Plastic Recommendation – Ella Dining Room & Bar

March 1, 2009

Photo: Ella Dining Room & Bar

David and I rarely go out for expensive dinners, as we’re trying to watch our budgets.  But, his mom offered us a dinner out for Valentine’s Day, and I suggested we try Ella Dining Room & Bar.  The restaurant is fairly new and was opened by a well known and well-respected Sacramento chef who owns The Kitchen.  David and I were both incredibly tired and not especially hungry, and when we arrived we immediately hit the bar for vodka Red Bulls.  This is not something we customarily do when we’re out for dinner, but we both needed a jolt of caffeine.  Alas, David was informed by the bartender, “we don’t serve energy drinks.”  He ordered a gin and tonic instead and got me a glass of wine.  When he arrived with the drinks, I asked him what he had ordered – the drink looked like ginger ale.  Turns out the restaurant makes their own tonic water, which does have a slight ginger element.  It was delicious.

We went easy on ordering, opting for a few small plates to share.  I was in the mood for oysters, but David hates them and they served them by the half dozen.  We started with potato gnocchi with broccolini, parma prosciutto, organic cream and Parmesan.  It was yummy, but on the heavy side.  We then shared brussels sprouts with black pepper bacon and cipollini onions and ravioli of mushrooms and fresh goat cheese with leeks and black truffle butter, which was my favorite dish of the meal.  I never eat truffles so it was a nice treat.

I love food.


Madewell For Shopbop

February 28, 2009

Madewell (J Crew’s new brand) has created a capsule collection with the online retailer Shopbop.  Check it out here.

Dispatch Vest – $125; Photo: Shopbop Dot Com

If You Could Only Buy One Thing This Spring, What Would It Be?

February 28, 2009

I was just flipping through the current issue of Lucky magazine, and the editors were asked this question – what WOULD they get for Spring, if they could only buy one thing?  They answered with the following:

  • London Sole snakeskin ballet flats
  • The perfect trench
  • Slouch slate gray trousers (like the ones shown in the Spring Gap presentation)
  • Clubmaster sunglasses
  • A wispy floral tank

Normally this is a question I would answer, knowing full well that I would buy whatever the hell I wanted, one item be damned.  However, given my financial goals and budget, it might be a good idea to choose one key item for the Spring.

I wouldn’t even know what to pick! I have plenty of shoes, I suppose I am good on tops and blazers/cardigans/jackets, so I am thinking a great pair of pants might be the place to start.  But….pants?  That sounds so boring.  I’ve already decided what I love for Spring, how could I ever choose?

What about you?  Have you started thinking about what you want for Spring?  Have you made a list?  Are you on a shopping budget?  Is there a particular item or items you’ve already got your eye on?

My Top 10 Recipes – Glazed-Grilled Salmon With Perfect Steamed Rice & Wilted Spinach & Bok Choy

February 28, 2009

Salmon is my favorite fish, although I only like it prepared a few ways.  I HATE smoked salmon (too salty), raw salmon (unless it’s FRESH, it’s too fishy) or poached salmon (too heavy).  I like my salmon best from the Pacific, filleted (no steaks) and grilled.  Atlantic salmon is too mushy for my taste.  When David prepares salmon, it’s usually straight forward – salt, pepper and oil.  He is awesome at getting a perfect crispy crust.  When I make salmon, I tend to go the Asian route, creating a teriyaki-style marinade and pan grilling.  It’s a bit hot, a bit sweet, and the addition of brown sugar allows it to develop into a nice glaze.  I pair the salmon with simple steamed rice – I provide you with my method below and a vegetable, in this case spinach and bok choy wilted with leeks, garlic and pepper.

Ingredient List – Serves 2

  • 2 salmon fillets
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dry white wine
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar (light or dark)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh grated ginger OR 1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup short or medium grain white rice
  • One bunch spinach
  • 3-4 heads small bok choy
  • 1 leek
  • 1/4 medium-hot pepper

Mix the soy sauce, wine, brown sugar, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil, cayenne pepper, ginger and 4 of the garlic cloves, minced.  Marinate the salmon in a bowl or bag for about an hour.

