Category Archives: Food & Entertaining

Books Food Food Finds Gift Guides Inspiration Style

Mother’s Day Gift Guide

Moms are so important in the world and they do so much each and everyday. If you ask me, I think they should be celebrated year round. So with Mother’s Day just around the corner, I thought it would be nice to share some of my favorite gifts for my own mom and all the special motherly figures in my life.

  1. Sometimes the nicest gifts aren’t gifts at all. But rather words from the heart on a pretty little pink and gilded gold card.
  2. Since Mom’s do so much for everyone else, encourage her to take some time for herself and relax with a luxurious bubble bath, candles and all.
  3. These floral mosaic loungers will make any woman feel stylish even when she’s just getting comfortable at home.
  4. As kids, we’ve all been caught with our hands in the cookie jar, now it’s Mom’s turn with this adorable porcelain Gnome jar.
  5. Show her how much she’s impacted your life by inserting a personal page about her inside this book of wise women.
  6. This Neapolitan coffee maker will turn her early morning pick me up into an Italian morning ritual.
  7. If you can’t afford to send her off to Paris just yet, bring Paris to her with my personal favorite, French Macarons. Bake them yourself or order them online at a few of my favorite local and international patisseries: [Ladurée (Paris), Pierre Hermé (Paris), Duverger (The States), Sparkles Macaron (California)]
  8. For the lady who loves to entertain, these beautiful Moroccan styled tea glasses will make any drink classy.
  9. Splurge on her with this 18k gold ‘mom’ charm and pink quartz necklace from my jewelry line, Mei Elizabeth, that shows her exactly who she is to you. Add a personal touch and customize it with her birthstone or that of you and your siblings.
Fun Music Music Playlist San Francisco Travel

Playlist: San Francisco Road Trip

Today Marc and I are getting a head start on the weekend and going on our much anticipated San Francisco weekend getaway. It’s only about an hour plane ride away from LA but we decided that it would be much more fun to take our sweet time, drive up the coast, and check out Solvang, San Luis Obispo, Monterey, Paso Robles and Pismo Beach along the way. And of course, a road trip just isn’t a road trip without a prerequisite playlist that you can sing your heart out to, bop your head to, or cruise along with while you relax and enjoy the scenery. With my musical taste all across the map with Dancehall, Reggae, R&B, Folk, Indie Rock and Pop and Marc’s towards Hard Rock and more Hard Rock, between the two of us, I think we’ve got this road trip covered.

A-SIDE: TO SF
1. Owl City and Carly Rae Jepsen – Good Time
2. Janet Jackson – Escapade
3. 2Pac – California Love
4. Blondie – The Tide is High
5. Billy Ocean – Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car
6. MGMT – Electric Feel
7. LCD Soundsystem -Dance Yrself Clean
8. Led Zeppelin – D’Yer Mak’er
9. Daft Punk feat. Pharell – Get Lucky

B-SIDE: TO LA
10. David Guetta feat. Rihanna – Who’s That Chick
11. Chris Brown – Forever
12. Violent Femmes – Blister in the Sun
13. Prince – Little Red Corvette
14. M83 – Midnight City
15. UB40 – Red Red Wine
16. The Mamas and the Papas – California Dreamin
17. Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin – Je T’Aime…Moi Non Plus
18. Phillip Phillips – Home

Beauty Design Drink Food & Entertaining Health Inspiration Lovely Little Links Style

Lovely Little Links

  1. Put that wedding dress (or bridesmaid dress, prom dress, etc.) to good use and add a little drama to your wardrobe without looking crazy by dressing it down with denim and cowboy boots. (pinterest.com/meielizabeth)
  2. Killing the Monday blues with baby animal cuteness overload. (slowrobot.com)
  3. Who said only punk rockers and My Little Ponies could have rainbow colored hair? (beautylish.com)
  4. Bubbly and refreshing Citrusy Champagne Sangria makes for a fabulous time (kirantarun.com)
  5. Fashion illustrations by Hayden Williams that are so good, they may be better than the real thing (haydenwilliamsillustrations.tumblr.com)
  6. Tiny tasteful tattoos that inspire (buzzfeed.com)
  7. Cateye and camo Oliver Peoples sunglasses = a little sass with a side of trouble (oliverpeoples.com)
  8. Maria Menounos and her dramatic structured ethereal gown rocked the GLAAD awards last night (dailymail.co.uk)
  9. Live green on Earth Day and everyday with these awesome ecofriendly tips (simplemom.net)
Food Food & Entertaining Health Recipe Remix

