Sunday, January 31, 2010

Georgetown Cupcake

The lines are generally around the block and the wait can be up to an hour, but as silly as it is to say, the cupcakes at Georgetown Cupcake are so worth it.

I was surprised today to see not a single person standing outside their store at 2pm on a Sunday. Turns out -- as I'm belatedly learning -- that they moved just around the corner to M Street, and the owners -- Katherine Kallinis and Sophie LaMontagne -- are opening up a second store in Bethesda. This is all within a year and a half of opening!

The amazing part about their success is just how unexpected it seems. Neither woman had trained as a baker or had a career in the food business. In fact, Kallinis was an event planner for Gucci and LaMontagne worked in private equity before giving up their careers to start Georgetown Cupcake.

While they have a lot of competition from stores such as Hello Cupcake and Red Velvet, Georgetown really is the best.

My husband had his first two today and couldn't stop raving about them. The "ooohhhhing" and "ahhhing" actually didn't start until after several minutes of silence in which he devoured the cupcakes in a few bites, sat back, closed his eyes and smiled.

Now, THAT'S a testament to how good they are.

The side braid trend

They've been popping up all over fashion magazines and the runways these days. I adore them. Seems like the kind of thing you could pull off at any age, whether you're 22 or 62.

I asked my hairdresser whether he'd had any requests from his clients for a braid. He hasn't, but he did tell me how to go about achieving the look myself. And yes, this involves purchasing some fake hair.

Now, I wouldn't begrudge anyone a trip to buy fake hair to complete a look, but I just don't think you'll see me driving to Arlington so that I can finally have a braid (famous last words, right?). I'll admire others' longingly and urge friends who DO have long hair to try it out themselves.

Friday, January 29, 2010

A hell of a renovation

I love this 1920's Nantucket cottage in Architectural Digest. Some of the decor is too "matchy, matchy" to me, even a little too clean. That being said, the designer, Jeffrey Bilhuber, deserves a lot of credit for the dramatic turn-around on this one. Just take one look at the bottom two pictures -- a fantastic "before" and "after" look.

(Via Olivet)

Take me to the ball

Can someone please rip a little snag in this Vera Wang dress and mark it down substantially!?

I am floored by the beautiful architecture of this dress. Stunned, in fact.

Sara loves owls

She really does. Sara loves owls in a way that most people love their dogs. If she lived in the country, I'm certain she'd buy one as a pet. So as soon as I spotted these cards, I thought "How perfect!"

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

On a lighter note....

Quinoa is fascinating to me.

Le Pain Quotidien has this salad with quinoa, mushrooms, alfafa sprouts and basil pesto that is my new obsession. This is a high-protein seed that seems capable of absorbing whichever flavor you want to give it.

So I'm open to giving breakfast quinoa with blueberries and brown sugar a try this weekend.

I'll let you know how it turns out.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The myth of "unattainable beauty"

I just flipped through this alarming photo gallery of the worst photoshopped images of the past year. I wish I could say that I'm astonished at the lengths to which fashion magazines go to make their cover models skinny and young; these women are, by the way, generally slimmer than the average woman.

Unfortunately, it's fair to say that when I glance at the cover of a fashion magazine, or flip through a spread in Bazaar, for example, I don't believe that what I see is an accurate representation of the way that particular model or celebrity appears in real life. Everyone has unique features (or flaws, as the media would like to call them). When you can't recognize any, something's up.

If I were 13 years old today, and had an interest in fashion, or maybe my friends read a lot of the tabloid crap that's out there, I'm not sure that I'd be level-headed about this unattainable beauty standard perpetuated in the media. At least I start from the premise that the cover of W Magazine is a farce. It's tough to do that when you're a teenage girl, in the midst of raging hormones, body changes and peer pressure.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Blackberry-topped lemon muffins

I had every intention of making the buttermilk-cinnamon coffeecake this weekend, but I neglected to buy corn oil, and olive oil just wouldn't suffice - it changes the flavor far too much to get away with.

