Monday, December 27, 2010

When You Can't Afford Christmas

Do you remember the days when all you had to do was bake a tray of cookies and set out a glass of milk for presents to arrive fully wrapped and tinseled underneath your tree? Since then we have been assimilated into the month and a half of frantic shopping and pillaging to provide our friends and loved ones with the perfect and most impressive gifts.

The validity of a gift has become the whopping price tag, and the esteem with which you hold a loved one can only be expressed by how many weeks pay you poured into the filling of their gift-wrap. Of all the gifts I have received from friends, the ones that I cling to the most fondly are those that were made for me: hand written cards, silly drawings and folded candy wrappers clutter my walls in matching frames. Much to my best friend's embarrassment, I have kept a silly purple pillow with "raf and dar friends 4----->" coarsely stitched into it since fall of 2005 when he gave it to me for my birthday. Aren't time and love really the only things we can truly give each other? If we are competing to give each other equally priced gifts, why don't we just exchange blank checks and go buy ourselves whatever we wanted in the first place.

Every year, I try to show my friends that I really care about them. I build books and stuff handmade dolls, bake cakes and build things it would be much easier just to buy, but this year it seems I couldn't even afford to buy the paper and canvas to fuel my workshop. This year, I decided that maybe it is enough to bake a tray of cookies and set out a glass of milk.

I am constantly collecting beautiful boxes and ribbons, in fact I get things gift wrapped for myself, so I can come home, unwrap them and reuse the unique trimming. I filled my preciously collected bins and baggies with four of my favorite cookie recipes. I spent the greater part of two days rolling dough and filling pastry bags, tying bows and rolling ribbon. I made heart shaped lemon shortbread cookies with raspberry filling, coconut macaroon cookies with a chocolate drizzle, miniature pecan tarts with lemon zest and chocolate macaron sandwich cookies with an almond buttercream filling.

Much to my disappointment, I found baking specialty cookies is no less expensive than making any other gift, but I was happy with the results and I hope that my friends know that I truly love all of them and wish them each a happy holiday and spectacular new year.

Much love,

Monday, December 20, 2010

Soup of the week: Russian Borscht

Each week, I have found myself jumping from continent to continent sampling soups from all around the world, and in this third installment, I bring you the soup that I grew up on, Borscht. This soup has an incredible history, and thousands of varieties, in fact, everyone I have met seems to have a different recipe for the soup. Some call for sausage or veal, others stick with chunks of beef and potato, but we all can agree on three ingredients: beets, cabbage and sour cream!

This soup has a tremendous number of memories for me: from evenings sitting in a sunflower themed kitchen with my chin barely reaching over the kitchen table to high school days coming home from school and frantically putting out soup pot fires, where a lonely blackened beet rested at the bottom of a dried out pot.

I used to spend the summers with my younger brother and my grandmother Ada in a little cottage in the woods. She would make us amazing, fresh soups with ingredients plundered from the forest and watch us shovel them down before she would sit down to eat. It took me over a decade to realize that we were poor and she wanted to make sure we were full before she would eat our leftovers. Borscht is a noble and filling dish, and particularly inexpensive to make.

I dedicate this week's soup to my grandmother who spent her life loving and caring for her obnoxious, ungrateful grandchildren. You will never be forgotten.

Russia's Traditional Beet Soup

2 lbs beef, small chunks
3 beets, diced
2 carrots, chopped
4 shoots celery, chopped
1 onion, diced
3 tbsp, veggie oil
18 oz diced tomato
1/2 head of cabbage, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic
3/4 cup dill
18-20 cups beef broth, or water
sour cream - to serve

In a large pot add onions to veggie oil and brown. Add beef, brown. Add Carrots, celery and beets and cook for 5 minutes. Add cabbage. At this point you may find that you want to separate your soup fillings into two different pots, at least I did, Add 2 cups broth to each, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add garlic, tomato and the remainder of the broth (as well as salt and pepper to taste) and allow to boil for about 40 minutes to one hour until your broth has turned beety red and the beef is soft and tender.

