Friday, 29 March 2013

Recipe: Green Eggs & Ham From The Huckleberry Cafe & Bakery

While it was a perfectly serviceable meal with some very good points, The Huckleberry Cafe and Bakery in Santa Monica was one of those places that everyone told me I simply had to try in Los Angeles that just failed to really blow me away. It reminded me of a much more crowded, much less exciting version of Joans on Third in West Hollywood. Unlike Joan's though, during the breakfast or lunch rush there is a very good chance you'll order hot food then not be able to sit anywhere; you are not allowed to save a table until after you have queued and ordered. I feel this is an even more stupid situation in quite a small cafe than the fashionable thing in London where you can't book in lots of the newer restaurants; at least that serves a purpose.
However, one good thing I did take away from my meal (the food was good, just not stand out good) and my experience at the restaurant was this breakfast/ brunch dish that I have stolen: Green Eggs & Ham (hello Dr Seuss fans!) It was a lovely dish, but you know those times when you are in a restaurant when you feel you can do a better job of whatever you are eating at the time, back in your own kitchen?
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Green Eggs & Ham at The Huckleberry Cafe & Bakery

  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1 tbsp Fresh Pesto
  • 4 Slices Parma Ham or Prosciutto
  • 1 English Breakfast Muffin
  • 1 Very Large Handful Fresh Rocket (Arugula) 
  • Sea Salt Flakes (I use Maldon)
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper 

Slice the muffin in half down the middle and lightly toast. Arrange two slices of parma ham or prosciutto, covering each half of the toasted muffin. I know most of you out there, like me will just get your muffins from the store, but if you fancy trying your hand and making your own, Lottie + Doof has a recipe that looks pretty good. Top each half with a sunny side up fried egg (Izzy has a brilliant tutorial for getting the perfect fried eggs every time (I use her technique but with olive oil instead of coconut oil) over on her amazing blog Top With Cinnamon. It is not fair she is this talented at only 17 years old!) and spoon half the pesto over each egg. You need to use fresh pesto for the flavours to work, and to be runny enough to work in this recipe too. You can either buy this from good supermarkets (think Waitrose in the UK, Whole Foods in the USA) or from a deli in the fridge section, or you can make it yourself; BBC Good Food, my go to source whenever I want a recipe for something, as an easy to follow version. Finally, sprinkle over a few sea salt flakes, crack over some black pepper and sprinkle the rocket. Enjoy!
I personally do not like granola, but as most of the time I'm brunching in Los Angeles I'm accompanied by my friend Evie who loves the stuff, I have been on something of a granola tour of LA and I can tell just from this photo that Huckleberry does have something other granola offerings on the cities brunch menus does not have; they do not skimp on the amount of fruit they serve it with, which as granola is dry, I should think is important.
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Another recipe discovery of mine from Huckleberry Cafe is the Arnold Palmer, a half and half mix of iced tea and lemonade named after the American golfer, Arnold Palmer. As someone who likes her iced tea flavoured and/ or sweetened, I don't know how I did not know about this new brunch favourite before now.
When I posted a picture of Huckleberry's impressive looking case of baked goods on Instagram it seemed to gather a lot of attention, both on Instagram, Twitter and on my personal Facebook page. After my meal I tried one of their chocolate sandwich cookies; it was basically my Double Stuff Chocolate Chip Marshmallow Filled Cookies, but made with Italian Meringue instead of Marshamallow Fluff, and half dipped in a dark chocolate ganache. It was a good cookie, but nothing to get jump up and down excited about. If you are passing or you live nearby, their all natural baked goods will hit your sweet spot, but not something I'd make an excursion to make sure I tried.

Have you ever had a meal in a restaurant which you have gone on to recreate yourself at home?

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Outfit Post: Adventures In Tie-Dye with Aussie Brand MINKPINK

I first encountered Aussie festival beach chic label MINKPINK last Summer during a crowded but fantastic evening full of wonderful cocktails, food, clothes, company and homemade flower crowns at The Breakfast Club in SoHo. I knew then looking at their fantastic collection of swim and Summer wear that I would find something perfect among one of their future collections to match the vibe of my new city, but it was not until a few weeks ago when I was browsing the racks at my local Urban Outfitters did I make my first MINKPINK purchase. You know when you just know a dress is perfect for you the moment you put it on?
Tie-Die Maxi Dress: MINKPINK, Levi's Jacket: Vintage c/o Shoparazi, Sunglasses: Miu Miu c/o SmartBuyGlasses CA, Sandals: c/o Havianas, Bracelets: Kate Spade, Keene LA & Gift

I have a massive problem shopping for maxi dresses because I am somewhat vertically challenged. I only have two other maxi dresses in my wardrobe; a vintage petite dress I inherited from my mother which she had to do all the difficult shopping for instead of me, and a fantastic Whistles find I have worn half to death that I picked up in the sale on their Westborne Grove store last Summer. The problem is, most maxi's are taller than I am, so finding one that is actually short enough for me is a challenge  so when I find one I like I just have to try it on. If it fits and I like it, with the amount of time I've spend shopping for one and lamenting when the ones that are short enough don't fit, I just have to buy it.
The slits up the side of the dress came as something as a surprise when I reached the fitting room. This time last year I'd never wear something like this, but with all the sunshine, and my new(ish) golden brown tan means that I actually don't mind it. The slits come up quite high on both sides and I usually would not wear something that short, but only because I like clothes I can bend over wearing; so this is perfect for me.