But thanks to Smitten Kitchen, I was in good hands with a more than suitable substitute -- blackberry-topped lemon muffins.

You'll notice that the original recipe actually calls for raspberries, but feel free to interpret as I did with whatever berries you have on hand. They turned out light and surprise, surprise - lemony!

Raspberry-Topped Lemon Muffins
Adapted from
Susan Elizabeth Fallon via Bon Appetit, July 2006

Yield: 14 large or 56 miniature muffins

1 1/8 cups sugar, divided
4 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel (from two large lemons)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/2 1/2-pint containers (about) fresh raspberries

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line 14 standard muffin cups (or 56 minis) with paper liners. Mash 1/8 cup sugar and lemon peel in small bowl until sugar is slightly moist. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat remaining 1 cup sugar and butter in large bowl until smooth. Beat in egg. Beat in buttermilk, then vanilla and lemon sugar. Beat in flour mixture.

Divide batter among muffin cups (the 2/3-3/4 level worked well for minis). Top each large muffin with 4 raspberries (or mini muffins with one each). Bake muffins until lightly browned on top and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 minutes (baking time was on the shy side of 20 minutes for mini muffins).

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Carolina Herrera takes the cake

It's not difficult to see how Carolina Herrera's Spring 2010 show was inspired by the intricate forms woven in Japanese baskets. Just look at the amazing textures she incorporated in this collection.

Herrera usually can't ever do wrong, in my opinion. She, like Oscar de la Renta, is a steadfast believer in sophistication and beauty.

In an age in which so many designers create gowns with the red carpet in mind, Herrera designs for real women, albeit those with an interest in "pretty."


Thursday, January 21, 2010

The genius of bakers & artists

Shortbread button cookies.

Looks so simple.

"Why didn't I think of this?"you might wonder.

Either way, I'm glad Nikole did.

If I had little ones, I'd make this our weekend baking project.

Buttermilk-cinnamon coffecake about all I can say about this.

Coffeecake seems like the perfect sort of thing to make on a Sunday morning. I'm counting the days.

Cinnamon-Buttermilk Coffeecake
Makes 8 to 12 servings

2 1/4 cups flour
1 cup brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 cup corn oil
1 cup sliced almonds
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk

1. Mix flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, salt and ginger. Blend in oil until smooth. Remove 3/4 cup mixture and combine with almonds and remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Mix and set aside.

2. To remaining flour mixture, add baking powder, baking soda, egg and buttermilk. Blend until smooth. Pour into buttered 13x9-inch baking pan. Sprinkle reserved nut mixture evenly over surface of batter. Bake at 350 degrees 35 to 40 minutes. Place pan on wire rack to cool. Cut into squares to serve.

The future of 14th St retail

Looks like 14th St NW just lost yet another unique retail store.

As was reported by 14th & You, Go mama go! - the housewares, accessories and gift shop, on 14th and S NW, will be closing in the coming months due to the economic recession and the death of its beloved owner, Noi Chudnoff.

The loss of Go mama go! is just one in a series of recent retail closings in the U St/Logan Circle area of 14th St. G Fine Arts, Garden District, Green Pets and Big Monkey Comics are all shuttering.

14th and You raises the question -- "can the neighborhood retain a mix of retail and other uses to go along with the exploding bar and restaurant scene?" For their take on what can be done to address this issue, check this out.

(Image via Prince of Petworth)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The New Yorker donates to Partners In Health

This week's cover of The New Yorker pays tribute to those who perished and those who survived in Haiti's recent earthquake.
Entitled "The Resurrection of the Dead," and painted by Haitian artist Frantz Zephirin, the artwork depicts a family of spirits guarding the frontier between life and death, as well as the spirits of the recently dead, according to one interpretation.

The magazine is selling prints of the cover, with all proceeds donated to Partners In Health.

