Let’s Talk Toast

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Photo courtesy of Lavender & Honey Espresso

When it comes to breakfast, I’ve never been a pancakes and bacon kinda girl. I prefer to keep it simple with toast.

Toast, great coffee and morning radio. Perfection.

Needless to say, the  food trend on toast is one I love seeing pop-up in restaurants as the world embraces eating the artisan bread basket for breakfast!  Yes, I know. It’s toast. But with anything created from the kitchen, coming up with the right ingredients and selecting interesting  flavors is what separates everyday toast with “oh, wow, this is toast.” 

I’m lucky enough to live close to Lavender & Honey Espresso in Northeast Pasadena’s Washington Village area.The space is modern and simple, with comfortable corner booths, twinkly lights and plenty of natural  light streaming in the large windows. It’s a great neighborhood spot to settle in with a good book, a mug of their notable lavender latte and one of their artisan slices of toast from their Toast Menu. 

  • Classic: Butter and Seasonal Local Jam
  • L & H: Goat Cheese, Honey Drizzle and Lavender
  • Pasadena: Avocado, Lemon Juice and Red Jalapenos
  • PB Honey Banana:  Peanut Butter, Slice Banana and Honey Drizzle
  • PB Nutella

    Courtesy of  Lavender and Honey

    Courtesy of Lavender and Honey

I was lucky enough to get to ask owner Melanie Porter some questions on the development of their  menu and what’s the secret to a great piece of toast.

Thanks to Melanie for joining us!

Can you tell me a bit about Lavender & Honey Espresso?

 Lavender & Honey is a boutique espresso bar and deli, focused on providing an approachable specialty coffee experience, while showcasing unique local artisans throughout our menu and market shelves. We created our shop to be a space for community-building, where everyone in the area could come and talk over a cup of coffee and a piece of toast. And our space reflects a true California sensibility and energy while also being evocative of a timeless European aesthetic.

How has the response been to your toast menu? 

My husband and I created our menu by starting with some of our own favorite flavors, taking inspiration from our travels around California and abroad. We knew we wanted to serve great food and great coffee and once we decided on incorporating a deli into our concept, our toast bar sort of naturally evolved. There are a few places in L.A. that serve gourmet toast, but we wanted to do something that was both more approachable and more affordable, while also showcasing local artisan products. We also wanted to be certain that we had a nice balance of sweet and savory options, so we worked hard to ensure that we could offer just that. The response to our toast bar has been better than we ever could have imagined, and we are thrilled that people enjoy the toast as much as we do. Few things complement your morning cortado like one of our toasts. It really is the perfect snack.KIMG0442

How much does quality and type of bread make a difference in a sublime piece of toast?

To us, the formula for the perfect toast is the bread plus the spread. It is essential to have high-quality bread, something that can carry and accent all of the flavors that you want to spread on the toast. We found just that with Bread Lounge’s breads. In each bite you can taste and feel all the flavors and the textures that our toasts have to offer. For our L&H toast, for example, we use a walnut wheat bread, something that has a lot of unique flavors on its own, as well as a hearty crunch in occasional bites. It really enhances the goat cheese, raw honey and lavender toppings.

What’s the crowd favorite when it comes to the toast menu? A staff favorite?

Although all of our toasts have proved to be crowd pleasers, it is our namesake, the L&H, that tops the favorites list. It has such a unique, decadent flavor and pairs perfectly with coffee, making it a great anytime snack. Our staff also love the Classic toast because we rotate through local seasonal jam, and it’s always fun to see which new flavors will be in stock. Our jam vendors even work with us to incorporate lavender and/or honey into some of their recipes for our shop, which makes this toast truly one-of-a-kind.

 

 Lavender & Honey Espresso is located at 1383 EAST WASHINGTON BOULEVARD, PASADENA, CA 91104  www.lavenderandhoneyespresso.com 

The LA Book “Clubbing” Scene

For  Liz Donatelli, going “clubbing” has a whole different meaning than your a-typical night out with high-heels and cocktails. Liz, an avid reader and book clubber, launched a monthly social gathering where local Los Angeles/Orange County authors can connect with readers called Book’d in Burbank. 