Does anyone else own any clothing from MINKPINK. Judging by the half of my walk in closet that belongs to my roommate Emily, they make some really good cut off shorts and embroidered jumpers as she owns quite a few of their pieces.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Places To Eat In Los Angeles: Gjelina, Abbot Kinney Boulevard

My birthday lunch: testing yet another hyped about restaurant on Venice's fashionable Abbot Kinney Boulevard, discovering yet another new favourite Los Angeles eatery. I'd been saving a trip to Gjelina for a special occasion, and what better than becoming another year older? That is something to celebrate in style until I at least hit thirty, perhaps forty. But that is years off! I'd heard so much about Gjelina's fabulous food and lovely atmosphere  and unlike some other meals I've had over the last few days, it lived up to the hype.
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While there is a dark, smokey and cool interior, we were seated out in the courtyard which suited us perfectly as it was such a beautiful day; it had a much more Mediterranean vibe than the interior. It also had great people watching and outfit coveting. I was jealous of the lovely Kate Spade dress on the woman behind me.
I know all the wine snobs out there tend to turn their nose up at rose, and only stick to red or white varieties, but for me, with good fresh food with bold flavours, in the sunshine nothing for me beats a nice chilled glass of French Cote de Provence. This glass made me miss France, where I may or may not drink it like water.
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Given the option on most menus I will always order the mussels. These are the PEI Mussels with Chorizo, Confit Tomato, Chili, White Wine and Grilled Bread. I'll talk about the mussels in a moment, but I loved the fact my bread was lightly brushed in olive oil and grilled; it gave such a different Mediterranean change to the plain French bread I usually use to soak my my moules juices. As for the mussels themselves, while I wish there could have been more of them (or am I just spoilt in France?) they were deliciously cooked with a really good balance of flavours. I was also pleasantly surprised it was chorizo sausage cooked from raw rather than cured meat; this is a dish I would order again on a hot  weekday sitting out in the courtyard and a cold drink.
Evie had the Broccolini with Garlic, Chilli and Vinegar. She let me eat quite a bit of it, for which I was very grateful. Sweet, light, tender but with the perfect amount of bite I loved the fantastically tart and slightly spicy dressing and slightly charred bits on the broccolini; something that I will be ordering on the side to share on my next visit. This is coming from someone who usually hates things like broccolini. I've found it is all about how a vegetable is cooked. You won't catch me eating cauliflower, though!
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This blogs traditional post mussel consumption photo. For newer readers who don't get the joke, as mussels are my all time favourite food and they are one of the local dishes of the region in France I live in, I order them there pretty much all the time. Also when I'm in France and slightly more switched off from blogging mode, pretty much all the time I also forget to photograph them until after I've eaten them, so my readers have been treated to photos of big bowls of empty mussel shells in French restaurants  pretty much all the time!
For dessert I chose the Butterscotch Pudding served with a dollop of Creme Fraiche and Salted Caramel. It was lovely, right, creamy and indulgent; I just perhaps would have liked more salt on the salted caramel but I think that is something to do with personal taste. Obviously the candle is not usually included, unless it is your birthday of course! I promise the rest of their desserts don't come to the table in flame!
Evie ordered the Banana and Chocolate Bread Pudding with Fresh Cream and Caramel. I can confirm from sticking my spoon in that it was just as delicious as my Butterscotch Pudding. It looks it, doesn't it!

A few days later I also ate at Axe on Abbot Kinney, so look out for a review of that in the next few weeks. If you can't get a table at Gjelina and you're still looking to dine in the area, after this one (with the exception of Axe) we had some rather disappointing meals in LA, but we kept on talking about and comparing the meals to what we had had when we brunched at The Tasting Kitchen last time she visited, so I'd recommend heading there for their French Toast and cocktails.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Outfit Post: Photos From My 20th Birthday

First, I want to give a massive thank you to all my amazing readers who, along with my friends and family sent me some absolutely lovely birthday messages on Thursday - I really appreciated each and ever single one of them. I spent the day by the ocean; first lunching at the amazing Gjelina and shopping for food photography props on Abbot Kinney Boulevard, then walking along the beach to Santa Monica to hit up the Apple store, the type of big glass chrome building where the very best birthday presents come from!
Just after we'd ordered our desserts (this is the Butterscotch Pudding served with Salted Caramel and a dollop of Creme Fraiche by the way) Evie vanished off, saying something about going to the bathroom, when it turns out what she was really doing was tipping off our waiter that I was the birthday girl, so my pudding came to the table adorned with a flame, which was a really nice touch to a delicious and totally indulgent dessert.
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This is what I ate (given the chance I'll always order the mussels, my all time favourite food. Always.), but more on that in my review on Wednesday. I'm typing this up the day after, into day three of a six day binge in eating in some of Los Angeles more hyped restaurants  and so far this one is the only one which as been as incredible as promised.
Sunglasses: Miu Miu c/o SmartBuyGlasses, Necklace: J.Crew Factory, Tee: Madewell, Blue Silk Skirt: J.Crew Factory, Bangle: J.Crew, Sandals: Tory Burch, Nail Polish: Chanel Le Vernis Nail Colour 571 'Fracas'

