English Scones

If you love a good scone but don't know how to make your own, learn.  Honestly, there is nothing more simple or delicious ... especially with good butter and strawberry conserve.

I confess, having an Englishman scratch make them for you is better, but if you're fresh out of Englishmen, try this English Scone recipe from BBC (I suggest adding raisins).  It takes less than 20 minutes to whip them up and serve them warm.  What are you waiting for?

Asian Tapas, the Best of London

Given that I'm in the UK, a country that differs greatly from the US in its perspective on firearms, the focus this week will most definitely be food (and a bit of fashion, as I'm noticing the Italians are some of the best dressed people in London).  I've been warned that this city does not bode well for a girl accustomed to the culinary genius of LA and New York, but I have to say ... that's just bullocks.

Tonight I was treated to a fantastic meal in Soho at a brand new Asian fusion spot called Tapasia.  I am not exaggerating (I swear, Jess!) when I say that it was one of the best meals I have ever had.  In my life.  My friend Tony raved and insisted we eat here, and now I know why — perfect plates of fresh fish, deeply flavorful vegetables, rich and tangy sauces, and some of the best tempura I've ever eaten.  Onions should only ever be fried like these.

As the two of us gobbled plate after plate of ginger-miso Chilean seabass, Scottish scallops with vegetable fondue, smoky chili prawns, grilled aubergine with yogurt hummus, salmon tartare on crispy Gyoza skin, tender beef skewers with tarragon sauce, and Japanese omelettes with squid and bonito flakes, we literally marveled at how such remarkable food could come on such small plates, so consistently outstanding, dish after dish after dish.  It didn't hurt that each plate was half price to celebrate the restaurant's opening (or maybe it did hurt, because we got greedy and ate too much).

The vibe at Tapasia is also worth mentioning, given its trendy Soho locale, English-style downstairs bar and bright, airy upstairs dining room.  The place is tight but open, with lots of windows, a ridiculously friendly waitstaff, and killer cocktails.  I'm a gin girl, and the Tapasia Pink Gin with hibiscus syrup was crazy refreshing.

When in London ... go Asian.  Sincerely.  Fish and Chips are fantastic (I plan to eat some tomorrow), but for  traveling foodies looking to try something new, you can't miss in this place.  It was worth the ten hour flight just for that damned eggplant.

A Taste of London

I've been sent to London on business, and had the great fortune of choosing a hotel in Kensington, just steps from Kensington Palace.  I've also had the good fortune of traveling at the same time as my friend Tony, who knows London well.  As he took me exploring late last night, we stopped for a bite to eat — choosing the outdoor cafe Prezzo, assuming the logic that Italian food this close to Italy might just be better than LA.

Honestly, it was delicious.  Prezzo is a chain, but given its locale off Kensington High Street, the charming staff and al fresco dining on the cobblestone patio, I had few complaints.  A bread plate starter with garlic mozzarella and pesto were a perfect beginning, and the VIP pizza with prosciutto, olives and mushrooms was simple and light, perfected with a drizzle of chili oil.  And yes, better than most LA pizza.

Next, we strolled through the area of Kensington, past the humble abode otherwise known as Kensington Palace.  These royals really know how to live ... and garden ... and design architecture.  Damn if this place doesn't make you want to stay.

After working up an appetite with our walk around the city, we stopped for sweets and tea (how English) at an adorable little cafe called Giraffe, one of the few places to stay open past 10pm (make note, travelers, that unlike LA or New York, London pubs are typically the only places to stay open late).

Passion fruit cheesecake was light and creamy, but the apple oat crumble with toffee sauce and vanilla ice cream was off the hook.  Served in a little cast iron skillet, it was hearty and warm and so very English.  The tea, naturally, was remarkable.  I don't know how or why, but it's just better in Britain.  I plan to be back.

Stay tuned for more magic from this gorgeous country.

I Will Be Lara Croft ... for Halloween

My obsession with Lara Croft is hardly a secret, and so I'm sharing with you now that since my own jerry-rigged costume from a previous year failed to meet my high standards, I think I'm going to enlist some help recreating the proper look for this Halloween — gold buckle, leather holsters, rubber Desert Eagles and all.

I found these outstanding replicas on a fantastic site called Kropserkel ... and I'm just crazy enough to custom design/order this whole thing before October rolls around and I realize I'm not ready (again).  Hell, why not?  I've got loads of time this time!

PS - I need help.

Sushi in NYC ... Raku Rocks

As a resident of Los Angeles, I have access to some of the best sushi in the world.  Maybe the best overall (it's up for debate).  What is not up for debate is that New York City, my other lover, boasts some pretty awesome fish itself — and among the best of NYC is Raku it's Japanese 2! on the upper west side.

