Thursday, March 26, 2009

San Francisco Ferry Building

I was parked at a red light up in the city and snapped this shot. I'd just picked up dinner to take home from Delica and Out the Door.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Flirty Girl Urgently Needs Your Help

It would mean the world to me if you would help me spread the word about www.HelpingTami.org to anyone and everyone you know.

Here are the Key Points:
My 44 year old cousin Tami, a working mom with 2 young kids, has been diagnosed with a bone marrow disease very similar to Leukemia called Myelosdysplasia. She is in urgent need of a Stem Cell/Marrow Transplant. 

You can visit her new website at www.HelpingTami.org.

Today I am launching a Nationwide Donor Drive using mail-in test kits that can be ordered online or over the phone. Testing for Ethnic Minorities is free (Learn why ethnicity mattersand the cost for Caucasians to be tested is reduced thanks to a Federal grant.

The kit can be ordered online or over the phone. The test itself consists of 4 cotton swabs that you swab your mouth with then mail back. That's it. That's all it takes to join the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) to see if you're the one, the perfect 6 marker match, for my cousin Tami or any of the 6000 other people currently in need of a life saving marrow transplant.

Learn how you can join the national registry by using a mail-in test kit by CLICKING HERE

Tami's Diagnosis and Other Ways You Can Help:
(It's kind of long but I'm hoping you'll read it)

Tami and I grew up together so closely that I've always considered her to be a sister. Since she's a year older then me I've known her my entire life. She was my only bridesmaid at my wedding in 2007 and whenever she came to the Bay Area on business we'd always get together for dinner or to go shopping... Diagnosed with Myelodysplasia her world has literally been turned upside down. For me, there was no period of denial. I quickly realized that she will need the help of everyone who loves her, and even more so the help of those who don't even know her, to find her the stem cell/marrow match she urgently needs.

The Diagnosis:
In early February Tami was having a tough time recovering from the flu. She was so exhausted she had to cancel a business trip. Because she's always been really healthy it was worrisome that she wasn't feeling like her normal self. 

A visit to her doctor confirmed that something was amiss. Initially she was diagnosed with anemia. Her condition took a more serious turn a couple of weeks later when she had to be taken to the ER to be admitted to the Intensive Care Unit. At the time her white and red blood cell counts were low as was her platelet count and blood pressure. After 2 days they moved her out of ICU and after a week of extensive testing she received the diagnosis that she had Myelodysplasia.

About MDS
Often called "Pre"Leukemia it causes the bone marrow to produce abnormal blood cells and platelets at an accelerated rate. This weakens the blood causing complications that include: anemia, the inability to fight off general infections and both external and internal hemorrhaging, all of which are life threatening. Tami's blood is so damaged she has already received multiple blood and platelet transfusions. For 1 of 3 patients, MDS will progress to become Acute Myeloid Leukemia within months or years of diagnosis.

While supportive treatments exist (medicines and blood/platelet transfusions) currently the only  known "cure" for severe forms of MDS is a stem cell or bone marrow transplant. 

How You Can Help:

To learn how to Become a Registered Potential Donor for the National Marrow Donor Program please CLICK HERE.

• To add a Web Badge to your website or blog to support the Helping Tami.org website please CLICK HERE

If you have a Blog, would you be willing to blog about Tami's website and share her story with your readers?

• To learn how to host a Donor Drive CLICK HERE

• Publicize Tami's website with PDF flyers/signs you can print to hand out or to hang up in your office, church or anywhere you think people will see it please CLICK HERE

• To order Postcards/Business Cards you can put out at your place of work for others to take or to hand out please CLICK HERE

I'd like to say thank you to everyone who has already been tested, have begun organizing donor drives and fund raisers for Tami, and to everyone who has been helping me to learn how to become an effective advocate for the AADP and the NMDP. It's been an immersion course and one that I will always be passionate about and committed to now having someone I love so dearly being a person in need.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Cupcakes Galore! I took a cupcake class at the Professional Culinary Institute (PCI)

Chocolate with Cream Filling, Carrot with Vanilla Bean  Buttercream Frosting and Handmade Marzipan Carrots and Peanut Butter and Jelly Filled Cupcakes.

Can you even believe I made these cupcakes? I can't! I'd never taken a class at the Professional Culinary Institute before so let me tell you what it's like. You show up and check in and they hand you a really cute apron and the folder with the recipes you're going to make that day. We were taken on a tour of the facility then it was right to work.

Our Chef was a blast! Chef Stephany Buswell, CMB, was as entertaining as she is knowledgeable. Throughout the class she told us all kinds of tips and tricks to help us be better bakers.