To serve, add a generous scoop full of sour cream and a tablespoon of dill.

Enjoy and share with friends and family. Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Soup of the Week: Cream of Cauliflower

My parents brought me a beautiful head of cauliflower over Thanksgiving, and it has been sitting in its lonely plastic bag since the holiday. I felt sorry for the poor guy and figured a cauliflower soup would be just the answer.

Cauliflower is high in fiber and thus fairly low in net carbohydrates, but the magic of cauliflower is its innate ability to absorb flavors. Unlike so many ingredients that lose flavor the more you meddle with them, this simple plant improves with every dollop of cream or spoonful of butter.

Below is a light and flavorful, yet creamy recipe that I have been working on. I hope you enjoy it. :)

Cream of Cauliflower

1 large head of cauliflower, chopped
1 stick butter
1/2 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 celery stick, diced
2 tbsp cilantro
2 quarts chicken broth
3 cups milk
1 cup sour cream

In a large pot, melt butter and add onion. Cook until lightly browned. Add carrots and celery and continue cooking for five minutes. Add cauliflower and cilantro. Lower heat, cover and cook for 15 minutes.

Add chicken broth and bring to a boil on high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. At this point you can add milk and continue to simmer for another fifteen minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Move pot to a cool burner, add sour cream. Serve immediately!

Servings: 9 Carbohydrates in pot: 83 Carbohydrates in bowl: 9.2

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Happiness is Only Real When Shared

My paintings, although generally allegorical and socially driven, tend to be dramatizations of events in my life. The studies for this painting were started over a year ago after visiting a friend on the West Coast. My best friend was in the outs with his boyfriend and, arriving in Los Angeles, I found out that the friend I was visiting had just broken up with his girlfriend and was having a hard time dealing. At that time, the two were my closest friends and I found myself distraught by my inability to help them, all I wanted to do was to return their loved one, but I was incapable of doing so.

During this time, I was also looking at a lot of print and manuscript work, and became very interested in time-elapsed stories shown in one image, a sort of odyssey on one page. This composition is based on the repetition of three figures (boy, girl and myself) in a counterclockwise progression from past to future, boy falling in love with girl, being happy and watching things fall apart, as I uselessly try to piece things together.

Although the image does not really show this (as it is too fuzzy and the colors aren't right), I am really happy with how the figures were handled in this piece.

With each new painting, I strive to improve my handling of anatomy and space as well as how I treat color. Starting this drawing over a year ago, I have watched my understanding of figure and color improve significantly and it is really great to see improvement in the progression of one composition. There are a few things I am still unsure about, i.e. lightness of the upper left corner, but I have decided that it is done for now.

I have decided to start applying for graduate school for next Fall, and I am really happy with the decision. I can't wait to get back into a regular studio practice with mentors and peers around me for support, and such. Let's hope for grants.....

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Soup of the Week

Soup! It is getting quite cold outside, and all I can think about is soup. The incredibly diverse aromas and flavors that can be achieved by altering just a few simple ingredients and spices. It is truly inspirational.

With the first winter chill, my mind turned to creaming vegetables and boiling chickens and I have decided to indulge myself with a December full of soups, some of which I would love to share with you.

I have been feeling a deficit in Thai food, in the wake of my new low carbohydrate diet. I have missed the coconut soup, Tom Kha Gai, with some fervour. Looking into the recipes, I discovered that it wasn't a deal breaker after all, so I have formatted a really yummy recipe that is pretty low in carbs.

I hope you enjoy!

Tom Kha Gai
with Chicken

2 13.5 oz cans of coconut milk
4 cups chicken broth
3 stalks lemongrass
3 shallots
handful of fresh cilantro
2 limes juice and zest
1/4 cup soy sauce

1 package of chopped mushrooms
1 green pepper, chopped
1 full rotisserie chicken, deboned

Bring coconut milk, soy sauce and chicken broth to a boil. Add chopped shallots and lemon grass. Add juice and zest of lime as well as cilantro. Lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

Drain the flavoring ingredients out, and return your broth to the pot. Add chicken, mushrooms and green pepper. Allow to boil for another 15 minutes.

