Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ladies Who Lunch: A Nitro to Remember

It all started in my teens when I took a job working at the very first Haagen Dazs on Columbus Avenue.  Everyone told me that I would learn to hate ice cream after working with it everyday.  Quite to the contrary, I actually became addicted.  For years afterwards, I could devour an entire pint in one sitting (aren’t pints single servings??).  Besides making me an addict, it also educated and spoiled me.  From that point on I could only eat “premium” ice cream from Haagen Dazs to Berthillon in Paris.
Recently as I have adopted a “near vegan” diet and eliminated most dairy from my diet (I guiltily still indulge in small amounts of cheese once in a while), my ice cream addiction has led me to explore dairy options.  I have tried and enjoyed different varieties of Soy Milk Ice Cream, Rice Milk Ice Cream and Coconut Milk Ice Creams.  All different, all interesting and most importantly, they satisfy my addiction.  However, a new kid on the block has arrived in the ice cream world and I have to give it  a try.
The latest rage in the ice cream world is Nitro Ice Cream.  Instead of using the traditional process of freezing and churning the ice cream over time, liquid nitrogen is introduced into the ice cream ingredients while it is mixing, which instantly freezes it.  The advantage to this rapid freezing is that it eliminates ice crystals forming and produces a smoother and thicker ice cream.  Although Nitro Ice Cream has been around for a little while in a few haute restaurants by inventive chefs, if has not been available to the public outside of that arena.  All of that is beginning to change.
Nitro Ice Cream got the Luxury World’s attention with the opening last week of Europe’s first Nitro Ice Cream Parlor in London.  Chin Chin Laboratorists, founded by Ahrash Akbari-Kalhur and Nyisha Weber has become the rage of London with their nitro ice cream creations. The other major advantage to making nitro ice cream in a parlour setting is that customers can concoct their own flavours and have it made instantly right before their eyes. Which started me exploring.  Had this concept made it’s way to the USA?  Interestingly enough, it has.
Nitro Magic Ice Cream, located in Williamsville, NY, peddles it’s 
frozen treat by way of private events.  They will actually bring the ingredients and process to you and make it for your guests, whether it is a small or large function.
Blue Sky Creamery started in Ames, Iowa and has a factory store in Ames as well as a location in the West Des Moines Mall. Like Nitro Magic, they also do private events. They have franchises in Missouri and their product can be found at 2 Donut Shops and in several retail outlets across the state.  Currently, they also have franchises in Georgia and North Carolina that at this time only do private events.  In addition, you can order theit nitro ice creams and gelatos on-line and they will ship it to you over-night in a special freezer container.
Both of these operations can only make you wonder when the nitro ice cream rage will come to a location near you.  I definitely want to try this new entry into the dessert scene, but think that I would probably want to experience it live where it was actually being made.  Knowing my travel habits, I most likely would be in London sooner than the US locations.  Hmmmm, another reason to go to London. :)  I will report back once I have had the pleasure of being Nitroed!!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Ladies Who Lunch: Shoe Trend Fall 2010

While I personally have no practical use for women’s shoes, I still find myself obsessed with them.  A beautiful pair of shoes is like a work of art.  When the new collections come out, you will find me awestruck and drooling in the shoe departments of Bergdorfs, trying to take it all in.  I do love men’s shoes as well, but they really don’t have the same amount of artistry and creativity that you find in women’s shoes.
Which brings us to the impending Fall 2010 shoe collections which will be hitting the stores as we speak.  The one thing about the current fashion climate is that you can choose to follow of the moment fashion trends, dabble in subtle hints of those trends, stay classic or do a little of all of the above.
There definitely seems to be a 70’s inspiration in the air!! The Fall 2010 collections as a whole are leaning towards chunkier heels and even chunkier shoes themselves with platforms leading on a lot of the pumps.
As for boots, you can still find some sleek sexy boots, but the general trend is to a more substantial boot.  To show these radical opposites, Christian Louboutin goes sexy with a thigh high sleek snakeskin boot and Chanel shows a modified motorcycle boot.
The biggest trend this season seems to be in booties.
Christian Louboutin has a very modern bejeweled version that is quite fun, as well as a sleeker lower heeled one.

Chanel weighs in with a beautiful Boucle Bootie and a quilted leather Bootie.

Jimmy Choo takes a more 70’s verging on 80's Punk influence with exposed zippers and platform soles.

