For years, Barcelona Tapas has been a creatively successful culinary and social scene on a quiet cobblestone backstreet in the tropical, seaside, destination of Puerto Vallarta. The vertical profile of the sun-bleached white building is distinctive with its open spaces – dining rooms on each ascending level.

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It is a extremely popular, hip and happening, dining venue which has recently had a spectacular face-lift that brings the structure and open-aired/interior environment up to par with the culinary delights.

Upon arrival, the familiar, welcoming doorway opens to softly lit aggregate stairs that sweep up each tier of the towering edifice.

A massive Cantera stone fountain babbles gently amidst tropical plantings and an iron grill-work is indirectly illuminated for a dramatic effect. An expansive patio all with honed stone tile floors begins the layers of available spaces.

Next an intimate open-aired dining area with an adjacent chef’s table and luminous, full-wall wine cooler beckons with an inviting aura. The intense red drama of a bullfight is rendered in a large painting on the rear wall – a suiting backdrop to the Spanish theme.

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Continuing the ascension, the delightful glossy black ironwork railing follows along and up the open-to-the-sky aggregate staircase turning past the last landing.  Ahead, the beautiful,  warm glow of the new dimensional ceiling treatment accented with wood and indirect lighting draws the eye upward.

Upon arrival on this rooftop dining platform, what was always an exciting view of the city lights, both in the foreground and circling the bay miles around to the north,  now expresses the new architectural features and finishes dazzling the eye.

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Effective lighting, recessed ceiling details, a new clear glass railing, and modern ceiling fans dangling like detached white nosecone propellers present a whole new, fresh, modern look. The drama and effectiveness of the lighting paired with the wonderful surround sound, coming from eight Bose wall-mounted speakers and 2 sub-woofers recessed into the ceiling, result in an atmosphere and music that are seductive and sensational.

But wait – there’s more!!! Yes, an additional rooftop dining patio is revealed upon discovering the hidden staircase at the far end of the bar. New furniture and a billowing fabric-draped portico are soon to arrive!

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This new space not only increases the seating capacity, but offers yet another  panoramic view and trendy design-themed open venue – expanding the options even more!

The project is Chef/Owner Bill Carballo’s passion.

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He has been at it for years creating deliciously original and traditional Spanish tapas (here his exquisie presentations have been half eaten in the rush to enjoy)

from the immaculate exhibition kitchen at the start of the long bar, with a fine-tuned staff eager to assist and cater to your every need.

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This enchanting transformation has attracted new discriminating, trend-setting clients and welcomed the return of  loyal fans to experience this exciting new and stylish interpretation of Barcelona Tapas.

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The doormen Luis and his affable sidekick are there to greet and assist!

Thank you gentlemen and Buenos Noches until next time!!!!

Art and architecture meet all the time. Sculptural forms, building models, buildings themselves, sketches…but at this time of year, the fanciful world of gingerbread houses takes the spotlight and, in this recent scene we encountered, offered a beautiful fund-raiser while at it!!!

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As we pulled away in the pre-dawn hours of the  morning…we felt the chill in the air and the glow over the mountain sending us on our way.

We traversed across the terminal and before cutting over left to the escalator, we spied—at the same time—a wondrously tall Christmas tree adorned with airplanes and ribbon…and surrounded by an amazing collection of ginger bread houses on display in some sort of fund-raiser fashion.

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Upon closer inspection, the fantasy became tangible. The individual structures took on a form of expressive life in their individual attention-getting style. Each one was quite unique incorporating rivers and ponds, vehicles and foliage of all manner.

It is a Christmas tradition to create a gingerbread house full of fantasy and fear, hope and salvation. From the simple joy of baking traditions for Christmas, to the many versions of fairy tales that save children from the wicked ones in the woods creating and story-telling surrounding these magical edifices makes gingerbread houses a staple of the winter holidays – all the while offering architectural design and  construction projects for all ages. Below, see the Hanukkah version of this adorable house.

