Monday, November 30, 2009

Alexandria and Baltimore Eats

Hopefully I will update about our Thanksgiving eats, but first I want to write a little recap of all the ridiculously AMAZING food I had in Alexandria and Baltimore this weekend. Eating out is my favorite thing (way more than cooking, I have to admit) and boy, did I do a lot of it!

Sean, my future sister-in-law Katie, her friend Diane and I all went to Cafe Salsa Grill, a "nuevo latino" restaurant with lots of Cuban and Puerto Rican goodies on the menu. I ordered an appetizer of empanadas, which came with a trio, stuffed with seasoned ground beef, marinated chicken and cheese, and spinach and cheese.

They were delicious, especially the chicken, but three wasn't going to fill me up by any stretch of the imagination. So Diane very graciously offered me half of her sandwich, the Pollo el Aioli, which had shredded chicken, cheese, roasted tomatoes, red onions and avocado piled on a grilled French baguette. It was as good as that sounds.

On Saturday night, Sean and I went to meet Arthur (his Best Man) and two of his college friends in downtown Baltimore. I had never been to the city before, but I was impressed by the nicer parts of town and gleefully identified spots from "The Wire" in some of the not-as-nice areas we passed.

Arthur took us to Fell's Point (pictured above), a historic area with plenty of great restaurants, bars and shops. We had dinner at Kooper's Tavern, which specializes in glorious, glorious burgers. The tavern even owns a burger truck that travels around the city, making gourmet burgers on the spot.

I had the "Elvis Got the Blues" 1/2 pound Angus burger, with Maytag blue cheese and apple-smoked bacon WITH a side of sweet potato fries AND a Franziskaner Hefe Weiss beer. It was so delicious across the board. I ate every last bite of that burger and ended up splitting my beer with Arthur because I was s-t-u-f-f-e-d. Everyone spent the entire meal oohing and aahing over their burgers.

Later, we stopped into Bertha's Restaurant and Bar, famous for its green "Eat Berthas Mussels" bumper stickers, for a cream ale for Arthur. It's a tight squeeze, so we ended up leaving pretty quickly, but it seemed like a great bar for a small party.

Finally, we crossed the street from Bertha's to get gelato at Pitango Gelato, a very chic, Eames chair-filled gelateria. I got mojito sorbet, which tasted basically exactly like a frozen mojito and wowed everyone at my table. I paired it with white grapefruit sorbet, which was good, but surprisingly peppery, if that makes sense.

All in all, I was very impressed with Baltimore's food offerings and I heartily recommend a night there to all of you.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sunday Best v.4

A 1940 Superman balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, found here. I hope you all had a great holiday and are enjoying the long weekend!

Sunday Best:
  • One of the most frightening, yet amusing photo galleries I've ever seen. Hint: It involves Katie Couric!
  • The trailer for the first film directed by Tom Ford. It looks like a visual orgasm.
  • I want to go to there: Cranberry French Macarons.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Vintage Cake Topper

I have wrestled with ideas for my cake topper. At first I thought I'd try a really ambitious project to create papier mache newspaper birds, but um ... I have my doubts that'll happen. I barely clean my house, much less make papier mache anything.

Then I thought I'd use an ampersand, as a nod to our typography/journalism theme and also to signify that we're now joined.

But that all went to hell when I spotted this handsome fella and pretty gal on top of a shelf on my way out of my very favorite antique store ever, 17 East Beverley in Staunton.

Their flowers are yellowed, his hair is a little chipped and her birdcage veil is a little ripped. But they're still together, after 60 years. And they only set me back $28!

They came home with me and I hope someday they land on my daughter or son's cake. They do, however, present a problem, as I am having cupcakes. So we'll either have to get a tiny little cake or just set this on the top tier by itself. Suggestions?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Baileys Baking Disaster

If what you see above looks like a catastrophe in the making, you are more prescient than I.

Here's what you need to know: I made Bailey's cake once before with minor problems (my cake sunk in the middle, which forced the glaze to pool), but I figured with my new baking skillz, I could knock this one out, easy.

Also, my future father-in-law's birthday is this week, and knowing that he likes Baileys, I thought I'd bake him a little Bailey's pound cake.

The recipe is one my stepgrandmother Helene gave me years ago and I remember now that she had made minor adjustments and I no longer know what those adjustments were. I also know that when she makes it, she divides the batter between six mini pans. I realized I did not have mini pans, so I split it between two. Two pans that I now consider to be HARBINGERS OF DOOOOOOOOM.