One year to the day...

...Tom and I got engaged...

That was such a magical moment.

But the best part?

It only gets better and better each day.


(Via Le Love)

Two good guides to decorating your home

Late last year I purchased Renovating A House In The City, by Ingrid Abramovitch. Since we live in an 18th century rowhouse, it's been the perfect guide for ideas and resources on how to spruce up a 100-year old place.

Today I ran across another book I may snatch up soon called Simple Home. Think calm colors and simple spaces.

I know that I said over the weekend that I normally tend to prefer a neutral palette, but I'm opening up to incorporating pops of color, just not in large doses. I think I can mix the core of my style preferences with a splash of something louder here and there. It's just all about easing into this "new way", right?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Mushroom & Swiss Chard Quesadillas

I'm making these this weekend.

Mushroom & Swiss Chard Quesadillas
makes 4

3 c sliced mushrooms
1 large bunch swiss chard, chopped, tough stems discarded
1 habanero or jalapeno, chopped
4 scallions, chopped
1 small handful cilantro leaves, chopped
1/2 t salt
eight 8” tortillas
2 c shredded cheddar, cheese

Preheat oven to 400F. In a large sauté pan, add the mushrooms, swiss chard and habanero, over medium-high heat. Cook 3-5 minutes, until mushrooms begin to give off their juice. Stir in scallions, cilantro and salt. Allow to cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is evaporated, about 5 minutes.

Arrange tortillas on two baking sheets. Divide cheese among each tortilla. Transfer to oven, and bake 2-3 minutes, until cheese begins to melt. Carefully remove from oven, and divide mushroom mixture among four tortillas. Top with the remaining four tortillas, and return to oven. Bake 4-5 minutes, until the edges turn golden brown. Enjoy topped with salsa and sour cream.

(Via Fresh 365)

PS: I ended up making these with kale and red pepper flakes instead of swiss chard and jalapenos. They were perfect substitutes.

Friday, January 15, 2010


The things you find on Etsy.....

Isn't this fantastic?

One's taste can change

I'm normally prone to like a neutral palette when it comes to fashion and decor, but something's happened lately to change that.

Maybe it's in part due to the inspiration that's so easily found on the design blogs I read, or maybe my taste is simply evolving.

Whatever it is, I absolutely adore this vibrant rug and think it would look great underneath our gray couch.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Where's the food cart craze in DC?

It's been three or four years since my first trip to Portland, Oregon. I either completely missed the boat on the food cart craze that has since taken over the city, or it was still in its infancy at the time of my visit. Regardless, it's time to return.

According to Matt Gross of The New York Times, there are more than 400 food carts in Portland. Some owners claim that it takes just days to set up shop. Unbelievable.

I took at look at and found a stunning array of culinary choices. From popsicles to Peruvian cuisine to pommes frites, whatever you want, Portland's street vendors serve it.

And I have to admit, after reading more about the subject, I'm hooked on the concept. Just read this:
"Food carts are about supporting small, locally-owned businesses and small start-ups that might not have the capital or credit to open up their own full-fledged restaurants. Food carts help create a vibrant downtown and central city by bringing what planning geeks call a "social fabric on the street" which is great in cultural terms, but in economic terms also attracts other spenders, retail outlets, and restaurants and cafes. Food carts also often illustrate the delicious benefits to a growing ethnically diverse community, as many immigrants own and operate them and make and serve some pretty tasty ethnic specialities."
So, I have to ask -- why doesn't DC have its own food cart craze?

The answer, I found, is in a 10-year moratorium, which resulted from fights over choice locations and uneven collection of taxes and fees. Back in the days when street vendors were less tightly regulated, there were more than 1,200 food carts in operation across the city. In 2007, there were only 200. A lottery that same year provided dozens of new licenses for downtown street vendors. However, much of what you find in a food cart in DC will be chips and hot dogs. The District's vending project coordinator, Sam Williams, said that it's the "fear of the unknown."