Recipe Remix: Warm Asparagus & Coconut Rice Salad with Spinach & Mint Pistou

I’m an avid believer that the key to success in any situation is to be inspired by your surroundings, to be able to think on your feet and to improvise. Hence my tendency to look at a recipe as more of a convenient advice column rather than a concrete instruction manual. I hardly ever follow a recipe to a tee because as a businesswoman and working professional, for the sake of time, I tend to substitute certain ingredients and cook with what I have on hand rather than make specific trips to the market just for one particular ingredient.

So when I came across this perfect recipe for a light and fresh Spring meal from Sprouted Kitchen, but failed to have at least half the ingredients within a fifty foot radius, I decided to improvise and freewheel it. And to my surprise, I turned something utterly French into something deliciously Thai inspired and beyond satisfying. Sometimes the most successful dishes are the accidentally inspired ones.

WARM ASPARAGUS & COCONUT RICE SALAD WITH SPINACH & MINT PISTOU

Serves 4

Recipe adapted from Sprouted Kitchen

I used coconut rice instead of the suggested brown rice to give it some extra fragrance, richness and depth to the citrus. Any variety of rice and beans are fine. Cooking times will vary. To save yourself time, you may purchase pre cooked frozen rice or at your local Chinese or Thai takeout. Also, the beans provide enough protein that this dish can be served as either a main or a side dish.

INGREDIENTS

2 cups cooked jasmine coconut rice (easy recipe at She Simmers)
1 ¼ cup cooked cannellini beans (or any other bean you’d prefer: lentils, chickpeas, edamame, etc.)
1 lb. asparagus
½ cup roughly chopped, fresh flat leaf parsley

SPINACH & MINT PISTOU

4 cloves garlic
1 tsp. sea salt
½ cup raw walnut pieces
¼ cup raw almonds
¼ cup parmesan cheese
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about one lemon)
1 cup fresh spinach leaves
½ cup fresh mint leaves
½ cup fresh flat leaf parsley
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
pepper and red pepper flakes to taste

1. In a food processor or blender (preferably a VitaMix), add all pistou ingredients and pulse a few times until everything is coarsely combined. Don’t over do it or else you’ll be left with a thick paste rather than a chunky pistou.
2. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Cut the asparagus spears on a diagonal, about one inch pieces. Add them to the boiling water for about 1.5 minutes. Prepare another bowl of ice water. Remove and add the asparagus to the ice water bath to set their color. After a few minutes, drain completely.
3. Prepare the coconut rice and cannellini beans according to instructions. If using canned cannellini beans, be sure to rinse with cold water. While rice is warm, mix them together in a large bowl. Add the asparagus and a few big dollops of the pistou (amount based on personal preference), and fold gently to coat everything in the sauce. Garnish with fresh flat leaf parsley and mint.

Music Music On Repeat

On Repeat: Charlene Soraia – Wherever You Will Go

Since discovering this song a couple of years ago, it’s become my go to at-home karaoke song anytime I feel like singing my heart out when I think no one’s listening. Which is interesting, because it’s rare that a cover version outshines the original. But Charlene Soraia’s angelic and haunting take of The Calling’s “Wherever You Will Go” is so emotionally charged that I can’t help but foolishly choke back tears and over exaggerate my heartache into a hairbrush, like my emo teenage self would while listening to Sarah McLachlan’s entire “Surfacing” album after sixth period. But causing a lump in our throats while we attempt to sing along is what a good love ballad should do, right?

Charlene Soraia – Wherever You Will Go from FourthFlightFilms on Vimeo.

