Monthly Archives: July 2010

Peaches and Cream: Summer’s New Neutral

If you’ve been following the blog you’re pretty familiar with my summer obsession with peaches, (as illustrated here and here and with a recipe that is soon to be shared from earlier this week!)  

So far, I had only been thinking of peaches for the kitchen and how they could be incorporated into recipes, until I saw a woman walking to work – on another humid day in DC – in two different shade of peach/coral.  
That’s when it clicked; peaches and corals aren’t only meant for bridesmaids dresses and Easter Egg Rolls!  With some sun on your cheeks (or bronzer 🙂 the color combination is flattering for all skin tones.  The bright color plays beautifully with white, cream, blues, teal and navy, and depending on how it’s styled it could apply to nearly any aesthetic.

Here is what I am craving on this hot, but sunny Summer Friday!

Top Row (L-R): Hoss Intropia Coral Embroidered Dress, Corey Lynn Calter coral stripe cotton ‘Michelle’ belted strapless dress, Peach Sunrise Tunic, Jeweled Damsel Necklace
Middle Row (L-R): Tory Burch – Emmy Thong Gold Mirror Leather, Pour La Victoire Women’s Agatha Ballet Flat, Butter Women’s Satin Platform Pump
BottomRow (L-R): Lily Pulitzer Whitley Skirt Mini Printed, Bahia Watercolor Print Slim Skirt, J Brand Mid Rise 16″ Straight Leg Jeans, Bead Balance Necklace

The Cake that Stole the Show, or Blueberry Harvest Cake

Blueberry Harvest Cake
Part of the joy of getting a pedicure is reading the magazines.  And I was extra joyful when I stumbled upon the August issue of Food & Wine Magazine.  With tributes to Tuscan Farm to Fork cooking and a feature on Greek Chef/Philosopher Michael Psilakis I was hooked.  

On Sunday, a few days after the pedicure, we were having Mark’s family over for lunch to wish his mom a “buon viaggio” before her trip to Italy.  This was our first time entertaining in our new house, and we toiled on the menu, prepared on Saturday, shopped our Farmer’s Market Sunday morning and cooked and cleaned just until showtime.  On a hot day, and a full menu the big debate was dessert, and then I remembered the magazine.

The Cake that Stole the Show, or Blueberry Harvest Cake 
adapted from Food & Wine Magazine, August 2010

All the ingredients ready to be delicious
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon of salt
3/4 teaspoon of baking powder
2 large eggs
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup of milk
1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 – 1.5 cups of blueberries, fresh
Confectioners Sugar for dusting
Use a 9″ springform pan
Oven at 350 degrees

Whisk the dry ingredients: flour, salt, and baking powder.

In a separate bowl whisk, by hand, the eggs with granulated sugar until fully combined and a smooth yellow color.  

Then pour in the vanilla, milk, and olive oil and continue whisking by hand.  Slowly and while whisking continuously, pour in the melted butter.  It’s a good idea to let the melted butter cool for a few moments as this cake would not taste good with scrambled olive oil eggs.

Fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture, again by hand, it will be a beautiful golden yellow color.  Try to resist “taste-testing”, I usually cannot, but I know that I should.

Pick your favorite fruit.  The Food & Wine recipe calls for seedless red grapes, but since I live in DC and not Napa, and since blueberries are delicious right now, I adapted.

Fold the blueberries into the batter with a whisk and a gentle hand, being careful to not crush them along the way.

Pour into springform pan and bake for 15 minutes.  At fifteen minutes remove the cake from the oven and pop on a few more blueberries on the surface, and return to the oven for another 30 minutes.  Check to ensure it is fully baked with a toothpick – clean toothpick means it’s done!

After the cake has cooled sprinkled on some confectioner’s sugar and you could serve it with more fresh berries, like I did, whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, a blueberry sauce or just plain, because it is just that moist and delicious!

Oh, so why the name?  Why the “Cake that Stole the Show”? because after a delicious Caprese salad, Aged Cheddar and Bacon Macaroni, perfectly seasoned baked chicken breast and a salad that would make any farmer proud – this cake was devoured.  And Mark very proudly boasted, this was the best cake ever, it “stole the show”.

Enjoying the Bounty

For the past few days my home Internet has been down – which means I haven’t been able to share pictures I have taken, or any new recipes.  I’m overflowing with sweets and savories!

As an appe-teaser, enjoy some of the bounty from our trip to the Bloomingdale Farmer’s Market.

Parsley, Sage and Basil from our Friend’s Backyard Garden
25 Pounds of Sauce Tomatoes – lots of chopping for lots of delicious homemade sauces.
Beets and Radishes that were used for Sunday’s Lunch
Shots of Espresso to end the day

The table is set for a Sunday feast – recipes to follow!

To Match, or Not to Match, That is the Question

As first a bridesmaid and then a bride, I know that picking out bridesmaids dresses can be tough.  As a bridesmaid, you want something wearable and flattering, something not budget busting, and to please the bride.  As a bride, I wanted something my friends could afford, would like and that they would also feel beautiful in.  