(Don't worry, I'll share the recipe at the bottom!)

I preheated the cake to 350 and while it baked, I mixed confectioner's sugar and Bailey's to create the glaze.

Helene's instructions said she cooked the cakes from anywhere between 25 to 45 minutes. Hmm. That is quite a window. Speaking of windows, here's what I saw through my oven's around 30 minutes. That looks....dangerous.

I waited a little longer and stuck a toothpick in. Stupidly, I put the pick in toward the edge and when it came out clean, I took the cakes out. They were DISASTERS. The tops split apart like a loaf of bread and the batter between the cracks wasn't fully cooked.

So, for some reason, I convinced myself if I flipped one of them and poured the glaze over it, the cake would suddenly look about right.

Omigod. Could this be more wrong? I seriously was near tears at this point. The batter was still gooey in the center, so I popped them in AGAIN, bringing the cooking time to like...50 minutes.

Still full of disaster. Gooey. Inedible.

I cut a slice out to try on the end and saw an even bigger disaster: EGG SHELL! Omigod, how did that get in there? I was doomed from the start.

As I said, this cake was destined to be a gift and I had no back-up gift, so I salvaged five cooked slices sans egg shell and put them in this adorable Wilton baking box (it comes with the tissue paper!).

And here were the disastrous remainders, which are probably going to land in the trash.

But if I am good at anything, it's presentation.

I won't lie, this was my biggest failure thus far and I took it especially hard knowing I've successfully made these cakes before! But, here's the recipe:

Helene's Easy Bailey's Cake
  • Package of white cake mix
  • Package of vanilla pudding mix
  • 1 1/4 cup of Baileys Irish Cream
  • 1 cup of vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup of chocolate chips
  • GLAZE: 1/2 cup Baileys and 1 1/2 cup Confectioner's sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Combine all ingredients with a mixer
  3. Flour and grease six mini pans. Pour one cup of mixture in pans.
  4. Bake 25 to 35 minutes (Helene says 45!).
  5. Combine topping. Remove cake from oven and poke holes throughout.
  6. Pour topping. Make sure you use all of it.
  7. Cool for 2 hours.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Print Society

Joanna at Cup of Jo posted about this new site, Print Society, that gathers the best prints across the internets in one place for your shopping convenience!

The ones up top are a few of my faves:
1. Untitled by Elizabeth Weinberg
2. Fourth of July, Independence, Missouri by Mike Sinclair
3. United States Letterpress by Beauchamping

Inspiration: White House State Dinner

The Obamas hosted their first state dinner last night, celebrating Indian Prime Minister Singh and his wife. Prior to the event, press was allowed to get a sneak peek at the table settings and decor and the Huffington Post had these shots.

I love that the colors were inspired by the country's bird, the peacock, and are so vibrant. I'm sure someone will say the colors had them dizzy, but I think they're perfectly appropriate. Also, I'm really feeling the gold place settings. I've had my eye on this Mepra set I saw on Oh Joy!.

AND, check this foodie dream of a menu of modern American cuisine with an Indian flair. Love that a Virginia wine made the cut:

Potato and Eggplant Salad
White House Arugula w/ Onion Seed Vinaigrette
2008 Savingnon Blanc, Modus Operandi, Napa Valley

Red Lentil Soup w Fresh Cheese
2006 Riesling, Brooks "Ara", Wilamette Valley
Roast Potato Dumplings w Tomato Chutney
Chick Peas and Okra or Green Curry Prawns w caramelized Salsify w smoke Collard Greens and coconut aged basmati
2007 Granache Beckman Vineyards, Santa Ynez, CA

Pumpkin pie tart
Pear tatin
Whipped Cream and Caramel sauce
Sparkling Chardonnay, Thibaut Janisson Brut, Monticello, VA

Petits fours and Coffee
Cashew Brittle
Pecan Pralines
Passion fruit and vanilla gelees
Chocolate dipped fruit

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Fashionable Puddle-Jumping

It's raining today (for the millionth day this month) and it's got me thinking about rain gear. I've got some 6-year-old rainboots that are probably about ready to be replaced, a stained and 15-year-old London Fog trenchcoat and a beloved Marimekko umbrella, but I think it's about time to upgrade. Not likely to happen before Christmas, but here's what I've got my eye on:

This Michael Kors all-weather trench coat from Nordstrom, on sale for $98.90.
The Mon Cheri umbrella at ModCloth, $29.99.

