Tuesday, September 28, 2010

London Laughs - When It's Sunny and You're Hungry

You'll be spoilt for choice!  On Saturdays in London take the tube to Sloane Square on the District Line.  From the train station follow the crowds out a half block or so, then turn left at Lower Sloane Street and follow it along as it curves southward and to the left.

At Pimlico Road, just before the Bridge, turn left and you'll see ahead, just past all the posh antiques shops, the Pimlico Road Market.  It only takes place on Saturday mornings and specializes in small and specialty growers.  As well as specialty purveyors of fine foods (in the UK parlance).

It IS true that (especially in this part of London) you will find almost more goodies to eat than on an average Paris street.  Just across from the little place where the market can be found, at the junction of Ebury and Pimlico Roads, (aka Mozart or, Orange, Square) is Daylesford Organic, an aspiring quality comestibles destination, swathed in white marble and raw scrubbed pine for a little rustic luxe.  You will have passed the delicious and excellent L'Artisan du Chocolat on your way down Lower Sloane Street.

You tell me what you think.  But frankly on a Saturday, you'd be shortchanging yourself if you did not get your Saturday goodies here.  At the market.

The chunky half circle of English style white cake with the generous crumb and the gooey, sticky-dense, fudge-y chocolate icing did not enjoy the attentions of my camera, but it made it's appearance at breakfast time daily for several days and once for four o'clock tea with never any loss in its appearance, texture or appeal.  In fact it remains, pristine, fresh as daisy and emminently desirable in my sweetest memory...... 

but - I digress because I mean............ VEGETABLES!

 and (sigh) plums of EVERY kind.

Fresh handmade pasta - this is WHY, when you are staying in London, you feel compelled to find someplace with a little kitchen for you to cook all this deliciousness in.

And vases in the cupboards to pop your fresh flowers into.

Because how often do you get to buy veronica at your local flower store?  And frilly sunflowers like this?

The Daylesfords have taken over, also, where the mother and daughter team of Appley Hoare used to trade.  But they are eminently useful in my instructions to you, (in your further hunt for goodies) in remembering that you must NOT continue to your right down Pimlico Road past the gardening Daylesford (above) but rather, more or less straight along Ebury Street, keeping the foodie Daylesford's on your left with the Poule au Pot to the right.  If you've been following closely, and continue past a pub with hanging baskets you'll find yourself at the interesection of Elizabeth Street, NOW IS THE TIME.  TO turn LEFT!  And stick your nose into the Boulangerie Poilane.  You might like to know that there are only three Poilane bakery locations in the world!  Two are in Paris.

And one is right here.  (OK and who has spotted a blogger?!)  And it sells the flakiest light, most buttery croissant in London and big triangle wedges of the famous bread.

Extra points if you know what a "punition" is, and why especially you would want to eat one from Poilane.  (More photos inside were unfortunately discouraged.)

But who needs Poilane when Baker and Spice is just next door?  (Not the French family I saw spread out at these tables the night before the picture was taken.)  Baker and Spice have been growing like topsy for years from a little storefront closer to Harrods years ago, then a disused pub, and now a virtual empire (outlet now at Selfridges) with illustrious and now famous-in-their-own-right alumnae such as Sami Tamimi and Otam Ottolenghi.

Baker and Spice is a little less cool-and-spare than the fabulous "O".  It's a very approachable (by whippets, yes) deli/buffet style destination with a wide variety of mostly mediterranean-style yummies of both the savory and sweet persuasion.  And without all those hygenic "sneeze guards" and off-putting foodie-nazis (that you MIGHT find elsewhere in the world) separating you from your prospective food amours.  I can only describe it as a panoply of offerings.   And you would need to live in London for some time to be able to taste everything they offer.  Or to be a fearless full-figured person with very clear-and-certain gustatory aims.  Knock yourself out!

