SNEAK PEEK: 28th Annual Beverly Hills Vintage Bouquet

Greystone Mansion

Beverly Hills Vintage Bouquet @ Greystone Mansion

What are you doing Sunday, April 17th? Nothing, you say? Then whip out your eatin’ pants and checkbook, because have I got an event for you.

We all know how much I just adore the Beverly Hills Vintage Bouquet Food and Wine Event, right? No need at all to reiterate except to say: It’s back! So, without further ado…

Prestigious events at a glorious backdrop of the Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills! Giving back to the community! Helping out with charitable causes! Hhors d’oeuvres by the area’s top chefs! Wine from California’s premium wineries! Libations! A photobooth! Live entertainment! Silent auction! Oh, I have your attention now, don’t I?

The Barristers of the Beverly Hills Bar Association and the Beverly Hills Bar Foundation established the Vintage Bouquet Food and Wine Event in 1988 to raise funds for various causes including, but not limited to, Wills For Heroes (a free program to provide wills to firefighters, police and first respondents), free programs for victims of domestic violence, The High School Blue Car Project, which educates high school students about the law.

FOOD GUESTS: Dandy Don’s Home Made Ice Cream; Le Mervetty; Lawry’s The Prime Rib; Chef Kevin Warren; Bier Beisl; Plaza Le Reina; Sugar and Spiked; Ayara Thai; Le Bon Garcon; Camille’s Culinary Creations; Hansen’s Cakes; Maggiano’s Little Italy – just to name a few!

DRINK UP WITH: Deep Eddy Vineyards; Iron Triangle Brewing Company; Vampire Vineyards; Angel City Brewery; Aqua Hydrate; Organo Gold; Stella Artois; Cass Vineyard & Winery – just to name a smattering.

Lawry's Prime Rib - Beverly Hills Vintage Bouquet Food & Wine Event
Mmmm….prime rib! ::Homer drool::

Le Mervetty - Beverly Hills Vintage Bouquet Food & Wine Event
Sweet and elegant cakes for dessert!

So there you have it. An amazing afternoon filled with a culinary adventure, classy drinks, majestic views of Los Angeles and giving unto others.

See you there!

28th Annual Vintage bouquet Food and Wine Event | Official Website
Greystone Mansion | 905 Loma Vista Drive in Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Spoonie under the Microscope

The Hope Hygieia/

There are a lot of Spoonie/Chronic Illness blogs out there in Internet Land. I mix mine up with food, travel, and utter nonsense, because (1) I can only talk about my health for so long (2) I’m not terribly decisive and (3) I have a deep mental block when it comes to being openly vulnerable, especially on the internet.

The unwillingness to be vulnerable is not an enigma, but the stuff of psych 101: Due to my health, I was forcibly placed in repeated vulnerable situations, so when confronted with the choice to be vulnerable willingly, an internal wall builds itself around me, deflecting my efforts. Typically, I resort to humor, or bombastic anger. I’ve toted this dog and pony show out many-a time to amuse my friends, my medical team, and my fellow Spoonies. It’s my own personal Olympic sport, and like any mere mortal attempting the Olympian, I can only perform for so long before I will keel from sheer exhaustion. This is, ideally, the moment when I ought to allow raw vulnerability to show through. So I’ll give it a shot.

Recently, I finally set the wheels in motion to realize a long-time goal of mine to volunteer with hospitalized children. I’m not there quite yet, but in the process of all of the legalities that come along with being side by side minors in a compromised state of health. For obvious reasons, I will never be going into detail about the work itself, but I can at least attempt this whole openness…thing.

I’m not exactly a greenhorn; my first career and my education revolved around the care and development of children. Even when I ceased to work with them and had to abandon my studies due to conflicts with health and work, I never stopped volunteering with them. So with this leg-up, you can imagine the confidence I’ve been strutting around with during this initial screening process. However, when I crossed the threshold and stepped into the world of a children’s hospital, it was like the last twenty-five (plus) years completely melted and I was suddenly a little girl on the 5th Floor West Wing of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia all over again.

I faltered, and an ugly little voice in the depths of my consciousness piped up, “Can you really do this?”