I just read a great piece by Tori Avey in which she summarized the history of gingerbread. http://toriavey.com/?s=gingerbread

She references architectural design with the fact that: Elaborately decorated gingerbread became synonymous with all things fancy and elegant in England. The gold leaf that was often used to decorate gingerbread cookies led to the popular expression ‘to take the gilt off of gingerbread.’ The carved, white architectural details found on many colonial American seaside homes is sometimes referred to as ‘gingerbread work’.

Having been raised on the east coast, describing houses with ornate “gingerbread” detailing was part of our vocabulary. I now see it in Rocky Mountain Victorians and California seaside cottages. It always conveys a quaint, welcoming feeling.

Avey further states: Gingerbread houses originated in Germany during the 16th century. The elaborate cookie-walled houses, decorated with foil in addition to gold leaf, became associated with Christmas tradition. Their popularity rose when the Brothers Grimm wrote the story of Hansel and Gretel, in which the main characters stumble upon a house made entirely of treats deep in the forest. It is unclear whether or not gingerbread houses were a result of the popular fairy tale, or vice versa.

Recently the record for world’s largest gingerbread house was broken. The previous record was set by the Mall of America in 2006. The new winning gingerbread house, spanning nearly 40,000 cubic feet, was erected at Traditions Golf Club in Bryan, Texas.

Everything is bigger in Texas!!!

The house required a building permit and was built much like a traditional house. 4,000 gingerbread bricks were used during its construction. To put that in perspective, a recipe for a house this size would include 1,800 pounds of butter and 1,080 ounces of ground ginger. Sounds more like a gingerbread resort!

So as we walked around this wonderful display at the ABQ Sunport and marveled at the colorful creativity, I knew this was the story for today.

The cartoon in the paper that morning also found  humor in the subject.

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And to further galvanize that thought, we arrived in San Diego to find Keira proudly presenting their half-eaten, already picked apart gingerbread project in the center of the kitchen table. T’was the joy of gingerbread houses—post construction, eating them!!!

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When I first moved to New Mexico I was enchanted (well…it IS The Land of Enchantment) by so many new things that were woven throughout people’s homes, flea markets and quaint little shops in various pockets of town. I began to collect and seek these vessels and fabrics to incorporate into my new world. Interestingly, these treasures were not and still are not featured – much less celebrated, in more trendy, stylish shops that might do well to focus on these regional functional art-forms as a means to honor our unique multi-cultural influences. We, at PATRICIAN DESIGN, enjoying offering interesting hand-built pieces in our shop for a truly one-of-a-kind collection of home decor, wearable art and  unique gift items.

The first piece of this new influence I bought back in the late 70s. It was this fabulous squat casserole,   P1110590   to which  I have added many various colors and textures that I enjoy using throughout the year.  Christmas is notoriously red and green accented with the bling of silvers and golds. Chanukah is blue and white…but I enjoy all of the colors to celebrate every occasion! So  the many hues of the season can be found in the collection of colorful containers and serving pieces, accents and textiles that I often meld to create the festive celebration of the seasons. P1110594

Everyone who knows me – both clients and friends – know that I love color, pattern and texture. I love contrasts and combinations. Design by eclectic assembly of things that you love and that evoke memories, things that make you smile and feed your soul, results in the most successful and interesting design.  The rich color of terracotta and history of it as a medium for making cooking vessels goes back to Old Mexico and Spain across the water. Spanish terracotta is steeped in centuries of tradition and the Mexican versions closer to home are similarly beautiful and generations old. Other cultures such as Italian and Portuguese also have crafted beautiful terracotta – as is often true, the common features, textures, and colors all share a common denominator of warmth, hand-built art, craft and natural, raw beauty.  P1110596  Notice here, the brilliant colors and intricate open-weaving of the Brazilian lace.

