Wednesday, March 30, 2011

singlebarrel speakeasy

I'm not much of a drinker, but I've always wanted to go to a Prohibition era-style speakeasy. This past weekend, I finally went! A few friends and I met up at singlebarrel, a speakeasy in San Jose, for a completely charming experience and possibly the best cocktail I've ever had (the Bramble). Below are my favorite parts from my first speakeasy experience.
1. Located in a completely unmarked building, the speakeasy can be easy to miss. Patrons can find the entrance by looking for the single barrel (get it? ;) mounted above the door.
2. I never know what to order at bars, and usually I get something pretty standard like a cranberry vodka just because I don't know what else I'd like. Luckily, singlebarrel makes it easy for people like me--right when you walk in, a bartender greets you and asks you questions about what flavors and liquors you like. Based on your answers, the bartender will choose your first drink for you. I told our bartender that I liked fruity, slightly tart flavors and a light alcohol taste. He was right on the money when he made me a Bramble, a gin-based cocktail mixed with blackberry liqueur--it tasted like a grown-up version of a snow cone.
3. Although the decor is minimal, the ambiance is great. They also use vintage-looking cocktail napkins made of real fabric which is a really cute touch.
4. They are all about slowing things down and so it shouldn't have been surprising (although it was) when our bartender pulled a big wooden hammer off the wall to smash the ice for our drinks. All the juices were hand-squeezed, too.
5. The bartenders wear newsboy caps and tell you stories from back in the day as they make your drinks.

Just as I expected, I'm a big fan of speakeasies! Have you been to one before? Are you as big a fan as I am?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Chicken Tortilla Soup

This Saturday was bitingly cold and dreary, and all I could think about was wrapping my hands around a hot bowl of soup. Alan and I also started watching Friday Night Lights (a few of our friends talk about it non-stop), and we got hooked! I was really skeptical that I'd like the show, but it turned out to be engaging and thoroughly heartbreaking--I think I cried, or came really close to it, in every episode. I thought about making this soup again, but after such an emotional show, I decided to make this chicken tortilla soup. It's bright and spicy and added a much-needed colorful splash to our afternoon.

The spices in the soup were garlic powder, chili powder, and cumin. I've never cooked with cumin before but when I smelled it, I knew it'd be a new favorite. It smells and tastes amazing.


When the soup was done, I set up a toppings station in the kitchen. It was like having an instant fiesta!

This soup was full of flavor. It's so easy to make and will definitely be on my short list of favorites. It's the cold-weather equivalent to a plate of really good tacos.

(Update 10/8/12: Thanks to Yummly for featuring me on their blog! Read the full post here: Simple Soups to Warm You Up This Season.)
Certified Yummly Recipes on

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Usuals: Fresh Looks for Spring

.photos by daniel garcia .hair by nathan nguyen, umbrella salon .make-up by try serino, umbrella salon

Even though it's been raining here all week, I am so happy that it's officially spring! Hopefully soon I can break out with all my warm-weather clothes and ditch my boring black coat at home. I styled a spring fashion piece for Content Magazine and loved the sweet dresses and local-made accessories we featured from The Usuals, an awesome, hip clothing boutique and art gallery on The Alameda. You can see the rest of the pictures over at Content. Everyone that helped out on the shoot did such an amazing job! :)

A Webpage Dedicated to One Girl's Dream Job

A number of years ago, when I decided to leave my first job out of college as a market researcher, I wanted to start working as a copywriter for an ad agency. Unfortunately (as it is with so many jobs), all the open positions I found were looking for people with a few years' experience. Without any copywriting experience on my resume, it seemed almost impossible to break into the profession, so I decided to heck with it, and wrote a non-conventional cover letter in about 20 minutes. It was actually more of a story than an actual cover letter, and it felt electrifying to write it. I sent it off to a small company that sounded like a perfect fit and was thrilled when they responded! I ended up working there for a year and felt pretty happy with myself for my creativity. Now I feel silly once I see the things other people put together to land their dream jobs. My newest admiration: this webpage a creative gal named Netta put together called It's so simple yet so clever. I hope she gets the job!

(p.s. a really cool CV)

Monday, March 21, 2011

How To Make Cake Pops

The first time I had a cake pop was at my friend Jennifer's wedding last year. Since then, cake pops have exploded in popularity, and they can now even be found at your local Starbuck's. Not only are they cute, they're also perfectly moist and perfectly portioned for when you just want a little something sweet. Best of all, they're surprisingly easy to make. (Thanks to my cousin Denise for the cake pop tutorial!)

1. You're going to need one whole cake. You can either bake a cake from scratch (which might feel like a big shame once you get to step 2), bake one from a cake mix, or buy one from a bakery. (This one is from Costco). You can use any flavor cake you'd like.

2. In a big bowl, use your hands and mash the cake, mixing in 1 can of frosting as you go. If you're using an already frosted cake, no additional frosting is needed. The consistency should be mashed-potato like, only stickier. Like you just mashed an entire cake up and threw in a can of frosting.

