Hella Fraiche

Friday night was totally Top Chef/Housewives of The Valley at my house when a chef came and cooked an 11 course dinner for me and my friends.

TH's co-worker's brother is a talented chef who has worked at esteemed restaurants like Bazaar here in Los Angeles and has since then been pursuing this private dinner-type experience, he calls Hella Fraiche. TH is pretty much obsessed with food and when he found out about this chef's business venture, TH was right there to pick chef's brain.

The plan is to try to host more at our house, so this one with my friends was a bit of a test run. And I was way happy to be the guinea pig.

And actually this was the third time I've had the pleasure of tasting chef Christian Navarro's cuisine, but the first one I was involved with.

TH and I have done the whole tasting menu splurge at restaurants before, but to get a behind the scenes look was truly a treat and now more than ever do I appreciate the hard work that goes into planning, creating and executing a unique menu. Not to mention the cleanup.

Because this dinner was for the friends I made while in Spain, a Spanish-inspired meal was the direction I gave him.

Paella, tortilla española, fish and pork were foods I suggested and gave him the leeway to let his creativity interpret those whatever way he wanted.

My friends and I were each unbelievably impressed and so thankful he took the time to create something so amazing for us.

This was like a dream come true for TH; helping out an actual chef and being able to provide from his garden for some of the courses.

And now on to the pictures.

I decided to dine alfresco. Now that it's summer, I'd like to dine outdoors as much as possible.

First up, my table setting.


The inspiration behind this - use as many things as I already owned.


Only new things here are the pink napkins and yellow vase. Both from Home Goods, of course.


For my centerpiece, I used peonies and heather from the flower mart, and roses and greens from the garden.

https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8167/7336687510_af4e19a81d.jpg https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8011/7336671462_612071dabd.jpg

That's me pouring water into a glass. I'm good at pretending because there wasn't a drop of water in that jug. And I'm not even sure I was actually trying to aim for a glass.

Now for the food. Hope you're not hungry. Pictures don't do these dishes real justice.


Barramundi fish with seared avocado, greens and tomatoes with lemon jus.


Chef's take on paella. Shrimp, calamari, mussels, scallops and curry with chives from TH's garden on risotto.


I lived with a family while in Spain where meals were provided. One day I bit into my protein and asked my host what it was. She replied, conejo. My roommate asked me to translate and I said, rabbit. It was good. But I couldn't help but awww when I walked past the cute little bunnies in the pet store on my way to school after that meal.

Here we have a rabbit roulade with herb-crusted croquette stuffed with mole-spiced béchamel with a hint of rosemary from the garden.


Second favorite, pork belly over fried chickpeas with sauteed kale.


Chicken paillard stuffed with ground chicken thigh with braised bok choy.

Not pictured was probably my favorite course, veal short rib with beans and potato cake.


Rib eye with spinach and tortilla española served atop an aioli smear.


Braised lamb served inside a Shepard's pie with black Peruvian mint chimichurri.

Also not pictured was the lamb chop served with a mint, sage, basil sauce.


Homemade whipped cream with fresh huckleberries and strawberries.


Serrano (from the garden) infused chocolate mousse with nutella powder.


Me and my Sex and the Suburbs girls.

Thee end.

This was one heck of a way to start the weekend.


Seriously, if you're interested in your own private dinner with professional chef, contact me and I'll pass any info you need.

Happy Monday!

Be My Guest: The Lonely Wife Project

Today I have Sabra! Man I wish we lived closer to each other. We would definitely get into some crazy. There would probably also be a wine drought in our area so maybe it's for the best we don't.

On her blog, she also shares some tasty recipes (vegetarian for you veggies out there) and her photography skills improve by the hour. Oh yeah, and she cracks me up. Never met a funny girl I didn't like.

Bring it on Sabra!

