Friday, March 29, 2013

London, England - Paul A. Young Fine Chocolates

Yesterday I stopped by award winning chocolatier Paul A. Young Fine Chocolates to stock up on all my chocolate Easter eggs for the weekend. Out of his three locations, the Bank store in the City, located in the Royal Exchange Mall (surrounded by the likes of Hermes, Gucci and Louis Vuitton), is my favorite. With its deep mahogany wood walls, display cases and old-fashioned clock, I always feel like I am being transported into what stores must have looked like a hundred years ago. 

Everything in the shop is made by hand in an onsite kitchen, thus guaranteeing freshness. Paul himself is ranked amongst the world'd best chocolatiers. This year, the handmade and hand-decorated extra-thick chocolate Easter eggs come in shades of vibrant natural spring colors that include primrose yellows, vibrant greens and bright oranges.

The daffodils in the window remind us that Spring is occurring somewhere, if not in presently Arctic chilled London ... 

There is always a pot of the award-winning hot chocolate at the ready in each store ...

As for me, the one item I always pick up on a visit to Paul A Young is the now infamous Sea Salted Caramel spread (below). It is absolutely delicious warmed up and drizzled over vanilla bean ice cream, though the shop keeper, in typical sarcastic British drawl, exclaimed, "Oh darling, this is so good I know people who put it on their breakfast cereal." I, for one, am going to try not to go down that road! 


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Monday, March 25, 2013

Boston, Massachusetts - The Italian Pizza Chiena for Easter

Since we are one short week away from Easter, I thought I would repost one of my most popular blog posts of all time: my mother's delicious recipe for Pizza Chiena.

Happy Easter or Buona Pasqua!

Being Italian-American, it is oftentimes difficult to decipher what takes precedence during Catholic holidays, the historical and religious significance itself, or the hours of food preparation involved in celebrating these highlights in the liturgical calendar. Ritual warrants days of cooking and passing on family recipes in the kitchen to the next generation. Each holiday calls for specific culinary dishes that can vary greatly from region to region in Italy. As my own roots are Neapolitan, each Easter my mother makes her mother's famous Pizza Chiena (it has many names: Pizza Rustica, Pizza Ripiena, Pizza Piena (in Neapolitan dialect: 'full pie'), Pizza Gaina, Pizza Gain, Torta Pasqualina and Easter Pie). This savory pie is usually made after Good Friday, most typically on Holy Saturday. It is a highly caloric pie that is meant to provide sustenance after the 40 days of fasting during Lent. In keeping with tradition, here is a look at this year's pizza chiena, prepared in my mother's kitchen.  

5 cups unbleached flour, unsifted
2 tsp. Fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup Crisco shortening
4 eggs slightly beaten
3/4 cup warm water (from tap)
Preparation: Using a large bowl, add measured flour and black pepper, mix slightly with a fork. Add Crisco and, working fast, press together using your fingertips to blend evenly.
Make a well in the flour and add the beaten eggs and warm water (add 1/4 cup water at a time until you have a soft and pliable, but firm, dough). You may add more water if needed.
Press dough firmly together, turn onto a slightly floured surface and knead thoroughly, at least 5-7 minutes. This will produce a beautiful dough that is perfect to work with.
Cover in a bowl and let rest 1/2 hour or more.
Cut 2/3 of the dough, roll out, turning often to fit the broom and up the sides of an ungreased pan.
Roll out the remaining dough for the top crust and set aside (make a few slits.)

Have a butcher slice the cold cuts in thick strips, then remove skins and cut up all the cold cuts into small chunks.
2 lbs. ricotta cheese
1 large pepperoni
1 lb. ham
1 double Abruzzese salami (about 1/2 to 3/4 lb. total), cubed
1 large sopressata (about 3/4 to 1 lb. piece), cubed
1 dozen whole eggs, just toss in bowl
1 cup grated pecorino romano cheese
2 lbs. fresh cheese (formaggio fresco)

Preparation: Using a large spoon, combine all ingredients, except fresh cheese. When mixture is thoroughly blended, add the fresh cheese, which has been broken into large pieces, and toss gently. The idea is not to crush this delicate cheese.

Gently pour into prepared crust in a deep dish pan and cover with top crust. Take the edges of the top and bottom dough, press together and roll it over inward, continuing around the edges then press gently with the tines of a fork. Now take any remaining scraps of dough, roll together and cut it into lattice strips to form a cross. Place in the middle of the top of the crust. Brush all over with an egg wash.

