Better than pink peppercorns

No Via Corona today.  But, keep an eye out on Instagram for photographic updates: @tmhostess.

It’s been on my list to try out the following recipe for several years now.  I can’t remember how it first crossed my radar, it’s been so long.  But recent digging around has me suspecting that I probably read about it on David Lebovitz’s blog.  The recipe is in his The Great Book of Chocolate.  This handy little reference book was published in 2004 and it wouldn’t surprise me if I read about this cake way back when he was doing press for it.  Anyhow, somewhere, at some point I read about David Lebovitz talking about Maida Heatter making a chocolate cake with.

Wait for it.


Part of the reason the idea has stuck with me is, of course, the ick factor.  Which with me is generally followed by the desire to try it out (unless it involves fish and dairy…then I just leave it at the ick).  At first blush the idea of fermented cabbage (sans the Persian cucumbers) and chocolate sounds about as unpalatable as a tuna casserole.

But, when you think about it, it’s really no more strange than adding zucchini, coconut or carrots (though I’ve been pretty vocal about how I feel about carrots in cake…not a fan). You don’t taste the sauerkraut.  It just adds moisture and a little zing.  Kind of like buttermilk.

I went searching for an origins story on why anyone would ever think of adding something you most often think of as complementing meat in tube form.  I found a variety of recipes including one that, in addition to sauerkraut also included mayonnaise and cherry pie filling.  You have to wonder if it was a dare.  Alas, no definitive answer on the sauerkraut.  Which leaves me wondering if there is a gap in the literature on baked goods origin stories like this or Germans chocolate cake.  And should I maybe attempt to fill it? Folklore and Funnel Cake?  Jealousy and Jello Molds?

Speaking of ick, I’ve been reading Mary Roach’s most recent book Grunt.  I am a huge Mary Roach fan.  She’s proof that excellently researched and intellectually sharp science writing is even better when balanced against the occasional fart joke).  It’s been a fun, informative and often sober, if not gross, read.

But, as usual, I digress.

You know what isn’t icky?  This cake.

Chocolate Sauerkraut Bundt Cake

slightly adapted from The Great Book of Chocolate, David Leibovitz


for the cake

  • 2/3 cup sauerkraut
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 ounces (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan (if using an articulated bundt pan, you may want to use a starch-laced oil spray like XX.  I didn’t and the extra flour was not attractive on the baked cake)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup low-fat milk, cold

For the glaze

  • 4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 teaspoon light corn syrup


  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C). Butter a 12-cup Bundt or tube cake pan.
    Dump the sauerkraut into a bowl filled halfway with cold water. If you happen to accidentally buy the kind from Trader Joes with persian cucumbers (like I did), now is the time to pick them out.
  2. Toss the sauerkraut with your finger tips a few times  then drain it, pressing the sauerkraut to remove most of the water. Dump the drained sauerkraut on a cutting board and finely chop it with a chef’s knife or in a food processor.
  3. Sift together the cocoa, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.  Set aside.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer or by hand with a wooden spoon, beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy.
  5. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and vanilla until combined. Slowly dribble the egg mixture into the butter mixture while beating.
  6. Gently stir 1/3 of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture and mix just until combined, then stir in 1/2 the milk and stir just until combined. Alternate dry and then wet, mixing between each step until just combined.
  7. Add the chopped sauerkraut and stir again.
  8. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool completely in the pan on a wire rack, then invert the cake onto a serving plate.
  9. To make the chocolate glaze, heat the chocolate, butter, and corn syrup in a small pan over low heat, stirring almost constantly, until melted and smooth.
  10. Let stand until room temperature.
  11. Spoon the glaze over the cooled cake, allowing it to dribble down the sides.



Master and commoder

See what I did there?

TD here.

Have we mentioned that the previous owner was a tile layer (tile setter?  tile mason?)?  We have?  Multiple times?  Well,  as you can see, there was no shortage of his chosen medium in the master bathroom (or anywhere else in the house for that matter).

