Karen’s Picks: Hello, Summer Wines!


As much as I love sweet indulgences, I adore wine—and the long summer nights are an ideal time to sip and savor some of my favorite finds.

1. Sommariva di Conegliano Prosecco Brut NV – Italy:
I love the bubbles, complexity and overall value of this Prosecco.  It feels like I’m having a great Champagne.

2. Sangria Blanco:
Our refreshing homemade white wine sangria from Extraordinary Desserts includes white grape juice, fresh oranges, kiwis and limes. It is served in a carafe for 2, which is perfect for sharing on a hot, summer date night out.

3. Bodega Garzon Albarino 2014 – Uruguay:
From one of my favorite vacation spots, this wine has bright citrus with tropical notes and great acidity. You don’t need much more than a glass and an opener to enjoy this super priced South American beauty.

4. Wild Thing Rendezvous Rose 2014 by Carol Shelton – Mendocino, CA:
This wine is produced from wild yeasts found on organically grown grapes. Rich, cranberry colored rose that is dry and refreshing with strawberry and watermelon aromas and a hint of pink grapefruit. Perfect for a beach rendezvous.

5. Chateau Miraval Rose 2015 – Cote de Provence, France:
Soft blush color that is bright with raspberries, peaches and white flowers. True romance in a bottle. Nothing less expected from Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s Provence vineyard.

6. Magnolia Pinot Noir 2014 by Krutz Family Cellars – Sonoma Coast, CA:
I love this red wine because of its earthy, spicy and balanced silky tannins. Some juice of red fruit and plum with coffee over a long finish.  Enjoy with or without food, and it is spectacular with cheese.



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Karen’s 8 “Must Do’s” on Oahu


Everyone dreams about the perfect Hawaiian vacation. And bliss is everywhere on these magical islands, but my ideal vacation to Hawaii isn’t just about surf and sand. Our favorite island is Oahu and I’ve discovered the eight most alluring things to create a truly special Hawaiian escape.

  1. Start your day at Diamond Head. This famous location is ideal for inspirational exercise. You can feel the power of the island, either swimming in the cove, running the trail head or walking along the paths. Insider tip: Spend the morning burning calories and then head to Kapiʻolani Community College farmers’ market (Saturdays 7:30AM-11AM an Tuesday 4-7PM) for the best bites of the island from various local purveyors. 4303 Diamond Head Rd, Honolulu.
  2. Banán Food Truck. This organic banana based dessert food truck is my pick for a healthy island not-too-sweet, satisfying treat. The Spirulina bowl features bananas blended with spirulina in a carved –out papaya bowl topped with granola. It’s the Hawaiian spin on Acai. 3212 Monsarrat Ave, Honolulu.
  3. Shangri-La. Heiress Doris Duke’s custom mansion is home to an extensive Islamic art collection and truly breathtaking. The oasis on the other side of Diamond Head sits above the waves and is a unique outing for anyone who loves art and design. Tours can be arranged through the Honolulu Museum of Art. 4055 Papu Cir, Honolulu.
  4. Azure. This delicious seafood restaurant is the ultimate date night location. Dine al fresco overlooking Waikiki from cabanas on the sand that feel like you’ve been transported to Greece or Morocco. Leave the kiddos at home and enjoy the upscale vibe. 2259 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu.
  5. Kaiwa. This teppan and sushi restaurant is a stunning teppanyaki bar with unusual combinations and authentic Japanese cuisine. Don’t be surprised if most of the guests are Japanese, it is that level of authentic. We love to sit in the leather comfy chairs at the large teppanyaki tables while watching the chefs create their amazing dishes. 226 Lewers St, Honolulu.
  6. Le Flowers. This tiny little flower shop has hundreds of leis and fresh flowers. It’s a must-stop on Oahu for celebrations, from birthdays to weddings, even just to celebrate your island time. A true locals destination, the shop is open to the public and has the most exquisite selection of leis. 2567 S King St # B, Honolulu.
  7. Nitrogenie: A specialty ice cream shop to cool off during your island adventure. All the ice cream is made from the magic of liquid nitrogen. The flavors are always rotating, but my favorite is the Lemon Meringue Pie, which is deconstructed: Lemon Curd ice cream, with a biscuit and toasted meringue on top. Ala Moana, Honolulu.
  8. Kahuku Farms. The perfect road trip stop along the North Shore serving warm banana bread that my daughter asks about even when we aren’t in Hawaii! The warm banana bread comes drizzled with caramel sauce and honey. It’s a must, but so is a passion fruit smoothie or their coconut ice cream. 56-800 Kamehameha Hwy, Kahuku.

