Panna Cotta with Candied Kumquats from Peasant NYC

Panna Cotta with Candied Kumquats from Peasant NYC - photography by www.paolthomas.com

Recognise that platter?  It was my purchase from dBo Home last seen gracing the wall here.

On the first evening on #BlogTourNYC – still reeling from visiting Michele Varian’s shop – we were led down some steps in NoLiTa and a wondrous sight met our eyes at Peasant NYC. Wineglasses and goodie bags. What else does a woman need?

Peasant NYC - photography by www.paolathomas.com

The long worn tables were in Peasant – a wonderful subterranean Italian restaurant, full of atmosphere and candles (and fiendishly difficult to photograph as a consequence).

The food throughout was fabulous – an array of gorgeous salads and other antipasti served family style, followed by superb gnocchi and pastas – and the wine kept flowing in the most ridiculous way.

Peasant NYC - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Peasant NYC - photography by www.paolathomas.com

This was the stage in proceedings when I realised that #BlogTourNYC might be a bit heavy on the liver.

The highlight of the evening though (aside from starting to really get to know all my new found friends, natch) was the stunningly good panna cotta with candied kumquats that we were served for dessert. As an Italian I consider myself something of an expert in the ways of panna cotta, but this was exceptional – the smooth, sweet creaminess marrying perfectly with the citrusy bite of the candied kumquats, which I had never tasted before.

Peasant NYC - photography by www.paolathomas.com

After we got back I idly asked Veronika Queen of BlogTour if it might be possible to get the recipe and Veronika being Veronika, the next thing I knew, the owners of Peasant were emailing the recipe to me.

And so dear hearts, here I am sharing with you. You guys, this is SERIOUSLY worth candying kumquats for. You can’t ever say we don’t spoil you on this blog.

Peasant NYC - photography by www.paolathomas.com

 

Candied Kumquat Panna Cotta
Serves 6
A delightfully smooth and creamy panna cotta with an intriguing topping of candied kumquats in syrup.
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For the Panna Cotta
  1. 2 gelatin sheets (I used 1 sachet of powdered gelatin softened in 2 tablespoons of water)
  2. 4 cups heavy (double) cream
  3. 1/2 cup baker's (caster) sugar
  4. 1 vanilla bean (split)
For the Candied Kumquats
  1. 1 pound kumquats
  2. 2 cups water
  3. 2 cups sugar
For the Panna Cotta
  1. Soften the leaf gelatin in 1 cup of cool water for 5 minutes and drain. Alternatively sprinkle a sachet of gelatin in the water and leave for 5 minutes until soft and spongy.
  2. Bring the cream to the boil in a heavy saucepan and remove from the heat before it bubbles over.
  3. Stir in the sugar and the vanilla bean and then whisk in the softened gelatin, making sure it is thoroughly mixed in.
  4. Discard the vanilla bean.
  5. Pour the mixture into six 1 cup (8 fl oz) ramekins, which have been lightly greased with a flavourless oil.
  6. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.
For the Candied Kumquats
  1. Fill a medium-sized heavy bottom saucepan halfway with water and bring to the boil over a high heat.
  2. Drop the kumquats into the boiling water and blanch for one minute.
  3. Drain the kumquats in a colander and discard the blanching water. Clean and dry the pot.
  4. The little nubs on the kumquats where the stems were can be easily rubbed off at this stage.
  5. Put the sugar and water into the pot and bring to the boil over a medium high heat.
  6. Reduce the heat to medium and add the blanched kumquats.
  7. Simmer the kumquats in the syrup for 45 minutes to 1 hour until their skin is soft and translucent. Keep an eagle eye on them to make sure that they only just simmer. If they start boiling, they will collapse and get wrinkly (ask me how I know).
  8. Remove the candied kumquats to a glass jar.
  9. Simmer the candying liquid over a medium-low heat for another 10 minutes or so until it turns into a thick syrup (stop cooking before it browns otherwise you'll end up with a delicious citrusy toffee - again ask me how I know).
  10. Pour the syrup over the kumquats in the jar and leave to sit until cooled.
  11. Cover and store in the fridge for several weeks.
To serve
  1. Unmould the panna cottas on dessert plates and spoon the candied kumquats over each one.
To serve
  1. Unmould the panna cottas onto dessert plates and top with the candied kumquats and syrup. Eat greedily.
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Peasant NYC - photography by www.paolathomas.com

