Saturday, August 29, 2009

Raspberry Buttermilk Cake

The berries will soon be gone from the market and this recipe has been bookmarked for months. Originally spied in my Gourmet Magazine with further inspiration coming from Smitten Kitchen, I had to try it. Lot of talent in that no-so-little blog of hers . . .

This is a simple buttermilk cake with that nice sugary crunch on top, reminiscent of those Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffins we like so much. Berries are always interchangeable . . .

This is scrumptious. I'll be making it for the second time tomorrow.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 cup fresh raspberries (about 5 oz)

Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle and butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Beat butter and 2/3 cup sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes, then beat in vanilla. Add egg and beat well. At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour, and mixing until just combined. Spoon batter into cake pan, smoothing top. Scatter raspberries evenly over top and sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar. Bake until cake is golden and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool to warm, 10 to 15 minutes more. Invert onto a plate.

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Saturday date at LBS

I slipped my feet into my Topsiders today and felt leftover Laguna sand. I didn't remove it.

We are back into the swing of life and our regular Saturday routine. We meet up at home at noon and take off for the day. Today was simply lunch . . . a Saturday afternoon catching up on our Netflix is just what we both need this week.

We planned our return visit to LBS in Red Rock Hotel, mostly because we agree they serve the best burger in Las Vegas. Sorry Hubert and Burger Bar . . . yes, I had a great buffalo burger at Burger Bar, but for me - LBS is the place. All their burgers are made from 21-day dry-aged Hereford beef so you get a real steakhouse flavor.

These are their fried bread and butter pickles with an herb mayonnaise. They were tasty, but next time I will have the Fried Cheesekurds again. They were little pillows of soft fluffy cheese served with a tomato relish. Awesome. I've yet to try their mini corndogs or the warm sourdough pretzel sticks with spicy mustard and cheese fondue. They are on my 'must try' list. I've heard good things...

LBS American Cheeseburger with grilled onions, lettuce, tomato, pickles and LBS burger sauce. That may be my favorite component of their burgers, that LBS burger sauce. And YES, that little ramekin on the plate is fry sauce, really good fry sauce, perfect fry sauce for the perfect french fry. Swear.

This burger has pepper jack, avocado, chipotle sauce, lettuce, tomato, red onion and jalapenos. See those sweet potato fries? Heaven.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wednesday in Las Vegas

I might have been tearful driving home on Sunday. Back up. I was.

It was a magical week. Could you tell?

Check out The Bed and Breakfast Place at La Jolla, the place we're staying over the Christmas holiday, complete with a wood burning fireplace.

The research begins...

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Manzanita Wishing Well

Today is our last full day at the beach and we plan to make the most of it. It's hazy. It doesn't look like it will burn off. We don't care.

I finished A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and it was stellar. I can't believe there's a person in the universe who worries more than I do. About absurdities. Life changing, knowing that.

Today I will read So Long, See You Tomorrow and kiss 'time for recreational reading' goodbye. Seminary calls and that makes me happy.

My final departing wish in the Manzanita wishing well? That I can return next year enjoying the same health I have this year. I might have tossed an extra coin in wishing to come back with my entire family one year. That would really be heaven

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Laguna Friday...

A hazy beach day again, but this time it didn't burn off by noon and it was chilly. I don't mind being bundled up at the beach one bit - I rather like it. We ultimately decided to pack our books and visit a few places we'd bookmarked over the last few months. Fine with me . . . somehow I have toasted hands. I've never actually had this happen before - they look like lobsters. I am the whitest person alive.

First we set the GPS (oh how I love thee) to The Blackmarket Bakery. No pastry was screaming out to my spouse. Instead I bought a one pound container of almond paste and some 'pailletes fins chocolat', or fine chocolate flakes. Still not certain how I will use these, but you can be sure I will.

Since that bakery trip wasn't extra successful we went back to, you know . . . yes, we did. Sprinkles! My companion picked out a chocolate marshmallow cupcake, a vanilla cupcake and a milk chocolate cupcake. For the record, my favorite all week was the vanilla cupcake. I can't seem to make myself shut up about cupcakes.

Back to Cafe Zoolu because someone I know has been dreaming about the cowboy steak he had there last year . . . in a peppercorn sauce.

We went to Powell's in Laguna Nigel - a new addition to the area. When I told Caity we were going to a new candy store at the beach she said, "We have a new candy store, too. It's called Powell's." I guess this means you can expect one in your neighborhood. It was fun and wins the contest for 'most Pez dispensers'. We didn't buy a thing. Go figure.

The walk to the beach today was awesome. See:

Passionfruit is all over the Manzanita property...