3. Take a small scoop of mashed cake.

4. Roll it into a ball in the palm of your hands.

5. Repeat until all your mashed cake has been formed. Place your cake balls on a baking sheet. Chill for at least 2 hours or overnight for best results.

6. After the cake balls have chilled, decide what flavor candy melts you want to coat your cake pops with. We used chocolate and vanilla with sprinkles. Melt the candy according to the package directions. It's important to not overheat the candy melts because that will cause all kinds of problems and frustration and probably a little bit of cursing.

7. Take a lollipop stick and dip the tip of one end into the melted candy. Push the cake ball halfway onto the stick.

8. Dip the cake ball into the melted candy, using a spoon to help you coat it.

9. Gently knock off any excess candy coating by holding the cake pop over the bowl in one hand at a 45 degree angle and tapping it against your other hand. Stick the cake pops into a piece of styrofoam so the candy coating can harden. (It only takes a few minutes). These can be stored in tupperware at room temperature for a few days.
And if you don't want to bother with lollipop sticks, or if you didn't chill your cake balls long enough and they fall off their sticks completely, you can make cake truffles instead of cake pops. Really, they taste just as good :)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Chunky Comfort: Sandals for Spring

I am really digging the chunky sandal trend for spring, especially since I think my wide monster feet can more easily fit into this style. They're easily dressed up or down, and I think with my warm-weather tendency to wear simple skirts and dresses, these will make for a nice, heavier contrast. I'm even more excited since discovering Indigo by Clarks (I still love my last pair of Indigo by Clarks shoes!) and Sofft have a darling spring shoe lineup--friends and lovers of comfort shoes, rejoice!

Top image credit: Madewell and J. Crew

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Treasure Hunting: 5 Tips for Successful Antiquing

Tip #1: Fuel up on coffee (or hot chocolate, whatever floats your boat)

Recently I spent an entire weekend doing one of my favorite things: treasure hunting in antique stores and rummage sales. It can be pretty overwhelming sifting through one man's junk to find another woman's treasure, but I find the whole process exhilarating, especially when I come across something really rad. It's definitely not for the faint of heart, but after my recent trip to the Antique Trove in Roseville, I've found there are some things you can do to ensure a smooth antiquing adventure. (And check out some of the awesome store displays below!)

.pretty anthropologie-esque table display

Tip #2: Ask a patient friend to join you, preferably someone who's also into vintage finds (it's much more fun than going with someone who could care less about the silver pitcher you just spotted that would be perfect for your coffee table)

.mossy mushrooms in a wire basket

Tip #3: Expand your search to places you might not usually think to look. For example, while Alan and I were in Roseville for a friend's baby shower, I decided to check out the antiques scene while we were there and was glad I did--seriously, the Antique Trove, awesome!-- even though going thrifting in Roseville had never once crossed my mind.

.cool garage/cabin display

Tip #4: Do your research. When my friend Stacy asked me to go with her to a rummage sale, I did a quick search online to learn more about what items were for sale, where to park, and what the acceptable forms of payment were. The sale was an absolute mad house, but knowing what I was definitely not interested in seeing from the beginning helped narrow down my search of what I did want to check out.

.some of the pretty jewelry I had to keep myself away from. Although I don't think it's real vintage, this "Bee On Time" necklace is too cute!

Tip #5: Have a general idea of the things you're looking to score. Sometimes it's fun to just walk around and look casually, but if you know what you're looking for, write it down. I don't know about you, but once I'm surrounded by cool vintage wares, I lose all memory of anything and everything I'd been hoping to find. (Note to self for next time: bookends!)

Happy hunting!

Monday, March 14, 2011

C&O Trattoria-Inspired Garlic Knots

My friend Roy came up from L.A. to visit this past week, and we spent most of our time together eating. Hanging out with him reminded me of my favorite places to eat in L.A. when I used to live there. One of my favorite Italian restaurants to eat at served these amazing "killer garlic rolls." They were always hot, doughy, and slathered in garlic and olive oil. I could eat an entire meal of their garlic rolls alone. Since I no longer live a short drive away from C & O, I decided to try to make some garlic rolls myself. I made garlic knots using a recipe from Gourmet's special Italian edition. While they were no killer garlic rolls, they definitely hit the spot. And, most importantly, they were the saving grace at last night's dinner since I sorta put in three 1/2 cups of cream in the pasta sauce I was making instead of three 1/4 cups. I blame it on the shrimp cooking at the speed of light.

