Friday, July 31, 2009

Toile and cherry pie...

The farmer’s market in my neighborhood has had many organic goodies this summer.

One of my favorite sellers always lines their produce tables with toile fabric!

It really makes the produce stand-out...and you know Mr. Peacock loves toile!

I usually buy too much stuff—it's difficult to just buy the essentials. The stone fruits (peaches, plums, nectarines, pluots, and cherries) have been especially juicy and flavorful this year.

I recently bought a large amount of Bing cherries with the intent of making a pie.

I like fruit pies, but I don’t like them too sweet or gummy—especially cherry pie. I’ve been on a quest to find the “perfect” homemade cherry pie recipe for the last few years. Canned cherry pie filling is so disappointing—overly sweet, gummy, starchy, fake red coloring, and very few cherries.

Here’s Mr. Peacock’s version of a summer cherry pie using fresh Bing cherries—with no red food coloring. I like using a 9” spring form pan, instead of a pie plate. I like the pie to look a bit rustic.

Mr. Peacock’s Cherry Pie
Makes 6 servings
Preheat oven 375 degrees

2 lbs pitted ripe Bing cherries
juice of 1 lime
¾ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon almond extract (just a little enhances the cherry flavor)
pinch of salt
1 ½ tablespoon of minute tapioca
1 tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter cut into small pieces
Pastry for a double-crust pie (your favorite recipe or see below)
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

1) Carefully pit the cherries. I used a deep mixing bowl and simply squished the pit out of each cherry. It is a bit labor intensive, but the process goes fairly quickly. Wear latex gloves if you don’t want your hands to get stained with cherry juice. I washed my hands immediately, but my cuticles were stained a bit. I also suggest laying newspapers on your floor and having paper towels and some sort of spray cleaner nearby—because your work area will get splattered with cherry juice.

2) After you pit all of the cherries, I slightly mashed them a bit with the back of a large spoon to get some extra juice.
3) Pour the sugar, almond extract, pinch of salt, and tapioca over the cherries and gently toss together with a spoon. Let this mixture rest 10-15 minutes.
4) Pour the filling into the prepared piecrust. Sprinkle the surface with the cornstarch and sugar mixture. Sprinkle the cold butter over the top. Push the extended edges of the piecrust over the topping.

5) Arrange the cookie cutter pieces of dough over the top of the mixture and pie crust edges. I slightly overlapped the pieces going in circles from the middle to the outer edges. Sprinkle the top with the turbinado sugar.
6) Place the spring pan on top of a cookie sheet and place in the preheated 375-degree oven.

7) Bake the pie for approximately 40-45 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. The filling will still appear runny when you first remove it from the oven. Let the pie cool at least 1 hour and the filling will set. Enjoy!

Pastry for a double-crust pie
(adapted from Gourmet magazine)

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour (I used unbleached)
1 tablespoon of sugar
¾ tsp salt
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into a dice
4 tablespoons of frozen solid vegetable shortening (you can get non-hydrogenated at Whole Foods), cut into a dice
1/3 cup ice water (plus 1-4 extra tablespoons)

1) Dice the cold butter and frozen shortening. Place in the freezer.
2) Pour the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor with your regular blade and pulse until blended.
3) Spread the frozen butter and shortening over the flour mixture.
4) Get your ice water handy and pulse the flour and butter, alternately adding a bit of cold water. Continue pulsing and adding water until the dough forms a ball. Once the dough comes together—do not over process.

5) Dump the dough on a large piece of plastic wrap and pat out into a round disc—about 1 inch thick. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, or place in the freezer for about 15 minutes.

6) Roll out the dough between 2 pieces of lightly floured parchment paper until about 3/16 of inch thick. Drape dough over the spring form pan and gently press into the pan. Cut away excess dough.
7) Roll the excess dough between the parchment papers. Use a cookie cutter to cut as many shapes out of this extra dough. I used a 2” round scalloped cookie cutter.

If you’re not into making your pie (and live in the San Francisco), you can order and purchase a fresh pie from the Pie Truck (thanks Sara). The pie truck is a one-man operation. The pie man, a former architect, bakes and delivers these delicious sweet and savory pies—even on Saturday. Click here for more information about the Pie Truck.

Have a great weekend...and hopefully some pie!

Monday, July 27, 2009

To dye for…

Mention tie-dye and immediately you’ll think of Haight Asbury, free love, patchouli and the hippie movement. The process involves folding the fabric and binding or tying it in place, and then applying dye. The ties prevent the entire surface of the fabric from being dyed, and creates the patterns. Many cultures around the world from Peru to Africa have used tie-dye, or resist dyeing, to color and create patterns on fabric. In Japan it’s called Shibori, and in India it’s called bandhna. One of Mr. Peacock’s favorite shirts uses fabric created with resist dyeing techniques (see below No. 7). Tie-dye gets a bad rap because it's frequently associated with tacky apparel, but there are many interesting and beautiful textiles created using the resist dyeing technique. Here are a few tie-dye goodies, or things inspired by tie-dye...

