Enchanted Fairy Garden Party

Natasha, (click here to visit her incredible Instagram!), hired us to create another themed dessert table. This time, for her daughter… an enchanted fairy garden party!

Enchanted Fairy Party

As always, she requested that everything be made with organic, vegan, gluten-free, soy-free ingredients, natural colors and flavors, and to have a reduced amount of sugars while using primarily Whole Foods. We used Harry’s Berries Gaviota Strawberries – the best strawberries in the world – and India Tree colors, turmeric, and blue spirulina to color the treats.

Coming up with ideas for food using Pinterest really helped bring this dessert table to life. Here is what we came up with…

Birthday cake 
6” 2-layered Carob Cake with Chocolate Frosting & Strawberries
9” 2-layered Carrot Cake with Walnuts
12” 2-layered Vanilla Cake with Vanilla Frosting & Strawberries
3-tiered Pink Ombre & Flowers Birthday Cake
Nut-free Carob Log Cake, Chocolate Strawberries

Used all Harry’s Berries – Gaviota strawberries

Twigs & Berries 

Magic Fairy Drops Donut Tower – baked donuts dipped in housemade white chocolate and vegan sprinkles.

Pixie Dust Popcorn – coconut oil popped corn, drizzled with housemade white chocolate and vegan rainbow sprinkles.

Vegan donut tower

Moss Cookies  – sugar cookies with a hint of lemon, coated with a thin icing, covered with pulverized and green-colored coconut shreds.

Flowery Fruit Bites – kiwi, raspberry, & mint.

Magic Wands – blueberries and watermelon.

Magic Mushrooms – vegan marshmallows, strawberries.

Forest Logs – fruit leather strips.

Chipmunk Chips in Basket with Moss – plantain banana chips.

Enchanted Forest Seeds – bliss balls: hazelnut chocolate truffles, goji cranberry coconut truffles (recipes here and on my app!)

Vegan bliss balls

Gnome Made Granola Cups with Honeysuckle Cream – my granola recipe with more date paste to stick the cups together, baked in mini cupcake pans, with spooned in yogurt, berries, and mint.

vegan gluten free granola

Mud and Dirt Cups – avocado, banana, date-based chocolate pudding with dirt made from carob, date, almonds, and vanilla, and topped with a mint leaf.

vegan mud dirt dessert cups

Morning Dew – cucumber mint spring water & Pixie Punch – strawberry lemonade.

Watermelon House – fairy house made of watermelon.

Click here to view the paper art from @craftytude — the cute other decor was from Etsy…

For each party and project, I like to include a sketch in my proposal. From merely an idea to Instagram-ready…

To inquire about special occasion orders, please click here.

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So long Tavern

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Working 8 hours a day in a top restaurant in LA is a wonderful learning experience for an aspiring chef.  It can be very challenging and intense, but fun and a joy at the same time.  Those things I’ve missed since the last week of August.

Working with some of the most talented and respected chefs in the business is an invaluable experience.  I wish I could be a part of such a team always and grow and develop such genius.  But..the scary thing about the restaurant business, though, is the business owns you.  One’s schedule can change every week, like mine did.  At first, I made a sacrifice for the sake of learning – I had to pay my dues.  But after over a year, my schedule was still changing and my pay went down due to hours being cut down (like many others) and I never received a pay raise, not one cent above my original pay.  Of course my morale would go down when I’d think about it, sometimes affecting my performance, but I kept going… I was addicted to the work.  I still wanted my own cafe or business of some sort so I chugged along for the experience and education.  I kept learning and would enjoy it more and more the more I learned and developed skills.  On top of that, my coworkers and I grew very close – I considered them my family.

To alleviate stress about finances, I was proactive and started my private chef business and decided to get back into selling real estate on the side.  To my luck, things were happening.  I experienced a boom in both my side ventures – so much of a boom that I felt I was being spread too thin and something had to be done about it.

I asked for a raise at Tavern, but it was not possible.  Pay in this business is so low because I guess they think we are replaceable (although the girl that replaced me, after searching for a month, quit and I still have not been replaced).  I think if I was paid more, I would have stayed and not held other jobs.  I would have been committed to just this one job and I would have been happy.

