A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate enough to get myself a spot in Darling Magazine's Craft of Coffee evening, hosted at Blacktop Coffee in the Artists' District of Downtown L.A., and today I'm really excited to share some of the pictures from the evening! Blacktop is side by side with one of the District's most distinct landmark shops, Alchemy Works, which made for a gorgeous backdrop for the night's lessons!
We even received some coffee vouchers, along with gorgeously designed study guides and a poster from Alissa Bell Press to help us remember what we learned.
The evening was centered around the idea of being the hostess who can offer her guests not only a cup of coffee, but a delicious one at that. We learned about different preparations and styles, and got to have hands on experience working with the espresso machine, as well as being walked through the process of Chemex brewing.
I absolutely love the method and results of Chemex brewing, and it's definitely something I would recommend trying out if you've been interested! I wish I could explain the whole process to you, but I'm afraid I wouldn't be able to do it justice through text. So, I found this Youtube video which I think does a great job (plus, the dude's beard is incredible). I will pass off a couple tips I learned, though! The recommended ratio of coffee to water is 1:15 (though I'll admit, I like mine a bit stronger). If you're using a light roast and brewing it right, it should have a natural sweetness (because coffee isn't real a bean, it's a fruit!). Also, a goose neck tea kettle is amazingly helpful. Finally, if you're not using one of those fancy shmancy kettles that tell you the water temperature (I'm not), bringing your water to a boil and then allowing the water to cool for about 30 seconds to 1 minute will bring it to the correct temperature.
Happy brewing loves!
As much as I love Pinterest, there's something undeniably wonderful about a real-life, pages and binding cookbook. So when I passed Ceviche while supposedly "window-shopping" at Anthropolgie (like that's even possible), I couldn't resist it's subway tile-esque cover and pages of brilliantly colored photographs showing me all of the delicious Peruvian dishes I could be making. So, I bought the book, picked my recipes, called a couple friends, and got down to cooking.
I had never eaten Peruvian food, let alone cooked it myself, prior to this; what I really fell in love with about it is all of the fresh, beautiful ingredients that are involved in these meals. I'm going to be sharing about the things I cooked and what I learned from the cookbook, but I won't be copying the recipes. This is a really beautiful volume of original recipes from Martin Morales, and one that would be a great addition to your cooking library.
For this evening with my girlfriends, I chose the Don Ceviche (page 19) for a starter, Pollo de Mi Tia Carmela (page 99, now splattered lovingly with oil in my copy) as the entree, and Encanelado de Pisco (page 185) for dessert. I have no complaints about any of these dishes, each with unique bold flavors. One thing I will say, if you are a beginning chef, I might hold off on this book. It makes a great intermediate choice, with clear directions but an assumption you know what you're doing; there are few times given, just what stages to look for. If you're confident with your caramelizing, sautee-ing, and some pan frying skills, you're set.
The chicken was delicious, tender and falling off the bone. I served the sauce over gluten-free corn pasta, but you could easily nix the pasta all together.
The ceviche itself calls for Sea Bass, an amazing fish with a price tag to match. If you're looking for something a bit more economical (like myself), try nice fresh cod instead. However, I recommend you allow the fish to "cook" longer in the lime juice mix than the recipe calls for, in order to allow more thorough marination and tenderizing.
The cake was definitely a crowd pleaser. A delicate sponge cake soaked in a pisco and cinnamon sugar glaze, it's an especially great choice for Indian Summer days since you refrigerate it for at least an hour. This also makes it a great party dessert since you can prepare it ahead of time! We had the leftover for breakfast the next day... and I think it was even better after soaking overnight.
And what would a Peruvian dinner be without a Pisco sour? Certainly not a party, I can tell you that.
I made a few tweaks to the Ceviche recipe, making the proportions better for preparing. I'm going to share my version with you, but the book has a lot more cocktail recipes and has ideas for pisco infusions.
Pisco is a type of brandy produced in South America, commonly tied to Peru (though the brand we're drinking here is Chilean). High end piscos will cost you upwards of $40 and are meant for sipping; for cocktails, a less expensive brand works just fine.
1 1/2 ounces pisco
1 ounce lime juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1 egg white (Use fresh eggs that have been properly refrigerated. You can look for pasteurized eggs as well. You can also use powdered egg whites if you prefer)
Dash Angostura bitters
Place pisco, lime juice, simple syrup, and egg white in an ice-filled cocktail shaker and shake vigorously to a slow count of 10. Pour through a Hawthorne strainer to allow the most foam to pass through. Add dash of bitters.
Make sure you give this one a good hard to shake to create that signature foam!
