Monday, January 26, 2009

nouveau salad niçoise

Normally a pictures is worth a thousand words. Am I right, or am I right? The above picture is one I took and it really doesn't do the meal I'm about to tell you about justice. It reminds me more of this. The camera was dying and I was too impatient (read hungry) to wait for it to charge so I could photograph something more appealing. So this is what you get. I hope you keep reading. I'll even post more inspiring pictures from my trip to France if you promise to read further.

Sometime mid way through college I spent one spring break touring France and Belgium. My friend, Gina, had family in Belgium who were kind enough to let us stay with them for the week. In college, and more often than I care to admit now, an invitation for free lodging had me packing my bags. This was an offer we couldn't refuse so we made ze Waterloo (said in bad French accent) our home base. During our trip we hit tons of museums and must see spots in Paris and Versailles. And oddly enough, I probably had a Niçoise Salad every single day. I couldn't get enough of this combo so little known in small town Tennessee.

Fast forward to about three years ago. My friend Erica, an amazing cook who always hosts the most incredible dinner parties, made Salad Niçoise. Only she didn't make it the traditional French way. She used all the typical ingredients and opted for seared tuna instead of the traditional canned chunk variety. I don't have her recipe on hand but have adapted one over the years from the Gourmet Cookbook

And I want to tell you how incredible this salad is. It's light, crisp and just as perfect in the middle of a cold January night as it is on a warm summer afternoon. It feels like a meal but is also so simple and light you won't feel guilty indulging in an extra portion of bread. The most important part is to buy fresh tuna steaks. Some stores call it ahi, some call it yellowfin. Whatever it's called in your store, ask how fresh it is. The better the tuna, the stronger your love affair for this salad. And let me admit, tuna is probably one of my least favorite swimmers, but if seared just so, it's to die for.

Nouveau Salad Nicoise
Adapted from the Gourmet Cookbook and Erica 

For dressing:
3 TBSP chopped shallots
1 1/2 TBSP fresh lemon juice
2 TSP Dijon mustard
1/2 TSP salt
5 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
2 TPSP coarsely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

For salad:
1 pound fingerling potatoes
1/2 pound haricot vert, tips trimmed
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into thin strips
2 heads Boston lettuce, torn into bite sized pieces
3 hard boiled eggs, quartered
3 medium tomatoes, cut into 8 wedges
10-12 oz wild caught yellowfin tuna steak
1/4 cup Niçoise olives
1 can anchovies in oil
2 TBSP chopped parsley

tuna marinade
5 TBSP soy sauce
1 TBSP honey
2 garlic cloves finely chopped

marinade the tuna:
Mix the soy, honey and garlic in a small bowl. Pour over tuna. Flip the tuna a few times in the sauce before searing.

make the dressing:
Blend the shallots with lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper in a blender. With motor running, add oil in a slow stream and blend until well combined. Add parsley and blend until finely chopped.

make the salad:
Combine potatoes and cold well-salted water to cover by 2 inches in a 4 quart heavy sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Simmer, uncovered, until just tender, about 15-20 minutes. Drain.
Meanwhile, cook the beans in a 2 quart saucepan of boiling well salted-water, uncovered, until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain in a colander, rinse under cold water to stop the cooking and drain again. Pat dry.
When cool enough to handle, peel potatoes and halve lengthwise. Toss with 2 tablespoons dressing and salt to taste in a large bowl. Add beans and bell pepper and toss.
Toss lettuce with just enough dressing to coat and divide into 6 equal portions. Scatter potatoes, beans, bell pepper over the lettuce and top with eggs, tomatoes, olives, anchovies and parsley.
Heat a saute pan on high heat. Test heat of pan with water and don't place the tuna in the pan until the water sizzles. Once heated, place the tuna in saute pan for 30 seconds on each side. Use a timer so you don't overcook the tuna. Because that would be a tragedy. Flip and allow to cook for another 30 seconds. Once the minute is up, remove tuna from pan and cut into thin slices and divide between the 6 bowls. Place on salad and drizzle with more salad dressing. 

serves 6 as a main course

Be sure to serve with crusty french bread and a lovely California Pinot Noir instead of a French. After all, this is a new take on such a French staple. 

