Curious Epicurean

My sister and mom threw us a great couples shower last weekend. Instead of the standard ladies-only event, we invited all the family and friends and had a great late-afternoon party. After reading countless wedding websites and blogs for content ideas for my other Twitter and wedding blog, I always have really great visions of what I want and no idea how to get there. Luckily for me, my baby sister is endlessly creative and could translate my aimless wish list of decor elements into beautiful arrangements.

My creative team and bridesmaids.

Flowers are a big part of any wedding-related event. In fact, some professionals say that floral elements should account for 10% of your overall budget. Looking for a way to stretch our floral budget, we decided to try the Oakland Flower Mart, a wholesale distributor of flowers in the East Bay. We arrived early in the morning and I was almost overwhelmed by the options! For great prices, we found exactly what we needed and more–for way under the budget.

The before:

Our selection of hhydrangeas, daisies dyed hot pink and orange, chrysanthemums, orange roses, and funny little green things

And after, with some creativity:

Roses and hydrangeas after some creativity.

We found a way to incorporate delicate hydrangeas into the hot pink and bright orange color scheme.


Not sure how I’m just learning about this, but The Dirty Heads are amazing. I realize I’m probably the last person on the planet to figure this out. This music just feels like a lazy summer afternoon.

Forget the macaron trend. I'm not quite over the cupcake trend. (Photo courtesy of Kara's Cupcakes Facebook)

Food experts hailed 2011 as the “Year of the Macaron.” While I’m always excited for one more option for a sweet treat, I’m still solidly obsessed with last year’s cupcake trend. I joke that when I quit working in San Francisco, I knew I’d miss four things: food trucks, Blue Bottle Coffee, easy access to SF Giants games and an abundance of cupcake shops.

I love our cute little candy shops and neighborhood bakeries in Tri-Valley, but nothing quite eases my sweet tooth like a cupcake. I was thrilled when my number-one guilty pleasure, Kara’s Cupcakes, opened a location in nearby Walnut Creek.

This weekend after watching the San Francisco Giants’ first win of the 2011 season, I came across my latest Kara’s Cupcakes obsession, the java chocolate cupcake. It’s a chocolate cake with coffee-flavored icing and a chocolate-covered espresso bean. It’s to die for!

In just one afternoon in Walnut Creek I was able to enjoy 3 of my 4 San Francisco guilty pleasures. Now we just have to get working on the gourmet food truck situation.

Downtown Pleasanton certainly doesn’t have a lack of quality outdoor dining options. Perfect for people watching during a busy weekday lunch or lounging on a warm summer evening, sidewalk cafes are much of the charm of the historic downtown. One of the newest additions, Nonni’s Bistro, opened in late-summer 2010 and happens to be one of my favorites.  

Nonni's Bistro in Pleasanton, CA. (Photo credit: Nonni's Bistro)

The latest venture of Chef  Jon Magnusson, who also launched Carmel’s Bistro 211, offers an inventive menu with distinctive European flair. Much of the charm of Nonni’s Bistro is in the details. The lunch menu and daily specials are delicately assembled with seasonal produce. Dainty vases of fresh flower cheerily greet diners. Water carafes are accented with slices of citrus and mint, and the fresh warm rolls are too tempting to pass up.

Onion Soup at Nonni's Bistro in Pleasanton, CA. (Photo credit: Yelp)

The decor inside Nonni’s is inviting, yet unassuming. Remarkably refreshing, and honestly lacking in many area restaurants, is that Chef Jon always greets diners and checks on tables throughout the meal. He is friendly and always quick to strike up conversation. Nonni’s Bistro is a perfect example of how an involved and visible chef can enhance the dining experience.

I’ve been to Nonni’s Bistro three times so far. I recommend the french onion soup ($5.95),  flat bread topped with red bell peppers, olive tapenade and fontina cheese, which comes with a house salad ($10) and the petit grilled chicken sandwich, served with white bean and chicken soup ($12).

