Form & Function: The Practical & Natural Beauty Of The Wooden “Cutting Board” & “Bread Board”

The Appeal Of The Cutting Board
The Appeal Of The Cutting Board

The beauty of natural wood. The practicality of culinary use of cutting boards & bread boards certainly earns a place in every kitchen. A “well-fitted kitchen essential”, these boards of natural substance are found in every shape and size one could require for their culinary whims.  The history of the cutting board as an unfinished slab of wood can be linked to the beginning of pre-historic time.  Wood throughout the ages, indeed. The wooden surface would certainly evolve through time and endure as a foundational element within the culinary world.

Of course, the weight and texture of the board, in addition to the variety of woods used in crafting these boards of different functions are options of personal choice. Most wood boards are made of a maple (a hardwood) or pine (a soft wood). However, there are certainly options to be found in beautiful red and white oak hardwoods, Yellow Birch and American Black Walnut. Let’s not forget the newest addition to wooden surfaces- Bamboo (A hard “grass” that is a naturally replenishing resource also offering a hard, durable surface). That said, it is simply the wood boards that beckon placement within my kitchen. Although all forms of cutting boards are diverse in their appearance, each one is created for a functional purpose within the kitchen. Perhaps it can be said that the selection of a wooden board is personal to one’s needs and visual & textural requirements. Either way, consider the impact they have made within the culinary world!

Beyond the function of culinary use, these boards of striking hardwoods offer a beautiful base for entertaining. Form and function, indeed.

Practical & Natural Beauty:  The Cutting Board
Practical & Natural Beauty: The Cutting Board
Function & Decoration:  The "Cutting Board" & "Bread Board"
Function & Decoration: The “Cutting Board” & “Bread Board”
Cutting Boards Within The Interior:  Culinary Tools Of Style
Cutting Boards Within The Interior: Culinary Tools Of Style
Crafted Wooden Boards Of Form & Function
Crafted Wooden Boards Of Form & Function
Wooden Appeal:  Cutting Boards
Wooden Appeal: Cutting Boards
Slabs Of Nature:  Wooden Boards Of Culinary & Decorative Appeal
Slabs Of Nature: Wooden Boards Of Culinary & Decorative Appeal
Culinary Essentials:  Wooden Boards Of Form & Function
Culinary Essentials: Wooden Boards Of Form & Function

Consider the boards of wood that offer natural and durable style while offering attractive display. Whether the boards that reside within your kitchen are prep or carving boards, bread boards or slabs of crafted wood for the purpose of cheese cutting and display, the value of these boards are apparent. The smooth finish that exposes the natural beauty of the wood are striking surfaces to appreciate beyond a kitchen essential to an entertaining board of natural style. Practical & natural beauty, indeed…

Onward,

Kristin

Decadent Bliss Of Dark Wonder: Hot Chocolate

Decadent Bliss: Hot Chocolate
Decadent Bliss: Hot Chocolate

Oh, to the decadent drink of hot chocolate! When Wintry weather settles in around us the decadence of chocolate seems to beckon. A Wintry delight, indeed. Defined as a “heated beverage that typically consists of shaved chocolate, melted chocolate or cocoa powder, heated milk or water and sugar”, this steamy drink of chocolate wonder is an enduring Winter delight.

Of interest, “Drinking Chocolate” is similar to hot chocolate but is made of melted chocolate shavings rather than a powdered mix that is soluble in water and is usually not as sweet as hot chocolate. Alas, although delicious in its own right, it is the sweetness of the chocolate that we certainly crave! To appreciate a drink of chocolate sweetness, a brief look back into its enduring history….

Aztec Emperor Montezuma II
Aztec Emperor Montezuma II

The first chocolate beverage is believed to have been created by the Mayas around 2,000 years ago. Mayan Indians first harvested Cacoa beans from the Cacoa pods and frequently traded them with the Aztecs. The Aztecs ground the beans into a bitter, coarse paste which they mixed with water and spices. The predecessor to the hot cocoa we know today! The cacao beverage known as “Xocoatl” was considered an essential part of Aztec culture by 1400 AD. Quite a duration of a liquid of cacao. History states that the Aztecs would later cultivate the cacao tree and appointed their god Quetzalcoatl as the guardian of the cacao tree. For certain a history that revered the gift of chocolate. Aztec emperor Montezuma stated “The divine drink, which builds up resistance and fights fatigue. A cup of this drink permits a man to walk a whole day without food”. A cup of energy, indeed. In fact, Montezuma is said to have drank 50 goblets of Xocaotl each day. Imagine! He certainly lived by his words in revering this chocolate delight!