Thursday, January 22, 2009

killing it not so softly

Last September, I saw the Kills in Austin. It was probably 100 degrees out, 3PM and 95% humidity. This is the kind of heat where you start calculating cloud coverage. How long is it going to take for that cloud to get to me? Even though I was born and spent the majority of my life in the south, nothing really prepares you for standing out in Zilker Park with thousands of other people just to see some live music. Not even the endless tall boy Lone Stars.

That afternoon the Kills were angry. They have this raw, stripped to the bones, gritty sound so I chocked it up to good ol' rock n roll. Days later I heard just before getting on stage they found out their bus driver, tour bus along with all equipment was m.i.a. I don't know about you but that's cause for a little angst.

Just recently I came across the artist Justin Gabbard. His promo piece, seen above, for the Kills, captures their paired down, unedited yet completely thoughtful essence just right.

marcel wanders and moooi

I've been trying to start this post for about 5 days but keep stopping. I have a story but it doesn't relate to what I'm about to show you or maybe it does. Relevant or not, here goes...

horse lamp - it's over 6' tall

Last year I made a trip to New York for ICFF, the International Contemporary Furniture Fair. It's North America's only showcase for contemporary design. I'm talking 145,000 square feet of cutting edge goodness. From students to the finest Italian furniture designers, everyone is there. Along with touring booth after booth of furniture, all the contemporary furniture stores, galleries and boutiques in Manhattan open their doors and host these incredible parties. Needless to say, it's exhausting. But the good kind of exhausting because it's also inspiring.

Also in attendance last year was Marcel Wanders. I know what you're thinking. Who is Marcel Wanders and why do I care? You probably don't, but I'll explain the answer to the first question later in this post. To answer your third question, yes I'm psychic, no, I did not meet Marcel Wanders. But. A friend of mine did. She was out at one of the industry parties and was introduced to Marcel. They chit chatted for a bit and he probably asked her if she was having a good time in the city. She probably said, yes but my feet are killing me from all the walking. Then all the sudden Marcel is giving said friend a foot rub as they are discussing the highlights from the fair. This story probably means nothing to you. But to me, it means Marcel Wanders is just as quirky in real life as he is on paper. Or he has some sort of foot fetish and too many glasses of champagne to control himself. Either way, he's eccentric. There's no denying that.

Now to get to your first question. Who is Marcel Wanders? He, along with Casper Vissers co-created
moooi, a contemporary furniture line. In the Dutch language mooi (sounds like joy) means beautiful. Marcel and Casper decided to add an extra 'o' because it's extra beautiful.
Who doesn't need a little extra beautiful in their lives? Their tag line, design is the unexpected welcome, is evident in their craft.

Some of their pieces are a little out there. Even for me. But the lighting is just right. Here's a quick glimpse into moooi's current line.
non random light

Paper chandelier - wood base, cardboard and paper by Studio Job for moooi

love this detail too much not to post it. military inspired buckle on the boutique collection sofa

The most recent lookbook can be seen here. If you are interested in purchasing lemme know. 

photos: © MOOOI b.v. by photographer maarten van houten.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

i kick it root down

Denver, Colorado isn't exactly known as a restaurant mecca. Don't get me wrong, there are some great places to eat but the quantity is minuscule in comparison to a city like Portland or Seattle. Being married to a man whom proudly claims he's from the Northwest has opened my eyes to how these cities feel about food and music. For lack of a better term, they are snobs. Something about inventing an entire music genre will do that to you I guess. The thing is, they have a right to be. The food there is good. It's really good. It's hip without being pretentious, it's global without being ethnic, it's organic before Safeway had their own brand. It's local, it's seasonal and the best part; it's probably not something you have had anywhere else. Meaning it's creative. 

