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!

 

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!

March Madness

Lamb Ragu Recipe

Spring at British Cottage
Praying for March to end

Some poets say April is the cruelest month but my bet is on March.  Spring finally gets here but all there is to show for it is a few lousy daffodils gasping for life in a tangle of dead leaves.  The only thing to do when it is still too early for cocktail hour is to hunker down with a good book or two and wait it out.  Fortunately I buy coffee table books like other people buy candy so there is usually a large stack just awaiting  perusal.

"Beautiful" by Mark D. Sikes
Mark D. Sike’s “Beautiful”

One I recently enjoyed was by Mark D. Sikes, whose blog, Chic People, Glamorous Places, Stylish Thingswas such a sensation a book deal followed. Beautiful  All-American Decorating and Timeless Style is the result, an engaging glimpse of a master at work.   In room after room Mark starts with pale walls and pale carpets, then adds another layer, then another with a bit more color and structure and the next thing you know there is a profound sense of elegance and comfort.

And I just love that he is totally passionate about blue and white, something we share here at British Cottage, and something that may contribute to the air of harmony you find in his rooms.  Think of faded blue jeans worn with a crisp white shirt and a fabulous navy blue blazer. The look transcends gender and genre, casual yet always stylish, and that is what, I think, we all wish for our decor.

Looking "Beautiful" at British Cottage
Looking beautiful at British Cottage

Fussy feminine rooms with swags and knick knacks, yuck.  All brown leather and mid-century modern, double yuck.  The best way to describe Mark’s ethos is to evoke Nancy Meyers and her Something’s Gotta Give house.  Nancy is crazy about Mark’s style and even wrote the introduction to his book.  What is her style?  Coastal chic?  Country home casual?  I don’t know what to call it.  But I like it.

This book shows you how it is done.  How to style coffee tables and side tables, add pops of color and accessories, arrange your seating–always tricky–and get it to all to work–even trickier.  If you don’t want to buy the book you can always tootle over to British Cottage; we’ve got all the right stuff to pull this look together.

Accessories can make your rooms beautiful
British Cottage Showroom

Lamb Ragu

But before you curl up with a book on this windy and raw Sunday, now would be the perfect time to take a moment to toss a few ingredients together and cook up a hearty stew.   With fresh lamb in the markets what could be better than this lovely Lamb Ragu?  Just four hours later and it’s buon appetito!

You can do this with lamb shanks but I usually just buy a boneless leg of lamb–it is all in one piece and easier to handle.  Salt and pepper then sear on both sides in olive oil in an oven-proof pot.

Remove the lamb from the pan and add about 4 ounces of diced pancetta and quickly fry –you don’t need to do this but I think it adds tons of flavor to the mix.  Put the lamb back into the pot along with two or three onions coarsely chopped and 5 cloves of minced garlic,  some celery and a carrot or two–I like mine finely chopped so it disappears into the sauce. Then pop in one large can of whole tomatoes and one-half can of a decent red wine.  Add a bay leaf, some thyme, a pinch of hot red pepper flakes and put in a 350-degree oven for 3 1/2 to four hours.  That’s it.  Some will say saute the onions, celery, and carrots first but I say–don’t bother.  You have books to read.

Lamb Ragu

Remove the pan from the oven and shred or chop up the meat.  Put it back into the sauce and serve over the pasta of your choice (I like to use pappardelle) and top with freshly grated parmesan cheese.  Accompany  with a tossed green salad, a loaf of garlic bread and a couple of bottles of chianti and even the people who for years have been telling you they don’t like lamb will love it.  Trust me.  Hopefully, they’ll leave you with enough sauce to freeze and you are all set for your next Sunday supper–lasagna.

 

 

From Farm to Table

Best Pot Roast Recipe

When I was growing up in Rumson there were several rituals that made summer even more wonderful.  One started on the last day of school and lasted all summer long–going to the beach.   Day in and day out our faithful old station wagon loaded with three, four, five and finally, six kids would head over the Sea Bright Bridge.  Just minutes later we would be in the ocean.

We played in the waves for hours on end while our fingers wrinkled and our lips turned blue; swallowing water and eating sand until we became expert and fearless wave riders.  Our sandcastles were legendary, fantastic creations with moats and turrets topped with treasures from the sea: fabulous shells, smooth stones and colorful glass we found while exploring what we called crab ponds, low tide havens for the most marvelous creatures.

But sooner or later the day would end and we would reload our sandy feet and sunburned shoulders into our trusty wagon and back over the bridge we would go.  But not always straight home.  At least two or three times a week our mother would stay on Ridge Road and drive all the way to Sickles Farm just over the Rumson border in Little Silver.

Seatbelt free (they hadn’t been invented yet I guess) we would literally bounce along the rutted gravel road through the fields and orchards leading to the makeshift farm stand.  There were bushels and bushels of freshly picked corn, peaches that melted into your mouth, down your shirt all the way to your toes, and boxes of blueberries that with a splash of lemon and barely a hint of sugar made the world’s most delicious pie.

Fast forward fifty plus years and the old Sickles Farm is no more. Although I will always be nostalgic for the olden days, its successor–Sickles Market–is a year-round enterprise completely in tune to the needs of the modern family.  Working mom?  Staying at home dad?  Just a little kid?

Who does not love having the freshest fruit and veg, the convenience of quality prepared foods, a butcher selling wholesome meat, a separate cheese department plus a great bakery right on the premises?  The road may be paved now, and some of the fields sprout townhomes, but the heart of Sickles Farm lives on.

Sickles Market

So it is still a long way to go until summer.  Not sure what to make for dinner on one of these cold, wintry nights? Pop into Sickles Market and buy a nice hunk of beef, some great fresh veggies, a beautiful loaf of french bread and in a couple of hours you will have a meal fit for a king–or a carload of kids.  And don’t forget to pick up a fresh fruit pie for dessert!

From Sickles Market to a British Cottage table–perfect!

The Best Pot Roast

Buy a well marbled four pound-ish chuck roast.  Season with salt and pepper, then dredge the whole roast in flour. Brown in an oven proof pan in a few glugs of olive oil.  Try not to fuss with it too much–brown means brown–leave it alone turning only once until you have it nicely seared. Remove from pot.

Then add some more olive oil to the pan and basically whatever vegetables, chopped, that you like. I used two leeks, two carrots, two celery stalks, one onion and five cloves of garlic.  If you happen to have some pancetta in the fridge dice it and put it in the pot.  Cook for about ten minutes until tender and then add 2 cups of decent red wine, a 28 ounce can of whole tomatoes (squish these) and thyme and rosemary and one bay leaf. Put the roast back in and add about one cup of chicken stock so the roast is mostly submerged.

Cook in a 350-degree oven. After three and one-half hours or so partially cook some fresh baby carrots (leave them whole with a bit of green at the top), pearl onions and baby potatoes, then saute in butter until lightly browned.  (If you are lazy you can skip both these steps and just toss them in your pot roast adding more liquid if necessary, but it makes a nicer presentation if the veggies look pretty and colorful).

After you do this take the roast out of the oven, skim off as much fat as possible and most of the cooked vegetables (you can transfer to a blender and puree the sauce or just make a slurry with some flour and sauce and thicken it that way). Surround with your beautiful carrots, potatoes, and onions on a large platter and spoon the sauce over it.  I like to serve the extra sauce on the side in a gravy boat.

Add a loaf of freshly baked french bread, a tossed salad and a nice bottle of red wine and your meal is complete.

And don’t forget the pie!