Chukar Cherries

It’s no secret that I love chocolate, especially dark chocolate. One of my favorite ways to enjoy this treat is when it is used to cover other yummy things like dried fruits such as apricots, blueberries and cherries. So imagine my delight when my mom and I came across Chukar Cherries in the Pike’s Place Market in Seattle.

Based in Prosser, WA, Chukar Cherries began in 1988 from a family cherry orchard and uses no preservatives, no sulfites and no gluten. Essentially, their mandate is nothing artificial. Not only does Chukar Cherries specialize in chocolate covered cherries, but also in mixed nuts and dried fruit mixed which incorporate . . .cherries.

They also make all kinds of other gourmet treats such as Curried Cherry Chutney (trying saying that a few times fast!), and Peach Cherry Salsa, as well as a variety of fruit fillings and preserves. All the items feature beautiful and well thought out packaging (always something I’m attracted to)such as reuseable baskets, jars and tins and are perfect for gift giving. Perfect for Valentine's Day. My favourite is the Grand Assortment, which has Amaretto Rainiers, Classic Dark, Cabernet, Pinot Noir, and Black Forest cherries . . . all in dark chocolate.

. . . Hello Yummm!

Apartment Green Space

One of the drawbacks to living in an apartment is a reduced amount of garden space. Enter GreenWallNL and these unique and interesting living wall sculptures.

Based on the larger Vertical Garden designs by Patrick Blanc that are appearing around the world, the Netherlands based designer built her own small scale version in her living room and began experimenting with different plant types, water levels and required lighting. After much positive feedback from friends and family as well as being featured on HGTV, she decided to create DIY kits for people to build their own at home.

The wooden black frame comes ready to be planted. Instructions are included with the kit. Choose you own plants from your local garden store (suggested plants include ferns, ivy, and asparagus . . . but it's up to you - as long as the roots don't grow too deep). The frame is easy to water from the backside; just remove the frame from the wall and add a tiny bit of water when needed. The bottom of the frame is made watertight, but to be safe keep the frame down from the wall for half an hour to ensure no water spills.

These would look great hung in a series of three or four, staggered and in various sizes. Or, switch them around from time to time to keep it interesting. Sort of an interactive living art work sculpture.

Fabric Finds - part 2

Oh, the things I could design and make using these glorious fabrics . . .

I got myself into a little trouble this past Saturday. While at my pattern drafting class, it was mentioned that our local fabric store was having their 50th Anniversary sale and everything in the store was 50% off. I admit I went a little overboard on the good stuff . . . dupioni silk at $9.00 a meter, an adjustable dress form for $65.00. When all was said and done, I needed to catch a cab because I couldn't carry everything the five minute walk to my door.

The silk and taffeta fabrics I will use to make dresses for little gals. The tulle I will use to make the underskirting, edged in delicate lace. I also bought a whole bunch of dark denim to make pull-on jeans for toddlers.

So stay tuned . . .many new children's designs are on the way.

TuTu Chic

As a designer and a lover of pretty fabrics, I have always been intrigued by tutus and the world of ballet couture. While the stiff and formal performance tutu demands a certain amount of respect (it's construction being formidable), the longer bell-shaped tea-length tutu is graceful and romantic. Think of all those Sugar Plum Fairies in The Nutcracker, or the myriad of swans in Swan Lake.

TutusChic is based in Palo Alto, CA and will be featured in Martha Stewart's Wedding Magazine Spring 2011 issue.

The creations of a former professional dancer turned designer, the tutus are constructed with the dancer's body and movements in mind. However, this does not exclude a non-dancer from purhasing one to wear around the house while vacuuming . . .

Have a look at this beautiful long tutu skirt in chocolate and cream by TutusChic. The skirt is composed of four layers of cream tulle topped with a light and frothy layer of chocolate tulle. The waist band is a decadent caramel chocolate satin.

This tutu skirt would be wonderful for attending a late spring or summer wedding celebration. Or for sipping tea and nibbling on petite sandwiches and enjoying strawberries with cream in the garden. Or walking along the beautiful shops in Paris. See how it has been paired with a long sleeve henley style shirt and a pair of flip-flops in the photo shown right. (model photos appear courtesy of Lucy Snowe Photography).

What I'm saying is that tutus are not just for attending the ballet. Nor are pointe shoes required.

Delicate and Pretty . . .

