Sunday, February 27, 2011

Snow, snow go away...

Another 8-10 inches of the white stuff today, and I can't wait for it to stop because I want to wear my new shoes!

Rainy Day Ballet Flats, J.Crew.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Downtown Grocery, VT (TDG to those in the loop).

A truly satisfying and exciting dining experience can be hard to find, especially in these rural parts, but recently I found one that hits the mark in all the right places, The Downtown Grocery in Ludlow VT. Let me say that the owners are friends, comprising of husband and wife team Rogan and Abby Lechthaler and assisted by Alyssa Prouty. Rogan is the Chef Owner and Alyssa his Sous, both previously of the fine dining restaurant Verdé, at Stratton Mountain. Abby also worked there, delivering her own dynamic enthusiasm and Southern charm to the front of house, as she does at TDG.

Let me also say I have made my career in restaurants and they are my passion, but when you work in them you look for all manner of tiny things that can naturally turn you off. Hard sell. Suffice it to say, I take my work home with me and am not swung by personal ties when assessing any dining experience I have. TDG promises to deliver pretty much everything that I want in a dining experience. Wonderful warm and bustling atmosphere with perfectly dimmed lighting, plenty of gorgeous decorative detail but with restraint and consideration for the overall look, casual individual but informed and friendly service, killer cocktails....oh and the food? The food is divine. Clever, witty, skilled and most of all delicious. The emphasis is on local ingredients and the best of seasonal fare and the kitchen cooks up inventive pairings of flavors making for a truly exciting taste fest.

The menu itself is small but left me completely crippled by indecision about what to order. It all looked so good. The specials boards are stuffed with alternatives that just made the process even harder, only eased by the fact that those dishes sell out in lightening speed and so by the time we forced ourselves to choose some of our decisions were made for us by the 86-ed specials.

To start, a board of house made sausage, pickles, mustard and local cheddar, teamed with an arugala, pancetta and shaved parmesan salad. Then onto a slow cooked pork belly that was the definition of "melt in the mouth".
A special that took our fancy was this house made gnocchi with rabbit that was so light and bright in flavor it took us pleasantly by surprise.
Desserts are a small and perfectly formed list. The late night breakfast (freshly made french toast, buttermilk bacon ice cream, maple syrup) is one that I will have to go back for, but the homemade sorbets (cherry was my fave) were a perfect way to cleanse the palate at the end of the meal. 

The interior boasts many details that emphasize the casual and local nature of the restaurant's ethos. Handmade birch light fittings, barn boards used to make blackboard frames, quirky coat hooks made from upcycled forks and the chuckle inducing restaurant signs painted by Alyssa's sister Lucy (they are in fact local Vermont birds).

The Downtown Grocery is relatively new to the scene and is the culmination of years of hard work and dedication to the craft by this trio, and it shows. So why not reward them at the end of your meal by more than just the tip?

By them a round of tall boys (Narragansett is the current beer du jour) and they'll thank you for it. This business is a thirsty job!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Royal Wedding

I think I can get pretty into the whole craziness that is starting to build around the wedding of Wills and Kate, particularly if the commemorative items are like this Corgi Royal Wedding Tea Towel by Gemma Correll. Commissioned by ToDryFor, this design is a limited edition piece that is just so perfectly witty and that little bit off beat. Not the usual china cups and saucers with an official picture of the happy couple, instead a tea towel to dry them with.

I am beginning to have a thing about Corgis as I dog sit for a very sweet little gal of the Corgi persuasion. As puppies they are literally THE cutest thing you can imagine!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Morsels from Miami

Sorry for the silence peeps, but I had to pop down to Miami for a few days to hang out with my brother. Tough life. The youngest of our clan is a supervisor at the RUMBAR, Ritz Carlton on Key Biscayne. Swank. Since we hadn't ventured down south to see how he lives his life it seemed like the perfect time to get in some sun since we have been dumped on with snow for the past month or so. It turns out that even Miami can be cold and wet, who knew? Anyway, we had a blast and I really had no expectations so it made the trip even better. Here's a taster of the sights we took in while we were there.

Mr Yum, Calle Ocho Little Havana, serves up Thai/Japanese food with with a contemporary edge.

This food was inventive, delicious and insanely beautiful. Romi Roll (left) consisted of Tuna, Salmon and White Fish topped with Wahoo, Tempura Flakes, Spicy mayo and Eel Sauce and Dominic Roll (right) of Spicy Tuna, Green Apple topped with Fresh Tuna and Cilantro.

Next we tried out the Mojitos at the RUMBAR. With 52 rums on offer it is a crime not to try a sampling of some of the rarer ones, but the Black and Blue Mojito (classic Mojito with the addition of blueberries and raspberries muddled in) was a particular treat.

They manage to conjure up the look and feel of Old Havana with rich colors, low lighting, aged leather furniture and mahogany ceiling fans. The details are just right, and the staff are wonderfully attentive and knowledgeable, naturally.

Hands down the best dining experience we had was at Joe's Stone Crab on South Beach. This is an institution in Miami, serving up stone crabs with old school flair for the past 98 years. The place is a machine, serving around 1200+ (at a guess) guests an evening with an array of fish, steaks and the obligatory crab claws. The food is simple and delicious. Wear a bib....that's all I am saying.

Interesting info on how they harvest the crab claws here. "In order to assure the continued survival of the species, only one claw can be removed so the crab can defend itself. Egg bearing females are not allowed to be declawed. the crabs are captured in baited traps. No spears or hooks are allowed. Four inches from the first joint to the tip is the minimum legal size, that's about two ounces. A colossal can weigh 25 ounces or more" via Joe's. We love sustainable fishing.