Serve immediately.

Servings: 6 Carbs in pot: 48.5 Carbs in bowl: 8

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Several times a year we seem to congregate together to celebrate something or other. The origins of these gatherings have long been drowned in a sea of advertisements, themed gift baskets and cartoon characters, but somehow we managed to retain the sense of warmth and family gathering I have always admired about the holidays.

Living in New York for the past five years, I rarely see my family and look forward to birthdays, thanksgivings and Christmases to have the opportunity to cook together in our pajamas and stuff ourselves with a five course meal. We spend the afternoon cooking, dropping soup laden spoons on the broilers and slipping on renegade cubes of butter and settle around a 1.5ft high coffee table propping ourselves up on throw pillows to enjoy the spoils of our battle with the kitchen.

Long ago, I put a ban on most packaged foods in my kitchen, and since then have barely been able to afford the ingredients that my lavish lifestyle seems to constantly require of me. Perhaps I have developed an alter ego, one who requires that Comté and Morbier accompany every proper meal and scoffs at any jam with more than five ingredients. She's quite a burden, you see, and it is indeed a blessing when my parents arrive with logs of fillet mignon and balls of Mozzarella di Buffalo and bags filled with florets of cauliflower and haricot vert. That alter ego of mine can finish her pouting over our roasted chicken and ratatouille diet (where really, what sensible girl can complain of rosemary buttered chicken and fresh vegetable ratatouille?) and return to her epic planning of the perfect French fête. To explain the image above, I imagine my alter ego wearing a 1930's feather hat and lace dresses as she prepares her gateaux, I am sure you won't oppose.

This year, my whole family has been operating on a low carbohydrate diet, so I had to plan accordingly. No stuffings or mashed potatoes coated in glutenous gravy were to be tolerated, no chocolate bread puddings or gateaux drenched in raspberry jam could even be contemplated. Whatever was I to do with all of my wartime glass cake pedestals? Leave them to their fine blanket of dust? I wouldn't dream of it.

The stuffing and potatoes were easily overcome: I can't stand the concept of roast turkey anyway, a poor excuse for a giant dry chicken. I-make-a-lamb (as has come to be a catchphrase for me among my closest friends). Lamb is one of my favorite meats, it is fatty and flavorful and requires little dressing, the only sin being to overcook the poor beast. Thinking about my curly-coated friend, I planned the rest of the menu.

The lamb, I dusted with salt and pepper and instructed the dad to puncture its entire surface with inch long holes into which we subsequently stuffed halved cloves of garlic, giving the roast its "signature" porcupinesque appearance, and drenched in a nice shower of olive oil (I am proud to admit that I learned this recipe from my dad). Accompanying the lamb we had garlic and butter sautéed haricot vert, a signature Caprese salad (as we have discussed, I cannot survive a formal meal without one) as well as a rich and cheesy spinach and artichoke dip with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and Monterey Jack cheeses (recipe below) paired with chips made of low carb tortillas. A few other dishes were in the running, but found themselves downgraded to "day after thanksgiving" meal, since it was only mom, dad and I feasting.

Meal accomplished, I had a bit of a harder time with an idea for a dessert, but a "ladies night" dinner party of a few years back reminded me of the perfect idea: a flourless chocolate cake. Bittersweet chocolate has relatively few carbohydrates (in comparison to other desserts), and this cake could be accomplished with a sugar substitute and no additional starches. I scoured the internet, and ended up mashing together a few different recipes and substituting ingredients until I came up with what I thought would be a moist and rich cake, without the hefty starch setback (recipe below).

Masterpiece accomplished, my dad and I took to our century long fully outfitted photo shoot (for my lovely readers, of course) as my mom complained of fainting fits and starvation. A full hour later, after we inched platters around and endlessly fickled around with depth of field and aperture settings, we finally sliced the roast, picked our pillow "chairs" and settled around the coffee table. We had a lovely evening making fun of each other, watching silly movies and stuffing ourselves past morbidity only to get up the next morning and feast on a brunch of solid chocolate at Payard's FC Chocolate Bar (apparently I go there often, no wonder I'm not losing any weight this week.)

