Foodie Fashion: Cupcake Cuties

Having worked in an environment that is all about fashion for a year now, I’ve come to appreciate an industry that used to be as important to me as the next Superbowl. Three years ago, I probably would have asked if Alexander McQueen had any relation to Lightening McQueen, or, more realistically, confused him with Steven McQueen. I always dressed in a way that I found both fun and comfortable, but now I can tell a McQueen piece from a Valentino and can feel the difference between a two-hundred dollar top and a twenty-five dollar one. While I’m not quite at The Devil Wears Prada level yet, I am certainly more of a fountain of fashion knowledge than my snooty intellectual self ever intended to be.

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Since fashion has become such an integral part of my daily life, I’m launching Foodie Fashion, a monthly segment about how my love of inhaling deliciousness intersects with what I put on my body. The focus of the blog will still be on real food, but this will be a fun way for me to share another part of myself. So, to launch it off, I’ll start with the first piece I purchased that set off my Spidey sense that food and fashion can interact in a way I never anticipated.

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I have been a fan of Dooney and Bourke for some time because of their great exchange policy and willingness to stand by their products. Then, they came out with a cupcake print. My mother, who supports my eccentricities and addictions, sent me a link to this new design, and I immediately had to have it. Yet, I had a hard time taking the plunge. While it wasn’t the most expensive bag out there falling between $150 and $200, I had a hard time justifying that investment. Clearly, I am the reason someone out there invented Outlets. With Tanger coupons, promos in the store, and descending during the quieter spring season, I was able to get my hands on two of these coated canvas bags for about the price of one.

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The light blue Letter Carrier is perfect for concerts or anywhere that requires you to keep your bag close to your body. It’s the kind of bag you can throw on and now worry about as you enjoy a glass of wine and walk around in large crowds. I love it for when I take day trips up to New York and only need a credit card, my ID, a little bit of cash, and my cell phone. Since it has so many zippers, my paranoid self puts each valuable in a different spot in case I get duped on the subway. The shape isn’t great for anyone who needs seventeen lipsticks, a hairbrush, and a large wallet, but it works for people who use little space. The bubble gum colored Ruby bag offers up fewer compartments, but can support bulkier items. The boxier shape means it bangs against your body a bit more if you wear it as a crossbody, but of the two, I find the Ruby to be the perfect marriage between a more streamlined style and a big hobo bag. It might not be able to fit all seventeen of my lipsticks, but I can usually cram two or three in there in case I change my mind throughout the day. They’re both perfect for a minimalist who might need the protective coating to keep the bag safe from grubby hands or dirty floors, and if that sounds like you, you can shop it here or the always reliable eBay.

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If you’ve read my review of Flavor Cupcakery, you know I bow down to all things cupcake. They are cute, they are (hopefully) delicious, and they are a dessert that can please both children and grownups. While some think they are overly hyped or are praying for them to finally die off now that donuts are the new thing, my goal in life is to become one. They’re fun, and whether they’re real and being eaten or being replicated on a handbag, I am all for anything that makes life a little sweeter.

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Food with F. Scott Fitzgerald

The one thing I love about blogging about food is finally noticing how much it comes up in times that I’m not stuffing my face. Oftentimes, I come across other people’s opinions about food while reading, and I’m not just referring to the other blogs I follow. Pretty much every one out there has an opinion on food and it can show up everywhere from a random comic book to a collection cultivated to highlight the impact of food and drink on our lives. The latter is exactly what New Directions tried to do when they published On Booze in 2011. I picked it up full of wonder for two dollars in New York, knowing that F. Scott and booze went together like teenagers and tempers. However, as I waded my way through, I realized that the premise was a bit thin. A few sentences from here, a paragraph pulled from there, and you have a mismatched compilation of stories where you have to squint to see the Jazz Age and use a magnifying glass to see how it has anything to do with booze. Despite the poor execution, there were some gems trapped within the eighty-six pages. That’s what I bring you here, because while I love Fitzgerald, I’m not going to make any of you read this book. Go pick up Tender is the Night instead…after you read what I have to say, obviously.

