Thursday, June 30, 2011

Farmer's Market Report: More Stone Fruit and the Start of Summer Squash

The week is really flying by; I'm throwing a birthday party for my mom at my house on Sunday so I've been running around buying food and getting the house in order for 40 guests. One of our stops on Wednesday was the Santa Monica farmer's market. We mostly bought a ton of herbs, along with some vegetables. The bulk of the vegetables we had to buy at bigger places since we're making food for so many people. Looking forward to lots of cooking this weekend! We have quite the extensive menu planned.

Peaches are really abundant at all the stands; a lot of places had these strange looking donut peaches that I don't remember seeing before this year. I haven't tried them yet but they looked odd. There are also more and more stands with summer squash; one of my favorite parts of summer. Looking forward to throwing them on the grill. Tomatoes are also more and more prevalent, particularly cherry tomatoes in addition to the usual roma and vine ripened tomatoes. There still aren't many stands with heirloom tomatoes, but I'm sure they'll be coming in the next few weeks. I also saw my first eggplants and some really tiny cantaloupe, like the size of a softball.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Going to the Live Finale of The Voice!

I was very excited when I got an email this morning with two free tickets to the live taping of the finale of NBC's The Voice this afternoon. I didn't followed the show that closely in the beginning, but I did catch the last few episodes over the last two weeks, so I was excited to go and hear the performances. I won't reveal the winner for those who haven't watched yet, but I was rooting for Dia Frampton; I like her unique voice and originality in her song interpretations. She's a true artist and I would definitely enjoy listening to her records. Through watching the show, I also became a big fan of her coach, Blake Shelton, who just seems like a genuinely nice, cool guy on the show who cared about his contestants. He was equally nice off stage; he was the only coach to consistently interact with the audience, even giving hugs to all the former contestants who were sitting next to us during a commercial break. Christina Aguilera was definitely the diva she appears to be on TV; she entered 10 minutes after all the other judges were seated and taped a promo for the Voice Holland. She barely acknowledged anyone else and stayed in her chair the entire show.

W. and I headed over to the Warner Brothers studio in Burbank for the taping in the afternoon and got there a little late, about 15 minutes after they started letting people in.  We had to wait two hours in various queues before finally being seated 15 minutes before the show started. We weren't guaranteed seats and were amongst the last to be seated but we got awesome seats next to the former contestants and a few rows behind the judges, in Blake's section, which was convenient. It was a fun show, there were some great live performances, my favorite by far being Stevie Nicks' amazing duet, and it was cool to be on a backlot and in a studio to see all that happens during the taping of a live show. I'm not sure I would ever wait in line again, but it was definitely a fun experience.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Kick-Off to Summer Outfit

After several weeks of the usual misty June gloom, it finally feels like summer over here with bright blue sunny skies and temperatures in the 70's. I've been spending more time outdoors running, biking and walking the dogs. I'm trying to cook more, eat healthier and work out more, energized by the nicer weather. One of my updated regular summer outfits below inspired by the easy 70's vibe of the season: Calypso St. Barth for Target crochet silk tie dye top (purchased on sale), H&M Conscious Collection organic eyelet shorts, Swedish Hasbeens x H&M white wooden sandals and Prada Minimal Baroque Sunglasses. The silky Calypso St. Barth top is breezy and comfortable and the 3/4 length sleeves are perfect for the range of temperatures in Santa Monica. I pretty much wear all three pairs of the Swedish Hasbeens sandals everywhere; they are comfortable to walk in (I even biked in this pair this afternoon) and have held up to wear very well.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

2nd Annual Lobster Feast

Thanks to Mom and Dad W., for the second year in a row, we received an overnight delivery of four huge lobsters from Maine on Thursday. We had a delicious lobster feast, with steamed lobsters with a ginger vinegar dipping sauce and lemon clarified butter, steamed corn fresh from the day before's farmer's market, and roasted red pepper and tomato soup (from Trader Joe's). It's really such a special treat to have fresh lobsters from Maine, there's nothing like the taste of the sweet succulent meaty lobsters! We paired it with a lovely 2009 Curran Grenache Blanc, one of the several bottles of Grenache Blanc that I bought from the Curran case sale. Curran's Grenache Blanc was the wine that made me fall in love with Curran the first time I tasted it at the Solvang tasting room; it's very drinkable, fresh and well-balanced with just enough interest and complexity. The 2009 vintage was no exception.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Lucy Karma Racerback Review

