Monday, 30 May 2011

Food, style and brains...

Eating out isn’t just about the food. Presentation is also a significant part of the overall culinary experience. The way dishes are put together on a plate has become something of an art. Of course, it helps if the tableware is aesthetically appealing too.

Fresh ingredients, artfully arranged on a plain white plate, can look very appetizing (though excuse my foot, which crept into one of these shots).

Masters of Asian Fusion style, like Nobu, can turn a simple soup into a beautiful work of art.

Rustic plates in earthy coloured glazes (see below) add to the allure of the dishes.

But ultimately, it’s still the taste that counts. The rather curious looking sloppy brown goo (pictured right) on my plate at the Chelsea Arts Club the other night was absolutely delicious – even though I was a little put off by the thought of eating brains…

I’ll certainly remember the first time I sampled the rather unusual dish of 'curried calves brain, cauliflower puree, rocket and capers'.

If you enjoy cooking up memories, you’ll love this curiously clever food journal from ShopCurious. By the way, whose culinary skills do you most admire?

Do you?

PS Read about the office lunch of the future in my RetroProgressive column this week.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Fairy dust, fireworks and fragrant fantasy

There’s been no escaping the American influence in London over the past couple of days. At Clerkenwell Design Week, next to a sign saying ‘beware of pedestrians’, who should I bump into but Buzz Lightyear (courtesy of MJ Creative Imaging).

Disney’s films have been popular with designers this year. At Milan Design Week, Tron Legacy was the inspiration behind the TRON designs CORIAN retro-futuristic living room exhibit.

By curious coincidence, I was also invited to a launch event at Disney’s new showcase store in Oxford Street, which has been two years in the making, and opens on Saturday.

The store is more of an interactive experience than a shop, and even incorporates a theatre with free events. Every day, there will be an opening and closing ceremony, where a child is chosen to open or close the rope barrier with a giant key.

On entering the store, there’s a 28 foot high castle, with animations and music controlled by an iPod Touch. I was treated to a private display of thunder and lightning, fairy dust and fireworks by Disney’s marketing man, Jonathan Storey.

To coincide with the launch, there’s a new fragrance, called Imagination – the scent of possibility, the smell of the enchanted forest, a whiff of Neverland… With wild mint, watermelon, forest flowers, vetiver, sequoia and moss amongst its ingredients, it’s actually got rather a pleasant, leafy and refreshing aroma, with hints of wild berries. The candle, room spray, hand and body lotion and hand wash are colourfully packaged and reasonably priced too.

The tall, charming and beautifully bouffant blogger, Prince Cassius, was amongst those assembled to sample the scent.

I followed Tinkerbell’s Pixie Dust Trail to the Disney Princess Magic Mirror. Here children can wave a wand to watch one of five short stories, apprearing magically before them.

The back of the store is bursting with London themed Disney memorabilia.

And, lurking amidst the animated trees was another Buzz Lightyear – as each of the members of staff is named after their favourite Disney character...

I'm still a great fan of Minnie Mouse – if you are too, do check out the curiously collectable vintage Fiorucci Minnie Mouse sweat shirt at ShopCurious.

Will you?

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Beautifully imperfect: the art of organic design

Talking of not needing to be watered, my favourite natural curiosity has just flowered again. I love the fact that this magnificent triffid of an organism looks after itself, requiring no maintenance whatsoever. It seems to flower almost every year and looks totally stunning too, don’t you think?

I try to keep my London ‘sky garden’ tidy, but the other day, I noticed there was a mess on my terrace. I’d rather stupidly left a lovely Moroccan wooden dish from ShopCurious outside (for a few years) forgetting that, even though it’s been very dry here lately, we don’t have quite the same climate as North Africa. Unfortunately, rain has rotted the plate and now it's disintegrating.

I thought about throwing it away, but then I realized that imperfect is the new perfect (just as well, judging by the layout of this post). In fact, my dish looks not unlike the one shown right, by French ceramicist, Therese Lebrun, whose artisanal pieces and organic shapes are very ‘of the moment.’

And, if the Chelsea Flower Show is an indicator of trends, artisan gardens will soon be all the rage too. Jihae Hwang’s award winning Haewooso garden just happens to be curiously organic as well. The wooden building is a traditional style Korean toilet, or Haewooso – considered to be a place for spiritual catharsis.Whilst you free your mind by emptying your body, the latrine ferments human waste to make fertilizer - and it’s surrounded by a pretty garden to refill the mind with beautiful thoughts.

These days, even gardens are becoming works of conceptual art…which reminds me -Clerkenwell Design Week also starts today. London’s obviously the place to be this week, though I’m hoping we won’t get stuck here forever due to organic particles of volcanic ash.

Are you?

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Eat, shop, garden: Chelsea Flower Show trends

The Chelsea Flower show is always something of a mixed bag of grow-your-own meets meets country house gardener. There’s also the fiercely competitive element of corporate landscape design, where worlds of finance, media, retail and eco-aware business vie for publicity on their highly prized patch of Sloaney turf.