I remembered the full-lunged hysteria as I was pinned down and subjected to insurmountable physical pain. There is no pain that can compare to medical pain when it carries the echos of a lifetime of trauma. I recalled the late nights of insomnia I suffered, coping by pulling up a rocking chair outside of the room I shared with 2 to 5 other kids and watching a video, a blanket wrapped around my shoulders. Worst of all, I remembered the impersonal prodding and poking from med students and equally repugnant residents, talking at me rather than to me. CHOP is a university hospital, and brow-beating doctor-patient etiquette and empathy was not yet part of the curriculum – especially for children. I was a particularly prized specimen because my second and third open-heart surgeries were performed by a world-renowned surgeon whose methods are still taught to this day. I felt like a sideshow freak on display and thus my animosity charming Spoonie personality was born.

But it was in the recollection of the god complex plagued white coats that shook me from my reverie. While this kind of behavior has been dramatically reduced within the last decade or so, and the hospital I will be volunteering at goes to great lengths to ensure each child is treated with the respect and empathy they deserve, I realized that I needed to not only witness this revolution in care, but be a part of it as well. As I recently wrote to one of my dear friends, If I am to see the change I want, I need to be the change I want to see.

Shandon Sweets

Shandon Sweets

In the previous two times that I’d visited Cork Ireland, I had never properly meandered around Shandon, a historic hilltop neighborhood of Cork City. This breezy, chilly September day I had been determined to climb the magnificent alleyway staircase and have a proper poke around.

My friend Evin tipped me off to Shandon Sweets, owned and operated by the Linehan family since 1928, where old fashioned boiled candy is made. Those silver circles framing the door aren’t there purely for decoration; they’re awards acknowledging the continued excellence of these simple and popular sweets.

I arrived at Shandon Sweets a bit early; it was still lunch time and the shop was closed. Ireland, like most of Europe, takes lunch time very seriously. I bummed around the neighborhood, snapping a few photos here and there, trying not to look suspicious to the theater company next door as people gathered for what I can only assume was a rehearsal or class. Finally, a vehicle pulled alongside the shop front and a man in his sixties came out and opened the sweet shop.

The man in question was Danny Linehan, whose father established the confectionery shop. He chatted pleasantly with me as he told me all about the business and how the candy is made, even confessing his favorite is honeycomb rather than the boiled candy “drops” he produces. As we chatted, Danny began to set up for another boiled candy batch. You can check out the step by step process at Roger’s blog, Cork Foodie.

Typical of many fathers, Danny began to turn the tables and ask me about myself and my trip, curious as to why and how a rainbow-haired American woman found his shop. He was impressed with my journeys and the amount of time I’d been away from home, and still had yet to go.

Taking comfort in his instinctive paternal concern, I admitted that I was beginning to miss my mother, to which he remarked that my mother must miss me terribly. I said no, she doesn’t miss me in the least. He was quick to correct me, insisting she definitely missed me and doesn’t say so because she wants me to focus on having a good time.

Normally, I’d be irked that someone was correcting me on my life, but there was something about Danny and talking to him about my insecurities that made me feel at ease. So I bought four bags of candy. The strawberry drops are my favorite.

Shandon Sweets

Korean Cuisine + Tourism Night

Korean Cuisine + Tourism Night//
Serenaded with traditional Korean music

I know there is more – much more – to Korean cuisine than Korean BBQ. Through the wonders of living in Los Angeles, home to the largest Korean population outside of South Korea, I have been able to sample a handful of Korean foods. These were typically at informal events and homemade, though, with no induction other than “JUST EAT IT!” And while I could have made the effort to experience Korean food out of the realm of AYCE BBQ and kimchi, I am shamed to say that it never struck my interest. Until, that is, I watched The Kimchi Chronicles. I followed Marja on her quest to get in touch with her Korean roots via food – leaving a trail of saliva behind me.

Sorry about the visual. What I am (poorly) getting around to saying is that thankfully the Korean Tourism Organization invited me to their Korean Cuisine and Tourism evening, hosted at the traditional Korean restaurant, Yong Su San. Travel industry professionals (and me lol) were treated to an evening of music, information on what to expect and where to visit in South Korea, and food, glorious food.

