Lupine in bloom in between the Cabernet Sauvignon rows in Napa Valley.


Graffiti (at Brick Lane)


Fresh bread crumb for my garlicky pork meatballs…


Allium Love

Shallots are for babies.   
Onions are for men. 
Garlic is for heroes.image

Sunrise over the Bosphoros…

in Instanbul.  A completely wild city influenced by the multitudes that have come through… Arabs, Asians, Europeans……
Aimlessly wandering the mosques, palaces and souks during the day, with lunches of roasted lamb and vegetables while seated next to dark, cologned men speaking a completely unfamiliar tongue.  Awoken each morning by the Muslim call to prayer and put to sleep each night by glasses of Turkish wine made from varietals of which I’ve never heard….


Crashing Cannes

Heritage Culinary Artifacts

 
It was unseasonably warm in Cannes and I was overdressed.  Wriggling out of my bulky gray sweater, I wished I were sporting more chic attire.  I flagged the waiter yet again, unsure whether he was oblivious, overworked or contemptuous.  Ordering another bottle of the local rosé, I kicked off my sandals and dug my toes into the fine, expensive sand.
 
“Forget Paris,” we decided. 
The weather’s much too glorious to schlepp our many bags to the train station for the
five-hour northward crawl to The City of Lights.  My bags and back were straining,
but how to travel light??
I found too many wonderful treasures for my shop in Napa Valley,
 
Visiting Cannes, on France’s southern coast, is always surreal.  The corniche is a full-on catwalk; the extreme wealth of Europe, Russia and the Middle East on gaudy display.  Hermes bags and Cartier watches flash in the warm Mediterranean sun, while tired-looking North Africans pedal ice-cream and hashish along the main drag,
which snakes along a densely settled coastline. 
 
Northern California seems so very far away from that crazy chic beach club, its tables nestled into the sand, while a sailcloth awning flaps in the afternoon breeze,
shading aristocratic skin from harsh rays.  
The restaurant’s business card summed it up:  
“C Beach, Cannes.  The Beach to Be.” 
 
Indeed.
 
 
The men sitting nearby were impeccable.  Finely tailored and exquisitely groomed, their scent of Vertiver mingled with the sea air. They ate steak tartare and whole roasted fish, drank good Bordeaux, and smoked.  A lot.  The women were young and lovely in that insouciant French way.  They ate meat and drank wine, all the while dangling a cigarette between their long, thin French fingers. 
 
Who can ever fault the French for their appreciation of life as art? 
 
Turning my attention to the bowl in front of me, I realized the vibrant gazpacho was the finest I’d eaten.  And while I can’t drink during the day anymore, it’s easy to make an exception with a bottle (or two) of the local rosé.  
Higher acid and lower alcohol means an exceptional pairing
to a hearty lunch. 
 
Rosé is also a fine introduction to a light afternoon rest; listening to Hayden, doors and windows open to the sea.
I dreamed about the early morning antiques market in Cannes,
where I scored a few treasures.
 
My first find of the day was an exquisite set of sterling silver handled butter knives.  I simply love the clean, deco lines on the handles.  They are in very fine condition and will compliment any dining table.  Set of six ($185)
 
This is one of the great finds of the trip.  A butcher’s set of knives and a hand carved case with a leather strap.  The chestnut wood has an extremely fine patina and the knives themselves are in brilliant condition.  The butcher even carved his initials “R.G.” into the case.  To use in your own kitchen.  This is an incredible set.  Paris, 19th century. ($685)
 
This mezzaluna has an deep, dark patina on both the hard wood handles and the carbon steel blades.  It’s unusual in that it boasts three blades; the better to chop your herbs and spices.  In fine condition, it will surely please any chef. 
From the late 1800s ($265)
 
I tried not betray my excitement to the dealer when I uncovered this amazing piece!  A tastevin made for sampling wine, this detailed, artful piece is made from sterling silver and has intertwined serpents, which create the handle.  Measuring 6.25” in length,  3”diameter and 1.25” deep, this is an amazing piece for the wine connoisseur and sterling afficionado.  Early 1900s.  ($585)
 
 
Walking the piers of southern France’s harbors, I must look like such a tourist.  Mouth agape, I gawk at each mooring, tethered to the most luxurious boats registered in harbors far away:  Nice, Marseilles, Monte Carlo, London, Panama, Naples, Rio, Seychelles, Abu Dhabi. 
 
And what of the people who travel within the glistening mahogany walls of such fine vessels?
 
 
My travel mate and I escaped the bespoke madness of Cannes and instead settled into the rhythm of the neighboring coastal town of Antibes, with plans to gorge on local seafood and scour the antiques markets for more treasures.
 
Now off-season, the crowds having gone back to school, back to work, we easily reserved a room in a small hotel overlooking the harbor.  It was sweet and slightly shabby in the way all seasonal, waterfront hotels are.  We soaked in the outdoor sauna, watching the sun drop into the Mediterranean.  We forgot time, emerging weak-kneed and ravenous.
 
Around the bend, overlooking the harbor and the lights of Nice, we found Restaurant Bacon.
 
 
The dining room’s gigantic doors were rolled back, the entire space open to balmy Mediterranean breezes and blinking harbor lights clear to Monte Carlo.  The large round tables were set with silver, crystal and candles and placed far apart from one another; elegant and old-school European.  The soft lighting and muted pastels made me feel as though I were ensconced inside an elegant clam, its pinkish flesh and pearly casings
slightly opened
to take in the salty evening air.
 
