Thursday, August 28, 2014

Weekly Dinner Party: Casual Moroccan

This week's dinner party was a pretty casual affair. I made a simple Moroccan-style menu using many of the same staple ingredients purchased for last week's Turkish party. I had a light cold, so it was nice to take it easy.

  • Appetizer: Imported dolmas 
  • Chicken tagine with preserved lemons and olives
  • Mograbieh (a type of Istaeli couscous) pilaf with chickpeas, pumpkin seeds, onion and citrus peel
  • Mixed green salad with cucumber and tangerine 
  • Dessert: Peach and blueberry galette

I cooked the chicken the night before. It does save time the day of, but more importantly it gives the flavors of the tagine time to really settle in. Mmm, preserved lemons have such a unique flavor. 
Guests arrived shortly after 7:00 and we sat down to eat at 8:00. 
I had the table set with red and white linens and blue china. The chicken and pilaf both came out so well - especially considering my half-hazard attention to recipes. 
Great group of guests this week: two people new to the city and a former colleague and her boyfriend. 
For dessert, a lovely hand-made fruit tart and glasses of hot mint tea. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

What to Wear: Lake Tahoe Wedding

A couple weeks ago, Anne wrote in with a request about an upcoming wedding up at Lake Tahoe. "The wedding is apparently ON the beach and not too fancy but I figure what is a wedding if not an excuse to dress up?" Agreed! Here's my suggestion: 

Dress - This dress is so pretty online and - when I spotted someone wearing it on the street - even prettier in person...which doesn't always happen with Anthropologie. Black and red chevron dress for $198.
Belt - Add a nice red belt from DVF.
Sandals - Wedges are a must for the sandy lakefront beaches, and these Nine West sandals are cheap enough on sale that you won't mind if they get muddy.
Clutch - A simple clutch in turquoise and gold for $80.
Earrings - Garnet and gold drops.
Bracelets - A set of basic gold bangles.
Pashmina - Bring an inexpensive ivory pashmina from Cost Plus as a layer if it gets cold.
Sunglasses - A pair of aviators from Target.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Mountain Biking in the Mendocino Forest

Rob and I spent last weekend at the super lovely Mendocino Woodlands Camp. We were there for three days of mountain biking along with 100 other riders and 20 children at the annual M5 retreat.
Our little cabins lacked insulation, running-water and electricity, but made up for it with large windows, porches and stone fireplaces in each room.
The camp was built in the 1930's as part of the Works Progress Administration.
You're 9 miles of dirt road away from Highway 1 and deep in the redwood and fern forest out here. It would be a fantastic place for a rustic family wedding or a weekend reunion.
Our friend Murphy organized all kinds of activities for the group. From mountain bike rides (of course) to naturalist hikes and t-shirt painting for the kids.
Plus, three meals a day of gourmet catered farm-to-table food and locally-brewed beer.
Such a fun way to spend a weekend! I'm looking forward to going again next year.

Monday, August 25, 2014

What to Wear: Tech Conference, Part II

For day two of the Silicon Valley tech conference, I went with a full "can't beat 'em, join 'em" outfit. I wore an outfit inspired by the classic male investor/founder uniform of a blazer, shirt, jeans and leather shoes. My feminine interpretation included a peacock blue blazer over a white linen tunic, skinny Madewell jeans and saddle leather booties with a stacked heel. This combination is a new favorite!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

What to Wear: Tech Conference

Bay Area tech conferences can be challenging to dress for. You want to be comfortable, stylish and not too casual or too formal. Basically, the female equivalent of the jeans + dress shirt + fancy shoes combination (sometimes with a blazer, never with a tie) that most Silicon Valley guys wear to these things. Pockets are a must for business cards.  I like heels to feel a bit taller in a crowd. A bit of color so that you're not blending in with everyone else.
For an event this week, I paired a blue BCBG wrap dress (similar to this dress) with a gray Club Monaco blazer and a pair of vintage leather boots. Happy with the way this outfit came out. Now, I just need to put together another one for day two of the event tomorrow - shoot!

5 Step Dinner Party: Turkish Delight

Turkish was the theme of our weekly dinner party last night, and a great excuse to do lots of layering: both with fresh bright ingredients and lots of different table linens.

  • Appetizer: "Meze" platter with imported Turkish dolmas, black olives and persian cucumbers topped with lemon and paprika. 
  • Amuse-bouche: Tomatoes stuffed with kisir (tabbouleh salad) 
  • Lamb kabobs with white nectarines and preserved lemon
  • Smoky eggplant dip (patlican ezmesi)
  • Cucumber yogurt dip (cacik) 
  • Fresh Turkish za'atar bread
  • Dessert: Pluot tart, dark chocolate, Turkish tea.