For my birthday outfit I chose this grey diamond print Madewell tee which was one of the first things I purchased when I moved to Los Angeles, which was last seen (incidentally) the last time I shot an outfit post on Venice Beach. I am just a lot more tanned these days! The jewellery were pieces I picked up when I saw them and when they were cheap in J.Crew and on the J.Crew Factory site (two of my favourite shopping destinations), but my beautiful silk colour block skirt was ordered from J.Crew Factory especially for the occasion. Can you imagine me wearing something this bright last year? LA has really brightened up my style.
While it is proper etiquette on the beach to go around bare foot, I would not recommend it on Venice Boardwalk! Because of this, I decided to also make my birthday the first outing of my new beauties, a little birthday present to myself out of some of my blog earnings, these lovely black leather Tory Burch sandals. I love them to pieces.

I'm in the middle of two action packed weeks of my Spring Break where I have been running around Los Angeles eating out, going to the beach and really exploring the city (as well as spending some downtime at home cooking and shooting recipes) so stay tuned over the next few weeks for some upcoming posts I'm really excited about! 

Friday, 22 March 2013

Weekly Love: Week 130

So what is new since last we spoke? Well, I turned 20 yesterday and I am officially no longer a teenager. I'll tell you more about my birthday next week (it involved brunch and the beach with my partner in crime Evie who has returned for part two of our LA adventures over an extended weekend, and a new iPad to blog from, thanks Mummy and Daddy!). Aside from that, I'm now officially on 'Spring Break' so I've been determined to spend as much time at the beach as possible, and eating as much delicious food around Los Angeles as possible, and I hope for this to continue through next week too. During my beach and eating adventures I've been doing a lot of reading too. I've enjoyed two absolutely fantastic restaurant related books that I really must recommend to you all: The Times (and my all time favourite) restaurant critic Giles Coren's book How To Eat Out which made me laugh hysterically and I've reviewed over at Judging Covers, and the crown jewels of all restaurant books Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential. You'll never look at a chef in the same way ever again.
1. Marinated Mozzarella with Fresh Cherry and Vine Tomatoes from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi. | 2. One of my favourite flowers, the Bird of Paradise in full bloom in my courtyard. | 3. Testing my mothers theory that I always photograph better with a glass of wine in my hand! | 4. Evie pretended to go to the bathroom over lunch yesterday to tell the waiter it was my birthday, so I got a little candle in my butterscotch pudding! | 5. Fresh Summer lunches. | 6. Clam Linguini at Bottega Louie Downtown.

Just a quick reminder to you all, last week Google announced that it will be shutting down Google Reader on July 1st, so if you use Google Reader or Google Friend Connect to subscribe to Rachel Phipps you will have to move your subscription elsewhere. Here you can read more about your options, here you can follow Rachel Phipps on Bloglovin', and here you can add Rachel Phipps to your Feedly account.
7. The view of the courtyard from my balcony. | 8. A Salted Caramel Scoop from Sprinkles Ice Cream in Beverly Hills. | 9. Given the option I will always order the mussels. | 10. Stone-baked takeaway pizza from 800 Degrees in Westwood. | 11. Mint gelato and television in bed on a Saturday night. | 12. Big, plump and delicious Mexican strawberries.

What have you been enjoying this week, and what do you have planned for the weekend? I've got another week left of Spring Break, so while I do have a dissertation proposal to write for next year I'm going to make sure I spend a lot of time down at the beach and keep on exploring what Los Angeles has to offer!

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Goodbye Google Reader: How To Keep Up With Rachel Phipps

So, unless you've been living under a digital rock for the last week you'll know that as of July 1st Google are retiring Google Reader. This means that if you subscribe to Rachel Phipps either directly through Google Reader or via Google Friend Connect (or my beauty blog The Glossy Guide, or any other blog for that matter) you will lose your subscription on that date, which would be a very, very sad thing. This little snippet of news that rocked the internet last week did not bother me as much as some, as I Google Reader was not my reader of choice (I'd never actually used it), but after getting amused by peoples reactions on Twitter (my favourite was this Tweet. It is actually pretty mind blowing Myspace (and not to mention Livejournal!) has lived out Google Reader if you think about it!) I decided this might be the perfect opportunity to review for my readers how best to subscribe to my latest blog posts.
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My reader of choice, the only way I have ever subscribed to blogs is Bloglovin'; I honestly don't know where I would be without it. It is designed specifically for bloggers, and it is just so much more than a blog reader. Subscribing to any blog or website with an RSS feed is really easy, you just type the URL into the search box and the top of the page and it will give you the option to subscribe. Bloglovin' have also made it really easy to transfer your entire Google Reader into Bloglovin'. All your unread posts will appear in one clear feed on your Bloglovin' feed with the top image from the post, the title and the first few lines of the post. It is easy to mark as read or click through, so you can work through posts you want to read. When you click through there is a Bloglovin' toolbar on the blog page, but you can turn this feature off in 'Settings' which is what I have done. I also live by the Bloglovin' iPhone app which makes it great for working through my feed on the go. You can also stick your blogs into categories for easy browsing; as you will see from the screen grab above I have mine organised by countries and cities. Bloglovin' is also great for finding new blogs, with blog rankings by subscribes in several countries and categories, up and coming pages and most popular post pages in the same categorised fashion showing the posts that have received the most amount of likes. There are some real gems of new blogs there. The best example I think I can give is I was reading The Londoner when it only had about 100 other readers and it was in the first month or so of its life. Now the incredible Rose writes the most popular lifestyle blog in Britain and in the top 20 in the world, and I knew about her amazing recipes and travel posts from the beginning, thanks to spotting her on the Bloglovin' up and coming page.