I was first introduced to Raku by my darling Steph ... who, being honest, partly inspired my post today.  With so many good friends living in New York and two other beloveds currently visiting, I'm feeling a little lonely for Gotham.  This picture brings back wonderful memories of a perfect meal on a perfect Manhattan vacation.  What better review of a meal could there be?

The place is unassuming, small, and fabulous.  All about the food.  Our favorites:
  • Spicy Tuna roll (with brown rice)
  • King Crab Avocado roll
  • Yellowtail Black Dragon roll: spicy yellowtail with jalapeno, topped with tobiko
  • Spice Girl roll: crunchy snow crab avocado wrapped around seared black peppered tuna, with honey wasabi sauce
Bring a good friend when you go.  Order some sake, and fall in love with your life. :)

A Little Black Dress is Gold

Shopping for a spectacular night out is a key component of my cardio ... and like any workout, it can be exhausting.  When I'm not in the mood for a marathon shopping spree, with sprints to a dozen stores, 18 looks, and the hurdle of a million choices, I go classic — black and gold.

I found this little number recently, an LBD updated with sexy cutout sleeves, at Victoria's Secret.  Affordable chic at $59.50.  Simplified with sleek black & gold jewelry, a knockout cocktail ring and killer Giuseppe Zanotti stilettos and this look will serve me forever.  It's timeless.  Ubiquitous.  Gorgeous.

And I'm wearing it Saturday night.

Saint Honoré Cake

This Monday morning, I give you something as beautiful as it is delectible: the St. Honoré cake, a gorgeously classic French dessert made from a magical ring of pâte à choux, lightened pastry cream and caramelized cream puffs.  As a chocolate freak, I can honestly say I'd be willing to forego cocoa for this thing almost permanently.  You just don't understand.  It's a textural confectionery dream ... like sinking your fork into a cloud made of sugar, interrupted only by buttery, flaky, crunchy caramel nuggets of joy.

This particular St. Honoré cake is from Le Petit Four ... a darling little French bistro in Sunset Plaza along Sunset Boulevard.  Coffee plus a piece of this cake makes an afternoon, completes the perfect evening, and unites enemies.  I'm serious.  Who can hate anybody over something this pretty?

As pâte à choux really only sounds more complicated than it actually is, my goal is to attempt making one of these cakes myself and share the results (or mess) here.  Great thing is, if I screw it up I can just use it for target practice.  Everybody wins.

Umami Burger & Delicatessen

They say Umami is the fifth taste.  I just say it's delicious ... and I'm not alone, given the popularity of the Umami Restaurant Group, with its many successfully jam-packed Umami Burger locations all over California.

Probably my favorite among their offerings is UMAMIcatessen — or as they say, their "...idea of what a deli should be."  Cured meats, kick-ass burgers, unique sides with homemade condiments like Jalapeño Ranch and Diablo sauce, a section called "Fried Snacks" (that's just awesome), and of course, sugar.

The space is open and airy with a long communal bar — one of my favorite decor trends in California restaurants.  My good girlfriend Carrie and I sat there for three hours, drinking cocktails and some of the best iced green tea I've ever had.  I'm serious.  It's just green tea.  How do they make it so freaking spectacular?  Oh, who cares.  I had about nine gallons of the stuff.

We both shared a pickle plate, full of unusual elements like shiitake mushrooms and cherry tomatoes, all lovely.  We split a beet salad and the Stilton & Caramelized Onion Burger, which was umami at its finest.  And then, oh heaven, we split a selection of doughnuts: Fois Gras, German Chocolate, and Beignets with coffee caramel sauce.

The best of the bunch was actually the Tres Leches doughnut that mysteriously came compliments of the management (I just love being a girl).  On the whole, it's a great downtown spot for a foodie.  I plan to eat my way through the burger list and report back on the P!GG Style Fries with pickled peppers, ham purée and brainaise.  Yes, brainaise.  I'm a little frightened, but when the hell has that ever stopped me?

Girl Time & Guns

When I was a little girl, I loved Barbie.  Pink.  Blonde.  Fabulously dressed.  Of course, I equally loved catching snakes and toads in the back yard and scaring the crap out of my mother with them (she did not).  The point?  I was blessed with the interest in and parental encouragement of both my girlie girl and tomboy halves ... and today reap the benefits of a broad and kick ass collection of loves.

