Wednesday, September 29, 2010

my wedding Wednesday: our favors

While we're on the subject of sweets... I thought I would talk about the favors for our wedding guests.  We wanted to do something edible because often favors go unused or get tossed (once we got a split of wine we couldn't take on the plane - we try not to check bags).  We went through several idea iterations (look for more to come on those) before we settled on the classic New Orleans treat - the praline.   

our simple wedding favor
We played it safe and ordered one per guest that we anticipated coming (so about 3/4 of those invited).  However, we probably ended up with 1/3 of our order left over at the end of the night.  Oh well!  It was more for us!

In case you are wondering, we went with Leah's Pralines in the French Quarter.  They had the ability to do the custom sticker and were great to work with over the phone (the joys of living out of town). As an added bonus, we got last year's price schedule because their website hadn't been updated in a while when we place our order two months before the wedding. :)


Leah's Pralines

www.leahspralines.com
714 Saint Louis Street
New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 523-5662

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

the one that got away

Every once in a while I fall in love with some ridiculously expensive shoe or item of clothing.  I dream about uncovering it years later in a thrift shop, or maybe on ebay.  Anyway, I recently remembered the most random Prada shoe that I was totally in love with from Fall 2007 while I was researching Tuesday's fall fashion post.  Check out the original advertisement - worn with open toe stocking/sock.

Photo from littlehouseofstyle.com

There is a pair for sale on ebay right now (size 37).  If only I was a 37!  I am in the 40's in European sizes - I have big feet.  I even got to try these shoes on in NYC once several years ago at a Prada store when I was visiting my sister.
The Prada ombre curved heel
photo from ebay.com
I know that 99% of you will think I'm crazy.  I still love this shoe 3 years later.  I'm setting up an ebay saved search right now...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Burrata - my latest obsession

Last year we went to Madera at the Rosewood hotel in Menlo Park for dinner with two friends. When dessert came around, I ordered a cheese plate of sorts featuring a cheese I had never heard of called Burrata.  In that moment - a love affair began.  It was served with fresh figs and prosciutto on a plate.  That's it.  So simple.  We searched high and low for the cheese, eventually finding it in a plastic container at Whole Foods.

Then, last week as part of a conference - we were served a fresh tomato salad with burrata cheese and a fresh fennel seed wafer/cracker thing (topped with oil and vinegar). Since I was trying to be polite, I didn't take a picture - but it was so good I wanted to about recreate it.  Walking back to Whole Foods this weekend - I found a different brand this time that appears to be more authentic given it's packaging (according to wikipedia, see below).

Burrata cheese - little top knot and all

From Wikipedia:
Burrata starts out much like mozzarella and many other cheeses, with rennet used to curdle the warm milk. But then, unlike other cheeses, fresh mozzarella curds are plunged into hot whey or lightly salted water, kneaded and pulled to develop the familiar stretchy strings (pasta filata), then shaped in whatever form is desired.

When making Burrata, the still-hot cheese is formed into a pouch, which is then filled with scraps of leftover mozzarella and topped off with fresh cream (panna) before closing. The finished Burrata is traditionally wrapped in the leaves of asphodel, tied to form a little brioche-like topknot, and moistened with a little whey. The asphodel leaves should still be green when the cheese is served, to indicate the cheese’s freshness. More recently the cheese is often sold in a plastic bag or container

So what did I do with it?  I sliced it open and ate it with fresh cut tomatoes AND fresh cut figs - sprinkled with dried basil and black salt.  The quality of the produce in California is pretty incredible!  Who could have dreamed of something so simple and delicious.  I would have loved to eat it with fennel seed crackers - but instead ate it with Stacy's pita chips (another favorite that is always in the cabinet).  I ate it too fast to remember I had intended to eat it with oil and vinegar on top!  There's always next time!
tis the season!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday fun

Some cool music videos for a lazy Sunday...

The coolest one - The Wilderness Downtown by Arcade Fire - "A Chrome Experiment" and VERY cool.

These two videos by OK GO were shot in once continuous shot.  Pretty insane and very cool to watch.



Friday, September 24, 2010

Favorite Friday

Every Friday during the summer, the cafe at work near me serves up the best tacos in the universe.  Jacinto and Luis just claim to "make flavors" when asked for their recipes, but I know that they are hiding deep, dark family secret recipes in this meal.  Now that summer is winding down, I am terrified that our Friday taco bar will vanish at the first sign of rain (the meats are cooked outdoors on the grill).  I'll be enjoying every bite while it lasts!
heaven.
can you tell I like avocado?
Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

my wedding Wednesday: the cake

My husband and I don't have much of a sweet tooth.  Boxes of cookies and chocolates have a way of lingering around the house for a long time.  (Sea salt chocolate caramels are an exception - I will eat one a day until they are gone.)  So when it came time to think about our wedding cake, both of us had it pretty low on the list of priorities.  We figured that this was an area where we could save (to make up for areas where we splurged - like my dress)!  