As a blogger, having your blog on Bloglovin' so you can control it is pretty great too. You can claim your blog really simply, and from there you can view really good follower analytics charts, write a description for your blog and reset its screen grab. You can also choose the category your blog will appear in. Also, while I don't really care how many followers other bloggers have, it is fun to set myself targets when I'm on a social media and marketing kick to see how high I can rise up through the Personal/ United Kingdom rankings! You can follow Rachel Phipps on Bloglovin' by clicking here.
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Another feed service that you can instantly transfer all of your reader posts into I've been hearing a lot about since the announcement from Google is Feedly. Personally, I'm 100% happy with Bloglovin' so I have not had much of a play around, but you can read a lot more about it from Harriet who does use it in her post about the pros and cons of both Bloglovin' and Feedly as a Google Reader alternative. I have also been informed by my blogger friend Joy that the Feedly app for iPad is, I think her exact word was 'purrrty' (!) so I will have to check that out to see if I like it any better than Bloglovin' for iPad when I get home from the Apple Store this afternoon with my white, shiny new iPad (my 20th Birthday is today and it is my gift from my parents!) You can add Rachel Phipps to your Feedly feed by clicking here.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Restaurant Blogging: What It Is Like To Eat Out With Someone (Me) Pathologically Photographing Your Food

This blog post is inspired by the chapter entitled 'Bloggers' in my favourite restaurant critic Giles Coren's book 'How To Eat Out' that came out earlier this year. I approached the chapter with some trepidation, as I honestly did not know what he was going to say about us London scene food bloggers. Was I ready to be mocked by one of the only two restaurant critics I pay a shred of attention to when choosing where to eat next, over halfway through a book that I had rather been enjoying? It turns out what he had to say about us was a mixed bag; we're all fine and good, but taking photos of your food in a restaurant is just plain rude, and why do all the photos of food by food bloggers online have to look so unappetising? I'm always getting asked to write some more 'personal' style blog posts, so after reading his chapter, and before returning to finish the rest of the book I thought I'd share with you all  the stories behind some of my restaurant reviews and food posts. In short, what my friends and family have discovered they have to put up with when they agree to accompany me to whatever lunch or brunch spot I want to try that weekend, lunchtime or evening.
Photo by Nicole Anderson at The Sycamore Kitchen, Los Angeles January 2013

I think, aside from my parents (who I will get to in a bit) my most frequent dinner companion in London is my dear friend and fellow blogger (but of the fashion and music variety) Sherin, and in the London/ Canterbury split which was my life before I moved to Los Angeles (and will become again when I return) is my best friend Kathryn. Sherin's attitude to my shooting everything in sight is pretty blasé. In her role, and in my old role as fashion blogger it is pretty normal to pathologically need to shoot everything in sight so she, like all of my other blogger (of any variety) friends just go with the flow, and don't mind that she's not allowed to even touch whatever food or beverage that has been set in front of her until I have photographed it from every possible angle. Kathryn is another story entirely. I think she has become pretty used to it by now (I will have to test this theory when we are reunited in LA this Summer) but when I started reviewing restaurants for my blog around about the beginning of last year she always got very, very embarrassed when I got out my camera (okay, maybe DSLR's are excessively big) and started snapping away at the food making sure I get the very best light and angle of the food. I 100% agree with Giles that most food blog photography is terrible; sometimes I have forgone reviewing restaurants on the blog at all if the photos have come out in a way that makes the food look unappetising. (Incidentally, if you're looking for a good burger in Central London I urge you to go check out Tommi's Burger Joint which I really enjoyed but did not review for this very reason. It is just around the corner from Meat Liquor: perfect if you don't fancy queuing around the block for hours to get in. This is why I still have not eaten there yet.) I particularly remember her acute embarrassment and furtive looks around the inn when we were eating in The Rose Inn in the little village of Wickhambreaux just outside of Canterbury. Perhaps because she knew so many people who were propping up the bar at the time. 

