Friday, April 27, 2012


Every Summer a dear friend has a lovely tea party for a gaggle of ladies. She goes all out and makes just about everything herself, but also has help from a few hands here and there.  

One of my favorite dishes she makes is Pavlova's.  I had never seen or tasted these until about 6 years ago when I attended her tea party. Her Pavlova's are beautiful with strawberries, blueberries, kiwi and passion fruit sauce drizzled on top. 

The origin of this dessert is based in New Zealand (though the Australian's think so too).  Either way it was for the tour of the famous Ballerina Anna Pavlova (from Russia). My neighbor Nancy, who makes everything, said she'd never made this before but that a dear friend of hers from New Zealand had made it for her. So with the added Kiwi's and that a native from New Zealand had it as part of her repertoire I'd say the origin is New Zealand. And the beautiful egg white based meringues look like a beautiful tutu from Swan Lake.  They would make Anna Pavlova proud.
Above are the ones from my friend Sherry's yearly tea.

So I thought for a little party I was doing for my friend I would try my hand at this. I needed to be brave as I've never attempted this recipe and for some reason Meringues scare me.
I love my orange KitchenAid.  It's the best thing we ever bought and easy for whipping egg whites into beautiful peaks.
You need to beat till you get stiff glossy peaks.  Should not be runny at all.
The first batch came out perfect as I used egg whites from cracked eggs. The second time I used a carton of egg whites. What went wrong: 1. They came out slightly yellow; 2. They did not get stiff enough so I think that there were egg yolks in them; and, 3. They were sticky, sticky, sticky, and no good. I'm glad I tried this and now I know the next time to use real eggs.
I spooned the stiff egg whites and then got a small sandwich bag and filled it with remaining egg whites.  Cut off a corner of the bag and you have your tip to pipe edges around the Pavlova's.  This helps hold in the whipped cream and berries after they've cooked.
Cool on a wire rack
Here's the recipe I used:

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar OR 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar OR distilled white vinegar
1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup (6 ounces, about 6) large egg whites, preferably room temperature
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup of sugar
Pint of  Whipping Cream
Sliced Berries (any combination you like: strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries)
Sliced Kiwi's (I didn't remember to get these, but traditionally you use Kiwi's)
Passion Fruit sauce (Alice Waters Fruit cookbook says this is a traditional addition to Pavlova's)
Directions are here.
Next time I'll buy myself some a few pastry tips and bags for a more professional look, although the homemade look was just fine as well. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Getty Villa and Frances Mayes

In the past I have posted some of my favorite books and one of them that I read often, sometimes once a year is Under the Tuscan Sun.

My friend Nancy told me that Frances and Ed Mayes had published a cookbook and that the book tour was bringing them to the Getty Villa in Malibu. I was too excited for words, so I booked a reservation for four people to the Getty Villa, you need to do this on their website. They don't charge per person, but per car, so I assumed my friends visiting and SB would go with me. Alas, on that day everyone had different plans. I called Nancy at the very last minute to see if she wanted to go with me, as I had turned her on to this book and she had told me about the book signing. She already had plans, so I ventured to one of my favorite places alone. Before I get to my story here are few of the my photo's of the Getty Villa, which houses J. Paul Getty's antiquity collection (lots of statues).
 Water lilies by the water fall.
 A view of the museum food I've ever had.
 Beautiful tiled fountain.
This is the best view of the pool and if you don't know this balcony below is here, you'll miss it. There is a door to the West of the upstair elevators. Push the handicap button and the doors will open to this balcony and enjoy the view. It's not always open, but if it is, go...and thankfully this is still a well kept secret. There is hardly ever anyone out there.

 A hipstamic moment.
I got there at 10AM. No one was there, it was so empty, a class of kids was in the amphitheater and hadn't scattered thru out the museum yet, so I really had the place to myself. I found the book store to purchase this cookbook. You can purchase it here.

At the bookstore they'd asked me if I'd reserved a book, I hadn't and became worried. But they'd ordered extra so I got my book and then hovered near the table and line in the shade waiting for Frances and Ed.  When they walked by I recognized her right away and said "hello," like I knew her, really I've never met her but felt like we were long time friends.

Two gentleman went before me in line and had bought every book she ever published and had her sign them all, she kindly did so and chatted them up. This took a while, then they gave her embroidered tea towels, really how can I compete with this thoughtfulness. It did bode well for getting my personal first edition copy of Under the Tuscan Sun signed, which I had brought with me. When it was my turn I was so excited and had her sign the cookbook and asked if she'd signed my Under the Tuscan Sun copy. I told her and Ed I read this about every year while drinking a nice glass of Prosecco (she introduced me to this delicious bubbly wine). Ed said "Good for you!" The third person at the table happened to be the photographer. I had looked at the photographs and thought they were lovely so when I got to him I asked him if he'd sign his favorite picture. This is like asking someone what there favorite city was on a European tour, or your favorite pastry at Laduree. He couldn't find one of his favorites but described which one it was, it's the vegetables against the plastered walls of Bramasole (the Mayes home in Tuscany). Later on in the day I found it and almost went back to have him sign it.

