Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Gifts for those who love food (and wine!)

It's not too late yet. You didn't have time for Christmas but there is still New Year's so you have no excuses. A fun and quirky list, not excluding the bubbly, is the following:

1. The Upside Down Apron with cooking guide
Kitchen aid at your fingertips! Fed up of frantically thumbing through cookbooks while your goulash explodes? Or coating your keyboard in baked mac and cheese while looking up cooking times and measurements on Google? Fear not! We’ve put all of that useful info right at your fingertips. An apron is no longer just something to keep you clear or a place to wipe your dirty hands!

Printed Upside down on the apron for easy reading and is made of cotton.

One size -  fits most.

2. Condiment Gun - The sure-fire sauce dispencer

Simply fill with your favorite sauces, then pull the trigger carefully and slowly for precision sauce dispensing, or hard and fast to take out food across the room!

The ultimate sauce lover's gadget! (it includes two reusable cartridges and a squirt bottle, to make refilling easy).

3. Egg cosy with eggcup

Keep boiled eggs snug and warm with a cute ceramic eggcup and hand-knitted cosy made from 100 per cent organic merino wool.
It will make your egg even tastier!

4. Pralus Chocolate -  100% Dark
The ultimate in cocoa content and for the strict, extreme bitter chocolate lovers. This single origin chocolate bar uses only fine flavor, Criollo cocoa from Madagascar. Very creamy texture but only for the brave ones!
If you wish to wake up your inner sommelier the Wine Game is the perfect gift. Questions are divided into six categories; Grapes, Regions, Estate/Producer, Spirits, Fortified Wines and Vocabulary. As you proceed in the game, anything could happen. You may visit a wine auction in New York or be asked to settle a longshoreman's strike in Europe or be asked to identify a wine by the shape of a bottle. Six Categories, 900 questions and a few surprises along the road is what will be expecting you.

The Bouquet game is suitable for 2-6 players, individually or in teams.

6. Whirley Pop Vintage Popcorn Maker

Anxious popcorn lovers can enjoy up to 6 quarts of scrumptious popcorn, puffed up to 42 times original kernel size, in less than 3 minutes!

In less time than it takes to microwave a bag, you can enjoy fluffy, fresh popcorn with this classic hand-cranked popper. Just pour oil and kernels into the aluminum pan, place on a burner and start turning the stay-cool wooden handle. The stainless-steel stirring mechanism keeps popcorn moving to prevent burning and promotes even coating so you need less oil. Steam vents keep popcorn from getting soggy, and lid is hinged for easy pouring.

7. Microplane Artisan Series Medium Ribbon Grater

 Excels at grating hard and soft cheeses as well as onions and potatoes. Can also tackle hard foods, such as chocolate and Parmesan cheese for baking or garnishes. A cute, elegant gift, also one of Thomas Keller favorites!
8. Foodies, the book

More of an academic writing  than the traditional recipe cookbook, this book is subtitled "Democracy and Distinction in the Gourmet Foodscape". For food, politics and many more. Food for thought, not food for the table.

9. The Classic: Veuve Cliquot

For the record, this is my favorite...

Veuve Cliquot, with a glimpse of the summer

Friday, December 24, 2010

How to brew coffee at home

Most of us enjoy your daily joe fix at our local coffee shop,  the questionable quality of the plastic cup in the office or the just-across-the-street Starbucks. But what does it take to make good coffee at home?

Here are the tips that the Blue Bottle Coffee gave us during their one hour presentation a couple of weeks ago during the Amsterdam market seminar series.

General rules:

 There are various ways to brew coffee at home. You could pick the Ceramic Dripper, the Chemex or the French press. Each way of brewing coffee (of the above) will require different techniques, coffee beans, grinder etc

The Chemex

a. Invest in a hand/manual or blade grinder. The first gives an evenly grounded bean although the second, due to the blades and the heat, doesn't offer an evenly grounded outcome.

b. Buy good, freshly roasted coffee. In general, do not keep coffee more than two weeks in your kitchen. The darker the roast, the more perishable the coffee is; on the other hand, the lighter roasted, the more coffee quantity it contains and the less perishable it is.

For the single dripper (pour over), you will need ideally, a ceramic dripper, paper filter, kettle, coffee beans, hand grinder and water. 1. Put double the amount of good quality water than you intend to drink in a kettle (for each 8 oz of water use three to four level tablespoons of ground coffee). 2. While the water is heating, grind the coffee. The grind should be soft but also gritty. 3. Warm the ceramic dripper and cup with 10ml warm water. 4. Let the hot water combine with the coffee, it will expand outwards. 5. After 30-45 seconds of blooming, pour again. 6. Continue the same slow pour in the middle of the filter.

