Tuscan Landscapes And A Small Goodbye

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I  was going to move on from Tuscany with my posts this week, but my thoughts have been returning there in recent days after I received some truly awful news. Chef Enrico Casini, who brought such vivacity and personality, as well as seriously good food, to Le Casacce – the Tuscan agriturismo where the Plated Stories workshop was held – died quietly in his sleep at the weekend.

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He was far too young – only sixty-two – but apparently he went with a smile on his lips, after a busy night in his restaurant, in his own little corner of paradise.

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I didn’t know him well of course, but he was a man of such obvious passion and heart, such energy and kindness, such a love for his craft and the ingredients that inspired it  –  that I know he will be sorely missed as a father, friend, employer and chef. 

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Every morning he would be bustling around the property, always wearing a pair of colourful glasses, and dashing in and out of his kitchen. Every afternoon he would,if he could, sit quietly in his lounger, reading the paper and gazing on the landscape for an hour or so. And every evening he would stand in his busy, laughter-filled dining room, more often than not with Barry White playing in the background, and describe the exquisite meal he’d just created in his broken English, invariably using produce ‘from this land’ and liberally garnished with ‘my olive oil’.

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We would wait for those words, spoken in his inimitable way, and laugh when he got to the punchline, but underneath they spoke of a deeper truth – his abiding love of the land, of the ingredients that sprang from it and the food it inspired.

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According to his obituaries, Enrico, through his many restaurants, his cooking and his food writing, was at the vanguard of the revival in cucina italiana in the 60s and 70s, focusing on traditional Roman and Tuscan recipes, using local ingredients. I feel honoured and privileged to have been able to cook with him, albeit briefly, and came away with a sheaf of notes, that I hope soon to be able convert into recipes as a proper tribute to him.

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In the meantime, here are some photos of the landscape which so inspired him and informed and infused his cooking, all taken either within a few miles of Le Casacce or from the grounds of the property itself. I don’t usually feel moved to take landscapes – photos generally can never do them justice – but the land here was so beautiful I had to try (and bear in mind these photos don’t do the real landscapes justice either).

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Caro Enrico, may you rest in peace, I am grateful to have met you, to have experienced the warmth and generosity of your hospitality and to have come away with some of your recipes. I so much wanted to return to Le Casacce but now it will never be the same. I will also never again be able to hear Barry White without thinking of you. Ciao, ciao.

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Linda Bass of Tuscan Muse, which she ran in partnership with Enrico, is heartbroken, but soldiering on, and has confirmed that the workshops will be continuing at Le Casacce as Enrico would have wanted and as part of his legacy.

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Mixed Fruit Clafoutis

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Many, many eons ago, while I was studying French at university, I spent a year working as an English assistant in a couple of schools in the South West of France. Aside from this being one of the most enjoyable and formative years of my life, it was also remarkable from a culinary perspective. The other teachers were incredibly kind (mindful I think of their own time spent as French assistants in England) and would invite me often to their houses, and I also ended up giving lots of private English lessons, of the ‘chat in English to little Jean-Pierre for an hour, then join us for a dip in the pool and supper’ variety.

It was a lovely life, and also meant that I ended up dining in French people’s houses once or twice a week. Which was eye-opening. You learn a lot by seeing what people eat for reals – not in a restaurant or in a cooking class and when they’re not particularly trying to impress.

And I learned that in the South West of France, in summer, people eat a heck of a lot of clafoutis. Mostly made with cherries, but occasionally with the other stone fruits and berries of summer. And not surprisingly, because clafoutis is both super delicious and very easy to make.

If you search for ‘clafoutis’ on this blog you’ll see that it’s something I make a lot in the summer, and in fact I’ve posted the recipe before. But I made some beautiful mini mixed fruit ones last summer and never posted the pictures, so I hope you’ll forgive me if I post the recipe again, with some adaptations for minis.

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First up get yourself a quantity of the most beautiful fruit you can find – cherries, apricots, currants, peaches and plums all work well. I used a mix of red and yellow cherries, apricots and redcurrants. The exact amount is a bit difficult to specify but should be enough to cover the bottom of the dishes you will be using. Clafoutis can be made in any shallow ovenproof dish. This recipe makes enough for the large dish shown here or for approximately 6 largeish ramekins.

