Porter and I hosted a lovely, mainly Spanish crew for a feast of proseco belinis with a side of Easter brunch on Sunday. I rarely cook, so when I do and the food actually tastes great - not just edible - I almost fall on the floor. The "great" result has happened twice in recent months - and I give all credit to the Le Cruset dutch oven Port got me for Christmas. 1) The food looks wonderful cooking inside it and 2) it really evens out that heat (or something like that). This time around the greatness came in the form of Alice Waters' braised lamb shanks. They're ridiculously easy (a semi-active 45 minutes of searing and slicing, followed by passive peeks and pokes inside the pot for the following three hours). We also made her delicious braised artichokes. Make them both and pat yourself on the back a good one. They're amazing.
Chocolate ganache eggs from Dean & Deluca for desert with coffee.
Prior to leaving for Barcelona, the ridiculously kind folks at the Espadrille Store read my post on espadrille lovin' and sent me a couple pairs. I wore the navy blue with blue ankle ribbons almost every day I was there. It felt like walking around Spain in socks - which feels pretty great!
Despite the recent acquisitions, I was determined to find La Manual Alpargatera, the old handmade espadrille maker in the Gothic Quarter. I was a bit crestfallen that they wouldn't add the ankle ties to the standard models and the ones with ankle ties ready to go only came in black and white and red and white combos. However, I bought a pair for everyone on the family (and three for myself). Porter models her pair above (I do love the lower cut toe portion). AND - Jamie featured some great shots of the shop's interior on The Standard Edition.
All that said, the Espadrille Store will let you go wild with the ribbons - any zig zags or color combos your heart desires (and they're on the internet, so you can avoid nervously stammering out, "Quarenta y dos? Por....favor? Ribbons? No ribbons? Dios mio! Um, um. Ok. Quarenta y dos. Narajana? Oh. No. That's wrong. Um. Anaranjado?") (I took Spanish for six years and this is honestly the state of things. Thank goodness I retained, "cerveza" and "cava" and "vino.").
There were some more recent controversial Ebay deliveries at my office lately - a taxidermy nyala head and a very large campaign chair. The co-workers no longer even find it bizarre. "Haha, only you, Hov!" they gaffaw, as I pull the head from the packing confetti. The nyala has been named Mandela and replaced poor Michael Gregory, the white tail deer, from his spot at the top of the living room trifecta. The campaign chair replaces the world's most neglected banana leaf palm tree. An absolute upgrade.
On a leisurely morning coffee run in SoHo this morn, I saw this puppy in the window of a sample sale. I popped in, expecting the normal four-figure price tag and subsequent serotonin dive, but there was no such sticker shock and/or kick in the gut! Only internal squeals of joy and what might have been the world's fastest luxury goods transaction (followed by a mini leap as I left the store). The thing was a downright steal (and it has the most amazing stripes I've ever seen).
This tag indicates that it's from the early '40s - and offers evidence of the company's (then still owned by the Vuitton family) highly dubious alliances and store locations during WWII. But another tag, thankfully, indicates that the original owner bought it at Saks & Company, Fifth Avenue, New York.
It's all hand painted...
...and the lining is beautifully unstained and intact.
I still can barely breathe.
On our last night, per the recommendation and kindness of the folks at Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Jamie and I moved up the Passeig de Gràcia a few blocks to the incredible, minimalist Hotel Omm. Given that the vacation gods were shining down, we had our second jaw-drop-over-a-room-with-a-view experience when we opened the windows of our breakfast nook (we had a nook! with windows! and chairs! and a table!) to see this! (above). It was a bit like having a bird's eye view over the Champs-Élysées with perfect weather. Waiting for you in the room is a box of chocolates infused with Pop Rocks - one heck of a welcome. All the shades and lights can be controlled by remote. It kinda felt like being in the Jetsons. For a gal who likes the past, I sure like the future, too, it seems.
They have a wonderful roof with a tiny lap pool...
...and this kind of scenery below. They also have the Michelin-starred gastronomic haven Moo in the lobby where we consumed a bazillion course tasting menu of gels and foams with wine parings for our final meal. Kinda makes you never want to leave. Ever. Good to know we can always go back!
Check out Mr. and Mrs. Smith's Barcelona guide for some other great ideas, too!
As expected, Hotel Praktik Rambla was one of the prettiest places I've ever seen - let alone stayed. It's right off the lovely, sit-at-outdoor-tables-and-sip-cafe-con-leche/not-so-chaotic part of the Rambla, the main, wildly chaotic shopping strip.
After checking in, Jamie (who will be posting similar fun España exploits on his blog, The Standard Edition), and I popped to the terrace and our jaws nearly dropped. I looked up onto this incredible balcony attached to a room with French doors and wild ceiling mouldings overlooking us. "Can you imagine staying in that?!" I said. Well, we decided to ask...and for about $50 more, we moved from a tiny room with a nice window overlooking an alley to that very suite (Room 209)! If you go, you must demand Room 209!
This was our floor! (And that's my new purse - which, in real life, says HHH!)
This was the handle to the slipper door that separated the main room from the gigantic bathroom...and the balcony with its French doors!
And this was that balcony!
The lobby even featured my favorite chairs. Pretty damned amazing. (And this was only our FIRST phenomenal shelter experience...stay tuned for Hotel Omm!)
Back from Barca! What an amazing trip - phenomenal hotels, ridiculous weather, potentially illegal quantities of Estrella Damm, beautiful sights and more squid than I ever thought I'd consume. Here's Part 1 of the photo evidence. Shops and hotels to follow! (Above: Columbus Monument)
Along the Passeig de Colom
Gaudi's famous and forever unfinished Sagrada Familia
Some of the selections at Bar Morrysoom, a fun little divey tapas joint into which we stumbled
The old customs house
A "tattooed" lady outside parliament
The Catalan Parliment
A greenhouse in the Parc de la Ciutadella
The pharmacies are ridiculously beautiful - and all completely art nouveau
London Bar, one of Hemingway's old haunts
Like a Corinthian column, but a tree! (Probably a wildly famous building)
A key feature to the cloisters? Animals! Swans galore (often violent lil buggers) at Barcelona Cathedral. (Another one had chickens).
Mucho muerte: skulls + crossbones were all over everything. This, along with loads of amazing crests are carved into the floor of the Barcelona Cathedral's cloisters.
There may be nothing more hilarious and/or confusing than an email chain between Haskell Harris and Hollister Hovey. She's the great mind behind Belle Decor, Garden & Gun Magazine's blog on Southern style, culture and well, decor. AND - she recently emailed to ask me to guest blog! For my first installation, I interviewed Geoff Stelling, the founder of custom banjo maker Stelling Banjo Works.
One of my best college friends got married on a mountain in the Blue Ridge and the incredible Hackensaw Boys provided the tunes. Geoff's son, Jimmy, played banjo for them at the time (his being a Stelling Stag Head that his dad made for him when he was young). Jimmy left the band a couple years ago to work for his dad and has now started his own shop. Both father and son are quite incredible - and have made banjos for some really ridiculously amazing pickers. Give it a read!