Organic Meets Sleek at Furniture Show

Last week I checked out the 2006 ICFF (International Contemporary Furniture Fair) at the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York. It was like I had found a new sort of motherland, as I wandered through display after display admiring the newest innovations.

A key trend that I noted was the use of organic materials in furniture with very sleek or modern lines, as well as mixing wood and stone with metals and other high gloss or modern materials. Here are my “best in show” picks.

Furniture by iannone:sanderson: I loved the innovative artistic details of these pieces made from sustainable materials that seem to wink to 40’s styling:

Iannone Sanderson Interior Designer NJ

Rosemary Halligarten, Inc. has rugs that are amazingly beautiful, wonderful to the touch, and original in design. This is her display:

Rosemary Hallgarten display Interior Design Short Hills NJ

Here is a close up of my favorite piece, called Falling Leaf of silk and wool with relief details:

Hallgarten Interior Design Morris County NJ

Furniture by Wud exemplified the organic meets sleek by combining wood with resin-encased lead panels in wood coffee tables and super slim wooden chairs:

Wud Interior Design Chatham NJ

Caba Company had a display of their lovely BARKSKIN wallcoverings. This is a line of handmade wood materials. Here is a sample of the WOVEN line laid over their IVORY NATURALS:

Caba barkskin Interior Design Short Hills NJ

CaesarStone had a small crowd gawking at this rather riveting sink basin made of slabs of fused quartz:

Caesar Stone Basin Interior Design Essex County NJ

Carnegie had the most beautiful and eye-catching fabric display at the Fair, where it showcased several laser cut and mesh fabrics:

Carnegie Laser-cut Fabric Interior Decorator Chatham NJ

Niche Moderne colored their sleek lamps with earthy jewel tones for a truly beautiful display:

Niche Moderne lamps Interior Design In NJ

Chairs by British company Channels:

Channels chair Interior Design In NJ

Cherner Chair.

Cherner Chair Designer In NJ

One of my favorite displays was YASK furniture. I loved their tables, the finish styles, the mixture of wood and metal in a single piece:

YASK Picnic Table Designer In NJ

Cool Tile Application by Stone Source:

Stone Source tile

Finally, here are some of the latest developments in sustainable lifestyles by students at the New York Institute of technology. In these displays, sustainable moves beyond materials used to look at mimizing use of space and energy as well:



What We Drank (Napa and Sonoma)

Hey all! Long time no post. Been getting back up to speed on work, celebrating birthdays, and developing photos! But I wanted to get down a few more details about SF and some pics!

The WINE! Michael and I spent two days in wine country, one day in Napa and the next in Sonoma.

The first place we went to was Cakebread Cellars. It is a pristine place. Beautiful building and grounds. Good wine too. Especially the whites: Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. While on the wine trails we met some folks who had done a food and wine pairing here and they said it was phenomenal. I trust them because we liked a lot of the same wines, and one of them is a winemaker himself! Do the tour at Cakebread just so you can look at the beams in the ceiling of their storage cellar, amazing architecture that is simultaneously rustic and sophisticated.

The storage cellar at Cakebread
The storage cellar at Cakebread

Our second stop was Frog’s Leap Winery. If you only do one tour in Napa make it this one. The wines are made of organic grapes, and the tour makes you feel like you’re a real guest on a lovely family farm.

Garden at Frog\'s Leap

The garden at Frog’s Leap

They also grow organic vegetables in the garden that they let people on the tours take home with them.

Frog\'s Leap Radicchio

Michael loved the Leapfrogmilch, a Reisling on the drier side, and I absolutely swooned while drinking the new Syrah. I thought it smelled like crème brulee. You get a chance to see the bottling facilities here too, which were the only ones we saw up close.

Frog\'s Leap bottling facility

Bottling facilities at Frog’s Leap

We took a quick stop at St. Supery, actually like a super winery. It felt slightly impersonal and industrial, but they have these displays above the tasting room that include boxes that allow you to smell different things, like fresh mown hay or bell pepper, so that you can test how well your nose picks up specific scents that you might find in wine. But the real reason to go is that they have the absolute best Sauvignon Blanc I have ever tasted. It was like drinking a yummy guava juice drink. I loved it.

Our last vineyard of the day was Robert Sinskey. More beautiful grounds and more wines made of organic grapes. The lovely thing about the tasting here was the food they gave you with the tasting! There was a delicious spring onion soup cup you got with one of the whites, and the best olive tapenade I’ve ever had served with the merlot. Mrs. Sinskey is a chef, quite gifted too from what I can tell.

