Monthly Archives

February 2008

CAKES + desserts ENTERTAINING

Sweetest cupcake stars of Los Angeles

blubird cafe : danties cupcakes : susiecakes : violet\'s cakes : sprinkles cupcakes los angelesTravel + Leisure magazine published this month an interesting review of 5 cupcake shops in Los Angeles. Each of these old-fashioned American cake shops has something different to offer.

The winners stand out through their recipes, cake decorations and packaging. Here are 5 cupcakes shops that emerge as the place to go.

Bluebird Café

From my research on the Web, the cupcakes of the Bluebird Café in Culver City are delicious. Their Crayola-bright cupcakes are offered in mini sizes. A practical format if you cannot make up your mind or when you set up a dessert table. Located in Culver City, Bluebird Café attracts the movie studio crews.

Since I did not taste in myself, I looked for a second opinion on the Web. I found a review by the food blogger Bree Crocetti of Triplecreme who said in 2006 the following:

I could not resist trying their red velvet cupcake – one of the best I have had. They frosted it with a thin, light, creamy, cream cheese frosting, much like Royal Icing. The cake was a beautiful dark red, baked to perfection. Much better than Susiscakes!

Danties Cupcakes

Winner of the Best of LA 2007 in the cupcake category, the owners of Danties Cupcakes have been serving cupcakes to their catering clients for the past six years. Danties Cupcakes is their shop dedicated to cupcakes. They do not use sugar icing; instead, they decorate with whipped cream.

Bree of Triplecreme added a taste of the cupcakes at Danties and she said:

Danties has two things going for them: a smart little box with a level of holes the cupcakes fit in, preventing them from sliding around, and their cupcakes are unlike the others on the market.

SusieCakes

A shot of frosting goes inside the cupcakes at SusieCakes. Called Susie’s Signature Frosting Filled Cupcakes, it is available in regular format or the bite size.

Their Red Velvet Cake outsells any other cakes 5 to 1. Every day, SusieCakes makes 11 flavors of cupcakes. Naturally, the Red Velvet is their most popular. Other winners are their chocolate cupcake with a mint frosting, a chocolate frosting or a peanut butter frosting.

To get a better idea of the place, watch this TV report hosted by Marisa Petroro for Canal 22 Los Angeles. With Sprinkles Cupcakes, SusieCakes is my favorite. The owner Susie Sarich seems so sweet.

Violet’s Cakes

This shop was the dream of Denise Weber. Some of her cupcake recipes originate from her grandmothers; although she altered them. Violet’s Cakes is open five days a week, from Tuesday to Saturday. The selection of thirteen flavors changes daily.

Sprinkles Cupcakes

I talked about Sprinkles Cupcakes before. I love this brand for the clean, modern design of their store and their cupcakes. Basically, Sprinkles Cupcakes fits more into my style than some of the overly old-fashioned cupcakes bakery.

What do you think?

Since I did not hold a tasting session myself, I would have to hear your thoughts about any of these 5 brands? Did Travel + Leisure select the best ones in Los Angeles?

Sourcing:
Learn more: Travel + Leisure magazine – march 2008 issue

FOOD + DRINK RESTAURANTS

Social dining at Kultura in Toronto

kultura restaurant lounge in Toronto

It is fun to go at a trendy restaurant with a young, well-dressed crowd, beautiful décor and most important with incredible food. That was on my agenda last Saturday night. I elected Kultura as the place to review.

My husband and I went to dinner with three of friends that were participating in PodCamp Toronto. Earlier that day, I tried to reserve a table for 2 but Kultura was already fully booked. They told us that we could eat sitting at the counter of the Lounge. That is what we did with our friends.

Everybody enjoyed the meals. Since we were sitting at the lounge, it was noisier but we could still have a conversation. Executive Chef Roger Mooking brings a new twist on multi-ethnic cuisine. The dishes surprise us with an unexpected mix of flavors. The food presentation was imaginative.