Sure, my restaurant job brought me a lot of joy and happiness in many aspects, but one thing that the restaurant business didn’t bring me was a sustaining income and flexibility, which then led to my ultimate decision to leave.

As I mentioned, I held other jobs at the same time in order to survive  financially– I have my private chef business, cooking for clients 5 days a week, and I am back in the real estate business.  Since I made commitments to my clients in my other lines of business, like planning/preparing menus and food, delivery…and listing houses for sale and showing homes to clients, I needed flexibility in my schedule and needed to be available to take phone calls.  In real estate, time is of essence and I need to make moves fast to facilitate the transaction… but in the kitchen, it was against company policy to have our phones on us.  Sadly, I didn’t have the flexibility I needed, holding my restaurant job.  I wish I did.  It was a tough decision, but one I needed to make in order to be an independent woman.

I had to leave the restaurant. I have to say that I am sad about it because it brought so much joy to my life- the lessons and skills I learned in cooking and baking, the tough love I’d get from my superiors that only made me stronger, the friendships I developed, the broken Spanish that I spoke with dishwashers and prep staff, the goofiness and silliness that emerged out of me that was once caged in me in my former life as an accountant, and my star-strucken-ness with celebs watching us cook through the larder window.  It was awesome!  Despite all the cuts, burns, and bruises I got in the kitchen, I will never forget the feeling of accomplishment, especially after a busy night’s service.  I will never forget the feeling of going into battle…almost feeling like we’d be at war and we needed to prepare before the war in order to complete our mission, the line of tickets that would accumulate at my station.  I don’t recall ever screwing up a dinner service.  As stressful as it was, it felt great to finish the night with success and with a glass of wine, shot of tequila, or beer in hand.

I was proud to be a part of the Tavern team of cooks.  I will never forget the experience and will always be able to say that I helped make the dessert for President Obama’s dinner at Tavern.

Many thanks and appreciation goes out to Suzanne Goin for giving me the opportunity to work within her esteemed family of restaurants, Lucques and Tavern.  Although I plan to continue working with Lucques Catering, as of the last week of August, I am no longer a full-time employee of Tavern.

Below, are a few memories I’d like to share… not personal stories we shared in the kitchen, but the actual fruits of our labor.  Memories… my tribute to Tavern.

Pictures taken during my last days at Tavern.

I’d get to work by 5am and bake off and set up larder pastries.  I now know what it takes to open a bakery/cafe.  It takes A LOT of work and sacrifice.  Many missed family parties and not spending time with my significant other/family when they’re available.  It’s a tough business, but I still loved it.

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At Tavern, I was able to work all shifts…I baked off all morning pastries and set up the larder; I worked in production-  made doughs, batters, sauces, ice creams, croissants, desserts…everything we needed for service, special orders, and the larder; I plated breakfast, lunch, and dinner desserts, fruit plates, cheese and charcuterie plates.

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I once overheard Breanne, our former pastry chef, say we had over 50 items on our production list. Big job. One must be organized to manage all of it!  Not only did we make items in these pictures, but for lunch and dinner service.  We would also make compotes and pie doughs for the savory side.  In the picture above, you’ll see chocolate sables, walnut shortbread, orange pistachio sables, lemon bars, dulce de leche brownies with cashews, famous Tavern chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal cookies, molasses/ginger/date cookies, upside down cake with seasonal stone fruit and blacknerry compote, blueberry shortcakes, bran muffins, blueberry muffins, monkey bread, pecan sticky buns, plain croissants, pain au chocolat croissants, walnut bundle croissants (my favorite!), black forest ham and gruyere croissants, pistachio tarts, and the best granola.

display case

Display case that was not fully set up.  Before I left, we added more of each item so that the case looked more abundant and plentiful.   From top left: crispy thin mint cookies, Tavern’s famous Snicker’s Bar (which was featured this month in Food & Wine magazine), chocolate cake and my favorite carrot cake.  From Bottom left: cookie dough logs, caramel chocolate tarts, chocolate-dipped honeycomb, variety of French macarons. We had vanilla, Mexican chocolate, and Coffee.  Since we changed to a new pastry chef, Sarah Kang put her creative cap on and developed some awesome macarons- lemon, peach, and some other neat new flavors.

