Friday, October 24, 2014

"Enchanted Venice" Book Drawing And Author Interview~

"Looking back over your life you see that love
was the answer for everything" ~Ray Bradbury
"Each night ask yourself...When did you withhold love when you
might have given it?" Marianne Williamson 
'The Twelve Dancing Princesses' or
'The Shoes That Were Danced To Pieces"
by the Brothers Grimm~

Author, Lisa Rushford
A little something found on Lisa's Facebook page...
And this..."You made me realize that every meal is a celebration."
~Nigel Slater on Nigella Lawson~
"As a lifelong reader, lover of books, and a writer, this is such a happy
personal-dream-come-true, and I would encourage you to follow your
hearts"~ Lisa Rushford

To receive a free, author signed copy of Enchanted Venice in your mail, please leave a comment on what enchants you most about Venice. Then check back on Monday for the winner of the drawing.

Lisa Rushford's “Enchanted Venice” is a charming love letter to one of the world's most dreamed of places that will entice novice and seasoned traveler alike.

I wanted to learn more about the author who graciously answered this brief "Proust Questionnaire." 

What’s your present state, Lisa? Caffeinated.

Where did your fascination with Venice and Italy originate? It began in my early teens when I received a calendar-cook book titled "Italy the Beautiful," which spoke of each region of the country and the corresponding food culture. The photos and recipes entranced me, and I studied them endlessly, daydreaming.

What significantly influenced your childhood? My childhood was heavily influenced by German fairy tales, and I was obsessed with Aesop's fables. Then came the serious literature phase, and I never quite got out of that.

If you could wave a magic wand what would your ideal life be? Living in a converted barn in New England surrounded by apple and quince trees.

What’s your favorite virtue? Integrity.

Your chief characteristic? Curiosity.

If you could choose just one memory from life to live with through eternity, what would it be? Sitting on a bench, in a busy circle, eating ice cream with my son, and we would burst into a laughing fit that would not stop.

Your favorite qualities in a man? Chivalrous, humorous, carnivorous.

Your favorite qualities in a woman? The ability to wing it, humor, integrity.

Your idea of perfect happiness? Thanksgiving in New England.

Your idea of misery? Being in a Walmart.

If not yourself, who would you choose to be? Elizabeth Taylor.

Where else would you like to live? Across the pond.

Your favorite bird, color, and flower? My favorite bird is the owl. My favorite color is red. My favorite flower is the foxglove.

Your three favorite books? The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. My family and other animals by Gerald Durrell. All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy.

Your favorite real-life heroine? Nigella Lawson.

Your three favorite films: Les Intouchables, La Bûche, and The Birds.

Your favorite food, drink, and Venice eatery: Sardines in Saor and/or linguine with clams; the Venetian Spritz; Osteria am Bacareto & Osteria all Mascaron.

Your favorite names? Monica Bellucci and Amelia Bedelia.

What do you most loathe? Bureaucracy.

What natural talent would you wish to be gifted with? A head for Mathematics.

How would you wish to die? With my Wellies on, thinking pleasant thoughts. Or by spontaneous combustion.

Your favorite motto? Joseph Campbell's ‘Follow your bliss'... and thank you so much, dear Suzanne, this has been fun.

Thank you, Lisa! Order Lisa's dreamy book: (HERE).

Rick Steves' "Venice: City of Dreams": (HERE). Be sure to leave your comment to enter the drawing, and check back Monday for the winner. Thank you so much for stopping by... 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Pumpkin Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting~

Tor House and Hawk Tower here in Carmel-by-the-Sea--
hand-built from local materials by owner and poet,
Robinson Jeffers
Picked up yesterday at the
Carmel-by-the-Sea Main Library~
The first eight photos above are of artist, Jonathan Scott Robinson's bucolic boutique inn Moulin Bregeon in the tiny village of Linières-Bouton, in the Loire, France. The inn has been featured in the NYT, many travel magazines, and guests have included Barbara Streisand. Many of the ingredients for the gourmet organic feasts are grown on site, and are served with Loire Valley wines. 

