, there are wildflowers are far as the eye can see. They are every bit as chic in a vase on the table.
It was the last day of crayfish season. Lucky, lucky us.
Olive had made an insane risotto, sprinkled with an intense powder ground from five types of mushrooms from their farm. Sometimes she and Anthony take a picnic down to the farm’s forest to hunt for mushrooms. Then Olive oven dries them overnight and grinds them into a fine powder.
There was also roast chicken, green beans with black sesame. And a cheese course with local Gruyère scooped from a big wheel (like Parm) and served with figs from the farm that Olive cures in sugar with ginger.
This time of year the couple harvests honey near the heath and heather on the property, and Olive mixed some of that honey with cream and white chocolate, reduced it for 40 minutes and mixed in slivered almonds and poured over fresh peaches with berries and mint. Served with a glass of 2008 Bisous Noble Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc, this was pretty much heaven.
In Drink, Out of Town on January 20, 2011 at 9:34 pm
See that looker on the left? That’s Mr. Foodinista and his brother as kids in Nantucket. Today (here in South Africa and three hours from now in Los Angeles) is his birthday. And guess who’s in South Africa missing it? Can’t wait to celebrate when I get home on Saturday! Word has it there’s a Stout Float recipe from Alice Medrich in the February 2011 issue of Bon Appétit that might have your name written all over it!
In Drink, Out of Town on January 18, 2011 at 10:34 pm
If there’s one thing that immediately seduces about South Africa, it has to be the air. Earthy and dusty and wild and occasionally punctuated by sweet incense, it’s totally intoxicating. And the wines? Oh my god. But before we get into my serious Chenin worship, here are few shots from lunch at Rustenberg Wines, high up the Helderberg slope near Stellenbosch in the Western Cape region of South Africa.
See those five trees at the top of the mountain? They’re 80-some-year-old stone pines known as Five Soldiers. We drove to the top to have lunch underneath the pines with owner Simon Barlow.
There was a warm wind blowing throughout lunch. Heaven. And the views? Dreamy. Look at those gorgeous red clay soils.
The wines were pretty spectacular, too. And, yes, that’s a magnum of 1999 Peter Barlow! (Be very, very jealous.) Thank you, Simon. We should do this more often…
In Out of Town on January 12, 2011 at 11:38 pm
Okay, I’ve known tomorrow’s trip was happening for a while, but it somehow kind of snuck up on me and so I found myself frantically racing around town today chasing down the last South African adapter in town (thank you, Flight 001), sleeping pills for the 16-hour flight (thank you, you know who you are), doing LOADS of laundry, while freaking out about a toddler running a fever and a near disaster with a kitchen repair gone wrong. However, in the midst of all this chaos I have to give a shout out to the gorgeous girls this afternoon at Pickett Fences on Larchmont. Thank you for the best service in town, and for making my day! See you on the other side!
In Food, Out of Town on December 28, 2010 at 9:15 pm
What was my favorite sammie of 2010? This one. Why? Allow these two words to sink in: Bacon. Remoulade. It’s a good thing I don’t live closer to Hog Island Oyster Company at Napa’s Oxbow Public Market or we’d be in big trouble. Since we’re among friends here, I confess that I had two of these po’ boys in as many days last week when I was visiting my parents for Christmas. My sister staged an intervention when I began making noise about returning for a third. Here’s the not-so-skinny: Four beer-battered and fried Hog Island Sweetwater oysters atop a bed of bacon remoulade on a toasted potato bun. Those sweet and briny Sweetwaters against that smoky remoulade with just a squeeze of lime juice is just about as good as it gets.
In Baby Love, Out of Town on December 25, 2010 at 12:41 pm
Boy meets piano karaoke machine. Mommy meets egg nog. Spiked.
In Out of Town on December 23, 2010 at 10:42 am
After a week of torrential rain in Los Angeles, we made the stormy drive to Napa Valley yesterday. It was pretty intense over the Grapevine—pitch black and buckets of rain and winds—but we made it! And woke up at my parents’ house on Howell Mountain this morning to the sunny view above. Sometimes the fog over the valley floor seeps right up to their back deck and looks like an ocean. And then other times, like this morning, it creeps up to the house so that you can’t see more than a few yards in front of you. Here’s a view, below, 20 minutes later as the fog starts to close in. Isn’t that wild? A different, moodier sort of white Christmas, and my very favorite kind.
In Food, Out of Town on November 16, 2010 at 12:58 pm
We are packing our bags and saying one last goodbye to Tiny G’s cousins before his grandmother drives us back to the airport where we will board a Virgin America flight that makes me feel like I’m in a nightclub, one that delivers coffee made to order to your seat. So goodbye to quiet mornings on warm, deserted beaches.
Goodbye to the magnificent banyan tree in the front drive.
Goodbye to lazy afternoons reading in the shade. Goodbye to the fresh catch of the day at Captain Clay’s.
Goodbye to candlelit family dinners by the ocean. And goodbye to my sister-in-law Kate’s coconut cake. Parting is such sweet sorrow.