Monday, October 18, 2010

A Baby Shower for Food Lovers

This weekend I managed to sneak away from puppy-rearing duties to attend the most delightful baby shower at Tin Roof Bistro.

The bright decorations were a cheerful contrast to the dreary weather.

Flat Pak collapsible vases held heaps of fresh flowers. Genius.

I was particularly fond of the cheeky monkeys decorating the tables.

And the food? I'll let the images speak for themselves.


Cheese, glorious cheese.
Tomato Bisque with Pesto Drizzle
Crab Melt with Taboulleh
Chocolate Fondant Mousse with Whipped Cream and Pecan Brittle Topping

We played baby shower Bingo...

And I won the most gorgeous gift: handmade goat's milk soap from the Beekman Boys. Check them out on Planet Green. Brilliant.

It was seriously the best baby shower ever. I'm so happy for my friends and I can't wait to meet their baby!

Speaking of babies, when I got home I snuggled up with Gemma for a nap. Baby showering is tiring.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sweet Potato Gingerbread

Gemma let me alone long enough (read: crashed out in her crate for an hour) for me to make Sweet Potato Gingerbread and hastily snap a few photos of it.

Make this. It's easy and divine.

Sweet Potato Gingerbread
Makes one loaf

Substitute pumpkin if you don't have or want sweet potato. If you don't have whole wheat pastry flour, use an equal amount of all purpose flour. And if gluten is an issue, swap out wheat flour for a gluten-free all purpose flour. Walnuts would be a nice addition to this bread, and can be folded into the batter along with the flour mixture.

2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups evaporated cane juice or granulated sugar
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2/3 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup walnut oil (or vegetable oil of choice)
1/4 cup molasses
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sweet potato puree (from approximately 1 1/2 large sweet potatoes, roasted and cooled, skins removed)

1. Heat oven to 325 degrees F and lightly coat a loaf pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs and sugar until light, creamy and tripled in volume, about 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, whisk together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, spices and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

4. With the mixer on medium-low speed, drizzle the oil into the egg-sugar mixture. Beat until incorporated. Add the molasses, vanilla and sweet potato puree and beat until combined. [Superstar tip: after adding the oil, use the same measuring cup for the molasses. The coating of oil in the cup will ensure all of the molasses makes it out.]

5. Stop the mixer and add the flour mixture, gently folding it into the batter until incorporated. Be careful not to over mix the batter, as doing so activates the gluten in the flour and results in a heavier, denser crumb.

6. Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out with a light coating of moist crumbs. Allow to cool before serving. The loaf will keep, tightly wrapped, in the refrigerator for several days.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010


Tavern is the kind of place where you'll have an impeccable dining experience, but nary a decent photograph to show for it. (Unless, of course, you go there in the daytime, when the larder and atrium dining room are flooded with light so as to showcase the Jeffrey Alan Marks design and decor.)

Photo: Tavern / aackstudio
Photo: Tavern / aackstudio

Go there for dinner, and you'll marvel at the familiar yet surprising comfort of the food. (Seared Albacore over beluga lentils? Of course.) The thoughtful and generous service. (Responsive and perfectly-timed? Yes. Hovering and solicitous? No.) The sumptuous New-York-chic-meets-California-cool surroundings. (A testament to chef/owner Suzanne Goin's signature guest-at-a-dinner-party feel, you wonder, when can I move in?)

Of course, you'll expect nothing less -- Tavern is, after all, the brainchild of Goin and Caroline Styne, of Lucques and A.O.C. -- and you'll know that you won't do it justice with your pedestrian words and wretched photographs. (In my defense, the restaurant is much too dark and my camera flash -- a no-no to begin with -- much too "hot.")

So you'll simply say that your birthday dinner at Tavern marks your best restaurant dining experience in L.A. to date. That you wish Tavern had been Tavern and not Hamburger Hamlet when you lived in Brentwood. That on second thought, maybe not, because you'd be broke. That if you were the kind of person who didn't have to worry about going broke, you'd hire Jeffrey Alan Marks to design and decorate your house. And Suzanne Goin to teach you how to cook, because your Sunday Suppers at Lucques cookbook just isn't the same.

You'll order two disparate appetizers and banter with your husband about which is better. (Hint: it's the one in which you're indulging at that very moment.)

Roasted Peaches with Burrata, Prosciutto and Pine Nuts (Best. Burrata. Ever.)

Seared Albacore with Beluga Lentils, Green Olives and Salsa Verde

You'll pass your shockingly ill-photographed entrees back and forth, marveling at the perfection of the pork shoulder in all its brined-for-72-hours glory, and how its richness is tempered by the avocado salsa that is bright and refreshing and not at all heavy.

Pork Confit with Corn Pudding, Mojo Criollo and Avocado Salsa

You'll implore your husband to rein you in as you dig for caramelized leeks and onions in Goin's riff on Chicken Dijon.

The Devil's Chicken with Braised Leeks, Onions and Mustard Breadcrumbs

You'll have saved room for pastry chef Breanne Varela's famed Snickers Bar dessert, which will be dropped at your table with a complimentary plate of her cookies, adorned with a birthday candle. And you'll breathe a sigh of relief that although Tavern isn't the least bit pretentious, it isn't the sort of  place where the staff sings to you.

Breanne's Cookies

Can we talk about the Snickers Bar for a minute?

Snickers Bar with Salted Peanut Caramel and Vanilla Ice Cream

It was mind-blowing. Best. Dessert. Ever. It's what the Momofuku Chocolate-Malt Cake wishes it could be. And were Tavern that sort of place, we'd have licked the plate clean.

Do go to Tavern, and do bring a jacket. It's dreadfully over-air conditioned -- its only flaw.