Sandy & Scones

Though I feel I have been on the run for months, traveling, working, commuting and so on, not a single person is immune to the massive standstill that a natural disaster will bring. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, power is out, there is no Internet or cable, my home is covered in trees and well, there isn’t much one can do until someone is able to [literally] turn the light back on. When the wind was whipping and the trees were falling around us, I proudly showed my mom our emergency bag. And how exactly, were we supposed to escape with said emergency bag? She wanted to know. Curses! A major hole in my plan! (One of the many reasons I would be useless in a career as an evil mastermind; Ref: Pinky and the Brain.) Trains were and still are shut down. So here I am, sitting in a Whole Foods. Unable to go to work but feeling so, so grateful that my family and friends are safe, protected and our concerns for rebuilding are minimal. So many were not nearly as lucky and to them my heart goes out.

On a lighter note, in the hours leading up to the storm, my mom, cousin and aunts and I were filming faux commercials and sending them to each other via group text. (Hahaha… don’t ask me to send them to you because I won’t.) We were also poppin’ bottles, eatin’ snacks and I was of course, baking. With nothing else to do, I finally had the time to do it! And God knows there is nothing more comforting and soothing to my ears than hearing that white Kitchen Aid whir.

So I made cookies… and bread… and scones… and cookies again. The scones were purposely festive and I am excited to share them with you here, on Halloween! I am totally in love with Joy the Baker’s foolproof scone recipe, which can be found in her book, and used that as the foundation for my Pumpkin and Dark Chocolate Scones. I used to make scones with a purely butter and flour base, but feel the rolled oats are a brilliant addition in creating a more easily molded dough.

…And don’t you just love the colors? Bright orange studded with dark, chocolate chunks; perfect for Halloween. Click below for the recipe!

xx LP

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Food, Friends, Philly

Having grown up on a coast where a six-hour car ride can bring you through five different states, I often surprise myself when I think about the East Coast territories that I’ve still yet to visit. Until last Saturday, Philadelphia was one of those places. It probably would have remained as such, had [ironically] one of my West Coast friends not gone and invited me along.

Once a med student there, my dear friend Sunny gave me a crash-course in Philly eats, with a handful of historical landmarks thrown in on the side. We had barely more than twenty-four hours to see and do everything, but I think we managed quite well.

After discovering that our hotel was situated directly across the street from Reading Terminal Market, I wasted no time before grabbing my camera and heading over.  Established in 1893, it’s an enormous food market brimming with every variety of food and drink purveyors one can imagine. Seemingly endless walkways reveal French linens, local coffee, Soul Food and chocolate, among many other things. And as Pennsylvania is home to a large Amish population, I noticed several of the stalls operated by young girls in bonnets, aprons and starched dresses. (Fun fact: my last name Paup is Pennsylvania Dutch.) I wandered a bit, picked up an Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Whoopie Pie from Flying Monkey Bakery, and headed back to our room. The whoopie pie was not consumed until much later and to be honest I found it to be overwhelmingly heavy and sweet. Personally I need to have either a cookie or a cupcake, but not both at the same time.

For dinner Sunny took me to the storied outpost for mussels and beer: Monk’s Café. Earlier in the evening I made the foolish declaration that “I do not like to eat at restaurants without a wait.” I was rewarded for this statement with an hour-long wait for our table. No matter though, the time passed quickly as we enjoyed a selection of craft beers on bar-stools at the restaurant’s raucous bar. I should also mention that once we finally were seated, the food was indeed worth the wait. For a table of six, two small pots of mussels were ordered, one with a Brussels broth and the other with a Thai Curry broth. If these were considered “small” I cannot imagine what large pots would have looked like. With the mussels came Belgian fries and fresh bread, all of which we eaten with abandon. How any of us made it to a second course is beyond me; I felt the blissful affects of a food coma after about mussel number ten…

Fighting fatigue and shades of an Irish flu (my mom’s maiden name is McCormick after all…) Sunny and I woke up Sunday morning and shuffled back over to Reading Terminal in search of caffeine. We stopped at Old City Coffee, where the beans are roasted on-premises and both delighted in cups of fresh espresso. We drank these as preparation for our walk to brunch at Farmicia where, upon sitting down were served more decadence, this time on plates rather than in pots. I ordered Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon and a glass of prosecco [obviously]. I also felt a Thanksgiving-worthy food crash post-meal [obviously].

