Challah-lujah

Challah French Toast Recipe

The house on the Hill
The House on the Hill

Essentially Keith and I have the best jobs in the whole world.  For the last three decades we have paid ourselves to go shopping–which happily requires rambling throughout Europe and the United States looking for fabulous products to feature in our Red Bank, New Jersey store.

And that’s just the beginning.  Because once we’re done shopping, interesting people (for the most part) come visit our store in search of the perfect piece for their home, or second home, sometimes even for their restaurant or hotel.  And it is always interesting, even great fun, to learn a bit about their lives, personalities, tastes and vision.  Over the years our client list has grown, and grown and includes rock stars, politicians, plumbers, celebrity chefs, magazine editors, even some of the more infamous housewives of New Jersey–you just never know who is going to walk through the door next.

Usually once something sells, that’s it.  When I say adieu I hope for the best; rarely do I get to see how our things look in situ.  So I was quite pleased  to accept an invitation to view the rather myriad British Cottage purchases from over the years, in this home, certainly one of Monmouth County’s most iconic properties.  I would have gone even if brunch was not included!

Originally built in the mid 1800’s as a lighthouse on a hill on the eastern Middletown border, this house exudes charm and personality.  From the entrancing private lane, you enter through the iron gates to a lushly landscaped, circular drive topped by this simply lovely home.  I want to say it is the icing on the cake, or the jewel in the crown–it is really super.

Periwinkle Blue DoorI walked through the periwinkle blue door straight into a kitchen right out of the original Smallbone Catalogue.

Freestanding Viking StoveSmallbone is an English firm famous for introducing “unfitted kitchens” to the United States.  Totally bucking the trend of build-in, built-up,   over-built kitchens that are now the norm, an unfitted kitchen features freestanding furniture and appliances and a variety of finishes and materials.  Utterly charming, yet totally serious with industrial strength appliances, this is my dream kitchen.

Dining Room Table from British Cottage

Next up is the dining room featuring a huge farm table from, you guessed it, British Cottage.  The owners were over the traditional polished mahogany look with its requisite pads and table cloths and wanted a table that would encourage lingering dinners and withstand spills and splatters.

The chandelier, also from British Cottage, is a European antique we bought at auction, elegantly bouncing light off the charcoal walls and illuminating the owners’ artwork.  This space, which is at once modern and traditional, comfortable and elegant–is the look that defines 21st century decor.  These days nobody wants rooms that are too fussy or fancy, but a touch of class is always welcome.

While my host was putting finishing touches on our meal I ran upstairs to take a peek.  I loved the unexpected punch of color on the landing from the antique chest of drawers in a brilliant shade of original blue paint.  We imported it from Hungary, and it’s now looking fabulous right here in New Jersey.

Antique Chest of Drawers in Original Paint from British Cottage

The master bedroom has a British Cottage bed and small dressers that double as nightstands.  When they renovated the house a couple of years ago the owners made a vow to simplify, opting for calm serenity–but, of course, with the aforementioned pops of color to keep it happening.

British Cottage Kingsize Bed, Pine Bed

Upstairs, besides the master bedroom (which has an en suite bathroom to swoon over), there is an enchanting guest room and bath, another bedroom they use as a dressing room and a spiral staircase that leads to a ladder that leads to the cupola where the lighthouse used to be.  It is like the stairway to heaven; you keep climbing and climbing and finally you get there.  You can literally see for miles!

What you see through the window is the barn that houses a full size office space, a gym and a movie theater/media room.  Instead of whacking a full size addition onto the original house they opted to outsource those activities to the existing four stall barn and keep the original structure intact.  No McMansion here and what a relief it is.

And by the way, as it turns out, this property is for sale. Trust me, if I hadn’t already gone through the throes of downsizing, empty nesting and purchasing a cottage in Maine, I would be seriously tempted. For anyone in this so-called gig economy who needs a workspace at home, there is no way you would not be productive here.

But enough meandering. I was there for a reason–time to get fed!

Chris’s Challah French Toast

French toast is perfect for brunch.  Bread soaked in egg, later soaked in butter and maple syrup…great.  But challah, soaked in cream and eggs and sauteed in butter is truly ambrosia.  Food for the gods!

Challah (sounds like holla, rhymes with gala) is a fabulous Jewish braided bread made with a rich, eggy dough.  You can find it at Wegman’s or Whole Foods (or make your own, if you are feeling ambitious).

To make the French toast, start by slicing the challah in one inch thick slices.  Soak slices in a mixture of six eggs, 1 1/2 cups of light cream, 1 teaspoon vanilla and a tablespoon of sugar for about 3 minutes on each side.

Heat a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add your soaked challah and cook for three minutes or so on each side.  Serve with a few pats of butter and maple syrup.

Fresh fruit, bacon, scrambled eggs and mimosas all added to the fun…I was invited for breakfast and almost stayed for dinner!

Our New Shipment has Arrived!

View the New Arrivals on the Web Site.