Flash forward to 2011, when I first discovered that I not only loved shooting guns, but had a serious knack for it.  It's not hard to love something you're good at, but it's always more fun to share that love with your girlfriends — and I'm here to tell the doubters that lots of girls love what I do.  In fact, some of them are my best friends, like Keri.  I think we were talking about kittens here.  Or something.

I recently spent a fantastic day with Keri honing my long distance skills with an AR-15 — fabulously upgraded with an ACOG scope (which I loved so much I am currently devising a plan to purchase the whole gorgeous monstrosity below).  Top performers of the day, according to Bill Beasley, owner of American Defense Enterprises?  The women.

At 75 yards, only my second time with this weapon, and I was dead-on accurate.  Not just center thoracic, but dead center heart.  And if that didn't take you down, I took your head off.  Ladies, I'm telling you — the empowerment and stress release of this sport is almost better than finding the perfect pair of Christian Louboutins on sale (I said almost).

As I sharpen my shooting skills, I hone my patience, calm my nerves, and develop a level of focus unmatched by most of the people I know.  And then I get to post pictures like this, which drive my guy friends positively crazy.  Epic win.  :)

Aroma Coffee & Tea

As I'm fond of saying about Los Angeles, you don't actually have to be in Los Angeles to eat well here.  The valley is packed with little gems from Sherman Oaks to North Hollywood, and where breakfast is concerned, one of my favorite pre-work spots is Aroma Coffee & Tea Company in Tujunga Village.

Originally a private residence, it was transformed years ago into an eclectic seat-yourself eatery with a pastry case full of locally-sourced goodness, excellent coffee and teas, a charming book store and gift shop, and a back yard-turned-patio filled with perfectly mismatched outdoor and lounge furniture that makes the entire experience casual, relaxed and inviting.

You'll wait to get into the at almost any hour, but it hardly matters with the smell of baked goods and bacon in the air, and the beauty of the cafe itself.  My favorite spot is probably their copper-topped bar nook, over-the-top with its gigantic crystal chandelier and wall of mirrors ... the perfect spot for a morning latte and conversation with a best girlfriend.  

There is no rush here ... you choose your meal, take your number, wander through the garden for a table and at some point, they'll bring you your food.  Of course, while there is little sense of urgency on the part of the guest, happily the service is brisk and friendly.

And the food?  Delicious.  Fresh omelettes with crisp breakfast potatoes, individual pots of jam and whole grain toast.  Or, french toast and pastries that make you want to weep.  For lunch or dinner, choose from crisp salads, burgers and amazing paninis like sliced apple and brie ... good lord, it's yummy.

Plus, it's a neighborhood place, wholly walkable and surrounded by plenty of shopping/strolling awesomeness.  Who says you can't walk anywhere in LA?

Pink + Giuseppe Zanotti + Sale = Happiness

Look at these gorgeous babies: Giuseppe Zanotti's Monro Laize print peep-toe platforms in fuchsia.  They're hot.  They're girly.  They're pink.  I'm in love.

And in debt, because they were ridiculously expensive.  But sometimes doing something crazy keeps you sane.  It's a treat, and I know it, and if it means I give up Starbucks for a month, so be it.  Fashion > coffee.

By the way, I'm going to have to shoot a bucket of bullets tomorrow just to bring a bit of balance back to the universe, but as I said ... so be it.

Easy Summer Pasta

I love pasta.  In fact, I love it so much that I often avoid it, because I have zero self control and could easily eat an entire pound of it by myself.  It's shameful, really.  (BTW — shame is often delicious.)

Now that I have my confession out of the way, I'd like to share with you one of my favorite summer pasta dishes — light, bright, lemony, and perfect when produce is abundant and fresh.  It's essentially a thirty-minute meal (less than 30, actually), and what I love best is that this dish is just as good served cold as it is hot.  In fact, it might even be better.  You can make it and decide for yourself.

1 pound of pasta, preferably fusilli or gemelli
1 8oz container of fresh mozzarella pearls
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1 1/2 cups sliced cherry tomatoes
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
1/3 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup olive oil plus more to drizzle
Juice of 1 - 2 lemons
Kosher salt & pepper to taste

This really couldn't be easier.  Cook the pasta in heavily salted water until not quite al dente — the water should taste like the ocean, as this is your one chance to season and flavor the pasta itself.

In a separate wide pan, heat the olive oil on medium high heat.  Season the tomatoes with salt & pepper and add to the oil, warming them through.  Add the pasta, chicken stock, lemon juice, and toss the pasta, adding a little of the starchy pasta water to create a light broth.  When the pasta is al dente and the tomatoes have collapsed, transfer to a bowl.  Toss with the fresh scallions, basil, pine nuts and mozzarella, drizzle with olive oil and a splash of lemon, and serve!

