Thursday, February 16, 2012


Last Thursday we opened our doors later than normal. That implies that we have a normal schedule and that unfortunately would be a bit of a stretch. We're supposed to be open 11am to 6pm Tuesday through Saturday and we hold to it as best we can. For any of you who have showed up at say 5:23 on a Friday afternoon only to find the lights off and the closed sign in the window...I apologize. Please don't hold it against us.
Anyway, last Thursday; we kept the door open until a little past nine. It was a little to cold to have literally had the door open but the lights were on until the last mason jar was washed and the open sign was turned over to closed. It was our Valentine event, "For the woman in your life". We were going to tailor the event to "men only" then we came to our senses knowing everyone has someone in their life at Valentine's and it isn't always a woman.
We highlighted the work of two local artists at the event. Joan Sample of Black Button Design took over the back room spreading out necklaces, bracelets and earrings all made out of buttons. We've spoken about Joan's work before with great admiration and envy. Joan is a former textile designer and the element of weaving shows clearly in her jewelry designs. It's not merely stringing buttons together.
It's how she deals with putting them together weaving a chain of buttons and thread in same way a weaver would weave a piece of fabric. It was a thrill to have her display her work at the event.
Rebecca Schuler, who is also my niece, took over the front room with her handmade bags, clutches and purses under the brand name of Shulabags. Rebecca has a great sense of fabric and craftsmanship.
Her metal rings on her purses are an ingenious inspiration for the perfect way to free your hands while still having your bag nearby safely dangling from your wrist. How many times have you tried to tuck that purse under your arm while clutching a drink in one hand and trying to eat a caviar canapé with the other? Rebecca has the answer.
To add to the Valentine ambiance we dressed the rooms in red frames with old valentines, a green depression vase filled with a dozen tangerine roses and then spread seasoned nuts, smoked trout with crème fraiche and dill, shrimp with wasabi mayonnaise, cucumbers and parsley and miniature chocolate and apple cinnamon cupcakes on all available surfaces that weren't already covered in product. The food was great but the hit of the evening was our Madison mules in mason jars. Here are some of the recipes:

Chipotle and Maple Syrup Roasted Nuts
Placing cups of roasted nuts around the room makes for easy hand food that doesn't require any real serving pieces other than a napkin and we had a full supply of our myDrap cotton disposable napkins on hand, in our signature orange of course.
3 cups whole roasted cashews
2 cups walnut halves (7 ounces)
2 cups whole pecans (7 ounces)
1 cup whole almonds (6 ounces)
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup light brown sugar
3 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tsp ground chipotle powder
Vegetable oil
Kosher salt
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Get out a shallows pan and grease it down with the vegetable oil. Now combine your nuts with the maple syrup, brown sugar, orange juice, chipotle powder and a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil. I like to do this in a bowl. Once everything seems evenly coated add 2 tablespoons of Kosher salt and mix again. Then dump the nuts into the pan and spread them out as evenly as you can. Roast the nuts for 25 minutes shuffling them around a couple of times making sure that they are all getting toasted to a golden brown. Take them out of the oven and toss them with another couple tablespoons of Kosher salt. Let them cool. You don't want to serve them too soon. If you serve them too early before they've had a chance to properly cool the nuts are too hot and chewy. You want them to have hardened back up to nut consistency, if you know what I mean. These nuts have a real kick but once you get started eating them it's a bitch to stop slipping your hand into the nut dish.

Shrimp and wasabi mayonnaise cocktail sandwiches
This is purely a Rick concoction.
2-3lbs of medium sized shrimp (we used frozen - they're already cooked, cleaned and de-veined )
2 onions roughly chopped
3 lemons juiced and roughly chopped
1 cucumber
Several cloves of garlic
1 tbsp of black peppercorns
1 bunch of flat leaf parsley
1 loaf of cocktail bread (we like sourdough but you can use pumpernickel or rye)
1/2 cup of mayonnaise
2 tbsp of wasabi mustard
Olive oil
Fill a pot with 4 quarts of water and begin to bring it to a boil. While the pot is coming to a boil juice your lemons and roughly cut them up. Peel your onions and roughly cut them up as well. If you can, now is the time to peel your cucumber and slice it into crunchy little disks. If you've decided to use fresh uncooked shrimp you should have already taken the time to clean,  de-vein them and pulled their tiny tails off.
Dump the lemons and onions into the bubbling bath, and add your peppercorns, garlic and parsley. Tie up half the parsley and leave the other half for garnishing. Tying up the parsley makes it easier to dispose of once the shrimp are cooked. Bring this to a boil. After 10 minutes turn the mixture down to a simmer and then add the shrimp. Keep a watchful eye on the pot, stirring occasionally until the shrimp turn pink. Remove the pot from the flame and strain the whole mixture. Now find someone with time on his or her hands to stand there and separate the shrimp from the rest of the mixture leaving all those stray parsley leaves behind. Set the shrimp aside and make your wasabi mayonnaise. This shouldn't take more than a couple of seconds. Mix a 1/2 cup of real mayonnaise (we're all Paula Dean on this one) with 2 tablespoons of wasabi mustard and a dash of olive oil to help thin out the mixture and then that part is done.
Now lie out your cocktail bread slices, smear on your wasabi mayo, hit it with a cucumber slice and a shrimp, top with a sprig of parsley and eat. These things pack a punch. You can prepare them before hand as long as you can keep them refrigerated. Despite the real mayo they're moderate on the calories and a great combination with a Madison mule.

Madison mules in mason jars
The ingredients here are pretty simple but first you need to go to your local canning supply store and pick up a couple dozen half-pint mason jars. We felt this was the perfect party size, big enough to know you had one yet small enough to know no one was going to have to call a cab to get home.
Here's what you do. Cut the ends off a lime, slice it in half lengthwise and then cut it into half-circle wedges. My niece taught me this one from her bartending days. Grab a wedge and coat the rim of a mason jar with the juice of the lime. Fill the jar with ice. Add a jigger of Tito's handmade vodka and fill the jar the rest of the way up with some spicy ginger beer. Top your jar with your lime wedge and you've got a Madison mule in a mason jar. This was the hit of the party and every party needs its own signature drink.

Last summer we took a little side trip to Chicago to visit my sister for a long weekend. My sister teaches kindergarten. Her love is geography. She had an opportunity to participate in a cartography summer session where they explored mapping in an educational framework. She has a love for maps and globes but that's a whole new post. On one afternoon we ducked into the Art Institute of Chicago to beat the humid Midwest heat. After walking through the impressionists and showing Emmy Seurat's "Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" we stumbled into a windowless gallery lined with Japanese Kimonos. Each Kimono was draped over a simple mannequin arms out stretched. I'm not one with a big interest in the Far East but these kimonos blew me away on the winds of a fashion tsunami.
There's an architectural appeal to a kimono, the structured design with its block-like shapes tying the body to the arms. The loop and hang of the sleeves against the long clean line of the gown depict perfect proportion. The alignment of pattern is essential to the Far East aesthetic.
When the pattern is pictorial it wraps precisely around the garment telling a story as it twists and turns from right to left. Being a westerner I had to remember to the right to left thing otherwise I was seeing the  conclusion before we got to "once upon a time".
My inclination was to think of the kimono as a feminine garment but that is unfair. The kimono is meant to be worn by men and women alike. The ornate quality of a kimono has little to do with gender and more to do with the distinction between everyday wear and formal occasions.
As for the fashion shows in New York this week the kimono has found its way into several collections and has been called the cardigan for fall. Watch out Mr. Rogers.


Vintage Japanese Postcard
Photographer unknown

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