June 29, 2012

Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries

On a recent visit to the Wednesday Santa Monica farmers market, there was a mob scene in front of one of the stalls.  I'd never seen anything like it.  Was Jessica Simpson out and about with her new baby?  Have the Kardashians started selling eggs?  Neither.  People were freaking out because cherries are now in season.  There were six varietals to sample: some red, others yellow, with varying degrees of tart and sweet.  I knew I had to do something with this moment.  Hence, a 'Life is Just A Bowl of Cherries' dinner party.  A date was set, invitations were mailed and operation cherry was in motion.  Planning a menu with such a specific theme was very fun and it was a treat to be inspired.  I was genuinely tickled with myself each time I thought of another way to use a cherry.  My best food friend Erin turned me onto The Flavor Bible, which is an awesome book for food and flavor pairings--really, really helpful.  This particular group of ladies happen to love their tequila so a serrano cherry margarita was a no-brainer (though bourbon is another lovely compliment to cherries).  For appetizers, bing cherries were stuffed with ricotta & thyme.  And, after pickling some lapin cherries, I paired them with salty marcona almonds and duck prosciutto, which was a rich, fatty compliment. When we sat down to dinner, I bravely served a table of women messy baby back ribs with a sweet and smoky cherry chipotle bbq sauce; luckily, we all threw down.  The sides were simple and satisfying: roasted sweet onions and rainier cherries alongside a kale salad with dried cherries and cherrywood balsamic vinegar.  To end, cherry almond crisps baked in mason jars (what is the next mason jar?!) ala mode.  Pitting all of those cherries to make a real cherry crisp was, in fact, the pits, but the pay off was well worth the efforts.  (I did cheat with this fancy cherry pitter, which is well worth the investment for pies and jams).  It tasted really special, even to me, and I'm not a fruit dessert sort of gal.  Chocolate is another friend to the cherry, so guests left with a bag of cherry treats: chocolate covered cherries and sour cherry gummies, which are like crack to me.  Amy set a playful table with a small bowl of cherries at each place setting, serving as the place cards.  And printed menus, in red font, mentioned the various cherries in each dish.  While life isn't always a bowl of cherries (sometimes it's the pits), fun dinners with an out of the blue whimsical theme, can certainly help to raise the sweet to rotten ratio.
The Menu


serrano cherry margarita

cloudline oregon pinot noir, 2009
deep cherry, black fruits & earth


ricotta & thyme stuffed bing cherries

pickled lapin cherries, marcona almonds & duck prosciutto

to share

baby baby ribs with tart michigan cherry & chipotle bbq sauce

kale, arugula & dried cherry salad with cherrywood balsamic vinaigrette

roasted sweet onions & rainier cherries

rosemary corn bread with honey


flavor giant cherry almond crisp ala mode


cherry treats: sour cherry gummies, cherry balls & chocolate covered cherries

June 21, 2012

Happy Father's Day

Almost to the point of being creepy, this entire blog has been an homage to my mom.  There have been constant references to her recipes, her ways of doing things, her sense of timing, style and organization. My dad, on the other hand, has been ignored.  Uncredited.  But my dad certainly deserves a shout out for his culinary influences.  After all, I grew up with Thai food, plenty of pot stickers and hot & sour soup, sushi, Mexican and all things spicy because those were the foods my dad thought worthy of dining out for.  Furthermore, we got to have 'fun dinners' like popcorn, cheese and apples due to my dad's lack of cooking skills, which taught me that it's okay to mix things up.  In fact, mixing things up is the best.  And, more importantly, my dad has always encouraged me to pursue my dreams, so without him, I wouldn't have made my love of food into a job I love.  Thanks Dad!!  Even though I wasn't with my dad this Father's Day, I did plan a manly menu to celebrate the holiday.  Burgers and beer-battered onion rings seemed just right.  Plating the assembled burgers alongside family style sides elevated the everyday BBQ experience.  For the burger, I used Thomas Keller's beef blend ( 1.5 parts beef sirloin to 3/4 parts each beef brisket and beef chuck) and kept the accoutrement All-American: lettuce, tomato, raw onion, dill pickles and a thousand island ketchup-mayo hybrid.  Other 'man food' highlights: jalapeno poppers, pulled pork sliders & BLT stuffed cherry tomatoes.  And for dessert, what is more fatherly than using Dad's root beer for floats?  I followed some recipes to a T for this menu so I've linked to a few below...the macaroni salad is an enjoyable must-try!  Happy Father's Day to dads everywhere and to mine--the greatest dad of all.  