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“Debut: the first time a young girl is seen drunk in public.”

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“When he gets sober for six months and can’t stand any of the people he’s liked when drunk.”

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“Excuse Christ-like tone of letter. Began tippling at page 2 and am now positively holy (like Dostoevsky’s non-stinking monk)”

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“Many people who were not alcoholics were lit up four days out of seven…and the hangover became a part of the day as well allowed-for as the Spanish siesta.”

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“…wasting the dinner hour in an argument about which hotel: there was one in Beaune where Ernest Hemingway had liked the trout. Finally we decided to drive all night, and we ate well in a stable courtyard facing a canal- the green-white glare of Provence had already began to dazzle us so that we didn’t care whether the food was good or not.”

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“I turn in, perhaps with a night-cap…and read till drowsy on a last cigarette.”

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“She drank the gin fizz thinking it was lemonade and ruined the luncheon table next day.”

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And there you have it! I may not have loved this book, but I will say that good old Fitz has a way with words. Now, I’m off to read some more until I’m drowsy, though I will be sans cigarette.

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WineStudio: Mambo Italiano

Italian wine is not something I really appreciated when I first started delving into this world of beverages. Every glass that I tried felt like watching a marathon of Full House, not that interesting with a homey message that smacks you across the face. However, after my epiphany that Chardonnay could be delicious, I gave it another chance. Though I decided to expand my horizons, my experience of Italian wine revolved around the red. A Nebbiolo here, a Super Tuscan there, and I had a firmer grasp of what Italy had to offer. Still, bubbles were hardly on my radar until November of 2015.

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For those of you who have read my little paragraph about PROTOCOL Wine and #Winestudio, feel free to skip this section and jump down to the good stuff below. For those of you out of the loop, #WineStudio is a monthly Twitter discussion where wine enthusiasts get together to gush over wine, what goes into making it, and the impact it has on us imbibers. What I appreciate about this group is that it is a no judgement zone where my novice self can express my opinions and ask questions while also learning a lot.

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I am very much new to my study of wine, but even I know serious winos almost always bow down to sparkling; so, when I saw that it was going to be bubbly month, I immediately threw my hat in the ring. I had seen Ferrari wines at a local Italian restaurant that doubles as a wine shop, but I had never bothered to pick it up. Sugary Italian bubbles only fit to be mixed into a cocktail were what I was used to, and I did not have any interest in diving into yet another disappointing bottle. Unsurprisingly, the opinions I formed at twenty-one were wrong.

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Ferrari Wines, unlike that other Ferrari with which you’re probably familiar, produces traditional method sparkling wines. To kick off the month, we began with the classic NV Ferrari Brut. This wine made up of 100% Chardonnay was the simplest of the sparklers we tried, but shone with crisp fruity flavors. Pale gold in color, tart apples dominated the palate and a touch of toast edged out the well balanced wine. I took advantage of this one in the morning to pair with bacon and eggs, and it was a solid brunch accompaniment. The most economical of the Ferrari wines, the SRP of $25 makes this an easily accessible entry into what this winery has to offer.

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To mix it up a little bit, we also spent some time with the NV Ferrari Brut Rosé, a fun wine with depth that consisted of 60% Pinot Nero and 40% Chardonnay. The lush pink wine highlighted floral flavors and ripe strawberry. It was dry and food friendly, making it one that’s easy to bring to a BYO where you don’t know what food will be offered. Slightly pricier at around $36, it wasn’t one I could drink every day, yet I still enjoyed it all the same.

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After two good, though not mind-blowing wines, I opened up the bottle that converted me into an Italian sparkling superfan. The pale yellow 2007 Perlé lingered in mouthwatering ways. It had a little bit of everything; it was tart, juicy, nutty, and had a hint of bitter to it. Essentially a joy to drink. I was ready to hide this one away for myself like Sméagol with his ring. We finished the bottle in one go, though I could have filled a whole fridge. This one is a steal with an SRP of $38, and the one I would suggest that everyone pick up.

