Thursday, December 23, 2010

Comments for Cans

It's the third year of Comments for Cans on EmilyStyle!

Comment on this post during the holidays and I'll donate $1 dollar to the San Francisco Food Bank for every one. You have until midnight on January 3 to comment - one per person please.

Last year, 159 of your comments translated into a $159 donation, which the Food Bank turned into $1,400 worth of food for the hungry. Let's fill some bellies in 2011!

Advent Calendar: December 23

Merry Christmas! Per tradition, we're ending the advent calendar with our annual holiday card photo. Margaret helped take this shot at a grand old building in the Financial District on a rainy Sunday. Those pigeons were surprisingly professional. They lined right up again on the steps between each shot.

Rob and I are headed down to San Luis Obispo tonight and I won't be back online until January 3rd. Enjoy your holiday and don't forget to comment in the yearly fundraiser for the San Francisco Food Bank!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Advent Calendar: December 22

We had our December Ladies Activity Club party last night. The ever-so-talented Tracy hosted us for an evening of making felt ornaments and bows - a last minute Christmas craft-up.

In between sewing, she served a delicious pear blueberry bread pudding with fresh whipped cream.

Only one more night to finish my Christmas cards, wrap presents and prepare the apartment for week-long visitors.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Advent Calendar: December 21

Amidst all the giving, a little "getting" can be fun too. Margaret came over last night with my Christmas gift - a beautiful red Le Cruset oval.

But, I don't know any dutch oven recipes yet. Do you have a favorite?

Recipe: Protein Pomodoro Pasta

In the cold, dark winter my appetite is all for hearty dishes. This pasta recipe tastes very rich, but is full of healthy protein-enriched pasta, tofu and spinach.

Protein Pomodoro Pasta
Serves 4

3/4 of a box of Barilla Gold spaghetti
1 container of extra firm tofu
1 cup of frozen chopped spinach, or more to taste
1 small onion
1/2 a jar of tomato basil spaghetti sauce
1/4 jar of vodka sauce (or a small dash of cream/whole milk added the sauce)
1/2 cup of red wine
1/2 cup of chopped fresh basil
Dash of olive oil
Salt and pepper

Start your pasta water boiling. Chop the onion and press the extra water from the tofu before dicing unevenly. Heat a sauce pan with a dash of olive oil and add the onions and tofu over high heat. Season with pepper and salt and cook on high until the tofu starts to brown. Add the basil, spinach and wine to the tofu mix, it should be taking on a small resemblance to Italian food by now.

Add your pasta to the boiling water and the spaghetti sauces to your tofu mixture. Your sauce should be thick and chunky. Drain the pasta once it is finished cooking and add to the sauce. Cook over low heat, mixing everything together. Serve with a bit of parmesan on top and chopped fresh basil.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Advent Calendar: December 20

Ack! It's already December 20th? The full velocity of this holiday season has just hit me. All the writing, shopping, cooking, wrapping, hosting, partying, decorating and celebrating of the season can be exhausting. It was so great to have a spa day on Sunday with my family. Just to be in a plush robe with a glass of cucumber water was a moment of holiday zen.

Red Door is a favorite of mine, not just for the excellent skin care, but also for their commitment to keeping you warm. A heated table, thick blanket, heated bean bag on your stomach and heated mitts on your hands - bliss for a cold winter day.

Weekend Round-Up: Holiday Blitz

I have a life-hangover from this weekend! So much fun and so many parties. (And so few photos, they're all on Jean's camera).

So, my sister Jean arrived Thursday night and on Friday morning I took off for the holiday celebration day at work. All the women in my office were treated to massages, pedicures and manicures at the spa next door, with a champagne brunch in between.

Back home at 4:00 for a "disco nap" before getting dressed up for the evening's office party. I paired a bright blue dress with my new gold shoes and big earrings. Jean joined us and the three of us walked up to Rosewood North Beach in the pouring rain. Margaret and her roommate met us there - lots of food, lots of drinks, lots of dancing. Back home at 11:30 that night to crash into bed.

