Tuesday, December 31, 2013

happy new year's eve

New Year's Eve is here, can you believe it? I'm sitting on the couch in an old pair of Daniel's pajamas, nursing a cup of coffee and making lists of what I need to get done before the celebration tonight. I have a new party dress and the expectation that there will be a lot of champagne, so I'm pretty excited about the whole thing. We're going over to our friends Dave and Lindsay's house for pre-dinner cocktails and then heading to The Abbott's Cellar for dinner- exactly the kind of New Year's Eve celebration I like best. I hope that everyone has some plans they're looking forward to- whether that means staying home with loved ones or heading out on the town. Best wishes for 2014- I have a feeling it's going to be a great year.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

suzanne goin's meyer lemon tart

This year for Christmas, I gave Daniel a bar cart. I'd been searching for one for ages and finally - finally - found one that was both aesthetically pleasing and reasonably priced. Triumph. Anyway, setting up the bar cart got us excited to do some entertaining, so tonight we're having friends over for cocktails (made by Daniel) followed  by dinner (made by me). 

Before I settled on what I wanted to make for dinner, I already knew what I wanted to make for dessert: Suzanne Goin's Meyer lemon tart with a layer of chocolate brushed over the crust.

Unfortunately when I got to the grocery store there were no Meyer lemons to be found so I decided to go with regular lemons plus one orange for a little extra sweetness.

I used Ms. Goin's recipe for pate sucree, which came together reasonably well, and used the leftovers to make a few little pie crust stars and little scraps dusted with cinnamon sugar.

After baking the crust and brushing it with melted bittersweet chocolate, I started on the lemon curd. It burbled and got thick in the pot as I whisked until finally I decided it had to be done, stirred in some butter, and set it aside to cool before sieving it into the crust.

It firmed up nicely in the refrigerator. I'll be serving it this evening with some barely-sweetened whipped cream- back soon with a report!*

*Verdict: tart was fantastic; the dark chocolate layer makes it special. Definitely one to hold on to.

Suzanne Goin's Meyer Lemon Tart with a Layer of Chocolate from Sunday Suppers at Lucques
1 portion of pate sucree to cover a 10inch tart dish
2 oz bittersweet chocolate (I used 70%)
4 extra large eggs
3 extra large egg yolks
1 cup plus 1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 cup Meyer lemon juice
10 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
A pinch of kosher salt
1 cup heavy cream for whipping

Preheat oven to 375
Line tart pan with pate sucree and prick the bottom with a fork. Line with parchment paper and fill the tart shell with beans or pie weights. Bake for 15 minutes then remove the parchment paper and weights. Return the tart shell to the oven and bake another 10-15 minutes until the crust is an even golden brown. Set aside to cool.
In a double boiler over medium-low heat, melt the chocolate. Spread the chocolate evenly over the bottom of the tart shell and chill in the refrigerator at least 15 minutes until the chocolate has solidified.
While the crust is chilling, make the lemon curd. Whisk the egg yolks, eggs, sugar and lemon juice together in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring continuously, alternating between a whisk and a spatula, until the curd has thickened to the consistency of pastry cream and coats the back of the spatula. Remove the curd from the heat and stir in the butter a little at a time. Season with the salt. Let the curd cool about 8 minutes and then strain it into the prepared tart shell. Chill the tart in the refrigerator for several hours. It should be served cold with a dollop of whipped cream.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

bahia drake, costa rica

We just got back from seven days in Drake Bay, Costa Rica. It was quite the adventure getting there- a flight from San Francisco to Miami, another flight from Miami to San Jose, an overnight layover in San Jose, another flight from San Jose to Drake Bay, a truck ride, and finally, a boat ride out to our hotel, the lovely Copa de Arbol.

The flight from San Jose to Drake Bay was actually really cool- we took a single engine plane and got to enjoy views all along the coast and across the mountains.

Getting to the hotel took some time but it was well worth the effort- it was an absolute oasis of tranquility. Once we arrived at the hotel, we were welcomed with fresh coconuts to sip and sat down to a lovely breakfast of fresh fruit and gallo pinto with homemade tabasco sauce. We watched little white-faced capuchin monkeys caper around in the trees outside the dining room, making eyes at our food.

