Monday, December 9, 2013

Holiday Gift Guide: La Petite Gigi

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True story: my favorite gifts to receive during the holidays are the ones that I get myself. Nobody knows me better! Plus, it eliminates the guilt brought on by encouraging my loved ones to spend $$ on my frivolous wants. Now, I would never judge myself for buying $400 thigh-high boots that I will probably wear a few times a year, and a powder pink pouf that, let's face it, nobody but me will see in the corner of my bedroom. But that copper cocktail shaker? I can entertain dozens of my libation loving friends with that year-round! And that Cash Money coin purse? I don't know anyone better to represent both Rebecca Minkoff and my favorite hip-hop artists. You get my point. In all seriousness, it's always fun (and healthy) to treat yourself during the holidays and throughout the year for no reason at all. Hope you take the time to do just that.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Holiday Gift Guide: The Francophile

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I'm not saying that I would love to receive every item in this gift guide. What I'm saying is that, as a francophile, I can easily identify the types of gifts that anyone who sees Paris in his or her dreams would want. That said, a little bit of European flair goes a long way for any friend, family member or coworker this holiday season. Those champagne bottle and flute earrings would be the perfect accessory at any New Year's Eve party and who wouldn't want to wake up on January 1 with the scent of lovely lavender flowers in her hair? I'm just saying.

For more inspiration, check out this year's and last year's hostess gift guide!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Holiday Gift Guide: The Hostess

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Don't know what to get for the person who will be hosting your holiday festivities? As fun as it can be shopping for hostess gifts, it can definitely seem tedious, especially if you're feeling uninspired. Take it from me--nobody can say no to a bit of sparkle for their bar cart; a beautiful book that encourages simple living, cooking and entertaining; or a sweet treat infused with holiday flavor (and tons of cuteness). 

For more inspiration, check out last year's hostess gift guide and look out for the next installment of the Holiday Gift Guide!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Nestlé Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Kit

Sometimes, it's really difficult to fit in the time and energy to bake, especially during the week. So it helps when the good people at Nestlé make it easy with their super simple and super tasty La Lechera Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Kits. It doesn't hurt that I have a very special bond with anything caramel-based and can't help picking up any food item that features the ingredient. In advance of any holiday baking, I decided to try this cheesecake kit {thanks to the generosity of Nestlé} which includes everything you need to take a stick of cream cheese to the next level. It was more satisfying and flavorful than I could have imagined. The crust had the perfect crumble and the filling was as smooth as it gets. I can't wait to share this special dessert around the holiday table for years to come.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Packing Guide: Portland


I may be a lot of things, but spontaneous isn't one of them. I'm a thinker, a muller, a ponderer, a pros-and-cons weigher. I've come to terms with this part of my personality and have been finding ways to satisfy my adventurous spirit, while staying true to my cautious nature. For a long time I've had Portland on my mind--the dichotomy of city energy and rural calm, the bustling food scene and commitment to farm-to-table fare, craft brews and cocktail mixology. So, when my bestie suggested a road trip that has been on her mind (with multiple, fun stops along the way), we thought it would be the perfect opportunity to satisfy both of our cravings. What does an overplanner do when faced with such a future? Obsessively think about packing for a seven-day road excursion to the Pacific Northwest.

Let's get one thing clear: I am a Southern California girl. I own one sweater (light, gauzy, sheer) and one coat (a Zara funnel collar beauty). I detest humidity and wear knit beanies to make a fashion statement. I wear leather riding boots in 70-degree weather. In other words: I was not prepared for the below-60 temperatures that Oregon promised. With my trip a couple days away, I pulled cues from my spring-and-summer closet--and much Pinspiration--to pack the perfect Portland suitcase: ready for daytime excursions to Crater Lake and Forest Park, craft brewery hops and brunch and/or dinner at Clyde Common. Follow along on my trip with the hashtag #gigilovespdx on social media!



