Monday, April 30, 2012

A Rose is a Rose is a Rose

My husband teases me that I am like a nervous vicar when I cook, always slightly fearful that something is about to go horribly wrong ("The organist is ill! The vestry roof is leaking!"). He's right. When I take out my mixing bowls, a twinge of dread looms up. "Can I do this? Is it beyond my abilities? Should I just go out and buy dessert instead?"

But this wasn't difficult, I promise.
(Sophie Dahl's Marbled Rose Petal Ice Cream. From HERE. Or HERE.)

Five were coming for dinner on Friday. Piero had planned the main menu days before, done all his food shopping, and was sitting at the kitchen table lazily nursing a double espresso.

Piero: It's Thursday. Any idea what you're going to make for dessert yet?
Me: Could you please just go for a really long bike ride?

He did.

I picked up Very Fond of Food: A Year in Recipes, Sophie's latest cookbook. Just like her first one, it's food and lifestyle porn at its best -- on page after page, she putters around her kitchen in floaty frocks like a Persephone Books heroine and beams out at you with the most reassuring of smiles. When I spotted her making rose petal ice cream, I was determined to add another notch to my wooden spoon.

Marbled Rose Petal Ice Cream 
For the rose petal jam:
2 cups sparkling rosé
1/4 cup superfine sugar
3/4 oz. fragrant rose petals, washed

For the ice cream:
1/2 cup superfine sugar
8 egg yolks
2 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream

I did a quick Google search to make sure I could use the ones growing up the side of the house (quick answer: yes) and went out to pick some. 

They really are so pretty, aren't they? As I separated the petals and gently ran them under cool water, I forgot that I was wearing a ratty t-shirt and a pair of old yoga pants. Life felt airily glamorous and devil-may-care ("I am bathing rose petals in my sink and soon I shall be cooking with them. Because I am an insouciant bohemian with long hair and velvet sleeves.")

It really is quite a glamorous recipe -- I've never made an ice cream that called for two cups of sparkling rosé before.

Per Sophie's directions:
Pour the sparkling rosé and sugar in a saucepan on a low heat. Add the rose petals and keep on stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Using a slotted spoon, remove 3/4 of the rose petals and set aside. Carry on reducing the sugar syrup on a medium heat until thick and syrupy. Allow the mix to cool. 

Here it is, the magical elixir. I'm a rose petal jam lover and this beats every one I've ever had. It's just so surprisingly lemony and fragrant and sweetish-tartish and eye-opening.
(The rose petal jelly)

Per Sophie's directions:
In a separate mixing bowl, cream the sugar and egg yolks until pale in color, and keep to the side. In a saucepan, heat the milk and cream until they reach boiling point. Remove from the stove. Whisking the whole time, temper the egg mixture and bring it up to the same temperature as the cream by adding the milk and cream mixture slowly. Add the remaining rose petals. Before churning, keep to one side to cool and then remove the petals.

Pour the custard into your ice-cream maker with half of the rose petal jam and churn as per the instructions. Take the ice cream out of the machine and swirl the remaining jam roughly through the ice cream to make a marbled pink surface. Place in the freezer to set.

It was delicious. The ice cream was rich and custardy and smooth and was a perfect foil for the tingly thrill of the jam. 

I served it with fresh raspberries, blueberries and blackberries and Gwyneth's vegan chocolate brownies (they taste just as good as regular ones) because it's Los Angeles and when you serve people ice cream with eight egg yolks and two cups of cream in it, you need to balance it out a little.

(Vegan chocolate brownies. From HERE. Or HERE.)

(All photos by Lisa Borgnes Giramonti)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Maya Brenner: Right Here, Right Now

Maya is one of the first people I met when I moved to my neighborhood in Los Angeles eight years ago. One day she knocked on the front door, flashed her radiant smile and suddenly I was missing Manhattan a little bit less. At the time, she had a small jewelry business that she was running out of her home. 

Things have changed slightly since then. :)
(Maya Brenner, jewelry designer.)

Today, Maya's sexy, delicate jewelry is a cult favorite among the chic set and can be found in stores nationwide. (You've seen her state necklaces on every celebrity and in every magazine.) As she says, "The jewelry in my collection is personalized, feminine and fun. I like to take a trend and make it into something that will never go out of style."

Clockwise from top left: New York state necklace, Santorini necklace,
Shark Tooth necklace and Twilight necklace.  Available HERE.

Now before I continue, I want to quickly cut to the chase -- because there's a very special reason for the headline of this blog post.  

Right here, right now, and only for A Bloomsbury Life readers, Maya is offering an exclusive 25% discount off her entire website. Just enter the code "Lisa 25" at checkout. Thank you so much, Maya!

(Maya's website HERE.)

Not too long ago, Maya's home was featured in a lovely profile on the Glitter Guide and when I asked her how the shoot went, she sent me some photos. (Well-known LA designer Thomas Michna helped her reimagine the space.) Do you recognize the cross-stitch sampler behind her?
(Maya at home with my piece "On Aging", 2010. Burlap, thread.)

How about in this room?

Maya collects art from friends and family and the fact that she owns two of my pieces just thrills me to bits, I have to say. There is no better feeling than seeing something you've created bring happiness to others. 
("On the New Economy", 2010. Burlap, thread.)

Click HERE to see the full tour of Maya's home, but I can't resist showing you a few more photos. Look at this side chair upholstered in Oscar de la Renta embroidery. Isn't it so 1970's Marrakech? 

