Sunday, October 31

Soup on Sunday: Venetian Crab Soup

Booooo! My newly acquired Venetian mask.

I just returned from a fabulous 4 days in Venice with SFERRA (more to come in a few days). Last night we hosted a Halloween cocktail party and our quests wore masks that I brought home for the occasion. While in Venezia I had an amazing, very complex, sophisticated crab soup that I am trying to recreate. This recipe from Epicurious just might be the ticket.

The truth be told, I should be posting Halloween cocktails today. My husband came up with a few winners for the occasion, including: an Ichabod, a Pumpkin French Martini, a Ghoultini and a Black Widow. They were the hit of the party.

Venetian Crab Soup:

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and chopped
Shrimp shells from 2 pounds shrimp (reserve shrimp for another use)
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes in juice
1 (1/2-inch) piece ginger, peeled and chopped
1 large pinch saffron threads, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 California bay leaf or 1 Turkish
2 quart vegetable stock
1 (8-ounce) Yukon Gold potato
1 small celery root (celeriac)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 pound jumbo lump crabmeat

Heat oil in a wide 6-quart heavy pot over medium heat until it shimmers. Cook onion, celery, and fennel, stirring occasionally, until golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Add shrimp shells and cook, stirring occasionally, until shells turn pink. Stir in tomatoes with their juice. Simmer, breaking up tomatoes slightly with a wooden spoon, 3 minutes, then add ginger, saffron, curry powder, and bay leaf and simmer 5 minutes. Add vegetable stock and boil uncovered 5 minutes.

Reduce heat and simmer uncovered 45 minutes. Discard bay leaf, then purée soup (including shrimp shells) in batches in a blender until finely ground, about 2 minutes per batch (use caution when blending hot liquids). Strain soup through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean pot, discarding solids.

Peel and dice potato. Peel and dice enough celery root to measure 1/2 cup. Add potato and celery root to soup and gently simmer uncovered until tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter and crabmeat. Season with salt and pepper.

Serves 8 as a first course.

Monday, October 25

Thank You Timothy Paul

A HUGE thank you to Mia and Timothy Worrell for hosting our most recent SFERRA Lose Count party. Their Washington, D.C., shop has a growing legion of fans, and for good reason—they both have an eye for the best. Timothy specializes in carpets, while Mia focuses her efforts on textiles, exclusive lighting and furnishings from the United States, Canada, and France. Their store really is the perfect backdrop for a party and SFERRA linens.

I also want to thank everyone who attended (despite a rainy start to the day) and my friend Malcolm for taking the train down from NYC at the last minute. It was especially fun to meet fellow bloggers and Terri Sapienza of the Washington Post.

We will be hosting additional parties in San Francisco and New Orleans in the spring. To learn more about Lose Count and great bedding tips click here.

Mia and Timothy Worrell, owners of Timothy Paul

Paul Hooker, SFERRA President; Ronda Carman; Aaron Stewart, Creative Director

Malcolm James Kutner and Aaron Stewart

Timothy Worrell, Meaghan Burdick, Marika Meyer

Paul Sherril and Jana Abel

Michele Ginnerty, Nester Santacruz, Barbara Franceski

Mary Early, Kathy Campanella, Amy Zantzinger

Ankie Barnes, Barry Dixon, Aaron Stewart

Joseph Ireland, Barbara Franceski and Malcolm James Kutner

Lindsey Nye and Katherine Boyle

Raji Radhakrishnan, Barry Dixon, Ronda Carman, Murali Narasimhan

Darrel Rippeteau, Kerry Putnam, Maegan Sweeney

Jeremiah Stapleton and Veronica Revilla

Sunday, October 24

Soup on Sunday: Fisherman's Stew

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1/2 cup chopped celery

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 pound plum tomatoes, peeled, chopped

1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

Sprig of fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
3/4 cup dry white wine

8 cups fish stock
18 small hard-shelled clams (or mussels)
1 pound sea bass fillet, cut into 2-inch pieces

1 pound uncooked large shrimp, peeled, deveined

8 ounces uncooked bay scallops

Italian bread
Sea salt

Extra-virgin olive oil

Additional flat leaf parsley for garnish

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onion, celery and garlic. Sauté 10 minutes. Stir in next 4 ingredients. Sauté 2 minutes. Add wine; cook until liquid evaporates. Add 6 cups stock. Bring to a low boil. Reduce heat; simmer 20 minutes.

