Saturday, September 26, 2009

Your best assets.

A very wise seamstress and fellow blogger recently gave me some simple, yet powerful, advice. She said that I need to embrace what looks best on me, regardless of my attraction to other styles. For example, I am drawn to the New Look shape of the 1950's. I love a tiny waist and full hips enveloped in an even fuller skirt. Yet my own shape is much more decidedly the inverted triangle shape. I have a poorly defined waist, and narrow hips. It seems obvious, I know, that 1950's patterns are therefore a poor choice for my sewing aspirations. However, up until this point I have ignored that reality and tried to create the New Look silhouettes in my wardrobe.

But this advice - dress for what looks best on YOU - is wise and true. And with this advice I am choosing to release my stubborn attraction to the New Look and instead embrace the styles that look best on me. It turns out these style are largely looks from the 1930's. And, as it also turns out, these styles are beautiful.

I did a bit of research into the fashion of the 1930's in hopes of identifying exactly what about these shapes and silhouettes suits my own shape and silhouette. The more I can pinpoint what works for me, the better able I will be to adapt my tastes to my figure reality, and ultimately sew things I like to wear.

And here is what I found. The most characteristic fashion trend from the 1930s to the end of World War II is attention at the shoulder, including butterfly sleeves and banjo sleeves. Patterns were designed with broad, rounded shoulders cut in one piece with the yoke.Feminine curves were highlighted in the 1930s through the use of the bias-cut in dresses.

It was in the 1930's that the "Sweater Girl" image emerged, modeled after Lana Turner. The "sweater" look become an informal look for young women that relied on large breasts pushed up and out by brassieres. This look continued to be influential into the 1950s.

The strong shoulders of the 1930s is expressed through wide lapels, shawls, capes, boat necklines, and accents of feathers or frothy scarves. Short bolero jackets, capelets, and dresses cut with fitted midriffs or seams below the bust increased the focus on breadth at the shoulder. Short hair remained fashionable in the early 1930s, but gradually hair was worn longer in soft or hard curls.

Darts were replaced by soft gathers. Necklines received dramatic attention, often with wide scallop-edged or ruffled collars. Fabric flowers might be placed at the neckline, on one shoulder, or at the center waist or center neckline. Bows were another popular accent.

I have broad shoulders, a prominent bust, and short curly hair! I feel like a model image of 1930's fashion, and it is so empowering. Let the sewing commence.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sunday Breakfast.

Breakfast is arguably the best meal of the day, especially when whipped up on Sunday mornings in the comfort of your own kitchen with your PJs on and your husband rubbing his eyes sleepily and sitting with you while you cook. Last Sunday we made fried eggs on toast with french-style pistou.

pistou is a simplified pesto. It skips the pine nuts and the cheese and relies entirely on fresh basil, olive oil, and a tiny bit of garlic. We used the remains of our potted herb garden basil. I cannot tell a lie, we were bad herb gardeners this year. The summer was so hot, and well, we were lazy waterers, and the result has been a sub-standard herb garden. Our parsley is a bit yellow, the rosemary and sage haven't grown an inch, and our thyme has shriveled to nothing. The basil is the only plant growing, and we let it get so big and unwieldy that it has become hard to use at all. It is almost like a mini tree at least two feet high, with hefty trunk-like stems with little to no foliage. It featured an abundant, top-heavy flowering of new leaves up top, but I think the new leaves block the light for the lower branches, perpetuating the unfortunately bare stems. All in all the plant had lost its functionality as a ingredient-producing garden and had grown into a bit of an eyesore and a constant reminder of our poor gardening skills.

So last weekend I made a dramatic move. I cut nearly the whole plant back. I just took my scissors and - whack-whack-whack - trimmed off all of the giant branches of leaves away, leaving a tiny plant behind. Sam was upset. After all, he is a sensitive soul, and the idea of killing away a portion of a living thing that we are responsible for can be upsetting to sensitive types. But the good thing is that his sensitivity led us to save my trimmings, and as a result we had a lot of basil to make
pistou. And pistou is simple and delicious.

The word
pistou means pounded in French. Traditionally, the ingredients are crushed and mixed together in a mortar with a pestle. We used a mini food processor. The dish hails from the Provencal region of France. It can be used in soups, or as a spread on bread or served over pasta. But for our breakfast, we served it with eggs over toast.

