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.

New Thoughts for the New Year

Chicken Cacciatore Recipe

Once the holidays are over and January has rolled around, for me usually, this means it’s prime nesting season.  The weather is always lousy.   It’s still dark at 5 (I am talking about pm–am is something I would not know of). Suddenly there’s plenty of time on these long wintry afternoons for nestling on the couch, snug in a blanket reading that novel I never got to in summer’ only occasionally rising to stir the fabulous stew simmering on the stove in the kitchen.  And then, once dinner is served, there is no reason not to relax a little more and linger at the table enjoying a robust glass or two of wine…

This year, though, we had a fortuitous change in routine.  Mid-January we decided to make a pit stop at America’s Mart in Atlanta.

Possibly the world’s largest trade show facility with over 700 million square feet, America’s Mart January market bills themselves as “An unparalleled collection of exceptional Home products…” and for once someone is telling the truth. There are acres and acres of products, thousands of vendors, and fun stuff like crazy cash machines (see above photo).

For us, or anyone with an eye on design, it is an amazing opportunity to see the latest offerings in furniture, rugs, artwork, lighting, bedding and floral, many of which are shown in room settings so you get to see–rather than just imagine–how things would look in a home.
Also featured were a series of vignettes by several of the country’s top designers that included products from a wide variety of manufacturers. This is what we do every day at British Cottage, so it was interesting to see how professionals took products we carry, like this chandelier from Curry & Co, and put it with an area rug by Loiloi (a company we are considering). Generally, we are not a fan of dark wall colors but love how everything pops in this stylish space.

And everywhere you looked there was a gorgeous navy blue couch–as our British Cottage aficionados know a look we have championed for several years now.  We find navy fresh and classic, equally at home at the beach or in the city.   There was no shortage of seminars and workshops.  We especially enjoyed the presentation sponsored by Veranda Magazine.  Billed as 30 Years of Veranda, interior design icons (from left) John Oetgen, Suzanne Kassler, Bill Peace and Susan Ferrier, candidly described their favorite memories and shared insights about how interior design has become what it is today.

We were also treated to a panel discussion of the power of social media by three prominent bloggers: Paloma Contreras of La Dolce Vita, Nora Murphy of Connecticut Country House and Courtney Allison of French Country Cottage, and I still bear the bruises from Keith nudging me when they all agreed that frequency was a major contributor to the success of their blogs…sorry I will try harder!

And after all that, it was nice to come home and resume nesting, and there is nothing like a home cooked meal after being out and about for a while.  My favorite stew, of all time, is Chicken Cacciatore or Pollo Alla Cacciatora as my beloved Marcella Hazan, author of “The Classic Italian Cookbook” would say.  First published by Knopf in New York in 1976, some say Marcella Hazan’s cookbook is the most authentic and best guide to Italian food ever written.  Of course, I knew none of that when I pulled it out of the sales pile at Barnes and Noble over 20 years ago–but I know it now.

Chicken Cacciatore

First just use chicken thighs.  Don’t fuss about cutting up a whole chicken and worrying about what bit gets cooked for how long.  (I think it was Mario Batali who said he actually throws away the white meat because it is the dark meat of the chicken that holds all the flavor).

While you heat up a few glugs of olive oil in a large pan, dredge those chicken thighs (figure at least two per person)  in flour and add to your heated oil skin side down. Cook on medium-ish heat for longer than you think.  You want to get that skin browned up a bit before you turn them over and toast the other side.  Transfer to a platter and lightly salt and pepper.

Remove excess fat from your pan, turn up the heat and deglaze with 2/3 of a cup or so of dry white wine.  When it is reduced by half and you’ve scraped up all the bits from the bottom of the pan, lower the heat and add one medium onion chopped how you like it.  I prefer chunks but small children might like their onions minced–it’s up to you.  After 5 minutes or so add some chopped green pepper, one carrot (which I usually coarsely grate so it disappears) and 1/2 celery stalk sliced thin, and a couple of chopped up garlic cloves  Quantities can vary according to what you like or have in the fridge.  For example, Marcella calls for a whole green pepper–but I find just half gives me the flavor I like.

At this point add a 28 ounce can of whole tomatoes with their juice.  You can chop them up first or just toss in the pan and chop them up there; they’re going to cook down anyway.  Add the chicken, cover partly and simmer for about an hour, turning occasionally.  (If your sauce looks too thin just remove the cover and let it reduce).

