20 year wedding anniversary_reviving charm

20 YEARS AGO TODAY…

Life is interesting. You can cross paths with someone and in that unsuspecting moment, not realize that they are the person who is going to turn your whole life around. For me, that person was Mr. B. He’s the person I think of morning, noon and night. He’s the person that makes life interesting and exciting (no exaggeration) and he is the one I can’t imagine life without. We’re 2 peas in a pod.

Today marks our 20th wedding anniversary and although we are celebrating on a tiny island in the middle of Lake Maggiore, Italy, I can’t help but reminisce about the wedding we planned 20 years ago. From the start, we liked doing things differently and planned a destination wedding long before they were ever popular. The internet wasn’t around in 1998 and I made all plans and reservations over my Pacific Bell “princess” landline phone. We chose to book one of two presidential suites at the Four Seasons Olympic Hotel (now known as the Fairmont Olympic Hotel) in Seattle to serve as the backdrop for our small, intimate affair. It was booked sight unseen and we didn’t see the room until a few hours before the wedding took place. We figured, “It’s the Four Seasons…c’mon how bad could it really be?” I eventually asked the hotel to send me pictures of the room and they happily obliged (The Four Seasons was very accommodating before, during, and after the event). However, I had to wait for the pictures to be developed and sent overnight via Fed-X. Interesting how times have changed!

individual wedding cake_Reviving Charm

This was our wedding cake. Again, wanting to stray from tradition and opting for something more unique, we decided to design our own version of the wedding cake. I asked the hotel to create individual cakes for each of the 20 guests. When I made the request, I was told it was something the hotel had never done before and my wedding coordinator would have to first consult with the pastry chef. Naturally, they accommodated my request and each guest was served their very own miniature wedding cake adorned with fruit and fresh flowers (the miniature roses were my favorite). Printed menus were placed at each table setting and the dessert course was described as a “wedding cake surprise”. The cakes certainly were a surprise because we had no idea how they would exactly turn out until they were served at the wedding. Thankfully, they came out just as I had imagined and people enjoyed them so much that they continued to talk about them for many years to follow. It was a wonderful day and if I had to do it all over again, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

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CAFE POUCHKINE: WHAT’S OLD IS NEW IN PARIS

I consider dining out more than just a reason to satisfy my stomach. I consider dining an “experience” because a meal has everything to do with not just great food and drink, but the atmosphere and design of the surroundings and the company of others. If I think back at some of my favorite meals, they’ve incorporated each one of these aspects.

I’m sure restaurants will see a spike in sales volume this week but going out on Valentine’s Day is a ritual that Mr. B and I don’t subscribe to. But if we were in Paris we would be willing to make an exception in order to visit Cafe Pouchkine that just opened a new location near the Place de la Madeleine. It’s everything you would expect from a quintessential Parisian interior: parquet flooring, painted mirrors, carved wood, gold detailing, and beautiful fireplaces. But believe it or not, everything in the cafe is brand new. It took 6 months of work by Russian craftsmen and millions of dollars to transform an old coffee shop into this jewel box of a space. Mr. B owes me a trip back to Paris and after seeing these pictures I’m thinking he needs to make good on that promise very, soon! Talk about the potential for a wonderful dining experience…

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30 DAY OF COOKIES_REVIVING CHARM

30 DAYS OF COOKIES

It’s the season of festivity and food. I don’t cook but I have been known to bake on rare occasion. Very rare occasion. Even though I don’t spend a lot of time in the kitchen I am always on the lookout for recipes, particularly for cookies and dessert, “just in case” I ever need to whip up a few batches of sweet treats. If you plan on gifting cookies to friends and family this holiday season or plan to attend any cookie exchange parties, Williams-Sonoma has you covered. This year they collaborated with 30 bakers and bloggers to come up with 30 holiday cookie recipes and all of the recipes are currently shared on their website. Try one or try them all. There’s nothing better than baking on a cold day with the oven to warm the house and having the smell of freshly baked cookies permeating through the air. Print the recipes even if you don’t plan to bake this holiday season because they can easily be adapted for anytime of the year. And if you need any baking supplies, be sure to take advantage of the free shipping they are currently offering. And don’t forget, you can also save money by signing up for The Key (read this post). Don’t these look yummy?