Why hello there friends of designstILes. I'm Sabra from the Lonely Wife Project. Just because we're not in South America with Ms. Fancy Pants Irene doesn't mean we can't eat like we are. Thus I bring you what I hope is an authentic South American recipe (according to AllRecipes).

I took a simple black beans and quinoa dish and added bell peppers and jalapenos because I have a problem following directions exactly. If you're not familiar with quinoa then I feel sorry for you.

Seriously, this grain is healthy and stuff and satiates your carb craving. I promise you will love it. Also, this recipe is low-fat. I now understand why Gisele looks the way she does. Quinoa and black beans people...quinoa and black beans.


1 teaspoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
1 or 2 cans of black beans
3/4 cups quinoa
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon cumin
cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to taste
Fresh chopped cilantro

Saute onions and garlic in olive oil until slightly brown, add bell and jalapeno peppers and cook for a few more minutes. Add quinoa, vegetable broth and spices. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Add black beans and cilantro and cook for a few more minutes or until quinoa is done. Serve with alcohol.

Come visit me at the Lonely Wife Project for other healthy recipes and random stuff. Thanks for having me Irene. Come back tan and happy!

Thank you Sabra!

I'll probably have to eat only this for about two weeks after I come back, so I'm glad I have it saved here in this blog of mine.

PS - Your pictures are fantastic.

Happy Thursday!

Guilt-Free Chocolate

Most people I know are sweet toothers. Not I. You can walk me into a dessert shop and I'll ask, Where are the chips? Without hesitation I can go with skipping the cake, but don't ever leave a family size bag of Doritos near me or I'll eat it until I convert it into one of those 100 calorie packs. Salty and crunchy is where the party in my mouth is at.

TH is a sweet toother and he needs his fix. Every night. Those calories add up so TH turned to his health nazi co-worker for his chocolate recipe.

Healthy chocolate? You don't say.

I made some yesterday. I haven't tried it so I don't know if it's good. You'll have to trust TH. I usually do.


2/3 cup coconut oil (click here to read the health benefits of coconut oil)

1/3 cup cocoa powder unsweetened

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 cup honey depending how sweet you want. We used slightly less.

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

** Lately, TH has been experimenting and adding peanut butter **

Heat coconut oil in pan over low heat until it melts. Add honey, cocoa powder sea salt and vanilla. Mix thoroughly with a whisk until combined and smooth.

Pour chocolate into icetrays and place in freezer for at least 15-30 minutes until solid. We placed ours into two of these small plastic containers with parchment paper for easy removal.


So easy and so not bad for you.



You know what else is pretty sweet?

Page 94 of Angeleno Magazine.

Vanessa De Vargas tweeted at me yesterday to let me know we were in a picture from an event we attended, along with Jordan Cappella and my friend Jenny. That's us in the lower right corner. You know I had to run out and get me a 100 hard copies copy.

Happy Wednesday!

Thou Shalt Gift Thy Neighbor

Our neighbor Philly Cheese Steak who goes by Phil 'cause that's his real name is big on duck huntin'. This duck huntin' season he gave us two ducks. Last year he gave us three. I think he's starting to like us less.

I thought, Gee we should really give Phil something.

B.N. (before Nora) Bams and his dog Addy were BFFs. TH thought Bams needed to socialize so there I was taking Bams to play with Addy four times a week. At least. It was cute at first, seeing them run around the yard and occasionally you'd be embarrassed when you had to shout, Bams, no humping. But then it got redundant and so I'd try to trick Bams by walking him a different route. But he knew, and he'd stop and pull me toward her direction and I'd be like, Addy's not home. She's out to lunch.

Sometimes he would just stop and stare at her house.


Once we got Nora, Bams would usually only go to Addy's to lie on her grass.

She'd be all up in Bams's face like, play with me, chase me, I need attention. Give me attention. Like most girls. And Bams would be like, eh.

Nora tried her hardest to get Addy to play with her but female dogs are the real bitches and she wanted nothing to do with Nora.