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Mixed Fruit Clafoutis
Serves 6
Mini mixed fruit version of the traditional French clafoutis
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Prep Time
30 min
Prep Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. Enough fruit to cover the bottom of your dish(es) in a single layer
  2. Enough butter to thoroughly grease your dish(es)
  3. 5 tablespoons all-purpose/plain flour
  4. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  5. 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
  6. 5 large eggs
  7. 2 cups/500ml/16 fl oz single cream or half and half or creamy milk or a mixture of milk and heavy/double cream, depending on how decadent/slim/rich you’re feeling
  8. 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  9. 2 tablespoons dark rum, kirsch, Armagnac or maraschino (optional)
  10. Enough granulated or powdered sugar to dredge thickly when cooked
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F/180degrees C/Gas Mark 4
  2. Remove stems and pit fruit if necessary. The French often leave the pits in cherries as they're said to add an additional almond flavour to the batter (but warn your guests!) If using apricots or larger fruits slice them in half.
  3. Slather your dish with butter and add the fruit in a single layer
  4. In a mixing bowl combine the dry ingredients
  5. Warm the milk or cream until barely simmering (be vigilant, it mustn't boil)
  6. Whisk the eggs into the warm cream
  7. Whisk the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients until well-blended
  8. Stir in the the vanilla and rum etc. if using.
  9. Strain the batter over the fruit (very often I can’t be bothered to strain it) to a depth of about 1 1/2 inches. You should still be able to see the top of the fruit over the batter.
  10. Bake for 25 minutes for small clafoutis, 40 minutes for large until golden round the edges and firm to the touch
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Here are my little clafoutis showing the depth and proportion of batter to fruit you should be aiming for. Clafoutis is very forgiving, so make them in any shapes and sizes of cookware you have to hand until you have used up all your batter. 

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 Here are my lovelies puffing up and firming up in the oven. 

And here they are all ready to eat. Serve with some chilled cream or creme fraiche if you’re feeling luxurious but it’s really not at all necessary. 

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Dear hearts I am back!

If you haven’t been following along on Instagram (Sheesh, Paola, we have LIVES), we’ve just been on a family vacation to Rome, Sardinia, Corsica and an afternoon in England. And it was lovely. Though at the same time I am glad to be back sleeping in my very own bed for a bit and able to enjoy the rollicking Seattle summer.

I do of course have many, MANY photos to share with you, together with more from Tuscany (you didn’t think you’d be getting off THAT lightly did you?). You have been warned.

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Animali Toscani

 

It seems in Tuscany even the animals are ridiculously photogenic and happy to strike a pose.

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‘There’s a reason they call it a door FRAME’.

I’m not a huge animal person, but seemed to be followed by cute creatures everywhere I went. Not forgetting of course the infamous Socrates.

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‘Looking forward to putting my feet up and watching a nice bit of telly.’

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‘Around every corner is……… another corner’

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Mumm-eeeeee we’re STAAAAAAARVING’

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‘What was he saying about corners?’

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‘I am  so, so, so, so, so, SO bored.’

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‘Like REALLY bored.’

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‘Like friggin’ HUMUNGOUSLY bored’

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In Tuscany even the snails are cute.

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‘One sheep…two sheep…three sheep….four sheep’

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‘Sheesh, what do those dogs want now?’

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‘I just want to lie here next to the flowers so you can take my portrait’

See also, Le Casacce, our Tuscan home from home; Tuscan street photography, Tuscan churches.

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Antica Tenuta Le Casacce

 

Jamie and Ilva found the most stunning location for our Tuscan adventure.

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The Antica Tenuta Le Casacce is an agriturismo owned by Roman chef Enrico Casini, situated near Seggiano in the glorious landscape of the Val d’Orcia, whose timeless hills and valleys are deservedly a UNESCO World Heritage site. Enrico used to run six restaurants in Rome before settling down in his beloved Tuscany and his amazing four course meals every evening were a true highlight of our stay (we also did a cooking class with him – recipes appearing on the blog shortly, yay!).

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Linda Bass of Tuscan Muse offers a selection of creative workshops in conjunction with Enrico based at Le Casacce. Retired trial lawyer Linda is warmth and generosity personified – nothing was too much trouble – and a fabulous writer, artist and photographer in her own right. Her workshops include not only first class instruction but also a number of day trips to the small hill top villages which dot the surrounding hillsides.

However, with accommodation and surroundings like this, it was nearly impossible to drag ourselves away. Come and visit this little corner of paradise. Oh and meet Socrates, the resident manic depressive donkey and star of Le Casacce.