Maldon Oysters.  What else do I need to say?  Except that more photos-taking was not welcomed by the fishy people.  (Sad face.)

From Elizabeth Street you would have continued on past the flower shops, chi-chi pubs, jewelry stores and bespoke-ish greige-y arty pet boutique.  The neighborhood surrounding Elizabeth Street will be full of more luxury-cars-with-drivers than most have ever dreamed they'd see in a mere five minutes of their lives - but it is in this grand vicinity that the likes of Joan Collins and the Sultan of Brunei (and the once and only Isabella Blow) reside.  

You might not have taken the little detour to another flower bedecked pub, but continued up to the Kings Road, turned left and found yourself shortly again on Sloane Square.  From which, if you are smart, (or still hungry?!) you'd have continued on, to the Duke of York's Square on the South (or left) side of the street and past the Peter Jones on the right, where you'll know when you've seen the stripes:

That you are in the right place.

Are you

getting the idea?  That you've arrived at the Duke of York's Square Saturday Market.  EVERY kind of food you desire.  Sampling is EXPECTED.

Charcuterie, Mexican, Spanish, Italian - sorry I was too hungry and laden with cake to take pictures by the time I got here!  Even two kinds of Creole cooking - Indian Ocean AND West Indian kinds, to accompany your raw oysters down, and when it's time to get off your feet and have a coffee or a cool drink after all this gastro-reconnaissance, Partridge's of Sloane Square with like two cafes and a wine bar (and sponsor of the market) is RIGHT THERE!

Manicomio a neighborhood favorite/glam Italian spot steps away.  Patisserie Valerie for ice cream, also RIGHT THERE. And Pret a Manger right across the street.

London laughs.  Between bites.  (Whew!  That was a long job!)  What are your next Saturday plans? Got your airplane tickets yet?

To the Corner Viewers - I'm having difficulties with software, so will be doing the Corner View a week late probably.  Cheers Dears!

Friday, September 24, 2010

What Did Your Full Moon Look Like?

Any special plans for the weekend?  Hope it's a good one!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Designers Guild, London

So you've noticed this is NOT. ALL THE TIME.  A decorating blog, but you know I AM a GIRL.  SO SOMETIMES this DOES have to be a decorating blog.  Although this post is not soooo much about decorating (well it IS)  but what I really want to have is a discussion about a VISION.  That is seamless and complete and wide ranging.  That there is so much to be learned from.  (If you want to produce your own line of furnishing products - and we all can dream, no?)  

And yes,  I will have to say up front that I have not always LOVED Designers Guild (aka Tricia Guild, for the woman behind the brand).  

Sometimes in the past I have found her designs lacked a little oomph, or were a little cutesy.  Or even, all dessert, and no dinner.  I don't think I've ever bought much from there either, possibly a cushion in the Christmas sale, or a toiletries bag, because the colors are so acidic and jewel-like and hard to integrate into the average decor.  But I LOVE to visit the shop, because there is always so comprehensive and original a visual presentation that extends very consistently throughout all the lines.  Whether furniture or sheets, wallpaper, or accessories for the home or for the person.  I've seen some of the most gorgeous and original flower arranging ever in my life, used in their displays.  And you could never feel asleep or  bored or less than totally alive in a Designers Guild environment.  

Each season's concept is so highly realized and well thought out.  They do a witty integration of old fashioned motifs and modern pared-down style.  For example, this wallpaper with its reference to 18th c. grisaille print rooms, and cabbage flower chintz, and Dior new-look era decor but which is totally modern and perfect for right now.

The store is often on the very cutting edge of trends.

(And geniuses at making something that should be so wrong - like amphibian pattern cut velvet in violet - look so right!  OK I would still never put it in my house!  Would you?)  It was here that I first saw Astier de Villatte ceramics, and Dosa (from L.A.) clothing,

Kantha cloth quilts with their thousands of tiny stitches and dazzling patchwork

and Sue Binns' elegant but rustic blue and white ceramics.