.cappellini with shrimp and extra creamy tomato sauce

Garlic Knots
Adapted from Gourmet magazine

Makes 1 dozen

2 Tbsp olive oil plus additional for greasing pan
1 tube of Pillsbury breadsticks (the original recipe calls for 2 lb pizza dough, thawed completely if frozen. The recipe also mentioned a lot of rolling out and cutting of dough that I wanted to skip, so I went the pre-cut breadstick route yielding a nice easy dozen instead of the 5 dozen the 2 lbs of pizza dough would yield)
2 garlic cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 375. Lightly oil a baking sheet. Roll out dough and cover with a clean kitchen towel (not terry cloth). Keeping remaining strips covered, gently tie each strip into a knot, pulling ends slightly to secure and arranging knots 1 inch apart in staggered rows on 1 baking sheet. Bake, switching position of sheet halfway through baking, until golden, 16 to 18 minutes total.

While knots bake, mince garlic and mash to a paste with salt, then stir together with oil in a very large bowl. Immediately after baking, toss knots in garlic oil, then sprinkle with parsley and cheese and toss to coat. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Short List: Slouchy Trousers for Spring

Spring is almost here, and I am so excited. I love bundling up and getting cozy, but this winter feels like it's gone on forever. I can't wait to leave my jacket behind, and I'm still not over the slouchy trouser pants I wrote about in the fall. With some high-heeled sandals, these pants look like they're going to be my springtime staple. Here's a roundup of my favorite ones:

Likes: Forever 21 Career Day Trousers, $24.80 - for less than $25, these slouchy (yet slim!) pants won't break the bank and will perk up an all-black-trouser work week.

Wants: Urban Outfitters Furies Obi Pant, $120 - finished with a wide waistband and a tiny button at the cuff of each leg, I'm sold.

Desires: Phillip Lim draped tapered trousers, $375 - last year I was at Tartine eating a croissant, half a loaf of fresh hot bread, and a banana cream tart, and the only thing that could have possibly distracted me in that moment was the sight of a girl wearing these pants. They looked seriously amazing.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

DIY cards for everyday hellos

I blame my semi-serious hoarding on my mom. In our house, we could never throw anything away if it could be re-used or re-purposed. This is why I can't bear to throw away old calendars with pretty designs or pictures. At a recent Borders closing sale, I snagged this box of patterned, blank cards for a heckuva deal and decided to decorate them by making use of an old letterpress calendar I had lying around.

All you need to get started are blank cards, an old calendar, scissors, glue, and a good latte. Because a good latte makes everything better.

First, cut out the shapes or pictures you like from the calendar.

Add a little bit of glue. (I love Elmer's because it totally reminds me of elementary school).

Glue your shapes onto the front of your cards. You're all set to remind someone of the joys of snail mail!

p.s. Alan's grandma and I send each other notes through the mail -- it's always lots of fun to get something in the mailbox that's not a bill :)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Macarons are the new cupcake

Even if macarons have been the new cupcake for a while now, they are pretty new to me. In fact, I didn't even know what they were a couple of years ago. I had seen them, but their neon colors didn't seem quite that appetizing. It wasn't until last year that I tried my first one at Cocola because my friend Sashee had just come back from Paris raving about Laduree's macarons (of course, she said Laduree's were better).

Recently, a macaron craving has hit me like a ton of bricks, and it makes me remember what it feels like to have a grade-school crush. These delicate cookies make me feel giddy inside, and I just want to chase them all around the playground while simultaneously denying any interest in them. Because while they're perfectly sweet with a wonderfully crispy, chewy texture, they're not the cheapest cookies on the block. But they're so good! One day soon, I'll have to try Laduree's famous macarons, but until then, I'm slowly trying all the macarons the Bay Area has to offer. Pamplemousse in Redwood City makes a mighty mean salted caramel. My other favorites were the pistachio and the cassis (black currant). The strawberry tasted a little bit too artificial for my liking, but it was still pretty tasty. My least favorite was probably the Mayan chocolate. With its spicy kick, it reminded me a little bit too much of a Hot Tamales. Overall though, I'd never say no to a Pamplemousse macaron!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Online Dating

I know this isn't a typical Friday "to wear" post, but last night's Content Magazine planning meeting ran longer than I thought it would. We have some super exciting things in the works, including upcoming crafting workshops--love! More updates coming soon.

In the meantime, check out my Content article on online dating. It's about my friend's own online dating experiences (the good and the bad) and her encounters with cute cowboys and unbelievable jerk-offs.

Have a great Friday!

(illustration: ben alexy)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The lazy weekend

.pretty, but lonely tables and chairs.

The past few weekends have been filled with all kinds of odds and ends. Last weekend I helped style Kathleen Powell, co-founder of Cinequest, San Jose's very own film festival, for a Content Magazine photo shoot. And this coming weekend, we're going to a friend's baby shower in Sacramento and will perhaps check out Old Town while we're there. But this past weekend was nice and quiet, and since we had nowhere in particular to be, we kinda did whatever we felt like doing, including visiting Pamplemousse to sample their macarons (a separate post on that later), hiking in Mill Valley, and eating a few of our favorite foods.

.alan the daredevil throwing caution to the wind.

.pearl's phat burgers.

.gialina pizza makes amazing crust; farm eggs cracked on top of pizzas are fun.
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