Lucy Karma Racerback in Black and Lululemon Lolo purple reversible wunder unders
Despite the ridiculous price tags, I really do like Lululemon for workout clothes for their performance, comfort, style, fit and colors vs. other brands. I am always trying to find alternatives however and track other brands like Athleta and Lucy, but I haven't bought any Athleta yet since they are still currently only online, and I pop into the Lucy store every once in awhile on Montana Avenue but rarely buy anything. I have a pair of Lucy pants that are a few years old, but they haven't held up as well as my Lululemon pants; they have faded and the seams are worn, plus they have never quite fit right. I have always liked the look of their Karma Racerback tank however, and when I saw that it was on sale for only $19.99, I walked to the Lucy store with the dogs to check it out. I really like this tank; it's comfortable and a little more stylish than my usual racerbacks. I really like the look of the back, the width of the neckline in the front and the slight sweetheart neckline. With the exception of the Lululemon No Limit Tanks, I usually find tanks with built in support too constrictive, but it's not the case with this top at all. I wore the top to Pilates Platinum today and it worked out pretty well; it is a little more low cut than I prefer, but overall pretty comfortable and secure. This is actually the first black workout top I've ever owned; I usually prefer bright colors, but the black seems appropriate for this dressier top. I also bought two pairs of pants, the Bonded Gym Capri Leggings and the Lucy Hatha Leggings. I really wanted to like both leggings at $29.99 (you'll never find pants at Lululemon for that price), but after taking them home and trying them on for awhile, they just didn't fit right; the capris were too loose in the calves so they rode up and the Hatha leggings fit weird on top, so I immediately returned them. At least Lucy has a much better return policy than Lululemon, where you can actually return sale items, which is one of things I hate about Lululemon.

Pork Chops, Proscuitto, Cheese, and Pinot Noir

I don't usually post picture of other people's cooking here outside of restaurants, but K. put together such a delicious meal earlier this week that I thought he deserved a guest spot. He made proscuitto wrapped cantaloupe, endive with Bleu de Bocage (now rivals Point Reyes Blue as one of my favorite blue cheeses ever), candied pecans and cranberries, juicy pork chops with spiced apples and raisins, and an awesome cheese plate with specially selected cheeses from the Cheese Shop of Beverly Hills, including Fleur de Corse from France, a semi soft cows milk wrapped with some fennel seeds and peppercorn; Hoch YBrig, one of my favorite slightly stinky washed rind swiss cow's milk cheeses; Le Napoleon, a sheeps milk cheese with a nice sharp nutty flavor; and Midnight Moon, a deliciously smooth yet flavorful goat's milk cheese from Holland. Each course had delightful, contrasting flavors, and the pork was cooked perfectly; I definitely want him to make it again. A delicious meal with plentiful cheese; my idea of a perfect dinner! We opened a bottle of 2007 Copain Kiser "en Bas" Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley which was a well-balanced, even match to many of the sweet and salty flavors of the meal.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Lululemon Run: Sun blocker LS and Wunder Under Crop Light Review - Two New Summer Faves!