Step 1: Decorate
I set the table with two different turkish linens: a lovely dove grey and silver cloth I picked up in France and a very plain blue and white bath towel we bought in Bodrum.
Very Turkish-looking blue and gold napkins, wedding china, silver service. For the centerpiece, I repurposed last week's statice flowers into new vases. Used the base of my punchbowl as a gilded base for the main vase. Polished silver stemware from my aunt as tealight holders.  
Step 2: Shop
I walked down to Samiramis Imports on Mission St. to pick up genuine Turkish preserved lemons, yogurt, fresh-baked bread, olives, cucumbers and dolmas.  Bought tomatoes, fresh herbs, nectarines and lemons at a Mexican market next door. Half a leg of lamb from Whole Foods. Groceries were a bit more expensive than usual, about $50.
Step 3: Make Ahead
I made the roasted eggplant dip (which could not be easier) on Monday night and the cacik cucumber dip on Wednesday morning.
Step 4: Last Minute Prep
I threw together a quick kisir salad with a dash of truffle mustard in the lemon dressing and used it to stuff small tomatoes. 
Wee bit of lemon peel on top and that was our completed amuse-bouche. 
Chopped up fresh, super ripe white nectarines and tossed them in diced preserved lemons. 
Cut the leg of lamb into lean cubes for the small skewers, seasoned the meat with kabob spice from the market and assembled that with the nectarines. Put on some Turkish guitar music on Spotify. Time to relax and wait for guests to arrive. 
Step 5: Party!
Our guests arrived loaded with gifts this time: no less than 5 bottles of wine, a fruit tart, chocolate bars and flowers! We started with wine and the meze platter in the living room, before moving on to beer and the cacik salad in the dining room. The kebobs only take about 2 minutes to grill, so I did that and heated the Turkish bread in two batches. I thought we would have way too much food, but every last bit was eaten.  
For dessert, the pluot tart, bars of gourmet dark chocolate and decaf spice tea that Rob and I brought back from the Egyptian spice market in Istanbul. 
Everyone left at 10pm with full bellies and ideas for new travels. Rob and I loaded up the dishwasher before turning into bed. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Best Turkish Shops on Etsy

Because we visited Turkey at the very start of our nine week trip, I only bought a few tiny souvenirs in Istanbul and Bodrum. Thanks to Etsy, picking out beautiful pieces direct from Turkey is as easy as a couple clicks. From top to bottom:

Ainurscarf - Hand-decorated scarves with crochet, amulets and tassels from Istanbul. This purple and blue option is $22.

SofaART - All kinds of beautiful handwoven kilim pillows from Izmir. The pictured pink and green choice is $64. Check out KilimDecolic for even more choices.

Alyosm - High-quality turkish towels in every sherbet color of the rainbow. Three small towels are $60.

Anteeka - This shop is in Israel, but the tassel and enamel earrings are vintage Turkish for $125.

PrettyTurkishThings - An online Turkish shop with adorable vintage phones, fez hats and evil eye beads.

Aquazestfest - A collection of vintage costume and new jewelry directly from Istanbul. I love this faux emerald ring. Gorgeous and only $42.

 - An assortment of traditional copper-ware - like this coffee pot - and vintage Turkish toys from the coastal town of Izmit.

TurkishKilim - Vintage handmade Turkish rugs from Bergama. This bright kilim is from the 1960's. Check out TurkishMuseum and ButterflyRugs for even more choices.

Bonus - I might be in love with this insane vintage feathered turban in teal and mint from the UK.

Monday, August 18, 2014

What to Wear: Turkish-Inspired Summer Patterns

This week's dinner party is Turkish-themed. I've had such a good time reading back over our trip to Istanbul and Bodrum in preparation. All those gorgeous layers of Ottoman tiles and paint inspired an outfit with layers of soft patterns for the rest of summer.

Sundress - This Madewell sundress has a classic Turkish carnation design. On sale and only available in a couple sizes, so here's a backup dress just in case.
Sweater - This teal sweater jacket from Anthropologie adds a nice deep color and texture to the outfit.
Earrings - Hot pink and gold stud earrings for $28.
Necklace - The bright colors and tassel on this Betsy Johnson necklace are straight out of a Ottoman palace.
Bracelets - A fun set of $10 gold bangles.
Shoes - I can only find these cute studded blue ikat flats are only available in wide-width. Shoot!
Scarf - A light Turkish blue and white scarf.
Clutch - A $19 red ikat clutch from Cost Plus World Market.
Tea Glass - The traditional small tulip glasses for Turkish tea are easy to find on Amazon.