We essentially had one day to cover as much ground as possible, so after walking around to various landmarks like the Betsy Ross House, Elfreth’s Alley and a newly-built pier, we drank water and continued on. We are troopers. As the afternoon began to set in, we settled into a French café named Rouge and each enjoyed a drink over-looking Rittenhouse Square Park. With the sunlight dappled by the trees and couples strolling by with dogs of all shapes and sizes, it was a supremely relaxing and satisfying hour of the day.

…But it didn’t end there! Before heading back to the hotel to pick up our bags, we made two more stops: the first was at Metropolitan Bakery, where I filled a small bag with a Fig Bar, Sour Cherry Chocolate Chip cookie and of course a Chocolate Chip Walnut cookie. The latter was delicious, however the first two were considerably more impressive. While I expected the soft, chewy consistency of a Fig Newton, what I discovered instead, were fig preserves wrapped in an egg-washed pie-crust. Boom. The sour cherry cookie was definitely my favorite of the three though, and biting into the warm, crunchy exterior revealed large flakes of sharp sea salt. It took all self-control not to inhale the entire thing before dinner.

Our second stop post-park-drink and consequently our last stop of the day, was at an Asian-fusion bistro called Sampan. Though not on purpose, we arrived just in time for happy hour prices, which was AWESOME. $4 specialty cocktails? Yes please. Brussels sprouts caramelized in sugar and soy sauce? Done. We ordered an abundance of “small plates” which actually weren’t small at all and everything was excellent. Lobster dumplings, Thai-spiced wings, chicken satay with aioli… you get the idea. It goes without saying that we left Philadelphia very full indeed.

So full, that I hopped on a bus back to New York and didn’t wake up until we’d reached the Holland Tunnel.

xx LP

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Reduced-Guilt Granola

I should preface this post by saying that while I certainly like things sweet, this recipe is not sweet. Granola is a deceiving food: while people are drawn to its supposed healthfulness containing whole grains, dried fruit and various seeds, they frequently forget that it tastes like brown sugar and maple syrup for a reason. I so often crave a hearty bowl of granola but decide not to indulge because almost all store and bakery bought versions are chock full of fat and sugar. I am talking about totally unnecessary amounts of sugar, it’s true: check out the nutrition labels.

I am of the opinion that the ingredients typically found in granola shouldn’t need all that much sweetener and flavor added, as they are already delicious on their own. I have played with various combinations over the years and I am still trying to work out the perfect combination. However for the time being, I offer you this recipe for Toasted Almond & Coconut granola, sweetened with honey and toasted with a light amount of canola oil. While still crunchy, this recipe is similar to a muesli and not for the person seeking overgrown clusters of sugary grain.

…And with that I leave you with the recipe after the jump. Enjoy!

xx LP

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A Sweet Snack

When my world is upside down and I find myself running from here to there, I always seize the first opportunity that I have, to pull out my mixer and bake. After a hectic two weeks of travel, meetings, phone calls and the like, that opportunity finally presented itself yesterday afternoon. It was as if the clouds had parted and warm, glittering sunshine was beaming down on our white Kitchen Aid mixer, beckoning me to pull out my ingredients and get to work. Ironically, this piece of machinery has been a consistent source of both inspiration and absolute peace, since it entered my life as a child. In fact, I wrote about the very same mixer in my application essay to Parsons, way back when… but I digress- you are here to discuss what was made with it, aren’t you?

…So as things finally slowed down on Friday afternoon, I happily filled my free time with baking. More specifically, I baked a cake. If you have found yourself on this little blog more than once over the past few years, I don’t have to tell you about my penchant for cake. Nor do I have to tell you how much I adore it in all flavors, shapes and sizes.

I found myself feeling pretty relaxed yesterday, and decided to play around with a little of this, a little of that. The result was a “Strawberry Snack Cake.” I call it a “snack cake,” because it is rather simple, unfrosted, and perfect for a sweet afternoon pick-me-up, with either a cup of espresso or refreshing mint tea. I of course served it in the evening á la mode with fresh herbs. Much like the perfect summer dress, you can easily take this cake from day, to night.

 

Click below for the recipe and enjoy your weekend!

xx LP

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A good weekend.

