A passion for food + fashion

Archive for May, 2009|Monthly archive page

Family Tradition

In Baby Love on May 29, 2009 at 6:51 am
Ansel Adams in Yosemite, 1942

Ansel Adams in Yosemite, 1942

We’re in Yosemite this weekend with Tiny G, his Aunt Claire, grandparents and great grandparents—four generations! My dad’s family has been going to Yosemite this same week every year since the 1940s, and childhood memories of tearing around the Ahwahnee and Curry Village cabins with my sister and our cousins are among my most cherished. It’s a tradition we’re thrilled to be able to continue with Tiny G. Have a great weekend!

Guerilla Guacamole Tactics

In Food on May 28, 2009 at 7:12 am


Yesterday I went to lunch at Loteria Hollywood with my friend/guac-foe Katie. We had pretty much agreed not to talk guac, but then Jimmy Shaw (chef/owner of Loteria) came over to say “hi” and asked us how our upcoming Guac Off was shaping up. Jimmy will be one of the judges at our guacamole contest, which propelled Katie into blatantly attempting to bribe him. Shameless. He also mentioned that he’d spoken to our co-competitor Carolynn earlier that day and that she had told him she was making a test run of guacamole. Seriously, Carolynn. Do you think I’m not going to find these things out???

But because I’m taking the moral high road, I will share here what Katie and I are both adopting as our strategy, a borderline OCD suggestion courtesy of Jimmy. We are going to buy avocados every day next week so that come next Saturday we will have an array of avocados in various stages of ripeness from which to choose. Obsessive? Si. But all is fair in guac and guerra…

This Is Not Ikea

In Design on May 27, 2009 at 6:50 am


The other day I mentioned to my neighbor Martha that I was looking for some vintage metal garden chairs, and she suggested I check out thisisnotikea.com. Which is something I should have done in the first place since all my designy friends are always raving about Alexis and all his groovy vintage finds from the 50s, 60s and 70s at great prices. See something you like online? Email Alexis at info@thisisnotikea.com and set up an appointment. He’s in the Mid-Wilshire area, and you will go ga-ga when you walk in the door. For us, it was love at first sight with these tomato-red 1950s lawn chairs, which we brought home and placed by the fountain.

Here’s a little extra shopping incentive: This Is Not Ikea is a greener choice, namely you are reducing your carbon footprint by recycling and rescuing vintage pieces. Second, you end up with something unique from the ubiquitous “big box” stores so that your garden doesn’t look like you ripped a page out of Ikea.

We’re so inspired by the color of the chairs that we’re going to sprinkle some Oriental poppies to pick up that same vibrant hue through the lavender-scented flower beds, which are filled with a gorgeous array of purple blooms. Here are a few shots of the borders:

gravel path in front garden

gravel path in front garden

hints of purple around the base of the enormous tree in the back garden

around the base of the enormous tree in the back garden

And if you want to see something really dramatic, check out the before and during pics:


So exciting! Next up: the carport. We’ve replaced beams, repainted, added a brick patio beneath and are putting up lattice today over the dilapedated back fences. More tomorrow…

Octopus Adventures

In Food on May 26, 2009 at 8:01 am


On Sunday, I picked up a 2.5 lb octopus from the fish guy at the Larchmont Farmer’s Market. I looooove octopus, but had never tackled one on home turf before. The raw specimen is really gross, I’m just going to put that out there. Here it is in our sink. This is when I pleaded with my husband to deal with it.


But neither my husband nor I knew what the hell an octopus “beak” was—and we were supposed to remove it, so we panicked we called our friend Hugh, who came right over. Okay, so that little mouth-thing on the belly of the octopus is the beak. Hugh plucked it right out, and I felt really dumb for having called in the first place but relieved that I didn’t have to deal—this time anyway.

So then consulting a recipe for Octopus and Potato Salad in Mario Batali’s Italian Grill cookbook, we threw six cloves of garlic, a few chiles de arbol and two wine corks (which Batali swears help tenderize the octopus) and our de-beaked octopus into a pot of boiling water and then simmered for about 90 minutes.

corkoctopusAfter octopus is tender (test with a knife), remove from heat and drain and allow to cool. Meanwhile, bring 4-5 Yukon Gold potatoes to a boil and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Peel and quarter potatoes and put in a medium-sized bowl. Toss with the following: 1/2 cup olive oil, 4 thinly sliced scallions, a thinly sliced red onion, grated zest and juice of two lemons, and a cup of pitted kalamata olives. Stir and season with salt and pepper.