Late yesterday, out for a walk here in chilly Carmel-by-the-Sea, I stopped by the library for a copy of Edward Dolnick’s bestseller, The Forger's Spell. The true tale of forgery and art, set in Holland where my French-American son lives, reads like a thriller--and like a future film.

Out on my walk, I paid a visit to the beautiful tree behind Tor House and Hawk Tower--that poet Robinson Jeffers hand-crafted in 1918. It's been featured on the Travel Channel as a "Ghost Adventure" (HERE) and (HERE). Sitting on that limb over the cove below Tor House is one of the best things to do in Carmel. 
Pumpkin Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting~   

Cake Ingredients:

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 cup canned pure pumpkin
½ cup virgin coconut oil, warmed, slightly cooled


4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
⅔ cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
Kosher salt

Prepare Cake:

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly coat an 8x8" baking dish with nonstick spray and line with parchment paper, leaving a 2" overhang on all sides. Whisk all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, salt, allspice, nutmeg, and cloves in a large bowl.

Whisk eggs, pumpkin, brown sugar, and oil in another large bowl until smooth. Mix in dry ingredients. Scrape batter into prepared baking dish; smooth top.
Bake cake until edges begin to pull away from sides of dish and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 30–35 minutes. Let cool.

Frost and Assemble:

Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl just to combine. Reduce speed to low and gradually add sugar, then maple syrup and salt; beat until smooth. Spread frosting over top of cooled cake.

Poet Robinson Jeffer's Tor House, "How Beautiful It Is": (HERE). Thank you so much for stopping by~

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Oscar De La Renta's Lifelong Ode To Beauty~

She walks in beauty, like the night   
Of cloudless climes and starry skies,
And all that's best of dark and bright        
Meets in her aspect and her eyes...    
~Lord Byron        

Oscar de la Renta loved the rustle of a taffetta gown, and having grown up with six sisters in the Dominican Republic, admired feminine kindness and confidence. 

At age 18, he left home to study painting in Madrid. His illustration prowess landed him a position working with, Cristobal Balenciaga. He was soon creating his own designs in Paris and during the exciting era sparked by the new First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy. 

By 1965, he'd launched his own label and two years later wed, Francoise de Langlade, editor-in-chief of French Vogue. Seven years after the devastation over her death, he married again in 1990, and adopted a son. He always recouped his spirit in Punta Cana, in his native land.

As fashion's leading gentleman, and tireless patron of the arts, Oscar de la Renta remained the designer of choice of movie stars, First Ladies, and the International Best Dressed set, including as designer for the new Mrs. George Clooney’s wedding gown and trousseau. Most of all, he was a lovely man. His website: (HERE). Thank you so much for stopping by...

Monday, October 20, 2014

La Grenouille's Grand Marnier Souffle Recipe~

Recipe below~
La Grenouille endures, while Lutèce, La Côte Basque, and La Caravelle are no longer part of the Manhattan scene. And their classic recipe perfect any time of year...

La Grenouille’s Grand Marnier Soufflé~

For the pastry cream: 

1/2 vanilla bean, split
1 pint whole milk
113 grams granulated sugar
6 medium egg yolks (reserve and refrigerate whites overnight)
34 grams custard powder or cornstarch
33 grams all-purpose flour
13 grams sweet butter

For the soufflé: 

Unsalted butter and sugar to coat ramekin
140 grams pastry cream (one No. 8 ice-cream scoop) 
30 grams Grand Marnier
50 grams egg whites
10 grams granulated sugar

Prepare the pastry cream a day ahead (it makes 6 servings, and will keep refrigerated for 3 days). Combine vanilla and milk in a medium pan and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low. Cream the sugar and eggs in large bowl. Add powder and flour, and mix until smooth.

Pour about a ladle of the hot milk into the flour mixture, and stir to dilute everything, then pour back into the milk and whisk. Bring back to a boil while whisking quickly. When mixture reaches a boil, turn off flame and add butter.

Beat mixture with a wire whisk or an electric mixer until pastry cream has cooled to room temperature. Store in refrigerator with plastic wrap applied directly to surface.