williams sonoma 30 days of cookies_Reviving Charm

A balanced diet is having a cookie in both hands.  –Paula Deen

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Matcha Gingerbread Cookies

Olive Oil Sugar Cookies with Pistachio Glaze

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Cinnamon Logs

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Dipped & Crisp Peanut Butter Cookies

williams sonoma espresso chocolate chip cookie recipe

Espresso Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Christmas Truffles

Celebrating My Birthday Marchesi Style

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A table at Patisserie Marchesi.

Happy Birthday to me!  Mr. B and I will be celebrating my birthday today in Milan, Italy. Mr. B has a very special dinner planned for us but I can’t help but want to celebrate the entire day! As part of the festivities, I plan on buying myself some birthday gifts and stopping into Patisserie Marchesi to enjoy a piece of birthday cake.

Marchesi Pasticceria is one of the oldest bakeries in Milan, Italy. They are not only known for their fine pastries but also their stylish decor. Marchesi was first established in 1824, but in 2014 an 80% share of the company was purchased by the Italian luxury brand Prada. Even though the company has gone corporate, the Marchesi family is still very much involved in its operation. There is now a total of three locations in Milan, with the newest locations opening as recent as September 2015 and September 2016. I’ve been to the original location so this time I plan to visit the newest location in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. This particular location is actually situated on the mezzanine level over the Prada boutique. Based on the picture below, I can already tell that this will not only be a great place for a fine pastry but a perfect location for great people watching. And while I am at it, I plan to pick up some of their pastel-colored boxes for sweet treats to bring back home as souvenirs. Pasticceria-Marchesi-Galleria-Vittorio-Emanuele- Reviving charm 3Pasticceria-Marchesi-Galleria-Vittorio-Emanuele- Reviving charm 6Pasticceria-Marchesi-Galleria-Vittorio-Emanuele- Reviving charm 5Pasticceria-Marchesi-Galleria-Vittorio-Emanuele- Reviving charmmarchesi milan 4marchesi milan 1marchesi milan 2marchesi milan 3

Photos via Pasticceria Marchesi.

Kalabasa Elevates Dessert into an Artform

I have never had a desire to learn to cook primarily because I think it’s too stressful. For some reason, the responsibility of prepping and timing an entire meal gives me pure and utter anxiety. However, that doesn’t automatically mean that I’ve always wanted to stay out of the kitchen because I would actually love to spend more time baking. Focusing on just one item is something I can handle and making that one thing beautiful, unique and delicious is something I would strive for.
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I’ve seen and heard about the latest craze of “brushstroke cakes”, particularly those seen here from the Russian bakery, “Kalabasa”. The bakery creates chocolate “brushstrokes” by airbrushing on color to create a more artistic look. If you feel like attempting this yourself you can try using colored chocolate. It’s inexpensive but very poor quality chocolate. However, if all you care about is capturing the look and feel of the Kalabasa cake then the cheap stuff should get the job done. Just note that you won’t get the same depth of colors as the airbrush technique. With the airbrush technique, you can tell that color is layered on and blended subtly, as real painting often is. kalabasa bakery feather brushstroke case

I first learned of Kalabasa after stumbling onto their Instagram account and I would describe Kalabasa as a bakery that has elevated dessert into an artform. Their cakes are so creatively distinctive and look just too amazing to eat. I think I would feel guilty taking that first bite!
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I never got into the whole cupcake craze that was going on a while back, but if I ever do need to make cupcakes then this is something I would try myself. Kalabasa via Reviving Charm 1

While the brushstroke cake has elevated Kalabasa in the baking world, we can’t overlook their other beautifully executed baked goods. Maybe they will inspire you to put your baker’s cap on. I know they have definitely inspired me. Their use of florals, sugar coating, airbrush techniques and use of gold dust are baking techniques worth testing out in my own kitchen.