My mother did a fabulous job planning the trip, so in between taking dips in the ocean and drinking caipirinhas we also managed to fit in a tour of the Corovado reserve (we saw all four kinds of monkeys indigenous to Costa Rica), a boat trip to Cano Island to snorkel (I immediately got stung by jellyfish and then spent the rest of the morning sunning myself on the beach), hikes along the coast, and massages. The rest of my family also opted for zip lining through the rainforest canopy but I was feeling lazy and spent some time lounging by the pool reading.

I actually didn't take all that many pictures- I spent so much time in the water that my camera mostly stayed in the room. But I wouldn't have changed it for the world- it was the most relaxing vacation I think I've ever taken. A huge thank you to my parents for having arranged such a fabulous family vacation! 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

a much anticipated vacation

Fall quarter is over and I'm packing up my things for break. I'm headed to Costa Rica on Friday for a much anticipated vacation; I've never been before and I can't wait. I'm definitely going to blind everyone with my pallor but I'm looking forward to escaping the chilly weather and enjoying some time on the beach. Back soon (but not too soon) with pictures and stories!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

to the library

Sculptures of the individual figures from Rodin's Burghers of Calais stand in front of Memorial Church on the Stanford Campus. They're dramatic and beautiful in their way but have always seemed a little out of place to me in sun-washed Palo Alto. But since the end of the quarter is approaching and finals are upon us poor students, I thought it was appropriate to put up something with just a hint of despair and resignation. As I write this, I'm brewing an exceptionally large pot of coffee, putting on one sweatshirt over an even larger sweatshirt, and packing my things to head to the library.  I'll be done next Tuesday - see you on the other side.

Monday, December 2, 2013

cook's illustrated's boston cream pie

On the Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving, my uncle made dinner for the whole family. A homemade seafood sausage with a touch of beurre blanc followed by duck breast with a mushroom ragout. My aunt made a Boston Cream Pie for dessert. As you can see, our family is not one to stint on meals prior to Thanksgiving.

I am the sort of person who will choose pie over cake any day of the week but this cake.... THIS CAKE is something else. The cake itself is tender, the custard rich and dense, the chocolate ganache a perfect bittersweet foil to the layers beneath. It was the best cake I've had in ages, and though I hate to admit it, even better (or perhaps just more novel) than the excellent pies that followed on Thanksgiving. Our eight-year-old twin neighbors who joined us for dinner agreed, eschewing pie for staggeringly large slices of cake piled high with whipped cream.

My aunt was kind enough to give the cookbook the recipe comes from to my mother as a gift, and if you should be interested, the recipe can be found here. I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 30, 2013


Thankful to have spent a lovely few days at home with my family for the holiday. It's always a treat to spend time in La Jolla, taking walks along the cliffs and enjoying the glorious weather. I have so much to be grateful for and taking some time to appreciate that is always worthwhile. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

deb perelman's cranberry-orange breakfast buns

We celebrated an early Thanksgiving in Napa with Daniel's family on Saturday. It was a lovely evening of champagne and delicious food (you can never have too many Thanksgiving dinners, in my opinion) and because a group of us were planning to sleep over at the house, I decided that I'd make sticky buns for breakfast the morning after. A few weeks back, I saw a recipe for cranberry-orange breakfast buns on Smitten Kitchen and had been waiting for an appropriate occasion to make them because they looked so beautiful and seasonally appropriate. This was that occasion.

I approached the recipe with a modicum of trepidation- sticky buns always seemed a bit finicky, with all of the kneading and the rises and the rolling, etc. But really, the dough came together amazingly easily. I didn't have a stand mixer at my disposal so I just attacked it with a wooden spoon and then kneaded it by hand for a few minutes. There was something really satisfying about kneading a ball of plump, orange-scented dough. I let it rise on the counter for a little over two hours and then rolled it out and spread the brown sugar cranberry filling over it.

