Coasters by Francisca Prieto / *

Use these enameled asterisks as coasters, saucers, or under a hot plate. Industrial designer Francisca Prieto takes inspiration from typography from her time as a graphic designer and puts the shapes to good use.


FELT WALL PANELS / quiet, please!

Whether or not you have a space that needs to be insulated from sound, these wall panels designed by Anne Kyyro Quinn will add a sculptural, organic touch. What is it about felt that automatically speaks comfort? It has a certain allure that makes you want to touch it—sophisticated, yet laid back. She also makes a line of pillows, runner and placemats. that can soften any surface.


HEALTHY SNACK / ladies’ bite

I like to experiment with different things I have in the fridge, and in the name of eliminating waste, I will be open to trying unusual pairings. This test for a healthy snack turned out surprisingly well, so I thought I should record it for future get togethers. I took a Pink Lady apple and cut it into thin slices. Pink Ladies are a gorgeous bright reddish-pink and are very sweet with a slightly lemony tang. Next, I spread some goat cheese on the slices, using a brand called Il Tommasino from Italy. On top, I sprinkled a little garlic/pepper mix from Simply Organic mixes, then placed a couple of thin slices of mild onion and roasted yellow pepper. And there you have it. Rather than use an already roasted pepper from a jar, I like to sit a pepper on one of the burners while I am cooking something else, then put it in a baggie to use in salads, on a sandwich, or to add flavor to a sauce. To me, it has a cleaner, sweeter taste. Recently, I placed an already cut lemon into the baggie with the pepper to save space. Although it was not even touching the pepper, when I cut a wedge to put in my glass of water, it gave it a little zip. Food for thought...


LIGHTING by MOLO / presto chango!

For your next outdoor event, add these futuristic indoor/outdoor lights that can instantly change into the 3 shapes shown, and anything in between with a quick manipulation. Molo makes these out of a highly durable polyethylene non-woven textile which cannot tear, is water-resistant and 100% recyclable.

LIGHTING by Fambuena / eclipse'd

For a stark and moody setting, employ these lights from Fambuena, which resemble a full lunar eclipse. It is the coolest use of fluorescent lighting I have seen to date. They also make the same light with opaque blown glass. Fambuena products are from Spain and are distributed in North America exclusively by Boutique Design Products.

BOUTIQUE HOTEL The Ivy / enticingly rich

THE IVY, San Diego, CA What a nice surprise I had after arbitrarily picking this hotel on a recent trip to the Fancy Food Show. I told everyone I spoke to back home that I did not want to come home. The style was “all me!” The room came complete with not a mini, but a full bar, (center photo) with fridge and a gournet coffee maker plus a tray of goodies that included: snacks of all kinds, chocolate, mints, useful kits, a pack of cards, and audaciously, sex toys for one and another for couples. My room was on the inside of the hotel, meaning a wall of windows opened up onto a 3-story courtyard, so you got to play voyeur—or employ the light-eliminating curtain front. The bath featured toiletries from the mindfully crafted and beautfifully packaged Greek company, Korres. The glass shower door featured a cutout that you could hang the bath mat from, but also allowed you to turn on the water before you got inside. Clever. The bed, bedspread, and pillows coaxed you to dreamland, and the satellite radio that came on one of the channels on the flat screen tv completed the chilled-out feeling of the room. I asked and was given a grand tour of the hotel and was blown away by the suites, and apartment, which had a mosaic tile bathroom that was the size of a studio apartment.
TOP NOTCH Once I discovered the Quarter Kitchen, I decided that it was THE place to be, for lunch, dinner or drinks. Chef Damon Gordon, who trained with Alain Ducasse and Jeffrey Chodorow, was in charge here, and I was extremely impressed not only at the menu, but at the friendly and faultless service and by the artful display of all the dishes, as seen in my minimalist caesar salad. Even the butter was memorable. The roof bar had a great view of the city plus nice lounging areas one of which had a really cool blue-flame-on-white-rocks fire pit, that was actually necessary and a welcome perk at night, which in January were a little chilly. There is also a pool on the roof, and a private cabana that can be accessed through one of the suites, done up mod-Morroccan style.
EXTRA PERKS I could not resist taking the free gas-guzzling Escalade service down to the convention center—it was nice to arrive in style! You can also arrange to have your own butler, to pack, iron, or perform other butler services, all included in the room price.
WEEKENDS I was told that the weekends can get pretty wild at The Ivy, and was sorry that I could not be there for the festitvities. That is when the two clubs are open. Next time!