We finished off the day by seeing Julie and Julia, a great foodie movie that did right by Julia Child in every way.

Tomorrow is our last full day here. Haze or not we are planning a full day staring at the ocean and finishing our books. Next year may require two weeks. I can dream, can't I?

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Laguna Thursday

Sigh. I landed right back on the point counting wagon yesterday. There's nothing like knowing you're about to be standing in front of a roomful of high school students Monday morning to keep you honest. Being stuffed into a suit just isn't an option. Back to reality. The "you can't eat what you want" reality.

It was another hazy Laguna Beach morning. Did that stop us? No. On the walk to the beach we discussed how neither one of us feels the monotony of the morning ritual at all. We pack those backpack chairs, put on the sunscreen, grab the sunglasses and walk down the same hill each day. Not monotony. This can only mean that we were made for each other. This and the fact that we both love to dance and neither one of us CAN dance AND that we love the movies. How bad would that feel to be the lone movie buff in a relationship?

No segue.

I left the beach for a few minutes today to go back to the Skandia Bakery to buy my other half a snickerdoodle and a sugar cookie. You know, because I'm a giver. Also, I like to feed people. I grabbed his 'BYU School of Mechanical Engineering' sweatshirt, pulled it over my head and headed downtown. A woman with a very serious face promptly handed me a printed brochure entitled "Why Women Need Freedom from Religion." It was full of craziness, but it's made an excellent bookmark! The woman was frantic to deliver me from whatever. . . she left her perch next to the man with 6 varieties of birds (I'm Brian Fellows) to run that over to me. Laguna Beach can be funny.

Like today, for instance, I saw a man with really white chest hair down the middle of his torso, but with thick black hair covering both sides of his chest. I am not even kidding when I tell you this, but when I saw him headed toward us I was certain he was wearing the top of a bathing suit. A bikini top. I know, I know, it reads as if I am exaggerating for emphasis. I'm not. I have a witness.

This is the Sexy Handroll from 242 Cafe Fusion Sushi. They consider their raw fish to be high art and signs on the wall warn you not to blunt the flavors with soy sauce or wasabi. We didn't ask. It was awesome. And beautiful.

No segue.

There's a funky downtown shop here that calls my name every year. I gravitate toward this shop, despite the fact that it's unlikely anything in that shop would ever make an appearance in my home. Today we figured it out - it reminds me of my sister. Now I just want to sit on the bench outside that shop and take it in.

No segue.

I am reading A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers. I cannot tell you how much I am enjoying this book. I've been a McSweeney's fan for a long time . . . I should have known to pick this up many years ago.

A few random images from the day from Bristol Farms, the most beautiful market I've ever laid eyes on:

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Laguna Beach gelato...

I remember being in Europe as a teenager and frowning upon the "funny" ice cream. Sigh. Pistachio, I love you.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

La Sirena Grill

My husband, the social animal that he is, made friends with a surfer from the U.K. Except, as it turns out, he wasn't from the U.K. at all, he was from Laguna Beach. He was working on his British accent for a movie role he has next year . . . a sequel to a vampire blockbuster. All he'd say. I digress. We asked him where the best Mexican place was in Laguna . . . we explained we had our favorite locals places to eat like Cafe Zoolu and Thai Brothers, but that we'd yet to find a favorite Mexican place. He recommended La Sirena Grill . . . I was hesitant because, first, I have trust issues. Really about anything, but especially about food. Second, I typically do about 30 hours of research (minimum) for each new place we try when we're on vacation. Since I'm on vacation and all . . . I threw caution to the wind and took his advice. I'm like that. Spontaneous. Know what? It was outstanding.

This was the house special . . . the Sirena carne asada layered on some homemade corn tortillas and covered in roasted peppers and onions and queso fresco. It was simple and fabulous.

David's grilled beef tacos on handmade corn tortillas with Sirena cabbage and fresh salsa.

I'm still working the new settings on my camera . . . this isn't the best picture. Trust - this was the best guacamole I've ever had.

So thanks pretend British boy from Laguna Beach - if your dad is the President of Experien and you're reading this, I hope you become famous just because your recommendation was awesome.

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The Road to La Rue

Today was a little more hazy than most beach days here . . . no matter. We still put our time in and managed to sit in those beach chairs for a number of hours.

Each day I pack two novels and have trouble deciding which one is my choice for the day. Today I chose The Road. Let me tell you, by the time I packed up my gear and headed back to the yellow cottage I wanted to carve both eyeballs out. How I managed to avoid this book for so long is a mystery to me. Perhaps it's the aversion I have to post-apocalyptic anythings . . . movies, books, whatever. Mostly I felt as if I'd read a collection of Frank McCourt novels back to back. At least in his novels the babies died of starvation. None were eaten. I really may never be the same.