The owner, a hot Frenchman named Sordello, pulled our chairs, and in purring English explained the restaurant had been in his family for three generations.  He expertly worked the room with his wife, a tall blond who was almost friendly. We requested a 1993 Raveneau Chablis be decanted and took Sordello’s recommendation for the tartare of sea bream.  Fresh and silken to the tongue, the fish was served simply with only a crunch of sea salt and a brightening squeeze of citrus.
It lingered in my thoughts for days.
 
We finished with a delicate mille feuille; it’s ethereal puff pastry layered with cream was true artisanship. Herbal teas were snipped and brewed to order and enjoyed with glasses of Elixir du Mont-Ventoux, an herbal digestif distilled in nearby Châteauneuf du Pape.   The next day, I tracked down a couple of bottles of this delight!
 
As the Sordellos bid us bon nuit, the valet left our tiny Fiat rental idling by the door,
lost amid the sea
of flashy Maseratis and gleaming Mercedes. 
 
Old-town Antibes has an early morning antiques market, which runs along an ancient stonewall that separates city from ocean.  Many dealers make the trek from Paris to show their wares.  I was excited to check it out, but arrived too early.  Of all the antiques markets I visit on various continents, the French start the latest.  It’s a quality-of-life-thing with them. 
 
I love that.
 
Taking the French cue, we stepped into a tiny cafe near the docks.  Elbow to elbow with the local fishermen, we ordered lattés with a couple of France’s stellar croissants, ripped and dipped into the steaming bowls of coffee. 
 
Fortified, we hit the market.
 
 
I’m a sucker for bone handled utensils and this set of dinner knives is quite lovely.  With carbon steel blades, these would compliment any set of silverware on any table.  The bone handles have a rich patina that only comes with age. 
A fine set of six ($485).
 
This rare, early bread slicing board is made from hard wood with an attached carbon steel slicing knife.  The piece’s patina is exceptional.  It’s a work of art hanging on a wall, or a functional piece situated on a countertop or dining table with a big loaf of bread and a hunk of cheese.
Measures 2.5” deep, 14.75” wide and 18.25” in length.
In very fine condition. Paris, France, 1800s.  ($1225)
 
 
This knife sharpening steel is a work of art!  The handle is made from horn and produced in an unusual manner:  the horn was heated and then gently twisted to create the delightful design.  With a steel loop, it can be hung from your apron or with your pots and pans.  This sharpening steel will keep your knives in tip-top shape for generations to come. 
From the late 1800s.  ($425)
A lovely friend from Napa Valley was working the wine harvest in the nearby Rhone Valley and needed a break.  She agreed to meet us for supper and caught a late-afternoon train to Cannes.
 
Poor girl. 
 
I could only imagine that her winery gig was all too much:  watching the hot French winemakers tending the Syrah; the communal lunches of duck confit eaten side-by-side young, strapping Australian interns, hungry for more than a winemaking experience. 
We could only imagine how hard it was on her!  
 
We met for pre-dinner drinks at the very posh Carlton Hotel, its large patio overlooking the French Riviera.  Built in 1911, the Carlton’s distinctive domes were designed to resemble the obviously enormous, jutting breasts of Caroline Otero, the most famous
French courtesan during the early 1900s.
 
 
Each year, this estimable property hosts the madness of The Cannes Film Festival, but now in the quieter season, we had the waiter’s full attention.  As the sun set over the yachts in the harbor, I eyed a deeply tanned older gent, warming a large cognac glass in his gigantic, lined hands and playing cards with an attractive, younger man. 
Grandson? 
Companion? 
Lover? 
Were they living in the hotel? 
On one of the massive yachts?
Or perhaps locals living in one of the homes in the hills far above us?
 
We paid our outrageous bar tab (!!) and headed up the street.  Armed with our concierge’s promise of the best seafood in Cannes, we snagged a table at the simple Chez Astoux et Brun, well regarded as a temple to all that lives in the Mediterranean.  We ordered an old vine Sancerre and a plateau of seafood:  whole shrimp still in their long, pink jackets; cold Belon oysters, small, flat and distinctively crunchy; and periwinkles, buried in their dark hiding places, only to be prodded out and gobbled up, tasting of the sea’s depths.
 
The waiters were unhurried, allowing us plenty of time to gossip, eat with our hands, and order more wine.  Our waiter, a short, older man with the experienced manner of someone who’s been in the service industry all his life, dug around a ginormous fish tank, wrestling a red and white spiny lobster onto a large, silver tray for our inspection. 
 
“Split and grilled.  S’il vous plait, Monsieur.”
 
 
The next morning came too soon.  We stumbled downstairs for espresso and croissant from the corner café.  I paged through Paris Match and longed for a cigarette. 
 
But only in theory.
 
It was actually California’s fine green herb that I truly missed.
 