                                                The Ceramic Dripper

A Press pot coffee (or French press), requires an even grind so having a hand grinder is recommended.  1. For each 8 oz of water use three to four level tablespoons of ground coffee or otherwise the analogy should be 1 to 10. 2. Bring hot water not quite to the boil. 3. Place the kettle on the counter for 30 seconds. 4. Pour water into the empty press pot to warm it. 5. Add ground coffee to the empty press pot and pour water into the thin stream over the grounds. 6. Stir the coffee with a small wooden spoon and place the stem on the pot with the filter about half inch from the grounds. 7. Wait three minutes for the coffee to steep. 8. Remove the stem briefly and stir gently in a wooden spoon. 9. Push the grounds down to the bottom of the pot. If the stem thunks to the bottom with almost no resistance, then your grind is too coarse. If you have to strain to get the stem to the bottom of the pot, then your grin is too fine. It should take 12-20 seconds to push the stem to the bottom depending on the size of your press pot. 10. When you have pushed the plunger as far down as it will go, serve entire contents immediately. 11. Do not let it sit. 12. Do no reheat please, drink your coffee now.

French Press

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Got Snow?

If you stay in New York during the holidays, don't miss the "Got Snow" charity event on 12.22. Bring a new, unwrapped gift for the benefit. It's for a good cause! Cocktails and Hors d' Oeuvres will be served.

RSVP at events@a-apothecary.com by noon on 12.22

Where: at Bowery Wine, Co, 13 East 1st street, New York, 10003 from 8pm to 11pm.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Runway at Ricky's NYC with Rsession Tools on 12.18

Who: Ricky’s NYC and Rsession Tools’ renowned stylists Frank Rizzieri & Kevin Ryan
What: Ricky’s NYC Teams Up with Rsession Tools’ co-founders and celebrated runway hairstylists Frank Rizzieri and Kevin Ryan for demonstrations of the latest looks from the runway and red carpet using innovative tools from their own line, including the Naluwaver, Root Control, Tapered Curling Iron, Pin Point
Straightening Iron, Bamboo Brush Collection, Pin Up Girl Kit and Teasing Comb.
◊ Free Rsession Tools Heat Mat with any Rsession Tools purchase
Where: Ricky’s NYC Soho Location, 590 Broadway (Between Houston St and Prince St)

When: Saturday, December 18, 2010, 2:00–5:00 pm

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Lancôme Holiday Soiree at Lord & Taylor December 9th

On Thursday, December 9th
11 am to 7 pm @ Lord and Taylor, 5th Avenue at 39 st.

Pop Burgers for 88 cents December 8th

8coupons has reunited with Pop Burger to offer Pop Burgers for just 88 cents!

                      When: Wednesday December 8th 2010, 2:00 to 6:00 pm.

                      Where: 9th Avenue between 14th & 15th OR 14 East 58 street

Text yourself the special OCHO LOCO! coupon from 8coupons.com and show your phone to redeem.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

InStyle and Levi's shopping event

Join Levi's and artists from "The Original Butt Sketch"

When: Wednesday, December 8th, 7-9pm

Where: Levi's Meatpacking, 414 West 14th street, New York, NY

To confirm attendance, please email: rsvpnyc@timeinc.com by December 6th.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Shop this Saturday at DKNY

This Saturday 12.4 from 1 to 4pm, visit Bloomingdale's 59th street and shop with DKNY!

Click on the invitation to read more.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010


My book  GET INVITED, DON'T CRASH IT is FINALLY available. Buy it here: http://amzn.to/fkw30Q.

Here is what the Editorial Reviews of Amazon say:

When was the last time you were invited to a party? A cocktail reception? A store opening? Do you remember or it has been such a long time since then that you have already forgotten? Have you ever wondered why some people get always invited and some others don't? Do you wish to get invited more often? With witty and engaging chapters, tips and plenty of resources, GET INVITED discusses the reasons of parties, invitations and guest lists and proves that you don't need a posh lifestyle or being "sociable" to be on the guest list. GET INVITED, DON'T CRASH it is an entertaining guide for those who want to be on the guest list more often.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Oysters in Thanksgiving

When you decide to replace turkey with oysters on Thanksgiving, you may well take a risk. I haven't been very keen on turkey in the first place so an alternative might have been a good idea. Oysters are healthier (if fresh), lighter and you don't need cranberry sauce! I am far from being an oyster expert. But with the help with an ex-oyster farmer and wannabe lobster roll entrepreneur friend, find below some basics on Balon.