The Hunter Tall Boot in silver (super bling!), also at Nordstrom, $115.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday Best v.3

I'm of the general opinion that Ernest Hemingway was a royal SOB, but I kind of adore this picture of him with his first wife, Hadley. Love how she's belted her cardigan and seriously love that snow gear.

1. This NY Mag interview about Kurt's high note on Glee.
2. Pics from DC's very first Dandy Ride, a bicycle ride through town during which people wore their best tweeds.
3. A defense of the actions of Betty Draper, who is probably the prototype for the majority of our grandmothers.
4. The new line of fun headbands and hairpins at
5. I was DROOOLING over all the jewelry I saw this weekend at Pretty Pretty, all made in-house, much of it from found pieces. Gorgeous!
6. A breathtaking diamond ring by Sarah Perlis.

I spent a great weekend in Staunton, my old home, and managed not to take a single picture. Tears! But I left with great memories, which is all that matters!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Wino Wednesday: BEER!

We kinda missed Oktoberfest, but wine club wanted to try our hands at expanding our beer palates beyond Bud Light and Yuengling.

With that aim, we went to the Biergarden in Portsmouth, which has the hands-down best beer selection of foreign beers I've seen in the area. The beer was great...the service? Not so much.

We ordered three samplers of beers from the U.K., Belgium and Germany. Shocker: the German beers were my faves.

United Kingdom Beers:
  • Young's Double Chocolate Stout: This is a beer I already knew I liked, but it can be difficult to take in a big glass. The chocolate flavor is subtle, not too syrupy, which I think sets it apart.
  • Tetley's English Ale: I like this beer, too, but no one else in the group really liked it. They said it was slightly bitter, but I like it's fruity aftertaste.
  • Smithwick's Irish Red: The table favorite out of the U.K. beers. Light, fruity with a great finish. I could imagine it would be a great beer to have with almost any meal.
  • Murphy's Stout: The wikipedia entry compares this beer to chocolate milk, but I'm not buying it. If anything, the beer reminded me slightly of anise. Not my fave.
Belgian Beers:
  • St. Bernardus ABT 12: Very sweet, very strong. It was too sweet for me, frankly.
  • Lindeman's Framboise Lambic: Beautiful raspberry color, but the flavor was almost too raspberry. It was tart, but delicious.
  • Delirium Tremens Beer: This beer has been named the "Best Beer in the World" in recent years. It was very good, but not my fave of the night. It was sweet and light, with hints of honey.
  • Wittekerke Belgian White Ale: Jen's favorite; a citrusy, light ale that Erica said reminded her of a Reisling. Very nice.
German Beers: (Shockingly, I couldn't find a picture of my favorite, but let it be known I loooooooved the German beers)
Needless to say, I still have a lot to learn about beers in general, but I learned I love German ales (which are probably the equivalent of reislings). Hoping to have some of these again soon!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

In Pursuit of the Dream Dress

As you all know, I have well-documented my search for the perfect wedding dress. My dream dress would be: cocktail-length, fluffy skirt, sweetheart neckline. Is that what I'm going to end up with? Not quite.

I searched, and came up empty. I found another dress I loved and as though the universe psychically knows me, I ordered it and promptly saw the following picture on Snippet and Ink.

This bride, Michelle, saw a dress she loved in Erin Fetherston's Fall 2009 ready-to-wear line and wondered if it could be specially made into a wedding dress. What? A specially made couture wedding dress? Have you ever heard of such a thing?

She contacted the folks at Fetherston's studio in New York, who invited her to come in at 9 p.m. on a Wednesday and spend hours trying on dresses. Months later, she had her own dream wedding dress, which is coincidentally, my dream wedding dress.

The fine folks left a comment on photographer Anna Kuperberg's blog noting that brides interested in similar service can email them at

I know, in my heart, such a service will be out of my budget range. I also know I just spent hundreds on my own custom wedding dress. But, OH, did my heart leap when I saw that picture. I know I made the right decision, but I wanted to post this story as inspiration to both myself and other brides to go after what you want. Who knew a fashion house could be so friendly? A lovely story, all around.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Birthday Gifts!