And then, I think, Phil would try to make Addy feel better by referring to Nora as a he.

Look at the little guy run. He's full of energy.

In my head, I was like, she's wearing bows gawddammit.

Then I got annoyed and he got annoyed with us because Bams would no longer perform and we'd only waste his time with no dog play.

But he still gave us ducks and we need to claim our ducks for next year, so I made him a Christmas nuts recipe my friend Kim gave me. So if you still need some edibles you wanna make for someone or just something to nosh on, these are super easy to make and dangerously good. As in, if I didn't stop eating them we'd have nothing for Phil.





4 cups pecans, almonds or walnuts (or combination)

1 egg white and tbs. water - beat until stiff.

in large ziplock bag mix:

1 cup sugar

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

stir nuts into egg white.water mixture until coated. Add nuts to sugar mix in bag. Close and shake until nuts are covered.

spread coated nuts onto greased cookie sheet. Bake 250 for one hour, turning every 15 minutes. I use a spatchula.


And I wish you all a very Merry Christmas.

Chicken Pot (not in a) Pie

On a hot summer day in (I think) July, we went out to dinner and I ordered chicken pot pie. I'd never ordered chicken pot pie. Probably because it's weird to order a meal that sounds like dessert. I'll just order my slice o' pie after my meal and top it with ice cream. I came out of that place a changed woman. I now want chicken pot pie any time I see it on the menu. I even ordered it for Happy Hour once. Five bucks.

The other day I got a visit from Kristen over at K Sarah Designs and she posted a recipe for chicken pot pie that she got from Joy The Baker. Whenever I see recipes on peoples' blogs I'm like, Ooh, I should make that. And then I take another bite of my sandwich and I'm over it. But this time was different. I couldn't comment fast enough on Kristen's blog; I was so excited. And then I emailed TH to tell him he needed to help me.

This chicken pot pie is a little different. It looked easier, which is like 80% of the reason I wanted to attempt to make it. It's more like chicken dish biscuits. But the rich, hearty flavor is all there. We made it last night, totally bonded, and felt heavy afterward. It was the perfect meal for a rainy day.

The recipe called for biscuit cutters. We don't have those sorts of things in our house, so we used a Christmas tree cookie cutter TH picked up at the grocery store the day he bought the ingredients. We're so festive.

Christmas tree biscuits. The biscuits alone were delicious.

Go here for the recipe.

Happy Tuesday!

images via Joy The Baker

Bathroom Redo 2.0 *Update* And Some Food

Our wallpaper is hung. Our wallpaper is hung. I've been doing cartwheels in my head since yesterday.

While wallpaperlady did her job, I visited my best friend. Home Goods. Anyone else call it Home Goodies? No. Okay.

So yeah, I haven't seen her in a while and she was looking good and had lots of stuff for me. I try not to dress a room with items from the same store, but I tend to get excited and impatient. Wanna see my (home) goodies? Okay!


Can you spot the wallpaper?

I lovett! The Husband? Well, at least he doesn't hate it.

Had to bring in some turquoise, you know. I think this is actually a vase, but I'm thinking outside the box and using it as a trash can. Tell me I'm clever.

And just a bunch of other accessories.

They're all from Home Goods so you know they're cheap.

Excuse me, inexpensive.

I also need to give The Husband a major shout out for letting me live my inner Real Housewife of (any cast).

You know how one girl from every cast has hired a chef at some point to show off to her "friends" that she's got money to blow and zero cooking skills?

Well, I owe The Husband big time hired Chef Ev to cook for my friendship anniversary slumber paaahhty and show off to my real friends that we're middle class.

I think he did it hoping a pillow fight would break out. Maybe it could've, but we're old now and I'm no longer attracted to my friends.

Hope you had some breakfast because this might make you hongray.


I figured out the lighting four dishes deep and only shot the last two.

Here you have some filet mignon atop a parmesan crostinierother, and some herbs from his garden.


dessert, that's all I know.

