Monday, May 23, 2011

Reader Question - Dessert ideas for garage top party

I hate recipe planning. Its just so hard to decide!  I'm having a dinner party this weekend.  Any thoughts on a dessert? Not too complex, but delicious and appropriate for eating on the roof of a garage

Garage top dinner parties?! Love it!! What a fabulously fun and quirky summer party idea. Recipe planning is actually tons of fun, I don't understand. This little Muse's favorite thing to do every year is plan my extensive Thanksgiving Menu stored and shared via GoogleDocs. But I guess that's why you are asking for help.

Your party sounds like it is going to be pretty caj so you need a dessert to match. Let's steer clear of cool whip and jello and go with some gourmet options that are easily executed and enjoyed.

  • Peach Shortcake. Same idea as strawberry shortcake but with peaches for a new little edge. Make a basic sweet biscuit topped with some raw sugar. Cut your peaches, toss in sugar, and allow to sit 30 minutes (for sugar to dissolve and fruit to soften...this is called "maceration"). Cut the biscuit and put the peaches between the halves, top with fresh whipped cream. Couldn't be easier. 
  • Granita topped with homemade whipped cream. StrawberryRhubarb or Honeydew or Espresso. One of these recipes says to put it in a food processor - no no. You are just supposed to put it in a dish an scrape it up with a fork - we're keepin' it simple.
  • Summer fruit galette. Make some pie dough, roll it out into a circle.  Dump 1 lb of your preferred fruit (mixed with  ~ 2 Tbs cornstarch, little lemon zest, 1Tbs lemon juice, pinch of salt, 1/2 cup of sugar) in the middle. Fold the edges up, pleating them so they cover some of the fruit but there is an open spot in the middle. Egg wash, sprinkle with raw sugar, bake at 400 for 30-45 minutes. (photo from Smitten Kitchen)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Inexpensive (non-Ikea) Sofa

The Muses were recently asked where one could find a new, reasonably priced sofa ($300-500) that is not from Ikea.

It's true that when you want a basic piece of furniture that isn't necessarily an "investment", people usually run to Ikea. However, if you aren't a visual learner and always end up attaching the legs on your tables upside down and backward or you don't want that same Billy bookcase that everyone has, you need to go elsewhere.

Here are a few places that have decent furniture options at a sensible price.

Urban Outfitters - Anywhere Sofa ($329)

Rooms to Go - Avelar Sofa ($375)

Overstock - Provence Sofa ($395) 

World Market - Luxe Sofa ($230 couch + $169 slipcover)

Monday, May 9, 2011

You saw it here first: Anthro Farmer's Market Baskets

Check out the cute new stoneware farmer's baskets at Anthropologie. The larger version is perfect for creating an everyday centerpiece out of your citrus fruit.

Or, should you spring for the smaller option, it's effective for bringing berries home from the market or the grocery. Rather than throwing them back into their clam-shell plastic packaging after a good scrub, put them in here instead - it fits nicely in the fridge and is even cute enough to serve out of (hey, if you want to go for the truly eco option, go to the Farmer's Market and forego the packaging altogether!)

Friday, May 6, 2011

2:2:2 CARMEL

It's a new Muse travel feature - the 2:2:2. This time, 2 places to eat, 2 things to do, and 2 ways to relax in Carmel, California.

The East Coast Muse and her lover traveled to the West Coast to meet up with six other couple friends for the Big Sur International Marathon the weekend of April 29-May 2. Don't be too impressed - she only ran a 10.6-mile race. Regardless - it was a wonderful weekend spent on the Monterey Peninsula. It was really the perfect weekend - the weather was gorgeous, the scenery breathtaking as always and the time spent with friends enriching (including a brief stopover in San Francisco to meet up with her totally platonic soul mate, the West Coast Muse). Here is the 2:2:2 based on this exciting weekend.

Katy's Place, in Carmel-by-the-Sea. A perfect little brunch spot in cozy Carmel-by-the-Sea with the most delectable brunch menu. Since my recovering-Austinite husband and I are deprived of good Tex-Mex in Washington, D.C., we both sprang for Tex-Mex brunch items: the huevos rancheros and the Mission Cookout, and we highly recommend both. Katy's Place also serves up amazing blintzes, French toast, and has an entire page of the menu devoted to different varieties of eggs benedict. You can't go wrong. But try to show up a little earlier than later - this place gets packed, and fast.

I'm really struggling to name just one other place to eat, because there are SO many wonderful places. But I'm going to recommend Roy's at Pebble Beach (although Casanova, also in Carmel-by-the-Sea is divine, with impeccable service). You may wonder why I'm recommending a chain restaurant. Don't be deceived. This is THE original Roy's Steakhouse, owned by Roy Yamaguchi, the James Beard award-winner, in the club house nestled in the Pebble Beach golf course with astonishing views of the ocean. Be sure to make your dinner reservations for the outdoor terrace at 5:30 p.m. - every evening at 5:45 p.m. a Scottish bagpiper strolls along the sea, piping his melodic and melancholy music for all to hear. You don't want to miss it.

I'm a runner, so I highly recommend a long run along the hills and the coastline. But if you're not feeling that ambitious, at the very least go for a long hike. You don't want to miss these views. Pack some water and snacks, and of course your sunscreen. It's always a bit cool along the coast, so you can use the sweatshirt you ended up tying around your waist as a beach blanket once you take a seat.

Do some shopping. Why not? Help boost this little town's economy (not that they need it, but hey - the shopping is great anyway). There is a nearby shopping center with stores such as Anthropologie, Coach, Cole Haan and more. Plus there is a plethora of tiny boutiques. One Muse favorite is Tea Rose Collection in Carmel-by-the-Sea (you know how we love tea). If shopping isn't your thing, you can also check out some of the nearby vineyards and do a wine tasting tour.

Stay at Vagabond's House Inn, in Carmel-by-the-Sea. The proprietor, Thomas, is the cutest little hipster-surfer you ever did see, and he's so kind, so soft-spoken, so gentle, so helpful. He makes the stay worth it in and of itself. Every room is a little different, and most include fireplaces and bathtubs (!) There is a wine reception every evening, and you can enjoy breakfast in bed or in the gorgeous courtyard, surrounded by rhododendron, camelias, and other lush plant life. You can literally feel yourself unwind when you walk into the place. And of course, be sure to walk around the adorable town of Carmel-by-the-Sea - you can walk anywhere you'd like to go and the pace of life is so nice and slow.

Go spend some time at the Spa at Pebble Beach. You may see a celebrity or two (Chef Anne Burrell was getting a massage at the same time I was!) and the spa menu is extensive. Bring your bathing suit, or rent one from the front desk so you can enjoy the sauna and jacuzzi after your treatment. A locker for your items and a lush robe and slippers to relax in are provided. Also, the ladies' locker room has everything you could ever think of needing, so once your pampering and treatments are over, shower and get ready for dinner or your next activity right there.

If you take a weekend jaunt to the Monterey Bay Area, this should keep you well-fed, with plenty to do...or not do. For more info on what's happening in Carmel, check out the town's fab website.