speakeasy: love RAINES at Raines Law Room

I remember being amused at this wallpaper at the ICFF in 2008. Here it is in action in The Raines Law Room, a new speakeasy in the Flatiron district, NYC. In case you didn’t know, in 1896 Raines Law disallowed selling alcohol in pubs on Sundays, but made exceptions for hotels. You only needed to have 10 guest rooms and serve sandwiches. As a result, saloons began adding rooms above their space. So the law meant to discourage drinking did not, and opened the doors to prostitution. Atelier Blink, a Belgian design studio, came up with the patterns. “Oh, Shocking,” also appears on bedding and pyjamas, “Rendez-vous” is the wallpaper. See more pics of The Raines Law Room here.



Recently, I was preparing a lot of ingredients, and was short on pans. I needed to quickly roast peppers. So, as necessity is the mother of invention, I created a pan out of aluminum foil, basically just rolling up the 4 sides, and put it under the broiler. Minutes later, the peppers skins were nice and black. Knowing aluminum does not hold heat very long, it was easy to transform my pan into a tent, by unrolling the sides. Voila! No muss, no fuss, as they say. Of course, be a good citizen and put the used foil into the recycling bin.


true BLUE: potato salad makes a statement

Question: could this potato create a beloved classic-tasting potato salad?
Answer: Definitely! I recommend this for your next barbecue...it's surprising and beautiful, and has a nice creamy texture. Finely chop organic celery, red peppers and scallions for crunch and contrasting color. See more pics from the barbecue here.


JB raises dough for Roxbury Farm

I am thoroughly amazed again and again at the level of invention that comes out of the James Beard House kitchen. It’s almost as if James himself is overseeing the production. At this event, The Farm Stand, the Food Bank for New York City benefitted, and raised money to buy shares in Roxbury Farm, a community supported organic farm. Featured chefs were Daniel Eardley (Chestnut), Shanna Pacifico (Back Forty) and Matt Weingarten (Inside Park). See more photos of the event here.


AAAHHH, AH-FRICA / new tastes from South Africa

During Fancy Food show in June, I was invited to the South African Embassy for a cocktail party and got to check out some of the new products being offered. The party food was quite delicious and leaned toward an Indian-flavor profile. (though I am not sure if that was because the caterer was part Indian) Two of my favorites were a blood sausage and indiginous type of polenta, seen top left. The center photo shows a serving spoon from Poivre d’Or. They had the most beautiful assortment of tabletop items I have seen in a while, woven placemats in hot pink and a searing orange, gorgeous matte-black dishes, polka-dotted spoons, plus an assorment of marmalades whose intense flavor combinations were like spooning out tiny little taste blasts. Everyone went crazy for the Amarula, on right. See more photos here.


in the house: Junior Merino at the James Beard House

I love the fact that James Beard House is doing cocktail parties. This was the second one I attended, and thoroughly enjoyed. (There’s one coming up on July 21, which is focused on local farms and will raise money for the Food Bank of New York City. See website for details)
Cocktails and Canapes / June 25, 2009 Chefs Alexandra Guarnaschelli (Butter), Akhtar Nawab (Elettaria), Jason Neroni (10 Downing), and Doug Psaltis (Smith’s) squeezed into the tiny kitchen and prepared a variety of nibbles to go with Junior Merino’s cocktails. Highlights: Doug’s smoked lamb ribs were extra meaty, and a nice change from the norm. His Olive Fritters would make a great snack with a strong martini. Alex made fabulous wild mushroom pizzas, and decadent warm brie sandwiches. Jason actually did not show up for the event, as his wife had just given birth, but his backup did a great job with the bacon-wrapped rabbit terrine. Akhtar made a beautiful display of tuna on spoons with tapioca, pickled celery, and sea urchin. Junior offered up his signature Los Agaves: Siembra Azul Bianco, Combier, Jicama Juice, Grapple Juice, Aloe Vera Juice and Lemon as well as some edible cocktail desserts. The Margarita Marshmallow was fab. Some more photos here.


BAR ARTISANAL: a CHEESE fest in Tribeca

Love the new downtown Artisanal, called Bar Artisanal. See more pics of the space and what we ate here.


crop report/ TOMATOES ARE IN

Due to the cessation of stormy weather, the crops seem to be growing in my elevated mini-farm. Tomatoes are coming in daily, and pea pods, well, I am just eating them off the vine. So CRUNCHY. Have added a basil plant, so now ready to enjoy a classic Caprese. Life is good.