Measure 1 cup of white rice.  Add to a bowl and fill with water until roughly 1/2 inch over the rice. Allow to sit for about a half hour.

Trim bok choy, allowing around an inch of the white stalk to remain.  Slice the remaining 4 garlic cloves and 1/4 of the hot pepper.  Trim the leek so that only the white and light green portions are remaining and cut down the middle lengthwise.

Add two cups of water to a saucepan.  Tie a hand towel around the lid of the pan, ensuring it’s taut along the interior of the lid.  Bring the water to a boil.  Drain the water from the measure rice and add rice to the water.  Cover and allow to simmer for 20 minutes or until done.

Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil in a large sauce pan and 1/2 tablespoon oil in a smaller saucepan, both over medium-high heat.  Add the leeks, garlic and pepper to the large saucepan and allow them to sizzle.  Add the salmon to the smaller pan, skin side down, with around 1/4 of the marinade.  Allow it to cook for a few moments.  Turn the salmon and add another 1/4 of the marinade.  Add the bok choy and then the spinach to the larger pan.  After a few more moment turn the salmon again and remove the skin.  Cover for a few for moments and then remove the lid, allowing the sauce to reduce a bit more.  Give the spinach and bok choy a toss or two until it’s cooked.  Check on the rice and remove it when done.  Serve the salmon over the rice and greens with some of the reduced sauce.  You may garnish with toasted sesame seeds, if you like.


February 28, 2009

I wrote about Rihanna’s assault a few weeks back and now it seems she’s decided to get back together with Brown.  This is something I’ve been worried about, because I knew the judgments against her would fly, and it would make me sick.  I, in no way, will defend Brown’s actions.  Nor will I assert whether he can or cannot change.  The issue for me is how people are projecting their expectations and judgments on her.  And why?  I honestly cannot understand what she owes any of us.  Do we think if she stays away from Brown it will send the “right” message?  And if she gets back together with her it will be the opposite?  Who will these potential messages reach?  Why is it her responsibility?

Dumping on a young woman who was assaulted for making her own choices is low, period.

High Street Hook Ups

February 28, 2009

I studied abroad in London for a short time during college.  While there, I lived in Kensington, between Gloucester Road and Queen’s Gate.  I was in the city to secure an internship, it was my main reason for going.  The organization my school worked with placed me at a PR firm, which was terribly uninteresting.  I had hoped to intern at a magazine, but instead I found myself running out to buy fruit for clients (I’m looking at you, Mary J Blige) and receiving piles of samples from the couriers who raced between our office and the offices of Cosmo, Elle and Vogue.  I hated it, and I managed to talk our program director into letting me quit, opting instead to do research at the V&A for my credits.

I shopped a lot while in London.  An obscene amount, in fact.  While there I discovered tons of shops that I had never seen in the states, and found that London high street shops were brilliant at interpreting trends for cheap, much more so than American retailers.  Since that time (2002), a few European retailers have made their way to the states – H&M, Zara, Mango, Jigsaw, etc.  I find myself sad when I read through UK magazines, that I no longer have immediate access to the those great shops.  So, I decided to gather some websites together!

A great site for researching London shopping is Street Sensation.  In fact, I can recall looking through this site before I even left, years ago.  The site actually has live photos of the streets, which has been fun for me in retrospect, as I can virtually walk my old commute from Sloane Square, a mile down King’s Road to my job at Halpern.  In fact, you can even see my office!

While in London, I spent the first month hitting the Starbucks by my apartment.  The coffee was 10 times more delicious than what they sold in the states.  I found out, however, that the reason my mochas were so yummy was because I was not requesting “skinny” drinks, meaning I was getting whole milk.  Soon after I swapped to Coffee RepublicCosta Coffee was another favorite.