Hawaii is about discover and enchantment and hopefully with these eight must dos, I’ve inspired your next trip.

Aloha, Karen

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Hello Chocolate, I Love You

Chocolate Blog images mosaic

With the holidays upon us, chocolate is admittedly on my mind. Well, maybe it always is. I love to get out to gourmet food shops and patisseries to see what ideas pop in my head from tasting and experiencing what is going on in the world of sweets.

Here’s a sneak peek at some of the things currently feeding my chocolate obsession:

  1. Valrhona Chocolate Class

I recently took a 3-day seminar at the L’Ecole Valrhona Brooklyn cooking school. I came away totally inspired from working with pastry chefs from around the world with ideas for chocolate creations that are going to blow your mind and your diet. I perfected the Big Chocolate Cake and our new Caramelized White Chocolate Ice Cream.

2) Chocolate Manjari Bûche de Noel

This cheesecake filled bûche puts a smile on my face. It is so chocolate, so cheesecake, so crunchy, and so smooth and dreamy. We have really stepped up our game with a contemporary take on this classic French Christmas dessert. Cheers!

3) Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookie

A combination of melt-in-your-mouth Valrhona chocolates with a caramelized butter flavor and crispy texture, you literally can’t eat just one of these cookies. You’ll need to buy 2, because you won’t want to share.

4) OMG Candy Bar

Morsels of luxury in this chocolate bar I bumped into in SF’s Ferry Building.  It’s made with crispy hazelnut praline and sea salt caramel with caramelized Rice Krispies enrobed in 64% dark chocolate, and it’s a perfect stocking-stuffer.

5) Theo Chocolate Book

Seattle based Theo chocolate is North America’s first organic and Fair Trade chocolate factory.  This 75-recipe book also tells the story of the company and its mouth-watering photos are sure to inspire you in the kitchen.

6) Chocolate Inspired Jewelry

Girls of all ages are going “ga-ga” over our dessert inspired jewelry from France.  Les Delices d’ Emilie hand makes everything from éclairs and chocolate bars to Oreo Cookies and macaroons. Necklaces and earrings so enticing, you’ll want to buy them for the chocolate lovers in your life.

7) Extraordinary Desserts Baker’s Chocolates

A line of Valrhona chocolates and baking sugars to amp up your holiday baking or to give as a gift.

Wishing you a delicious and peaceful holiday season!


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Paris = Love

Paris blog mosaic jpeg

Paris is positively romantic, but it’s not just a city for lovers. It’s where you can fall in love with everything from food to design. Our recent trip to Paris inspired me to pick my loves, including places to dine, shop and a few special items that you can now find at Extraordinary Desserts.

  1. After spending the morning browsing on Rue Cherche Midi, a charmingly chic shopping street, the ideal lunch can be found at Cuisine de Bar. The sandwiches are all opened faced, grilled on Poilane bread. This is the place that inspired our paninis!
  1. Brasserie Thoumieux, is a truly special spot for dinner. It appears to be a beautiful traditional brasserie, but once you step in to dine you realize it is all of that, and much more. Very hip and fashionable, but with a more contemporary menu.
  1. A temple of gorgeous gourmet foods, an epicurean paradise, La Grande Epecerie is my pick for a favorite spot “not to miss.” Located in the Bon Marche Department Store, there are dazzling displays of produce, baked goods, desserts, cheeses, wines, savory foods, bottled condiments…the list goes on and on. Bring your extra bag to stock up on treats to bring home.
  1. I can never leave Paris without being inspired to create something magical for Extraordinary Desserts. Look for these two Paris inspired desserts on your next visit.

L’Envie des Fraises is a strawberry tart updated with a new shape, a triangle. The triangle mold is new for bakers in Europe.

Chocolate dipped espresso shortbreads, like a buttery crunchy mocha!

  1. At our Little Italy location the merchandise items are often inspired from my travels and Paris provided some fantastic goodies including: books I love, jewelry being made for us in the South of France, and pocket books I found in France.
  1. Luxurious teas are a staple at Extraordinary Desserts and this one I found in France, Macaroon tea (almond meringue flavored after the confection) from Mariage Freres, is stunning to display and to sip.

Au revoir for now!


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Every girl deserves a trip to France

Every girl deserves a trip to France….especially my daughter. She got to ride her momma’s ride and now she understands why I love and need to go back as often as possible. It’s about finding out what’s happening in food, drink, design, and pastry, of course.


Merci, indeed.

Merci, indeed.

Cake waiting in our room at Hotel Thoumeiux.

