Sunday, May 30

Soup on Sunday: Chilled Fennel with Crab, Avocado & Grapefruit

While searching for a soup recipe I came across a wonderful new food blog to love! Well, new to me anyway. Not only do all of the recipes look amazing, but the photography is superb. I have yet to try this soup (will later today) but it sounds heavenly. Everything I love in one bowl.

2 fennel bulbs (plus some stalks), roughly chopped
4 cups vegetable stock
2 tsp. cornstarch
3 oz. cream

6 oz. crab meat (or 1 – 2 cooked lobster tails)
a few red ruby grapefruit sections
1-2 avocados sliced
1 tbsp. truffle oil
salt and pepper to taste

Place the fennel and stock in a large pot over medium heat. Cover and let the stock come to a gentle boil. Let cook for 20 minutes, or until the fennel pieces are tender and the stock tastes subtly of it. Using an immersion blender (or food processor), blend the contents of the pot until smooth.

Place a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl and begin ladeling the blended soup into it, using a wooden spoon to push the liquid out of the sieve. You want to remove the fibrous pieces of fennel and leave a silky, smooth soup. This may take some time, just work in small batches.

Once the soup has been strained, add it back to the pot and return to a gentle boil. Add the cornstarch and cream and continue to boil for 5 minutes, or until the soup has thickened a bit and begun to reduce.

Remove from heat and chill in the fridge until you’re ready to eat. Ladle soup into a shallow bowl, then top with some crab, avocado and grapefruit. Use a spoon to carefully drizzle a bit of truffle oil over the top and serve.

Serves 4 as an appetizer, 2 as a light entree.

Saturday, May 29

Glamorous Rooms Giveaway

Thank you to everyone who left such lovely comments for the personalized, signed copy of Glamorous Rooms by Jan Showers.

Congratulations to long time reader and artist Karena! I know you will love the book. Happy weekend.

Wednesday, May 26

Profile: Jan Showers

Jan Showers once commented, “Glamour is grace and charm. It is being interested as well as interesting. Real glamour is actually subtle.” All of these characteristics could just as easily apply to Jan.

I can vividly remember the first time that I came across her work in the late 90’s. While flipping through the pages of my magazine, I became as intrigued by the elegant blonde, as the decidedly elegant and sensual interiors she had created. Venetian glass, pale silks, sculptural lamps, books and magnificent mirrors all played a supporting role in the rooms—all trademarks of her work.

I still think Dallas-based writer Rebecca Sherman summed it up best when she wrote, “A serene Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief might have been Showers’ perfect client.” Certainly there is always a nod to old Hollywood glamour in the rooms she designs. Like most successful designers, Jan always relies on her innate sense of style, her inherited past and her acquired passion to create beauty and glamour.

Don't forget that Jan has graciously offered a personalized, signed copy of her book Glamorous Rooms to one All the Best reader. To be entered in the drawing, simply leave a comment in today's or yesterday's post telling me which type of accessories you collect or what you love most in the photos. All of the photos in this post are from my visit to Jan's wonderful showroom in Dallas.

What inspires your designs?
Color. The color of a particular body of water has inspired entire houses or rooms. Or I may see a photograph with a certain combination of colors in a magazine or online and that will influence what I am thinking about for a project or my showroom.

Nature. Just being outside with robins, cardinals, Monarch Butterflies amongst huge old trees and the flowers in the garden at our country house inspires me more than I can say. That is where I do most of my writing and am the most creative—thoughts began to flow when I am there.

Movies. I love almost any movie from 1938 and all of the 1940’s. Especially all of Hitchcock’s movies from both the forties and fifties—you just can’t beat his work for pure, unadulterated glamour.

Books and Magazines. Both have been sources of inspiration for me since I was a child, and, more recently, there are a few design and fashion blogs that I love.

What inspired you in your early career?
Growing up in small town in Texas during the 50’s and 60’s, I studied a lot of magazines and books. Both fuelled my desire to be a part of both the design and fashion worlds. I specifically remember in the early ‘90’s seeing a photograph in House and Garden of an entry hall Syrie Maugham designed in a Mayfair flat in London. There was a wonderful Chinoiserie paper on the walls and a stunning mirrored commode. I knew when I saw that photo that brown furniture would not play much of a role in my life.

What is your most prized possession?
Since I don’t consider my husband and children possessions, I would have to say our house in the country—it is my dream house and is truly Home to me. What better possession than Home? I guess my dog Sweetie is my possession too, so Sweetie and my home make for a tie!