Every year, working like a well oiled machine, the show sees long snakes of people through narrow entrances into bustling alleys of market stalls and stands, selling all manner of garden related wares from packets of seeds and wellies to bronze statuary and quirky gypsy caravans.

Those fascinated by frost and fertilizer form orderly queues for lunch, tea and the loo. In this colony of cultivation, earnest devotees swarm like ants to and from their chosen attractions, occasionally stopping to indulge a Chelsea Pensioner in the odd spot of friendly banter.

Last year, I noticed there was rather an Eat, Pray, Love feel to the occasion, with many of the gardens displaying Far Eastern or spiritual influences.

This year, along with strange new varieties of plants and flowers (see below), I’ll be looking out for urban farming and living walls (as promised by B&Q's entry), and curious trends like edible art. The cleverest of designers will presumably have created rain gardens, not for collecting, but for making rain…

Meantime, all things horticultural are happening in interiors – with an abundance of fabulously floral home accessories. I spotted plenty of these on Friday, when I visited’s cool Chelsea showroom for the first ever Dabbler Summit – see the photos in my latest post at The Dabbler.

And do check out the curiously collectable vintage flower paperweights at ShopCurious too. At least they won’t need any watering.

Will you?

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Flying back in time, Aesthetic style

Last year’s Chelsea Flower Show brought out the bees and the bugs, though I didn’t see any dragonflies – apart from our Art Nouveau style brooch. This year, we’ve another dragonfly brooch at ShopCurious, with more of an arts and craftsy feel…Curiously appropriate in view of the Cult of Beauty exhibition, currently showing at London's Victoria and Albert Museum.

A whole host of Aesthetic themed events around town are cashing in on the popularity of the show. Last night, I popped down to a preview of Liberty’s annual Arts and Crafts exhibition at their Regent Street Store, held in association with specialist dealer, Patch Rogers.

The pieces on offer include Aesthetic furniture, books and objets d’art – all the sorts of things that would have been available at Liberty & Co when they were originally produced.

Some of the items were a little out of my price bracket, like this edition of Salome by Oscar Wilde, illustrated by Aubrey Beardsley. Apparently, Wilde dedicated his play to Sarah Bernhardt, who appeared in private performances of the banned production, in London and Paris.

Slightly more reasonable was this stylish Aesthetic movement panel in its original oak frame, dating from around 1895.

And, talking of dragonflies, some motifs appear more widely than others on the items – like the peacock, an ancient icon of beauty that’s often seen on antique Persian ceramics. The totemic symbols of the V&A exhibition, sunflowers and lilies, are also very much in evidence.

As for social butterflies, there was another rather more happening event at the store last night, where designer Richard Nicoll (right) held court over a fashionable crowd of shoppers etc, including the likes of Henry Holland.

Thinking of the dragonfly, symbol of enlightenment and freedom, reminded me that the Aesthetic movement was based upon a feeling that the world was becoming increasingly ugly and commercial. Artists of the time were looking for something fresh and more naturally beautiful…

Are you?

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Childhood musical memories

There’s nothing like a bit of nostalgia - so, what are your favourite musical memories? Does anyone remember Andy Pandy?

I’m of the opinion that an appreciation of music, as mentioned in my latest post at The Dabbler, is something that should be introduced to children from an early age.

When I heard about the Fun with Music CDs by Ann Rachlin, where she narrates stories to famous pieces of classical music, I bought selections of them for all my Godchildren.

I’m also a big fan of nursery rhymes. This wonderful vintage children’s picture book, currently available at ShopCurious, combines the well known Hey Diddle Diddle and Baby Bunting with curiously charming and old fashioned illustrations by famous cartoonist, Randolph Caldecott.

The rare publication dates from 1882, yet the rhymes are as loved today as they were then. This would make a very special heirloom gift for a newborn baby, young child or Godchild.

Anyway, I’m interested to hear your childhood musical memories, so do let me know...

Will you?

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Classical music in fashion?

Will you be watching Stephen Fry debating against Radio 1 DJ Kissy Sell Out in the first ever live-streamed debate from the Cambridge Union Society tonight? The motion is ‘This House believes that classical music is irrelevant to today’s youth.’

I’ll be tuning in at 7.0 pm, and will let you know my verdict after the event…

Curiously, I’ve noticed that classical music is creeping into fashion - in particular, alongside romantic Regency and Rococo style influences in clothing and accessories.

This is good news for men, giving them the opportunity to be a little more flamboyant in their dress... And we’ve the perfect musically inspired accessory at ShopCurious – a vintage silk and wool opera scarf, featuring an operatic music manuscript print. Useful, since Father’s Day falls bang in the middle of the summer opera season.

Meantime, I’m looking forward to the debate.

Are you?