Add clams or mussels and then the remaining seafood to the soup base. Cover and cook just until seafood is opaque in center and clams open about 5 minutes. Remove any clams or mussels that have not opened.

Place thickly toasted slices of Italian bread in bottom of bowl and ladle stew over bread. Sprinkle with additional parsley and sea salt. Drizzle soup with olive oil.

Serves 4

Thursday, October 21

Profile: Scot Meacham Wood

In all honesty I cannot remember exactly how or when I met San Francisco based interior designer Scot Meacham Wood. I vaguely remember a few blog comments from ‘Tartan Scot’ and I do remember being smitten with his design aesthetic, but I can’t recall our first conversation or email exchange.

Fast forward two years and I cannot imagine life without his friendly emails. In some ways we have become modern day pen pals. Because of the 8-hour time difference I will email Scot right when I am waking up and he is just climbing into bed for the night. Or I will get a quick email as I am falling asleep, “Honey I just had to show you my newly upholstered sofa!”

A love of Scotland, a southern upbringing and good design were (and are) the crux of our friendship. Fortunately, we have had several opportunities to spend time together over the past year. Always the gentleman, Scot is the perfect west coast "date" when my husband is unable to travel with me. We always have fun when we are together. But our ultimate outing has to be lunch at Hutton Wilkinson’s Dawridge. That day will remain a favorite.

After studying business and design, Scot spent 13 years working with Ralph Lauren in the "Creative Services" department in the San Francisco store, a place he fully credits for helping him to shape his eye and style. And while that my be true, I personally love his design philosophy, should he have to reduce it to one Tweet: “Create gracious spaces that work for the people who live there. Be vigilant about flow, creative with textiles, and abundant with style.” (Just 135 characters!)

How would you describe your personal style?
Looking through my work - there's a strong sense of European style, but I can clearly see the impact of my Southern upbringing as well. There would have to be a collection of beautiful textiles. A well crafted use of the space. And a few moments of flair. A combination of the gracious ‘expected’ with some whimsical ‘surprise.’ As far as my own home, I tend to experiment a great deal in the space. So the design of my house tends to be more fluid than I would EVER expect a client’s home to be.

What is your most prized possession?
My friends. Don't get me wrong, in case of a fire - I know exactly which piece of artwork I'm going to grab off the wall ( a self portrait by photographer and sweet friend, Patrick V Brown) on my way out the door . . . lol. But, I’ve been very lucky to have met the most amazing circle of people here in San Francisco. I can’t imagine my life without them.

What is your idea of earthly happiness?
Not wearing my watch. Despite the slightly over-scheduled way that I tend to live my life a great deal of the time, I treasure those magical weekends when I see that there’s NOTHING on my calendar. Being able to be spontaneous and truly live in the moment - either with a pile of friends - or quietly reading or puttering around the house. I guess the short answer might be ‘time.’

What is the one thing in life you cannot live without?
Oh, that’s easy. Music. I’ve been a musician most all of my life. And started college on a “piano performance” scholarship. Since then, I’ve been singing with the San Francisco Concert Chorale, a small mixed chamber choir, for about 12 years. There’s something sublimely magical about being on stage with a group of talented people - and knowing that what you’re creating is ‘larger than the sum of its individual parts.‘ Much like great design work - there’s an alchemy that happens when all the specific elements combine perfectly.

What inspires your creativity and designs?
It would have to be the people that I have had the great pleasure of working with. I always love that first meeting with new clients. Talking about their dreams for the homes. Before we get into the nitty gritty of budgets and time schedules, I often ask new clients to describe a day at home - but, in the new space that we’re just beginning to design. I remember a wonderful gentleman who spoke about how he loved the ‘ceremony’ of closing his heavy mohair drapes every night before bed . . . that says SO much to me about the space in which he wants to live. A lush, bespoke home. Maybe more formal. But, for someone who truly enjoys living in their space, and has a great eye for detail.