Spinach Artichoke Dip

1 package of fresh spinach
1 16oz jar of artichoke hearts
1 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 cup freshly grated Monterey Jack
2 cloves garlic, minced

First thing's first, preheat oven to 350. I like to throw the entire bag of spinach, with a tiny hole in the bag, into the microwave and cook it on high for about 2 minutes. While that is cooking, drain the artichoke hearts and separate (or mush) them with your fingers. Mix together all of the ingredients save for 1/4 cup of Jack and place in an oven safe container. Sprinkle the remainder of the Monterey Jack on top and allow to bake for approximately 20 minutes, until the cheese crust is golden brown at the edges. Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes and serve with chips, or whatever else you choose.

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Whipped Cream and Blueberries

16 ounces of bittersweet chocolate
9 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup Splenda (or sugar)
16 ounce container of heavy cream (additional 2 tablespoons of Splenda)
6 ounce carton of fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 350. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate. Melt the butter and mix with melted chocolate. While the chocolate is melting, wisk together the sugar and egg yolks. Dip your wisk into the chocolate mixture and return it to the egg and sugar bowl, wisking quickly. This will serve to temper your eggs so they do not cook while you combine the chocolate and egg yolk mixtures. Separately, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form and fold into the chocolate. Line a 9" round pan (preferably with collapsible sides) and pour in the batter. Bake for 18-25 minutes until the batter is set.

Meanwhile, beat the heavy cream and add 2 tablespoons of Splenda. Allow the cake to cool for 15 minutes before removing from the pan and another 15-30 minutes before serving.

Hope you guys enjoy the recipes. Thank you all for keeping up with my sporadic posts, I am thankful for every beautiful moment of my life!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Just a Walk in the Park

daria souvorova, sweet daria's, nycI woke up to an incredibly beautiful morning in a strange fog. As the evenings grow steadily darker, I see very little of the city. I was determined to spend today outside, and luckily my friend Tamar obliged to be my date for an afternoon of strolling through the city.

After spending some time at a lovely open air market full of vintage jewelry and curious objects, we decided to take a stroll across the park towards one of my favorite destinations. Usually, I follow the uneventful route across 81st street, but seeing the lovely turning of the leaves, Tamar and I decided to cross through the winding routes inside of the park.

I have visited the park countless times, and as if walking in a maze, I never seem to pass the same spot twice. I am virtually helpless in determining which direction I am walking in, but I am always greeted by a new vision, be it a romantically secluded gazebo, a shimmering lake or a brilliantly sculpted fountain.

daria souvorova, sweet daria's, nycWalking through the gently sloping hills I was hypnotized by the rustle of golden red leaves moving in wakes around my feet. Closing my eyes I could sense the movement of the leaves that remained precariously perched on their branches. It was a perfect day! A few winding pathways later, we found ourselves at the edge of a huge lake flanked by massive rock formations. Hoards of couples and children had scrambled up the sides of the miniature mountains and lounged there soaking up the last rays of this year's sunshine, watching others float by in row boats on the glimmering surface of the lake. I too climbed the mountain and I contemplated sitting in one of those boats, perhaps with a parasol or an epic sun hat wearing my most 19th century themed dress as someone I care about rowed us across the stillness of the lake. A lovely thought, perhaps I should make an adventure of it sometime.

daria souvorova, sweet daria's, nycAwaking from my fantasy, I descended, and we continued our walk across the park. The colors of the shedding trees were indeed magnificent, even more so through Tamar's somewhat rose tinted glasses. A cerulean blue sky was contrasted by gradations of orange, yellow and red. The image feels ingrained in my memory, I almost see it as I close my eyes.

