Ooh, my favorite!

Gifts for HIM
December 9, 2013, 10:38 am
Filed under: Gift guide, The Finer Things


I had my guys chime in on this one so I would be sure to include their favorite things from this past year. As with the home guide, these are only things they know and love, and use all the time. I’m really proud of this guide because they are all products of character, and are so reflective of the wonderful guys I have in my life (with nary an electronic). Enjoy!

1  Heston Blumenthal at home  Andrew’s (and one of my) favorite cookbooks, it’s a cool take on traditional dishes with an added dash of new-age techniques. For the experienced cook it would be a great way to add a new dimension to their cooking.

2  Whiskey shaving products  Brother Thani loves these products from the Portland General Store. Hand crafted products made from vintage recipes, and without the use of chemicals or artificial fragrances. Since Andrew has gone beardie I’ll be adding some of these into his gift mix.

3  Opinel pocket knife  Andrew had gotten one of these for me to use in the yard, and his friend Steve had coincidentally gotten one for him. I always wondered what you actually use a pocket knife for, and now that I have one it turns out you use it for everything! This is a great knife, and all the guys love it.

4  Tajika copper scissors  I’ve gushed about these before, and still they are quite special. There’s an interesting shift in seeking out and adding artisan elements into the home. Each time you go to use it you’re handling a gift, a piece that someone has made with their hands, imparting their care and energy into an artform. Even something as simple as cutting a piece of paper becomes different. A very special gift.

5  Best Made Kevlar Gear bag  This bag is badass. And sexy too. Andrew uses it as a travel bag, a tool bag, an outdoor trekking bag…it’s good for anything, really. And sexy too.

6  Tomii Takashi wood bowl  Since we live off salads throughout the year, and since Andrew makes the best salads ever, I got him this wood salad bowl for his birthday. Like a well-cared for pan, a wood salad bowl will naturally season over time and help elevate your leafy greens. This hand-turned bowl from Japanese artisan Tomii Takashi is simply beautiful, and the perfect reminder that the energy embedded in an artisan craft is priceless.

7  Best Made Lumberlander blanket  I got this for Thani on his birthday last year and it gets lots of use on his San Francisco picnics in the park. He said he gets a lot of blanket envy, but still won’t let anyone sit on it while they’re eating. A successful gift indeed.

8  Quadrago  We all have, and love this game. It’s Connect Four on crack! And really, we could all use a little more (non-video) game time in our lives.

9  Porlex coffee grinder  One of the greatest let downs is seeing a pretty apparatus and then finding out it works like crap. This is not one of those things. Good-looking and one of the best coffee grinders you can get. Andrew knows his coffee, so you can count on this one.

14 Pantry Essentials
October 2, 2013, 11:58 am
Filed under: Chocolate, Food, My favorite things, Organic, Recipes, The Finer Things


It seems that everyone is talking about how much they love fall lately. The changing leaves really are lovely, and the crisp, gloomy weather is a nice change of pace from the summer heat, but I’ve always loved the arrival of fall because that’s the time when I prepare to hibernate. And no hibernation would be complete without the addition of a few pounds around the old midsection and a well stocked pantry because regular trips to the farmer’s market and grocery store just ain’t happening.

Here are some of my very favorite pantry staples:

1 Arvum finishing vinegar  This family of vinegars are perfect finishing vinegars for soups and salads. Throughout the autumn and winter drizzle a little bit over a kale salad or a nice bean soup to add a little zip.

2  bionaturae organic pasta  One of our favorite pasta brands for spaghetti, shells, or these papardelle’s we keep a variety of shapes on hand just in case there are cravings for Carbonara.

3  Askinosie chocolate hazelnut spread  Oh my god, I love this stuff. Askinosie’s chocolate hazelnut spread is my favorite for sweet tooth cravings and snacks. No weird ingredients and no cheap chocolate here, just Hazelnuts from Lynden, Washington and the same cocoa powder and nibs used in their bars. They’re the only chocolate maker in the US making this from scratch! I like it on toast or in Andrew’s pastry dough as a pop-tart.

4  Cento San Marzano tomatoes  San Marzano tomatoes are the shit, but you have to make sure what you’re buying has been certified. There are (expesive!) brands stateside that are not authentic, and therefore not nearly as good or as sweet. Our favorite Cento brand is grown in the ashes of Mount Visuvius where the rich soil makes for sweet tomatoes. Such a bright spot in the middle of a cold winter we use these for pasta sauce and soups. Though the organic is hard to find, the conventional is easily found at Trader Joe’s and other grocery stores.