And last but not least, we went to the Everglades to hunt down alligators. Well, not hunt exactly but hop on an airboat and zoom around the marshes in the hope of seeing at least one of these pesky beasts. Bingo! We saw a total of 3 even though it was decidedly cold and rainy. 

Our guide, Captain Debbie was knowledgeable and entertaining but definitely a no nonsense gal. We chose the Sawgrass Recreation Park for our little slice of Floridean wildlife.

So, it was a blast and I was left feeling like I couldn't wait to go back. Next time I am hitting the shops on South Beach!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Year of the Rabbit

So we all know by now that we are in the year of the Rabbit (beginning on 3rd February 2011) according to the Chinese astrological chart. In the West we consider the rabbit to be lucky (or atleast the foot), but overall this sign stands for calm, compassion, family and strength so this year should be a goody! Here's a tribute to the rabbit for good measure/karma!

Rabbit Portraits Set, The Black Apple

Forest and Fields Print, Eek Design 

1. Bunny Plush, Sleepy King 2. Orwell Clutch, Tsuru Bride 3. Fifi Lapin 4.Boo Cushion, Belle & Boo

Friday, February 4, 2011

Foxy Finds Friday

Here is a treat for you all this Friday! How about a hand woven rug inspired by our favourite animal? Maine designer Angela Adams' new range of hand woven New Zealand wool rugs features this gorgeous Foxy  design of organic geometric shapes that takes its inspiration from the tunnels and dens made by the wonderfully perky Red Fox that we love.

 I love the colour combinations in this, giving the design a warm retro vibe. Foxy Love indeed!

(Images © angela adams licensing, LLC)

Nutritional Therapy: Grape

There is one thing that I find annoying about the UK v USA, and that is that all purple coloured candy is blackcurrant flavoured in the UK, instead of the infinitely more delicious grape of the US. I admit this is not a tragedy on the scale of the impossibility of buying Magic Hat in Britain debacle, but it does suck. So with this particular frustration in mind, I am going to get my grape on with a purple tinged selection for you.
 Grape Soda Print Keep Calm Gallery

 Isabella Print Peggy Wolf

First Row:  Le Creuset Dutch Oven and Trivet, Williams Sonoma Potholders Emma Lamb, Multi Strand Silk Necklace Streeks. Second Row: Rebecca Dress Michelle Tan, Professional Patent Clogs Dansko, New Haarlem Candle Bond No. 9. Third Row: Felt Flower Headband Giddy Up & Grow, Vintage Jelly Jar Aquamarine Dream.

Tasty selection I hope you will agree?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Feeling the Valentine's vibe.

I'm really not one for Valentine's per se, something to do with being single :(. Never could get into the whole red theme either, but PINK? Well, you know how I feel about that! Anyway, I am a sucker for all the lovey dovey-ness it entails and obviously love to shop around, so if anyone is interested, here's my Valentine's vibe.

Top: Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame Rose 1998, I Love You Banner by Nice
Middle: Stripy Scarf from Boden, Pink Heart Stickers by Knot and Bow, Nera Flat from Kate Spade
Bottom: Friendship Tote by Pretty Little Things, Only You Necklace from Sophie Dear

Wallpaper and Amy Butler: A match made in heaven

You know I love Amy Butler, and that I adore wallpaper so this is a no brainer...the new wallpaper collection by Amy designed exclusively for Graham & Brown is simply gorgeous!
Wallpaper selection: Georgia in Stone, Fountain Damask in Midnight, Lacework in Field, 
Temple Tulips in Ocean, Momento in Sunset and Field Poppies in Moss.

Amy's approach to design comes from being "passionate about color and forms inspired by nature and I love mixing prints that create surprising design stories. That's what I want my collections to show. I want to share a fresh perspective that highlights the confident personalities of the people who adopt them. Your home says so much about who you are, and what you care about. I want people to feel inspired, and treat their very lives as a work of art." via Graham & Brown

I am besotted with the Momento pattern both in her fabric collection and here in its wallpaper incarnation. I use Amy Butler fabric in pretty much all of my sewing projects and have visions of decorating a craft room with a selection of these prints, even if I just use some to decorate book shelves with, or use as drawer liners? Bravo Amy, you have done it again!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

I "heart" Necco Sweethearts

Necco (New England Confectionary Company) began its life in 1847, with Olive R Chase's invention of the lozenge cutter candy machine. Fascinating history of the company here. This is a Boston company arguably most well known for the Necco Wafer, but since Valentine's Day is round the corner I thought that a look at the company's Sweethearts (Conversation Hearts) was in order. These are the world's number one selling non chocolate Valentine's candy. Impressive!
Top Left: Greetings Card by City Sisters Shop Top Right: Piles of Sweathearts ready to be mixed and boxed, Necco  Bottom Left: Necco Factory, Cambridge MA (Image by Jill Robidoux, Flickr) Bottom Right: Cross Stitch Kits by Slipcover Your Life

I am willing to bet that we all passed a Sweetheart to someone in our youth, leaving it up to the candy to deliver the message we couldn't find the words for ourselves. They began life in 1866 and Necco has updated their Sweetheart Conversation Heart range continually, adding modern sayings to the mix over time. In 2010 they went back to the drawing board and asked the American public to redesign the sayings, resulting in a new generation of heart candies...."Tweet Me" anyone? LOL!
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