The Inspiration
I looked through magazines and books and a couple of favorites stood out.

#1 The Knot:
I loved the grosgrain ribbon on this cake and I really liked the shape/proportions.  However, my mom nixed the idea of fresh flowers on a cake (she said she didn't like to picture icky floral water on a gorgeous cake).  Some of my favorite cakes have lush peonies on them, but as I said above, the cake wasn't the biggest priority for us (picking battles) - so I we steered clear of fresh flowers. 
The Knot Wedding magazine 
#2 Martha Stewart:
I absolutely fell in love with this coconut flake cake below - I was convinced it was what I wanted - until I remembered that I wasn't THAT wild about coconut cake!  The flakes area also pretty dry (we tasted some) so I eventually put this behind me (I'll a variation of this cake sometime and I will get to live the dream).  My mom also said it didn't look like a wedding cake.  Fair point - it didn't look like a traditional wedding cake which is what she really meant to say. :)
Martha Stewart Coconut Cake
#3 The Knot:
I liked the dots and the thin ribbons on this cake. 
I liked the subtle grey with white dots and charcoal ribbon on this cake.
Karrie & Brian from theknot.com

Tasting our way around New Orleans
The benefit of getting married 6 months after your brother in the same city, is that you get a bit of a heads up on what things are going to cost.  I must say, I was a little surprised when I learned how much wedding cake costs - $3.50 per slice and up!  With 300 people invited to our wedding - that was going to be too much money!  I seriously considered making our cake - but there are enough horror stories on various blogs that I realized this wasn't a good idea.  You don't want to be making a cake for 200 two days before you get married.  A lot can go wrong (and food poisoning can happen if you can't refrigerate it properly).  No thanks. 

I went home to New Orleans one weekend last summer with photos of cakes I liked in hand (I had these two and a couple of others in a binder).  We tasted cakes at:
After two days of tasting we settled on getting our cake from Swiss.  The price was right (~$2/slice), which was a far cry of the $4 - $7 per slice we were seeing at these other bakeries.  yes. seriously $7/slice.   We settled on a basic 3 tier cake (feeding around 250) with a plain swiss dot print and a silk ribbon around the base of each tier (like the first cake above).  Because Swiss Bakery sort of does their thing their way (in business over 80 years - so must be doing something right), I didn't really think about the shape or proportion of our cake.  I just assumed it would come out just the way I wanted.  

Our Wedding Day
I liked the way it turned out, except for a few details.  The profile was a little wider than I had imagined (I was picturing something taller and narrower) and that the wedding cake pulls were not actually inside the cake (they were under drops of icing on the cake board).  Also, it had a messier texture than I anticipated.  Nothing was a deal breaker, just not what I had imagined.  Tasted pretty good though - we went with the classic almond flavor with buttercream frosting (I think).   
Our wedding cake
photo by Celeste Marshall
I loved our little topper.  I wrote a blog post about it a few months ago.  I found this antique Japanese bisque topper on ebay for $13.  I was inspired by a sweet family heirloom, antique cake topper at our friends Ross and Abby's wedding last fall.
Top of the cake
Photo by Celeste Marshall
It wouldn't be a southern wedding without a groom's cake!  Since we met at Stanford, the groom's cake was a chocolate version of our (very fierce) tree mascot. Originally he wanted a carrot cake, or maybe even red velvet - but settled on chocolate after a few tastings.  We ended up getting the Groom's cake from Haydels (note: they wouldn't deliver to a residence, so we had them deliver it to our caterer which worked out great).
Chocolate groom's cake
Photo by Celeste Marshall
Our Friends!
I thought I would finish with a photo montage of wedding cakes from our friend's and family's weddings over the last few years for inspiration.  
Graeme and Cary
cupcakes from Sprinkles!
Palo Alto, CA

Cullan and Jill
A sweet tiered cake with a family heirloom topper
Salem, MA

Amy and Michael
Probably my favorite wedding cake ever - love the swiss dot and the huge peonies!  Heaven!
Napa Valley, CA

Laurie and David
Loved the purple orchids
Cape Cod, MA

Tyler and Lindsey
the simple dots, black ribbon, and the lush peonies  - GORGEOUS
Atlanta, GA

Ross and Abby
Bread pudding!  Love the originality
San Francisco, CA
Tommy and Mallory
Mousse filled goodness - best tasting wedding cake ever.  Hands down.
New Orleans, LA
Julia and Evan
the flower detail was really beautiful!
New Orleans, LA

There have been many other beautiful cakes (Annie & Owen, Brian & Paulina, Megan & Jason to name a few), however before my blog days I wasn't always so good about taking photos!  

p.s. If you live in any of these cities and want the name of any of the bakers for the cakes listed above - I am happy to contact friends and ask for you!