Vervacious’ unique stacking bottles come in handy for all sorts of great finishing twists. Their signature “stack” (photo, right) covers all the bases. Espresso Balsamic Drizzle is equally good on grilled sirloin, on the cheese board, or on top of some fresh strawberries. Wild Maine Blueberry Mignonette is a hit with fresh oysters. Windward Island Roasting Rub will add zip to any barbeque. Photo on the left shows the latest offerings at the Fancy Food Show, this past June in NYC. With Vervacious it’s easy to get creatious.



I love the line of kitchen accessories from Bambu. Choosing bamboo as a material is loaded with advantages. No only is it a fast-growing plant that needs no replanting and conserves water and soil, it also allows products to be made in rural environments. Owner Jeff Delkin, dedicated to fair trade, keeps a watchful eye on the craftspeople’s villages where each piece is hand-made and finished with a lacquer derived from the cashew-nut tree. The cheery colors and natural finish would be a fun asset to any kitchen. See also Bambu's line of disposable utensils and dishes, sure to add chic-ness to your next outdoor soiree.



Start a tasting party with this beautiful set from Bee Raw. To create the fruit flavors of this honey, they have positiioned their bee hives in the center of densely populated blueberry, cranberry, raspberry and orange blossom groves. Tubes are sealed in bees wax, and make a lovely display with morning or afternoon tea. Or, if you are more inclined to partake in happy hour, take along this recipe.

1 tablespoon fresh raspberries
10 mint leaves
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 tablespoon Bee Raw Wild Raspberry Honey
1 shot white rum
2 shots cranberry juice
Muddle the first 4 ingredients well in a cocktail shaker. Add the rum, juice, and ice, shake well. Serve in a Collins glass. Garnish with a sprig of mint and a couple of whole raspberries.


HEALTHY DRINK: happy inTEApendence day!

Having been overdoing it the past few weeks, I decided to prepare a healthy alternative for my visitors this fourth of July. I made a pot of tea with White Lion’s Cranberry Hibiscus, added some agave, and about a third of orange juice. It made for a refreshing berry-ish treat. Am already feeling the cleanse.



With the myriad of great wine choices out there, for gifting I like to limit my selections to the ones with stark, graphic labels. These two natural wines from Spain stood out at a recent wine tasting. Made of Tinot Fino grapes, they were exceptionally full-bodied, glass-staining dark, and intensely delicious. The Wines of Telmo Rodriguez, Ribera del Duero, are in the process of getting organic certification. Matallana 2005 is aged in French oak for 15-18 months, the MB 2005 for 14 months. The labels were designed by Spanish graphic designer Fernando Gutiérrez, known for Benetton’s Colors magazine. Don’t waste your time trying to choose between the two, bring both.



What cook wouldn’t appreciate individually wrapped spices in pre-measured 1 teaspoon packets? Tsp Spices’ founders Katie and Sara, a.k.a. The Cardamoms, developed this line to eliminate waste and maintain optimum taste in the spice pantry. For gifting, they offer 3 themed boxed collections: Spice Basics, Sweet Basics and Green Basics. The Greens boxed set is a safe pick for just about anyone—featuring basil, dill, oregano, rosemary, tarragon, thyme. These organic spices come neatly housed in aluminum tins,12 to a tin, and stay absolutely fresh until used--making it a fantastic choice for a weekend house.



Do you know of a couple whose tastes clash? Industrial designer Ron Gilad has created a marriage of traditional and modern design in his sleek elevated platter. When hostessing a get-together, I love to have a raised area to maximize the serving area, and to create a more dramatic display. This platter fits the bill, whether in its round or square configuration, and can be used as serving dish, a fruit bowl, or as an anchor spot to throw your keys.



The Float glass collection from Molo not only seemingly suspends liquid in space, but has the added functionality of insulation. Whether serving cold or hot tea, the Float Tea Lantern’s double insulating walls will maintain the temperature, while flaunting it’s austere, minimalist presence. Neat freaks will love the fact that moisture from cool drinks accumulates under the bowl, keeping rings off the table. This series is handblown in the Czech Republic from the finest water-clear German borosilicate glass, the same glass Pyrex is made out of, so can also be used in the oven—think French onion soup or crème brûlée. See the whole line at the website, plus their lighting and seating pieces.


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A good guest knows what to show up with...