Lululemon Run: Sun Blocker LS in Pink Mist with Run: Speed Skirt in Aruba Sunset Floral, my very first Lululemon piece of clothing
Since Lululemon's stock price is back over $100 after dipping to the low $80's the last few weeks, thus increasing the value of my (unfortunately very meager) number of shares, I bought a couple of needed items, mostly on sale. My favorite purchase was the Lululemon Run: Sun blocker Long Sleeve in pink mist. I've been more and more paranoid about sun exposure, especially living in Socal with the amount of sun I get everyday by simply walking, running or biking outside all the time and even driving. I never leave the house without Solumbra SPF 40 sunscreen, but even that's not adequate sun protection. I've been looking for UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) shirts; unfortunately most are quite ugly and ill fitting. I really love my Uniqlo UV Cut cardigans, but wanted something to work out in. I happened to see the last remaining Run: Sun blocker LS at the Beverly Hills Lululemon last week and tried it on. It's an awesome top; it's super comfortable: the super thin, silky cool and soft UPF jersey fabric feels so lovely with circle mesh venting, and the seams and ruching are cute and flattering. I love the thumbholes which allows the sleeves to be pulled over the hands, protecting the back of the hands which often get the most direct sun. I haven't worn it running yet, but I hope that it performs well. Update: My only complaint so far is that the fabric is quite delicate and snags really easily. I'll have to be very careful with this top, which is a little annoying. I also tried on the Run: Sunbeam Pullover in the Toothpaste color, which was really cute with the braided detail on the arms and crossed v-neck, but at $98, it was $30 more than the Sun blocker, and not worth it in my opinion. I rarely buy any Lululemon at full-price since it's so expensive, but I thought the Sunblocker was worth it, for its UPF technical performance. Most of Lululemon's plain long sleeve tops, such as the Run: swiftly are the same price, so I think the Sunblocker is a better relative value. I would love to get more tops, but it's still too expensive. Along with the savasana wrap (and now the wunder under *light), these are the Lululemon items that I've purchased recently that I love so much that I've pretty much worn them everyday since I bought them.
You can kind of see the ruching and seaming detail of the sun blocker in the back, plus a little pocket
After a free Sunday morning yoga class at Lululemon Brentwood, I bought a pair of the new luon light wunder under crop in black wee stripe (those free classes are so dangerous). I love wunder unders; they are my favorite crops for everything from yoga to bar method to SPX pilates. I prefer my crops to be fitted all the way through as opposed to flared at the bottom. I feel like I focus on keeping my form more in class plus I don't get distracted by the flare. I really like how wunder unders stay put at the bottom all throughout class and don't get bunchy around the knee while working out; that always drives me crazy (ie. the Lucy crops)! Also, wunder unders are a lot cheaper than the other Lululemon luon crops, which are usually $86 full price and $59 on sale. The wunder under *light are noticeably thinner than regular wunder unders, which is nice in the warmer weather, although they don't compress as much and are less forgiving, so I am definitely a little more self conscious. My other wunder unders are substantially thicker and slicker as they are also reversible (lolo purple / black) and tend to slip down initially when I wear them, while the luon light version stays in place from the get go which is nice, plus they are cheaper and only a few bucks more than other crops on sale. I really like the black wee stripe pattern; it's neat and different from all my other bottoms, plus its not see through, which was my initial concern with the light luon.
Wunder Under light luon in black wee stripe with static very violet Cool Racerback. Hard to see the stripe pattern in photos
I also purchased a couple of sale items, including a Grapeseed Flow Y, Manduka yoga towel (my first yoga towel despite several years of yoga) and a cute Travel Pooch in Grapeseed (for my mom). In addition to the Run: Sunbeam pullover, I also tried on a couple of popular items that I didn't buy including the Run: Resolution Skirt II in coal vapor and an Energy Bra. The Run: Resolution Skirt didn't lie flat and was really wrinkly in the front and back, and I didn't like the puffiness on the side and back, and I found the front straps of the Energy to be too wide and dug into my sides.
Run: Resolution skirt (from Lululemon website): a little too poofy and wrinkly on the back. Plus two running skirts (Tracker and Speed Skirts) are enough for me as I only wear them in the summer.
Sunbeam Pullover (picture from Lululemon website)
Travel Pooch (picture from Lululemon website): cute for a fanny pack

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

H&M Next Designer Collaboration...Versace for H&M

Image from H&M
It was announced today that the next designer collaboration with H&M will be Versace, launching November 17th next fall. I continue to be amazed at how H&M is able to collaborate with all these iconic designers. I truly appreciate Gianni Versace and Donatella Versace's impact on fashion over the decades (JLo's infamous plunging jungle print Grammys dress when she was best known as PDiddy's girlfriend and Elizabeth Hurley's safety pin dress come to mind), but Versace isn't as much my style. I only have one relatively tame floor length high slit purple Versace gown and no accessories; Versace is just a little too flashy South Beach / Euro for my own personal tastes. I will be interested to see how the clothes translate, since the clothes do tend to be a little more wild and body conscious, there's more of a risk that it may not look as high fashion and fit will be crucial. See announcement video here. The few images of the collection that were revealed showed studs, leather and floral themes. It will be interesting to see how cohesive the collection turns out to be; at this stage, I don't think I will go as overboard as I did for Lanvin x H&M which was totally my style, but you never know...
Donatella Versace wearing the a leather studded dress at the Versace Menswear runway show. Image courtesy of H&M.
I quite like the dress on the left. The middle dress is a little...80's? Image courtesy of H&M.
Image courtesy of H&M. This pattern could be rather pretty.
Image courtesy of H&M