This is me tipsy by the fish pond at Robert Sinskey:

Uma at Robert Sinskey

Our hotel provided a tasting in the evening by Steltzner. The Merlot tasted like pure chocolate.

We headed out to Benziger in the morning where we met up with my brother, Ravi. This is THE tour to do in Sonoma, if you only do one. It is actually a quite informative exploration into biodynamic farming and a chance to check out some real caves.

Wine caves at Benziger

Here is the garden they grow amid the vines to attract good bugs to eat the bad bugs. Pretty, no?

Flowers at Benziger

The guide was truly knowledgeable, and the grounds are astonishingly beautiful.

Vines at Benziger

The tasting room is quite commercial with a sizable shop. The wines weren’t my favorite, but they were good enough and the tour made Benziger well worth the stop.

We wandered into Arrowood a little lost and quickly tasted a number of wines. The place lacked personality and real charm, I thought, but the have a very good Viognier that tastes like honey to me.

Then we found what we were looking for at Imagery. This place shares a drive with Arrowood and is owned by the Benziger family. More lovely gardens. But the key here is some really cool merchandise and a LOT of really good wine. We liked almost everything we tasted quite a lot and I went nuts for these cute polka-dotted flutes they had in a range of colors. We couldn’t leave the place without the white burgundy and the syrah.

Last stop was Roshambo, a vineyard on the Russian River up by Healdsburg. It was quite hip and different from all our other stops. If it weren’t for the sweeping views of the vines and the river, I would have thought the tasting room was some hip spot in Manhattan. The building was very high modern with waved ceiling that mimicked the river outside. They had cool modern water fountain-sculpture walls in the courtyard. The wine was good. And nicely affordable. We highly recommend. We joined the wine club thanks to expert salesmanship of the staff and we will let you know how we like our shipments! Our favorite in the tasting room was the zinfandel.

What We Ate (San Francisco)

This entry is a pure descriptive chronology of the places we ate out at while in SF. Detailed because we got so many questions from people in SF and at home about “what we ate.” Here it is:

For our first meal, we lunched at Ti Couz, a quirky crepe and salad place in the Mission. Michael and I were instantly in love with SF food. The crepes were nutty in flavor, and had many options for fillings. I had a savory one with cheese and tomatoes folded inside, AND a sweet one topped with red wine poached pears, chocolate sauce, and gelato. Both were equally delicious! We sat towards the front of the restaurant where the windows were tossed wide open and we could appreciate the sounds of the street and the first of our sun-filled days in the Bay Area (I’m not lying. We had sun every single day. Eat your heart out.). Sheila aptly noted that there is much to be said about eating at a restaurant that specializes in a certain type of food, a kind of guarantee for practiced excellence in that particular food genre. The texture, consistency, flavor, and execution of the crepes at Ti Couz are an amen to that sentiment.

Jordan took us to brunch at Chloe’s in Noe Valley. I love how restaurants in SF trust people to put their own names on the wait lists for tables. We did play by the rules and landed a sidewalk table in a few minutes. More sun and dining al fresco, though I had misplaced my sunglasses. Youch! But the food eased the stinging in my eyes. I forget what I ordered but the taste of the pancakes Jordan and Michael had are forever part of my taste bud memory. Pumpkin spice and maple pecan flavored batters were fried into the yummiest, fluffy yet crispy cakes I’ve ever eaten. You get great bread with jam and butter too, and the coffee is good.

In Santa Cruz we had appetizers with a Beauregard Chardonnay at Carniglia’s on the wharf. The wine smelt like honeysuckle and the crostini toasts with goat cheese and roasted garlic bulb spreads was mellow and delicious. The atmosphere was elegant with fine silver and white tablecloths, just like Grandma Stewart would approve of. And you can’t beat the view of the Pacific.

Back in SF we found ourselves at the Ferry Building on the day of the Farmer’s Market. I insisted to Michael that we would find food for lunch there, and LO, we did! I gobbled up a St. Benoit French style yogurt with honey. It was so very good it seems unfair to call it just yogurt. It was more like yogurt candy and I will long to taste it again until I do. We also had good tamales and samosas to fill our bellies.

