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!

 

Christina’s World

Lobster Roll Recipe

Possibly the most fascinating house I was in this year had hardly any furniture and nobody lived there.  It’s where Christina Olson, immortalized forever by Andrew Wyeth’s painting of her crawling up a windswept hill lived her entire life.

I never really liked the painting.  It always seemed creepy and sad but when you summer in coastal Maine it is hard to avoid the legendary Wyeth and I am bedazzled by many of his other works.  At least once a year I make a pilgrimage to The Farnsworth Museum in Rockland to soak up some Wyeth-ness and this year, for a few extra dollars purchased a ticket to visit The Olson House in nearby Cushing.

And boy, was I glad I did.  The house, along with the property it sits on, offers a breathtaking glimpse into the world of this iconic painter and his unlikely muse.  

Everywhere you look; through the windows, at the walls, out the doors, there is a story ready to unfold.  The light streaming through the leaded glass windows reflects, and makes you reflect on the rooms and the lives of the people who lived there. Were they unbearably long and hard or was there joy here too?  For every dark shadow there appears a bright spot, much like an Andrew Wyeth painting.  

If you get a chance, go.  And go soon because it is only a matter of time before the house is cleaned up, and the public partitioned off.  Right now every room is accessible and virtually untouched from the days the Olsons lived there.  You can see the rooms as Andrew Wyeth saw them and know how terrible, and how wonderful Christina’s world must have been.

Make sure to walk the grounds as well as tour the house.  We were early so we wandered through the field familiar to us from Christina’s World. As we approached the riverbank we discovered a small graveyard and were surprised to see that Andrew Wyeth had joined the Olsons in perpetuity.

I didn’t want to leave either.

However, it was past lunch time and those of us still of this world were getting hungry. The good news was we were only twenty or so minutes away from  McLoon’s Lobster Shack.   In the isn’t this a small world after all vein, McLoons is actually owned by a branch of the Douty family, as in our very own Lusty Lobster in Highlands and offer what Yankee Magazine reckons is the number one Lobster Roll in Maine.  Maybe.It was really good, but if you can’t get to Maine anytime soon don’t fret, my recipe may just be better.


Best Lobster Roll Recipe

Lobster Rolls are a cinch to make–all you need are a few key ingredients.

  1. Freshly cooked lobster.  When ever I put lobster on the menu I always get a few extra for lobster rolls the next day.  In Maine we use soft shells because they are easier to crack open, but probably hard shells will be the only option elsewhere.
  2. Hellman’s Mayonaise, yup, it has to be Hellman’s.
  3. Hot Dog Rolls.  And this gets tricky out of Maine because you want them sliced down the middle–not sideways.
  4. Celery (optional)
  5. Butter (essential)

First chop your lobster meat into bite sized chunks and finely chop up a small amount of celery.  (This is where I depart from The Yankee Magazine reviewer; this is how my mother from Rhode Island did it and I like the little bit of crunch–it breaks up the chewiness of the lobster).

Then melt some butter in a frying pan and cook your hot dog rolls inside and out until golden brown.

Add a dollop of Hellman’s to your lobster and celery mixture and insert into your freshly toasted hot dog roll.

That’s it.  Serve with your favorite potato chip.

Carriage House Marina

Grilled Salmon Recipe

A hundred years ago Sea Bright was just a small fishing village nestled on the sand spit separating the Atlantic Ocean from the Shrewsbury River. The humbleness of the town was in direct contrast to the grandeur of the large vacation homes surrounding it.  Mainly owned by wealthy New Yorkers, they employed architects, like the renowned Stanford White, to design intricate, multi-storied shingle style houses so they could enjoy the Jersey Shore’s ample sunshine and refreshing sea breezes in comfort.

Over the years a combination of high tides, arson, and developers, eager to cash in on the easy charms of salt air and sparkling sand, wiped out most of those original mansions.  In their stead, a motley crew of townhomes, garden apartments and condominiums sprouted along the beach and river fronts.   Fortunately, hidden from the main drag behind a pair of those nondescript multifamily units, one of the original structures is still standing, a lovely carriage house that is now home to the owners of the aptly named, Carriage House Marina.

This beautiful building is a survivor–no mean feat considering it sits barely above sea level a stone’s throw from the river.  Nor’easters, and of course hurricanes are a constant threat–the latest was Sandy in 2012.