La Fée Absinthe / go chartreuse

You’ve probably been catching a lot of buzz on absinthe over the past couple of years. You can thank George Rowley, CEO of La Fée, for bringing it out of its underground status and launching it into the limelight. Absinthe is a hostess’ dream: the color, the thrill, the accoutrement! The traditional method: rest a slotted spoon over a glass of absinthe, place a cube of sugar on it, and slowly pour 4 to 6 times the amount of ice water. This changes the color of the drink from a bright, clear green to a gorgeous, frosted chartreuse. A spoon with signature “eye” comes with your purchase of a bottle of La Fée, who have taken an ancient French recipe and come up with some exciting new ways to mix it. As a bonus to looking really cool, you can also enjoy the idiosyncratic state absinthe drinking has to offer. According to the Absinthe Buyers Guide: Drinkers of absinthe experience a double action intoxication, combining the effects of strong alcohol and a secondary effect reported to be a “clear-headed” feeling of inebriation. Chemist and absinthe expert, T.A. Breaux describes it as a push-me, pull-you effect of the various herbs, some have a heightening effect while others have a lowering effect. Try this taste combo that’s shockingly different:

La Fée Sour
1 ½ oz La Fée Absinthe Parisienne
Juice of half a fresh lemon
1 tsp sugar
1 egg white
Method: Shake all ingredients with crushed ice and fine strain into a chilled cocktail glass. For a longer drink, use a high-ball glass and top with soda for a La Fée Sea Fizz.


CHEF GAVIN BAKER / perfect spa lunch at Talisker Club

Try this RAW dairy-free recipe from Executive Chef Gavin Baker of Tuhaye Table Cafe at The Talisker Club:

(serves four)
4 organic zucchini, unpeeled
1 cup raw macadamia nuts
1 1/2 cups raw pine nuts
2-inch section unpeeled zucchini, chopped
2 TBS lemon juice
3 cloves garlic
1 1/2 cups plain soy milk
2 TBS fresh thyme
1/4 of small red hot chili pepper
1 TSP Sea salt
Fresh ground white pepper to taste
1. Trim the ends of the zucchini and pass over a mandolin set with a fine julienne blade. The result will be zucchini that looks like noodles. Spread the noodles out on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and allow to dry slightly at room temperature for one hour.
2. Combine all ingredients for the sauce in a blender and process until smooth.
3. Pass through a chinoise and reserve until needed.
4. When ready, toss the “noodles” with the “alfredo” and divide into four equal portions.
5. Garnish with the sun-dried tomatoes and basil tops.
For more information about The Talisker Club, see OUT AND ABOUT.


DESTINATION Park City / surreal beauty at Talisker Club

I felt like I arrived on another planet when we rolled into the Talisker Club at Tuhaye. Nothing could prevent me from stopping to take some photos. There, the mountains went as far as you could see in a major panorama. This heavenly place will be home to the few who can afford to buy a piece of paradise, and is outfiited to be so. Lunch at the Tuhaye Table Cafe turned out to be THE perfect spa lunch. Chefs John Murcko and Gavin Baker, prepared a top notch amuse bouche of radish, cucumber and creme fraiche, a raw “fettucine” in a “cream” sauce (see recipe in SCOOP), a couple of ultra thin crust pizzas and one of the most delicious and light desserts that I have ever tasted: a pineapple soup by Pastry Chef Aimee Altizer. You could tell at first glance that the cafe was luxuriously and lovingly designed with its beautifully embroidered curtains and other fine appointments, but it still maintained an exceedingly relaxed vibe. It overlooked a swimming pool with those gorgeous mountains as a backdrop, and was just breathtaking. The spa was a private oasis, complete with individual bathrooms with showers, so that après treatment felt like being at home. I had the Raindrop Ritual massage. This treatment is based on Native American traditions and uses pharmaceutical-grade essential oils, each with a myriad of benefits. First, the oils were dropped and massaged into your feet, followed by a sequence of eight different oils dripped from the bottom to the top of your spine. Then the rolling massage techniques of Tibetan reflexology were put into play. The massage is designed to boost the immune system, while releasing muscle spasms and reducing inflammation. The masseuse was so incredibly earnest and serious about her craft, that I fell into an extremely deep state of relaxation, so much so, that I felt like I was coming back from a million miles away when she spoke. The Talisker Club is truly out of this world.