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Throughout #WineStudio we had explored progressively more complex bottles of bubbles, and that fact was underscored by the 2002 Guilio Ferrari Riserve del Fondatore. I saved this one for Thanksgiving, to share with my uncle- one of the few people in my family who is as into trying drinks as I am. Giving off aromas of stone fruits like white peach with a hint of nuts, this was one of those wines you could spend as much time smelling as drinking. However, for the average wine drinker, this isn’t the right bottle to buy. At a SRP of $120, it’s a much better investment for someone passionate about wine who will open this for the right occasion.

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Though these bubbles all came from the same Italian winery, the bottles we tried throughout #WineStudio showcased a nice breadth of sparkling options. Those new to bubbles would be at home with the traditional Ferrari Brut; those who are more advanced could easily spend some time with the Perlé. I don’t know about the wines produced when Ferrari was originally founded in 1902, but if they were anything like these, it’s no wonder why the company has thrived. In 2016, buzzwords like sustainable agriculture are perfect marketing tools, but take one sip, and you’ll understand why Ferrari is more than just a name.

These wines were kindly provided to me by the company listed above, but all opinions are my own. 

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Foodie Films: Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Sushi and pizza have become more and more comparable over the years; People want easy access to it, they want it cheap, and oftentimes, it’s not all that good. Cold, day-old store sushi is not something I encourage one to seek out and California rolls make me cringe. However, I have had my moments of weakness. When I was in college, I would sometimes stoop so low as to pick up a pre-packaged option from Temple’s Student Center. It was shameful and I’d squirrel away after swiping my meal card to eat the stiff rice and second rate fish in my dorm before my roommate came home.

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However, now I have some standards and only go for sushi made in restaurants that don’t seem like they’ll give me food poisoning. Still, after watching Jiro Dreams of Sushi, I can’t help but think I am miles away from the really good stuff. This study into one man and his profession not only focuses on a passion for food, but also provides an insight into the Japanese mentality. The movie is captivating, beautiful, and manages to be informational at the same time; it’s the holy trinity of foodie films.

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Number one lesson to take away after seeing the opening credits roll: fresh is not something on which to compromise. Jiro isn’t buying fish from Restaurant Depot, but instead from the markets featuring the freshest catches. More importantly, if the best tuna has already been scooped up, the restaurant won’t serve tuna that day. This master is uncompromising. It’s all about quality and doing things with care, not making money. This isn’t a factory meant to churn out mediocre content and bring in big bucks, it’s a restaurant that intends to create a delicious, unforgettable experience through thoughtfulness. Yet, through that dedication to making the best sushi, Jiro is undoubtedly making a nice chunk of money.

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While Jiro is the name on everyone’s mind and this movie is focused on him, the filmmakers also make it clear that this is not a one man operation. Now that this Japanese master is no longer a young man, he cannot keep up with the demands of the restaurant alone. He’s not the only one buying supplies, his apprentices spend their time creating the perfect rice, and his son is occasionally the one behind the counter bringing the Jiro experience to life. Jiro wants to pass on the art of sushi making, not just make a name for himself as a master. Arguably, the former is more important than the latter as his willingness to teach is what will lead to a better quality of sushi for all.

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Even though the story being told here is an important one, and one which millennials supporting the local movement could easily latch on, the visuals are a reason alone to stream this movie. Long shots of whole fish in markets, the Michelin award ceremony, and the care that is taken when a piece of fish is placed before a customer all bring viewers right into the action. Sure, it’s not the action of an Arnold Schwarzenegger blockbuster, but it is an action that I want to be a part of all the same.

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For those of you who can’t stand subtitles or want something quick and satisfying, this is not the right choice. Much like the time Jiro takes to create an experience at his restaurant, the filmmakers take the same amount of time to do the man and his craft justice. Anything else would cheapen the movie.

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Whether or not you’re a sushi devotee, Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a gorgeous glimpse into one man’s dedication to his job. I can’t think of many people who love what they do this much, but this gives me a bit of hope for my future. If I were to go to work feeling half as good as Jiro, I think I’d be a pretty happy camper.