Monday, June 20, 2011

Father's Day 2011: Roast Chicken, Strawberries and Syrah

For Father's Day dinner this year, I made garlic roasted chicken with lemon and herbs, a strawberry arugula radicchio salad with toasted almonds and pomegranate balsamic vinaigrette, and roasted potatoes with rosemary and thyme. I started with Ina Garten's "Engagement Roast Chicken" recipe, but made what I thought were a couple crucial additions that really heightened the flavor and juiciness of the chicken: I brined the chicken overnight using 4 quarts of my usual brine, and I also stuffed the cavity with a sprig of rosemary and a few sprigs of thyme while roasting. I used organic young chicken from Costco and roasted it for 30 minutes, then rotated it and added a Le Creuset pot full of potatoes seasoned with fresh rosemary, thyme, olive oil, salt and pepper, to the oven, then roasted everything for another 45 minutes and it came out perfectly. Everyone loved the chicken; it had a nice crispy seasoned skin with a tender and juicy meat, even the white meat, with a savory roasted garlic flavor brightened with some lemon notes. The gravy made everything even more moist and savory. I would definitely use this recipe again. The salad was very simple; I bought some very sweet ripe strawberries from the morning's Brentwood farmer's market on my way home from free yoga at Lululemon, sliced them, dry toasted some almonds in a pan, and whipped together a quick vinaigrette with half pomegranate balsamic vinegar from Carina Cellars, half regular balsamic vinegar, a little dijon mustard, a little olive oil and salt and pepper. We paired the meal with a 2006 Carina Cellars "7 percent" Syrah which went well with both the savory roast chicken and sweet strawberry salad. It wasn't the strongest or boldest syrah; it was rather medium bodied with just enough fruit, which actually made for a better pairing with the meal. Happy Father's Day everyone!

Rice Cakes with Spicy Pork and Gruner Veltliner

I fired up some rice cakes with spicy pork and spinach in the wok for a hearty and easy dinner for two on Saturday night, which paired perfectly with a bottle of Gruner Veltliner from Franz Etz. Gruner Veltliner is one of my favorite food friendly wines; it's just so drinkable, nimble and crisp with just enough sugar and acid to match up to spicy Asian food. I used the same recipe that I used for dduk bok-ki with spicy pork, simply substituting frozen rice cakes from the Korean market defrosted and boiled for 3 minutes and rinsed in cold water, instead of the fresh dduk bok-ki. I think I actually prefer the rice cakes: not only does it not have to be cooked the same day as purchased, it's a lot lighter than the dduk with the same chewy and springy texture; as much as I love dduk bok-ki, it is a tad too dense and filling.
I really like this description of the Gruner, I think it is quite apt for all Gruner Veltliners in general

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Grilled Cheese and Beer Night Review at Andrew's Cheese Shop