For Pumps, heels and flats, the trendier lines take their influence from the 60’s Mod period (of course updated) and again the 70’s look.  When looking at some of these styles, you can almost envision Jerry Hall in them at Studio 54.  Christian Louboutin seems to have captured the spirit of both of these trends in his collection.

And then we have even trendier shoes with a more modern slightly harsher edge to them, but still captivating.

Salvatore Ferragamo’s line is quite chic this season, showing hints of the trends (especially with a nod to 60’s mod in th low heels and flats), but presenting a more classic line of shoes to love and make part of your long term wardrobe.

And of course, there will always be those little jewels that no matter what the season, your heart beats a little bit faster and you just gotta have them.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Ladies Who Lunch: Elie Saab Haute Couture Fall 2010

If there is one thing that Elie Saab consistently delivers in his collections, it is over the top glamour.  As you watch the styles come down the catwalk, you can’t help yourself to imagine them floating down the Red Carpet at the Oscars.
For his Fall 2010 Haute Couture Collection, Elie Saab took his inspiration from La Fenice, Venice’s legendary opera house. He borrowed ‘the ruched velvet of La Fenice’s curtains, the gilt and blue of its decoration, and even the fire and ash of its hellish moments’. The grandeur of that locale was certainly captured with the heavily embellished gowns and the colors reflected it as well. Vivid scarlet reds were the strongest of the colors, but there were also nice groupings of gold, pewter, champagne and even a silvery mint blue.

While the heavily beaded gowns that you come to expect of Elie Saab were definitely present, the designer also played with different forms of conveying the richness and elegance he is known for.  Layering of fabrics was very important to this collection with Guipure lace swathed in tulle, pleated and draped mousseline over solids or combined with lush beadwork.  Form fitting gowns were equally balanced with flowing chiffon gowns and voluminous and frothy ball gowns.

Interestingly, there were also a number of gowns in the collection that were not beaded at all, but relied instead on draping techniques.  Saab’s use of draping and pleating reflected a desire of the designer to play with classical draping.  By not embellishing these gowns, the focus was placed on the delicate drapes and how they worked themselves around the body.

While a bit more covered up than his previous collections, Saab still manages to exude sexiness with thigh high slits and an emphasis on the body beneath the gown.  Sexy yes, but definitely a grown-up sexy. And, definitely for the woman that wants to be noticed.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Ladies Who Lunch: Making Vegan Chocolate Cake

As you all know, I am the go to guy for shopping & fashion, great dining and great drinks.  But believe it or not, I actually cook a lot and enjoy it.  And while I will never be in competition with the likes of Kitchen Confidante, due to popular demand I am posting my recipe for Vegan Chocolate Cake.
It all started approximately 2 years ago when I not only decided that I needed to lose a lot of weight, but also became concerned with what I was putting in my body.  As I became an avid label reader, I discovered that there were so many ingredients in packaged foods and that most of them probably weren’t good for your health or your waistline.  In an effort to free myself from all of those chemical additives, preservatives, hydrogenated oils and corn syrups, I decided to eliminate processed foods from my diet.  I began the quest to make from scratch using natural and fresh ingredients.  On this quest I discovered how to make a Vegan Chocolate Cake.  It is so good that people that I serve it to don’t know and they are disbelieving when I tell them.  It is a cake that bakes up light and moist with full chocolate flavor.  Now after losing 70lbs, I continue to make this cake and will share it with you.
Cake Ingredients
3 cups  unbleached all purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups turbinado sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cup cold water or coffee (or a mixture of both)
4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 tablespoons white vinegar or cider vinegar
Raspberry Jam (I prefer Bonne Maman)

Preheat Oven to 375º
Sift together the flour, cocoa, soda, salt and sugar into a mixing bowl.  In a measuring cup, mix together the oil, cold water/coffee, and vanilla.  Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix the batter until well blended and smooth.  Add the vinegar and stir quickly. There will be pale swirls as the baking soda and vinegar react. Stir just until the vinegar is evenly distributed in the batter.
Pour into 2 greased and floured 9” round cake pans.
Bake for 25 to 30 Minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
After the cake layers have cooled, put one layer on a plate and spread a layer of raspberry jam on it.  Top with the other layer and then frost.
Cake Frosting Ingredients
1/2 cup margarine (I prefer Earth Balance butter flavored vegan)
2 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons soy milk (almond or rice milk also works well)
2 tablespoons frangelico of amaretto
Dash of salt
Soften margarine.
Using an electric mixer, cream the sugar into the margarine. Add the vanill extract, soymilk, cocoa powder, frangelico/amaretto, and salt.  Mix well.  If it is too thick, add small amounts of soy milk and if too thin add small amounts of sugar.  Keep mixing until light and fluffy.  Frost the cake :)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Ladies Who Lunch: K Chocolatier from Coast to Coast