Rob went to work on Saturday morning after Jean made us spinach and ham omelets for breakfast. She convinced me to go for a run along the Embarcadero - a very slow run! We dressed and hopped on the bus to Japantown. We hit up the Fillmore farmer's market for some snacks on the way and ran into a reader from the east bay (hi!).

Japantown was a perfect place to Christmas shop on a rainy day. Jean's friend Haley and her folks met up with us. We went nuts buying stickers, patterned tape, calendars, crackers....all kinds of small treasures for our stockings. Ramen for lunch at one of the shops. Haley and her folks took off around 3:00. Jean and I walked up the Fillmore, in more pouring rain, before hopping the bus back home at 4:30.

A quick decompression with a movie and popcorn at home before getting dressed up again. We meet up with Margaret and drove to Bernal Heights for my friend Alison's party. Three girls trying to back the manual transmission car into a parking spot on one of the steepest hills in San Francisco gave us an adrenaline boost before the event. House party fun until 10:30, we stopped in the mission for late night nachos on the way home.

Sunday morning, Rob left for work again (they're rushing to meet a deadline before the holiday break) and Jean and I walked to Red's Java Hut on the water for a greasy spoon breakfast. Still raining, we walked up to the Ferry Building for some more "foodie" Christmas shopping. On the way home, we were caught in a gale storm and were soaked to the bone by the time mom and Trent arrived at 11:30. A bit of tea with some cheese and crackers for lunch.

The three of us ladies had to head out again at 1:00 for facial appointments at Red Door. They always do a great job and it was so nice to have an hour to relax and be pampered. After our spa appointments, Jean, mom and I walked past the puppies and kittens at Macy's to Sephora for make-up supplies. Then on to the Westfield basement for a lovely late lunch of mussels and fries, grilled artichokes and cream puffs along with glasses of wine.

We met up at home with Trent and Rob at 4:30. More tea and chatting. I had a quick nap and we all had showers. Again pouring rain outside, we piled into the car and drove to Chez Spencer. I had been holding a gift certificate to my favorite restaurant just for their visit. Warm and cozy on the heated, tented patio - we had wine, truffled asparagus, beet salad, filet mignon, lobster salad and olive-rubbed lamb loin. The lamb was especially amazing! It was a Christmas feast.

Back home again, we made everyone beds and turned in pretty quickly after our long days.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Advent Calendar: December 17

Live music in front of the Christmas tree! Such a festive tradition.

We were lucky to have a talented banjo player and a professional ukulele player at the party last night. I need to make more musician friends!

Party Recipe: Book Launch

We had a fun party last night with about 15 people for the launch of a friend's autobiography, Daveland. It was a great event with a lot of creative San Franciscans who had contributed to the project - writers, journalists, poets, artists and musicians. The best part is that the whole party came to us, from food to guests. All we had to do was open the door!

Food: Salami, olive bread, three kinds of cheddar, cranberry cinnamon goat cheese, crackers, veggies, hummus, chips, stuffed dates, pigs in blankets.

Drinks: South American wine and German beer.

Entertainment: A slideshow of images and quotes from the book with South American music, speeches, live jam sessions.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Recipe: Savory Bread Pudding

Gourmet's savory bread pudding recipe has been a stand-out dish for a couple of our holiday brunches now. I mixed it up this year with black olive wheat and sourdough bread along with the regular country loaf. And a added kale and mushroom to the arugula mixture (no bacon for the vegetarians).

Cube the bread into small pieces and cook the greens the night before. In the morning, all you have to do is mix everything with eggs, cheese and cream and bake.

No matter how you customize it, this casserole is a real champ for the holidays.

Advent Calendar: December 16

I wrapped my first set of gifts last night after a breakfast-for-dinner of ham and fried eggs.

Only a few small presents so far...and a couple little mice with red and green bows!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Advent Calendar: December 15

Another important tradition: tipping! Rob and I always try to give big during the holidays. Especially to our housekeeper who is so kind and dedicated. We're a bit behind, but there are some nice envelopes going out today.