No doubt the work was beautifully done, but the space was poorly used.  In fact, the shower was so small that the one time I tried it out, I knocked nearly everything down just by turning around.  Picture Andre the Giant in a phone booth.  In their defense, the couple who previously owned Via Corona topped out at about 5’3″ each.  So, the shower probably felt cavernous to them.

While we’re on the subject, allow me to say this about tile.  Tile is vile.  Not only do you have to determine the color of your tile, but also the material, size, shape and pattern. The makers of tile (BIG TILE if you will) greatly overestimate my interest in their product.  And have I mentioned that every piece of tile looks exactly like every other piece of tile?  Or that tilers?  Tile smiths? get paid like drug kingpins?  Pablo Escobar had a smaller profit margin.

Luckily, Shannon relieved me of my tile showroom duties, patiently listened to my vague ideas of what I might hypothetically like if I cared and then took care of the rest.  All I know is that shot in the dark I took just to get her off my back was expensive.  Like it should have a street value expensive.  Who knew I had such good taste?

Take a gander below at the old layout of the master bath.  What you are not seeing in the drawing is  the commode, which was strategically placed right next to the window for maximum visibility to and from the street.

And below you’ve got the new layout.  Double sinks, ginormous shower and a throne that, while still near the window, is now somewhat hidden.  We’ve opted for a street view of the shower rather than toilet.  Discerning taste and all.

Originally this is also where we were going to install a pocket door with which, God help me, I have an unnatural fascination.  Alas, budgets (I’m looking at you, tile) and construction realities necessitate a standard (read: boring) swinging door will be installed in its stead.  Goodbye pocket door.  We hardly knew ye.

On the plus side, let’s take a look at this shower, shall we?  We’re talking wall to wall here.  Giant rainfall shower head above.  Handheld doohickey to the side.  Rest assured I will likely never use the handheld for its intended purpose, unless that intended purpose is turning on all available outlets full blast and pretending I’m the captain of a submarine that’s been hit.  In that case, I will use it as intended both frequently and religiously.  At least until Shannon catches me, reminds me that California is in a state of drought and walks off shaking her head and murmuring something about being raised on a five-minute shower. Killjoy.

I will readily admit that, when it comes to design and aesthetic, the best I can hope for are small victories.   Typically the answer to most of my suggestions is, “that’s not the look we’re going for here.”  For my Midwestern friends, this is akin to “bless his heart . . . ”    With most of my suggestions, Shannon sees me coming down Broadway with the doors open.   I propose a thing or two – some real ideas and some because annoying her is fun – then I sit back and see what the network censors will allow.

Tangent Alert!  This strategy all started in the run up to our wedding.  Once I told a particularly snooty wedding planner-type that I wanted molded butter in the shape of Yoda’s head.  Suffice it to say I didn’t get the Yoda heads (although that would’ve been boss) but I knew I’d found a solid running mate when Shannon played it totally straight while the wedding plannery-person clutched her pearls in horror.  Its the little things.

So, here I sit with what will be a rainfall shower head and some jazzy-looking woven tile on the floor (Did I mention that tile costs more than 4 years at SIU?).  Puts my record at about 2-726 on this particular project, but, as I say, small victories.

So, there you have it.  I’m sure Shannon will, do a deep dive on the  greater gravity, influence and significance of her design choices and how the space will evoke a spa-like elegance and an uncommon tranquility when tied together with decorative soaps and accent towels that I will never, ever be allowed to use.

As with everything in our marriage, Shannon plays chess.  I play checkers.  Works for me.

Shannon here.

First, we have never had nor ever will have towels, soaps, dishes, blankets or other home goods that are not allowed to be used. We’ve never owned an accent towel.  There are things that have certain purposes and using them for purposes other than those is frowned upon.  But everything gets used.  TD is confusing me with a Blondie cartoon.  Or maybe June Cleaver.  Or more likely, he’s simply assigned an antiquated belief about gender stereotypes because he thinks it sounds funny.  Whatever.

So.  Dude knows about the marble basketweave tile for the shower floor and the size of the shower.  That’s about it.  I’ll fill you in on the details.