I did the only thing I could possibly do. I went to LaRue du Chocolat, a quaint little chocolate shop down a secluded and lovely landscaped alley in the heart of Laguna Beach. Know what? It wasn't enough.

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Today's walk to the beach...

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For you, Stace

The Laguna institution lives on . . . and so it was that we had to carry on the tradition. We shared our caramel apple tonight walking the streets of downtown. The sign said, "We'll slice it for you!", and as if that happened to be the deal breaker, we looked at each other and said, "Tonight's the night." It was yummy.

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Thai Brothers

Even if we're just here for a weekend we find time to go to a TINY locals place a block from the beach, Thai Brothers. The vegetables are always cooked perfectly and they know how to cook with a hot pepper.

This appetizer was called a Triangle. A stuffed flour tortilla with fish, shrimp, avocado, cilantro and green onion, deep fried to a golden brown. The slaw/relish that came with it - let's just say I really wanted to drink it...

The old standby, Geowsa, pan fried chicken dumplings topped with sweet and spicy soy sauce.

This was their Pineapple Rice . . . full of perfectly fried egg, onion, tomato, chicken, shrimp, cashews and pineapple. I loved this dish.

Fire Eater . . . sliced chicken breast, bell pepper, onion, carrot and mushrooms cooked in a spicy sauce that I wanted to pour over everything.

Today's docket is the beach and reading. Nothing more. Not even cupcakes.

P.S. My Irish tan is in full force, although the red has evened out enough to mask what happened to my nose. Let's just say I look a little less like W.C. Fields today. SPF 50 isn't enough for my white-ness, even with a hat.

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Skandia Bakery

Yesterday we sat on the beach for eight hours. Sometimes in long sleeves, always with 50 SPF AND a hat. I put away another novel and sometimes dozed. Bliss. Around 2 or so I walked a few blocks to the Skandia Bakery - it's a favorite place of mine in downtown Laguna. I ordered a sandwich on a yummy french roll and brought it back to the beach for us to share, with one lone sugar cookie for the Mayor.

They have real french macaroons at this bakery. And tarts. And pretty much anything else your little heart desires.

The majority of people vacationing in Laguna Beach right now are Europeans . . . can you blame them? Remember when we were the ones taking advantage of the strong dollar? Things change.

It's only Wednesday. Awesome.

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the walk to the beach...

Every morning we walk by this gate and repeat the words. And then we sigh...

The gardens along the walk are amazing . . . there are trees with fruit on them and bushes with berries on them. And flowers. Flowers we've never seen. We stopped to look at this yellow beauty. It's called a shrimp flower. And then the door slowly creaked open . . . a "quirky" old woman looked out and said, "May I help you with something?" We explained we were just admiring her garden, you know, since we're so into flowers and things. I use the other sidewalk now.

We are either surrounded by the typical beach "bungalow" or a mansion. It really doesn't matter to me that it's densely populated or that it's overpriced. It's Laguna Beach. And today I slept until almost 9. Who does that? Sigh...

Love this place. All 500 sq. ft. of it.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Crystal Cove

Tonight we took a drive for dinner to Crystal Cove, an historic beach district just north of Laguna, before you get to Newport Beach. It's been the site of many movies . . . think Treasure Island. It had a hippie feel to it for sure - the cliffs are dotted with little shacks - but it' a beautiful spot. Anyway, does this really mater? No, it doesn't . . . not one bit . . . because we only went there to eat. Isn't that what this blog is all about? Yep. My blog is all about pictures of pork chops. And meatloaf. And cupcakes. And pretty much nothing else...

Our appetizer came highly recommended, the Roasted French Feta. It came with marinated oven roasted tomatoes (I have to try to duplicate these),an olive tapenade, and was served with slices of ciabatta. Delicious. I do believe my fingers are swollen from all the salt and brine in the feta and the olives. That happens to you, right? Am I the only one having a hard time typing right now?

This is my Banana Leaf Mahi Mahi on a bed of couscous with diced peppers, green onions, then wrapped in a banana leaf and baked. It was served with a side of grilled pineapple and supposedly topped with a dark rum (are you sensing a theme here?) butter sauce, but I will eat my hat if there was rum in that. What IS the origin of that saying, anyway?

David's pork chop grilled and then glazed with the house BBQ sauce. It was served with roasted potatoes, parmesan aioli cream corn and wilted baby spinach. He did NOT eat the spinach.

The atmosphere was fun and we're glad we went . . . but tomorrow we are staying just in Laguna, even opting out of going to that place I said I wasn't going to bring up again. Rhymes with Tinkles. Over and out.

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