{BOOTS...& a few lovelies}

Have you been to Portland? What did you pack? Where did you go?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Trapeze Bags

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When Céline released its Luggage Tote last year, I remember thinking I had never seen a more beautiful handbag. Yes, the trapeze shape has been at the forefront of fashion for the last few seasons, with the angular (and very forgiving) silhouette popping up on everything from tops to dresses. But the popularity of the geometric shape and structure has recently crossed over to accessories and designers have quickly jumped on board to take the trend to the next level. I've been rocking my 3.1 Phillip Lim for Target mini Pashli since I tore open the package like a crazy person in my driveway before even making it inside. Besides its aesthetic appeal, the trapeze shape gives us hoarders more room to stuff all of our belongings between its structured walls. I love it because of my obsession with architectural details and pursuit of versatile shapes and sizes. Have you been digging the trapeze bag trend this season? 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Walnut Ice Cream

Most people consider the beginning of the year to be a time when resolutions are made and new traditions begin. I've never been one for resolutions, but trying new things is practically a pastime. So, when I thought of how to refresh the blog with some new posts for a new season, I knew I had to attempt a recipe that has daunted me for a while. It's remarkable how simple this recipe for homemade walnut ice cream was: just milk, cream, sugar and walnuts. The best part was realizing how something that once seemed so big and scary could be so attainable, and that even attempting it could be surprisingly satisfying. I hope to carry that outlook with me throughout the rest of the year as this new fall season begins.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Après Summer

I never thought I would welcome cooler days, but the weather in LA has been pretty unbearable, even for a sun-seeker like me. After taking a long break from posting this summer, I'm back and ready to share my fall favorites. Since June I've done some traveling, tried a new restaurant or ten, seen two people's lives come together, welcomed a new life into the world, reached new professional heights and made memories to last a lifetime with the best friends anyone could ask for. Hello, sweater weather! I can't wait to see what fall has in store!

{A day trip to my favorite seaside town always calls for ice cream}

 {A typical Cali weekend by the pool}

 {Enjoying the last moments of summer at the Santa Monica Pier for Glow}

 {Sandals off, sandy toes}

 {A kale/nectarine/raspberry/pecan salad I took to a picnic before a concert underneath the stars}

 {Bye bye, summer}

{To see all the fun I had this summer, check out La Petite Gigi on Instagram!}

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Restaurant Review: Manhattan Beach Post

I thought it could never happen to me. I never thought it would. But after years of traveling around town in hopes of bearing witness to the most unique and inventive food that LA's chefs have to offer, it hit me: I am not easily impressed. I thought my palate could withstand the sweet, savory and sometimes scary stuff that I have eaten over the last decade or so, but lately, I haven't felt that "thing." You know, that moment when you close your eyes for just one second after taking the perfect bite, letting the flavors mingle and linger for a bit and realizing that you were tasting something so special. That thing. This weekend, it--my idealism about food--came back, confirming that all it takes to make me flutter my eyelids is that serendipitous meeting of olfactory perfection. The scene: Manhattan Beach Post, just two blocks from the Pacific Ocean and the new object of my affection.

Much like Gjelina in Venice, another LPG favorite, M.B. Post sits at the center of a buzzing beach town. Airy, industrial and rustic, the setting encouraged communal dining and had a laid-back vibe perfect for the lingering, sun-dazed crowd. The menu matched the sophisticated yet sedate clientele, and was a clever mix of seasonal, artisanal ingredients inspired by flavors from all around the world. Like the steamed mussels in green curry served with Chinese sausage and coriander rice. Holy moly. Not only were the mussels the most soft and buttery I've ever had, the curry packed a powerful punch that had me sweating--literally. Luckily, I had ordered the Matchstick Men cocktail, a G'vine Floraison gin collins with kiwi, elderflower and mint, which was hands-down one of the best drinks I've had. Refreshing and sweet, a clever blend of flavors and the most beautiful shade of chartreuse.

