Sunday, September 28, 2014

perfect breakfast bites, made with ease...

I knew these Salty Date and Almond crisps would have to come home with me when I saw them at The International Food Bloggers Conference, because I could tell they would be the perfect foundation for the ideal simple little bite for breakfast, and they are.

These crisps are loaded with texture, thanks to the abundance of almonds, oats, flax, sesame seeds and dates. I topped them with shards of Beecher's Flagship cheese and then a messy dollop of that jam we made with peaches from the orchard on Orcas. And then, I paired it with the steamy froth of my best homemade latte, of course.

Want to see a couple more highlights from the opening night reception at the IFBC?

This peppered Sockeye on toasted brioche from Bristol Bay Salmon, was so moist and flavorful. They also offered a velvety rich dill & vodka marinated gravlax. 

In general I try to avoid glutens, but if I want to indulge I usually seek out the most "gluten~worthy" pastries and breads I can find, because I have never tried a decent tasting gluten~free treat, until now. 

These gluten~free chocolate salted caramel cupcakes {bottom tier} by Trophy Cupcakes completely satisfied my craving for something sweet and fabulous.  The delicious rich and creamy caramel frosting on top of the wonderfully moist chocolate cake was completely fulfilling, I did not miss a single little gluten. 

For fall, they've created an interesting line of cupcakes flavored with beers, including Tipsy Apple, German Chocolate Stout and Pumpkin Ale. I tried the Tipsy Apple and it was superbly spiced with a refreshing fresh apple finish.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Top Spots in Santa Barbara and beyond....

In addition to the special times we spent celebrating at The Ranch, I loved having a chance to enjoy the culture, architecture, restaurants and wine in the greater Santa Barbara area. Here's a wrap up of some of the highlights, so sit back and enjoy! 

Cava restaurant has always be one of our favorites, the "Nuevo Latino and Mediterranean" cuisine and the ambiance highlights the founding and managing families Mexican and Spanish heritage. 

We were so happy to have an excuse to use this very inviting outbuilding, a private event room called La Cavitia. "Our" patio was set up for beverages when we arrived and the round ranch table in "our" intimate room was the perfect place for us to kick off the weekend with a little Bridesmaids luncheon/ Bachelorette party. 

They were very cooperative about our hilarious Scratch a Dare game and our um, ahem, colorful jewelry.

In addition to Cava and Cavita, this family also has the restaurants Dos Carlitos Restaurant and Tequila Bar and Carlitos Café y Cantina both highly recommended and known for having plenty of outdoor seating. This is is a rosé made for this family of restaurants and it is delicious, it rivals some of my favs from the S of France! 

The other wine I love down there is the Gainey Sauvignon Blanc from Santa Yenez Valley.." boasting fresh honeydew melon, bright citrus, and piquant mineral aromas, with subtle herbal and earthy scents adding complexity"...yum, you taco my language, Gainey Ranch. It is usually on the menu at the ever~classic Biltmore hotel.

On the Sunday after the event we explored Summerland, a charming little village near Santa Barbara. It is filled with great restaurants, and really extraordinary antique stores {like, lots of gorgeous French antiques extraordinary} and {far better than your current favorite} home stores

I loved my breakfast salad at Cafe Luna. The restaurant is an old house with a great porch and garden and a very talented ukulele player strummed and sang as we sipped our café au laits. This is also supposed to be a great place for dinner, oftentimes with music in the garden.  Another restaurant that looked really fun and is highly recommended for breakfast is the Highland Beach Café.

We were running out of town, but my daughter and I were determined to see a few of the sights. One of the surprising highlights was our zip through the Santa Barbara Courthouse.

We were so enthralled by the rich and ornate Spanish Revival architecture and furnishings, but more than anything we were amazed by the expansive displays of gorgeous hand painted tiles in all of our favorite colors, wouldn't you love to have this bench in su casa?

And then, there was the view from the tower. A 360 degree view of beautiful terra-cotta roofs and palm trees stretching from the mountains to the sea. It is a wonderful way to take in the geography of this lovely section of land. 

 The Old Mission in Santa Barbara Old Mission Santa Barbara is still in operation, it is a fascinating way to soak in the rich history of Santa Barbara and to study the handsome Mission style architecture that is so delightfully prevalent here. 

Another great building to tour for the architecture is The Arlington theatre, click on About Last Night to read about a night when we were lucky enough to see David Crosby and Graham Nash in this incredible historic theatre {they offer tours during the day}.

As I've said before, one of the things I enjoy most about blogging is the "friends" I meet all over the world who share my interests. Last week, I met a reader who lives in Seattle, prior to meeting on the tennis court,  we had only "talked" on email. We were introduced by I dream of Jeanne, to whom I was introduced by Pam of Red Ticking. As it turns out this reader is heading to Santa Barbara soon, which inspired me to write this post of all of my latest discoveries in Santa Barbara.  