CHEF AIMEE ALTIZER / adding flower power

Pastry Chef Aimee Altizer makes wonderfully light and pretty desserts, as seen in the photo of her pineapple soup. She's part of the culinary force at the Tuhaye Table Cafe at Talisker Club in Park City, Utah, an exclusive new development that had me gaping in awe the whole time I was there. I asked her for some creative ideas for using edible flowers, and here's what she said:
• Snip off the florets on your home-grown chives, sage, or basil, to add a milder herbal flavor to your salads, soups or pasta. Makes for a prettier tomato, basil and mozzarella salad.
• Jasmine flowers are great with summer red fruit and make a heavenly cake/tart garnish.
• Grind a small amount of dried lavender for a great addition to a lemon pound cake.
• Try fresh rose petals to garnish a buttermilk vanilla panna cotta with fresh raspberries and rose syrup. This is what Talisker served on Mother's Day.
• Always make sure your flowers are from a reliable source.
You can find out more about my visit to the Talisker Club in OUT AND ABOUT.


click image to enlarge
"entertaining with flowers"

ISI Whipper / whip it good!

You will want to put swirls and florets on everything you see once you get your hands on the mini whipper from ISI. Make your own whipped cream instantly while avoiding preservatives and additives—unless what you want to add are some flavored liqueurs, natural syrups, honey, or alternative sugars. Pastry Chef Aimee Altizer of Talisker Club in Park City suggests mixing turbinado with the cream before whipping so it can dissolve. See RECIPES + EXPERTISE for her tips on other edible flowers.

Red & Green Co TEA / budding genius

Next time your guests ask for tea, serve them the Budding Flower from Red & Green Company. A globe amaranth and chrysanthemum wrapped with young green tea and infused with the scent of magnolias will have them swooning as they watch the petals unfold in their cup. Co-founder Chongbin Zheng, an artist, grew up in Hangzou, a famous tea region of China. He travels back to his homeland to work closely with farmers to create exceptional teas which he has re-fitted in cool packages—from hermetically sealed aluminum canisters, clay jars, to bamboo canisters. He also has a knack for teapot design. Using craftsman from Chinese factories whose designs date back to the 1300s, Chongbin brings their time-honored techniques to his modern designs.

The Wild Hibiscus Flower Co / a bud down under

Another flower that caught my eye is from The Wild Hibiscus Flower Company in Australia. The flower slowly opens up as bubbles stream off it’s tips, creating a dance in your glass and adding the flavor of raspberry and rhubarb to your cocktail. Owner Lee Etherington, once a tour guide who delighted tourists with his jams, preserves and sauces made from Australia’s best indigenous offerings, developed the flower idea after hosting a group of tipsy tourists who playfully dropped one into a glass of champagne. He spent the next few years perfecting the method of preserving the flowers and although now distributed to 16 countries, the product is still hand-packed into jars to ensure that none are squashed. They are naturally preserved in cane sugar and spring water and will last up to 24 months. And if champagne’s not your thing, then see these other recipes—Australian Beef with Red Wine Hibiscus Syrup Glaze and Wild Hibiscus Pavlova Supreme—on their website.

Sweetfield's Crystallized Flowers FLORAL ADORNMENT

Your friends will think you are a baking superstar when you adorn your pastries with these real crystallized edible posies. Your only dilemma will be choosing from among the organically grown violas, pansies, snap dragons, mini roses and rose petals, each a uniquely beautiful treasure. John Clemons, founder of Sweetfields, perfected the ancient art of crystallization, so that the flowers look everlastingly fresh, and obtained a few patents in the process. With proper storage, they will last forever—so you can always have some on hand to add a light and fruity crunch to a salad, pose on top of a cupcake or float atop a glass of champagne.