Who would you most like to collaborate with on a project?
As for a client, I would love to collaborate on a project with Gwyneth Paltrow. I love her personal style and her approach to life. Professionally I would love to collaborate with Peter Marino because I love the detail in his work and Albert Hadley because his work has always inspired me. And of course Frances Elkins. I know that is impossible, but that would be a dream. Her work is truly timeless.

What is your favorite luxury in life?
Having enough time to do everything I want to do AND work in time on the weekends for a great lunch on my terrace in the country and a nap afterwards!

What is your idea of earthly happiness?
Spending time with my family and great friends.

How do you define glamour?
I put so much thought into this when I was writing Glamorous Rooms! To summarize all of those thoughts, I would say that glamour is a combination of timelessness, simplicity, originality, and unqualified confidence in good taste. When all of these elements are present, there is glamour. Also, when someone feels authentic in their own rooms, they have created a Glamorous Room.

What did you enjoy most about working on Glamorous Rooms?
I truly cannot pick one thing. There was nothing I didn’t enjoy. Putting all of the existing photography together was such fun (as well as a nice walk down memory lane). Our weeklong photo shoot, headed by Jeff McNamara, to add new photography was wonderful. I had such a great team. The writing was a dream, as I got to work with my nephew, Drew Smith, who is a fabulously talented writer and one of the funniest humans on the planet. Not to mention that we got to do it on Orcas Island where I was staying for a month—heaven.

The book signings were really wonderful. I will always remember each and every one of them and the interesting people I met along the way. It was a dream come true (which sounds so trite, but a completely true statement) and the accomplishment of a long desired goal come to fruition.

Who has most influenced your direction in life?
My mother was the most influential person as far as style, taste and a passion for all of the beauty I see in the world. She taught me to have a sense of appropriateness as well, which I still find invaluable. I inherited my father’s sense of reality and his good instincts. He also encouraged (maybe insisted) that I get a degree in business, which I am forever grateful to have. My husband has been a huge influence because he is incredibly supportive of all I do—that gives a girl a lot of confidence!

Name one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?
That I have a practical side, and, that I love to cook. I also love mentoring all of the young women and men who work for me, it has been one of the happiest surprises of running my businesses. I truly enjoy that experience on a daily basis.

Profile and photos by Ronda Carman

Tuesday, May 25

Jan Showers: The Residences at The Ritz-Carlton

The Residences at The Ritz-Carlton in Dallas is a new luxury high-rise designed by Robert A. M. Stern Architects. To ‘wow’ prospective buyers, The Ritz-Carlton employed world-class designers Jan Showers, Carleton Varney and Laura Hunt to create jaw-droppings spaces.

The 13th floor residence, a very spacious luxury home, has been transformed by Jan. Known for fashioning rooms that fuse different eras, she is a master at accessorizing. From vintage bar carts and 1970’s Gucci frames, to beautiful Murano glass chandeliers, Jan’s designs exemplify glamor.

While in Dallas I had an opportunity to view the space with Jan before it opened to the public. It was a beautiful, sunny late afternoon when I took the photos. Colorful glass and beautiful mirrors sparkled in every room.

Jan has graciously offered a personalized, signed copy of her book Glamorous Rooms to one All the Best reader. To be entered in the drawing, simply leave a comment telling me which type of accessories you collect or what you love most in the photos. Tomorrow I will have a profile on Jan.

Photos by Ronda Carman

Monday, May 24

Dallas in Review

Even though I grew up in Texas, I have spent very little time in Dallas. Perhaps it was the ‘pretend’ Houston versus Dallas rivalry, but in truth the geographical distance (240 miles) is the most likely reason.

Making up for lost time I spent a wonderful four days in Dallas last month. Although my main reason for going to the Big D was to host a SFEERA event at Michelle Nussbaumer’s wonderful store Ceylon et Cie, several Dallasites pulled out all the stops—thank you!

On our first night in Dallas Jan Showers arranged for dinner at Fearing’s at The Ritz-Carlton. Named “Restaurant of the Year” and “Table of the Year” by Esquire Magazine in 2007 and number one in Hotel Dining in the U.S. by Zagat in 2009, Fearing’s has received accolades from The New York Times, Newsweek, Food and Wine, Texas Monthly, and Modern Luxury. Long known as the “Father of Southwestern Cuisine” iconic chef Dean Fearing did not disappoint! Dean’s tortilla soup is sublime.

