Browsing Tag



Etiquette 101

June 5, 2014

Tom Ford

I am always intrigued by etiquette, and changes that evolve generationally (cough*cell phones on the table* cough).  While I am far from an aficionado, I wanted to share some tips/rules I’ve learned along the way…

1.What’s the bread plate? Which one is my glass?

  • My trick for this is to look down at both of your hands and touch the tip of your pointer finger and thumb together on each hand like this image.  Your left hand should make a “b” shape, and your right hand should make a “d” shape. B stands for bread and D stands for drink, therefore your bread plate is to the left of your dinner plate and your drink should be to the right of your dinner plate.

2. I’m at a family style dinner party and food is getting passed all over the place!

  • Technically, food should be passed counterclockwise (to your right), so that your right hand is free for serving.  As far as reaching for food that has failed to make it your way (or reaching across the table for any reason) – feel free to grab it if you don’t have to full extend your arm… otherwise ask away!

3. RSVPing is optional… right?

  • I used to be the worst at RSVPing, until I started having parties.  If someone is taking the time to request an RSVP, it is usually for a reason (need a headcount for food, seating, drinks, etc.).  I used to wait until the last minute (let’s be honest, we are all waiting for the next best thing… right?), but now RSVP as soon as possible.  If you need to cancel, it’s easier on a host than waiting for all of those last minute RSVPs (but don’t be that person that RSVPs to everything knowing you won’t show).

4. …but I’m fashionably late!

  • For a dinner party, show up 10-15 minutes after the scheduled start time. Open houses are more flexible, but with a seated meal or party with warm food it’s best to be timely.

5. Can I just sneak out?

  • I’m guilty of getting tired by 10pm, and I’m hanging out with cool people who gasp! can stay up past 11pm I often try the sneak out approach.   Word on the street is if there are less than a dozen people you need to say goodbye to the host, otherwise feel free to slip away and follow up with a thankful text/email on your way home (but don’t text and drive!!!).

6. He was hogging the armrest the whole time!!!

  • Just who gets the armrest? I was surprised to see that the person in the middle seat gets both because s/he doesn’t have a window or aisle armrest to lean on.  The one perk of being in the middle seat!


What etiquette tricks/tips do you have?! Share away!




La Rusticana d’Orsa Cooking Class

April 14, 2014


I was so lucky to be invited to attend a cooking class at La Rusticana d’Orsa a couple of weeks ago (thank you Patti).  La Rusticana is a gorgeous estate in the heart of the Santa Cruz Mountains, which transports you to an Italian countryside. They have left no detail untouched – beautiful roses, Italian Cypresses, lily pounds, sculpture gardens… it is very hard to believe that this Tuscan inspired villa is a quick drive to Downtown San Jose.





The owners have opened up their property for art lessons, cooking classes, etc. and I was lucky enough to snag a coveted spot with Italian trained chef – Franca.  She is the sweetest lady and put together an amazing menu of Italian Easter dishes.





There were 21 of us, and each couple (and myself) picked a dish to be in charge of… I went with dessert, naturally. We spent the evening cooking, drinking wine, enjoying the grounds and making new friends.  It was an amazing group of people, and it was nice to go out of my comfort zone and try something new!





La Rusticana also bottles their own blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes, and has some magnificent vineyards on the premise.





Here was our menu (didn’t realize this was ALL IN ITALIAN until just now…. sorry!):

  • Bocconcini al Caprino
  • Crespelle di Prosciutto Cotto e Funghi
  • Pizza Rustica
  • Arrosto di Agnello con Salsa all’Aglio
  • Farro Salad
  • Grilled Corn and String Bean Salad
  • Peperoni Arlecchino
  • Frittata di Carciofi e Patate
  • Ginger-Orange Strawberry Shortcake






Not only were we able to use their beautiful kitchen but also cooked some of our meal on their massive outdoor grill (thank goodness I was not in charge of the lamb).










Here was the recipe I was in charge of:

Ginger-Orange Strawberry Shortcakes

  • 4 cups flour
  • 4 Tblsp crystallized ginger, minced
  • 3 tsp fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 Tblsp baking powder
  • 2 Tblsp sugar
  • 2 Tblsp orange zest
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, chilled, cubed
  • 1 2/3 cups whipping cream, chilled
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 Tblsp water


  • 3 baskets strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 4 Tblsp orange juice
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 cups whipping cream, well chilled
  • 2 Tblsp Grand Marnier
  • 2 Tblsp powdered sugar

For the shortcakes: 

  1. Mix first 7 ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Rub in the butter until mixture resembles course bread crumbs.
  3. Add in the cream, stir with a fork just until clumps form. (DO NOT overwork dough)
  4. Gather dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill 1 hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 350.
  6. Line baking sheet with parchment.
  7. Gently roll out dough on a floured surface and gently pat dough to about 1/4 inch thickness.
  8. Using a 3 inch cookie cutter, cut out rounds. Reroll scraps and cut additional rounds.
  9. Place on baking sheets and brush with beaten egg wash.
  10. Bake for 30 minutes until golden. Cool on rack.

For the filling: 

  1. In a large bowl, combine the strawberries, orange juice and sugar.
  2. Stir and refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. Whip the heavy cream with powdered sugar and Grand Marnier to soft peaks.

For serving: 

  1. Cut shortcakes in half.
  2. Top bottom half with sliced strawberries and some of their juice.
  3. Spoon whipped cream over the strawberries and cover with shortcake top.
  4. Dust with powdered sugar.








I can’t wait to go back! For more information on La Rusticana d’Orsa – click here.