Last week we hiked to Hermit Falls. This scenic 2 1/2 mile adventure through the forested canyons above Monrovia is one of our favorite places in Los Angeles. With majestic views of the San Gabriel Mountains, we walked through emerald fern-lined paths, winding our way through shady oaks, carefully crossing over several running streams before reaching the thirty foot waterfall at the end of the trail. The lush setting felt more like Kauai than Southern California. Here we were, high above the city, away from the noise, trying to work off the massive amounts of apple cider snickerdoodles and chocolate peppermint parfaits that were consumed during the holidays. And in those ancient hills—still sparkling like diamonds from the recent rains—the idea for this magical creation was conceived as we hiked along the babbling creek. We tested it for dinner as soon as we got home, and from the first blissful bite it was clear: they are hands down some of the best burgers we’ve tried.
The restaurant we used to visit on birthdays, anniversaries, and special occasions recently shut down. There are other locations, but the nearest one is now over forty miles away. They specialized in delicious fondues and the entire meal was prepared at your table. The three-course dinner would always begin with a cheese fondue of your choice. One of the friendly servers knew how much we liked garlic, so he would make sure to pile loads of it into the pot along with the shredded cheese, spices, and splashes of beer or wine that would cook until bubbling hot and fragrant, right in front of you. Cubes of crusty bread, sliced celery, carrots, and apples would accompany this savory appetizer, which was still light enough to leave room for the next two courses. The main entrée fondue was a tangy Caribbean-inspired broth, aromatic with fresh garlic and citrus. For vegetarians they offered a platter of artichoke hearts, portobello mushrooms, broccoli florets, cheese ravioli, and mixed vegetables that is simmered in the zesty broth at your leisure. But the most difficult thing to choose on the menu were the dessert fondues. With decadent combinations like chocolate peanut butter, chocolate caramel, and even s’mores fondue, we made sure to try a new one every time. Our local restaurant is long gone, so we took matters into our own hands and figured out a way to recreate this festive dessert at home, and amazed ourselves by turning it into something even better than the original. This pure white chocolate fondue is here to start 2017 off with a warm—and deliciously sweet— welcome.
We barely finished this post in time for New Year’s Eve. Frantically running from room to room trying to find the last bit of daylight to photograph these cocktails yesterday, we even gave up at one point, thinking it was too late. But desperate to make it work, we searched around all the windows one final time with cocktails and camera in hand, pointed and ready to catch any last golden rays this quickly-disappearing sun had to offer. The room was growing darker and the drinks were looking worse by the second. Waving the glass left to right and up and down near the front door window like someone who’d had too much to drink, we discovered one precise location where a miracle beam was shining through. We immediately grabbed the piano bench since it seemed to be the correct height for the cocktail to reach this light that would only last for a few more moments. Of course the seat was too short by just a few inches, so we turned to the bookshelf behind us and grabbed the thickest book we could find. Our hearts were racing and the stress levels in the house were peaking as we set the cocktail on the vintage hardcover and snapped the shot. And the picture above is the result of this frantic photo near-fiasco. But it was all worth it, as you are about to see.
Tuesday, December 6th, 3:30am. The alarm clock we typically want to throw across the room sounded different that morning. The day we had been looking forward to for months had arrived, so it was easier to get out of bed at that unseemly hour. We had been invited by Teri Turner, the force behind No Crumbs Left, to attend a gathering of bloggers in Northern California where we would eat, cook, and meet in person for the very first time, even though we were already friends through the community of Instagram. Since our little Nissan Leaf only has a range of 84 miles, we rented an SUV to transport us to Napa, along with suitcases, pots and pans for cooking, ice chests full of ingredients, and the most exciting cargo of all: our friend Christine from What Do You Crave! Of all the attendees, Christine was the only one we previously knew. We became fast friends this year, and were beyond excited to road trip with her up to the Bay Area!
Sweets or not to sweets, that was the question. As we sat there finishing those brownie-like chocolate sugar cookies, we thought we’d try switching things up and post something on the healthier side. Well… clearly from the photo above, that’s not happening today. Maaaybe next time—although we can’t promise anything because this is a special time of year when eating apple-cider cookies for breakfast with your gingerbread hot chocolate is totally acceptable. So have a salad for lunch and save room for these cups of heaven for dessert: triple chocolate peppermint parfaits—here to make your holidays merry and oh so bright.