Holidays, 2015

Holidays, 2015
A Winter Scene - red door, a dusting of snow, and a vintage bicycle

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Going to Paris without leaving California!!

As an aspiring innkeeper, one of the things I would love to do with our inn is to create an afternoon tea event.  Tea, in general, will always be available for breakfast and throughout the day, but I'd also like to have tea for guests and serve finger sandwiches and fancy desserts as part of a once-a-month 'event' of sorts.  One of the ways I've approached my research is to go to as many afternoon 'teas' as I possibly can and see how they're done and what I like and don't like about each of them.

Last week, my daughter and I visited Paris in a Cup, in Old Town Orange, California.  Old Town Orange is an exemplary is the home of The Perfect Circle Cupcakery, known for its presence on Cupcake Wars on the Food Network AND the home of Heavenly Hostess aprons.  I will talk about these in a future blog.  For now, I want to concentrate on this gem of a tearoom.  I've been here twice now in two different years, so I can tell you that I just didn't visit on a 'good day.'  All days at Paris in a Cup are incredible!

Let's start with the exterior.  Paris in a Cup is located on the main street of Old Town Orange--it's surrounded by lovely eateries, antique stores, and the entire place will just take you back about 50's charming, to say the least.
outdoor seating in very French black and white damask

the front window is filled with goodies to entice you and draw you inside!

Once you're inside, the front part of the 'tea salon' as they call it, is filled with everything that is 'tea' related....from handkerchiefs that have the 'the tower' on them to sugar cubes to jewelry to some of the very teas that they serve in the restaurant.  There are sample 'jars' to sniff....and some are simply amazing!

this pomegranate infused black tea was out of this world!

Right in front, they have a glass case that is home to their scrumptious macarons! A macaron is a small cookie made almost entirely of eggwhites and sugar.  It is then baked and filled with a variety of fillings from custard to ganache.  Some are tart and fruity while others are rich and chocolatey.  Each are $2.00 and are baked offsite by a French pasty chef who ONLY bakes for Paris in a Cup.  We were told he literally bakes thousands each year and many are oftentimes ordered for weddings.  He even does a macaron 'tree' for special occasions.  They are delicious and beautiful!

The macarons can be seen on the top shelf...very hard to resist!

The menu is extensive and includes homemade soups and breads.  The salads are fresh and bountiful and delightfully prepared with slivers of almonds, nuggets of blue cheese, or fresh berries, depending on which kind of salad you order.  Sandwiches are oftentimes served on fresh croissants that are flaky, buttery, and flavorful.  Of course, a never-ending pot of tea accompanies most of the selections and they have many fine teas from which to choose. Some of their best teas include: Harney & Sons, Mighty Leaf, Dammann Freres, and Republic of Tea.  They also carry their own signature line of quality loose teas.  

There is an a la carte menu as well

We have had several of their soups, sandwiches and salads and I can honestly say that all were absolutely delicous! The decor is luxurious and you'll feel pampered by the waitresses who wear Heavenly Hostess aprons while serving you! When we were there, the tea salon was bejeweled with glittery pumpkins and Fall decor....and even the bathrooms are elegant and refined!

the muted tones with white linens and tableware are simply elegant!

Paris in a Cup is a special treat.  While were were there, two birthday parties were being served and the women were all smiles as they opened gifts, chatted, and sipped delicious tea!

We will definitely go back......Merci Beaucoup Paris in a Cup for a delightful lunch....until we meet again!

The grand parlor doors separate the dining room from the gift shop in front

Paris in a Cup is at 119 South Glassell Street, Old Town Orange (714) 538-9411

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Dr. Weil and the True Food to LIVE...don't live to eat!

Dr. Weil has been a person I've admired for sometime.  His work is amazing not only because it is innovative and fresh, but also because it is REAL, and that is what I'm all about.  There is no magic 'bullet' but there are many ways for a person to be their healthiest.  We think more about the kind of gas we put into our vehicles than what we into our bodies!

If you want to know more about Dr. Weil, I suggest you visit his website:  There, you'll be able to read about his research, his anti-inflammatory diet, and his beliefs.  He created a food pyramid, much like the ones we all learned about in elementary school, but this one is a bit different, so I suggest you glance at it when you get a chance.

We should not wait until illness strikes to do things differently in our lives to promote good health.  Like caring for our cars, our homes, our precious possessions, it is in the CARING and not the FIXING that does the most good.

Recently, I decided to do more reading on Dr. Weil and learn more about the foods he suggests.  Dr. Fuhrman is another person I look to for advice on what to eat to be the most healthy.  You can visit his site and learn more about a recent 'get-away' he hosted in CA and showed attendees what foods were not only delicious, but highly nutritious.