 The Menu


arnold palmers

bottled beer


blt stuffed cherry tomatoes

pulled pork sliders with buttermilk coleslaw

to share

beef bacon cheeseburgers on brioche buns with thousand island dressing

tomato, corn & arugula salad

grilled peaches


cherry pie ala mode

root beer floats with dad's root beer

strawberry chiffon cake

June 13, 2012

The Speakeasy: A Prohibition Cocktail Party

Last year's Roaring 20's party was so much fun that we wanted to do it again this year but invite more friends.  So as magical as the sit-down Gatsby-esque dinner was, we switched things up and focused on the cocktails and snacks for a Speakeasy-themed cocktail party.  Fact: this is a party designed to get drunk, making it a lively one.  Of all the prohibition cocktails we made, The Penicillin (scotch, lemon, ginger, honey, laphroaig, angostura bitters) was my favorite and definitely gets one feeling all warm & fuzzy.  Snacks were salty and filling, enough to sop up some of the booze.  And we really went for it with the 1920s themed desserts.  Both rice krispies and hostess cupcakes were invented in the 1920s, so we made homemade versions of the marshmallow filled cakes and browned our butter for extra special rice krispy treats.  The 20's are also known for a boom of new candies: Charleston Chews, Charms Sweet & Sour Pops, peanut cups and many more!  Old Time Candy is an amazing on-line source for old-fashioned sweets and made our colorful candy bar very festive. Their retro candies, organized by decade, makes me want to throw an 80's party just so I can have Hubba Bubba Bubble Tape, Crybabies, gummy worms & Nerds: my childhood!
The Menu


prohibition cocktail menu

ramos gin fizz
gin, lemon, lime, orange, orange blossom water, egg white

new old fashioned
bourbon, fee brother's cherry bitters, orange peel

scotch, lemon, ginger, honey, laphroaig, angostura bitters

mary pickford
white rum, pineapple, grenadine, maraschino liqueur

dirty martini
vodka or gin, dirty sue premium olive juice


peanuts & pretzels

crudites & relish platter with green goddess dressing

potato chips & onion dip

bloody mary shrimp cocktails

caesar salad on romaine spears

curried deviled eggs

grilled cheese squares with tomato soup

mini pastrami & sauerkraut finger sandwiches with thousand island dressing


homemade hostess cupcakes

brown butter rice krispy treats

1920s candy bar:
charleston chews, charms sweet & sour pops, mexican hats, big hunk, big cherry, stick candy, candy buttons, necco wafers, peanut butter cups, twizzlers & candy cigarettes 

June 7, 2012

Preppy Party

While in college, my friend Deirdre befriended an older gentleman who invited us out to his home in the Hamptons.  This all felt very glamorous, very grown-up and very fun.  After an 'interesting' weekend, the group of house guests went out for a farewell brunch before catching the jitney back into the city.  It was then that I discovered a lobster roll.  Heaven (especially when paired with a much needed bloody mary).  The lobster roll represents all of the East Coast vacations I'm longing to take: Martha's Vineyard, Cape Cod and Maine.  But I have made it the Hamptons and was not disappointed with the food.  For this preppy themed birthday party, I recalled the flavors of that trip and all things seaside & nautical.  When in doubt, put out goldfish crackers and salt & vinegar potato chips with cocktails.  People love them--how could they not?  Fish chowder at home?  A really easy, decadent treat. And for a homemade lobster roll, my trick is lots of fresh tarragon and real mayonnaise (a homemade brioche bun doesn't hurt).  Amy set the table and really knocked it out of the park with these handmade preppy ribbon belt napkin holders.  I died for them.  Sticking with stark white and navy made a pleasing impact; all white tulips, crammed together in Amy's signature style, looked gorgeous down the long table.  This menu is one that I'm sure to repeat this summer and I swiped Amy's napkin holders and look forward to using them again and again...

The Menu


pimm's cup
pimm's number one, strawberry, cucumber, lemon, lime, mint & rosemary

the preppy
gin & tonic


goldfish crackers

salt & vinegar potato chips

snap pea crudite with herbed sour cream dip

tuna tartare on cucumber rounds

to start

fish chowder


tarragon lobster rolls on brioche buns

five cheese mac & cheese

mixed greens with cucumber & cherry tomato with balsamic vinaigrette


old fashioned chocolate cake