Party Fabulous: Rustic Woodsy Tablescape

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I recently went to the most amazing party at Meadowood in Napa. It was a croquet tournament hosted by Krug Champagne. After the tournament, everyone set down to a delicious alfresco lunch. While I can not stress how fabulous everything about this event was, there is one thing in particular that I knew I had to share with you: the genius tablescape!

IMG_1609.JPGInstead of using a tablecloth, the wooden table was covered in a handsome, neutral Ikat-print runner. On top of the runner, was a bunch of dirt, branches, grass, greenery, and wooden stumps in various sizes. When I sat down, I admired the table’s earthy chic-ness and couldn’t help but marvel over how truly beautiful the table was – and without a flower in sight! Plus, a bag of dirt from the local gardening store and foraged branches from the great outdoors have to be much cheaper than several bouquets of roses, alstroemerias, and dahlias, right?!

IMG_1598.JPGI was even more impressed when the waitstaff brought out the family style lunch and placed white glass bowls (filled with delectable things like yellow beets with fresh goat cheese and raspberries and crispy garlicky broccolini) on the stumps which now served as stands for the food. I definitely plan on recreating this simple, but refined outdoor (it would be a pain to clean up indoors!) tablescape in the future.

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Getting Piggy With It

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Earlier this month, my best friend’s family hosted their second annual pig roast. Her dad is sort of like Bobby Flay and is super into grilling and all the gadgets that go along with it. He’s got the Big Green Egg and a Caja China, which is what they used to roast the whole pig. The night before the party, Katie (yes, my best friend and I have the same name!) and her dad injected the pig with a citrus and spice mojo. The morning of the event they loaded it into the Caja China and let the box do it’s magic. It really is amazing what these Caja Chinas do! The skin ends up crunchy and delicious and the meat is moist and succulent.

Cooking a pig in a Caja China also teaches everyone at the event the true meaning of pulled pork. When a pig is cooked whole, someone has to physically pull all the meat off of the bones. According to Katie’s dad, Martin, it’s traditional for an all female team of five women to pull the hot meat from the pig. Naturally, I jumped at the chance to pull it. We wore rubber gloves and were surprised at how quickly the pig was pulled. Check out the video below to see how we did it!

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A bed of coals sit on top of the Caja China. Inside the pig cooks.

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Martin put a grill grate on top of the coals. Perfect for cooking my bacon-wrapped, cheese-stuffed jalapenos!

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To ensure the pig is cooked evenly, Martin had to flip it half way through cooking.

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Sonia, me, and Katie gearing up to pull the pig!

My Favorite Things July 2014

IMG_5271I can’t believe it’s already August. I’m actually a little bummed about it — especially today as I sit in my apartment and stare out the window at the fog. Why does winter drag on and on and on and summer flies by in a matter of minutes?! July certainly was a whirlwind of fun and travel; I wasn’t really in San Francisco very much on the weekends which is how I plan to spend August. I like to take my Augusts off, like a European, and work as little as possible. It’s the best time of year, so why not enjoy it?! But before I can dive in, let’s look back at my favorite things for the past thirty-one days.

IMG_5099Red fruit star pie. For the 4th of July, my friend, Laura, and I made the most beautiful and delicious pie. I used Martha Stewart’s classic pate brisee recipe and made a simple filling of strawberries, raspberries, and cherries. While I was fretting about what the topping should be, Laura suggested stars! The rest is history and now I want to make a star pie every year on the 4th.

IMG_5179Southern California. I jetted down to San Diego the second weekend of July and to Los Angeles the fourth weekend. I love SoCal and it was so wonderful to catch up with some of my best friends who live by the beach. Barbecues, pool parties, rooftop bars, leisurely dinners — both weekends we filled with sun-soaked fabulousness.

IMG_5196The free book wall in Carlsbad. One of the days I was in San Diego, I was walking to a nearby cafe and stumbled upon the most amazing wall of free books. I noticed it from afar and thought maybe it was a poster of books, but as I walked over to investigate, I saw it was, in fact, a free book wall. I took a book and was saddened that I didn’t have one to leave, but plan on dropping one off the next time I’m down there. It was in the parking lot of a Taco Bell and I couldn’t help but wonder how much better the world would be if every Taco Bell parking lot had a wall of free books?!

