Posts Tagged ‘Culture and Cuisine Club’

Inspiration: Norma Kamali

Monday, September 19th, 2016
Sculpture outside the Tampa Museum of Art.

Sculpture outside the Tampa Museum of Art.

I have an unexpected day-off. In fact, I’m also off tomorrow and this is a rare occurrence. So instead of lying in bed and staring at the ceiling, cherishing the fact that I didn’t have to move if I didn’t want to, I dragged my not-completely-convinced body out of bed.  After coffee and a quick breakfast I got my act together, and headed downtown to catch the Norma Kamali exhibit at the Tampa Museum of Art.


Elegant armor.


I would wear this if it included a Spanx. Love!




Kamali makes red-hot cool.


Made me think of Miss Haversham.


Pippi Longstocking as an ornithologist.

If you are a fabulous-fifty like me you might remember Kamali for her use of parachute material. (I had a pedestrian LeSac, and I loved it.) The black evening gown, made out of this unlikely material, was a blissful confection of modern gothic glam topped with feathers. Her palette of grey, red, and black had me thinking about my own closet — a mix of too many colors and even less synergy. There is an energy to her clothes, elegance without snobbishness, an irreverent reverence for fashion that I never fully appreciated before. If you can get to the exhibit before it closes on September 25, do so. Enjoy the photos.

Enduring the Dog Days of Summer, Rusty Style

Friday, August 26th, 2016
I love the cheese lady!

I love the cheese lady!

Ah, the dog days of summer.

As a child in New Jersey I welcomed the summer heat. It meant days spent in the above ground pool my father would install. The humidity would hit you in the face like a wet washcloth, not unlike the current weather we are experiencing in Tampa. When I wasn’t in the pool I played games with my sisters, or lost myself in the library books I’d borrow. I particularly loved stories of other countries and cultures that took me away from small town life.

I always thought the expression “the dog days of summer” had to do with how our pets behaved during the heat. I was raised in a household where the dogs were considered part of the family. Caesar and Nicole, our mixed breed siblings, would lie down on the cool tile floor. They were not interested in being outside except to do their business. It was only much later that I learned the expression has to do with astronomy. The ancient Greeks believed that “when the Dog Star, Sirius, appeared to rise just before the sun there follows a period of indolence, lethargy, and inactivity.” They believed this was a dangerous time. I am not an astronomer, and I only remember how the dogs would pant and lie around “like lazy lumps” as my mother would fondly say.

We have a new member of the family. His name is Rusty, but I feel Rustin Sinclair is the appropriately classy name for his new life. My son always wanted a dog, and, being a cruel mother, we had cats instead. One day he called me from college and told me he had been looking online and a photo came up of a dog named Rusty. There was something about this dog. He decided to visit the shelter, and as he stood outside the cage where Rusty lay curled back in a far corner their eyes met. My son bent down as Rusty watched him. My son called his name softly, and he picked his head up. Slowly, he got up and walked to the front of the cage. He lay down and slid his paws under the cage door. He chose my son. This abused and neglected animal decided to take a chance on another human.

We don’t know anything about his previous life, and maybe that’s for the best. It breaks my heart to think anyone could have been mean to him. My son is a dedicated owner, and I must admit I have fallen for this energetic pit bull mix. He knows it, of course, and works me like a pro, all in the interest of a cheese slice.

If you are in Tampa for the summer there are lots of indoor delights. Both the Tampa Museum and The Dali museum have wonderful exhibits. The Tampa Theatre is a jewel of a movie palace that shows a wonderfully eclectic range of movies. Or, go to Clearwater Beach and have a fried grouper sandwich at Frenchy’s. Enjoy your summer.



Mixing It Up: Democratizing My Jewelry

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

I love these earrings!

I have always loved jewelry.

I remember as a young teenager sitting with fashion magazines and looking at the gorgeous offerings of famed jewelers like Tiffany & Co., Cartier, Graff, Van Cleef and Arpels, De Beers, etc. I drooled over Bulgari watches, fantasized about Patek Philippe. When I wrote my first novel I included as many of these purveyors of fine jewelry as possible — along with detailed descriptions of the haute couture clothing my characters wore. The fantasy world of my characters fulfilled my love of luxury the best it could. I do not have Miranda’s closet (my character based on Iris Apfel) nor do I live in a waterfront Montauk mansion. My current job as a jewelry stylist enables me to experiment with both fine and fashion jewelry. Fashion jewelry is the fun, fabulous pieces that are on-trend. They don’t break the bank. They can, with a little planning, be seamlessly added into your own collection.

The earrings pictured here are part of the Kendra Scott ‘Mystic Bazaar’ collection. ‘Addie’ comes in many different color combinations. I chose the yellow gold to mix with my fine jewelry, but the rose gold is wonderful. The workmanship is high quality and they are not too heavy. I encourage you to check out the entire line of these gems — no pun intended. Click on the photo above to see many examples from the iconic Kendra Scott line. Have fun!

