December 28, 2011

Happy New Year's Brunch: Hair of the Dog

I've always wanted to throw a New Year's Day brunch, but sadly this year will not be my year (Greg has to work and I don't want to bartend without him!). However, I did throw a holiday brunch that featured an eggs benedict bar that would be a festive menu for the first day of 2012. Guests built their ideal egg sandwiches on either english muffins or potato pancakes, topped with honey baked ham, lox or spinach, and, of course, poached eggs. Hollandaise was the favored sauce though creme fraiche and chives are a nice option to pair with the lox! If poaching eggs seems intimidating, fry away or do a big batch of scrambled. I'm not a sweets for breakfast person but overnight baked french toast is easy and a perfect vehicle for warm maple syrup. If anyone asks if they can bring anything (bubbly, of course) get them to bring doughnuts...I can't think of a more delicious way to start 2012.
The Menu

sips. necessary

spicy bloody mary's

50/50 mimosas
splash of pomegranate, splash of orange, sparkling


eggs benedict bar
potato pancake or english muffin
honey baked ham, salmon gravlax or spinach florentine
poached eggs (or scrambled)
hollandaise or chive creme fraiche

spicy greens with winter's citrus & champagne vinaigrette

maple glazed bacon

persimmons, pomegranate seeds & mint

cranberry orange scones with jam & butter

sticky buns

chocolate doughnuts
(ideally, assorted doughnut holes!!)

December 22, 2011

Swedish Christmas

I may or may not have lost a year of my life this December, engaged fully and solely in the building and decorating of ginger bread houses. I'll admit it: I got obsessed. And it turns out, gingerbread houses can get pretty frustrating. They break often and despite how many glues I tried (8), frosting is always the best adhesive. I worried that my efforts would be deemed 'little kid'; why hadn't I waited for Amy to return from Chicago?!? But, when I laid the remaining five houses down the center of my table, and Courtney and I created rivers and paths between them with cinnamon bears and peppermint sticks, I felt redeemed. I couldn't imagine a more perfect backdrop for my Swedish Christmas dinner party. This menu was a fun one to create and delicious to eat. We started with individual fish and pickle plates and then enjoyed a family style feast of Swedish meatballs. And we played a game that people didn't seem annoyed to play!, guessing who wanted what from Santa. This is my very favorite time of year, and ginger bread houses will most certainly be a new tradition. Next year, I might just stick to one. Happy happy holidays & a merry merry Christmas to all...
The Menu


the st. lucia
lingonberry, thyme simple syrup, house sour, guests' choice: bourbon, vodka or gin


martha stewart's cheese balls-three ways

hot spinach balls with spicy mustard dip

to start

fish & pickle plate
house pickled green beans, beets, carrots, onion & cauliflower
smoked trout, creme fraiche, caper berry
cold-smoked salmon, cornichon, lemon & dill
rye crisps & pumpernickel toast

to share

swedish meatballs with lingonberry jam

buttered egg noodles with dill

sweet & sour braised red cabbage

winter greens with pomegranate seeds & lemon vinaigrette


spiced egg nog

cookie platter: raspberry linzer, ginger snaps & gingerbread men sugar cookies

December 6, 2011

La Vie En Rose

My favorite gifts to receive are experiences: special dinners, trips or gift certificates for classes and spa treatments. They are also my favorite gifts to give (Greg just might be seeing Jay Z & Kanye @ Staples Center...). Instead of presents, I like to give my girlfriends a holiday dinner party. Why not go all-out girly with a French menu of decadent yet ladylike fare? It doesn't get more generous or festive than champagne and caviar. I also splurged on chocolates from three chocolatiers in Beverly Hills and we did a tasting...Madame Chocolate was the clear winner. I am grateful for all of my friends who helped make this past year the greatest and a festive meal is the perfect way to celebrate them. I mean, can anyone really top the gift of a champagne sorbet palate cleanser?
The Menu


pink champagne


caviar with buckwheat blinis
acoutrements: chopped hard-boiled egg, capers, shallots, chives & creme fraiche

french pink radishes

pink peppercorn crusted goat cheese on endive spears


fennel & kabocha squash with candied pepitas & creme fraiche


slow-cooked salmon nicoise with blue lake green beans, roast beets, fingerling potatoes & mustard vinaigrette