Today's edition of Delicate and Pretty is brought to you by Huismus, and is a pair of one-of-a-kind earrings made with handmade glass lampwork beads and silver findings and ear wires.

glass lampwork beaded earrings by Huismus

Stay tuned for more great Delicate and Pretty finds to come . . . .

Roll On . . .

Looking for an interesting gift for the baker or kitchen-savvy friend who seems to have every kitchen gizmo and gadget imaginable? I came across these gorgeous rolling pins offered by hobbyco, which would make a very unique gift regardless of the time of year. Not only are they beautiful and would look great hanging as a decorative item, but they are functional.

Naturally finished with no paint make them safe for everyday usage. With repeated use, the natural oils from both your hands and from baking (butter, shortening and lard in all those sugar cookie and pie pastry dough recipes) will only add to the polished beauty of the wood over time.

I also like the different handle styles that are available, such as the one shown above right, which make for easier gripping and less slippping.

The rolling pins each have several layers of salad bowl oil which makes for a durable finish. The care for these beauties pretty simple ~ wash by hand with a warm soapy wash cloth, rinse, dry with a towel. Never put in the dishwasher or let soak in water. To refresh the high shine, just rub with salad oil and buff with a soft cloth.

Each one is individually made, so no two will be exactly the same. Which means having a collection of them would be an eye-catching display and make you look like you know your way around the kitchen (even if you have trouble making toast in the mornings).

Penzey's Spices

Spice truly is the variety of life . .and at Penzey’s Spices, there is a lot to choose from. Specializing in gourmet spices and seasonings, if you are looking for something particular, they are sure to have it; from Adobo Seasoning (a traditional salt free Mexican spice mix) to Zahtar (a popular Middle-Eastern seasoning blend of sumac, thyme sesame and salt), with everything in between. Penzey’s also carries a variety of natural liquid flavourings such as single and double strength Pure Vanilla extracts.

Penzey’s prides itself in a variety of house blended spice mixes, such as their BBQ 3000. This blend works as a spice rub for meat for grilling and is a blend of (ready?) . . . .salt, paprika, black pepper, nutmeg, powdered mustard, allspice, powdered lemon peel, garlic powder, ginger, sage, thyme, white pepper, cinnamon and natural smoke flavour. . . .whew! That’s a whole bunch of flavour!

Being big salad eaters, we purchased the Buttermilk Ranch mix, which when added to sour cream and buttermilk was much lower in fat than any of thee popular store bought brands and we could make as little or as much as we wanted so that it was always fresh at each meal.

We also picked up a gift set for some friends. The gift set, called the Salad Lover’s Gift Box, contained one 70gr or 2.5oz jar each of Buttermilk Ranch, Creamy Peppercorn, Green Goddess and Italian. Again, our friends were able to make as little or as much as they needed, ensuring the dressing was fresh.

A great wedding gift idea is Penzey’s Gift Crates. These are deluxe gift sets that include an overall selection of spices and seasonings, perfect for setting up a new home together. For the couple just starting out together in the kitchen the original The Wedding Gift Crate is ideal; with one jar each of Chicago Steak Seasoning, Chili Powder, Basil, Rosemary, Garlic Salt, Pizza Seasoning, Oregano, Jerk Chicken and Fish rub, Parsley, Cocoa, Taco Seasoning, Italian Herb Mix, Cinnamon, Country French Vinaigrette Mix, Dill Weed, French Thyme and Pure Vanilla Extract. The crate also includes a beautiful wooden salt and pepper shaker set as well as whole nutmegs, cinnamon sticks and star anise pods. Definitely not a boring wedding gift the bride would want to return.

The staff were very knowledgeable, providing tips on how to use their products, the shelf life of the spices (did you know most spices should be used within two years?) and whether or not we could bring them across the border into Canada from the United States. We also discovered that Kosher salt has a sodium level of less than half of that of regular table or sea salt. For someone with a family member on a sodium-reduced diet, this was a great bit of information, and we have since switched to Kosher salt.

Penzey’s Spices are located in Wauwatosa, WI, but we visited their store at Pike Place Market in Seattle, WA. There are Penzey’s store locations in 27 states (check their website for store locations).They are also available to order online and ship throughout the United States including Hawaii and Alaska. Sadly, they do not ship to Canada.