I love chocolate.  But, not just any chocolate.  There are only a handful of chocolate makers that I patronize. You will never see me eating a Hershey Bar.  I am admittedly spoiled when it comes to having had some of the best chocolates in the world and once you have had the very best, it is hard to go back.  Where did my chocolate snobbery begin? I still remember it as if it were only yesterday.
As a kid in New York, my friends and I discovered a chocolate maker on Madison Avenue on the Upper East Side called Krön Chocolatier.  We didn’t know anything about the owners or the company, we only knew that they had the most remarkable chocolates we had ever had.  We would save up our money to be able to buy a few of the highly coveted chocolates.  Believe me, these chocolates were expensive, but worth every penny.  Sometimes, my friend Michelle and I would get their chocolate covered strawberries and wander over towards the East River.  We would sit and savor the strawberries and watch the Roosevelt Island Tram go back and forth over the river.  Little did we know that Krön was the inventor of chocolate covered strawberries!
I continued to get chocolate from Krön until the mid 80’s.  Then somehow they disappeared from the city.  Of course there was no internet back then, so finding out what had happened to them was not that easy.  Though Krön was no longer in New York, I carried the memory of their chocolates in my heart.  Friends who had never had the pleasure of experiencing Krön chocolates would hear me wistfully recall those days and in the telling, I could almost taste those chocolates once again.
Fast forward to the year 2000.  On a trip to Beverly Hills, I found myself walking down Little Santa Monica Boulevard and I passed in front of the tiny storefront of a chocolate maker called simply K Chocolatier.  The K had un umlaut over it, reminding me of Krön.  Curious, I went inside and asked if they were any relation to the Krön Chocolatier of my youth.  To my utter delight, I found that K Chocolatier was actually the creation of Diane Krön who had cofounded Krön Chocolatier in New York with her Husband Tom Krön.  It was then, after all of those years, that I learned the history of the Krön chocolates I had loved and about the new K Chocolatier which I would love equally.
Tom Krön was the great grandson of the chocolate maker to Emperor Franz Josef of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  Tom and his wife Diane opened Krön Chocolatier in New York in 1973, basing their creations on Tom’s great grandfather’s recipes.  They quickly become the chocolate supplier to New York’s elite including Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis, Barbara Walters, Katherine Hepburn and Andy Warhol.  They started franchises of the company outside of New York and eventually sold the company in 1983.  The Kron family retired from chocolate making and settled in California to raise their family.  Yet the family love for chocolate making was too ingrained to stay retired forever.  In 2000, Diane Krön opened a store in Beverly Hills and started making a new line of chocolates under the name K Chocolatier.
Diane Krön’s chocolates are modern chocolates with sophisticated recipes based on the Krön family formulations of cocoa powder ratio and viscosity. K Chocolates are made with the finest cocoa beans and roasted using a Hungarian method. But the big difference between these and other chocolates is that they are made using as little sugar as possible.  The chocolates are all about intense flavor, not heavy sweetness.  These chocolates are also healthier for you, because more cocoa means higher antioxidant capacity.  

One of K Chocolatiers most famous and most addictive delights is their truffles. Dusted with unsweetened cocoa, the outer bitter flavor compliments and gives way to the inner intense creamy dark chocolate center with just a hint of rum.  This is a bite of pure chocolate heaven.  One taste and you will be hooked.

Then there are the Liquors!!  A wonderful crisp shell of dark chocolate encapsulates a burst of real alcohol that will assault and delight your mouth.  You can choose between Vodka (my fave) or Hiballs.
If you are someone who “sometimes feels like a nut”, the Pecan Biskits will definitely speak to you.  Thin crunchy wafers of pure chocolate enrobe toasted, crushed pecans and a touch of salt to heighten the flavor. As Diane Krön says, these are life altering.