Zante’s Pizza and Indian Cuisine was the one meal I wish I’d eaten twice, perhaps because I am obsessed with Indo-fusion food and dream of opening my own restaurant or writing a cookbook in the genre. The Indian pizza was damn good. It combined several of my favorite comfort foods in one great dish! The pizza dough was a standard pizza pie dough, and then it was topped with spicy sauce, North Indian spiced eggplant, spiced spinach, spiced cauliflower, cilantro, and then, mozzarella cheese! Sounds weird but somehow it just worked! I think I wanted to eat it again so I could fully contemplate how it is that all the flavors worked together. I highly recommend the experience.

The next night Sheila and Jordan took us to Burma Superstar, a place with a loyal cult following. This was my first foray into Burmese food and I wasn’t disappointed. I was reminded of Malaysian cuisine except the flavors and forms are much closer to Indian food. We sampled quite a lot of the menu, but what I remember most was the Samusa Soup, a curried soup with pieces of samosa and chickpea dumplings floating in it and the dessert, a chocolate torte topped with ginger ice cream. YUM! The Nan Gyi Dok ordered in a vegetarian version was also good. Drink the ginger beer with your meal for the total experience.

In the Napa Valley we picked up lunch at the Oakville Grocery. This place is totally packed around the lunch hours, but with good reason. They have a plethora of yummy salads, cheeses, breads, and spreads. Our favorite was a roasted corn salad scented with cumin with some sliced fennel strips and other aromatic veggies. The corn was naturally sweet and delicious. The sourdough was great. We had a nice goat cheese with smoked paprika sprinkled on top and a chunk of Emmentaler. We also got this chocolate with candied ginger pieces (yummy) and mission fig spread by the girl & the fig. Both were amazing. We had to search for nice grounds to eat the food at and the lovely folks at Frog’s Leap Winery let us use the staff dining table located under a pergola of wisteria that smelled just like jasmine. So lovely. Don’t tell them we told you about it because they don’t allow picnicking on the grounds.

For dinner in Napa we had reservations at Hurley’s in Yountville. We were exhausted but the prospect of food perked us up–at first. The waiter seemed disappointed that we were 1) vegetarian and 2) too hung over to drink any more wine, but when he checked back in the kitchen several dishes were cooked in vegetarian stock and were entirely veggie or at least easily modified. Michael had a wonderful mushroom risotto and I had a butternut squash ravioli that started out tasting good, but as the meal went along I became curious about what spices and herbs were in the cream sauce. The sliced herb was sage, but it took Michael’s superior taste buds to say, “Something in here is also used in curries.” Then I knew it. “It’s curry powder,” I said unenthusiastically. That did it. I don’t tend to like curry powder because no one who cooks curries would ever use it in an actual curry. Suddenly I wasn’t feeling like finishing my food. Maybe it was the curry powder but more likely it was because the waiter went out of his way to not speak another word to us all night. He just stood over the table until we told him what we wanted for desert, and he placed the bill on our table and walked away with a flourish.

The next day we were in Sonoma Valley and we ate at the Healdsburg Bar and Grill. They have a great outdoor dining space and veggie burgers and portabello mushroom sandwiches. The delicious sandwich buns and fries greatly elevated the standard fare.

Back in SF we had another great pizza pie at the Arizmendi Bakery. It had asiago and fresh spinach on it, and though it was stuff-your-face tasty, Sanjay and I both found that we had a chalky feeling in our mouths after eating the spinach! I think we both felt relieved that we were not the only people on earth to feel uncomfortable after eating fresh spinach. Michael researched the issue, in only the way Michael can, and found that scientists believe that the presence of oxalic acid is what causes some people to feel “chalky mouth” after eating spinach.

In Oakland we had a nice coffee at Gaylord’s and then went across the street for our absolute worst Bay area eating experience at Lotus Thai. It was so bad that I still feel sad thinking about it. It’s food. Shouldn’t people who run a restaurant care more about it? It’s just so SAD.

The next day we went to the Greens Restaurant on the Marina for brunch. Another food experience that leaves me feeling a little sad. This is what we had been waiting for, the famous Greens Restaurant, vegetarian temple and haven. The food was far from bad. It was good, but it wasn’t…revolutionary. Maybe it started the revolution and now everyone has copied them, but it doesn’t seem to be staying ahead of the game. Or maybe it is because we did the Sunday brunch rather than dinner. I did enjoy gazing out at the Golden Gate Bridge while I ate my fruit topped French toast though. Sigh.

