Saturday, April 3, 2010

DIY Dining on a Train

My sister, Devin, and her boyfriend, Matt, just recently came to visit me in Los Angeles. Being intrepid romantics, they opted to take the Southwest Chief from Chicago, rather than flying. And they did this 40 hour journey twice in one week! Being train novices the first time, they went through their snacks too quickly and were forced to eat expensive food in the dining car. I thought it would be a good idea to forage options in my Silverlake neighborhood the day they were leaving to find ingredients they can turn into simple and healthy gourmet meals for their journey home. I have asked them to journal and photograph their edible creations so we can blog about it here. I look forward to posting about what culinary delights can be prepared entirely on a cross-country train, that were purchased from the local farmers' market, 99 cent store, Big Mac's liquor, Casbah, Silverlake cheese store and whatever falls from the trees.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Socialist Wine Drinking in Berlin

Strangely, Berlin still operates of the honor system, which is apparent when riding the Bahn (no turnstyles) or at the popular wine bars called Weineri (no prices). I found out about this place when I emailed a friend of the tour manager to see if she was around to hang out with me while I was in a new city on my own. Marisa is an American artist living and working in Berlin, who is actually from Los Angeles. I met her first at St. Oberholz cafe in Mitte and then we went out later that night to Weineri in Prenzlauer Berg. There are three locations, but the one we went to, I think, was on Griebenowstrasse 5; (49-30) 4069-0951.

When you arrive, you pay 2 euro for a glass and then self serve wine, as much as you want. At the end of the night, you pay whatever you feel you should pay for what you consumed. (I think we gave 10 euro or something.) They have a surprisingly not terrible selection of wines, with a strong focus on German wines. The place was so packed, for obvious reasons, and was set up like a cozy european apartment, with rooms and nooks filled with young starving artists and backpackers. The large main room had a buffet in the back, where you could get a meal of plain spaghetti and bread included in your donation. For some unbeknownst reason, the chef brought out slices of the most delicious apple cake to only us. I love Berlin!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Rose Bakery Granola

In Paris I fell in love with the famed Anglo-French Rose Bakery in the Marais. There are now two locations, the other is near Gare du Nord. This organic bakery was started by an Englishwoman, Rose Carrarini, whose philosophy is that life is improved by great food and great food can be achieved by everyone. Simplicity, freshness and the ability to choose the right things to cook are key. I freaked when I learned that Phaidon put out a book with 100 of Rose's recipes called "Breakfast, Lunch, Tea: The Many Little Meals of Rose Bakery." So far I have tried a few and they all turned out perfectly: granola, carrot cake, carrot and seed salad and the savory broccoli cake. Here is the recipe for the best granola I have ever eaten. Ever.

Rose Bakery Honey Granola

5 1/3 cups (400 grams) old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
1 cup (120 grams) whole raw almonds
2/3 cup (100 grams) raw sunflower seeds
3/4 cup (100 grams) raw pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup (50 grams) sesame seeds
1 tablespoon (10 grams) wheat germ
pinch of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (125 ml) sunflower oil
1 cup (250 ml) honey
1/4 cup (50 grams) brown sugar
a few drops of pure vanilla extract
1 handful of dried fruit (cranberries, cherries, dates, figs, and/or raisins) (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F /165 degrees C / Gas Mark 3.

In a large bowl combine the oats, almonds, seeds, wheat germ.

In a small saucepan, add the sunflower oil, honey, brown sugar, and vanilla extract, cinnamon and salt to 1/2 cup of water.

Bring just to a boil, stirring constantly, then pour over the dry ingredients in the bowl and mix well, making sure all the dry ingredients are coated with the liquid. If there is excess liquid, then add more oats. The mixture should be sticky.

Spread evenly onto a baking tray and bake for about 1 hour.

Reduce the temperature to 275 F / 140 C / Gas Mark 1 and continue baking until the granola is golden - about an hour.

Switch off the oven and leave to dry out for another hour or even overnight.

Once the granola has completely cooled, is chiseled off the baking tray, and is ready to eat, you can add the dried or fresh fruit and serve with plain yogurt, milk or soy milk.

Store in an airtight container and it will keep for several weeks, although you will most likely devour it in a matter of days.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Musical Gift Wrapping

A great craft night activity is to make gift wrap with friends. My sister, Devin, is purging all her CDs so we fashioned ribbons out of liner notes for our Christmas gifts. This creative reuse of found materials is a clever way to save money on gift wrap and works especially well if one is gifting music or something related. It is also just unexpected and can be easily personalized to the taste of the gifted. All you need to make gift wrap magic is paper bags, album art or any visually pleasing paper laying about (i.e. pages from magazines), scissors, tape, stapler and glue. Here are some I made from Talking Heads CDs and a British Invasion compilation.

Family Xmas Project: Graham & Seaweed Houses

My sister, Devin, and I have recently discovered that family holidays are much easier to handle when there is crafting involved. On Thanksgiving we cut leaves out of paper and have everyone write what they are thankful for on them. Then we go around the table and share before hanging them from the chandelier.

