Monday, December 9, 2013

Presents of Greatness for the Gourmet

A longtime friend of mine from high school, Candice Corum, routinely tempts me on Facebook with fabulous pictures and descriptions of her home-cooked meals. ‘Home-cooked’ is a weak descriptive when you speak about Candice’s food fare; rather, her cooking skills and presentation style rival that of a fine restaurant, and the repertoire that she creates is equally impressive.

Given Candice’s gift for the gourmet, I asked her to compile a list of exactly that–gifts for the gourmet! This is her ultimate list for the savviest foodie. Thanks, CC! Next up? Dinner at my house!

Candice’s Gift Picks…

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Sur la Table Sphere Ice Molds, Set of 2, $10.95

Clever ice molds create giant icy orbs that won’t water down your drink. Combining art and science, the balls are ultra slow-melting…Plus, they look hella cool! I love the way you can freeze a bit of mint or a sliver of citrus inside the balls for a true gourmet touch!

Easy-to-use mold and innovative cap effectively shapes your ice into large spheres. Simply fill with water and freeze. Perfect for holiday entertaining, and they make a great gift for the foodie.

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Monogram Cheese Board & Spreader, $25

This maple cutting board and spreader set, exclusive to Williams-Sonoma, is just the right size for serving appetizers and cheese, and for small prep jobs in the kitchen. Makes an ideal personalized gift.

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Mason Jar Cocktail Shaker, $29.95

Mix cocktails with ease in this all-American Mason jar shaker. Created by Virginia boys Josh Williams and Eric Prum, of W+P Design, it’s the perfect gift for showing your down-home Southern hospitality.

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Artisanal Cocktail Gift Set, $119.95

This gift set is filled with artisanal ingredients for preparing the season’s most festive cocktails. It includes ginger syrup made by Brooklyn-based Morris Kitchen, Spanish olives and a bottle of Dillon’s Bitters, a complex flavor enhancer for Manhattans, martinis and Old Fashioneds. The book Winter Cocktails inspires creative drinks from mulled ciders to eggnog to holiday punch. A stainless steel, 23-ounce cocktail shaker means you can raise a toast to gleeful gift-giving!

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Double Mezzaluna, $39.95

This old-fashioned tool, whose name means “half-moon” in Italian, is still an international favorite for quick chopping. Using an easy, two-handed rocking motion, you can swiftly chop or mince onions, garlic and herbs, reducing prep time. Two curved, hand-sharpened stainless-steel blades glide easily through herbs, vegetables and nuts. Strong beechwood handles are easy to grip and keep your hands and knuckles away from the blades.

Candice Loves…

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Dubost Laguiole Olivewood Steak Knives, Set of 4, $179.95

Candice loves anything by Laguiole, but this handsome collection of knives makes a thoughtful gift for steak-lovers. The knives feature stainless-steel blades with riveted olivewood handles and come in an elegant wooden box, perfect for gifting.

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OXO Adjustable Measuring Beakers, $5.95-$11.95

This handy tool is ideal for measuring and dispensing sticky ingredients such as nut butters, honey and molasses. Features a smooth, rotating body and comfortable turning knob to easily push up and dispense your ingredients. The cup is adjustable for convenient measurement of different volumes.

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OXO V-Blade Mandoline, $39.95

No kitchen is complete without a mandoline, and this one, designed for safety, efficiency and ease of use, produces a variety of popular cuts for cooking and garnishing foods. V-shaped stainless-steel blades slice cleanly through soft and hard foods. Makes perfect crinkle and straight cuts in four thicknesses.

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Tunisian Hand-Painted Fresco Tagine, $59.95

This hand-painted earthenware dish can be used to cook and serve traditional North African tagines, as well as couscous and rice dishes. The cone-shaped cover funnels condensation directly back to the food for moist, tender results.

The traditional Tunisian pattern is painted by hand using food-safe paints and glazes. Hand-thrown clay retains heat well for serving directly at the table.