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Not a bad view from the pool.

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Not a bad view from the terrace.

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Here’s Jamie coaching Deepa from One Small Pot.

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And here are Linda and some of the ladies working hard.

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The old stone buildings were charming inside too.

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Here’s the ghost of a photo studio at night.

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The Minx would have loved the wooden cats hanging out outside.

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Here’s Chef Enrico presenting his incredible food.

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And here’s Ilva being Ilva.

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And a couple more of Socrates gambolling in the sunset. Life is sweet at Le Casacce.

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If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in Tuscany, I can’t recommend Le Casacce highly enough. And Linda’s Tuscan Muse creative workshops are pretty special too, as you’ve probably already worked out.

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Tuscan Churches and a Personal Revelation

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You would be hard pushed to find a less religious person than me but I do adore a good church.  Particularly a good European church where the very stone has been engraved by centuries if not millenia of stories and ghosts, joys and sufferings. Even the air seems full of other peoples’ memories somehow.

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We were lucky enough on our Tuscan travels to visit a number of ancient churches and abbeys, whose spare, austere, stripped down beauty made a moving contrast to the overwhelming rococo splendours of those various cathedrals and duomos commissioned mainly to celebrate the wealth and prestige of that particular city’s inhabitants.

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I also had a bit of a revelation on this trip, one that hit me with an almost spiritual force, the discovery – thanks to Jamie Schler’s patient tutelage -  that I can write, that I might even be a good writer, but it’s so much easier for me to hide behind a rococo façade of sarcasm and terrible puns. I learned that I’m scared of seeming pretentious and inauthentic when I write, but that good writing involves writing from the heart and making oneself vulnerable and for me that is difficult in the extreme. I don’t consider myself to be particularly emotional, and find delving even a little deeper into my own thoughts and feelings – getting down to the soft person beneath the hard, snarky carapace – to be almost completely terrifying.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do with this newfound knowledge. It’s currently percolating around in my brain. But expect some attempts at some more ‘writerly’ writing on this blog in the future. And even saying that out loud scares the bejeebus out of me.

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In the meantime, back to churches (this is all going to make sense soon I promise).

On our trip to the Renaissance town of Pienza we were given the task of thinking about a person, a colour, a sound, an emotion and a smell, and then for a quick fifteen minute assignment weaving them all into a small composition. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that I chose to write about a church as they’re some of the places where, despite my lack of belief, I feel most emotionally responsive and vulnerable, yet also most comfortable and at peace.

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“I looked up at the stone walls of the cathedral – centuries old, they were a symphony of soft neutral colours – faded ochre stone, soft mushroom brown wood, the pale rose of ancient terracotta – which all combined to create that colour watercolourists know as raw Sienna, a colour which I finally found myself fully understanding, since these golden walls stood only a few kilometres from Siena itself.

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Outside a tall, spare, white-haired man, in a neatly pressed black suit and a white dog collar, walked from the church towards the other side of the piazza. He unfurled a gigantic handkerchief as white as his hair, blew his nose extravagantly and glared at me, as if daring me to whip out my camera. Then he proceeded with hurried steps to the raw Sienna building across the square, opened the antique wooden door and disappeared into the shadowy depths of what I assumed was his home.

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I, on the other hand, entered through the antique wooden door which led into the cathedral and was immediately assailed by the scent of old churches – that indescribably potent mixture of incense and beeswax, of flowers and damp, of the small homage of careful cleanliness and floral tributes, still somehow weighted with the dust of centuries.

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I’ve only ever smelled that smell in Europe, never in America, and at once I was overwhelmed with nostalgia for a world full of old things and history, for tradition and timelessness, for stories stretching back century after century, for the Old World, for my world, for home.”

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With many thanks to the Abbey of Sant’Anna in Camprena (location apparently for many scenes from the English Patient) ; the Abbey of Sant’Antimo; the Duomo di Sovana; the Church of Santa Maria, also in Sovana; Pienza Cathedral, the Church of San Francesco, also in Pienza for helping me illustrate this post.

Join me here for some Tuscan Street Photography.

I think I need a lie down after all that. I’m sure we’ll get back to our regularly scheduled snark very soon.

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Tuscan Stories

So, dear hearts, I’m back from two weeks away in Tuscany – and a few days getting over an epic forty-four hour journey across the world (involving only one lost bag containing all my camera lenses, thankfully recovered), my usual chronic jetlag and the most amazing creative high.