Korean Cuisine + Tourism Night
Beoseot Juk
mushroom porridge made with sweet rice

Korean Cuisine + Tourism Night
Kaesung Namul
Mixed vegetable salad of bean sprouts, radish and apricot

My favorite dish of the evening! I have been searching for store bought (which I know won’t compare) but to no avail. If there any Korean grandmothers out there that can cook this dish and would like to stuff me silly with it, I would be the most gracious dinner guest ever.

Korean Cuisine + Tourism Night
Tang Pyeong Chae
Thin sliced mungbean jelly marinated in sesame oil

I need more of this dish in my life as well. Gods be good, I need to hit up a Korean market this week.

Korean Cuisine + Tourism Night
Skewered sea scallops with mushrooms sauteed in sesame oil

Scallops AND mushrooms on a skewer? Yes, ma’am!

Korean Cuisine + Tourism Night
Korean pancake with egg battered fish or meat

I have actually eaten this before, both as banchan and at a little party a Korean-American friend held at her house. Her mother whipped up a bunch of dishes for us, many dishes a hybrid of typical American party foods with a Korean twist, but others just straight up Korean comfort food, like Jeon. I’m proud to say I was the most enthusiastic white girl at the gathering, eating my fill and making Korean mom glow with pride.

Korean Cuisine + Tourism Night//
Kaeseung Bossam Kimchi
Gaeseong cabbage kimchi stuffed with radish, pine nuts, jujube & pickled seafood

I hate to be this stereotypical, but anything to do with kimchi is heaven for me. As we were dining family style at large, round tables that sat eight people, we had to share all of these dishes. I am only partially ashamed to admit that I did whatever it took to keep this dish within arms reach so I could gobble up the lions share. Hashtag sorry not sorry.

Korean Cuisine + Tourism Night//

Korean Cuisine + Tourism Night
Beef, shrimp, mushroom, assorted vegetables to be wrapped with small thin crepes

This dish was my learning curve, because it arrived at the beginning of the meal and it was through this dish I learned we were eating family style. No, Rachael, that whole plate of Gujeolpan is not just for you! Take one and pass, you oinker!

Korean Cuisine + Tourism Night
Daeha Yori
Fresh egg battered king prawn

Anything to do with prawns is a winner in my book, and this crispy, zucchini laden shrimp fritter is no exception.

Korean Cuisine + Tourism Night
Slow braised short ribs, radish, chestnuts, ginkgo and dates in soy based marinade

So meaty I could only snack on one of these beefy delights. Not my favorite dish of the night personally, but definitely an overall crowd favorite.

Korean Cuisine + Tourism Night
Cold noodles

Another knock-out dish; so elegant in its seeming simplicity. The bowl was a LOT bigger than my photo will lead you to believe, and this was one of the few personal dishes we did not share. After everything we’d already gobbled down, it was my absolute pleasure to scarf and slurp this down, setting my belly on maximum overdrive.

Korean Cuisine + Tourism Night
Cold noodles

Korean Cuisine + Tourism Night
Mixed vegetables & beef over rice

Ah, yes, a true classic. I did not partake in this dish (I chose the cold noodles), but my friend said this bibimbap was a knock-out.

Korean Cuisine + Tourism Night
Chilled cinnamon ginger punch

A common dessert-y digestive, this cinnamon punch was precisely what my stomach craved after that delicious feast. I was raving about it equal to the food.

Now that we have become more familiar with the traditional food of South Korea, which alone is good enough a reason to visit as far as I am concerned, let’s add some obligatory visuals to sweeten the pitch:

Korean Cuisine and Tourism Night
I mean – can you even?

Stop it, Korea. Stop it this minute. You are gorgeous.