Poached Eggs and Parmesan Cheese Over Toast with Pistou

1/3 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves
1/2 small garlic clove
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 large eggs
2 1/2-inch-thick slices brioche or egg bread, toasted
Parmesan cheese shavings

Puree basil, garlic, and oil in mini processor until very smooth. Season pistou to taste with salt and pepper.

Add enough water to medium skillet to measure 1 1/4 inches. Sprinkle salt generously into water. Bring water to simmer over medium heat. Crack eggs 1 at a time and gently slip into water. Cook until egg whites are just set and egg yolks are still runny, about 3 minutes.

Place hot toasts on plates. Top each with Parmesan. Using slotted spoon, transfer 2 eggs, well drained, to each piece of brioche. Sprinkle eggs with salt and pepper. Drizzle with some of pistou and serve.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A missing pantry staple.

We forgot to buy olive oil, so tonight we were forced to cook our dinner in butter instead. Sauteed grape tomatoes with oregano and lamb meatballs with cous cous are browning up in on the stove right now. Our house smells amazing. Also, I feel like Julia Child. "Just a little bit of butter, enough to taste..." My poor husband is worried about the saturated fat content of our meal, but me, I am just enjoying the benefits of missing a pantry staple. Tomorrow, we go to the store.

p.s. We did not actually use an entire stick of butter as the photo suggests. That is from another recipe from a few months ago.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The D.U.K. #2

Do you see that tall dude in a chefs coat in the front of this picture? And do you see how all of us are smiling huge, goofy grins? Well, that's because that tall dude is a Real. Live. Professional Chef. And he had just cooked us dinner. Also, probably, because we drank 11 bottles of wine. But mostly because of the chef.

The chef is Chef Jason Dady, and indeed, he came over to John and Lauren's house on Thursday to make us a fabulous dinner. It was all part of D.U.K., or Dady's Underground Kitchen for those of you not in the know. Basically, it is a super cool idea on Dady's part to set aside some dates for private cooking for a group of ten. It's underground, because he sends out the dates at random on his Twitter feed, and the first to respond get the date. We provide the kitchen. We bring the wine. He cooks a five course meal, and we eat it. Yum.

The D.U.K. became a reality thanks to my dinner club compadre and fellow food nerd Lauren. Lauren is good with social media, and she astutely harnessed the power of the interweb to secure a private dinner, cooked by San Antonio chef Jason Dady, via Twitter a few weeks ago. Now, to understand the magnitude of this experience, you must understand that Lauren, her husband John, me, and my husband Sam have an above average infatuation with food. This includes of course home cooking, but extends much farther into the culinary adventures of fine dining out, as well as into the current events of our city's culinary activity. We are the kind of friends that get together and gossip about new restaurant openings. We eagerly share in detailed descriptions of meals we've recently eaten. We take cooking classes at the local school. We plan our weekends around eating out at new restaurants. And of course we know who San Antonio's big chefs are, and we follow their work (some of us even stalk them at Costco on occasion...).

And that is how we knew about Chef Jason Dady. John, Lauren, Sam and I have eaten at several of his restaurants together. He has a fancy and romantic restaurant, The Lodge, in a 1929 mansion in the Castle Hills neighborhood. He operates my favorite Italian restaurant in town (and conveniently near my house), Tre Trattoria. He has a great wine and tapas place up north, Bin 555. And he has a smokin' BBQ joint not to far away, Two Bros BBQ. And, rumor has it straight from his mouth (in which case I guess it is not really a rumor) that he is opening another restaurant soon in the Fairmount Hotel in downtown San Antonio. So when Dady offered to cook for us and an intimate group of friends, we freakin' jumped at the chance. That's just what food nerds do.

And it was delicious. And really relaxed. Chef Dady didn't just cook for us, he spent the whole night interacting with us too. He was such a nice guy. He let us watch his every move without making us feel like we were creepy stalkers. He indulged all of our questions and encouraged us to interact while he cooked. He even conversed eagerly about our favorite reality television show "Top Chef" and different Food Network stars. Usually when I try to talk to chef-like people about food TV, they get all hoity toity and judgmental and tell me they are too busy being "real" cooks to indulge in television. But not Chef Dady. He is cool enough to understand that us food nerds take our culinary entertainment where we can get it, and he was happy to bond over the TV shows. Totally cool.

