Maine Stay

Maine Home & Design Contest
Martha Stewart
Loi Thai

Skillet Cod with Clams, Corn and Parsley

We barely had time to unpack the New Shipment of antiques and custom furniture from our factory in Hungary in late July, when it was time to whoosh up to our Maine cottage for the best two weeks of the summer.August promises so much: warm water temperatures, delightful breezes, bright skies, and the tastiest fresh food from the farmer’s market and the local lobster and fish co-op. It’s the best time for family visits because the kids, and adults too, can be outside all day running around like lunatics and swimming like fishes–then sleeping like logs at night.

At least we did. A long time ago a customer with a vacation home he inherited from his father told me his dad’s secret to successful hosting: Never give up your own bedroom.  No matter what.

Ours is totally British Cottage Style, albeit with a bit of bling. The chandelier is an antique, and the sconces are from Currey and Company. The vintage white king size bed is by British Cottage, leaving just enough room for one of the robust antique pine chests of drawers we import from Hungary. Comfortable, serene and a perfect refuge for when the going gets tough– or the young ‘uns get going! 

We were also looking for a similar sense of comfort and style in our living room. Below is the photo I entered in the Maine Homes by Down East design contest in May. Judges include Martha Stewart and my Instagram favorite, Loi Thai, owner of Tone on Tone Antiques in D.C. and fellow summer Mainer. You can see all the entries here: Maine Homes Design Contest. (For the record I am not expecting a win–I just wanted to get a little skin in the game!)Our sofa is from Best Slipcover, the first upholstery company we carried. I love the concept of a slipcover,especially when pets and children are involved. Luckily I had a second slipcover made before we parted ways and the sofa got schlepped up to Maine.  When all our young guests departed we tried on the new look and I am happy to report it was an instant success. I’m so over the ruffles (what was I thinking?) and love the waterfall skirt and weltless seams. It looks less cottagey which is not necessarily a bad thing. (Note to self, buy a steamer.)

While some people believe a vacation means no cooking I think meals are much more fun to prepare when there is a crowd to enjoy them and help with all the prep–and clean up.  Al fresco is always the best. Lobster works anytime anywhere. But the best dinner I had all month was from the August  Bon Appetit and is a made for Maine summertime dish. I love clams and almost never cook them but this recipe will change that. Just make sure to double up on the ingredients because everyone will want seconds!

Skillet Cod, Clams, and Corn with Parsley

INGREDIENTS

1¼ lb. skinless cod fillet, cut into 4 pieces, patted dry
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • ⅓ cup dry white wine
  • 12 littleneck clams, scrubbed
  • 2 medium ears of corn, kernels cut from cobs (1–1¼ cups)
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • Lemon wedges (for serving)

    • Season cod all over with salt and pepper. (You can skip this step; I find the clams are salty enough.) Sprinkle flour over a large plate and, working one at a time, press side of fillet where skin used to be into flour to thoroughly coat. (Coating the cod with flour before cooking prevents the flaky fillets from tearing; any bits left in the pan will give body to the clam mixture.) Tap off excess and set on a platter, flour side up.

    • When buying a big portion of cod or other skinless fish, you’ll often end up with the skinny tail end. Keep it from overcooking by folding the tail end underneath itself to create a piece that’s closer in thickness to the rest of the fillets. Then proceed to cook it as you would any other piece.                  (This is a really good tip!)

    • Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large nonstick skillet with a tight-fitting lid over medium. Cook cod, floured side down, shaking skillet occasionally to prevent sticking, until flesh is opaque and starting to flake around the sides and underside is golden brown, 5–7 minutes. Carefully turn cod over and reduce heat to low. Cook until cooked all the way through (flesh should be completely opaque), about 2 minutes (thinner pieces may go more quickly). Place on a platter, golden side up; take care not to break up the delicate fillets.

    • Turn heat back up to medium, pour remaining 2 Tbsp. oil into the skillet, and cook shallot, stirring often, until tender and golden, about 2 minutes. Add wine; cook until almost completely evaporated, about 1 minute. Add clams and cover skillet. Cook until clams open, about 5 minutes (some clams might take a few minutes longer). Uncover skillet and transfer clams, discarding any that didn’t open, to platter with cod.

    • Reduce heat to low and add corn and butter to skillet. Cook, stirring until butter is melted, the sauce is thick and glossy, and corn is tender about 3 minutes. Spoon corn mixture over fish and clams. Top with parsley; squeeze lemon wedges over. The end.

In the Works

Italian Sausage and Peppers Recipe

June swept by me and now July promises to do the same. However, right now I have a quiet moment so I can get to a few updates.

Let’s start at The Monmouth Museum – From June 1 to September 3 they have a timely exhibit for all of us home decor addicts. They are showing artwork with sofas and while the official stance is the art stands alone, the sofa is secondary, personally, I like it when it all matches. Here is what they paired with our British Cottage entry. Nice huh? Try to get there. The museum is in Lincroft on the Brookdale Community College Campus and there is a great children’s wing so maybe pop in on a rainy day.

Meanwhile, we are assisting with a mixed bag of design projects that showcase the variety of living situations in our two rivers area.  First, there is the Alderbrook update, where a very young at heart senior is curating a lifetime of possessions into a thoroughly up-to-date transitional interior. Then there is the Atlantic Highlands petite chateau where the owners have reclaimed their second story from their young son.  And are in the process of transforming it from a playground into a sophisticated master bedroom suite and home office for the work at home most days professional mom. This is the before. You are not going to believe the after but because this is a work in progress we all have to wait for the wallpaper to arrive…

Keep your fingers crossed. We’re counting on fabulous wallpaper from Thibaut and a to die for bed from Century to make this transformation a success.