Raw clay colors contrasting with brilliant and rich glazes, fabulous fiber art, wood and other organics all radiating the joy of life and the festivities around food, friends  and family of these varied cultural traditions and  rich indigenous heritages. Functional art at its finest – most honest and humbly celebrated in useful daily pieces – show them, open your cupboards, let them sing.

For the fast switch , KISS is the name of the game – keep it simple and sensational! The Thanksgiving weekend creates a great opportunity to get a jump on Christmas. Yesterday neighbors were out precariously placing lights along their rooflines, lining walkways and blanketing shrubs. We noticed this as we were out walking, observing, not quite ready to dive in to the next holiday ourselves.

But I did think that this was a great opportunity to illustrate a continuation of my favorite seasonal design practices and that is going outside to nature to get inspiration and actual elements for my creations. And the most remarkable aspect of this exercise is that it is all in our own yard. Look around and you will be amazed at what is out there!

For Thanksgiving I had been inspired by the blazing colors of the Bradford Pear that was – is still – screaming with color at the front of our house. 20151126_093537The rich maroons transitioning to corals and rosy tones into brilliant golds and even bright yellows  were irresistible. It’s similar to a maple tree with its magnificent range of fall colors but with precious little round heart-shaped leaves. 20151126_093558

20151126_095436 - CopyI created a tablescape using short-cut branches in a pair of squatty square glass vessels flanking a large square hand-blown glass platter. In the center on the platter, I gathered acorn squash which we will be enjoying baked with brown sugar and butter later this week, and added some ornamental gourds for their interesting shapes and colors. 20151126_093945 After scattering some of the leaves around the arrangement on the neutral linen table runner, the result was boldly colorful, organic and spicy scene bursting with autumnal warmth.P1110503So as I pondered this setting this morning, two days later…the leaves on the table were getting crunchy, the branches were dropping leaves and the water in the containers was a bit cloudy…time to clean it up! Since it seems that everyone is already transitioning to Christmas themes, I thought why not do the same?! The alternative of merely cleaning it up and leaving it barren was a bit anticlimactic after enjoying the spectacular beauty of this recent  holiday table. So here again nature was calling to venture forth and scour the yard for the next seasonal statement.

Now remember, this is just a quick transition…I can take it leagues and layers further as the weeks progress by adding holiday runners, ornaments, some bling and other accoutrements. But for today, the switch is quick. I ventured out into the yard and cut some bushy mugo pine and smoky blue spruce branches,  P1110558 a few holly sprigs from the bushes in front and jammed them into the same freshly refilled square glass vases. In the center, the neutral linen runner remained and on the glass platter I kept the acorn squash, traded the gourds for electric green granny smith apples and a couple of pomegranates ( I had bought three last week and had already picked my way through the many juicy morsels of one – leaving two to do the red thing in my centerpiece today).P1110556

I scattered a few pine cones and Voila – my instantly transitioned tablescape said “Christmas is on its way!”

 

Let’s make guaca20150120_113147mole! Creating a good time—is an art. And as is true with most artistic ventures—as in life in general—some people do it better than others. Enthusiasm is infectious and it generates such greatness from its energy that is should be harnessed. It is about this that I write today.

So hearing the charge “Let’s make guacamole!” will be for some a really exciting, if not challenging opportunity, while to others it will suggest a rudimentary task  and prompt eye-rolling. Those with a lack of enthusiasm or optimism, that everything can be fun with the right recipe, will be the

eye-rollers thinking—what’s the challenge of making guacamole? Having done that a million times and regarding its mastery as already accomplished, will not look forward to such an opportunity.

It’s like all enthusiasm, the glass half empty or half full…and with that let me share with you a cooking class that was such fun that is warranted this blog. Despite the fact that the setting was in a tropical jungle, there were many options that day for activities that would blow your paradise-seeking mind. And with all those incredible options I was having great difficulty making decisions each of which eliminated one over the other.

Otherwise probably not to keen on the idea, but having been romanced by the paella lesson left to simmer on the open grill, I had half an open mind about the seemingly simple offer of a guacamole class.

