Holiday Update!

I realize it’s not quite winter just yet but now that Thanksgiving is over I grew weary of the Fall looking digs around here. On to Winter! Ok, as much of a winter as we get around Los Angeles, but it’s the spirit that counts, no?

I even covered myself in fake snow. Just for you. Because I love you.

No, seriously. I really do.

Eggnog, anyone?

Giving Thanks

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Do I need to keep a gratitude journal as Oprah suggests if I already have a blog? Hmmm, I’ll skip it.

As everyone gets together today and shares a big delicious meal and gives thanks for the many blessings in life I’d like to offer my gratitude here for so many things this life has offered me.

First, I am thankful for my mom & dad, family and friends. My parents, sisters, nieces and nephews, my amazing beautiful cousins all over the place, I miss you terribly and think of you often. One day I’ll be closer. I promise.

Second, to my friends I’ve met here and along the path of life, truly, what would life be without you? You all bring joy and warmth and laughter and growth and I could never thank you enough.

Third, I thank the miraculous powers above for giving me a chance to know such three small amazing little creatures. I know it sounds silly to thank one’s own dogs, but my little hounds have given me more than I could ever offer them. Compassion, a simple understanding of life and what’s really important, and a connection that transcends what I’ve ever known. Anyone whose ever looked deep into a dog’s eyes surely knows this––I’m glad I have the opportunity to experience it, too.

And lastly, I’m thankful for my partner Adam. Without getting too gushy here he’s simply been the best thing that has ever happened to me in life. When someone fosters and nurtures your growth as an individual and an artist it’s a special thing, and he’s always done that. I hope I have helped him too, but as my mom always says "You guys are very good for each other."  I’d like to thank so too  :)

Happy Thanksgiving everyone, make sure you tell someone how thankful you are and how much they mean to you. I love you all!

Let’s eat!

Photography

Each week I get 10-15 emails asking me about photography and photo gear. What do I use? Which lens do I shoot with? How do I use natural light? In a nutshell it really depends on the project itself (35mm digital, medium format, film, etc.) I love each and every email but ever since making the switch from semi-pro to real photographer shooting for some amazing clients (which I’ll reveal in good ole ’08) I haven’t been as punctual as I like. But my emails back to you will always – I repeat ALWAYS – include a link to my friend Lara’s site.

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As she’s done for the past few years, she’s just blogged about her guide to photography gear and if you haven’t read it it’s worth taking a look at it. From lenses to lights to workflow, she sums up her set up and provides some valuable photo information. It truly is a great resource!

Check it out!

Bill Of Wrongs

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I was reading an article by Leslie Brenner in the Los Angeles Times about a Diners’ Bill Of Rights. It really got me thinking about service, especially when dining in this flashy, celebrity-obsessed town of mine. The writer proposes a bill of rights just in case you happen to be frustrated with service and through a culinary uprising she’s gonna get it. And for the most part I’d agree with it.

If I ever happened to eat at those places.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I rarely get bad service. And I mean rarely. Seriously. I can count the restaurant disasters and mishaps on one hand. It may have to do with the fact that many of my dinner companions are in the food trade, but more oftentimes than not it’s just me and my man Adam. Sometimes someone will recognize me from this blog but generally it’s smooth sailing when we dine out. And it brings me back to my point of service. My secret? Be a decent customer, appreciative of the experience, and expect to get what you give.

I have a friend who is filled with a million and one horror stories about restaurants. Can’t go there because they shorted him bread. Nope, forget that place because his server didn’t refill his glass with water. And you can forget even thinking about that other place because he heard from a friend of a friend how they so badly messed up his order. He can go on with tons of terrible stories, and ironically they are the very same places I enjoy.

So what’s my secret? In a word: manners. And for that I thank my father. I don’t scream, I don’t raise my voice, I don’t confront or yell at others. If there’s an issue I’ll politely address it and most of the time get resolution that satisfies me. And I’ll smile. And if you have that "but I just spent $220 of my hard-earned income on dinner for my wife/husband/girlfriend/secretlover and I expect it to be perfect" attitude, well, I just don’t know what to tell you. You’re the same kind of person who’s hardwired for disappointment and I’m pretty sure you’ll find it no matter where you go.

