Thursday, August 30, 2012

Traveling to Paris

If you've seen my tumblr or pinterest you'd know I may have a small obsession with France, and Paris specifically.  I actually didn't realize how obsessed I was until I was looking through my tumblr for images of Paris for this post.  Turns out there's a lot!

As I posted about {here}, I finished my college degrees at a university in Paris, living there for 2 years.  For those couple of years I felt like the luckiest girl, traveling between my two homes, San Francisco and Paris, and traveling around Europe.

In exactly 2 weeks Dan and I will be arriving in Paris.  He's never been.  Words cannot describe how excited I am.  Paris feels like a second home to me and getting to share it with the man I love is all the more exciting.  I cannot wait to see Paris through his eyes. 

Things I am most excited for:
 1 - a demi baguette for less than 1

Why don't we sell baguettes in halves in the US?!  And why is a good loaf of french bread $3.50+?

 2 - Zara
I first discovered Zara and H&M when I moved to Paris.  And as happy I am that they have since come to America, I must admit I still love the collections in the Paris and London stores.  

 3 - hot chocolate from Angelina's
I think this photo says it all.

4 - delicious bread from the boulangerie Eric Kayser 
The flat we rented isn't far from the location where I first fell in love with this delicious bread!

5 - showing Danny around one of my favorite cities in the world

It's been a while since I was showing someone around Paris.  I'd love to hear suggestions!

What would you love to see if it was your first time in Paris?
Restaurant recommendations are always appreciated!

*images via and via

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Making amends

I should hang this saying someplace in my home.  
It's definitely something I need to remember.

This week has been a bit about making amends for me.  Which can be really hard sometimes.  It's the swallowing my pride part that can be tough for me.  And getting over my hurt feelings and making the first move to break the silence.

I don't think this means let yourself get walked all over just to keep the peace.  But I do think it's saying think about how important whatever it is that's come between you, and how important that person is to you, and to your life, and decide which is more important.  

I'm curious, how do you usually make amends?  Is it face to face, or over the phone?  Or writing an email or letter?


*image via - if anyone knows who the original source is, please let me know so I can credit.  thanks!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Chocolate & Friday

I woke up yesterday thinking it was Friday.  In case you didn't know, it wasn't.  Yesterday was Thursday.  Today is Friday.  I'm still trying to figure out how I feel about that.  I mean, I did just gain an extra day in my life.  How often does that happen?

I've been really busy with work this week.  The new fall line is coming out in a few weeks and it gets everyone a bit crazy.
{I am definitely in need of this on my second Friday this week.}

I'm kind of a stress baker.  There's something about being stressed at work or personally and getting home and baking something delicious. It takes my mind off whatever I was worried about because I have to concentrate on putting together everything correctly.

And if I'm having a bad day it's nice to pull something delicious out of the oven and have something I did work out right that day.  Plus I love how wonderful my house smells when something's in the oven. 

This is one of the last recipes from our Italian cooking class at La Rusticana D'Orsa. Read more about it here and here.

For dessert we made individual chocolate lava cakes.  This is one of my favorite desserts to order in a restaurant.  And it's such a crowd pleaser, I was surprised to see how easy it is to make.

I would suggest using an electric mixer to beat the egg yolks {I love my kitchen aid!}.  You could use a hand mixer but you'll have to mix it for quite a while.  If you try to beat them by hand I'm fairly certain your arm will fall off.

Chocolate Lava Cake with Orange Mascarpone Cream

 - 8 oz bittersweet chocolate
 - 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
 - cocoa powder for the ramekins
 - 3 large eggs, at room temperature
 - 3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
 - 1/2 cup sugar
 - 1/2 cup cake flour

Orange Cream
 - 1/2 heavy cream
 - 1 tbls vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
 - 2 tbls light brown sugar
 - 1/2 tsp orange zest
 - 1 cup mascarpone
 - 1 tsp fresh orange juice
 - 1 oz semisweet chocolate, shaved for topping

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Coat six 6 oz ramekins with butter, and dust lightly with cocoa powder.  

Over a double boiler, melt bittersweet chocolate with the butter stirring often. If you don't have a double boiler, you can use a large pot and heavy heat-proof bowl.  A stainless steel bowl will work as well, but glass distributes the heat better. Let chocolate cool.  Using an electric mixer fitted with the whisk (or hand mixer, if you have a lot of time) beat the eggs yolks and sugar on high until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes.

Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the chocolate into the egg mixture, then fold in the cake flour just until mixed in.  Don't over mix.

Spoon the batter into the prepared ramekins and bake for 15 minutes, until the cakes have risen, the tops are dry and the centers are slightly jiggly.  Let stand for 5 minutes.  You can prepare the batter and ramekins ahead of time and refrigerate.  Just pull out of the fridge 15-20 minutes before you're going to bake them.  Then part way through dinner put them in the oven and you'll have warm chocolate lava cake ready at the end of dinner.

In a bowl, beat the cream with the vanilla, brown sugar, orange zest, until soft peaks form.  Add the mascarpone and orange juice and beat until just blended.  Keep chilled until needed.

Run the tip of a knife around each cake to loosen it, then unmold onto a plate.  Spoon the mascarpone cream on the cake and top with chocolate shavings Serve at once.  You can also serve by placing the ramekins on a pretty dessert plate which makes for a pretty presentation without worrying whether the cake will easily come out of the ramekin.

I'm not a huge fan of orange with chocolate but I've included the recipe for the orange mascarpone cream because it's so easy and such a great foundation recipe.   It would be delicious for brunch served over waffles or pancakes with fresh berries, or on top of hot chocolate.  If you're not a fan of orange and chocolate, you can just leave out the orange zest and juice.  

I prefer serving these instead with vanilla ice cream and fresh berries on top.  I love the combination of warm chocolate over bright red berries.  

See more recipes from Rusticana D'Orsa here and here.
Happy Friday!


Monday, August 20, 2012

Cupcakes & Jam {the only cupcake recipe you need}

A couple weeks ago, I saw this post on Joy the Baker's blog {Love her!}.  I don't know anyone who doesn't need Strawberry Raspberry Vanilla Quick Jam in their life.  The recipe looked simple enough and the jam my mom and I made a few weeks ago turned out so delicious {see post here}, I thought we needed to try this one as well.  
{Vanilla cupcake topped with Strawberry Raspberry Vanilla Jam}

Joy's recipe was so easy and so delicious.  Instead of using a vanilla bean we used vanilla paste {found here}.  Every baker should have this in their pantry.  It's amazing.

 We doubled her recipe and made about 4 fairly large jars.  We didn't do the whole canning process like before.  We figured we'd freeze a couple jars instead. 
{Now that we've tasted it there will be no need to freeze any. We'll go through it pretty fast, I'm sure.}  Start to finish it took us less than 30 minutes.  Love that!  

After we made it we started looking around the kitchen for things we could put it on. {I'm not joking.} 

This isn't a typical jam.  It's kind of like jam's super sexy cousin, it's a bit syrupy, but has some thickness to it as well. Joy recommended it as a topping for yogurt or ice cream aside from your standard toast and jam.

Our eyes fell upon the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook.

This was my favorite bakery when I lived in London.  I used to take the bus to South Kensington, wait in the "queue" that reached out to the sidewalk and down the street, just to buy one of their delicious cupcakes.  A tourist once stopped me while I was waiting in line and asked if they we're giving out free cake.  I told him no, that it was just that good.

We found a few different ways to use the jam with the cupcakes:
{see cupcake and frosting recipes below}

1.  Jam filled cupcakes - when we poured the cupcake batter in the pan we added a bit of jam to the middle of a few of them, covered it with a bit more batter, and baked it as the recipe directed.  It turned out perfectly.

2.  Vanilla cupcakes with berry frosting - we mixed a small amount of jam with the vanilla frosting which made this beautiful pink frosting and topped with a strawberry, so pretty! {I may have frosted the cupcake a bit too soon, which is why it looks a bit melted.}
{My mom decorated the one on the right with pansies.}
Can you see the black specks of vanilla bean in the frosting? So delicious!

3.  Vanilla frosted cupcake topped with berry jam

4.  Or my personal favorite:  Cupcake - sans frosting, topped with plenty of strawberry raspberry jam.  Fork and napkin necessary.

This is the only vanilla cupcake recipe you'll ever need.

Vanilla Cupcakes {modified from Hummingbird Bakery}
  makes 12 cupcakes

 - 1 cup all-purpose flour
 - 3/4 cup sugar, scant
 - 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
 - a pinch of salt
 - 3 tbls unsalted butter, at room temperature
 - 1/2 cup whole milk
 - 1 egg
 - 1 tsp vanilla bean paste {found here} or pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter until everything is combined.  It will be a sandy consistency.  Slowly pour half the milk in the mixture and beat until incorporated.