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Monday Link Love

Instagram April 2014  (4)

After a weekend of hot cross buns and Simnel cake, last week was a week of outdoor eating (yay! fabulous Seattle spring), shooting tacos (I had another photography job y’all!) and more lilac, blossom, rhubarb and daisies than you could shake a stick at (what does that even MEAN?).

I didn’t get to links over the weekend, so here are some to set you up on a Monday morning. Very photography-oriented this week I’m afraid.

These musical instruments photographed from the inside are quite magical. I hope an architect is inspired by them. I want to live in a violin.

Naomi Robinson from Bakers’ Royale is writing a series of posts on food photography. Part 1 is how to develop your style and Part 2 is on composition. More to come I believe. I love her stuff.  

Do happy people take happy photos? Twitter is giving a team a research grant to find out. I know my mood certainly affects my photography.

Here’s my pal Andrew Scrivani talking about how to market yourself as a photographer.

And finally some really inspirational food and travel photography portfolios from Jonothan Woodward, David Lazar and Gentl and Hyers.

 

Last week on the blog we talked about a really cool composting system and went to visit designer Michele Varian’s apartment. I am going to try and be a better blogger this week, though the temperature is apparently set to soar into the 80s, so don’t quote me on that. But we’ll start with a great recipe to come later today.

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Go Love Your Room–Michele Varian’s NYC Loft

I loved Michele Varian’s SoHo shop so much that I was thrilled when she posted on Instagram that her loft apartment had been featured in a New York magazine.

Michele Varian's Loft

And if you’ve seen her shop, her loft is everything you would imagine it would be – stuffed full of fascinating and beautiful objects, perfectly arranged in gorgeous vignettes. If you read the article (which you really should) you’ll realise that pretty much every single thing in her apartment has a story behind it. This is a place where people live and work and laugh and love. And it shows.

Michele Varian's Loft

This kitchen is giving me LIFE. From that perfect blue to the open shelving to the mismatched china, to the well-used pans, to the spices. It looks like the kitchen of someone who loves to cook, loves to eat and loves to entertain.

Michele Varian's Loft

Anyone would be inspired in this workspace.

Michele Varian's Loft

That bed and the THROW are gorgeous and there’s something really cool about that framed pair of gloves. And that mirror. Naughty girl Michele!

Michele Varian's Loft

Michele’s husband is a musician and I love that his presence is really obvious all round the apartment. 

Michele Varian's Loft

Michele’s wallpaper makes the perfect backdrop for his guitar collection and tiny vintage piano.

Do yourselves a favour and read the entire article by Eliza Krpoyan for Scene Magazine. All the beautiful photography is by Peter Murdock.

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Things I Am Loving – BLANCO Solon Compost System

 

BLANCO is a maker of luxury sinks and faucets (or taps in proper English, I do find faucets still to be a very alien word for me). Family-owned since 1925 and renowned for their superb German engineering, they were one of the lovely sponsors of #BlogTourNYC and I wish I’d known about them when we were remodeling our kitchen as their products truly are special.

BLANCO Solon Compost System

In particular I really wish I’d known about their SOLON Compost System, because I would definitely have installed it. I’m even going to ask our contractor if it would be possible to retrofit it into the kitchen now, though I’m imagine that cutting into our white quartz countertop at this point might be a bridge too far.

BLANCO Solon Compost System

But what a neat, beautifully engineered, idea. Instead of having a smelly stainless steel bucket sitting on your counter attracting countless fruit flies (ask me how I know), you get a top quality stainless steel bin that you can drop into the counter and just scrape peelings and scraps straight into. At other times the lid fits flush with the counter, so it’s not taking up space at all and the lid is specially engineered to minimise odours, which I presume also minimises those peaky flies.