The wine list at Nonni’s Bistro includes many labels from the neighboring Livermore Valley Wine Country, including Wente Vineyards and Darcie Kent. Nonni’s Bistro is also open for brunch and dinner. I’m looking forward to coming back during the Saturday morning Pleasanton Farmers Market or after enjoying Pleasanton Downtown’s seasonal 1st Wednesday Street Parties.

I learned long ago that an important part of PR is managing expectations, whether it’s from a client or company executives. In my very first client meeting at my internship with a fabulous student-managed PR agency, my client let me know (in all seriousness) they wanted to be on Oprah. I immediately thought to myself, “sure, everyone wants Oprah.”

Times Square from my iPhone

In the years since that first meeting, I’ve had other clients with the same request. Of course I’d love to get every client, product or cool story idea on Oprah, but so does every other PR pro. Part of our job is to help our clients, supervisors and stakeholders understand realistic, achievable PR goals and plans. Oprah is not be realistic or appropriate for every pitch, product or idea.

Being on the West Coast makes it additionally challenging to make connections with writers and editors on the East Coast. Being in New York for a California Tourism media event presented a great opportunity to make new connections. Yesterday, I had the chance to pitch the Food Editor at O, The Oprah Magazine for my organization and our destination. This was by far the biggest opportunity in my PR career.

Our team spent two weeks researching and preparing for this meeting that lasted about 15 minutes. Just 15 minutes. To describe the agriculture, culinary trends and wine scene in our area in 15 minutes is not an easy task. 150 years of wine history, award-winning restaurants and inventive restaurateurs made for a jam-packed 15 minutes!

It was a great learning moment for me as a young professional. These editors get countless e-mails and dozens of pitches everyday. It is important to be concise but descriptive.  Our job is not only to showcase the attractions of our region, but also the character and vibe a visitor would experience. Being able to set our area apart from so many other wine regions can only be done by demonstrating the charm and character.

I read a tweet from a local weather anchor that by Friday it will have rained 20 out of 25 days in March. Being a fan of all things summer, this is killing me! I crave sun, swimsuits and baseball season.

I’m excited to trade in the rainy Bay Area for sunny, warm Arizona for a few days. I need a little dose of summer to make up for this extended Bay Area winter. This is my first time attending the WACVB Destination Marketing Tech Summit.  We’re getting a chance to hear from travel & tourism leaders, who have expertise in business communications, social media strategy and content marketing. There are tons of great resources to keep on top of social media trends. But it’s rare to find such a wealth of industry-specific info in one place.

WACB Tech Summit Mixer at Tempe Center for the Arts

Of course I’m excited to play tourist in Tempe, too! Competitive research, just part of my job. With my iPad in hand, I’m doing last-minute plans for my free time. I’m definitely planning on checking out downtown Tempe and Mill Avenue.

Maybe we’ll even have time to pretend it’s summer and lay by the pool or check out one of the Giants last Spring Training games.

What’s on your must see list in Tempe?

I ordered my dress last August. I found it on the first day of trying on dresses, and it was the fifth dress I tried on. It was so easy! And I was shocked. I am usually picky, non-committal and indecisive. I fully anticipated driving to every dress store in Northern California and trying on dozens–if not hundreds–of dresses. Luckily, the awesome little boutique down the street from my work in Pleasanton had just the dress I wanted. It was that easy!

So, in August my dress was ordered and  waited and waited and waited. The seven months it took to make the dress seemed like a lifetime passed. I tried to avoid every image of another bridal gown in magazines, in stores and online. Let me tell you, that wasn’t easy! I tried really hard not to fall out of love with my dress, but I was worried that I wouldn’t love it just as much when it finally arrived. This would be the worst time to get buyer’s remorse because of a purchase.

When my dress finally arrived this month, I gathered my bridesmaids, mom and fiancé’s mom and adorable flower girl to see me try it on. I still had this sinking feeling that, after all those months, I wasn’t going to LOVE it.

Just a preview of my dress.

Luckily, when I tried it on, the feeling and all the emotions that I had felt in August came rushing back, and I knew this was still the dress. I never want to take it off! I’m counting down the days until I’m wearing it at our wedding at Turtle Bay.