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Thirsty Thursday: Pom-Cran Passion

Hello? Is anyone there? If you’re still out there, I’m back. After a hectic holiday season in retail, and a few weeks recovering from the madness of Christmas Eve at the mall, I am finally beginning to blog again. From Black Friday to New Year’s Eve, I haven’t been reading blogs and I haven’t been writing blogs; this whole site has been the last thing on my mind. Hopefully, now that the store will be as empty as the Sahara until men swarm in right before February 14th, I’ll get back into blogging regularly. It’s my New Year’s Resolution, which means that I should be able to keep up with it for a solid month before giving up entirely.

One thing for which I did make time this winter: cocktails. After a long day at work, I was only capable of creating new concoctions and watching CW TV shows. Nothing goes better with the guilty pleasure of streaming Gossip Girl or Jane the Virgin like alcohol, especially sweet, fruity drinks. So, that’s how I stumbled upon this mixture. If you watched shows like Passions or still tune in to afternoon soaps, I feel like that’s the most appropriate setting for this type of beverage. It’d probably also go well with any viewings of The Bachelor. If you do try it, I’d love to hear what you think! Happy drinking.

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Pom-Cran Passion

Yield: 1 cocktail

2 oz. Three Olives Pomegranate vodka

2 oz. Clear Creek Distillery Cranberry Liqueur

1 oz. Cointreau

1 oz. cranberry juice

juice from 1/2 a fresh lime

fresh pomegranate seeds (optional)

1. If you know you will be making this cocktail ahead of time, place shaker and vodka in the freezer to get them well chilled.

2. Take items out of freezer, fill shaker and martini glass with chipped ice to keep cold.

3. Measure out and pour vodka, cranberry liqueur, Cointreau, cranberry juice, and lime juice into shaker. Cover shaker and shake well for ten seconds.

4. Dump ice out of martini glass. If using fresh pomegranate seeds, place spoonful into bottom of glass. Strain liquid into glass and enjoy!

Posted in Cocktails, Recipe, Thirsty Thursday | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Thirsty Thursday: Autumn Apple

Despite my hatred of all things pumpkin (seriously, people, is pumpkin spice pasta sauce necessary?!), I do love this time of year. I am not made for ninety degree weather and bikinis, but I am pretty happy once a hot chocolate is in my hand and tights are on my body. In an effort to capture all things fall, September and October featured many an apple cocktail in my househould. Eventually, after experimenting, I came up with this drink which I think bridges the gap between summer and autumn well. It’s light, crisp, and refreshing, with a ton of apple flavor to it. It’s especially great for those of you out these who will drink anything sweet involving bubbles. Feel free to use whatever sparkling wine you like, though I tend to go for the cheaper wines when I’m mixing it into a cocktail. My thinking is that if I would drink it alone, I’m not going to put it into a mixed drink. No matter what kind of sparkling wine you use though, this is one of those drinks that goes down quickly and ends up hitting you before you know it, so drink it often but tread carefully. Happy sipping!

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Autumn Apple

Yield: 1 cocktail

1 1/2 oz. Calvados

1 oz. apple cider

1 oz. maple syrup

2 oz. sparkling wine

Cinnamon and sugar (for rim, if desired)

1. If you know early on that you’ll be making this cocktail, stick shaker and Calvados in the freezer a few hours ahead of time to get them well chilled.

2. Rim wine glass with cinnamon and sugar, if desired.

3. Take items out of the freezer. Fill up the shaker with ice to keep it chilled while assembling your cocktail.

4. Measure out and pour Calvados, apple cider, and maple syrup into shaker. Cover shaker and shake well for five to ten seconds.