You can check out her upcoming classes on the PCI in Campbell, CA weekend hobby class schedule by CLICKING HERE

So here's how it works. First you are divided into teams of 2-3 people. All of your ingredients are pre-measured and placed on trays. We were really happy to see the plastic containers are washed and reused. And the best part? You're not the one washing anything. There are assitants there that whisk away your dirty utensils after each recipe. Man if cooking at home was this easy I'd cook everyday!

Chef Stephany gave a demonstration then we would go and re-create what she had just shown us. Here we are launching into our carrot cupcake recipe.

With each new recipe we traded positions. I was on a team of 3 so one person would make the batter, while another assisted and the other person would drop the paper liners into the baking trays then  spoon the batter into them.

Yes we even made these adorable marzipan carrots ourselves! It was so fun I can't wait to make them again at home. And the recipe? Oh my gosh it's the best carrot cake ever. It's really light and not dense or heavy. We left the walnuts out and just added raisins. Can you see the specks of vanilla bean in the frosting?

Chef Stephany said this is the best baking butter but it's difficult to find... So if you're lucky enough to spot it at your store and you're going to whip up some cupcakes? Grab it!

We also made "mock" Hostess cream filled chocolate cupcakes... Here's how they started.

Once baked we used a knife to create a small slit in the center of each cupcake then filled them using a frosting bag and round decorating tip.

Here were my cupcakes. I didn't want to eat too many so I only made and kept a few. After filling them we smoothed the cream down then dipped them upside down in a bowl of warm chocolate ganache. So shiny and pretty!

Then came the tricky part, making the little curly-q's of white piping. Chef Stephany taught us how to make mini piping bags using a piece of parchment. Of course with all of my origami experience I folded mine to perfection. One of my teammates didn't (the top one is hers) and had to start over. But the last laugh was on me because I cut my tip wrong and my piping kept coming out rectangular shaped instead of round so in the end I used her castaway bag above to re-cut a better tip to decorate my cupcakes with LOL

And here they are! Taa Daa!

We also made Peanut Butter and Jelly filled cupcakes.

Using the same slit and fill procedure as the chocolate and cream cupcakes we filled our PB & J cupcakes with strawberry jam.

On the left is what they were supposed to look like. Chef Stephany made them. LOL on the right is what mine ended up looking like. I had some errrrrrrr difficulties with my decorating technique. While not elegant or beautiful I think my cupcakes turned out to be quite charming in their "I gave it my best shot" appearance. 

And in case you're wondering? They tasted as good as they looked. I can't wait to need to bring a dessert to a party or event. Or just think... How great to make them for a bridal shower or birthday party? You'll wow everyone with your stupendous cupcake baking and decorating skills :D 

And a little FYI: The PCI teaches more then how to bake cupcakes. Their program includes Culinary Arts, Baking and Pastry Arts, Wine and Certified Sommelier programs. You should try one if you can. It was so fun to learn something new and what I'm certain is going to turn out to be a very useful skill down the road.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Signature Hospitality • A Wedding on the Bay

Click on any of the images for close ups of the gorgeous food!

This was a seriously amazing treat. When Duncan Reyes invited me to attend a tasting with him, and a few other friends, down on the waterfront at Signature Hospitality on Pier 9 I couldn't wait for the day to arrive. Chef Alfred Schilling truly outdid himself. The staff was so pleasant and the weather was absolute perfection.

Mmmmmmmmm all Duncan needed was a spoon! Paella Valenciana with Chicken, Chorizo, Mussels, Clams, Spanish Rice, Saffron with Orange Wedge Relishes.

This was my first plate... Everything was incredibly delicious. From left to right: Spanish Rice with Bacon and Lemon Marmalade, Chicken Skewers with Melon, Roasted Peppers and Almonds with Honey and Sardines and Brioche Toast. Though I've spent many years not eating beef or pork I have to say that when I'm invited to these tastings? Every now and then I do go ahead and take a nibble of something I wouldn't normally eat.

I love this photo, the yacht, the Bay Bridge in the background to the left, the Ferry Building in the background to the right, the seagull and the gorgeous weather. Perfection! If you've thought of tying the knot near water? This could be the perfect place. I am definitely a fan and would recommend anyone looking for a unique wedding venue to consider the possibility of being married not near, but on the Bay.

My second plate of goodies: Salmon with Mojo Sauce, Potato  Tortilla and more *drool* Roasted Peppers and Almonds with Honey and Sardines. In case you didn't know... Sardines are outrageously healthy for you. They're packed with omega fatty acids. Taalib, our very charming server agreed with me :)

A close up of my favorite item of the menu: Roasted Peppers and Almonds with Honey and Sardines.