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

feeling inspired

This year I am feeling SO inspired by the fall runway shows.  I don't watch Mad Men (yet!), but I am feeling inspired by womanly shapes and feminine details.  Louis Vuitton and Prada are both full of the details I am after.  Check out their Fall 2010 ad campaigns featuring Karen Elson, Christy Turlington and Natalia Vodianova (images from luxuo.com which also has several other LV fall ads not posted here).  


I love Natalia's dress in this photo:
 

 I love the dress on Natalia in the photo below.  Heaven.

I love the shade of pink on Christy in this photo:
Louis Vuitton also has some great shoes in the Fall 2010 collection.  Lots of bows, some with stacked heels (my preference) and others with a kitten heel.  
Kitten heel LV shoe
Photo from cool e chic style fashion

The stacked heel LV shoe - I literally love everything about this shoe
photo from shoeblog.com

Here are some of my favorite looks from the Fall 2010 Prada show (images from Cool e Chic Style Fashion - a very cool Italian style blog by the way).  I particularly love the dress on the right and the shoes on the left.


I am not sure yet how I will try and incorporate these moody and romantic shapes and textures into my current wardrobe of jeans and white cotton t-shirts from J. Crew.  These items of clothing are clearly outside my budget, probably by several orders of magnitude.

What do you think?  Am I off in left field or were these fall collections particularly amazing? 

Monday, September 20, 2010

black and gold dessert - round 2

Last February, right before the Saints won the superbowl, I made a lemon tart from the Tartine cookbook. It was delicious, but knowing how many sticks of butter went into it, I have been hesitant to make it again. You should know that it take A LOT of butter to make me uncomfortable.  A LOT.  Two sticks of butter doesn't make me blink.  Anyway, I digress.  In honor of the Saints game tonight (Saints play the SF 49ers at 5:30 PT), I thought I would share a chocolate tart-like cake I made recently for friends.

About a month ago, we had a sibling triple date in San Francisco at Zuni Cafe.  We chose it because it is known for being a classic Northern California restaurant - and my brother-in-law got us the cookbook for Christmas last year, so we thought it would be fun to try.  Dinner was really, really good - but the dessert was excellent.  Not a crumb was left.  It was called the "Gateau Victoire" and a little research showed that it was a variation on a Julia Child recipe for a chocolate soufflĂ©.   The Zuni Cafe version was flaky and served warm with whipped cream.  Yum.  I got home and searched for a version of the recipe and waited for an occasion to make it.  I don't have the biggest sweet tooth, so I waited for an opportunity to share it with friends.

I must warn you - these pictures aren't great (I must learn to take better pictures).  I was prepping for 6 people coming over for dinner so things were a bit rushed.

Lots of eggs - 5 whole eggs + 2 yolks

Chocolate - the good stuff

The eggs after 15 - 20 minutes of whipping

chocolate, whipped cream, and whipped eggs - does it get better?

ingredients folded all together and poured into a pan

into the oven... 

The finished product

side view 
The cake came out very well - although I thought the Zuni Cafe version was a little drier and also fluffier and crispier.  Mine was A LOT like the Joy of Cooking chocolate soufflĂ© we made a few years ago (which isn't a bad thing).  I think I probably folded the ingredients together too aggressively and took out some of the air pockets that would have made mine fluffier.  Another piece of advice - refrigerate the cake if you don't eat it all the first day.  I would definitely make this again.

Geaux Saints!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Hello Joe

I realized that since Joe's birthday fell over labor day (when we were out ballooning), I didn't get the chance to give him a proper happy birthday wish on my blog!

Joe's birthday card
I saw this card months ago and immediately thought of Joe for some reason - it seemed to fit his aesthetic somehow - maybe because we are both Tim Burton fans.  I was really excited to get to send it to him for his birthday.
The two of us in SF

The two of us in Lafayette, LA
 Happy (belated) Birthday Joe!  