Then, several feet of water flooded the multi-level interior, but you would never know it looking at it today.  All the original paneling and woodwork, which had to be created by master boat builders, has the lustrous patina of furniture cared for by generations of fastidious housekeepers.  In fact, the interior makes you feel like you are aboard ship, sailing on a vintage schooner down the Shrewsbury River, not just sitting next to it!

Seated at the massive dining room table you feel like the room should be rocking–although truthfully, given the owners’ penchant for entertaining I understand sometimes it does.

The living room captures the feeling of a sea captain’s private quarters.While the side yard is a parking lot–this is a working marina after all–there is a large front lawn that ends where the river starts.   Flanked by daylilies and hydrangeas, and a huge border of what looks to be ornamentals, but is, in reality, a massive vegetable garden, it is the perfect spot for plunking down with a book on a sunny day–or to have a party!

While any excuse for a party is a good one, one particular occasion is near and dear to me.  Every five years or so the owners (see photo below) host a reunion get-together for the husband’s Rumson Fair Haven High School class, of which, full disclosure, I am a member. (And no way am I giving up the year).  The party, which also serves as a fundraising dinner to support scholarships for college bound RFH seniors, is a team effort and our cohorts from all over the country make the journey back home to join in the fun.

The tent belongs to the marina so they take care of putting that up.  Then a gang of us always pitch in to set up the tables and pull it all together.  This year was slightly more daunting as all our prep work took place during a nor’easter so high tides and strong winds made it a bit more challenging than usual.

It certainly helps that another classmate and her husband own Guaranteed Plants & Florist in nearby Navesink.  Their delightful nursery has been a must stop for garden lovers for more than forty years.  With over 8500 square feet of greenhouse space, these horticultural wizards work magic every day.  Our party would not be the same without them.

Their experienced floral designers always make sure we have gorgeous flower arrangements on all the tables (we always do a sit-down dinner).  And they also schlep over these  huge palms that we use to decorate the inside of the tent.

Somehow it all comes together.  It doesn’t hurt that one of the owners of the fabulous Lusty Lobster–the wholesale and retail fish store in Highlands–was also in my class so he, thankfully, is in charge of catering.  The food is always, simply, delicious.

 This year he served a grilled salmon that belied any thought of the Salmon Fatigue Syndrome I have been suffering lately.


The fabulous sunset was a bonus and then it was time for a little old fashioned rock and roll with the Thom White Band.   For us children of the seventies, a party is just not a party without live music.  Thom also went to RFH–albeit a few years before us (although you would never know it by looking at him) and he and his fellow musicians are simply terrific!

So about that Grilled Salmon…

According to Doug (from Lusty Lobster), the only thing on the salmon that evening was salt, pepper, and extra virgin olive oil.  Just apply all of the former liberally, then place on the grill skin side down. When grill marks appear and the skin gets crisp, turn over very carefully. Continue cooking until the salmon is opaque in the center.  Garnish with lemon wedges and parsley and serve.

I am definitely going to try this at home and will report back to you–it can’t be that easy!

My sister Laurie made a fabulous baked salmon earlier this summer.  She just put a whole salmon filet in a baking dish; topped it with a generous amount of sea salt, a substantial amount of brown sugar and lots of pats of butter, then cooked it at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. It was fabulous but the clean up was a bit intense because all the brown sugar ends up crusted to the baking pan.  But I bet you could do this on the grill in a disposable baking pan.

Meanwhile, The New York Times’ Sam Sifton swears by a Dijon mustard brown sugar mix.  And wisely lines his baking sheet with foil and uses portion sized salmon fillets that cook at 400 for about 12 minutes.  This too could be done on the grill I bet.

The good news is I am motivated to start cooking salmon again.

Meanwhile, I can’t end this post without acknowledging Elise Hughes aka Lisey Baker on the far right,  who took all these fabulous photos and Carol “Martha Stewart” Baird, (center) for pulling the decor together and keeping us on task.  You guys are the best!

Special thanks to everyone who took part in this event–we could not do it without you–and make sure you pencil in July 2022 for the next one!

Laurie’s Cottage

Martha Stewart’s Blueberry Buckle recipe

Part of the fun of having a cottage on the Maine coast is connecting with my sister and her family.  She married a Mainer 30 years ago and has happily lived on the Pemaquid Peninsula–a bucolic landmass encircled by craggy clumps of rock and endless sea–ever since.