Meanwhile who wouldn’t welcome an excuse to hang out at this updated Shingle Style home in Fair Haven, literally steps away from the Navesink River, where almost empty nesters are creating a sophisticated coastal haven?  Think the first-class berth on the QE2, no starfish and fishing nets here!

While we are not designers, after thirty years of shifting furniture around we’ve developed pretty good eyes and are usually happy to weigh in if asked.  At the store we marry the new with the old, casual with chic, and farmhouse with modern every single day so we are well aware of the challenges you face.  It is all about showing the things you love to their best advantage whether you are just starting out, or easing into retirement.

Speaking of taking things you love and mixing them up; try doing that with green, red. orange and yellow peppers. Add some hot Italian sausage and you have a fabulous, fresh dinner that tastes like summer.

The Wall Street Journal sometimes skews a little too right for my taste but their weekend features section is totally on the mark and my new recipe go to source.  This is from their “Slow Food Fast” column.

Comfort-Food Classic: Italian Sausage and Peppers

(Recipe by Chef Mashama Bailey of the Grey, in Savannah, Ga.)

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds sweet Italian sausages
  • 2 pounds hot Italian sausages
  • 6 bell peppers, a mix of red, yellow, orange and green, cored, seeded and julienned
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (14-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
  • Kosher salt
  • Crusty bread, for serving

1. Swirl 2 tablespoons olive oil into a heavy pot over medium heat. Add sausages, working in batches if necessary to avoid crowding, and cook until browned on all sides, about 4 minutes. Remove sausages from pot and set aside.

2. To the same pot, add peppers, onions and garlic. Sauté until vegetables soften, about 15 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, remaining oil and vinegar. Return sausages to pot and turn gently to coat. Braise until tomatoes reduce to a sauce that cloaks peppers, about 10 minutes, adding splashes of water if pot looks dry. Serve with crusty bread.

Kips Bay Showhouse

Quiche Lorraine Recipe

Philip Mitchell Design
Mark Sikes
Alexa Hampton
Barbara Ostrom
Bunny Williams

For a while I’ve been off showhouses not being a huge fan of modern, slick interiors in garish colors, or the reverse, all grey minimalism.  But this year’s Kips Bay Showhouse had three of my favorite interior designers:   Mark Sikes, Alexa Hampton and Bunny Williams / Elizabeth Swartz  on deck…so Keith and I motored into the city on a particularly bleak Sunday in late May.

Located on East 76th street between Park and Lex in a 51 million dollar townhouse that is the largest on the NYC market today (read all about it here:  (Upper Eastside Mansion for Sale),  this showhouse had seven floors and countless rooms featuring the talents of the creme de la creme in home decor today.  So for your forty dollars you basically got a master’s class in design–not bad.

We started in the foyer–you could have sworn you were in Paris–then stepped into a spacious elevator that zipped us to the top floor which was entirely dedicated to an in-home spa space. Crazy.

On the floor below that was our highlight of the day: the Drawing Room by Philip Mitchell Design. OMG  Just when I had practically convinced myself that my days as a retailer were numbered because the upcoming generations don’t collect things, don’t want things, don’t need stuff–Philip Mitchell’s Drawing Room was the bomb. Anchored by a massive navy blue sectional festooned with a plethora of toss pillows bordered by a seemingly random selection of art, it was love at first sight.Navy Blue Sectional in the Philip Mitchell Kips Bay ShowhouseAnd it kept getting better. Everywhere you looked there was more, and, impossibly better, accoutrement. I’ve always loved the Bunny Williams bar set up in her Connecticut house and this was to rival that. Then there were the overstuffed chairs, flanked by baskets filled with books and magazines, flanked by ottomans, flanked by tables, flanked by–you get the picture.  I could just see myself sitting in this chair, feet elevated, sipping a Gin Fizz, devouring a juicy novel.Bar Set Up in Philip Mitchell's Kips Bay Showhouse Drawing room Coffee tables were all piled high with collections (note to self– take all unpolished antique brass candlesticks out of purgatory stat), more books, even plants. Who said orchids were so over? Note too all the stools and benches encircling the coffee table practically begging you to put your feet up and enjoy the flow.
Coffee Table in Philip Mitchell's Kips Bay Showhouse Drawing Room

Coffee Table in Philip Mitchell's Kips Bay Showhouse Drawing RoomEverywhere you looked there was more to see and enjoy. Game table. Check.Cozy corner with wicker chairs. Check.Tall shelf  nestled in alcove filled with blue and white porcelain. Check. Vintage dog bed. Check.I could go have stayed there forever but there were seriously another twenty or thirty rooms left to peruse so off we toodled.

Mark Sikes was up next.

Part of Mark’s shtick is his adoration of iconic beauties and he rolls with the idea that one of those lovelies has this totally gorgeous bedroom. It worked for me, not an iconic beauty however, but still a lover of blue and white, fab wallpaper, incredibly detailed soft furnishings, vintage objets d’art and antique furniture.The four poster bed was gorgeous, and I love how the base is upholstered to match the headboard and footboard. Pops of royal blue abound, and just imagine sinking into this upholstered velvet armchair after a glam evening out on the town.  I’m not really a huge fan of complex window treatments but l was bowled over by this pinch pleat swag curtain that probably has a proper name–probably French–c’est tres jolie in any case.Mark used  a contrasting fabric as a shower curtain and skirt for the bathroom vanity which I gather is all part of his new fabric collection for Schumacher. Well done!

We hated to leave but Alexa Hampton was waiting–not really–but her room was the next on our A list. Alexa has been on our British Cottage radar ever since we fell in love with her collection for Hickory Chair last spring at the High Point Furniture Market. Rich in color and texture, sophisticated and inspiring; we couldn’t wait to see her Kips Bay living room.

