Being A Little Anti-Bride-ish

Bonjour, mes beaux amis!

I recently shared that I am just four months away from my wedding (eeeeeek!)!!  In fact, I just got the call that my wedding dress has been shipped and is ready for me to pick up.  And we all know what that means: that dreaded profane FOUR LETTER WORD…

diet.

However, I just read Continue reading

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BBQ, Bourbon and Big Hats

Bonjour, mes bons amis!

We finally made it to the weekend!  It’s been quite a week – but what better way to relax than by getting in the mood for “the greatest two minutes in sports” with Kentucky-inspired cocktails, smoky southern BBQ and of course, a fancy big hat!  (We really need more traditional occasions/reasons for wearing big hats like the Derby…)

churchill downs, kentucky derby, 139th kentucky derby, bbq, bourbon, big hats

Churchill Downs has hosted the Kentucky Derby for 139 years
{photos from top left: pberry / jackiembarr / JoeyBLS Photography / Velo Junior / Nikki McLeod}

Bourbon is a personal favorite of mine, so I enjoy watching the event with friends, pretending to be at Churchill Downs wearing a big hat of my own with a delicious bourbon cocktail in hand.  Needless to say, I needed little convincing to share some of my own Derby inspirations.

bourbon, bourbon bar, whiskey, char no 4, char number 4, brooklyn, bourbon and branch, san franisco, speakeasy, kentucky derby, big hats, mrs lilien's cocktail swatchbook, cocktail recipes, hats in the belfry, polly singer, hat maker, milliner, lexington, hats and veils

We need more reasons for bourbon cocktails and big hats…

  1. Trust a pro like Mrs. Lilien’s “Mrs. Julep” easy and Derby-ready mint julep recipe. While you’re at it, pick up her amazing Cocktail Swatchbook full of ideas for every occasion!
  2. Every trip to San Francisco, I enjoy a number of classic bourbon cocktails at this modern speakeasy – reservations and password required, however, cell phones and prowling strictly prohibited.
  3. You’re bound to find a tasty mint julep at Brooklyn’s Char No. 4, specializing in nothing but bourbon (and oddly, delicious cheese curds!).
  4. Find the perfect fancy big hat for that last minute Derby party or polo match at an online retailer like Hats in the Belfry or from Lexington, KY’s very own Polly Singer.
  5. If you’re looking for BBQ to complement your bourbon cocktail and big hat, here’s a national roundup of the best in the country.
  6. Great snack and app recipes for a Derby Party – direct from the horse’s mouth!

Finally, as old-school and traditional as the Kentucky Derby may be…

kentucky derby, 1955 kentucky derby, african american waiters, racial divide, first black jockey, kevin

Kentucky Derby in 1955

… today’s Kentucky Derby is anything but stuck in the past.

kevin krigger, kentucky derby, african america jockey, run for the roses, 139th kentucky derby, garland of roses

Kevin Krigger, Kentucky Derby jockey hoping to win the garland of roses.

And I’m off!

Have a wonderful weekend, mes bons amis!!

♥ – LBH

 

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Je Veux Y Manger: The Best Restaurants On The Planet

Bonjour, mes bons amis!

Restaurant magazine, 50 Best restaurants in the world, world's 50 best restaurants, culinary experiences, Spain, Girona, Denmark, Copenhagen, New York, Chicago, Yountville, Paris, France

Restaurant Magazine’s 2013 List!

In case you haven’t heard, prestigious and international authority Restaurant magazine released its annual list of the World’s Best 50 Restaurants. For the last three years, Copenhagen has proudly been the home of reigning Noma, known for its molecular gastronomic experiments (they make edible dirt…) and breaking the stereotype for what Scandinavian/Nordic food is widely thought of. There ain’t no meatballs at Noma!

But Bravo! to Girona’s El Celler de Can Roca, dethroning Noma’s three year reign and returning the culinary crown to Spain, in the same way legendary El Bulli managed year after year. The three Roca brothers – Joan, Jordi and Josep – have worked to redefine and set the bar for culinary and pastry techniques, creativity, authenticity and overall mind-blowing food. Or so one would expect from the best restaurant in the world.