I like to cook my chicken until it is practically falling off the bone and when it is ready I just spoon a little of the hot sauce on the bottom of a warm platter, add some freshly cooked pasta (we like rigatoni for no particular reason) and cover with the chicken and more sauce–and maybe a dash or two of hot red pepper flakes for some zip.

Serve with some freshly grated parmesan or romano cheese on the side, a loaf of fresh garlic bread and a simple green salad.  And of course a nice bottle of wine–white or red–you can’t go wrong with this dish!

High Point High Jinks

Salami Roll Up Recipe

Keith and Joanna GainesMaybe one of the more famous people we did not meet at High Point, but certainly it felt like Joanna Gaines was everywhere!

Twice a year thousands of vendors and buyers gather in High Point, North Carolina to preview the coming season’s latest introductions to the furniture industry.  Although Keith and I design most of the items we sell it is always instructive and illuminating to see what the trends are, and it’s also terrific fun to purchase items that complement the British Cottage Collection.  After all how many people get to pay themselves to shop?

Along the way we also pick up words of wisdom and design ideas from some of the leading designers and innovators in the trade.  Here is Windsor Smith— a leading force in the Los Angeles design industry whose elegant interiors are a masterful mix of elegance, modernity, tradition–and yes–comfort.  Next to her is Carl Dellatore, editor of “Interior Design Mater Class: 100 Lessons from America’s Finest Designers on the Art of Decoration” published by Rizzoli this October.  If you buy only one book on design this season–this is it.
img_7235-2 Down a few flights of stairs were Barclay Butera and Kathy Ireland–also powerhouses in the California design world. We have always loved how Barclay manages to meld beach house cool with an English manor house sensibility, and we all know that anything former model, Warren Buffet confident, and entrepreneur Kathy Ireland touches is sheer gold.  When she says color is making a comeback; we listen.
img_7248-2 Fortunately we are so on trend, because we had already purchased this fabulous couch and chair at Hickory White.

img_7030-3Not sure you will see a salmon pink wall anytime soon at British Cottage, (and I will source the Benjamin Moore color for those of you who have asked), but the couch and two chairs should arrive in a few weeks.  We like to buy the Hickory White floor models.  Why not take advantage of their professional design savvy and add to our inventory at the same time?

And in for a penny, in for a pound as the pundits say, we also bought this couch and chair, again in a rosy hue.

img_6994But fear not, we did not go completely pink, we also purchased this lovely, royal blue velvet sofa and two complementary armchairs.

img_7009
Usually it is all work and no play for us at Market.   Cocktails are free and flowing throughout the showrooms, but we have found drinking and shopping is a volatile combination that results in expensive mistakes.  And while there is always fabulous entertainment in the evenings, we never get to go; we are simply too tired from walking at least ten hours a day at the show to venture out in the evenings.  Fortunately for us, on a late sunny Saturday afternoon Maggie Rose was practicing for her upcoming performance, and we got an advance preview.

Fabulous!img_7253

I like to end my blogs with a recipe, but food is beside the point at the High Point Furniture Market and largely forgettable except for one item:

Salami Roll Ups

It was late in the day, actually early evening, and we were trying to squeeze in one last show room before we went back to our hotel.  We watched as a 70+ year-old woman, with hair like all Keith’s aunties in England had back in the days when a perm meant tight curls in an unnatural color, walked slowly up the stairs with a plate of appetizers.

Perhaps she had some connection with the staff and was delivering a special treat welcoming them to High Point, rewarding them for a good days work?  I have no idea.  But we were starving, and offered a sample we were thrilled to say yes.

Cue the flashback!  The last time I remember having a salami roll up was back in 1969 when a friend’s mom hired a bunch of us to prep and serve hors d’oeuvres at a cocktail party she was hosting on Chappaquiddick.  My mother was more the Wispride on a Triscuit kind of gal so I thought these roll ups were just about the most wonderful things in the world–and very exotic.

Fast forward to today, and I can say while a Salami Roll Up is not the chicest of treats,  they sure do taste good.

Here’s the recipe:

Take a quarter of a pound of good hard salami thinly sliced.  Put a small wedge of cheddar cheese and a sweet pickle on top of each piece of salami. Roll and secure with a toothpick.  Serve.