18 December 2008

thanksgiving philly-style

Yesterday morning I realized that I’ve been back from my fantastical adventure in Philly for almost three(!) weeks and I have yet to get my act together and tell you all about how much fun I had, how much a trip back to see familiar faces was much needed, and how it made me love my amazing group of friends and my family that much more, although I didn’t think that was possible. 

There was Mexican food eating and margarita drinking at the Dos Segundos with Meredith and Fran where I started the week off with a bang by bawling. Time it took me to start crying after I got off the plane? 3.25 hours. Ab, you can tally up your winning bets now. 

There was more drinking to be had at Johnny Brenda’s. Did you know that the amount I paid for two good draft beers and a Jameson on the rocks is the same as what it costs me to buy two crappy bottled beers here in LA? No joke. This would continue to be a theme throughout the week as I marveled at how much cheaper Philly is than LA, and celebrating that fact by spending as much of my "LA Money" as I could on booze.


There was the first official A Bit Better meeting at our super top secret headquarters, where brains were picked, beers were drunk, thrifting finds were ogled, and much laughter was had as we hammered out the format for the newest incarnation of the blog.


There was a BBQ and cupcake birthday party at Chez Bronstein. I have to give a shout out to Jed, for cooking up the juiciest, most succulent bbq pig (and for being so stach-tacular) and my homegal rkm for the uber delish coconut cupcakes, which I will forever refer to as the crackcakes. And of course to Ab and Otis for being the hostesses with the mostesses.


There was tasty food munching, wine drinking, and pony sweater wearing with Ali, Claire and Jake at the Standard Tap. A familiar face popped in for an unplanned visit and some video was shot, the likes of which have never been seen before and hopefully never will be.


There were the musical stylings of the bitchin’ Goldieboxx ladies, melting the faces off their new fans during their debut performance at the Fire. Go see these ladies now while you can afford it, before they are selling out MSG and don’t remember the names of the little people. 


There was my friend Mutlu, continuing the musical genius by slinging his soul stylings all over the place at the Tin Angel. Patron was drank, Stevie Wonder was sang at full volume, and of course, cd’s were sold for by the best looking merch team a musician could ask for. 


There was a pre-thanksgiving eve party thrown by Frosty at Silk City that was full of so much awesomeness, I'll just let the photos do the talking.



There was Thanksgiving, also known as the greatest day that ever was, the day of my birth. It was spent with my family, recovering from the previous 5 days of debauchery. We went out to eat, which I was initially against, but turned out to be a great idea, especially since my mom went ahead and pretty much prepared an entire thanksgiving meal for “leftovers”. Now you all know where I get my crazy from. 

There were "last day in philly drinks". Notice anything different about these pictures? Those there are pictures taken with the sweet sweet iphone my mama bought me for my birthday! huzzah and big shout out to mom for making her first born's life a bit better. 


And then finally there was a birthday potluck hosted by my bestie, Meredith, who does martini fueled fifties housewife like it’s no one’s business. One of the many many things I love about this crew is that they do not screw around when it comes to events where food is involved, and on this particular occasion, they did not disappoint.


And then there was me, sitting on a plane, hurtling back to the west coast, sick as a dog, and ready to do it all over again next time.  

If you want to see all 900 million pictures I took that week, or you know, just troll through for some pics of yourself to put on your myspace or facebook (don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about), click here. 

holiday gift ideas pt. 2

for the cowboy rollergirl in your life:

coming soon, my long overdue recap of my thanksgiving in the city of brotherly love...

10 December 2008

holiday gift ideas

for the hipster in your life:

07 December 2008

excuses, excuses...

Apologies for the silence around here. I promise that I am still working on my Philly recap. Actually, I can't lie, I haven't started it yet, but I promise I am totally thinking about it. 

One of my excuses is that we've had some awesome people kicking it with us this week. My old roomie Katherine and her brother were here so we got to chillax together for a few days before they had to head out to an amazingly posh wedding at the Beverly Hills Hotel.  While they were here we visited the Huntington Botanical Gardens, on which I will elaborate at a later date, but for now I will leave you with this one word: stunning.

