Monthly Archives

October 2007


Did you know that an AGA cooker is a green option?

classic aga ranges and cookers

The Classic enameled Aga has an interesting story. First this is the invention of Swedish Nobel Prize-winning physicist Gustaf Dalén for his wife.

In 1932, the classic Agas became all British. They are produced in the central English town of Coalbrookdale. For your information, British call our range a cooker.

What makes an Aga so special?

Besides being always manufactured from recycled scrap iron, what distinguish the classic Aga is the fact that you never turn them off.

Nowadays, the latest Aga Intelligent Management System (AIMS) system performs exactly with your lifestyle. A handset programming control means that your Aga can be shut off when you sleep and you preset at what times during the day the range should be ready to operate at normal power.

You will be surprised to hear that there are no switches or dials either. Each component holds at a temperature specific to its task: roasting, baking, simmering, warming or boiling.

The cast iron construction and energy efficient heating offer a truly unique cooking experience. It is like having 10 appliances in one. With a high-end AGA stove, you can bake, fry, grill, toast, stew, steam, roast, simmer and stir-fry.

How a heavy Aga cooker can be friendly for the environment?

Like I said earlier, the Agas have always been manufactured from scrap iron. Today, old car engine parts, pipes, gutters and so on provide more sources for recycling materials.

This is a remarkable stove if you like the old-fashioned look and have a budget around $12000 CAD. The enameled finish is available in 14 colors to match any kitchen decor. The design is proven so you will probably keep it for a long time. A huge part of green living is not filling up the garbage site.

Several sources of energy

Their natural gas used to the cleanest and lower-cost heating energy source. Now with the introduction of their latest 13-amp electric model in July 2007, things may change.

From a green viewpoint, an electric stove is easier to install and will require less maintenance. Apparently the special design of the electrical Aga results in an electrical appliance that cooks reproduce closely the results of the gas unit. The AIMS reduce the energy consumption too.

Some models can accept bio-fuels once and if they become widely available. The company invests in research to find alternate energy sources for their appliances.

The taste test

From a taste point of view, once you learn the basics of cooking with an Aga, your food will probable taste better. The Aga cast-iron ovens use indirect radiant heat and cook food gently. Food does not dry out and thus, the food retains its natural goodness and flavor. They are lots of books and the Aga stores have a kitchen for you to test drive the stove.

To finish up this post, I really like the ad with Sophie Conran. The campaign was shot by the charming and relaxed Mary McCartney, the girl of the Beatles member Paul McCarthy.

2009.05.28 Update: Debate over the Green Credentials

I would like to get your attention to this article published on The Guardian that challenged the Aga’s affirmations of being green. Personally, I do not believe people buy an Aga stove because they are looking for a green alternative. You probably buy it for its cooking functions and if you like that old-fashioned  style. I like the color options. I imagine the Aga stove at a cottage or in an old-style house.

On the other end, is it more green to replace several times an appliance? The energy consumption studies do not take into account the resources needed to make, sell (manufactures, warehouses, retail spaces, transportation), install, remove and throw away the appliances. Sadly, we do not have these numbers for those.

UK site: Web site of Aga cookers
North American site: Web site of Aga ranges

+ Sophie Conran for Portmeirion dinnerware


A wonderful DIY take-away gift to wrap up a casual 5-service dinner party

the style dept : jamie oliver : la tartine gourmande

This party favor is just adorable. I saw it on The Style Dept, a home decor show on HGTV Canada. Better yet, this DIY party favor is cheap and fast to create.

It was used for an outdoor party but the Potted Herbs with a recipe card party favor can work in an interior setting. My suggestion is to build your menu around fresh herbs. Repeating elements in an innovative manner adds a level of sophistication to your event.

What do you need to make these DIY party favors?

  • Small decorative pots or make your own pots by gluing a cork sheet on a highball glass
  • Small herb plants like rosemary, thyme, oregano, winter or summer savory
  • Tags
  • Colored raffia ribbons or twines

Share the recipes of the meal you are serving. Write several recipes so that couples can take home two recipes. For take-away gifts, it is preferable to handwrite the recipes. If you have some free spaces on your tag, apply a beautiful stamp to dress it up.

Select two herb species and alternate them on the place setting. If you can buy your herbs in advance and let them bloom, the herb pot will seem lovelier.