We wandered through the market in the small seaside city of Nice, the coastline never out of sight.   Our last day in southern France yielded a few gems.
Produced from wild boar tusk, sterling silver and carbon steel, this is a very unusual carving set.  I’ve never seen anything like this!  Very handsome, weighty and in fine condition, this pair would be at home on either a rustic or fine dining table.  The detailing on the handles is exquisite. 
Pair ($685)
 
This harvest tool was used in the vineyards of southern France in the late 1800s.  The hard wood handle and the carbon steel blade both boast exceptional patinas.  In wonderful condition, this can be used in your garden, to carve a block of cheese on your counter or merely hung and admired. ($445)
 
I’ll admit to a weakness for French soaps, particularly when they’re made from moisturizing, natural oils and botanicals.  These are made in Marseille and threaded onto a rope.
They are wonderful kept near the kitchen sink
or hanging from a hook in the bath. 
Set of eight to keep it clean.  ($72)
 
It was time to return home; back to life, back to reality.  Our bags were full and
the shipping company made wealthier. 
I yearned for a heaping plate of plain, spicy arugula; less bread, less wine, more water.
Always good to travel.  Always good to get home.
But the warmth and richness of life in southern France stays with me.
 
If any of the treasures in this newsletter move you,
or would make a wonderful gift for someone you know, write to me. 

May I be of assistance? 

Contact me directly at lisa@heritageartifacts.com
and I would be very pleased to discuss details. 

Please know each items is unique and one-of-a-kind, 
so when they’re gone, they are gone. 

I will do my best to fulfill your wishes.
 
Until next time.


Curious about Copenhagen

Heritage Culinary Artifacts

 

A recent morning found my purplish hands clutching a steaming mug of tea, which, along with toasted black bread, qualified as breakfast on our balcony overlooking a bracing Copenhagen. Known as “the port of the merchants,” this small city, with a population of just over a million, lies directly on the sea. My first trip this far north in Europe, I had come to be baptized in Danish design and hopefully find a few treasures for my shop, Heritage Culinary Artifacts, in Napa Valley. 
 
The steel gray skies, streaked with painterly brushes of white, were reflected in the harbor’s dark waters.  Anchored schooners, barely moving in the still chill, are a constant reminder of this Nordic city’s seafaring history. Copenhagen’s church spires and rooftops reflect its pleasingly symmetrical
Dutch Renaisssance architecture, which dates to the late 16th and early 17th centuries.

 
On the street below, running along one of the canals, a major bike race is taking place. Wide-eyed cycling enthusiasts are standing on street corners in the late morning chill cheering on the racers, dressed sleekly in Lycra and plastic and bearing the name of their sponsoring country. 


To accommodate the cyclists, streets are closed to cars throughout Copenhagen, an already crazy-bike-loving city.  36% of its citizens bike to work or school;  is there anything hotter than an executive in a fine European suit and brimmed hat biking to work, scarf flying in the breeze?  And God knows it’s not difficult to bundle up stylishly in Copenhagen. There are dozens of small boutiques selling lovely clothes made by local designers. 
Sweaters are de rigor in this chilly seaside city and I bought two enormous, marvelous sweaters from Danish wunderkind designer Ivan Grundahl, which I will wear for years. 


I wandered to the small neighborhood of Christianshavn, which was founded in the mid-1600s by Christian IV, known as The Builder King of Denmark, for his many architectural projects.  The ‘hood is renowned for a bohemian vibe.  True to its rep, I scored a dime bag-sized bit of dope (…for $20…) from a guy
in a lovely park
near one of the canals. 

 
Smoked the very average herb while watching large boats navigate the seemingly tiny waterways. The delicate buzz was decidedly perfect for a exploring an open market I’d read about.  Aisles and aisles of antiques were set on tables alongside a canal.

My first find of the trip is very special:  a very heavy, figural corkscrew of Popeye, The Sailor Man.  Dating to the 1930’s, this guy even has an etched, anchor tattoo.  He measures 5.5” tall and separates at his waist, hiding the corkscrew’s worm.  A find for the avid collector.  ($445)

 
Jens Harald Quistgaard (1919–2008) was a Danish industrial designer who worked with the American entrepreneur Ted Nierenberg to craft elegant and functional Scandinavian Design cookware for Dansk International Design.  He was recognized with the Lunning Prize in 1954 and his designs are in the museum collections of The Louvre in Paris, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the MOMA, both in New York.  These two cheese boards he designed, dating to the mid-century, each sport a cheese knife that tucks away, creating a handle.  Brilliant design!  (Pair $145)

 
I had to have them.  The cast, figural rabbit napkin rings are well done and make me smile.  (Set of four $45)

 
Needing a bit of nourishment and warmth, I hit the city’s Latin Quarter.  I found a corner couch at Cafe Petri in the swank First Hotel Skt. Petri.  A pot of tea filled with lemongrass, lavender and peppermint and loads of local honey set the mood.  I gratefully dug into a smoked salmon sandwich on thinly sliced dark rye.  The bread in this part of the world is unlike anything I’ve I’ve ever had … dark, earthy, nutty.  Studded with seeds and grains, the texture is dense, but it unlike breads made with white flour, it treats the body lightly.  The sandwich was a Nordic classic:  layered slices of fish
with horseradish cream, dill, radish, and lemon.
The last sips from a bottle of the local microbrew, Ørbæk, acted as dessert.
 
Divine.
 
Thin, tall blond women in super tight leather pants are scattered around me.  Indeed, the city’s inhabitants are breathtakingly beautiful.  And they are warm and very welcoming.  The language, however, is bizarre.  As I grew frustrated struggling to understand any Danish at all, I was told by a native gentleman not to sweat it:  after all, there are only 5 million people on the planet who actually speak the language!
 
Deeply nourished and warm, I strolled through several antique shops.