(click image above to enlarge)
1) The pattern of these tie-dye napkins reminds me of blue dandelions ready to blow their seeds into the wind. They would be perfect for leisure evening cookouts this summer.

2) Mr. Peacock likes the painterly pattern of subtle swirls of color on this hand knotted silk rug—it looks like a large tie-dye or abstract painting.

3) Summer is flying by, but you still have time to wear summery shirts like this slim cut resist dyed cotton shirt in a green ombre color (it's on sale too).

4) This little melting bud vase isn’t tie-dyed, but the pattern of the colors remind me of a piece of tie-dye fabric.

5) I remember laying my jeans in the the bath tub in high school and splattering bleach all over them to achieve this look. These deep indigo colored slim jeans aren't tie-dyed, but still have that DIY aesthetic, and they won't smell like bleach for weeks (like my jeans in high school did).

6) This silk-screened tie-dye t-shirt with an iconic black & white image of Patti Smith is given a new twist with tie-dye colors.

7) Mr. Peacock likes to wear this Agnes B. tie-dye shirt (at right), from a few years back, on warm days in San Francisco.

You can make your own tie-dye shirt too (or napkins)!

Do you have any tie-dye items hiding in your home or wardrobe?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

When the lights go out…

My sister Samantha’s power has been out for over a day. Terrible storms ripped through her neighborhood in Colorado the previous night—blowing out windows, uprooting trees, leaving a few inches of hail, and knocking power lines down. You never know when an emergency could knock out your electricity—and my sister only had a few candles in the house at the time.

These candelabras could light up a room quite nicely during a power outage.

This Scandinavian candelabrum is cleverly designed, and can be coordinated in various configurations from a single candle holder... an eight candle candelabra.

It comes neatly packaged in a box, which is perfect for stowing away until you need it for your next dinner party—or power outage.

Mr. Peacock has been a fan of glass artist Jeff Zimmerman for quite some time (as well as this Peacock), and I’m completely infatuated with these serpentine light sculptures in black hand-blown glass.

These elegant candle holders are stunning in large groupings.

And equally stunning as a pair. They’re available in clear, white or black. The black glass is my favorite.

This Mystic Candleholder, designed by Arik Levy in 2005, can be used as a candleholder or a vase…

…or objet d'art.

It comes in 2 heights—8” and 17”. A special accessory set is available (7 extra pieces) that allow you to further construct your candleholder sculpture. The Mystic candle holder is available in clear, silver and gold.

Do you use candles, or have back-up candles at your home? If you don’t have a candelabra (or hurricane lamp) invest in a nice one today—don’t wait until a power outage.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Anchors Away...

(click image above to enlarge)

The anchor motif usually pops-up during the summertime—evoking the ocean and sandy beaches. (I sure could use some ocean and sandy beaches right now!) It’s long been symbolic of the Navy and Marines. So many young sailors get a tattoo of an anchor during their service. You don’t have to join the Marines or get an anchor tattoo to incorporate something nautical into your home or wardrobe.

1) Mr. Peacock likes the antiqued brass buckle on this anchor plaque web belt.

2) This sterling silver anchor ring would also make a great over sized charm on a piece of leather string.

3) An anchor pillow could add a touch of nautical charm. This cotton pillow, with grommets detailing on the corners, is also available in navy.

4) A gentleman peacock needs a good pair of navy cotton socks, especially with white anchors emblazoned on the side of each sock.

5) In a sea of flip-flops, you’ll easily spot these orange flip-flops with emblazoned with a white anchor.

6) A classic summertime belt—white grosgrain ribbon with anchors.

7) This wool anchor rug would be great in an entryway. It’s available in a dozen custom colors, but I like the classic pairing of navy and white.

8) Mr. Peacock doesn’t wear much jewelry beyond a watch and cufflinks (as needed), but when the mood strikes I’ll don an occasional necklace under my shirt. This mini anchor charm necklace by Patch NYC would fit the bill.

9) This Japanese indigo bandana with an anchor motif would be a great staple item for any peacock’s wardrobe.

10) I can’t leave out my favorite “anchor”—Anchor Oyster Bar. It’s been in The Castro for over 30 years. The interior is clean and understated, with just the right amount of nautical vibe. I love the old school combo-seafood salad with Louis style dressing. On the weekends there's always a bunch of folks waiting outside for a table to open up at this tiny seafood joint.

What's your favorite seafood joint? I hope everyone is having a good summer!

Friday, July 17, 2009

A Natural Genius—Tapio Wirkkala

Tapio Wirkkala was a designer and craftsman of furniture, lighting, appliances, graphics, jewelry, ceramics, glass, metal, wooden objects—and even banknotes.

Above: A black glass Tapio vase, and a ceramic paper bag vase for Rosenthal (1977).

This Finnish gentleman may not be a household name, but his influence on 20th century design can’t be denied. You may have seen his mass-produced vodka bottle design for Finlandia vodka which was used from 1970-2000.

Above: Vintage Tapio Wirkkala stainless steel bar utensil set.

