Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Perfectly Coiffed

We all know how important it is to look your best every day, but your wedding day beauty should be taken to the next level. Now, I don't mean to try something so radical that your fiance will have a hard time recognizing you. No silly, what I mean is, on your wedding day, you should be the most beautiful version of you (which is usually the case). Besides, you'll be looking at the photographs for years to come. Here are a few hairstyles to help shape the vision of your wedding day beauty style. First up: the Up-Dos
I love this style, very sleek and elegant. Perfect for an evening wedding. Loving the wispy hair pin.
This top knot simply works! Very sophisticated. The hair jewelry is the perfect compliment.
Side parted bangs work for a variety of face shapes.
The flowers on this twist add a touch of romance.
For those with shorter bangs and layers, a beautifully designed headband to match the detailing on your gown is a great look.
This style will look perfect for a garden ceremony.
Pull curls into a high ponytail and accent with a flowered barrette or comb.

If you like the best of both worlds, these are for you.
This works for a casual chic garden or beach ceremony
The slightly heightened crown and side barrettes add drama to a simple style.
Sweeping curls to one side will highlight not only your neckline but any jewelry you've chosen. So yes, you have my permission to purchase those lovely Lorraine Schwartz chandeliers.
Chicly ethereal...

Now if you're anything like me, you'll wear your hair down on the big day. Let's work out a few options, shall we?
Classic glamour
If you're getting married outside during the humid summer months and are worried about frizz, a free-form roller set will do nicely.
I love the soft flowing waves of this style. Perfect layers.
This blowout is wonderfully smooth. Wanna achieve this look? Call me, I know the perfect guy!!

Photos courtesy of Keith King, Fernando Milani, Christophe Jouany and Tim Geaney

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Cake Maestro: Ron Ben-Israel

Happy Monday, Everyone! There are some people that when you first meet, you understand right away: 1) they love people and 2) they love what they do. Ron Ben-Israel is one such person. You can taste his heart in every cake! Delicious. I met Ron at the New York Magazine bridal showcase and we hit it off immediately. He is such a warm and jovial personality, quick to pose for my camera, too! Naturally when I wanted to talk wedding cakes, Ron was all ears. Enjoy!

Ron in his studio

I love the jewel detailing on this design, so elegant and refined.

DE:Where do you get such great ideas for your designs?
RBI: Everything to do with a wedding or a celebration is inspirational. I look at the invitation, the venue, the flowers, and the bridal gown. Even on the menu to be served helps us plan for a fitting cake flavors.

I just love those topsy-turvy, off-kilter cakes. Gravity defying, indeed!
DE: What has been the highlight of your career to date?
RBI: I get excited with every completed cake, no matter the size or the style. As for the BIGGEST cake I've done, it's been the cake for The Plaza Hotel's 100th birthday this past Fall. Measuring 12" tall, and feeding 1,500 guests, this cake was served under magnificent fireworks and with the full New York Pops Orchestra playing in the background. Here is a link for photos from the event: http://www.briandorseystudio.com/plaza/

Such exquisite attention to detail. You almost hate to cut it, but you know it's going to taste sooo good!
DE: What is the best part about your job?
RBI: That I can't get fired, and that I can't quit.

DE: Who or what do you attribute your success?
RBI: My passion for all things cake and perseverance.

Incredible floral work.
DE: What advice would you give a bride when trying to decide on the perfect cake for her big day?
RBI: I would advise any bride to research and try at least two bakeries
before committing for a cake. It's very important to verify the abilities of the baker, and judge from tasting and seeing samples of work they've done before. I would always recommend going for a full-size cake with simpler designs rather than a smaller cake that can be insignificant in the environment.

Those cymbidium orchids are so life-like.
DE: What was your favorite cake you’ve designed so far?
RBI: I can't say; I love them all!

DE: If you weren’t such a fabulous cake designer, what would you be
RBI: I would probably be doing theater sets or lighting design.