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Nonna Agata would like to inform you she doesn’t need yoga, she has a herb garden

I was attending the very first Plated Stories workshop, taught by Ilva Beretta and Jamie Schler, the two genius ladies behind the award-winning Plated Stories blog – and the combination of top quality food photography and food writing instruction, new and unbelievably talented friends, the stunning location of the agriturismo where we were staying, and our trips out to some of the most beautiful hilltowns in Tuscany, served to nearly make my head (and camera) explode.

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Guido and Silvia wonder where the heck they parked the Vespa

I’m still processing my thoughts and processing the exactly 2,000 photos I apparently took while I was there. If you’re not in the market to see hundreds of pictures of Tuscany over the next few weeks, I would quietly exit stage left now. Believe me I will understand.

When you think of Tuscany you think of dreamy landscapes and ancient buildings, and yes, we saw our fair share of those. What I hadn’t realised was the amazing scope it holds for street photography. Here are a few of the little ‘Tuscan Stories’ I encountered.

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“Tell that bitch I didn’t want to be invited to the wedding anyway”

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Francesco and Lorenzo briefly consider not being gay 

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You know what they say…. big camera… big ice cream

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Antonella wistfully remembers that time she nearly got a part as an extra in La Dolce Vita

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‘Hey Mummy, go faster, we can’t let her win again’

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‘Tell those tourists that if they want anything else to eat they can flippin’ well cook it themselves. Stronzi!’ 

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Federica wistfully remembers the days when her husband still bought her flowers

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‘Wonder if we’ll still be friends when we grow up’?

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‘Isn’t it amazing that we’re still friends after all these years!’

Lots more Tuscan street photography (and more photography of every other possible description) to come!  I’m going to be milking this trip for MONTHS!  I bet you can scarcely stand the excitement.

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The Launch of DXV, Or 150 Years of Design History in Cocktails

 

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One of  our lovely sponsors on #blogtournyc was DXV, a new luxury kitchen and bathroom brand from American Standard. As part of BlogTour we were invited to visit their stunning new showroom in the heart of New York’s Flatiron district (usually by appointment only).

DXV celebrates American Standard’s rich 150 year history and heritage by organising its initial collections of fixtures and fittings around four separate design ‘movements’ – blending the design aesthetic and artisanal qualities of the past, with the performance and design requirements of the modern consumer.

At the launch party in New York, even the cocktails were themed appropriately and I was lucky enough to be given the recipes, devised by ace mixologist Elayne Duff. Obviously any opportunity to make, photograph and drink cocktails is not to be passed up in a hurry.

So welcome to 150 years of design history in bathroom fixtures brought to you via the medium of classic cocktails with a contemporary twist (you can’t say we don’t spoil you).

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And here’s Elayne shaking up a storm! (Photos of Elayne by Vladimir Weinstein Photography)

CONTEMPORARY

First up is the Contemporary era, representing the years 1990 onwards. In design terms, this constantly evolving aesthetic combines minimalism and rich texture, individual style and natural forms. The photos representing each design era were taken at the DXV showroom.

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Interpreting this them through cocktails, Elayne chose a modern twist on the Scofflaw using raspberry syrup instead of the traditional grenadine.  This cocktail was new to me and apparently dates back to Paris in the Prohibition era – if you were drinking cocktails at the time you were scoffing at the law – but also nods to today’s love of bourbon.

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This is an easy cocktail to make as it doesn’t contain too many esoteric ingredients, and it’s one I’ll make again and again. The earthiness of the bourbon is softened a little by the sweet raspberry syrup (I bought mine, though you could make your own) while the addition of bitter citrusy flavours in the form of dry vermouth and lime juice ensures that it is not too sweet.

Scofflaw
Serves 1
A contemporary twist on the classic Scofflaw
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Ingredients
  1. 1.5 oz Bourbon
  2. 1 oz dry vermouth
  3. 1 oz raspberry syrup
  4. 0.75 oz lime juice
  5. 3 dashes orange bitters
  6. Fresh raspberries to garnish
Instructions
  1. Chill a coupe
  2. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice
  3. Measure in the ingredients
  4. Shake well
  5. Strain into the glass
  6. Garnish with raspberries
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MODERN

Next up is the Modern era representing the post-war years between 1950-1990. The design of this era was marked by experimentation and individuality,and the interplay between flowing lines, curving forms and geometric structures.