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We made the best croissants I’ve ever tasted.  The difference is the love we put into them and a secret ingredient.  Really, Bouchon and Euro Pain can’t compare.  In the above picture, you’ll see the variety of croissants, monkey bread, part of a pecan stick bun, blueberry muffins and blueberry shortcakes.  I took a lot of pride in my baking skills.  I try out a lot of other local bakeries’ croissants and I always find they have too much color and they start getting dry..they also need more salt.  Tavern has the taste and texture down perfectly.  If you haven’t tried the pain au chocolat or walnut croissants, you must try them!!!

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For brunch, lunch, and dinner I plated cheese and charcuterie plates.  I am not a big cheese person (for personal health reasons) but could appreciate their beauty and taste.  And, Tavern has wonderful cheese selections and charcuterie, too.  They serve 3 and 5 cheese plates, Larder plates which include cheese, charcuterie and other accompaniments, and just plain old meat plates.  All are beautifully presented.

One thing you’ll also notice above the cheese case are mason jars of jams that were housemade at the restaurant.

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This picture is of Tavern’s larder section, where patrons purchase food at the counter.  There are 3 parts to the restaurant- the larder which is a more casual and cafe-like area, the sexy and swanky bar area, and the more formal atrium, where you get a neat feeling that you’re outside, on a patio (but you’re not, it’s enclosed).  The building is a lovely space.  I once ran into Benito del Toro outside, at the back of the restaurant..I said hi and he said hi back. (:P) .. He was smoking a cigarette and hiding from the paparazzi.  He said being at Tavern makes him feel like he’s in a restaurant in Toronto, and he liked it a lot.  Not sure what he meant by the Toronto bit – never been to Toronto before…I guess I have to go there to find out.  Oh Benito, he has a rugged and beat up look. Nevertheless, I find him attractive…even if he was wearing a muted floral sports coat.

Speaking of style, the designer of the restaurant made the space so elegant and rustic at the same time.  And really cool.. he’s on the Million Dollar Decorator show on the Bravo network, Jeffrey Alan Marks. Bravo to him.

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At the larder, you can purchase condiments, ingredients that we use in the restaurant, from special honeys, vinegars, and salts, to exotic Colombian and European chocolate and coffees.  Also, Suzanne’s book, “Sunday Night Suppers” is available for sale.

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Tavern has bread bakers that come in at 7pm, work through the night, and bake off bread fresh as early as 3am…in the very wee hours of the morning.  All bread is delivered to the family of restaurants : AOC, Lucques, Hungry Cat, and other restaurants that special order from Tavern, like Momed and the Farm.   Patrons can purchase fresh bread daily at the Larder.

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I will definitely go back to visit and have meals at Tavern.  But for now, so long, farewell my Tavern friends.  It was a good time.  Thanks for everything. Cheers!

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My last night of service with some of my kitchen buddies. They head chef popped open a bottle of champagne and Jose purchased a bottle of taquila for us all to enjoy! It was a very nice last night and celebration with my Tavern team!

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Fruit Tart

Fruit Tart I made in class

Fruit Tart I made in class

Since today was a Staff Development day at school, I didn’t have class, which means I didn’t wake up at 4:20am to get ready for school.  Instead, I was able to wake up at a normal hour.  Before  Peyman walked to work, he and I shared a delicious cup of coffee and a slice of the fruit tart.  I made a huge dinner last night that left no room for a sweet dessert, so we had it this morning.  I was a bit surprised by the flavor and texture.  The crust wasn’t as sweet as I like and I didn’t love the filling either.  It’s a vanilla bean custard.

