Monday, August 30, 2010

Emmys Fashion 2010

Oh, the Emmy's. I felt like last night's show was pretty lackluster, and the fashion felt almost the same way. We invited friends over (Hi Miranda and Travis!) so our focus wasn't totally on the screen, but I don't feel like we missed too much. I'm delighted for Modern Family, a little sad for Lost, happy for Mad Men and always pissed when the cast of Two and a Half Men is nominated.

But on to the important part: the fashion! I had a really hard time picking best and worst looks because for every single person, I thought something could have been a touch better. No one really took my breath away, good or bad. With that disclaimer, here goes:

Best Dressed

Anna Paquin, in Alexander McQueen. Anna was one of my favorites earlier this year in Alexander McQueen, and I thought it was lovely of her to honor the designer again after he's passed. This was super fierce, and reminded the fellas at our get-together of Egyptian queens, but I will note that I would have loved a really great gold heel.

I'm usually not a fan of Claire Danes (I'll never forgive her for hooking up with Billy Crudup while Mary Louise Parker was carrying his child), but I thought her Armani Prive was simple, grown-up, classy and just glowed. Her hair looked great, but I did not like her eye-makeup. It looks good on this picture, but it didn't look good on the telecast at all.

January Jones in Atelier Versace. I thought this was a fun play on the 50's housewife frocks she spends her days in on Mad Men, but the hair was way too casual for me. It didn't look beachy or even bed-heady; it looked like she didn't have time to blow-dry, so she let it air dry on the ride over. I think it's brave to go without accessories, but I would have loved to see some jewelry of some sort.

Keri Russell, in vintage Jean-Louis Scherrer. I am sure many, many, many people hated this (including everyone in my living room!), but it moved so beautifully. I think she should have turned the disco up, however, and ditched the fabric flower. Her wild curls might have looked sexy all free-flowing.

Rose Byrne in Gucci. Um, I die for this dress, which was like futuristic Grecian goddess. The metal pieces = amazing; the draping = amazing. The Bride of Frankenstein hairsdo? Not so much. I get that it's very runway and very haute couture, but there are some things that work better in low lighting with thumping music and camera flashes than they do in the middle of the day against a red carpet and blue backdrop.

Lea Michele in Oscar de la Renta. I didn't even recognize her! She looked so grown-up. I thought the dress suited her beautifully (even if she looked corseted within an inch of her life), the necklace was fab and her make-up was perfect. BUT her Brigitte Bardot hair seemed to be falling flatter as the night wore on; I even heard her say to an E! host that she needed help with her hair. I bet it looked awesome when she got in the limo and then it lost its shape; happens to me every time, girlfriend!

On the Fence: Is it Good? Is it Bad?

Kyra Sedgwick in Monique Lhuillier. Color: gorgeous. Shape: gorgeous. Fabric: hrm. In this picture, the fabric looks amazing; intricately pleated to create layers of depth. But on screen, it looked like velvet and she looked like she was about to appear on the White House Christmas Special or in a very special "White Christmas" tribute.

Elisabeth Moss, in Donna Karan. I want to shake this girl. I want to tell her she is NOT Peggy. She is NOT President Bartlett's daughter. She is young! She is sexy! She is not the mother of the bride! So why does she always step out wearing dresses the color of putty or Band-Aids? The shape is pretty, but it really looks like a very advanced, designerly take on that dress Ariel makes when she first meets Prince Eric on the beach!

Sofia Vergera, in Carolina Herrera. The boys in my living room gave this a solid two thumbs-up, but Miranda and I couldn't stop staring at the bust line. I think the sweetheart shape seems very off, and the stripe of sequins made the dress seem kind of cheap to me.

Mariska Hargitay, in Vera Wang. Girl has got some curves, and they are wrapped beautifully, but I thought the little ruffle over the bust seemed a little juvenile and the random pleating at her hip seems gratuitous. Also, another dress the color of putty? Not feeling it.

Tina Fey, in Oscar de la Renta. Here's the deal: I want to root for my girl Tina. I want to say, "Ooooh it's pretty." But girl almost always wears black. The dress looked like a floor-length purchase from Deb in the late '90s. The beading looks like lace, as interpreted by Keith Haring (which could be cool, but is somehow jarring). I just want girl to get a stylist, get some color and work it like I know she can. I feel like she always comes close, but no cigar.


Amy Poehler, in Max Azria. It feels kinda bad to dog this dress because there's nothing particularly wrong with it. I know she had a baby like, last week, and she looks a-maz-ing considering that. But this color and style just SCREAMED Mother of the Bride to me. It was so matronly, so aging, so serious for such a funny gal. It gave me the blahs.

Rita Wilson, in Prada. I love Rita for reliably wearing something a little bit crazy. She's always escorting Tom, who is always nominated, so she's gotta do something to get attention, right? I can appreciate Prada with the best of them, but this looks like bubble wrap and chandelier crystals.