Tip: If you decide to serve this dish cold, let the pasta cool before you add the mozzarella, so that it does not melt and stays firm in the cold pasta salad.

Bacon Hash, Blueberry Pancakes and BLD

I first developed my obsession with BLD (Breakfast • Lunch • Dinner) when my darling friend Jessica lived practically around the corner.  It's a lovely local hot spot that I believe deserves its hype — I recall actually eating there three times in one week ... a meal in each category, in fact (remember, I'm obsessive).

BLD is not only brilliantly literal, it's brilliantly conceived — open morning to night, they serve all three meals via three separate yet equally bountiful contemporary American menus.  I'm going to admit right now that while my almost-favorite dish is the Grilled Lamb Burger with feta cheese and tzatziki sauce from the dinner menu, my absolute-favorite is nearly everything on the breakfast menu (are you shocked?).

Jessica has since moved away from her BLD-adjacent bungalow, so it was a nostalgic treat to head back to BLD for a little Mary brunch this past Sunday.  I sat down with the intent to order the Ricotta Blueberry Pancakes with Berkshire maple syrup (my staple), but then tripped over the Breakfast Hash — a gorgeous mountain of fried eggs, bacon, shaved Yukon gold potatoes, bell peppers, onions, and hollandaise.

Torn, I naturally ordered both (obsessive and overindulgent).  The hash was exactly what I wanted that morning — smoky and sweet from the bacon and onions, creamy from the egg yolk and potato, and um ... healthy from the peppers, I guess.  Whatever.  It was perfect savory deliciousness.

But at the end of the day, all I really care about are the pancakes.  These pancakes.  These ... ridiculous ...  pancakes.  Huge and fluffy, light as air, uniquely tangy from the ricotta, bursting with sweetness from the blueberries, and perfectly soaked in real maple syrup served in a little log cabin tin can.  It's no wonder they're a favorite of Alex Guarnaschelli's, who dubbed them her best breakfast food on Best Thing I Ever Ate.

Alex, I hope I share a meal with you one day.  And I'll happily split the pancakes if you order the hash.  It worked for me and Jess.

Love This Look: Edgy Femme

I'm not a matchy-matchy girl.  In fact, I hate anything too perfect (unless it's Chanel).  I prefer mixing looks, juxtaposing boho against tailored, matching inexpensive anchor pieces with luxe accessories ... you get the idea.  

Among my favorite styles is mixing soft, feminine lines with heavy, edgy ones — my signature look.  A great dress with boots is always sexy, and goes from day to night without effort.  With summer coming, I'm also crazy nuts about aqua and white, pulled together with a neutral.  And, um ... I think I've just talked myself into buying this entire outfit.  ;)

Yes, the price tag on this exact look may be prohibitive for some, but as I've blogged before, sometimes the challenge is splurging on key pieces (the dress or the boots), and having fun treasure-hunting affordable options for the rest of the ensemble.  Which piece would you splurge on?

Everyday Italian at Cafe Med

When it comes to Italian food, I'm not easily impressed.  In fact, I usually just cook for myself.  I'm picky.  And a snob (there, I said it).  But I trust my dear friend Joel, who swears by Cafe Med on Sunset Plaza.  Incredibly, after more than a decade in LA, I'd never been until last Sunday.  I'm officially stupid.

As with a really great burger or soul-warming comfort food, sometimes simple is enough.  And the simple, gorgeously fresh calamaretti fritti con zucchine in salsa piccante (calamari with zucchini) was some of the best I've had.  In an air-light, almost tempura-like batter, the squid and zucchini were delicate and perfect — zero grease, not too much coating (which I loathe).  A hit.

Next — and I confess we are going old-school here — I ordered veal parmigiana.  I had to.  Veal or chicken parm is my personal test of true American-Italian classic cooking.  Cafe Med serves their veal parm with potatoes and veggies (which is unthinkable to me), but when I swapped this out with linguine and marinara, I was pleased.

The pasta was al dente, the sauce fresh, the veal tender and cheesy, the view from the patio made full use of the gorgeous California weather, and the company was exceptional (sadly, he's not on the menu.  It's a BYO-Joel kinda place).  My own veal parm is better and I've had it better back east, but this was still undeniably yummy.

Last but not least, the extra dirty Ketel One martini was delicious.  Good food, good drinks, lovely space, reasonable prices?  SOLD!  To the voluptuous brunette on the patio.  I will be back.  :)
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