Jake (aka MC Steak) is also here and as part of his rent, he is required to make us delish food (he is a super totally awesome chef at Standard Tap) and tonight he did not disappoint.  Behold, the most scrumptious and elegant food to ever come out of the Hot Ginger Love kitchen:

Asparagus and Jalapeno Soup

Pan Seared Sea Scallops with Fennel Haricot Vert Gremollata

As far as I am concerned, he can move in.

02 December 2008

A Bit Better

Just a heads up that the gals over at A Bit Better have decided to change things up a little and take on two new contributors, the lovely rkm and little old me! It is a site I am honored to be a part of, with three strong, beautiful women whom I adore, who are all trying to make the little things in life A Bit Better.

But don’t you worry your pretty little head; I’ll still be posting over here at HGL. The more places you can read about the interesting workings of my life the better right?

here's a sneak peek of what's to come...and don't mind that smudge on the stove, i'm just keepin' it real.

01 December 2008

awesome is not free

I am attempting to put into words the insane amounts of awesome that were had this past week in Philly, a task that is proving to be monumental, as it seems I took about nine gazillion photos, and my body has decided not to let me party for free anymore, because I am sick sick sick.

Once things return to normal, I will regale you with tales of cheap beer, pulled pork, a pants less girl rock band, a soul singing modern day Jesus Christ, awkward school portraits, and the best birthday potluck ever. Oh, and sweet sweet birthday presents from my man and my mom.

In the meantime, I leave you with these words of wisdom from a wise, wise woman that could not be more true on this Monday morning:

“Work is for Losers”.

20 November 2008

men after my own heart

These guys are pretty much my heroes, combining two of my great loves, BBQ and bluegrass.

18 November 2008

it's not all about the 'za

It appears that my last post caused confusion in the minds of many of Pete’s devotees, who, prior to this post, were under the impression that his cooking repertoire usually involved an oven and a box of frozen Stouffer’s pizza (and FYI, Stouffer’s is in some serious danger of being replaced in Pete’s heart by California Pizza Kitchen). To further confuse, I will now tell a story.

Last Saturday night, after I spent a few hours in the kitchen with the pudding, Pete offered to cook dinner. Working from a recipe from my fave Food Network gal Ina Garten, he added his own little twists and whipped up some penne pasta with grilled chicken, sun dried tomatoes, basil and a parmesan lemon cream sauce that was creamy and tangy and all sorts of delicious.

And to prove that Pete can throw down in the kitchen with the best of them, and that he is worthy of donning the Jules apron, I offer this photographic evidence:

See that plating? We had to buy special white plates at Target last year, because Pete said it made the food "pop" better and regarding the basil, I taught Pete how to chiffonade, and now everything gets chiffonaded (is that a word?)

Then Sunday morning and the apple pancakes rolled around, and we all know how that turned out. Obviously impressed by his culinary abilities he must have decided to go for a hat trick, because when I came home from the bookstore that night, I found him standing in the kitchen, open cookbook in front of him, mise en place (I love using that phrase!) set out on the counter. It was truly a beautiful sight. On the menu? Chicken with red peppers, onions and carrots in a black bean sauce over rice with cherry tomatoes and basil. I didn’t take a picture because I was too hungry, but it was of course, delectable.

So, to wrap this up, it is only sometimes about the 'za.

11 November 2008

Pete's House of Pancakes

I love cooking. I love trying new recipes and feeding people. But sometimes I just don’t want to. Usually those times occur on weekend mornings, when all I really want to do is sleep a little longer. Sunday was one of those days, which great because that was also the day Pete surprised me with tasty apple pancake goodness.

Studded with chunks of apple, sprinkled with powdered sugar, and drizzled with maple syrup, served alongside a mug of freshly brewed coffee, could there be a more perfect Sunday morning breakfast?

While we are on the topic of maple syrup, I need to speak for a moment of my sweet sweet love for the pure maple syrup. Maple syrup and I, we are besties, he is my secret pretend boyfriend and I just need to say that if you are still swilling that fake maple flavored crud and haven’t made the change to the amazingness that is pure maple syrup (preferably from Vermont, this place is my all time fave) then I may need to reevaluate our friendship.

