Monthly Archives: December 2011

All That Sparkles Is Not Champagne

By Contributing Food Editor Jared Levan

Dear New Years Party People,

There are few occasions quite like New Year’s Eve and whether you’re staying in for the night this Saturday or hitting the town, there are plenty of reasons to celebrate a year gone by. After all, 2011 brought us so many great things…Before we get started, there’s one I’d like you to remember. Not all bottles are created equal, so before you hit up the holiday party circuit–and we know you will be–here are some basics you should know.

Once you’ve successfully reached the “sparkling wine” section of any wine store, you’re undoubtedly going to find two things: champagne and everything else. ‘Everything else’ being collectively referred to as sparkling wine. So what the hell’s the difference?

Well, only wines made using the traditional French method–called la méthode champenoise–in the historic region of Champagne, France can legally be called “champagne.” This seemingly pointless name game doesn’t stop the rest of the world from bottling their own, however; the spaniards call them cava, the germans, sekt; the italians: prosecco or spumanti. It’s all just semantics, really and nothing more.

Some like their wines dry as a bone, others, not so much. That being said, keep your eyes peeled for some of the following terms to help you find for the perfect bottle for this weekend’s end-of-year toast:

Extra Brut: 0-6 grams sugar
Brut: 0-12 grams sugar
Extra Dry, Extra Sec or Extra Seco: 12-17 grams sugar
Dry, Sec or Seco: 17-32 grams sugar
Demi-sec or Semi-seco: 32-50 grams sugar
Doux, Sweet or Dulce: 50+ grams sugar

*As you’d expect, the higher the sugar content, the sweeter the sparkling wine

Most sparkling wines should be served around 40 degrees F…which means if you serve it directly out of the ice bucket this weekend, you’re good to go. Simply serve as a toast when the clock strikes midnight, then again…why not raise the bar and serve it with food? It’s really not as hard as you may think…but just in case you’ve got no clue where to start, here are some suggestions.

Extra brut or Brut champagne: As any Frenchmen would attest “authentic” champagne should only be paired with French cuisine, but that doesn’t mean you need to whip out your copy of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking to enjoy it…well not unless you want to. Instead, try pairing with some French cheeses, like a runny epoisses or a nutty comté to compliment the hints of vanilla and cream you get from the champagne.

Prosecco: Served before dinner, apertif-style, this sparkling wine will whet your palate and make you hungry for all the yummy food to come. It’s also great for making the perfect mimosa (add orange juice) and bellini (add peach, mango or pear nectar). If you’ve got leftovers in the morning, host your own New Year’s Day boozy brunch–no point wasting.

Sparkling Red Wine: You may consider these a rarity, but you’d be surprised at how many different types your local wine shop may carry. With intense aromatics of red berries like strawberry and raspberry, this colorful bubbly will go great with desserts like  traditional English trifle pudding or chocolate. Mmm, chocolate.

Love,
Jared

Jared Levan

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Meet The New Hommemaker / Jared Levan

Dear Readers,

I’ve decided it’s time to have a guest blogger on from time to time to fill out areas of Hommemaking I don’t necessarily specialize in. One of those areas is food. I love good food and cooking, but I have so many other interests that I just don’t have any time to think about the culinary arts enough to write about them. However, I consider food to be one of the most important aspects of Hommemaking. I found someone WAY better than me to write about glamourfoods, glamourdrinks, and glamour dinner party ideas. His name is Jared Levan. And here is his story…

Jared Levan and I were little baby undergrads in college together and we both lived in the same place. No, we didn’t actually live in the same dormitory. We lived in the same library. We were there every single stupid day of our godforsaken lives. Little Jared would stroll into the library looking totally preppy and adorable, clad in argyle and a preppy peacoat. He’s still a hyperstylish guy, living in Chelsea with his supercute boyfriend. In college, while I was running around studying Government and Fine Art, he was studying Microbiology. He now applies his nerdy scientific background to food on his blog In Food We Trust. Additionally, he works as a food stylist for Food Network, Cooking Channel, ABC, Chef Rocco DiSpirito, and so on. Thus, you’re in good hands with his advice on food, dining, and hosting. And who wouldn’t trust this face?

I know you’ll enjoy all the fun and exciting information he has to inject into our puny, non-foodie brains.

Love,
Orlando

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Don’t Be A Square! (Unless You’re A Bathtub)

Dear Nerds,

You know how everyone used to make fun of you and call you “Square”? Well, now that being a nerd has been trendy for years, you can just come out and be free and proud to be Square. And you know who else should be proud to be square? Bathtubs. Because what could be more glamorous than a rectangular bathtub (aside from a candlelit dinner with Jake Gyllenhaal where you both suck on the same piece of spaghetti until you accidentally kiss)? A new client wants a glamourous rectangular bathtub, so we’ve been seeking them out. Here’s a few I like…

This was my favorite rectangular tub (by Agape). The only thing I didn’t like about it was the $25,000 price tag…

I like that this one is a little bit less contemporary. The gallery wall behind definitely helps it feel a little more cozy.