Christina Hendricks, in Zac Posen. Dear Christina: You are my idol. You got curves like no one else. You are a modern-day Rosalind Russell. You are fiiiiiiiine. So why are you always dressing like Auntie Mame? Why does January Jones get to have all the fun? This dress almost almost almost reminds me of those fabulous Gibson Girl dresses or something out of Hello Dolly, but girl, you never want to draw comparisons to Carol Channing.

Lauren Graham, in Yigal Azrouel. This could have been cool, but she looked SO dumpy from the side. I get what you're doing girl, but this is for TV. That is all.

So, who did I miss? Agree, disagree? Have it out in the comments!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday Best v.33

I have a hard time swallowing the destruction of books, but when it's for such a lovely purpose, why not? Check out this artist's gorgeous bookmobiles (get it? bookmobiles?) here. I could easily imagine it going over the rocking chair in a baby's nursery or in a library or study.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Jack Daniels Buttercream Frosting

So yesterday, I showed you how to make Coca-Cola cupcakes, but today, let's add something a little more adult to the mix.

I was craving something less chocolaty for the frosting, so I thought maybe a Jack Daniels buttercream would suit the coke confection. I did a quick Google search and found others have tried it successfully, so why not give it a shot?

WARNING: Much of this icing was made by testing repeatedly to get the right mix. I will include measurements at the bottom, but please keep in mind they are relative to how much sugar vs. how much Jack you want to taste.

First off, set aside 1 and a 1/2 sticks of butter to adjust to room temperature. Cut up into smaller pieces and place in the bowl of an electric mixer (or you can use your hand mixer).

Whip the butter until it's light and fluffy. This takes forever, and is a pain in the butt, but carry on because it's worth it.

When the butter is light and fluffy, add 2 beat eggs and continue to mix. This is where your tastebuds start making decisions. The recipe I used called for 6 cups of confectioners sugar and 6 tablespoons of Jack, but that's not what ended up happening.

The trick is to add the confectioner's sugar slooooooooowly, in tablespoons, and as you go, just take little tastes to see if it tastes like icing yet. Once you feel like the sugar content is good, add the Jack, one tablespoon at a time. At that point, it will get the smooth, buttercream consistency. You want something spreadable, not drippy and not like a paste.

Ultimately, I think I ended up using more like 4 cups of confectioner's sugar and 4 tablespoons of Jack.

One of my recent wedding gifts was a Wilton Dessert Decorator kit and it is SO fancy. For some reason, I got it into my head that decorating would be a piece of cake (heh heh. See what I did there?), but NOOOOOO.

First of all, I have to give mad props to cake decorators out there, because cake decorating takes: strong hands, strong eyes and strong patience.

My icing looked, as usual, like poop. It will obviously take some practice! I eventually gave up and just smeared the icing on the rest of the cupcakes.

As for the Jack & Coke combo, I will say it was good, but a bit strange. If you look at the cupcake, you expect chocolate with vanilla frosting, so it was a bit jarring to then taste chocolaty coke and jack and sugar. But it was definitely interesting in a good way. If I were a better decorator, I would top the cupcakes with the Haribo Coke gummies; another blogger suggested a witty gummy lime slice to complement the cocktail.

  • 4 to 6 cups of Confectioners Sugar
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons of Jack Daniels
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 sticks of butter at room temperature

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Coca-Cola Cupcakes with Coke Ganache Frosting

There aren't a lot of traditionally Southern food that I'm just crazy over. I grew up around the stuff and I still don't have any affinity for gravy, grits or fried chicken.

I do, however, have a sweet tooth that occasionally craves Southern desserts. Southerners are all about incorporating soda in their cakes, and the moment I heard about Coca-Cola Cake, I knew it would be the perfect first project to attempt with my new KitchenAid mixer.

There are plenty of variations on the recipe but I went this route. That recipe worked well for me.

First, you bring a concoction of Coca-Cola, butter, vegetable oil and cocoa powder to a boil. Remove from heat and add 2-3 handfuls of mini marshmallows.

Stir well until the marshmallows melt.

Melting sloooooooowly.

Meanwhile, I put my flour/sugar/baking powder mix into the bowl of my KitchenAid and slowly added 2 beat eggs and vanilla to the mix.

When the batter looked ready, I added the Coke/Chocolate goop and mixed somewhat well. I should have mixed very well, but I encountered my first KitchenAid disaster. I have a bad habit of not reading the directions to new appliances, so I just plugged the bad boy in and got started. Only later did I realize I was supposed to use the flat beater, not the wire whisk, to mix the batter, so I ended up with a thin batter.

It worked out okay, but it was a little scary there for a bit, and the batter didn't mix quite as well as I would have liked.