Beautiful green paper from Campbell Raw Press

Recipe: Glazed Ham

Our 18-pounder from Roberts was an incredible piece of meat. So I don't know how much credit I can really take for the dish turning out so well. Preparation was very easy:

Glazed ham
1 large deli (trimmed of the bone) ham
12 or so whole cloves

1 cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon of mustard
1 grapefruit
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of allspice
1 teaspoon pepper
dash of nutmeg

Remove the fabric netting from the ham. You may want to tie the ham with butcher's string to keep it together during baking, otherwise it will expand. Score the fat on the top of the ham with a knife into 1 inch squares. Stick a clove in the middle of each square.

Mix your brown sugar glaze ingredients together in a bowl. Use the grapefruit for zest and then a dash of juice to bring the glaze to a paste consistency.

Bake the ham 15 minutes per pound at 325 covered tightly with foil. Halfway through the baking, spread the glaze paste on top of the ham. Bake until you hit about 150 degrees in the middle of the ham. Ours cooked for four and a half hours.

Let the ham rest for about 20 minutes before starting to carve. It should be almost falling apart and very easily sliced. Serve with a selection of fancy mustard on the side. A dab of black truffle mustard is crazy good with this!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Recipe: Party Butters

The simplest touches sometimes make the biggest impact at a party. In between all my other prep, I decided to fancy up some butter for the rolls on a whim. Second to the ham, these simple butters got the most acclaim.

Honey Butter
1 stick of salted butter, softened
1 tablespoon of good quality honey
Zest from 1 orange and 1 lime

Herb Butter
1 stick of salted butter, softened
1 clove of garlic, microplaned
4 leaves of fresh basil, minced
4 stems of broad leaf parsley, minced
dash of pepper

For both, just mix and set in a small dish overnight for the next day's party. Best when left to soften for an hour or so before serving with crispy, warm pain epi rolls from Acme (thank you Susan!).

Artful photo from Whole Foods.

Advent Calendar: December 14

I love writing Christmas cards. Maybe a little too much! I'm only through the letter D in my address book and have already sent 40 letters. About 100 more to go?

At least the holiday stamps from the Post Office are better this year. The pine branches are a nice match with the silver paper.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Advent Calendar: December 13

Ah, the holiday tradition of a grand feast! All the linens ironed, silver polished, meats roasted, drinks topped up, seconds and thirds happily accepted.

Holiday entertaining is one of my favorite things!

Weekend Round-Up: Brunch

The weekend got off to a rocky start when I woke up Friday feeling rotten from a fresh cold. With the big party on Sunday, I had to get better, stat. I hibernated immediately. Homemade chicken soup, tea with honey and 20 hours of sleep.

I woke up on Saturday miraculously cured! Immune system FTW! Oatmeal and grapefruit for breakfast with Rob before he headed to work for a few hours. I spent the morning prepping for the holiday party. I put lights on the tree, ironed tablecloths, chopped bread and cleaned house.

At 2:30, it was time to drive across town to help Seth, Amy and baby move in to their new apartment. We unloaded the rental truck and I drove back across town with Seth to return it. Takeout Indian dinner at their place before heading home to prepare the rest of the food. I cooked greens, boiled potatoes, baked bacon and seeded pomegranates. Hard time sleeping due to excitement!

Sunday morning, up briefly at 6 to throw the ham in the oven. A couple hours later, Rob and I downed coffee and decorated the Christmas tree. Some mixing, some dish-washing, mostly just throwing pans in the oven before the guests started to arrive at 10:30.

Great party! The 18lb ham we got at Roberts was amazing! We knocked off all but a couple pounds. All the food was crazy good. I'll post recipes this week.

After the party, we sat around drinking the last of the champagne with a couple friends and picking up. A quick nap for me and a spin on the bike for rob. I dived in on Christmas cards and silver polishing for the rest of the day.

Friday, December 10, 2010

What to Wear: Hmmm...

I'm overdue for a new holiday party dress. I've had three on heavy rotation for a few years.

So far, all my shopping has only turned up a gorgeous pair of gold ankle strap shoes on super sale. Any ideas?

