Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Antipasti "Before the Meal"

We invited some dear friends over for Sunday dinner.

With our gorgeous Indian Summer weather we thought it would be lovely to serve antipasti  outdoors in our tented pavillion.

Antipasti, the foods offered before the meal itself begins, are a colorful, delicious way to set the stage for the coming feast and to invite friends and family to the table.

In Italian tradition, antipasti are selected for color, flavor, texture and how well they complement both each other and the meal to come.

We headed out early to the Temescal Farmers Market where we gathered the most gorgeous veggies we could find.

Red and yellow peppers, celery, carrots, radishes, fennel and cherry tomatoes and squash blossoms for garnish.

We prepared a bowl of Pinzimonio, which is simply olive oil and salt and pepper to serve as a dipping sauce with the vegetables.

We picked up a selection of cured meats at Genoa Delicatessen and arranged them on a slate platter.

And rounded it off with freshly baked foccacia bread from Feel Good Bakery, breadsticks, chunks of parmesan cheese, olives and artichoke hearts.

I must say it was a great way to kick off the evening!

There are so many ways to serve antipasti.
We took our cue from the lovely Giada here.

I think we will be serving variations of antipasti rather than the standard "Sunday football fare" from now on!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Haute Couture Atelier Treasures

After reading Haute Couture Ateliers I was inspired to dig out several beautiful things I've found over the years that look like they could have come out of the Craft Ateliers of Paris, France!

I just found this incredible Chinoiserie Sewing Box last week at a vintage sale.

 I picked it up first thing upon entering the sale and carried it under my arm for at least half and hour before I found a spot where I could set my things down and inspect it.

Imagine my surprise when I opened it up and saw a jumbled up version of this!

As I was contemplating the contents I looked up to see a very tall woman staring down at me.

 I asked her if I was in her way and she responded, "no, I'm just watching you."

A few minutes later she reached down and picked up one of the small bone accessories and held it up to her eye.

She eventually told me what it was and that it was supposed to be screwed into the umbrella piece,

 which turned out to be an antique bone needle case.

The extraordinary part is the teeny pinhole in the umbrella handle which is called a stanhope or optical bijou.

When it is held up to the light, you can see several images of Paris!

Amazing discoveries like these fuel my thirst for treasure hunting!!!

I think I found something pretty special and am thinking of getting it restored as many of the intricate bone accessories are damaged and not in their proper places.

Check out this yardstick!

 I don't know about you but I've never seen a curved one before.

It's for a tailor or dressmaker and I love how its owner identified it as belonging to them!

I bought this beautiful pair of suspenders several years ago at another vintage sale.

The incredible workmanship seduced me and I wanted to bring it home and just stare at it!

The provenance couldn't be more perfect!

I wanted to be its caretaker.

I rarely get to see things of this quality and I felt blessed that it landed in my hands!

I go to an amazing tailor in Berkeley who loves it when I bring in my textile finds to share with him. Someone of his talents can really appreciate this art form.

Several years ago I scored a cache of old ribbons to add to my growing collection.

Now I ask you... who can resist ribbon


Vintage tuxedo buttons? 

And, what about feathers?

I saved the BEST for last!

Some of you might remember the post I did when I scored this fabulous beaded cape that once belonged to the infamous Angelina Alioto.


 I personally could never wear anything like this, I just want to treasure it and take care of it!

Like I said, I'm a lover of beauty!
How about you?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Haute Couture Ateliers

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to review the gorgeous new coffee table book, HAUTE COUTURE ATELIERS.

As a lover of beautiful things, this exquisite tome delivers stunning beauty while introducing us to "The Artisans of Fashion" who have until now been hidden behind the scenes.

designer: Christian Dior; photo: Alexis Lecomte

The book begins by introducing us to several impressive designers, or couturiers, who have attained the status of "grand couturier".

designer: Fanny Liautard; photo: Alexis Lecomte 

A grand couturier is a member of the French Chambre syndicale de la haute couture, part of the Federation francaise de la couture, du pret-a-porter des couturiers et des createurs de mode. The official criteria, designed in 1945, originally implied presenting a certain number of original models each season, created by a permanent designer, handmade and bespoke models, a minimum number of people employed in the workshop and a minimum number of patterns "presented usually in Paris".

designer: Broderies Lanel; photo: Alexis Lecomte

 The amazing individuals who bring to fruitition the visions of these gifted couturiers are found in the Craft Ateliers in and around Paris.

designer: Broderies Vermont; photo: Alexis Lecomte

Their numbers are dwindling though... which is why this book, by Helene Farnault, France's leading authority on haute couture crafts, is such a treasure.

designer: Broderies Lanel; Photo Credit: Alexis Lecomte. 

I think most of us appreciate fine craftsmanship and that is what you will take away from this book.

designer: Bruno Legron; photo: Alexis Lecomte

  In its essence it is a tribute to the world of small, family owned workshops, and the ancient trades these artisans practice which keep alive the techniques and expertise that might otherwise have disappeared forever.

designer: Gerard Lognon; photo: Alexis Lecomte

What is fascinating though is how they have evolved their craft.

designer: Broderies Vermont; photo: Alexis Lecomte

Weavers still use looms, but the ones found in contemporary ateliers now use high speed precision machines guided by proprietary software.

I loaned my copy of Haute Couture Ateliers to a fashion obsessed friend of mine and here's what she had to say... 

Beads, wires, ribbons and silk, oh my!
To live in the world of French couture is truly to inhabit the vortex as it passes through the Land of Oz.  In Haute Couture Ateliers, Helene Farnault gathers the flying debris and shows us the profound inspiration of technical artisans who make ruby slippers look like child's play. The author does not deny the future or lament the past but outlines the road forward and shows us how the venerable art forms will march forward. And no surprises here, one form of salvation may be 3-D printing. The other? That as long as the designers create, craftsmen will decorate. By choosing the work of contemporary designers who use elaborate surface treatments, the book reassures us that haute couture embellishment will survive against all odds and years of dire predictions to the contrary. This could be the fashion equivalent of, "if you build it they will come." After a look at surface treatments such as beading, passementerie, pleating, (I thought I understood pleats but now I'm not so sure I did) embroidery and faux flowers, she reveals the inner workings of more ethereal aesthetics such as fans, jewelry and perfume, just to remind us that couture is the entire experience not just the surface. In any event, these lavish arts are the product of hundreds of wizards who exist only in France and only because Paris continues to challenge them.

Well then, Paris was never Kansas.