Depending on your table size and format, I would evenly distributed 1 to 3 bouquets made by gathering one type of flowers.

The menu

Because this is fall, I selected the Medallions of Beef with Morels, Marsala and Creme Fraiche Sauce by Jamie Oliver. This dish is earthy and added some green vegetables in your plating.

I am a huge fan of Crème Brûlée; it is on the dessert menu it is almost sure that I will have it. We went to a lavender farm a couple of weeks ago, so I buy a small tin box of culinary lavender. This is expensive but you only need a tablespoon for most recipes.

Even without the cute vintage metal ramekins used by food stylist and photographer Beatrice Peltre, I assure you that the Lavender crème brûlée with fresh berries made by La Tartine Gourmande will be a winner.

Basic formula for a great menu

Having a casual yet stylish dinner party with friends is easy. The key is to pick delicious and simple to prepare recipes. Planning a multiple course meal is not complicated if you follow this basic formula.

For a no-fuss 5-service dinner party, start with a light entrée followed by the Medallions of Beef served with cooked vegetables, then hand out a straightforward green salad before having the platter of fine cheeses. Finish the meal with the dessert. Voilà!

DIY project: Potted Herbs with a recipe card as seen on The Style Dept
Recipe: Medallions of Beef with Morels, Marsala and Creme Fraiche Sauce by Jamie Oliver – as seen on Christine Crushing Live
Recipe: Lavender crème brûlée with fresh berries by La Tartine Gourmande – right reserved photo by Beatrice Peltre (La Tartine Gourmande)

+ Potato, apple and camembert entree
+ Menu for an autumnal dinner party
+ Potato and Onion cakes


Homemade tricks and treats

almond croccante by david rocco

Go nuts with home cooked treats for your own Halloween party. All night long you will pass candies to the kids ringing at your door. But what about your family?

I compiled a list of 3 treats that are easy to make the day of the event. Beware, your family will ask you to cook it again during the Holidays. All recipes are from Food TV Canada.

1 | Almond Croccante

This is a recipe by the attractive David Rocco. You only need sugar, water and almonds to make this treat. The recipe takes about 3 minutes to make plus 20 minutes to let it cool.

On top of the written recipe, there is a video online where you can see how is is done. So you have no excuses to not make the Almost Croccante.

2 | Peanut Brittle

peanut brittle by anna olson

I got two recipes for you. Both seem delicious.

The first one is by the pastry chef Anna Olson. She and her husband are the owners of Olson Food + Bakery in Port Dalhousie, Ontario. Serving it in the jar like Anna Olson’s Peanut Brittle did on the picture shows originality.

The second Peanut Brittle recipe is by the cheerful Michael Smith. On his Halloween Tricks and Treats episode of Chef at Home, it cooked more treat recipes and he explained the principles behind candy making.

This episode of Chef at Home will aired twice on October 31, 2007. You can watch it Wednesday at 10:30 AM EST or 7:30 PM EST on Food Network Canada.

3 | Almond Nougat

almond nougat by anna olson

Nougat is fancier so I got to include it. And this Almond Nougat recipe by Anna Olson does not seem too hard to bake.

Just make sure you got a candy thermometer that works properly. To succeed when making candies, you must carefully follow the instructions and do everything at the right temperature. One degree can make a difference.

Have fun and go nuts with sugar this Halloween.

Recipe: Almond Croccante by David Rocco on
Recipe: Peanut Brittle by Anna Olson on
Recipe: Peanut Brittle by Michael Smith on
Recipe: Almond Nougat by Anna Olson on


Colorful tableware objects are the best sellers at MOMA

colorful glasses : cutting board : fruit bowls : serving tray at MOMA store

I talked to you earlier about the trends towards colors and baroque inspired motifs. Manufacturers and designers are pushing the looks they want us to adopt. But do people embark?

So as a follow-up story to this week 3 blogs and a mood board, I went to verify if the cool crowd is really into colors and elegant motifs. I selected the MOMA Store as my test center.

If you examine MOMA’s best sellers list, the matter becomes obvious. A quick glance at their 7 most popular tableware items prove the acceptance of these trends.

