Gingerbread at the Fairmont

Fairmont Entrance

Never before have I stepped inside a house comprised mostly of gingerbread – yes,  gingerbread.  Every year, the legendary Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco transforms its lobby into a holiday paradise.  This includes the annual construction of a grand Victorian manor of gingerbread, icing, and other materials (some edible, some not).  I had the fortune to visit the Fairmont for the Official Opening of the Gingerbread House on November 30th.

Gingerbread House

Standing twenty-two feet high and twenty-three feet long, the Mansard style home almost touches the lobby ceiling.  Feeling very much like Hansel from the famed Grimm’s tale, I walked through the doorway of the impressively festive abode.

Gingerbread House Tree

Through the front windows of the house, one can see a room in Santa’s Workshop, everything the right size for elves.  A small lighted tree illuminates the front, with a four-car train traveling the surrounding track.

Gingerbread House Second Story

The second floor of the home boasts a larger tree, elaborate lights, and a roof with a widow’s walk.  Is that Santa I see upon the chimney?

Gingerbread House Detail

I love the attention to detail the home was given.  Thick icing in shades of green, red and white frame the windows.  Unlike most gingerbread houses, there was a surplus of edible building materials for the guests at the event.  One could eat the cake, and have it too, so-to-speak.   I was able to sample some and it was sheer holiday perfection.  It went amazing well with the hot chocolate that was also being passed out.  Notice another view of the elfin workshop through the window.

Gingerbread House Back Entrance

The back entrance to the house opens onto the Fairmont’s Laurel Court Restaurant and Bar.  They are hosting a Gingerbread Tea Service on the weekends through December 15th, and then every day between December 16th through December 29th.  For more information regarding the Gingerbread Tea, please visit the Fairmont website:  http://www.fairmont.com/san-francisco/promotions/gingerbread-house/

Gingerbread House Nutcracker

A life-size tall Nutcracker has his own room in the tower of the home.  I estimate him to be about five feet tall.

Ice Nutcracker

A Nutcracker carved of ice was on display for the opening.   Beautiful and exquisite.

Nutcracker Collection

On loan from the San Francisco Ballet is the Molinari Family Nutcracker Collection, on display throughout the holidays.  Which nutcracker is your favorite?

In fact, there is even a friendly competition between The Fairmont and the Westin St. Francis, as to who has the better gingerbread creation.  I haven’t seen the other house, but it is much smaller in size and more castle-like.  As for feng shui purposes, The Fairmont’s Gingerbread House creates a full-fledged environment.  How, exactly, is this specific gingerbread house good feng shui?  Well, unlike most gingerbread constructions, one can actually walk through this one (they are typically much smaller).  The house is also structurally sound.  Following building codes, a wood frame acts as skeletal support, with the gingerbread and other materials then applied.  And then there is the smell.  The aroma of gingerbread fills the lobby’s environment.  This fosters a sense of festive holiday cheer.  And the closer one is to the house, the stronger the fragrance.

Fairmont Tree and Santa

The new addition this year to the house was the Gingerbread Doghouse.  Located over in the kid’s section of the event, I was unable to get a good photo of it due to the crowd.  This area was ideal for kids to make their own fanciful buildings and drop off letters to Santa Claus in his designated mailbox.  However, he was there in person if one’s Christmas List needed immediate attention.   A beautiful tree takes center stage in front of the main entrance.  Decorated in golds, silvers and cobalt, it harmonized perfectly with the gilded resplendence of the lobby.

Fairmont Mirror Bird

I loved the carvings on the mirrors and walls of the entry hall.  Above is a close-up of the birds attached to the golden mirrors that hang throughout.  Simply stunning.

Fairmont Reindeer

Topiary sculptures covered in lights adorn the roof the lobby’s front desk.  The Gingerbread House will be on display through January 1st.

The Fairmont Hotel San Francisco

950 Mason Street (Nob Hill), San Francisco, California 94108  

415 772 5000

http://www.fairmont.com/san-francisco/promotions/gingerbread-house/

Fairmont Carollers

Advertisements

The Creative Wood Energy of Home

One of the basic principles of feng shui is how the five elements (being wood, fire, earth, metal, and water) interact with each other.   Sometimes when there is a major problem with an environment, one or two of these elements are  either missing, or are not present enough in the area to have an effect.    Of the five, there will be one or two cohesive elements that dominate the space, but the other three or four need to be represented as well.  On a recent visit to one of my favorite spots in Los Feliz, I was captivated by the soothing and nurturing wood element of Home Restaurant.  Most of the seating is outdoors on their spacious and newly remodeled terrace.  Green, thriving trees create a natural canopy over the guests, which fosters a sense of safety and comfort, like picnicking in a lush park; thus attracting a steady flow of guests and business.

The wood element helps people and places to thrive in a variety of ways.  Wood signifies the beginning of new life, as it starts the elemental cycle.  It’s represented by the color green, and is wonderful for new beginnings, increasing one’s prosperity, nourishment, health, creativity, and abundance.  Here at Home, the trees are the main example of the wood element.  As long as plants and trees are healthy and flourishing, they are the prime example of beneficial wood energy.  Dead plants or barren trees are an example of sha, or bad energy, which should be avoided.