Enter Root Down. Firmly planted in what once was a vacant 1950's service station. Complete with glass garage doors that open to a patio, mid century furnishing, a reclaimed bowling alley bar and a wall filled with tin can tops. Call it quirky, call it cozy, call it whatever you like, but it's good for Denver. The restaurant opened a few weeks ago and already has a steady following. Owner Justin Cucci, of the famed Le Waverly in NYC, hit it right by teaming with, Michael Ivey for front of house biz, Ryan Leinonen, former chef of the Kitchen, in Boulder, and Austin Bealmear, sous chef, previously of Boulder's Trilogy Wine Bar, to create what I would call Northwestern inspired food. 

I hit up the restaurant last week with some friends. We ordered a sampling of items from the salads, small plates and entrees menu. First up off the salad section was the Avocado & Grapefruit Salad and the Goat Cheese & Fennel Panna Cotta. Then Diver Sea Scallops on pickled ginger slaw, Veggie Sliders, Steamed Mussels with thai chili and lemongrass and Gnocchi in that order from the small plates. Finally Braised Lamb with Almond Couscous & Chard and a gorgeous Veggie Pot Pie off the entrees. Yeah, we went a little overboard but couldn't resist. Everything was a bite to savor. Only the gnocchi left me less than satisfied. The best part? We were served one plate at a time, we all shared and got a bite or two of each plate. The worst part? We were too full for dessert AND they were completely out of St. Germain for all their fancy cocktails.

This summer look forward to ingredients in the chef's creations coming from one of the two gardens located at the restaurant. Another forerunner in the field to fork concept for Denver.

1600 W. 33rd Ave., 303-993-4200

Saturday, January 17, 2009

animal collective

I can't say I've ever been a big fan of Animal Collective. I don't know exactly why or what because they make good music and a lot of people like them. Take my sister in law, Keight, super hip gal with great taste and style. She loves them. I just never really got into them, something about vocals that go on and on and on, strange juxtaposition of melodies and rhythms, or me being too old to understand. I assumed it was the latter until now.

Their new album, Merriweather Post Pavilion, is something I do get. It's pop but you won't hear it on the radio. Always a plus. If you are like me, it's terribly disappointing to discover something you love then hear it 5 minutes on the radio again and again and again. 

These guys have spent a long time following their own path. Ever evolving their music capabilities while trying to work in new listeners. Merriweather Post Pavilion, does just that. Any of the songs could be your favorite. So far, I'm stuck on My Girls, but they are all great. The album release is in the near future. January 20th, I think. You can catch them in the U.S through January 24. If you are in NY or LA, I recommend it. Otherwise you'll have to wait till they are back from their Euro tour, unless you are a very fortunate soul.


Thursday, January 8, 2009

bodkin - brooklyn

Here's a new word for you or at least for me; bodkin. It's a dagger, needle or hairpin. Wikepedia calls it a sharp slender instrument for making holes in cloth or a blunt needle with a large eye for drawing tape or ribbon through a loop or hem. I really should have listened when my mom was explaining all the tools in her sewing room. Because I would not have needed this refresher.

Bodkin is also soon to be better known as the Brooklyn based label co-conceived and created by Samantha Pleet and Eviana Hartman. The two paired up last year when they decided to share studio space. It wasn't long after setting up shop they were brainstorming on a new line of clothes.

This industrious little fashion house is about to get their first catwalk. Rumor has it that the fall 09 collection will feature pieces made from organic wool, hand-vegetable-dyed (in Brooklyn) and fabrics made from recycled bottles among other things. And, even better, the stuff doesn't look like it should be covered in patchouli. If you're thinking you recognize the model in their latest lookbook, you are on track. It's non other than Lykke Li, my husband's favorite Swede.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

the selby

I don't know about you but I'm obsessed with magazines. This isn't a new obsession either. It's been going on since I was old enough to read. Long enough to call it an addiction. Especially magazines that peek into homes, restaurants, hotels, boutiques that I would never see if it weren't for those glossy pages. Some of these magazines are delivered right to my door, others are available at work and still others I run out to buy just because I can't say no. OK, so I have a problem. This I know. Consider it another story for another day.