Dr. Weil has created two restaurants in the US.  One is in AZ and the other is in CA.  I recently visited his restaurant in Newport Beach, CA and this particular blog is about my findings and research on this magnificent place. True Food Kitchen  is pretty special.  First of all, it's in a location in Orange County, CA that is known for its amazing food, colorful people, and fabulous climate.  It's located in the Fashion Island shopping complex which overlooks the Pacific Ocean...not bad for starters, huh?
If you're standing in front of True Food Kitchen, this is what you look at: Fashion Island

The restaurant is large, open, and airy and there are plants, succulents, water features, and fire pits.  The waiters and waitresses where very 'zen-like' outfits of t-shirts with yoga-inspired pants.  The colors are brown, white, and green.  Outdoor seating is soft and comfortable and there are overhead heaters to help take the chill of California nights near the coast. You can have sparkling or still water that they 'create' on the premises or ask for tap water.  Besides water, you can ask for a special treat: ask your waiter to have several vegetables and/or fruits squeezed especially for you.  Cost: $5.00.  I had kale mixed with pineapple, apple, lemon on one occasion and a similar mix but added carrot on another occasion.  They are refreshing, delicious, and full of anti-oxidants!

One of the first things I tried was the hummus.  It arrived with fresh heirloom tomatoes, red onion, olive oil, and yummy!! It was accompanied by pita bread. Oh yes...and goat cheese!
The hummus salad....OMG, I can just taste it now!!

We also tried the heirloom tomato and watermelon salad.  I know this sounds like an odd combination, but let me tell was mouth-watering!! On the salads, the chopped chicken salad was also a highlight. It's fresh and tasty ingredients were highlighted by a combination of colors and textures that were both satisfying and delicious.  

There are several kinds of pizza.  We tried the wild mushroom pizza.  It is loaded with juicy mushrooms that have a woody taste--almost smoked.  The pizza is chock full of garlic and tuscan kale as well.  It was a wonderful combination and the crust was thin and light--just the way I love it!

We tried the spaghetti squash casserole which was given some rave reviews but found it to be uninspiring and rather bland.  It was good, but I wouldn't fly back to Newport to order some.  I have better recipes for spaghetti squash, in my opinion.  That, however, was the ONLY negative on the food front of anything we tasted. 
The outdoor seating and assembly station for water glasses and small plates

The panang curry was another 5-star dish! The bowl of fresh vegetables, noodles, and sauces was the perfect combination.  It was plentiful and so yummy...I can't even tell you!! Bravo on this one Dr. Weil for sure!

My second favorite was Organic Ricotta ravioli.  This dish features maitake mushrooms which have extraordinary health benefits.  It is also infused with kale and red pepper.....more ingredients that are vitamin packed and so healthy! The sauce was just delicious and paired with a kale salad, this dish was exceptional.  The kale salad, by the way is unbelievable.  It has changed the way I look at kale in salads.  Dr. Weil offers the recipe online, so check it out.  It is simple and flavorful. 

The kitchen at True Food Kitchen - open and clean!

The menu for lunch and dinner is very similar.  A few heartier dishes are added for the dinner hour, but for the most part, the menu is the same.  

Here, we try the panang curry and organic ravioli

Note that the anti-inflammatory diet menu 'triangle' is found on every table.  You can check it out on his website. 
outdoor seating and the fire pit area
During the weekdays, we waited 10-20 minutes for a table, but on Saturday night, we waited over an hour and they do not take reservations for parties of less than 8 people...but you can meander over to Fashion Island, visit Barnes and Noble, or find a seat outside or near the fire pit and order a drink...maybe some fresh squeezed kale juice or an organic red wine.

There is valet parking for $6.00 and some pretty 'snazzy' cars line up in front!

Yes, it's what you think it is....and green, too! 

We also tried the side of steamed vegetables--very nice---not as much as I would have liked, but it was $5.00, so not bad.  We also tried to the steak tacos.  This was delicious but a small portion.  I have to be honest that I'm not a big beef fan, but we tried it to say we did---lots of yummy flavors and the side of beans was quite good as well.  
Desserts are incredible as well!
For dessert, True Food Kitchen offers some very tasty choices.  We had the lemon olive oil cake with pomegranate sauce ( which was excellent )and we also tried an olivello 'ice cream' - not really an ice cream but tasted rich enough to be...both of these desserts were extremely flavorful.  The chocolate cake recipe is also available online but we 'heard' it was unremarkable, but then we did not taste it ourselves. Check out the 'medicine man' elixir that also contains the olivello juice, which is derived from sea buckthorn berries and quite difficult to find.

If you want to know more about Dr. Weil's restaurants, his philosophy, or learn more about his recipes, visit his website @  There, you'll find everything from pie crust to clam chowder! I will definitely be trying more of these and I hope to visit one of his restaurants again in the near future.  Two more are being planned--one in Phoenix and another in Santa Monica, Ca.  You go Dr. Weil----I give you a great big 'GREEN THUMB's' UP!!




Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A wedding in Estes Park, Colorado for a very 'green' couple!