For Christmas this year, Devin pre-made mini gingerbread houses so everyone could decorate one. However, she was short on time so she used graham crackers instead. When she ran out of those after making the siding for 14 lil houses, she used seaweed sheets to make the roofs. Before they were decorated, it looked like a mini shantytown. Each house was different so as to choose your favorite architectural style. The case study houses of Neutra and Schindler were my favorites. My mom's and brother's turned into amazing Gaudi houses.

This is so simple to do, just mix water and confectioner's (powdered) sugar to make the paste to construct the graham cracker (or gingerbread) house and whatever nuts and candies you choose to decorate with. We just went to the bulk bins at Whole Foods for easy variety and complete edibility.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

DIY Xmas Decorations

I have been trying to get into the holiday spirit, which is kinda difficult to do in sunny Los Angeles. I left behind all of my tree trimmings the last time that I moved and didn't want to go out and buy all new things, so my tree is full of found objects. I even used the head of a goat piñata left over from a birthday party this summer for the tree topper. Here is my inexpensive, DIY solution for ornaments and a fun craft night activity with friends.

Beer Can Diorama Ornaments
22oz beer cans (can really be any size that you want)
matte knife
heavy duty scissors
hot glue gun
fake snow or moss

Take any tall boy can of beer and using a matte knife, cut out the front part of the can. Using a pair of heavy duty scissors, clean up the rough edges or create more of a stylized shape to the opening. It would be best to hot glue metallic braiding or some type of ribbon around the edges, as they are sharp and it would look cleaner.

Visualize whatever you want for your diorama. I made one with snowflakes on the inside of the can and fake snow at the bottom, with a tree and deer miniature.

The second diorama I made to look like a moss-covered stage with miniature ballerinas. If I had more time and some fishing line, I would have hung tiny metal stars from the top.

For a third one I would turn the can on its side and put cellophane water and a little canoe with an animal in it. When you are finished with your diorama, simply tie a ribbon around the beer top and it is ready to hang on the tree. I used the leftover aluminum scraps to cut out hearts and star ornaments for the tree. All you have to do is drill a small hole at the top and hang with an ornament hook. So easy, so sharp!

Holiday Mantlepiece
A simple and festive way to spruce up a mantle is with a wintry scene. I just put some miniature evergreens on the mantle with a heavy dusting of fake snow and added mini deer and candlelight for dramatic effect. So easy, so flammable!

What to do if you don't have a Mantlepiece
If you do not have a fireplace, you need not fret. There are festive ways to fake it. I made another holiday display out of hand made xmas stockings and tacked them to the wall in my entryway. Last year my big crafting project (besides hand-sewing 30 felt owls on a xmas tree skirt) was making a fabric advent calendar, which I hung between the stockings. It is fun to hide notions into the little pockets or bigger things in the stockings for when guests come over. So easy, so thoughtful!

Red Velvet Snowman Cupcakes
I saw these little sweeties at a party last night and thought it would be wonderfully clever to make. You would just need to garnish the frosting with coconut flakes for snow and use two large marshmallows for the snowman. The junior mint cap was a nice touch. So easy, so edible!

When you want winter in a place that doesn't snow...
A Can of Magical Snow from Berlin

When you are really creative and have time on your side...
Giant Luchador Sculpture at KGB Studio Party

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Party like the French Do: St. Germain 6eme

After the Grizzly Bear/St. Vincent show at La Cigale, I got my second wind and we rode over to a party in le Marais for Julien's friends' PR company, Just a Kiss, 9 rue Charles-Francois Dupuis. It was really crowed full of gorgeous young French people. I don't speak much French, but for some reason on this trip I did not let on, and tried my damndest to understand first before asking for an English translation. In France, this works particularly well because people use a lot of body language. So this girl says something to me and I nod politely. I thought she said she something about my look. I was wrong. Thank you to Julien's sweet friend, Guillame, who happened to see the exchange, for telling me that she said I was pretty. How embarrassing that she probably thought I was a conceited little twat! The party was so good, though. There was a band playing (I wish I knew who they were), then karaoke and a dj. We left after it got way too crowded to move and so we went out to a club in St. Germain, the literary and artistic district on the Left Bank, packed with great cafés and night clubs.

After reopening during the Spring fashion week of 2009, le Montana, 28 Rue Saint-Benoît, is once again the place to be in Paris. A collaboration between Le Baron's André and Purple Magazine's Olivier Zahm - le Montana is a hot spot for designers, models and celebs. Basically Paris’s 21st century answer to Studio 54. Follow Zahm's photo blog for a glimpse of the half-naked action that you're missing.

Of course, I noticed none of this when I was there. I just drank my champagne like a good fille and the only thing I took off was my high heels. I had the best time with Julien and his friends Guillame and Arthur. It was easy like old friends. At some point we left and rode the motorcycle in the rain back to Julien's apartment in the 10th arrondissement. The light rain kissing my cheeks and the swishing of the black streets was like a lullaby and I slept like a baby.