After reviewing Restaurant magazine’s list, I’ve come to realize that I have a growing list of places to visit, not just because I love traveling and collecting international passport stamps, but for the chance to perhaps enjoy some of these unforgettable transcendental culinary experiences!

The five American restaurants are obvious and easy must-try’s:

  • Eleven Madison Park (5), Per Se (11), Le Bernardin (17) and Daniel (29) in New York are relatively easy if I plan my future trips right!
  • My boyfriend promised that he would take me to Chicago’s Alinea (15) which he said was one of the most exquisite meals he has ever enjoyed.
  • Yountville, CA is still in the Top 50 with French Laundry (47), and is an easy and beautiful six-hour drive or quick flight/shuttle into the Napa wine country. Consider it done!

I can hardly wait to return to France after je laisse mon cœur dans Paris, falling in love with her last fall, and now that I’m determined to parler Français, the universe is paving a road for me to also experience SIX more best restaurants in and around Paris. Not to mention that Spain, Germany and Switzerland are all close neighbors, just a quick plane ride or lovely train ride away…

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Paris, fresh markets, cuisine, culinary experiences, Restaurant magazine, World's Best 50 Restaurants, France, Paris

Paris’ fresh markets are undeniably part of the reason for its culinary reign.

Now, I just need to get that money tree growing in my backyard…

If money were no object, which restaurants and places would you travel to FIRST, SECOND, THIRD, etc?

Je travaille à voyager!!

(Will work for travel!!)

♥ – LBH

~ La Présente ~ Spring Flowers and Bubbles

Bonjour, bons amis!

Even though the weekend is wrapping up, I certainly hope you enjoyed some time to recover and re-energize yourselves for the new week.  I always love the relaxed restful feeling of Sundays, with friends or family, or quietly by myself.  I feel that this quote is truly meant for Sundays:

“Dining with one’s friends and beloved family is certainly one of life’s primal and most innocent delights, and that is both soul-satisfying and eternal.” – Julia Child

tulips, champagne, spring, sundays, weekend, family, friends, entertaining, brunch, centerpiece, bubbles

this Sunday sponsored by: le printemps et le champagne!

Until next time, mes amis!

– LBH

I’m Back, Bon Amie!!

Bonjour, bon amie!!  I have missed you!!

eiffel tower, tour eiffel, paris, france, seine river, riverboat, europe, travel, vacation

I know it has been AGES since I’ve updated my blog, and for that I apologize.  Work always finds a way to get in the way, but after spending an amazing two weeks in Europe, as happens after every overseas vacation, I realized that I have been neglecting some things and haven’t made the time to do things I enjoy like sharing experiences and stories.

Sooooo this little bloggy-blog of mine is about to heat up again – get ready!  And just to prove it to you, here are a few pictures from my recent trip through Paris and London.  I can’t wait to share the special stories, hilarious and delightful moments, and the inspiration I feel with you!


You can see more pictures from ‘Paris et Londres’ here: Paris, je t’aime… 2012, a set on Flickr.

See you very soon!! Bonjour, bon amie!!

♥ LBH

A Sure Bet In Santa Monica

Bonjour, bon ami!!!

The last week has been quite crazy and chaotic, and it has kept me away from my blog.  So much has happened, both good, bad and other.  The GREAT news is my mom is feeling better, and we’re hopeful that the doctors can find the cause and best treatment for her blood pressure.  But I’m so very excited about some incredible recent developments!!  My career path has taken a most amazing slight shift towards another one of my biggest passions: music.  So get ready for some fab blog posts about my passion for awesome music, which goes so well with my fashion, design and art loves.

