03.21Flowers & Floral Art

Browse one of the best food and travel blogs on the web. Check out The Gourmet Review for my favorite flower and floral artist “inside stories” listed below.

05.13Best Green Salad & Burrata Cheese Crostini Recipe

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Courtesy The Gourmet Review

Fresh and healthy, this recipe will inspire a visit to your local farmer’s market. Chef Guillaume, from the Portola Kitchen just outside of San Francisco,  calls this his Spring Vegetable Salad with Burrata Cheese Crostini Salad.

This salad is so much more than your traditional green salad! Fresh asparagus, shucked English peas, shucked lava beans, radish and lots of fresh herbs with a light lemon vinaigrette make this a beautiful as well as healthy salad.

SERVES: 1 large salad


1 bag mixed greens

1 head romaine chopped use only inner leaves

1 bunch asparagus cut into 2″ long pieces and blanched

2 lbs English peas, shucked and blanched

2 lbs fava beans, shucked, blanched and peeled

4 radishes thinly sliced

3 sprigs tarragon minced

1 bunch chives minced

Handful of parsley minced


Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Season with creamy lemon vinaigrette to lightly coat. Salt and pepper to taste.

Pile on a plate.

Top with Burrata Cheese Crostini.



3 Meyer (if available) lemons

2 tablespoons water

1 fresh egg yolk

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Kosher salt

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup canola oil

1/2 bunch Italian parsley, leaves picked from stem

3 – 4 radishes, trimmed and sliced thinly


Peel strips of zest from one of the lemons with a vegetable peeler.

Place the zest with a couple of inches of water in a small saucepan.

Bring to a boil. drain the water, then replace the water with fresh, cold water. Repeat the entire process three times – don’t cheat! Blanching the zest three times removes any traces of bitterness and guarantees a softer, more floral vinaigrette.

Juice the lemons for a total of 1/4 cup.

In a jar or blender, combine the juice with the blanched zest, the water, egg yolk, mustard and a pinch of salt.

Pulse to chop the ingredients. Then add both oils in a slow, steady stream.

Strain the vinaigrette to remove any large pieces of zest. You should end up with about 1 1/2 cups of dressing.



One slice baguette

1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/3 cup fresh parsley

Buffala Cheese


Prepare Parsley Oil, by combining Extra Virgin Olive Oil and parsley in a blender and pulse.

Brush one side of sliced baguette or french bread with Parsley Oil.

Place sliced baguette on grill or grill pan, first grilling side with Parsley Oil, and lightly grill on both sides.

Top with spoonful of buffalo cheese.

Drizzle with parsley oil.

This is a wonderful secret restaurant recipe!

– The Gourmet Review


Executive Chef Guillaume has created a rustic, Italian California cuisine menu at the Portola Kitchen. The restaurant is moderately priced and the atmosphere for lunch is casual. This is the perfect stop on your way to wineries in Santa Cruz, and is located in California’s Portola Valley.

We sat at an outdoor table overlooking a miniature farmer’s market of fresh fruits and vegetables. A big thank you to Chef for sharing his recipe on a very busy day.

Chef also shared his adaptation of the fabulous Lemon Vinaegrette recipe from Ethan Stowell’s “New Italian Kitchen” cookbook.

12.17Wynn Resort Las Vegas | A Magical Holiday Get Away

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Courtesy Wynn Las Vegas

Feel like having a quick escape from the hustle and bustle of the holidays? Admit it. Wouldn’t a few days at “Wynn’s Tis the Season”  be a great way to pamper yourself and be slightly indulgent?

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Courtesy Wynn Las Vegas

Of course, Wynn Resort Las Vegas is famous for being over the top. There’s a reason the hotel keeps earning top honors from the 2011 Forbes Travel Guide Star awards (formerly Mobil Travel Guide Star awards).

Feeling like a great dinner? Perhaps you’re you in the mood for truffles? Chef Theo Schoenegger, the executive chef at Sinatra restaurant features his truffle indulgence menu this December. It’s a three course meal showcasing decadent imported white truffles from Italy.