Advent Calendar: December 10

Our new Christmas tree lot isn't just by the water, it's literally on it. Delancey Street sets up shop on Pier 32 for the holidays. A great cause in a beautiful location next to the bay.

Rob and I got a massive tree this time. In our tradition, we keep it tied up until it's carried home for a big reveal. This tree is an absolute beast! 9+ feet tall and about five feet across. I'm calling it the Captain.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Advent Calendar: December 9

We don't have our Christmas tree yet, but I've done a bit of decorating around the house with ribbon.

One of my favorite early traditions is tying big satin bows around all the lamps and this little antique plaster bust. Doesn't he look jaunty!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Advent Calendar: December 8

For today's advent calendar post: an appreciation of the printed kind!

My mother sends me a paper advent calendar at the end of each November. All glitter and German illustrations, this annual tradition is a perfect way to count down to the holiday. Today's window (yellow) was particularly cute with two little finches on a branch mirroring the finches singing in the rain outside our window.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Holiday Brunch: The Menu

Wow...we already have over 20 RSVPs for the annual holiday brunch this weekend. How exciting!

I think I've assembled a menu to feed everyone without undue stress. Most of this can be either set-out as is or prepared in advance to be thrown in the oven the morning of the party. I'll just need to run around town a bit on Friday and Saturday to get the last supplies:
  • Smoked duck from Willie Bird in Sonoma.
  • Honey ham from from local corned-meats expert Roberts
  • Truffle mustard
  • Crunchy warm rolls from Acme bakery with butter and jam
  • Skewers of buttered tiny yellow potatoes topped with Neiman Ranch bacon
  • Savory (vegetarian) bread pudding with arugula and Gruyère.
  • Fresh fruit
  • Pear frangipane tarts straight from France via Trader Joe's
  • Coffee
  • Spiced cider
  • Pomegranite kir royale cocktails
Am I missing anything key? Aside from green vegetables, which are not invited to the party :)

Advent Calendar: December 7

Random PR agency-sponsored holiday parties are a Christmas tradition in the city! Last night, Margaret, Nicole and I hit up the Chambord/Marie Claire holiday soirée at the Hotel Vitale.

Great space, tasty champagne cocktails and plenty of people watching. I just hope the Chambord agency was going for the gross-older-businessmen hitting on the bottle-blond scene.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Advent Calendar: December 5

Gump's, my favorite posh shop in San Francisco, has some adorable window displays up for the holidays. Rotating dioramas set in vintage television sets are too cute to pass up.

And I'll let you in on a secret: along with all the super-expensive beautiful things for sale at Gump's, they also have an amazing collection of vintage-inspired toys that are very reasonable for the kids on your list.

Weekend Round-Up: Holiday Kick-Off

This was a quiet, pleasant weekend with yet another giant rainstorm passing through the city.

On Friday, Rob swung by my office for my company's monthly office dinner. It's always fun to eat together, listen to music and see everyone's friends, kids, spouses, etc. Home relatively early to rest up.

Egg tacos with jalapeño sausage and coffee for breakfast on Saturday morning. I spent an hour exercising on the bike and then cleaned house for a while. I took off at noon for a couple quick errands on my way to a much-needed hair appointment across town. From the hair appointment, I picked up Rob and we drove to Sacramento for a belated-Thanksgiving party with our friends Seth and Amy. Great time hanging out with their folks and six-week-old baby. Back home in the rain, we swung by Safeway at 10:00 on the way to the house for supplies. It was fun to see the store packed with people dressed up for holiday parties. Home and to bed.

Up early to see Rob off to work on Sunday morning. I went back to bed to read and sleep a bit more. Another hour and a half of spin on the bike and a trip to the storage unit to get Christmas supplies. I started decorating the apartment with lots of red ribbon and little wood veneer trimmings. After lunch it was time to brave the storm outside for errands. Hard to believe that our annual holiday brunch is only a week away. First to Ikea, to return a cabinet from last weekend and pick up a few extra glasses and pans for the party. Then - raining even harder outside - I went to Trader Joe's to load up on decadent groceries. Back home very slowly over the bridge, I warmed up with a cup of tea and the Sunday paper at home.