Candice’s Kitchen Essentials…

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Boos Cutting Block, $249.95

Boos butcher blocks are the best, and this 4″ thick beauty is manufactured from the finest northern-white species of hard rock maple. Maple wood is naturally anti-bacterial and won’t harbor any bacteria. On top of that, the Boos cream finish creates a protective layer that prevents food and moisture from damaging the wood.

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Williams-Sonoma Meat Thermometer, $20.95

Scientifically calibrated for accuracy, this commercial-quality thermometer ensures a perfect bird every time, and features dual pointers that indicate both the numeric temperature and the degree of doneness for different types of meat.

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Cuisinart Smart Stick Immersion Blender, $59.95

Cuisinart makes it quick, clean, and easy to blend, prep and whip a variety of ingredients. Blends or whips right in the bowl, pitcher or pot, to eliminate extra dishes, and with the chopper attached, it turns into a handy mini food-prep tool. Hand blender and chopper has a powerful 200-watt motor. Blends and chops, with push-button control for continuous or pulse action.

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Lodge Logic Cast Iron Skillet, $10.95-$59.95

Lodge Logic offers heirloom-quality cast iron skillets with a size for every task. The smaller skillets are ideal when cooking for one or two. Choose a larger skillet for cooking in quantity; they’re great for serving up family-style meals or braising bigger cuts of meat. Whether it’s bacon, grilled sandwiches, fish, cornbread—no matter what you like to grill, sauté or fry, you’ll love these classic American skillets.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Beautiful Yet Functional Art for the Table: Annieglass

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Genius in Glass

I will never forget the moment I discovered Annieglass. It was love at first sight when I stumbled across these unique dishes, coveted and collected by too many celebrities to name, and used in some of the finest restaurants in the world.

Designed and created by glass artist Annie Morhauser, they’re utterly breathtaking and very difficult to photograph. Even the pictures in this article do not do justice to their incomparable beauty.

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I was beyond thrilled to tour the Watsonville factory with Annie. It’s positively stacked with her gorgeous tableware, which is painstakingly crafted with exacting standards. Below, an employee assembles a cake plate in Annie’s warehouse.

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I don’t remember where I first found my Annieglass–maybe it was Neiman Marcus, maybe Gump’s San Francisco, or possibly the Annieglass store in downtown Santa Cruz, all vendors of the product–but what I do remember is the sensation. It was utter awe. Magic. I really have never seen or felt anything like Annieglass before or since. Over the years several styles have been imitated, but never duplicated.

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The pattern that won my heart was the B.C. Dinnerware, above, with the bubbly warped glass and pebbled texture that is a trademark of many of Annie’s dishes.

B.C. Dinnerware stands for Before Christ Dinnerware–“because it looks like it predates Christ,” Annie tells me. The dinner plates are like relics from another place and time, all with a cunning asymmetry that is distinctly Annie’s own. They’re at once antiqued, yet infinitely modern. Glossy aquamarine wonders of rippling glass that look organically beautiful, they also feel beautiful. The underbelly has the texture of velvet.

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Above, Annie stands beside the two-ton sheets of durable architectural glass from which her pieces are fashioned. Commonly used in skyscrapers, the glass has the aqua tint from the iron in the glass, and the velvety feel is due to the uncommon process of sandblasting the bottoms of each piece. This contributes to the milky paleness that is undefinable, simultaneously translucent but also opaque.

But first the glass is “slumped” over plaster molds, below, revealing each one’s unique beauty through its imperfections–imperfections that make every piece an original, a treasure.

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I mix my B.C. Dinnerware with other pieces, especially the Shell Series, below, which has a prehistoric elegance–vessels shaped with the gentle silhouettes of fossilized seashells. They’re where art and artifact collide. Highly respected in the art world, two of the designs from the Shell Series reside in the Smithsonian Museum of American Art.

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Tipped with your choice of 24 karat gold or platinum, or simply non-trimmed, every piece bears the studio signature, and Annie herself signs limited editions. Her name is etched on the bottoms of the pieces.

