Fall Shui

Slim Paley Fall Mood BoardA post or two back I mentioned I would be returning to the subject of  autumn leaves (don’t worry if you don’t remember, we work as a team here :))

The turning of the leaves, those rusty khakis & golds, spicy pumpkin & fiery blood-red hues are one of the few things I miss about living in colder climes. Here in Santa Barbara we have just a couple of varieties of vines and trees that put on any sort of spectacle-both of which I have planted in my garden. Meanwhile…2 days away from December, I’m still waiting…

Fortunately, we were in Chicago for a week earlier this month and thanks to the  “Chef Who Knows No Bounds” Grant Achatz, we experienced a turning of leaves so inventive even Mother Nature would raise her lichened brow.

Our first stop was a highly anticipated return to “next” to celebrate my husband’s birthday. If you aren’t already familiar with next (opened in 2011), with its fabulous concept of changing “themes” every few months, you simply must put it on your list of things to experience in Chicago. The current theme is “Autumn in Kyoto” with the tradition of “Kaiseki” as its guiding inspiration.

“Autumn in Kyoto: the moon viewing, the changing hue of the maple leaves, the last crickets of summer, wind blowing through the river grass…”

I won’t spoil it by revealing the menu, which is truly half the fun-and yes, this restaurant is about having FUN in and with every sense,  but I’ll share two hastily taken, slightly fuzzy pics (was getting a touch of stink-eye from the Hubs & Older Son)

Next restaurant, ChicagoA glimpse into the level of creativity involved in this dining adventure; Live crickets (for song, not consumption) in a vintage cage perched on leaves in the centre of our table.

The collecting of crickets during the transition of Summer to Autumn is a centuries old Japanese tradition.

Apparently the male crickets do most of the “singing”

Are we surprised??

Next restaurant, Chicago. Slim PaleyA delicate and exquisitely presented dessert called “First Snowfall”


Previous themes at “next” ;

We also heartily imbibed at Chef Achatz’s ultra cool bar “The Aviary” one night and spent our last evening in Chicago dining at his original restaurant, the amazing “Alinea”.

Yes, it’s true

We are complete Achatz-olytes. If Chef Achatz tells us he’s building a space ship that’s going to a better place, we’re on board. We probably get to eat the ship upon arrival.

Next, Chicago, Slim PaleyWoodcock, lingonberry, shallot, oak leaves at Alinea.

The leaves are set alight as they’re brought to the table so the room is infused with the visceral scent of a campfire.

“Alinea”, currently one of the Top Ten restaurants in the world and “The Aviary” are much too special to squeeze in here, so I’ll save them for another post.

a Fall Table

Earlier in the season, Grant Achatz and Chef Daniel Humm of “Eleven Madison Park” in NY, partook in some unprecedented culinary hijinks by trading restaurants for one week. How cool is that?! Reservations for “Alinea at Eleven Madison Park”  and vice versa, were made via the internet just as they are normally for NEXT and Alinea.

As you’d imagine, a furious Foodie throw-down commenced with tables totally booked in minutes. Luckily our Older Son, whose hummingbird-fast digits have been flitting across a keyboard since he was 4,  managed to secure The Dinner Date of a Lifetime for he and his girlfriend the first night. (That’s my boy :) ) Their iphone photo shows “a bed of leaves on the table which you brushed off onto the ground after a few courses” so by the end of the night the floor of the restaurant was covered in leaves.

I actually covered the entire entry hall and dining room floor of our home with leaves for a Halloween party when the boys were  young and what a gorgeous mess it was! (until the light of day…ouch)

Speaking of gorgeous messes, get a load of this tree and how the leaves have turned such a divine rusty red.

Now guess who the tree belongs to.


She lives here in my town.

Er, I mean I live in her town.

Well, let’s just say we’re neighbours.


this is MY tree.

It’s the exact same type of tree. On the same side of the street.  

What’s up with that??!

 Do you think Oprah’s tree knows it’s Oprah’s tree and is just being an overachiever? Are Oprah’s people hand-tinting her leaves in the night?

Or is my tree perhaps a female and therefore not a “singer”?


For information on dining at “Alinea” or “NEXT” visit their Facebook or Twitter pages or click here

And to read my post about our first visit to “NEXT” please click : next:PARIS- 1906


First image a vignette from my Inspiration board.

Header photo of Kendra Spears via Vogue

Yet Another Ojai Treasure


All photos by Slim Paley



Speaking of Summer Reading…(well,weren’t we??!)

(Look, it’s almost Summer. Lengthy segues are for Fall)


As I mentioned last week, I decided  to reread “Dandelion Wine” by Ray Bradbury so we stopped in to one of the true treasures of Ojai;

“Bart’s Books”

to see if they had a copy.



Just one block off the main street of Ojai, Bart’s is a sincerely NOVEL experience (:))



Passing through the  narrow entrance  one discovers  a  preposterous proposal-

a bookshop open almost entirely to the elements 24/7!