I rolled the whole thing up, sliced it into twelve pieces, put the slices into a buttered pan, and put the pan into the refrigerator to slow-rise overnight. When I pulled the pan out in the morning to bake the buns, a pool of cranberry juice had formed at the bottom; when the buns baked, the juice burbled up and sort of caramelized around the bottom of the buns. It was glorious.

They came out of the oven beautifully puffed up and golden, with the cranberry swirl showing through. The icing was a simple powdered sugar and orange juice mixture that I poured over the buns just before serving.

The breakfast buns were gorgeous- but to be totally and completely honest, I enjoyed making them more than I enjoyed eating them. They were very sweet and I found the cranberry to be a bit...much. But I think that I may have been the only one who felt that way. Everyone else finished their buns and Daniel and his father each had two - so I'm considering them a success.

They were so much fun to make and I liked the base dough a lot, so I'm already thinking about ways to tweak the recipe- maybe apple cinnamon, another option suggested by Ms. Perelman. If you're curious, the recipe can be found here

Saturday, November 23, 2013


Yesterday, our family dog Nigel died. He lived to a ripe old age and I'm grateful he was at home, with my parents; still, I admit I cried when I heard the news. We'll all miss him and his outsized presence very much.

Friday, November 22, 2013

holiday break

Hello Friday! I'm officially on vacation- this morning I headed into San Francisco to meet my mother for an early breakfast at The Mill (the toast above was their country bread with peanut butter, honey, and sea salt) followed by a visit to the de Young to see the Hockney exhibit (I have to admit- we both hated it) and a bit of shopping before meeting up with my dad for lunch at Campton Place. Then I went and got a haircut before heading up to Napa for dinner. Basically the nicest day ever and a fantastic start to the holiday break. Back soon with some pictures from our early Thanksgiving in Napa!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

it's-almost-vacation lunch

Yesterday we had the first rain of the season. This is good- it's been desperately dry up in these parts- and to be honest, I kind of enjoy gray, rainy days where it's perfectly acceptable to stay inside in an oversize sweater and house slippers. This is how you know I'm a born and bred Californian- rain is a novelty.

Anyway, I love that it feels like fall and that we are so close to Thanksgiving. One of the real perks, in my opinion, of being back in school is that we get such a lovely long break at Thanksgiving- in my case, ten glorious days. Daniel and I are headed up to Napa on Saturday for an early celebration with his family (I've been tasked with making a soup and brussel sprouts) and then I'm flying to San Diego on Sunday to spend the rest of the week with my family, minus my brother, who is currently galavanting around Europe. Good times. 

In the meanwhile, I have a bunch of errands and last-minute schoolwork and packing to take care of, so nothing terribly exciting to report. Instead, I offer you a picture of my humble lunch. Because I'm heading out of town for ten days, I've resisted buying groceries and have spent the past few days trying to cobble together meals from the depths of my cupboards. Lunch was made up of bits of cheese leftover from my trip to Pt. Reyes over the weekend, supplemented with nuts, olives and a few crackers. Not bad at all. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

hog island oyster co.

I've written about Hog Island Oyster Co. in Marshall before but I couldn't resist putting up a few pictures from the weekend. On Sunday, I drove out to Point Reyes with Kinzie, one of my closest friends from college, and two of her friends from high school. It was the perfect little day trip- we stopped at Bovine Bakery for breakfast and then drove out to do a hike along Skyline Ridge off of Limantour Road. The weather was clear and a little chilly- perfect for hiking- and when we were done, we piled back into the car and drove out to Marshall.

It's really just one of my favorite places ever. You bring a picnic (in our case, this meant lots of cheese, cured meats, a good baguette, some fruit and cookies, and of course, champagne) and buy oysters there. I've never been able to score one of the tables where you can shuck your own oysters (they book out months in advance) but I'm perfectly happy to sit back, relax, and let an experienced professional shuck oysters for me. We had a mix of raw oysters and oysters barbecued with chipotle bourbon butter- it was all terrific.

After a leisurely lunch, we basked in the sun for a while and watched the sailboats on Tomales Bay. A perfectly lovely November day. 
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