They have irresistible children's collections.  (See what I mean about extending the concept?  From printed upholstery and pillow covers through embroidered cushions.....)

And if you have doubts as to whether you have enough Nathalie L'Ete in your life,

this is the place to redress any deficit!

Cahiers and carriers, notecards and pads, yes that's a cup-and-saucer set above!  I think there were even rubber stamps

and jigsaw puzzles?  You name it, they have it.

There is never any doubting that shopping at Designers Guild is about anything but indulgence and fantasy.  Some indulge more than others......

But if it must be fantasy, then everybody can be happy........what is more fabulous, the true-gold crushed velvet sofa (nothing LIKE the Bradys' rec-room circa 197......?) or the faux distressed rug whose blue I imagine to be raised and soft to the touch and SILK despite it looking like worn denim?  I REST MY CASE!!!!!!  In my rich fantasy life, it would be dessert time 24/7!

Nota bene- this Designers Guild is on the Kings Road at Old Church Street but a new Designers Guild store can now be found on Marylebone High Street.  Now you know!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Pub Love - The Anglesea Arms

Kensington is like a romantic novel

in an old pub

on a late summer afternoon.

When all of the beautiful people

and all of the toffs

are back from their holidays

in their red velvet coats.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Calendar Girls - Taisho Chic

OK so when I was a little kid, whenever my parents went out of town to somewhere that had a Chinatown, or any kind of Asian groceries, they would have to do a little shopping to pick up those essentials like bags of dow see (fermented black beans) to eat with lobster tail, pickled vegetables to flavor pot roasts, gluten sheets for vegetarian monks food, or giant bags of dried shiitake mushrooms.  In addition to all these things,  they would also ALWAYS bring home a shiny new calendar, with pretty Asian girls smiling coyly out of it.  These calendars quite literally put a fresh face on the year to come.  And since they were hung in the kitchen, they seemed also to gleam with the promises of many delicious dinners to come.  (This certainly seems to be a theme for me, doesn't it?  Have you noticed?)

But NO!  We are not going to talk about food again this time.  This time we are going to talk about art.  And "commercial art" from early 20th century Japan.  Art made for the man on the street, vs. art made for the ruling classes.  Art which could be cheaply produced and marketed to the masses and which the refinement of block print processes particularly enabled.  Popular art that anticipated the calendar girls phenomenon that persists across many cultures, from my childhood kitchen to your garage today.  

The early Japanese block prints that we know became the fascination of the French Impressionists were considered by connoisseurs in Japan and beyond, for a very long time to be "cheap art" and ephemera.  The "floating world" prints called "Ukiyo-e" neverthelesss re-interpreted the "usual" motifs - copying subjects and themes from brush art of the same period 17th - 20th centuries. 

Taisho style, named for era of the Japanese Emperor who reigned between 1912-26 , began instead to incorporate the influence of Western styles both artistic, and in it's renderings, of "modern" ways of life.

These influences (including greater freedom for women, and improved civil rights and social equality)  apparently came on too fast and too strong for what

for so very very long, had been an insular and highly regimented feudal, and male dominated, society.

Ultimately, Japanese society could not withstand the pressure

of these new Western ideas, despite it's ability to so successfully esthetically integrate them into its decorative arts traditions.  Those social tensions, exacerbated by the Great Depression's impact on the Japanese economy and British and American military assertiveness in the Pacific, according to the authors of this beautiful book:

Taisho Chic, Japanese Modernity, Nostalgia and Deco, (published in conjunction with the contemporaneous exhibition at the Honolulu Academy of Art (link here) January - March 2002)

paved the way for "the ultranationalist ideology supporting Japan's wars from 1931 to 1945".

Most of the pieces in the show and shown in the book are part of the Academy's permanent collection.

Here's also a link to the Japan Times for an article about the show when it visited there.   I think it's all so pretty.  Do you?