Let Korea get on your “To Visit” list, take photos, eat lots of Korean cuisine and send me a postcard!

photos of Korea courtesy of Korean Tourism Organization

Out of Place

Self-Portrait of a weary traveler in Berlin//

There are the moments between “the moments” we share with the rest of the world, and this photo was taken during such a moment. Between all of the smiley “proof of life” “I’m traveling and having a BLAST!” expressions, I chose to take a real photo of how I typically look. I relaxed my face and let it do its thing, ditto with my posture and body. You’ll note my sleeves are rolled up because it was unusually warm that day in Berlin and I foolishly left the apartment in a sweater with only an undershirt and no bra. I am wearing next to no make-up (my lip color has all but worn off) and there are ink stains on my left hand because I was writing in my journal and do not live in left-handed person’s world. I had been nursing a single beer for about ninety minutes at this point. I am tired. I am questioning what I will do with myself after Poland, as I had yet to solidify any plans and did not want to come back to Berlin for more than a rest-laundry-repack day. This day was the first day I finally began to unearth the Berlin that I kept hearing people talk about; the fun, warm and kind of zany Berlin. This is the first time (and maybe the only time) I will speak of my true feelings: being an empath in Berlin was not easy.

Welcome. Mind the step.

I’ve been so far removed from blogging and writing in general lately that I have been struggling to get back to it. Shreve from Honey Rock Dawn has been feeling this way as well and decided to post every day for the next month. Writing for the sake of writing. Or blogging. Whatever. Anyway, I am going to do the same. No finesse. No carefully crafted wordsmithery. Just simple, straight-forward whatever.

I am also over on instagram doing the #fmphotoaday – so I may align both posts to talk about the same topic, especially if I have more than the appropriately sized Instagram description to say on any given topic. Such as today, where the prompt is “A Door.” I know I am pushing it posting this just after 10:30pm but fuck it, I had to see Deadpool and then I had to come home and cook dinner. Then I sat down to watch an episode of Downton Abbey even though i have seen said episode four times. FIGHT ME.

Bridge House - Skibbreen, Cork

For whatever reason, I got it in my head that I wanted to snap a series of photographs depicting interesting doors of Europe. I really didn’t get on it until I was in Ireland, more than half way through my trip. I need to go back to Brugge in particular because I am having MASSIVE regrets not taking a photo of this gorgeous purple door I kept walking by. I will talk about the weirdness that was Brugge another day, though, and stay on task for now.

All through the near three weeks I spent in Ireland, I took photo after photo of doors. As I explained more eloquently on instagram: I am fascinated by residential architecture and how color plays an important part, especially on doors. The entryway to the home is particularly integral to how we, outside strangers, perceive the dwellers within. I don’t know. It read more profoundly on instagram.

It isn’t difficult to figure out why this door stood out to me, with it’s fire engine red door, dainty floral flourish – which almost looks Art Nouveau, with those curves – and all of that greenery going on around it. The green-teal of the building itself, while lovely, does pose such a juxtapose to the violence of the red that I cannot love it completely, but I do appreciate the commitment to polarization.

This door is located picturesque harbor town of Skibbreen, a town in west Cork. It is the front door of Bridge House, a guest lodgings that I am sure sees booming business during the summer and late spring. My friend Fiona, saint that she is, took me all over the central-west Cork area and put up with my bizarre door obsession with grace and patience. Thanks, Fiona. I imagine one day I will have prints made and I will send a print of a door we visited together and she will mutter in a bemused tone, “God love her, she’s crackers.”

Locanda del Lago – Bite of the Beast – Santa Monica

Bite of the Beast - GOOSE

Bite of the Beast at Locanda del Lago

I was invited back to the monthly supper club Bite of the Beast at Locanda del Lago in Santa Monica. The last Thursday of every month, Lago hosts a communal meal, featuring animal roasts and traditional, rustic Italian dishes. The “Bite of the Beast” includes a 5-course dinner featuring the choice animal, and optional wine pairing. October’s beast? Goose.
I loathe geese. Like, seriously cannot stand them. I am not going to even explain by irrational hatred of geese with hyperbolic words; instead, here is a photo I recently snapped in Midleton, Co. Cork Ireland:

Cork Co. Ireland

Why is there a monument to the asshattery of geese, the bane of every child’s existence, erected in the middle of a quaint Irish town? I have no idea; I can only assume to serve as a reminder to the local children that constant vigilance is the only way to prevent random acts of geese violence. That, or to serve as a warning for any would-be mischief makers that anyone suspected of being a hooligan will be thrown to the town geese and paraded around town for all to mock. I see you, Ireland.