In separate bowl, whisk the egg, vanilla and remaining milk together.  Add to flour mixture until combined.  You may need to scrap the sides of the bowl to get everything incorporated.  Mix until batter is smooth.  Be careful not to overmix.

The batter will make exactly 12 standard-sized cupcakes.  Spoon batter equally into cupcake pan lined with papers (approximately 1/2 full).  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cake bounces back when touched.

Let cupcakes cool in pan for a few minutes.  I like to turn them sideways so that the air can circulate.
Move to wire rack to finish cooling.  Once cupcakes are cool, spread with Vanilla Frosting.  If you frost them too soon the warm cupcake will melt the frosting.

Vanilla Frosting {modified from Hummingbird Bakery}

 - 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
 - 5 tbls unsalted butter, at room temperature
 - 2 tbls whole milk
 - a couple drops of vanilla bean paste {found here} or pure vanilla extract
 - 1 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice

Beat sugar and butter together until well mixed.  Combine milk, vanilla and lemon juice in separate bowl.  Add to butter mixture slowly until combine.  Turn mixer/beater on high and beat until frosting is light and fluffy (about 5 minutes).



Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Weekend in Tahoe

One of my favorite places in the world is where the sand meets the water.

One of the great things about living in California is that's it's pretty easy to get there. Beach, mountains, lake, are all nearby. I feel very blessed.

Last weekend, some extremely generous friends invited us to their house in Tahoe.
{generous friends: B&P}

We spent the days canoeing and boating on the lake, trying to turn Pacino into an adventure dog {he's a bit afraid of the water} and taking in as much sun as possible.

{safety first}

It was one of those perfect laid back summer weekends.

Hope your weekend was wonderful too! xoxo

*all photos original to champagne reveries

Friday, August 10, 2012

It's all in the details {Restoration Hardware - Fall 2012}

I've been a bit m.i.a. this week at a 2-day conference for work in San Francisco.  We were lucky enough to be there on some of the most gorgeous days the city has had.

We were also lucky enough to get some pretty special gifts.

{iPod shuffle in the invitation!}

But of everything that we were given, I think my favorite items were the Fall 2012 catalogues that don't drop until September 4th, along with a presentation from the exec's on all the new pieces and how they came to be; from Paris flea markets, to late night concept meetings, to repainting until just the right design was reached.

Now since the catalogue isn't dropping for a few more weeks, I can't discuss the new collection, but I can show you a few pictures of my new RH pen.

Pretty nice pen, huh?!

On a side note, there's been a lot of talk about branding here in blogland.  I've read a bit about it {here} and {here}.  I think Resto is such a great example of branding.  It really is all in the details.  {All photos are from the 2-day conference.}

 {afternoon snack}

{our chandeliers brought in for the conference}

 {RH journal and pen in the background}

{concert at The Fillmore}

I guess it's been a week of shameless plugging!  Check out my early post {here}.  Thanks for humoring me.

Have a wonderful weekend!
*all photos original to champagne reveries

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

NYC Subway Station - dekalb {Music Giveaway}

This a photo of my brother standing next to a photo of himself in a New York subway station.  

He was walking through the subway station and glanced over and saw a photo of himself on the wall.  Shocking, right?!

Apparently a photographer took a photo of him while on the train a while back and his work is being featured in the station.  There's no way to really tell when the photo was taken since he frequently wears a black tee-shirt with black pants, as you can see.

My brother is an amazing musician in New York.  Check out his websites here and here.  He plays the guitar and the piano but he can pretty much pick up any stringed instrument and play it.  He's really quite extraordinary.  

{Actually what's really extraordinary is how he completely took all the artistic genes and I got all the analytical ones. lol}

My brother's offering free music downloads to anyone who shares the photo on facebook or takes a picture with it in the subway station and posts it.  See more details here.  Click here to for some of his work.


**Please excuse this shameless plug of my brother, but he's amazing and I love him and he doesn't know I'm posting this.  I think it would be kind of cool to surprise him with a whole bunch of facebook "sharing" from some cute blogging ladies {I'm assuming most readers are women - sorry guys, if you're out there! - I'm sure he'd love your fb shares too!}

Monday, August 6, 2012


A few weekends ago, I spent the day with my mom learning how to make jam.  
It's something she used to do with my grandma so I've always wanted to learn.