It was only 10:45 by now and someone mentioned there was a lecture at noon, this series is called:  Celebrity Chef Series: Frances Mayes (The Tuscan Sun Cookbook:  Recipes from Our Italian Kitchen) Author Frances Mayes speaks on the occasion of the publication of her first-ever cookbook. Mayes talks about how this cuisine transports, comforts, entices, and speaks to the friendly, genuine, and improvisational spirit of Tuscan life.

I wasn't planning on staying that long, but I thought I'd wonder thru the museum as it wasn't crowded and explore images I might want to take and see if there was anything new. I've been to this museum many times before and after the remodel. It's like being transported to Italy. Such a beautiful re-creation of an Italian villa. Below are some of the patterns, textures, and tromp l'oeil you'll see everywhere.
This is technically the entrance of the museum.  Make sure to look up, the ceiling is beautiful.

By noon I was still there so I went to see if there were any tickets left, they are free, they handed me one and I went into the auditorium. Bon Appetit introduced her, did you know they manage the cafe at the Getty Villa? This makes sense as the food is delicious. Her reading was poetic and painted many word pictures. I kept thinking how glad I was in this position to come on a Wednesday morning to the Getty Villa at the last minute and hear one of my favorite authors describe the Italian life she'd made for herself and how people thought she was crazy to start this venture, I was inspired and moved. After the reading we were allowed to ask questions. Not many went up, so I asked why she choose Cortona of all the places in Italy to live [she'd initially stayed there on her first visit to Italy as it was centrally located to where she wanted to tour, after that she kept coming back, so it seemed a likely place to set roots].  Someone else asked her about the difference in writing a cookbook versus her travel logs [much different, she hadn't realized the ingredients were listed in the order you put them in dish].
By this time it was 1PM and I was hungry, the cafe was making a few of the recipes in her book, so I went up there and order the crostini. These were so savory. The Pea and Shallot had a hint of mint, a surprising refreshing burst of flavor in your mouth. The other crostini was Pecorino and Nut (walnuts).  Nutty from the walnuts and cheese with a tangy salty flavor.
Some of my favorite statues....and well, one that scares me to death, I use to dream about this "chicken lady" chasing me thru the ditches in New Mexico when I was a kid. Yes I know I need therapy.

 A Siren...but I call her the "Chicken Lady."
For some reason this one reminds me of the statue I saw in the movie "The Saint".  I believe the statue I am referring to is at Oxford, at least it was in the movie.

After this lovely afternoon I walked thru the herb garden and headed home. Funny thing was Nancy deeply regretted that I didn't talk her out of her plans (which I really couldn't have).  She ended up having to drive down to Costa Mesa to get a signed copy of the books as the Getty Villa had sold out.  It was a fun adventure for the day. I can't wait to have a few more.

Getty Villa
17985 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90265
(310) 440-7300

Monday, April 23, 2012

Descanso Gardens

It's been a VERY long time since I went to Descanso Gardens. I was probably 10 years old, and well that's a long time ago. The gardens are in La Canada, and worth the drive for us Westsiders. The gardens were lovely and seeing as its spring most of the flowers were in bloom. Admission for adults it's $8 and $3 for children (5-12yrs old)

Tulips were breathtaking. I recently took a quiz about "which of flower are you?" Try it yourself here. I am a Tulip, which makes sense why I was drawn toward these gorgeous flowers.  Personally Dahlias and Peonies are my favorite flowers, but there were none to be found that day.

Pink and pretentious.

White and purple color palate.

Art and Craft style building on the grounds.  I believe you can rent many of these spaces for events.  They are pretty spectacular and worth checking in to.

 This is the house where the original residence lived.  It's pretty amazing.

I wanted to be inside so much but they don't have the house open on Monday's. I made myself go into the house with my reflection on the window and the mirror inside.  

Below are my images that are an ode to a few photographers I really admire.
An ode to Ansel Adam's Dogwood image.

 Ode to Imogen Cunningham and Georgia O'Keefe.

My college photography professor would have a few unkind words to say about the above image, but I love it, so there.

Bridge with cherry blossoms all around.

Lonely Cherry Blossom tree.

The color palates everywhere were breathtaking.

The Lilac bushes were so fragrant, before you even walk into the area you are surrounded by the perfume in the air.

So many lovely Camellia's.

You must take a day this Spring and stop and smell the roses.

Descanso Gardens
1418 Descanso Drive
La Canada Flintridge, CA 91011
Near intersection of 210 and 2 Freeways.
20 Minutes from downtown L.A.


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