Ferns and large, leafy plants are another fine example of wood here at Home.  But don’t let the wooden tabletops or terrace floor fool you.  Many people mistakenly use wood furniture and flooring as a wood element.  This does not work as the wood here is dead, and not thriving.  However, that being said, I’m in favor of wooden flooring and furniture, just not as an example of the wood element.  Home has all five of the elements here displayed beautifully.  For example, take the luxurious stone fountain in the center of the courtyard (pictured above).  The carved lions add a rich fire element to the earthen sculpture, and the moving water flows through it smoothly.  I’m going to guess that there is metal somewhere within the fountain, and with the prospering plants nearby, this is a highly auspicious example of all five elements working together in harmony.  Fire is also depicted here beautifully, in the form of lighting.  Small, Asian-inspired lanterns hang from the trees and building.  There is also a gorgeous vintage lantern (at right), that hangs suspended above the courtyard.  Much larger than the other lanterns, this gypsy light acts as a beacon to guide wayward diners to Home.

This establishment also has an excellent Happy Hour.  Available Monday – Friday from 3:00 to 7:00, beer, wine, well drinks, and  selected food items are available.  They also feature two specialty cocktails, including a Sauza Gold Tequila Margarita (pictured below right).  It is moderately strong, and is well worth the price for $5.00.  Also, it’s very light green in color (more wood energy).

To the left, we have one of their Happy Hour white wines, a Pinot Grigio that is refreshing and delicious.  They also offer a Chardonnay that is quite tasty as well.  A full bar with a choice selection is available to satisfy the palette.

Of their vast selection of food items, here is what I sampled on my last visit:

  • On the left is the Breakfast Quesadilla.  Home serves many of their breakfast items all day, including this one.  A savory tomato basil tortilla provides shelter to eggs, cheese and bacon, with salsa in the middle.  Oh so good.
  • Taking center stage is Not Cho Mamma’s Nachos, with chicken.  Sour cream, enchilada sauce, salsa, cheese and Home’s impressive guacamole completely envelop a large pile of corn tortilla chips.  You will need to use a fork with this.  During Happy Hour, with chicken or beef added, it comes to about $8.5o.  Enticing and decadent.
  • At right is the Home Huevos Rancheros.  My friend Jon insists on ordering Huevos anytime we go out if it’s offered on the menu.  Being a connoisseur of the dish, he feels Home make a stellar version of this classic.  Over-easy eggs, black beans, cheese and peppercorn sauce casually lounge about a bed of corn tortilla chips.  Guacamole, and either potatoes or fruit also come with the dish.

And these items are also scrumptious

  • Santa Fe Egg Rolls – A fusion of South meets East, these delectable morsels are served with Home’s luscious guacamole.  I think there’s either four or six pieces to an order.  Mouth-watering.
  • Breakfast Burrito – My usual selection here.  A colossal tomato basil tortilla filled with bacon, eggs, beans, and melted cheeses.  Also served with their popular  guacamole, and either potatoes or fruit.  Really good when paired with a red wine.

My favorite server here, without a doubt,  is Danielle.   She takes expert care of all of her guests in a warm and delightful manner.  Ask to sit in her section if she happens to be working when you visit.  You can’t miss her; she has pretty red hair.  Parking is pretty plentiful in the surrounding neighborhood, just be sure to double-check the street signs.  On my next couple of visits, I plan on trying their Chicken Breast Marsala, and the Banana Walnut Pancakes.

Now, you’re probably wondering, how I can get more wood into my life?  Well, there are a couple of ways.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Get some Living Plants!  Adding trees or plants to your living room, kitchen, or outdoor environment is the fastest way to add wood energy.  If you have children or pets, make sure the plants are non-toxic, and kept out of reach.  Make sure the plants are healthy and thriving.  Dead or decaying plant attract bad energy.
  • What about Faux Plants?  Although real plants are significantly better, not everyone has a green thumb.  Faux plants can work, but they need to be very high quality and look realistic.  Many offices use fake Ficus trees.  The trick with faux plant is the dust.  You HAVE to dust your plant weekly.
  • Paintings – Beautiful landscapes with trees, or paintings of full-blooming flowers is another way to bring creative wood energy into a room.
  • Wall Decals – A new, popular decorative item are removal wall decals.  These provide wall decor other than paint or wallpaper, and make very intriguing visual statements.  These are also more conducive to renters, as they can be easily removed.  Wall Pops  http://www.wallpops.com/ and Elly Nelly  http://www.ellynelly.com/category/wall-graphics  are just two of the many online retailers selling high quality wall art.
  • Visit a Forest!  Find some beautiful land with trees on it, either a more untamed setting, a national park, or a more manicured environment such as Descanso Gardens.   https://fengshuifoodie.com/2012/08/25/descanso-gardens-and-the-camellialounge/

Everyone can benefit from having more wood energy in their lives.  And while you’re contemplating getting a new rubber tree plant, or a print of Claude  Monet’s The Poppy Field, stop by Home and have a breakfast burrito.  There’s no place like it.