We made my Dad's favorite: Apricot-Pineapple and I wanted to make Raspberry, but those babies were pricey!  So we settled for Strawberry and then spruced it up a bit with some orange zest.

If you've never had homemade jam find some, make some, or give me your address and I'll send you some.  It's so much better than store bought.

We just followed the recipes on the pectin packages but modified them a bit to use about 1/2 a cup less sugar and added orange zest.  
{FYI - apparently you can't use a lot less sugar or a sugar substitute because it won't turn out right.  At least this is what my grandma says.}

If you want to go all natural you can make your own pectin using unripened apples.  
I told my mother I will never make my own pectin.  
I think making homemade jam is domestic enough for me.



Apricot-Pineapple Jam

- 3 cups pitted and roughly chopped apricots (buy about 2 lbs)
- 1 can (20 oz) of crushed pineapple, undrained
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 package of pectin (CERTO and Sure-Jell are good brands)
- 1/4 tsp of butter (you need this - it helps reduce the foam so you don't have to skim it off the top later)
- 7 1/2 cups of sugar

Strawberry Jam

- 4 cups roughly chopped strawberries (buy about 2 qts)
- zest of 1 orange
- 1 package of pectin
- 1/4 tsp of butter
- 6 1/2 cups of sugar


1. Pour boiling water over flat lids and let stand until ready to use.  Wash jars and screw bands in warm soapy water.  We put the jars in the dishwasher on warm rinse just so they stayed warm until we were ready to use them.

2.  Add apricots and pineapple (fruit and liquid) and lemon juice to large saucepan over medium heat (or strawberries and orange zest). Stir until combined and heated through.

3.  Stir in pectin and butter.  Bring mixture to a full rolling boil (a boil that doesn't stop when stirred), stirring constantly.  Stir in sugar.  Return to full rolling boil and then boil exactly 4 minutes (or exactly 1 minute for the strawberry jam).  Keep stirring! Remove from heat and skim off any foam.

4.  Ladle immediately into prepared jars, filing to within 1/8 inch of tops.  Wipe jar rims and threads.  Cover with 2-piece lids.  Screw bands tightly.  Do not unscrew again.  Place jars on elevated rack in canning pot.  Lower rack into the canner.  Water must cover jars by 2 inches.  Add boiling water if necessary.  Cover; bring water to gentle boil.  Process 10 minutes.  Remove jars and place upright on towel to cool completely.  After jars cool (a few hours), check seals by pressing middle of lid with finger.  If lid springs back, it's not sealed and must be refrigerated.



P.S.  I may have already eaten 3 jars by myself 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Baking Geek

So I kind of geeked out on my room-mate a few nights ago.  I saw this recipe on Bakerella and it looked so easy and I had everything in my kitchen, so I went for it.  

While I was making it, I started talking about baking and how amazing it is to me.  I think she might have thought I was a bit nuts.  But I absolutely adore baking.  

When you make dinner, let's say you start with chicken, potatoes and vegetables.  When you finish, you end up with chicken, potatoes and vegetables; granted they're much more delicious than when you started but they haven't actually changed form or anything.  

But baking, you start with flour, sugar, baking powder, among other things.  
And when you finish you can have all this:
clockwise: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6

I think it's just amazing.  
{geeking out a bit, sorry}

I made Chocolate Morning Biscuits using Bakerella's recipe {here}, slightly modifying it by splitting the flour 50-50 between white and whole wheat flour {for health purposes of course, no one wants to eat an unhealthy chocolate morning biscuit}.  

  • Substitute 2 cups of all-purpose flour for 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour.  You won't be able to taste the difference.
  • If you don't have unsalted butter, salted butter is fine, just don't add the salt the recipe calls for or use a bit less.
  • I don't have a pastry cutter, so I used  my fingers to work the cold butter into the dry ingredients.  It worked perfectly. 
  • I also don't have a pastry brush so I dipped a paper towel in the egg wash {optional topping} and rubbed it on the rolls before putting them in the oven.  {This is called ghetto baking.}
  • When chopping up the chocolate, you want a good mix of super fine pieces and large pieces.  The fine one's turn all melty and gooey in the oven and the large ones will be big chunks throughout.  Yum!
  • I used dark chocolate but if you wanted them a bit sweeter, milk chocolate would be fine too.
  • These were best eaten right from the oven.  Definitely serve warm. And with butter {you used whole wheat flour, it's fine.}
Start to finish this recipe took me about about 30 minutes.  Perfect for friends or parents stopping by.  And it makes your house smell wonderful!