French fruit and caramel bon bons in honor of Bastille Day 7/14.

 

Philip snapped this cool shot of the Hollywood Hills while we were running errands around town.

 

Though not my most beautiful cheese plate, no less delicious. I found the Camembert at the Silver Lake Cheese shop and served it with Extra Strong Dijon Mustard from Monsieur Marcel. The other cheese is a semi-hard Spanish Iberico.

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Espresso Exposé

I have a confession: I have been unfaithful.

It started on an early Sunday morning, when I was waiting for the car wash to open. When we met in Little Tokyo it was so quiet, it felt like we were the only ones awake.

But it didn’t end after that first meeting. It happened again one morning before work, in a garage downtown… and again… and again. The last time, I recognized two of my neighbors walking past with their dog, and thought for sure my secret would be blown. They didn’t see me… but the guilt has become too much to bear. So I am telling you now:

I am cheating on my percolator with Café Dulcé coffee.

Courtesy of Cafe Dulce Facebook page

Ha! Did I scare you? Did you think you were going to get a juicy back-story to the collected façade of my life? Not my style.

Despite living downtown for six months, I had no idea that Little Tokyo held such an exquisite coffee gem until an additional location opened just a few blocks away from my apartment. The second location is actually a pop-up shop and not necessarily a permanent installation. Though the space is only reserved for the next six to eight months, I am smitten and would love to see Dulcé stay.

Courtesy of Cafe Dulce Facebook page

The staffs in both shops are consistently warm and welcoming regardless of what ungodly hour you may walk in. The spaces are small, but very bright, and their pop-up location is actually completely open on two walls. There isn’t a ton of seating in either one, but there are actually men in the neighborhood who seem to congregate around the perimeter of the downtown space, sipping their hot espresso and talking about ‘things.’ (I don’t know what they are talking about, hence the assumption that it must be ‘things.’)

And ah, the coffee! It is just glorious, prepared with the passion of only people who truly love what they are doing. The proper handling, grinding and preparing of premium coffee beans is an art and these guys are the masters. If you order an Americano, you will indeed receive an Americano, your cup bursting with bright, energetic espresso flavor. (Too often I’ve been handed a cup of boiling though flavorless brown water, by baristas at chain coffee shops that shall remain nameless.) As you are handed the aforementioned coffee, you will also likely be given a brief history of the beans used to craft your drink. From start to finish, it is an invigorating, all-sensory experience. Want to know more? Go visit Dulcé and try their coffee yourself! We might run into each other… and my percolator will just have to get over it.

Locations after the jump!

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Keeping it Simple

On a recent visit to Magnolia Bakery, I found my eyes wandering from the dessert cases over to the cookie jars. Obviously a trip to Magnolia means a cupcake will be consumed, but if you’ve never tried any of the bakery’s other offerings, you certainly should. I won’t even get into their breakfast items because the muffins deserve a post of their own. As I said, on this particular trip I found myself staring at the cookie jars and just could.not.look.away. My eyes landed on the Lemon-Cornmeal Shortbread and my mind instantly went into hyper-drive: “Citrus, butter, cornmeal and sugar? It makes perfect sense! Why didn’t I think of that?” Cupcake be damned, I NEEDED to try that cookie.

…But you know what? I took a bite and it was just… it was just okay. I will be honest: it was barely okay. It wasn’t citrusy, wasn’t really crunchy, and the expected lightly sweet flavor profile of the corn just fell flat. I am absolutely sure there are plenty of recipes out there that do this combination of ingredients justice, but this one in particular just got me thinking some more: Maybe not everything should be changed or over-thought. There have been plenty of times when I have combined seemingly perfect complimentary ingredients only to have the end result turn out just satisfactory. Not everything has to be complicated.  Dare I say it? ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!’

My great-grandmother was 100% Scotch and I grew up with a lot of shortbread in my house. I should also say that my family loves sweets so regardless of heritage, I probably would have grown up with it anyway. Whenever my dad replicates her version of the butter cookie, they usually disappear quickly. She was a pretty straightforward lady and it’s no surprise that her shortbread recipe is equally unfussy… and delicious. The cookies you see in the images above are made from her recipe, not Magnolia’s. If you are wondering just how simple her version is, you will just have to click below to find out!

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Shades of…

BLUE. Not Grey! This is a PG blog; get your head out of the gutter.