To make soufflé: Preheat oven to 400. Brush ramekin with butter, fill halfway with sugar. Spin to coat well, then discard remaining sugar.

Heat pastry cream in a double boiler over high heat, adding Grand Marnier when cream is warm. Whisk the egg whites and sugar together with a mixer until soft peaks form. Fold the whites into the pastry-cream mixture, one half at a time.

Spoon into a soufflé ramekin (approximately 5 inches wide and 2 inches deep), and tap ramekin on counter to settle. Bake for about 8 minutes.

Remove with large spatula or oven mitts, and dust with confectioners’ sugar.

Thank you so much for stopping by.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Spirit Of Beauty In A Famous Napa Wine Guy~

It visits with inconstant glance
Each human heart and countenance;
Like hues and harmonies of evening,
Like clouds in starlight widely spread,
Like memory of music fled,
Like aught that for its grace may be
Dear, and yet dearer for its mystery.
Spirit of BEAUTY, that dost consecrate
With thine own hues all thou dost shine upon
 Of human thought or form, where art thou gone?

~Percy Bysshe Shelley, Hymn to Intellectual Beauty

I scraped my planned post for today on learning that the “Dean of California Wine PR” Harvey P. Posert Jr., a giant of PR for the California’s Wine Institute and also Robert Mondavi Wines--has died.  

He was among the handful that made California Wine a global standard. And like the Stanford educated Mondavi, Harvey was a bright light in the brains department, too. With degrees in English from Yale and the University of Chicago Law School, he also served in the Army’s Counter-Intelligence Corps in Germany. 

I met the big hearted legend in 2007-ish when he was with his wife--and I was with my friend who was a multi-Gold, Silver, and Bronze Medal winning Olympian…who also coached Olympic hopefuls.

We'd been out to an early film in San Francisco, where I lived. Afterwards, we tried to out "con gusto" each other by charging up The City’s infamous hills. I was an uber-fit runner then, and annoyed that my foot had been painful for weeks, and now I could barely walk. 

We whistled down a cab that whisked us to the UCSF ER for an X-Ray. Arriving in what appeared to be an exotic world bazaar that smelled faintly of grilled kebabs; we had the good fortune to take seats next to Harvey and his wife.

Within minutes, it was as if we were long lost buds in a swanky Upper East Side cocktail bar casting bon mots onto fair winds and following seas. Harvey whipped out a business card and scribbled his phone numbers on the back. “Come up to wine country for dinner. Any time.” He tapped the card with his pen…like a Magic Wand to conjure up that future witty scene with us laughing again; and despite our being surrounded with stretchers bearing folks who were retching fluids.

With my name finally called, I brushed off the cobwebs and limped through double-doors to learn I had a stress fracture, then re-emerged hobbling on crutches with a cast to my knee. Harvey regaled me for having taken on San Francisco’s infamous hills with a broken foot and against a Gold Medal Olympian. I felt as if I’d just won an Oscar for Best Chutzpah.

Today is Friday—named after the Germanic goddess Freya, twinned with the Roman Aphrodite of romance, beauty, laughter, joy, and festivity. A stark contrast to the cranky dark cloud I’ve felt with a horrid case of EMF Radiation “dis-ease.” 

But then, I read about Harvey, saw his photo, and was laughing all over again. What a gift a memory like that is. Yes, the world's gone bonkers. But why not try to Aphrodite It Up, like Harvey? One of the Golden State's very best friends. Cheers!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Most Beautiful Village In The French Alps~

The flowery, medieval village of Yvoire on Lac Lehman (Lake Geneva on the Swiss side), is one of the official Most Beautiful Villages of France. Just one square mile with 800 residents--and summer crowds gone--it's perfect for an off-season getaway with lower prices, historical sites, spa towns, and vineyards nearby: 

Two for a Road Trip: (HERE). Gorgeous Lake Annecy: (HERE), Montreux Riviera  ... Aix-les-Bains ...the posh ski resort of Megève to name a few. 

Mrs. Clooney's back to work with George perhaps home fixing dinner to: Pavarotti and Barry White: My first, My last, My Everything...Michael Bublé - Everything
Happy Thursday....Thank you so much for stopping by...