Seven years ago, she and her husband purchased a second property on the peninsula.  Built in the 1920’s as a retreat for school teachers on a cliff overlooking the Damariscotta River, and mostly untouched since then, their cottage is a scenic outpost for family and friends all summer long.

Perched on the cliff’s edge with a million dollar view, once inside it feels like you are actually living aboard a ship.  All timber framed with a small galley kitchen, a center keeping room with a large round table and wood stove, with three small bedrooms neatly tucked away in the corners, there is no electricity and water comes from a large cistern attached to the dwelling.

You look out and see what inspired Winslow Homer and the Wyeth men, all of whom honed their artistry on these shores.  Then you feel it in your bones.

In the bedrooms there are patchwork quilts and lace curtains to soften all that knotty pine.  The daybeds are just perfect for curling up for a nap or reading on a rainy day.  And finally, when darkness falls, it is lovely to open the curtains and lie back and watch the stars glimmer while drifting off to sleep.

Minimalism is not Laurie’s thing and collections abound; from bottles to mermaids, there is something fun to see everywhere you look.

But I digress.  Because on this day we were not here to admire the view, or the eclectic interior, even better–we were here for a Lobster Bake!Once a summer they host a Lobster Bake and luckily we were on board for this one.  Trust me, this is not for the faint of heart.  The menu included 48 lobsters, 20 pounds of steamers, 36 ears of corn, 10 pounds of potatoes and 24 eggs!  And let’s not forget to mention the hot dogs and hamburgers, steak tips, appetizers and blueberry buckle–there was, no doubt, enough food to sink a battleship!

And just like going to battle, a ton of preparation is required.  First you have to assemble all the ingredients and then cart them down a steep incline to the cottage.  That is all except the lobsters–they come by sea.

Because this all bakes in seaweed on the shore, timing is everything–you need to do this at low tide.

A fair amount of heavy lifting is required so it helps if a few strong men are part of the program.  First a fire is started:Then the children gather seaweed to line the bottom of metal troughs. Next comes the lobsters.Then potatoes and onions wrapped in foil, and partially shucked ears of corn are added.  (There I am in a key supervisory role on the right).Top with bags of steamers, and a couple of dozen eggs in the carton.

Add the seaweed and lug on top the fire.

Toss in a few buckets of sea water and 45 minutes later it’s all done.

The way you make sure it’s all ready is remarkably simple.  You check the eggs.  If they are hard boiled then everything else is steamed to perfection. Serve on huge platters with melted butter and enjoy.  No seasoning is required; the salty ocean water and briny seaweed lend enough flavor.

It seems like a crazy amount of work but everyone pitches in from the littlest tyke to the oldest hands and trust me, the effort is worthwhile.

Here is just part of the crew on hand that perfect Maine summer day. From 86 to almost two years old a great time was had by all. Even young Oscar here, who clearly did not appreciate his seaweed chapeau…

brightened up after an afternoon nap in the arms of his good friend, Laurie.



Because most of us are not actually going to host a Lobster Bake I thought I would include a recipe for Blueberry Buckle, which was 12 year old Meghan’s contribution to the feast.  She made it all by herself and it was delicious.  I’d never had a Buckle before; we are more of a crumble kind of family.  But I will now.  This recipe is courtesy of Martha Stewart, who has her own fabulous place in Maine, up north in Southwest Harbor.  Let’s hope it tastes as good as Meghan’s!

Martha Stewart’s Blueberry Buckle

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 5 cups wild or cultivated blueberries
  • Streusel Topping

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a springform baking pan, and dust with flour, tapping out excess. Set aside.

  2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter, and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to low, and add egg and vanilla, beating until fully combined.

  4. Add reserved flour mixture, alternating with the milk, a little of each at a time, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Remove from mixer. Gently fold in blueberries.

  5. Pour batter into prepared pan; sprinkle streusel topping over cake. Bake until a cake tester comes out batter-free, 60 to 70 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Remove from pan; cool for 15 minutes before serving.

    And to gild the proverbial lily, as they say, there was whipped cream on hand to top the Buckle.  None of that store bought in a can stuff for Laurie, we just shook a mason jar full of heavy cream and voila!  Amazing. Just click on the link below to see how easy it is.

    Make Whipped Cream with Just a Mason Jar

Full disclosure: Many of the photos in this blog were taken by Laurie–who, like many people in Maine, wears many hats: artist, chef, childcare specialist, seamstress, and photographer just to name a few.