Anti-oxidants has become a buzz word and if you want to increase your intake of them, try the pomegranate chocolates.  A dark chocolate shell coats an interior of pomegranate made by squeezing the skins and seeds into a gel.  The sweet yet tart pomegranate compliments the chocolate perfectly.

You also have to try the K Bears.  Crisped rice coated in dark, milk or white chocolate and shaped into little teddy bears deliver a nice contrast of crunch and chocolate.  An adorable and flavorful treat, these little bears are sure to please.

Of course these are but a few of the many varieties offered and I assure you that you won’t be disappointed in any of them.  When you are in the store, they insist on letting you sample the chocolates.  This is a win-win strategy, because you get to experience their chocolates and once you have, you are addicted.

The packaging, all designed by Diane herself, is both innovative and beautiful.  The packaging varies from sleek modern designs, to plastic cocktail shakers for the Liqours and all the way to packaging that looks like floral arrangements of roses.  All are perfect for giving as gifts, if they can pry them out of your hands!!

I am happy to say that K Chocolatier is expanding. You can now find a store in Malibu!! In late 2009, Elie Krön, the son of Tom and Diane Krön and in charge of company sales since 2007, opened a store in the neighborhood where it all began on the Upper East Side just off Madison.  I can now keep my refrigerator stocked no matter which coast I am on.  Which makes this K Chocolatier addict very happy!
Visit their website at:

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Ladies Who Lunch: Chanel Haute Couture Fall 2010

I’m late. I apologize profusely. I followed the Haute Couture shows, but was so preoccupied with other endeavors that I never had the time to sit down and fully address them.  That changes today!  Having had the time to let the collections stew in my mind has definitely helped my perspective on them as well.

I may miss the occasional Ready-To-Wear show, but I have always been an ardent follower of the Haute Couture.  I am and was so impassioned by it that I did an apprenticeship at Nina Ricci Haute Couture and worked for them before their Haute Couture line met its demise. I was lucky enough to work alongside the women who made it all possible and learn the trade from them.  I can truly say that it was one of the happiest times of my life, being fully enmeshed in the craft. But enough about me and on to the shows.

Let me be honest from the start.  I am now and probably always will be a devotee of Chanel.  My Double C obsession started so long ago that I am not even sure at what age it began, perhaps even at conception.  Since being cognizant of Chanel, I have followed every show and wistfully explore their stores.  Since Lagerfeld took the reins of the house, he has maintained that fine line of producing collections that are both timeless and of the moment.  The Fall 2010 Haute Couture collection shows this genius once again.

As a tribute to Chanel’s Leo birth sign, the “catwalk” was dominated by an enormous gold lion with one paw upon a giant pearl.  Given the vast space of the Grand Palais where the collection was shown, the size of the lion and its dominance of the room was quite breathtaking.  The models moved under and around the imposing lion, which gave the collection a feeling of grandeur.

While there were still examples of Chanel’s traditional black, white and beige, this collection made a wonderful departure by emphasizing an extremely rich fall color palate. The show opened with beautiful bordeaux reds, deep espressos, dark slate blues, forest lodens and camels for day. For evening, intense jewel tones wove in and out of the signature black and white pieces. 

The lushness of the collection was further heightened by the melange of fabrics and trims: tweeds with fur, camels with crystals, plaids with velvet and delicate laces with airy chiffons and beaded accents.  Heavily embroidered and beaded tapestries and gold beadwork highlighted on a sea of deep jewel blue gave the evening looks an air of Imperial Russia.

The other part of the collection that was notable was Lagerfeld’s play with silhouette and proportion.  Hemlines ran the gamut from just above the knee to just below the calf. Proportions were varied by layering short over long, tiers, long flared coats with elbow length sleeves and the illusion of a cropped jacket on top and the play of sheers under and over varying lengths of solids.  The opening looks had a subtle military feel to them that flowed into the more regal part of the collection.

The thing about Lagerfeld’s Haute Couture that holds me in awe is that this collection was not a series of contrived “costumes” like so many of the competitors.  Make no mistake, these are wearable elegant clothes. The beauty of the collection lies in the craftsmanship that perhaps is lost at times from a distance.  But up close, the construction of the garments, the intricate seaming, the intense hand beading and embroidery, the exquisite fabrics all come together to make a collection that once again for me says it all.  It is all about beauty and the craft of the Haute Couture.

Once again, Lagerfeld has created the kind of elegance that Chanel herself would have applauded.