A passion for food + fashion

Archive for April, 2009|Monthly archive page

The Skinny on Lard

In Fashion, Food on April 29, 2009 at 6:41 pm


The other day I mentioned in a post about heirloom beans, that when cooking beans it’s best to use some sort of fat—be that olive oil, freshly rendered lard or bacon fat. The mention of the word “lard” seemed to cause something of a stir, prompting one reader to comment that it was “fattening and disgusting.” Turns out, there’s a difference between fat and fattening—and recent research shows that lard may have gotten an unfair rap. (The fresh kind that is, not the industrial scary stuff.) In fact, according to bonappetit.com, freshly rendered lard “contains less bad (saturated) fat and more good (monounsaturated) fat than butter.” Think of it more closely akin to olive oil. For more info on fats, check out this article by Nina Planck. And thanks everyone for joining the debate!

Next time we’ll talk about my favorite diet food, melted lardo (cured pig fat with rosemary) on crostini, and after that we’ll discuss why I can no longer fit into my blood red velvet Gucci tuxedo pants from Tom Ford’s final collection for the label, circa 2004…


Star Quality

In Drink, Film on April 29, 2009 at 7:17 am


I kind of have this thing about celebrity involvement in wineries. If you tell me a celebrity is involved in a winery, I pretty much lose any interest in tasting the wine. Vince Neil of Mötley Crüe’s “Vince Vineyards Sonoma Chardonnay” comes to mind, as does Mario Andretti’s “Napa Valley Merlot,” or Mike Ditka’s “Kick Ass Mendocino Red” to say nothing of Dan Aykroyd’s Ontario Cabernet Shiraz. (Vomito.)

So it was with mixed feelings that I discovered that this great bottle of $15 Feuille de Garance Côtes-du-Rhône comes from French screen legend Jean-Louis Trintignant (who got his start opposite Brigitte Bardot in And God Created Women). But after tasting the wine, I forgave all. It’s an intense, alluring wine with maturity and mystique, and much like the actor, a bit of a thrill!


Fashion Moment: Tuesday’s Muse

In Fashion on April 28, 2009 at 6:53 pm


“I feel like California is so casual,” said my friend Dana, dressed in a fabulous Armani silk slip dress in neptune green with silver scalloped detailing at the neckline—like glimmering half shells. She also had on blue heels and a sort of sky blue silk wrap. The whole effect recalled the colors of a Botticelli.  It was 10 o’clock in the morning. It was ten o’clock THIS morning. God love you, Dana!

Vaquero Beans

In Food on April 28, 2009 at 8:15 am


Sorry for the delay – got home from work on the late side last night, so here I am a day late with my bean odyssey. At a crazy good dinner party on Saturday night, my friend Katie gave me a bag of  these heirloom Vaquero Beans from Rancho Gordo. Actually Katie was pretty clear that they were “on loan,” so I’ll be hitting up my sister to bring a few replacement bags from Napa Valley next time she comes down to visit. First off, can we agree that they are stunningly gorgeous? Like an Appaloosa horse. Love! So to get going, first I rinsed them in super cold water. Then I put them in a pot and covered with an inch of water and soaked for six hours. Yes, that’s right. Six hours.


From there, I consulted Rancho Gordo founder Steve Sando’s instructions for cooking beans. (Note: Sando has an awesome new Heirloom Beans cookbook, click HERE to order.) Per Sando’s advice, I made a makeshift mirepoix with onions, carrots and garlic I picked up at farmers market sautéed in olive oil – makeshift because I realized too late I had no celery. C’est la guerre. But basically all you need is water or broth and some sort of fat (I used olive oil, but freshly rendered lard or bacon fat would be mighty nice). I added my pseudo-mirepoix to the beans and their liquid, brought to a boil for five minutes, and then slow cooked on super-low heat for several more hours. Check out that amazing, rich liquid they give off. So flavorful!


Meanwhile my husband grilled red, yellow and orange bell peppers along with Maui sweet onions, and we tossed with the beans, fresh thyme and some crumbled French feta, which we picked up from Laurent Bonjour—the “French cowboy ” with the cheese truck at the Larchmont Farmers Market (which conveniently works with the whole vaquero angle). The dish was as delicious as it was beautiful. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. Mr. Foodinista knows his way around a grill!


And I know my way around a corkscrew, which I pressed into action to open a cold bottle of crisp, minerally 2007 Domaine Leflaive Mâcon Verzé—a Chardonnay from the Puligny-Montrachet region of Burgundy and a great value at $27. It was made by one of my very favorite winemakers in Burgundy, Pierre Morey (a true pioneer in biodynamics, not to mention one of the most gracious winemakers I’ve ever met) before he stepped down last year as Leflaive winemaker to concentrate on his own label. Here’s to you, Pierre!


NOTE: We were in the mood for white wine (the White Burgundy was lovely; a Sancerre or Vouvray from the Loire would have been even better with the tangy feta). If you prefer a red, a nice cru Beaujolais would kill with this combo!

Dinner Party Envy

In Food on April 27, 2009 at 8:32 am

terrineSaturday night we went to what has to be one of the best dinner parties in memory at our friends Katie and Matt’s. Let’s just say that when one of your fellow guests shows up with vacuum-sealed terrines of pheasant pâté—made with pheasants he hunted on his father-in-law’s ranch in Oregon and topped with thinly shaved black truffles, which we enjoyed with a Louis Bouillot sparkling rosé—that the bar has been set pretty high. But yet rise to the occasion our hostess did. Yours truly did not wish to be rude by showing up with camera in hand, so I’ll simply describe the menu to you here. I’ll be cribbing parts of it this weekend when my sister is in town to visit Tiny G.