Um, hi! That breeze blowing in the window. I want to live in there!

I like this square tub because it’s just a normal tub in a rectangular encasement. Designer square tubs are kinda pricey so this a good way of getting that angular look without spending all the extra money on a luxurytub.

This tub in in my best friend’s house. It’s, like, gigantic and totally amazing.

This is another Agape tub. Super expensive but super pretty.

Oh wait, these next few tubs are also Agape. Apparently I only like really expensive bathtubs. I hate myself.

This one is so simple and uncomplicated. Unlike you and me.

I think everyone is entitled to a huge window next to their tub. It’s a basic human right.

Ooooh so many pretty greys. Sometimes I love grey so much that I want to organize a Grey Pride Parade.

This is another traditional application of the square tub. Totally classic and totally pretty. And those lucite legs underneath the sink. Pure delight.

I just realized after writing this whole stupid post that I haven’t taken a bath since, like 1991. So why am I wasting all this time fantasizing about bathtubs? Is it wrong that I still yearn for a rectangular tub? I just want to look at it, to keep it company, to sing it songs on its birthday. Is that so wrong? Stop judging me. I’m so scared.

Love,
Orlando

PS: I also just realized that I don’t really know the difference between a rectangle and a square. I mean, I guess I remember that “a square is a rectangle but a rectangle is not necessarily a square.” But that didn’t stop me from calling rectangular bathtubs “square” now did it? Whatever, I’m never going to be a geometry professor so who cares. SO WHAT?

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Homme Sweet Homme | Jeramiah Brent

Dear Jeramiah Brent,

This one time, it was the holidays (a time for too many parties), and I kept seeing this really Hot Blond Guy at all these glamourous fêtes. Then one day I was at the gym, running and watching “Rachel Zoe,” and I was like “Oh my god, Hot Blond Guy is the dude from Rachel Zoe!” Which is kind of the annoying part of living in Los Angeles. You see someone attractive and you’re like “Wow! That dude is hot!” and then you realize it’s, like, Orlando Bloom or Jake Gyllenhaal or something and you feel stupid. Anyway, today I was walking through the forest talking about hot guys with some Gays visiting me up in Yosemite and the topic of conversation naturally turned to the blond assistant from “Zoe” and why he is so attractive, stylish, and adorable (hint: it’s his job).

He looks like this. Adorabletimez.

And also this. Double cute.

Oh that I were that built-in shelf he sits upon…. (Sorry).

That is all. Cute dudes wearing cute clothes in cute spaces is fun to look at, yes?

You’re Welcome,
Orlando

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RIP : Hommegirl Helen Frankenthaler

Dear Judith Bernstock,

You were one of my favorite Art History professors at Cornell. Mainly because until I took your class, all the art history I’d studied consisted of staring at Greek vases and memorizing their date and place of origin. Art history, while fascinating and necessary, can be totally boring. How many flashcards can one look at before he goes totally berserk? I have fond memories of  taking Art History 360: FDR to Reagan, where we got to study modern art. One key figure in this movement was an abstract expressionist named Helen Frankenthaler, who passed away yesterday. She made huge, gorgeous paintings, influenced by other abstract artists of the time including Jackson Pollock. Most people who aren’t part of the art community have no idea how dominated it is by straight men (shocker: it’s way less gay than you’d expect). Thus, she was kind of a trailblazer even though she never considered herself a feminist. In fact, she said this:

“For me, being a ‘lady painter’ was never an issue. I don’t resent being a female painter. I don’t exploit it. I paint.” (Source)

In my humble opinion, there is nothing more glamourous than photographs of artists in their studios.

Here are some images of her beautiful work.

More gorgeous vintage photographs of Frankenthaler in her studio.

Painting with her feet! Go girl.

This makes me want to make a huge painting. Lovely.

Thanks for all the beauty you created, Helen Frankenthaler. I’m certainly thankful for your work!

Love,
Orlando

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That One Time I Skated On Thin Ice and Almost Died

Dear Diary,

There was some good news and some bad news this Christmas. The bad news was that there was no snow in Yosemite. The good news was that because there was no snow, the Tioga Road was open. The Tioga Road leads to the isolated Tuolumne Meadows section of the park, about an hour away from my parents’ house. This meant that for the first time in my life we got to go up and ice skate on Lake Tenaya, which is one of the most beautiful, serene places on earth.

First things first: here’s what I wore. Purple Sunglasses from Urban Outfitters, a grey scarf from Gap, a hoodie by Levis, a coat by David Mayer, jeans by Levis, and skates by GodKnowsWho.

Everyone in my family got new ice skates when I was 13. Thank goodness my feet were already size 12 by then so I can still wear mine. Also, check out these AMAZING skate bags we bought in 1995. Jealous?

