Currently viewing the tag: "culture"

Greek-Dolmades-recipe-Stuffed-Grape-Leaves1One of the bi-products of the wine-making biz that keeps us busy on weekends in our vineyard in El Penedés, the wine region of Catalunya, is the proliferation of fresh grape leaves on our vines. (Duh!) In May or June, grape growers undertake the labor-intensive process of “leafing” and “suckering” the vines, which means that you remove all of the stems that have no fruit, and you also snap off big leaves that are casting shadows on the baby grape clusters. The leafing also gives the fruit more air and minimizes the possibility of icky mold growth. (“Sin miedo!” our local helper tells us: Snap off the excess growth WITHOUT FEAR!)

Last year, during our first season with the white grapes that are now slowly fermenting into “cava” (Spanish champagne), we were pretty thoroughly focused on getting all of the steps right. This year, I had the wherewithal, with the help of daughter Stassa, to collect a few of the largest grape leaves and tuck them away in a plastic bag for later use, after we recovered from the very hot and sweaty leafing process!

My motive? DOLMADES! I had read up last year on the quickest and easiest way to stuff your own grape leaves, guided by Martha Stewart and a dozen other on-line cooking websites, many of them Greek-oriented. And then I promptly forgot it. So while the leaves were still mostly green and supple, I consulted the Internet once again, and I went for what seemed like a fool-proof and remarkably rapid method of preparing the grape leaves for stuffing: blanch them for a few seconds in boiling water.

It worked pretty well, and the results were tasty if a bit chewy. The stuffing process itself was less laborious than I’d anticipated, and it helps if you can make it into a fun assembly-line process in the kitchen.

Here’s how…

First you go in the vineyard…

vineyard

Filling: I used some leftover risotto

risotto

Steam:

steam

Blanche:

blanche

Stuff:

stuffing

Enjoy!

finished

They came out a little chewy but I’m working on it…

“Kali Orexi!”

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D.H. Lawrence once wrote that, “Design in art, is a recognition of the relation between various things, various elements in the creative flux. You can’t invent a design. You recognize it, in the fourth dimension. That is, with your blood and your bones, as well as with your eyes.” As an interior designer at Troy Boston I have set out to design a space that focuses on “The Art of Function” in Italian design. Drawing inspiration from designers like Eero Saarinen, I have teamed up with expert curator of Italian furnishings and owner of Sedia, Dan Weldon, to help me evoke the architectural allure of Italy, a land as rich in history as it is in culture, and artisanal mastery.

Featured designs from Vibieffe, Toneilli and Saba Italia. Designed by Gianluigi Landoni, Paolo Grasselli and Sergio Bicego.

In our continuous quest for craftsmanship and inspiration, Dan set out to Milan Design Week to explore some of the new collections at the Salone del Mobile — a sprawling, citywide celebration of the most innovative, and most exclusive offerings in furniture and design.

Vessels by Kose designed by Rosaria Rattin.

This year, Milan Design Week was all about the palazzo, with several exhibitions hosted in these spectacular historic residences, dripping with purple wisteria.

Slim lines, muted colors and the use of natural materials mixed with marble and glass seemed to be the common theme among the exhibitors, Dan told me. There was a strong focus on compact and modular furnishings, which stood out in contrast to the more grand collections.With accent colors ranging from bold oranges and leafy greens to purples, and pastels, its safe to say that designers are embracing the warmer tones in lieu of colder polished finishes.After touring our Troy Boston unit, Dan and I hope you’ll feel at home and be inspired by the Milanese spirit. After all, “A ogni uccello il suo nido è bello.” (To every bird his nest is beautiful.)