Cake waiting in our room at Hotel Thoumeiux.

We started in Paris where no trip is complete without checking in on the masters of pastry.

Line out the door at Pierre Herme

Line out the door at Pierre Herme

Pierre Herme window display

Pierre Herme window display

Keep the day light- start with lemon.

Move into pistachio.

Move into pistachio.

Pastry Crawl from master to master.

Sebastian Gaudard serves incredible pastry and tea near the Lourve.

Sebastian Gaudard is a must.

I said it was incredible.

Start with a little cream.

Finish off with chocolate.

Finish off with chocolate.

Fauchon makes everything - from creative pastry to twists on traditional baked goods.

Still cutting-edge, Fauchon is delicious and prestigious.

Croissants with additional flavors - pistachio, strawberry and chocolate.

Flavored croissants – pistachio, strawberry and chocolate.

Creative Fauchon pastry - Sahara's favorite.

Sahara’s favorite.

Little gems at Patisserie des Reves.


One of the best Saint Honore’s in Paris.

One day, you’re eating an eclaire…..

....the next day, you're sitting on one to rest your weary feet.

….the next day, you’re sitting on one.

Thomieux baked goods are worth sharing.

Thoumieux baked goods are worth sharing.

You have to save room for his cakes.

You have to save room for his cakes.

Because there is plenty of trouble to get into. Choose your mousse.

At Chapon, grab a scoop of mousse.

A girl cannot live on pastry alone…she needs love.

Love is everywhere.

Love is everywhere.

Ours is locked on a bridge with countless others.

Ours is sealed on a bridge.

She needs food and drink at cafes.

Cafe La Flore

Cafe de Flore

And a girl needs yoga.

Finding peace and calm...

Finding peace and calm.

Joan of Arc was a warrior.

Joan of Arc was a warrior.

She needs to escape the city and head South.

Always on the go.

Always on the go.

In search of a new bag.

Hitting the marche in search of a new bag…

To put delicious, fresh food into.

…to fit goat cheese stuffed peppers into.

Keeping an eye out for Saint Christians.

Pastry creme with caramelized almonds.

Oh so good!

Oh so good!

Gorgeous little roads of Provence.

Gorgeous little roads of Provence

Lead to gorgeous discoveries like these almond trees.

lead to discoveries like these almond trees

Pastry inspired jewelry.

and pastry inspired jewelry that

You will be seeing these soon in our stores.

you will be seeing soon in our restaurants.

A girl needs nice places to stay.

A girl needs nice places to stay

and amazing wines to drink.

and amazing wines to drink

To get back on the road.

to get back on the road

in search of another regional pastry

in search of another regional pastry

to enjoy.

to enjoy.

Truly blessed to live a life doing what I love.

Thank you

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Desserting Down Under

During Spring Break, my family took a trip to Australia in search of beaches, gastro pubs, and great wine. My hidden agenda was to eat as much of my favorite dessert, Pavlova, in any way shape or form. Pavlova is named after a famous Russian ballerina from the 1920’s. It combines the crunch of a meringue base with creaminess in the center topped with fresh fruits or sorbets. While there is much debate between Aussies and Kiwis over who created it, many pastry chefs create their own delicious spin on it worldwide.

While hunting for Pavlovas, I was inspired by some of the best desserts Down Under. If you are going to Oz, then take note, as these are the places that made a 30 day cleanse necessary after arriving back home to San Diego.

1) Chiswick

We had an unforgettable garden to table lunch at Chiswick in Woollahra where all of the vegetable dishes prepared are from their property.  Although we were full, I saw Pavlova on their menu, and it was possibly the best one I have ever had.



2) Gelatissimo

We took the ferry to visit friends in Manly and stumbled across a place with OMG “Berry Pavlova Gelato”.  Lucky for you, they have locations throughout the Sydney area.

ImageI planned three stops that would be guilt free since our afternoon would be spent doing the coastal walk from Bondi to Bronte.

3) Lorraine’s Patisserie

Lorraine Godsmark was the head pastry chef for uber Aussie chef, Neil Perry, at his landmark restaurant, Rockpool, for 10 years before going on her own. This small and open kitchen creates truly beautiful cakes, tarts, and pastries.

While I couldn’t part with the Raspberry Pecan Cake, which was like a buttery, French Financier, my husband and daughter wrestled over the Chocolate Macadamia Salted Caramel Tart and the Strawberry Mascarpone Cake.




4) Black Star Pastry

Though their website has a gorgeous Pavlova that drove me there, a whole one must be ordered 24 hours in advance.  Too many other choices to be disappointed by that, it was easy to try other desserts.