What did we eat?

The dinner menu is composed of small portion dishes. The idea is to explore and share a meal. Our friendly server recommended two to three dishes per person. For two girls and three guys, I ordered the following:

  • 2 x Duelling Tartare
  • 1 x Mediterranean Salad
  • 1 x Foie Gras Trio
  • 1 x Mushroom Orecchiette
  • 1 x Green Beans Plate
  • 2 x Filet Mignon with truffle potatoes
  • 1 x Jamaican Chicken Risotto

The amount of food was right. Kultura delivered on my expectation of great food, décor and ambiance. I wish to dine at the restaurant next time I visit Toronto. The signature drinks we tried pleased me except that the Cosmopolitan was apparently too sweet.

The third floor of Kultura is available for private party of up to 30 sitting guests. I visited it and the space creates a really nice atmosphere. Kultura is located at 169 King Street East, downtown Toronto.

Sourcing:
Learn more: Kultura

FOOD + DRINK RECIPES + menus

Making your own spa cucumber water

spa cucumber water recipe :: fairmont sonoma

spa cucumber water recipe :: fairmont sonoma

I wrote my recipe at the end of this post. First, let me introduce my inspiration on a video filmed next to a spa refreshment station in the Californian Wine Country. We stayed at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa a few nights.

Since it is no more fashionable to serve bottled water, the trendy hostess needs to dish up the tab water. Last summer, I showed you how to serve a pitcher of water with fresh berries. The look was great but the taste of the water is not distinctively altered by the berries.

Cucumber water improves the taste of tap water. Spa aficionados already experience the benefits of cucumber water for improving the look of your skin. On top of it, this drink is simple to make at home.

Cucumber Water Recipe

In order for the cucumber to fully release its juice, you need to prepare it the day before your event.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cucumber, sliced and unpeeled + 6-7 cucumber slices for decoration
  • 1 1/2 to 2 liters of water
  • 3 mint sprigs + 2 mint sprigs for decoration
  • Half a lemon, sliced and unpeeled
  • Ice cubes

In a pitcher, mix the water, cucumber, 3 mint sprigs and lemon. Let it rest on the fridge for 24 hours. If you prepare the water at the last minute, cut the first cucumber in three or four pieces. Then, squeeze the cucumber pieces to release all the juice.

Before serving remove the cucumber slices used to flavor the water. Then stir with a wooden spoon, add some ice cubes,  6 or 7 fresh cucumber slices and the remaining 2 mint sprigs. Enjoy this refreshing drink.

+ Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa

COOKING tools FOOD + DRINK

The New Modern Danish Ceramic Collection of Kähler Design

fiducia : marmitta : cammeo :  pura : bulbo by kahler design

I want to fill my kitchen with the Kähler ceramic. Their unique shapes of their modern designs and the remarkable craftsmanship make the ceramic by Kähler second to none.

Founded by Herman Kähler, this Danish company started designing and producing handmade ceramic pieces in 1839. Today, they still pursue the same level of excellence and innovation that made their success.

Each individual ceramic piece bearing the name Kähler has been shaped in skilled hands from a technique passed down from one generation to the next.

Their current team of innovative designers is all issued from Danish design schools. These ceramic pieces are more than a pretty face, how well they function testifies of the level of thinking that goes into creating these products.

Unique modern centerpiece

Wonderful as a dinner table centerpiece, FIDUCIA is a set of candlesticks and flower vases linked by strong magnets. You can separate the pieces at will. Let you creativity flow and arrange them in a snakelike line, make small clusters or pair them.

FIDUCIA was created by the talented Louise Campbell who graduated in 1995 from Danmarks Designskole as an industrial designer. Louise Campbell was named 2005 Designer of the Year by Bo Bedre.