Dinner was amazing. The food was delicious and creative. Our 3rd course was a rabbit, head to tail, and it involved the loin and a combo of the offal meats encased in cured meat, poached, then pan seared. As he was plating he said to me "I can guarantee you there is not a better dish being served in all of San Antonio tonight." It was really cool to see his pride and confidence in his work, and after tasting it, I seriously believe him. It was amazing. And the coolest part is that his inspiration for the dish was eggplant, and he built the rest of the amazing plate around its flavors. His inspiration was not the rabbit, not the sauce, but the vegetable. Neat.

The dessert was a special treat for me, because I am the Dady Crostada's #1 fan in San Antonio. Seriously, I think about it more than any other dessert. And for those of you that know me, you know I love dessert. I think about dessert about as often as men are accused of thinking about sex. That is to say, I think about dessert about ever six seconds or so, and I most certainly think about it morning, noon, and night. Anyway, once long long ago at Tre Trattoria I had a pear crostada served with cinnamon marscapone, and it was damn near the best thing I have ever tasted. The next time I went to Tre, I saved room for dessert, but alas the crostada was no longer on the menu. So I wrote a comment card, and I have written a comment card every visit since. I have even channeled my longing for crostada through Sam and his Twitter account. And so imagine my delight when I arrived to our D.U.K. dinner and saw "Samwar's Crostada" on the menu. My heart did a little skip. I had been waiting for that dessert, longing for that dessert, and at last I had the dessert. I enjoyed every D.U.K. course, but especially dessert.

Below is the menu, and photos, to commemorate the meal.

D.U.K. #2
September 3rd, 2009

Chef Jason Dady presents:

Hors de oeuvres:
"Smoked" Popcorn
Nutella, Chorizo and Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Filet Mignon Meatballs with Horseradish Crema
"What's in Your Fridge" Challenge - aka Peach, Leak, and Cheese Bruschetta

1st Course:
Fresh Seasonal Figs with Local Chevre Goat Cheese, Honey, Marcona Almonds, Balsamic and Proscuitto de Parma

2nd Course:
Forbidden Rice Crusted Scallop with House-cured Guanciale, Heirloom Tomato, Sweet Corn, Fresh Texas Peas, White Polenta, and Lemon Beurre Blanc

3rd Course:
Rabbit "Head-to-Fluffy-Tail" with Celery Root Puree, Summer Bulb Onion, Japanese Eggplant and Vanduvan

4th Course:
Samwar's Crostada with Organic Nectarines and Made to Order Chantilly

When the meal was over, Chef Dady teased us about our impressive wine consumption (9 bottles of wine and one bottle of Port were already dry) and helped us celebrate our achievement by opening a second bottle of port. It was not necessary, but was very well received. As Dady said himself, "DUK was a smashing success (and I mean smashed)!" So we cheersed, and we drank, and we even whoo-ed a little bit (we were, after all, smashed at that point). All in all it was a delicious, libatious, one-of-a-kind dinner that goes down in my book as one of my best ever.

p.s. Do you see that look of adoration in Lauren's eyes? Looks like ohmypuddin has found a new hero.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Return to the scene of the crime.

Happily married couples have been known to return to the scene of their crime on their anniversary, usually for hot coffee and giant cinnamon buns. This morning Sam and I sat in the dining room at the Guenther House and ate breakfast where exactly two years and a few hours ago we cut our wedding cake, toasted each other, and attended our first party as husband and wife.

We marveled that it has been two year. I mean, two years sounds like a long time. It is 731 days (there was a leap year). But in reality, time has flown by, and I think that is a good sign. It must mean that we like each other, that we live busy and fulfilling lives, and that most of all our marriage has enhanced our lives. Otherwise the time wouldn't fly by, would it?

I feel a bit conceited posting so many photos, but my nostalgic, romantic side can't help it. I wanted to thumb through the photos today, but sadly I have yet to finish the wedding album (I know!) so instead I had to pop in the CD. And you know, since the images were in easy access to the blog, well, I just couldn't help myself. The talented Jill Torrance did our photos, and beautifully I might add.

This fall I vow to put our wedding photos in an album, so next year I will have a tangible book to pull out and gush over. Last year I had the pictures all printed (finally!) in honor of our one-year anniversary. So this year I should put them into the binder in honor of our two year anniversary. It will certainly make it easier to pull them out and reminisce on our three year anniversary and beyond.

I don't think it will ever get old to say this, so to my dear Sam, Happy Anniversary. Here's to many more!