Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Extraordinary: Extraordinary Desserts

Creme Brullee
I just have to ask....is it fair? One does try to keep one's figure, but really.....the battle is already lost as soon as one enters HERE. But then again, who cares, when surrender is so delicious?
Caramelized Chocolate Lava Bun
A friend of mine, who happens to know my penchant for sweets, suggested that I check out a little place by the name of Extraordinary Desserts. I thought, "why not....the kids always like to go to bakeries". We were planning a walk through downtown San Diego anyway to see the changes since I had been there last (did I mention before that Tim and I met on New Year's Eve in downtown San Diego? Anyway, I digress....) After our hike through the city, a little refreshment might be just the ticket.
Lemon Cupcakes
Little did I imagine I would end up looking like the the latest Lotto winner as soon as I entered the door. I have never seen so many and such beautiful desserts in my life....and believe me, I have seen plenty.

Chocolate Strudel
At first we just sat there staring with our jaws hanging open. One enters Extraordinary Desserts to the full view of the pastry cases. You must pass them to get to the seating area. We discovered that there is no "dessert menu". When you are done with your meal, you get up and peruse the cases, and try to narrow down the choices to one. Ahem....our waitress thought we had gone AWOL since we were trying to decide for at least 15 minutes.
Raspberry Linzer Danish
By the way, Extraordinary Desserts does have very tasty salads, sandwiches and paninis, which we did eat as well. Tim kept it light with a hummus and olive plate. I had a delicious smoked salmon sandwich, and my daughter had a grilled cheese panini....all very good!

Coffee Cake and Choclate Chip Cookies
But really, what could upstage these confectionery superstars? Here are just a few more pictures just you can understand why my defenses were overrun.

Flourless Chocolate Cake heaped with Fresh Fruit
Chocolate Covered Truffle Loaf Bundt Cakes and Cream Cheese Brownies

Cakes ready for Take Home
After I realized surrender was really the only option, I relaxed and enjoyed the clean and contemporary surroundings punctuated with an Asian flair. The restaurant had a relaxed feel, but I still felt like I was in a place where I would be pampered.

Extraordinary Desserts Restaurant Interior

Extraordinary Desserts Desserts Case Display

So....are you curious as to what we picked? Tim had huge self control and only ordered the Kiwi Lemonade (made with crushed Kiwi fruit....there were many other flavors as well....yum!).
Tim's Kiwi Lemonade and Hummus Plate
That control seemed to fizzle as soon as my, and my daughter's, desserts were brought to the table. My daughter had the chocolate croissant bread pudding.
Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding
I had the Nectarine Crostata. (I am a sucker for fruit desserts of any kind.) Tim dove across the table like it was his last meal. I literally had to move my plate out of reach before it was completely devoured. My poor daughter had to fend for herself at that point. Nothing comes between me and my dessert.
Nectarine Crostata
For more info about the restaurant hop on over HERE and for more about the amazing chef and founder, Karen Krasne, click HERE

Friday, August 27, 2010

In the Pink in San Juan Capistrano

Studio Pink
Last week the Denham family was gone for a break in sunny San Diego and we took full advantage, packing a lot into a 7 day trip! It is a long drive to San Diego from Sacramento....it can take 8 hours on a good day. To break up the drive, we like to stop in San Juan Capistrano for a leg stretch and some dinner. On this trip, we tried a restaurant I had seen last time we were in town.....and right next door, I found THIS cute shop:

How lucky was that?! Studio Pink is an off-shoot of Whim Design and is all about the "pink". Unfortunately for me, the shop was closed by the time we rolled into town (one less bathroom stop and we would have made it!), but I had fun peeking in the windows! And the storefront is adorable.

I did run across more info about Whim on the Fabulous Finds Gal blog, so hop on over for a look!! The pillows, the shell mirror, the pink gourd lamp, all so fun and flirty with the Pink walls as a backdrop.

I am peering through the windows taking pictures and when I am done......Tim had disappeared. I suppose pink is just not his color. More likely, he is just starving....so the girls and I hunt him down next door:

Sundried Tomato Cafe

The Sundried Tomato Cafe was a fun little spot to stop for dinner. California fresh with lots of sundried tomatoes on the menu....we were happy to sit a spell and relax.
The girls love artichokes and this one was so good with Parmesan melted all down into the cracks and bread crumbs baked on top. It was served with a garlic and sundried tomato aoli....yum!

I had the Sundried tomato bisque (natch!) with a salad and topped it off with a fresh berry cobbler.....no sharing (and no sundried tomatoes).
This vacation was starting off really well!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I Heart "Heart Rock Herb and Spice Co."!

Moroccan Spice Blend
Yesterday, I promised to tell you what I received from my girlfriends on the trip to Lake Tahoe. One of the gifts was finding out that my friend Diane (the Master Gardener friend) is starting up a brand new company of hand blended herbs and spices!

Herbs de Provence

Diane has a spectacular garden, which I have blogged about before HERE. She has been collecting rocks in the shape of hearts ever since moving to the lake.....so it was only natural that the name for her new company would be Heart Rock Herb and Spice Co.
Diane surprised us with a little herb and spice blending party of our own! We are all big "foodies" and cook a big dinner whenever we visit, so this was right up our alley. We got to recreate some of her recipes for ourselves! SO cool! Diane let us choose the blends, so we picked her Moroccan blend, her Herbs de Provence blend, the Malaysian blend and we had to try the Tahoe blend, of course.

Diane has sourced herbs and spices specifically for their freshness and is blending the spices per order right before they are shipped so that they are at their peak of fragrant flavor.

