Friday, September 15, 2006

the prep squad

This weekend, I'm off to the Hamptons with a friend -- Wooo! The weather report looks promising (even though it's dark and gloomy outside right now. Bah!). But in honor of my trip to the land of the rich and grosgrained, here's my Friday Picture of the Day. While the argyle sweater-look is a bit too preppy for me to rock, I have to say it looks darn good on a pretty pooch. Collar up, boy!

Have a great weekend!!


rock the plank

My tiny kitchen has seen a lot of good days and some very, very bad days. (Serves me right for trying to cook while watching a Project Runway marathon!) But despite a few disastrous meals, I don't let it stop me from tackling new recipes or just blindly creating a new one on the spot. On my way home from work, I love stopping by the grocery store and picking up whatever looks fresh or interesting that day (even if I don't have a clue how it tastes or even how to prepare it!). And by hook or by crook, I usually end up with something interesting (well, at least edible) that I may or may not ever attempt again.

But my new culinary obsession promises that there will be fewer cooking catastrophes in my future -- the almost idiot-proof wood grill plank. Where has this guy been all my life?? I made salmon filets with an asparagus side last week that were so delicious, I'm still having dreams about them. Yum!! Seriously, with no fuss and very little seasoning, you end up with moist and flavorful food that tastes like it's been marinating for days! While traditionally the plank is used on outdoor grills, I've been using it in my oven to grand results. You just may want to place it on a cookie sheet to catch all the char that burns off.

Remember to soak the plank in water for about a hour before putting it on the heat. (Wood burns. Duh.) But after that, it's smooth sailing. Just lay your stuff (fish, meat, veggies) flat on the plank, season with a little olive oil, salt and pepper (to taste) and stick it in the oven. The food will roast in its own juices and soak up the fragrant wood smoke from the plank. Next time, I'm going to try soaking the planks in beer or wine -- hopefully it will have a totally new flavor!

I'm a fan of Fire & Flavor's planks, which come in cedar, alder and maple varieties. And they're really affordable too -- about $8 for three. Williams-Sonoma has one with a fish-shaped, cast metal holder so you can transfer the plank easily. You could even pick up a generic plank for pennies at the hardware store. Just make sure that it's completely untreated -- if there are any chemicals on the board, they'll end up in your food.

While at a food media event earlier this year, I was introduced to Callison's Seasoned Skewers, which borrow from the concept of wood plank cooking but take it to a whole new level. The wood skewers have already been seasoned with different flavors and natural-oils so marinating is done automatically from the inside! No salt, pepper or anything needed. Genius! And they come in great flavors, from mango curry and coconut lime to garlic herb and Mexican fiesta. Just a few weeks ago, my salad was looking quite sad, so I popped some shrimp on a citrus-rosemary skewer, seared it quickly in a pan and added it to my greens. Awww, yeah! It was out of this world, and I basically did nothing to it. Best meal I've ever made in 30 seconds!


Thursday, September 14, 2006

pantone on tone

If you've been having a hard time choosing the right shade of green to paint your bedroom, your work just got a lot harder! Because Pantone just announced a new line of indoor and exterior paints based on its amazing color system. They have teamed up with Fine Paints of Europe to create a line of colors that, they say, matches the paint card hue almost exactly. And the scary but amazingly cool part? There are OVER 3,000 paint colors to choose from! Egads! You could spend hours, days, weeks going through that inventory! (Scary thought for an indecisive soul like me!) Unfortunately, that much choice comes at a price. Each can is running at about $160/gallon. For those budget-minded folks like me, they're also selling affordable sample-size pots which can be used for tackling smaller projects, like repainting some cheap vases, lamp bases, a side table or some picture frames.

I'm happy to see Pantone branding itself as THE color authority in the retail world. I've been a big fan of the Pantone dinnerware collection for a while -- they're the perfect gift for anyone interested in graphic design or just loves color. Fishs Eddy has been carrying the line for years, but Gracious Home has recently picked up the collection and run with it.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

runway to the hallway: heavy metals

Get your shine on because gold, silver and bronze pieces are bringing back the bling this fall in fashion and home accessories. As you can imagine, the less-is-more approach is the best way to make this trend work in the real world. Mixing gold and silver jewelry is very chic right now, so I'm sure they would look fab together in a living room -- balancing the weight and texture, of course, so it doesn't look too Liberace-esque.