Cortez & Montezuma:  The Introduction Of The Chocolate Drink
Cortez & Montezuma: The Introduction Of The Chocolate Drink

As history brings change, it was Spanish soldier and explorer, Heranado Cortez, who would conquer the Aztec empire and claim Mexico for Spain. Among the gifts brought back to Spain was the drink of chocolate. Hernando Cortez is credited with its introduction to the court of the Spanish King, Charles V. The introduction of this beverage of chocolate from Mexico to the New World quickly brought the popularity of this drink to Europe. In 1615, Spanish Princess Anna of Austria, introduced to her new husband, King Louis XIII this rich drink of chocolate which quickly found fancy among the kings court. From there…the love of the drink of chocolate found its way to Italy and beyond. In 1657 French chocalatier David chaillou had opened the first chocolate house specializing in chocolate. In 1828, Dutchman Hendrick Van Houten is credited with the warming of the foamy drink. Van Houten created a press that extracted from the beans natural fats known as “cocoa butter”, which could eventually be sifted into cocoa powder. In addition, Van Houten created a process known as “Dutching” that neutralized the acidic taste from the cocoa. Alas, “Dutch Chocolate” met the world! The English would change the name of the drink to “Hot Chocolate”. As with everything, changes and adaptions have evolved over time. Consumed throughout the world, the sweet variations abounded, including the very thick “cioccolata densa” served in Italy and the thinner hot cocoa that became typical in America. No matter the way it is served, this drink laden with chocolate is sure to delight!

Vintage Delights:  Hot Chocolate
Vintage Delights: Hot Chocolate
Steaming Chocolate:  Winter's Delight
Steaming Chocolate: Winter’s Delight
Festive Warmth With Sweet Appeal:  Hot Chocolate
Festive Warmth With Sweet Appeal: Hot Chocolate
Memorable Gatherings With Warm Delight:  Hot Chocolate
Memorable Gatherings With Warm Delight: Hot Chocolate
Sweet Warmth:  Hot Chocolate
Sweet Warmth: Hot Chocolate
A Winter Classic:  Hot Chocolate
A Winter Classic: Hot Chocolate

Consider the decadence of this rich, chocolate delight. What may seem somehow relegated to the youth or our recollections of our own youth can certainly be reclaimed as an elegant treat of distinction. Hot chocolate will endure to provide a luxurious delight when served in its dense, decadent, rich and creamy format. Options and possibilities swirling in chocolate delight. Life is sweet, indeed…
Kristin

Pure Delight: Hot Chocolate
Pure Delight: Hot Chocolate

Thanksgiving Wishes…Gratitude For The Bounty Of Life

Thanksgiving/Martha Stewart
A “Bounty” is defined as something given liberally. Life and its bountiful offerings that surround us are certainly something to be thankful for. With gratitude, reflecting with appreciation that every day is a gift, we all certainly have something to be thankful for on this day of Thanksgiving. With thankful hearts and a giving spirit…

“Thanksgiving, to be truly Thanksgiving, is first thanks, then giving”
-Author unknown

Thanksgiving Wishes
Thanksgiving Wishes

Wishing you and yours a memorable Thanksgiving filled with appreciation and gratitude for the bounty that life offers to each of us and for those we share it with. Every day is a gift. A day of gratitude and acknowledgment of the bounty of life, indeed…

Kristin


For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food
For love and for friends
For everything thy goodness sends. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Foundation Of Entertaining & Serving: White Platters

Perfection In Serving:  White Platters
Perfection In Serving: White Platters

In the world of entertaining, there is no better basic foundation than the white platter. Of course, selecting the elements of the table, such as the linens, glasses, cutlery, dishes and even the centerpiece are key. Yet the platters that hold the culinary creations deserve our focus and attention. Alas, the serving platter. White is always right. A foundation of entertaining, for certain. The year round usefulness of these objects of function as serving pieces also provide an elegant visual of white when paired with any theme your table sets before your guests. The form and function of these serving pieces offer a “blank slate” background that showcases and enhances the culinary delights that are offered upon them

White Platters: The Perfect Background For Culinary Delights
White Platters: The Perfect Background For Culinary Delights

Chefs create artistry within the culinary world and part of their artistry involves the art of “plating”. To a chef the three elements of plating are the plate, the food and the arrangement of the food. The goal is always that the platter or plate does not detract from the delight placed upon it. Simple elegance. That said, presentation is everything. It is no surprise that white is the choice in plating the pleasures of culinary world. Alas, white truly is always right…