5  Red Boat fish sauce  Artisan fish sauce, finally! Made using a 200-year old process free of chemicals or added water this fish sauce really is wonderful. Having grown up on fish sauces there really is something about the clean flavors and finish of Red Boat. It’s not cloying or sharp,  so whatever you’re using it in is that much better. Perfect for a nice bowl of Jok.

6  Olo’s Chipotle paste  Chipotle paste in a tube is genius. My friend Tessa created this amazing paste and it’s one of my very favorite pantry staples. We use it to spice up condiments (like ketchup or sour cream), or in soups for a bit of smoky spice. Tessa does this as a hobby in addition to work and two kids, and somehow that makes this even better. Give it a go and you’ll absolutely love it.

7  Bob’s Red Mill organic steel cut oats  Love Bob. Love steel cut oats. These award-winning organic guys are great for oatmeal with a little texture. I like mine with butter, milk, brown sugar, and almonds.

8  Matiz Espana sardines and pulpo  These are probably our most essential pantry items because they’re so easily converted into great snacks or meals. Both the sardines and octopus are easily dressed into salads and served on toast or crackers. Also, sardines have more omega-3′s and fewer toxins since they’re lower on the food chain.

9  Aptera olive oil  This olive oil from the island of Crete is not only one of the best olive oils in our collection, but the pricepoint is crazy affordable. It is also naturally organic as it is illegal to spray pesticides on the island. We use this as our everyday oil for cooking, but it’s still good enough to use in salads and finishing too.

10  Arroyabe Italian tuna in olive oil  Italian tuna packed in olive oil, the best tuna ever. Like the sardines and octopus we love this guy for emergency snacks and sammies.

11 Rancho Gordo heirloom beans  The heirloom beans from Rancho Gordo are so badass. Have you ever seen such beautiful beans? We use any variety of their beans for soups, chilis, and stews.

12  Wakame seaweed  Andrew’s lamb seaweed soup is one of our favorites, so we have wakame seaweed by the pound in our pantry. Aside from soup we like it as a cold salad and we use the water for spa-like purposes.

13  Raw organic almonds Also on-hand by the pound in the pantry, we use these raw almonds for almond milk for smoothies and almond cake for sweet cravings. Briden WIlson Farms has beautiful almonds so we get our almonds directly from them. Their fall harvest is available now.

14  Organic saltine crackers  Sometimes you just need a saltine. My favorite is with an application of almond butter and jam, but then there’s also the times we use these as a crust for fried chicken thighs.

Tajika Copper Scissors
August 27, 2013, 11:50 am
Filed under: Art and Design, The Finer Things


For a while now both Andrew and I had been complaining about our scissors around the house. Somehow our random selection of everyday shears had broken handles, dull blades, or a snapped spring (on one of the heavier pairs). He’d been talking about investing in a new pair, and like so many other things, you can’t seem to have too many scissors. When his b-day came last week I figured it would be a great chance to add beautiful pair and begin a whole new collection. I started with these here, the Tajiko copper household scissors.

Tajika Haruo Ironworks has been producing handcrafted scissors for four generations in Ono City, Japan. These are made of copper, hand forged and hand sharpened. They are truly remarkable and to hold and use them gives energy and purpose. There’s an interesting shift in seeking out and adding artisan elements into the home. Each time you go to use it you’re handling a gift, a piece that someone has made with their hands, imparting their care and energy into an artform. Even something as simple as cutting a piece of paper becomes different.

Just a simple, but meaningful idea if you’re looking for a different take on everyday things.

Tajika Copper Scissors | $90

Askinosie White + Cocoa Nibs
March 27, 2013, 11:42 am
Filed under: Chocolate, The Finer Things


White chocolate’s not chocolate…whatever. This bar of Askinosie white chocolate is everything: single origin, direct trade, small batch, cocoa butter made in-house, four quality ingredients, and farmers with a stake in the outcome. Even farmer Peter Cruz is featured on the package. Yay for socially responsible chocolate.

Askinosie3But more than the bean to bar production the ingredients in this bar make me giddy. Giddy like skipping down the street or tap dancing around the kitchen (which is exactly what I do). There’s the rich and earthy tang from goat’s milk (such a sexy pairing!), the layer of roasted cocoa nibs on the bottom, and the micro grains of sugar bits that you savor as the chocolate melts in your mouth. I’m basically saying that this white chocolate in no way resembles the horribly waxy bunny-shaped bars we’re all used to. It’s the perfect balance of white chocolate sweet, goaty-milky tang, and a satisfying-crystally crunch.

Askinosie2Grab a bar online here. Or if you’re in Seattle check in with Karyn at Sugar Pill Apothecary or Chocolopolis at the top of Queen Anne.