I think at one point I was open to them all wearing different styles, and buying off the rack and was choosing between purple, brown, gray or black – also known as aubergine, espresso, ebony and pewter — ahh, weddings! 

Somehow the indecisive bride and her completely supportive friends came to one decision.
Five beautiful Bridesmaids, Image by Ashley Colhouer
They looked stunning, but, if I were to do it again, I might do it all differently, as in encourage the bridal party to wear a dress that reflects their style.
They could choose a variety of different styles within a color family;
Cheyenne Schultz Photography, via Ruffled Blog

Or, choose all different styles within the same aesthetic or theme, like Christina Hendricks’ bridesmaids did for her vintage, dare I say Mad Men wedding;

Christina Hendricks Wedding Party in InStyle Magazine, via 
Or they could all pick dresses that are equally glamorous or equally high fashion, like the most famous set of high fashion bridesmaids did in 2008.
The Wedding That Never Was, Sex and The City: The Movie
Creatively styling your bridesmaids will often allow your friends to buy “off the rack” from a dress store or designer that they know and like (and are more likely to wear again), and will likely save them from having to wear a dress that is sized larger than they are (as almost all bridal wear is sized differently) and to save on alterations.  Good times to shop middle of Fall – (October/November) for Holiday wear and immediately following the holiday season (January) for the best selection and sales respectively.

May all your friends be fabulous in no matter what they wear, I know mine were, and are!

Summertime Oasis in the City

It’s no secret that summer has officially started, and the warmer weather is calling us outside for our meals and socializing.  Our new neighborhood brings us closer to friends and our new home brings us more outdoor space than we have ever had.

We’d like to eventually have our outdoor space be an extension of our indoor space – comfortable, inviting, and meant for drinking and dining.

This is my wish list:
Alfresco Dining Collection by Crate and Barrel
This outdoor collection is a bit more modern than the rest of our indoor furniture, but I think the clean lines and bright pop of orange serve our space really well, and would keep the space looking fresh, vibrant and fun.
The bizarre mix of high heat and bursts of rain and an abundance of humidity has introduced us to a little friend, the mosquito.  In our effort to thwart his reign of terror we’ve been stocking up on citronella candles left and right, they aren’t typically as cute as these!
Citronella Candles in Pineapple, Cassis and Rain scents at Bloomingdale’s
Now that there is a place to sit, and the bugs are being kept at bay, pull up a chair and have something to eat.  These bright plates by Jonathan Adler remind me of my favorite citrus fruits and seem so very sunny and happy!
Jonathan Adler “Kaleidoscope” Summer Dishware at Bloomingdale’s
I recently read in Food & Wine (August 2010) the right beverages to drink in these high temperatures.  It turns out when it’s 100+ degrees (which it has been, gross!) the only worthwhile thing to drink is a beer.  Drink it in these:
Portland Beer Glasses by Crate and Barrel
Hold the remaining bottles and cans in this – it just says party to me, and what’s not to love about that?
Beverage Bucket at Bed, Bath & Beyond

True confession, I’m not a beer drinker.  I want lemonades, mojitos and sangria and other fruity fun drinks – and I want them to be beautifully displayed in this.  I love that its pretty and functional, and reminds me of a favorite Spa Hotel in my hometown.
Beverage Jar at Sur La Table

How will you make your summer space chic?

Art Imitating Life, on TV

Okay, so true confession, I have never seen an episode of Mad Men.  I never picked up the show when it first came on, my Sunday’s were being dedicated to really brilliant stuff over on ABC…  But, either way, I understand the premise from 30,000 feet – Don Draper, the suave, sexist man of the 1960’s and his dalliances at work and at play…  What has really captured my attention is the fashion movement sparked by Costume Designer, Janie Bryant.  Much like Sex and the City, the clothing seem to be a character in the story.

Image from AMC TV

Bryant, and the female leads, have sparked a movement with a fashion focus on feminine dressing, an attention detail and curves.  And while the looks are all designed be early 1960’s chic, they could easily be transitioned into today’s wardrobe, as evidenced by the campaign by Banana Republic, and the 1960’s style First Lady Michelle Obama has infused into her wardrobe.
As I have already shared, I have always had a thing for Camelot-style fashion as made famous by Jackie Kennedy.  A favorite past time is browsing through eBay for their vintage finds.  When friends would have tacky holiday parties, they’d scour the 80’s section – my destination was the 1960’s department.  Here are some finds from decades past, and a new one with vintage inspiration.
Blue Bombshell Wiggle Dress via Ebay

This is an all out splurge, but I couldn’t resist the vintage Christian Dior…
Dior Evening Dress (1955) via Ebay
 Or go modern, with vintage inspiration…
Black Halo Jackie O Dress via Pink Mascara

Sweet surprises

Yesterday I got a pedicure.  And in between coats of Essie “Sugar Daddy” and flipping the pages of August’s Food & Wine Magazine, I mentioned to the technician that tomorrow (today) is my six month wedding anniversary.  She was really happy for us.  