Kalabasa via Reviving Charm 11Kalabasa via Reviving Charm 5Kalabasa via Reviving Charm 4Kalabasa via Reviving Charm 8Kalabasa via Reviving Charm 7Kalabasa via Reviving Charm 13Kalabasa via Reviving CharmKalabasa via Reviving Charm 6Kalabasa via Reviving Charm chocolate oreo cakeKalabasa via Reviving Charm 9

 

chefanie sheets_Reviving Charm blog

EDIBLE SHEETS OF STYLE

I’ve made it know that I am not very domestic. I don’t cook and I have actually been told on more than one occasion to stay out of the kitchen. In my eighteen years of marriage, I have attempted to cook maybe all of five or six times. That might even be an exaggerated count. But every now and then I get a (rare) desire to bake. At the moment there are no sudden urges but when the feeling comes upon me I might think about using edible icing sheets to decorate a simple white cake. I am a firm believer in making everything you do look good. No matter how big or small the task is I will usually go the extra mile and try to find a way to make it look special.

In 2016, Stephanie Nass created her company, Chefanie Sheets, to offer edible icing sheets (or what I like to call “edible sheets of style”). The concept is genius because I love the idea of marrying food and art to elevate the look of baked goods. This takes cake decorating to a whole other level; think of it as wallpaper for your cake. If Stephanie can help me turn an ordinary white cake into something fabulous in just a few simple steps, I will definitely give these a try. If all goes well, I won’t be limiting their use to just cakes. They can also be used on cookies, cupcakes and other baked goods. Now if I could only sneak my way back into the kitchen…

stephanie nass chefanie sheets baking supplies

Stephanie Nass, owner of Chefanie Sheets

chefanie sheetsChefanie sheets edible baking sheets 1chefanie sheets blue birdsChefanie sheets edible baking sheets 2Chefanie sheets edible baking sheets 4Stephanie’s selection is very limited to just a handful of designs but she will work with you to bring your custom design to life. How about creating a pattern to match your decor…
chefanie sheets edible wallpaperOr create a design to match your outfit….the possibilities are endless.Chefanie sheets edible baking sheets 3chefanie sheets edible baking sheets

DESSERT: MACARON ICE CREAM SANDWICHES

I don’t cook and I rarely bake. Even so, I am always on the look-out for very simple recipes in case the domestic mood strikes. I recently saw an ad that featured this beautiful dessert offered at the modern french restaurant Marche Moderne in Costa Mesa, California. The dessert combines two of my favorite sweet indulgences: gelato and macarons. This is an easy dessert to recreate and what I love most about it is that it involves absolutely no baking. My version is all about the art of assembly which can make even someone like me look like a professional.easy summer dessert via REVIVING CHARM

The Marche Moderne version is described on the menu as a combination of “strawberries, Yuzu Mousseline, Pistachio Nougatine Raspberry coulis and Pistachio gelato.” Don’t let the fancy culinary jargon intimidate you. Making your own version of this delectable dessert is actually very simple. I have oversimplified the ingredients here so you can personalize it with your flavors of choice and put your own personal touch on it. You will need the following ingredients:

  • Your favorite macaron flavor. Unless you are proficient in the skill and art of baking French macarons, I suggest that you just simply purchase them. Since I am in California I find it easiest  just to buy mine in person at ‘Lette Macarons although they will also ship.
  • Gelato. Almost any macaron flavor will work with vanilla bean gelato. If you choose a flavored gelato just be sure to select one that will not compete with the flavor of your macaron.
  • Fresh fruit.
  • Crème fraîche.
  • Finely chopped nuts. (optional,  especially if you or your guests have allergies)

Bring macarons to room temperature. Separate the top and bottom of a macaron and add a small scoop of gelato to bottom of a macaron before adding  back the top of the macaron. Sprinkle a small amount of nuts on the gelato onto the top side of gelato. To decorate your plate, add a dollop of crème fraîche and top with fresh fruit to  compliment your mini macaron ice cream sandwich. Enjoy!