Finally traversing the park, my lovely date and I headed to one of my favorite pastry places in the city. Francois Payard is a renowned, and amazing, French chef and is the owner of FC Chocolate Bar on Madison between 63rd and 64th. Payard's chocolate confections have been among my favorite treats since my friend Nancy Grimes took me there on one of our "Museum and Dessert" afternoons. Since that time, every few months, I make my way back with a new friend to experience the amazingly subtle and refreshing flavor combinations Payard has created.

daria souvorova, sweet daria's, nycFinding the shop is an experience of its own. To reach the cafe, one must go through a lavishly tacky jewelry shop and take a leather padded elevator (complete with a gilded mirror, vanity desk and pouff chair) to the fourth floor. Exiting the elevator, you are faced with a lovely light filled chamber with modern crystal chandeliers and gleaming white tables, a somewhat precious, almost jewelry shop like display shows the compact, but delightful menu options.

daria souvorova, sweet daria's, nycAmong the options are an assortment of macarons (known to be one of my obsessions), several chocolate pastries including the Louvre (which is in fact incredibly reminiscent of the chocolate pyramid I treat myself to every time I visit the Louvre) and a selection of verrines (including my favorite, le verrine du japonais which stands out for its yuzu citrus mousse).

daria souvorova, sweet daria's, nycSooner or later, I always find myself in Union Square, no matter where I began my daily journey. I trace my own footsteps each week wandering through the booths at the farmers market and visiting and revisiting my favorite shops along the way. I am always on the lookout for moderately priced bees wax tapers and vintage-esque brass candlesticks to house them. I can't tell why every candle has to be tinted and scented, I am most fond of of the delicate natural scent of burning cotton wick against bees wax, the golden glow of the wax illuminated by the flame is overpowering.

daria souvorova, sweet daria's, nycABC carpet on Broadway and 19th has always enchanted me with an incredible collection of objects. I can't even fathom to afford a spoon, no less a dining set from there, but every other week, as if by clockwork, I can be seen circling through the eclectic displays picking out the delicately handmade objects that would fill out my dream life.

It is a treat to live in a city where one can see so many beautiful things in one afternoon.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Cire Trudon: The oldest candle maker opens a shop in NYC

It has been very well established that I have an obsession with history and culture before the twentieth century. The romance of bustled dresses and gilded chandeliers has always had an overwhelming hold on me.

Candles have had an incredible influence over the history of humanity. From lighting the courts of kings and emperors and overseeing the prayers of countless to perching on the paper hat of one of the greatest sculptors of the western world (Michelangelo would often mount a candle on his head to continue working through the night,) candles have enabled innumerable historic events and progressions.

In 1643, a salesman named Claude Trudon arrived in Paris. Thanks to a fruitful marriage, Trudon became the owner of a shop on Saint-Honoré. In addition to groceries, the shop offered a variety of waxes and candles for domestic and clerical use. In the dawn of Louis XIV's reign, Trudon opened his first family based manufacture of candles. Cire Trudon's business exploded through Louis XIV's dynasty and his candles were a staple in Napoleon's studies, embossed the halls of Versailles and the bed chambers of Marie Antoinette and overseen the prayers of an entire nation for countless generations.

Expanding and improving with every decade, Cire Trudon candles sport a vegetal mix wax, which combined with the best of imported, home woven cotton wicks provide an incredibly clean and smooth vehicle for a collection of beautifully imaginative, high end perfumes. The candles are famed for burning clear and never dripping.

The 54 Bond Street shop is the first Cire Trudon location outside of Paris, an incredible resource for Trudon's many American connoisseurs. After spending an entire day dutifully picking out the candle of my dreams online, my dear friend Tamar and myself arrived at the brand new Bond street shop, thrilled to be in a room with so much history. I found myself in tears being told in a cool Parisian accent that the store I was looking forward to visiting all day was closed. I am sure I looked quite a mess, since Robert, cigarette and wine glass in hand, offered to give us a tour of the small shop and allowed me to buy my candle.

Smelling each flavor, hidden under a shimmering bell jar, I was surprised at the delicacy and uniqueness of each of the signature flavors. A light citrus cent with a woody undertone, named Odalisque, won me over.

"Enclosed in citrus and wood bark, the orange blossom weaves a painter's dream from which escapes the pale volute of smoke from a narghile. As an orientalist painting, furiously romantic, the vigorous scent of hte cade, and solar splinter of citrus fruits, come out as a thin blade in the silky shadow of vanilla."