Decorated to the nines and terribly chic, I get it; but sadly  it could not make my heart sing.

Definitely my fault because I am not very fond of red. And that is all I see here. So even though I love love love the secretary, and all the attention to detail…In the end it was all too fin de siecle for me–but I embraced the opportunity to see a master’s work.  I had to marvel at the artistry that created the tromp l’oeil painted tented walls–and ceiling!  And the vision and creativity of the designer to put this all together.

And that is the point of showhouses (beyond of course the charities they support).  You get to actually see and experience a variety of decorative options. Some may be out of your comfort zone or beyond your budget.  But you get to get the idea.

Take Barbara Ostrom’s dining/living room. Noted for her over-the-top decor she did not disappoint here. (We first met Barbara at the initial Stately Homes by the Sea Showhouse in Rumson. She was probably the best-known designer on the roster and created a most opulent and stylish dining room–think Versailles, while we poured our heart and soul into the decor of a minuscule bedroom upstairs in the servants’ wing.)

I loved the placement of furniture and all the objects in her room, which I think may have been intended as a formal dining room, but Barbara being Barbara threw in a living room as well. The dining section features a beautifully set table–another Barbara-ism. And note the Andrew Tedesco mural on the ceiling. Like many of the Kips Bay designers the ceiling was treated as a “fifth wall” and it was literally a highlight of the entire room.And speaking of stuff, Barbara is fearless when it comes to decorating a room. The paintings are from all periods, including one by John Mellencamp, while the bibelots range from the Han dynasty to the present day. As always the color palette is on the vibrant side; in this case high gloss peach from the Farrow and Ball archives.

But I am sure if you are still reading you are wondering if I am ever going to wrap this up. Let’s end with Bunny Williams, co-chairman of the 2018 Kips Bay Showhouse and designer par excellence.

Bunny and her partner Elizabeth Swartz designed a room that was not a fantastical representation of anything–it looked to me like what I think a real life mogul would have in their real life living room in their 51 million dollar mansion off Park. Sophisticated, sleek, expensive, but still relaxing. A place to loosen your tie, plop your feet up and wait for the butler to bring your slippers and serve you a martini made just the way you like it.

There were two comfortable seating areas, fabulous art on the walls, a mixture of antique and contemporary furniture and some pops of color but nothing too too.

Except maybe this. It was a showhouse after all.You can read about all the other fabulous Kips Bay Showhouse 2018 rooms here: Architectural Digest Gallery Tour  

Quiche Lorraine

Meanwhile I just have to tell you about our brunch. You simply cannot go to New York on a Sunday and not have brunch. We didn’t have plans and fortunately stumbled upon a Belgian Brasserie at 240 East 75th Street almost immediately. Honestly it did not look the most engaging of venues, but it was drizzling, we were parched and famished so in we went.

The good news: the interior was spotless, our server excellent and the food terrific. I had my own mini Quiche Lorraine while Keith had French Toast from heaven.

  B.Cafe (Belgian Brasserie)

Thanks to Nicole Holland, I can show you how the Quiche was served.
I always  include a recipe in my blogs and seeing as I already featured Challah French Toast I think it has to be the quiche.  My problem is although I love quiche I’m not very good at making it.  Here is a recipe from Epicurious that might change that. However, I would use ham instead of bacon, like they did at the B. Cafe.

Quiche Lorraine

    • 1 Pre-Made pie Pastry for a 9 inch single crust pie
    • 12 slices bacon
    • 1 cup shredded Emmental cheese
    • 1/3 cup minced onion
    • 4 eggs, beaten
    • 2 cups light cream
    • salt and pepper to taste

PREPARATION

  1. Fry bacon until crispy.
  2. Chop bacon and combine with cheese and onions, then place mixture in pie shell.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, cream, salt and pepper then pour into pastry shell.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes in preheated 425 degree oven. Reduce heat to 300 degrees and bake for 30 more minutes.
  5. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting

Kentucky Derby Day

Herbed Orzo with Feta Recipe

Given the rotten  weather we’ve been having these days the only way I was sure spring was here was when I was drinking mint juleps and watching the Kentucky Derby. We were happy to be invited to a small gathering of friends, parents, children–and dogs at the Lindekin home in Shrewsbury–second generation British Cottage shoppers by the way.  Which is good  because it confirms that the love of decorating is genetic and sad because we are clearly getting up there.

Their house is painted a cheerful yellow with two bay windows flanking the front door; it may technically be a starter home, but I could easily see finishing up here. The yard is huge and the house is bigger than it looks because the previous owners were very careful not to let the large extension they put on in the back impact on the charm of the original structure.

When you walk in the living room is on the left. And on the right is what was the dining room but now is a kind of an enlarged foyer. There was a huge debate about what to put in this room–clearly they nailed it!

Now all the dining takes place in the extension, which also houses the flatscreen televison, and man cave elements like the huge leather couch –and the bar.  The cabinet anchoring the TV is a British Cottage find, as are the vintage French fish prints.Then there is a huge farm table (from British Cottage) that this evening was all set up for a glorious buffet supper.Which all the guests, and hosts, enjoyed immensely.


Orzo with Roasted Vegetables

Steaks and salmon were cooked on the grill and served with a variety of fixings.  My absolute favorite was the orzo salad–

The recipe is from the always terrific Ina Garten aka “The Barefoot Contessa” and tasted amazing. I am so thrilled to have a flavorful  replacement for my former summer fave–that old-fashioned Potato Salad made with buckets of Hellmans mayo.  This was like winning an exacta–less calories and easier on the arteries!