Also in this photo: Shots of Gazpacho and New Potatoes

A perfectly bite sized treat: Quail Egg on Brioche Toast

Nicole Lisanne's Sangria

Octopus Salad with Beans and Anchovy, Empanadillas stuffed with Escargot Basquaise and Salmon with Mojo Sauce.

So here were the boys... Photographer Dennis Menendez was our professional photographer that afternoon... That's Dennis shooting David Ethridge and Duncan Reyes as they head down the red carpet to board the "San Francisco Spirit."

And here was the gang: Karla, Duncan, David, Matttie, Nicole and Dennis

Ahhhh... A gorgeous view of the San Francisco Bay from aboard the "San Francisco Spirit."

Check out the cool dance floor on the Yacht. There are three levels including some outdoor decks to step out onto to really enjoy the views.

Dennis resting up for our next stop... Dessert!

How cute were these? Spanish Serrano Ham with Melon

Spanish Chocolate and Churros. Oh my gosh those little demitasse cups of melted drinking chocolate were seriously to die for. I'd never tried drinking chocolate before. To be honest it was probably a new habit I didn't need to start but what the heck? I'm adding it to my short list of life's simple pleasures.

Tarte a L'Orange. Beautiful to look at, delicious to eat. I brought two slices home for breakfast the next morning.

And I did enjoy one of these tiny Orange Tartlets right there and then.

David's Desserts. That man meant business!

Chocolate Ganache on Rice Chip. Gotta love that macro lens. Every partical of cocoa powder, clearly defined.

A final, huge thank you to Duncan Reyes for the invitation and to www.SignatureSF.com, Chef Alfred Schilling and everyone on their staff who made this sumptuous tasting possible. Your efforts were fully appreciated. I don't think I've ever felt so pampered! Plate after plate of yet another Hors D'oeuvre, entree and dessert coming at me in a seemingly never ending 20 course culinary extravaganza? Now that's a dream come true in my flirty world. 

Monday, March 16, 2009

Chung Li • New Studio Launch Party

I can still remember the day I met wedding photographer Chung Li at an intimate soiree the Four Seasons in Palo Alto hosted 2 years ago. We started chatting and hit it off immediately. Chung is so down to earth, upbeat and easy to talk to that when he asked me a question about blogging we instantly bonded right then and there. Once I went home and checked out his website I was just *Wow* at his work.

So when I found out that Chung had moved into a new studio space while reading his blog one day I couldn't have been happier for him.

His work is so gorgeous. He's definitely someone to watch...

A bunch of friends and colleagues all showed up to help him celebrate at his launch party last week.

We oooooh'ed and ahhhhhhh'ed at the new brochure for San Francisco's City Hall. Chung had 8 of his photographs featured in it!

Way to go Chung!

Nicole Ha provided this brightly colored centerpiece.

It was for Chung's all you could eat sushi buffet! Mmmmm I had some kappa maki and unagi maki. So yummy.

I had a great time meeting photographers Raymond and Lilia Ahner for the first time. We chatted the night away. Well, truth be told I did most of the chatting, but I kind of felt like I knew them already because I'd just checked out their websites a couple of nights earlier.

And here Cindy Chin and Amy Tan chatted with photographer Kerry Ling.

I caught this cute shot of Chung as he was posing with Jen's Cakes business card and her cake.

If you recall I'd just tried Jen's red velvet cupcake a few weeks ago at the Hotel Cabana event. The flowers, provided by Nicole Ha, were so beautiful. Parrot tulips are one of my most all time favorite flowers so the cake really caught my eye.

Oh my gosh! And what a surprise we had when Andrew Hsu of Studio MSV hopped out of the cake :D

I had the white cake...

Duncan Reyes couldn't decide which flavor to have... Decisions, decisions...

LOL Here's Duncan in a photo I've titled "The Cake Crew" comprised of Photographer Ricky Wong, Floral Designer Nicole Ha, Event Designer Duncan Reyes and Videographer extraordinaire Andrew Hsu with a fork in his mouth.

Then I decided to test out the macro function on my new camera....

Mmmmmmmm both flavors were so good! The chocolate had bits of toffee between the layers in this yummy filling. I must confess I stole a bite of Andrew's chocolate slice :P

It was a really fun evening winding down a bit here with Duncan and Nicole on the couch and Dawn chatting with Augie as he rocked Jen's baby.

Thank you so much for the invitation to join your celebration Chung. I had a really nice time and was able to just relax, be carefree and enjoy the evening. Wishing you every success in your new location and in 2009.