Penzey’s: Love to cook – Cook to Love

The Regal Amethyst

Amethyst is the birthstone for the month of February as well as the Zodiac stone for the constellation of Pisces. A gift of this deep, dark purple prismatic stone is symbolic of protection and the power to overcome difficulty. It is said to strengthen the bond in a love relationship, and is traditionally given as the anniversary gemstone for the 6th year of marriage (just when couples perhaps are in need something with these attributes?).

The ancient Greeks believed that this gemstone held many powers, among them protection against intoxication. In fact, the Greek word "amethystos" basically can be translated as "not drunken." This was due to a belief that amethyst would ward off the effects of alcohol, and it was common practice to serve fermented beverages from amethyst goblets in the belief that this would prevent overindulgence. I am making a mental note to remember to bring my amethyst goblet to next year’s Super Bowl party.

Deposits of this gemstone are found in Brazil, Canada, Australia, India, Madagascar, Namibia, Russia, Sri Lanka; and in the United States (Maine, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Colorado). Defined deep purple stones found in Guerrero, Mexico are some of the most valuable and prized in the world.

In Tibet, amethyst is considered to be sacred to Buddha and rosaries are often fashioned from it.

The color purple is traditionally the color of royalty and amethyst has been used throughout history to adorn the rich and powerful monarchs and rulers. The Royal Orb and Sceptre used in coronation ceremonies in the United Kingdom, Great Britian and Northern Ireland feature amethysts; the Orb (left) contains a large octagonal stone below its 365 diamond cross. One of the world’s largest amethysts is in the Sceptre (right), smack between a diamond encrusted cross and the world’s largest known diamond, the Star of Africa which weighs in at a mere 530 carats.

I think one of the most stunning examples still remaining today of amethyst crown jewelry is the Swedish Amethyst Tiara and Parure (below, clockwise from left: earrings, necklace, regeant dress swag and two brooches), favored by Queen Silvia of Sweden and shown here worn by Crown Princess Victoria towards the front of her head (below right).

Today, due to its widespread availability, amethyst is a lovely and fortunately affordable gemstone that is found in a wide variety of cut and uncut stones that many can all possess and admire; regardless of whether or not it is your particular birthstone.


~ Find out the grade of the amethyst. Amethysts are often separated into 3 categories: Siberian, Uruguayan or Bahain. Siberian is the highest grade amethyst, Uruguayan falls in the middle and Bahain is the lowest.

~ Examine the color of the gemstone. The deep and rich violet colored stones will be the most expensive while the lighter colors will be more affordable.

~ Inquire if the stone is synthetic. Over 70 percent of amethysts on the market are synthetic.

~ Check the clarity. You want a stone that is clear with few inclusions.

~ Know the terminology. If you are looking for true amethyst jewelry, do not buy a piece labeled as Oriental amethyst. This term actually refers to a sapphire that has the same violet color as an amethyst.

~ Purchase a piece of amethyst jewelry with a clean cut. If the stone is cut well, it will maximize the intensity of the amethyst's color.

Amethyst Raindrop Pendant Necklace by WildWomanJewelry

Canlis in Seattle

Ever been to a restaurant that just felt like home? A restaurant that epitomizes the difference between customer and guest?

This is a “jacket suggested” type of restaurant and we had intended just to go for dessert. We started with a bottle of modest processo in the lounge while the details of our table were being finalized. Well, I actually started with a cranberry ginger lime cocktail BEFORE starting on the bottle of processco, but hey . . . semantics. In the meantime, we were treated to classic jazz stylings being played by acclaimed pianist Walt Wagner on an equally classic Steinway Grand Piano.

From the restaurant’s perch on the hill, we were able to overlook the Seattle Harbour and the lights on the opposite side of the water. This is a magnificent view, and we were only on the first floor (which oddly is referred to as the Penthouse).

The main dining room is the typical seating arrangement with individual tables all placed to gain the best vantage point looking out of floor to ceiling windows. The second level is the Executive Room, a private dining “living room” area with wrap-around views that seats up from 12 to 30 people, perfect for an engagement dinner or an anniversary party. The third floor offers the best of the best: the Caché: an exclusive dining suite for two to four guests. Like dining in a very, very upscale tree house, this single table is hands down the most sought after table in Seattle. The spectacular view offers a panoramic of Lake Union and the Cascade mountains beyond. There is only one reservation per evening for this room, and the room requires a $150.00 reservation rental. But since the restaurant is kind enough to provide you with a telescope and your own private server, I would think it’s money well spent . . especially if a proposal of sorts were in the works.