Friday, September 17, 2010

my weekend weakness

Philz coffee is so good that even though I get free coffee at work, I still treat myself to Philz roughly once per week (there's one in midtown Palo Alto).  I have tried several things - including the iced mint mojito coffee (iced coffee with mint - see photo below).

So what are my favorites?  If I want caffeine, it's philtered soul.  However I gave up caffeine (for the most part) before the wedding so now it is usually the house decaf blend.

insanity in a cup
mint mojito coffee 

I almost always get a small coffee with cream and medium sweet.  Heaven.  I know where I'll be this weekend!  Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

PG&E Natural Gas Pipelines in Palo Alto

Ever since the big natural gas line rupture and explosion last week in San Bruno, I have been curious about the PG&E transmission lines in Palo Alto.  In Palo Alto, we have a municipal utility, but it looks like our local utility sources its natural gas from PG&E.  

Check out this map put together by the Palo Alto Daily News from a map downloaded from U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (their website and mapping tool have been very slow for the last week).   The yellow color shows the PG&E transmission pipelines in Palo Alto.  


Map from the Palo Alto Daily News

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Happy Birthday B!

Happy 22nd birthday to my little sister B!  I am so lucky to have such a wonderful sister (who is so talented, fun, and stylish too).  When I got married, I asked my husband if he was excited to share a room with B because B and I have shared a room for the last 10 years and our nighttime talks are my favorite.  I don't plan on giving those up anytime soon!  This Christmas, I just figure we'll move an air mattress into our bedroom and continue on, business as usual. :)

the morning of my wedding
spending time in Cali together

Same pose - about 15 years earlier 
A good sport at my bachelorette party
Who knew that she would grow up to be 1/2" taller than me?!
I hope that you have a great day!  Love you little B!  Hopefully I can come visit you in Fort Worth before too long.  

my wedding Wednesday: bridal jewelry

I thought the task of figuring out what jewelry to wear to be a tough one.  I had been avoiding thinking about what jewelry to wear on my wedding day - mostly because I am not a huge jewelry person (well except for the engagement and wedding rings)!  I tend to wear the same jewelry for years on end - pearl stud earrings, my Tiffany "a" necklace, and my watch.  That about describes my look for the past 10 years.  Honestly, my ideal was to borrow some fabulous jewelry from friends or family - but I didn't really know how to make that work either.


While looking for a rehearsal dinner dress on jcrew.com, I stumbled across some seriously beautiful jewelry that seemed so feminine and bridal.

{Crystal Lattice Necklace from J. Crew $325}
This necklace had me at grosgrain


{Starlight Earrings from Banana Republic $25}
Love the vintage feel. 

I swallowed hard at the price of that necklace - and ordered both the necklace and the earrings to try on with the dress.  When it came I actually thought that it was too dark looking so I returned it.  I really liked the earrings (although not for the wedding dress) and kept them. 

the jcrew necklace at a fitting - not quite right

I tried on some jewelry at the bridal salon, but none of it was just right. 
pearl choker
crystal pendant 
When I left California for Louisiana the week before the wedding, I still didn't know what I was going to wear.  I was pretty sure I was just going to stick with my pearl earrings.  I figured that since I had worn them everyday for 10 years - that they would be right at home at our wedding.  I felt like me in them. 

As for the necklace, my sort of plan was to wear my grandmother's dragon broach as a necklace.  When my grandmother was born - her father gave it to her mother which means it had been in our family since 1914 when my grandmother was born.  When she passed away, she left it to my mom.  It is quite a family treasure. 

the opal dragon broach
However when I got home and put it on a necklace, the pin (being huge) rolled around on my chest and it looked strange.  To get a sense of the scale, here it is on my mom's jacket at our bridesmaid lunch. 
the dragon pin in action
While I was digging through my mom's jewelry something else caught my eye - a small pin that my dad had given to my mom on their wedding day that had been in his family for a while.  It was beautiful - gold with little pearls in the shape of a sunburst.  All I needed was a simple gold chain and it would be perfect.  The day before the wedding my mom and I went to the mall and I found one for $14 at Macy's.  

A close up of the pin/pendant
Photo taken by Celeste Marshall
I loved that this necklace had a special meaning and had been a part of my life since day 1.  It was really special way for me to include my mom and dad.
Photo with my sister
Photos taken by Celeste Marshall
So what did I do for earrings?  Well it turns out that my hubby-to-be surprised me with diamond studs before the ceremony.  It was the one time during the day that I cried. It was SO sweet.  He wrote such a beautiful note to go with them.  I haven't taken them off (except to clean them) ever since!  
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