Waterford Gold Connoisseur glassware ($99)

Brushed Gold Mr. Ice Bucket ($30)

Vera Wang Lace Gold dinnerware ($20 and up)

Athena Tray ($22)

Gold Acrylic Tumblers ($15)

Tord Boontje Vase Cover ($34)

West Elm Hammered Metal Serveware ($5-$24)

CB2 Cayman Melamine Dinnerware ($2-$5)

Chiasso Shimmer Ottoman ($148)

Art Deco Candlestick ($39)

Gump's Brass Charger ($95)

Umbra Metalla Trashcan ($15)

Z Gallerie Midas Bronze Pillow ($30)

West Elm Tall Cylinder Lamp ($129)

Jenn-Air Toaster ($259)

Waterworks Burnished Bronze Tissue Holder ($65)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

nano nano

Awww, yeah! Have you seen the new iPods that Apple just announced? First, I'm totally crushing on the new iPod nano.


Here's the nitty gritty info: It's made out of aluminum, and even THINNER than the first generation. (I don't know how that's even possible!) Justin may be bringing Sexy Back, but Apple is bringing color back (like the mini). It looks similar to the Mini, actually. Battery life increased from 15 to 24 hours, gapless playback, instant search like the big iPod, quick scrolling and it comes with the new headphones. There are three models -- 2GB model in silver ($149), 4GB in silver, pink, green, blue ($199), and 8GB in black ($249).

I kind of miss the rounded edges of the older version, but they've more than made up for it with the new vibrant colors (very 80's-esque). The Mini's of yesteryear were a bit more muted (which was also cute) but these seem to really pop in a look-at-me kind of way.

Secondly, the new square iPod shuffle is SO SO tiny and compact that it may be smaller than your earphones. It's only a cubic inch in volume, weighs just half an ounce and features a stunning all-new aluminum design. And so it doesn't get lost in the blackhole purse we all carry, it has a clip-on feature so you can just attach it to your pocket or bag strap. Genius! It contains one gigabyte of flash memory, which holds up to 240 songs, and is only $79 ($20 cheaper than the old generation). It won't be available until October, but Apple is already taking orders for the unit.

Even though I'm not in the market for a new iPod right now, knowing these guys are out there just makes me happy!


now hear this

In NYC, it's always ridiculously noisy. Honking cabs, constant construction, loud cellphone talkers -- sometimes, it can be complete sensory overload! Every New Yorker has his/her own way of blocking out the noise of the city, from earplugs to iPods. Me? I grab my portable Pioneer inno XM Radio and pop in my super-small but VERY powerful Shure noise-isolating headphones and I'm off. Seriously, it's almost magical! Nearly every single noise (short of a jackhammer pounding away a few feet away from me) is completely muffled by these little buds. I don't know how these guys do it ... and I don't know what I would do without them! Sometimes, they block out so much noise that I worry about not being able to hear the sound of a speeding truck about to barrel into me. Lucky for me, no such run-ins to report. The downside? Unfortunately, they're a bit pricey for headphones (around $200), but I think they're completely worth it. Once you try them, you'll never be able to go back to those ordinary white iPod buds again.

Need something even more powerful (or just not hot on the in-ear variety)? For longer trips or airplane travel, I switch out the Shure's for my Bose QuietComfort 3 noise-cancelling headphones. Talk about headphone luxury!

They're a bit smaller than the older Bose QC2 model and a lot more comfortable. (They have a soft, cushiony material around the ear pieces which cradles your ear in grand smushiness.) And much like the Shures, they dramatically reduce jet engine roar but with more accuracy. Of course, these guys aren't much better in the price department (around $350), but they're also worth the investment if you're a traveler. Also, they are a lot bigger and bulkier than the buds so it's not as easy to shove them into your purse after a walk around the park. But the sound quality and sound-busting quality can't be beat.


Monday, September 11, 2006

moving right along

On this anniversary of Sept. 11th, even though we're surrounded by so much sadness and mourning here in NYC, I'd like to celebrate the progress and innovation (at least in the world of design!) that's come about during the last five years. Yesterday, CBS Sunday Morning did a wonderful segment about the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and his unique and beautiful plans for the downtown PATH train station, which will be part of the new World Trade Center complex. And I'm in utter architectural love!

The new station, which will be the main artery for trains connecting New Jersey to Manhattan, looks like an oval of glass and steel with wings rising from its spine, which Calavatra says was inspired by a sketch he made of a pair of children's hands releasing a bird into the air. (How appropriate.) I can only imagine how amazing this will look in the midst of all the straight-laced skyscrapers downtown.

The steel, concrete and glass pavilion at ground level is essentially a skylight for the station's lower levels, allowing daylight to travel 60 feet straight down to the tracks below. By creating covered areas around the station, the block-long, 150 foot-tall wings serve to protect visitors from wind and rain. But the best part of the whole design? The roof retracts (wooo!) kind of like a train-station-skydome that opens the station to fresh air! Awesome!

Wonder if this station will actually make me want to take a trip to New Jersey? Eh, highly doubtful.