Events Music Music

Social Scene: JazzReggae Festival 2013

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a huge fan of Reggae and Dancehall music. So every year, my girlfriends and I pack our beach bags with sunblock, towels, water and other unmentionable paraphernalia (that I won’t mention), don our requisite Rasta inspired outfits, and head over to the annual JazzReggae Festival held at UCLA. It’s a two day outdoor music festival bender held in May during Memorial Day weekend, with the first day’s emphasis on hip hop and jazz, and everyone jammin’ to Reggae, Dancehall and Soca the day after. The lineup never disappoints and this year is no exception with Ziggy Marley, Barrington Levy and Marcia Griffiths in the mix. Here are some of my favorite tracks of theirs to get you all in the Rastafari mood.

1. Ziggy Marley – Tomorrow People: The apple definitely did not fall far from the tree. His music is just as awe inspiring as his father’s.

2. Marcia Griffiths – The First Cut is The Deepest: The queen matriarch of reggae, this is her cover of Cat Stevens’s original.

3. Barrington Levy – Here I Come: A legend in his own right, his music has been sampled by the best of them from The Fugees to The Black Eyed Peas.

4. Bob Marley – Redemption Song: Couldn’t have a reggae list without the king of reggae himself. This is my all time favorite song of his. It floors me every time.

Music Music On Repeat

On Repeat: Solange Knowles – Losing You

Some people call it tried. I call it tried and true; upcycled and inspired. Solange‘s “Losing You” has me longing for the days of Stacy Q, Nu Shooz, The Jets, Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam, and of course, babyfaced Janet Jackson of the Control era. And did I mention that stunning Foxy Brown afro? Makes me want to go back in time and don my third grade perm in a box.

Now go ahead. Press play and give it a whirl. Before you know it, this Knowles might have you saying, “Beyoncé who?”

Food Food & Entertaining Health Recipe Remix

Recipe Remix: Spring Vegetable and Buffalo Ragù Pasta with Pecorino Cheese + My Inner Little Old Italian Lady

My mom and I have what many typical mothers and daughters have, a love hate relationship. Don’t get me wrong. I love my mom to death and admire her to the ends of the earth. She is the strongest woman that I know. Correction. That I will ever know. I take her and my dad to dinner every week and there is nothing that I wouldn’t do for that woman, nor her for me. But there are some days when I just wish she would tone down the ancient Chinese tradition of tough love, better known to her as “putting your children down so they can grow thicker skin and build themselves back up.” Interpreted by her children as “Mom, why do you hate me so much!”

So as a child (and intermittently as an adult), I always had this fantasy of having an overly affectionate and sensitive June Cleaver-type mom who would bake cookies for me after school and tell me she loved me at the end of every sing-songy conversation we had. Or even better yet, a nice plump little Italian mama who would cook pasta and sauce from scratch and overfeed me every Sunday afternoon, while incessantly cupping my face and kissing my forehead while telling me how bellissima I was…even when I wasn’t. I wanted my mom to be all of those things but unfortunately for me, she wasn’t. And for a long time, I struggled with this.

It wasn’t until a few years ago when I was casually catching up with a psychologist friend of mine over the requisite vino with a side of relationship recap that she tapped into my insides from a Freudian obtuse angle, and let me have it in the most nonchalant of ways that only a professional could. Leaning back in her leather smokers chair at the bar with her arm draped across the back, she told me from across the table that my infinite quest to find my soul mate of epic proportions would never materialize because the kind of love that I was looking for, was the kind that…get this…only a mother could give.

Say what?” I thought. “You crazy!

She then continued to explain to me that it was the kind of love that was one hundred percent selfless, unconditionally supportive and infinitely without end.

Yea? And? What’s wrong with wanting that?

And even though it was the kind of love that could only come from a mother, even the most perfect of moms aren’t always able to meet such high requirements, let alone a man of the hour/week/month/fill in the blank.

Ohhh…” That was a tough one to digest. My heart sank. “So what then? Do we just give up on love?