Will S-photoIt’s well known that the French are great dog lovers, and that your pooch is welcome to enter almost any shop or restaurant that you are when you find yourself traveling with Fido in Paris.  But cats?  In a cafe in the tony 3rd arrondissement?  Cat lovers rejoice!  If your family is missing its feline member during your travels, there’s a place in France…

LE CAFE DES CHATS

Le Café des Chats now has two locations in the center of Paris.  The original one–which opened in 2013 in the Marais, a stone’s throw from the Centre Pompidou — proved so popular (reservations are recommended generally, and on weekends, essential) that its owners opened a second kitty emporium last autumn nearby in the 11th arrondissement, near the Place de la Bastille.  Marie-Claire of the Café des Chats told me that the second neighborhood “is very different and attracts yet a wider range of cat lovers.”

The lucky cats are all rescues that are being given another chance at life in an enviable situation.  While the cafe is not itself in the cat adoption business, a portion of its profits go to rescue activities.  “We wanted to show how a cat from a shelter is deserving and capable of affection,” says M-C.

Wiil S-Les Chats
Will SA:Les CHats

Les chats have pretty much free run of the place, although lunch guests are prohibited from feeding them table scraps, tempting though it may be. The cafe calls itself “un salon de thé et un restaurant,” and happily the food from its full-service kitchen is not an afterthought to the gimmick, but is absolutely delicious in a traditional Parisian way, and the management seeks out organic produce.  Both restaurant locations are open for lunch and dinner, and they also serve a yummy weekend brunch.  Our daughter had a croque monsieur, and her parents enjoyed a veggie-and-chevre quiche with a salad.  And a bowl of cream.

Is this proof that Parisians treat their pets better than they do their children?  Peut-etre.   Meeooooow…

Bikram student in standing bow pose

I am a certified type A personality – high energy, constantly moving – a multi-tasker, who despite the occasional setback, is very optimistic about life in general. I am also a runner, or was, until last February when I found something that surpassed even that endorphin high we runners crave so much.  The epiphany? Bikram Yoga, a seemingly unlikely replacement for the cardio workout I had incorporated into my daily life for the past 20 years. Yoga? Come on, that’s for granola eating, Birkenstock wearing vegans, who wouldn’t know an endorphin high if it hit them on the head. How wrong I was.

Introduced to the United States in the early 1970’s, the yoga practice was suggested to me through a good friend, who is also a runner and had been preaching the benefits of Bikram for some months before I actually set foot in the door. The fundamentals of Bikram are the same 26 postures in the same sequence every class; breathing and heat – a Bikram studio is hot…very hot. The temperature hovers around 105 degrees, with 40 percent humidity and is an essential element for this type of yoga. Breathing in and out through your nose takes some getting use to, but it is an effective way to control your discomfort with the heat and regulate your heart rate. I have come to love the heat, it is absolutely necessary to achieving the length in limbs needed to do the postures, but when I first walked into the class I turned to Lucas, the instructor, and said ‘There is no way I am staying in this heat for 90 minutes…no sir.’ Not only did I finish the class, but when I staggered out the door I felt so cleansed afterwards I couldn’t wait to go again. That was a year ago.

There are a handful of locations in the Boston area, including Back Bay and Harvard Square, but the classes I attend are held in a little gem of a studio on Hancock Street in Quincy, where I have come to understand and embrace all its benefits. Bikram is not just a workout, although the physical demand is great. It is about connecting your mind and body for 90 minutes, a time that includes meditation, focus, hard work and a respite from the bombardment of information that has become an integral part of our daily lives.

You sweat – a lot – and the detoxification is addictive. Bikram benefits range from the obvious-improvement in flexibility, balance and an increase in strength and muscle control, to the not so obvious – it has been proven to help with depression, and many practitioners believe it wards off arthritis and controls stress levels. My experience has seen improvement in focus, flexibility, significantly lessened joint pain, and emotion regulation. (My two kids will attest to that.) Hydration and nutrient replacement are key to practicing this kind of yoga, as your body sweats out not only water but potassium, sodium and other electrolytes.

I have pretty much given up running and try to take classes at least four times a week. When I travel, I google the area to find the Bikram studios nearby as I have become reliant on how good these classes makes me feel. I am still that certified type A, but with a stronger, focused, and more balanced perspective on how I run around like a maniac.