Photo: James Merrell

  • 1 small eggplant, peeled and 3/4-inch diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, 1-inch diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, 1-inch diced
  • 1 red onion, peeled and 1-inch diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup good olive oil
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pound orzo
  • For the Dressing:
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
  • 1/3 cup good olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • To Assemble:
  • 4 scallions, minced (white and green parts)
  • 1/4 cup pignolis, toasted
  • 3/4 pound good feta, 1/2-inch diced (not crumbled)
  • 15 fresh basil leaves, cut into chiffonade

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Toss the eggplant, bell peppers, onion, and garlic with the olive oil, salt, and pepper on a large baking sheet. Roast for 40 minutes, until browned, turning once with a spatula.

Meanwhile, cook the orzo in boiling salted water for 7 to 9 minutes, until tender. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl.

Add the roasted vegetables to the pasta, scraping all the liquid and seasonings from the roasting pan into the pasta bowl.

For the dressing, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper and pour on the pasta and vegetables. Let cool to room temperature, then add the scallions, pignolis, feta, and basil. Check the seasonings, and serve at room temperature.

Copyright 2001, Barefoot Contessa Parties! by Ina Garten, Clarkson Potter/Publishers, All Rights Reserved

Back to the Farm

Scottish Shortbread Recipe

Built by German immigrants in 1840, Tip Top Farm in Colts Neck started out as a relatively modest asparagus farm, but by the mid-1900s it had become the country manse of the Chairman and chief stock holder of the National Starch Company.  Now it is home to a thoroughly modern 21st century family.

Along the way there were additions; to the house, and property–at one point the farm was nearly 50 acres. Unfortunately there were subtractions too–in the 1980s the property was subdivided and all the farm-related buildings were razed to make way for the houses that sprouted up next.

Fortunately the main house stayed intact, albeit with a bit of tweaking; each of the owners has left their mark.  In lots of ways the story of Tip Top Farm is like a historical novel, the various occupants and their fortunes and misfortunes, mirrored the economic and historical events of their time–Downton Abbey here we come.

While walking through this house is like walking through a time machine; you would never mistake it for a museum. Even though they kept many of the original architectural details like thick crown molding, multiple fireplaces, hand-hewn beams and wide plank floors, over the the last 18 years the current owners painted, updated and transformed every single room– Happily stopping by British Cottage for furnishings and accessories each step of the way.  What a relief to finally visit this fabulous home I’d heard so much about. And trust me it did not disappoint!

I’ll start with the formal living room which is textbook ready for a lesson on how to make a room that is often all buttoned up and off limits–attractive–and cozy.  The overstuffed furniture,  working fireplace and centrally located flatscreen tv keep this room in play. There is no doubt it looks refined but comfort rules.

I liked how they anchored the television with an antique credenza, clustering the oft unlovely family photos below. These look great, and note how the vintage metal frames complement the tarnished brass feet and back railing of the sideboard.Next up is what was originally the library and now I would call it the family room.  I was happy to be reunited with the oversized clock face we bought ten years ago for our Potting Shed from heaven in the second Stately Homes by the Sea Showhouse.  Not many people would have thought to put it here, but you have to admit it does pack a punch. The pine bench to the left is nearly 10 feet long and neatly fills the space–as it did in our upstairs hallway until the homeowner spied it!Next up is the dining room.That is one of our fabulous flip top tables in the window. Closed it is the perfect console table but open it can sit eight.  Everybody wants a more informal style dining table these days–but with a leaf–and mostly they don’t exist. So the two or three times a year you need more dining space this extra table cracks it.  Note that tucked under the console table is a bench for–you guessed it–extra seating.
The red sideboard is another British Cottage find.  Really distressed and on the industrial side so I admit I to being a bit perplexed when this went on the truck, but as you can see it is perfect for the spot.

Adjacent to the dining room is the bar/lounge/sunroom.  Once a screened in porch, it is now a four season room with a wall of windows that really brighten up this part of the house. We bought the antique pine sideboard in England  years ago and it is massive. By now you may be sensing a common thread -these homeowners are absolutely fearless when it comes to decorating.

Another case in point is this most fabulous breakfront we found at Green Square Antiques in Copenhagen. It is an antique Scandinavian pine piece that the owners of Green Square had shipped to Poland to have lacquered. Then it was shipped back to Denmark and finally on to us in New Jersey; it is easily 8′ tall.

Finally I made it to the kitchen and the first piece of British Cottage furniture purchased for this home-the pine corner cupboard.  Although the kitchen was totally renovated a few years ago, the cabinet stayed. I love everything about this room: the porcelain tile “wood” floor, the gorgeous tin ceiling, and the swivel chairs in a bold fabric.On the other side of the kitchen there is a breakfast room with a barn door concealing the pantry on one side. And custom cabinets on the other.Instead of built ins for this breakfast nook/butlers pantry the owners had us make two cabinets to flank a painted pine chest with drawers. Note another decorating secret in action–you can be fearless with green because all greens go together. If you don’t believe me think of a forest.

In the middle sits the nuts and bolts of the kitchen. But note how they still made room for some decorative elements. I’d completely forgotten about the fabulous antique Mora clock in original paint from Sweden…and couldn’t believe I’d sold it. Darn. It is stunning.

But so was the rest of this kitchen. The stained glass window where a door once hung, the gorgeous marble countertop which is really Calcutta-Grey Quartz. (Information that makes reading to the bottom of this blog totally worth the effort.  There are pages and pages written about whether to not to use marble in  a kitchen…this is the answer.)