Drizzle octopus with olive oil on both sides and grill over the hottest part of the grill for 9 minutes until nicely charred, then flip and cook for another 8 minutes.

Cut octopus into 1.5-inch pieces and add to potato salad and gently toss. Serve warm or at room temperature. The results were seriously delicious…smoky, charred, meaty, zesty, so good that I’ll even deal with the beak next time. Maybe.


Fountain of Dreams

In Design on May 25, 2009 at 12:24 pm


I’m going to start with a photo of the finished product—a fountain that has been years in the making. Specifically since May 20, 2001, when the magazine for which I previously worked ran a gorgeous photo of a similar fountain on the cover of its special garden design issue. I’ve been obsessed with this fountain ever since, and so two summers ago when we put an offer on the house we now own, I immediately went about securing this concrete pot. It’s from San Marcos Growers, and weighs, oh, about 250 lbs. Loading it into the trunk of my old Audi wagon did about $500 worth of damage. So add that to the tab. I will spare you the fight my husband and I had driving this thing across town, me curled up on my back inside the pot in the trunk in order to stabilize it. (Yes, you read that right.) Or the intricate system my husband devised involving a friend’s Dora the Explorer kid’s table and a goose-down duvet in order to roll the pot out of my car and onto a safe landing.

And then there it sat, untouched, in the disaster of our new backyard for almost two years, collecting leaves.


Until last week. We finally decided to take the plunge and deal with the backyard, centering it on the fountain. The fountain is surrounded by 4 feet of gravel, the same gravel as on the paths in the front, and we’re planting a perimeter of rosemary around it in order to keep Tiny G out of harm’s way. (I can’t wait for the rosemary to thicken into a dense shrub!) As you can see, the pot is a BEAST. It took our landscaper Felipe and two other pretty damn strong men to lift and level it.

felipeI’m so impressed by how Felipe brought it all together. There is a layer of fine mesh atop the plywood, which keeps the gravel from falling in, but allows the water to trickle through to the tub beneath and recirculate so that water continuously spills over the fountain edge (much like an infinity pool). It’s dreamy. And so calming. Now I’m on the hunt for some vintage French metal garden chairs to place beside it for a sunset drink. How pleasant would that be?

Herb Garden

In Design, Food on May 24, 2009 at 11:58 am


We’ve been very, very busy the past few days and have torn up our entire backyard. We’ve planted flower beds, boxwoods and trees, put in gravel, sod, a fountain and brick patio—and over the next few days I’ll post pictures of the progress. But in the meantime, one of my favorite new additions: a redwood raised bed in which we’ve planted tomatoes and herbs. I got up early yesterday morning and got to the Santa Monica Farmers Market about 15 minutes before it opened, as Hayground was unloading their herbs. I loaded up on basil, purple basil, chives, Italian oregano, Italian parsley, Vietnamese cilantro, cilantro, red vein sorrel, marjoram, sage, lemon thyme, thyme, tomato plants, tarragon, mint and lemon verbena. Then the lovely Sess from Verdant Garden Design (verdantgardendesign@hotmail.com) built a beautiful 6 x 2 redwood raised bed for the herbs:

redwoodbedThis morning I went to Hollywood Farmers Market to pick up some chervil and shishito peppers to round things out, but neither of the herb guys will have either for at least another two weeks. So instead I got some gorgeous farm fresh eggs and made breakfast, and then sprinkled the eggshells over the herb garden to keep the snails out:

eggseggshellsMore on the garden tomorrow!

Friday Follies: Depression Chic

In Fashion, Film on May 22, 2009 at 5:01 pm

Friday Follies [n., pl.] postings on Fridays about fashion and food in film from guest bloggers with impeccable taste.


Now that economic tides are ebbing, and Clara Cannucciari’s Depression-era cooking YouTube blog has morphed into a bona-fide hit, I feel the time is ripe to whip out my obsession with early ’70s hit The Sting. This deliriously enjoyable caper set during the Depression stars Robert Redford and Paul Newman at the height of their game. As if that weren’t fun enough, the flick also won an embarrassment of Oscars—among them prizes for best film, best director and best costume design.

Legendary Hollywood costumer Edith Head oversaw the wardrobe—recreating a fanciful version of a real, down-at-the-heels historical period, which still yields delicious inspiration today.

The rag-time theme of this film achieved immortality, deservedly so. But if we’re ready to embrace old-time snacks like pepper-and-egg sandwiches, why not take fashion cues from Ms. Head’s witty interpretations of Depression garb?