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There are many patterns of Annieglass, such as the classic Roman Antique Gold and Platinum, above and below, which I also collect. This is the first collection that Annie launched, 30 years ago. I love the look of an Annieglass table, where mixing and matching collections is not only common, but de rigeur.

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With Thanksgiving just around the corner and Christmas on its heels, I encourage you to discover your own inner awe as you look at these iconic creations, like the elegant Handkerchief Votives below.

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A significant advantage to these ethereal pieces is, oddly, their practicality. For something that looks so delicate and fragile, Annieglass can stand up to the most challenging circumstances; they’re dishwasher safe; and they look equally at home with any mixture of their Annieglass siblings, as well as fine China, limoges, or pottery.

You can add just one stunning piece for a real wow factor, or mix and match til your heart’s content. Either way, no two Annieglass tables will ever look the same. Your choice of linens, placemats, and of course flatware and accessories will define the table’s vignette. I love an Annieglass table set with twigs, bamboo placemats, stones, and other natural elements.

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Annieglass is perfectly appropriate for any circumstance–be it a Thanksgiving feast, a baby shower buffet, a New Year’s dinner, or Valentine’s day. Here, Annie holds a lovely heart-shaped dish that’s ideal for hors d’oeuvres or dessert.

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The pieces are multifunctional. Use one of Annie’s pedestal Slabs, above, to present fruit…or cheese…or a whole poached salmon.

Annieglass looks equally appropriate in the bathroom, due to its aquatic esthetics, holding decorative soaps or guest towels…cosmetics, sea sponges, and the list goes on and on.

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“Every piece of Annieglass can be, and should be, used for a variety of objects,” Annie says. “Ruffle cake stands make just as exquisite a resting place for dark chocolate velvet cakes as they do brie cheeses…and a salad plate makes a charming display for a bottle of wine or a candle,” she adds.

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Surprise a coworker with a sectional dish for olives or foil-wrapped chocolates, perhaps, like the one below from the Ruffle Series.

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A fabulous wedding gift is Annie’s stunning deviled egg platter. The perfect housewarming gift, a piece of Annieglass is a gift one would consider a ‘lifetime gift’ because Annieglass pieces are heirloom-quality creations that will stand the test of time via both form and function.

You need not save this art glass for special occasion only; Annieglass elevates even take-out to an art form. As I mentioned, the glass is incredibly strong, chip-resistant and dishwasher-safe. Annie tells me an interesting story. After Hurricane Katrina, she got reports from customers that their Annieglass survived the disaster. More than one person had their china cabinet washed away in the floodwaters and it was found down the street or a block away with all the Annieglass still intact, unbroken. “They just needed to be hosed off,” Annie said.

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Pieces from the Dew Drops Collection, above and below, are seductively punctuated with Swarovski crystals. Mere photos can’t even capture the detail…

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…and I love the hand-chipped pedestal on the new cone-shaped Edgey bowl, below, which merges seamlessly with Annieglass classics.

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You can see how Annieglass is created and discover the craftsmanship that goes into every piece at their lively and informative walking tours of the Watsonville factory. Call for reservations 831.761.2041 ext. 21.

In addition, wine tastings are Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 12:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., pouring Santa Cruz and Monterey County wines.

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Above, the sunny Watsonville gift shop that’s adjacent to the warehouse is brimming with countless exquisite creations–the autobiography of a genius in glass, Annie Morhauser.

Click here to find an Annieglass retailer near you.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Gurmar, a.k.a. The Sugar Killer

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Whether you’ve broken hearts or melted them, being a femme fatale can be overwhelming when you are showered with gifts of chocolates and sweets. It would be ill-mannered not to graciously accept said gifts, but let’s face it, every girl needs to watch her figure…not watch it expand! And don’t forget that nasty glycation process–the horrifying havoc that sugar wreaks on your system, causing unnecessary extrinsic aging, inflammation, and even disease!

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A Girl’s Best Friend

That’s why I want to introduce you to my new BFF: Gurmar. Gurmar (Gymnema Sylvestra)–also known as ‘The Sugar Killer’–is an ayurvedic herb that grows in central and southern India. Its Hindi name means “destroyer of sugar” due to its unique power to naturally curb your appetite for sweets. In addition, if you do cave in and indulge, the herb will block the absorption of sugar in your body and help keep blood sugar levels from rising!