So with a small herd of turtles in front of and behind me, we climbed the stone steps that wound through the lush green vegetation. Barefoot and still in my wet-suit from an educational and invigorating morning snorkel,  I wondered if I should be returning to the beach or investing the precious time in the seemingly rudimentary guacamole class.

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My reward was at the top of the hill…a statuesque chef donning his attenuated white hat graciously greeted us—welcoming us into a beautiful open-air palapa with its bony wooden structure beneath the layered palm thatch ceiling. There before us was a long rustic banquet table beautifully dressed with multiple molcajete vessels of various sizes filled with dark ripe round avocados, blackened/roasted plum tomatoes, grilled onions, blistered serrano chiles,  freshly cut limes, red ripe plum tomatoes, fresh serranos, bunches of aromatic cilantro and pristinely peeled white onions.

 

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At the point of arrival, a bounty of various  specimen chiles were presented on a large rust-colored clay barro platter and stacks of  little barroware plates were in piles interspersed among the molcajete.

Giant steel stars pierced to allow twinkling light to dance at night painted turquoise for pop in the daytime hung at staggered heights from the center of the grand, voluminous palapa. Surrounded by verdant jungle and colorfully painted concrete walls, the room was expansive yet intimate. The chef in his starched white uniform embroidered with his name and proud logo of the establishment greeted us in his towering hat and welcomed us into this scene that dazzled the eye.

Guacamole I’m thinking…this looks like a bit more fun than merely mashing up some avocados!!! And with that he began his friendly introduction to the fiery cuisine of Mexico’s flavorful salsas! Presenting the platter of chiles he held each up for all to see asking the group if anyone could identify them. The replies came from all around “serrano, jalapeno, chipotle, banana, arbol—cola de rata, poblano, guajillo…” The rapt audience sat encircling the grand buffet on rustic wooden stools engaging in lively conversation as the chef spoke in his open and encouraging manner describing each of the chiles and their many uses.

 

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Now we were invited to approach the table where spaced evenly along each long side were stacks of white linen—pressed aprons and chef’s hats for each one of us—how fun and what a nice addition to the otherwise casual scene. We donned our outfits with giggles and proceeded to admire each other’s instant transformation into the appearance of proper culinary participants!

The chef alternated each pair across the table from one another assigning guacamole for one pair and salsa molcajete for the next and so one down the line. This too produced camaraderie between strangers who at once bonded in the fun of the festivities. Oh, and did I mention that for those who chose to partake that delightful beverages were served of all manner of tropical delights from straight tequila shots to refreshingly poured on the rocks with lime to jaca, papaya, pineapple juices, and rum? All this as the chef assigned tasks for each around the table resulting in a chatter of conversation and progress reports as each  tackled their portion of the process—dicing, mashing, mixing and squeezing. The action continued to unfold as the capable woman behind the counter made fresh corn tortillas and delivered them oozing with molten Oaxaca cheese—quesadillas ready to scoop up the magnificent fresh salsa and guacamole!! Smiles and groans of delight emanated from around the room.

So in summary…the recipe for creating a good time: Presentation, welcoming attitude, disarming  graciousness, with the best representations/samples of the product around which the good time is based! Know your theme/subject and make it fun!

Provecho!

Valentine’s Dinner at HOME!

February 10, 2014

Creating a romantic and interesting table for a special Valentine’s dinner offers so many opportunities for presenting your heart-felt feelings. With a little effort to select some key pieces to dress the table and by selecting some simple yet scrumptious delights, you will have a wonderful memory to cherish. Here are some suggestions and a couple of easy menu ideas too!

We’ve heard the truism of “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” But the same can be said in reverse as there is something irresistible about a man in control of his kitchen. Pairing the two is the ultimate love cuisine when a couple cooks together sharing the tasks, sipping cocktails and enjoying the process.

