Archive | November, 2011

Hot Chocolate Round-Up

28 Nov

By this time of year, I’m in full-on hot cocoa mode.  It starts around mid to end-October and lasts through to early Spring.  I make it with hot water and almond milk typically or 2% milk, if I add a shot of espresso.  Either way I make it, I like it a little less chocolatey whereas Chris likes double the chocolate.  So I’ve learned that there’s no specific formula for hot cocoa that works for everyone, but I have yet to find someone who doesn’t love it one way or another!

Below are my favorite brands of hot chocolate.  I just tried The Spice House hot cocoa for the first time last week, when I was introduced to it at the Downtown Farmstand. It has a dark chocolate quality and you can see the sugar and vanilla in every scoop.  I recently had a hot chocolate with a friend at L.A. Burdick’s shop in the Flatiron district in Manhattan.  It was like drinking a cup of your favorite chocolate bar.  I treated it like an indulgent meal – delicious!  The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Special Dutch Chocolate Powder is a staple in my cupboard, along with the CBTL vanilla powder.  You can take the girl out of California, but you can’t take the Coffee Bean outta the girl! I love, love, love the tea lattes and now I make them at home, along with hot cocoa.

After posting my coffee round-up back in August, Chris surprised me with the Nespresso Pixie espresso machine & the Nespresso Aero 3 that froths milk, hot or cold.  We use the Aero 3 practically everyday for Chris’ chai tea lattes and my coffee or cocoa drinks.  I had to feature it again because it’s such a useful tool in our kitchen! For those of you who like hot chocolate but don’t like the calories, try Nespresso’s Holiday 2011 Variations Dark Chocolate coffee pods.  I recently purchased a sleeve and love the hint of chocolate flavor in my coffee.

And I’m obsessed with Wedgewood’s new Kilim mugs.  They’re the perfect vessels to enjoy your hot cocoa in!

1. Vosges Haut-Chocolat “La Parisienne Couture” Cocoa  2. Wedgewood Kilim Mugs  3. L.A. Burkick Milk Hot Chocolate  4. Williams-Sonoma Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate  5. The Spice House Hot Cocoa Mix  6. The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Special Dutch Chocolate Powder  7. MarieBelle Milk Hot Chocolate with Hazelnut  8. Nespresso Aeroccino 3



Tory Burch Adds a Touch of Spring to the Windy City

22 Nov

Just off the heels of her new Chicago boutique opening on Oak Street, Tory Burch hosted her Spring 2012 Runway Show event in conjunction with American Express at The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago last week.  It was the first time Tory showed her runway collection outside of Manhattan. Tory is definitely someone I admire for the virtual empire she has created in just seven short years.  It’s truly a testament to her clear brand vision and perseverance.

The first thing that struck me when I walked into the event was the myriad of blue and white Chinese bud vases with the most brilliant pink peonies that were absolutely everywhere!  They were just gorgeous and added a splash of elegance and personality to the room.  The second thing that bowled me over was Tory Burch’s Spring 2012 collection.  I had seen images on and even featured one of her dresses in my NYFW Round-Up, but to see her use of materials, color, pattern and texture upclose was just inspiring.  Her inspiration was Deauville in the 1920s and she really captured the mood in her designs, but in a very modern way.  I’ve always picked up a few pieces here and there each season out in the Hamptons or online but I have a feeling I’ll be picking up more than a piece or two come Spring!

And I loved that she and Hal Rubenstein of InStyle Magazine had a Q&A after the show to give the ladies and gentlemen (celebrity chef and restaurant owner, Art Smith, & his partner were seated across the isle from me!) of Chicago a little insight into Tory and her world.  It’s one that’s looking rather fabulous for Spring, I must say!

Thanksgiving Recipe Favorites

21 Nov


I’m a big Good Morning America fan. I watch it every morning and always love Emeril Lagasse’s recipe contests around the holidays.  Back in 2007 I saw Emeril’s “Best Stuffing” contest.  The winner, Hollie Dorethy, was this adorable Texan who won with her Down Home Italian Dressing recipe.  Hollie tweaked her stuffing recipe to incorporate her Southern roots with her husband’s Italian heritage.  That Thanksgiving, my brother-in-law, Pete, and I made the stuffing and it’s now a required dish at our holiday dinner table every year.  Between the sweet Italian sausage, the pancetta, the cheeses and two kinds of breads, it’s just ridiculous!!  I make it a tad dry so it crisps up nicely on top.  I just had to share it with you, in case you’re still putting your grocery list together.