Rob returned around 6:30 and we bundled up for the Bicycle Coalition's Winterfest party.I picked up Margaret and we met at the party. This annual fundraiser is a lot of fun and stocked with the most famous local cyclists. We shared beers and vegan Vietnamese sandwiches before exploring the silent auctions and photobooth. A great event!

Friday, December 03, 2010

Recipe: Christmas Chicken

Roast chickens are so easy and work for at least a round of leftovers before turning into delicious soup. This week's recipe had a bit of a holiday flair that I think will be a new tradition!

Christmas Chicken

1 high quality whole chicken (about 4 lbs)
1 satsuma orange or similar
1 large clove of garlic
1/4 cup of kosher salt
2 teaspoons of pepper
1 heaping teaspoon of nutmeg

Pre-heat the oven to 450. Prepare your rub first. Zest the orange and the garlic with a microplane. Mix with the salt, pepper and nutmeg in a small bowl.

Next, the chicken. Ditch the giblets and drain the chicken of any juices. Trim off the extra skin and fat at the opening with kitchen scissors. Run your hand between the skin and the meat of the chicken to loosen it. Rub about half the mixture under the skin. Truss the chicken legs together and rub the rest of the mix on the outside. Make sure you get enough salt on every part including the underside.

Roast until a meat thermometer deep in the chicken breast reaches 150, around an hour. Let the bird rest for about 5 minutes before carving up.

Advent Calendar: December 3

The Westfield rotunda is always pretty, but with these giant wreath chandeliers it is stunning. It's perfect spot to grab a photo with Santa between a movie on the top floor and a delicious dinner in the basement.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Holiday Sales: Eberjey

I managed to avoid the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales with one exception, I fell hard for the 20% off deal at Eberjey.

Is this possibly a lacy, bow-decked replacement for my favorite French Darjeeling?

Advent Calendar: December 2

Tucked away in the elegant lobby of the Palace Hotel are a bunch of San Francisco-themed gingerbread houses, part of a charity fundraiser. Vote for your favorite design and each vote adds to the donations.

It's a fun way to do a little good while taking the most elegant ladies in your life to holiday tea at the Garden Court.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

2010 Man Gift Guide

This is our third year of Rob sharing his gift advice for EmilyStyle readers. Men can be so hard to shop for, it pays to go straight to the source. Here are nine unfiltered ideas for the gentlemen on your holiday gift lists:

1. Backpack - Timbuk2 Swig backpack for $90. Rob loves this bag for carrying his laptop to and from work.
2. OnLive Game System - $99 for this cloud-based gaming system that connects hundreds of games to any computer or TV.
3. Security Bit & Ratchet Set - $16 for this 102-piece handy tool set. Rob uses his all the time around the house.
4. Shoes - These loafers are pretty stylish looking, but wear as comfortable as flip flops. They're Rob's favorite to pair with corduroy pants. $40 to $60 depending on size and color.
5. Lantern - $37 for a cozy camping lantern that can hang inside your tent or stand-up on a picnic table.
6. Knife - You've got me. According to Rob this is exactly what a guy needs to "daydream about post-apocalyptic homesteading." $69 for the military survival knife with sheath.
7. Fish tank - A modern design that shows off your man's fish friends at home or the office in style. $195.
8. Bike - Handsome 4th District bicycle from Trek for $740. Rob says "Get your commute on."
9. Kindle - $139 to deliver thousands of books in one portable device to any reader in your family. I got one for my birthday and love it! Load it up with free classic books like Sherlock Holmes at ManyBooks.

Need more ideas? Check out the gift guides from 2009 and 2008.

Advent Calendar: December 1

Christmas in San Francisco is so much fun! For this year's advent calendar, I'm going to post a photo each day of holiday things to see and do around town. A little inspiration for those of us living by the bay, visiting for the holidays or just loving the "busy sidewalks" of the season in the city.

To start, Union Square! The hub of holiday cheer in San Francisco. See the tree, ice skate around the tiny rink and grab a glass of mulled wine in the rink-side cafe.