Did I mention the plan was just to have dessert? Of course, this meant there would be no harm in looking at the dinner menu, right? WRONG! I am a sucker for Chef’s Tasting Menus. Let me rephrase that: I am a sucker for tasting menus that don’t just mish-mash from the regular menu and act as a cash grab. A good tasting menu should work as an outlet for the chef to highlight his skills and provide the guest with something other than what is popular and normally offered. Usually, I will find one or two dishes on a tasting menu that appeal to me, and then the rest is take-it-or-leave-it. And if the dessert doesn’t intrigue me, then it’s a definite “leave it”. The tasting menu at Canlis that evening was a definite “take it”; each course looked like it would be enjoyable. So at $115.00 US for seven courses, we both said “why not?” and prepared to be wowed. Our server Jackson was quick to let us know that the Rack of Venison on the tasting menu was not available, and he offered instead the Muscovy Duck for 2. Now, on the regular menu, the Duck for 2 is listed at $96.00 US, so this seemed like a bargain.

First up was a little Amuse Bouche. . . I adore a good amuse bouche. Sunchoke soup and white truffle ice cream. Ice cream as an amuse bouche? Clearly Executive Chef Jason Franey (Food and Wine Magazine's Best New Chefs 2011 and The People's Best New Chef Northwest by Food & Wine) was intent on toying with us.

A’u Lepe Tartare en Roulade . . .sushi-grade Hawaiian sailfish wrapped in braised endive, with apple, pomegranate and steelhead roe. The differences in textures and contrasts in flavours are what stood out in this dish. My mother found it a little salty, but then she finds everything salty because of her low sodium diet. This was mentioned to Jackson, who ensured that the remaining dishes would not be salted for mom.

Of Earth & Ocean . . okay, this was amazingly good; I had to keep myself from wiggling with delight in my seat. Braised octopus, lobster, calamari, and Blue Hawaiian prawn with mango, green papaya, avocado and lime. The concept was simple, the execution was complex: how to keep each of the flavours unique while still presenting them as a cohesive whole.

Oxtail Ravioli . . . I have to give kudos to our server Jackson here. This is the point where the evening could have gone south. Deep South. Mason Dixie Line south. I cannot eat mushrooms. Or bell peppers. It’s not an allergy in the way a bee sting or peanuts are allergies, but my body does not accept these items. I have tried and I have failed. Miserably. On my reservation request, I had stated that I could not have mushrooms or bell peppers, and my mom was on a strict low sodium diet. The menu description for the Oxtail Ravioli made no mention of the cute little shimeji mushrooms floating in the broth. I had to send it back. I hate sending food back. It was quickly replaced with a non-mushroom edition. No, they didn’t just pick the mushrooms out; it was a new dish with Chef’s apologies. So . . ..hand formed oxtail ravioli in paper-thin pasta. . carrots, bone marrow and veal consommé . . .I could have had two more bowls.

Muscovy Duck for 2 . . .drum roll please! Jackson brought out the whole bird, beautiful golden brown, crispy skin, on a bed of fresh herbs. He then brought it back to the kitchen to be carved and plated for us. It was amusing to see the faces of other guests as they eyeball and salivate over what was happening at our table. Dude, get your own bird!

I need to mention that Jackson never once pressed us for alternate wine pairings or to order another bottle of bubbly. He understood implicitly that we were comfortable, and if we needed something more, we would ask. On to dessert . . .

But first, we cleanse the pallet. A little pear sorbet with parsnip and vanilla pureé, pumpernickel streusel and preserved Meyer lemon. Sweet and savoury on one plate, in one bite. Oh Chef, how you tease!

Ice Cream Sandwich. This could have gone sideways. I was intrigued at how this was going to be pulled off. It didn’t read as being decadent. Oh wait, . . . mint ice cream and warm chocolate ganache with Branca Menta and pistachio. .there, that’s better.

At the end of our meal, Jackson asked if he could call us a car. As we were waiting, he presented us with a plate of petite fours . .handmade truffles and caramels. So unexpected and even though we were completely full; so yummy. And after helping us with our coats and opening the door for us, we found complimentary car service: a Lincoln Town Car with driver waiting to take us back to the W Hotel. The driver was kind enough to take the scenic route, and we ended the evening with a wonderful drive around Lake Union.

I have had a lot of fine dinners out, but this one topped them all. It wasn’t just the great food or the atmosphere; it was the level of service that ensured we felt we were guests in the Canlis home and had us wishing to return soon.