To inspire culinary change among current street vendors, District officials have offered free orientation meetings, one titled "You Don't Have To Sell Hotdogs." Only three people showed up.

We may be behind the curve, but I haven't lost hope. And neither should you because Sam Williams is from -- where else? -- Portland, Oregon.

We're in good hands.

(Images of food carts Nong Khao Mong Gai and Brunch Box)

Help for Haiti

Many experts are reporting that the quake that hit Haiti is the worst the country has witnessed in more than 200 years. Millions of people have been affected and an untold number have perished.

There are so many wonderful organizations on the ground right now doing all that they can to save lives. If you're not sure who to make a donation to I highly recommend Partners in Health. They've been working in Haiti for 25 years preventing illness and delivering quality health care to people living with chronic diseases such as HIV/AIDS. The success of their program in country has rested largely on the shoulders of the thousands of community health workers PIH has hired in Haiti.

I first came across PIH after reading Tracy Kidder's book Mountains Beyond Mountains, the story of the organization's founder, Paul Farmer. His life's work on infectious diseases began and continues in Haiti. If you haven't heard of the book, well, you won't regret picking it up. It's one of the most moving stories I think I will ever come across.

PIH now needs our help more than ever.

Please consider making a donation of whatever amount you can give.

(Images via The New York Times)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

For short hair

My sister Sara recently took a leap and cut all of her hair off. She's been known to have gorgeous, long locks, the kind that her sister envied for years, especially when yours truly thought she could sport Gwyneth Paltrow's short do in Sliding Doors. Um, wrong. What a travesty that was....

But back to Sara.

First she had the guts to do it, then she (of course) pulls it off with ease. She looks fantastic with her short cut. The new length seems to have inspired a new sense of creativity with her styling efforts, which is why I instantly thought of her when I saw these hair pins. They're absolutely lovely, totally affordable and just the right thing for her hair's length.

A shoe made for walking

I just bought a comfy pair of gray suede flats from Cole Haan that I may never part with. They are incredibly comfortable!

But if I were going for something a bit more casual for strolling around the city on the weekends, these boots would be a great option.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Some people just amaze me

I'm no artist, but reading this post by decorator Jenny Komenda about how she redesigned her two daughters' bedroom on the cheap was SO inspiring.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Cute travel tote

The perfect tote for the beach, commuting to work and for bringing a little color into my life.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Grits with a fried egg


Grits cooked in vegetable oil, with a fried egg on top.

How have I missed this combo all my life?

A little decorating on the cheap

It's really easy to think that decorating your home will inevitably be an expensive endeavor. Furniture, paint and artwork don't always come cheap. It can feel like there's always something that needs tending to or improving and you invariably want to throw your hands up in the air and just give up.

Well, I don't like feeling that way.

I think that decorating your apartment or home should be a work in progress, something to look forward to, not to be stressed out about.

So, I'm on the hunt this year for innovative, affordable options to spruce things up. Etsy has generally been an invaluable resource for me, but more often than not, I've found that perusing design blogs is one of the best ways to discover cool ideas for revamping our home.

Abigail, of Abbey Goes Design Scouting, had this really simple, but creative take on an arrangement she saw in Martha Stewart Living that I'm eager to copy. Martha's display is the top picture and Abigail's version of it follows.

For $40, Abigail bought kumquats at her local deli and the apothecary jars for $10 each at TJ Maxx, filled them to the brim, snipped off some pine from her tree, and WA-LA! Done and beautiful! Isn't that fantastic?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Roasting a pig

On Sunday, I roasted a 15 lb. suckling pig.


Julia Child and Anthony Bourdain are partly to blame.

My Mom gave me DVD's of Julia's The French Chef series for Christmas and the suckling pig episode just happened to be one of the first ones I watched.