I had planned to spend the day with my mom and sister’s family, and they were expecting a delicious fruit tart.  I know they’re definition of a delicious fruit tart and if I had delivered the remaining tart that we sliced into already, they wouldn’t be satisfied.  In my family, we like crisp and sweet tart crust and rich and creamy filling…

The slice I had this morning

The slice I had this morning

I decided to make another fruit tart for the family, using my go-to recipe.  It’s a recipe that I will not share because I may sell these one day.  One thing I’ll let you in on is, it’s a spin off of a famous person’s recipe.  I call it MY recipe since I add my special love to it and a special ingredient, sour cream.  In the filling is cream cheese, sour cream, and a few other ingredients.. yum!  I try to make it like the folks do at The Farm in Santa Cruz.  They have one of the best tarts I’ve tasted and I know they put sour cream in their fruit tart filling.  I made a very mini version of my tart for Riva’s baby shower, and this is the biggest tart I ever made, at about 14 inches in diameter…. I think I still need to work on my selection and placement of fruit.  In time, I will figure it out.

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Riva's Baby Shower Tea Party

Riva's Baby Shower Tea Party

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The only pictures I have of my mini fruit tarts are pictures from a distance.

The only pictures I have of my mini fruit tarts are pictures from a distance.

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Baking 110

Going into culinary school, I didn’t expect to enjoy the baking aspect much since baking requires a lot of waiting around.  I’ve baked before, using family recipes, cookbooks and online recipes from the Food Network, and whenever yeast was involved, I dreaded waiting around for dough to rise and sitting in a hot kitchen.  Many, many moons ago, Grandma Rosita (my dad’s mom’s twin) taught my mom how to make her husband’s, Grandpa Floyd’s, great grandma’s Southern pecan rolls.  My mom busts out the recipe every year during the holidays, so they’re something to always look forward to.  Southern, old school recipes require a lot of love and care, which means a lot of time, so they usually taste better than the baking powder/soda quick-bake, no butter, kind of recipe.  It’s a yearly tradition for me to watch my mom make pecan rolls, and I have never been a fan of waiting around, twiddling my thumbs, as we waited for the dough to proof (rise), not just once but twice.  And one thing I don’t look forward to is the scrubbing and scraping of the sticky pans.  Because of this, I’d been drawn to quick, easy, no fuss baking recipes.

In high school and in college, I loved to entertain friends with food.  Some of my parties would be pure dessert parties.  In high school, my sisters and I would bake up a variety of sweet treats and our friends would come over to enjoy them along with conversation.

In college, along with the many dinner parties I threw, were cookie-baking parties where, surprisingly, more males showed up than females.  When a friend would walk through the door, I’d hand them a recipe, show them the ingredients and tools used for baking, everyone would bake, and we’d have a ton of cookies to enjoy with our coffee klasche.  Baking and cooking with friends is such a blast, especially since my friends always offered to do the dishes!

In school, we do things the old-school way – we bake bread using fresh yeast, we mix ingredients with a whisk and bowl scraper, and we knead the dough with our hands.  To my surprise, I love my baking class!  Especially since we have a proofer which rises the dough in no time, we get very creative with the aethetics of some of the baked goods, and there are less dishes I have to wash since I use plastic wrap to hold my ingredients.  There’s always something to work on.  Again, I am in an accelerated culinary program and we have much to cover within a short period of time, so there is no time for me to stand around and pick my nose, much less to use the restroom.

Even though I may have a weaker bladder, I really appreciate baking now.  I consider myself to be more of an artistic manual laborer, and baking (and cooking) is a perfect outlet for me.  Today I finally learned how to waterproof or moistureproof a fruit tart shell.  I sort of figured it out when I made the mini fruit tarts for Riva’s baby shower.  I thought back to Marie’s wedding – the dessert was excellent… it was a fruit tart with chocolate brushed inside the pastry shell.  When making the tarts for the baby shower I thought, the Hyatt chefs must have done something to keep from getting the tart soggy from the pastry cream and fruit – they have to make and keep 200 tarts from getting soggy… I thought the chocolate was the barrier and I was so right.  About 3 years ago, Marie and I catered a tea party, and our fruit tarts came out soggy… wish we knew how to moisture proof the shell back then.  Thank God for school – I am aware of much more food science.  Here are secrets to keeping the fruit tart crust crisp and not soggy.