chuck guarino and ryan turner of the cast

I often feel slightly voyeuristic when I look through the spreads, especially of the homes. It's strange seeing how people live and how their perfectly styled homes look on the most perfect day in the most perfect light with a little touch of photoshop. Don't get me wrong. I'm all for homes looking great. But perfect? Really? Who really lives in perfect? Definitely not me. Give me a space with mismatched this, hand-me-down that, quirky vintage find, toss in a little sarcasm and irony just for kicks... now we're talking. These are the places I can really spend some time enjoying.

I know what your thinking, this girl loves granny's house circa 1964 yet it's 2009 and nothing has changed since '64. NO. That's not what I'm saying. As an interior designer it takes a good eye and a lot of research to carefully curate the perfect combination of styles so it doesn't feel like granny's basement. It also takes the right person to want to add pieces over time to create a collection of whatever inspires. Add a little vintage, family heirloom, alley find and starkly modern piece and there you have it.

With that said, if I ever hit it big, and by big I mean my own design shop, I would hire Todd Selby in a second. My dream gig would have me designing wonderfully eclectic interiors that perfectly match the creative and eccentric personalities of my clients. The work he creates is like this casual, chill magazine spread shot by your best friend. You know the friend, the one who puts you in the best mood and makes you say the most outrageous things and knows everything about you and your home. And the interiors, don't forget those, they are just how I like them. Not perfect, but perfectly imperfect with the best blend of old, new, modern and antique. Just like the people living in them. Enjoy, you'll get your magazine fix too.

Chrissie Miller designer of sophomore

ryan korban of
edon manor

aya kanai in her dad's home

the home of michelle mccormick - design director abercrombie & fitch concept team and tracy mccormick - designer with gary gibson studio

nicolas malleville and francesca bonato's beach hotel in tulum, mexico

And don't forget the best part. The interview.

in with the new

Each year, January rings in with change, promise and resolution after resolution. Yes, I make them and yes, I break them. I don't really like to call it breaking though. My resolutions are usually the exact same ones I proclaimed the year before because A) I dropped said resolution in March. B) I made my resolution(s) impossibly difficult to obtain and became frustrated because I didn't reach the goal by March or C) Who am I kidding, I'm not really going to eat less OR exercise more.

This year, my resolution is the Anti-Resolution. Instead of listing off all the things I want to change about my life or how I'm going to improve myself for 2009, I thought I would start off my first post of the new year with a list of things I'm looking forward to in 2009. 
  • One word: Obama. Inauguration day is 1.20.09. Have a party. Make big 'O' cookies. Celebrate! 
  • Q-Tip is back. Have you heard his new album? It seems like a lifetime ago since his last release. Although released late in 08, this one is definitely worth the wait. 
  • Alexander Wang - I'm a little behind on this one but not by much, he's only 25.

  • Sweaters so big you can drown in them. They are comfortable, cozy and work well with all the post holiday consumption. Grab one from your man and pair it with black tights and ankle boots.
  • Higher waistlines. 
  • the Thermals - please say you'll have new music out in 2009. I'm waiting.
  • Remember the 90s? They are about to be back in full force. We're getting a taste of them now but there will be more to come. I'm talking grunge, minimalism, chunky footwear and muted colors in everything from fashion to interiors. All of this bodes well in our new economy.
  • More headpieces.  Think Erin Wasson...
  • Think being green is a hot trend? Well it's here to stay. We all need to get smarter about understanding it, know what's greenwash and how we can make less of an impact on the environment. Check out treehugger and Ideal Bite for ideas on how you can change your lifestyle for the better.
These are just a few things I'm looking forward to in the new year. Stay tuned for more.

photos: alexander wang, todd selby. erin wasson, dan martensen