Home Restaurant Los Feliz

1760 Hillhurst Avenue, Los Feliz, CA 90027

323 669-0211

Hours:  Sunday – Thursday 9:00 am – 10:00 pm, Friday – Saturday 9:00 am – 11:00 pm,  Happy Hour:  Monday – Friday 3:00 – 7:00

http://www.homelosfeliz.com/

Cinnamon as an Aphrodisiac

Mentioned several times in the Bible, and in ancient Chinese writings, the fragrant spice known as cinnamon has been enchanting civilizations across the world.  Originally from Sri Lanka, cinnamon is derived from the inner bark of the cinnamon tree (part of the Evergreen family).  Cinnamon sticks, as we know them today, are pieces of the dried bark which naturally curls under heat.  These are then kept as sticks, or ground down into the powdery substance that most people use today.

The history of this well-traveled spice is quite colorful.  Those in ancient Egypt and Rome would use cinnamon for its sublime taste in various cuisines, and as incense.   It was also used for the embalming process during mummification, and taken medicinally.  The Romans would burn cinnamon as part of a funeral pyre, or in honor of the recently deceased.   During the Middle Ages, only the very elite could afford the spice, as most seasonings of that time where exorbitantly expensive.  Cinnamon was also valued for its preservative qualities when applied to meat, due to phenols which inhibit bacteria growth responsible for spoilage.  The fragrant aroma of cinnamon also helped to mask the stench of aged meat.

Cinnamon has many health benefits.  In addition to being a viable source of fiber, calcium, magnesium and iron, this natural substance can also lower cholesterol, aid in weight loss, and regulate blood sugar.  According to the U.S.  Department of Agriculture, use of cinnamon has been shown to suppress the growth of lymphoma and leukemia cancer cells.

From a feng shui perspective, cinnamon is very yin in essence, as are most spices.  Because it is more sweet than savory, its nature is even more yin than other seasonings.  As for the  elemental connection, it has  strong wood element, as it’s quite literally tree bark.  Its comforting brown hue is an example of the earth element.  I also feel that cinnamon has a bit of fire attached to it as well, as it conjures a natural warmth on the tastes buds.

Cinnamon has also been used throughout time as an aphrodisiac.  For both men and women, the use of cinnamon as part of one’s regular diet has been shown to naturally increase sex drive, due to its ability to  enhance blood circulation, gently heating up the body from the inside.  According to a study performed by the The Smell & Taste Research Foundation, located in Chicago, of the over two hundred scents tested on men, Cinnamon was the victor in causing and sustaining male arousal.   In feng shui terms, this makes complete sense.  Passion, romance, and sex are all controlled by the fire element.  The wood element feeds fire.  Cinnamon is wood, and therefore the use of this wooden spice assists in feeding the flames of passion.

There are many ways to add cinnamon to one’s way of living.  Below are the ones I personally use:

  • Sprinkle some on Hot Cocoa.
  • Sprinkle some on Vanilla Yogurt or Apple Sauce.
  • Add it to your Coffee!  Not only do I sprinkle it on top, but I mix a tablespoon of cinnamon in with the coffee grounds, when making a full pot.  It tastes sensational.
  • Cinnamon Toast.   I spread coconut oil over my toast, sprinkle cinnamon, and spread it all around.  Delicious and satisfying.
  • Aromatherapy.  Light cinnamon scented candles to heighten the romantic mood.  These are available from a variety of distributors, but the best time to buy this scent of candle is after the winter holidays; they’ll usually be on sale.
  • Mulled Wine and Sangria.   Whole cinnamon sticks are a great enhancement during autumn and winter.  Allow the stick to just lounge about the glass within the beverage; this adds a festive enticement to both beverages.  (This can work for other drinks as well)
  • Add to anything Pumpkin or Sweet Potato related.

And some other things I haven’t tried, but am going to:

  • Sprinkle some on Oatmeal.
  • Enchilada Sauce.  Add a teaspoon or two to canned (or fresh) enchilada sauce while it’s on the stove.  It adds a little mole flare to it.
  • Honey Tea.   One part cinnamon to two parts honey, combined in hot water, makes a delicious, healthy tea.  A tea bag could also be added  for further flavor.
  • Essential Oil.  Cinnamon scented oil is another way to influence a room’s chi and scent.
  • Cinnamon Buns.  Cinnamon buns are one of the best breakfast foods after a night of romantic bliss.  Those Cinnabon people are quite clever.
  • Sprinkle on top of Roasts, be it ham, pork, or lamb.
  • Lotion.  Various lotions and massage oils on the market today are cinnamon scented.  I need to purchase some.

Another way of using Cinnamon goes all the way back to biblical times – literally.   Proverb 7:17 is about a seductress luring a man to bed.  It indicates that the woman in question used cinnamon, myrrh, and aloe to “perfume” her chamber.   Aloe has a sweet, woody aroma, whereas myrrh has a very distinct, nutty scent.  Combining these two with enticing cinnamon, and you have an ideal olfactory recipe for creating a deeply sensual environment.  Try adding some more cinnamon to your world, and you may notice a very definite increase in passion…