 
Marked ‘Denmark’ on his underbelly, this figural bottle opener mouse is pure mid-century charm.  With a brass tail
bottle opener, and leather ears.  Measuring 4” long.  ($65)
 
 
This wall-mounted, cast iron match-strike is extremely handsome and very unique.  With a indentation in the boar’s head for either a candle or matches, this beauty sports several different striking areas.  A true, functional work of art
to light up
the cold evenings. 
($965)

The embracing salt and pepper are classic mid-century modern, Danish design.  The wood is in very fine condition and the aesthetic is elegant yet also utilitarian.  Each measures 4” long.  (Pair $85)


 
I was frankly overwhelmed by the quality of the food in Copenhagen.  With 13 Michelin-starred restaurants, this town is a gourmand’s dream.  The city is one of the most environmentally friendly on the planet; 45% of all food consumed is organic, and often sourced from a farmer’s field or forest,
or hauled out of the surrounding waters. 
 
I was positively sure I’d eventually score reservations to Noma.

Ranked the Best Restaurant in the World in 2010 and 2011, acclaimed
Chef René Redzepi forages the city and its Nordic coasts for wild foods to add to his inventive menu, arranged on a plate that is pure culinary art.

Or so I’ve read.

I tried every fucking avenue I could think of to snag a seat.
 
Called influential chef friends.
 
Left pleading messages on Noma’s voicemail.
 
Tried to bribe my concierge with cash or contraband.
 
All to no avail.
 
I was more than mollified with a reservation at Radio, a small, rustic dining room headed by Noma alumns.  Various crops are harvested from duo chefs Jesper Kirketerp and Rasmus Kliim’s own gardens, fresh fruits are brought in from the nearby island of Lilleø, and hunters drop by their latest, seasonal kills. 
 
An older bottle of Cornas from Clape was decanted, its earthy perfume mesmerizing.  A bowl of local barley with foraged mushrooms in a broth made from game birds was Nordic autumn in a bowl.

 
Copenhagen’s food cred is picking up international steam.  MAD Foodcamp, aptly named, as MAD means ‘food’ in Danish, took place in late August.  Visitors mingled with chefs from around the world to eat, drink and exchange ideas.  The venue was a fruit and vegetable market larger than anything previously seen in Northern Europe and featuring wild as well as cultivated crops from
the seas,
woods,
fields and beaches
of the Nordic region.

 
Awoke late to a spitting, sobering, icy rain.  No better day to amble through the Danish Museum of Art and Design.  I’m a sucker for the elegant, curvaceous furniture, with gorgeous woods and clean design from this part of the world:  it always grabs my eye.  Arne Jacobsen is often regarded as the godfather of Danish design and one of the pioneers of functionalism. His buildings define not only an architectural movement, but an era of design. One of his greatest works is the 1960 Radisson SAS Royal Hotel across from Tivoli in downtown Copenhagen.  This mad genius oversaw all details, right down to the door handles.  The hotel was Copenhagen’s first skyscraper, and as a tribute to its designer, room 606 remains to this day a shrine to its designer,
featuring the original furniture and fittings he created for it.
 
But it’s the work of Dane silversmith Georg Jensen that moves me.  The sterling silver serving pieces from the early 1900s are striking.  I lucked out finding this handsome cutlery set. This substantial, sterling silver carving set was made by Johan Rohde for Georg Jensen in 1915.  The acorn pattern is my personal favorite – and one that is highly sought after.  Knife measures 12” and fork measures 11” in length. 
(Knife and fork $495)

 
This salt shaker and pepper grinder combination is functional and economical of space, while being tactile and elegant.  Created by Dansk.  Mid-century.  ($110)

 

It was classic. 
I fell in love with dozens of chairs throughout this design-centric city, but what did I wind up shipping home?  American designer Allan Gould’s “Compass Chairs’, designed in 1949. Teak bodies and upholstery seats,
measuring 
26¼” high; 20½” wide; 19” deep.
(Set of 6  $2450)


 
I’ll admit to feeling a bit obligated to try the herring, a regional specialty.  Grabbed an outdoor table at one of the many cafes lining one of the many canals.  Thoughtfully, throughout much of the city, many of the cafe’s comfy outdoor chairs are draped with a thick blanket to help counter the chill.  I ordered the house selection of five herring, each prepared in a different manner.  I had expected something magical. 
Instead, my mouth was filled with this nasty, foul, almost rancid flavor. 
The texture was mushy and oily. 
Bleh! 
I quickly ordered an aquavit to numb my taste buds and warm my toes. 
 
I strolled further as evening began to descend on the city, the wind making me pull my cap down tightly over my ears.   I was fortunate to find a dealer who had wonderful wine antiques.  
 
This cast iron wine cradle was designed specifically for magnum-sized bottles.  With intricate scrollwork of grape leaves and a solid design in impeccable condition, this wine cradle allows decanting and service with great ease.  Late 1800s, from Germany.  ($510)


 

Our final evening was spent in the clean, modern dining room of Kikkoreit;
Danish food prepared with French techniques.
 
Our host, a warm Dane named, not unusually, Niels Nielson, is a man of voracious appetites; a passionate eater and drinker, and a good client of the restaurant.  He took charge of our table, ordering the chef’s menu for the six of us.  We started with caviar and finished with local cheeses and drank Austrian Gruner Veltliner with the fish crudo and red Burgundy with roasted partridge. 
The service was sublime; the kitchen a quiet whirr of focused activity.