Fresh Herbs and Spices
It was so much fun getting to play with all of the ingredients....like the rose petals and lavender, which we used in the Moroccan blend, and the lemon grass and dill we used in the Tahoe blend.
There is so much information on Diane's website HERE about all of the herbs and spices, and about how you can take advantage of all of the goodness yourselves! Diane not only has an array of cooking herbs and spices, but she has put together a delicious collection of room fragrance blends as well. (Part of our gift was a blend of the month club.....yes.....that means we are getting a new blend every month!!! Lucky or what?!)
Diane is donating 10% of her profits to two non-profit organizations she is passionate about:
Bread and Broth, a food program for the hungry of South Lake Tahoe where Diane is the Director, donating her cooking talents and direction, and also to the Thunderbird Gardens, where Diane is the Master Gardener/Garden Coordinator. Yes....Diane is one busy woman. She puts me to shame.....while at the same time inspiring me to do even more.
These are what I brought home with me!

Diane I "heart" you too! You are my favorite Spice Girl!!!

A heart rock we found on our picnic at Thunderbird Lodge. Our Girl's Weekend could not have held any more wonderful and coincidental little surprises!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Girls' Weekend, Lake Tahoe

I have been away a bit.....perhaps you have noticed? It has been a busy summer working with wonderful clients, weekend getaways and a vacation thrown in for good measure
A couple of weeks ago, I made a yearly jaunt with my friend Lori to spend the weekend with our long time friend, Diane at her Lake Tahoe home. On Saturday, we headed over to the Thunderbird Lodge, where Diane is the Master Gardener, for a picnic on the beach. Old Omar Khayyam had it right:
"A book of verses underneath the Bough
A jug of wine, a Loaf of Bread - and Thou
Beside me singing in the wilderness-
O Wilderness were Paradise enow!"
Lake Tahoe is known for is crystal clear waters, and Lori and I took full advantage jumping right in for a swim. Meanwhile, Diane uncorked the wine and got the party started.
After a couple of glasses of wine, it was obvious to us that the clouds had formed into a giant Thunderbird in honor of our visit. Can you see the full wingspread? And then there is the head at center.

Here's a little help...this is the Thunderbird plaque above the door at the lodge....can you see it now?

Not more than a few minutes later, we saw original lodge owner's, George Whittell Jr.'s, yacht, also named the "Thunderbird" motor up to the boathouse. It had been out ferrying people back from the Oscar de la Renta fashion show that had been taking place on the North shore of the Lake. If you want to see more about that fabulous show, check out Tartanscot's blog HERE for another Lake Tahoe chic affair! (Although our little tete a tete was pretty chic, if I do say so!)
When we finished lunch we sauntered on over to check out the gardens and just happened to pass by the boathouse. Luckily, the captain and his mates were still there and let us in to have a closer look at this gem of a yacht. Truly a beauty to behold....all varnished wood and chrome buffed to a brilliant shine. Sigh.....it conjures visions of movie stars making their way across the lake to the infamous poker parties thrown by George in the 30's and 40's.

It is only fitting that this stunning bird should have just come from Oscar's party! (Although I did hear that Oscar did not make an appearance! Ah..C'est la vie! There were still gift bags with sunny yellow umbrella's and stationary!)

After our well deserved "Oh"ing and "Aw"ing, we said goodbye and headed up the hill for a garden tour and a visit to the Lodge.

There is always another thing of beauty to see on the grounds, some occur all by themselves:
And others are the result of Diane and her volunteers' talented efforts.

There were also a couple rooms inside the lodge that had been re-decorated to better reflect the life and times of George Whittell Jr. and his wife Elia.

Front Door at Thunderbird Lodge
Great Room at Thunderbird Lodge
George's Bedroom
A brass bed was added in George's Room, along with a photo of George with one of his many pets. ( Some of which included lions and other wild animals.)
Elia's Room

Elia is pictured in her more feminine room with her pet cheetah.
A brilliant day to be sure.
On Sunday, Diane gave us a tour of her own beautiful Sierra Mountain garden. Diane carried every granite paving stone herself, creating a courtyard which overlooks the Lake.
This sprightly sculpture appears to emerge straight from the earth to breath in deeply the fragrant flowers in Diane's garden.

One of our traditions every year is to exchange gifts since we all have summer birthdays. It is always a fun challenge because we set a price limit on the gifts. This year I found these cute straw bags and paired them with pretty scarves from Cost Plus World Market. (I have to say....LOVE that store!) I will show you what I received in my next post! Stay tuned.
After our gift exchange, we headed out for lunch on the Lake...it was another beautiful day, and we gorged on Hamburgers, Cobb Salad and Rum Runners at the Beacon Bar and Grill in historic Camp Richardson.
Fat and happy, we were all ready to head over to our favorite Plant Nursery, Aspen Hollow, to buy a few things before heading back home. The sky started to get a bit dark for a summer afternoon....and it started to sprinkle a little. As we got a little closer to the Nursery, we heard thunder. As we pulled into the parking lot.....it hit! A HUGE hail storm with hail the size of moth balls and golf balls. We were stuck in the car hoping that the windows would not crack. This was our afternoon of winter in the middle of summer.
The hail eventually died down and we ventured into the Nursery. Sadly, they had a bit of damage and decided to close for the day. We will have to wait for next year.
Diane and I seeking shelter in the Nursery Hut at Aspen Hollow.
Another beautiful and adventurous trip to the Lake. Thank you to Diane, Phil and Lori for such a wonderful weekend!