What books are currently on your bedside table?
The honest answer is my laptop. That covers many of the magazines I read, the New York Times, a collection of blogs, and whatever the internet brings me . . . lol. But, I just started reading Josh Kilmer-Purcell's "The Bucolic Plague."

What is your favorite luxury in life?
Well, we’ve already talked about my friends and my music - but, for luxury, there in nothing like freshly ironed Irish linen sheets.

Who are your style icons?
There's such a wide variety - the brilliant Michael Smith, exuberant Miles Redd, gracious and witty Charlotte Moss, and of course, I have to recognize the supremely talented Ralph Lauren. I worked for Ralph Lauren here on the west coast for almost 13 years. The man is brilliant. And his ability to create a fully-realized dream out of something a simple as a dessert plate is amazing.

Past or present who has most influenced your direction in life?
As I mentioned, I think the opportunity to spend so much of my early work experience with Ralph Lauren was, and still remains, a huge influence on my life. There was always such amazing creativity - it was like spending an 8 to 10 hour day in “business school” - lol. A perfect place to experiment with style . . . to learn about advertising . . . about customer service . . . to see the impact of long-term client relationships . . .

Profile by Ronda Carman

Wednesday, October 20

Fox News Names ATB Top 10 Design Blog 2010

A HUGE thank you to Fox News iMagazine for naming All the Best one of the Top 10 Design Blogs for 2010. What a wonderful surprise and honor...I am in good company.
Thank you,

Monday, October 18

Profile: Brian Patrick Flynn

When I first meet Brian Patrick Flynn I had yet to become acquainted with his brilliant blog Décor Demon. This past spring Brian and I ended up on a fun and lively Editor at Large panel at WestWeek in LA discussing social media and the design community. Completely by chance, it turned out the next day that we were sitting across from each other on the same flight to Atlanta.

Without question, Brian’s vivacious personality is both genuine and contagious and these traits come across loud and clear on his blog. Given the one–dimensionality of blogs, you lose the benefit of facial expressions, gestures and tone of voice, making sequent dialog toilsome. It is sometimes difficult to really get a feel for the writer's personality.

This, however, is NOT the case with Brian. His high-energy style is just as authentic and infectious on the computer screen as it is in person. His writing and photos aptly express his wicked sense of humor and charismatic charm.

The television producer turned self-taught decorator/designer is a master at creating edgy-meets-elegant spaces. His production credits range from news programs with an NBC affiliate in South Florida to design and reality shows on Discovery Channel, HGTV, TBS and Fox.

In addition to being the set decorator and on-air design talent for the TBS series, Movie and a Makeover, Brian is also an associate producer of the show. Most recently he added the role of writer for to his exciting and growing vita.

Perhaps Brian's self-professed approach to life and design is what most resonates with me, “Easily amused. Not so easily impressed.” I sometime feel the same way, however, when it comes to Brian’s work and ethos, it's easy to be impressed.

How would you describe your personal style?
My design and decorating style is cinematic, happy and youthful. It’s dramatic but at the same time doesn’t take itself too seriously. For example, I’d highly enjoy a 6 foot wide painting of Mr. Potato Head hung on a wall of black Imperial Trellis wallpaper in a dining room with Hermes china. My own uber-modern charcoal mid-century kitchen is soon to be illuminated by a massive violet Venetian glass chandelier. You get the point.

What inspires your creativity and designs?
Stanley Kubrick films and vintage family photos from the 1950‘s and 1960‘s. The production design behind every Kubrick film was a master class in reinvention, pattern, lighting and scale. When I flip through old mid-century family photos, I always find elements of sophisticated fun: the satin brass finish from my grandfather’s 1950’s poolside loungers, the nubby textures of my grandmother’s mod dresses, the elongated boomerang shape at the end of my aunt and uncle’s shuffleboard sticks. Wow, I just said shuffleboard and Stanley Kubrick in the same paragraph--that’s a first.

