To Do List: September 2011


Though fall didn’t technically start until a few days ago, I’ve been celebrating the change of season all month long. As the weather starts to cool, I’ve mixed up more substantial cocktails, made pies packed with classic flavors, and found a new favorite variety of fall fruit. Here’s a complete list of the food, props, events, and music that intrigued me this month:

SUPPORT: The Santa Monica Farmer’s Market has long been an institution in Los Angeles, educating visitors about the importance of good food, quality produce, and family-run farms. This month marked the market’s 30th anniversary and, as part of the celebrations, they teamed up with FamilyFarmed to create the first annual Good Food Festival. Conscientious types attended symposiums, food-related art shows, and cooking demonstrations by some of my favorite LA food people, like Evan Kleinman, Amelia Saltsman, Suzanne Goin, and the ladies of Lindy & Grundy.

BUY: No matter who I’ve worked with in food photography, I’ve found one major commonality: stylists tend to like really mini things. While prop shopping for a recent shoot, I came across these Mini Pie Dish at Crate & Barrel and, following suit, they instantly became my new obsession. Ironically, I haven’t used them for their intended purpose but they have earned a permanent place on my dinner table as bitty condiment dishes.

BAKE: Speaking of mini things, I’ve never been one to finish off a huge piece of pie. (Ok, well, that’s not counting earlier this month when I nearly ate an entire pie while judging KCRW’s pie contest.) Though I like pie plenty, I’m picky and feel it’s hard to find a consistent pie with quality flavor and (most important to me) a perfectly crisp crust. I adore a quality crust so this month, in attempts to up the crust-to-filling ratio in my life, I indulged in a month-long hand pie baking bonanza. I’m now hooked on Hand Pies as they’re a mini take on pie (see above for my obsession with mini things), they’re portable, and they’re much less messy than a traditional slice (key when my niece and nephew are involved in the eating). The favorite of my many experiments is this flaky-crusted hand pie that’s packed with a sweet-savory filling of sweet apples, aged Gouda, honey, and fresh thyme.

EAT: Unless we’re talking pie filling, when it comes to fall fruit, I get much more jazzed about pears than apples. Growing up, my French stepmother would search far and wide for an exemplary European pear, be it a Comice, Williams, or Seckel. As a result, I thought I’d tasted a good portion of the pears out there, but then Frog Hollow Farm introduced me to the sweet, buttery Warren Pears. They sent me a half dozen perfectly ripe pears that were such lookers I had a hard time eating them. But once I tasted them, I fell in love with their subtly sweet, floral flavor. Truth be told, they’re so delicious eaten out-of-hand that I haven’t managed to use them for anything else.

SIP: As the weather changes, so does my cocktail of choice. I opt away from refreshing fruit-driven cocktails in favor of warming, classic cocktails. The Manhattan has long been a cocktail I turn to but a few years ago one of my mixologists friends introduced me to the Black Manhattan. The standard sweet vermouth is swapped out for the Italian bitter, Averna, and this slight change makes for a sultry twist that’s become my new standard.

CONVERT: A friend of mine is on a mission: she wants to prevent us all from using so much plastic. To prove how simple her goal is she’s asked us to pledge one little thing: to stop using plastic straws. Though, of course, she’d eventually like us to do more, it’s a simple step that she makes even more memorable by handing out metal straws whenever we’re out and about. I’m now a convert and have bought tens of Metal Cocktail Straws (and a straw-cleaning kit) to replace any paper or plastic straws that once graced my bar. It’s an easy fix that has the added bonus of being an instant conversation piece come cocktail time.

BUY: So, I’m really into felt. I never quite understood why until I went to the Netherlands and saw that felt is used there in everything from totes to shoes to tabletop goods. I’m a quarter Dutch so I figure my love for felt is obviously some genetic predisposition. I mean, think about it, it makes perfect sense. Ok, it doesn’t really make any sense, but that’s my best rationale. My friends and family have had a felt intervention so I’ve scaled it back to just coasters — lots and lots of Felt Coasters. Though I have a slew of slate coasters from my last trip to Amsterdam, I am eyeing this fuschia set as a next purchase.

CRAFT:My place is sadly too small to have guests but someday I’m hoping to have a lot of space replete with a homemade guest book like this cheerful one. If you ever tried your hand at finger painting back in kindergarten, then you have all the skills it takes to make this Fingerprint Guest Books, which is perfect for me because I’m a disaster when it comes to any arts where paintbrushes are involved.

GROW: I know, I’m the kajillionth person to write about the return of terrariums but, I can’t help it, they are just so retro-cool. I recently stayed at my sister’s place for a week and, seeing as she loves all things 70s, I knew she’d be into a terrarium. Gillyflowers in Silver Lake had a stunning glass globe terrarium with teensy succulents and a bitty quartz piece and it was the absolute perfect “thank you” gift for the raddest girl I know.

LISTEN: Sometimes I forget how much I like something until I rediscover it — know what I mean? Well, that’s exactly what happened with The Rapture. This New York-based band fell off my radar for the last few years but their latest album reminded me how much I like them. They recently came through town and I so dug their live performance that I’ve had their album on repeat ever since.

Photos courtesy of Cocktailia, Decoylab, Frog Hollow Farms, The Rapture, Crate and Barrel, and Good Food Festival

To Do Lists are monthly lists where I share my favorite discoveries of the last 30 days with you.

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