The new Kähler’s collection

If I got the MARMITTA at home, I would seek for time to cook more often. Søren Thygesen designed this roaster in three sizes to suit your needs. An ingenious touch is the bottom rim that provides a stronger grip when you carry the roaster.

Louise Campbell also designed CAMMEO, a collection of adorable jars. The pure and fun shapes make them ideal for open shelving displays. Each of the small, medium and large CAMMEO jar is available in four color bands.

PURA is a set of dinnerware designed by Cecilie Manz. Small and large bowls, a Café Latte cup, a mocha/green tea plus the standard coffee/tea cup, a jug and a dish / plate available in small and large sizes compose the PURA series. It is wonderful line for every day usage. The versatility of PURA means that you can use them as serving pieces as shown.

The BULBO designed by Jeanette List Amstrup is available in black, white and yellow, three hot colors this year. The fun, organic shape will look as great in a kid room than in a living room.

Americans can buy FIDUCIA at A+R Store. For the other Kähler’s products, I do not know where to buy them. So if you know stores in North America that sell these 5 products, please inform me.

Sourcing:
Learn more: Kähler
Buy online: Kahler & Louise Campbell ‘s Ficucia Magnetic Vases + Candleholders – price: $180 USD for 5 pieces
Via: Better Living through Design

LIVING TRAVEL

A quick update on my San Francisco trip

We stayed in the hip and fun Hotel Vitale San Francisco yesterday. I love the place. We had appetizers and drinks at The Americano. We went to dinner at the famous Tadich Grill, the oldest restaurant in California. It dated back to the Gold Rush era.

We ate breakfast at Frog Hollow Farm, an organic bakery at the Farmer’s Market of One Ferry Building next to The Embarcadero. Their risotto tart is absolutely divine. Now, we are in the Wine Country. The weather is fabulous.

I will try to write the details of the fabulous places where I stayed and ate in the coming days.

ENTERTAINING TABLETOP

My recipe to successfully design a tabletop

tabletop design guide : dinnerware : flatware : placematWith the death of packaged theme for home decor, the art of coordinating can scare some of you. Not everyone knows all to mix products into a tailored yet cohesive design.

Beginners who wish to mix styles can rely on a proven, simple method. Start by finding one thing (furniture, accessories, painting or plate) that you like and derive the rest from that element.

Practice with small projects like designing every week end a new tabletop. Why not reinstate the old-fashioned family dinner every Sunday? Use this occasion to also practice new recipes and food plating. Ask your family for help so everything runs smoother the next time you have guests over for dinner.

My 5-step guide to better design your tabletops

To teach you the basics, I developed a 5-step guide. More design rules are involved but these 5 steps will help develop your sensibility.

  1. Consider all the dinnerware and the home accessories that you have on your house.
  2. Examine them carefully individually and collectively.
  3. Pay attention to the shapes, colors, textures, finishes and emotions.
  4. Look for both similarities and contrasts.
  5. Let flow your creativity and explore compositions and concepts.

If you are new to this, practice often and you will see that it becomes easier. Remember that not everyone has the inner style to be a designer, so do not discourage if you have trouble successfully mixing stuff. Some people are great at sports, others at design.

New video series

Since I know that nothing beats seeing someone doing it, I hope to start publishing instructional videos on how to create tabletop after I planned a little recording studio.

My first video may feature the nature Asian inspired Chirp dinnerware set by Lenox. I will demonstrate several table linen options including the Birds ‘n Trees placemats by Modern-Twist that I bought at Lekker while I was visiting Boston.

Flatware as jewelry for your table

Just changing the flatware can totally change the look of your table. Think of it as jewelry. To get the right look, do not be afraid to rent flatware for your events. In fact, Sarah Dennis of Table and Toasts said the same thing on an interesting post yesterday about Trends in flatware rentals.

I displayed Beaded Antique flatware by Towle available at Cooking.com, several models by MEPRA available at Lekker and the fun colored Fantasia Millennium Flatware by MEPRA available at Plastica.