Lucky for us, Broadway is not calling. Thanks, Ron!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Scenic Retreat in the Allegheny Mountains

Ok everyone, let's say it together: TGIF!! Whew, not that we've gotten that out of the way, let's talk about our next Friday Escape. I've heard whispers of a beautiful and restful retreat in the Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia, Greenbriar. The property is a historic landmark dating back to 1778, hosting a who's who of notable guests. The hotel is rather large with 721 rooms and estate/guest houses. The 5 diamond property boasts three 18-hole courses, a world renowned spa featuring sulphur springs and over 40 recreational activities for the entire family. My pick, the Lap of Luxury spa package starts at $1775 for 3 nights. Take a deep breath and whoo-sai. Happy weekend!
Nestled in the lust forests of the Alleghenys

One of the properties 10 lobbies
Breath-taking in-door pool
One of the gorgeous golf courses
Gorgeous outdoor pool

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Food For Thought Thursdays

A signature southern dish, Shrimp and Grits, get a spicy update. When the spicy ginger tickles your tongue, cool down with Lemon Buttermilk Sherbet with Lemon Poppyseed Cones.

Spicy Shrimp and Grits
12 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 medium ginger lobes
Equal parts all purpose flour and panko bread crumbs (1.5 cups, total)
1 egg
16 oz. high-quality ginger ale
Canola or peanut oil
1 cup grits (traditional stone ground, if you can find them. Here, I used quick grits. Instant grits are totally unacceptable)
3 cups water
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Srirache (sp) sauce (in a pinch, a good buffalo sauce will do nicely)

Maple sugar
Additional ginger ale

Peel and devein the shrimp, and peel and slice the ginger. (When peeling ginger, it's best to use a spoon, scraping the peel from the flesh. It works very well and enables you to get into the roots' nooks and crannies.) Place the shrimp in a non-reactive container, pour in enough ginger ale to cover the shrimp and add the sliced ginger. Let this sit for at least six hours.

Before you begin, you’ll want to make sure you have everything set for frying the shrimp. Beat the egg and leave in a bowl large enough to fit most of the shrimp. In a separate bowl, combine the flour and panko and add a dash of salt. Pour about two inches of oil into the bottom of a sturdy pot.

Remove the shrimp from the ginger ale and pat dry.

Make the grits as per the directions on the package, though shy away from butter and cream for this recipe. For quick grits, whisk 1 cup (dry) grits into 3 cups of rapidly boiling water. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Simmer for five to seven minutes, then mix in the cayenne pepper.

As the grits finish cooking, heat the oil you poured earlier to 350F. Toss the shrimp in the egg mixture to coat them, then dredge in the flour and panko mixture. When the grits have finished cooking, remove them from the heat. Then, begin frying the shrimp. Work in batches and drain on paper towels or a wire cooling rack. They fry up very quickly--about a minute per batch, so you’ll want to stay on top of things. To plate, spoon a dollop of grits onto the center of a plate, place several shrimp on top of the grits and hit the whole thing with a couple squirts of the srirache. The mixture of sweetness from the ginger ale and spice from the hot sauce is wonderful, complex, and just the thing for a breezy spring evening on the patio.*

Lemon Buttermilk Sherbet
80 ml water
130 grams sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
225 ml buttermilk
60 ml lemon juice

In a saucepan, bring the first three ingredients to a boil. Remove from heat, transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. Add the buttermilk and lemon juice once it has chilled in the fridge and churn in your ice cream machine. Transfer to a bowl or ice cream container and freeze.

Poppy Seed Lemon Ice Cream Cones
50 grams butter
50 grams sugar
1/4 tsp lemon zest
50 grams egg whites
50 grams flour

Cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest. Add the flour and mix. Add the egg whites and mix until thoroughly combined. Transfer this paste to a bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.