With the many shapes and sizes that are offered the choices are vast. Whether decorative and embossed, formal or simple in basic design, the visual of white platters laid out on a table in presentation style is an elegant delight. Perfection in entertaining, for certain. The world of white dishes and serving platters go far in offering a surface that showcases the dish and adds uniformity to the serveware. Even if the shapes and style of various white platters (and bowls) are different, the fact that they are all one color unites in classic style. A visual delight in white

Stacked & Layered Serveware On Display
Stacked & Layered Serveware On Display
Entertaining Basics:  White Platters
Entertaining Basics: White Platters
Foundations Of Entertaining:  White Platters
Foundations Of Entertaining: White Platters

Consider the foundation to entertaining. Whether laid out upon a table or stacked in waiting and ready position, white platters (or any white serveware, for that matter) offer perfection in entertaining. In support of adding entertaining elements of form and function to your world and your tables, consider the value of white platters. Purpose & versatile function with a stackable form that offers visual appeal. A foundation to the delights that await, indeed. Ease in elegant entertaining awaits. White is always right, indeed…

Kristin

The Summertime Appeal Of Refreshing Sangria: Served “Under Nature’s Canopy”

Colorful, Fruity Delight:  Sangria
Colorful, Fruity Delight: Sangria

Sangria. Beckoning us within the sultry days of Summer: chilled and refreshing Sangria. In simple terms, it is a “Wine fruit punch”. But in terms of its pleasures, it a Summertime “Punch” of distinction. Personalized. Originating from the Mediterranean region as a refreshing Summer drink, perhaps it is no surprise that Sangria is said to be one of the most popular drinks in the world. For certain, the bounty of Summer’s fruits soaked in red wine and served chilled is the essence of Summer itself

The punch base of Sangria is often a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Of course, an authentic Spanish flavor is offered by using Spanish red wines, such as Rioja. Yet whatever the varietal or combination thereof that one selects, the fruit that is chosen to soak within the sweet fruit of nature’s delight is certainly personal choice. Possibilities abound. The addition of fruit juices, sparkling soda water and brandy or cognac provide additional flavors of delight. Individualistic bliss. Of course, aside from the deep red allure there is “White Sangria”, known as “Sangria Blanco”, which originated in the Cava producing area of Spain. A sparkling white version of bliss. In addition, in the south of Spain, Sangria is infused with peaches and nectarines and is referred to as “Zurra”. Variations abound, indeed.

Sangria:  Summer's Refreshing "Punch"
Sangria: Summer’s Refreshing “Punch”

But of the history of Sangria? Alas, to appreciate the origin of this fruited concoction, one must look back to the ancient vineyards of Spain that spread across the Iberian Peninsula. History states that the Romans, upon conquering Spain in 200 BC planted the vineyards of the red grape varietals on Spanish soil that would lead to the creation of Sangria. Who knew? In fact, it was the Rioja region of Spain that is considered to be the place where Sangria was born. The success of the growth of red grapes resulted in the bounty of wines of Spain that would begin a shipping trade to meet the demands of Rome’s new fascination with this drink of refreshment. Of interest, the root word in the word Sangria is “Sangre” which is Spanish for blood and a reference to the deep red color. A drink that conquered in its worldwide appeal, for certain.

Variations Of Delight: "Sangria"
Variations Of Delight: “Sangria”

History moving onward, between the mid 1700’s and early 1800’s Britain created their own versions of Sangria that were called “Sangre” and “Sangaree”, which were usually a mix of port, sherry or Madeira (a fortified Portuguese wine) mixed with sugar water and nutmeg. Often, the base would include ale. Again, variations. The British Gentleman‘s Magazine in 1736 stated “…a punch seller in the Strand had devised a new punch made of strong Madeira wine and called Sangre”. Interesting. By 1785, the exotic drink was considered more of a punch wine associated with the Antilles Islands and Spain. Of additional historical interest, the Dictionary Of The Vulgar Tounge, published in 1785 defined “Sangaree” as a “Rack Punch” as called within the “Bagnios”. A “Bagnios” was a brothel and the “rack” punch is said to have referred to the first 5 elements in a classic punch: “Arrack”, citrus, fruits, spices, cane sugar and water”. Again, interesting. As for the “Arrack”, it was not the anise flavored Middle Eastern spirit but rather, with lineage to rum, “Batavia Arrack” from the Antilles. Rum! In this regard, this concoction was considered a single serving punch. And on American soil? History states that this fruity wine punch was first served in the United States at the “Spanish World” at the 1964 World’s Trade Fair in New York. What resulted was the demand for a quenched delight with fruited pleasure. Sangria would soon be imported under the label “Yago Sant’gria”.