Classics are Forever

Pickled Shrimp with Fennel recipe

When a customer from North Jersey called last week to check on the status of her classic farm table from our factory in Hungary–meant to arrive in May but now coming in June, sadly–she told us the same table she was waiting for was featured in a Rumson home in this month’s HGTV Magazine!

So naturally, we immediately ran out to buy a copy to see whose table she was talking about…

And sure enough, there was our British Cottage table!  But it didn’t start out with this Rumson family.  About 15 years ago a couple from Spring Lake had had it with the traditional layout of their perfectly located home. He cooked, she loved to entertain, the sequestered formal dining room and barely adequate kitchen were not working for their lifestyle.  So they blew out the back of the house, and the wall separating the dining room and the kitchen and made a fabulous room overlooking their fabulous garden. They added new cabinets and state of the art appliances then anchored the whole shebang with a custom British Cottage farm table.

And lived happily ever after, until she wanted a pool and more yard, and a house with more robust proportions.  So they bought some acreage a bit further south and built their dream home, again with a dream kitchen, again anchored by their British Cottage table.  But when retirement loomed, the idea of moving to Charleston, South Carolina, and enjoying all the accompanying amenities of that beautiful city outweighed their happiness in their New Jersey abode.   So off they went–really south this time–and bought a vintage townhome in that vibrant city.

Sadly the British Cottage table did not make the trip.  Too big for even the proposed renovated kitchen in Charleston, they pondered its fate. Fortunately, there was a nephew moving to Rumson who volunteered to take the table.  

And this, by the way, may be the best thing about British Cottage tables–they never go out of style.  Maybe, like our customer, you move on and opt for a new look but someone, somewhere will want your farmhouse table.  Trust me.



PS.  Happily we were able to find a fabulous distressed walnut table from a bespoke furniture company in England to make the trip to Charleston. Along with a photo of that table in situ my friend sent this recipe which evidently is Charleston’s favorite hors d’oeuvre.

Pickled Shrimp with Fennel

Photo: Jennifer Davick; Styling: Caroline M. Cunningham

Ingredients

  • 1 small fennel bulb
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 pounds large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 small serrano or bird pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup thinly sliced white onions
  1. Slice fennel bulb thinly, reserving fronds. Chop fronds to equal 1 Tbsp. Fill a large bowl halfway with ice and water.

  2. Bring 1 Tbsp. kosher salt and 2 qt. water to a boil in a Dutch oven over high heat. Remove from heat; add shrimp, and let stand, stirring once, 1 minute or just until shrimp turn pink.

  3. Transfer shrimp to ice water, using a slotted spoon. Reserve 2 cups hot cooking liquid in a medium bowl. Let shrimp stand 10 minutes, stirring once. Transfer shrimp to a paper towel-lined plate, reserving ice water in bowl.

  4. Whisk lemon juice and next 4 ingredients into reserved hot cooking liquid until salt and sugar dissolve. Place bowl in reserved ice water, and whisk lemon juice mixture until cooled to room temperature (about 10 minutes).

  5. Remove lemon juice mixture from ice water; discard ice water, reserving chilled bowl for shrimp. Stir together onion, fennel slices, chopped fennel fronds, and shrimp in chilled bowl. Pour cooled lemon juice mixture over shrimp mixture. Cover and chill 1 hour to 2 days. Serve with a slotted spoon.

    The recipe ends here and I have no idea what you do next.  Just eat the
    shrimp?  Serve it on toast?  Salad?
     To be continued…

Home Again

Gorgonzola and Pecan Salad Recipe

Basically, we have been on the road all spring, finding inspiration and beauty everywhere we go.  Nothing, however, tops young Charlotte here. Our newest grandchild, and look, at just seven months, already a lady who does lunch!We started out in April in North Carolina at the  High Point Spring Furniture Market where thousands of furniture manufacturers from all over the globe presented their wares to retail buyers–also from all over the globe.  One of the many highlights was at Hickory White, the company that makes most of our custom upholstery.  (Don’t worry; Keith is only looking so glum because he has just figured out exactly how much we spent there!)

Although I always say never paint your walls dark blue, this Hale Navy by Benjamin Moore really was stunning.  The rug is from Fiezy, all wool and surprisingly affordable.  See how it ties the whole room together and softens the intensity of the wall color?  We did not buy the rug (only because it was not for sale), but we did buy this fabulous ecru velvet Chesterfield sofa along with the two coordinating armchairs. Classic, elegant, vintage, but with a smattering of modernity, that is our British Cottage story.