Thanks husband. How 'bout a pillow fight? Just you and me? I'll let you win.



Friday You're So Cooking (Mexican)

This picture here is telling me I need to hone my Mexican cooking skills. Or lack thereof.

I've come as far as making frijoles de la olla, but I'm a total sham when it comes to my flower tortilla and (don't laugh) velveeta cheese enchilada recipe.

Even my ground turkey taco night will confuse my grandma into thinking it's foreign.

But I've decided it's time I do this right.

And now that The Husband has discovered his hobby for cooking and perfected his pico de gallo, I'm going to tackle making chiles rellenos and ask him to be my sous chef. Most likely vice versa.


image via la in bloom


Yesterday The Sistah and I had tea. Pinkies up. At this place:


Royal/T in Culver City. It was not nighttime.

Feel free to read with British accent. It whaas quite loveleh.  Now I'm just stereotyping. Normal voice.

This place is a three in one -  cafe, shop and art exhibit (currently Andy Warhol). AND, get excited boys who don't read this, severs dressed as maids.


Not me.

Royal/T is a Japanese-French fusion and I learned that macarons are nothing more than a sugar ball. But I kinda already knew that.

The Sistah and I split traditional tea with milk and something about it was supposed to be high-high. I assure you I did not get high and was a little disappointed. We also shared the roasted baby beet salad with Spinach, Candied Walnuts, Goat Cheese and a Champagne Tarragon Vinaigrette. Wow, I can't believe I 'remembered' all that. Don't think we stopped there. We also shared a ton of mini sandwiches and desserts but I can't figure out which ones off of their online menu, therefore I don't remember specifics. But this is what they looked like:

There was this cheeseburger thing at the very top but that was devoured quicker than quick.

Feeling like a stuffed cannoli, we walked some of it off in the 10,000 square foot space where I got to snap some pictures and prove, once again, how badly I need to take a photography class.

"If you're tired you take a Napa, you don't move to Napa."

Ev and I have tried going wine tasting in Napa for the past four years or so but something always interferes. Alas, we finally took the drive up the California coast to commemorate our four year wedding anniversary. While the Napa Valley thrives in the wine industry, our main objective was to try Thomas Keller's French Laundry, a renown Three Michelin Star restaurant.


image from nosaladasameal

Our first attempt at making a reservation did not fall in our favor due to calling an hour after opening. Tables book within 20 mins - two months in advance. Please have credit card handy. Oh yeah, and if you choose to cancel a reservation please do so in advance so you won't have to pay the $100 per person penalty. With such requirements, we knew, or thought, we were in for an exceptional treat.

I'm by no means a food critic nor do I consider myself a foodie, but I am a food fan and I was a bit disappointed. The 30 minute wait might have put a damper on the experience but nonetheless, I wasn't  blown away by either of the nine courses.  The Island Creek Oysters were a bit fishy, the froie gras was cliche and everything seemed heavily salted. I'll most likely go to culinary hell for remotely criticizing a legendary establishment and chef, but this critique comes from the experience and service I've received from Two Michelin Star restaurants.  I do applaud the Maitre d' who asked the kitchen staff to come up with a soup-type concoction to clear up Evan's stuffy nose and the pastry chef who surprised us with this:

Pictured is Evan's dessert. My dessert had mango-chile relish which was really good, actually. But I didn't enjoy it as much because I was focused about not receiving the coffee and doughnuts that everyone else benefited from. By the time our turn came to try the aforementioned delicacies, the kitchen had run out of dough. And yes, we called ahead of time and asked to make note of saving some for us. Grrrr.

To compensate for not having this additional course, we were given a tour of the kitchen. It was indeed a great kitchen but it didn't come close to sinking our mouths into some cinnamon-sugar doughnuts and frozen mousse cappuccino.

Said reasons detracted from the greatness that is The French Laundry.  I'll have to try Bouchon in order to give Thomas Keller the credit he deserves.