I used my very special red-stripe cupcake liners! I popped the cupcakes into the oven, which was preheated to 325, I think, and baked for a little over 20 minutes.

The coke cakes ready for icing.

So, I'm going to present you with two different icing options. The first, a chocolate-coke ganache, I will show you today. The second, a Jack Daniels buttercream, I'll show you tomorrow.

To make the ganache, I started with almost the same process as the cupcakes: Coke + butter + cocoa powder, brought to a boil.

But this time, I added confectioner's sugar instead of marshmallows.

The bad news is that my confectioner's sugar was all lumpy. It was the bottom of the bag and me being stubborn, I just plowed ahead even though the sugar looked lumpy. I don't own a sifter, so I hoped it would work out okay.

It didn't. My poor cupcakes had little lumps of sugar in the icing that looks not like sugar, but tapioca. Blech. The good thing is that they tasted great...the coke flavor takes a little getting-used-to, but it's interesting. The ganache icing is good, but very rich, and a bit too much chocolate for me.

So with that in mind, I set out to try another icing. Tomorrow, I present Jack and Coke cupcakes!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Alexandria Eats

We were up in Alexandria a couple weeks ago, and as usual, we ate our way through the area. Here are a few highlights! Sean's sister Katie took us to Buzz Bakery in Alexandria, where I promptly became overwhelmed by the selection. I couldn't decide how decadent breakfast should be and then got flustered.

Ultimately, I ended up with a lemon curd cupcake, which was very good (though a little heavy on icing).

Katie recommends the breakfast brioche, but I couldn't go that route because it had scrambled eggs inside and I hate scrambled eggs. The cheddar on top looked delish, though.

We also had dinner at Lost Dog Cafe, a gourmet pizzeria in Arlington, with another overwhelming selection.

After a lot of careful thought, I ended up with an individual-sized Whippet: roasted red peppers, chicken breast, mozzarella and fontina cheese. Mmmmmmm it was so good. If you're in the area, I highly recommend both for your weekly doses of comfort food!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Perciatelli all'Amatriciana

So here's the thing: Getting married is awesome. I cannot attest to the marriage part, having not gone through that yet, but I can totally vouch for the gift-receiving part.

I've been blessed and lucky to have received some amazing gifts in recent weeks, and I can't help but get excited about their implications for this blog. Based on the types of gifts I've received, I think it's safe to say I'm making the transition from newly domesticated to newly gourmand. (Don't worry; there is still SO MUCH information that still eludes me. I'm definitely still new to this grown-up thing.)

One of the recent gifts I received was Giada de Laurentis's "Everyday Italian," a gift from my dear friend Nicole, who happens to be the most domestic lady I know. It couldn't have come at a better time either, because Friday afternoon I had dinner guests coming over and no clue what to make. A quick perusal through the book led me to perciatelli all'Amatriciana. To which you might say, WHAT?

I know, Perciatelli all'Amatriciana just sounds so beyond complicated, doesn't it? But don't fear! It's totally not. It's like a fancier, more grown-up version of spaghetti, but instead of ground beef, you use pancetta (Italian bacon).

First things first, you heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat and add a bunch of pancetta. I used an entire package I purchased at Trader Joe's pre-diced. Traditional Amatriciana sauce calls for guanciale, or dried pork cheek, but as I don't have ready access to an Italian butcher, I went with pancetta.

Once the pancetta has browned, add diced onion and 4 minced cloves of garlic.

In the meantime, I poured the contents of a can of whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes (Giada's preferred tomato) into a bowl and crushed the tomatoes with my hands. This is a satisfying equivalent to a stress ball — seriously.

I also started a pot of water to boil.

This is perciatelli, which is a long, skinny macaroni. It's like a cousin to spaghetti, but the hollowness somehow makes it feel lighter and more fun to eat. Its weight is a good match to the sauce, as well.

Add the tomatoes to the pancetta-onion-garlic mixture and let simmer while the pasta cooks.

When our guests came, we dug into a hastily assembled caesar salad (look at how prettily Sean set the table!) and a loaf of Trader Joe's ciabatta. We just got the salad bowls and tray from one of Sean's mom's friends, and I was SO excited to use them!

Years ago, my mother bought me these little dishes for the express purpose of having dipping oil with my bread and this was my first chance to use them. This is a rosemary-garlic mix of spices and was delicious.

And the piece de resistance — the pasta, with freshly grated pecorino romano cheese! It was delicious. I like my tomato sauces on the lighter side, devoid of too much paste, and Sean tends to disagree. I thought it was just perfect, but some of the men in your life might crave a heartier sauce.

All in all, this was a very easy, yet very flavorful twist on the traditional (read: boring) spaghetti meal.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday Best v.32

I went to a beautiful wedding yesterday, so I've got our wedding on the brain. Here are a few pops of red I had stored away in my "Pretty Things" folder.