In a sweet-tooth emergency, you can open a capsule and put a bit of the powdered herb directly on your tongue. It instantly blocks your ability to taste sweetness, so what was once a temptation tastes vaguely like sand, helping you resist the addictive sugar trap. Weird, but it works! This is the best way to kick your sugar cravings.

Gymnema Sylvestra is considered safe for most people, including diabetics who take conventional medications. In fact, in clinical studies, some diabetics were able to lower or even discontinue their medication when they incorporated Gymnema Sylvestra into their regime. But as with any supplement, you should speak to your doctor if you have concerns about the herb. My opinion? It’s a God-send! Almost as good as diamonds, darlings!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Taste and Tribute and Other Things of Beauty

Hi guys, I’m back from a little birthday vacation and I’m so excited to share with you the best birthday present I could possibly imagine.

As you know, I love beautiful things, and I can think of plenty I’d like to have, from perfume or jewelry to clothes or cosmetics, but the gift I am most anticipating is attending the sure-to-be fabulous Taste and Tribute gala in San Francisco this Friday, November 16.

I cannot wait for this event, which benefits the Tibetan Aid Project. The Tibetan Aid Project is an organization dedicated to preserving the human rights, art and literacy of the Tibetan people, who are recognized for their quiet beauty. Unfortunately the people and their culture are in jeopardy due to their communist neighbor, China. It’s been a long and ugly struggle for these peaceful people.

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The twelfth annual Taste and Tribute is held in the grand ballroom of the Four Seasons hotel, and features 22 top Bay Area chefs as they prepare four-course meals table-side for those in attendance.

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Dinner is followed by both a live and silent auction with fabulous prizes, such as beautiful Tibetan art, or my dream prize: a trip for two to Italy with luxury accommodations.

Tickets are $350 a plate. I really hope you’ll join me for this selfless cause. For more information contact Judy Rasmussen, executive director of the Tibetan Aid Project at 510.848.4238.

If you can’t make it on Friday, consider sending a check made out to the Tibetan Aid Project. Their address is 2210 Harold Way, Berkeley, California, 94704.

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It’s a noble way to contribute and another example of how beauty shall save the world.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Pretty, Please

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Beauty Shall Save the World’s newsletter bundles the best of the best in beauty products, unforgettable gifts, fashion & decor from around the world and sends it straight to your inbox. So if you don’t have time to surf blogs all day, you can still stay up-to-date on the latest.

Want beauty? It’s free, and worth it. Just enter your email below and you’re good to go.

 

 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Right to Bare Arms—Curing Keratosis Pilaris

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Keratosis Pilaris (KP) is a red, rough, bumpy rash that appears on the upper arms of 50-80% of adolescents, and approximately 40% of adults.

Often mistaken as a kind of acne, many people try to scrub it away or treat it with harsh chemical exfoliants, both of which only make matters worse. Dermatologists sometimes prescribe salicylic acid moisturizers, which should be reserved for acned patients and should never be prescribed to treat KP. Steroid creams offer a spotty success rate, but only while you are using them.

Author Wendell Berry made an observation that I found very profound. He said that people are fed by the food industry, which pays no attention to health, and are treated by the health industry, which pays no attention to food.

Perhaps the two industries will some day acknowledge one another. In the meantime, check out this article on how one woman’s lifelong struggle with KP was completely cured by eliminating gluten (wheat) and casein (dairy) from her diet. It’s all part of the Paleo Way of eating. Dig in for beautiful skin!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Pretty, Please

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Beauty Shall Save the World’s newsletter bundles the best of the best in beauty products, unforgettable gifts, fashion & decor from around the world and sends it straight to your inbox. So if you don’t have time to surf blogs all day, you can still stay up-to-date on the latest.

Want beauty? It’s free, and worth it. Just enter your email below and you’re good to go.