Recipe for Scottish Shortbread

While there was still so much to see and admire I couldn’t ignore the refreshments any longer.  Who would looking at this mouth-watering display?  Strawberries and scones and homemade Scottish Shortbread. Heaven.  Definitely time for a cuppa as my English mother-in-law would say.

The original recipe from the owner’s grandmother, in her handwriting.  Short and sweet and totally delicious.

1 Cup Butter (1/2 Lb)
1/2 Cup Very Fine Sugar
2 Cups Flour
Blend together thoroughly.
Bake 325 degrees for 1 hour.

Chez Bernadette

Roasted Chicken Legs with Potatoes and Kale Recipe

It is amazing how rarely I get to Rumson now that I live in Red Bank (which is sad because it is literally two miles yonder). So it was nice to be invited along on a delivery there the other day; our friend Bernadette got a spring refresh, and I got to visit the old neighborhood.

While you might think  Rumson is just one ritzy mansion after another, once you get off the main drags there are many unique homes on a much smaller, and you could argue more charming scale.  In this case what was once a fairly modest cape has, over the years, sprouted wings and els, and is now quite a robust beauty. I guessed Bernadette’s house was built sometime in the 1040’s but I guessed wrong. Like many homes along the Shrewsbury River shoreline, this house was barged over from Sea Bright over 100 years ago! There are so many things to love about this house but my favorite might be the Dutch door. I have wanted a Dutch door my entire life and Bernadette’s is absolutely the most perfect shade of blue.

  It turns out to be Blue Sea Foam by Benjamin Moore.

Fortunately, Bernadette is a much better housekeeper than I, because her house was camera ready when I ran through at 9:30 in the morning snapping photos of the various British Cottage items she’s purchased over the last couple of decades(!) while Keith did the heavy lifting on the delivery.

I started in the kitchen.  This table from British Cottage is at least 25 years old.  That is the good thing and the bad thing about selling great furniture; it never goes out of style, never breaks, and thus never needs replacing (sad for us, great for our customers). This kitchen has been remodeled two or three times and our classic pine farmhouse table always makes the cut.

In the dining room, I spied a white porcelain bowl from our Chinese export collection under a painting by Barbara Cocker—another former neighbor and longtime West Park resident.  She was quite famous locally and in Nantucket, her summer haunt, for her riveting coastal paintings.  Until I saw Bernadette’s I had forgotten I always wanted a Mrs. Cocker painting. Sigh.

The other thing I would like to point out in the dining room is the gray cabinet.  So often people own a mahogany or cherry breakfront, or china closet, that works like a dream but looks like it belongs at Winterthur—too ponderous and heavy for our laidback coastal décor.  Bernadette had hers painted gray; a brilliant move that keeps the dining room still formal, but not too. (Needless to say, you should NEVER do this to a period antique but it is quite acceptable to repurpose quality machine made pieces from the 20th century).

A quick stop in the living room for a snap of one of our orb chandeliers with the crystal centers. So many people talk about putting a chandelier over a coffee table—but it takes a certain amount of courage to do it.  And look.  What a pay off! Instant architecture with a focal point that literally brings light into play. Brilliant.

Next, I dashed upstairs to see how our paneled bed turned out. We normally only sell the whole bed, but in this case, just a headboard was required.  It’s bolted to a frame so it doesn’t flip or flap. And I must say quells the argument that you can’t but a bed in front of a window–of course you can.

All’s left is to see how the family room revamp worked out.  What do you think?

This is the den that was created when a master bedroom was added to the east side of the house.  We brought in the Gustavian style console table, painted a soft gray, for under the front window, added two square gourd lamps, and a couple of mirrors and side tables to give a little structure and depth to this serene space.

Even the dad corner looks pretty good!

The clock was ticking–we open at ten–but I couldn’t leave Bernadette’s without a recipe in hand.  She promises this is delicious–I haven’t had a chance to get to the kitchen to try it myself.  The kale worries me a bit; I want to embrace it but so far have failed. Bernadette assures me that will all change once I make this fabulous recipe from Food and Wine.

original-200812-r-roasted-chicken-kale.jpg

For this easy one-pan dish, Grace Parisi roasts chicken legs on a bed of potatoes and kale so the meaty juices keep the vegetables moist. Prep takes just 10 minutes and the resulting meal serves eight or makes for excellent leftovers. There’s very little clean-up as everything bakes up together and can be served straight from the pan. It’s super healthy from the kale and lemon, but also hearty because of the roasted potatoes.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds tender, young kale, stems and inner ribs removed

1 1/2 pounds medium Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

8 whole chicken legs (about 10 ounces each)

1 teaspoon paprika

Lemon wedges, for serving

How to Make It:

Step 1

Preheat the oven to 450°. In a very large roasting pan, toss the kale, potatoes, and onion with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and spread in an even layer.

Step 2

Set the chicken on a cutting board, skin side down. Slice halfway through the joint between the drumsticks and thighs. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with the paprika and set on top of the vegetables.

Step 3

Cover the pan with foil. Roast the chicken in the upper third of the oven for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and roast for 30 minutes longer, until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender. Transfer the chicken to plates and spoon the vegetables alongside. Serve with lemon wedges.

Serve With:

Combining chicken, greens, and potatoes, this one-pan recipe is a meal in itself, but it would also be delicious with homemade hummus or other easy spreads like a cucumber-yogurt dip.

New Beginnings

Chicken With Shallots Recipe

For a while Keith and I have been asking ourselves, “What is the future of retail?”  Last year 23 huge stores went bankrupt—everything from Abercrombie and Fitch to Toys R Us. That same year Wayfair, the internet retail giant grossed 3 billion  dollars!

When we opened British Cottage 32 years ago,  people would get in their cars and drive to Red Bank to shop. Now they pour themselves a glass of wine and get out their mobile devices.