My parents rarely go anywhere near London if they can help it. They absolutely loathe the city. The only meal I can remember having with either one of them in the city is with my mother (salt beef sandwiches in the Selfridges food hall before a trip to The Globe Theatre a few Summers ago to see Anne Boleyn). Because of this they were spared my London centric restaurant reviewing for quite some time, with perhaps the odd exception of meals in restaurants I felt people might want to travel for, but it was not enough to become a 'thing' my parents (read my father) liked to make fun of me for. However, soon someone (okay it was me, totally my fault) came up with the bright idea of putting bespoke restaurant reviews, with photos in the style of my London adventures on the Pilgrims Nook Holiday Cottages Blog for our guests, and in our welcome packs when they arrive for their holiday. Lo and behold, now every single local restaurant meal I have with either or both of my parents has to be photographed and reviewed for work purposes. A typical meal out goes something like this: the three of us arrive at the restaurant. My Dad sits in the seat which has the best light and I ask him to move as I need to sit there. He does not want to (or is just trying to wind me up, I never can tell), and only does so when my mother tells him to stop being difficult and I'm only doing it for our (emphasis on the 'our') business. We look over the menus. If someone wants to order the same thing as me, I subtly try to get them to change their mind: I want as many different dishes as possible on the table to photograph and steal bites of to review, but god forbid I don't get to order my choice of dinner! The food arrives and my Dad goes to dig in, to be met my a sharp reprimand from me: "Don't you dare touch it until I've photographed it!" He grumbles, hovering over me as I snap away, under pressure until the moment I say the word 'done' and he dives in like a man who has not seen food in months. This back and forth continues with every arriving course until the bill is paid. I can tell both my Dad and Kathryn are both visibly relieved when the camera gets left on the kitchen table when we are heading out for a meal; it can be a review-less evening. 
The specials board at Le Cancalaise in Cancal, Brittany, June 2012

So how do I feel about whipping out my massive camera in the middle of a cafe or restaurant in order to shoot my favourite to put together (I'm essentially a restaurant addict) and my readers favourite column? How I feel about each different eating situation differs depending on where I am. When I'm in France I just snap away at anything and everything; they don't know I actually live there, they can just pass me off as a mad tourist for all I care. The one exception to this rule seems to be Le Cancalais in the little Breton seaside town of Cancal, my second favourite eatery in France. I think it is the upper crust atmosphere and ludicrously expensive items if you order à la carte instead of off the board, the smart service, but I always try to snap photos there when the waiters are not looking, similarly to the amusing afternoon tea spent at Laudrée in Harrods with my friend Victoria, where photography is expressly forbidden. 

In London I feel slightly more comfortable shooting in restaurants because so many people are doing it these days; I don't seem to stick out as much (this makes it that I feel slightly more uncomfortable in Canterbury, or in a country pub, though I rarely review these). That is not to say that there are some places I don't take my camera to in London because I feel self conscious about whipping out such a bit piece of equipment in the dining room, realising sometimes it might be a little bit rude. Now I have an iPhone you might get a surreptitious Instagram of it sometime in the future, but you will never ever see a photo of my favourite dessert in London taken with my massive camera. As much as I adore the Chocolate and Raspberry Slice they have at The Wolseley there is no way on earth you are going to catch me whipping out my camera in that dinning room. But even Instagramming things I sometimes feel a little embarrassed; I could not help myself looking around the room it see if anyone was watching me when I stopped just before the door of Sprinkles Ice Cream in Beverly Hills earlier today to Instagram my Salted Caramel Scoop (it was the first time I'd tried that flavour.)
My LudoTruck feast in Los Angeles, from my Instagram feed, March 2013

I think the place I feel the post comfortable photographing my food is in Los Angeles, where food blogging is even more of a 'thing' than it is in London, and people are positively excited if I have to explain what it was for. When I felt it was polite to ask (though this is something I try to avoid doing in case they say no) if I could shoot inside the tiny 'Lette Macaron store in Beverly Hills for a blog feature I was offered samples. When I declined and said I wanted to buy a box a bag of flavours I had not purchased were slipped into my bag for me to try when I went to pay anyway. When I went to review LudoTruck I had no embarrassment being 'the blogger' as having read Ludo Lefebvre's latest book, Ludo Bites I know that almost every photograph in it was taken by a food blogger and he even invited some of them in to cook in the Ludo Bites kitchen. And besides, it was a food truck. Who could get all up in arms about manners there? However, when the guy standing behind me in the queue (I was second, he was third) started snickering at the woman in front who was ordering gigantic amounts of food, I joined in (it was rather funny, you had to have been there) and then I went up and ordered double a normal persons meal I did feel the need to admit I was a food blogger, I needed a variety to review and I probably would not be eating dinner that night. He ended up wanting to hear about my blog and the places I have reviewed so far in LA, and places I'd recommend in London, a city I'd never had this positive reaction to food blogging in before.

Okay, so be honest; I promise you won't hurt my feelings. What do you think about people who are always snapping photos with either their cameras or their smartphones in restaurants while you are having you meal at the next table?