The first store I hit up was Harrod’s, for obvious reasons.  Then came Harvey Nichols.  I couldn’t afford to buy much at either store, but the food halls were amazing.  Also, I credit the boy at the YSL counter at Harrod’s for introducing me to YSL Touché Eclat and Clarins Beauty Balm, which I still use.

My next stop was the flagship Topshop store on Oxford.  I still miss that place.  Nearby I would hit up H&M, HMV, Zara and French Connection.  I can recall seeing Kylie Minogue’s “Love At First Sight” video while waiting in line at Topshop and I totally fell in love with her.  And, my first name starts with a ‘K” and I totally wanted her earring.  That song still reminds me of the store.

I would often walk from my apartment to Kensington high street, using the small back streets.  It was upscale, with cute shops, and it was quiet.  When I’d emerge on the high street I’d hit up shops like Selfridges, Jigsaw, Dune, Muji, Whistles, Monsoon, Oasis and Warehouse.  An intersecting street, Church, had a cute shops including Office, Sweaty Betty and a super awesome shoe store.

On the way home, I would often go to Oddbins, which was on the corner of my street.  Before leaving abroad, I had read “Confessions of a Shopaholic,” and always wondered what this “Oddbins” she spoke of was about.  The guys at the store would always get on my case because I called it a liquor store.  “We’re a WINE SHOP.”  I’d buy cases of Australian chardonnay, which was delicious and dirt cheap.

Down the street was Boot’s, which essentially filled the same needs as Rite Aid or Long’s back home.

When commuting home from work, I would always shop along King’s Road, which remains one of my favorite streets in the city.  There were some great stationery shops, the UK is known for beautiful paper products.  Peter Jones was on the corner just outside of my tube stop, although I rarely went in.  Other favorites were Joseph and Habitat, where I bought a lot of stuff for my apartment.

Aside from lots of shopping at the Portobello Market and small stores in Notting Hill, I also liked the following stores:

My Top 10 Recipes – Spicy Broccoli With Crispy Fried Polenta

February 27, 2009

Spicy Broccoli with Crispy Friend Polenta

A reader suggested that I share my 10 favorite recipes, which I thought would be easy.  However, I had trouble deciding between my favorite everyday and favorite special occasion dishes.  I landed on the dishes that I crave often.  Some are easy, some are more complicated.  Many have been adapted from cookbooks, others I’ve made up myself.  I have made the decision to split the recipes out into separate posts, gathering them together in a summation post when I am finished.  I will start with my first recipe and list my other choices, all to come down the line!

Up first, spicy broccoli with crispy fried polenta.  The broccoli portion of this dish is adapted from a recipe from The Zuni Café Cookbook (Spicy Cauliflower & Broccoli Pasta).  The pasta is FABULOUS, and if you are interested, I highly recommend purchasing the cookbook.  I sometimes make this as a pasta, other times I make it as a side dish.  I sometimes use cauliflower, or broccoli, and often both.  Polenta is not something I cook often, but the following recipe is my favorite and I think it’s fantastic paired with the spicy broccoli as a wonderful vegetarian option.

Ingredient List – Serves 4

  • 2 heads broccoli
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 shakes of red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 1 & 1/2 cup milk (may be replaced with water or vegetable stock to make dish vegan)
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1/4 lemon
  • 1/4 medium-hot pepper
  • Salt & pepper
  • Fresh grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Cut off the stalks of the broccoli and slice length-wise into thin (1/8 inch) strips.  Don’t worry about the florets as they break off.  The pieces should look like tiny little slabs with bits and pieces of floret.  Mince 6 cloves of fresh garlic and 1/4 cup parsley.

