What is the saying, March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb? The weather yesterday fits perfectly into this bit of nineteenth century weather folklore, with sheets of rain falling for hours on end. In California these days, this is tricky business. We desperately need the water, but the horrendous mudslides in Santa Barbara County were just six weeks ago, so we are feeling a bit tender. I was actually in Japan during the mudslides, and it was heartbreaking to learn of them when we were having such an amazing trip, enjoying the tranquility and reverence that Japan has with regards to nature. We were delighted by the gentle waterfalls we discovered there, while back at home the more violent side of nature was in full force. I'm happy that the sun is shining now, and enjoying how refreshed all of the trees look after their long drink.
Traveling through Japan is a life altering experience. The culture is so different to ours, and the trip sank in deeply with all of us. Of course it was inspirational, in more ways than I could have imagined. A few new things have arrived in the shop, and more will certainly come. For now, I will share a few images from our travels, and some of what it inspired.
I have a lot of bamboo in my garden, so it was a treat to see the great bamboo forests of Japan. They take such care with nature, therefore everything appears to just thrive, whether in a park or forest, or even the smallest container garden outside of an apartment. It was January, and yet we didn't see anything dead or neglected at all, everything was just weathering the winter with aplomb.
I am really obsessed with moss. I was so excited that there are moss temples in Japan. It was heaven to walk through the gardens, seeing so many different types of moss, in both shade and sunlight. I'm working on encouraging the moss that is growing naturally in spots around our garden, and aspiring to something like this.
The color and symmetry of the famous Fushimi-Inari shrine in Kyoto is quite striking. During the first part of the new year, people come from all over Japan to pray for good business for the year. It is one of the most famous Shinto shrines in all of Japan, so understandably was quite crowded. We were lucky enough to have a moment to ourselves along the path.
There is a subtle geometry to much of Japanese design, and a play between symmetry and asymmetry. We have several new pair of earrings that feature my take on that delicate balance.
I never travel without one of our silk dressing gowns, a slip, and a sleep mask. They are perfect for decompressing after a long day, and the masks come in handy for naps on planes and trains. This was the combination that I took with me on our trip to Japan. The color blocked robe felt perfect there, and I loved the combination with the jewel toned slip.
We redesigned our slips, making them easier to construct, but retaining all of the details that make them so special. These are in a stretch-silk charmeuse, and come in an assortment of lengths and colors. We are getting ready to shoot our next look book, and promise to keep you posted. Some of the new pieces are already in the shop on Main Street. Come by and try one on if you are in the neighborhood. As always, we'd love to see you.
If you read last month's journal entry, or joined us for our Valentine's Day party on February 8th, then you might be interested to learn which chocolate cake was the favorite. I can't believe it, but it was so popular, that I didn't actually get to taste them myself. A bit sad, I know. Judging from the feedback, the favorites were pretty evenly divided amongst the Ottolenghi Fudge Cake, the River Cafe Chocolate Nemesis, and a classic Torta Caprese, which I learned to make in Sicily several years ago. Emanuela Notarbartolo di Sciara has a beautiful cookbook, with charming illustrations by Fiona Corsini, and an amazing recipe for Torta Caprese. I'll share my version of it, because in all honesty I think it may have been the absolute favorite that night.
250 grams whole almonds (you can also use almond meal and skip the grinding part)
200 grams sugar, divided
250 grams 70% chocolate, coarsely chopped
200 grams unsalted butter
6 large eggs, separated and warmed to room temperature
confectioner's sugar for dusting the top of the cake
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F, and set a rack on the middle level of your oven. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and line the bottom with a sheet of parchment paper.
Grind the almonds (if not using almond meal) in the Cuisinart in three batches, adding two tablespoons of sugar to each batch, using six tablespoons total.
Melt the chopped chocolate and the butter in the top of a double boiler, or in a bowl set over a pan of boiling water. Set aside to cool slightly.
Beat the egg yolks in a large bowl with an electric mixer for about 5-7 minutes, until light yellow. Gradually, with the mixer set to low, add in 10 tablespoons of sugar, mixing well. Add the melted chocolate and butter, followed by the ground almond/sugar mixture, and mix well.
Beat the egg whites in a separate bowl with the remaining sugar until firm peaks form. Fold them into the chocolate mixture in three batches, taking care not to overmix.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for about an hour. I begin checking at 45 minutes, so as to be sure not to overbake. When done, cool in the pan for about thirty minutes or so, and then remove the sides of the pan.
Before serving (and when the cake is completely cool) dust the top lightly with confectioner's sugar. I serve this cake with lightly whipped cream, sweetened with maple syrup. It's also delicious with creme fraiche.