Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Alien Chicks

That title should be enough to generate some interesting hits from 12-year-old boys: not my intent at all.

But don't you think these fuzzy pink chicks look a bit ...otherworldly? They're part of our easter parade at Pomegranate: lots of sweet bunnies, chicks, hand-painted eggs, grass for easter baskets, ribbon, butterflies, egg soaps... Starting April 1, select easter items are 30% off (including this little guy: was $3, now $2.10). And all our paper napkins are on special: buy two and get one free. In cocktail, luncheon and guest/dinner sizes, they're great for spring celebrations, showers, impromptu lunches... Time to load up your baskets!

Monday, March 30, 2009

I got mail...sweet!

The mail (the kind you still get in a mailbox) isn't always pretty these days, but the other day I received a wonderful treat, just out of the blue. Those of you who've been in our shop know how much I adore letterpress, and admire the painstakingly hands-on process it requires. Seesaw Designs sent me one of their fab letterpress calendars, and I've already put it to good use. Each month is printed on a single piece of heavy card stock, so you can post a month at a glance on your bulletin board or wherever. I used a painted clothespin from our shop (hand done by local artist Liza) to hang it on the wall. Stinkin' cute, non? Check out their work at www.seesawdesigns.com

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Ah...the sweet sound of ... construction??

I think it's safe to say that no one in Central Oregon (or anywhere else in the US for that matter) was immune from the constant sounds of construction for the last five-plus years. That ubiquitous groan of trucks moving lumber and cement (and the beep beep beep of backing up), the 7am sharp buzz saw and nail gun coming from across the field or down the street. We thought it would never end. Strangely silent now, except for this little guy.

Ah yes, the Northern Flicker. The cute little bastardo who pounds on your metal drains and chimney covers in order to establish his territory (and by extension, to attract females). Has he been waking you up, too, with his incessant rat-a-tat drilling? Doesn't it sound like construction? Maybe not, but it does sound a bit like spring.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Armchair travels to Spain

It's usually around this time of year that the travel bug starts to seriously bite us. This year, we have to just swat it away. But armchair traveling is cheap and fun! Anybody can do it!

Our latest obsession is Spain, spurred along by two marvelous PBS series: Made in Spain with José André, and On the Road Again... in Spain (Mario Batali, Gwyneth Paltrow, etc.). Both series are passionate, enthusiastic views of Spain and its cuisine. And my favorite kind of travel: a drive through the countryside. Dining. A big dose of city. Dining. Architecture and museums. Time for a little snack. Meeting the locals while sipping on a regional cup of hot chocolate, or glass of wine. Exploring the wild coastline... and tasting another regional specialty.

I don't think Spain has a more exuberant spokesperson than José André. He clearly is in love with Spain and with cooking (he also owns something like five restaurants, which I've heard are all fabulous), and brings viewers to some really interesting places (interspersed with trips back to his Washington, D.C. kitchen to cook up a storm inspired by the region just visited).

We watched and tivo/moxied/recorded all the episodes we could, but there's only so long you can keep the series... until it dawned on us that we could get the DVDs to carry in the shop! So there you go. We have a couple copies of each series for sale at Pomegranate (and can order again). It's something you'll want for yourself, but also makes a great gift for the foodies on your list. Warning: it could end up hurting your bank account, only because you will want to book tickets to Spain immediately after watching.

And that's not a bad idea -- seriously, if you're lucky enough to still have a bit of discretionary income, there are some great deals on flights to Europe right now, and fantastic deals on lodging. Almost guaranteed that no place will be overrun with tourists.

But if, like most of us, your big travel plans this year involve taking the sleeping bag into the back yard and roasting marshmallows on the patio bbq, armchair traveling with series like these will work. Pour yourself a glass of wine, get comfy in your TV chair, and prepare to escape.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Poetry for the table

We've all seen some version of the magnetic poetry kits: a million little words to plaster all over the fridge (and vacuum up from the floor). This one is more fun. Tidier, too. Just flip the eight wooden blocks around to make instant poetry. It's great on the dining table for parties (set a block at each place setting and see what happens when they put it all together), or put it on the entry table for guests to leave their words of wisdom. Great hostess gift at $16.95. In stock at Pomegranate.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Tea Forté infusers in "Food & Wine"

Our new Tea Forté cocktail infusers are featured in the March issue of Food & Wine magazine. They suggest using the chai blend infuser in a whiskey drink; does sound pretty good, even though I'm not a big fan of whiskey.

Just had a good idea, though. How about infusing the lavender citrus into a glass of champagne? Not your best champagne, of course, but a way to dress up some of those "okay" bubblies that are maybe $10 or so. I bet it's good. Will report back later.

Oh. That idea gave me a sweet memory from a trip to Provence a few years back. We were staying outside a little village and had walked into town for dinner at a charming restaurant called "La Couleur Poupre." The chef/owner/dishwasher was truly a one-man show, running from table to table, greeting everyone, taking orders, and then running in back to cook everything. He was so friendly and happy and funny. His special drink was a herb-infused champagne; I might have wrinkled my nose a bit at the thought of it, but he assured me I would love it. And I did. It had quite a bit of tarragon and lavender as I recall. You could taste the herbs but they didn't take over. A memorable drink, a memorable evening.