In time, Americans would begin to create their own versions of this chilled refreshment of red wine, fruit, citrus and sugar. A fortified fruit punch of chilled perfection. And of the bulbulous pitcher that the ingredients of Sangria that lingers within and awaits our glasses? These traditional pitchers have a pinched lip so that the fruit is reserved in the glass, minimizing the “Splash” caused by the ice cubes or fruit. A perfect solution. There is always the laddle that allows you to select a deep layer of fruit soaked with Sangria to fill within your glass. That said, perhaps there is no right or wrong way to serve this sweetened delight of nature and “punch”. The mere idea is to gather and serve it…adding to Summertime delight. And gather, we did…

"Sangria at Sunset"

My appreciation of the drink itself has brought forth our new tradition…an annual Sangria party. Our 2nd annual late Summer event “Under Nature’s Canopy” was met with delightful weather and soft breezes and a full August moon to top it off. Summertime perfection. Paired with a bevy of delights and various concoctions of Sangria bliss, the evening was one of laughter, music and boisterous colors. Explosions of tastes and delights, indeed….

Vivid Colors & Distinctive Tastes:  Our "Sangria At Sunset"
Vivid Colors & Distinctive Tastes: Our “Sangria At Sunset”
"Sangria After Sunset"....A Glowing Affair Under Nature's Canopy...
“Sangria After Sunset”….A Glowing Affair Under Nature’s Canopy…

Consider the delicious, pleasurable concoction embellished with your preference of fresh fruits, wine and “punch”. The beauty of Sangria is perhaps the possibilities that it allows. Glass filled with your preferences of fresh fruits and the wine variations of personal choice to taste, this delicious Summertime beverage will certainly lend an exotic flair to your hot Summer days and nights. Oh, the juices from the fruits that blend with the wine! A flavorful treat, served over ice, that soothes the Summer heat and refreshes with pleasurable tastes. Summertime appeal served “Under Nature’s Canopy” indeed…

Kristin

City Snapshots: Chicago’s “Taste Of Chicago”/Summer 2014

Chicago's "Outdoor Picnic":  The "Taste Of Chicago"
Chicago’s “Outdoor Picnic”: The “Taste Of Chicago”

Perhaps there is nothing quite like what the Summer season can offer within a city

On the final day of the four day free city outdoor festival, a “4-Star Feastoval of Food & Fun”, the “Taste Of Chicago”, throngs of tourists, city dwellers and Chicago natives hit the pavement with hunger and anticipation. Held in Grant Park, along Columbus Drive between Jackson Boulevard and Congress Parkway, Chicago’s “City Picnic” awaited. Quite a “Taste”, indeed. The heat of the sun that penetrated through the crowds encouraged many to seek the shaded shelter retreat under the canopy of trees that lined the streets parkways. For others, the sun’s rays were welcomed: Summer had finally settled within Chicago. Scents of delicacies beckoned from the tented booths that lined the fairways. Catcalls from behind the tents to lure the passerby’s paired with the wafting smells of delight that filtered through the crowds. Options and choices for all that arrived to partake the offerings.

The “Taste” features “several thousand servings” of an array of the city’s favorites. “Taste” portions provide a sampling of the different menu items with local, national & international flair and certainly showcased the diverse culinary scene of Chicago. Did I mention that there are always iconic Chicago classics? One cannot stray far without a Chicago hot dog in sight. Beyond a “Taste”, full sized portions are available for those that simply need more of a coveted culinary treat. Delights exchanged for tickets bought on site. Of course, there are always daily “Pop Up” restaurants that appear to further delight “Taste” guests. The lineup of more than 60 restaurants and food trucks certainly delighted. Culinary bliss within the surrounds of the great city, for certain. Referred to as “The world’s largest food festival”, the “Taste” also provides live music from multiple stages. The music filled the streets adding further energy to the crowds that took over the city streets throughout the “Taste”. Something for everyone, indeed. Of note, it is said that over 3 million throng this event, making it the “hottest” party in the city. Alas, it was certainly “Hot”. A party? Indeed…

Chicago's "Picnic In The Park":  The "Taste Of Chicago" 2014
Chicago’s “Picnic In The Park”: The “Taste Of Chicago” 2014 (July 9-13)
Culinary Delights Within The City Streets:  The "Taste Of Chicago"
Culinary Delights Within The City Streets: The “Taste Of Chicago”
City Pleasures: Culinary "Tastes" On Chicago's Streets
City Pleasures: Culinary “Tastes” On Chicago’s Streets
Beckoning Culinary Offerings:  The "Taste Of Chicago"
Beckoning Culinary Offerings: The “Taste Of Chicago”