This weekend was actually a Pete Cooking Extravaganza, I guess someone had to pick up the slack after Budino Bummer '08. Stay tuned for more tales of Pete channeling The Barefoot Contessa.

oh, by the way, did I tell you about how I went to pick up my camera, and it was still broken? yup, still rocking the old camera, and not liking it one bit.

08 November 2008

butterscotch budino-go

I always have a hard time with failure in the kitchen. I take it very personally when something doesn't work, I am almost always convinced that it was something I did, or didn't do. I have gotten better lately, reminding myself that some recipes are just duds, destined to go into the trash before I even lift a spoon. But this one, oh I had high hopes for this one.

I had already half written this post before I even started the process of making this. I was going to wax poetic about the creamy pudding, the smooth caramel, the pop of sea salt and the fresh tang of the whipped creme fraiche topping. I was going to boldly proclaim that I should just hang up my Julia apron because this was the best thing I had ever made and I probably couldn't ever make anything better ever again.

and then I made it.

It's not that it wasn't good. I tasted every component of this dish as it was made and they were all totally delicious, but somehow when combined, well the whole was not greater than the sum of it's parts. It was just too much, way too rich, so much so that Pete could only take a few bites before backing away. It was partly my fault, the recipe said it served 10, and I only had 6 serving dishes. I figured that more is always better but in this case, I would definitely have made the serving sizes way smaller, maybe half the size.

It's probably better off though, because had I discovered that I could now make my favorite dessert at home, well, let's just say I'd need to go out and buy some new clothes with an elastic waistband. I guess some things are just better left to the professionals.
edited: after scraping off the sticky sweet caramel sauce and letting the custard chill out in the fridge overnight, I do have to say, that in small portions, this pudding is slammin', all by itself. at least it wasn't a total wash.

04 November 2008

so proud

"If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer." President-elect Barack Obama

thirty one-derful

I learned quickly when we first started dating that the quickest way to Pete’s heart was most definitely through his stomach. In fact, he once told me that a certain thai sih I make would be his final meal. Nothing says love like saying “Honey, if I were on death row I would want the last thing I ate to be something cooked by you”.

To celebrate we went to Pizzeria Mozza, Mario Batali and Nancy Silverton’s new pizza restaurant. Since it was a special occasion, we went crazy and ordered everything that sounded good (I’m not going to lie, we actually always do this, it’s a problem we both have, that problem being very little self control. We enable each other). It was all excellent, the pizza crust was nice and crispy and the toppings were all top quality. But the thing I really want to talk to you about is the butterscotch budino. You know a dessert is great when you lick the bowl clean and immediately contemplate ordering another one (we didn’t, I said we have little self control, not none at all), or when, the next day, you can’t stop thinking about it and stare longingly at pictures of it online and google it until you find the recipe. Needless to say, I will be attempting to recreate this masterpiece sometime this weekend although I am sure mine won’t come even close.

To cap off the day of gluttony, I made carrot cake cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. Seriously scrumptious and decadent, but yet, you still feel okay about eating them because there’s carrot in there! And carrots are vegetables. And vegetables are healthy right?? Pete took some to work on Monday and one of his coworkers stated that she doesn’t believe that vegetables and cake should ever be mixed together. I just have no words for that statement.

01 November 2008

cooking from memory

When I close my eyes I can still see my Oma's kitchen. The wall of cookbooks, her words neatly scrawled in German in the margins, or on index cards tucked into the pages. The canisters on the counter for zucker and mehl (sugar and flour). The closet full of every kitchen gadget available, including the special edition Kitchen Aid stand mixer with her name engraved in the silver bowl that I lusted after as a child, the one she gifted to me before she passed away. 

Rouladen, rotkraut, pfannkuchen, linzertorte; my childhood is filled with memories of foods in a foreign language. A language I couldn't and still don't understand, but is still one of the most comforting sounds in the world to me. 