Why not try these delicacies in an array of distinctive dishes, including homemade pastas and slow cooked risottos, or perhaps truffles with creamy soft polentas? General Manager, Johnathan Husby, will make sure you have an exquisite evening.

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Courtesy Wynn Las Vegas

Bartolotta’s restaurant presents the traditional Christmas Eve Feast of Seven Fishes. Chef Paul Bartolotta, for whom the restaurant is named, is a two time James Beard Award winner.

So, if it’s Italian food you love, try The Feast, featuring Ligurian octopus salad, baked sea scallops with aromatic herb crust, warm seafood salad, spaghetti with clams and broccoli rapine, along with a whole fish baked in salt crust with Sicilian citrus sauce.

Chef Paul flies his seafood in fresh from the Mediterranean. This is truly  a culinary delight.

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Courtesy Wynn Las Vegas

Or, if you want entertainment overlooking Wynn’s Lake of Dreams to accompany your dining experience, don’t miss Chef David Walzog’s Tasting Menu at Lakeside.

Enjoy a traditional four course tasting menu, featuring foie gras terrine with arugula with pear and white truffle vinaigrette. Don’t miss the oven roasted whole black bass with braised fennel, leeks and chestnut Armagnac cream.

For dessert, perhaps the warm pumpkin spice bread pudding with glazed pecans and maple ice cream.

Have your attention yet? This menu will be available through December 24th. General Manager, Bradley Brown, will make sure you have the perfect table.

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Courtesy Wynn Las Vegas

Yet another great dining option is Botero’s Restaurant, featuring a 3rd Street Farmer’s Market Tasting menu. With a focus on farm to holiday table, Chef Mark LoRusso has created a five course tasting menu inspired by the seasonal produce and ingredients found at the 3rd Street Farmer’s Market.

Chef Mark’s inspired menu includes bay scallops with kabocha squash risotto and Meyer lemon, as well as slow roasted prime rib with rosemary popovers and creamed spinach.

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Courtesy Wynn Las Vegas

So now let’s take a look at some of the special events featured at the hotel through Christmas. My favorite will be the dessert and pastry demonstration led by  cake artist extraordinaire Flora Aghababyan and gifted  Executive Pastry Chef Pierrre Gatel.

Learn cake and candy making techniques sure to  inspire your own holiday dessert creations. (Pssst. Don’t you love the gingerbread recreations of the Wynn and Encore?)

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Courtesy Wynn Las Vegas

Love wine? Don’t forget the exclusive wine tasting at Tableau with Wynn’s wine buyer, Mark Thomas, who will teach you to pair wines of the world with classic holiday dishes. Of course, there will be some small bites to accompany your wine.

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Courtesy Wynn Las Vegas

Finally, depending on the length of your stay,  try Master Mixologist Patricia Richard’s presentation of original holiday cocktails. These will be featured for each of the 12 days of Christmas from December 10 – 22nd. Here is the Cranberry Mojito cocktail.  Recipes will be available for  specialty cocktails served nightly.

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Courtesy Wynn Las Vegas

Remember that all the holiday menus and events will be featured through December 24th, so hurry before it’s too late!. It would be a shame to miss Wynn Las Vegas during this magical time of year!

– The Gourmet Review

12.10Holiday Magic at Four Season’s Hotel George V | Paris

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Courtesy Four Seasons Hotel George V

Want a magical, romantic getaway? What could be more fantastic that staying at the exquisite Four Season’s George V Hotel in Paris. There’s something about the George V that makes its guests feel like royalty, especially during the holidays. Hands down, it is the best hotel in Paris and one of the all time great hotels of the world.

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Courtesy Four Seasons Hotel George V

Why not enjoy world class shopping  in romantic Paris? Wouldn’t that be the ultimate present to yourself? Perhaps surprise someone special with a trip to the George V, when the decorations are still on view.