HAPPY FRIDAY

Life is short. Buy the shoes. Drink the wine. Order the dessert.

 

Happy Friday! It is Memorial Day weekend. What are your plans? Mr. B and I usually try to take advantage of a long weekend and head out of town. A graduation dinner is keeping us home which means we might get to take advantage of some fun things to do locally. This weekend I will also be getting my hair colored just in time for the graduation dinner.  I am trying a new colorist and am keeping my fingers crossed that all goes well. I also hope to sit down and plan out a few upcoming blog posts, as well as do something creative. What that is, I’m not quite sure yet. At some point this weekend Mr. B and I hope to take advantage of the lovely Southern California weather by enjoying a barbeque for two. I am sure there will also be at least a couple of dinners out since we typically go out for dinner on the weekend. And in case you are wondering…I definitely won’t hesitate to order the dessert. I hope you do too. Happy weekend… xoxo, V.

ritz carlton raya restaurant laguna reviving charm dessert

This chocolate tart was a culinary architectural work of art that features Mexican chocolate, almond crust and garnished with a ball of sour cream sorbet, espresso anglaise and caramelized orange. It was delicious! Original photo by Reviving Charm.

SWEET TREATS BY NECTAR AND STONE

Easter is just around the corner and I can’t help think about the sweet treats that would accompany the holiday as a child. I have very fond memories of the Easter baskets that my mother would painstakingly put assemble each year for me as a child. The beautiful rattan basket would be filled with almost every Easter candy imaginable, wrapped in cellophane and tied with a pretty bow. My mother always went above and beyond to make my holidays special. As a grown up, the Easter baskets may have vanished but the desire for an occasional chocolate is something that lingers on. I definitely wouldn’t mind if the Easter bunny decided to return and deliver some of the impeccable sweet treats skillfully crafted by Nectar and Stone. Unfortunately, Nectar and Stone does not deliver to the United States (they are located in Australia and primarily focusing on commercial accounts) but that doesn’t prevent me from admiring their edible works of art. Plus, it will save me from devouring a few extra calories…although I am sure they are worth it! So for now I will just have to continue to admire their lovely instagram account.

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Nectar and Stone is definitely known for their chocolate pyramids that have been made in a variety of hues. Aren’t they charming bits of loveliness?reviving charm nectar and stone chocolate pyramids

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Above: Chocolate Marbles and Chocolate Diamonds.

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Caroline Khoo graciously allow me to enter into the world of Nectar and Stone to answer a few questions and provide a glimpse into the studio.

Q: You originally had a career in fashion. At what point did you realize “I’m onto something here” and decide to make the leap into the baking world?

A: Nectar and Stone was completely unintended. After working in the fashion industry I spent some years in the medical industry. During the time I spent in the medical industry I had my first son and decided to take a break as the company couldn’t offer part time. The first two years I spent being creative with my son’s food as he wasn’t interested in food. Once I had my second son, I found myself more and more being creative with savoury and sweet food and could see I had developed a particular style. When I eventually decided to give it a go in 2013 I gave myself a 1 year goal to see if I could make something out of the business.


Q: You photograph your products yourself, which are all captivating and beautifully styled. What word of advice can you give to someone who might be a new photographer?

A: Practice, practice, practice – using the same equipment at different times of day and master the equipment, then upgrade and continue to do that. It is so important to understand lighting.


Q: It must be exciting working on your new book. Can you share a little bit about it with us and when you expect it to be released? I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!

A: At this stage it is all confidential and we want to keep everything a surprise. It is very exciting and look forward to sharing with my community my work.


Q: I understand your home and workspace is just as beautiful as the sweet treats you artistically create. My website features various aspects of stylish interiors. Would you be willing to share some pictures of your home and workspace?

In response to the question above, the following photographs by Aimee Jones Photography were provided by Nectar and Stone.

nectar and stone interiors by photographer Aimee Jones reviving charmreviving charm nectar and stone interiors by photographer Aimee Jonesnectar and stone interiors by photographer Aimee Jones_ reviving charm