Balon - see picture above-  a cute oyster as you can see, is otherwise called European flat oyster or diver caught oyster. It has a slight mineral after taste, hints of lemon and nuts and a crunchy and firm texture.  I would eat it plain or with a drop of lemon juice.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Italian Design Street Walking

Italian Design Street Walking is a 6-week program of exhibitions, events and special promotions at 20 of the best Italian furniture and lighting showrooms in New York City.

The special "Italian Design Night Out" of celebratory events will have the city abuzz-from the A&D building to Soho-with opening parties at the 20 participating showrooms, each of which will bring something unique and exciting to the evening.

Open to the public, guests will be treated at each of the showrooms to a gastronomic taste of Italy from Eataly.

The evening marks the beginning of I Saloni Milano in New York, an unprecedented celebration of Italian design, art and culture in New York City, in honor of the upcoming 50th anniversary of I Saloni Milano-otherwise known as the Milan Furniture Fair - in April 2011.

For a list of events click here: http://www.cosmit.it/ny/tool/home.php?l=en&s=0,2,37

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Holiday Cavalcade Shopping Event

Openhouse is proud to be hosting the Holiday Cavalcade and more than 50 of the area's amazing artists, designers and crafters.

Come and celebrate a winter shopping wonderland! This year’s Holiday Cavalcade will be filled with handmade clothing, home decor, jewelry, accessories, paper goods, toys and bath & body products, all designed and produced locally.

It will be a shopping experience to remember! Join us at Openhouse Gallery, 201 Mulberry street, Nolita on December 5, 2010 from 11am-8pm.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Chili Takedown

Empty cups after serious chili tasting

Tasting chili is a unique and daunting experience especially if you are hungry and it is cold outside. I took on the challenge and was determined to be objective and strict at the same time. I tasted 28 different chili samples. I eliminated 25 during the first round and re-tasted the three that scored very high, then the following three runner ups. Some were way too spicy, that overpowered the remaining ingredients so the chili wasn't in perfect balanced.  I tasted innovative recipes (chili with rice and coconut milk) which failed to deliver the authenticity of the chili dish. Finally, some were too salty, too creamy, too "vegetarian" or just unbalanced.
My winners were number 9, a chili made with venison, smoked ham, chocolate, italian sausage - a perfect blend and hot enough for everybody. Number 13 was the perfect traditional chili everybody would love and number 17 was hickory smoked, a tasty alternative. I also liked the Caribbean chili and the Vietnamese chili for their "twist".

Plates full with chili samples to taste

Before starting tasting - first batch!

Tasting chili is a tough job!

My winner -chili number 9 (read for the ingredients)

This is number 9 again!

chili number 4

More chili competitors....

Vietnamese chili

My winners!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Collaborating for Cure Dinner and Auction

With a sold-out crowd of nearly 1,400 guests, the 13th Annual Collaborating for Cure Dinner and Auction to Benefit the Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation was held last Thursday at the very prestigious Park Avenue Armory. Guests started with cocktails while looking at the auction items led by Hugh Hildesley of Sotheby’s Auction House. Celebrity guest Sheryl Crow came on stage at 10pm.

Parmezan Cheese and Olives

Auction Item

During Cocktail Hour...

It was one of my few Fundraising events and as an events blogger, I was ecstatic: well-dressed guests, mouthwatering hors d’ oeuvres and an unlimited selection of wine and cocktails. The pictures captured the ambience hopefully. It’s all good especially if it is done for a unique cause. The silent auction raised nearly a million dollars (the Seven-Night-Stay for up to 10 guests in the Ian Fleming Villa at the Goldeneye Resort via Private Jet Service garnered the highest bid of the evening with $100,000).

Sheryl Crow

Dr. Samuel Waxman

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Maison du Chocolat tastings

Join Bergdorf Goodman for the debut of the Holiday Collection and a special tasting to celebrate La Maison du Chocolat's 20th anniversary in New York.

When: Thursday, November 18 - Saturday, November 20, 2-6 pm

Where: Seventh Floor, Bergdorf Goodman, 5th Avenue at 58th Street, New York, NY 10019

Molteni & C event

Join Molteni & C on Monday, November 29th for the Design Street Walking event from 6pm. Click on the invitation  above for more information.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Girls Night Out at bebe stores

Get in the Holiday Spirit and join bebe for Girls Out out on 11/18! The party begins at 6pm at all bebe Stores nationwide. Click here for the store in your city.

* Be the first to shop the new Kardashian Collection

* Receive a Free VIP GLAM BAG including top-selling BADgal Lash mascara & bebe logo tee and get $25 off your purchase of $150 or more

* Enter for a chance to win the ULTIMATE TRIP TO NEW YORK FOR FASHION WEEK

Have fun ladies!


