Brown Paper Packages Tied Up With String..

Happy Fall! Well, September at least. With the recent rain here extinguishing long-burning fires and the promise of crisp days painted with autumn light and wolly mittens wrapped round dog leashes at the park, I'm just a little excited for the new season. 

Top left to bottom right: Smorgasbord Scandinavian Lunch, Pumpkin-picking at the patch, a cozy cup of lavender steamer, Snickerdoodles, blooming aspens in City of Rocks, Idaho, a fall favorite, classic vegetable soup. 

Top left to bottom right: Smorgasbord Scandinavian Lunch, Pumpkin-picking at the patch, a cozy cup of lavender steamer, Snickerdoodles, blooming aspens in City of Rocks, Idaho, a fall favorite, classic vegetable soup. 

With the change of the sun and the beginning of shorter days, I wanted to share with you a few  of my favorite things (yes I am imaging the Von Trap Family dancing through a thunderstorm as I write this), as well as something new I've decided to add to the blog each week that I'll be calling "On The Menu." Once or twice a week, I sit down at our big oak table with a handful of cookbooks pulled from one of our over-packed bookcases and flip through, deciding what we will eat for the next few days. It's a great way to expand what we are eating and to fully cook through the books I've collected. I make a big, organized list and head to the market. I love making lists. While I used to think this was an anal thing I should try and change, I've come to realize it's an incredibly productive thing that I love doing! So each week while I pull things together I try to keep things balanced with new flavors, regions and techniques along with those tried and true classics so familiar and so essential.

On The Menu 9/8

I'll start off by filling you in on the "Date Night In" nights we've been having these last fews months. An ongoing feature on Ashley Rodriguez's insatiable blog- Not Without Salt- she released this book on all of her Date Night Ins in last spring. The date "themes" and menus balance just the amount of work I want to do to make it really special with a cozy romantic evening that really keeps the mood fun. We are hooked! This week we're on "Eat With Your Hands," including homemade cream soda, salad of apples, grapes and blue cheese on endive, bacon leek tart with ricotta custard and these brownies with bittersweet chocolate and salted peanut butter frosting that I have no doubt will be to die for. 

Another menu-themed book I've been enjoying lately is XX Dinners by Ithai Schori and Chris Taylor (shot by Nicole Franzen) and this week I'm planning on making the Cesar Salad with egg in a frame. 

One of the best books out there (in my humble opinion), is David Leibowitz's My Paris Kitchen. This is the most complete book in terms of stunning food styling, photography (recipes, Paris cityscapes), and invaluable recipes packed with David's expansive knowledge. 

And lastly for the week I'm making this seeded bread of Aran Goyoaga's (Cannelle et Vanille) gluten free book "Small Plates and Sweet Treats."

Although this is the start of my absolute favorite time of year, there will undoubtedly be the days when it suddenly starts pouring rain and you're looking for anything to do inside the house. This month the favorite things list is all about keeping you warm, entertained and excited for all the brisker months have in store for us (including those delightfully dreary weekends).

Melissa McCracken's synesthetic painting of Etta Jones' song "At Last."

Melissa McCracken's synesthetic painting of Etta Jones' song "At Last."

This article: Recently I was reading O Magazine (WhatOprah is so inspiring!), and I came across this article on the most incredibly mesmerizing paintings. The artist, Melissa McCracken, has an unusual disease known as sound-to-color synesthesia, that causes her to hear colors and see sounds. She channels this unique gift into rich, textural paintings of songs. Etta Jones’ “At Last,” was pictured and I stopped dead in my tracks. I just looked at the image and thought- “that is it- that is Etta Jones’ At Last!- That is exactly what it is!” It completely blew my mind and I would highly suggest taking a peak at her portfolio yourself to get the full effect.

Elliot Bay Bookstore and Cafe in the Capitol Hill Neighborhood of Seattle. 

Elliot Bay Bookstore and Cafe in the Capitol Hill Neighborhood of Seattle. 

Lodestars AnthologyThere are so many wonderful high-end magazines out there. A handful of years ago I would wander into my local bookstore, find a hidden undiscovered treasure and skip home to sink my head into the pages. Nowadays I stop by Whole Foods and see at least 6 "indie-style" magazines waiting in line. I think it's wonderful we are expanding our mass reading material into more honest, clean and thought-provoking publications but I would be lying if I said they didn't all start to blur together to me at some point. That said, Lodestars Anthology elevates itself too the top of the heap. The aesthetic is everything I've always loved about photographic storytelling- honest, documentary, simple, unedited- and the articles are extremely well-written, thought provoking and enjoyable to read. The most current issue I read cover to cover on Scotland was a quiet tour of the classic country with a distinct appreciation of it's unique character. 

A friend's blend from the tea party I threw, inspired by the class taught by Steven Smith. 

A friend's blend from the tea party I threw, inspired by the class taught by Steven Smith. 

Steven Smith Teamaker Teas: Along with a velvet green Matcha Latte and a spicy mug of fragrant Chai, I like to spend this half the year continually sipping a toasty beverage and Steven Smith Tea is my go-to. A couple years back when I partook in the Bon Appetit Feast Portland 3-day event, I took a tea blending class from Steven and his wife. It turned out to be such a blast! I ended up immediately throwing a tea blending party of my own upon returning home and even featured a "How To Blend Your Own Tea" in the winter issue of Honest Magazine (and a blog post here). Steven's blends are herbal bliss that balance you from the inside out. An accomplished teamaker, Steven is responsible for both Stash and Tazo teas. 

Cookbooks! Every season I’m twiddling my thumbs, itching and pre-ordering new cookbooks- I just can’t get enough! Right now I’m really looking forward to the following.

  1. Sea & Smoke - Shot by my dear friend Charity Lynne, this book on world-renowned restaurant Willows on Lummi Island in the San Juan Islands, Wa is, simply put- breathtaking. Take Noma, pop it into the PCNW, switch in native ingredients and swing it all into a laid back fine dining experience and you have got simply the best meal I’ve ever had. I’ve been watching Charity collaborate and shoot for Willows for a number of years now and I can’t think of a more perfect pair to craft this masterpiece. It’s going to be gold. 

  2. Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes- The highly anticipated book of famed rebel chef and hilariously down-to-earth personality David Chang (Owner of Momofuku Enterprise), has gathered up a collection of easy, simple asian recipes from his ground-breaking magazine Lucky Peach. Guaranteed good recipes and no doubt a healthy dose of Mr. Chang's authentic humor.

  3. Near & Far by Heidi Swanson - Heidi Swanson of the blog 101 cookbooks and author of books Super Natural Every Day and Super Natural Cooking takes a more international approach to this book on whole food vegetarian dining that is heavily influenced by her expansive travels.