After my introduction to Gio Ponti’s work a few years ago, I have found that ever since, I tend to gravitate towards his aesthetic. I have however recently, felt particularly inspired by his work. I like to think of Ponti not as simply an artist or designer, but rather, as a prolific and prophetic creator. His own existence depended solely on his ability to discover and create. In his vast career he was an architect, product designer, poet, teacher, costume designer, furniture designer, collaborator; he worked with pottery, rugs and founded two magazines. He knew what the world needed, and knew how it should look. To say that his body of work is impressive would be a grave understatement and a disservice to his legacy. Working upwards of 10 hours a day, his work ethic and deep focus are also of huge motivation to me.

But with a little background under our belts, let us move back to ‘blue.’ The pictures you see accompanying this text, are images of the Parco dei Principi hotel in Sorrento, Italy. From the tile floors, to the modular wardrobes, to the simple blue coverlets, Gio Ponti designed the entire hotel from top to bottom. Overlooking the Amalfi Coast, each room boasts a stunning kaleidoscope of cool blues, almost mirroring the sparkling ocean, just outside of the windows below. Even though the palette is monochromatic, it doesn’t feel cold. There are lighter shades and darker shades, accented by spare but warm, wooden furniture.

Choosing bedding for the apartment is one of the last few puzzle pieces necessary for pulling our place together. Regardless of how many Pinterest boards and sites for big box stores that I click through, I keep returning to Ponti’s Principi palette (from 1962, I might add!). Despite the 50-year gap between when the hotel was designed and now, is a testament to the sustainability and brilliance of his work.

As of yet, I have not found a single thing that captures the way these images make me feel. So I am wondering if perhaps I’ll have to make something myself. Would Ponti appreciate the homage on my duvet, or would he tell me to create something completely new? Would I follow the blue palette or embrace the geometry? Hmmm… better get sketching.

 

 

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Guilty Pleasure

When summer hits, most Americans crave things like hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad and ice cream. Of all of the aforementioned foods, I really only pine for one and would be lying if I led you to believe that it was only a seasonal occurrence.

I just adore ice cream.

It’s really no secret, as I have written about it on here before (here and here). But for the first time in my whole life, I live in a neighborhood where it barely exists. Which explains the cone of Rite Aid ice cream you see above this text: let me tell you, it has become a new guilty pleasure.

I am from the East Coast where we have actual dairy farms to get fresh ice cream from. In New York City, there are ice cream shops and Mr. Softee trucks sprinkled along every other block. And after living in both of those places, I moved to Newport Beach, California, where the town specialty is a Balboa bar, literally a brick of vanilla ice cream dipped in chocolate, on a stick. You can imagine my horror when I moved to Downtown LA and realized that the closest and possibly the only nearby place for a somewhat comparable experience (not at all) was soft-serve nonfat yogurt in a cup at Robek’s. (No thank you.) …That was, until I discovered that just as they did when my parents were kids, California Rite Aids still serve ice cream! If you are turning your noses up at this point, I can understand why. The same exact store also sells band-aids, foot cream and Britney Spears’ Curious perfume (curious about what, I wonder?). I get it. But trust me when I tell you that Rite Aid Thrifty ice cream, specifically in the “Circus Animal” flavor, is no joke. Hard vanilla ice cream that is jam-packed with shortbread cookies that are themselves, covered in white chocolate and sprinkles: real.

And real good.

…Which brings me to my next topic: what kind of ice cream will I make this summer? I was given a beautiful new Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker, which I am just dying to try out. I’m thinking toasted almond and coconut? Chocolate, hazelnut and banana? Lemon-lime and shortbread? What flavors do you think I should make? Let me know, below!

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Mashed Peas & Mint Crostini

I love summer food. Regardless of which coast I am on, June, July and August, always mean fresh, light and easy. There is so much fantastic produce and fresh herbs available during the summer months, it would be silly not to experience and highlight all of their wonderful flavors. Even though our local farmer’s market won’t start until July, I am determined to find new ways to do just that.  I made a few things this weekend, among them the crostini pictured above. It’s such a simple, tasty appetizer that can be thrown together in under 20 minutes… probably under fifteen. It also highlights flavors of the season: citrus, mint and sweet peas.

Click below for the recipe!

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