This Gemini was born in 1915 and attended the Central School of Applied Arts. He won a large number of awards over his lifelong design career, including a decorative glass competition sponsored by Iittala Glassworks in 1946.

Above: Tapio glassware that captures a single air bubble in the stem of the glass.

That award resulted in a lifelong collaboration with Iitala until his death in 1985.

Above: A Tapio Wirkkala coffee table that displays the beauty of the wood—with two leaf pattern inlays.

He created his designs from what he observed and inspired him in nature, whether it was a leaf, an icicle, or an organic shape.

Above: A Tapio vase that looks like a large chunk of ice.

He was also very mindful of the material he was working with and said, “...the designer should aim at being in harmony with his material."

Mr. Wirkkala also had a lifelong collaboration with Rosenthal that started in 1956. Mr. Peacock has some porcelain dishes (a few samples above and below), probably from the early 1960’s, that are attributed to Tapio Wirkkala. I'm not sure what the name of the pattern is—if you know, drop me a line!

These dishes have the elements of Tapio’s design—nature references (leaves), sculptural shapes, and a thoughtful use of the material (porcelain). I’m not positive they’re Tapio designs, they could simply be inspired by Tapio, but I love them anyway.

Above: A signed Tapio Wirkkala floor lamp from 1958.

Tapio Wirkkala worked briefly for Raymond Loewy in the early 1950’s, and designed everything from irons, utensils, and even television sets for Westinghouse.

Over the years he worked and collaborated with many different companies including Venini—a signed Tapio Wirkkala fused glass bottle from 1983 (above).

Throughout his life he drew on naturalistic forms and materials to design and create his work. If you don’t already have something in your home designed by Tapio Wirkkala add something today—whether it’s a drinking glass or a vase. If you would like to learn more about this design icon, there are a few good books on Mr. Wirkkala here and here. Mr. Peacock salutes this design genius for his timeless creations and commitment to his work. Thank you Tapio Wirkkala!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Tea Kettle Dilemma

Mr. Peacock had a bad habit (and still does) of putting some water on to boil for tea, and then walking into another room and starting some other project—completely forgetting about the tea kettle...oops!

On more than one occasion, I returned to the kitchen to find a melted handle and spout dripping over the body of some inexpensive whistling tea kettle—with all of the water boiled away and plastic fumes.

In 1984 I was gifted with the Richard Sapper whistling tea kettle—the first “designer” kettle by Alessi (above). For years, I kept the steel surface as pristine and shiny as possible, but eventually I let it get a natural “patina” and look a bit weathered. Once I had to get a little rubber sleeve replacement to go over the lever that lifts the handle (it gets hot). Other than that rubber sleeve replacement, this tea kettle has never had any problems.

I’ve used it almost every day for 25 years, with the exception of being in storage for about 3 years. A few weeks ago, however, a piece of the scalloped handle snapped off—so much for plastic.

My dilemma...should I simply replace this tea kettle with another Richard Sapper kettle, or get a completely different style. My only prerequisite is that it is a whistling kettle, and I lean towards silver/chrome/steel finishes.

The Michael Graves tea kettle was much more popular than my trusty Sapper kettle, but I never really liked the look of this kettle...but it has grown on me over the years.

This whistling Windsor kettle is classic.

This whistling kettle has clean lines, and a harmonic whistle.

A whistling red kettle could be fun.

This Italian kettle looks industrial and sturdy.

I was originally drawn to the Sapper kettle for aesthetic reasons. It looked a bit Constructivist to me. I still think it’s a beautiful tea kettle. And the whistle reminded me of a train barreling through my kitchen—and stopped me from having a melted kettle.

So what do you think? Should I stick with the Sapper kettle or try a different kettle?

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Spectrum of Summer Stripes

(click image above to enlarge)
It’s midsummer, and here’s Mr. Peacock’s wish list of striped goodies:

1) These striped raw silk ties would be the perfect accessory, with your khaki or white suit, for a summer wedding or garden party.

2) You would feel like Fred Astaire lounging on this vintage 1930’s bamboo chaise lounge, with a multi-striped fringed canopy and cushion.

3) Striped ribbon belts are a staple in Mr. Peacock’s summer wardrobe. This multi-striped ribbon belt has a complete line-up of preppy colors—perfect with cut off khaki shorts.

4) These elephant gray striped socks are punctuated with an occasional colored stripe, and would add a subtle touch of color and whimsy to your gentleman attire.

5) You can rest your head on this wool striped pillow while star gazing on lazy summer evenings, and if it gets a bit can get cozy with the matching striped tassel-trimmed throw.

6) This beautiful striped wool and silk rug is appropriately called Spectrum, and would feel very soft and luxurious on tired bare feet.

7) Paul Smith’s iconic stripes look fantastic on this large cotton beach towel. Why just use it at the beach? These towels would be chic in a bathroom too.

8) A mix of these striped cotton napkins, or placemats, would elevate even a simple back yard cookout to something special.

Mr. Peacock always liked the colored stripes of Beechnut gum. Are you wearing any stripes this summer?