Monday, 18 March 2013

Recipe: Salted Caramel Double Chocolate Rolo Cookies

Aside from the Farmers Market on Thursdays there are four options for grocery shopping in Westwood, Los Angeles; the little neighbourhood clustered around the bottom of UCLA and Bel Air, and reaching outwards towards Brentwood (think Desperate Housewives but in the middle of a city) and Beverly Hills. If you're only after snacks and frozen food you head to Target, which I would describe as Woolworths meets Boots meets Tesco Metro meets Dunelm Mill. While I find it is good for kitchen implements and Essie nail polish, I only every buy olive oil there. Trader Joe's is great and I go there often, but it is all own brand, think the Marks & Spencer food hall. I adore Whole Foods, it is Waitrose meets a farm shop meets Holland & Barrett but it is desperately expensive. I usually find myself shopping at Ralphs, which is basically Tescos with all the things in the wrong aisles and a scary American frozen food department in the middle. 
While skirting around the frozen section to get from dairy to the vegetable section I always pass the end of aisle displays on the frozen section, which are usually as frightening for junk food phobic people like me. However, after walking past the new candy display there over the last few weeks, each time debating with myself if I should pick up a pouch of mini Rolo's from it (while most British chocolate has been ruined by American manufacturing, Rolo's are still pretty edible) the idea came to me. If they are mini Rolo's, why can't I use them instead of chocolate chips in my favourite Lorraine Pascale triple chocolate chip cookies I make at least once every two weeks from her book Baking Made Easy (it is rather brilliant, easily one of my favourite baking books of recent years) so they have little caramel puddles in them? 
They came out fantastically, exactly how I wanted them to. The milk chocolate of the rolo, the plain chocolate of the cookie and the little caramel pockets came out perfectly, and I especially loved the little brittle bits of burnt caramel you got around the edges of the biscuit where some of the mini Rolo's had burst in the oven. However, something was missing. Honestly, considering how many salted caramel recipes I have been Pinning onto my 'Pudding Lane' and 'Cakes & Cookies' Pinterest boards recently, and how many scoops of Salted Caramel Ice Cream I have been consuming from Sprinkles in Beverly Hills I can't believe it took me so long to realise what the addition of some nice, flaky pieces of sea salt would do to my cookie. Makes around 10 cookies.

  • 100g (4 oz) Unsalted Butter, softened
  • 200g (7 oz) Soft Light Brown Sugar
  • 1 Large Egg
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 165g (5 1/2 oz) Plain Flour
  • 30g (1 1/4 oz) Cocoa Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Bicarbonate Soda (Baking Soda)
  • 200g (7 oz) Mini Rolos (in the US this is one pouch with a handful left over)
  • Large Sea Salt Flakes (I use Maldon)

Beat together the sugar and the butter until well combined. This is really easy to do in a kitchen mixer (I use a Kenwood but I know most people have Kitchen Aids) but can be done by hand. Add the egg and a few drops of vanilla extract and beat until smooth and well combined. Add the cocoa, cooking salt, cocoa powder and flour. Mix until everything is combined. Add the Rolos and mash with a spoon until they are distributed through the cookie dough, but be careful not to break up the Rolo's. Divide and roll the dough into 10 small-ish balls and space them across two baking sheets covering in non stick baking parchment. Sprinkle each cookie ball with a generous pinch of the large sea salt flakes. Bake in the oven at 190 degrees celsius (375 fahrenheit) for 12-15 minutes. The cookies should have spread out a bit, be slightly cracked on top and some of the Rolo's will have burst and leaked into little puddles around the cookies. Remove from the oven and leave to stand on the trays for about 5 minutes. Using a spatula carefully lift each cookie onto a wire rack to cool, being sure not to break off the little puddles of burnt caramel; you want to leave these, solid attached to the sides of your cookies as they are one of the best bits. Enjoy! You're lucky. You don't have to photograph them before you eat them.
What are your favourite types of mini chocolate/ candy, and have you ever had them in a cookie before? As a kid we all had Smarties Cookies, and last year I posted a recipe for my M&M Cookies (I also use M&M's in this double chocolate cookie dough too). When I get back to England I really want to try using mini bites of Cadbury's Crunchie. I can't stand peanut butter, but on the display next to the mini Rolo pouches there were pouches of mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cups; I bet they would be great in chocolate cookies too!

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Sunday Style File: Pre-Summer Swimwear

Among my most popular blog posts from last year was my post featuring different Summer swimwear options for girls with a bigger bust, and while I will be doing a 2013 edition of that post in due course I am aware that the bigger bust problem is not something all of my readers share with me, so I thought I'd put together a post of ladies bikinis and swimwear styles that I would be lusting after if I had a hope of hell of getting into, for the rest of you! (I am rather excited about putting together the bigger bust feature this year, as I actually have a beach to go to down at Santa Monica and a chance to wear some of the styles I'm going to feature!)
Urban OutfittersTie-Front Bandeau Bikini Top: $36,  Urban Outfitters High Waisted Bikini Bottom: $42, Lolli Pelpum One-piece Swimsuit: $100
J.Crew Graphic Dot Underwire Bikini Top: $54, J.Crew Graphic Dot High Waisted Briefs: $50, J.Crew Stripe Bandeau Stripe Swimsuit: $94, J.Crew Ruched Underwire Swimsuit: $98, J.Crew Off-The-Shoulder Swimsuit: $118 

While I doubt I'll fit into any of them, I'm still going to go and try on some of J.Crew's amazing swimwear range if I see them in store. Maybe the Santa Monica branch, or the new expanded one at The Grove? While I think the one with the most chance of fitting me is this beautiful off the shoulder number, I have unhappily fallen head over heels for this cute dot print style and the matching high waisted bikini briefs. Lucky for some of you, this style comes in a whole spectrum of colours. Oh how I wish for a blue and a lilac one...
Homeboy Bandeaux Multicoloured Bikini: £35

