Pop-Up Dinner: Love As Art

We, as a society, often refer to love as a science, a lot of times citing research on how certain chemical reactions in the brain and body create the feeling of romantic love. However, this past week, I was fortunate enough to experience a five-course pop-up Valentine’s dinner that made me see love in a different way– as an art form.

Thanks to Chef Tiffany of Something Good 2 EatThe Art Institute and Artistic Taste LA, we were in the company of talented artists, singers, and an open bar as we experienced thorough all our senses wonderful works of art and acts of love through food and entertainment. Shoutout to my wonderful, inspiring friend Yuri for inviting me to experience this beautiful dinner affair at Nobo in Los Angeles with her and a few of our other awesome friends this past Friday!

As we enjoyed wonderful conversation with other couples and single pals, we were serenaded in the background by singers and a live band. The candlelight ambiance really set the tone for a memorable evening!

Tanaya's Table Love Pop Up Dinner Soup

We sipped on cocktails and dined on an incredible five courses, starting with a velvety, creamy, comforting tomato soup with a crispy, gooey bite of grilled cheese to dip into it.

The second course was a refreshing garden salad with crisp vegetables, dried cranberries for a little sweet chewiness, and a fresh raw honey-lime dressing that I just couldn’t get enough of.

The third course was quite possibly my favorite, as it was a succulent scallop sitting on a bed of creamy cauliflower puree, topped with crispy bacon crumbles. What a delicious play on surf and turf!

Tanaya's Table Artistic Taste LA Scallops

I chose the chicken for my third course, which was hearty with the addition of garlic white cheddar mashed potatoes, chives and lemon butter asparagus. Loved the veggies, and the cheesy potatoes were a great accompaniment as well.

The grand finale was an incredible half brownie, half chocolate cake heart-shaped dessert iced with decadent ganache and garnished with a chocolate heart and raspberry sauce. This Chocolate Devotion dessert  was sweet art on a plate, and I was in chocolate heaven as I devoured it.

As we enjoyed the entire evening filled with love and art, I realized something… love, itself, is art. It is an art that can be practiced, yet is open to interpretation. Love is something that comes naturally to us, yet some are better at it than others. Yet everyone can learn to love themselves and others, in their own unique way.

Art is something that is very personal, and very unique to the individual who creates it. Yet, others can appreciate that art, be moved by it, and draw inspiration from it. In that same way, so is love.

I reflected back on how I interpret and show love, and came to the realization that although I’ve worked on giving love and showing my love to others over the past many years, I have neglected to show myself that same love… and to fully allow myself to freely receive love in all forms from others.

I discovered in that moment that it felt good to pause the multitude of “to-do’s” and “should do’s” running through my head and allow myself to enjoy a beautiful dinner experience with some of those I love. I realized while eating the food, that it was indeed food for the soul… not because of the type of cuisine served, but because it inspired me to stop and appreciate the moment, and realize that I am worthy of taking a break and allowing the love to flood into my soul sometimes.

Tanaya's Table Artistic Taste LA Chocolate Cake

Perhaps many of you can relate, but oftentimes, I feel that I don’t deserve a complete break from working until I reach my goals and achieve success. But perhaps I should simply aim to love and nourish my soul more, and to enjoy the little moments along the path to success. And perhaps success is also the ability to let go once in a while and enjoy the moment for what it is, with people who truly care about you. All these revelations came to me over the beautiful five courses that night, and I couldn’t be more thankful for it all.

I’m so grateful to have been part of this journey through the senses to experience food as an art form, and as an act of love. By cooking for someone, we are showing our love to another person. By eating food that nourishes us, or gives us pleasure, we are showing love to ourselves, and acknowledging that we are worthy of good food and love. By sharing a meal with those around us, we are connecting, sharing and spreading that love. And that is exactly why I decided to focus on food, and to start Tanaya’s Table years ago.

Let this unique pop-up dinner experience by Chef Tiffany, The Art Institute and Artistic Taste LA be an inspiration to us all… to view our lives, our food and the people we share that experience with, with love and appreciation. Not just on Valentine’s Day, but each and every day!

With love,

Tanaya’s Table

PS – If you’re interested in attending the next pop-up dinner experience, follow my Instagram account @tanayas.table for updates on upcoming events!