 

 
I was shocked and delighted that we had spent almost five hours at the table…… which, in essence, nicely encapsulates up my feelings about this lovely seaside city in northern Europe.
 
 
If any of the treasures in this newsletter move you, or would make a wonderful gift for someone you know,
write to me. 
May I be of assistance? 
Contact me directly at lisa@heritageartifacts.com
and I would be very pleased to discuss details. 

Please know each items is unique and one-of-a-kind, 
so when they’re gone, they are gone. 

I will do my best to fulfill your wishes.
 
Happy Holidays!
 
Until next time.


September First: Dove Season Opener

Good Lord, it was 4am and I was already late.  Puffy-eyed and tripping over my barely laced hunting boots, I crawled into the cab of John’s pick-up truck.  I laid my shot gun on the floor and put my picnic basket on the seat; its savory aromas immediately filling the car and making John’s bird dogs hungry with anticipation.  This, after all, is what Labradors live for:  opening day of bird season. 

Read More


United Kingdom

   

The first day in London poured cold rain, making it highly pleasurable to spend the day in bed, lazily acclimating to the time change.  The second day finds me venturing out into a breathtakingly cold, clear day - completely bundled for winter.   Now only slightly jetlagged, but still in desperate need of strong, short coffee and a buttery croissant, I tuck into a communal table at Monmouth, the wonderfully rustic (read:  lots of old wood and iron) coffee bar in London’s Borough Market.  Wrapped in their tweeds and caps against the city’s deep chill, dozens of Brits are escaping their offices to join me for a late-morning caffeine hit.    The coffee bar’s barn doors are always wide open to the market beyond, which now proudly exhibits winter produce from across Europe.  A typically patient queue snakes out the door from Neal’s Yard, it’s counters piled high with winter cheeses.  Stalls with cured salumi from Seville, fresh bread from Paris’ Pouliane, and jars of spicy Indian chutneys are set alongside butcher’s stands, now dense with hanging birds, winking pigs, and fat, furry rabbits from the English countryside.  

 

Fueled and considerably warmer, I stroll the city in search of a few antique shops and unusual galleries. I’m aiming to see incredible pieces of Victorian and Sheffield silver, an English specialty.  Two hundred and fifty years ago, Sheffield Silver Plate was an affordable, quality alternative to sterling silver.  Today, it’s not just a collectible, but highly sought after.   

 

This carving set has delightful detailing on the handles.  It consists of a sharpening steel and a carving knife and fork.  I also found a Sheffield serrated bread knife in the same shop that is not an exact pattern match to the carving set, but certainly a lovely compliment to the carving set, so I am including it.  The four pieces date to the early 1900s, are all Sheffield, and are in great condition. ($185)     Sheffield also produces extraordinary pewter pieces.  I couldn’t resist this tankard with the naked lady handle.  Is there a more ideal mug in which to drink beer?  Unfortunately, there is only one, so you’ll have to pass her ‘round. ($85)  

   

And incredible pieces of sterling silver abound in London!  A salt cellar with a colbalt blue liner and its own sterling spoon is matched with a sterling pepper shaker.  Both pieces are balanced on three ornate feet, with the elaborate culmination of a lion’s head at the top of each foot.  The three pieces are clean and polished and quite impressive.  ($165)  

 

I’m a nut for figural pieces and immediately bought these amazing sugar tongs.  Made from sterling silver and marked ‘Germany,’ it is a heavy and fully functional piece.  The detailing on his hands, feet and face is quite precise.  I’ll miss him when he’s gone.  ($385)

 

Wandering a small alley, I happened upon a curious shop with all kinds of old wood, shiny brass and various hunting accoutrements.     I was ecstatic to find a Clockwork Spit, also referred to as a ‘spitjack.’ What an ingenious design!  The meat hangs on the hook over the fireplace’s embers to slowly roast.  The clockwork mechanism slowly causes the meat to revolve, rotating one revolution one way, then back the other way, and then back again.  A cast-iron wheel and four, adjustable hanging loops are suspended by a brass clockwork rotating mechanism. Marked 30 Salter Warranted.  From England, late 19th century, it measures 16” long and 7” diameter.  ($325)

   

I also scored a fabulous brass kettle, polished to a high sheen.  It sits proudly on a brass stand and has a warmer below. The piece bears a circular mark enclosing conjoined “WS&S” for William Soutter & Sons of Birmingham, England.  The height overall is 13.25” ($210)

     

The final piece of brass I scored is a brandy warmer with a spout.  Who wouldn’t want such a fine tool, particularly on a cold winter’s night?  The bottom of the piece is woven into place, signifying its age into the mid-1800s.  The condition is marvelous, as it is spirit ready.  ($155)   

     

With warm brandy on the brain, I took a break and warmed myself in the afternoon sun at a table along the Thames, daydreaming about the previous evening’s sublime dinner at The River Cafe. Wood fired roasted squid, explosive with flavors of the sea, was followed by a salad of thinly shaved Puntarelle tossed with fresh anchovy and accompanied by an unctuous Soave.  Locally hunted roasted whole grouse still managed to sing when paired with a mature Chianti, its rose petal and cherry notes perfectly playing against the gamey bird.  Affogatos with homemade vanilla bean ice cream and Nonnino grappas punctuated the evening.  The dining room’s convivial spirit added to the divinity of this seasonal meal.  Even the grass-green olive oil on the table was small production, freshly pressed and spicy as hell.  Opened in 1987 by Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray, the dining room brought fresh, seasonal flavors to the then drab London cooking scene. The restaurant earned a Michelin star in 1988, but quite sadly, the world lost Ruth Rogers in early 2010.       