My grandpa sent me this lovely necklace from Urban Outfitters, which Amber called "kinda steampunk" and I quite agree.
Bret got me this fabulous salt pig to add to my kitchen menagerie.
My dad got me this charming print by Blanca Gomez, a Madrid-born illustrator. I love red balloons, and I love her illustration style, very reminiscent of Miroslav Slasek.

My mom got me three lovely apothecary jars, which I will use for decoration at my wedding (and my home!).

Extra-long wedding sparklers for the wedding exit (which I immediately stored in a cool, dry place) from Sparklers Online.

It was a fabulous and very stylish birthday. Thanks, all!

Monday, November 16, 2009

My 25th!

Ashleigh and I.

Me and Seanakins, looking very snappy.

Sean, Me and other Amber.

Ryan, Chanelle and Ashleigh.


Thank you to everyone for the warm birthday wishes! I turned 25 yesterday and I was joined by very good friends for dinner at The Trellis in Williamsburg, which is kind of a landmark because they invented Death by Chocolate.

I had skirt steak with the skinniest french fries imaginable and the most delicious green beans I've ever had; it was delicious! When our dessert came, per our request, the staff put candles in every single dessert so I could blow them out. Very sweet and super fun!

Later, I'll update about my lovely gifts.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Sunday Best v.2

Looks like someone already had my dream wedding! Check out the gorgeous, whimsical wedding of Jennie and Brian over at Our Blog of Love. I love everything about it. Period.

Well today is my birthday and I thought I'd celebrate by enjoying my favorite present from last year: my Candy Red Electra Deluxe bicycle. And let me tell you, nothing reminds you more that you just aged one year than a bike ride that leaves you sweaty and unable to move. Geez.

Anyways, on to the Sunday Best:
1. The wedding above; seriously, click through it!
2. These darling custom silhouette ornaments by Etsy seller Le Papier Studio. I seriously can't imagine a better Christmas keepsake, and they're so stylish, you could hang them year-round. It almost makes me wish I had kids.
3. Speaking of custom silhouettes, how gorgeous are these foil-stamped customized journals from Paper + Cup?
4. My favorite jewelry designers, Conroy and Wilcox, just introduced the most amazing diamond necklace I've ever seen: black diamonds, with a hand-shaped clasp.
5. Most recent Wikipedia discovery: Josephine Baker was the original Angelina Jolie. She adopted 12 orphans from across the world.
6. Loved this story about the LA Philharmonic's 28-year-old composer.
7. I would be remiss to ignore this week's Nor'Easter, which blanketed the area in water and dreariness. Check out pictures here: Daily Press storm photos.

I can't wait to update about all the lovely gifts I received and I'm getting ready to go have a fabulous birthday dinner!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Chocolate Sugar Cookies

I saw this recipe for Brownie Roll-out Cookies on Smitten Kitchen and was immediately consumed with a feeling of what 30 Rock's Liz Lemon calls "I want to go to there."

In one bowl, I mixed flour, baking powder and salt.

In the other, I mixed together a heart attack: two sticks of butter, one salted and one unsalted, along with two eggs, a ludicrous amount of sugar and...

Unsweetened cocoa. As a child, I once tried to make chocolate milk with unsweetened cocoa. It was incredibly horrible and beyond my comprehension. I seriously didn't know where I had gone wrong. Hershey should consider this with their packaging.

I mixed the butter mess and then slowly added the flour mixture. The dough got so thick. I seriously got an upper arm workout from trying to mix this dough; I thought my hand mixer would start smoking at any moment.

When finished, I rolled the dough up in plastic wrap, which looked like the biggest, most frightening, toilet-clogging turd ever. EVER.

I popped the giant turd in the freezer for an hour, at which point I attempted to roll it out onto my floured counter. This was a disaster. I got dough stuck to my rolling pin; what was I supposed to do?! Eventually I flattened it with my hands and went to town cutting out cookies.

Cookies! Because of my uneven cutting skills, some were thin enough to be crackers and some were thick enough to be scones.

And then my whole kitchen looked like the runs. (Why do I seem to so often compare cooking to poop? That is gross, yet true.)

Ta-Da! Chocolate sugar cookies. The thin, crackery ones tasted like chocolate Teddy Grahams. The thicker ones tasted like less flaky brownies. They're good, but I didn't have the Proustian experience Deb at Smitten Kitchen had. I am, however, looking forward to smearing ice cream between two of these and having homemade ice cream sandwiches.