Fearing's is a short walk from The Residences at The Ritz-Carlton; a new luxury high-rise designed by Robert A. M. Stern Architects. Before dinner, Jan unveiled a 2,490-square-foot masterpiece that she designed for The Residences at The Ritz-Carlton (in her ‘traditional with a glamorous edge’ style). I will have photos tomorrow, plus a tour of her store and a profile later this week.

The next evening was our SFEERA party hosted by Michelle Nussbaumer. Michelle’s 10,000-square-foot antiques emporium Ceylon et Cie, brims with one-of-a-kind vintage finds. Truly, I would spy something new every time I turned around—my kind of place! The day before our party Michelle was in Houston speaking at the Decorative Center. In true Michelle fashion, she convinced Carolyn Englefield (Veranda Editor At Large) to come back to Dallas for the festivities.

The next afternoon Jennifer Pickens, author of Christmas at the White House, hosted a tea at her beautiful University Park home. Jennifer is a most gracious hostess and I loved hearing her stories about conversations with Letitia Baldrige. Jennifer is now working on another book—pets and the White House. I can’t wait for this one.

A huge thank you to everyone who came to Ceylon et Cie for the SFEERA event and to all who played host—you are all the best. You can see more photos from the event here.

Photos by Jason Wynn

Sunday, May 23


This week I will be recapping my trip to Dallas, complete with photos from our SFERRA party at Michelle Nussbaumer's wonderful store Ceylon et Cie. I will also profile Jan Showers and have a photo tour of her beautiful showroom. Be sure to check back tomorrow.

Soup on Sunday: Chilled Mango and Cucumber

By Scottish standards we are having a heat wave this weekend. It was so nice to wakeup with the windows open and the smell of lilacs drifting into the bedroom this morning. In an effort to not heat up the kitchen, I thought I would concoct a chilled soup to serve with our grilled salmon this evening. I found this recipe on Epicurious, but added a few ingredients of my own. I plan to let it chill all day so that the flavors really have a chance to marry! Enjoy your Sunday.

2 mangoes, peeled and pitted
2 seedless cucumbers, peeled
½ vegetable stock
1-2 jalapeño, seeded and minced
3 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, or to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Sea salt to taste
crème fraiche and chives to garnish (optional)

Finely chop 1 mango and 1 cucumber and set aside. Coarsely chop remaining mango and cucumber and purée with 1/2 cup vegetable stock in a blender until almost smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in finely chopped mango and cucumber, jalapeño, onion, lime juice and salt to taste. Refrigerate until cold (about 2 hours).

Just before serving, stir in cilantro and top with crème fraiche and chives.

Serves 4 as a starter

Beautiful photo by Romulo Yanes

Saturday, May 22

Shopping on Saturday: Duane Antiques

When I was last in New York, I had the pleasure of meeting Bruce Glickman and Wilson Henley, owners of Duane Antiques. Located in the heart of Tribeca, Duane Antiques is a highly sought out destination and resource for interior designers, architects and stylists.

Specializing in decorative mid-century modern design, Duane Antiques regularly presents pieces by many of the periods’ leading designers, including Karl Springer, James Mont and Tommi Parzinger.

Bruce and Wilson also offer their discerning clients Duane Modern. A furniture collection of over 25 original pieces, including sofas, slipper chairs, tables and buffets. Every item in the Duane Modern line is handcrafted locally in the Northeast using the highest quality materials.

176 Duane Street
New York, NY 10013
(212) 625-8066

Wednesday, May 19

Technical Difficulties

It will be a day or two before I can post again! My MacBook Air (with photos that I need) is at the genius bar. Hopefully I will be back up and running by Friday.

Monday, May 17

Joe Nye Flair

With one glance at our bookshelves, you would guess that I am of the opinion that one can ever have too many books on entertaining. While the basics tend to remain the same, individual interpretation of an intimate gathering is what creates memorable moments in our life.

I recently had the pleasure of spending a few hours with L.A. based interior designer and party planner Joe Nye to talk about his new book Flair (Rizzoli). After years of offering advice to both clients and friends on how to create smashing get-togethers, Joe decided to commit his ideas and advice to paper.

Flair is divided into three sections—flowers, paper and table settings. Beautiful photographs—a breezy beach cocktail gathering, a casual red, white, and blue patriotic sit-down, and an elegant black-and-white supper—bring the book to life. A shopping resource completes this charming guide for those who relish the joy of entertaining. Only 8 x 8 in size, it is the perfect book to have on hand this summer; whether you find yourself entertaining or being entertained by others.