Friday, August 20, 2010

Photo Break

Just wanted to share a few lovely black-and-white photos taken by my good friend Sebastian Spader in Austin, Texas and Malibu, California. Enjoy!


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Why I Wish I Was French

Why are the French so goddamn sexy? There's something unattainable, commanding and iconic about French actors, something I don't see often in American actors-- and I don't just mean the obvious Belmondos and Karinas of the world. Yes, I'll admit, I am a little bit obsessed with everything French (this could have something to do with the fact that I'm moving to Paris in two weeks). Maybe it's just a cultural thing; maybe it's all the cigarettes. Regardless, I find that many Americans are fascinated by the French-- especially on film, they possess a certain elusive, ethereal quality that we sometimes find hard to attain in our brand-name filled, 100-watt-smile-inundated spectrum of film and television. There's definitely something to sitting back and observing, taking everything in, and retaining a bit of mystery-- qualities that these performers seem to relish in.

Gaspard Ulliel

The always-stunning Catherine Deneuve in Luis Bunuel's Belle de Jour (1967)

Such a lucky, lucky girl.. Eva Green in Bertolucci's The Dreamers (2003) with Louis Garrel (left) and Michael Pitt (right. Okay, he's not French)

Jean-Paul Belmondo

Alain Delon

Pierre Clémenti

Mélanie Laurent in Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Marion Cotillard on the cover of Interview Magazine's August 2010 issue

I always like to end on a classy note... Ludivine Sagnier of Swimming Pool (2003)

Friday, August 6, 2010

"Keeping Austin Weird" in the Summertime

This past week, I traveled for the first time ever to Austin, Texas-- known by many as the "live music capital of the world" and the most liberal, free-thinking, eclectic city in the home state of a certain ex-president who shall not be named. The reason I initially went to Austin was to visit a friend who lives there and see a Bob Dylan concert with him on Wednesday. Though the concert was definitely one of the best parts of the trip, I got a chance to explore the city and discovered so many cool things. Having missed my flight out on Friday evening, I was happy to arrive on Saturday morning and head straight to a delicious lunch at the South Congress Café. After that, we went to Barton Springs for a dip in the freezing cold river (which felt amazing, considering the blistering 101 degree heat). On Sunday, we took a mini-road trip to Fredericksburg, a small German town outside of Austin famous for its peaches and beer. Of course, we stopped at a brewery for lunch and beer-tasting, and bought a basket of fresh local Redskin peaches and some delicious homemade peach ice cream from one of the many peach stands on our way home.

fresh local peaches in Fredericksburg

taking pictures alongside the highway

a post office/ antiques store on the way up to Fredericksburg

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, I had lots of time to explore the city. Some of my favorite parts: the abundance of quaint little vintage clothing and antique stores, record shops and cozy cafés. We found a great dive bar called Barflys, where we were pleasantly surprised to find that a gin & tonic cost a whopping $2.50-- and our bartender poured them strong!! I also loved visiting the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, a movie theater in which you can order food and beverages (including alcohol) off a menu and have them brought to you by a waiter while you watch your film. Austin is also the birthplace of a little health food store you might know called Whole Foods, and though the original doesn't exist anymore, we visited the town's flagship, which was alarmingly large and had literally everything edible any slightly health-minded person could ever desire. Apparently they also host cooking classes there. Another interesting experience was I Luv Video, a video store that literally has every film under the sun... I'll suffice it to say that they have both a vampire section and a "nunsploitation" section.

the Alamo Draft House Cinema in South Lamar

the Whole Foods megastore in downtown Austin

a record shop across from Whole Foods

I Luv Video, the most extensive movie collection I've ever seen

I'd heard a lot about Austin's burgeoning music scene, and on Tuesday night, we went to Mohawks, an outdoor live music venue, to see Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti. I'd seen them once before in New York, but not since their new album, Before Today, came out. Though it was one of the sweatier outdoor shows I have attended in the recent past, they played a great set including old and new material. Ariel himself seemed to be going for a bit of a Kurt Cobain look with his newly-dyed, greasy long blond hair and tight black-and-white-striped long sleeved shirt (an interesting choice for such humid weather?)