She went on to say that she has been married for ten years, and her step son also has been married for a few months.  She said she has friends who ask, “how do you make it work?”  and “how has your marriage lasted so long, (when others do not)?”.  And we agreed together that it works, and not just works but thrives, when you continue to make the effort, celebrate the “montha-aversaries”, and continue dating like you did when you were just boyfriend and girlfriend.

So as if Mark was a mind reader, last night when I got home my husband had made dinner, which smelled delicious, and sitting on the table were these:
I am a very lucky girl.  

Happy Six Month Wedding Anniversary to my wonderful husband.  I love you, always.

Zucchini in bloom?

I like my vegetables, but I by no means have a green thumb.  Prior to shopping more frequently at farmer’s markets I was fairly accustomed to seeing my produce displayed at Whole Foods, wrapped in plastic, or dare I say it in the frozen foods aisle.  Yikes!  

Anyway, the joy of the market is getting to see all parts of the produce at their peak.  Let me introduce you to the part of the zucchini most people never meet: 
Image by Galina Stepanoff-Dargery, via Virtual Gourmet
I’ve always heard of these prepared battered and fried (like a very delicate onion ring) or stuffed with a ricotta based filling.  After walking the Bloomingdale Farmer’s Market with my Italian born mother-in-law we brainstormed on how to best use these little flowers.  She made a risotto, and I made up my own, crispy, light recipe – and if you can still find these guys, it’s worth taking 10 minutes to make.

First you have to rinse and dry the flowers, and remove the pistil.  I am sure there is anatomy lesson somewhere here, but I am not going to bother.  Basically picture the flower like the colored Christmas lights – you are going to cut off what on the light is the black part and pull out the bulb (or the pistil).  If this analogy hasn’t confused you enough onto step 2.

The ingredients for this impromptu experiment could not be more simple.
I was trying to keep it light so I splashed some Extra Virgin Olive Oil and then dipped in a mix of Italian bread crumbs, Parmigiano-Reggiano, salt and pepper.  
Then I put the lightly coated flowers in a shallow pan with olive oil over medium heat.  I really just aimed to brown them slightly and crisp them up.  Because I did not use a traditional batter, when they were “done” was more of a personal estimation.
When they were all done I patted them with paper towels to remove any excess oil and sprinkled on freshly grated cheese.  Again, bread crumbs, oil and cheese are hard to screw up so any extra cheese just means it’s extra amazing.

And, what do you know – all gone!

The zucchini flowers probably taste more authentic when eaten on an authentic Deruta table, special thanks to my mother-in-law again!

DC’s real Top Chefs

I have lived in DC since 2003 and I am happy to say my culinary experiences have grow over the years.  

In college my best girlfriends and I were our happiest just eating at any restaurant.  This isn’t to say we didn’t fully enjoy the dining hall at American University – hard to beat  Macaroni and Cheese Wednesdays or the Herhsey’s Moose Tracks Ice Cream, but going off campus was truly decadent.  Many birthdays and Valentine’s day were celebrated over shared spinach dips/salads/cheesecakes at the Cheesecake Factory, “homestyle” Italian food at Mama Lucia’s and margaritas/chips and salsa at Guapo’s.

Post college new restaurants have risen to the top of my list: Cava, Ardeo Bardeo, Belga Cafe, Zaytinya, Bangkok 54 (technically Virginia – but amazing!)

I’ll share with you reviews and favorites at each, but first up: 
Cava – with locations in Capitol Hill and Rockville, and a new restaurant soon to be opening in Clardenon, VA.  We went to the Capitol Hill location, and were blown away.  Cava says they serve unique Greek-inspired dishes, skillfully crafted by talented Chef Dimitri Moshovitis. All dishes are served mezze style—in small plates, but with portions large enough to share.    
We first discovered Cava at our Whole Foods – the harissa, was hot enough to make Mark who grew up in the Middle East go back for seconds, thirds, fourths… and hot enough to make me tear up…

 Harissa that knocks your socks off – promise!

Feta and Honey will make you wonder why you haven’t always been eating this combination

A classic spanakopita
Fresh and tender grilled octopus
All images by Stacy Zarin via Cava’s Facebook Page

What they should say is that each dish is prepared with an attention to detail and flavoring and that the atmosphere is engaging.  If you go, try to order as much as possible, and share – you won’t want to miss a thing, especially not these: the Roasted Beet Salad, Lamb Chops – see deliciousness below, Lollipop Chicken (seriously, I could eat the whole plate by myself, that good!) and save room for the honey sweet loukoumades.

More DC Top Chefs coming soon!

Wedding Decor… on SALE!

I saw this when house shopping and had to share for anyone planning an event, wedding or with a love of butterflies – this is a deal not to miss…

Perhaps you remember this captivating and colorful Martha Stewart Wedding Magazine Cover?
Or maybe you love the idea of a butterfly bouquet like this:
So, how do you get the look for less?
These Butterfly Bouquets are available on sale at ZGallerie for $9.99! 

And while we’re at it, what about this little butterfly poem for a reading or a program: 
May the wings of the butterfly kiss the sun
And find your shoulder to light on,
To bring you luck, happiness and riches
Today, tomorrow and beyond.
~Irish Blessing