Later that night we ate tapas at Ramblas, suggested by Ravi’s girlfriend Abby. It was a spot on choice. The atmosphere was urban and the food was good. Nice Patatas Bravas, which is a prerequisite for any tapas place. The Tortilla Espanola was a very good version of the cold potato omelet you find at most tapas places, but I was especially psyched by all the more unusual and wide ranging vegetarian options on the menu. We had the Potaje, chickpea and spinach soup with Manchego crostini. Very different. A little heavy on smoked paprika in the flavor, but good. We had the delicious Empanadillas de verdura, small empanadas with goat and manchego cheese, spinach, and pine nuts. My favorite was a dish with wide roasted pepper strips stuffed with cheeses. We drank the obligatory pitchers of sangria to go with everything, but it was flavored with vanilla which was a little too overpowering and masked the yummy rose flavor that naturally occurs when you soak the fruit in the liquors.

For our last meal out in SF Michael and I treated ourselves to a wine lunch at Herbivore, vegan mecca. Michael was beside himself. This is his favorite sort of cuisine: healthy, fresh, anything with soba noodles, seitan, tempeh, or tofu. I always kind of miss the gobs of butter and cheese myself. But we had very good food nonetheless accompanied by the Bonny Doon Big House White, a good neutral table wine. Michael got, of course, soba noodles with grilled tofu and vegetables in a wasabi-kicked sauce. I had a Mediterranean wrap with seitan, hummus, and spicy harissa sauce. It was yummy. My favorite part of the meal was the chocolate milkshake I treated myself to for dessert. Made with soy milk and soy ice cream, they also blended up whole chunks of dark chocolate in there. It was dee-lish, as Auntie Rene would say.

And that’s all folks. Stay tuned for more on SF and, of course, the pleasures of home too.

Familiar Faces in New Places

Michael and I returned yesterday from vacation in the San Francisco Bay Area. This was our very first experience of Northern California, a bit different from our New Jersey and Illinois existences. Not culture shock, but I would say that I experienced “nature shock” when taking in the landscape. I noted to one San Franciscan that I would never have expected to see palm trees planted and thriving right next to towering pines! Such juxtapositions throw our comfortable assumptions about life into question, don’t they? Such is San Francisco.

The “nature shock” was eased by a stream of familiar and loved faces of friends and family who now live and thrive in the Bay Area. This in itself lead to another juxtaposition. Seeing people from my past led me to consider how I’ve changed, from where to where I’ve been. And yet, something about exploring a new geography and having new experiences always leads us to consider where else we might be going, doesn’t it? If we are open to the newness then our sense of possibility expands and then the direction of our lives changes. It’s one of those laws of the universe I’ve recently become aware of. Take for example this blog! I was feeling so verbose about all the things I experienced on my vacation and no outlet for it all. And then towards the end of our trip we met with two friends who are now world-class bloggers and a light bulb went off in my head! I had been wanting to establish a newsletter as part of my new business, but the logistics of printing and mailing had led me to postpone it. The blog was the answer! Plus there was the added benefit that Michael got to have so much fun doing the technical stuff to set it up. I want to thank Janna and Brooke (the bloggers) and everyone else we saw on the visit. Here are my props to all the friends and family we reconnected with in San Francisco:

Ravi, my brother. Thank you for spending so much time with us when you have so much else going on in your life right now! I love that I got to hear about the extent of your creativity.

Katie, Michael’s cousin. You are a brilliant grad student, and we love your politics and appreciate the depth of your thinking on the critical issues. We’re so proud!

Sanjay and Janna. We can’t thank you enough for letting us stay at your place and for taking us to Muir Woods. Sanjay you are forever my hero because you are so positive, easy to talk to, and fun to be around. I’ve learned so much from you. Janna, you are one of the most perceptive people I have met, and your photos and writing on your blog are proof of that!

Brooke and Lian. Thank you for hanging at the Marina with us and Brooke, my mom loved the photo of us you posted on the blog! You are both so dedicated to the work you do and you have our highest respect.

Charles and Dawn. You are such gracious hosts. Thank you! We loved the shoreline of Santa Cruz, the yummy meal you made for us, and the chance to reminisce the good old days. You are our mentors in so many ways. I’m always telling people to use cloth napkins instead of paper and that washing dishes is not so hard even if you’re having lots of guests. You both walk the talk in every aspect of your lives.

Sheila and Jordan. You define generosity and have the amazing ability to make people feel as if you are grateful for them being guests in your beautiful home. Sheila, I still do idolize you because you are warm, open, can converse with anyone at any level, and you have unassuming confidence. Jordan, you are the perfect match to my dear friend and we are so happy to have spent time with you.

To all our friends and family, be well, and read more about our San Francisco “experience” in upcoming posts.