The mix-in-mingle event allows authors to not only read from their works, but to perform and allowing readers to get to know them outside of the pages of their books. This is what makes for a successful reading, according to Liz who has seen her share of  the good, bad and ugly author readings.

 If you live in the Los Angeles area, check out April’s Book’d in Burbank event being held this Thursday, April 23 from 8 to 9:30 p.m. 

Let’s welcome Liz who is here to share insight on her monthly literary event, what authors need to consider before going on stage and what she’s Eating.Writing.Loving these days!  – Cindy Arora 

 

Bookd in Burbank - 1-20-15 mom typewriter font

 Los Angeles isn’t necessarily known for having a big literary scene like New York does, can you share a bit about creating Book’d in Burbank and what was the catalyst for you to get something like this in the area?

Book’d in Burbank was inspired by my early days of book clubbing in Los Angeles. As the head of (Burbank and Westside), I’d coordinate book club events with local authors that included readings, book signings, Q&As, book giveaways and dessert. They were lots of fun and super popular with the ladies. Unfortunately, my pursuit to find similar L.A. book events fell short. So, after launching Liz D Publicity & Promotions, I used my resources to create the type of bookish social gathering that I would want to attend. Book’d in Burbank combines the casual and fun vibe of my former book club events with the literary tradition of live author readings.

How would you describe the book scene in LA? Do you find authors are eager to get to know one another?

The L.A. book scene primarily serves the “celebrity autobiography” non-readers and the erudite literary fiction and non-fiction bibliophiles. However, the genre fiction-reading book club majority receives little attention.

Most authors make an effort to connect with each other, especially with those who write within the same genre. Authors tend to live insular lifestyles, so they often seek community with writers who understand their struggles and triumphs. They understand the value of belonging to writers organizations, critique groups and attending writers conferences. I’ve known some “hermit” authors who, unfortunately, lacked the support and the professional ties to achieve long-term success                                                                         

 

How do you pick your authors? old-homicide-225

I always consider authors who I know and whose work I’ve read, or whose work I believe that the audience would enjoy. Aside from flipping through my “little black book” of authors, I research A LOT. I discover authors via local writers organizations, bookstore signings, library book fairs, recommendations from former Book’d authors, pitches from authors and publicists, Google, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Of the authors who cross my radar, I’ll invite those who live in Los Angeles County (and, sometimes, in Orange County) and have written unique and/or intriguing mystery, romance or YA novels that released within the past year. I make every effort to either read the authors’ work beforehand, or to read chapter excerpts before issuing a formal invitation to read at Book’d. Although mystery, romance and YA are the foundation of Book’d, I do vet and invite authors of other popular genres, such as science fiction and horror. Non-fiction is typically added to the program once a season to honor National Humor Month in April.

 

SuedeToRest_final coverDo you have any advice for authors who have never been a part of a reading, but want to do one? What do audience members respond too?

Book lovers are won over by author readings that are well-acted. Also, props and bookish anecdotes are a hit with an audience.

Based on my experience in front of and behind the podium, I have three pieces of advice for authors.

 

  1. Allow your character’s voice to come out and play. When reading dialogue aloud, use vocal variety, emotive inflections, hand gestures and appropriate accents to best represent your character’s personality and mood in the excerpted scene. Step aside and let your character run free.
  2. Use a visual to engage the audience’s imagination. Place an oversized poster of your book cover or a picture of the main character next to you on stage. If your character eats, wears or regularly uses a particular item that isn’t commonly known or is tricky to envision, then bring it along to show the crowd. Limit yourself to a single prop. Any more than that could become distracting.
  3. Get personal. Preface your reading with an entertaining anecdote that either sheds light on your life as a writer, or explains the inspiration behind the novel that you’re about to read. Sharing a personal moment is a great way to “break the ice” and introduce yourself to the audience. Book lovers read books by authors who are likeable and relatable.

What are you reading right now?

I’ve just about finished reading Marking Time by April White. It’s an urban fantasy time travel romance. Next on my list is Suede to Rest, a cozy mystery by Diane Vallere. Then, I’ll dig into my book club’s current selection, The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton. (I’d like to give a shout-out to the gals in The Guilty Ladies Book Club!)