SOURCING:
+ Chirp Dinnerware by Lenox – price:$99.95 per 5-piece setting
+ Silicone placemats by Modern-Twist – price: $22 at Lekker
+ Beaded Antique by Towle – price: $49.95 per 5-piece setting
+ Natura ICE Five Piece Place Setting – price: $37 per 5-piece setting
+ Italia ICE Five Piece Place Setting – price: $44 per 5-piece setting
+ Levantina ICE Five Piece Place Setting – price: $47.50 per 5-piece setting
+ colored Fantasia Millennium Flatware by MEPRA – price: $50 per 5-piece setting

FOOD + DRINK TABLEWARE

Having fun with the shadow placemats by Sandra Bautista

A light\'s drawing by sandra bautistaThis talented artist grabbed my attention because her work titled A light’s drawing. The usual suspects appear as silhouette shadow on the placemat.

Regarding at her portfolio, Sandra Bautista probably did it for an artistic purpose. But I find the concept to be chic and fun for entertaining. If you find a place where we can buy those, please inform me.

About A light’s drawing, her creator Sandra Bautista says:

Everyday light draws for us…but we never realized…
The graphics on the whole set come from the real shadow so that all objects are related to each other and when using it you will discover all of them.

A time saver for entertaining

If you are too busy, you would not have to bring the plates at the table. But make sure the glasses, the napkins and the utensils are on the table before your guests arrive. One inspiration that complements those placemats is the diner restaurant experience. You can insert the flatware in three ornate glasses, jars or flower vases.

Pursue further the fun aspect

You could make your own silhouette by tracing the dimension of your own dinnerware in the color of your choice.

If casual chic suits better your event, rest the flatware inside a pocket fold linen napkin.Then, draw the shape of your own utensils on a cotton placemat or a fine paper. Just the dimensions are big enough to cover the right utensil shadow. The idea is to surprise your guests as they sit down and gently lay their napkin on their knees.

Having an immediate ice-breaker at the table ensures that the dinner starts well. Your guests feel more welcome. You can continue with charades or write fun facts for each guess to read. What games do you play at the dinner table?

Sourcing:
+ Sandra Bautista – photos are all rights reserved by sandra bautista

HOME + GARDEN TRENDS

IDS 08 | Imprinting a new North American lifestyle

upsizing the condo market at ids 08 : shangri-laMy husband saw a homemade flyer in front of the Royal York that was offering a $15,000 reward, no questions asked for returning a dog.

The super luxury housing market emerged over the last six months in Toronto with condo units now listed at 12 million dollars. With money comes experimentation and market differentiation.

An overview of a super luxury market in Toronto

The topic of one design talk at IDS 08 was Upsizing of the condo market: a lifestyle trend. What is happening right now is not just higher priced condominiums. The builders are offering more choices than ever to the consumers.

Some projects offer the freedom to design your unit with architects and designers before it is even built. Many builders hire a team of star architects and designers to make sure their design is well thought.

The average price of those super luxury condos are well over $1000 square feet. They come with a wide range of exclusive boutique hotel kind of services. The monthly fees for the penthouse of the Four Seasons reach about $8000. Well-known architects and designers unite to create stunning projects.

Why it is important for most of us?

Eventually what happens at the top end of the luxury market finds a way to reach a broader market over time? Innovations start at the higher end segment. But now, you can find modern stylish accessories and furniture to fit any budget.

If you know about the latest trends, you can challenge the builders so they will create more design-oriented condominium buildings.

Individual taste

If you read my article on the Top 10 design trends, the general message is that people wish to live in a space that reflects their individual style. In the past, you could only accomplish it by building your own house. That is what my parents always did.

My brother, who lives in a small town, bought a land 6 years ago, got his own plan and managed the construction of his house. All the houses on his street are build the same way. He lives in a street where every house looks different. I think it is time that we stop the super normalization of our city landscape.