   

Awoke late to a smattering of rain, an all-too familiar London sight.  Quickly packed a small bag and located a Volkswagon reserved through Zipcar.  Acting as navigator to the countryside town of Somerset, three hours south of the city, meant sitting white-knuckled, neck veins bulging, screaming directions at my pilot while she drove the dark, winding, tiny, and often one-way roads in the rain - on the wrong side of the street from the wrong side of the car!!!!!   We finally arrived into the sweet Somerset village of West Coker and to The Lanes Hotel.  This little hotel is housed in a former rectory whose old stone and wood structure has been made new again; restored to a highly modern sheen incorporating glass, colorful paintings, art, and warm lighting.  I took a seat in the lobby in front of a mod gas fireplace, cleverly tucked inside an enormous old stone hearth, and found that a bottle of Meursault and a terrine made from local, wild game helped to soothe my frazzled nerves.

 

Even in the chilly rain, the hotel was full, but I never saw more than a few people.  I soaked in the spa, sans garments, for nearly an hour and didn’t encounter a soul.   It was late and I was hungry. Darted across the lawns and through a couple of stonewalls to an ancient pub, only to be told that the kitchen was closed, but they’d accommodate us with chips.  Platters of greasy, salty, thick-cut fries were washed down with never-ending pints of beer. A neighborhood gang of old British men sang local dirges and played every instrument imaginable, showing off for the couple of Americans fortunate enough to have wandered in off the wet, cobbled street.     The next morning found us on a too early train to the historic city of Bath.  I made the pilgrimage into the imposing stone Abbey, which dates to 675 AD, and sat for a long while in the creaking wood pews.  I was mesmerized watching tourists from all over the world slowly read the highly descriptive epitaphs on tombs located inside the sanctuary.    “Here lies Anne Mann; she lived an old maid and died an old Mann.”    Indeed, the walls do talk…     Blinking into the sunlight outside, I skipped the tour of Bath’s baths and headed to the antiques market, where the old men were properly attired against the frigid morning.  I was immediately attracted to a gentleman with a bushy salt and pepper beard who was manning a table laden with early pieces of copper, wood and porcelain.  

   

This impressive copper funnel is 15 inches tall with a great tin lining.  And like the desirable French belle that she is, her fine condition belies her turn-of-the-century age.  ($310)

   

I grew excited to find a box of six bone spoons.  Dating to the late 1800s from England, the custard hue and lines are compelling. Perfect for bone marrow, salt or caviar.  Maybe ceviche?  ($85 each or all six for $435). 

   

I indulged my senses with two porcelain creamers, both produced by Royal Bayreuth in the early 1920s in Bavaria, Germany.  The figural fish head ($245) has warm coloring, an enormous mouth, and measures 4 inches tall.  Unflawed.     I always smile at the St. Bernard’s woeful expression.  He measures 3.5 inches, has great hues of gray and brown, and remains in brilliant condition ($245).

   

Careening the back roads of the English countryside, only slightly stoned from half an old joint I lucked across in my toiletry bag.  Having chatted up the hotelier, we got the skinny on the area.  Green slopes.  Black and white cows.  Red barns and gray skies that shifted shade.  Late morning found us in an empty pub with a fireplace the size of a child’s room for a coffee, before making a detour into the little town of Axminster.  We fortuitously happened into The River Cottage Canteen, a project by English Chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.  I’ve always been a big fan of his books, which are not merely cookbooks but rather ethos on eating.  His casual, comfortable dining room, with its locally produced foodstuffs and rich beers held the promise of a fine lunch.  A duck pate made from the contents of a generous neighbor’s hunting bag was so dense and rich, so incredibly dark, gamey, livery, minerally… that surprisingly, I couldn’t take more than three bites.  The lack of indulgence left plenty of appetite for grilled sardines, pulled from waters off the Dorset coast and dressed simply with lemon and chopped parsley.  The beer was a local affair, full of hops and spice. A slice of gooey goat cheese made on a nearby farm and a salad of hearty winter lettuces left me refreshed.   Pushed on to the coastal town of Lyme Regis; its claim to fame having been the location for the movie The French Lieutenant’s Woman.  I was more impressed to find the stellar Town Mill Bakery.  We took refuge from the angry, spitting sky with large steaming mugs of ‘Workman’s Tea’ (also known as Builder’s Tea) doused with local honey and accompanied by dense lemon cakes.  We watched from the communal tables of the warm bakery as the wind blew salt from the crashing surf.   I was glad I ventured into the few shops which remained open.  I found a very heavy, brass mortar and oversized 5” brass pestle.  It screams to be on a wood counter to grind herbs and spices.  ($225)

   

My last find in the UK was quite special:  a pair of salt and pepper shakers, with superbly detailed silver elephant heads made from the Victorian period.  The crystal bodies are heavy and in very fine condition.  English from the mid-1800s, and measuring 3 inches from trunk to base.  Highly unusual.  ($285)

 