In addition to the 24 square feet of marble basket weave tile, we’ll also add  6X24 inch marble tiles to the shower walls and wide charcoal porcelain tiles for the floor.  To take the edge off of what started to feel a little bit like a granny’s bathroom (classy, but granny), we’ll use  contemporary fixtures and some walnut accents.  Finishes in polished chrome.

And a shower timer. Remote controlled.

Want to read more about our renovation adventures? Go here: Via Corona




Excuse me while I powder my nose

Ah, the powder room.  That one room in the house where denizens of wanna-be designers get a little jiggy with it.  Your host is no exception.

Tucked away between the foyer and the kitchen,  this little room was an oddly-sized masterpiece of unnecessary tile.  Like its upstairs siblings, it also possesses an unfortunately placed window.  Or maybe that was just an excuse to install those super-fly metallic brown and pink curtains.  I’ll let you be the judge.

The layout won’t change much.  We’re trying to steal four linear feet from side that shares a wall with the kitchen (vanity side), taking the once palatial 6X4 space to a cozy 5X4.  It’s a powder room, there are very few things a person needs to do in here so why waste space–especially if it means more room in the kitchen?

Just have to throw in another shot of how terrible this space looked after demo.

Design inspiration for this bathroom began with a single sink and console made by the Italian company Antoniolupi via the blog Le Femme du Bucheron .  How gorgeous is this piece?

Seriously.  Go back and look at it some more.  Or maybe you shouldn’t.  Sometimes, it’s liberating to know that having to ask how much  means it ‘aint in the budget.

But, I like a good challenge, especially one born of inspiration.

Eventually, my research lead me to this very well priced sink and console by Duravit (in distressed oak rather than the walnut pictured here).  Not quite as elegant or sexy as its Italian counterpart, this German piece of furniture is spare and efficient while keeping the feel of the Antoniolupi console.

I’m still patting my self on the back for this find.

Originally I wanted to do the wall facing the hallway (and where the sink and toilet will call home) in floor to ceiling encaustic tile.  However, no matter how fantastic it looked in the pictures, I couldn’t get the idea to sit right in my gut.

Right before hitting send on the tile order, I decided to attempt one more look around for an alternate.  I’d dabbled a bit with in wallpaper but previous forays found me  quickly overwhelmed.   This time I got lucky.  When Abigail Edwards’ Seascape paper popped up in my search results, all three cherries lined up and  bells went off in the design portion of my brain.

Subtle nod to Via Corona’s location?  Check.  In line with the neutral and black scheme I have going?  Check.  Edward Gory inspired?  Bonus check.  In stock at Walnut Wallpaper  in Hollywood meaning I didn’t have to pay  $40 in shipping?  Check.

Black fixtures including a cool wall sconce, towel hook (remember, there is only one rack in this house and you can’t hang towels on it) and TP holder by  Onefortythree round out little party.  I mean potty.  Wanna come over Mickey?

I know I’m a cliche.  People like to get a little frisky in the powder room because the stakes are low.  And I’m no different.  And now you know my idea of frisky.

Next week TD will bring you the master bathroom.


He’ll bring you the lead-up and I’ll deliver the plans.  I’m pretty sure he has no idea what it is supposed to look like when it’s done.  Styletatorship has its privileges.

P.S. Somehow that haute couture mirror in the original powder room was saved in the demo.  We’d be more than happy to donate it.  Perhaps Sotheby’s would be interested.

Want to read more about our renovation adventures? Go here: Via Corona

I Had A Hammer


TD here.

Marvelous Marvin Hagler is one of my favorite boxers of all-time.  Left-handed, relentless, great chin.  Head like a giant Milk Dud.  He reigned as the middleweight champion (that’s 160 lbs.) for almost seven of my formative years in the 80s.

He was also famous for wearing this super awesome (if not grammatically challenged) sleeveless t-shirt you see above emblazoned with his mantra: destruction and destroy.

Now that I’ve lost a good 50% of readers, let’s talk about my own little destruction and destroy mission this week – getting rid of the dopey river rock clinging onto Via Corona’s exterior like so many barnacles.