Dining Review: Rooster and the Till

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016
Decadence in a glass.

Decadence in a glass.

July is a busy month at my place of business, Nordstrom International Plaza. I work a crazy amount of hours and downtime is at a minimum. It was a great idea of my children to send their dad a Father’s Day gift card to one of our favorite restaurants.

The manager of the restaurant (who is also a friend) suggested that we sit at the bar so that we could watch the talented chefs work their magic. I felt like a judge on Top Chef, and we wanted to sample each dish after it was prepared. Ferrell Alvarez, a chef/owner (the other owner, Ty Rodriguez, cooked in front of us) stood between the cooking stations, observing, and checked each plate before it was carried by the servers to the patrons. Such attention to detail is evident in the creativity of the plating, and every garnish and fillip adds to the sublime balance. Many of the flavors are unexpected and this adds to the fun. The quality of the ingredients is beyond fresh, and this is largely what allows the imagination of the chefs to run wild. Rooster and the Till is for those who have a deep appreciation for a brilliant group of foodies who want to take you with them on a journey of taste, texture, and consumable art.

We were given an appetizer by chef Alvarez that was not on the menu; sliced sunchoke, fresh ricotta, roasted pistachios, and a bit of heat from I believe came from a chipotle drizzle. A little palate play never hurt anyone, right? Oh, and I forgot the grapefruit. He had created this dish for a private dinner recently held for a group of local and visiting chefs. We knew we wanted the gnocchi and short ribs… and we don’t share this. A red wine was discussed as we reviewed the excellent selections. After tasting two wines Miles brought us, we chose a Côte du Rhône, Mon Coeur. Miles suggested the chorizo crusted octopus/pickled raisins/carrot emulsion/squid black ink beans, and that arrived before the gnocchi — it was wonderfully unexpected and something we never would have tried. After the sublime gnocchi I had to have the foie gras/sous vide pear/cashew pear butter nutella/huckleberry gastrique, melt in your mouth luxury. The wine paired perfectly with these flavors, preventing a taste bud overload, but I wasn’t done yet.

I have eaten desserts in a glass, and many times they are a mess of layers and flavors that smush together in a disappointing muddle. This dessert was magnificent — mocha custard/”candied brioche”/honey roast pistachio/pistachio gelato/cherry geleé. I finished it all, sharing a couple of bites with my husband who watched me devour it with amusement.

Treat yourself and dine here sooner rather than later. Call for reservations early. And sit at the bar if you can get a seat. Let me know what you eat because the menu changes frequently. And thank you to everyone at Rooster and the Till for a truly memorable meal.


Foie gras





Brown Sugar and Cream Cheese Pound Cake

Sunday, July 10th, 2016

IMG_1431We were having guests for the Fourth of July and I was so excited that I would get to bake a dessert! I found this recipe on Pinterest, a great place to go to peruse recipes that other pinners recommend. This recipe was easy and a wonderful finish to a rather heavy meal. The compote was the perfect addition — fresh, seasonal berries have to be taken advantage of when at their peak. And, the tradition of a red, white and blue dessert was met, even if the red and blue were mingled. Enjoy!

Brown Sugar & Cream Cheese Pound Cake


1 8-ounce package cream cheese – softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter – softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar – packed
5 large eggs – room temperature
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Butter and flour a 10-inch tube pan, bundt pan or 2 loaf pans
Add cream cheese, butter and sugars to mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
Add eggs one at a time, mixing well about, 1 minute after each egg.
Sift together flour, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl.
Combine buttermilk and vanilla in a small measuring cup and stir.
Alternate adding flour and milk to butter/egg batter – starting and stopping with flour. This will incorporate all the ingredients evenly.
Pour batter into buttered, floured tube or bundt pan.
Bake for approximately 1 hour or up to 1:15 hours. Check if done with a toothpick.
Let cool for 15 minutes then gently remove from pan.


3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 cups mixed berries (3/4 lb) such as raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries

Melt butter in a skillet over moderate heat. Stir in brown sugar and lemon juice until sugar is dissolved. Add berries and cook, tossing gently (try to keep most of them from breaking up), until berries are warm and juices begin to be released, 3 – 5 minutes.
Serve warm or at room temperature.

Attribution: A Southern Soul and Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking.


Salmon with Crème Fraîche and Asparagus

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

unnamed-2My husband is used to eating well.

While raising our two wonderful children I cooked my way through a personal collection of seventy-five cookbooks, exploring the favorite recipes of diverse cultures. I became a firm believer that in order to truly understand what makes up a sublime plate one must be able to do more than boil water.