The original British Cottage at 124 W Front Street in Red Bank

We thought long and hard about what we should do. We needed to figure out how, as a mom and pop, brick and mortar store, to stay competitive as we entered our fourth decade in business. In the end,  we decided to go for that tried and true antidote to aging–a face lift!

We spoke to our neighbor, architect Matt Cronin, and he designed a stunning new façade for our store, along with a new addition with more, and better display space. This way we can place products in actual room settings, and feature items like couches and chairs and artwork–things that really need to be seen or touched before buying–something you can’t ever do on the internet.

Of course nothing happens overnight, but on Monday our plans were approved by the Red Bank Planning Board. At the same time we got Mayor Menna’s blessing; he said this is exactly the direction the powers that be want Shrewsbury Avenue to go.  Hopefully our customers agree!

But right now it is a cold, rainy March day and our new governor has declared a state of emergency in anticipation of heavy snowfall later.  However, there’s still time to dash to the store and grab the ingredients for this simply satisfying, totally delicious one pot meal. Trust me you won’t be sorry!

Read more about the British Cottage expansion on Red Bank Green:

Rishia Zimmern’s Chicken With Shallots

(Courtesy of Sam Sifton of the New York Times)

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 bone-in chicken thighs
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 12 to 15 whole medium shallots, peeled
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 sprigs tarragon
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half.

PREPARATION

  1. Rinse chicken thighs in water, and pat them very dry with paper towels. Sprinkle over them the flour, salt and pepper.
  2. Melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pot or skillet set over medium-high heat. When the butter foams, cook the chicken, in batches if necessary, until well browned and crisp on all sides. Set aside.
  3. Add the whole shallots to the pot and sauté them in the butter and chicken fat until they begin to soften and caramelize, approximately 10 to 12 minutes. Add the wine to deglaze the pot, stir with a large spoon, then add the mustard and tarragon, then the chicken thighs. Cover the pot, turn the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Remove the lid, and allow the sauce to reduce and thicken, 15 to 20 minutes.
  5. Add the cherry tomatoes to the pot, stir lightly to combine and serve immediately.

I like to serve this over egg noodles; Sam recommends crusty bread to sop up the sauce–you couldn’t go wrong doing both.

Year End Wrap Up

Johanna Roselle’s Bolognese Sauce

Inspiration is everywhere.

 We began 2017 at The Philadelphia Museum of Art, happily wandering through room after room of priceless artwork, and decorative objects from all over the world. Often people remark on how beautiful our store looks, and are amazed that neither Keith nor I have a background in design.  Over the years we’ve gotten very good at selecting and presenting the objects we sell basically by just looking at everything, everywhere.  Most of the largest museums have several floors filled with completely furnished rooms from different periods and even other countries on exhibit–making it possible to soak up several centuries of interior decorating–in just one afternoon.

Next up in January was Atlanta and the America’s Mart, literally over a million square feet of the latest and greatest in Home Furnishings and Accessories, and we wandered around there for several days.  Besides thousands of vendors and products, America’s Mart featured a series of room-size vignettes styled by a half dozen leaders in American interior design.Everything old is new again.                                                                                          While the first interior is from 18th century England, on display at The Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the second by a very 21st century Austin Texas designer, you can see similarities.  Pattern, color and texture are blended, not matched.  And some objects are simply  timeless, like blue and white porcelain, or an architectural mirror. Which leads me to the next bit of wisdom.

Don’t be so quick to get onto the next trend.                                                      Sometimes a tweak, an addition or a subtraction is all you need.   Maybe adding a contemporary lamp, or a modern painting  will add a dash of spice to a room that is beginning to look dated.  In the photo above, the owners of a fabulous century home were over their formal, darkwood dining room, but they were not about to give up on elegance either.  The answer?  An oversized rustic table partnered with contemporary art and an antique crystal chandelier.  Who wouldn’t want to linger over coffee and dessert in this room?

It doesn’t hurt to try something new.                                                                          One of the happier moments at British Cottage has been the introduction of upholsteryWe started with Hickory White, a third generation, family-owned company from North Carolina and then in the spring added Century Furniture.  Also, family owned and based in North Carolina, Century offers us access to the new miracle fabric, Crypton and a whole host of different designs.

Listen to the experts.                                                                                                       When we get the chance, we buy the floor samples at the Century and Hickory White showrooms when we go to the furniture markets.  That way we get the latest fabrics (which may not be in stores for months) and the newest styles–put together by world-class designers for the next season’s looks in home furnishings.  Along the way, we get a free lesson in design. I mean, who ever thought you would find mid-century modern at British Cottage?  But we loved this sofa with chaise by Century Furniture so much we decided to give it a shot.

Don’t be afraid to take it up a notch.                                                                              We get why RH went all gray.  It takes some thought (and balls) to add in color, but the payoff is huge when you do. Lillian August used these ancestor portraits in her showroom and after thinking about them for a year we decided to get them.  That pop of color and the scale of this artwork makes the whole store look better.  Lastly, have some fun.                                                                                                                   Decorating is all about making your home, and by extension, your life more enjoyable.  It does not have to be perfect; it has to be welcoming.  When I grew up in Rumson 1000 years ago many of my friends lived in huge houses with huge rooms with matching carpets and couches and window treatments and guess what?  Nobody was allowed in them!

Meanwhile, our kid-centric, (there were six siblings plus innumerable chums) pet-friendly house was filled with mismatched, hand-me-down furniture and we had people everywhere. No rooms were off limits; the sunroom might house a ping pong table one year, a pool table might be in the dining room the next.  Trust me, the joint was always jumping.