But I digress, back to little Charlotte.  After High Point we flew to Omaha to visit with the littlest Nelsons; we’re up to three now!  Naturally, we had to check out the local furniture scene.  Which was easy because there is basically only one player in town–maybe even the state–and that is the Nebraska Furniture Mart.  Owned by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway, it is a colossal 420,000 square feet on a 77-acre site.  It’s huge.

Sadly, big was not better.  I think Warren needs to hire me.  While I get that a store of this magnitude has to appeal to a variety of tastes and budgets, I refuse to believe that the Midwest really deserves furniture this, I hesitate to say ugly, let’s go with design challenged–and it wasn’t inexpensive!  After walking one million miles at the High Point Spring Furniture Market I can personally attest there is no shortage of well-made, attractive, and affordable furniture.  Looking at this vignette, you have to wonder;  is this really the best a billion dollar company can do?  Crank it up.  Go get those Fiezy rugs and a coffee table that doesn’t clash with everything.  While you’re at it, rethink your artwork.  And accessories.  Come on Warren, it’s definitely time to up your game; hire some new buyers, and show Nebraska some style.

But time to move on.  Next stop was Seattle to visit with our daughter, and of course, we had to go to University Village to see the latest Restoration Hardware extravaganza.  Hopefully, they had a billion dollars because that is what this four story, 60,000 square foot structure must have cost.It was architecturally awesome; I loved the polished concrete floors, the M.C. Esher-esque seemingly never-ending series of arched doorways, symmetrical room settings, and the high-reaching ceilings.  Sadly the products were every bit as lacking, in their own way, as the items at Warren’s Nebraska Furniture Mart.  Not that they were ugly or poorly designed but, after you’ve seen one crystal chandelier, one upholstered linen chair, and one low-slung couch, there’s fifty more to look at.  Enough already!

In the RH world, we all live in grey hued palazzos, with fragmented light, dispelled by 1000 watt crystal chandeliers that look like their last home was Versailles.  We spend our days lolling on oversized sofas and dining like lords on massive plank topped tables.  It’s all too Brobdingnagian and blah for my taste, even with all that bling.But we had other fish to fry:

Sights to see:

And beers to drink:Nordstrom’s to shop:And Farmer’s Markets to frequent.  

And lest we forget, dinners to eat and family to visit.

Peter Morse’s Gorgonzola and Pecan Salad

No matter where you are, or what is on the menu, you can never go wrong with Peter’s Salad.  When you were married, like Peter was, to a fabulous chef, it is not easy to get some play at the table.  Yet with this salad, rest assured, he got game.

I always made sure when inviting the Morse family over to dine, that Peter would be in charge of the salad.  Invariably he would arrive laden down with supplies, including several heads of romaine lettuce, and start rummaging around the kitchen for my non-existent salad spinner.  He was ever hopeful, but it never appeared, so he would sigh and then, finally get down to washing, then hand drying, all that lettuce.

Next up was the dressing.  In a large wooden salad bowl, he would take a fork and smush up a nice hunk of gorgonzola cheese.  (Peter always measured precisely but I just toss in chunks depending on how many I am serving–figure about a quarter of a pound per head of lettuce.)  What does really matter is the quality of the cheese–don’t use supermarket brand or pre-crumbled in a plastic container cheese.  And don’t use blue cheese either.  Spend the money and get some decent gorgonzola and your guests will love it–and you.

After smushing the cheese, add enough olive oil to turn it into a soft paste. Figure 4 or 5 tablespoons or so per quarter pound of cheese.  You want it to be almost like peanut butter in consistency.  Then add a tablespoon (or two–you will have to do this to taste) of red wine vinegar to make it more liquid, but make sure not too liquid; this is a pretty thick dressing.

Next, add about 1/2 cup of pecans–chopped finely.  (And you can substitute walnuts or other nuts but really pecans taste the best). Stir into your mixture and let sit until you are ready to dine.  Then just tear up your lettuce leaves into a bit larger than bite size pieces, add to the bowl, toss and serve.

There are lots of ways to enhance this recipe.  You can toast or caramelize the nuts; add some ripe pear, or toss in a few cranberries.  But I like Peter’s way best; it’s simple and delicious and that always works for me.