In this flick, Redford (playing a small-time, backwater grifter) first busts on the scene in a snazzy dark beret, a smart striped shirt and a three-piece suit tailored sharply enough that I suspect his lapel could have sliced clean through chilled butter. I happen to have a theory that Redford in his prime embodied all that is good, wholesome, and smart-allecky inspiring about America, but I’ll forsake it now for objective evidence: Namely, Redford’s outfit in a subsequent scene—a striped, double-buttoned suit in proper brown, accessorized with a proto-psychedelic tie. It’s the kind of look that transcends fads and registers as perpetually elegant.


Newman (playing a famous, down-on-his-luck grafter with a drinking problem) initially appears messy and drooling, but later cleans up nicely in a wide-lapel gray suit and a wide, geometric-pattern tie.

There are some issues that defy logic in this film—note appearance of Redford’s and Newman’s characters in impeccable tux gear with just-so turned-up collars and smart bow ties—Um, they’re lowly grifters!—but overall this is as much a feast for the brain as it is for the eyes.


Sure there are flaws—the flick features solely ONE female character, and she turns out to be an evil bitch. But overall, the delightful twists of the plot dovetail with the wardrobe to create a gorgeous cinematic experience.

If I was to apply to apply the style lessons of The Sting to our everyday lives, I’d boil it down to this trifecta: 1. When in doubt, wear a beret. 2. Sport a tie—or make sure you date/marry a man who is comfortable donning a tie 3. Never discount the possibility of crafting a new persona just by slicking back your hair with gel and combing it down into a part.—Sorina Diaconescu


Shaved Fennel, Cauliflower and Asparagus Salad

In Food on May 21, 2009 at 9:16 am


This is spring simplicity at its best. Slice up a few of bulbs of raw fennel and cauliflower on the mandolin, and then thinly slice up some raw asparagus.


It’s all tossed in a creamy garlic sauce (which is essentially an aioli) that is quickly made in the blender. I would strongly suggest using true, spicy Dijon mustard.


The recipe is from this month’s Gourmet. For the recipe, click HERE. I would dial up the lemon a little in the dressing, and make liberal use of salt.

Where the Buffalo Roam

In Food on May 20, 2009 at 7:07 am


Yesterday in Whole Foods I spotted some buffalo ribeye steaks and thought what the hell, a little lean protein never hurt anyone. A few things to keep in mind. The reason buffalo is such a healthy option is because it’s super lean—almost no fat, which means almost no flavor (relative to a Nebraska cornfed dry aged 35 day bone-in ribeye at CUT). So seasoning is key with buffalo. We used a liberal rub of cayenne and ancho chile powders, salt and pepper. You want to grill them at high heat, and quickly, or they will be tough. Err on the side of rare (and they will still be more done than you think). My husband grilled them for 3 1/2 or 4 minutes a side. And guess what? They were great! We are going to add them to the weekly lineup.

Meet Mortimer

In Food on May 19, 2009 at 7:04 am


What you see before you is Mortimer the Pig, aka our beloved molcajete—a Mexican mortar and pestle made from volcanic rock—that we received as a wedding present. Mortimer was billed as being pre-seasoned, but as of this writing, shamefully I have yet to put that to the test even though we’ve had him for going on two years now.

So picture this scene. On Sunday I run into Carolynn Carreño (a vicious competitor in our upcoming Guac Off), and she’s deep in conversation with my very favorite Mexican chef, Jimmy Shaw (chef/owner of Loteria Grill). What do you think they’re talking about? GUACAMOLE. I’m not even kidding. I had to shut it down right there on the spot. Carolynn later confessed that she was asking Jimmy about seasoning her molcajete. She has one like mine (sans snout) and believed hers was also pre-seasoned, only to make a test batch of guac laden with grit. And so, even though Carolynn is fierce, she is also a friend and was kind enough to share Jimmy’s advice for seasoning. First, rinse your molcajete and tejolote in water and allow to dry. Then put a couple scoops of rice rock salt and grind to a fine powder, using short, downward motions and not continuously around the side. [Note: I misunderstood: Jimmy recommends rock salt, but Carolynn has had several others tell her rice so why not try both?]


Do this every day for an eternity. Apparently it will take years to get this thing glassy smooth, and the oils and acids used in making salsas and guacamole help in the process over time, but in the countdown to Guac Off, we’ll be seasoning Mortimer daily to get him in fighting shape.

BREAKING NEWS: Meanwhile, to find out what Carolynn and her molcajete are up to, click HERE.