I know little other way to describe pisco sours besides 'delightful', but that is the opposite of what you're going to feel in the morning if you partake in a few too many of these... so take it easy slugger.
Happy to finally share this fun experience with you guys! Curious to know if anyone else has tried anything from this cookbook, would love to hear about your experience!
A couple weekends ago, I had the great fortune to be able to attend the 2014 Create + Cultivate Conference, hosted by (No Subject) and Darling Magazine. Jaclyn Johnson, (No Subject) and C + C's founder, explains the conference started as a way for all of her creative friends that were stuck behind computers all day to get away from the screen and connect with their creativity and each other. Years down the line, the attendance has swelled but the intent hasn't changed; it's still an opportunity for (mostly!) women to gather to talk, listen, and create.
Photo via Create + Cultivate. Unless otherwise stated, all photos are my own.
The conference hosted one hundred people with 6 speakers, ranging from bloggers and photographers to academics and entrepreneurs. Set in the beautiful Ace Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles, it made a remarkable backdrop for the event. Not to mention, having a view of Banksy's swing girl from my room wasn't bad, as far as parking lot views go!
(The Ace Hotel inhabits the old United Artist building, and hosts lots of sweet live shows as well as boasting some great Spanish Gothic architecture.)
Upon arrival, we were greeted with coffee and mimosas... and a photobooth. One of the coolest things about attending the conference was the chance to meet people I had previously connected with on Instagram, including this lovely lady, Ellie!
Good times with our table mates! Photobooth pictures via Create + Cultivate
During our mid-day break, a few of us went to brunch at an awesome downtown brunch spot, called Wood Spoon. Serving a Brazilian brunch and some bomb diggity Sangria in a charming environment, it's definitely a spot to hit if in the area!
There's that Sangria I was talking about. YUM.
That evening, we joined again for a delicious dinner, served family style in long tables, giving us an opportunity to connect and laugh over a shared meal. You know how I'm big on that kind of thing.
We received a lot of awesome goodies from the event sponsors, including a copy of the summer edition of Darling!
Photo via Create + Cultivate
After our dinner and a night out on the town (the next morning...kinda rough! But totally worth it), we woke up in the morning to attend a floral workshop led by Melanie Abrantes. Under the view of the iconic Eastern building, we designed fresh flower combs, heard about each other's evening adventures, sipped and snacked on breakfast goodies. These are definitely my favorite pictures from the weekend!
Here's Melanie demonstrating some techniques for us!
Here are a couple of the creations my talented companions put together!
It's so fun to get to share these images! It was an amazing experience and I hope I get to participate in more events in this vein soon. I hope everyone has an awesome weekend ahead!
My cousin recently graduated with her biology degree, and as my family is prone to do, we threw a party. A mix of friends and lots of family made for an awesome day to celebrate her hard earned achievement!
We're blessed to have such a lovely space as my mom's backyard to hold these functions. There's a table on the lawn, sofas for sitting, and even a cot for napping (should the need strike!).
When making food for a crowd, plan ahead and come up with a menu that can be partially made the night before, or easily put together the next morning. We chose potatoes and bacon we could pop in the oven, along with ham and egg cups that could be easily prepared and baked too. No matter the menu, I think oatmeal is such a brilliant brunch choice. You can make a large batch in a slow cooker, giving you a food item you really don't have to think about! Plus, it's perfect for any of your vegetarian or gluten free guests. Put out bowls of brown sugar, slivered almonds, fresh fruit, and butter pats for a whole oatmeal bar.
A new innovation to our bar repertoire was the addition of a margarita snow cone station! It was a fun addition to the standard champagne and beer options, and perfect for summer weather ahead.
Using a cleaned and de-labeled champagne bottle makes the perfect dispenser (this nice frosted one is from a Freixenet Carta Nevada Brut bottle). You can buy liquor pour spouts at kitchen or restaurant supply stores, as well as online, and I definitely recommend using (so much easier to control how much you're getting!). You can buy snow cone makers at stores like Target or Walmart during the summer months, but can also be found online. Go for one that grinds regular old ice cubes, instead of using a special mold. It takes much longer to freeze a whole ring of ice as opposed to picking up a bag at the grocery store!
Our "margarita juice" blend is 2 cups mixer, 1 cup tequila, and a 1/2 cup Triple Sec (this makes just a touch more than will fit in the bottle, so you have some backup!). Our bar also included Torani syrups in coconut, mango, and lime, as well as fresh limes to squeeze on top! Keep some salt on hand, and you're good to go!
One of my favorite things about serving snow cones is the fact that we have the paper cones and those awesome straw with spoon scoops at the end! You can buy them at restaurant stores, but be warned, they come in colossal amounts... but I guess that just means you'll be having snow cones all summer (and maybe next summer too. And the one after that).