 

Spring 2017 High Point Furniture Market

Bourbon-Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars Recipe

Lillian August for Hickory White at the Spring High Point Furniture Market 2017
Lillian August for Hickory White

Spring is always a busy time at British Cottage.  Besides the usual comings and goings on at the store, there is the spring furniture market in High Point, North Carolina to look forward to.  This year’s offerings did not disappoint.

We started out on Thursday afternoon at the Currey and Company preview party with a Bourbon with Bunny theme (as in Bunny Williams, designer extraordinaire).  We did not partake of the former, nor espy the latter, but we did see a fabulous array of chandeliers.  And you can see them soon, in person, at British Cottage!

Currey and Company Chandelier

Currey and Company ChandelierCurrey and Cmpany ChandelierCurrey and Company ChandelierNext up was the hunt for tables.  While we build a lot of our own product at our factory in Hungary, High Point Market gives us the opportunity to augment our inventory with some of the latest designs on the market.

42" Round Table with Bluestone top
Pedestal Table with a Bluestone top

Exhibit A:  we picked up this 41″ round table with a bluestone top.  It’s transitional, rustic, and beachy, and would be a winner just about everywhere.

7' table in whitewashed finish
Whitewashed 84″ table

Speaking of beachy, we thought this table was rather fun for those of us who live at the shore.  And at 84″ long by 36″ deep, it’s big, but not too big to fit into a banquette area.  Needless to say you will be seeing it soon at British Cottage.

Oval dining table in white paint
Swedish style dining table

Gustavian style is near and dear to our hearts, so we just had to buy this 9′ long table in that fabulous Swedish style.  Once again, it is as perfect at the shore as it is in town, and makes a change from the typical muted driftwood hues you see everywhere these days.

Long dining table with a trestle base, French Country Dining Table
Country French Dining Table

We loved the warm tones of this beautiful table made with vintage oak parquet and a bold trestle support; we even bought the faded rose-colored upholstered side chairs for a fin de siecle kind of vibe.

Next up was upholstery.  For the past several years we’ve been working with Hickory White, a family-owned company in North Carolina that makes fabulous sofas and chairs with hardwood frames and custom spring down cushions–in the United States!  Our visit to their showroom did not disappoint.

Oftentimes we will snap up the pieces made specially for the show, and in this case Keith was not going to leave until we bought the chairs and couch you can see in these photos.  I even have a lead on the rug!

Hickory White Armchair
Keith at the Hickory White Showroom
Chesterfield Sofa, Velvet Sofa, Hickory White Upholstery
Velvet Chesterfield

Upholstered in an ecru colored velvet (actually a fabric blend that wears like steel) this Chesterfield sofa exudes class and comfort.

Best upholstered Hickory White armchair
Tailored Armchair with Nailheads

The final piece in our Hickory White trilogy, this upholstered armchair in a tweedy fabric completes the ensemble.  Love the nailheads up top and along the perimeter.

Of course, this is just a taste of what we bought!  Stay tuned for updates on all these items, and more, on our New Arrivals page or on Facebook.

But wait–as usual, we have a recipe to share!  In honor of Bunny Williams (and bourbon), here’s one of our favorite recipes, just in time for this weekend’s Kentucky Derby.  Recipe courtesy of Joy the Baker‘s fabulous cookbook “Homemade Decadence”.

Bourbon-Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars (AKA Derby Pie Bars)

Shortbread Crust:
2 cups flour
3/4 cup confectioners sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 tsp. salt

Filling:
1/4th cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
3 large eggs
2 Tbsp bourbon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups toasted pecans, coarsely chopped (toasted if desired)
1 cup dark chocolate chunks (I used semisweet chocolate chips as I didn’t have dark chocolate)

Put a rack in the upper third of he oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish with butter or pam spray.

For the crust, in an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, confectioners sugar, butter, and salt. Beat the mixture until combined but crumbly, about 4 minutes. Dump the mixture into the prepared pan and use your fingers to press the dough evenly across the bottom.

Bake the crust until lightly browned, about 12-15 minutes. Remove from oven to cool but leave the oven on.

For the filling, mix the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, eggs, salt and bourbon together. Once well mixed, add the pecan pieces and chocolate chips. Pour all the mixture evenly over the baked crust and bake again until set, about 25-30 minutes. The bars will keep in an airtight container for up to 4 days if in the fridge.

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!