My other favorite version of this bar has pistachios in place of the cocoa nibs! Don’t be shy. Try them both.

INGREDIENTS: Organic cane juice, cocoa butter (made by Askinosie with Trinitario Davao cocoa beans), roasted cocoa nibs, goat’s milk powder.

Party Planning
January 21, 2013, 10:29 am
Filed under: Entertaining, The Finer Things, Vintage

It’s sad to say but the last official party I hosted was probably about 8 years ago. It’s lame because I love entertaining, and even in my early days as a hostess we always had fun snacking and sipping at my tiny old house in Wedgwood. I even converted a tiny extra room into a “Moroccan tea room” with tons of floor pillows and lots of candlelight. The guys especially loved calling it the make out room, but the only thing they ever did there was to get in the candle wax and make a huge mess. So yeah. Boys.

My idea of entertaining has changed only a tad, but I’m using this opportunity to plan and collect key pieces that I can use for any type of get together. Here’s the concept I have in mind, using similar pieces that I already have or have just found, and a color palate that is (hopefully) far from the horrifying search results one gets when looking for ideas on this sort of thing.

Picture 6

Salad plateCrystal pitcher / Champagne coupes / Marble board / Linen cocktail napkins / Votives / Serving tray (similar) / Mother of Pearl serving set

Etsy has been an amazing source for vintage pieces at really great prices too. I’d recommend spending time searching there, but only when you know precisely what you want (combing through the results is a disaster otherwise). eBay and Craigslist are also great resources, especially when you’re looking for larger lots of dinnerware. (Our set of salad plates came from Craigslist!)

I decided that I want everything to be neutral: crystal/glass/ceramic with small bits of silver and gold. I actually like mixing the two and with only small bands of it here and there I think it will be nice little touches. The flowers will be more neutral as well with ivory, blushes and natural greens. Yep, no red flowers! The only bits of color will be the guys above, and they’ll be in the form of crepe paper that I’ll make into some sort of garland.

Some quick tips on collecting pieces:

Crystal pitcher – This Waterford one here is quite lovely, but there’s no need to spend big money. Check out a current sale at One King’s Lane and see some great ones for about $30.

Linen napkins – I have the greatest little vintage linen napkin collection resulting from a few mixed lot listings for less than $15 each. A quick search will get you lots of great results.

Champagne coupes – don’t spend big money on these. (I don’t really love the ones here, save for the gold rim.) Again, search eBay, Etsy, Craigslist.

Silver Serving tray – even new ones can be inexpensive, just take the time to find one in the shape, size, and weight that you want.

Serving utensils – I just picked these guys up on One King’s Lane for $30. Mother of pearl too!

Nerikomi ceramics
November 5, 2012, 11:49 am
Filed under: Art and Design, Seattle, The Finer Things

I’ve gotten a few questions about the ceramic tea cup I used in the matcha tea post last week so I figured I’d share all about it since it’s pretty freakin’ cool.

The ceramic is an ancient pottery technique called nerikomi (or neriage) where colored slabs of clay are folded and stacked to create patterns in the clay. It’s widely considered to be one of the more difficult techniques to master because of the painstaking and delicate care that’s required to create the patterns. I happened upon these pieces at Far 4 here in downtown Seattle. When I saw this cup it was so Andrew to me: the colors, the pattern, the shape. It was instantly special and I had to get it.

This particular series is created by master ceramicist Yusuke Aida, one of Japan’s most respected artisans. More than just a cup we often pause to admire it as an object of art…and when you consider that many of us are guilty of cupboards full of free mug swag or crummy tourist souvenirs it’s been really nice to have a unique and special piece to enjoy with tea every day.

Have you caught on that Andrew’s cup has become our cup? All the more reason to justify finding one for me now, right? I’m really liking this checkered guy here.

With Yusuke Aida in his 80’s now, there are some younger artisans that have taken up the art of nerikomi, and the price point is not quite as high as. I am really excited about discovering Sakai Mika. Her pieces are for sale online here. And if you’re curious to see more of the nerikomi process, check out this amazing post on her technique.

Yusuke Aida ceramics available online, or at the Far 4 shop here in Seattle.

Alexander Wang Prisma Wallet
October 23, 2012, 2:47 am
Filed under: Fashion, The Finer Things, Yes please

I am in desperate need of a proper wallet. I can’t even tell you what I have at the moment, but I think its original purpose was to house business cards. It will be a big purchase, so I’m holding out for the perfect find. It has to be functional, practical, resilient, and stylish.