Below, Thomas recovered an antique gilt bench in a delicate brown pinstripe. Above it hangs a framed Louis Vuitton silk scarf. And the rug (also seen three photos above) was a mild-mannered beige until he cleverly overdyed it a stunning lilac.

Whenever I'm over at Maya's house, I find myself primping in her downstairs powder room more than I probably should -- but can you blame me? (Trust me, no matter what kind of a day you've had, you are camera-ready in this room.) The wallpaper was designed by Mary Kysar and is available at Walnut Wallpaper. A vibrant pattern like this is so perfect for a small space -- not being able to discern where the corners are actually makes the room feel bigger. 

I'm beginning to think coral just might be the happiest color.

(All photography of Maya's house by Sarah Yates.)

Friday, April 20, 2012

London, Part Three: The Country Walk

 Time: 10:30am, a few weeks ago
Place: Borough Green station, a 45 minute train ride from central London

For an Arcadian outing, it wasn't the most auspicious of beginnings. 

But this book is never wrong. (It's been leading me deep into the countryside for years.)
Available HERE. And HERE.

We had taken the train from Victoria Station to Borough Green and were now heading out of the car park to embark on the first steps of a 9.3 mile journey.

Me (reading the guide): "In 175 metres, cross a car road to continue straight on along a public footpath, now a path beween fences, soon going gently uphill." 
Luca: I think I see it.

Would it sound melodramatic if I were to tell you that this leafy path was the bridge to a strange and enchanted land? Because I swear no sooner had we come back out into open countryside than things were markedly different.

Different dwellings...

Me (reading): "In 40 metres you pass an oast house." 
Piero: What's an oast house?
Me: Maybe that building with the cone-shaped roofs up ahead? 
Piero: Nah.
Oast house: a building designed for drying hops for beer.

Different wildlife...

Luca: Whoa! What is that?
Me: Is it a grouse?
Piero: I think it's a pheasant.
P.S. Pheasant.

And different rules.
If chased by a bull...split up.

There was an air of unreality about everything. This house felt naggingly familiar to me and I had no idea why.

When I got back to Los Angeles, I looked through some of my books and figured it out. (They must be long-lost cousins, right?)
(Dora Carrington, "Tidmarsh Mill", 1918)

And look at this darling little cottage. How many centuries do you think it's been standing there? And which literary character would open the door if you knocked?
(My guess: John Jarndyce from "Bleak House.")

How about this one?
(My guess: The Dale sisters from "The Small House at Allington." You?)

And who lives here with those incredible Alice-in-Wonderland topiaries? 

Me: (reading): "300 metres up this hill, you will see the strange, disused, isolated gateways of Fairlawne Estate."

And just as the guide book promised, there they were. Leading to absolutely nowhere. If I was penning a Gothic thriller, I would now write, "Suddenly the sun disappeared behind a bank of clouds and a long ominous shadow fell across the parched grass."

A little farther on we crossed in front of the house itself (300+ years old, now owned by a Saudi prince).  
Fairlawne House

According to locals, a ghost called "Lady Vain" (the name of the original family to own the house) still haunts the grounds of Fairlawne House. Tall, fair, middle-aged and dressed in a white gown, she's been spotted galloping on horseback through the fields that once belonged to her.

3/29/12: You: Dark, beautiful, wearing a wool coat. Me: Rain slicker, jeans, wellies. You looked up and made eye contact with me as I crossed through your pasture. Did we vibe? I thought so. 

(For actual footage of our encounter, see video below.)

An hour or so later we reached Ightham (pronounced "I-tem") Mote, a medieval moated country house built in the 14th century. What else can you do when you see this picture but repeat, "I. Am. Not. Dreaming."
Visitor information HERE

Unfortunately we didn't have time to tour the house, but we did sit in the garden café and share a scone with a garrulous local. 

Leaving the house, I turned and snapped one last picture. (Ightham Mote, you have not seen the last of me.)

We walked on and on, over hill and dale, sometimes talking, sometimes not. 

This is Harvey. He is one and a half years young. (We met his owner a couple minutes further down the lane.)

This liquid-eyed fellow likes apples. A lot.

At long last (when long last = four hours), we reached the last major sight on our country hike: Knole House, birthplace of Vita Sackville-West. It's one of my favorite places and I couldn't wait for Piero and Luca to see it.

Because the house is surrounded by a 1,000-acre deer park, that's why.

Knole is known as a "calendar house." Anybody know the reason?
(You in the front.)
Yup, that's right -- because it has 365 rooms, 52 staircases, 12 entrances and 7 courtyards. 

The main part of the house dates from the 15th century and was at one time a royal palace for King Henry VIII. It really is the most incredible place with its huge walled garden and its crenellated towers and gabled roofs and heraldic flags flapping in the wind. A quite wonderful feeling of insignificance descends upon you as you approach. 

We got there five minutes before they closed the ticket office.

Forgive me, but I've just been told I have to leave you here in the inner portico while we tour the house -- photographs aren't allowed inside. 

Leaving Knole, we climbed over a wooden stile and walked up this wooded footpath toward the village of Sevenoaks. It seemed only natural that our enchanted journey would be bookended by another leafy thoroughfare, this one taking us back to reality and a high-speed train bound for London.

(All photos by Lisa Borgnes Giramonti.)


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