While if you are someone like me and tend to buy plain swimsuits to wear in the pool at home when it is just me, and have one nice one for when I have people over (this is my current one from Figleaves) or I'm sunbathing on the beach in the one or two days of real sunshine we get a year in England you might go for investment styles, but if you are someone who lives somewhere with a beach (like everyone here with me in Los Angeles at the moment), or someone who is always jetting off to exotic bikini clad locations (I'm not the only one thinking of Rose here, right?) I think cheaper, more fun and funky bikini's are the way forward so you can have loads of them (why is it quality swimwear has to be the same price as, if not a bit more than good lingerie ) I love this USA flag style from Homeboy, and ASOS always have some fun ones.
Norma Kamali Ruched Halterneck Swimsuit: £295 / $350, Norma Kamali Walter Mio Ruched Bandeau Swimsuit: £300 / $350, Norma Kamali Bill Halterneck Bikini Top: £185 / $215, Norma Kamali Bill High-Waisted Bikini Briefs: £150 / $175

Finally, while I don't think I'll ever spend that much money on a swimsuit, I could not finish up this post without telling you all about Norma Kamali which I first came across on Net-A-Porter last year who I think make the most divine and flattering swimsuits ever. I just love all of their characteristic ruching and high waisted styles.

Obviously my Californian readers will have a beach to head to, but are any of my European readers heading off somewhere hot and sunny this Summer you need to go swimsuit shopping for?

This is a sponsored post. To read my policy on sponsored posts, please click here.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Places To Eat In Los Angeles: 'Lette Macarons, Beverly Hills

While I love a good cupcake as much as the next girl, for me nothing can beat a good, traditional Macaron. When I am in France and they are widely available, I eat whole plates of them. Naturally then, when I heard about 'Lette Macarons, a Los Angeles based macaron patisserie run by Parisian trained pastry chef Christophe Michalak, I just knew I had to pop along to one of their stores to try some of their round little delicacies. I headed over to their Beverly Hills branch on Charleville Boulevard, the store where all the macarons are baked, but they also have stores in Little Tokyo, Larchmont Village, Old Pasadena and Newport Beach.
Flavour-wise, I went for a mix of my usual favourite macaron flavours and a few newbies that 'Lette had that took my fancy in the store. This box of 6 cost me $10.50, which coming from someone who has shopped for macarons in Los Angeles, London, Paris and rural France, is good value. Left to right we have my three usual favourites: Madagascar Vanilla, Rose and Raspberry, then Coconut, Passion Fruit and Salted Caramel. Not shown in this post, so I could have a few extra flavours to review the girl in the store threw in a bag of a few slightly broken ones for me: Sicilian Pistachio, Colombian Coffee and Sweet Wedding Almond.
DSC_0747 lettedisplay DSC_0740 DSC_0722
Violet Cassis, Earl Grey and Colombian Coffee
DSC_0729 The Wall in Lette lette beverly hills
Front to back: Sweet Wedding Almond, Lemon, Madagascar Vanilla, Rose, Raspberry, Caribbean Chocolate, Scillian Pistachio, Coconut, Salted Caramel, Passion Fruit, Colombian Coffee, Earl Grey and Violet Cassis. 
So what did I think of the actual macarons? Not just because it is my all time favourite macaron flavour anyway, Raspberry was by far my favourite; it tasted deliciously like my Mum's homemade raspberry jam (think Bonne Maman) on the first bite, then brilliantly of fresh raspberries picked right off of the raspberry cane as you got into it. Staying on the fruit track the Passion Fruit macaron tasted exactly like fresh passion fruit, slightly tart but not unpleasantly so, but not as satisfying in flavour after you have eaten it as the Raspberry. As for my other favourite it has to be one of the flavours I was most excited about trying and I left to last: the Salted Caramel. While I could not really taste the 'salted' element, it has the most delicious and deeply flavoured caramel centre you can just tell was made with deliciously fresh cream. The whole thing had an amazing flavour balance, and next time I go, aside from a chocolate one just to try, I think my entire box will be made up of Raspberry and Salted Caramel macarons.

As for the other flavours, Sweet Wedding Almond (shown above) and Sicilian Pistachio were good macarons, but just tasted of almonds and not much else (expected with the Sweet Wedding Almond, but not so much with the Pistachio). The Madagascar Vanilla was really nice, but not what I'd expected. It was rather rich and tasted of a cross between Vanilla Häagen Dazs and those sponge fingers you get in boxes from the supermarket in England to make trifle with. The macaron therefore brought back childhood memories from my grandparents house in the South of France where my grandmother used to give me one or two of them to munch on every day when I had got out of the pool to dry on the patio in the sunshine. The Coconut tasted well, of rich and refreshing coconut.

The two macarons that really surprised me were the Rose and the Colombian Coffee. Rose is one of my favourite macaron flavour and as well as Raspberry I always order one where there is one on offer, but this was unlike any rose macarons I'd had before. Rather than being delicate in flavour it was a lot like eating turkish delight. This is not a bad thing, just different. As for the Colombian Coffee, what really surprised me was that I really liked it. I'm not a coffee flavoured things eater or a coffee drinker, loving the smell and hating the taste. This was delicious though, strong and rich but not at all bitter. The ganache with rich and wonderful.