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Courtesy Four Seasons Hotel George V

Whether it’s the impeccable, personalized service, or pampering at the luxurious spa, you’ll find it all at the George V. Make sure you see the exquisite floral masterpieces of Jeffrey Leatham. Guests wonder if they’ve just viewed the most gorgeous flowers in the world.

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Courtesy Four Seasons Hotel George V

Remember to slow down in the afternoons with tea at Le Galerie. Afterall, taking in the historical sites like the Louvre and Eiffel Tower can be exhausting, but no trip  is complete without immersing yourself in the the history and culture of Paris. 

What could be more romantic than dinner on New Year’s Eve at Le Cinq followed by a stroll down the Champs Elysees or the River Seine. Hundreds of lights and flowers are lit in the lobby at night. No wonder Michelin gave the George V it’s highest ratings. 

With visions of sugar plums dancing in your head, the George V might just make your dreams come true. Make sure you reserve a room overlooking the Eiffel Tower and wait for the lights to twinkle in celebration of the New Year. They did for us and it was magical!

– The Gourmet Review

12.04Wynn Las Vegas Celebrates the Holidays

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Courtesy Wynn’s Alex Karvounis

Leave it to Wynn’s head cake artist, Flora Aghababyan, to create an over the top gingerbread house. Look a little closer and it’s a reproduction of the Wynn Resort Las Vegas, side by side with the Encore. This takes the idea of a holiday gingerbread house to a whole new level.

Are those really the waterfalls in the front of the hotel that we see from the famous Las Vegas “strip?”

It’s going to take me a few minutes to figure out how the cake is constructed and, more importantly, how Flora makes sure the cake doesn’t collapse.

Why not get into the holiday spirit at the Wynn Las Vegas? If you love desserts more than the main meal, you’ll love the “Sweet Greetings Holiday Dessert tasting on December 15th from 3 pm to 5 pm. You’ll get to meet Chef Flora, along with pastry chef Pierre Gatel and chocolatier David Krzewinski.

Enjoy a demonstration of cake and candy making techniques that will inspire all of us who think dessert and holidays go hand in hand. Oh, and the best part? You get to sample the pastries and desserts!

–   The Gourmet Review


10.19Four Seasons Paris | The George V | Luxury Travel At It’s Best

Four Seasons Paris | The George V

Courtesy Four Seasons Hotel George V

The Four Seasons George V in Paris is simply gorgeous. One word describes The George V hotel – fabulous. Drop dead, never want to leave, fabulous! It is regarded by many as the best hotel in the world.

Ask about their Rolls Royce Phantom. It’s the only one with an interior exclusively personalized by Hermes. How many hotels offer a Rolls Royce Phantom chauffeur service? Rest assured, you’ll be riding in style during your stay in Paris.

With each experience, the George V strives to offer the very best in life. Whether it’s gourmet dining at Le Cinq or the exquisite floral masterpieces throughout the hotel, you will know you have arrived at your dream destination.

Four Seasons Paris | The George V

Courtesy Four Seasons Hotel George V

When you are the best hotel in the world, how do you measure

yourself when the only challenge is you?  Essentially, the continual

 striving to surpass inevitably makes you better,  which is why Four

 Seasons George V remains one in a million.”

                                                                                          Gallivanter’s Guide, UK, March 2009

Ideally situated steps from the Champs Elysees, the Place de la Concorde and the Arc de Triomphe, The Four Season’s George V hotel is one of the most elegant and luxurious in Paris and quite possibly the world for that matter!

My love affair with the George V started the moment my husband and I set foot in the lobby.

We checked in to celebrate a big anniversary. It was supposed to be a short visit to Paris.Then a funny thing happened. We couldn’t bring ourselves to leave, so we extended our stay!

Four Seasons Paris | The George V

Courtesy Four Seasons Hotel Georges V

This Four Seasons spa brings new meaning to the word “luxury.” It’s the ultimate pampering experience and will be the highlight of your stay at the George V.