My treasures and I made it home unharmed.  The U.S. Customs Officers, however, managed to locate most of my contraband salumi.  Ah, well.     It was a fine trip.     Always love traveling.  Always love returning home.   Until the next adventure…

Lisa Minucci | Heritage Culinary Artifacts

Oxbow Public Market | 610 First Street, Stall 14

Napa, CA 94559 |


Cavorting on Cape Cod

Share This: imageimageimageimage  imageIf you’re fond of sand dunes and salty air, Quaint little villages here and there, You’re sure to fall in love with Old Cape Cod.
Written by Claire Rothrock, Milton Yakus, and Allan Jeffrey, 1957 and sung by Patti Page. Landed at Boston’s Logan Airport on a recent gray and windy afternoon. I could feel the wonderfully damp chill of New England the moment I ran screaming from the foul, putrid air of the plane.  How I love to travel, yet how I loathe the process!  Hungry and tired, I craved restoration in the form of an old-school Boston experience.  Walked into The Daily Catch in the city’s North End just as a coveted table in this tiny 20-seat room freed up.  Run by a Sicilian family, the green awning has been hovering over this spot on Hanover Street for as long as I can remember (from the hazy little I recall from my stupor-induced college days in Boston, anyway…) Quickly ordered a cheap bottle of young Chianti and was overwhelmed by the comforting smell of frying garlic. That familiar aroma always brings me to my knees.  
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Plates arrived in a slow rhythm.  Tomato and onion salad made tangy by red wine vinegar was followed by baked haddock pulled from the local waters; naked but for a dusting of crumb and a dab of butter and served on its still sizzling cast iron skillet.  Doused with lemon, it was the essence of New England simplicity.  A steaming bowl of pasta then arrived:  the house specialty.  Homemade black pasta made with squid ink and topped with chopped calamari, parley and handfuls of fragrant garlic.  We ordered another bottle of Chianti, its bright acidity a perfect foil to the richness of the dish, and proceeded to eat every damn bite, sopping up the oily goodness with that nasty, doughy stuff that constitutes Italian bread on the east coast.    Early the next morning, we slowly meandered southeastward from Boston, driving Route 6A through the entirety of Cape Cod.  The quintessentially east coast architecture of the boxy Cape Cod homes, the Spring carpets of purple crocus and the sunny bonnets of the daffodils, and the American flags hanging from the front porches brought back fond memories of growing up on this windswept peninsula jutting into the Atlantic.  
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Had a hearty New England breakfast of pancakes and bacon at The Sailing Cow Café in Dennisport, in the middle of the Cape, before foraging for a few pieces of great Americana for the shop.   The first antique shop yielded a few of my favorite finds of the trip.  
image   One of the better food signs I have ever found, it reads ‘OYSTERS’ and hails from Cape Cod from the early part of the 1900s, probably 1930s-1940s, complete with old nails.  It measures 3’ long by 9” wide.  ($510)  
image   These five brass pitchers appear to have been handmade.  They all have spouts and large handles and are in wonderful condition.  Surely, they can be cleaned up but I enjoy the patina.  The five measuring mugs are early American, mid-to-late 1800s (set $245).    
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During the 1800s and into the early 1900s, grocers used brass stencils to mark their boxes of fruits and vegetables.  Marked Lima Beans, Assorted Fruis and Sugar Peas, each stencil has an fabulous patina and measures 9”across.  They can be framed, displayed – and even used!  ($95 each)   image  
Heavy cast iron pieces always catch my eye, especially cool figural pieces that can go from oven to table so beautifully.  This fish measures 13” from lips to tail and 8.5” from top fin to bottom.  It hails from Japan, early 1900s ($185).  
image   I’m always on the hunt for beer related antiques.  High quality pieces are extremely difficult to come by, so I could barely contain my enthusiasm at coming across this very heavy bronze beer tap with a figural fish spot.  Measuring 11” across and 9” high, it’s a very fine European piece from turn-of-the-century or earlier. ($485)     Making our way further down Cape, we stopped in the too-picturesque seaside town of Wellfleet for a late afternoon platter of their famed oysters, which were dug that morning from just beyond the back door of our harbor side perch.  I also indulged in a huge bowl of steamers, dredging each one in hot salt water to clean them of sand and then in a butter bath before feasting.  Their sweet/saltiness is a true, seasonal east coast joy.  Washed down the bivalves with several bottles of cold Red Stripe, the tasty Jamaican brew.  From there, we forged on to Provincetown, located at the very tip of the Cape.  I was fortunate to find a couple of treasures in the very few shops that were open.  
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I swooned for this little three legged lamp has figural feet and a fringed shade made from animal hyde, which gives off the most lovely hue.  It dates to the early 1900s and measures 12” tall.  ($190)  
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Mid-century pottery always catches my eye.  Its color and form are always distinct, clean and oh-so-modern.  This platter from Frankoma Pottery was produced in Oklahoma in the early 1950s and is in wonderful condition.  The color is rich and vivid and it is the perfect vessel for serving olives, cheese, nuts and condiments.  It measures 12” in diameter. ($88)  
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Tin and metal molds are such fun, especially the more unusual, figural pieces.  This chocolate mold sports the shape of pretzels, reminding me of my early days in New York, when the twisted doughy bread studded with salt and smothered in yellow mustard was this poor working girl’s lunch.  It’s heavy and measures 5.75” across and 6.5’ high.  ($185)     Bunked for a couple of nights in Provincetown at The Brass Key, a lovely complex of rooms, which open onto a fabulous courtyard, all done up by several men of impeccable taste.  My room sported old-school floral wallpaper and a shower with four heads stocked with great product.  The downstairs bar is hysterically named ‘Ship Wrecked’, and I’m sure that during high season, more than one or two sailors are found beached there.  Wandered Commercial Street, P’town’s aptly named main drag, now quiet as off-season looms but still managing to see plenty of leather harnesses and stud collars on parade.  
And speaking of which… who says there is no such thing as a phallic culinary artifact?   I scored this ceramic penis decanter from a dealer situated down a peaceful little alleyway.  Originally from Portugal, legend has it that the bride-to-be would fill it with liquor and pass it around to her bridesmaids the night before the nuptials, allowing each girl to take a pleasurable gulp from it.  Made of ceramic and painted in great hues. ($345)  
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Wrapped in a heavy sweater and seated in a quiet, empty outdoor café, we tucked into yet another lobster and a bottle of Italian white wine, departing only as a chilly fog descended on us.  Slightly tipsy, I stumbled into a late-night candy shop on the return to the hotel.  I bought half a pound of the appropriately named Drunken Fudge, the smeared crumbs of which I found in my sheets the following morning.  Slept buried under my blankets with all the doors and windows open, listening to the fog horn moan in the far off distance…   Awoke to warm sunshine and took a soak in the large hot tub, enjoying the breeze and the solitude.  Went to Race Point Beach, which circles the northern coast of Provincetown, and took a long morning walk to the lighthouse.  Found a large cuttlefish skull picked to a white sheen by the gulls and the pounding Atlantic.  It’ll be perfect for the shop!   Sat in the unseasonably warm sun on a bench overlooking Provincetown Harbor, the tide far out and a lovely sea breeze blowing in.