This is my dad’s skate bag:

This is my mom’s skate bag:

This is my skate bag:

These are my man figure skates. They’re pretty old school and awesome, still in good condition after all these years.

Even Rex, my brother’s dog, got to skate on the lake.

I’m not going to lie, skating on a lake is actually kind of scary. Mainly because it seems like you could fall through at any moment, dying immediately in the frigid water.

My mother skated for a bit, then canoodled with my little niece, who I regretfully inform you is the cutest baby in the whole world. Apologies to any babies you know.

This is my attempt at a Volvo ad.

Part of the lake was so clear that you could see fish swimming underneath. Which was pretty exciting. Those poor little fishies must have been freezing!

As you can tell, it was pretty ugly and disgusting there.

My siblings and I have been skating our whole lives, but my brother and sister are dramatically more talented at it than I am. When we were kids, we would go skating every day after school at the Curry Ice Rink.

You can see my thumb in this picture. The reason is that as I was taking it, the ice made a terrifying cracking noise under my feet as the ice was breaking. I almost died. Not really.

Because the Tioga Road (which leads to Lake Tenaya) is usually closed this time of year, this is potentially the last time I’ll ever skate on this lake. It was a super rare opportunity. And the most exciting and glamourous thing I’ve ever done in my life.

Love,
Orlando

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Cream Puffs: My Grandmother and The Best Dessert Ever

Dear Reader,

Growing up, my favorite holiday story was “A Christmas Memory” by Truman Capote. Anyone who has read that book knows how sentimental, sad, and magical it is. A lot of holiday stories are tinted with a bit of melancholy, and I’m sorry to say that this story about cream puffs features a bit of sadness. But that’s just the nature of this time of year, when family, tradition, and memories are at the forefront of our minds.

Like many families, the Sorias place a tremendous amount of importance and meaning onto food. Food is a strange thing, practical and necessary while also having the ability to be a luxury, a glamourous frivolity. One of the most important and storied foods of my Christmas pasts is the cream puff. There has never been a year in my life, aside from one that I note below, that my mother hasn’t prepared beautiful, delicious cream puffs. If you’ve never experienced a homemade cream puff, you’re truly missing out. They are a delectable pastry, filled with vanilla bean custard and topped with hardened dark chocolate.

Because my mother has so many desserts in her repertoire, the cream puff has never been featured as the signature dessert in our house. It’s understated. It’s more the treat you sneak before dinner while everyone is in the living room eating, drinking, and being merry. My mother would always scold us for eating cream puffs before dinner, but secretly we always knew it was totally okay.

One year, when I was 11, my grandmother started eating the cream puffs before they were finished (my mother hadn’t drizzled them in dark chocolate yet). I remember my siblings, cousins, and I all thinking it was the funniest thing in the world. Grandma English eating all the cream puffs before they were ready! It puzzled my mother and her sisters.

It turned out my grandmother had a cancerous brain tumor, and was dying. We wouldn’t have known about it but for the weird behavior with the cream puffs. We lost her four months later and it was the saddest thing in the world. No one had ever died before.

The next year, my mother didn’t make cream puffs. My sister, brother, and I were all outraged. This was a treat we’d been raised with and it made no sense to us because we were young and didn’t understand the connotation it had for our mother, who’d just left her job to take care of her dying mother. I think it was just too much of a reminder of when things went afoul, when my grandmother actually got sick, started to slip away.

I know what you’re thinking. Thanks for telling me this sad-ass story, Orlando! But for me it’s not really a sad story and here’s why. After our harassing and cajoling, my mother made cream puffs again the next year. I guess this was our way of letting her know we loved her, that life was going on, and that we could continue celebrating. There will always be a bit of a sad memory associated with cream puffs, but they also remind us of our (grand)mother, who was dearly loved and who was the only one who knew how to play Christmas songs on our piano, who read us Christmas stories, who snored endlessly on the other twin bed in my room.

Now every time we eat a cream puff we think of my awesome grandmother. Clearly, there’s a little bit of sadness mixed in with these memories, but this time of year is all about remembering everything that is important to us, and not all that is important to us is joyful.

We are lucky to live in a culture where we can give food such meaning, where we are so far beyond depending on it that it can work itself into the conceptual framework of our lives. So this holiday season, if you can look at a dish, a specialty, a dessert and have a memory, you’re a lucky person. The only thing better than food is food that reminds you of the people you love.

Feast your eyes on these glamourous cream puffs:

Some GENIUS decided to make Totoro-Inspired cream puffs. I’m so mad I didn’t think of that.

These are the cream puffs, finally done after my mother slaved for hours (I helped by making the custard filling).

And here is my mother filling the cream puffs with custard. With a nice glass of white wine. I always say the only thing more relaxing than cooking is cooking with a glass of wine. Actually I never say that. But I should.

Thanks for reading this totally long, depressing story about what cream puffs mean to me. I’d love to hear what stories you have to tell about foods that have meaning for you.

Happy Holidays!

Love,
Orlando

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