For further respite from the heated streets paired with masses of people surrounding oneself, a mere walk to the lakefront is all that is needed. Past the iconic Buckingham Fountain, the lake breezes off the massive, great Lake Michigan furthers the assets that this great city provides. Chicago is certainly an amazing city in the Summertime. Perfection, indeed…

Buckingham Fountain & The Great Lake Michigan: Chicago's Attractions
Buckingham Fountain & The Great Lake Michigan: Chicago’s Attractions
Until Next Year...Chicago's "Taste Of Chicago"
Until Next Year…Chicago’s “Taste Of Chicago”

Whatever city you dwell within or near, consider the events that will evolve around you. Summer and the luxury of outdoor entertainment that the season provides us are worthwhile events for all to attend and dwell within. Whether while under the canopy of the sky you require a brief, breezy retreat from the sun or prefer soaking in the rays that blaze from above, the moments and offerings of life presented before us are ours to embrace. Life and each day that is presented is a gift. Embrace it. Embrace the city that surrounds you, as I do Chicago. A “Taste” of the Snapshots of life, indeed…

Kristin

Myself, Behind The Lens City Streets of Chicago
Myself, Behind The Lens
City Streets/”Taste of Chicago”

An Symbol Of Hospitality: The “Welcome” Appeal Of The Pinneapple

Nature's Tropical "Bounty" Within The Interior: The Pineapple
Nature’s Tropical “Bounty” Within The Interior: The Pineapple

Known as the “Princess of fruits and the symbol of hospitality”, the pineapple has endured to be used as a motif within architecture, statuary, interior decoration and of course, as a delight of sweetness within the culinary world

The Symbol Of Hospitality:  Nature's Pineapple
The Symbol Of Hospitality: Nature’s Pineapple

The Pineapple (botanically known as Ananas Comosus) is the leading edible member of the family Bromeliaceae. Pineapples are thought to have originated centuries ago in South America (specifically in Brazil and Paraguay). Tropical delights, indeed. Of interest, the pineapple has acquired a variety of terms of reference. It is called “Piña” in Spain, “abacaxi” in Portuguese, “ananas” by the Dutch and French, “nanas” in southern Asia and the East Indes, “po-lo-mah” in China, “sweet pine” in Jamaica and in Guatemala it is referred to as “pine”. On the Caribbean Island now known as Guadeloupe, it is believed that “A fateful interaction with Christopher Columbus” on his 2nd voyage in 1493 to the New World would begin the journey of this exotic and sweet fruit to the European shores. Columbus’s enchantment with this prickly exterior of distinction which held an exotic delight is perhaps the very link to the historic arrival of the pineapple to Spain and beyond. This “Piña” that bore a resemblance to a pinecone was an “Exotic Fruit” that would find continuing enchantment that would spread throughout Europe and eventually, American shores. Although the challenges of learning to grow this prized fruit that thrived in tropical climates would arise, by the mid-1600’s pineapples were being produced in “Hot-Houses” in Holland and England. Of interest, the first recorded “Hot-House” is recorded in 1642 in England’s Dutchess of Cleveland’s residence. Determination, perhaps, to gain the benefit of this coveted fruit would lead the motif of the pineapple to grow into the “symbol of hospitality and luxury” paired with its original historical rarity. For certain, the pineapple was an honored and coveted gift presented by royalty to the distinguished society. Royal privilege and a symbol of status and wealth, indeed.

King Charles II of England Receiving A Gift Of A Pineapple
King Charles II of England Receiving A Gift Of A Pineapple

Since Colonial times in America, the pineapple is considered to have been “put on a pedestal” as a symbol of welcome. The sweet taste of the pineapple brought forth a thriving trade which developed in the late 1600’s and early 1700’s, strengthening the pineapple as a status symbol. The fruit would not only grace the tables as a prized and sought after element of status and culinary delight but as a symbol of welcome. History states that American sea captains, upon returning from a voyage, would place this prized fruit on display outside their homes as a signal of their homecoming. Who knew? Perhaps this marked the very beginning of the pineapple as an element of greeting adorning exterior spaces as architectural embellishments found in pediments and architectural design. Alas, the pineapple as an iconic emblem is nothing new to the 20th Century and beyond. History has carried this sweet fruit with prickled and tough rosette of waxy and long pointed straplike leaves with an enduring appeal. The fruit awaiting within the needle tipped and sharp spines of the pineapple is a sweet gift of nature and an enduring icon that continues to offer a “warm welcome” to those that are greeted with its distinctive form. A gift, indeed…