After a chance encounter with the Post's famous bacon cheddar buttermilk biscuits and maple butter (thank you, oblivious server, for accidentally delivering them to our table), we dove right in to the ricotta-filled squash blossoms, which were delicately fried and served with a red pepper sauce reminiscent of a marinara. I couldn't stop eating the green beans that featured moist, salty bits of pork that elevated the earthy flavor of the veggies. The confit pork belly, a gussied up variation of eggs benedict, was the most daring of the dishes we tried. The meat was perfect and the combination of cholesterol-rich ingredients left me oh-so-satisfied. Fatty meat + egg + Bearnaise sauce...I was in heaven. The chicharrones weren't my favorite, but that didn't stop me from eating them.

If only Manhattan Beach weren't on the other side of town, you would find me there on the daily, lounging in lofty dining room, buzzing in the salty air that I would order if it were on the menu.

Matchstick Men cocktail and dem biscuits

Steamed mussels in green curry

Ricotta stuffed squash blossoms

Blistering Blue Lake green beans with Thai basil and crispy pork

Confit pork belly with grilled asparagus, chicharron, bernaise and fried egg

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Restaurant Review: Bar Ama

When a friend asks you to travel from Malibu to Downtown LA on a Thursday evening to try a new restaurant you've been dying to try, you go. After sampling chef Josef Centeno's bacos a few weeks ago, I knew I had to expand my Centeno repertoire by swinging by his latest Mexican eatery, Bar Amá.

I found the menu to be connected, quirky and representative of Centeno's inventive and playful nature. Dishes like bubbling queso, Frito pie and Mama's enchiladas were no doubt inspired by the Mexican comfort food dished up by Centeno's mother and grandmother in his youth. With the wunderkind chef's signature twists and turns, the homestyle classics were given a facelift to appease a hipper crowd.

The setting was a rustic, industrial space, where distressed wood panels decorated massive columns and aqua blue Spanish tiles adorned the bar walls. Jeweled pendant lanterns illuminated the dark, almost smoky interior with whimsical sparkle reminiscent of a south-of-the-border speakeasy.

We started with the fresh-made guacamole, which had a uniquely chopped texture and was served with house-made tortilla chips, and cauliflower and cilantro pesto, in which the cruciferous blooms were smothered in a tangy, herbaceous dressing. Paired with a crisp rose wine, it was the perfect start to an exciting meal. Though not on the menu, we requested to try the grilled shrimp puffy taco, which was a Bar Amá signature before its untimely removal. You must order this! The flaky, lightly fried shell was the perfect complement to the juicy and briny shrimp stuffed inside and jalapeno cream drizzled throughout.

Cauliflower and cilantro pesto

I had never tried goat before, so when I saw the goat hash on the menu, I knew I had to have it. The ground meat patty rested atop perfectly dressed greens and sat just below a perfectly cooked egg. Interesting flavor combinations, but its parts were greater than its sum. The goat was a bit flavorless and tougher than I expected. It wasn't a bad dish--I would recommend it for the salad alone.

Goat hash

We capped off the evening with an interesting dessert: Leche Quesada, similar in texture to an Italian budino. Centeno's incarnation was meant to taste like burnt milk--and it did. So much so, that it was difficult to finish the dish. I found myself going for the freshly whipped cream more than the caramel pudding portion, but it was a bold end to a vibrant meal.

Leche quesada

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

L'Occitane Iris Angelica

It's no secret that I'm a Francophile. So, when I was presented with the opportunity to work with one of my very favorite {and very French} beauty companies, I jumped at the chance. And being the beauty freak {and product whore} that I am, I couldn't wait to check out the benefits of the Sublime Essence serum and BB Cream from L'Occitane's new Iris Angelica line.

The products in the collection feature a combination of two unique flowers from the Drôme and Hérault regions: angelica, a super hydrating bloom, and iris florentina, a precious ingredient that enhances skin's radiance.

Needless to say, I was thrilled with the results. Check out what I really thought of the products and don't forget to subscribe to La Petite Gigi's YouTube channel!