Black Star is the brain child of pastry chef, Christopher Thé, and the baked goods are contemporary, creative, and styled to perfection.

The Strawberry Watermelon Cake with rose scented cream was a standout, but the three of us agreed that the Vanilla Panna Cotta with Salted Caramel Jelly was lick the plate WOW! The Sticky Toffee Bread Pudding with Warm Vanilla Sauce was equally as good the next day cold as a to-go leftover.


5) Flour and Stone

Nadine Ingram learned at some of Sydney’s best restaurants and bakeries including MG Garage, Bourke Street Bakery, and La Gavroche. Her quaint bakery is a wonderful place to stop in for a few treats and a cup of cappuccino if you are in Woolloomooloo.  The desserts are simple, perfectly moist and fresh out of the oven.



6) Kakawa Chocolates

This chocolate store in Darlinghurst is on par with any Parisian Chocolatier. Hot chocolates, ice cream sandwiches, caramels, chocolate bars, and best of all, bags of raspberry swirled meringues. Ooh la la.



7) Just Fine Food

Mornington Peninsula proved to be over-the-top for wine and food but no Pavlovas. We did find the Famous Vanilla Slice at Just Fine Food in Sorrento. It can be described as an ultra-thick, vanilla custard Napoleon and I will admit that it elevated our picnic spread.


8) Saffire Freycinet

Our last stop was in Tasmania. There were no notches left on our belts, and this Pavlova did not disappoint.



I’m working on accruing enough miles to head back down and explore Lamington’s and Violet Crumble desserts.

Hopefully, I’ve excited you about Pavlova’s and you can come in to try ours.



Thank you.


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Giving Thanks and Celebrating

Thanksgiving is spending days off with friends, family and football, but let’s face it, it’s really all about snacks and food. For me, it’s all about the dessert.

Whether you make and bake things yourself or if you just want something easy, here are some ideas to make your Thanksgiving Day and weekend more extraordinary.


My family counts on me for desserts every year. Our tradition is a dessert buffet that I am in charge of putting together.

If you want to make desserts yourself, here are some options:


             Caramel Apple Trifles from Bakersroyale.com



No Bake Sweet Potato Cheesecakes from HowSweetEats.com


Extraordinary Cake Kit

Our Gourmet Cake Kit makes it easy to create a moist, rich chocolate cake at home. The Dark Chocolate Truffle Banana Cake kit includes imported chocolate, dry ingredients, baking mold, round, pastry bag, pastry tip and ribbon to help you bake and decorate your own extraordinary cake. You provide the butter, eggs, bananas and sour cream. Cake Kits are available in both of our locations and online. A gluten free option is also available. Best of all, you get the credit.

However, if you need to have us do the baking for you, from our Thanksgiving Menu, I recommend:

cheesecake  pumpkin pie                        Pumpkin Cheesecake                                              Aloha Pumpkin Pie

pumpkin apple pecan torte 1  blood orange                  Pumpkin Apple Pecan Torte                              Blood Orange Ricotta Torte


I like to keep the table top simple, but with a special style that does not take much effort. While I was pinning on Pinterest recently, I found these unique DIY ideas:


Rosemary wreath place cards from SpoonForkBacon.com



A simple twist of ribbon can add unique color accents.  Ladolfinalifestyle.com



A votive candle in leaves to celebrate fall from San Diego based, Joyful Weddings & Events.



I loved these hand-crafted cake servers so much that I now sell them in my restaurants.


My second favorite part of Thanksgiving is opening a bottle of wine or bubbly and catching up with friends and family. Having easy to prepare foods are vital for gatherings throughout the weekend.


Here are some easy ideas for serving your loved ones while everyone is hanging out, catching up, and enjoying the time together.

truffle salt     chutney 2

Popcorn popped with black truffle salt          Our Maui Mango Chutney on cream cheese

snacks                             Small batch, hand-made, Gluten Free crackers by Marilyn’s


cheese platter

Whether you put your own together or have us do it for you, cheese platters can be refreshed and nibbled on throughout the day and weekend.


Here’s another creative way to enjoy leftover turkey, make your own pizza.


For the weekend, I need some easy breakfast ideas, so that I’m not back in the kitchen again. Our pancake mixes and syrups from Hawaii get my family out of bed.


Go with a Hawaiian Breakfast: Coffee / Pancakes / Granola with Passion Fruit syrup


You can also pick up our delicious Pumpkin Maple Pecan Scones

Whether you are traveling far or staying close to home, we all have something to be grateful and thankful for at this time of year. Thank you for letting us be a part of your holiday celebrations.


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