1) Before completely browing the pie crust/tart shell, brush a coating of egg whites inside the shell (not too thick of a coat..you don’t want scrambled eggs).  Place back in the oven to finish (lightly) browning the sides of the crust.  Cool completely before placing the pastry cream into the crust.  Place in refrigerator for quick cooling.

2) Once pie crust/tart shell is browned (lightly), cool completely.  You can put it in the refrigerator or freezer for quick cooling.  Brush a light coating of melted chocolate inside the crust.  Cool completely before adding the pastry cream.

If you ever have any questions about this or other baking questions, please do not hesistate to ask.  I may know the answer.  If not, I have the resources to figure it out.

In this posting, I have pictures of the many baked goods I made this week only.  I made my own laminated dough, a danish dough, which was very time consuming but very rewarding.  So as to not morph into a butterball, I share my goodies.  I dropped off all my baked goods to my family and they are very happy that I chose a career in culinary – they are benefiting greatly from my education already.  If you want any of my recipes that you see on my blog, simply ask!

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Tea Party

Growing up, my five sisters and I didn’t have tea parties.  Instead, I remember swinging from our massive eucalyptus tree, doing cartwheels on the lawn, making mud pies, singing karaoke, and playing make believe: role playing.  In elementary school, my sister Marie and our friends (okay, mostly her friends) would come together after school and play at our house.  Our parents weren’t home most of the time since they were working, so we had a lot of freedom to do as we pleased in our nice-sized backyard and garage.  Marie always set the scene and we played along, oftentimes with a British accent, and sometimes in the rain created by the lawn hose.  On many occasions Marie would be the queen and the rest of us would be her servants on her ship which carried fruit trees and livestock.  More and more we grew inspired by the romance, mystery, food, language and culture featured in movies such as Amaddeus, Secret Garden, Much Ado About Nothing, Emma, Sense & Sensibility and the like.  In Amaddeus, one unforgettable moment is when Salieri offers Constance a confection, referred to as Nipples of Venus.  They looked so delicious, almost as delicious as the sweets featured in Marie Antoinette and Nanny McPhee.  Marie and I love watching these types of movies together and when we get together to plan a menu for a party, we want the experience to be memorable.  At a tea party, we want our guests to feel free to indulge.

MarieAntoinette-styleCakesMarie Antoinette

As we prepare for our sisters and their childrens’ parties, we pull our inspiration from our childhood and make the whole experience as grand as possible, within our budget constraints.  In the process, as we work to put things together, we sing all the songs that come to mind.  I feel as though we live in a musical at times.  This may very well be one of the reasons I enjoy throwing parties so much – it’s an emotional experience filled with much happiness, love, and creativity.

2 weekends ago, my sisters and I threw our sister, Riva, a tea party for her baby shower.  Upon request, we purchased a few non-afternoon tea-related items into the mix, but for the most part, my sisters and I catered the actual tea sandwiches and sweets.  The menu included the following;

Sandwiches- cucumber mint, curry chicken, salmon dill.

Other savory delights: ham/cheese/dijon puff pastry, empanadas, quiches, and chicken siopao.

Sweets- fruit tarts, amaretti/raspberry/cream cookies, currant scones, macaroons, lemon cakes, red velvet cakes, pecan tassies, brownies

I made the fillings for the sandwiches, the puff pastry bites, fruit tarts, amaretti/raspberry/cream cookies, currant scones, and brownies.  2 of my sisters made the macaroons, mini lemon cupcakes and quiches…the rest we ordered.

We had a tea station with an assortment of teas to choose from. At the table everyone was given their own tea set.  We offered all the ladies hats and gloves, played games, opened gifts, even had a celebration cake, and it looked like everyone had a lot of fun.

It was well worth the effort.  Riva said she loved the little touches and was very happy to share good food and good times during this special time in her life, with most important ladies in her life.

I look forward to the next theme party that we’ll throw.  I wonder what it’ll be.  I hope we have a nice budget to work with too!

If we were approached and asked to cater a party, most likely we’d would be open to it.

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