During my week of absence, the boy and I dined at Jiraffe (yes, with a “J”), a fabulous Santa Monica restaurant that should definitely be added to your go-to list for LA dining.

jiraffe restaurant los angeles DineLA california french fusion santa monica giraffe
{jiraffe}

**Apologies for the low quality images – I only had my camera phone with me while dining, but I can assure you the quality of the food was exponentially better than it looks!! 🙂

Jiraffe has been a Santa Monica sure bet for dining since 1996.  Offering a delicious and inspired menu of French dishes with local Californian influence, Jiraffe manages to pleasantly surprise diners with unexpected and unpretentious flavor combinations.  Here are the mouth-watering DineLA play-by-plays:

crispy potato wrapped big eye tuna appetizer prix fixe dineLA restaurant week jiraffe french california fusion cuisine santa monica
{crispy potato wrapped big eye tuna}

~ delicious with some great unexpected flavor combinations.  Great start to the meal.

stuffed vermont quail mashed potatoes appetizer prix fixe dineLA restaurant week jiraffe french california fusion cuisine santa monica
{stuffed vermont quail over mashed potatoes}

~ perfectly cooked, tender and tantalizing… should have been called an appe-teaser!

wild mushroom and aged gouda ravioli entree prix fixe dineLA restaurant week jiraffe french california fusion cuisine santa monica
{wild mushroom & aged gouda ravioli}

~ although the raviolis are hard to see in my poor photo, I can tell you they were wonderful.  The earthy combination of the mushroom and gouda in a blanket of creamy sauce was delectable.

scottish salmon caponatta entree prix fixe dineLA restaurant week jiraffe french california fusion cuisine santa monica
{scottish salmon caponatta}

~ the salmon was light and moist, and the caponatta sauce was an explosion of fresh basil, parsley, garlic and lemon.  I wanted to lick the plate clean.

choolate truffle cake mousse dessert prix fixe dineLA restaurant week jiraffe french california fusion cuisine santa monica
{chocolate truffle cake}

~ it was like warm molten lava cake, but lighter and not as overpoweringly sweet. Heaven.

fresh baked chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches dessert prix fixe dineLA restaurant week jiraffe french california fusion cuisine santa monica
{fresh baked chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches}

~ moist cookies and creamy ice cream.  We were just missing the cold milk!

caramelized banana cream pie dessert prix fixe dineLA restaurant week jiraffe french california fusion cuisine santa monica
{caramelized banana cream pie}

~ this was by far one of the best desserts I’ve had in a long time.  And this is coming from a proud chocola-holic.  I could eat this dessert everyday.  The bananas weren’t overly ripe or sweet, the cream filling light, and the crust was flaky and perfect.  It was all just perfect!

In case you wondered, the waiter brought the one dessert we didn’t order on the prix fixe menu, but said it was ours to enjoy anyway.  We certainly didn’t NEED the extra dessert, but we definitely didn’t turn it away either!  Not to be forgotten or overlooked was the excellent service we also received.  Our waiter was pleasant and warm, and made our wonderful evening all the more wonderful.

On your next trip to LA, be sure to swing by Jiraffe for a guaranteed fabulous meal.  I can’t wait to get back there soon.  And as a matter of fact, my new career path has brought me within blocks of Jiraffe – this could be a bad great thing!!

See you there for dinner, bon ami!!

LBH

Eighth Time’s A Charm…

Bonjour, bon ami!!!  Happy February!!!

I hope your first month of 2012 was a great start to a great new year!  January was definitely eventful – lots of home improvement and organization projects, and even though I still have some work to finish, I am extremely happy about what I’ve accomplished thus far.  After Super Bowl Sunday, I’ll have my Sundays back to finish up more of the projects on the list!

Meanwhile, here in LA we’ve been celebrating DineLA Restaurant Week for the last week, something I’m always looking forward to.  Last night’s treat was an exclusive dinner at one of LA’s hottest nomadic eateries, LudoBites 8.  Although not a participant in DineLA, this is the eighth iteration of the pop-up restaurant.  For any who aren’t familiar with the name Ludo Lefebvre, he was a featured Top Chef Master during its second season, and locally in LA he has been known as a French culinary genius-slash-down to earth rockstar for over ten years.