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Elayne was inspired to create a traditional Mai Tai to represent this movement in a nod to jet age travel and the  ‘tiki’ culture of those decades.

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A Mai Tai can so often be overly kitschy, festooned with little umbrellas, cherries, pineapples and tropical flowers. The drink too is often adulterated with pineapple juice, orange juice or grenadine but this is a sophisticated and very more-ish version – luscious, strong and not too sweet. I will also be eternally grateful to this recipe for introducing me to orgeat syrup, made from apricot kernels and tasting like marzipan in a bottle.

Mai Tai
Serves 1
A classic Mai Tai without the kitsch
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Ingredients
  1. 2 oz aged rum
  2. 1 oz lime juice
  3. 0.75 oz orgeat syrup
  4. 0.75 oz orange Curacao
  5. 0.25 oz dark rum
Instructions
  1. Chill a double rocks or other large glass
  2. Fill a cocktail shake with ice
  3. Add ingredients and shake
  4. Strain into glass over plenty of crushed ice
  5. Garnish with a lime wedge and a flower
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GOLDEN ERA

The Golden Era covers the pre-war years from from 1920-1950. In design this is the classic era of Art Deco where a spirit of experimentation was combined with industrial design to produce a thoughtful, refined aesthetic, based on simple geometric shapes and reduced ornamentation.

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In cocktail terms Elayne paid homage to that era’s obsession for gin with the Corpse Reviver. I’m not a big fan of gin-based cocktails – they can often get a bit too floral and grannyish for my tastes – but this was GOOD, given extra layers of bitterness, sourness and sophistication by the Cocchi Americano (used instead of Lillet), lemon juice and absinthe, with an orange twist instead of the traditional cherries.

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Corpse Reviver
Serves 1
A contemporary twist on the classic Corpse Reviver
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Ingredients
  1. 0.75 oz London dry gin
  2. 0.75 oz Cointreau
  3. 0.75 oz Cocchi Americano
  4. 0.75 oz lemon juice
  5. dash of Absinthe
  6. Orange twist to garnish
Instructions
  1. Chill a coupe
  2. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice
  3. Add all ingredients and shake
  4. Strain into chilled glass
  5. Garnish with an orange twist
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CLASSIC

The final DXV movement represents the Classic era, representing the years 1880 to 1920 which saw a convergence of opulence and modern technology, and an emphasis on artisanal craftsmanship. In this, the era of Art Nouveau, design pushed beyond the rigid geometry of neoclassicism and became more intricate and organic.

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Elayne Duff chose to celebrate the communal drinking of this era to create a traditional rum punch and here she is serving it at the launch party. The recipe for this looks really interesting and I’m definitely going to try it our at our next summer party. If it works I’ll share it in a future post.

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For more about the DXV collection and its design inspirations check out this video. I don’t normally like to share ads on this blog, but the visuals on this are mesmerising.

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Textures and Shadows in Savannah, Georgia

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One of the main reasons for attending Helene’s workshop on Saint Simons’ Island last autumn was the chance to spend some time exploring Savannah.

It had long been near the top of my list of places I wanted to go to in the US (together with Charleston, which I sadly didn’t get to) and I was so not disappointed.

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It was the textures and shadows which struck me – and made me realise how much I crave, and can’t get, old stuff here in Seattle, where not much goes back more than a hundred years.

In Savannah, even the bricks and paving stones have antique stories to tell, history seeps out of the very fabric of the city, and it all made me dreadfully nostalgic for England.

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The area round the river, with its general piratical yohoho-ishness reminded me a bit of the Thames.

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And it was so lovely to encounter beautiful old churches once again.

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We didn’t have much time to explore, but one of my very favourite places was the Paris Market – a gorgeous homewares store with a stunning small café and superb macarons.

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I stayed for a night in glamorously sexy Bohemian hotel, which had the tones and textures thing down pat and also featured a gorgeous roof terrace overlooking the river and excellent grits for breakfast.

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Savannah, I truly can’t wait to return.

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DIFFA–Dining By Design 2014

One of my favourite things about the Architectural Digest Home Design Show, and indeed of the whole of #BlogTourNYC, were the DIFFA – Dining By Design show tables.

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Every year designers and sponsors are asked to create fantasy tablescapes and then bids are invited to host a table in each of these magical party venues at huge closing gala, with all proceeds benefitting AIDS research.

There were several I would have loved to bid on, though with most I think you would want to keep the hallucinatory drugs and indeed the alcohol served to a bare minimum, because some of these spaces were seriously mind-bending in their own right.