This absolutely perfect specimen of a wallet does not meet any of the main three criteria, but it sure as hell nails the stylish aspect. I got to play with it at Barney’s the other day and it was glorious. The soft rosy-nude leather was to die for; the perfect hue, but oh so frageelay. Just as it could easily be taken into sweet territory, the gold hardware adds a sexy edge. And with a dimension of 4×8 it could also double as a small clutch. Two-for-one!

Alexander Wang, Prisma Long Compact Wallet, $370

Totokaelo Seattle
June 28, 2012, 10:01 am
Filed under: Art and Design, Fashion, Home, Seattle, The Finer Things

An upscale lifestyle store in Seattle…on Capitol Hill? For real? No way!

Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!

Totokaelo (toh-toh-kye-oh) is a gorgeous new store on The Hill, but the shop itself has been around for a while (you may recognize it from its smaller location in Pioneer Square). Featuring quality artisan wares from around the globe alongside some high-end designer goods, Totokaelo is a beautifully curated boutique with pieces at all price points…though the higher end is where it skews.

I was really happy to see the selection of artisan Japanese ceramics I’d been eyeing online but had hesitated buying without seeing and touching first. (They were as gorgeous as I’d hoped.) Beyond housewares there’s lots to be seen, and even if that’s ALL you’ll be doing Totokaelo is a great afternoon window shopping excursion.

There will be plush towels, Japanese ceramic housewares, and gorgeous furniture…

…there will be designer trinkets and toys…

…there will be clothing, jeans and jewelry…

…and there will be shoes!

Soap Box moment: While some on The Hill see the addition of this store as a swing in the pretentious and materialistic direction, I welcome the boutique with its celebration of artisan crafts and grown-up style. If we’re talking about the downside of “the gentrification of Capitol Hill” let’s turn the argument toward the poor city planning and the BARRAGE of cheap condos and apartments, and all of the mediocre restaurants and bars popping up down every street and on every corner. So there. I’m done now.

Bespoke Chanel Silk Scarf Chandelier
June 19, 2012, 11:25 am
Filed under: Art and Design, Home, The Finer Things

Opulent to no end. Each one is made to order and adds white glove packaging and delivery. The shade is a Chanel scarf and the draping chains are pearls and gold-plated vintage beads. Very boudoir-esque, no?

Special order at Vivre $9,200. [Yes. Seriously.]

François Pralus Barre Infernale Lait
May 31, 2012, 10:25 am
Filed under: Chocolate, The Finer Things

François Pralus Barre Infernale

Like coffee, chocolate is a luxury item that’s become so easily accessible that it’s easy to forget that for about $20 we have access to the best the world has to offer. Seriously, this is mind blowing! In a time where faster, cheaper goods reign supreme we have the ability to reallocate a few dollars here and there to appreciate the finer things and indulge in excellence…like, for example, this epic bar of chocolate.

I use the term chocolate bar only in the most literal sense: it is in the shape of a bar, and it is made of chocolate. In terms of the conventional sense, trust me when I say that there is nothing conventional about this chocolate.

This is the François Pralus Barre Infernale Lait. I’ve been struggling to find the best way to characterize this, but it’s been really tough. In the classic sense (and according to François Pralus) it’s a praline, but I think it might help most people stateside to think of this as a bon bon of sorts, with a truffle-ish center. (Did you catch that?)

The progression of textures and tastes is euphoric. The outer chocolate shell boldly encases and yet blends into the most sumptuous, buttery, and decadent chocolate hazelnut center. In short it’s the perfect fat: as it hits your palate it’s one cohesive bite, but almost immediately it coats your tongue and oozes sexy hazelnut chocolate. The addition of the toasted whole hazelnuts is the perfect bit of tannic crunch.

This is NOT excessive-cocoa-butter-waxy-bland, just pure decadence. I’m not saying this is an exact comparison, but when talking about this with my guy the word foie gras did come up. So yeah…there’s that.

I purchased this from Cacao in Portland for $22. It’s worth every cent not just because of its artisan craftsmanship and quality (and size), but also because it’s so decadent it’s meant to be savored. You’ll just want to slice a few pieces off at a time and store it away from anything too warm or cold. If you’re looking for this in Seattle, check out Chocolopolis in Queen Anne, they also have it online for $19.

UPDATE [December, 12]: This guy is getting hard to find. Try here.

In case you’re curious here’s a cheeky little how-to:

If this wasn’t enough to convince you I’m not sure what else there is! All I can do is beg you to skip the chocolate from Trader Joe’s and indulge in something better every now and then. Trust me, the endorphins you’ll get from this are priceless!

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