And when it’s full, you just pull it out, throw out the scraps and stick the bin straight in the dishwasher. I’m extremely into composting but goodness me it’s a messy business and it would have been so nice to streamline the process when we had a chance.

If you’re remodelling your kitchen and thinking of installing it yourself here’s a video demonstration.

If you want to see a TERRIBLE interview with me and much better interviews with my fellow BlogTourists Marcy Michaud and Faith Sheridan, where we share our tips for green living, BLANCO interviewed us all at the AD Home Design Show. Here is the excruciating video evidence.

Blimey chaps, I really need some lessons in active listening, instead of letting my eyes wander all round the room and picking my nose (I was NERVOUS, what can I say?)

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Weekend Link Love

Double Rainbow Over Seattle - photography by www.paolathomas.com

It’s been a week of sunsets and showers, flowers and sunshine, hot cross buns and Cadbury’s Mini Eggs – and the most extraordinary rainbow that I think I’ve ever seen. And you really can’t get much better than that. (Also it’s astonishing what one can do nowadays with the pano feature on the iPhone).

InstagramApril2014

I will be spending the weekend baking a Simnel cake and hosting a traditional Easter Sunday lunch with lots of roast lamb for some British friends here.

Simnel Cake photography by www.paolathomas.com

If you want to do the same, my recipe for Simnel cake – the traditional English Easter cake – is here.

 

If you want to make dye eggs using natural dyes, my friends Leigh and Pamela had fun this week.

This his and hers food photography is insanely beautiful.

Saveur magazine came up with this list of the best food blogs around. I’m looking forward to looking and drooling.

Brene Brown and Chase Jarvis did an amazing interview about Unlocking Your Creativity  which is worth watching in its entirety.

Here’s a little post on capturing authentic ‘moments’ with photography. I always think my photography is too contrived, so this is something I’m striving for.

And here’s an interesting piece on how Facebook manages its filtered feed, though not terribly helpful for those of us trying to get even a few organic viewers to our Facebook pages.

 

On the blog this week, we discussed New Trends in Kitchen Design, read Don Draper’s Tarot Cards and worked out how Mad Men is going to end, visited Bunny William’s amazing New York shop Treillage and the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, and had a stressful time baking a Roller Skate Cake.

Hope you are all having a wonderful and relaxing weekend.

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The Roller Skate Cake

 

AKA my most stressful experience to date this year.

Roller Skate Cake - photography by www.paolathomas.com 

As you may remember we have a tradition of making crazy birthday cakes around these parts.

I believe it’s quite an English thing to do – I remember my mother and my friends’ mothers doing it for us when we were children – and it’s something I’ve always tried to do with the Minx.

She’s lucky in this regard that she doesn’t have brothers or sisters though, things would be far less elaborate if I had to do this more than once a year.

This year the Minx, who is now aged nine, had a very active say in the design.  The theme was rollerskates – as befitted a party at the rink -  though I wasn’t allowed just to use a skate shaped pan. The whole thing had to be as garish as possible, naturally, and since she had been very admiring of the cake I made for her friend we incorporated elements of that in the design too. 

Since neither she nor I are particularly fond of fondant icing either, making skates out of fondant wasn’t an option and we were both inspired when we found a cake online that had made use of roller skate sugar cookies, a decision that I may have regretted later. Let’s just say that when a grown up Minx is in therapy complaining about her childhood, I will point her in the direction of this blog post.

Roller Skate Cake - photography by www.paolathomas.com

I started off in my usual way by buying a rollerskate candy mould and using Wilton’s Candy Melts in white and pink. A little bit of judicious piping later and I had a collection of bespoke cake decorations. I can’t tell you how grateful I was to have these to hand later in the process.

Roller Skate Cake - photography by www.paolathomas.com

I also bought a roller skate cookie cutter and proceeded to make thirty roller skate cookies with the intention of using some to decorate the cake and handing the rest out at the party. The Joy of Baking’s trusty sugar cookie recipe was my guide and mentor here, though I was a bit worried as they looked a bit like trains initially.

