DxD Launch Party Draws 200 Hungry Fans

Last night’s Delicious by Design launch party was a resounding success. Held at the studios of AURAS Design, the party was also a celebration of the company’s 30th anniversary. Two hundred friends, colleagues and clients crowded into the space, sampling recipes from the book and renewing old acquaintances.

Marty Ittner, a former AURAS designer wrote, “I’m in absolute awe. What an undertaking! The party, the food, the signage, the details, the crowd of admirers, the BOOK! All of it amazing, jaw dropping, wonderful.” She also sent along the pictures you see here.

Nine DxD recipes were prepared for the event, including two that are on this website but not in the book. The favorite just might have been our newest recipe—also our first dessert: Maui Wowie cookies, a salt-topped chocolate-chip macadamia nut confection.

Other dishes included bite-sized Fried Chicken nuggets based on the Pan-Fried Chicken recipe, De-Boned Herbed Turkey Breast, Un-ribbed Roast Beef, Not-Mac-and-Cheeses, Mom’s Chopped Liver and sides of Simplest Sweet Potatoes, Cole Slaw and Stuffin’ Muffins. It was like a little mini-Thanksgiving meal.

The party was, in part, an opportunity for AURAS Design to give a gift to the many people who have supported the firm throughout the years, and show off its space, a 1927 Mason’s Hall that was renovated 12 years ago to be the studio’s home.

Every party-goer was invited to take home a copy of the book in a stylish DxD grocery bag, along with a bottle of AURAS Spice Mix.

One person asked, “How did you convince a caterer to make all of these recipes?” The answer was simple. ALL of the food was prepared by Rob Sugar and his co-conspirator, Helen Rea. “Making 60 lbs of food for 200 people will make preparing a Thanksgiving dinner for 16 easy as pie—pecan in this case,” along with a cider-brined applewood grill-roasted turkey from local purveyor Maple Lawn Farms.

This Might Be the Best Recipe in DxD

Flat-Roast ChickenOur newest featured recipe has been such a tester’s treat that we almost didn’t want to give it away, but making the Flat Roast Chicken is so easy and so delicious that we can’t help ourselves. This roast chicken is enhanced by smearing a herbs de provence butter under the skin and coating with AURAS spice mixture. A quick dry brine makes the skin crisp and the meat juicy.

But the real game-changer from an ordinary oven-roasted bird is the way it’s prepared. This chicken is easily flattened using a technique that only takes a minute to do, but produces superior results to the much more complicated butterflying or spatchcocking methods. Cutting through the rib bones is ridiculously easy and the entire breast section opens like a car hood on a hinge so the bird is flattened with all the bones on one side and the meat on the other, protected by its skin. It might seem complicated, but look at the video,and you’ll see it’s really easy to do.

The complete recipe is also available on YouTube here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_G5Drard2Y

DxD Books Are Here!

We’ve finally received the beautiful hardcover edition of Delicious By Design and couldn’t be happier with the printing or the product. Since we are designers, we are getting a thrill from the two aqueous coatings on the dust jacket and the spot gloss varnish throughout the interior. The images pop off the page and the book is a delight to graze. Just be prepared to be hungry, even if you’ve just eaten.

Thanksgiving Muffins—and Other Recipes That Didn’t Get into DxD

The most frustrating factor about Delicious by Design: 30 Years/30 Recipes was my own fault. I limited the number of dishes in the book tying the title into our anniversary. When I realized that I had so many great recipes, and that the promotion needed to get bigger, I cheated by making a distinction between side dishes and main dishes to keep the theme, but allow for more content.

That still wasn’t enough. There are great dishes that didn’t make it into the book, so I am remedying that by adding new recipes to this site. These first three are all amazing—and amazingly easy to prepare.

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, you have got to try making the Stuffin’ Muffins. If your guests’ response is anything like mine, they will be the hit of the dinner. In fact, I can’t imagine a more satisfying menu for Thanksgiving than these Stuffin’ Muffins, along with the De-Boned Herbed Turkey Breast, The Simplest Sweet Potatoes and the Brussels Sprouts for Haters.

Let me know how you like the recipes. I’ll be adding more in the near future—including some desserts.

AURAS Celebrates 30 Years with Cookbook

When we began to contemplate how we were going to mark the 30th anniversary of AURAS Design, our idea was to produce a book of our past graphic design work. But, really, who wants to look at that more than once? Not that we aren’t proud of the work we’ve done, but we wanted to create something that people would actually enjoy using and refer to now and again.

Then, an obvious idea sprung to mind: let’s make a cookbook. After all, cooking is a lot like designing. There’s a lot of thought put into the ingredients; it takes technique and tools to produce excellent work; and if everything works just right, the end result is pretty tasty.

Maybe that’s why I have enjoyed cooking since I was old enough to hold a spatula. In college, with nothing more than a hot plate and toaster oven, I learned how to prepare meals. AURAS has produced work for hundreds of clients over the last three decades, but now, here’s an opportunity to see what we might have created if things had gone just a bit differently.

In fact, the lure of opening a restaurant has always been a siren call for me. I think I have mentioned it so many times that my more sensible other half, Helen Rea, merely goes “Whoop-whoop”—indicating the alarm bells that should be going off in my head. Restaurants, like Broadway shows and Internet start-ups, are a high-risk long shot. They make running a design studio seem like a sensible business—even these days.

Food has always been an important part of celebration at AURAS. For years, our holiday parties have been renowned for the great food—mostly cooked by us. Our holiday staff retreats were always chosen for the quality of the food, whether it was a limo trip to the Inn at Little Washington or an overnight stay at l’Auberge Provençal. We have always kept ourselves caffeinated and content by stocking the finest foodstuffs for everyone to enjoy.

Featured Recipe: Swordfish with Avocado Coulis

When our studio was on Kalorama Road, many mornings on the way to work I would stop by Posin’s, the late, lamented D.C. Jewish supermarket, and buy donuts, cupcakes and freshly made rye bread for the studio. The bread was too warm to bag and too delicious not to steal the crusty end slices as I headed down 13th Street.

Having a full kitchen has always been an important part of the plan, wherever our studio has been. The long-time people at AURAS warn newcomers about “The AURAS Ten”—the weight that is bound to be put on from the abundance of good stuff around the shop. On summer afternoons at the Kalorama studio, taking a break for former employee Marty Ittner’s guacamole was a welcome treat; on snow days, I often make a hearty vegetable soup to entice the crew to brave the elements. And all year long there is coffee, whether an afternoon cappuccino break or simply a strong, bracing cup of Peet’s, freshly ground and shipped directly to the studio. For many new employees, the first challenge of working at AURAS was learning to appreciate that super-strong brew. If nothing else, AURAS was way ahead of the coffee-crazed curve.

So, think of Delicious by Design as the restaurant that never was. Within the pages are recipes that have been prepared and tweaked over the years. They are heavy on comfort and powerful in taste. And in the back, we’ve allowed ourselves a few pages for a history of our studio and some examples of AURAS design work.

Renée Comet was excited to become part of this project and brought Lisa Cherkasky along to prepare and style the food. Together we mapped out a simple strategy: every picture should look so tasty that readers might be inclined to lick the page—that was the extent of the art direction. I have always believed that you should let talented people do what they do best and try to stay out of the way.

We’d like to know what you think of this book—especially how you like the recipes—and give you a chance to see some behind-the-scenes action at the photo shoot—plus a few recipes that didn’t make it into the book.

Bon appétit! —RS