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti (slightly blurry, sorry)

the upstairs bar at Mohawks


As a relatively health-conscious person and a sometime-vegetarian, I was a bit worried about Texan food (I've heard stories that it's impossible to find vegetables, that all they ever served is meat and fried food, etc., but was pleasantly surprised at the delicious, healthy food we were able to find almost everywhere. I could talk about food and restaurants for hours, but I'll just name a few highlights-- the mussels at Olivia, a new semi-upscale restaurant, were killer, and my favorite meal of the trip was definitely the Odd Duck Farm to Trailer. Apparently these "food-trailers" are gaining widespread popularity throughout Austin. We sat at a picnic table outside the trailer and ate delicious, organic, locally-farmed small plates, sort of tapas-style.

outdoor seating at the Odd Duck Farm to Trailer

small plates at the Odd Duck: counter-clockwise, polenta corn grits with cheddar, soft-boiled duck egg, grilled mushrooms and zucchini;seared shrimp, arugula and fennel on a bed of grilled corn; melon, heirloom tomato and cucumber salad with mint and goat ricotta, pork belly slider (not my choice, haha)

And of course, Bob Dylan. The self-proclaimed "poet laureate of rock 'n roll," who kicked off the first show of his current tour at The Backyard in Bee Cave, Texas, a small town just outside of Austin. This venue was outdoors as well, and we were lucky enough to have backstage passes. Though I (sadly) didn't get to meet Bob himself, we did meet a few members of his band, and hung out with some of their adorable children backstage. I've always been an avid Dylan fan, and have never gotten to see him live, so I was obviously ecstatic. The show was incredible, and the sunset was pretty magnificent as well. It was a beautiful ending to my trip, and luckily there were no aviation mishaps on the way back to Los Angeles.

the least blurry photo I was able to snap of Dylan and his band... apparently he absolutely detests being photographed, so it was a bit hard to take pictures from backstage, with his manager watching and everything... I had to be all sneaky-like

If you get the chance to go to Austin, especially for anything music-related, I highly recommend it; even though it's pretty small, it's a great city with a lot of neat things and places to explore. I would suggest going in the spring or fall though, as the heat was a bit much. I hear Fun Fun Fun Fest and Austin City Limits are going to be great this year... check 'em out if you can!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Salad of Frisée with Duck Confit

I like this salad because it's elegant and versatile. The combo of frisee, poached egg, cherry tomatoes, potatoes, and a warm champagne vinaigrette can be a hearty first course or a satisfying lunch. Plus, it tastes like it should be much harder to make than it is! Anyone can whip it together, even in a pinch.

But this dish really excels when paired with a confit of duck leg. The combination of the tender and salty confit with bitter frisee and acidic cherry tomatoes is rich and fresh. Sweetness from the potatoes and poached egg mediates the flavors. Put simply, it's traditional, decadent, and delicious.

Serves four. Prep time, approx. 25 min.

2-4 Heads of frisee
Approx. 12 Cherry tomatoes
2 Yukon gold potatoes
1 Poached egg per serving

1 teaspoon Champagne vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoons Canola oil
1 tablespoon Some type of fat or oil. If you're making the duck confit, use the fat left on the pan. Otherwise, you can substitute for rendered bacon fat. If neither is available, extra virgin olive oil will do.

Duck leg:
Leg of duck confit. I'l write up a recipe in the coming weeks.

For the salad, wash, dry, and remove all those unappetizing outer leaves. Chop off the bottom. Slice the cherry tomatoes. Cook the potatoes in boiling water with 1/4 cup of kosher salt until fork-tender. Peel and slice.

You can poach the egg conventionally, or cook it sous vide at 63 degrees centigrade for one hour. Cooking the egg sous vide is by no means necessary and requires at least an hour or forethought. It does, however, give the egg a fabulous texture that can't easily be achieved any other way. Garnish with fleur de sel or sel gris and pepper.

First, cook the duck legs skin-side down in duck fat to grease the pan for about a minute over high heat. Then lower the heat to medium or medium-low for three minutes. Then finish it off in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minuets.

Use some leftover duck fat from the pan for your dressing. If this is unavailable, rendered bacon fat will do just as well. As a last resort, you can use extra virgin olive oil. Mix together vinegar, mustard, oil, fat and salt and pepper to taste. Simple!