I am not an experienced cookie baker so the whole family joined me in outlining, flooding and frosting the cookies. I hit upon the idea of using pink Wilton Candy Melts as wheels and an edible colouring pen for the laces otherwise I would be there icing them still. As it was I was totally OVER the whole project by the time these were done, but still had a whole cake to make and frost.

Roller Skate Cake - photography by www.paolathomas.com

The day before the party I started to make the cakes with the intention of having at least the crumb coat done the evening before. I again used the wonderful Mom’s Chocolate Cake recipe from the first Macrina Cookbook, since its moist, rich, chocolate-yness (helped by using the amazing Pernigotti cocoa powder from ChefShop) is adored by kids and adults alike and it is extremely forgiving of being shoved into a variety of different shaped pans. (One day I WILL write the recipe down here as I refer to it so often).

Unfortunately I made a big miscalculation in working out how much mixture I would need to make two tiers and by the evening I only had half the number of cakes you see here (the bottom big cake and the bottom small cake). So I was up late baking extra cakes to give the cake the required depth. I was SO starting to regret this endeavour by this stage.

Roller Skate Cake - photography by www.paolathomas.com

It was not until 9.30 am, with the party at lunchtime, that we finally got to the ‘crumb coat’ stage – a rough layer of buttercream that keeps all the crumbs at bay, holds the cakes together and after chilling, gives you a nice smooth surface for further decoration.

Roller Skate Cake - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Doing the different spotty icings as seen in my Easy Cake Decorating blogpost (still by far my most pinned post on Pinterest), is simple and hugely effective, but it is not a quick process as you are manipulating six or seven different bags of frosting and covering only a tiny part of the cake at a time.

So by the time that part of the cake was completed we were really up against it time-wise.

I had intended to ice bigger colourful swirls on the bottom layer of the cake, but by that time the frosting was getting meltier and meltier and the swirls of icing were just dropping off the cake. With twenty-five minutes to go before we needed to be on the freeway to get to the skating rink, the bottom layer of the cake was a sorry disaster – half-frosted and sort of weeping misshapen blobs of icing. I wish now I’d taken a picture but photography was the furthest thing from my mind at that point.

The only thing left to do was to take my trusty offset spatula and quickly spread the melty frosting blobs into incoherent, messy but at least colourful swirls on the bottom layer of the cake and hope that the roller skate candies would cover things up a bit.

They did the job, the cake looked better than I could possibly have hoped and we were even able to chill it for 15 minutes before heading out the door.

Roller Skate Cake - photography by www.paolathomas.com

I myself had aged approximately a hundred years in the process but I suppose the joy on the faces of the Minx and her friends was worth it.

I suppose.

Roller Skate Cake - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Thank goodness I have about a year to recover. More of the Minx’s crazy cakes here (Tinkerbell), here (Cinderella), here (Nemo).

The Minx had her own stressful morning. We’d bought her a ‘9’ candle, which we together decorated with sequins to make it suitably garish and cake-appropriate. Unfortunately unbeknownst to me she put it on the radiator to ‘dry’ and couldn’t fathom out where it had disappeared to later. A valuable life-lesson learnt methinks.

Oh and apologies for all the crappy iPhone photos. I think you’ll understand why picking up my big girl camera was the furthest thing from my thoughts during this process.

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Skagit Valley Tulip Fest

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography by www.paolathomas.com

It’s the that time of year again where I bore you with photos from Skagit Valley Tulip Fest, about ninety minutes drive from Seattle. For those of you still in the depths of winter, I apologise.

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

You’ve gotta love a road trip where you get to see this out of the car window.

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

But unfortunately several thousand other people had the same idea.

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

I even got to try out the pano feature on the iPhone for the very first time (no one can accuse me of being a gearhead) which was super duper impressive.

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

After a glorious day we chased the sunset back to Everett, where we stopped off for fish and chips.

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

Not a bad day on the whole.

If you’re in Seattle the fields are at their absolute peak right now. I’ve never seen them so pretty. Previous dispatches from the tulips here, here and here.

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Treillage with Bunny Williams

One doesn’t expect to trek up to the Upper East Side in NYC and then be overcome with an overwhelming wave of nostalgia for London.