5. Strain liquid into glass. Top with sparkling wine. Enjoy.

Posted in Cocktails, Recipe, Thirsty Thursday | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

WineStudio: Feeling Fine with Spanish Wine

I lived in Spain for five months, and I can safely say I learned nothing about wine while I was there. Well, that’s not entirely true. I did learn that a majority of the Spaniards in the north pour a soda similar to Sprite in almost all of their wines during the day and Coke into their wines at night. While there, on the occasions that I was drinking wine, that was what I did, too. More often, tart sidra was what I went for, and it was often what my host mom was pouring at the dinner table. So, unlike the kids who studied down south and drank sangria and red wine by the gallon, my experience with Spanish wine didn’t really take off until I was stateside again.

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Last month, in an effort to learn more about Spanish wine, I jumped on board for #WineStudio. You’ve probably read my spiel by now, but if you’ve missed my other #WineStudio posts, this online Twitter session occurs monthly on Tuesday evenings at 9 p.m. my time. Run by PROTOCOL Wine Studio, each month focuses on a distinct region or type of wine and throughout that month we all get together to tweet about the wine and geeky things like terroir, producers, and what wine means to us as individuals. If you’re at all interested in expanding your knowledge about the world of wine, I’d recommend joining us this upcoming Tuesday for a discussion about Turkish wines.

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Before we delved into Turkey in October, we did spend quite a bit of time talking about Codorníu and the wine samples for September. While Codorníu is based in Catalonia, it is a very global company that owns wineries in other areas of Spain and as far away as Argentina. Throughout the month we chatted with the company, learned about the history of the brand, and discussed how cava should not be confused with Champagne. We talked about a little bit of everything, but afterwards I felt like I was just scratching the surface of Spanish wine. I’m taking this to mean that I have to participate in the next Spanish #WineStudio whenever that happens. For right now, I’m working with what I learned last month and what I thought about the wines we tried.

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When I think Spanish wine, one of the first things that comes to mind is Rioja, so the 2012 Bodegas Bilbainas Zaco was the bottle I opened first. This inky Tempranillo was heavy on the cherry and dark plum flavors, but there was a touch of leathery smokiness to it. It was better the longer it stayed open, and by hour three, I was starting to dig it. There wasn’t much more to it besides a good time, yet isn’t that why we drink wine more often than not anyway? In the end, I enjoyed the bottle and would open one up again, though I don’t think it’ll become a staple in my house anytime soon.

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The most interesting wine of the month was the 2014 Septima Malbec; although that had more to do with the #WineStudio discussion than the wine itself. Basically what the conversation came down to was whether or not the people who would drink this wine would care about tasting notes and other factoids. My assumption? Probably not. The imbibers going after this one would probably be looking for something drinkable under twenty dollars, which is exactly what this was.

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The only non-Spanish one in the bunch, this wine hailed from Mendoza, the land of Malbec. It was what it was, nothing more and nothing less. For me, it was fruity and a touch thin. However, for the friend with whom I tried it, it was approachable because of the berry flavors and light tannin. I’d guess the $13.99 price tag would make it a good option for the average Malbec drinker. Get it if you’re new to Malbec or you’re looking for something that you don’t have to brood over like a vampire.

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Though I’m usually a red girl, the bubbly was my favorite. The NV Anna de Codorníu Brut consisted of 70% Chardonnay and 30% Parellada. Pale greenish-gold in color, crisp, and featuring nice bubbles, it paired well with the fried fish and polenta fries I was having the evening I opening this one up. Dry and citrusy, this was the kind of bottle that I would have on hand all the time for some easy bubbles. Like the other wines we tried this month, it wasn’t life changing, but it was a dependable, go-to option for a night in, and sometimes, that’s exactly what I need. With an SRP of $14.99, the wine was much more enjoyable than the sugar bombs that others in my house go for, and any option that’s better than that is a win.

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These are wines meant for a breezy weeknight at home, not ones meant to be poked or prodded over with a bunch of wine geeks. Considering the prices and the fact that the wines were all pleasant, I’d say they have a strong future ahead of them, and if you’re curious about Spanish wine, they’re a great starting place… especially now that you can go back and read all the #WineStudio tweets about them.

These wines were kindly provided to me by the companies listed above, but all opinions are my own. 

Posted in Spain, Wine, WineStudio | Tagged , , | 2 Comments