"Gates of Izard Edwards-Smythe House" Charleston, South Carolina (1600's/Colonial America
“Gates of Izard Edwards-Smythe House” Charleston, South Carolina (1600’s/Colonial America
Nature's Sweet Delight:  The Pineapple
Nature’s Sweet Delight: The Pineapple
Architectural Distinction:  Pediments Adorned With The Pineapple
Architectural Distinction: Pediments Adorned With The Pineapple
The Emblem Of The Pineapple:  Exterior Distinction
The Emblem Of The Pineapple: Exterior Distinction
Exterior Inspirations:  The Iconic Welcome Of The Pineapple
Exterior Inspirations: The Iconic Welcome Of The Pineapple
Events & Entertaining With The Glorious Pineapple
Events & Entertaining With The Glorious Pineapple
Memorable Events Embellished  With The Pineapple
Memorable Events Embellished With The Pineapple

Celebrations Of Seasonal Bliss Paired With The Iconic Pineapple
Celebrations Of Seasonal Bliss Paired With The Iconic Pineapple

Interior Influences:  The Tropical "Pineapple"
Interior Influences: The Tropical “Pineapple”

Interior Inspirations:  The Welcoming Appeal Of The Pineapple
Interior Inspirations: The Welcoming Appeal Of The Pineapple
Sweet Delights Of Tropical Appeal : The Pineapple
Sweet Delights Of Tropical Appeal : The Pineapple
Nature's Delight:  The Pineapple
Nature’s Delight: The Pineapple

Consider the gift of the pineapple. Aside from its sweet delight, consider the striking ornamental design of this emblem of “welcome”. Whether it is the culinary delight of the sweet pineapple that beckons you or the motif and symbol of hospitality that decorates and adorns your interior or exterior world, consider with appreciation the tropical fruit as a gift of nature and the layer of hospitality that it presents. A symbol of hospitality and a “Welcome” appeal, indeed…

Kristin


“The great abundance of Piñas, the princess of fruits, that grow under the sun”
-Sir Walter Ralegh
Traveleogue Discoveries of the Large, Rich and Bewtiful Empyre Of Guiana”

A Gift Of The Ocean: The Oyster & Its Shell

Concha De Ostra:  The Oyster & Its Shell
Concha De Ostra: The Oyster & Its Shell

The oyster shell. Rock hard style. Layers and layers of outer style paired with the inside treasure of culinary delight. Found in shallow waters throughout the world’s oceans, the rough and hard shell of highly calcified style serves as a natural element in decor and a coveted culinary delight with the savory morsel tucked inside. The neutral color palette of the shell itself is certainly worthy of our attention…

Found in 17th century English, the actual word “Oyster” comes from Old French “Oistre” taken from Latin “Ostrea”. “Ostrea” is the feminine form of “Ostreum” which derives from the Greek word “Ostreon” (oyster) and “Osteon” (bone). Who knew? From a distinct group of bivalve molluscs, oysters are members of the family Ostreidae which live in marine habitats in large colonies referred to as “beds” or “reefs”. Some of these edible oysters are termed “Belon oyster”, “Eastern Oyster”, “Olympia Oyster”, “Pacific Oyster” and the “Sydney Rock Oyster”. Rock, indeed. Of note, these edible oysters do not include the ‘pearl oysters’ which are mainly harvested for the pearl that is produced within the mantle of the shell. The oysters I refer to are the rock-hard white & gray outer shell that gleans an inside of porcelain white. That paired with a spotted distinction to the interior shell of layered style. Nature’s beauty from the oceans…

Nature's Beauty:  The Oyster Shell
Nature’s Beauty: The Oyster Shell

Oysters are commonly served raw or cooked. Considered a delicacy, the memories I have of the “American Mussel” are deeply ingrained as a part of my past life of growing up on the shores of the Long Island Sound. In fact, having worked through my high school and college years at a quaint seafood restaurant (“The Sea Shanty”) within walking and “docking” distance from the historic harbor town of Northport, New York, I learned quickly the art of “Shucking” an oyster shell. Boating travelers from the shores of Connecticut and beyond knew the route from the dock to the restaurant well. Indeed, I have seen many oysters “Shucked”. Alas, at the hands of the chef, that is. Many a platter of ice-chilled oysters, shining on white ceramic plates with lemon wedges tucked amongst them, were served by my hands to the waiting and anticipating patrons. Of course, included was the expected condiment of cocktail sauce and clarified butter in which to drench or dip these morsels from the ocean. (And of the deep fried oyster and its textural pairing of culinary bliss? Certainly a variation worth mentioning.) Of note, the various “Shucking” styles attest to the diverse ways to serve an oyster. Of course, it is said that the need for several methods of shucking is a necessity when a wide variety of oysters with different physical characteristics abound in the cool waters. Of interest, there are considered to be four sides to an oyster referred to as the “top shell”, “bottom shell”, the “lip” or “bill” and the “hinge”. Again, who knew? To an oyster shucker, these “sides” draw their attention when preparing to “shuck” an ice-chilled oyster. In addition, the observation of additional characteristics, such as shape, size, weight, cleanliness and shell quality assists in determining the best approach to “Shuck” an oyster. Culinary skills certainly abound with this shell of solid structure…