Downsizing in square feet but upsizing in style

As more and more of the boomer generation continue to leave their suburban house to live in the smaller urban condominium, the market start to adapt to their demand. To have served them as an event designer, they are more diverse in style than marketers want you to think.

It was also a time when families with young children often refrain to decorate their house to their liking because of they were living with children. And let’s be frank; there were no stylish options for infant gears. This was before the emergence of several modern design baby object company that occurred over the last 5 to 6 years.

Exploring a new lifestyle

A small number of families with children (infants to teenagers) opt for urban living. I do believe that the suburban model is far from perfect. People want a backyard and a pool but it takes them two hours to get home. So they cannot really enjoy it. They cannot go a buy a bottle of milk without taking the car and you hear your neighbors mowing their grass when you want to relax. I know because it happens when I visit my friends.

The Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation published the revealing 2005 report card. It demonstrated that, on average, the urban residents are healthier and less stressed than the residents of the suburbs. With all the cool specialty stores that you find in the city and the proximity of the convenience, I prefer my urban living.

Sourcing:
Learn more: Upsizing of the condo market: a lifestyle trend at the IDS 08
Learn more: Shangri-La Toronto – Kitchen photo
Learn more: Heart and Stroke Foundation 2005 Report Card On Canadians Health Has The Suburban Dream Gone Sour?

HOME + GARDEN HOME decor TRENDS

IDS 08 | Design: 10 years ago and 10 years from now

ids 10 years of design by Globe & Mail's Lifestyle Section

I went to 4 design talks when visiting the Interior Design Show. Each design talk will be reviewed separately. I am starting with a report on What were the most important trends over the last decade?

The panel animated by Trevor Kruse of Hudson Kruse Design was composed with the design journalists of the Globe & Mail’s Lifestyle Section. We had the pleasure to hear the thoughts of Janice Lindsay, Danny Sinopoli and Karen Von Hahn. Janice Lindsay is the founder of PINK, Colour + Designer.

They did not forecast a lot about the future. It is a wise move since the design styles are evolving at such an increasing rate.

It was a great assessment of what is happening. They assessed that the top 10 design trends that emerged from the last decade and will continue are:

1. Speeding Up

You see it in fashion, where when they used to be 4 collections a year, retailers are bringing new clothes and accessories every week. Fashion has an even bigger role in home design than in the past. It is due to fashion designers who entered the home décor and bed linen business.

2. Eco-design

Like Karen Von Hahn, I believed that eventually people will get tired of the eco-products in the same that marketers overuse the concept by stretching the eco-friendless of their products. Having said that, it does not mean that people will stop wanting eco-friendly products.

But one thing is sure that the eco-design movement changed the motifs and shapes of products. Look at the omnipresence of birds, twigs and trees from wallpapers, bed linens, placemats, dinnerware to invitations as the perfect example.

3. Designer gurus and Star Architects

Big names design everything from simple objects, furniture, home, outdoor rooms, corporate identity, skyboxes, private jets and even cities. The idea is based on being fully immerse in the experience. The separation between disciplines is slowly disappearing.

Philippe Starck and Frank Gehry, brought a whimsical feel to serious design. More on this later.

4. New Ornamentation

This marked the end of the super minimalist. Layering of textures and motifs is one of its expressions. You see it with the use of the damask, furs and bold motifs on simple line products. That is what make them fresh.

5. End of packaged style

Thank God for that one. It is OK to break convention, to make it your own. Making a room is built over time by filling it with things that matter to us. The key is to edit once in a while.

Making an entire French Provencal kitchen, an English style living room, is so passé. We have a creative freedom but at the same time, it is harder to make it right. Eclectic design rules but that does not means that everything goes together. That is why the advice and the input of professionals are still necessary.

6. Wit and Humor

Things can be stylish without being too serious. Furniture and rooms are not seen as precious anymore. We have the freedom to really live in it. You see that fact with many modernists. As they become parents with young children then still live in cool and home.