The recipe for a romantically successful Valentine’s Dinner at home is so easy. Realize that you don’t have to drive – thereby eliminating that concern after enjoying your cocktail and bottle of wine over dinner. Not to mention the after dinner sip of brandy or bubbly.

Starting with cocktails and hors d’ oeuvres, go to your favorite online foodie place for recipes for things such as stuffed ripe red cherry tomatoes – luscious and sensuous. For the carnivores, a rich and savory pate with toast points is a delectable treat. Maybe shrimp cocktail – easy cooked shrimp with a spicy valentine red cocktail sauce. It’s fun to have your appetizer someplace other than at the dinner table. If you use different places to enjoy the different phases of the evening, it will create more interest. So perhaps around a coffee table or at a bar counter-top.

Consider taking a walk after the cocktail hour before you progress into dinner. Whether freezing or mild, as long as it is not terribly windy, the temperature shouldn’t matter. Strolling under the darkness of night – perhaps moonlight – is a great way to transition through the phases of the evening.

Candles are a must. There cannot be too many. They don’t have to match. They can be tall tapers, multi-height columns, squat votives or all of the above…Obviously, on the dinner table…but don’t forget other end tables and cocktail tables, fireplace mantles, window sills, bookshelves, counter-tops, bathroom counters or shelves. Watch what’s above – or use artificial candles to avoid burning an upper shelf or art above them. Any light fixtures should be on dimmers. Avoid over-head lighting as it is generally not flattering, casting unpleasant shadows that can ruin the mood. Lighting is like a paint color – it bathes the space with ambient light and also task specific spots – getting the right balance controls the mood.

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WE LOVE New Mexico’s own Besito Caliente ! This spicy sauce of hot little kisses is great on grilled meats, drizzled over cheeses for hors d’oeuvres or a dash in a special cocktail concoction! You tell us how YOU enjoy this tasty condiment from the sunny southwest’s Land of Enchantment!

Main courses are easiest by minimizing time in the kitchen. Grilling is perhaps the least complicated. To make it special, select something that is a little different from your norm like lamb chops or bone-in rib-eye steaks. Potatoes are classic in many forms baked, twice baked, mashed with various herbs, but don’t forget something fast and festive like quinoa. It is a fabulous grain-like nutritional bead that cooks in less than 15 minutes! Vegetarians might grill a shish-kabob of goodies like zucchini, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, sliced turnip…limitless possibilities – great with quinoa too! Salads fit the bill and can be varied according to your taste, sweet cranberry or strawberry laced greens or garlicky Caesars – the possibilities are endless. By putting the salad on the main dinner plate you eliminate the need for a veggie on the plate. If you prefer the more formal setting of a separate dinner salad, the veggie can also be an easy piece of the program with steamed Brussels sprouts or broccoli which take so few minutes, slathered with butter and voila!

Of course you can make the cooking more complex and complicated – but here the idea is to DO IT and not be intimidated or worried about making things too difficult to tackle! Focus evenly on a simple but romantically fun themed table dressings, menu items, and schedule for the evening and it will be easy and successful!!!

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Find fun table dressings to create your Valentine’s dinner scene.

So pick up some red plates or smaller dishes or bowls for salad or dessert to layer on your existing white ones, find some fun cocktail glasses, wine stems, clever cocktail napkins, a great serving platter for hors d’oeuvres, heart-shaped confetti or rose petals to sprinkle on the table and dare I say, between the sheets?Image

Find a great vase in which you cluster fresh flowers for the dinner table and perhaps another primary surface like the cocktail table or bar. Buy or make a great card and/or a memorable gift.

An extra thought for this holiday…Can you think of someone with whom you would not usually exchange Valentines’ but who would be cheered by your gesture? Pick out a simple token to mark the day for someone you know.