SNEAK PEEK: Inside U Jelly + Crafted Donuts

Happy New Year, guys! I know it’s a time for resolutions, but can’t we just resolve to enjoy anything we love in moderation instead of restricting ourselves? Because I love donuts, and I’m not giving them up.

Yesterday, I got the chance to head over to Fountain Valley to preview not one, but TWO new donut shops set to open this Saturday, 1/9 to the public! And yes, both media previews were on the very same day as well. What can I say… when donuts call, I must answer!

Tanayas Table U Jelly Taro Donut

This is me, answering the donut call with U Jelly’s taro donut. 😀

Thanks to Jed of @dailyfoodfeed and Andy & Scott of @tryitordiet for the opportunity for me to be here (on a sugar high) to tell you that both places have super creative concepts, unique flavors and a distinct flair of their own.

Here are some details on both places, plus video features to highlight some of the epic treats you’ll find inside each spot:

First, I checked out U Jelly. With their colorful, visually impressive donuts, I was especially drawn to the adorable green Baymax donut, since the flavor of pandan takes me back to my adventures in Malaysia a couple years ago.

After saying hi to some foodie friends and shooting tons of video (see below) plus photos for Instagram, I bit into the taro cream-filled donut to photograph the inside (I swear!)… and ended up devouring it all after shooting! I regret nothing. 😉

I also liked the coconut flan donut… because FLAN! And the warm, oozy pizza-stuffed croissant had me wanting another one, stat (more on that below). Check out the video below here.

Grand opening: 8 p.m. on Saturday, 1/9 at 16051 Brookhurst St. Fountain Valley, CA. The owners of U Jelly are Scott Afters and Andy Nguyen, a.k.a. the Afters Ice Cream guys… so you know it’ll be an awesome grand opening for a super innovative concept, as always. Heads up: The first 50 people get a special gift!

By the way, thank goodness for that pizza croissant (see video above), because it’s the only savory thing I had time to eat before driving a few miles down the road to the next new donut stop.

For providing me with savory goodness, this croissant will always hold a special place in my heart. The ooey gooey cheese and meaty pepperoni just oozed out thanks to the help of my hand model extraordinaire and U Jelly co-owner, Scott Afters. When Foodbeast featured it, they added in the PERFECT soundtrack to complete the entire experience. Here’s the shot… enjoy. 😉

Up next on my donut spree that very same day was Crafted Donuts!

Formerly known as OC Donut Bar, it recently reinvented its donuts with different shapes and flavors, such as a square Cracker Jack donut and more. Here’s how beautiful these donuts look… plus they’re pillowy soft and gigantic — almost the size of my face!

Tanayas Table Crafted Donuts box

The newly reinvented spot also kept some popular classics from the popular older location, such as the pink Homer Simpson Donut. See it in action (along with other beautiful treats) in this quick video sneak peek. And yes, that IS a cereal and milk frosted Fruity Pebbles donut!

Grand opening: Saturday, 1/9 (yes, both donut places are opening the same day but have totally different concepts!) at 8 a.m. with a free donut for every single customer, as well as a $10 gift certificate for the first 100 people.

Both donut spots are equally incredible in their own unique merits. Hope you guys get to enjoy all the grand opening excitement, now that you have the scoop. Let me know what you think!

Cheers 🙂

Dark Chocolate Red Wine Cookies - copyright 2015 Tanaya's Table

RECIPE: Dark Chocolate Red Wine Cookies For The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap

Note: So many travel adventures to share with you all! Stay tuned in 2016 for some exciting news with Tanaya’s Travels!

I grew up loving the holidays so much that there are recordings of me singing Christmas songs year-round. Even in 75-degree weather, every so often on family road trips I’d bust out with “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.” (Yup, for some reason I placed great emphasis on the “wish” part.)

The holidays just gave me such a joyful feeling, a feeling of safety and love and happiness thanks to my festive and fun-loving family.

Something extra I looked forward to this holiday season was participating in the annual Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, since really I enjoyed doing it last year despite going through some tough times during the holidays. I suppose it brought a bit of normalcy to my anything-but-normal year in 2014.