Thus, until this eighth round of pop-ups, getting a seat or two meant being ready at your computer on the day and minute that reservations opened, and refreshing your page over and over again, hoping you could be a lucky winner (a la Ticketmaster!!).  But FINALLY… my number was called and I was fortunate enough to be one of the 5% who successfully snagged a reservation via raffle (BEST and most fair idea thus far).  LB8 definitely proved to me why this reservation was SOOO difficult to come by.  And the wait was worth it: check out the mouth-watering pictures below!!!

ludobites ludo bites 8 chef ludo lefebvre pop up restaurant los angeles lemon moon dineLA restaurant week menu
{delectable menu}
ludobites ludo bites 8 chef ludo lefebvre pop up restaurant los angeles lemon moon dineLA restaurant week scallops truffles
{bay scallops with truffle}
ludobites ludo bites 8 chef ludo lefebvre pop up restaurant los angeles lemon moon dineLA restaurant week monkfish liver cucumber pickled mustard seeds
{monkfish, cornichons, mustard seeds}
ludobites ludo bites 8 chef ludo lefebvre pop up restaurant los angeles lemon moon dineLA restaurant week big eye tuna somen noodles delicious
{my favorite: big eye tuna over somen noodles with Tahitian vanilla}
ludobites ludo bites 8 chef ludo lefebvre pop up restaurant los angeles lemon moon dineLA restaurant week wagyu beef carpaccio raw pickled radish snow sliced red white beets eel
{wagyu beef carpaccio with radish snow}
ludobites ludo bites 8 chef ludo lefebvre pop up restaurant los angeles lemon moon dineLA restaurant week brioche sweet yuzu butter delicious
{brioche with yuzu butter}
ludobites ludo bites 8 chef ludo lefebvre pop up restaurant los angeles lemon moon dineLA restaurant week jidori chicken parmesan foam walnut sauce tender juicy delicious
{jidori half chicken with parmesan foam}
ludobites ludo bites 8 chef ludo lefebvre pop up restaurant los angeles lemon moon dineLA restaurant week
{pop-up kitchen & great staff}
ludobites ludo bites 8 chef ludo lefebvre pop up restaurant los angeles lemon moon dineLA restaurant week
{lemon moon, host of LudoBites 8}
ludobites ludo bites 8 chef ludo lefebvre pop up restaurant los angeles lemon moon dineLA restaurant week light fixtures
{moon-like light fixtures, appropriately so…}

ludobites ludo bites 8 chef ludo lefebvre pop up restaurant los angeles lemon moon dineLA restaurant week kitchenludobites ludo bites 8 chef ludo lefebvre pop up restaurant los angeles lemon moon dineLA restaurant week kitchen

ludobites ludo bites 8 chef ludo lefebvre pop up restaurant los angeles lemon moon dineLA restaurant week
{executive chef and gracious host Ludo Lefebvre}

 If you happen to get an opportunity to try Ludo Bites during a future iteration, you will thoroughly enjoy it.  The flavor profiles were delightful and very unexpected, a combination of classic with new, all on a platter free from pretentiousness.  AND for those in or around LA, you can always chase down Ludo’s food truck for a taste of his talent.

I have a couple more restaurants on my DineLA list this week, and I can’t wait to share more delicious greatness with you!!

Until then, bon ami, have a wonderful week!!!

LBH

Bonne Annee 2012!!

happy new year 2012 bonne annee
{flickr: Alexandre Dulaunoy}

Bonjour!!  Bonne Année!!

I hope you had a safe, festive and delightful holiday season with friends and family, and if you enjoyed it as much as I did, your pants are fitting tighter but your smiles are bigger.

champagne new years eve glasses celebration bonne annee

I spent New Years Eve at home with a few wonderful friends, laughing and looking back on the year, enjoying a few cocktails (which didn’t help in the fight against my cold – boooo), and watching the ball drop at midnight while my eyes grew heavy.  What a perfect evening it was!

black eyed peas new years Hopping John Hoppin' Jon
black eyed peas!
mustard greens collard new years soul food
slow stewed mustard greens

Yesterday was spent with a few mimosas here and there, a little cleanup, and some New Year’s cooking.  The black eyed peas simmered, the mustard greens slow stewed, and the whole roasted chicken definitely kicked off the new year right!!!

reflection window granite counter new yearToday is the last day of holiday rest, and it’s wrapping up nicely with more relaxing, a little shopping (there are some AMAZING sales still happening, ahem, SAKS), a matinee and a beer.  It is, after all, 79 degrees here in our LA winter (I know, just AWFUL!).