Treillage with Bunny Williams -  photography by www.paolathomas.com Treillage with Bunny Williams -  photography by www.paolathomas.com

Treillage, the shop owned by Bunny Williams, the doyenne of American interior decorating and her husband, antique dealer John Rosselli, reminded me so much of several shops in London, where antiques, and outdoor furniture, art and objets are all displayed together in a slightly higgledy-piggledy way, and you feel like you’ve just walked into a gigantic treasure chest.

Treillage with Bunny Williams -  photography by www.paolathomas.com

This effect is not entirely unintentional, Bunny told us that she wanted to create a shop similar to her favourite London shops and, though the store doesn’t sell plants or gardening equipment, if the General Trading Co. and the Chelsea Gardener had a love child it would come pretty close to Treillage.

Treillage with Bunny Williams -  photography by www.paolathomas.com

Visiting the shop is like visiting the country home of a favourite aunt – you might not entirely share her taste, but every single piece will have a story attached and you are bound to find something you adore. Eclectic doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Treillage with Bunny Williams -  photography by www.paolathomas.com

Bunny pulled together the shop herself and stripped off an old tin ceiling to uncover beautiful skylights which flood the store with light. The slightly industrial feel of the shop’s bones contrast well with the ornate antiques and intricate objets.

Treillage with Bunny Williams -  photography by www.paolathomas.com

Treillage with Bunny Williams -  photography by www.paolathomas.com

Treillage with Bunny Williams -  photography by www.paolathomas.com

Treillage with Bunny Williams -  photography by www.paolathomas.com

So many food photography props. If only there had been more room in my suitcase. And of course you can never go wrong with a shop that sells blue ceramic chickens.

Treillage with Bunny Williams -  photography by www.paolathomas.com

Treillage with Bunny Williams -  photography by www.paolathomas.com

Bunny’s husband John is also a huge character and he regaled us with stories of his collecting trips all over the world. As a couple they, and the very obvious affection they feel for each other, are cuteness personified. Such great adverts both of them for loving what you and doing what you love.

Treillage with Bunny Williams -  photography by www.paolathomas.com

Treillage with Bunny Williams -  photography by www.paolathomas.com treillage-12

If you aren’t lucky enough to be able to get to New York, you can buy many of the treasures online including the fruits of Bunny’s collaborations with rug manufacturers Dash & Albert and pillow and throws producers Pine Cone Hill. I loved the indoor/outdoor jute rug Bunny is standing on above.

And what treasure did I uncover? Well drinks were served in some beautiful fluted bubbled glassware which ended up coming home with me. I just love these glasses – they make every drink, even still water, seem festive and and special, and they will always serve as a reminder of a very fun morning spent in wonderfully inspiring company.

Treillage with Bunny Williams -  photography by www.paolathomas.com

Treillage with Bunny Williams -  photography by www.paolathomas.com

Treillage with Bunny Williams -  photography by www.paolathomas.com

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The Ending of Mad Men According to Don Draper’s Tarot Cards

 

One thing I bet you didn’t know about me is that I like to read Tarot cards. I’m very bad at it – I don’t have the cards memorised at all and have to look EVERYTHING up – but my brain enjoys making the various connections and drawing out the symbolism, so that a coherent story emerges.

Mad Men

It seems that Mad Men showrunner Matthew Weiner loves Tarot cards too. His production company logo is the The Sun card (an incredibly positive card all about getting your heart’s desire) and in Season Two, Don Draper/Dick Whitman’s friend Anna reads his cards. Here are some readings that were done at the time, but nobody seems to have thought to update them recently in the light of the intervening seasons.

Anyway given that Weiner has always said that he knows how the story is going to end, I’ve wondered for a long time if the outcome of the Mad Men story was revealed in the cards and I think that now might be the time to revisit that Tarot reading for spoilers.

Mad Men

My theory is that the four cards to the right of the reading (on the ‘Staff’ if you know Tarot) correspond to the last four seasons of the show.