Monday, November 15, 2010

Bamboo 52 birthday party

Bamboo 52 is celebrating their fourth birthday by hosting a free drinks and food event this coming Tuesday! Enjoy a glass of something good that contains alcohol - it will be Tuesday after all!

No need to RSVP!

Where: Bamboo 52, 344 West 52

When: Tuesday, November 16, 8 - midnight

Chocolate Show in New York

Once again it's here. This year, the Chocolate Show came in a good shape and less noise  but with very strong cocoa flavors and consumers with a demanding palate. I spent nearly three half-days on the floor trying to taste with a plain mouth and an objective mind -no personal preferences or positive press affecting.

I personally identified two major trends: those of the US market and that of the Europe which is primarily represented by France and Belgium. Chocolate in the US market has become organic, raw, vegan and gluten-free to satisfy those who are diabetic, suffer from the celiac disease or just look for healthier options. Representatives of that trend is Gnosis Chocolates, Nibmor and Sweet Riot - all offering the raw and gluten free varieties.

I tasted them all and although I like the raw-ness, I feel that it may well be overwhelming for some consumers. Blending raw cocoa beans with dense nuts, fruits, superfoods and herbs is a "healthy" option and not a bad idea but keep an eye on the calories as well. Rawness does not come calorie-free, so do have a look at the ingredients. A look at Nibmor's nutrition facts says that a serving size of 31 g has 120 calories, 70 of which is fat, wit 4g of saturated fat.

On the other hand, France came with its awesome chocolate creations, not only a delight in the palate but also a visible pleasure. France, the number one country in pastry creations and chocolate according to world ratings, seems not to care for health. Therefore, you see the bonbons, ganaches, macaroons, truffles and pralines. Christophe Roussel tells me that in France chocolate makers work with "associations" in texture: crunchy-ness and softness are two of the trends he sees in his country and believes that the American market will soon make a shift from tablets to more sophisticated forms of chocolate.

Christophe Roussel Chocolates

Carolina Gavet, the marketing manager of Valrhona, shows me their newest Christmas boxes with bonbons and square truffles, an obvious innovation. When I asked her about the trends in the US, she tells me that American consumers are far more educated about chocolate now: they seem to know how it is made, where the beans come from and the difference between the high end chocolate and the mass production. They also started to appreciate the dark chocolate as well. "So far Americans liked the milk chocolate because they like sugar a lot," she says "but now they eat dark because it's more chocolate and is healthier."

Mary Chocolate, the Japanese chocolate store exhibiting this year, came with new forms of chocolate. They mainly use ingredients and foods found in Japan as for example sesame, wasabi and sake something that American consumers seem to appreciate. Their newly chocolate covered rice cracker is a hit on the floor - I can't say the same for the spicy version of it. Masakazu Takada, the overseas sales and development manager says that there is no recession in chocolate consumption in Japan. The market is growing fast and Japanese like their chocolates.

Francisco Vivar, the Pacari chocolate spokesperson thinks that chocolate should give happiness not only to the consumer but to the entire chain: the producer, importer, exporter, sales person etc. That's why Pacari's values is sustainability and eco-friendliness. Organic, vegan, gluten-free and sugar-free is also a trend for them so Pacari has all of the above. Vivar also tells me that in Ecuador they now keep the best cocoa beans for themselves and for their local production (in the past they sent the best beans to France, Belgium and Switzerland) as they want to produce the best chocolate in Ecuador. Pacari with Kallari and Antidote chocolates came in the show with the support of the Trade Office of Ecuador.

What was new for me? Not more bacon and spicy chocolate this year, as it was the trend last year. But I tried the 100% from Pacari and Pralus. I can't say it was a dessert -for this I will opt for some macaroons- but it was intense and bitter enough to remind me of an espresso!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Shiseido Cosmetics Pop Up Beauty Boutique

In celebration of its Fall and Holiday makeup and skincare collections, Shiseido Cosmetics America will open the Shiseido NYC Limited Edition Beauty Boutique – its first-ever pop-up beauty boutique on Friday, November 12th in NYC. The boutique will be open to the public for one week only – from November 12th – 19th from 11AM to 7PM daily.

Guests are invite to sample the offerings and receive signature Shiseido services during the event such as:

* Gift cards for complimentary facial massage treatments at the Bloomingdales Shiseido counter on 59th Street
* Deluxe samples of signature Shiseido skincare and makeup products

* Information about Shiseido collections including the: New Fall 2010 Shiseido Makeup and Limited Edition Holiday Palette, New Shiseido Future Solution LX Eye and Lip Contour Regenerating Cream and Best-selling Shiseido Bio Performance Super Corrective Serum.

When: November 12th – 19th from 11AM to 7PM

Where: 989 Third Avenue (at 59th Street)