Every night I fall asleep to the peaceful scent of citrus flower and the undeniable hint of a rich and flourishing history.

(Credits to HypeBeast for many images Cire Trudon for historic information.)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

San Francisco and the Drive Back

Daria Souvorova, Sweet Daria's, San FranciscoWe only had one day in San Francisco, but we made the best of it. The first stop of the day was San Francisco Orchid Society's yearly Orchid Show and Sale. Since receiving my first grocery store Phalaenopsis orchid in high school, I have nurtured a fond obsession with orchids. Since that first plant, which I subsequently killed through over watering, I have not been able to keep myself from buying more and more, and killing them from one mistake or another. I have tried Cymidiums and Vandas, Cattleya and Paphiopedilum Orchids. Some I have not been able to provide enough light for and others needed too frequent watering.

Daria Souvorova, Sweet Daria's, San FranciscoYears later, after sacrificing dozens of plants, I stumbled on keeping orchids in terrariums. After this realization, I started researching smaller orchid species that required low light situations and high moisture levels. Looking through countless blogs and articles, I found Andy's Orchids, a nursery in California, that specializes in miniature orchids and "orchids on a stick" (mounted orchids). Although I have ordered several plants from their website, I have longed to visit the nursery and meet all of their plants in person.

Daria Souvorova, Sweet Daria's, San FranciscoThe nursery is located an hour and a half outside of Los Angeles, and since I missed the opportunity to go there during my first visit to Los Angeles, I was determined to get there on my second. Looking up the address, I discovered that Andy's Orchids would be exhibiting at the San Francisco Orchid Show right in Golden Gate Park, on the two days that were going to be in the city. Perfection.

Daria Souvorova, Sweet Daria's, San FranciscoWe got up early and drove our little red bug to the show. I was so excited! Looking for parking, I was the one yelling at cars ahead of us and calling after pedestrians to "find their automated vehicles since it was my turn to procure botanic excitement."

Daria Souvorova, Sweet Daria's, San FranciscoI will admit it, I am fairly simple, and many things get me excited from the gravitational movement of water to the embroidery on a piece of lace, but I can hardly depict how out of my mind I was to walk into a stadium full of orchid booths. Left and right were dark green formations of leaves with silky caterpillar like exposed roots. I couldn't pick a direction, everything seemed wonderful. I needed to center myself before I could make a logical walk through and find the wonderful plants that would come home with me.

Daria Souvorova, Sweet Daria's, San FranciscoAfter the show, we made our way to the Golden Gate Bridge for a customary tourist photo-up in the gusty wind. We dropped off our car, and headed out to explore the city. We visited the Castro, the gay district, and walked by Castro Theatre and through all of the cute shops marveling at names like Los Flamingos, Does Your Father Know?, The Pendulum and Moby Dick. The neighborhood, as well as the city in general is also host to an incredible collection of unique homes. Almost every house we passed by, and they crowd each other on every block of the city, was unique and adorable. I found myself planning out my life and decor as the future owner of every second house I passed.

Daria Souvorova, Sweet Daria's, San FranciscoThe main event in San Francisco was our dinner plan: Rafael made reservations at La Mar, which I was told prepared the best Peruvian cuisine in the world. Our reservation was for eight -o-clock so we headed at a leisurely pace towards the Embarcadero, where the restaurant was located. It was a fairly long walk down Market Street from the Castro and we had the opportunity to explore the length of the city and visit many shops along the way.

Daria Souvorova, Sweet Daria's, San FranciscoPeruvian food takes advantage of the huge fish market of the country and the landmark dish is Cebiche. La Mar cebicheria has made its mission to expose the rest of the world to the traditions and flavors of Peru's fresh fish and delicate spices.