Line a small baking pan with parchment paper.  Simmer milk with 2 cloves of garlic, sprig of rosemary, lemon and pepper for five minutes.  Do not allow it to get too hot or the milk with burn.  After five minutes, remove the rosemary, garlic, pepper and lemon from the milk.  Season the milk with salt and pepper.  Reduce the heat and add the polenta in a slow stream while stirring.  Cook for a few more moments until the polenta is creamy.  Put the polenta into the baking pan and cover with another piece of parchment paper.  Press down with a flat object (like a smaller pan) until the polenta is around 1/4 inch thick and uniform.  Put into the fridge to cool for 30 minutes.

Remove polenta and cut into 2-3″ pieces.  I like to cut them into abnormal shapes so they are not uniform.

Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and add 1/4 cup olive oil.  When hot, add the majority of the broccoli pieces, leaving the small florets behind.  Give the pan a good shake and LEAVE THE BROCCOLI to crisp up.  Do not be tempted to continually stir the broccoli or you will end up with a steaming mass.  After around 5 minutes give the broccoli a toss and add a dash of olive oil, the remaining bits of broccoli, the garlic and the red pepper flakes.  Leave to crisp again for a few more moments.  Add parsley and remove from heat.

Heat the remaining oil in another large sauté pan.  Add polenta pieces and fry each side until brown.  Plate the polenta and add the broccoli on top.  Add loads of yummy Parmesan cheese and serve!

Coming up in future top recipe posts…..

Herb-Roasted Pork Loin with Mustard Breadcrumbs (from Sunday Suppers at Lucques)

Glazed-Grilled Salmon

Strawberry Shortcake (from Martha Stewart)

Pan-Roasted Chicken (from Biba’s Northern Italian Cooking)

Garlic Hummus

Crab Cakes (from Saveur magazine)

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

Chicken, Walnut & Apple Salad

Shrimp Cocktail

Need A Loan? Lending Club Offers $50 To New Borrower Members

February 27, 2009

As a Lending Club borrower member, the company has extended a generous offer to my friends who may be interested in applying for a loan through the company.

The company will pay $25 to a non-profit of my choice for every friend who successfully joins LC as a borrower member.  And, each friend I refer who successfully joins will be given $50.

$50 is a nice incentive, but money aside, I have really been happy with LC’s services and I think it’s a great option for those of you who might be interested in consolidating debt, funding a project, buying a car or securing a loan for other reasons.

The company is not offering a web-link for signing up, but if you would like to receive an invitation, please e-mail me.

General Lending Club Requirements

Lending Club is open to US residents. To qualify to list a loan request, you will need a FICO score of at least 660 with a debt-to-income ratio (excluding mortgage) below 25%. In addition, your credit history must show that you are a responsible borrower.

  • At least 1 year of credit history, showing no current delinquencies, recent bankruptcies (7 years), open tax liens, charge-offs or collections account in the past 12 months.
  • No more than 10 inquiries on your credit report in the last 6 months.
  • A revolving credit utilization of less than 100%.
  • More than 3 accounts in your credit report, of which more than 2 are currently open.

Top Chef Finale – My Thoughts

February 26, 2009

Photo: Bravo

David and I watched the Top Chef finale tonight.  We got rid of cable so we customarily watch it a night late.

I am, in a word……irritated.  First of all, Casey?  She sucks.  It wasn’t her challenge, and she totally overwhelemed Carla.  Partly Carla’s fault, sure, but I got some SERIOUS bad vibes from Casey.

Hosea?  He also sucks.  He’s been a whiny bitch for the entire season.  And what really sent me over the edge was his comment to Carla while they were awaiting the results, about making his “own food.”

Way to rub it in, asshole.

Stefan?  You know….he’s a jerk, but he TRIES to be a jerk, and he knows it.  There’s something endearing about that.  I can tell he’s actually a good guy.

So, yeah…..I’m pissed that Hosea won.

Plastic Programming

February 26, 2009

Hey folks.  I have decided to finally obtain a host for my blog, which I just did on a complete whim – because that’s generally how I do things.

I have NO idea what I am doing, so if the blog starts acting wonky – just remember that I am behind the curtain trying to figure things out.

You will likely see some layout and content changes in the coming days as well.

Wish me luck!!