So enjoy the craziness and I would probably suggest that you don’t try most of these at home.

Which are your faves?

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I’m not entirely sure how you’re supposed to get at your food under the Perspex here, but this room by the New York School of Interior Design mentored by Shawn Henderson was possibly my favourite.

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Mrs AllThingsColourful here also liked this one by Gensler + Herman Miller though the tableware looked a little dull. But the changing colours in the room more than made up for that (see the changes here).

You probably don’t need me to tell you that this was designed by Diane Von Furstenburg for Kravet.

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Seriously no wine necessary in this one by Interior Design Magazine, designed by Ali Tayar with Alejandro Cabrera. Some plates would be useful though.

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Loved this use of the classic Saarinen tulip table in this room by Knoll and HOK.

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This room was designed by Geoff Howell Studio and sponsored by Ottawa, Canada’s Capital. And it showed.

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This room by Ralph Lauren Home was dull but pretty in that typical Ralph Laurenish way.

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Gorgeous flowers in this room by Carlos Mota for Architectural Digest.

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Another great use of flowers here by designer Marc Blackwell.

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Loved this moody room designed by Kara Mann for Maya Romanoff, but wow those chairs look wildly uncomfortable.

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Finally some cosy seating by Echo Design.

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While this table by David Ling for DDC was almost TOO cosy and sort of shapeless. I love those furry chairs though. They look like little sheep.

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You better be looking good at this table by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, because the solid gold reflections are EVERYWHERE.

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This table by Robert Verdi for Essie was one of the few that looked like it might fit into a home somewhere.

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While this room for 3M Architectural Markets, designed by Rottet Studio, looked FIENDISHLY uncomfortable.

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This table by Flexform by Soren Rose Sponcer for Manhattan magazine was just rather dull.

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T Magazine had put together another paean to discomfort and noise.

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The Design Within Reach room looked like a Design Within Reach shop. At least their branding is consistent.

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While Barneys NYC missed the memo that they could actually use their imaginations.

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I’m not sure why you would want to wear a dunce’s cap on your birthday in this room by the Pratt Institute, mentored by Ali Tayar.

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Finally this tablescape by the Fashion Institute of Technology, mentored by Jes Gordone, showed us what dining inside a whale would be like.

I truly thought I had visited and photographed most of the rooms, but it seems I actually missed a lot. If you like these then here is the full slideshow, with some more gorgeous rooms and some different perspectives on the ones I shot (very difficult to take pics here with so many people milling about).

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Weekend Link Love

InstagramApril (5) 2014

It’s been a week of unseasonably hot and sunny weather here in Seattle, with lots of gardening (or at least gardening plans), grilling on the deck and glorious golden hour walks by Green Lake. Also frustrating problems with technology – updating the operating system on my phone required it to be taken back to factory settings (seriously Apple?) and it still hasn’t fully recovered from its ordeal (and neither have I), and my computer has been most unhappy.

Last weekend I attended a class at the Pantry at Delancey on Square Foot Gardening which was hugely inspiring and went to the Seattle Tilth Edible Plant Sale  (one more day tomorrow)  yesterday evening to buy new plants for my raised beds. Stand by for Instagram pictures! The botanical theme continued with an evening at The Little Shop of Horrors. A really good production with a uniformly excellent cast that I highly recommend to Seattle folk.

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Finally it’s also been a very taco-y week. I had great fun running round Seattle shooting Seattle’s Ten Best Tacos for Zagats and discovering some seriously good taco trucks. And this morning the Minx and I took a kid’s taco-making class at the Pantry. Above is one of the tacos we made from scratch, while the Minx got absorbed in her guacamole. I’ve just invested in a serious tortilla press. Heaven knows where I’m going to put it.

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And finally a few fun links:

Deep clean your Facebook page. Have added this to my To Do list.

Apparently walking enhances creativity, I’d be out there if it ever stopped raining today.

My friend Tina at LifeInSketch is hosting the most amazing competition to win a trip to New York and meet A-list interior designer Vicente Wolf (whose new paint colours are GORGEOUS). I won’t be able to enter as I will be in Europe on the day in question, so now you guys stand a chance. Ha!

Yet another fabulously good photography portfolio.

On the blog this week I made Candied Kumquat Panna Cotta from Peasant in NYC and we learned about John Ruskin through the medium of kitchen cabinets.

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