Abigail Cahill O'Brien

Archive for December, 2009|Monthly archive page

And to All a Good Night

In Feathering the Nest on December 23, 2009 at 9:47 pm

Unless the urge to post overwhelms, I’m taking a break until after the New Year. May your days be merry, your nests bright, and your stomachs full with good food.  Read on for a look at our house this time of year. Take a peek at my Christmas decorations . . .


Chocolate-Malt Stump de Noël

In Food on December 23, 2009 at 8:46 pm

I cannot get Food and Wine’s Chocolate-Malt Stump de Noël out of my head.  The addition of malt balls and malt powder is downright rakish, not to mention the construction allows one to have the bûche de Noël tradition whilst upending it.  Talk about having your cake and eating it too.

So, despite a distinct lack of time in which to complete it – not to mention dubious baking talent – I found myself wheeling into the grocery store today to pick up the ingredients.  The stump de Noël will not be denied.  This must be the height of holiday foolishness.

Thank goodness Delicious Dishings posted every detail of the process, including her substitution for the hard-to-find malt powder (just use more chocolate butter cream).

Holiday Gift For: The Host(ess)

In Flotsam on December 18, 2009 at 10:10 am

Egg timer, $12 at Anthropologie

My favorite hostess gifts are handy and frivolous. While there’s nothing wrong with toting a bottle of wine to a party or weekend stay, less-traveled routes beckon.  A potted orchid or herb plant always goes over well; they’re easy to care for, beautiful and useful.  I love this egg timer from Anthropologie.  Yes, they have a timer somewhere in their kitchen already, but this is much more fun to use than the microwave’s digital display.  Eye masks, wine bags and more gifts . . .

Holiday Gift For: The Salt Fiend

In Food on December 17, 2009 at 4:07 pm

Danish Viking Smoked Sea Salt, $15 for 1.5 oz at Salt Trader's

If you’re buying for a salt fiend this holiday season, this post’s for you. Here are my favorites from two knock-out sources, Salt Traders and The Meadow.  Besides offering hundred of salts, both purveyors maintain handy blogs for the salt-addled brain: The Salty Dog’s Blog and Salt News respectively.

Danish Viking Smoked Salt, available at Salt Trader’s, is a salt like no other: smoky, meaty and fearless. My sister-in-law Nancy, who dances on the cutting edge of all things culinary and tries valiantly to keep the rest of us au courant – tipped me off to it. (Thank you, Nance!) Danish Viking Smoked salt is not for the faint of flavor. According to Salt Trader’s, it is ‘produced by first evaporating seawater, then using a “fizzing” (evaporating) process, which takes place in a vessel over an open, smoky fire containing juniper, cherry, elm, beech and oak.’ The end result is a pungent bonfire-charred bacon flavor capable of transforming a plate of steamed broccoli or roasted Brussels sprouts into a satisfying meal. More salts – plum, saffron and truffle!

We Were Talking About Wardrobe Workhorses, Right?

In Fashion on December 15, 2009 at 10:00 am

Oh my.

I stumbled on these via Ill Seen, lll Said.

Sigerson Morrison always nails the staple pieces. They aren’t moto or cowboy, they’re just exquisitely simple and cool.

Lined in SHEARLING, people!

Reinventing Your Jewelry: Statement Necklace Edition

In Fashion on December 14, 2009 at 11:55 pm

These days, even buying costume jewelry can feel lurid.

For me, it’s typically a cheap impulse buy without the thought (or quality) behind it of a true wardrobe workhorse.  And right now I’m not buying much that doesn’t fall into the workhorse category.

In search of a novel party necklace, I started layering on several vintage rhinestone pieces already in my closet.  Read on . . .

Inspiration: Argentina

In Flotsam, Food on December 11, 2009 at 12:24 am

We learned about wine (some), drank it (daily, red), ate steak (amazing), saw art (good), scoured antique stores (leather overnight bag!), and refilled the inspiration wells (brimming).  If you’re headed to Buenos Aires, make a reservation at Casa Felix, a private and shockingly pescatarian restaurant run in a young couple’s home.  A lovely break from beef when you need it most.

More Argentina pictures . . .

Color of 2010: Turquoise

In Fashion, Feathering the Nest on December 9, 2009 at 1:48 am

Well, c’mon, Iris is a fan.

Pantone says turquoise is particularly well-positioned to reign in 2010 because many cultures consider it “a protective talisman, a color of deep compassion and healing, and a color of faith and truth, inspired by water and sky.”

Basically it makes us feel like we’re safe and on vacation.  We could all use some of that.  Though I’m still dreaming of that deeper Song Fang Maison de Thé blue.

Inspiration: Shanghai

In Flotsam, Food on December 8, 2009 at 11:57 pm

Thank you to the two commentators who missed the posts during the past month’s hiatus.  You are too kind, and the fact that I am related to one of you is neither here nor there.

So what the devil have I been up to?  Partly scratching the travel itch.  Here are some images from Shanghai.  It’s a big, smoggy, bustling mashup of just about everything: street markets, skyscrapers, an entire subculture of people who enjoy wearing pajamas during the daytime (don’t we all), every variety of the most heavenly dumplings.

Despite, or perhaps because of, the gray mist (grist?) covering the city, with a few weeks’ remove it is the brilliant colors I remember most.  I am especially obsessed with the signature blue of Song Fang Maison de Thé, where the only things more outrageously expensive that the Chinese and French teas are the killer blue tins. It’s like Tiffany blue that’s been fed a bunch of iron and is no longer anemic.

And yes, there’s a duck beak on that plate.  Shanghai photos . . .

Iris Apfel: Have Great Fun and Make a Splash

In Fashion on December 7, 2009 at 10:27 pm

After a month’s hiatus, what better way to dig in than with images from the Peabody Essex Museum’s exhibit on Iris Apfel (“Rare Bird of Fashion: The Irreverent Iris Apfel”) and quotes from the Great Dame herself?  Iris spoke about her style in a casual question and answer format.  She’s 88.  She looks like herself, not a version that’s been through the cheek-plumping machine.  She’s funny and relevant and adamant that style is about self-expression and humor. I can’t think of many whose style is more inspiring in terms of sheer courage and consistent brilliance.  Read on for quotes and iPhone pics . . .