Last week we had brunch at Neal Fraser’s BLD on Beverly Boulevard. Cute space, lots of energy, very crowded. While my food was great, Adam’s Cuban sandwich was beyond ruined, thanks to some overzealous toasting that was disguised on the inside of the sandwich. We both love a good piece of toast, but this piece of bread was burnt past the point of flavor. It rendered his sandwich inedible, save for the layers of delicious meat inside. Did I make a fuss about it? Did I run home and snarkfully blog about it? Nope. The problem was fixed and comped by a gracious staff who knew how to correct the situation. Had that been my friend you’d be reading about World War V right about now.

Restaurants have good days and bad days. People aren’t perfect. Mistakes will be made. But I’ve always found that there’s usually one person who can fix it — and it only takes one person to make it right. Do I think we need a Diners Bill of Rights?

Absolutely not.

Thanks, I’m finished ranting.

P.S.  To the person who left a comment on the LA Times about wanting to add a no-screaming-children clause to that list: what planet are you on? Kids are kids, screaming or not. If you don’t want to encounter them doing what they do you might consider staying home. Just my two cents.

Wait wait wait don’t touch it!

Instructions

Things I am thankful for:

1. The wonderful people I’ve met over the past month. I am thanking the heavens for introducing us.
2. The people who have taken chances and hired me. Never in my wildest dreams would I think I’d ever get these kinds of assignments (much more on that later!)
3. Minus the 12 (or is it 22?) extra pounds hanging around my midsection, I am thankful for my health. Knock on wood here.
4. Finally meeting the amazing Bea when I spoke at a seminar last weekend.
4. Our new oven.

So yea, a new oven (and don’t think I didn’t pick up on that correlation between tight pants and new oven because I totally did.)  A brand spanking gorgeous piece of convection equipment that has made life so much easier. Granted, I’ve not been allowed to touch it or use it (Adam’s rules, not mine) but I am the direct beneficiary of evenly-cooked, dual oven food preparation. And really, you think I’m complaining? Chickens seem to cook more evenly, roasting vegetables takes almost no time, and baking cakes and cookies seem like a snap. I say "seem" because I’m not the baker but this is what Adam tells me. Perhaps one day when he’s out working I’ll sneak into the kitchen and press all the buttons and have my own I Love Lucy moment.

Oh Adammmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm! Whine whine whine. Ok, "Ricky" does sound better, but I’m not married to a Ricky. There you have it.

Among the many things he’s tested over the past 2 weeks are these delightful little pumpkin cookies. You may know that my sweet tooth isn’t particularly well developed and I’d rather sit down to a plate of cheese and olives or a hunk of duck rillette with a glass of wine than sugary, sweet things. Salty and savory for me, baby! But I’m digging these little cake-like cookies because oh how I love a soft cookie and they taste like little tiny muffins in my mouth. And that makes me very happy, even if I can’t go near the oven.

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Chocolate Glazed Pumpkin Cookies
from Everyday Food by my pal Martha (yes, she is my friend, she just hasn’t met me yet)

You may notice our version uses white rather than dark chocolate, and that’s because I thought it would look prettier. I’m an Art Director, remember? And by golly look at those little things with white lines. How cute is that? Besides, this cookie really isn’t about the chocolate but the pumpkiny flavor which is perfect for the holidays.

Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin-pie spice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, rom temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 can (15 ounces) pure pumpkin purée
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

method
 

1. Preheat the oven to 375˚. In a medium bowl, whisk together flower, baking soda, baking powder, pumpkin-pie spice, and salt; set aside.

2. Using an electric mixer, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg; beat until smooth. With mixer on low speed, alternately add flour mixture in two parts and pumpkin purée in one, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix just until combined (do not overmix).

3. Drop dough by heaping tablespoons onto two baking sheets, 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake until puffed and edges are golden, 15 to 20 minutes, rotating sheets once during baking. Immediately transfer cookies to wire racks, and cool completely.

4. When cookies have cooled, set them (still on rack) over a baking sheet or waxed paper. Place chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl set over (not in) a saucepan of simmering water; stir until almost melted. Remove from heat; stir until completely melted. Pour chocolate into a resealable bag. Snip off a corner with scissors or a knife to make a 1/8-inch hole; pipe chocolate over cookies. Refrigerate until chocolate is firm, 20 minutes. Store cookies in layers divided by parchment paper in an airtight container up to three days.