No was the short answer. The long of it, as morbid as it sounds, was that we have to mourn the loss of the mother and the love we wish we had, just as we would mourn the loss of a loved one. (Woh…talk about deep for weeknight cocktails). Appreciate the fact that most moms are barely treading water, and that they love their children as best as, and at times, the only way they know how. Probably the way their mothers loved them. Because at the end of the day, the only other person who could possibly love you that selflessly, unconditionally and infinitely is you. The day you accept that and start giving to yourself what you’ve been searching for from everyone and everything else around you is the day you can stop looking…for whatever it is that you’ve been looking for.

What was supposed to be a light happy hour of Pinot and calamari had turned into quite the heavy emotional meal of food for thought. But she spoke the truth. And to this day, that conversation has stuck to my ribs real good. They’ve stuck to my ribs like…well…a good sauce. So this past Sunday when I was feeling a bit under the weather, rather than pining about how I wished someone would come and take care of me, I dug deep, took some pain killers and channeled my own inner little old Italian lady to soothe and take care of me. I whipped up a hearty, healthy and comforting pot of Pasta with Spring Vegetable and Buffalo Ragù with Pecorino. And as the rustic delicious aromas of the old world filled the kitchen, I took a deep breath and said to myself, “Bellissima…”

SPRING VEGETABLE AND BUFFALO RAGU PASTA WITH PECORINO CHEESE

 

INGREDIENTS

Feel free to be creative in your vegetable choice to include anything from broccolini to cauliflower to asparagus. 

serves 7

  • 4 roma tomatoes
  • 2 medium sized carrots
  • 3 stalks of celery
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 Italian squash or zucchini
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 head of garlic
  • basil
  • 1 lb ground buffalo or lean beef
  • 16 oz can of fire roasted tomatoes
  • 8 oz can of tomato paste
  • handful of flat leaf Italian parsley
  • grated pecorino cheese
  • 1 box of dried pasta of choice (I used Barilla Whole Grain Medium Shells for the added fiber)
  • olive oil
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ½ teaspoon smoked sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon Spike’s seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon chicken bouillon
  • 1 teaspoon chili flakes
  • oregano
  • thyme

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Dice tomatoes, carrots, celery, red bell pepper, onion and zucchini into small ¼” pieces
  2. Peel and pulse garlic in blender to create a chunky paste. This will extract the juices of the garlic that you don’t get when you mince them.
  3. Heat olive oil in wok or large pan over high heat. Add ground buffalo. Season with salt and pepper. Brown the ground buffalo until it’s thoroughly cooked. Set meat aside. (I like to use a wok because 1) it conducts heat evenly 2) its high walls prevent ingredients from overflowing which also allows it to be used as a pot for the sauce 3) I’m Asian)
  4. In same pan, heat olive oil. Add onions and chilli flakes and cook for 3 minutes. Add all the carrots, celery, zucchini, oregano, thyme and 2/3 of the red bell peppers. Cook vegetables down for 10 minutes or until somewhat browned and tender.
  5. Add garlic. Cook for 10 minutes
  6. Add tomato paste. Cook for 3 minutes.
  7. Add roma tomatoes and fire roasted tomatoes. Once it starts to boil, add ground buffalo, smoked sea salt, chicken bouillon and Spike seasoning. Stir. Turn the heat down. Let it simmer for 15 minutes.
  8. Add half the chopped flat leaf parsley and half the chopped basil.
  9. Boil large pot of water. Add generous amount of sea salt. When it comes to a roiling boil, add dry pasta. Refer to box for cooking time until al dente.
  10. Drain pasta. Rinse with cold water.
  11. Spoon pasta onto plate. Spoon sauce over pasta. Top with chopped parsley, basil, red bell peppers and freshly shaved pecorino cheese. Serve hot.
Dined & Dished Dining Food Food & Entertaining Fun Restaurants

Dined & Dished: Natas Pastries + Portuguese Pasteis de Nata

Being part Chinese, I’m no stranger to the ubiquitous egg custard tarts or dan tat that little kids and old folks, alike, clamor for at dim sum restaurants. They’re crispy, buttery, delicate and flaky on the outside and lightly sweet, rich, creamy and decadent on the inside.  They’re absolutely delicious and insanely addicting. I hate to admit it, but I’ve probably run over and tackled an old Chinese lady or two, trying to get my grubby paws on the last ones. What I wasn’t too familiar with, in spite of my Portuguese side, is the dan tat’s predecessor and European influencer, the Portuguese pasteis de nata. So you can imagine my excitement when I came across Natas Pastries, a Portuguese bakery and café in Sherman Oaks. I could finally do a taste off between both egg custard tarts and determine whose dessert reigned supreme.