I’m trying to keep my goal for 2012 simple: be better.  A better friend, partner, worker, listener, cook, daughter, sister, person.  Be a better me.

What are you doing to kick off the New Year?  Any resolutions to help guide you, any bad habits to kick, or any new habits to start?

Here’s to a fabulous start to your year, bonne ami!

♥ LBH

Cold Weather Survival Tips

Bonjour, bon ami!!

It’s actually getting quite chilly here in Los Angeles!  And as the temperatures drop in this late autumn season, this means it’s time to gear up to face the cold weather challenges.  Here are some of my favorite ways to combat and survive the cold weather:

top: flickr/rubyblossom | bottom: thebeautydepartment.com

My skin is typically combination to oily during the majority of the year here in Los Angeles.  However, the colder dryer than usual autumn and winter days wreaks havoc on my skin.  But one of the best ways I’ve found to fight the flaky-itchy-scaly-skin-look is to combine my moisturizer (using the same amount I would normally), and adding two to three drops of Vitamin E oil.  You can find Vitamin E oil (in liquid form) at nearly any drug store or health food store.  Just the two to three drops of oil will give your moisturizer the additional boost it needs to give your skin a healthy glow – after all, crack is whack.

tumblr: kroketta

If your lovely home is sans a functioning fireplace, well, I feel your pain.  During the cool weather, there is nothing like the smell of a burning fireplace in the air from a nearby chimney.

voluspa

But you can still capture the scent of the season with delightful candles like Voluspa’s Frost Pinecone, or grab one of the many great and inexpensive candles from Target.

And for unscented but charming candlelight, grab one of these lovely hibou or pinecone candles from Cost Plus World Market!

One of the best ways to survive the cold is obviously turning on/up the heat in your home.  Or… you could warm the house and heart by baking these entrancing and enchanting little mini apple pies!  The aroma of cinnamon, spices and apples is sure to make you feel a lot better about being indoors.  I used Camille Styles’ great recipe as a guide to make these little guys above in ramekins.

Of course, the best way to stay warm is to first get warm on the INSIDE!  Try a bourbon, cognac or brandy cocktail by starting with a good quality grade (ie. Makers Mark, ), add simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar boiled together) and fresh squeezed lemon juice to taste, topped with a splash of ginger ale.  Muddle and add fresh blueberries, blackberries or cranberries for an even more layered cocktail.  And for those nights where you may feel a cold or cough developing, you can always trust in a Hot Toddy to help ward off germs (and evil spirits). Try The Kitchn’s Apple Ginger Hot Toddy – it will definitely warm your soul.

wendy’s lookbook | prepfection | j. crew lookbook | white + warren | goorin bros | the cherryblossom girl | anthropologie | crush cul de sac

This is the time for you to try all of those great layered cozy looks that you’ve seen since last spring (but would start sweating just as the thought of wearing them).  Pull out that cute wool hat in the corner of the closet, pick up that inviting infinity scarf, and pull out those cute sparkly cashmere gloves.  Cold weather is much more forgiving when it comes to layering, so don’t fear a mismatch – mix textures, materials and colors.

What are your cold weather tips and favorites??

Stay warm, bon ami!

LBH

Are You Ready to Gobble?

Some of you may remember that my previous blog (Moonlighting Foodie) was, obvs, all about food… Well, La Belle Hibou will be about many things, including food as well.  And what better time of year than the holidays to talk about food!