What I am driving at people is that because I dispise and fear geese so much, I was eagerly anticipating a five-course menu where goose is the main protein. The geese used in this month’s Morso della Bestia is not your run-of-the-mill park dwelling fowl terrorist, but a fancy bird from Whetstone Valley Farm in Vermont. This time around, I decided to go with the premium wine pairings that accompanied each course.

Bite of the Beast - GOOSE
Antipasto: pan-roasted goose leg . watercress salad . black mission figs . tomato vinegar
Wine: Rosé Zelia . Olivi . Toscana ’13

The sweet acidic tomato vinegar added a grateful zing to this very meaty salad. Once all mixed up, it was the perfect start to our goose feast. As for the wine, it should be mentioned (again) that I am not generally a fan of rosé. I’m more apt to try a rosé if it’s from France, though, because they’re flavor profile rarely includes “battery acid,” but I can safely add rosé from the Toscana region as more than acceptable.

Locanda del Lago - Bite of the Beast GOOSE
Primo: Peruvian purple potato soup . seared goose “foie gras”
Wine: Sauvignon Blanc . Venica e Venica “Ronco del Cero”. Friuli Venezia Giulia ’12

I sucked in a tight breath of pre-judgment when I read “purple potato” because purple potatoes (along with purple carrots, squid ink and blood oranges) are on the relatively short list of foods which may taste fantastic, but I cannot get over the visual. Thankfully there were no traces of purple within this soup, and my brain was left in peace to mellow out with a delicious bowl of soup and a glass of sweet but dry wine with a citrus finish. I took a wicked delight in the rich, decadent foie gras, elevating this otherwise humble soup.

Locanda del Lago - Bite of the Beast GOOSE
Piatto di Mezzo: Farro Mantecato . offal . brown butter sage . grana padano cheese
Wine: Meritage Blend . Cryptic. Sonoma ’12

Unsurprisingly my favorite – not simply for the goose offal (hearts, kidneys, livers), which makes me feel like I am absorbing the powers of the almighty goose – but for the miracle of transforming farro into a risotto-like base. I honestly could have eaten two portions of this. Oh, wait, except I totally did because my mom was getting full and wanted to make sure she had enough room for the next two courses. Thanks, mommy! In my notes for the wine, I wrote “smooth with oak” so I am guessing there were notes of aforementioned tree? I remember liking it OK, but being way more impressed with the house red. Protip: Table/House red in an authentic Italian restaurant run by actual Italians is going to be fantastic.

Locanda del Lago - Bite of the Beast - GOOSE
Locanda del Lago’s Michelin-starred Chef Gianfranco Minuz

Locanda del Lago - Bite of the Beast - GOOSE
Secondo: Pan roasted smoked goose breast . braised turnips . espresso honey reduction
Wine: Super Tuscan . Lucente . Toscana ’12

Would you like some meat with your meat? Oh, yeah. Supple and generous, this plate of poultry melted in my mouth. Admittedly, I adore turnips. Raw, boiled, mashed, roasted, and braised as eaten here, I have not met a turnip I did not take the utmost pleasure in scarfing down. I was wary of an espresso-honey reduction, but its smooth, rustic flavor tickled my taste buds. The wine was very sophisticated, a nice juxtapose to the deceptively simple dish.

 Locanda del Lago - Bite of the Beast - GOOSE
Dolce: Apple strudel . whipped cream . caramel sauce
Wine: Lambrusco Molo 8 . Lombardia

This strudel was delightfully sweet without drowning us in sugar overkill. Pinenuts were dotted throughout each slice, giving an agreeable contrasting texture to chew on. Lambrusco is one of my favorite wines, and I was in 7th Heaven.

January 2016 will be Venison, book your seat now and check the website after the first of the year for the menu!

Locanda del Lago
231 Arizona Avenue
Santa Monica, CA — 90401
(310) 451-3525