Flash-forward to the present—I am always looking for another challenge that involves personal growth. I am currently working as a jewelry stylist for Nordstrom while still writing, presenting to various groups at local libraries, and caring for my thirty orchids. Yes, I’m crazy busy and have less time to cook, which is why it is so nice when my husband discovers a gem of a recipe like this one. He has made it a number of times and has changed a few critical aspects. He has become a confident cook, unafraid to adjust a method that seems less than satisfactory. He has a couple of suggestions: The cooking time in the original recipe is way too short unless you want to eat raw salmon. Also, his method for preparing the potatoes is superior. He bakes the potatoes rather than boiling them. The potatoes are drier in texture, and form a crunchy platform on which to place the asparagus and the salmon. Try both methods and let us know what you think. Enjoy!


4 medium red-skin potatoes
4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons butter
1 bunch jumbo asparagus, tough ends trimmed and sliced on diagonal into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons vermouth or white wine
¼ cup crème fraîche
Paul Prudhomme Veggie Magic
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add potatoes and boil until just tender, 20 minutes. Drain. When cool enough to handle, peel potatoes and flake into bite-size pieces. Set aside to air-dry. (Bake potatoes until cooked, cool, and chop into bite size pieces.)

2. Season salmon with salt. Spray a baking dish lightly with oil. Arrange salmon, skin-side down, in dish and cover with aluminum foil. Roast until flesh flakes when lightly prodded, about 12 minutes. Remove skin.

3. Meanwhile, melt half the butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add asparagus and sauté until bright green, about 2 minutes. Add vermouth and simmer until just tender, about 2 minutes more. Transfer asparagus to a bowl and let cool slightly, 3 minutes. Season with salt and crème fraîche.

4. Set another large sauté pan over medium-high heat and coat with two tablespoons olive oil. Once hot, add chopped potatoes and cook until browned, 2 minutes. Season with Veggie Magic. Flip potatoes, add remaining butter and cook until crisped, 2 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper.

Attribution: Eric Ziebold/WSJ

Do You Have #bloggerstyle?

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

Bacon_Aporkalypse_6x9_CMYK-24.25"x2.75" Post Card TemplateI am looking forward to an evening of tasty treats and great conversation as I join fellow foodies at the Riverview public library. In honor or this event I have placed two of my short stories free on Amazon.

Cookbook Club: Digital Dining.

This month’s theme is Food Blogging. Join special guest, Lois Lewandowski, local author and food blogger, who will share how her passion for food and writing about it, jumpstarted her career as a fiction writer. Choose a recipe from your favorite food blog or from the display and prepare a dish; bring it to the meeting to share with the other participants. Please bring your own place setting (cup or bowl, plate and silverware) for each meeting. Funded by the Friends of the Riverview Branch Library. #readlocal #enovaaw

Thoughts on Mother’s Day Weekend

Sunday, May 8th, 2016
Runway ready at the Hunter's Green fashion show.

Kim Kardashian watch out!

I like to extend holidays that celebrate… me.

One year my birthday became ‘birthday weekend’, and it has evolved into a full week that marks my exciting entry into humanity. The same thing has happened with Mother’s Day, that special day when we spoil the moms in our family. Mother’s Day is now ‘Mother’s Day weekend’, two glorious days that are all about my incredible skills making rice and breakfast potatoes. (Inside joke.) But in all seriousness, every mom deserves a weekend that is all about her.

A mother puts her family’s needs before her own. Moms don’t get to sleep in when they’re tired. A little one may be calling from their crib or they need to drive a child several hours to an audition. Moms do it all, from a place deep in their heart. They juggle kid’s activities and perform Houdini-like feats of domesticity, managing to wash a load of laundry, correct an English essay, and get dinner on the table by six o’clock.

Moms are awesome. And sometimes these ‘Moms’ aren’t biologically connected to us. Don’t forget these people on Mother’s Day. Many women, and men, who haven’t actually delivered a baby, deserve our thanks for their unselfish support.

I have lots of ideas on how to mark Mother’s Day weekend. My favorite restaurants in Tampa are: Mise en Place, The Rooster and the Till, Edison, Armani’s, Oyster Catcher’s, BT’s, Capital Grille, Frenchy’s, and Taco Bus. If you want to start Mother’s Day weekend off with a bang, take your honey to one of these awesome restaurants.

You can also plan a local trip to one of the amazing sites in the Tampa Bay area. Catch a movie at The Tampa Theatre. Go to Clearwater beach and have a fried grouper sandwich at Frenchy’s. The Dali museum is incredible, and St. Petersburg is packed with trendy restaurants. We like The Birchwood a lot. Or, you can take a trip down to Sarasota and visit Ca’ d’Zan, the gorgeous Ringling mansion. The grounds are worth the walk, and the circus museum is incredible. The museum has a wonderful collection.