We have to wait until the seventh tableware product to see a stainless steel and black serving tray. MOMA felt the need to photograph the serving tray with the Colored Riedel stemless glasses inside the tray. I rest my case.

The best seller list in the tableware category

These creations were designed between 1997 and 2007.

1. Colored Stemless Glasses by Maximilian Riedel – price: $55 USD for a set of 4

2. Curved Glasses by Leonardo Design Team – price: $65 USD for a set of 6

3. Colorful Rings Cutting Board by Antony Joseph – price: $28 USD

4. Distinct Patterned Glasses by Emmanuel Babled – price: $115 USD for a set of 6

5. Mediterraneo Bowl by Emma Silvestris – price: $65 USD

6. Raybowls by Sandy Chilewich – price: $48 USD for the Boomerang green, $60 USD for the Oblong orange

7. Serving Tray by Formsache21 – price: $150 USD

A great place for gift shopping

Members of MOMA save between 10-20% when they shop at all MOMA stores. This is a retail place where you can find amazing gifts for people with discriminating taste. Whether it is for a housewarming gift, a hostess gift, a birthday gift or shopping for the Holidays, I always find the selection at MOMA to be exciting.

Shop online: MOMA store
Learn more: MOMA memberships information


Vibrant colors in elegant pieces | 3 blogs and a mood board – 2007.10.28 edition

design hole : roomservice : pan-dan

Using colors is the easiest and the cheapest way to decorate a room or a table. The style, the shape and the motif of an object determine whether it is chic or not.

Colorful items look more festive. That is why I like to play with colors when I create a party design.

Each piece makes a strong statement on its own. If you put together these three objects, you will have the basis of an amazing tabletop.

1 | Design Hole

Instinctively, you see these stunning pitchers next to a modern dinner set. But beside bona china dinnerware, the contrast between the old and the new operates its magic.

The glass blowing artist and designer that created those pitchers is named Nicholas Kekic. The cheapest place where to buy his pitcher is iluren, at least from my research so far. On his Web site, you can get matching tumblers at $40 a piece.

Thanks to Jennifer of the always captivating Design Hole who first spotted these pitchers on the New York Times.

2 | Roomservice

The Tazana Stemcell Light collection and especially the Foilage Light caught my eyes. Its low price means that you can afford to hang a long row of 5 to 7 pendants. I discovered those through the blog of the Scandinavian woman behind Roomservice.

3| Pan-Dan

Nadejda of Pan-Dan introduced the Amar(ant) tablecloth by Isle Design. Here the designer pushed the envelope of traditional table cloth by coating elastic material. The motif is definitely inspired by traditional motif. This is a trend right now.

Buy online: Glass Pitcher by Nocholas Kekic at iluren – price: $190
Buy online: Foilage Light by Tazana – price: $26
Buy online: Amar(ant) tablecloth by Isle Design – starting at 75 ?


Stylish Haunted House dinner party menu for grownups


You wish to have friends over on Halloween’s day, why not plan your gathering around a stylish haunted house affair? This elegant dinner party is simple enough to prepare that you can host it in the middle of the week.

The decor by Martha Stewart

You start with a few decorative elements that I found while digging Martha Stewart’s Web site.

To set the ambiance and to encourage people to stay until the end even on a work day, you can set up a dessert station in advance. This way, you do not waste energy and you have fewer things to do during the dinner party.

Candelabrums are a must to achieve this look. The Haunted party theme was published in 2000 on Martha Stewart Living with the instructions to build the Coffin Table and the Moth-Eaten Curtains. I selected this set because several elements go along the entertaining trends.

It takes no time or special skill to make these Specimen Jars. Start with three stylish clear glass vases, ideally of different shapes but within the same family. Fill them with a few drops of green food colorant dissolved in water and place inside a gourd, a green cabbage and a fennel. It is as simple as that.

The menu suggestion by Apartment Therapy

I taught of making my own menu but Faith from Apartment Therapy did a great job at hers. I invite you to have a look at Apartment Therapy to see it all. The pictures illustrate my three favorite dishes from their menu which are Rest in Peas, Spider Web Soup and Rare Tenderloin with Provencal green beans.


I added the Devilish Eggs as an entree because it is a great example of a nicely styled plate that is easy to reproduce. The only part I was not fond of from the menu of Apartment Therapy was the dessert. Martha’s ideas for the Haunted House party look more appealing.