Many people have asked about my daughter's wedding, so I wanted to say a few things about that and tell you how it all turned out! The wedding was on September 2 and it was a glorious day in Estes Park, CO. Right outside of the main entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, the day started with arrival and the unpacking of the dress, the flowers, the decorations, and of course, the cupcakes!!

The couple had visited NYC and of course, went to Magnolia Bakery.  There, they both fell in love with the vanilla vanilla cupcake and wanted me to recreate the experience for their wedding.  After many recipe trials, we came to an agreement on which 'recipe' would be THE ONE!! So, the night before the wedding was extraordinarily busy!! I made 165 cupcakes, along with 75 chocolate bouchons to satisfy the chocolate cravers of the world and my German mom baked apricot cookies and pecan and poppyseed coffee cakes.  How fun!!

Family members gathered around the kitchen table to put together the little individual blue boxes that would 'house' the leftover cupcakes as a take home gift to those who stayed til the end and wanted a little dessert to take home with them.  Each box, in the tiffany blue color to go with their wedding colors, was be-ribboned and had lovely little stickers with the bride and groom's names and date of the wedding.  After grandpa made about 5 of them, he asked, 'how many are there of these?'  

 Here, the cupcake tower all put together----it turned out beautifully and we added white lights to the bottom which added a gorgeous glow as the sun set and the evening unfolded....
note the white gazebo at the top....
 The centerpieces were really fun.  I had ordered the vase 'base' from an etsy seller who peels the bark from birch trees in New Hampshire then wraps that bark around glass cylinders.  Then the bark is inscribed by burning the couples' initials within a heart.  I then added the greenery and butterflies.  We then surrounded each centerpiece with natural moss and added tea lights in the moss to reflect light upwards into the centerpieces. 

The chocolate bouchons with a dollup of tiffany blue buttercream frosting
dress details, including flower petals in the hem of the dress
 The pathway from the inn to the wedding site was lined with hanging lanterns and pots of lovely flowers.  It created a gorgeous scene....and of course, the flower girls tossed fresh rose petals for the bride to tread upon as she walked toward her groom....
flower pots dotted the bride's path
the chocolate brown/tiffany blue tablescape

The flower girls were the children of the bride's oldest sister and brother-in-law....ages 9 and 5, they were the hit of the day and brought tears to the guests' eyes....but especially their mom!  

                                                                 She was so careful to not leave any in her basket! 

After the flower girls wowed the audience, the bride began her walk with her mother....



We created a DIY wedding wish tree instead of the traditional guest book - it was really fun to make and truly went along with their natural theme. 

A white interesting that there would be a white gazebo at the wedding site.  When the bride was a little girl, she was in a white gazebo when she made the declaration that she would be married in one!  Hence, the cake topper was a white gazebo with a replica of each of their two dogs inside...a collie and a yellow lab. 

                              The flower girls' headpieces were a DIY project as well! Easy and fun!!

I think everything went beautifully! A deer and her fawn actually crept into one of the was sunny, warm, with blue skies and lots of smiling faces....who could ask for anything more!  Let there be love!!


Friday, September 3, 2010

Wedding Colors & the Story of a Cupcake Tower

the cupcake tower with ribbons and pins

When my youngest daughter got engaged, she received a ring from Tiffany's.  She didn't ask for a ring from Tiffany's, but she did want a diamond that was ethically mined.  At first, she wanted to 'recycle' a diamond and she looked at many rings from estate sales, etc.  Her husband-to-be, however, wondered about the authenticity of the diamonds and doing some research found that Tiffany's did only choose ethically mined diamonds.  

That's NOT the point....the color of the box became the main color theme of the wedding, along with chocolate brown.  My daughter seemed to fall in love with the color combination and so I set out to make that dream come true.  On a trip to New York City, she visited the Magnolia Bakery.  The Magnolia Bakery became famous because of Sex and the City because the girls in the show frequented the little shop for its sinful delights! The most famous of those delights, however, is the "vanilla vanilla" cupcake.  The vanilla vanilla is pretty much as it states--a lusciously moist vanilla cupcake with creamy buttercream vanilla frosting.  Buying the cookbook was NOT enough--at higher altitudes, the recipe had to be adjusted, modified, baked, and of course, sampled....many times!!
350 degrees for 14,  15,  16,  17,  18 minutes....
So, now we have a cupcake tower and some what?  Well, to get more of their personality into the masterpiece, I found some gorgeous damask ribbon that captured the brown and tiffany blue theme.  I added pearl-headed push pins, a silver spray on the entire tower, and lighting that was wrapped in blue netting along the bottom of the tower.  Silver doilies camouflaged the connection areas and a special cake topper was created to capture the spirit of them both.  The bride, at the age of 3, said she'd be married in a white gazebo.....and the two of them have two dogs: a collie and a yellow lab.  Put those elements together and what do you have?
a yellow lab, a collie, and I DO

So, what do you get when you put them all together?  
Well, let's see....

Photographer for Wedding:  Rick Ney Studios 

Desserts:  ME! The REAL GIRL- website to come! 

Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.  ~Emily Brontë