This kartoffel suppe and dampfnudelen was a staple of our visits to Oma and Opa's, all of us gathering around the table, sopping up the hot soup with the rolls. I learned to make it with her standing by my side, guiding me through the process, it's one of the last things we did together. Mine tastes almost like hers, but nothing ever tastes quite as good as when your Oma makes it.

Kartoffell Suppe 

6-8 yukon gold potatoes
3 medium carrots
3 ribs of celery
1 medium onion
2 beef bouillon cubes (you can also use chicken or veggie)
1 slice of rye bread, ripped into pieces
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1/2 cup sour cream

Dice the vegetables into roughly the same size. Saute the in a deep stockpot with the olive oil for 4-5 minutes. Add enough water to cover the vegetables plus an inch or so. Add the bouillon cubes and rye bread and bring to a boil. Simmer over medium heat for 40 minutes to an hour, until the vegetables are soft. Remove from heat and puree, either with an immersion blender or in a blender (be careful, it's hot!). Add sour cream and salt and pepper to taste. Serve with Dampfnudelen.


The soup can definitely stand on it's own, but I think you need these rolls, with their pillowy tops and crusted salty bottoms.

2 1/2 cups
1/2 cup, plus 1/2 Tbsp milk, warmed
1/2 package active dry yeast
1 egg
pinch of salt

1 cup warm water with 2 Tbsp salt mixed in

Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm water with a little bit of sugar sprinkled on top. Make a well in the flour, pour yeast into the well and let it stand for 1/2 hour. Add milk, pinch of salt and eggs and mix until dough starts to come together. If it is really sticky, add more flour a little bit at a time. Knead well until dough is smooth. Set in a oiled bowl, cover with saran wrap and let sit in a warm spot for an hour. Cut off 1/2 fist size pieces, roll into balls and let rise on floured surface for 15 minutes. In a dutch oven over medium low heat, arrange dumplings in one layer touching each other. Pour warm salt water into pot, until it comes about halfway up the dumpling. Put the lid on and walk away! Wait for 15 minutes, and remove the lid (this is where Oma would slap my hands when I tried to get an early peek, the steam is what makes these work, so don't lift the lid!!). They should have a golden grown crust on the bottom when you remove them.

31 October 2008

been waiting a long time

can't get much better than that.

30 October 2008

it's for real

It figures that the very same year we decide to move away from Philadelphia, the Phillies win the freaking World Series. It just wasn't the same screaming at the top of my lungs in my living room all by our lonesome selves. We did crack open a bottle of wine in celebration though, and I raised a glass to my girl Fran who is, hands down, the most loyal Philadelphia fan I have ever met. She also has a thing for Hall and Oates but that's a story for another time...

So congratulations Philadelphia, you deserve it. You made me proud, because I expected to log onto the internet this morning and read tales of celebration mayhem, which I did, but only 76 of you got arrested last night! As Pete says, way to keep it classy Philly, way to keep it classy.

22 October 2008

back in the day

When you are 9 and your mom tells you that you are going to go put on a "authentic" kimono, stick a bird type feather thing on your head and then get your picture taken in front of a hot pink background, you've pretty much just hit the lottery.

me and my sister circa sometime around 1989ish

20 October 2008

move over martha

This weekend I decided to tackle #3 on my list, baking a loaf of bread from scratch, one because I have only done one thing on my list so far (did I ever tell you how much of a procrastinator I am?) and second because I knew we would eat it all before it went bad and I wouldn’t have to watch with tears in my eyes as something I had crafted with my own hands went into the trash.

I have actually made bread before, but in a bread machine, which to me is totally way easier, but why would I want to make anything easier on myself? Plus, with the bread machine, which now belongs to my little sister, you only get these tall, rectangular loaves. I wanted “rustic” round loaves. I used a recipe from The Bread Bible, a book I have owned for over a year and done nothing with, except to every once in a while caress the pages lovingly and then put it back on the shelf. Until now! The dough came together way easier than I thought it would, although from the amount of flour on the floor/myself, you would have thought it was a fight to the death. At the last minute as I was shaping the loaves, I decided to throw all caution to the wind and make a baguette. Woah, I know, calm down. 40 minutes later, this is what I pulled out of the oven:

I am pretty much the next Martha Stewart.