What are you loving right now?

As of right now, I’m especially loving Sundays, as this has evolved into my special day of uninterrupted reading time, the TV show Jane the Virgin on The CW (watched via Hulu) and my handsome three-month old nephew, Chase.janevirgin
Liz Donatelli photoLiz Donatelli is a book publicist with Liz D Publicity & Promotions and the founding director of Shirley You Jest! Book Awards and Book’d in Burbank literary event. She is a member of the Women’s National Book Association (Los Angeles) and the Jane Austen Society of North America (Southwest), and serves as leader of The Guilty Ladies Book Club. A native New Yorker, Liz lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Tom.

Websites: www.lizd.co & www.bookdevent.com

 T witter: www.twitter.com/pubLIZityLA

Facebook pages: www.facebook.com/lizdpublicity & www.facebook.com/BookdInBurbank

Pancakes + Writing: Meet Author Laura Chapman

I always love to chat with authors and get insight on their writing lives, this always includes fun stories, great recipes and some insight on what makes them tick!  Today we have Laura Chapman, who just released her second novel The Marrying Type, which is a fun romp through the bridal world, mixed in with a little reality television and a heaping dose of confronting an old love while learning about oneself.  

Let’s raise a champagne glass to Laura Chapman and The Marrying Kind.

Welcome! 

Congrats on your second novel The Marrying Type! How was your experience this second time around? Did you go about your  planning things differently? Character development, writing process? 

There were both good and bad differences between writing my first and second book (though mostly good). The planning was pretty similar. I created character sketches for each of the major characters, and I used that to build a scene by scene outline for each book. The second time around, though, I better understood how to create conflict and tension to build up to a satisfying resolution. That made writing book two go a bit faster. Both books required quite a bit of editing and revising, but that’s all part of the process. The Marrying Type took less of it than Hard Hats and Doormats in the grand scheme. The one kind of bummer difference between books one and two was how thrilled and excited I was the whole time I wrote the first book. I was doing my dream after years of talking about it, and I already felt like a winner. But by the time I wrote book two, I’d gone through rounds of editing and agent rejection on book one. I could also already imagine some of the criticism I might receive, which challenged me to write better, but also gave me some anxiety. I realized that while writing is fun, there’s so much more work to come after, which dampened the fun and excitement.

Share some insight on your heroine Elliot and her personal journey ? 

When we meet Elliot, she doesn’t have a lot of confidence in herself and is pretty lonely. She’s eager to please her family, and even when she knows she’s right, she lets their opinions influence her. After learning that her father has blown through their business’ finances, and that they’re in danger of bankruptcy, she agrees to participate in a reality TV show, called “The Marrying Type,” to supplement their income and also attract some bigger dollar customers. One of those new clients turns out to be a blast from her past: the only man she has ever loved, who is helping his sister plan her dream wedding. In “The Marrying Type,” Elliot has to sort through a lot of old and new feelings and circumstances to decide what she actually wants from her life both professionally and personally. It isn’t as easy as she’d like.

 What are you EATING right now that you love?

I  wish I didn’t love food so much. (While I’m writing this, I’m eating a cinnamon bagel with peanut butter on it, and it’s amazing.) Lately I’ve been trying to find healthier ways to make some of my favorite dishes. (It doesn’t always pan out, especially when I find myself at some of my favorite restaurants here in Lincoln, and I want to eat everything.) Here’s a recent recipe I made that has a lot of good nutritional benefits and isn’t too high in calories. It also has few ingredients, was easy to make, and it tastes delicious.

Greek Yogurt Blueberry Pancakes
(Serves 2)

¾ cup plain Greek Yogurt
1 large egg
½ cup all-purpose flour (wheat or white)
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup blueberries

Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl starting with the yogurt and egg, which you will want to be smooth before you add the dry ingredients. Cook the pancakes on a stove, as you do, and serve however you like.

 

What are you LOVING right now ?