For the dessert station, you have a wide selection to choose from with Halloween Lollipops, a Graveyard Cake, Meringue Sweet Bones and red Shrunken Pears. If you host a small affair, I suggest you cook the Shrunken Pears.

Mignardises are little delicacies that French hosts served after the dessert course. Buy two pieces per person of fine chocolate to serve as mignardises. You can serve these with coffee, tea or a luscious Vintage Port wine.

Decorations and recipes: Haunted House party by Martha Stewart
Via: Happy Halloween: Dinner Party Inspiration on Apartment Therapy

+ New twist on Thanksgiving menu
+ Basis of a casual 5-course menu
+ End of summer party menu

+ Mad Scientist Halloween party 
+ Victorian Gothic feast for Halloween
+ Halloween makeup looks


Extraordinary Halloween makeup artistries by M·A·C

halloween special effect makeup by MAC

If you are invited to a Halloween party, you need a costume. You can rent one but the look is clichéd. If you opt for a special effect makeup, you will get a unique look.

With a strong makeup disguise, you can be subtle with the clothing. But you still need to find the right apparel. When it comes to special effect makeup, the artists at M·A·C are there to help you.

Absinthe Minded, Zombie Chic, Rising Sun and Machineman are my favorites out of the 25 looks shown on M·A·C’s Web site. (Sadly, M·A·C removed them from their Web site.)

How to proceed?

Taking an appointment is a must. When you call, tell the person that you want a special effect make up for Halloween as not everyone on their team are qualified to do this.

Some M·A·C counters have a private makeup room; La Maison Ogilvy has one in Montreal. I have been told to plan for at least 1 hour and a half. Budget $110 for a normal private session. If you want something similar done in the comfort of your home by a talented special effect makeup artist, it will cost you at least $200 + tips in Montreal.

Typically when you book a makeup appointment with M·A·C ($45 at the counter, $110 for a private session), you can buy cosmetics for at least that amount and get the makeup free. I do not know if that works with for special effect appointments.

I have been told to ask for Joan or Vanessa at the M·A·C counter of La Maison Ogilvy. The M·A·C store on Saint-Laurent Street may also be able to help you. I saw them create incredible body paintings a couple years ago during the Formula 1 Grand Prix celebrations.

+ Halloween looks by MAC Cosmetics – Sadly, M·A·C removed the instructions from their Web site.
Store locator of MAC Cosmetics
+ M·A·C boutique at La Maison Ogilvy

+ Creepy treats and drinks for Halloween
+ Victorian Gothic feast for Halloween
+ Mad Scientist Halloween party


A social plate fitted for wine stemware, soda cans and glasses

social plates for stemware, soda, coffee, beer glass

I shown you several mingle plates in the past. The one by Superior Devices is quite different than the others for two reasons.

Not just for Wine stemware

First, the plate is not just designed to hold wine glasses. If children are invited, if you are hosting a breakfast event at a seminar for examples, you will probably serve something else than wine.

Due to its unique form – a patent is pending – the plate can be used for all types of drinks. You can deposit your soda can or a usual plastic beer glass on a dedicated compartment. As suggested on a TV show by HGTV, your coffee cup can sit on your plate while you are mingling.

I do not recommend that you walk with a soda can or a non-stemmed glass on the plate. This feature is for when you are socializing.

The plate works best with tapas, snack foods and hors d’oeuvres. The food neatly fit into four compartments. A stemware glass slides into the central opening. A side opening enables you to hold the plate securely.

Recyclable disposable party dinnerware

I received some samples from Social Plates. Their sturdy construction can withstand in my view one or two of hand washes. If you only serve snacks and finger foods, you can probably extend the life of most of them. When you are finished with it, the plate can go in the recycle bin.

From a visual standpoint, the plate by Social Plate is only pleasing especially when you compare it to other non paper disposable dinnerware. Basically, they look like polystyrene plates.

If you are looking for a casual looking disposable plate for a family event like a birthday, a baby shower or a children’s Christmas party, these are a recyclable option. They are sold in pack of 12 ($12.95 USD) and in pack of 60 plates ($49.95) at Ace Mart, a restaurant supply store that accept orders from consumers.