I know, I know, people have been making bread since the Stone Age (I wikipedia’d it), no biggie. But baking bread has been on my list of baking fears for years and years so this is totally a big deal to me. There are some improvements I would make, but truth be told, warm out of the oven slathered in strawberry rhubarb jam, this bread is slammin’.

19 October 2008

my bounty

click on the link and you can check out my radical notes
Originally uploaded by jessica mae

A few days ago, one of my girls liz talked about how she often has people asking her about how to eat local and organic on the cheap. I thought about this today as I unpacked my haul from the farmers market and decided to document exactly what I bought and how much it cost me. If I had more motivation, I'd head to Whole Foods and do a little price comparison, but even without that I think we can all agree that, seriously? this would cost WAY more at whole foods. Plus, it's all organic, grown within 5-50 miles of where I live with no pesticides or any other grody stuff.

14 October 2008

making tuesdays a bit better since 2008

This Sunday, for a little change of pace, I paid a visit to the Hollywood Farmers Market. This place would for sure be my go-to market if it were a little closer, but alas, it is not to be. My farmers market is totally nice, maybe a little too nice. I am constantly dodging bougie moms and their tykes dressed in outfits more expensive than mine. At the Hollywood market, I was dodging hipsters and their tykes dressed in outfits more hip than mine. Way more my scene!

I paid a little visit to the cheese stand that was staffed by some hot farmer dudes, who gave me sample of their delish buffalo mozzarella. It was so descrumptious (that’s the word for something delicious and scrumptious), I didn’t even flinch when one of them told me it was 8 dollars a ball.

Yesterday for lunch I was patting myself on the back for the splurge, and also for being smart enough to grab a monstrous heirloom tomato on my way out (you know it’s the end of the season when heirlooms are $2 a pound. sad face that it's almost not tomato season anymore). You know what makes a blah Tuesday a bit better? Having this for lunch:

No, I didn’t eat it all, my eyes were a little bigger than my stomach, but that’s a-o-k because that means more for later!!        

I also spied some of these:

Does anyone know what the heck these are? The management here at hotgingerlove would appreciate any information leading to the identification of this mystery gourd.

13 October 2008

me + the getty = true love

This weekend was the first visit by one of the parental units since we’ve been here in La La land. Pete’s dad Wayne flew in for a conference, so he decided to kill two birds with one stone, and visit me! Oh yeah, and Pete too. Wayne once tried to trade me for Pete. True story.

this is Wayne talking on Pete's "blueberry"

This is the tree planted in the entrance to the Fairmont Hotel, which is my fave hotel in Santa Monica (ok, so I have only been to one hotel in Santa Monica). This tree is ginormous and was planted in 1869, which officially makes it the oldest thing I have seen since I have been here.

Friday night we went to Ma’Kai Lounge in Santa Monica. The food was great, and of course, we had the calamari. If you don’t know already, Pete is on a one man crusade to sample the calamari offerings at every restaurant in America. 10 down, roughly a gazillion to go.

Saturday afternoon brought us to the Getty Center, a place that I have been wanting to visit ever since I caught a glimpse of it off of the 405 our first week here. Really, this place is amazing. You park at the base of a hill and a tram takes you up to the top and the most amazing views of LA. The grounds themselves are just stunning. I could seriously live in here for a few weeks just taking pictures of all of the amazing flowers. I was in some major flora heaven; I might have even drooled a little bit.

Pete and I decided that this is the place we are taking every single person who visits us from now on, because it is just so impressive. And we like to impress people. We spent so much time walking around outside, that we hardly saw any of the actual art on display, but never fear, a follow-up visit has already been scheduled.

I am always thinking deep thoughts.

Pete loves it when I make him stop every few feet to take another picture.

We ate dinner at the restaurant in the Getty, which was equally impressive. Their seasonal menu changes weekly and includes a ton of local ingredients, plus their entire wine list is made up of wines from California! California wine = delish. Huzzah to the buy fresh, eat local! You know I love ya.

to see some more pics click here and/or here.