Beef Goulash Recipe

Antique Pine Nightstands
A glimpse of the new shipment

For thirty years Keith and I have traveled to Europe to buy container loads of antique–primarily pine–furniture.  We started in England, then went to Holland, Denmark and finally Hungary purchasing hundreds of items to sell in our Red Bank, NJ furniture store.  At some point we started adding furniture made from old wood, and then new wood, to meet customer demand for specific items.  When our factory in England went bust after one recession or another—our Hungarian supplier of antique pine started building for us.

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At the factory in Hungary

The big news this year is that we are now producing our own line of furniture made with weathered oak to meet the demand for the grey, drift-woody tone that originated in Belgium but has been happily adopted by the savvy American furniture buyer.

grey oak coffee table
Grey oak coffee table
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51″ round oak table
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73″ grey oak table

In addition to the oak items we  are also introducing a whitewashed pine finish:

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All the new items meant long days of hard work, figuring out what to make and how–but eventually dinner time would roll around.  One of our favorite restaurants in Eger is called Feherszarvas Vadasztanya.   The food served there is rustic and hardy, and we always make sure to fill up on the Beef Goulash.



Love this menu!
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Beef Goulash

Cut a couple of pounds of well-larded chuck steak into chunks and toss with 2 tablespoons FRESH paprika (not the stuff that has been sitting around for the last couple of years),  a tablespoon of flour, a pinch of salt and a sprinkle of caraway seeds–if you have them.

Pour some olive oil in a heavy casserole dish and brown the meat in batches until it’s golden and crusted and set aside.

Scrape the bottom of the pan and add two thinly sliced onions and one green pepper thinly sliced also, and more oil if needed.  When the onions are soft remove the peppers and add the leftover flour and spice mixture to the pan and stir.

Add the beef and water to cover, making sure to scrape and mix in all the bits stuck to the bottom of the pot and put in the oven at 350 degrees for two and one half hours.  Remove the lid and add the cooked peppers and cook for another half hour until the meat is very tender.

Taste for seasoning.  In Hungary, this is served with spaetzle-a soft egg noodle that I don’t have a clue how to make but adore.  Being essentially lazy I just ladle the goulash over the regular supermarket variety egg noodles.  A dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of chives is always nice.  As is a bottle of Bull’s Blood, or Egri Bikaver, a fabulous red wine blend from Eger.

Egyunk!  (Bon appetit in Hungarian)

On Board–My Farmhouse Table

British Cottage is now officially 30!  We opened our first store at 125 West Front Street in January 1986 with a container full of antique English pine bought with the cash buyout Keith received after parting ways with the Tetley Brewing Company.

Neither of us had a background in antiques; it was only by chance we met a Martha Stewart look-a-like from Connecticut at an auction on the grittier side of Gosport, a washed up city on the wrong side of the Solent.  We were looking for furniture to bring back to New Jersey (another part of the package was free shipping) and watched as this petite, middle-aged woman with fabulous hair and an outfit that coordinated with her pumps,  bought every piece of stripped pine that came up for sale.

Waiting to pay at the end, we met her in the queue and just had to ask what the heck was she doing there, like how did she even find Gosport?  She told us that antique English pine furniture was the heart of the “American country” look and all the craze in the states and advised us to buy every piece we could.  So we did.  And thirty years later we still are buying and selling antique pine (as well as a whole bunch of other stuff).

Looking back over the years we have sold some really fabulous items.  But we kept a few too.  This “On Board” feature will be the ones that did not get away.  Objects we’ve known and loved for years–even decades.

For us decorating is not about buying a catalog of matching items, it is all about the hunt, the experience, and the joy of finding an object that fits in a room just so–or doesn’t fit in at all –but you love it so into the mix it must go.  I’ll start with our dining room table.

It is an antique farm table from Ireland that Keith bought from Martin Dearden,  an aristocratic bloke straight out of Dickens, with a large manor home called Pennard House in Shepton Mallet, a little village in Somerset.  That is how you did things in those days.  You would go to a small shop on a High Street and invariably the owner would have a bunch of sheds or barns somewhere else so off you would go through fields and hedgerows to see great masses of furniture in astonishingly bad disrepair and then start making a deal.

The deal would usually involve tea, some biscuits and if it all turned out okay, in the end, a trip to the pub–there is always a pub in these stories.  (Pennard House is still in business today as a wedding and event venue–I’m guessing the antique barns are probably used for dining–and rinking).

Anyway, Keith bought this table from Martin and along with a number of other items it was loaded onto a container that eventually found its way to Red Bank.  When my mother walked into the store, she took one look at the table amongst the other new arrivals and claimed it immediately.  Made in the late 1800’s with three long pitch pine planks and a stretcher base, it has two drawers that reach all the way to the middle of the table and it was a beast to carry up the stairs to her second-story dining room overlooking the Shrewsbury River in Rumson.

Mother of six, friend to all, it is impossible to count the number of parties and holidays we enjoyed around her table–let alone fathom all the meals served on it prior to its arrival in America.  When my mom died, one of my brothers was quick to claim it.  A few years ago he moved to California and the table came full circle back to us, where it is now front and center of the great room above British Cottage.  We are happy to let the parties begin, again, at this fabulous table.