Make a template for your cones cutting circles out of a plastic placemat that is about 1/4" thick. Use a round cookie cutter to trace a circle on the mat and cut with the help of an xacto knife. Place the template mat on a silpat. Spread a very thin layer of the tuile paste on the circle and remove the mat. You will be left with a disk of tuile batter. Sprinkle poppyseeds on top of the batter.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. remove from the oven and form a cone right away while the tuile is still hot and pliable. Store them in an airtight container until ready to use.*

*Recipes and photos courtesy of Winepairings and Cannelle et Vanille respectively

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Designing Woman - Diann Valentine

My dear readers, never let it be said that I do not take great care of you. Today, I have the pleasure of sharing an interview I did recently with the vastly talented Diann Valentine. She has designed flawless weddings for Toni Braxton, Lela Rochon and Antoine Fuqua, as well as Boyz II Men's Shawn Stockman. Be sure to get a copy of her book, it was my first wedding book and one I go to time and again for inspiration. Enjoy!
The beautiful Diann Valentine

DE: Where do you get your design inspiration?
DV: I look for inspiration mainly in all of the amazing architecture that can be found from true artists around the world. For example, I think Americans are not very creative but when I look at the work of the artists that built the ancient cathedrals in Italy or the Roman empires I am simply in awe. As I travel the world and experience the beauty that has been left behind by imaginative geniuses I often wonder "how can I give my clients even a glimpse of these gifts."

DE: In addition to being glamorous, there is a sense of flow and even sensuality in your work. How do you achieve this effect?
DV: Every event has to flow. Great parties don't just happen but they are carefully orchestrated into something great. And it requires that I remain in tune and focused on guest experiences. I must anticipate the experiences that I want to unfold long before the room is filled. And even once guests have arrived, I must continue to study their movements and alter the action and "run of show" during the event as I see fit to further enhance the experience for every person in the room.

Sensuality is seen in all of my work because my inspiration for everything I do is love. Love is always sexy. And it is the love for my work and for couples in love that continues to inspire me to design environments that speak to that sensuality. You see, it is more than just designing a pretty space but more so about allowing my soul to be fully and vulnerably exposed so that I can give everything in my heart to each tailor-made celebration. I have a mantra that I use for every project and I call it the DRV factor. Keep it simple! Keep it sexy! And keep it all about love!

DE: Color has the ability to transform not just an environment but also one's mood. How do you steer couples in choosing their event colors?
DV: I simply give my clients permission to look at their wedding as more than a day of white. For many brides, they immediately adopt the stereotypes that western civilization has put on the color white. They envision and correlate white with clean, purity and innocence. It is the same societal stereotypes that steer our thinking to correlate black with bad, dirty and ugly. When you look at the world with open eyes and embrace your true personality, most women find that white is simply not the best reflection of who they are but more so a reflection of what the wedding industry has told them they should be. I am simply willing to do the exploratory and sometimes difficult work that helps my clients look through a fresh lens and see their weddings as a reflection of their true self. Most professional in this field are unwilling to put in this much work because it's just easier to follow a formula. However, I am not just working hard to build a company but rather I am working hard to leave a legacy and one that changes the game--one bride at a time.

DE: How does your design approach differ when designing for weddings vs. residences vs. hotels?
DV: It all stems from the same inspiration of love and architecture. The same principles and the same steps are taken regardless of the project.

DE: With regards to your interior design work, how key is achieving tranquility when designing a bedroom? What should one look for when creating their personal space?
DV: I don't always look to create environments that are tranquil. As there are occasions when I have designed game rooms, cigar lounges, home gyms and other spaces that need to evoke energy, excitement or enthusiasm for fostering brilliant ideas.

DE: What suggestions do you have for couples meshing their separate, distinct styles into one living space?
DV: Compromise. It is not about the woman designing the space or the man designing the space but more so about couples respecting their individual needs for functionality and then incorporating those needs into a common space that they will share. Inclusion is the making of any successful relationship. Although I am a designer, I still listen to my family and take their preferences into account whether I am re-designing a communal room in our house or our family's holiday party.

DE: With all your successes and recognition to date, what keeps you most excited and motivated in your career?
DV: Again, I am inspired by love. My love for beautiful things and good design! My love for people in love and my love for God. And because God is love, I know that I will never go wrong and will never be led astray!

Wiser words have never been spoken.
Diann Valentine is an internationally acclaimed weddings, events and interior designer and producer. Her clients include pop star Usher, Kelis and Nas, Martin Lawrence, Ryan Seacrest and Cedric The Entertainer to name a few. Valentine is also the author of Weddings Valentine Style: Rich Inspiration For Every Woman's Dream Day.
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