Namaste.

 

(Photography and video by Shannon Hawkins)

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Book pics:Newtonville 2

If you love books, you’ve really got to like Newtonville Books. First, let me just note how much affection I have for any bookstore that keeps a separate area for Europa Editions.  Yes, I’m judging a book by its cover (they are wonderfully designed) and by its content. Europa is the publisher of dozens of notable novelists including Fabio Bartolomei, Seth Greenland, and Elena Ferrante, whose “Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay” has become a book club staple since its release in September 2014. (It is the third in a series.)

Speaking of book clubs, Newtonville hosts a half dozen book clubs. The store runs and stocks a number of books that are favorites of area book clubs. The selection is well-curated to reflect a broad taste – both popular and new and titles that have been on shelves for a while and might just be gaining a following.

But back to the task at hand: The Staff Picks. This bookstore’s staff clearly has as much love for fiction as it does for non-fiction (something that appears to be rarer than I might have guessed.)

Some of the staff choices that I’d like to point out:

Book pics-Newtonville

David Peace’s “The Damned UTD,” which The Times of London called “probably the best novel ever written about sport.” The book was originally released in 2006 and was made into a movie. (See The Guardian’s review here:  I would suggest, Peace’s book from last May, “Red or Dead” but I do so with a warning. It is a 700-page experimental novel about a soccer coach. Yeah, I know.

Notable in the non-fiction category is Eula Bliss’s “On Immunity: An Inoculation” from Gray Wolf Press that was released last fall. This title was among the “Buzz Panel” titles from last spring’s Book Expo America, which means that the industry and stores had a head’s up about the its release. What I can’t figure is that why a book about how humans are afraid of vaccinations hasn’t prompted even more discussion. Even if this book weren’t as well written and researched (and, I hate to admit an easy to read and share 216 pages), it should be a book all parents are required to read.

Book pics:NewtonvilleAnd, finally, something from the staff recommendations that you can just enjoy as we wait for the weather to get nicer: “The Good Lord Bird,” the National Book Award winner by James McBride. It’s a historical novel with a raft of new characters and voices. McBride, who was first trained as a journalist, imbues the book with historical accuracy and precision that shines throughout.

Newtonville Books, 10 Langley Road, Newton Centre, MA

My first foray into online dating was a boy I call Nemo. We met on Plenty of Fish, get it? Anyway… I change the names to protect the nice people who deign to go out with me.

Nemo had a great opening message to me. Most people were saying “hi” or “hello” or “what’s up” or my personal favorite “Hello my Queen”. Nemo actually spoke TO me. He said:
• A. You look familiar
• B. Why were you walking down that street in your pictures?
The picture he refers to is one of my profile pics of me walking down 5th St in Southie. Right in front of his childhood home.

Kennedy - Nemo

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Some people are born this way. HORSE CRAZY! I was certainly one of them, with emphasis on the word crazy.

I just returned from one of the most glamorous aspects of the horse world and the amazing thing is its only 3 ½ hours outside of Boston.  I’m talking Saratoga Springs, NY. http://www.nyra.com/saratoga/, where for an intense six week period some of the top horses in the world compete for millions of dollars.

SARATOGA1

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Yep, it’s true.  After breaking up with my boo 9 mos ago, I’ve decided to jump back into the dating pool.  And by jump I mean poke a very cautious toe into the most passive form of dating – the online kind.  I  tried eHarmony once while on vacation, after the breakup and two bottles of wine.  It was a “free weekend” so I thought why not!  After an hour of answering inane questions and one more glass of wine, I got this…

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I have a dream, a dream that one day, I will be able to travel to an exotic location and spend the rest of my days shopping to my heart’s desire without paying a single dime.

Louis Vuitton offers just that, besides the last part of course (I’m still on the hunt for a working money tree).

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