And what’s Thanksgiving without leftovers!  Last Thanksgiving, we were with Chris’ family at their cabin in Maine.  With a box of spaghetti I found in the cupboard and leftover ingredients, I made the below Herbed Turkey Tetrazzini recipe and immediately became the favorite sister-in-law!  Hehe!  But seriously, I modified the recipe by adding a little more Parmesan and subbed cheddar and mozzarella for the Swiss cheese because that’s what we had in the house so feel free to improvise a bit.  I’m certain it will NOT disappoint!

Gobble!  Gobble!!


‘Tis the Season: The Art of Gift Giving

18 Nov

More and more art sites are popping up these days that sell art online but few have the breadth of assortment of both original art and prints than Saatchi Online. Started by famed art dealer, Charles Saatchi, of London’s The Saatchi Gallery in 2006, Saatchi Online is a place for emerging artists around the world to show their art to art lovers around the world outside of the traditional gallery setting.  With paintings, sculpture, photography, mixed media, and collages from artists in over 50 countries worldwide and prices for prints starting at $20 and $59 for canvas prints, there is something for anyone and everyone on your holiday gift list.  Prints are made to order, so be sure to allow enough of a turnaround time, should you want to order a print for someone on your gift list.  Original art works start around $500.

Saatchi Online’s homepage has also made it easy for gift giving by featuring a “Gift Guide” for Him, Her, and Children as well as gifts at various price points.  It also features curated collections by genre and by some of their top curators as well as by taste makers.

In the spirit of the site and of the holiday season, I curated a small group of a few of my favorite pieces from Saatchi Online.  My inspiration is hopefully obvious – Food & Fashion, of course! I also threw in a few botanical photos because I’ve recently become obsessed with finding botanical prints with black backgrounds ever since a saw THE coolest botanical prints at Maison et Objet in the Flamant booth.

I just love how Otto C. captured the storefront window display of macaroons and the old man’s face in Dirk Dzimirsky’s graphite drawing is both haunting and beautiful at the same time.  I can’t believe it’s not a photo!!  Let me know which ones you like from my picks or the Saatchi Online site!

Paris Spring by Otto C


Insider Knowledge: Shane Brogan VP of Merchandising at West Elm

14 Nov

Have you been to West Elm lately?  If you haven’t, you’re missing out!

My dear friend, Sandy, who I worked with at Banana corporate in SF, joined West Elm’s corporate team over a year ago, so she’s been keeping me in the loop on changes they were making to their merchandise offerings, new artisan collaborations, and overall revamped look & feel. I’ve purchased a few things on their website over the last year but it wasn’t until I walked into their Lincoln Park store in Chicago a few months ago that I really understood all of the incredible things they’ve done with the brand since James Brett became President in January 2010. (Brett was the Chief Merchandising Officer of Urban Outfitters and also worked on Anthropologie Home before joining West Elm.)  I was literally shocked when seeing all of the changes. Standing in the entrance, I got the whole I-don’t-know-which-direction-to-look-in-first, sweaty palms, increased heart rate thing that happens to me when I walk into a store that I like. Chris thought I’d lost my mind! Men.

Sandy told me that West Elm was now really standing behind table top and kitchen accessories, which launched in March of this year, so I wanted to check in Shane Brogan, West Elm’s VP of Merchandising for Kitchen, Table Top, Decorative Accessories, Lighting, & Textiles to better understand their new positioning with Kitchen as well as learn a little bit about Shane because I’m so darn impressed with what they’ve done! Here’s the first installment of On My Plate‘s new column, Insider Knowledge, where I talk to the people behind your favorite brands.

In case you don’t know, a “merchant” is a buyer for a vertical company, or, generally speaking, a company that produces and sells their own goods in their own stores.  I was a Merchant for Banana Republic’s Women’s division from 2000 to early 2004.


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