The "Shucked" Oyster:  A Culinary Wonder
The “Shucked” Oyster: A Culinary Wonder

However it is shucked and served, perhaps the unveiling of the briny, sweet, rich and flavorful morsel tucked inside is not for everyone. Perhaps beyond the daunting task of opening the shell to unlock the savory jewel inside or the mere appearance of the plump inner delicacy is enough to halt one without an adventurous palate or one who has not grown up in an environment of the ocean’s bounty. Completely understandable. That said, however, the appreciation of the shell can be had by all

Decorative Function:  The Oyster Shell
Decorative Function: The Oyster Shell
Rock Hard Style:  The Appeal Of The Oyster Shell
Rock Hard Style: The Appeal Of The Oyster Shell
The Appeal Of "Oyster Shells"
The Appeal Of “Oyster Shells”

Consider the gift of the Oyster. “Concha de Ostra”. With a natural presence from the ocean, the texture and appearance of the shell provides a neutral color with which to incorporate into our spaces. Harkening the life from the earth’s world under the ocean’s waters, the shell provides distinctive interest in our interiors throughout the year. A natural element of distinction and a gift of the ocean, indeed…

Kristin

“It had that texture possessed by the rough edge of an oyster shell, where the creature also has built up its coating layer by layer.” – Will Davenport, “The Painter”

In Recognition Of Bastille Day: The Iconic “French Baguette”

The Art Of the Artisan Boulangerie:  The French Baguette
The Art Of the Artisan Boulangerie: The French Baguette

The golden loaf. A loaf with a slightly glazed effect. Heavenly. To tear off a piece of this crusty, iconic loaf is to await the satisfaction of an intense craving. A hard crust paired with a light and airy inside is pure heavenly bliss….

Viewed abroad as one of the symbols of French culture, the baguette has become an iconic emblem, for certain. Although found throughout the world, baguettes are seemingly eternally linked closely to France and especially to Paris. Alas, the “French Baguette”. The baguette has always been an essential food for the French. The mere act of buying bread from the Boulangerie is a very important daily event in French culture. A constant, indeed. A “French Baguette” is termed as a “Long, thin loaf of French bread” that is commonly made from basic lean dough (though the dough, not the shape, is defined by French law). Distinguishable by its length and crisp crust, the long and wide loaves have been made since the time of Louis XIV. Of interest, it was not until the nineteenth century (1920) the word “Baguette” was used to refer to this specific type of bread. Who knew? Of further interest, in 1920 French law prevented bakers from working between the hours of 10pm and 4am, making it impossible for artisan bakers to create the traditional round loaf in time for morning meals. Thus, it is believed that the success of the slender baguette, prepared and baked rapidly, is said to have met the demand. Again, who knew? The standard baguette has a diameter of about 2 inches and a typical length of 26 inches. However, baguettes can also be as long as 40 inches. I think I would purchase that one! Of further interest, not all long loaves are considered “baguettes” in France. In fact, there is also the short baguette is often known as a “baton” or “Stick”. A “Demi” delight, indeed.

The Enduring "Baguette"
The Enduring “Baguette”

“Housemaids were hurrying homewards with their purchases…and the long sticks of bread, a yard or two in length, carried under their arms, made an odd impression on me” – Unknown, 1898

And of the hands that are devoted to the formation of the perfect loaf? The perfect baguette? Alas, the Boulanger. The artisan craftsman of the boulangerie is often the succession of a life’s work that often spans generations. A baker’s life, indeed. The life of an artisan boulanger is dictated by the the dough and sequential rounds of the baking process. “Le Pain” (the bread) is formed from water, flour, salt and levain or “baker’s yeast”. All natural delight. This glorious bread was the result of the traditional steam ovens which are a combination of gas-fired traditional oven and a brick oven, a thick “deck” of stone or firebrick heated by natural gas instead of wood. Interestingly, it was in the early nineteenth century that the first steam oven arrived in Paris. And, oh, the benefits of the steam? The steam allows the crust to expand before setting, creating a lighter and more airy loaf. Pure goodness. Heavenly delight to any avid bread lover. The baguettes are generally made as partially free-form loaves. The loaf itself is formed with a series of folding and rolling motions, raised in cloth-lined baskets or in rows on a towel dusted with flour, called a cloche. Baked directly on the hearth of a deck oven or in special perforated pan designed to hold the shape of the baguette while allowing heat through the perforations. The details of the methods and practices of the boulanger, the desired flavor and properties sought in the final loaf results in the flavor complexity and other characteristics of this delectable wonder of an artisan loaf. Certainly beyond what I have touched upon here. However, it is the appreciation of the craft and skill, the artistry of the golden loaf, that demands my focus and my yearning desire for its savory taste

