Friday, June 29, 2012

Summer Dreaming...and Design Sponge


I love the varied, inspiring stories at Design Sponge. I produced a delicious piece for them a few years ago, and somehow, managed unwittingly to create a new one virtually three years to the day, published last week. Kristina's enthusiasm has been a boon for my work - I decided I wanted to make a rustic and nostalgic-feeling to go with my mother's famous lemon meringue pie recipe. I hope you all like the results!

And, there's ANOTHER piece she and I have put together which is due out later this week. No secrets revealed, but I promise you it's fantastic....
In other news....

It's that time already, isn't it? I swear I was just back home having a wonderful visit with my parents. But I look, and that is almost two months ago already... where does the time go?? So many bits and pieces to share with you. I'll make it easy, and start at the beginning.

This is my mother's dogwood tree. I can tell just how long I've been away when I return home and witness how much larger it has grown. Almost covering the front lawn now, its limbs long and weighted with blossoms, the tree is magnificent. The breathtaking petals are worth many photographs, and as I'm not one to walk away from an easy photo opp, I dutifully obliged.

Walking out the door, the dogwood put an immediately lovely tone to each day. I, my husband, and my father each ventured out at points to photograph it. Whether it was early morning with coffee in-hand or just before running off to a separate destination, the tree was a strong presence and a welcoming subject. We were lucky to arrive and catch it near the end of its bloom cycle, just before my mother's iris plants and trumpet vines were to come onto the scene.

While home, we visited a place I'd been to a million times when younger - an island situated between Detroit and Canada, called Belle Isle. It is America's largest city park, and is home to playgrounds, gorgeous historic structures, a nature center, oodles of picnicking areas and scenic shoreline, and well, you get the idea. We visited for an afternoon and it was a blast to find the island much in the condition as I remembered it as a child (thank goodness some things haven't changed). A landmark fountain carved in marble was our first stopping point. An eccentric gambler and socialite bequeathed half a million dollars to have this built in his name during Detroit's Golden Era, completed in 1925. These are some of my favorite details....

These panels encircle the topmost element of the fountain, measuring around 3 feet tall apiece, and I found their detail and subject matter rather poetic. The fountain itself spans 160 meters and has 109 water spouts! It is framed by lions, porpoises, frogs, cupids, fish, and rams, along with various ghoulish mask-faces and scenes of indigenous people and craftsmen. Pretty damn cool.

From there - and by the way, it was the hottest day on record: over 90 degrees Fahrenheit (this was the beginning of May, people!!), but thankfully saved by incredible whipping winds - we four ate a simple picnic lunch on a sprawling lawn and then went to see the historic Conservatory.

a quick crab & red cabbage-scape salad with assorted sides

basking in the breeze

This place also has a special place in my heart. It is a gorgeous structure, and for free, you can see incredible and diverse displays of flora from all over the world. 

The cactus room was one of my faves...

There were succulents, jungle-y tropicals, lush blooms (an atrium-full - just think of that scent), such as amaryllis, and lilies, and more housed inside the five separate climates the dome and adjoining wings provide. There is even a courtyard lily pond with koi that glide through the water. Here is a view of the grand structure from the courtyard view, and a companion shot from long ago. :)

As it turns out this conservatory, currently known as the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory due to her gift of 600 exotic orchid plants (making Detroit the largest municipal orchid collection, for you factoid lovers), is the oldest continually operating conservatory in the United States. Built in 1904 by Albert Kahn the dome measures 85 feet high to accommodate soaring palms and other tropical beauties. It was as breath-taking and meticulously kept as ever.

That evening, we treated ourselves to food we don't eat everyday. Barbeque! Rich, smoky, piles of meat, cooked over low-heat and long - North Carolina-style. Slow's has designed their unique space using reclaimed wood and metal, and they have a rockin' beer list from small and artisan producers that will keep you drinking. To top that, they offer four kinds of sauce to go with the fixings - yummy! Makes me hungry all over again.

A potent ale from England - heady.

That's enough to send you drifting, dreaming for now, I think. But do come back - I haven't told you about the story of the gourmet salad farm. Every bit quirky and lovely as you might think. Right in my hometown. ;)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Today's New York Times -Tropical Style, and Americana Too

It's been a wonderfully busy few weeks and that has made me scant in these parts. I have a backlog of stories and photographs, each a fun and fabulous experience that I am eager to share with you all. Because it is out today - and they are supremely delicious, I can attest! - here are a couple pieces featured in today's New York Times Dining section. If you can get the printed edition the photos are just gorgeous. Full color, large, totally yummy. Here's a screenshot from the online version and some of my outtakes, below.

The story shares three recipes, though there is a fourth that didn't make the cut. They really are delicious, so do please explore the recipes in the Times pages and tell me what you think. I can verify that the fourth too is super tasty (love my job), and worth shopping for the ingredients and coming home to prepare. Here it is:

Grilled Shrimp and Avocado Salsa

1 1/2 lbs U16-20 shrimp, shelled and deveined
2 tsp olive oil
salt and freshly cracked pepper
1 ripe, firm avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 tbsp cumin seed
1 tbsp good-quality chile powder
1/4 lime juice, from about 2 limes
1/2 cup orange juice, preferably freshly-squeezed
1 tbsp minced garlic
1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro

On a stovetop grill (or on one outdoors) heat on high for about 5 minutes, then turn to medium-high. Coat the shrimp with oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and thread onto skewers. Place on the grill and cook, turning once, until shrimp are just opaque throughout, about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove from the grill and slide off of skewers into a large bowl. Add all remaining ingredients, toss to coat well, season with additional s & p as needed, and serve. 

In other news my friend Katie has included some photographs from an Americana series I shot on her blog What Katie Ate. Lots of great contributions in this story, so sit back and enjoy the many beautiful pictures! More of my faves from that series....

Hope this story transported you to Coney Island, whisked you to the most classic classic diner, brought you to a tropical paradise, and that you've found a bit of yourself here. Things have been a blast. I can't wait to tell you more of what's been gong on. Stay tuned! ;)