Sunday, September 25, 2016

Lampshades with Legs

Ta Krai Hom, 2011

Throughout my lampshade-making career, I was sometimes asked how long a lampshade would last. Of course the answer, "It depends" was not always well received. An older quiet couple without pets might deserve one answer; a household which allows the kids to play football in the living room...

But now I have evidence that even in public places, a lampshade may last a long time and still look fine. In 2005, when a small restaurant space on Dwight Way opened up (it once housed A La Carte in the late 1990's), in came a new French bistro known as Olivia.

I remember A La Carte, but I remember Olivia much better because I made most, if not all, of the lampshades, pendants and sconces for the new restaurant.  The shades were constructed using the wonderful papers of Bradbury & Bradbury. It was a sweet project and the chef, Nathan Peterson, was fun to work with.

Later, in 2008, the restaurant changed hands and names - Digs, a California-style bistro. I'm not sure that we ever made it to Digs for dinner, but I believe it stayed around for a number of years. After that, Ta Krai Hom, serving Thai street food, moved in. They kept the old Olivia lighting elements, but painted the walls a very bright green. I mean, v-e-r-y bright. And now Mim, another Thai place with more restrained wall colors, but most of the same lights. Except a few of the shades - the more portable ones - went walking.

Four different restaurants with very different styles - French, California, Thai - over eleven years managed to keep the same lighting and make it look appealing. I'm happy to have helped make it happen, way back when.

Mim, 2016

For an additional image of Olivia's dining space in 2005, click here.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

California's Five Seasons

There is an old joke about the four seasons in California - earthquake, fire, drought and flood - although I always thought it was "mudslide" rather than flood. I propose a fifth season, a far more positive season: Roasted San Marzano* Tomato Season. It is a short season, lasting only a little more than a month, but the sights, scents and flavors are unbeatable. 

Ready for the Oven

Simply pick your tomatoes, wash and halve them. Cover the bottom of a roasting pan with olive oil (rosemary-infused oil is wonderful) and arrange the tomato halves. Add salt and pepper to taste, drizzle some more oil around and bake at 300° for about one hour. Eat with gusto and a friend. Or two. But not too many more, or you may not have enough. Leftovers (as if!) are great with pasta, in an omelette or just as they are.

Now I am very aware that all roasted tomatoes make for great eating, regardless of the variety, but the San Marzanos are simply the best. Somehow, they do not stay tomatoes, but are magically transformed into tomato candy.

*Yes, I know that not all San Marzanos are actual San Marzanos, but short of moving to southern Italy, the closest that I can come to the real thing is to grow them from seed, with the seed coming from Italy.