Beauty Rewind

Being as this blog is highly focused on beauty, chances are, those that are reading it are beauty addicts like me. So when I saw an advertisement for something called “The Cult of Beauty” while waiting for the bus in San Francisco, I was immediately intrigued. Turns out The Cult of Beauty is the latest art exhibit at the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco. Running through June 17, the display features the romantic, bohemian art of the Victorian avant-garde from 1860-1900.

The Legion of Honor itself is a stunning building, set atop a hill overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin to the north−talk about beauty. But the display of portraits, textiles, landscapes, furniture and other decorative arts by names such as James McNeill Whistler and Oscar Wilde transported me back to a more genteel era. The era of ladies wearing gloves at dinner, always covering their ankles and swooning at the slightest provocation. The exhibit is filled with portraits of old time beauties, lolling in lacey white dresses against backdrops of flowers and whimsically colored landscapes that inspire tears for no reason except the sheer melancholia of it all. The time period serves up a sumptuous and inspirational use of rich colors that will make you want to redecorate your own space.

The exhibition made me think about society’s standards of beauty through the ages. Where once voluptuous bustles were popular, now we wouldn’t be caught dead without our skinny jeans. But just because styles have changed doesn’t mean that we can’t appreciate the definitions of beauty in the past, and a thoughtful visit to The Cult of Beauty may just open your mind as well as broaden your vision of what makes something truly beautiful.

For more information on The Cult of Beauty, visit famsf.org.

Tasty Treats in Downtown Santa Cruz

Cupcakes are all the rage, but if you’re anything like me, your waistline is not as happy as your sweet tooth when devouring these tasty treats.

Meet Buttercup Cakes located in downtown Santa Cruz. I was elated to discover this quaint and adorable bakery, specializing in cupcakes that vary from mini to large, with gluten-free and vegan options. All ingredients are natural and locally sourced. Your body just might thank you for indulging.

The flavors are divine and not just your average combinations. Chocolate Chai, Raspberry Red Velvet and Blood Orange Earl Grey are just a few that tickled my taste buds. The shop is locally owned and just four months old, but it's sure to become a destination for Santa Cruz foodies.

Not only are the cupcakes and Farmhouse Frosting absolutely delicious, the shop itself would make Martha Stewart proud. The décor is delightful and just as sweet as the cupcakes themselves. 

Buttercup Cakes has become a regular destination for me whenever I’m downtown, and its location is just around the corner from the movie theater, making for a great post-movie treat that will surely sweeten up your day.

Buttercup Cakes, 109 Locust St., Santa Cruz, (831) 466-0373.

Photos by Sera Michael

The One Minute Wine Expert

I never was a wine person. To me, wine was pretentious; a beverage to be avoided at all costs lest someone realize I was a complete wine infant. I once ordered a zinfandel and expected to be served a crisp white liquid, but what arrived was a heady red. Lucky for me, I have a brother-in-law who is a wine expert, having worked in the wine industry for more than 20 years. Since I turned legal age, he’s taught me the ABCs of whites and reds, and most importantly, he’s done it with zero pretentiousness. Now, when I go to a restaurant, I order vino with confidence. Below are Bill’s top three confidence boosting tips to make you look like a wine expert, or at least not like a wine idiot.

No. 1: There is no wrong choice. Wine is what you make it. If something tastes good to you, then it’s good. There’s no need to feel inadequate in your choice. Even if you order the least expensive glass or bottle on the menu, be confident! The restaurant has already sealed and signed their approval by placing said wine on the menu in the first place, so sip proud.

No. 2: Confidence booster No. 2 is a simple rule of thumb—red for land and white for sea. This means that in general, dishes such as steak and pork pair better with reds and seafood pairs better with white. Don’t worry about the varietal (i.e. sauvignon blanc, merlot, etc.) just choose what you know you like. If you can’t shake your concern, just ask. Waiters and sommeliers (wine experts) are there to help, so asking for a quick recommendation of a wine to pair with your dish won’t pester them, it will give them the pleasure of pride in their job, ensuring you are pleased with not only the wine, but your entire dining experience.

No. 3: Attend a local tasting at a wine shop or wine bar, or if there’s one nearby, a winery. Some people are apprehensive about drinking wine because they’ve never had a proper experience with a wine expert to show them the ropes of sipping and pairing. If your entire wine world view consists of a swig of two buck chuck out of a plastic cup at a neighbor’s barbeque, perhaps it’s time to get reacquainted.

Next time you’re at dinner with friends, don’t hide from the wine menu. Read it, ask for suggestions, make your choice and lift your glass high. Cheers!

Found! Pizza Heaven in San Francisco

There's a good reason the itty-bitty restaurant Pizzetta on 23rd and California has won the best pizza in San Francisco by CitySearch. Located in a mainly residential area of the chic Richmond district, Pizzetta is adorned with sparkling fairy lights in the trees out front and was seemingly transported through time and space from a cobbled "via" in Rome. Pizzetta is any Italian-food lover's dream come true. 

Though the restaurant is small—about the size of a sample bedroom at Ikea—the menu packs a powerful punch with tasty pizza, calzones, and a surprisingly ample wine and cheese selection. When my friend and I arrived, we were lucky enough to snag an empty table on the sidewalk. Thank goodness for the outdoor heaters blaring down on us, or we would have never been able to endure the foggy San Franciscan chill. Our good fortune of finding immediate seating was not shared by all—about six couples arriving after us had to wait on the benches lining the sidewalk outside. But theirs was a comfortable wait—they were brought blankets and served wine by the friendly wait staff until a table became available. 

Pizza purists, Ashley and I ordered pizza margherita (mine with pepperoni). They were delivered to our table piping hot with flaky/chewy crust and that just-right amount of toppings that made us ooh and ahh with every bite. Each mouthful was bursting with perfect Italian pizza flavor, and Ashley and I swore that if the couples waiting for tables weren't sitting there glaring at us, we may have very well each ordered another pizza just for the taste of it. 

Closing out our perfect pizza experience, we shared a piece of flourless chocolate cake which was also sensational. Served with a heaping dollop of unsweetened whipped cream, the cake positively melted the moment it hit our palettes.

Final verdict: If you're dying to visit Italy but can't quite get there at the moment, eat at Pizetta.

Pizzetta is at 211 23rd Ave. at California Street, San Francisco. Cost is approximately $12 for a pizza.