Overall, I will be going back to 'Lette again, and I would really recommend their macarons as being rich, delicious, authentic, fresh and great value for money. I think flavours are up to personal preference, so I hope I've been of some help with my descriptions. Angeleno's, are there any other macarons I need to try in the city? (I'm heading Downtown to Bottega Louie the day before my birthday for a big box for my big day!) You can find the Beverly Hills branch of 'Lette Macarons at 9466 Chareville Blvd, just off South Beverly Drive.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Full Disclosure: How I Earn Money Off Of My Blog

One of the most popular questions I'm asked by friends, family, readers and even people I've only just met, is how on earth I manage to make money off of my blog. Once I have quickly gone over in my head if I actually want to answer the question or not, or with how much or how little detail, it is actually a pretty fair question. I pour hours of my time into both this site, and The Glossy Guide every single day, at least the same amount and probably more than you would for your average student, or even full time job, but for someone who is not really part of the blogging world it is not immediately obvious how I manage to make money from it. In the interests of full disclosure and transparency (as someone who has been at one time or another heavily involved in the world of politics I still can't use the word transparency and still keep a straight face!), and off of the back of some simply shocking recent articles on blogger income (who remembers that Fashionista piece on popular bloggers faking free swag?) I've decided to properly lay out how I make money from blogging.
Lets start with affiliate links, something which a few years ago totally baffled me, but now I find to be a really useful tool, thanks to some pretty great sites designed for bloggers over the last couple of years or so. Let me first start by explaining how affiliate links. Lets say in an outfit post or a wish list post I link to my current favourite pair of wine coloured J.Crew 3" Chino Shorts. If you click through to the J.Crew site from my link and purchase something from it either in that visit, or within the (usually) next 30 days by directly visiting the J.Crew site and not arriving at it from another website I will make a small commission from your purchase. It annoys me a little bit when bloggers just drop affiliate links into posts that don't really have much to do with the post in hand into their posts just to try and make money, but as I do run my blog as a business, and if possible, I do like to link you to where to buy items in wish lists, or I am wearing in outfit posts. I don't see the harm in making it so that I could potentially make a little money from it too! 

On my blog I simultaneously run two brilliant affiliate links programes, both of which I would recommend if you were looking to monetize your blog or website. The first, the easiest to use and the most subtle of these I run is called Skimlinks. It is free to use and sign up with, and you just installing a little code into your site following their really easy step by step instructions. Basically, what Skimlinks does is turns every existing product link to a site within their network (they support most retailers you can think of, even the really small ones) that has not already been turned into an affiliate link into one, so you can make money off of your existing content. It is pretty genius, I've been using it for just over a year now with brilliant results. Also, if it means anything I met the guy who is the brains behind the software Joe Stepniewski at the iFabbo Conference in London last Summer and he is super nice, and really interesting to talk to about affiliate business! 

The second piece of affilate software I run on my blog, and I'm pretty sure if you're reading this and you're a fashion blogger you've at least heard of, is rewardStyle (the brains behind I also met at the conference, incidentally). It takes a little bit more effort to use than Skimlinks, but it has a better commission rate and it is a bit more targeted. Essentially you have to go find the product in their interface to generate the affiliate link, but what is nice about it is you can instantly Tweet or Pin the product, with affiliate link attached from your rewardStyle dashboard. Also, every time you 'like' something in your rewardStyle dashboard it automatically gets added to your profile on a site called CurrentlyObsessed where you can follow your favourite bloggers and their shopping picks. Your affilate links also carry over to here to, so it is yet another way you can make a little bit of commission. 

As well as affiliate links, I also use rewardStyle to run the majority of my banner advertising on the sidebar of my blog. They have a great selection of ads from all the brands in their network which operate with affiliate links which you can just embed into your sidebar. Also, some of my sidebar advertising comes from when brands or social media and advertising agencies email me about advertising on the site, and I negotiate the price directly with them. Obviously I choose my own ads from rewardStyle, but as I'm really OCD about the layout and appearance of my blog, I woud not be able to accept ads I did not like the look or or support the brand of for however much money, even if I wanted to!

Even though I do like utilising affilate links, the biggest source of my blog income comes from running sponsored posts. Now, I know a lot of people don't like the idea of sponsored posts, but I find that if I put my foot down with what I will and won't do with whoever I'm working with, and I'm sure to have full disclosure and include my sponsored post disclaimer at the end of sponsored posts, I find that I actually benefit from running them. I never post anything on my blog that I have not written, and sometimes by wondering what I'm going to write about to fit a certain criteria, I can come up with some really creative post ideas that I really enjoy writing and have proven really popular that I most likely would not have thought of without the prompt from my client. Also, a lot of the time when I've been talking to you guys, you've said sometimes you don't realise that the post has been sponsered until you reach the end and I discolse that fact. Also, sometimes with a sponsored post I can just have fun and mess around a bit; who remembers my post on matching your new season accessories to the colour of your Smeg fridge?!

*updated 2/03/2014* I am now signed with Glam Media, and it is through Glam Media I run my above the fold (which means the bit you can see on your screen without scrolling) ads, and I do brand collaborations with here on the blog and across social media. All of these collaborations and sponsored posts will still be noted as such, using either my usual disclaimer or something similar on social media, such as an #ad or #sponsored hashtag. 

I hope you have all learnt something about how I make my money, as well as how you can implement some of my strategy on your own blogs and websites too. If you're a brand or social media agency and you'd like to work with or collaborate with me, drop me an email with your ideas and I'll whizz over my 2013 Media Kit!