Place in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 1/2 and hour, then lower the heat to 350 degrees. Continue cooking for 1 hour longer or until golden brown. Let cool at least 6-8 hours. Cut in slices and serve. Serves 15 -20.

Note: you will need a heavy rectangular baking pan 13 inches long by 9 inches wide by 3 inches deep. 

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

London, England - Design Week at Chelsea Harbour Design Centre 2013

Courtesy shuttle (in style) from Sloane Square to Design Centre Chelsea Harbour

This week is London Design Week 2013 at the Design Centre Chelsea Harbour. Each of the interiors showrooms, which are normally only open to the trade, stock up on goodies and libations and open their doors to the public to introduce their Spring/Summer 2013 collections. There are a fleet of Range Rovers to shuttle you from Sloane Square to various design showrooms on both the King's Road and to Chelsea Harbour. 

You can dine under the glass domed ceilings at the Tatler Restaurant, subscribe for special offers on all of the home magazines, and attend masterclasses, lectures and book signings throughout the week.

Each showroom goes out of their way to decorate with stunning flowers and lots of sweet treats that can be enjoyed while you browse.

Cupcakes at Kravet to celebrate the new launch of Jonathan Adler fabrics
Traditional amaretti biscuits at the Italian fabric house Dedar
Lovely spring tulips flank the windows at the Zimmer + Rhode fabric showroom

I just love the use of colored frosting and spring flowers to add vibrancy, especially since us Londoners haven't seen an ounce of sunshine in what feels like an eternity ...

In the afternoon, I attended a design lecture with the very famous American interior designer Charlotte Moss. It was hosted by the extremely witty and quintessentially British editor of House & Garden Magazine, Susan Crewe.

Charlotte Moss 
Charlotte told her inspirational story of leaving the high-powered banking world on Wall Street in NYC to follow her dream of bringing her Southern charm and own personal design aesthetic to homes across the US. She is also an avid photographer, scrap-booker and gardener (you should see the garden at her private Hamptons residence!). 

At the end of the lecture Charlotte sat and signed copies of her new book,  A Visual Life: Scrapbooks, Collages, and Inspirations, a scrapbook compiled from her own travels, photographs and sources of inspiration along with those of other notable women of style.

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Monday, March 18, 2013

Tromsø, Norway - Northern Lights Adventure

(Guest blog by Leigh Brody)

We started our Northern Lights trip with an early connection through Oslo and finally onto our final destination of Tromsø. On the first day we walked through the small town and got used to the climate of the Arctic Circle, which is colder than I anticipated. Luckily, there was plenty of appropriate shops open for me to stock up with hand warmers and other cold weather provisions. 

Our first night was spent at a camp called the Tromsø Villmarkssenter, where we slept in these teepee-like structures and waited for the Northern Lights to come out. Sadly, there was nothing to see that evening, so instead we curled around the fire and had a local meal of reindeer soup. 

We were disappointed not to have witnessed the Northern Lights the night before, so we cheered ourselves up with a husky dog sledding adventure (also organized by the Tromsø Villmarkssenter where we stayed)! The dogs were so adorable, I wanted to adopt all of them. Luckily, our camp also happened to be the largest husky dog breeder in Norway, so I got to play with all of them.  

After our sledding adventure, we checked ourselves into the Rica Ishavshotel hotel for a proper shower and warmth for a few hours until the next adventure began- a snowmobiling excursion to see the Northern Lights through Lyngsfjord Adventure. The tours are all very organized there; we got picked up from our hotel and driven the 90-kilometres to the start of our 3.5 hour tour.

This was by far the coldest night, reaching -15C at the moment we got off the bus. The tour company supplied us with suits to keep us warm, so the temperatures were bearable. What made them so bearable was the amazing show of the Northern Lights we actually witnessed that night. It's such a strange sight to see the sky suddenly turn bright green, it was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen!


Our final day was spent shopping at the local stores and included a visit to the local museum. The town is small, so we decided to revolve our last day around a big meal of seafood. 

We had a three hour meal at Fiskekompaniet on the harbor, which tasted as good as it looked. We didn't necessarily need all that food, but we definitely enjoyed ourselves. 

The last night we went on a Northern Light chase, however it was too cloudy to see anything. The guides all agreed that the show we saw the night before was the best they had seen all year, so we were happy to have experienced that sighting. All-in-all, it was an amazing holiday and I highly suggest it to anyone looking to experience the Northern Lights. 

I'm on twitter ( and Instagram (Leigh.Brody) for questions, suggestions or photographs.

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