I thought there would be a clear winner, but after trying the pasties de nata, I was just as confused as I ever was. Because to be honest with you, I couldn’t decide. They’re both so magically delicious. Making me choose would be the equivalent of having me choose which one of my kids I like better. Granted, I don’t have any children but you get my point. I just couldn’t do it. But consider my addiction for all egg custard tarts, dan tats, pasties de natas and all, reawakened. So next time you see me at the Portuguese bakery or the Cantonese dim sum restaurant, be sure not to stand between me and my dessert or somebody might get hurt. Consider yourself warned.

For those of you who don’t have easy access to a Portuguese bakery near you, here are my favorite recipes to try to make your own here and here.

If you’re wondering how a Portuguese pastry ended up in your local Chinese restaurant, here’s a quick history lesson:

Beginning in the 1550s, Portuguese merchants were heavily involved in trade with China by way of Macau. This resulted in Macau being rented to the Portuguese as a trading port in 1557, which subsequently led to Macau becoming a colony of the Portuguese Empire from 1887 through 1999. It goes without saying that during their extensive time there, the Portuguese definitely left their mark. And they did so in the form of a pastry. Their pasties de nata were so well received by the Chinese and interwoven into their culture, that to this day, the pasties de natas, dan tats, egg custard tarts or whatever you’d like to call them, can be found all over China, including their KFCs and McDonalds. In fact, they’ve become such a Cantonese dim sum staple that most people attribute the egg custard tart solely as a Chinese culinary invention without realizing its European roots. The Chinese variety, uses more of a puff pastry dough crust versus the Portuguese version that uses more of a layered phyllo dough crust and has a hint of lemon and cinnamon. Both are exquisite.

Natas Pastries

13317 Ventura Blvd  Sherman Oaks, CA 91423

818.788.8050

Dined & Dished Dining Food Food & Entertaining Fun Restaurants

Dined & Dished: Tar & Roses + Pig Tails

The great thing about growing up in an Asian household is that you’re introduced to a lot of “interesting” foods like chicken feet, sea cucumber and fish sauce that other eight year olds may not have so much as been made privy to, let alone been forced to eat. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, with a tiger mom like mine, even if it looked ugly, sounded weird or smelled bad, if it was placed in front of your face, you had to eat it. No ifs, ands or buts…well, maybe chicken butts…but that’s a whole other conversation. So learning from a very young age that being picky was not an option really cultivated my palate and openness to try and truly enjoy pretty much anything. Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods got nothing on my family.

So when I took a sneak peek at the menu at Tar & Roses in Santa Monica, I was super excited to see that they were serving crispy pig tails with sriracha, honey and cilatro. Finally! A childhood favorite that hadn’t been completely hijacked, bougie-fied, hyped up and played out by the culinary world just yet (ie: bone marrow, banh mi sandwiches, pig ears…I could go on and on). To be honest with you, I went in expecting to be disappointed but instead, I was very pleasantly surprised. No joke. It was really really good. Crispy, tender, flavorful, rich, unctuous, slightly sweet, perfectly salted and just enough spice. What more could a girl ask for in a pig tail?

We ordered a few different dishes that were all fabulous. But the standouts for me were definitely the following:

1. Crispy pig tails with sriracha, honey and cilantro
2. Wood roasted English peas with mint and sea salt
3. Skate wing with lemon risotto, pea tendrils and salsa verde
4. Duck liver paté bruschetta

So if you find yourself on the west side, be sure to pull your hair back, get your hands dirty and pig out.

Tar & Roses

602 Santa Monica Boulevard

Santa Monica, CA 90401

(310) 587-0700