Last year, I made Bourbon Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie Cookies. Since this holiday season had a strange kind of calm to it in comparison to my 2014, I decided my cookies should reflect that. Because what’s better than sitting back with a glass of red wine and some dark chocolate when you’re catching a much-needed (somewhat of a) break?

I decided to infuse some Merlot for a little tang, as well as some Himalayan Pink Salt to balance and round out the sweetness of this decadent, fudgy cookie. Here’s the recipe, hope you enjoy!

Dark Chocolate Red Wine Cookies - copyright 2015 Tanaya's Table

DARK CHOCOLATE RED WINE COOKIES

Ingredients: (makes 2 to 3 dozen cookies) – Adapted from Simply Scratch

1 1/2 cups flour

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 stick unsalted butter (softened)

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar, packed

1 large egg

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup red wine (I used Merlot, but you could use pinot noir, red zinfandel or any red table wine you’d enjoy with chocolate)

3/4 bag (about 10 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used Trader Joe’s semi-sweet chocolate chunks)

1 teaspoon Himlayan pink salt (optional)

Directions: Preheat oven to 375°F

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, salt & baking soda.  Set aside.

In a separate mixing  bowl, cream together butter and sugar.  Next, add in the egg, vanilla & red wine. Mix together until well incorporated.

Gradually add dry ingredients until well combined, folding chocolate chips in last.

The batter will have a mousse-like, slightly fluffy consistency. Oh, and it tastes DIVINE!

Place heaping teaspoons or tablespoons (depending on size desired) onto cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, a couple inches apart.

Sprinkle a few flakes of Himalayan pink salt on top of cookies, if desired.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, depending on size and desired gooey or crunchy level.

If you’re sending your cookies across the country like I did for this cookie swap, bake those batches a little longer. Otherwise, enjoy these moist, gooey, chocolatey wine-infused cookies to enjoy at home or to share… and be proud of yourself for finding a delicious way to enjoy your dark chocolate and red wine antioxidants! 😉

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2015

I sent these cookies to the fab bloggers at Freshly Baked SweetsIn Natalie’s Shoes and Hye Thyme Cafe. I also received some incredible cookies from the talented bloggers of Sweet-E Pie & Babycakes, Kitchen Gidget and Creative Touch. Thanks for so much cookie love, everyone!

Check out the Tanaya’s Table Instagram photos with the #fbcookieswap hashtag for photos of the awesome treats. Participating bloggers’ cookie recipes, including mine, can be found here. Happy Holidays to you and yours!

 

Sweetest Holiday Events + Flash Giveaway!

** UPDATE 12/4/15: Today is #NationalCookieDay and to celebrate, L.A. Weekly is indulging with a flash sale on tickets. From 7 a.m. Friday, 12/4 through 10 p.m. Saturday, 12/5 get 50% off GA admission! Visit the Sips & Sweets official site to grab yours. Happy National Cookie Day! 😉 **

 

Copyright Tanaya's Table 2015As you may know by now, I’ve got a major sweet tooth. I love decadent desserts and fancy pastries. For my fellow lovers of all things sweet, I wanted to give you all a heads up on the top dessert events coming to LA & Orange County this winter.

Each one is awesome in its own way, and there really is something for everyone. So you’re in for quite a treat… or four. I’ve listed them in order of dates. Here we go!

Big Bite Sugar Rush Tanayas Table

Sugar Rush *FLASH GIVEAWAY ALERT!* Dec. 5 & 6, 2015 – Sugar Rush is a dessert showcase and sweet market packed with entertainment, competitions, demonstrations, tastings of sweet treats and shopping from dozens of the best pastry chefs and confectioners in Southern California. Professionals and amateurs alike can enter Sugar Rush cookie & display competitions. All entries will be on display for attendees to bid on via silent auction. To make it even more awesome, 100% of the auction proceeds will be donated to a local charity. There will also be games and crafts for kids, making this the perfect family event. Sugar Rush is hosted by Big Bite Events and will be held at the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa, CA. For tickets, visit SugarRushOC.com.