IMG_5223The mussels at Gaspar Brassiere. The latest restaurant from Franck LeClerc (he’s the owner of Claudine, Cafe Claude, and Gitane) is a sexy French bistro with lovely Champagne cocktails and upscale classics like smoked salmon crepes with salmon caviar and grilled steak with white bordelaise sauce. The one dish that I can’t stop thinking about, however, is the moules a la biere. They come in an incredible sauce with creme fraiche, grainy mustard, leeks, and tons of herbs. I wanted to pick up the bowl and drink the broth after we had finished all of the plump mussels. The sauce was that good. I’m dying to go back. Who wants to come with me?

IMG_5247The barrel-aged cocktails at Blackbird. I’ve loved the bar Blackbird since it opened, so I was excited to be invited to its five-year anniversary party. At the event, the staff was pouring a selection of barrel-aged cocktails that the bartenders had put in barrels five years earlier when the bar first opened. Aged cocktails are having a moment and the ones at Blackbird were phenomenal. A mixture of tequila, mezcal, curaçao, and bitters, the Adios My Friend looked like rose, but tasted like nothing I’ve ever sipped before. It was boozy, fragrant, complex and perfectly balanced. Cheers to five more years at Blackbird!

IMG_5286The printed wallpaper at the Warwick Hotel. I don’t really know what this print is called, but it was all over the recently opened Warwick Hotel in downtown San Francisco. I’m going to research it and maybe get some pillows in the print for my couch.

IMG_5298Spice-rubbed grilled filet. An outdoor dinner with visiting family calls for a celebratory cut of meat and last Wednesday, when my aunt and cousin were in town from Texas, we made this steak. I was going to make an herb butter to rub on the outside of the meat before grilling it, but when I realized my grandfather had no fresh herbs or garlic in his kitchen, I had to get creative. I could not recreate the rub as I threw a bunch of spices into a bowl and was chatting with my cousin while sipping his stellar margarita, but the steak was so scrumptious there was none left. It also reminded me that it’s nice sometimes to not have to scribble a recipe and take a bunch of photos of the finished dish, but instead to simply enjoy the process, food, and company.

How to Plan a Flash Mob

IMG_4967So I know that this post would have been better written in 2010, at the peak of the flash mob‘s coolness, but I’m writing it now in 2014 anyway. Recently, I was hosting a four-day birthday party with Saturday night being the biggest, most extravagant event. On Friday night a few of the guests came to me with an idea. They thought it would be fun to surprise the birthday girl with a flash mob the following night.

She loves to dance, so wouldn’t it be fabulous to have all of her friends bust out in the same choreographed moves?! As both a surprise and dance enthusiast, I appreciated the idea, but wondered could it be done? The answer is yes! I orchestrated, choreographed, and pulled off the whole thing and with a few basic dance moves, you can most definitely plan your very own flash mob surprise at your next event. Here’s how it’s done.

  1. What is absolutely essential to a flash mob’s success is to get everyone involved – even those people that don’t dance. A flash mob is an all or nothing sort of thing, so start by getting your crew excited.
  2. Pick a song (ours was Ice Ice Baby) and a special person, couple, or small group to start the flash mob.
  3. Make up a routine. Think about your group’s dance skills and keep things simple and easy to learn. Step claps, shuffles, punches, hip thrusts, and body rolls are a few basic ideas. Watch a video of my favorite cinematic flash mob, from the movie Friends with Benefits, below and if you need more inspiration, do a ‘basic dance cardio’ search on YouTube. Most dance cardio moves are easy enough for every skill level to master them. It doesn’t have to be long – mine was 32 counts.
  4. Teach everyone the dance! This is where things get super fun.
  5. Once everyone knows the dance, break the group up into 3 or 4 smaller groups, numbered 1, 2, 3, 4. The people who start the flash mob (these should be the strongest dancers) are group 1. The next best/most confidant dancers are group 2, with groups 3 and 4 being the weakest/least confidant dancers. You repeat the routine 4-5 times with every group filtering in on their respective rounds. So group two would join the dance on the second repeat of the moves, group 3 on the third repeat, and so on and so forth. Everyone should repeat the dance one time together after all dancers have joined.
  6. Figure out the time of the flash mob surprise and prep your DJ and any camera people. Make sure you have a space big enough for everyone to let loose — my flash mob was on the sand in front of the pirate bar that’s pictured above.
  7. During the party, do the flash mob!