To prove to me that Peruvian cebiche is like no other, and better than any other, in the world, we decided to go with the sampler which included Mixto, Chifa, Nikei and Clásico cebiches. Each one was unique and wonderful: The Mixto combined mahi mahi, calamari and octopus with a traditional aji leche de tigre sauce. The Clásico featured halibut and red onions in the same amazing leche de tigre sauce with sweet yam and Peruvian corn. The Clásico and Mixto are the more traditional dishes, but Peru is incredibly influenced by Asian flavors which were evident in the Chifa and Nikei cebiches: Chifa is a mahi mahi with scallions, peanuts, ginger and pickled carrots with strips of seaweed in a sesame and cilantro leche de tigre, this was my favorite. The quartet was rounded off with Nikei, a concoction of ahi tuna, cucumber, avocado in a tamarind sauce.

All four dishes were incredible! I have always loved fresh seafood and have often gravitated towards sushi and other formats of raw fish. This may be one of my favorite new dishes.

Daria Souvorova, Sweet Daria's, San FranciscoFollowing the cebiche, we had another traditional dish which Rafael's wonderful mother has made for us before and I already had a passion for, the causa limeña. This dish is an aji flavored potato puree topped with dungeness crab, quail egg, tomato and an avocado puree. The dish was great in its own right, but I think it lacked a bit in lime and avocado and I missed the strong flavor hints of our homemade causa. We finished the dinner off with an anticucho de corazón which is a skewer of beef heart with corn, roasted potatoes and a spicy rocoto sauce.

Since I was already in a cheating mood, I decided to cheat on my diet some more and we both ordered a dessert. Rafael ordered the traditional suspiro limeño which consisted of a martini glass of dulce de leche mousse with port wine meringue. It was incredibly sweet and strong, but wonderful. I had the crocante de maize: a sandwich of praline contained a lemon mousse which was served with chocolate ice cream and raspberry sauce. The flavors were light and refreshing, neither too strong but all unforgettable and almost Parisian.

We had an incredible meal and talked about it often on our drive back to Los Angeles the next morning.


Daria Souvorova, Sweet Daria's, San FranciscoWe made it to Los Angeles in great time on Monday afternoon and made our way to fulfill yet another of my obsessions. I have a great passion for European culinary arts and pastry making. My current favorite pastry is the Parisian macaron cookie. It is an incredibly simple and delightful cookie which has only recently caught attention in the American pastry market. Wonderfully colored almond flour meringue domes shelter a variety of flavors of buttercream, ganache and jam making for a rainbow of flavor possibilities in a light and chewy cookie.

Daria Souvorova, Sweet Daria's, San FranciscoFew American bakeries specialize in macarons, while in Paris, pastry chef's pride their ingenuity and skills as bakers by their intricate macaron displays. I first tried the intricate pastry at François Payard's FC Chocolate Bar, my replacement for his recently closed down restaurant and cafe on the Upper East Side. Since that time, I have purchased macarons at any venue I could find them for comparison and have attempted to make them myself with fair results.

Daria Souvorova, Sweet Daria's, San FranciscoSince the beginning of my obsession, I have frequently heard the name Paulette Macarons in San Francisco and Beverly Hills and decided that this was my chance to try Paulette Koumetz and Christophe Michalak's miniature creations. I picked out a box of twelve of the most enticing flavors for us (mostly me) to try and ordered some gift boxes for friends. Sitting outside the Beverly Hills shop we tried our first two Paulette macarons, the passion fruit and sweet wedding almond, both of which were delightful.

Daria Souvorova, Sweet Daria's, San FranciscoOur trip coming to an end, I felt the need to visit In and Out Burger which I was introduced to on my first trip to the city. The local chain has an incredible following and sports a secret menu through which you could get your burger "Animal Style", with sauteed onions, or "Protein Style" where the bun is replaced by a leaf of lettuce. A fun way to end a great vacation.

Overall, I had an incredible trip on the West Coast with my best friend, and came home feeling like I had an experience I would never forget.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Los Angeles to San Francisco, our trip up the coast

Daria Souvorova, Sweet Daria's, Route 1Early Thursday morning, we packed up our little red Volkswagen beetle and headed out for our trip up the coast. I have looked forward to an opportunity to do this since my friend Nancy told me about her own trip earlier this year. This drive was the culmination of our trip, and we couldn't wait to get started on the epic ride.