Last night, we finally went to Grilled Cheese and Beer night at Andrew's Cheese Shop on Montana Ave. Anyone who knows me knows that cheese is my favorite food in the world, so I was so excited to discover Andrew's Cheese Shop while walking down Montana, not long after it opened; it's a slightly smaller version of my favorite Murray's Cheese Shop on Bleecker in New York, near our old apartment, and they carry a lot of my favorite cheeses that were introduced to me through Murray's, such as Garrotxa and Scharf Maxx. It's really dangerous for me to be walking distance from such an amazing cheese shop; K. and I used to make regular stops on our walk back after running to the beach. Nevertheless, it is so nice to have these little slices of NYC right here LA, like Joe's Pizza and Mozza; it has made the move back home to Santa Monica so much more palatable. I have been wanting to go to Grilled Cheese and Beer night at Andrew's for awhile, so I was very excited for last night and it did not disappoint. My idea of a perfect meal: five richly indulgent grilled cheeses paired with five beer tastings. It was the perfect progression of different styles of beer and cheese. We walked out the door smelling like cheese (I blame the swiss or trappist cheeses), but that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's a nice way to talk to new people as everyone was seated at a long communal table. At $45 per person, it was pretty reasonable; we usually spend at least $45 per person for food and drinks for a usual night out. Unfortunately my pictures didn't really turn out because of the dim lighting, but I've posted them anyway. Also, beer taste is highly subjective and I'm still learning about beer anyway, so these are just my personal  impressions of the beer tastings and accompanying food.
We started with a simple greens salad lightly dressed with some red peppers and carrots. A good starter as greens were largely absent in the subsequent courses. I suspected that this would be the case and was prepared in advance by having a salad from Veggie Grill for lunch.
The first pairing: a baguette with an intoxicating garlic rub and topped with a mix of melted Vermont extra sharp cheddar, a little pilsner, serrano chili and a little green onion. The grilled cheese was paired with Estrella Damm Inedit, a beer created by Ferran Adria to be a good beer to be paired with food. It was quite good, very refreshing, a wheat beer with the typical nose and taste of coriander and citrus peel. Very refreshing and light. It was the perfect pairing for the slightly spicy savory melty crusty grilled cheese. Estrella was highly featured at the Adria brothers' Tickets Bar in Barcelona, and now I can see why.
The second pairing: tomato, proscuitto, basil on olive bread spread with truffle basil butter, topped with burrata and fresh ricotta and a little truffle salt. A classic Italian caprese grilled cheese with extra luxury from some truffle (which was pretty subtle), paired with Lilith Bruton, a very effervescent Italian beer that looks like sparkling rose, with a big pink grapefruit nose and a delicate finish.
The third pairing: a carrot walnut raisin bread topped with my favorite mix of Swiss fondue cheeses: gruyere, comte and Scharf Maxx and a little crunchy guanciale because everything is better with pork. The rich, melty pungent cheeses went perfectly with my favorite beer of the night: Avery duganA Double IPA, which had a lovely peach nose and stone fruit taste with a nice structured hoppy finished. At 95 ibus, it was quite hoppy, but I actually like the bitterness. I feel like the hoppiness gives the beer structure, much like acidity in wine, making it a good match for food, particularly richer, flavorful foods. IPAs are my favorite summer beers, I just find them refreshing and drinkable.
The fourth pairing: a baguette rubbed with the same delicious garlic rub topped simply with a trappist style cheese (washed rind soaked in beer). I adore stinky pungent washed rind cheese; epoisses and Cowgirl Creamery's Red Hawk are some of my favorite cheeses, so it was no surprise that I asked for seconds of this baguette. It was paired with McChouffe, a belgian ale in the belgian / scottish style, which was smooth, medium caramel flavor and a mild lingering finish. I liked it, although I found the beer a bit mild, particularly after the double IPA. Lately, I've really liked barleywine, and the caramel flavors here were slightly reminiscent of that style without the heat.
The fifth and final pairing: pungent gorgonzola dolce and taleggio tempered with a little drizzled honey on walnut bread dipped in coffee. It was paired with Stone's Russian Imperial Stout, not a surprise to finish the night with a nice chocolatey stout. I really enjoyed the Stout, it was really rich and smooth and had all the wonderful coffee and chocolate flavors that I enjoy from stouts.
Andrew's Cheese Shop
728 Montana Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90403
(310) 393-3308

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Farmer's Market Report: Stone Fruit Season

The peaches and apricots are definitely bigger and more bountiful than a few weeks ago
I've missed the Wednesday Santa Monica farmer's market the last few weeks and had to have my mom pick up my vegetables for me, so I was happy to go to the market yesterday to check out what's new. Going to the farmer's market really gives me a first hand look and taste at what's at peak season so that I know what to order when I go to restaurants (and of course cook at home). Stone fruit season is getting close to reaching its peak with lots of fragrant apricots, peaches and hybrids. I saw a single stand with quite pretty heirloom tomatoes and just a basket or two of cherries, summer squash, peppers and grapes. I think cherries should be next up to reach its peak; I love those short few weeks of great cherries. Tomatoes aren't quite at their best yet, the last few batches of tomatoes that we've gotten from the farmer's market have been a little sour.
I didn't buy a lot because we have dinner plans most of next week, so we just bought some eggs, salad greens (italian mix: my favorite from Maggie's Herb Farm with arugula and radicchio), a bunch of herbs, potatoes and a dozen oysters from Carlsbad Aquafarm, which we had for dinner last night. While they were a good deal at 13 for $10, I was a little disappointed. They were a good size but too briny for me, and we bought what I thought was the less briny version, the Del Sol, which they soak to remove some of the brininess, although they were labeled as Lunas.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...