And I must admit, I was entranced. It seemed like the kind of culinary endeavor that only the insane try -- I mean, it's an entire animal, snout, eyes and all, and it's HUGE. But Julia made it look so easy, nearly as easy as roasting a chicken. In fact, it's pretty much the same process -- stuff, truss and roast.

The other key 'turn on' to roasting a whole pig was Bourdain's episodes in China, where he goes on a roasted pig crawl of sorts in search of succulent pork skin, ears and feet. Seeing whole pigs hanging in human-sized roasters, constantly being basted with oil, soy sauce or some other lovely sauce convinced me that this must be one of life's truly great meals.

How could I not give it a go?

So off I trudged to Eastern Market on Saturday in search of a pig.

The butchers at Union Meat Company looked at me a bit quizzically at first when I asked for a suckling pig.

"What made you decide to roast a pig?" one of the butchers asked.

"Julia Child," I replied.

He nodded approvingly and off he went to find the pig.

Thank goodness my parents came along to help drag Mr. Pig back to the car. He was a heavy sucker, that's for sure.

While riding home, I had a moment where I thought, "What have I gotten myself into? What if I screw this up? This was NOT a cheap decision!" But once you've gone down that path, there's no turning back. You just have to take a deep breath and trust in the wisdom of Julia Child to get you through it.

As soon as I got him home, I filled up the kitchen sink with cold water, took Mr. Pig out of the packaging and placed him in his bath.

About 4 hours later, he was fully thawed out and ready to be wrapped up and placed in the fridge until Sunday.

Around noon the next day, I took Mr. Pig out of the fridge to bring him up to room temperature, which takes about two hours.

Around 2pm, I pan-roasted about 2-3 cups of diced onions and carrots for a simple filling. I gave Mr. Pig a good wipe to make sure he was as clean and dry as could be.

Then I dressed his insides with salt, whole peppercorns, fresh sage and dried thyme. Then I added in the carrots and onions. Easy and done. Phew!

At this point, the hard part began. Trussing a 15 lb. animal was more difficult than I had anticipated. My Mom had lent me several skewers, several small nails (Julia actually uses thick nails to truss her pig) and some yarn. I must have spent a good 20 minutes struggling to sew him up properly, stopping and re-starting several times. At some point I heard my friend Megan's voice in my head say to me, "Everyone should have a hobby that requires patience." I couldn't agree more (in theory). With a large pig sitting on my counter, all on my own in the endeavor, I definitely took issue with that lovely mantra for those 20 excruciating minutes!

Once you've got him sewn up, you simply put him in a roasting pan on top of a rack. Slather him in olive oil and skewer his back legs together so that they don't splay out during the roasting process.

At this stage, most of the work is done. Amazingly simple, right?

Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees, pop in Mr. Pig and let him roast for 30 minutes before basting him once with olive oil.

After 30 minutes, turn the heat down to 350 degrees and leave him alone for about 2 hours. At that time, you can baste him with a Chinese sort-of sauce that includes dried mustard, soy sauce and honey. This has a wonderful smell and the effect of turning the pig very dark and lovely. Let him roast another 20-30 minutes at that temperature.

Once you've hit 3 hours, you should let him rest in the oven at 175 degrees for 30 minutes - 1 hour.

Now the big moment had finally come.

15 lbs is indeed a lot of pig meat, so if you have any interest in undertaking this endeavor, I highly recommend inviting over a bunch of family and friends, as we did, to enjoy the feast. Have them bring over a couple side dishes and a few bottles of wine and you're all set. Everyone feels like they've participated in their own way.

Mr. Pig turned out to be delicious. The best part really was the skin. I loved its crispy texture and soy-flavored taste.

The meat itself was rich and juicy.

There were tons of leftovers, of course, but if you find yourself in the same position, don't be dismayed. You can use them to make a pulled pork or have a big taco feast another night. There's an endless array of options!

Many thanks to my family for their enthusiastic support and consumption of the meal!