7. Technological Innovation

Advancement in technology opened the doors to new materials, new manufacturing techniques and affordable customization.

8. Light and Transparency

Gone are the days of one central hanging fixture and a lamp to light a room. Today, we use lighting fixtures as a way to sculpt the space. In fact, you can fill a room by creating shadows at desirable spots.

9. New Cachet of Design Classics

Just look at the popularity of mid-century modern furniture to be convinced. The same vintage look is a clear fashion trend this spring.

Old patterns like toile and damask are so in demand. The current Damask motif looks modern because the motif is oversized. Computers brought a new life to old motifs.

10. A Canadian Aesthetic

We have seen an emergence of a new Northern aesthetic that distinct us. They are several regional movements across Canada on style but three characteristics is shared by Canadian design:

  • sustainability,
  • experimentation and
  • warmth and humor.

I enjoyed listening to Janice Lindsay, Danny Sinopoli, Karen Von Hahn and Trevor Kruse. More reports on the Interior Design Show 2008 in Toronto are coming on the next days. See you then!

HOME + GARDEN HOME decor

Just came back from IDS 08

ids08

I met two of The Designer Guys, Tommy Smythe of Design Inc. with Sarah Richardson plus a few more celebrities at the Interior Design Show in Toronto.

I saw lots of fabulous design ideas and products. Stay tuned!

GIFT IDEAS HOUSEWARMING gifts

Vintage Housewarming Party inspired by Room Eleven’s latest CD

vintage housewarming gift ideas : room eleven : tastebook:  hostess apron : dedo seasoning sticks

Anything can be a source of inspiration for a party. This morning, it was inspired by the cover of the upcoming album of the Dutch jazz band Room Eleven. I got that scoop while reading Sia Grafica blog.

The album cover became the inspiration for a housewarming party. But I could have decided to make it a bridal shower party.

I heard the band last summer when they came to the Montreal Jazz Festival. Room Eleven’s songs remind me of the Dolce Vitae, the happiness found in the little things in life. The vintage cover inspires my choice of gift ideas.

Housewarming Gifts / Bridal Shower Gifts

Share your favorite recipes with the guest of honor. Tastebook enables you to create an outstanding cookbook at a very reasonable price. You can select recipes from Gourmet, Bon Appétit, Epicurious and even add your own family secret recipes.

Besides the obvious cover image and title personalization, you can organize your recipes any way you want with up to ten colored tabbed chapters. You can add helpful hints, cooking tips, and personal notes to any recipe. Then, the cookbook is delivered all professionally printed. From my point of view, Tastebook is the most stylish custom-made cookbook option at an affordable price. I have to find time to make my own.

This vintage hostess apron is adorable. Check out the etsy shop of Boojiboo to see her entire collection. Finally if you want to splurge a little, get the Dedo Seasoning Sticks by Bosa. Unfortunately, the sticks are out of stock at the moment. So if you host a movie night for the Oscar, compose your own set of spices to season your popcorn and homemade chips.

Recipe: Homemade Turnip Chips

Be more adventurous and prepare chips out of turnips. You slice small and medium turnips with a mandoline and cook them in canola oil for about 8 minutes. I turned them over after 5 minutes so they will be crispier. Remove the excess oil with a paper towel and keep them out of moisture until serving.

I am leaving you with a taste of Mmm… Gumbo? by Room Eleven. The first single is called Hey Hey Hey.

 

Sourcing:
Learn more: Room Eleven
Buy online: Tastebook – price: $34.95 USD
Buy online: Vintage Inspired Flower Half Apron by Boojiboo at etsy – price: 18.75 USD
Buy online: Bosa’s Dedo Seasoning Sticks at A+R Store – price: $70 USD
Via: Hey Hey Hey on Sia Grafica
Via: Bosa’s Dedo Spice Sticks on The Kitchn