Four Seasons Paris | The George V

Courtesy Four Seasons Hotel George V

One afternoon we walked for 2.5 hours along the Seine on a balmy 75 degree day and finally made it back to the hotel.

The outdoor courtyard offers a welcome break from the bustling city. It’s the ideal place to bask in the glorious sunshine and enjoy an ice cold beverage. My romantic husband drew a stick figure of us holding hands, while we waited for our freshly squeezed lemonade. That cartoon is still on my dresser.

The impeccable staff goes out of their way to make sure every minute of your stay exceeds expectations.

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Courtesy Four Seasons Hotel George V

Be forewarned – the Four Seasons Hotel George V will wrap its arms around you and threaten to never let  you go. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!


Did you know that General Eisenhower’s headquarters during the liberation of Paris in August, 1944 were at the George V?

Link to Four Seasons Hotel George V’s Website for fabulous videos and more photographs.

– The Gourmet Review

07.18Cake Artistry | The Wynn Resort Las Vegas

Cake Artistry

Courtesy Wynn Resort Las Vegas

Flora Aghababyan is the master cake artist at the Wynn Resort Las Vegas. She is cool under pressure and there isn’t a cake request that she can’t fulfill in a moment’s notice.

Cake Artistry

Coutesy Wynn Resort Las Vegas

Do you love the red Hermes purse in the photo? Wait . . . this is a birthday cake replicated by Flora. Trust me, Flora really can transform anything into a cake. When you want to impress someone in Vegas, as a very important Wynn executive wanted to do one birthday for his wife, of course you turn to Flora to get those extra bonus points for creativity!

Cake Artistry

Flora Working on Equestrian Cake

Cake Artistry

Finished Equestrian Cake Complete With Hay

Perhaps you have an equestrian in the family and want to celebrate a birthday. You might request this cake, which measured about 3 ‘ x 1 1/2 feet and was secured in a plexiglass case and loaded up in a private plane to be delivered for a very lucky young lady’s birthday.

Cake Artistry

The Gourmet Review

The “Blue Baker,” my granddaughter, and I visited Flora and her team one afternoon and met Flora and her team. They are talented, creative and fast. One can only describe this as the home of  cake magic. We watched as Flora recreated the “Welcome to Las Vegas”  sign on a sheet cake.

Cake Artistry

The “Blue Baker’s” first decorated cake

Then it was time for the “Blue Baker”,  to decorate her first cake. First the frosting. Then selecting the flowers. (Flora can reproduce any flower grown). Finally,  it’s time to pipe the frosting on the sides of the cake. Flora sent the “Blue Baker’s” creation home in a box. It was quickly placed in the freezer. I keep hoping for a taste, but many months later, the “Blue Baker” will not allow anyone to eat her souvenir. This is a cake that will forever be saved!

Cake Artistry

The Gourmet Review

Flora was 12 when she decorated her first cake and already knew she wanted to become a professional baker at age 18. Here she is demonstrating to the “Blue Baker “how to create a perfect frosting finish. Flora’s personal favorite cake is one made with fresh berries, but all her cakes are mouth watering.

Cake Artistry

Flora’s Hand Made Cake Decorations Ready To Place

In the course of an average day, Flora will bake and decorate between 10 and 20 cakes. Above are some decorations waiting for placement. She gets her inspiration from just about everywhere – books, the internet and sometimes even an art store.

Cake Artistry

Flora’s Taj Mahal Cake

When asked what the hardest cake order she ever filled, Flora replied that she is actually quite comfortable with any design. I guess that’s why appearing on Food Network didn’t stress her out.

Flora has won numerous awards, including the National Grand Wedding Competition in 2010 out of 70 professionals in the Country. Always humble, she shares that “Every day is a competition for me. At the end of the day if everything is fine and  everyone is happy, then  this is the  best award for every day.”