A Constant Of French Life:  The Baguette
A Constant Of French Life: The Baguette

And of my love of the loaf of French origin? Memories of partaking of the golden, crusty loaf on the streets of Paris will remain with me always. For there is not another bread I have tasted that harkens the savory and delectable recollection of the French baguette. Iconic, indeed…

Kristin

“Pain France is C’est nature” (French bread is nature)- Choquet

"The Baguette"
“The Baguette”

Under Nature’s Canopy: Dining “Alfresco”

Nature's Canopy To Enjoy:  Dining Alfresco
Nature’s Canopy To Enjoy: Dining Alfresco

Perhaps it can be said that we are driven to dine outdoors when the weather warms, the Summer sun sets in and the warm breezes blow. The ultimate experience of dining enjoyment under nature’s canopy. A quintessential warm weather delight, for certain. Divine moments under nature’s canopy. In the warm, pleasant weather, there is perhaps no better seating than to dine in the great outdoors. The Italian word, “Al Fresco”, is termed as “dining outside”, “at a fresh temperature”, “taking place or located in the open air and “Outdoors”. Fresh air paired with dining is a pleasurable combination for us all. Of interest, the first known use of the word “Al Fresco” was in 1753. A long history in defining dining pleasures, indeed.

For certain, in temperate climates or during Summer months, when temperatures and the weather are favorable, dining outside beckons us. “Alfresco” provides a more casual style of dining that often seems to relay an atmosphere of celebration. As long Summer days melt into balmy, breezy nights, the pleasures of dining outdoors is extended. The mere idea of dining under the shade of a tree, the brilliant sun or starlit night, presents a visual of an enjoyable moment and adds a lively dimension to dining. Bringing us out into the fresh, open air seems to encourage not only our appetite but conversation. Or perhaps adds the desire to relax and enjoy a peaceful moment. Whether opting to enjoy the sunshine, embracing the sunset or the dwelling under starlit skies along with our meals, a whole new dining experience emerges. Relishing the delightful weather and the company we are among and sharing a meal with, an appreciation of these moments is worthwhile. And the need to find a reason to throw open one’s doors and gather in the delights of the outdoors? Simple pleasures are enough of a reason. Whether entertaining or simply dining in the solitude of your own company, a moment outside of relaxing under nature’s canopy is a delight, for certain…

The Allure Of Dining In Fresh, Open Air:  Alresco Dining
The Allure Of Dining In Fresh, Open Air: Alresco Dining
Scenic Respite:  The Pleasures Of Outdoor Dining
Scenic Respite: The Pleasures Of Outdoor Dining
Dining Alfresco:  A Celebration Of The Season Together
Dining Alfresco: A Celebration Of The Season Together
Outside Delight:  Alfresco Dining Pleasures
Outside Delight: Alfresco Dining Pleasures
Celebratory Occasions In The Open Air:  Alresco Style
Celebratory Occasions In The Open Air: Alresco Style

Whether you chose formality of design or a casual affair, setting an inviting table with table linens, tableware and matching or mismatched plates, an outdoor event can be personalized and tailored to suit your culinary whims and social setting. There is sure to be an appropriate table setting for any occasion in the great outdoors. Luxuriate in the occasion. Whether sunlit skies or twinkling candelit nights personalized entertaining style awaits. Setting a scene among nature’s delight is a dining event that is certainly destined to delight…

Perhaps “Alfresco” could be viewed as celebrating a gift of nature. A setting in which to simply enjoy life within the surrounds of nature with those that are important to our lives. A celebration of life, indeed. Whether surrounded by majestic or lush scenery or the confines of the simplicity of one’s own backyard, complete with flora and nature’s glory, consider all that surrounds with appreciation the next time you dine “Alfresco”. At home with nature, indeed.

Cheers to the appreciation of your next relaxing moment, under nature’s canopy, dining “Alfresco”. May the moment enjoyed linger…

Kristin