+ Social Plate Disposable Cocktail Plate at Ace Mart – price: $49.95 for a pack of 60, $12.95 for a pack of 12
+ Social Plate Disposable Cocktail Plate, Case of 60 at – price: $49.95 for a pack of 60, $12.95 for a pack of 12
+ Web site of Social Plate by Superior Devices
+ Bottom Left Photo credit: review of International Home & Housewares Show 2006 taken from a HGTV Special presentation segment

+ Highs and lows of eco-friendly disposable dinnerware
+ Glass tapas plates called d’glas
+ Wooden and Porcelain Wine and Dine plates


A stylish potato, apple and camembert entree cooked by La Tartine Gourmande

potato, apple, camembert timbale by la tartine gourmande

With the week-end at the corner, it is the perfect time to introduce this delicious entrée prepared with seasonal products.

This recipe looks really appetizing. Be warned, you will be inclined to find excuses to prepare the Potato, Apple, and Camembert timbales. For a start, everybody knows that it is best to cook a recipe at least once before serving it at any event.

If you are a fan of the popular blog La Tartine Gourmande, you probably recognized the work of food stylist and photographer Beatrice Peltre. Bea made these Potato, Apple, and Camembert timbales for The Boston Globe.

What do you need?

You need one ramekin per person, a mandoline and parchment paper to prepare this entree.

The ingredients are easy to find. You need Yukon Gold or Yellow Finn potatoes, a red cooking apple, a piece of Camembert cheese, some butter, all spice, fresh oregano, salt and pepper. Do not forget a pack of fresh herbs in bloom for plating.

For the instructions, read the Boston Globe article. Enjoy!

Recipe: Potato, apple, and camembert timbales published on The Boston Globe
Photo credit: La Tartine Gourmande – all rights reserved by Beatrice Peltre


Back to normal

We had a problem with our server around supper time yesterday. My blog was down for a few hours. My tech guy may do some fine tuning for the next few days. In the worst case scenario, my blog may become unavailable for a few minutes. So bear with me.


How to dress up your table with bears and moose?

moose lodge tableware : silhouette black bear dinnerware: black forest decor

We are right in the middle of the hunting season. In the Canada and the North of the United States, the colorful sceneries in fall mean that going to the cottage is popular.

Black forest Decor is not a store where I would normally go for shopping. But I discovered there wonderful tableware. It is the proof that we must keep an open mind when it comes to design.

Out of traditional cottage style pieces, I devised a modern Country table top. This type of tableware would look remarkable in a contemporary or a modern Country cottage design because it is unexpected.

The elements of my table top

Whether you prefer the Moose Lodge Collection or the Silhouette Black Bear Dinnerware Set is opt to you. I kind of prefer the Moose Lodge for its warmth but it is hard to judge simply from a picture. Mixing a Stag Horn pewter pitcher and a pewter fruit platter on pedestal elevate the look to higher grounds. The Antler handle flatware set repeats the look of the pitcher through the use of similar finishes. That is how you bring continuity to a design.

Resting everything on a brown or cream pure linen cloth with black or cream linen napkins plus a couple of glass chandeliers get you a look that has nothing to do with the literal and old-fashioned bears and moose home decor. You can easily modernize any traditional dinnerware set with the right accessories.

What you need to know about pewter?

You do not have to worry about drinking and eating from newly fabricated pewter tableware as long as you buy pewter approved for food consumption.

Last week, I went to Arthur Quentin, a store specializing in French Country style. I saw there the most exquisite pewter tableware pieces made in Italy. The manager, Ms. Renee Fournier explained to me that the first thing that a pewter collector does is to look at the several marks under the pieces. The price of pewter pieces is influenced by its maker, the usages and the metal contents. There are a lot more to say on that subject, so I promise to write about pewter dinnerware pretty soon.

Buy online: Moose Lodge Collection at Black Forest Decor – price: on sale at $169.95 for 16-piece set
Buy online: Silhouette Black Bear Dinnerware Set at Black Forest Decor – price: on sale at $169.95 for 16-piece set
Buy online: Pewter Stag Horn Pitcher at Black Forest Decor – price: on sale at $229.95
Buy online: Antler handle with Sliver end cap stamped Flatware at Black Forest Decor – price: on sale at $104.95 per place setting