GIVEAWAY – I’ve got two Sugar Rush tickets for you guys to win! Two ways to enter:

Instagram

  1. Follow me on Instagram (@tanayas.table) and I’ll direct message you to redeem your prize
  2. Comment on the image of the white cake with the words, “Sugar, yes please!” & tag whom you’d want to take with you if you won
  3. Entry closes at 8 p.m. PST on Tuesday 12/1/15. Spread the word so if your friend wins, (hopefully) they’ll take you 😉
  4. Wait for the winner (chosen at random, to keep it fair… since I want you all to win!) to be announced by 12/1/15. Good luck!

Twitter

  1. Follow me on Twitter (@TanayaG) and I’ll direct message you to redeem your prize
  2. Retweet this tweet to enter to win, and reply to the tweet tagging whom you’d want to take with you
  3. Entry closes at 8 p.m. PST on Tuesday 12/1/15. Spread the word so if your friend wins, (hopefully) they’ll take you 😉
  4. Wait for the winner (chosen at random, to keep it fair… since I want you all to win!) to be announced by 12/1/15. Good luck!

** If you are the lucky winner, you’ll have to let me know which date you choose to attend (12/5 or 12/6).

LA Weekly Sips Sweets Tanayas Table

LA Weekly Sips & Sweets – Dec. 12  – LA Weekly’s second annual holiday party will feature 20+ of the city’s top bakers, 20+ of LA’s most respected mixologists, and over 25 artisanal craft vendors. Sample delicious confections, sip on handcrafted cocktails and shop for amazing holiday gifts and trinkets. This carefully curated eating, drinking and shopping extravaganza by LA Weekly is not to be missed, as are all of their events like LA Weekly The Essentials (<– check out my coverage + video highlights)! This event is definitely for those who are 21+ and like to stay in the know about the latest, greatest and hottest spots in LA. Grab your tickets by checking out the official website: LA Weekly Sips & Sweets

Indulge Los Angeles Tanayas Table

Indulge LA – Dec. 27 – This incredibly decadent event is back, and I’m so excited! Indulge LA is an all-inclusive chocolate festival and pastry show featuring fantastic sweet and savory culinary creations from top-notch chocolate and pastry chefs. Unlimited champagne, wines, beers and spirits will be flowing as well, although it’s open to all ages. The event, held at the Olympic Collection, will also donate part of the proceeds for St. Jude Children’s Hospital. A DJ will be spinning to complete the festive party atmosphere, and it will definitely be a classy affair, judging from the past years I’ve covered Indulge LA. You can find my past coverage here and here and get your tickets to this year’s sweet and classy affair for some post-Christmas, pre-New Year’s fun at Indulge LA’s official website.

Bonus after-holidays event for sweet and savory lovers alike:

Crave Expo Tanayas Table

Crave Expo – Jan. 31, 2016 – Not just desserts, this finely curated event featuring great food and event vendors will be held at The Majestic in Downtown Los Angeles. I had the privilege of covering the event last year, and it was a very well-planned affair with a variety of  interactive aspects, along with tasty food samples from a wide range of eateries and caterers! To get an idea of the event, check out my past coverage here and my video below:

Hope you enjoy satisfying your sweet tooth and more at one or more of these events this holiday season! Stay tuned for a Red Wine Dark Chocolate Cookies holiday recipe I made for the Food Blogger Cookie Swap ;).

Cheers!

 

Thanksgiving Dessert Recipe: Bourbon Pecan Pie Cookies

Tanayas Table Bourbon Pecan Pie Cookies 2

*~* A little note: I usually don’t get too personal publicly, but I realized I wanted to share with you all a part of me that I don’t share with many people… and I realized that when I started writing the words below to introduce the recipe, and it just flowed… *~*

The countdown to Thanksgiving is on, and it’s crunch time! And by crunch, I mean putting a crispy twist on the traditional pie for dessert by turning it into a cookie! If you still don’t know what to make for Thanksgiving dessert, try this cookie recipe out. Or, bake these to send home as a little goodie bag showing your loved ones how grateful you are for them every day.

Speaking of being grateful, although this past year has been an incredibly trying time for me, it’s also taught me a lot about life and myself. I’ve also seen the incredible number of people who truly love and care about me. I’m so thankful for how much family I have surrounding me, doing their best to support and love me in so many ways in the aftermath of the traumatic loss of my best friend, my mother.