Cake Artistry

Flora’s Cake Artistry Courtesy Wynn Resort Las Vegas

The most number of cakes Flora ever made were  550 creations in three days! Now, that’s working under pressure!

Flora is a great believer in working hard and following your dreams. When you look at photos of her cake creations, you know that this inspirational woman  has found her dream job. Lucky for Wynn Resort and anyone able  to savor her creations!

– The Gourmet Review

12.22Holidays at the Four Seasons Paris

Four Seasons Paris

Courtesy Georges V

Leave it to the Four Seasons George V,  Paris to become a winter wonderland of white lights, exquisite flowers and a showcase for Swarovski crystals. Jeff Leatham, perhaps the most talented artistic director/floral genius anywhere, has transformed the hotel lobby into a forest of Christmas trees hung with crystal curtains made to order for the George V.

holidays Four Seasons Paris

Courtesy Georges V

The Swarovski’s Crystal Palace project was created in 2002 to create interpretations of large crystal chandelier making with signature lighting and design using cut crystal. You can visit the Swarovski Crystal Palace exhibition at the hotel through January 15th. It’s not to be missed.

holidays Four Seasons Paris

Courtesy Georges V

For those of us who can’t make the trip, we will have to be content to savor the photographs. The George V Paris wishes all my readers a Merry Christmas.

– The Gourmet Review

12.12Eat this Hermes!

Courtesy Very Creative Husband

Sometimes a man just needs a special award for creativity. Rumor has it that a very important executive at Wynn Las Vegas got lots of points when he presented his wife with this beautiful Hermes bag.

Thanks to cake artist Flora, Aghababyan at Wynn Resort Las Vegas,   this handbag reproduction was enjoyed by all attending the birthday party. There appears to be  no challenge that Flora  and Wynn Resort can’t meet.

PS Can you believe this is really a cake?

– The Gourmet Review

09.14Elegant Flower Displays | Four Seasons Hotel George V | Paris


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Courtesy Four Seasons Hotel George V

The Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris sets a veritable stage for Jeff Leatham and his floral masterpieces.

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Courtesy Four Seasons Hotel George V

Jeffrey Leatham and the Four Seasons George V and its flowers have been bound together. Their story cannot be separated, even though Jeff  is now artistic director for the George V. By the way, in that capacity,  Jeff  oversaw the design for the interior of the  hotel’s Rolls Royce Phantom  limousine.

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Courtesy Four Seasons Hotel George V

“Art is a window into your soul, what you think

about, what you like, what you want to be. It

causes you to look at the world differently.”

Unknown Writer

These words, quoted  in Jeff’s book, “Flowers by Jeff Leatham,” certainly reflect the emotional impact of Jeff’s floral artistry on guests.

Courtesy Four Seasons Hotel George V

Working with roughly 15,000 flowers every week, Jeff and his team of 7 assistants transform the hotel from season to season, palette to palette.

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Courtesy Four Seasons Hotel George V

At night, literally hundreds of candles are magically lit and scattered among vases throughout the hotel.

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Courtesy Four Seasons Hotel George V

Such imagination. Submerged purple orchids. Angled long stemmed roses. Hydrangeas preening for the guests. Every kind of flower in every imaginable design.

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Courtesy Four Seasons Hotel George V

If you can’t visit the Four Season’s Georges V,  scroll through Jeff’s book,  Flowers by Jeff Leatham, and be mesmerized by the exquisite photography and a few inside tips.

Hmmm. Did you ever try putting roses in sparkling water? Looks like sparkling diamonds to me! Every page inspires memories of our stay and will lure you to the Georges V.


Jeff’s monochromatic  style has become his signature. He has worked with countless celebrities, including Madonna, Oprah,  Cher and  Tina Turner, to name just a few. Jeff handled the floral design for Eva Longoria and Tony Parker’s lavish wedding in 2007 and recently oversaw a reputed $250,000 budget for Chelsea Clinton’s wedding. Mum’s the word from Jeff, though. My information  came strictly from outside sources!

– The Gourmet Review

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