triple creme brie, asian pear, cracker


champagne sorbet

the best for last

assorted truffles & chocolate covered strawberries

November 21, 2011

Honorable Mention: Pumpkin Praline Pie

Thanksgiving is all about traditions, and I can't imagine turkey day without pumpkin praline pie. I always refer to my mom as my entertaining mentor, but it was really my great grandmother Francis who set the tone for gardening, canning, cooking & baking in our family. She wallpapered the walls of her kitchen with old covers of Gourmet magazine and coined the phrase, "Always make enough for the uninvited guest." I guess it's in the genes. This pumpkin praline pie is her creation and it won honorable mention at the first annual Pillsbury Bake-Off at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, Grand Ballroom, in 1933. A pretty big deal, and our family's culinary claim to fame!! This pie kills two birds with one stone. You have a creamy spiced pumpkin pie, with a thin layer of chewy pecan crunch between the custard and the crust. My great grandma lived on her own until she was 97 and continued to 'learn something new every day,' --a real inspiration. I miss her and each year this pie is a reminder of her graceful, stubborn spirit.
Pumpkin Praline Pie: The Recipe

One prepared pie crust in a 10'' pie pan. Prepare your own or frozen works like a charm, since it's the filling that is incredible. If using frozen, thaw first for a half hour, and then proceed.

Preheat oven @ 450 degrees.


3 T. butter, soft
1/3 C. pecans, finely chopped
1/3 C. brown sugar, packed

Combine and press gently into the bottom of the pie shell. Prick sides of crust with a fork. Bake Shell @ 450 degrees for 10 minutes. Cool at least 2 minutes.

Once you remove prepared shell from oven, reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Meanwhile, prepare the Pumpkin-Custard Filling:

3 slightly beaten eggs
1/2 C. sugar
1/2 C. brown sugar
2 T. flour
3/4 t. salt
3/4 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ginger, ground
1/4 t. cloves
1/4 t. mace (originally recipe calls for mace, but I skip it)

Combine all of the above, and then add:

1 1/2 C. pureed pumpkin, and then:
1 1/2 C. hot half and half cream

Pour into prepared pie shell, bake @ 350 degrees, for 50-60 minutes, until set. Bake pie on a cookie sheet to avoid oven spills. Cool and serve with whipped cream.


*Note the filling Pumpkin-Custard filling is enough to fill two pies. I always make two crusts (or use two frozen, as they always come in packs of two!) and then double the pecan-praline mixture for the two shells. Make the filling in one bowl and then divide between the two prepared pie shells.

November 6, 2011

Remember, Remember...the 5th of Novemeber

Discovery a new holiday feels like winning the lottery, so I was quite thrilled when my new friends--British imports Mike & Bran--introduced me to Guy Fawkes Day, aka Bonfire Night. The day celebrates a failed attempt of the Gunpowder Plot to overthrow the House of Lords, usually with fireworks & bonfires. For their first year in the US, I helped M & B with the food for their 5th of November festivities. We started with British inspired finger foods, with a nod to the jacket potatoes usually associated with Bonfire night: mini fingerlings topped with sour cream, cheddar & chives. Warming soups & stews are typically served at bonfires, so we went with curry (one of Mike's favorites, as well as a sort of Passage to India reference to English food) and steaming parchment wrapped fish. Parchment wrapped fish is a fantastic way to serve fish to a large group. It's nearly impossible to mess up, packets can be wrapped in advance, they can be cooked all together in the oven and no fussy plating is necessary as the seasonings & garnish are already in the packets. Dessert was a mix of sweets from India Sweets & Spices in Atwater Village (an incredible source for Indian party food in LA) & British candies. Please keep me advised on any little-known holidays from afar coming up; I always want an excuse to make a party!
The Menu


Bonfire Vesper
gin, vodka, lillet blanc, lemon peel

serrano chili pepper infused tequila blanco, basil, mint, lime, gunpowder tea

Milky Chai Tea
cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, black pepper, black tea, milk, honey



chana crackers

fingerling potato jackets with sharp cheddar and chive sour cream

english cheddar, tomato chutney & mint crostini

smashed english pea crostini with parmesan & basil


coconut, tumeric, ginger & coriander sole

3 bean curry with butternut squash & tomatoes

basmati rice

chutney 3 ways: mint, tamarind & tomato

cucumber raita

carrot, red cabbage & golden raisin slaw with cumin-buttermilk dressing


assorted indian petit-fours

assorted cadbury bars, wine gums & jelly babies

sesame snacks & sugar coated almonds