Grilled Lamb Chops with Porcini Mustard

Balsamic-Marinated Radicchio with Basil and Fresh Ricotta

Fennel Salad with Creamy Garlic Dressing

Tuscan Beans in Summery Tomato Ragu

Served with 2006 Patz & Hall Chenowith Ranch Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley


Candied Fennel-Topped Lemon Cake

Served with 2005 La Tour Blnache Sauternes

Some of the boys got into the Talisker on the porch after dinner, but for once in my life I made the sensible decision to abstain. There’s a first time for everything.

One final note about those Tuscan beans. Katie used heirloom Peruvian Mayocoba beans from Rancho Gordo, and they were nothing short of exceptional. She had ordered a bunch, and “loaned” me a bag of Vaquero beans, which I experimented with yesterday and will post about later today. Finally, no matter how close I come to approximating the above menu, I will be missing two key elements—Katie and Matt’s gracious hosting and their incredible Craftsman home. House envy will be another post…

Grey Gardens

In Design, Film on April 26, 2009 at 9:50 am


Friday night we made it through about an hour of the HBO Grey Gardens remake with Drew Barrymore. (Above photo from the original 1975 documentary about the Bouvier cousins in East Hampton.) My friend Billy loved it, and if he were at all reachable I would demand that he state his case right here and now, but alas he is in Dallas this weekend, having attended last night’s Art Ball benefitting the Dallas Museum, wearing a midnight blue Dolce & Gabbana tuxedo jacket with black Prada pants, black tuxedo shirt and vintage black YSL bow tie with patent leather lace-ups. I know he’s been obsessed with Drew’s hair lately, particularly at the Golden Globes (below) but I’m going to need more…


Chez Foodinista, today we are staging our own version of Grey Gardens. That is, we’re painting our garden wall Meadowood Gray—the color used at Meadowood in St. Helena (below), where we got married two years ago. The guys at the St. Helena Paint Works kindly shared the formula. We’re starting with the garden wall, but plan to paint the whole house in this dreamy sandy gray with cream trim later this year! (By which I mean sometime before 2020.) I’ll post before after pics of the wall here later today.


Update 9:10pm: We are still watching paint dry – looks great!…. photos forthcoming….

B is for Breakfast, B is for Bags

In Fashion, Food, On Location: Out and About in L.A. on April 25, 2009 at 8:19 am


The other morning I met a friend for breakfast at BLD—Breakfast Lunch Dinner—restaurant on Beverly. The ricotta blueberry pancakes and fried egg sandwich with gruyère here are legendary. Their coffee arrives in a silver French press, and has to be some of my favorite restaurant coffee around. I love it. This last time, I went a marginally more virtuous route than my beloved fried egg sandwich and got the house-smoked salmon scramble.


But the most delicious aspect of this week’s visit to BLD were the two incredibly chic women sitting next to us speaking what sounded like some sort of Chinese dialect, each with a white Goyard St Louis tote casually slung over her respective chair.

st louis

In addition to the matching Goyards and Cartier love bracelets, one woman was wearing a pair of leopard-print Tori Burch Reva ballet flats, which I’ll forgive her, because she was also wearing this gray Chloe sweater jacket I’ve been lusting after (in another life, that is). Her companion was wearing a lovely little lightweight Marc Jacobs-y khaki jacket, white jeans and these beautiful blue Chloe peep-toe sandals. (Someone has a teeny tiny Chloe fixation.)

chloeThey say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, after all, so why shouldn’t we dress for it?

It’s a Guac-Off!

In Food on April 24, 2009 at 8:14 am


Wow, so this is really happening. After five years of running my mouth about this, I’ll be facing off against some truly formidable competitors in a little over a month for the title of Best Guacamole. A taste of the competition: My friend Katie is ruthless. Let’s just say she beats boys at sports, handily. And Katie being Katie has already begun sourcing avocados. Like I’m not onto her… Carolynn has a James Beard Award under her belt and, oh yeah, she writes cookbooks with Nancy Silverton. And my friend Oscar launched the much loved, and much missed, magazine Tu Ciudad. Basically I’m up against a bunch of slackers. It’s time to get my head in the game.

Stylistically, what’s your favorite guac and why?

Bean there, tasted that?

In Food on April 23, 2009 at 8:52 am


Has anyone tried the Kettle Black Bean Tortilla Chips? At first I resisted because I felt like they were they vanilla vodka of the tortilla chip world. But then recently we had some along with guac, and they were totally addictive. I probably couldn’t have identified that they were made with black beans if I’d blind tasted one, but regardless I love the hit of onion and garlic in there and that certain black bean je ne sais quoi. Also, they’re made with organic corn, if that sort of thing helps you sleep at night. 

I plan to serve them as one option at my long-awaited “Guac-Off.” For years I’ve been threatening to organize this because I think my guac rocks, my friends Katie and Adam think their respective versions are better, and my friend Oscar threatens to throw his sombrero into the ring. I hesitate to invite my neighbor Martha (a third-generation New Mexican) to participate because I think she could take this competition, but yes, this year we’re finally going to settle this matter. Stay tuned…


Chicken Milanese

In Food, On Location: Out and About in L.A. on April 22, 2009 at 5:57 pm


Whenever my husband is on his own for dinner, and often when he isn’t, you’ll likely find him scarfing a Chicken Milanese sandwich. His favorite is from Joan’s on Third. Joan’s is our favorite spot at which to meet for lunch for a midweek “date.” The rendition of the Chicken Milanese features lightly breaded chicken with melted provolone and a tangy mustard aioli on a baguette. A couple days ago we met there for lunch, and tried a side of the potato salad, which is a new fave. It’s a simple mix of red potatoes tossed in a mustard vinaigrette with chopped Italian parsley. And frankly, if you transferred this into one of your own bowls and served at home, you’d quickly get a reputation for having the best potato salad around…

potato salad