It was exactly a year ago on Thanksgiving morning when my mom got the call from her doctor to check in to the hospital due to her alarming test results. The cancer that she fought so hard all year to beat had not only come back, but it had spread to the bones. From then, the majority of her final month of life (that’s how quickly things happened) was spent in the hospital in so much pain and heartbreak. We slowly started to realize that our time with her might actually be limited, although we were in denial about it. I think she started to realize she would have to leave us, that she would never get to see my wedding, or know her grandchildren. Still, she remained strong through it all, fighting and enduring the worst physical and emotional torture with the best attitude. We held on to hope like no other, praying for a miracle every moment of every day.

She came home around Christmas, only because the doctors had completely given up on her. Her final day of mobility and being able to fully communicate was Christmas, as she tried her absolute best to muster up all her strength and hide the excruciating pain to make it one last happy holiday for our soon-to-be-incomplete family. She proudly and nostalgically explained each ornament (“Tanaya made this when she was 7 years old in art class,” she said, beaming) to my friend Priya as we decorated the tree for her one last time, asking her opinion on where to place each ornament.

Each year prior for as long as I can remember, she and I would decorate the tree together, and she would be so particular about the placement of each ornament, hanging each sentimental piece we had collected over the years on the perfect branch.

The very next day after Christmas 2014, things took a turn for the worse, and by the night before New Year’s Eve, my mother — my best friend — was gone.

The holidays which she raised me to cherish and love, with all our festive family traditions and warm happy memories, will never be the same. Nor will my life, but that’s a given.

This year, as I do the annual holiday baking we used to do together for family and friends, she’s not there by my side. It breaks me, but as she taught me, I just try to keep going, keep smiling. Some days are harder than others, to be honest.

I’m just grateful I had her as my mother, because she was truly an angel to not just our family, but to all she touched here on earth. Yet this year more than ever, I’m also grateful for the love I’ve received from the family that’s not just blood, but in the form of family friends, old friends, and the new friends who got to meet my mom and know our strong bond. And I’m grateful to all those who have come into my life this year, allowing me to see that there must be more that lies ahead to look forward to… despite going it alone without my best friend and hero (in physical form) from here on out.

And last but definitely not least, I’m so very grateful for each one of you, who have followed me, read my work, supported me, helped me grow and encouraged me to follow my dreams without judging me or discouraging me. I’m amazed at the positive feedback and enthusiasm Tanaya’s Table has been met with over the past few years, from my food editor and radio host days.

I’m on my way, and I could not do it without you guys. So, truly, thank you (if you’re still reading this!) and I hope you continue this journey with me… because I don’t know exactly what will happen, but I do know we’re in for one crazy ride! Love you all. Sending lots of love and delicious moments to you and your loved ones.

If you’d like to read the original tribute I wrote in honor of my mom, you can find it here: A Tribute To Mom. I’ll Miss You, Best Friend

And now, for the original reason I started writing this post… to re-introduce you to my favorite cookie-pie recipe. And yes, I took some of these to my mom in the hospital last year when I first made them, and even though she was having trouble eating, she enjoyed the bites she was able to take… which gives these cookies an extra special place in my heart. I hope you enjoy them with your families, and create happy memories to be cherished forever.

Happy Thanksgiving ❤

Love,
Tanaya

 

Tanaya's Table

Tanayas Table Bourbon Pecan Pie Cookies 1

What’s better than cookies and pie? How about cookies AND pie, wrapped into one delicious and decadent holiday cookie?

Pecan pie is a favorite with my family during the holidays… so I thought, why not blend our favorite pie into cookie form for my first year participating in The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap for a great cause?

Official Food Blogger FB Cookie Swap 2014 Badge Tanaya's Table

These Bourbon Pecan Pie Cookies are gooey, sticky and nutty with a a hint of chocolate and the aroma of vanilla and bourbon to bring it all together. I thought they would make great batches to send to three of my fellow food bloggers to whom I was assigned to send holiday cheer… in the form of cookies, of course.

I also baked some more of these cookies to share with my fellow Los Angeles-based food bloggers at our annual holiday cookie swap. Last year I made red velvet gooey butter cookies, and these pecan pie…

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