What is your most prized possession?
I hold a hot pink, black and white pop art painting of Natalie Portman by artist Ronnie Bautista high on my list of most prized possessions. For some reason, whatever room I hang it in ends up being the room in which I’m the most social. This is rather bizarre since the painting depicts her as the sociopathic stripper from the movie, Closer.

Who are your style icons?
I like to refer to my style icons, living and non-living, as designer crushes because I’m forever giddy over their work. Sara Ruffin Costello is probably my idol; she’s a walking encyclopedia of style and has an amazing sense of humor. David Hicks influenced my obsessive pairing of red with brown and newfound love for skirted tables. Amy Lau continues to blow my mind; I love the mid-century influence behind every single thing she does. Her Dexter dining room for the Metropolitan Home Showtime showhouse still has me salivating Pavlovianly.

Michael Habachy’s sexy modernization of the dramatic often leaves my jaw on the floor. Every time I look at a Brad Ford designed space, I’m in awe of his mastery with editing. I love Kelly Wearstler for re-inventing the way my entire generation perceives interior design. And lastly, Betsy Burnham. Everything about her epitomizes great style and personality: from her layering of prints, plethora of textures and finishes, ability to use bold color in an understated manner, to her quirky use of the Union Jack.

Who would you most like to collaborate with on a project?
Phoebe Howard. She’s the master of serene, traditional elegance; I paint walls kelly green, upholster stuff with Astroturf and hang billboard-sized black and white photos in living rooms. Imagine THAT combination of styles.

What books are currently on your bedside table?
Barry Dixon Interiors, The Selby is in Your Place, The Poky Little Puppy, Kelly Wearstler Hue, Furniture & Interiors of the 1970’s and Domino: The Book of Decorating.

What is your favorite luxury in life?
Days with absolutely NO agendas.

What is your idea of earthly happiness?
Charcoal Belgian linen. Just kidding. Depositing paychecks for something I love doing so much, it truly doesn’t feel like work. Then using those paychecks to purchase charcoal Belgian linen.

Past or present who has most influenced your direction in life?
Up until age six, it was Mr. Rogers. From six to nine, it was Pac-Man. Sometime after that, Thomas O’Brien entered the picture but now, at 34, it’s become my mom and dad. Four well-raised kids, 40 years of marriage and a well-decorated house suddenly seem more exemplary than joysticks, button-up sweaters and chasing pink ghosts around a maze, then eating them.

Profile by Ronda Carman

Saturday, October 16

A Visit to DC and Elway Hall

The past few days have been a wonderful whirlwind! I flew to DC earlier this week to host a SFERRA party with Timothy and Mia Worrell at their beautiful bedding store Timothy Paul (photos to come). I was kindly invited by Mary Douglas Drysdale to stay at her home during my visit. It was such a treat to be a guest at the home of a designer whose work I have admired for more than 20 years.

Following the SFERRA party, Paul Hooker (President of SFERRA), Aaron Stewart (Creative Director), Malcolm James Kutner, (interior designer and my travel partner in crime) and I followed Barry Dixon to his home, Elway Hall, in Fauquier County for a late night supper and overnight stay.

Hands down Barry Dixon and his partner Michael Schmidt are two of the most gracious hosts that I have ever encountered. The 20,000-square-foot Elway Hall, which Dixon bought with his partner Michael in 1991, is a sprawl of rooms, libraries and bedrooms. There are no less than 17 fireplaces and 10 bedrooms . However, despite the size, Michael and Barry have created a a warm and welcoming family home.

The house was built in 1907 by West Virginia senator Johnson Newlon Camden, who partnered with John D. Rockefeller to start Standard Oil. The house was built for his only daughter, Annie Thompson Camden, and her husband, Gen. Baldwin Day Spilman.

In addition to being guardians of a magical historic home, Barry and Michael raise chickens, goats, llamas and a turkey. Before departing yesterday morning we went on an ATV ride to explore their 400 hundred acres of rolling hills. I will take interior photos on the next visit. In the meantime you can visit Barbara Sallick's beautiful blog for more photos.