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The Peonies Keep On Going

The peonies that flew back with us from Hawthorne to Seattle still going strong. The ruffly, fluffy goodness such a gift as we pass by the vase filled with them on the dining table. Quite hard to keep our eyes off of them while we sit enjoying our meals. The moment you open the front door the scent envelops you. They just had to be our Flower Friday blooms. A lovely, lovely week-end ahead to you all.



 

 

Shadows and Light

Caretaker Bill sent us the above shot a few days after we left last week to show us all the peonies dancing. The image also caught that amazing Hudson Valley light it is so known for. The trees creating all sorts of shadows. The below I clicked on Sunday out on the island. The scented geraniums went crazy when we were away, filling up the tub. This West Coast edition of the shadows and light doing all sorts of lovely things on the shed and hazelnut shell laden courtyard.



 

 

The Case of the Traveling Peonies

They made it! The peonies I plucked right as we were leaving Hawthorne made the cross country flight and are being enjoyed on the dining table at The Gainsborough as I type. They are our Flower Friday blooms of the week. Boy were those little guys ready for a fresh cut and a big drink, but other than that, they were serious troopers. I cut them and instantly wrapped the bottoms of the stems in a wet paper towel, then wrapped them tightly in a ziplock bag so the stems stayed surrounded by the moisture. I carried them in my L.L. Bean bag on the plane and they sat perky in the middle seat for the flight. Our meals at the table a fluttery symphony of color & scent.



 

 

A Single Peony Farewell

We head back to Seattle later today and the peonies in front of the house are moments away from exploding open. I cut a bunch to fly back with us like we did last year in hopes they make the journey unscathed. The one I posted yesterday is the one above. It opened up the other morning for us. The diva of the peony show, getting all the attention and we are loving every minute of it. Merci for following along on this stay. July is our 5th year at Hawthorne. It has been such a treat having many of you readers see the house blossom over those years. A home evolves. Just like we all do. Back in August for all that sultry heat… XO, T2+B



 

 

A Collection of Vintage Bottles

A collection can be really anything. My main thought with a collection is that is makes the collector happy. There is the thrill of the hunt, then there is the elation of living with your finds. Integrating them into your life. Certainly a collection can just live on a shelf and be enjoyed visually. But I like to use our collections in our day to day. This Hawthorne stay we have been loving using some of the vintage bottles we have collected over the years. Some are French, some from England and many snatched up on trips throughout the US over the years. They most always are quite thick and I am most happy when they are embossed with letters. Often they have the place where they are made, as well as the name of the maker. Our love of letters & fonts comes out in this collection. Putting them into action is the most fun part. A bloom, a stem of leaves, herbs–they all get top billing. This stay I lined them up behind the kitchen sink and used things from around the property. Little hits of color to catch the eye as you wash up dishes or cook away.



 

 

A Few Bundles of Roses

Flower Friday this week are a few bundles of grocery store roses that are doing the trick, in a pinch. We are hosting a graduation party today and wanted to spiff up the dining table. This vessel will get moved later to said table. The lilacs with all of the heat are no longer and the peonies are yet to pop. One flower you are almost always certain to count on when at the grocery store or corner bodega are roses. Hearty by nature, massed together, they make for a simple abundant arrangement that will last a good long while.



 

 

Risotto with Fresh Asparagus & Peas

Fresh asparagus has been popping up at tons of places we have been shopping this last week. I grabbed the best looking bundle from the Hawthorne Valley Farm Store the other day, as a hankering for risotto had set in. Little did I know that the day I was going to make It world be close to 90 degrees. The process of stirring was a bit like being in a sauna, but by the time the sun set, the back screened porch had started to cool down and we enjoyed our meal out there while the crickets serenaded us. Was not finding fresh peas yet, so went with my old stand-by of a really high quality frozen bag. Opt for the larger, non-petit size. They really work pretty wonderfully in risotto. If you can find fresh, by all means use them. For the asparagus, chose the thicker the better. They hold up nicely when mixed into the hot rice. I cut them up first and roasted on a sheet pan at 400 degrees mixed with extra virgin olive oil and salt. Pull out while still a bit firm, as they will continue to cook later in the risotto. I took out all the tops and reserved in a separate bowl, as they look nice on top of the individual risotto servings at the very end.

Heat up the 8 cups of stock to not quite a boil, then turn down the heat a bit, but the stock should remain hot thru the entire risotto cooking process. Next, and here is where I like to use a good sized Le Creuset pot for cooking the risotto in, add a liberal dose of butter and cook a diced onion and shallot till they are not quite brown. Then add a good amount of olive oil to that, along with 2 cups of Arborio rice. Coat the rice with the butter and oil mixture, and sauté for a minute or two to cook through, but don’t brown the rice. All of the above is done over medium heat, but stove tops vary greatly, so adjust accordingly.