Mealtimes were huge in our family.  Our happiest moments were when our mom  (of Anglo-German descent who, fortunately for us, grew up next to a large Italian family in Rhode Island) cooked up a Sunday Sauce with Sausage and Meatballs.  However, I think we might have enjoyed this Bolognese Sauce from the Roselle family just as much.  Gene, and his wife Johanna, live in Tinton Falls and have been British Cottage customers for years.  It took nearly a year of pestering, but I finally got the recipe!

Johanna Roselle’s Bolognese Sauce

Add a glug of olive oil to a large cast iron pot, and saute 1/4 pound of diced chopped pancetta until brown.  Then chop and add one  medium sized onion, one stalk of celery, half a red pepper, and four large garlic cloves then cook until soft–about eight minutes

Add one and a half pounds of ground pork or two pounds of ground sirloin (I mixed them together when I made this recipe because it is a known fact I am unable to follow directions). Add salt and pepper to taste, and cook for about ten minutes on low heat.

Raise the heat to medium and add one and a half cups of whole milk and a dash of grated nutmeg and cook until the liquid has almost evaporated–stirring frequently.  Then add one cup of dry white wine, and cook until that nearly evaporates.

Add two cans of plum tomatoes roughly chopped and one cup of chicken stock and gently simmer for at least one and a half hours.    Keep remembering to stir the pot and add more milk if the sauce gets too thick.  Add some fresh basil at the end.

Serve over pappardelle with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

And don’t forget the Christmas Crackers.  Happy Holidays!

 

Into the Woods

Herbed Mozzarella Bread Recipe

Monmouth County never fails to deliver when it comes to home design.  There’s the eastern seashore with its mix of vintage and ultra-modern roosts built to embrace coastal living, and then out west lie the century old farms that made New Jersey the Garden State.

In between you can find everything from marvelous stately homes to garish McMansions, acres of subdivisions from every era, and finally, hidden in the hills and dales of Middletown, just forty miles from New York City, a slew of fabulous estates.  Over the years many of these properties were subdivided but, by and large, the wilderness was left intact.

When recent transplants from West Virginia had the chance to purchase a house in this section of Middletown, they were hesitant at first.  Empty nesters–they wondered–did they really need five bedrooms and four and a half acres?  Despite these initial misgivings they ultimately seized the opportunity to own an iconic home on a startlingly beautiful property.

Fortunately for us the new owners were in need of furniture and happened upon British Cottage…

Reflected in the mirror over an antique pine bench (from British Cottage) in the foyer of her new home is Angie Lambert.  Angie is a writer and a photographer,  Angie Lambert Photography.com and it was great fun to exchange notes. She and her husband, Eric, bought the house in March from the original owners who had lived there for nearly 60 years!

The Frank Lloyd Wright inspired home saw many additions over the years as that family grew.  From the original, fairly modest structure wings sprouted, hither and yon, inside and out.  There are multi-level decks, bedrooms, offices, suites, great rooms and a green house.  Amazingly, in a relatively short amount of time, the Lamberts have managed to corral all these various nooks and crannies into a cohesive and charming family home.From the foyer you are swept into the multi-story living room–which until a few weeks ago housed only the family pool table!  However, since the Lamberts were planning a Halloween/House Warming bash furnishing the living room became a priority.  And one we were happily able to help them with.  I love how the custom Hickory White Chesterfield sofa and Bergere chair, plus the two navy Century armchairs, all look like they were made for this room.

As I said earlier this is a house of many levels; and most of the rooms have multiple entrances and exits. The dining room is adjacent to the foyer and steps lead down into the kitchen.

The kitchen was renovated in the late eighties and was probably the cat’s meow at the time.  Although I am not quite sure about the green countertops–or even what material they are made of–they look nice with the terracotta floor and classic all-wood cherry cabinets.  And I mean really, how many all-white bespoke  kitchens with carrara marble will look this good after 30 years?

On the other side of the kitchen is the family room, which in case you were wondering, is where the pool table landed.  Angie repurposed a huge Pottery Barn hutch to make a fabulous work station, added a pub table and chairs from yours truly and made another great room for young and old to relax in and enjoy.

Beyond the pool table is the green house that made me–yes–green with envy.  Angie was kind enough to adopt four of my super-sized Boston ferns that were never going to survive the winter outside.

But wait.  There is more!   If you turn left, you can go back upstairs to another den/family room.  In fact, this is the room that first brought Angie into British Cottage.  She was searching for items to furnish this space, which her husband had claimed as his own.

I love how Angie (with a little help from a chum, Denise Dobken) was able to take our large heron print, an antique pine cabinet, a more transitional style coffee table and an armchair upholstered in herringbone and pull it all together. This is a teachable moment for anyone interested in home decor.  It doesn’t have to match–it just all needs to blend.  Don’t be afraid to go big and play around with scale.

But enough already.  Angie was baking and I needed to pay attention.


Herbed Mozzarella Round Recipe

Herbed Mozzarella Round
June Brown, Veneta Oregon

Served warm with soup or salad, this pretty bread is hearty enough to round out a quick meal during busy holidays.

4-1/4 to 4-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast.
1 tablespoon sugar.
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup warm mashed potatoes (prepared with milk and butter)
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup warm milk (120 to 130 degrees)
3 cups (12 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese
1 to 3 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary

TOPPING:
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon poppy seeds

In a large mixing bowl, combine 3 cups flour, yeast and salt. Add potatoes and butter. Beat in warm milk until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a firm dough. Beat for 2 minutes. Turn onto a lightly floured surface, knead until smooth and elastic, about 5-7 minutes.

Place dough in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top.

Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Punch dough down, turn onto a lightly floured surface. Roll into an 18-in. circle Transfer to a lightly greased 14-in. pizza pan. Sprinkle cheese over center of dough to within 5 in. of edge. Sprinkle with thyme and rosemary. Bring edges of dough to center, twist to form a knot. Cover and let rise until doubled , about 30 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine egg and milk, brush over top. Sprinkle with poppy seeds. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown. Cook for 20 minutes before slicing. Serve warm. Yield: 1 loaf

You cannot believe how good this smells and how wonderful it tastes.   It was like eating pizza from heaven, a perfect marriage of warm, melted cheese, and freshly cooked bread all enlivened by a dash of rosemary and thyme.  I don’t bake much but that is going to change!

The Maine Cottage

Mussels Marinara Recipe

We really do have a British cottage–it just lives on a lake in Maine.  The outdoor recreation there is fabulous but every so often you just have to put the paddle down.  Fortunately our next favorite thing is interior design so we are always tweaking the decor.  And now, at the end of our fourth season, it is really coming together.

Crammed or cozy–it is a fine line.  But painting the walls and ceilings a luscious BM Dove White makes the rooms seem twice as big and almost airy. Large windows and a super simple color scheme keeps your eyes on the view, which is right where it belongs.  Like living on a boat, it all works because there is a place for everything.  Instead of a console table there is bookcase (from our factory) behind the couch.  The vintage black velvet armchairs add some zip to the room without taking up too much floor space leaving room for an overstuffed slipcovered couch that is perfect for schmoozing–or snoozing.  And we just had to squeeze in a spool chair for balance. We knew we wanted a large, rustic dining table so we could play games, do puzzles, and fold wash there, as well as dine elegantly.  This one works because the wrought iron base, while decorative, is minimal, making it seem a lot smaller than it really is.  Upholstered chairs might seem an odd choice for cottage living, but I figured if we had a crowd they could do double duty as extra occasional seating.

The kitchen was made by the factory in Hungary that makes all of our bespoke furniture.  It is plain and simple and that is the way we wanted to roll.  Dining is important to us, especially when on holiday, but nobody wants to spend time cleaning and fussing.  The two inch thick oak counter tops and painted cabinets are basically spray and wipe which works for me!  The lack of upper cabinets and shelves makes the space feel more open and the fact that everything is put away always makes it look tidy.

We had just enough room to squeak in an island and a pine pantry cupboard–also from the British Cottage oeuvre.  It is nice to have the extra storage and seating, and space to put things away.  Clutter is the enemy of tight quarters!

The master bedroom is down below the main floor in space that was probably carved out of the basement.  It was paneled in floor to ceiling knotty pine, and it felt like you were living in a man cave from the  1980’s.  Once again BM’s White Dove came to the rescue.

A king sized British Cottage bed, flanked by brass sconces from Currey and Co along with an antique chandelier make for a cozy, light-filled retreat, which is all I want when I am on holiday.   The other furniture in the room is a large antique pine chest of drawers from Hungary–which is big enough to share–and a toile slipcovered armchair that came from Domain twenty years ago.  It is the perfect spot to repair to when the gang is in town.

They reside in the loft on the third floor where we have squeezed in a queen bed, a day bed and a regular twin.

The queen is a British Cottage reject–we were fooling around with changing the headboard shape and it did not come out right.  But all was not lost because it fits perfectly into this alcove with just enough space left for an antique pine nightstand.  We have been selling versions of this for over thirty years and they never fail to deliver.

Our British Cottage twin pine bed with the squared off headboard is tucked away to one side. It makes a fine little nesting place for our six year old grandson.

The metal day bed is for his little brother.

And there is still room for a little office space for me.  Some people don’t like to work on vacation but having the internet available 24/7 makes it possible for us to get away as often as we do.

Naturally when in Maine you want to be outside.  But sometimes the rain falls, or the snow drops or the fog rolls in.  Then it is nice to have places to curl up with a good book, sip a cup of strong, sweet tea, or cuddle a small child.  And that is what this cottage living is all about–making time for family, for reading, or even–heaven forbid–a nap!

But soon, always, it is time for dinner.

Mussels Marinara

This recipe is for two.  Buy one sack of the freshest mussels you can find.  Then make a marinara sauce–do not use jarred or canned sauce.  If you can buy a prepared sauce, you can make marinara sauce.

Chop up an onion and toss in a saute pan with a glug of olive oil.  Then put in three (or more) cloves of garlic–dice as desired.  Saute until the onion is translucent and add a 28 ounce can of whole tomatoes.  You can chop these up before you put them in a pan but I think that makes a mess so I mostly just squish them with my fingers quickly in the saute pan–before they heat up too much.

If I remember I like to add some grated carrot–you really can’t taste it but I think it adds a bit of texture and extra nutrition to the dish.  Red pepper flakes, oregano, thyme, basil–all or none of the above can go in your sauce.  Keep smooshing the tomatoes; I don’t mind if they are a bit lumpy.  I might add half a can of tomato paste now also because I want a fairly thick sauce to hang on the mussels. (And I can thin it out later with the liquid left over from steaming my mussels.)

And that is where I differ from many recipes for Mussels Marinara.  I don’t like to cook my mussels in my tomato sauce–instead I steam them in a separate pan in a half cup of white wine, a crushed garlic clove, and a knob of butter.  They only need to cook a couple of minutes until the mussels open up.  Strain your mussels, reserving the leftover liquid, and add them to your marinara sauce.

Serve over a warm bowl of hot linquine and garnish with chopped parsley and serve.   I like to add lots of freshly grated parmesan to my portion–but that is clearly a matter of taste–some say you should never sully seafood with cheese.  Either way enjoy!