What of the rain? you may well ask, as I did.

Well, firstly, it hardly ever rains in Ojai, but when it does the overhang apparently provides just enough coverage to keep inventory dry.

Being on the inland side of the mountain range that separates Ojai from Ventura and Santa Barbara, the climate is much warmer (OK, it’s HOT) and therefore the books don’t suffer from damp in the way they would oceanside.




 How many bookshops do you frequent where enormous grapefruits come rolling off the roof  to land at your feet?? ( top right corner)




Or you’re offered a perch in your own little interrogation booth to peruse  ‘True Crime’ tomes?






A ginormous cat named “PYGMIE” presides, serving up more attitude than a French flight attendant.

This was the look she gave me when I asked how often they turn over the choices on their “Most Requested” shelf.




Grab a stick of hard candy or a Nespresso and stay for hours- as we did!



Cookery books are to be found, where else? in the kitchen of course.


Bart’s, not surprisingly,  had experienced a run on their Bradbury inventory over the last 48 hours so there were no more “Dandelion Wine”s

however we found many other fun treasures

including a copy (in one of their few glass book cases) of Charles Baker Jr.’s “The Gentleman’s Companion: Volume I & II” for a reasonable $100


Slim Paley photo

Featured in one of my past posts, The Gentleman’s Companion is THE ultimate book concerning the art of concocting cocktails.




as well as this fab Douglas Fairbanks biography with a most irresistible cover.

Eat your heart out Johnny Depp.



Lastly, not to be a rabble-rouser, but

know what I won’t be reading this summer?

“50 Shades of Grey”


I said it.

I feel like Meryl Streep in “Silkwood”





After all your hard work and heavy lifting at Bart’s, why not saunter up the road to the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa and treat yourself to one of these;

(Vegetarians look away)


I cannot deny I was dreaming of this burger the entire drive over.

Great Burgers & Books.

Life is Good!



Ideas For Black Friday/or Navy Blue Thursday




can’t stop listening to all the original  Beatles songs remastered. Absolutely fricking brilliant. These boxed sets (they come in either Stereo or Mono) are THE BEST!! I can’t imagine a more universally well received Christmas present… I’d get my order in on Amazon or buy in stores before they’re gone. I heard the Mac Store in Santa Barbara was sold out of the cool new mouses (mice??)  After Slim Paley’s post, of course. :)

This little projector seems like a cool gift to me for teen-aged kids.   The Cinemen Swivel portable projector


When The Fat Duck Cookbook, the wonderfully inventive cooking tome by  the infamous Heston Blementhal first hit the shelves with a THUD and a groan at $250, I thought hmmm…maybe I’ll just wait…knowing I’d most likely never attempt any of the recipes any way, but now…

The new smaller version

the publishers have just released a smaller version boasting exactly the same content (but without the pretty protective sleeve and fewer bicycle tassles) for $31.50 on Amazon.

The photography is exceptional; it won the 2009 James Beard Award for food photography.

So Get Your Duck on and put it in your “Rocket”! ( which centrifuges liquid in a vacuum-but you knew that)

Then there is Phaidon’s new “COCO: 10 World-Leading Masters choose 100 Contemporary Chefs” which would be a fun gift for those Food Networkies in your life and look-   more bike handle streamers!

 Just this. Tom Ford set of perfumes.

.Check out Lumas Art Editons.  Large scale art photography (some full wall size) at affordable prices.  Great store in the East Village, Manhattan  and the full collection is online.

Han Lei.   31 1/2″ x 31 1/2 ”   $600

Annet Van der Voort     43″ x 30″  $660

And I realize if you’ve read previous posts you might suspect I’m  heavily laying the “Leica camera for Christmas” bone out there for my own selfish reasons (no way Stieglitz)  But…


The Leica X1 High Premium Compact Digital Camera with APS-C  Sensor

The Leica X1 boasts of superior ruggedness and durability with its aluminium top and bottom plates, magnesium body and aluminium dials to withstand the rigors of everyday use. Sensor The LEICA X1 has the world’s largest sensor in a compact camera. The CMOS sensor which is 23.6 x 15.7 mm is 30% larger than its closest competitor. The LEICA X1 offers the DSLR quality in a compact camera with its 12.2 mega pixels. The sensor offers sharp pictures in low light conditions making it a perfect compact tool for professional photographers.
Alright, so I’m not even sure what all that stuff means, but I have a teeny little Leica D-Lux 3 that takes genius photos considering I never even read the directions book. It cost about $400 a few years ago, so I figure this one, at 12.2 pixels and $1,995 has got to be the bomb.
Plus, it has this really cool round periscope flash that pops up like a little submarine thingy. I know men would like this. It weighs 1lb so it’s not exactly a slip in your evening clutch camera, but you can use your iphone or Flip to capture those occasions.
The Leica X1 releases in December.