Recently, a friend of mine asked me to give her some advice and tips about cooking a Thanksgiving meal.  Needless to say, this took top priority in my day!  Here are a few of those tips for the essential elements to your turkey dinner this week!

Turkey: the most important part of the meal, but usually the easiest!

torontorob
  • FRESH TURKEY – if financially possible, always buy a fresh turkey, not previously frozen, one or two days before you cook it.  Keep it in the fridge until showtime.
  • You can either brine the turkey, which involves soaking the turkey overnight (12 hours +) in heavily salted water, or right before showtime, you can slather the turkey in lots of butter.  The benefits to brining the turkey are it seasons the meat all the way through and doesn’t require a lot of salting right before putting it in the oven, and it also tenderizes the meat.  Brining is definitely the best recommendation for seasoned tender turkey.  If you don’t have time to brine the turkey, you can always take lots of chilled SALTED butter and ‘lotion up’ the turkey skin, especially the breasts and legs.  Be sure to get the butter underneath the skin as well wherever possible and LOTS OF BUTTER in the cavity.  There should be a nice buttery coating all over the turkey when you are done.  This will make for very crispy skin when it’s cooked.
  • Even if you aren’t stuffing your turkey, you should add large onion pieces (or even large apple pieces) into the cavity of the turkey, enough to just about fill the cavity.  This little trick helps hold moisture inside the turkey.
  • Another awesome turkey cooking secret that my family uses is a turkey bag.  THEY REALLY WORK!!!  After you either brine or butter your turkey, take a turkey bag and add a tablespoon of flour to the inside of the bag.  Inflate the bag a bit, hold the open end of the bag shut, and shake the flour around the bag so that there’s a light dusting of flour inside.  Then, have someone help you place the turkey inside the bag (it’s best with 2 people… less messy).  After the turkey is in the bag, add 2 or three sticks of celery, some pieces of onion and two or three carrot sticks into the bag – this also helps keep the turkey moist.  Seal up the bag with the little ties from the turkey bag box, and pierce a few holes into the bag as per the instructions on the turkey bag box.  GUARANTEED DELICIOUS MOIST TURKEY EVERY TIME!!!!

Dressing: For stove top dressing, my recommendation is always Mrs. Cubbison’s Cubed Dressing.  This is a brand you can find at any grocery store.  I also recommend substituting BEER (preferably a blonde lager or nutty stout) for the chicken broth that the dressing calls for.  This gives the dressing a very tangy kick to the flavor.  Just follow the rest of the instructions for the dressing, and leave out any ingredients you may not like.  I personally always add chopped black olives, a little bit of chopped celery, and chopped onions.  And of course, BEER.

pixelens

Mashed Potatoes: I think the best mashed potatoes are made with lots of UNSALTED butter (you should add a little bit of salt on your own, not depend on salted butter) and either CREAM (my preference) or milk.  In my experience, the best mashing potatoes are either yukon gold or red potatoes, but regular russet potatoes work too, since most of the flavor comes from the butter and cream/milk.  Just be sure to boil the potatoes really well, and let them cool before you add the butter and cream/milk.  Once they’ve cooled off, use an electric hand mixer to whip them and smooth them out.  Add the butter (depending on how many potatoes you use, I would use the butter liberally but within reason, think 3/4 stick to 1.5 sticks).  Then add the cream/milk a little at a time – you don’t want potato soup… Too much cream/milk can be disastrous.  Not enough cream/milk is too starchy.  Whip them with the hand mixer, and you cannot go wrong.  For some kicky potatoes, try adding additional flavors like freshly grated horseradish (you can get a piece of horseradish from Whole Foods), freshly minced garlic or wasabi (you can buy some wasabi paste at Whole Foods too).  JUST A LITTLE BIT!  You don’t want to lose the flavor of the potatoes/butter/cream or milk by overpowering them with the additional ingredient.  Any additional kicky ingredient should be added VERY LIGHTLY… for just subtle flavor.

stevendepolo
booleansplit
artbystevenjohnson

Best of luck, and most of all, Happy Thanksgiving!

Bon Appetite!

LBH