Have a great trip Dena!

Friday, September 19, 2014

A flower garden, one of the greatest luxuries in life...

I'll be spending most of my weekend at the International Food Bloggers Conference that is being held in Seattle this year. Are any of you going? If so, please let me know so we can rendezvous. I went last year and learned SO much about blogging, food, SEO, wine, photography and so much more. The conference has a great, lively vibe and I felt I was finally with kindred spirits because I could take all of the food shots I wanted and nobody looked at me like I was a kook (because they were all busy doing the same thing).

I absolutely LUCKED out today. After a pesky meeting I decided to "shake it off" by going to the AT&T store to see which iPhone 6 would work best for me, having no fantasies of walking out the door with one, after hearing about all of the lines and such. But, when I got there I was able to sashay  right in and about an hour later walked out with my own Champagne colored beauty, and promises of a deeply reduced monthly bill. I must admit, I felt just a little smug as I strolled by the anxious line that had formed while I was deciding (I went with the 6, the 6 + seemed too cumbersome for my purposes). 

I was ready for an upgrade, I'm one of the few I know who still carries the #4. More than anything, I am looking forward to having a better camera so I can be a little more nimble and focused when it comes to blogging on the go. 

 While I'll miss my garden this weekend, I'll be okay because I had, what I consider to be, one of the most luxurious days this week. For a couple of hours I was in my lawn, next to our fresh bed of flowers, barefoot, cutting and arranging to my hearts content. I brought finished arrangements up to the house and returned with more vessels just filled with cool water ready to hydrate thirsty blooms.

As you may have read earlier this year, I finally took the time to plan and plant the garden of my dreams. For most of the summer it is a blue and white garden

But come end of August/ early September, bright colored Dahlias and Zinneas take over.

I think my favorite it is this pale green Zinnea called Envy, doesn't it look like a perfect cocktail ring?

Maybe next year I'll have time to share my garden plans, click on blue and white garden to see a list of the plants I used {same links as above}. But right now, I have to run up and primp for the conference, hopefully, I'll be enjoying a sniff or two of sage and yellow roses in the process. 

Here's the morning bouquet my daughter surprised me with on my birthday earlier this week.

The year is off to a good start.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Dancing in a citrus grove...

The final night of our stay in Santa Barbara, as if we hadn't already had way too much fun at all of these extraordinary fetes, we were invited to the most beautifully decorated dinner dance at El Encanto. When the bride told me that the theme for the evening was all about citrus I knew I had to sneak down to the venue early, to sleuth around a bit because "citrus" is one of my great passions, and, of course, I'm always curious to explore great party themes and notions, which I love to share. 


And that's how I learned that these trees are actually, kind of, "manufactured", but all out of the real thing. They secured this trunk on the ground, using a wooden stand, weighted down with bags of sand, which were covered up with sheets of sod.

Then they cut the prettiest fruited branches from the trees in the orchard and attached them with a nail gun, not an easy job this one, but the results were phenomenal.

I noticed they also applied a trick I frequently have to do with my dining room citrus at home, they used paddle wire to attach fruit onto the branches at key spots {if you look closely you can see the ends of the wires on the orange below}. The affect is so fabulous, imagine glancing up from the dinner table and seeing plump oranges hanging overhead.

To enhance the citrus theme, the tables were topped with dahlias, orchids and other flowers in citrus~y shades and collections of colorful fruit. I loved this rustic farm table with ghost chairs that was used for the head table.

The green table runner was a perfectly natural choice to contrast the bright colored fruit and flowers.

Here is how they created the same theme on the round tables in the room, this look would be so easy to recreate at home, especially now when dahlia's are in full bloom in most of the northern hemisphere. 

Isn't the total affect amazing? It was beautiful to the eye, but also felt so naturally comfortable and  intimate. It makes me want to wire fruit onto the tree in my backyard, load it with hanging candles and drag a table beneath it to set for dinner this weekend.

In contrast to the rustic farm table, gilded french style furniture, from fabulous {found}, a vintage furnishing rental company in the LA area, was used to create sitting areas around the room, making me think of L'orangerie du Chateau de Versailles.

As always, the place~settings designed by this thoughtful friend made each guest feel so very special, honored and welcomed to come at the table.

So many little beautiful views everywhere we looked.

But now, back to reality.
What's on your docket for the week? 

I'm in the midst of a "back to reality" organizing blitz. Among other projects, I'm finally claiming my "office" {aka the bodega} as my new command center. Hopefully, this will lead to a more organized, streamlined future pour moi, and what could be nicer than that?