L’OCCITANE provided products for the creation of this video.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Restaurant Review - Baco Mercat

Yes, Baco Mercat has been open for over a year. Am I embarrassed that I tried it for the first time last weekend? A little bit. What can I say? I made a foodie faux pas. Trekking Downtown from the Valley isn't the most exciting task, so I'm proud of myself for battling traffic to try a now veteran eatery.

Located on the border of urban and "I think I stepped on a needle," Baco Mercat is the brainchild of Josef Centeno, but you already know that. What you might not know is how much the menu is influenced by Mediterranean and Caucusian cuisine: za'atar and labne, Abkhazian chile and Aleppo pepper decorate the unfortunately disconnected menu, which also includes modern American options like chicken and waffles, as well as Japanese-inspired dishes (hamachi, shishito peppers). As excited as I was to see familiar ingredients on the rambling list, I was thrown off by the inauthentic treatment of said seasonings. The za'atar was dense and sweet, a departure from the traditional savory dip that I grew up eating. The flavor was not offensive, however. I was pleased with its pairing with Centeno's signature baco bread, which had an unexpected cheesy crust.

A menu favorite was the sugar snap pea and pear salad with grapefruit, buratta, dill and walnut. Each ingredient was crisp and sweet and lent a great texture to the creamy buratta that was buried beneath the seasonal veggies.

The "original" baco was something else, though I feel like it was overhyped. It was much bigger than I expected. It was so big, I couldn't hold it in my hands and had to go at it with a fork. No bother, because the inside was where the beauty was hiding. What a sandwich! The crisp pork was paired with soft carnitas and an exceptional salbitxada--a spread made of ground nuts, peppers, garlic and tomatoes. However, the bread left me unimpressed due to its resemblance to a run-of-the-mill flatbread. Eh. I wanted to try the "el pesco" baco--crispy shrimp with sriracha and a chive dressing, but I couldn't not get the restaurant's signature dish and it satisfied me enough to not want another.

When it came time for dessert, I was happy I wasn't too full to partake. A huge fan of caramel, pineapple and hazelnut, I opted for the caramel upside-down cake topped with a flambeed pineapple and what can only be described as hazelnut caviar. The cake's density was perfect, especially when paired with the sticky caramel sauce and crunchy nut nuggets. The ice cream's cool bite was a welcome sensation following the hot, hot center of the cake.

So, what should you wear to Baco Mercat? I paired my favorite floral pants with a slinky black tank and my favorite throwbacks: my Rebecca Minkoff ostrich MAB and my Cynthia Vincent x Target wedges from three years ago. Hope you try Baco Mercat for yourself and let me know how you like it!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Cinco de Mayo Party Essentials

Chicken and al pastor tacos
Jarritos Mexican soda
There's nothing I love more than a theme party. Beyond its ability to get people in the soiree spirit, it's a genius way to simplify the planning and execution of any event. Cinco de Mayo is one of my favorite "holidays," because of its many possibilities. You can stick to traditional Mexican fare by serving your run-of-the-mill tacos, chips, salsa and beer or spice it up with updated recipes that still stay true to the event's theme. Here, I've rounded up a few of my favorite recipes and details that will make any Cinco de Mayo fiesta . For more ideas, check out my Cinco de Mayo Pinterest board.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Crepe Cake - Dulce de Leche

Three years ago I was working at a fashion e-commerce company after having spent five years in fashion editorial and styling. However, I missed the creative nature of editorial work and the constant sources of inspiration I was surrounded by. I needed a place where I could dump all of my obsessions and passions on my own terms. Blogging was the most intriguing avenue for me to combine what I loved with what I was good at. A little over three years later, I have reached a milestone that may seem small to some, but is a huge accomplishment for me, personally. Thank you for coming along for the ride!

To celebrate, I made a crepe cake (recipe taken from my favorite old school cookbook, Cooking Month by Month by Mary Norwak) dripping with dulce de leche (caramel) sauce and whipped cream, a decadent and delightful way to say "thank you" to my readers. Wish I could share a slice with each of you!

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