Now the liquids begin. Add one cup of white wine to the mixture. I like to use a white that we will be serving with the meal. Stir rice till the wine is absorbed. The depth of flavor the wine adds to the finished product is really noticeable.

Now the waiting hot stock takes center stage. Add one cup of stock to the mixture, stirring till the stock is fully absorbed. What holds many folks back about making risotto is there is a good amount of stirring involved. A constant stir is not necessary, but pretty close. This is where the white wine you opened comes in quite nicely. Sipping a little white wine during the risotto making process is a personal favorite–it is my break from stirring. Continue adding the hot stock one cup at a time, and the rice will become creamier as you go, as it releases the natural starches. Add the 7th cup of stock. At this point, you will be about 20 to 25 minutes into the rice cooking process. You are almost there.

Now add the bag of peas. It does not need to be completely unfrozen as the peas will defrost the moment they hit the hot rice. Stir. Now add the waiting asparagus pieces on the waiting sheet pan. Add a cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Stir. Turn off the heat. Add another cup of stock. Stir. Add a dusting of salt & fresh ground black pepper. Stir. Put on the lid. Let sit for 5 minutes, have another sip of your white wine, as we are almost done. Once that 5 minutes has passed, give it one last stir, adding a bit more stock so it is nice and creamy. In a bowl add the risotto mixture, then add the asparagus tops to each bowl and finally a few sprinkles of the grated Parmesan. A bit of work, but that will all fade away when you have your first bite.



 

 

The Table Is Set

A busy week awaits with a mix of family & friends, dinners and graduation party. Getting the table set in the morning when the house is quiet always helps relax me and takes the stress away from having to do it later in the day when the task list is longer and we are scurrying around before guests arrive. This table is layered with new treats from this stay. CoCo in Portland sent the most glorious majolica plates as a ‘just because’ gift the other day that set the tone right out the gate. The faux bois planter the latest find from my Trade Secrets outing in CT last week-end, and a French green ceramic candlestick from KRB when we were in the city helps light the way. Little pots of scented geranium with the sweetest pink blooms dropped into buckets added a bit of contrasting color. Ferns, Italian parsley and mint add a bit more natural green. Then all that is needed to complete the table before the first knock on the door is to light the candles and away we go.



 

 

2014 Château Bel-Air Lussac Saint-Emilion 

Wine Wednesday brings us this 2014 Château Bel-Air Lussac Saint-Emilion brought in to the US from my friends at Peloton Imports in Seattle & Napa. We had this bottle with our first supper back to Hawthorne last week along with food from one of our favorite places in the hood, Local 111. Being in the country, by the time it takes us to drive to pick the food up, our order is ready. This wine drinks like a much more expensive version. The folks at Peloton do this so well, finding producers who create exceptional wines at exceptional value. Plus, they ship! You don’t have to buy 6 bottles, but if you do, shipping is only a penny for 6 or more bottles. They are one of my go-to sources for when we are planning a party up here and I want wine delivered. 

Now about this amazing wine: Château Bel-Air is in the heart of the Lussac Saint-Emilion appellation. The 50-acre estate has been in the Roi family for more than a century, and it is today run by Jean-Noël Roi. The estate makes several Merlot-based wines, and the flagship wine is the Cuvée Jean Gabriel, made from vines that are an average of 30 years old. Cuvée Jean Gabriel is a relatively new wine for the estate, debuting with the 1998 vintage. It is 50 percent Merlot and 50 percent Cabernet Franc and it is an homage to one of the past patriarchs of the family, Jean Gabriel Roi. It was made with help from consultant Stéphane Derenoncourt. About 12,000 bottles of Cuvée Jean Gabriel are made annually. 

Click Peloton Imports to check out this bottle and oh so many more. Happy Wednesday from the Hudson Valley!



 

 

On the Menu, a Heavy Dose of Greens, Please

Each Hawthorne visit, a few new goodies from the shop make their way into our suitcase. That helps add that layered ‘collected over time’ look & feel we both like so much. This trip it was the trellis placemats and the large gingham napkins I kept eyeing every time I walked by the display at the First & Spring shop.

The green ribbon orb a gift from our friend, the artist Denise Fiedler, also made its way cross country in our bag. White lilacs from caretaker Bill’s property that he brought over the day after we arrived as he knows how much I like them. Then a variety of other green things pulled from the cabinets and dinner for two was served.