Card 7 is the World, a card of great professional and personal success, fulfilment and  completion, and by the end of season 4 it looked liked Don might have achieved it all  – his own busy successful agency and a new blissful marriage to a hot young wife.

Card 8 is the 9 of Wands which is the card of creative tests and challenges – one person holding the fort against the world. Season 5 sees all of the characters, including the new agency, struggling for creative success as they are faced with challenge after challenge and by the end nobody has quite what they wished for.  

Card 9 is the Wheel of Fortune – a neutral card suggesting that things go in cycles, what goes around comes around, what goes up must come down etc. Don has fallen to the very bottom of his wheel by the end of season 6 – the agency has been taken over, he is out of a job, his marriage to Megan is cold and empty, and his addiction to alcohol is more and more evident.  

The top card, in the space reserved in a reading for the final Outcome is the 8 of Wands. In this card past struggles have been overcome and it indicates opportunities, freedom and space to move forward and make progress with energy, focus and enthusiasm. It’s a card of accomplishment, getting things done and is very action-oriented. It can also indicate air travel or moving, and is a card of inspiration and excitement.

I do hope Don and Peggy and Joan (and also Ken, because I have always had a soft spot for him) have this card in their future.

I’m going to predict now that the last episode shows Don finally moving to California and starting up a thrusting new agency with Peggy, Joan and Ken by his side and with Megan hopefully having been eaten by coyotes.

What did you all think of the season opener? It truly was thoroughly depressing all round, with not even a glamorous 60s apartment to blog. Megan’s knotty pine eyrie nearly killed me.

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New Trends in Kitchen Design with Prizer Hoods

 

Another of the lovely sponsors of our #BlogTourNYC trip was Prizer Hoods.

Having just specced the most boring stainless steel hood imaginable for our recent kitchen remodel (we wanted cupboard space above, what can I say?). I was somewhat dismayed to realise how much fun we could have had with the fully customizable options from Prizer Hoods, shown on their stand at the Architectural Digest Home Show.

Want a contemporary hood in Radiant Orchid, Pantone’s Colour of the Year? Then Prizer has you covered.

New Trends in Kitchen Design with Prizer Hoods photography by www.paolathomas.com

Or if you want a more classic style in an intriguing metallic finish, then Prizer has you covered too.

New Trends in Kitchen Design with Prizer Hoods photography by www.paolathomas.com

New Trends in Kitchen Design with Prizer Hoods photography by www.paolathomas.com New Trends in Kitchen Design with Prizer Hoods photography by www.paolathomas.com

The range of shapes, colours, metals and textures available was breathtaking and you truly could customise a Prizer hood to fit in with any possible trend in kitchen design.

New Trends in Kitchen Design with Prizer Hoods photography by www.paolathomas.com

 Kim Lewis, Lead Designer on ABC’s Extreme Makeover who is very lovely and very tiny – even shorter than me – then gave us a great presentation showing how to do just that and I’m delighted to be able to share excerpts from it below.

 New Trends in Kitchen Design with Prizer Hoods

I suppose my kitchen could be most easily classified as Bright & Light with a touch of what Kim called Vagabond Style.

New Trends in Kitchen Design with Prizer Hoods

Nowadays black is being used in conjunction with white for a softer, less forbidding, look (this reminded me of how Victoria Smith has recently updated her kitchen.

New Trends in Kitchen Design with Prizer Hoods

Whereas I would do evil things to get my hands on that gorgeous beaten gold hood below, which Kim used as an example of the new trend for textured metallics.

New Trends in Kitchen Design with Prizer Hoods

And apparently brass is back in a big way. I also love that huge curved brass hood below (that fabulous wooden waterfall worktop is pretty special too). I wish we’d thought to include a brass hood instead of our stainless steel one #lesigh. Maybe I should just make do with brass cutlery instead.

New Trends in Kitchen Design with Prizer Hoods

One day, when I finally get round to ordering a light fitting and buying some bar stools, I will get round to showing you our fully finished and styled kitchen. Don’t hold your breath though.

We have been invited to blog about each of the sponsors of BlogTour NYC as small recompense for their very generous and gracious hospitality. All opinions expressed in these posts, however, are my own.

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