On a different trip we discovered the Bénédictine distillery/castle and experienced another fascinating trip through the herbal kingdom. I was prepared to not like it (distant memories of drinking B&B when it was the "cool" drink), but again, loved the herb infusions (skip the brandy). Plus it's a fascinating place, from their wonderful museum (including a huge collection of ancient locks and keys), to their very contemporary art museum/gallery. You can take a little online tour by logging onto "benedictine.fr/anglais/"

But I've digressed, again. Do check out the March issue of Food & Wine; lots of good articles and recipes.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Snowy Sunday Carrot Ginger Soup

At first I thought it might be odd to stick a soup recipe on this blog, when it's supposed to be a shop blog. But then I realized for us the significance of making soup on a Sunday. The shop is closed today. It's a day off, and that in itself is a small miracle, and a reason to celebrate the making of soup. For months and months and months the hubby and I worked non-stop. Every. Single. Day. We got quite used to it, as you do with anything, but by the time we closed our second shop downtown, I think we were near the end of our tolerance for it. You do what you have to do: it's just part of owning your own business (no matter what kind of business it is), and sometimes you have to pour it on like that, and sometimes you get a little break. But you also, somehow, have to make time for family, for friends. You have to take the dogs out and jump around and act silly. Get some fresh air. Make soup. We didn't do much of any of that, and now a day off feels like a vacation (and vacuuming is a luxury?!). It's true that you appreciate so much more that which you didn't have before.

So here's our favorite soup. It's easy, inexpensive, and perfect for a snowy day (added bonus: lots of vitamin C). Quantities are a little nebulous because I make it a little differently each time (and depends on your taste for some of the ingredients).

You'll need: at least 2-3 lbs. of carrots (buy a bag in bulk, or even easier, but more expensive, the peeled baby carrots); chicken stock, can or box (or vege stock); an orange or two; a hunk of ginger (we like lots); bit of milk or 1/2 & 1/2 (optional); crunchy salt & pepper, snipped chives, and a dollop of sour cream as garnish.

Heat the stock, peel and chop the carrots and steam until tender. Carrots and a bit of the steaming water go into the blender or food processor until smooth. Put it all back into a soup pot and start adding stock until you get the consistency you want. Juice the orange(s) and add; grate fresh ginger right in (to taste). Add a good pinch of white pepper (ground black pepper is fine). You can also add a bit of coriander, or Chinese 5-spice, or cayenne if you want it really spicy (but remember, the ginger adds a lot of flavor and heat).

At this point we usually pack up a couple of containers to freeze. To the rest, add a swirl of milk or 1/2 & 1/2 to give it a little more creaminess. Serve with the snipped chives and sour cream (or creme fraiche), and sprinkle some good crunchy salt and pepper on top. When serving your frozen portions, heat up and add the milk then, along with the garnish. Enjoy.

p.s. we will open on Sundays again as it gets towards summer...

Saturday, March 7, 2009

cheep cheep (cheap) chickens & spring ribbons

Normally it's against the Rules of Retail to promote anything using the word "cheap," but I'm all for Cute & Cheap, when it fits. Falling into that category are our new spring chickens, butterflies and all things for Easter at Pomegranate. And bunches of ribbons, all ready to adorn spring projects. These are an excellent buy. In fact, I checked ribbon prices at a certain big box crafts store, and I've gotta say: ours are sooo much nicer (and cheaper). Look at the yardage available on the spool (manufacturers call it the "put up" in case you're interested in obscure terms); divide the price by the number of yards and you've got your price per yard. There are 10 yards on our smaller width rolls, selling for $1.50 per roll. What I found at the other store was spools for $1.50, but they held only 9 FEET of ribbon. Uh, hellO! We can read the small print, and do the math.

Anyway, love this time of year: you can decorate with hot pink chickens (just use them judiciously), start forcing branchy blooms indoors, and do some spring cleaning. And by tomorrow, we will have sprung forward. Don't you love it when it's still light at 7pm (or later)?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Cocktail Infusions: way cheaper than Bottle Service

I have a hard time justifying going out and spending $8 or more on a cocktail. Mainly because I happen to have a husband who is a very creative and discerning mixmeister. If I'm in the mood for a cocktail, I'd rather have one of his most excellent concoctions than drop $20 (or more, in a fancy pants city bar) for the two of us on what is sometimes a disappointment.

I thought having cocktails out was kind of splurgy, and then heard about this thing called Bottle Service. You go to a swanky club and reserve a VIP table, with the requirement that you pay upwards of $300-$500 (plus tax & tip) for one bottle of booze plus mixers (but really, you're paying for your real estate location within the club). That may or may not include a personal bartender (if not, it means you're just pouring unknown quantities of vodka and fruit juice into glasses - yech). Sometimes the tables have a two-bottle minimum. And the patrons don't want to appear cheap (after all, you're the show at these places), so they order nothing less than Gray Goose. Or, (insert spit-take here), Cristal champagne at $1,000 or so per bottle. I kid you not. If you do a Google search it's all there (including articles from 2006/2007 chronicling the excesses). Maybe the craze has died down a bit, now that so many Wall Streeters no longer have access to the company AmEx card.

But I digress. You can make a lovely, exotic cocktail yourself, at home, with our new Tea Forté cocktail infusers. The infusers are pyramid-shaped with a little leaf at the top, just like their wonderful tea infusers. Filled with natural herbs and teas, the infusers come in three flavors: lavender citrus, lemongrass mint, and silkroad chai. You simply pour out whatever spirits you choose over the infuser and let it sit for 5 minutes or so, then add ice and your other ingredients, shake, and serve. We used the lemongrass mint with gin, added a squeeze of lemon and just a tiny bit of triple sec (or simple syrup). Delicious. The infusers come 8 in a box for $12 (one infuser is fine for two people), and they make a great gift. The other day one of our customers bought a few boxes and had us put each in a gift bag with enough room for a nice bottle of something -- a great birthday present (and we're happy to gift bag it for you).

By the way, we often print out and have available at the store Robert's drink recipes, from the sangria we used to serve at First Friday events downtown, to his infamous Pometini, which we serve at our holiday open house/fund raiser.