IMG_1323As with all things Via Corona, intrigue lies around every corner, or under every rock as the case may be.  At times she reminds me of a song my Dad used to sing:

“Same song, second verse.  Could be better, but it’s gonna be worse.”

IMG_1722Case in point, earlier in the week, a few bashes with a mere mortal hammer revealed that the river rock facade was actually covering . . . wait for it . . . a brick facade.  Belt. . . meet suspenders!

Quite literally any numbskull can swing a hammer and blow a rock to smithereens (as I’ve proven), but can any numbskull rent a 20 lb. demolition hammer to speed the plow?  Well, it turns out the answer to that question is also yes, provided said numbskull has a drivers license and like $70 bucks.  (Not really even sure the license was mandatory.)

Anyway, 20 lb. Makita mini-jackhammer to the rescue!  Or so we thought.

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 4.15.47 PM

(Note:  the product above has some kind of side handle apparatus.  This was not a part of my rental unit.  I relied on what’s commonly known as Death Grip.)

The mini-jackhammer caper is actually an adventure in two parts.

First was the part where the stupid river rocks were affixed to stucco.  This was the case for about 10% of the job. Those rocks slid off like Via Corona’s exterior the French in battle.  They offered little resistance and were all too happy to cede their homeland, which was, in this case, a lustrous mint green (yes, mint green) stucco.

DSC_0170The second part, where the accursed river rocks were affixed to brick?  Those were more akin raising a small child (I surmise) – relentlessly challenging, occasionally impossible, intermittently rewarding, and the end result looks different than what you imagined but hopefully you didn’t screw it up so completely that it’ll refuse to take care of you when you’re too old and jacked up to do it yourself.

Now, if all of the hated river rocks had been of the vichy variety, the job would have taken about three hours tops – but Via Corona is a diabolical mistress.

It took nine hours.

Even Kendrick Lamar on Spotify crapped out at the seven hour mark.  Et tu, Kendrick?

In hindsight, this probably should have been a two-day job, but I only had a 24-hour rental and when the clock is ticking you’re duty-bound to swing it in the morning . . .  and the evening . . . all over this land.

Destruction and destroy, indeed.

I believe it’s key in any home improvement project is to add a level of complexity that borders on the ridiculous.  Bonus points of it’s dangerous.  For the 20 lb. demolition hammer adventure, we added a ladder (thanks, Tom P.) and two gawky teenage juniper bushes (you see me taunting one in the photo below).


The ladder assured just the right amount of instability when hoisting an awkward, vibrating power tool overhead.  The juniper bushes, while making me otherwise thirsty for a gin and tonic, were mostly just in the way.

We fixed that . . . eventually.

IMG_1785 (1)

In case you’re wondering (or scoring at home), I only had one “unscheduled dismount” of the ladder.  It was fairly early in the process and I held on to the hammer all the way through the landing.  With the degree of difficulty, it was easily a 10.0 if not for the Russian judge.  Your move, Simone Biles.

IMG_1791 (1)As in all things, the day wouldn’t have been nearly as enjoyable, complete or frankly necessary without The Misanthropic Hostess herself.  She placed the rocks in pristine piles in the unlikely event House Beautiful sends a photographer for their Gobs of Useless Rocks edition.  She also hobnobbed with the neighbors (who pleasantly and repeatedly reminded us that cheap labor can also be found at Home Depot), made sure I stayed hydrated and generally kept me from dying which was, and is, appreciated.

In the final analysis, the wall actually looks worse without its ludicrous rock overcoat, but in the fullness of time, and with a new coat of stucco and/or HardiePlank siding, TMH has promised that it will look (and act) like a home.

IMG_1772 (1)She hasn’t been wrong yet, but in case she is, I think we can learn a thing or two from Marvelous Marvin Hagler after his controversial loss to Sugar Ray Leonard in 1987.

He moved to Italy.

Finally, since this blog is mostly about recipes, here’s mine:



Want to read more about our renovation adventures? Go here: Via Corona