Daria Souvorova, Sweet Daria's, Route 1On the way up the coast we stopped to say hello to Rafael's Auntie Mora in San Luis Obisbo. We stayed for lunch and a tour of the city which was hosting a sidewalk painting contest. Mora is Rafael's aunt's lifelong best friend and it was an incredible treat to meet her. We had lunch and talked about our messed up love lives and shared hilarious stories about our past, and before we knew it, it was three in the afternoon.

Daria Souvorova, Sweet Daria's, Route 1Although we were quite a bit behind our schedule, we decided to continue on our journey up the coast. Mora was unsure about our decision, she thought we wouldn't reach the Big Sur until midnight, but the drive up the coast is truly the reason for the California trip, so we couldn't forsake it.

Daria Souvorova, Sweet Daria's, Route 1We spent a bit more time chatting about the most important things to see on our route, making sure not to miss the elephant seals and the beautiful vistas and map in hand, headed out on our way at four in the afternoon equipped with four water bottles and caffeinated shots to help us survive.

Daria Souvorova, Sweet Daria's, Route 1As we made our way towards route one, all the sunshine that graced us in San Luis Obisbo disappeared into a billowing fog. Shapely, green covered mountains seemed to pierce giant pillows of fog that tumbled down their sides and stopped just above our rooftop. Although we set out somewhat disappointed by the lack of clear skies, the view of the mountain and surf through the dense fog was incredibly romantic. There is something cinematic in driving on a curved, mountainside road where everything but the coming turn is masked by an incredibly thick fog, at least it was cinematic for me since I wasn't driving.

Daria Souvorova, Sweet Daria's, Route 1As per our instructions we stopped at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. We parked our car and walked under the highway to an overlook which Mora said she would murder us if we did not see. At first the scene did not seem any different from the others, until we saw a waterfall falling on the beach right from the mountains. It was incredibly beautiful through the fog and the sounds of the waves crashing onto the shore and the waterfall frothing down the mountaintop and slamming onto the soft sand was an overwhelming experience. (You can barely see the waterfall in the above panorama, it is settled in the recess of the cliff to the left.

Daria Souvorova, Sweet Daria's, Route 1Expecting a seven hour drive and not being able to see any land marks we were expecting, we sailed right past the elephant seals, which I desperately wanted to see, but we stopped at many wonderful vistas where we were honored by incredible sights of flowing surf on beaches surrounded by cliff sides enveloped in fog. The greyish brown expanses are freckled with incredibly vibrant yellow and pink wildflowers.
Daria Souvorova, Sweet Daria's, Route 1Throughout our entire trip, I have been noticing and incredible creeping succulent that seems to cover the entirety of California. The reddish green fonds grow off almost every surface from the sandy beaches to restaurants' plotted landscapes and from the tips of the growths sprout beautiful yellow cactus like flowers. I was enchanted with this plant on my first visit to California and selfishly tore off a bit to take home with me. This plantlet grew marvelously and spread like wildfire until I moved it a bit too close to the heater in the winter, and it melted almost overnight.

Daria Souvorova, Sweet Daria's, Route 1I couldn't help myself, every stop we made to look over the cliff-side, I became more and more fond of my plan to gather another sample. Once we arrived at the famous Bixby Bridge on the Big Sur, I made my way down to the edge of the cliff towards my new little friend. I found the perfect specimen and didn't fall off the side of the cliff, so I can call the day a success.

Daria Souvorova, Sweet Daria's, Route 1We made great time even through all of our stops and reached Big Sur before sundown. We were greeted by some unexpected sunshine as we veered away from the shore side and drove through a forest of incredibly huge sycamores. The sun shining over the foggy clouds in the distance created a heavenly white light which was incredibly disorienting as we took a turn and descended back into the foggy mist.
Daria Souvorova, Sweet Daria's, Route 1We soon arrived in San Francisco and prepared for another wonderful day of our trip. Although I wish I could have seen more of the coast, and wish I could do it again, I think we were honored with an incredible romantic sight and I would not have given up the opportunity.