I recently watched and loved Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix. This show is hilarious—the opening title song alone is golden—and I can’t wait for the next season. My cat Bingley recently started sleeping on my pillow at night and has figured out an unobtrusive way to cuddle my head without waking me up. It’s pretty sweet. My other cat, Jane, likes to parrot me when I’m on the phone. Luckily the people on the other end of the call think it’s funny to hear my cat meow after everything I say, or we might have problems. Right now I’m writing a new project, which means I am not doing too much reading (I have a tough time doing both at the same time), but I recently read and adored Zoey and the Moment of Zen by fellow Marching Ink author Cat Lavoie. If you love chick lit, this is a must read.

 

 

Thanks so much for having me on your blog!

 Author Bio:

Laura Chapman is the author of The Marrying Type, Hard Hats and Doormats and the Autumn and Tuck series, which appear in Merry & Bright and A Kind of Mad Courage. A native Nebraskan, she loves football, Netflix  marathons, and her cats, Jane and Bingley. Until she fulfills her dream of landing a British husband or becoming a Disney princess, you can find her in a bar penning her next novel.

 Connect with Laura!

Twitter: @lmchap
Facebook: laurachapmanbooks

Website: www.laurachapmanbooks.com

Blog: www.change-the-word.com

 

Find the Book!

Amazon: http://bit.ly/themarryingtype

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-marrying-type-laura-chapman/1121256561?ean=2940151308946

GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25009611-the-marrying-type

 Always the wedding planner, never a bride, Elliot Lynch is famous for orchestrating the splashiest weddings in Charleston, South Carolina. When her father’s sloppy management practices leave them on the brink of bankruptcy, Elliot will do whatever it takes to save the family business. When asked to appear on “The Marrying Type,” a reality TV show about the people behind the scenes as couples exchange I dos, she says yes to the invasion of privacy (and the hefty paycheck that comes with it).

With a camera crew capturing every detail of her life, Elliot faces her most challenging contract yet: planning a wedding where her ex is involved in every part of the process. Add in a lazy assistant, liquor-loving bridesmaid, and rival planner encroaching on her turf, and Elliot’s wedding season goes from high-end to high-stress.

Forced to confront her past, Elliot must live out her troubled present on national TV if she has any hope of saving her future.

LOVE: Delicious! by Ruth Reichl

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Last year when I heard that Ruth Reichl (former editor of Gourmet Magazine) wrote her first fiction book aptly titled, DELICIOUS!  I immediately added it to my  to-be-read shelf and waited for its release date.

She ended up having a reading at the independent bookstore close to my home and  I arrived early  and then joined the crowds on a warm Pasadena night to hear her read and have my book signed.

Surprisingly, when I came home, I read a few pages, but then placed my autographed copy of Delicious! on my bookshelf — where it has sat for the last year.

I just didn’t feel ready to read it yet, and now I think it’s because of all the chatter  at the time of her release and how it had been given the unpopular branding of  “fluff” “chick lit” “summer/light reading”  which, isn’t a compliment in the literary community.

The New York Times, where she worked as a highly popular and well-respected food critic for years gave her new book such a harsh review I had to wonder what she had done to her former co-worker to receive such a  lashing.

Here’s a taste:

“Ms. Reichl’s novel, however, is strictly kid stuff. It’s a gauzy ode to the liberating virtues of pleasure, glazed with warmth and uplift, so feebly written and idea free that it will make you wonder if the energy we’ve been putting into food these last few decades hasn’t made us each lose, on average, a dozen I.Q. points.” –  New York Times, May 6, 2014 

Pretty rough, right?

So, I let the book sit and I’d pass it everyday and stare at its beautiful book binder that said Delicious!  in swirly letters and I knew that when I was ready, I’d try again.  And so almost a year later, I did.  Over the weekend, I pulled it from my bookshelf and devoured it in a few days. It was lovely, smart, well-researched, thoughtful and a wonderful premise. It was a happily-ever-after kinda book and that’s OK.  It’s more than OK, it’s what she wanted to write and that’s the beauty of books.

And so for a few days, I lived inside of a gorgeous historical mansion where I was a writer,  I worked at a cheese shop, read old letters by James Beard and got to witness the journey of a woman who needed to find herself and fall in love.

If you love great writing and good food, Delicious! is the perfect entree!