Our tradition on the Sunday of Mother’s Day begins with Eggs Benedict. My husband is an expert, and could give the New Orleans iconic restaurant Brennan’s competition. We usually have rack of lamb for dinner, and if I’m feeling it I make cheese grits à la Mise en Place. Chef Marty Blitz has shared his white cheddar cheese tarragon recipe and it’s superb.

I have a few suggestions to simplify your quest for the perfect gift. A ‘Mom’ Alex and Ani bracelet is usually a big hit, or you can add one to a stack of bracelets they may already have collected. Don’t wait until a couple of days before the big day to purchase—they sell out fast. Rose gold continues to grow in popularity. One of my new favorite lines is Monica Vinader. Pearls are also very personal, and Nadri, Kate Spade, and at the higher end Lagos has stunning white freshwater pearls that will become a family heirloom. If you need help choosing that special gift in a price range that fits your budget contact me from May fourth through Mother’s Day. I am out of town before that celebrating a family event.

Happy Mother’s Day from your jewelry stylist,

Lois Lewandowski

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Blog: culture and cuisine





Minestrone With a Twist

Wednesday, April 6th, 2016

FullSizeRender-4You all know that in my family we love to eat soup, and I take advantage of the cooler weather to indulge my craving for this comfort food. Lysander’s makes wonderful pre-packaged bean combination with the recipe on the back.

Of course, I don’t like to follow recipes. I washed and separated the beans and set them to the side. I sprayed Crisco in a slow cooker and stirred 1/2 cup of chopped white onion and one clove of minced garlic in one tablespoon of olive oil. I turned the slow cooker to high, and got the rest of the items together. I baked one pound of Italian pork sausage in the oven for forty minutes at 325 degrees. After about thirty minutes I added the beans to the slow cooker, followed by two cans of fire roasted tomatoes, six cups of homemade chicken stock, and three cups of water. When the sausage was cooked, I allowed it to cool and sliced it, adding it to the slow cooker. I added 1/4 cup of dry red wine, and then let the slow cooker go at the highest setting until I had to leave for work. Then, I turned it down to the ten hour setting.

When I got home from work an amazing smell greeted me! I prepared about 1/4 pound of ditalini pasta, and placed the cooked pasta in the bottom of the bowl, spooning the soup over the top. Then, for a bit of healthy green and beautiful color, I heaped two handfuls of fresh organic arugula on top. A dusting of grated parmigiana cheese, and I was thrilled with the result. Try it soon and let me know what you think.

Coming Soon: Big Changes to My Blog

Wednesday, March 30th, 2016

images-1This blog post has been percolating for quite a while. This morning I got a whiff of burnt coffee, and decided it was time to dump my thoughts. As Elizabeth Gilbert writes in Big Magic, we need to act upon our ideas before they go on to another person willing to see them through.

There is a reason I am American. My relatives walked across a bridge into the United States by way of Canada. Long story short, my grandfather became a naturalized citizen after years of hard labor as a low-level construction worker on the George Washington Bridge. My grandmother, bless her heart, was illiterate and unable to complete the test. I thank them for leaving their small village in Italy and taking the risk to make life better for their progeny.

I take the time to tell you this because, on the banner of my blog, you will see the Eiffel Tower. I started this blog in 2009, and thought this iconic monument represented my blog aspirations. I studied French literature for eight years and have a deep appreciation for the French culture. I love French food, fashion, and the existential idea that you are the sum of your actions. I think Paris is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen.

Unfortunately, many bloggers and writers have jumped on a bandwagon, perhaps after reading the uber-successful book French Women Don’t Get Fat, pushing the idea that everything French is better. The amount of books touting French manners, the French lifestyle, et cetera has gone overboard. Honestly. We get it. Americans need to slow down, chew our food, arrange fresh flowers in a crystal vase, and prize quality, in all its manifestations, over quantity. As if we don’t know how to do that, and already do.

My blog will be changing over the next few months. I will be spring-cleaning not only the banner, but some of the topics as well. There will be more of an emphasis on fashion—my job as a jewelry stylist at Nordstrom has put me in a unique position to share my style observations with the amazing product I encounter every day. I will still be writing about food. One of the primary goals will be to incorporate articles about the beauty of American culture. The rest of the world is obsessed with our lifestyle, and we need to be proud. America leads the way in many aspects of modern culture, and I am going to write about it. I think you’ll enjoy the changes; they’ve been a long time coming.

I am still writing books, and I’m currently working on a book that is about American culture and lifestyle in all its wonderful forms. Finding the time for my WIP is the greatest challenge. But what makes life interesting is growing, risking, and challenging ourselves to do things that make us a bit uncomfortable. If you agree, I believe you will enjoy what I have in store for you. Thanks for stopping by and have a great day.