These weren't too sweet {very chocolatey, but not too sweet}.  It was perfect with my morning coffee.  The recipe was so easy and all of the ingredients were typical things I have on hand, it will definitely become one of my staple recipes, maybe with a few variations next time.



Wednesday, August 1, 2012

La Rusticana D'Orsa {The Recipes}

Continuing with last weeks posts, {cooking class} and {tour}, I posted below a few of the delicious recipes we made at Rusticana d'Orsa.

Before beginning, I recommend opening a bottle of chianti to let it aerate.  You may want to pour yourself a glass as well. Cooking is always more fun with wine. :)

Recipe: Pasta con Arugola, Radicchio e Pachini 
{Pasta with Arugula, Radicchio and Cherry Tomatoes}
 - 1 lb penne rigate
 - 5 tbs extra virgin olive oil
 - 1 tbs lemon zest
 - 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
 - 1 tsp salt
 - 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
 - 1 small head of radicchio, thinly sliced with core removed
 - 7 cups arugula
 - 1 cup fresh basil, leaves only
 - 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved 
   {try to find mixed grape tomatoes, it adds more color to the dish}
 - 4 oz smoked mozzarella, cut into small cubes
 - 2 tbs lemon juice
 - freshly grated parmigiano

Place radicchio slices into large bowl and fill with cold water.  Let sit for 15 minutes.  Drain and repeat 1 or 2 more times. Dry the radicchio really well with paper towels.  This helps eliminate some of the bitterness in radicchio.

Cook the pasta in salted water until al dente. Before draining the pasta, reserve about 3/4 cup of the liquid.  Drain the pasta but do not rinse.

While the pasta is cooking, in a large bowl (that you will use to serve the pasta), whisk together the oil, zest,  garlic, salt and pepper.  To the dressing, add the halved tomatoes, drained and dried radicchio, arugula, and basil torn into pieces.  Add the cooked pasta and the reserved water to the bowl.  Let stand for a minute or so to wilt the greens.

Add the mozzarella and lemon juice and stir together.  The heat from the pasta will melt the mozzarella cubes.  Add a generous amount of freshly grated parmigiano, a sprinkle of freshly grated pepper and serve at once.

Recipe: Girello di Maiale Grigliato con Sugo di Olive e Erbette  
{Grilled Pork Loin with Olives and Herb Dressing}
For the meat:
 - 4 garlic cloves, pureed through garlic press
 - 4 tbs fresh rosemary, minced
 - 4 tbs fresh thyme, minced
 - 6 leaves fresh sage, minced
 - 1 1/2 tsp salt
 - One pork loin
 - Olive oil
 - Salt and freshly ground pepper

For the dressing:
 - 1 cup green olives, pitted and chopped
 - 2 tbs fresh rosemary, minced
 - 2 tbs fresh thyme, minced
 - 2 tbs fresh mint, minced
 - zest of one orange
 - zest of one lemon
 - 1 tbs orange juice
 - 1 tsp lemon juice
 - 1/2 tsp salt
 - 1/2 tsp pepper
 - 1/4 olive oil

In a small bowl, mix garlic, herbs and salt for the meat.  Wash and dry the meat.  Cut the loin in half lengthwise. Create a pocket by making an incision along the middle of each meat half without going all the way through.  Open the loin up so it's flat.  Rub the inside of the pork loin with the herb mixture.  Massage it in.  Fold the loin back closed and secure with cooking twine.  Rub the outside of the meat with olive oil, salt and pepper. 

Grill the meat over indirect heat for 10 minutes, turning occasionally.  Lower the grill and cook until internal temperature is between 140-150 and it has a nice brown crust.  Remove from heat and tent with foil, allowing it to rest for 10 minutes before slicing.  

While the meat is cooking, in a small bowl combine the olives, herbs, zest, juices, salt, pepper, and oil.  Mix well.

To serve, remove the twine, slice the meat diagonally, arrange on a warm platter and drizzle with olive / herb dressing.

Pour yourself another glass of wine and enjoy!

Buon Appetito!

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