image   Went to Devon’s on Commercial Street for breakfast, the windows open onto the harbor.  Spinach and black truffle cheese scrambled eggs with applewood smoked bacon; English muffins layered with house made raspberry jam served from pottery crocks on each table.  Rich, dark coffee, freshly squeezed pulpy grapefruit juice, and Red Bliss potatoes made with Old Bay seasoning made it a truly memorable breakfast.
Fortified, we drove off-Cape to Rhode Island, stopping to see the decadent Newport mansions situated right on the edge of Newport’s famed cliffs.  Good God, have you seen these places?  The Breakers, commissioned by the Vanderbilt family in the late 1800s, is so over-the-top that I’m sure my mouth was hanging open during the entire tour.  What opulence!  I brought myself back down to Earth by haunting various antique shops in the tiny state of Rhode Island.

image   This sign, ‘State Hatchery’ is originally from Maine and had hung in the dealer’s home for 50+ years.  It dates to the 1930s and is in wonderful condition.  The truly amazing aspect?  It’s double sided and can be hung in the middle of a room or over a kitchen island.  It measures 22” tall, 52” wide and 2” deep.  One of a kind.  ($1450)

image   This Victorian-era butter service is quite unique, topped with a dairy cow.  In wonderful condition, it is fitted with a butter knife and an interior tray, which rests on a bed of ice.  In wonderful condition, this piece was created by Simpson, Hall and Miller Silverworks in the late 1800s in Connecticut.  ($245)

image   Cast iron calls to me.  These heavy, figural sheep are very well done with great detail.  They can be used as doorstops or bookends.  I love them!  (pair $185)

image     As my background is in wine and my shop sits in the heart of Napa Valley, I am always hunting for unusual wine antiques.  This European wood, picking basket is a rare item, and still boasts its leather straps.  The patina is rich and lovely and would be perfectly suited to hang on the wall of a kitchen, or over a hearth. Dates to the mid-1800s. ($1650)       The last night’s dinner was a long anticipated affair at Rhode Island’s famed Al Forno.  A bottle of young Barolo accompanied a rustic, rich dish of tomato and eggplant covered with local, bubbling mozzarella, which had been roasted in their wood fired oven. God, how I adore the east coast Italian sensibility!  Guinea hen, smoky and succulent from the wood oven, was served with locally produced polenta and freshly plucked dandelion.  Food and service were all top-notch, but I’m not a fan of being asked to order dessert with my entrée.  Surely, this consistently packed dining room sets such a policy to keep tables turning, but it feels rushed and less than hospitable.  And I usually prefer a green salad and a piece of cheese to hunk of chocolate cake at my meal’s end.
  Too much good booty to pack away in my suitcases, so I spent the final, precious east coast morning negotiating with a shipping company to deliver the pieces westward, safely and before the turn-of-the-century.  I’m happy to report all arrived and my cuttlefish skull, retrieved from Race Point Beach that fine morning, continues to waft its briny scent throughout my shop in Napa Valley.
   
image   Wedding season is nearly upon us.  I have been asked repeatedly to offer personalized gift registries of unique, one-of-a-kind items.  May I be of assistance to you?  Please contact me directly at lisa@heritageartifacts.com and I would be very pleased to discuss details.   And of course, if any of these items in this newsletter move you, write to me.  Please know that each items is unique and I only have one - so when they’re gone, they are gone.  But I will do my best to fulfill your wishes.
  Until next time.

Lisa Minucci | Heritage Culinary Artifacts

Oxbow Public Market | 610 First Street, Stall 14

Napa, CA 94559 |


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