Admittedly, after we had all had a few snow cones, we skipped right ahead to the tequila shots...
Good times, good times. It had probably been since my great-grandmother's passing, about 10 years ago, that this particular group of people had all been together (along with the additions of boyfriends and pals), so we sat down in the evening and shared another meal together, with gifts and laughter and memories, and a big box of popsicles.
In closing, I'll say again that it's the memories you make in the presence of the ones you love most which are the most important of all. No matter where you gather or what you eat, I believe it is one of the best, most fulfilling things you can do for yourself and others.
Gather and be joyful!
Last weekend I threw my very first (little, quite little) event in the Little Den! It was a brunch for my cousin's birthday; even though it was just 3 of us, I was admittedly a little concerned about pulling it off. I mean, once all the leaves are folded out on my table, there's barely enough room between a chair and the mini fridge.
But, I'm very happy to report that it was a success, and wanted to share some tips for pulling off an easy brunch (even in a small space). I don't have many photos (we were too busy having fun!), but I'm going to share those too.
A Few Tips & Tricks:
The weekend is almost here! Happy Brunching!
I wasn't intending on posting this week since I leave for Mexico tomorrow and I've been busy packing and visiting with friends who are in town; but, after gathering with loved ones for a fun St. Patrick's Day dinner, I was inspired to talk about one of my favorite topics... the importance of gathering.
This is not something I had questioned too much until recently, while in the midst of planning my mom's 60th birthday party, my boyfriend commented on how often my family throws parties. I didn't have much of a response at the time, besides something along the lines of "Well, duh."
I guess we do throw lots of parties, though. We throw them for birthdays, graduations, all sorts of holidays, baby showers, weddings; we've thrown parties for going back to school and for the last day of school. You name it, there's a solid chance we've celebrated it. Because of all of this, I guess I never really questioned why in fact we did it at all.
Since then, I've thought about the subject more, never wavering from my conviction that these events are important to celebrate. There's a reason why the biggest events of our lives, births, weddings, and oftentimes deaths, are commemorated with a shared meal. Not just any shared meal, however, but one accompanied by things such as flowers, champagne, shamrock necklaces, candles, confetti, toasts and cheers. All of these things transcend the mundane and now operate as signifiers of importance. This moment is not to be confused for the lunch room roundtable, the drive-thru stop, or the microwave dinner tray. Eating, strangely enough, is a very intimate action to share with someone; think of a first date or the first co-worker lunch, versus catching up with a friend over a bagel. Sometimes we find ourselves nervous to eat in front of someone new, while you will never ever hesitate to demolish that entire Chipotle burrito in front of your bestie. Breaking bread together, whether it be cooking for your mate or meeting for a coffee break, is a sign of care, of intimacy. It's a way of binding ourselves to one another, and we've been doing it forever.
As a closing note, there is one last thing I would like to address on this topic. It is often easy to blow off a reason to celebrate; not enough time, too stressed out, not enough money, too little/too many people, I'm not that excited about turning 25/30/40/50/whatever anyways. I feel it is my public duty to inform you that's a whole lot of nonsense.
I remember, fairly clearly, my grandmother's last birthday. Age 60 and dying of Leukemia, I imagine now that she perhaps was not initially thrilled by the prospect of such an event during the grim stages of her chemotherapy. I, of course, at age seven was blissfully unaware of the fact that anyone anywhere would not want to celebrate a birthday. I was quite thrilled to help put together the Chinese Tea Garden-esque family affair, complete with little umbrellas, chopsticks, and me in silk pajamas. It might have been easier, for my grandmother and my mother, to say, not right now; but as an adult I am grateful for that memory. I remember it as a happy time, with us gathered around the table with Chinese food and paper lanterns hanging from the lamps; I don't remember her being sick as much as I remember her being happy. That is why gathering is important, because our life is fragile, and we may have less opportunities to do so than we imagine. I don't mean to sound morbid or pessimistic; I instead view it as a call to action, and view my ability to celebrate with family and friends with great, optimistic buoyancy. No matter how small, or how simple, remember that the moments where time is taken to come together, and to celebrate something larger than our daily tasks, are some of the most remarkable and lasting memories you will ever make. (Also, it's really fun to make an entertaining board on Pinterest.)
Have a good week! I'll be back on Tuesday with a recipe for... drum roll please... National Waffle Day! I'll just tell you now, I'm super jazzed. I'll also be sharing my travel pictures from Puerto Vallarta next week, if my disposable cameras don't fail me. Have a good week! Cheers and happy travels, Rachel