The True Art of Farm to Table

September 1, 2013

 

Now so over-used as if this culinary trend which actually started 30 plus years ago just landed at our dinner tables, farm to table descriptions of valid attempts by independent restaurants to bring fresh local produce and food systems to their clientele are still growing in number. Yet while creative chefs enjoy utilizing the freshest ingredients, often grow their herbs at their cafes and support local growers as they can, it must be the next best thing but can’t beat the sensible tenets of back-on-the-farm’s honest approach to planting and harvesting for your own table .

I read Meredith Ford making the point “that we must vigilantly support eating locally and seasonally whenever possible. We must support food systems that do not deplete the environment, as Big Ag currently does. We must support the fair treatment of small farms and farmers, and we must support the humane treatment of animals in farming environments. When something as sensible as these tenets – embraced by our grandparents as a way of life – have to be outlined as a cause, something has gone astray in our food system.

 

To that end, the catch phrases are tossed about like the tender field greens that were just picked minutes ago for your salad. Exaggerations of the truth regarding how “local” locally grown really is and over-used fashionable references to slow food models sell well in today’s market. The nostalgic, guilt-ridden and health-conscious will bite. The consumer must sift through the fine flour of it all, make smart decisions and support and enjoy local whenever possible.

 

But last night was the real deal. With the warm glow of the farmhouse kitchen in western New York state illuminated from the within where happy conversation was exchanged as our hosts prepared the final stages of our dinner, I couldn’t help but whip out my phone and photo the ingredients I discovered in the kitchen and immediately go out to explore the land where most of those oh so fresh ingredients were harvested just minutes before.

 

Talk about farm to table – we were living it as our dear friends do every day in their picturesque rural setting surrounded this year by large green walls of corn, their bountiful victory garden and abundant orchards. Hard work, diligence, study, practice, attention to detail, appreciation for the good and bad in nature, all contribute to the successful harvest of each lovingly planted seasonal seedling or many years’ nurtured tree.

 

The light of the setting sun washed a warm bath of a golden aura over the brilliant green of the corn stalks and other garden delights. I caught still scenes of farm equipment in primary colors – so perfectly yet unconsciously placed ready to do the work of the day. I shot clusters of flowers that banked the side of the house. I walked through the tall grass and stepped on fallen sunflowers, tip-toes through the ruts and rows to capture shots of magnificent golden cauliflower nestled in the center of enormous smoky green leaves, green cabbage with heads the size of basket balls, plump aubergine eggplants peeking from their bushy foliage and pale 20130831_173702 20130831_174717 20130831_180517 20130831_180936 20130831_181133 20130831_181502 20130831_182137 20130831_182615 20130831_182723 20130831_183016 20130831_184051 20130831_18410020130831_185101 20130831_193142 20130831_201754purple flowers, dark green clusters of broccoli florets and left-over picked sprouts going to yellow flower, beets bulging from the earth with their stands of gorgeous green and red leaves, tomatoes of all shapes and sizes punctuating the greenery with blasts of red  and then there was the orchard…

 

Picture-perfect Americana agriculture on the charming scale that paintings romance – the ladder standing ready for access into the taller reaches of the trees – the perfect picker’s perch. I had to climb up and pick a perfect apple and bite into its crispness with wet juice running down my chin. Now THAT’S an apple! Several varieties of both apples and pears were heavy on the limbs. Bushels of fruit ready to be harvested. Grape clusters that begged to be picked. The freshest of fresh!

 

Farm to table within feet, it was wonderful. Back inside it was all coming together, we enjoyed home-made wine that was crisp, cool and dry, plump baked chicken and savory sausage by local butchers, fresh mashed potatoes, roasted orange cauliflower and broccoli, freshly sliced tomatoes with basil and arugula and finished with a freshly baked peach pie.

 

It was an astonishingly intimate experience with good friends and good food. Which makes me realize that if only a pot of basil on your doorstep to make a pesto or garnish a tomato, or plant a row of lettuce in your flower garden we can all benefit from the satisfaction of growing your own on any scale. Do it yourself (DIY) farm to table one step at a time.