Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Fabulous, Flavorful Flowers

lowers and food have been a natural combination since as far back as biblical times. You probably have something in your pantry right now that can trace it's roots back to some flower or other.

Flowers and chocolate-a classic combination, but even more interesting when combined into one! You can find a myriad of online companies offering artisanal chocolates infused with rosewater, lavender, orange water, even chilies!

To spice up your Martini time,
you can add floral-infused essences such as
Rose petal, or French Lavender Essence.

I even found a company that will send you a scrumptious cake decorated with real flowers, packed in a beautiful box decorated with silk flowers. Whew, talk about indulgent!

To make your tea time truly unexpected, try the"blooming tea" (which you can find at Bloomers), a small ball of tightly wrapped tea which, when steeped, magically turns into a beautiful 'flower".

There are any number of jams made of rose petals, orange blossoms, lavender. You need never settle for plain ole' grape jam again.

If you would like to decorate your own food item, you can buy
real sugared rose petals. (Easy to make them yourself:
buy organic, non-sprayed roses. Dip each petal in egg white, then dredge in sugar. Let dry on a rack, and you're done!) You can do the same with pansies, too.

I found a recipe for making ice cream with rose essential oil. (I love roses, but I'm not sure so about using them this way.)

Of course, there are dozens of flowers that can be eaten on their own...the one that comes to mind most often is nasturtium, which has a peppery bite, and is often used in salads. Stuffed zucchini blossoms are a popular item on restaurant menus, with a myriad of filling options such as crab or cheese. Chive blossoms have a light oniony flavor. You can find an entire list of edible flowers at: www.whatscookingamerica.net

Doesn't it seem that flowers always always seem to be a part of our lives?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

"Reel" Flowers

I'm a movie fanatic, and love nothing more than settling in some evening with an entertaining movie. (Best if Sam Elliott is in it, but that's a subject for another blog...)

While poking around an antique shop recently, I found an old poster for the movie Please Don't Eat the Daisies, (from 1960, starring that perky Doris Day and David Niven,) and it got me thinking: How many other movies have flowers in the title? Turns out, there are lots of them!

Steel Magnolias: Started as an off-Broadway play in 1987, and made into a movie in 1989. With an all-star cast of Dolly Parton, Julia Roberts, Sally Field, Shirley MacLaine.

The Rose (1979) A tear-jerker starring Bette Midler, loosely based on the life of Janis Joplin.

The Black Dahlia (2006) Film Noir starring Josh Hartnett, Scarlet Johansson, and Hilary Swank about the investigation into the "Black Dahlia" murders.

Send me No Flowers (1964) Comedy starring Doris Day, Rock Hudson
and Tony Randall, (who does not play the hypochondriac in this one!)
Based on the earlier Broadway play of the same name.

Lilies of the Field (1963) Sidney Poitier as an ex-G.I, and nuns! Sounds like an improbable combination, but somehow, it works.

The Black Orchid (1958) Sophia Loren was 23 years old when she played this role, only 10 years older than the actor who played her juvenile son.

Iris (2001)
Broken Flowers (2005)

Flowers in the Attic (1987)
War of the Roses (1989)
Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
White Oleander (2002)
Bread and Tulips (2001)
Flower Drum Song (1961)
The Name of the Rose (1986)

Oh dear! My NetFlix queue is growing by the minute!

Here's a test to see if you're paying attention: Send the name of another movie with flowers in the title, and receive a coupon good for a FREE Vazu!
(send to: bloomersflorist@yahoo.com). I"ll post the winners in next week's blog.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Having your (flowered) cake...

Haven't we all been to a wedding and wondered "what was she thinking with that cake?" At one wedding I attended, the cake was so shocking it was all anyone could talk about. With a mini bride and groom and 30 (yes! 30) mini attendants, sugared flying buttresses, bridges, towers, and little lakes of garish blue food coloring, it was a sight to behold!

In a past life I was probably the pastry chef to royalty. I clip every photo I find of beautiful cakes. I'll share some with you here, and not surprisingly, I've chosen the ones that have flowers!

Sylvia Weinstock, the acknowledged 'Queen of Cakes" certainly has the most creative and beautiful cakes I've ever seen. She is the baker-to-the-stars whenever an over-the-top cake is needed, and her cakes never disappoint. Her flowers are edible-made entirely of sugar. They can cost well over $10,000 and be up to 12 feet high. That's alotta sugar!

Eric Lanlard, a British master patissier, has become a rising star in the cakes-to-the-famous business. He recently launched a new book called Glamour Cakes, and it's gorgeous.

And of course, I would be remiss in not mentioning Martha Stewart. Her new Martha Stewart's Wedding Cakes is filled with photos of stunning cakes. The beautiful "Calico" cake (right) is one of my favorites. Deceptively sweet and simple, it requires nothing less than a true master to achieve this perfection.

I don't know about you, but I could go for a piece of cake right now!

PS: In thinking about what I wanted to title this blog, it occurred to me that perhaps my version of "have your cake" was not correct, but it's the version I've always known. So I researched the origin of the phrase, and, though it's had several incarnations, this particular one was known as far back as 1562, written by John Heywood: "Wolde ye bothe eate your cake, and haue your cake?"

Saturday, September 6, 2008

I love your china service, Mr. President!

During yet another interminable presidential debate, my mind wandered to a visit I made to the White House a few years ago. Everything about the tour was fascinating, but I was particularly intrigued by the China Room, where all the presidential china is on display. As I marveled over all the lovely patterns, I was especially struck by how many of them included flowers!

The James Polk State Service is one of the most beautiful. Made in 1846 by the firm of Edouard Honore, Paris, it is distinctly Rococo, and certainly a far cry from the traditional shield of Stars and Stripes.

Millard Fillmore's beautiful service highlights a brightly painted bird and floral bouquet surrounded by a beautiful green band. Certainly one of the most unusual colors, except perhaps the highly recognizable Lincoln service in a color called Solferino purple, rimmed with a gold band.

Ulysses S. Grant's china was a collaboration with France's Havilland & Co, and an "un-named" American artist. The Grants were prolific entertainers, and it is known that their china saw a great deal of use.

The Lyndon Johnson china, perhaps not surprisingly, features a charming border of American wildflowers while still highlighting a version of the traditional Eagle crest. It was manufactured in the U.S. by Castleton China.

Won't it be interesting to see what the NEXT president (or first lady) selects as the china to represent their administration?

Just so we won't think the world is all about Presidents, here's a peek at Marie Antoinette's elegant dinnerware...She commissioned hundreds of pieces for this service. If you had $31,000 to toss around, you could have attended a dinner last week at the Palace of Versailles outside of Paris, and received a replica of the mug and saucer!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Armchair Garden Traveler

Traveling to, and reading about, great gardens has always been a favorite activity of mine and I've been fortunate to visit so many over the years, both in the US and abroad. Two of my favorites are Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C, designed by the prolific Beatrix Farrand, and the magnificent Butchart Gardens in Victoria, B.C. The British have their own way with flowers, and I've enjoyed browsing the tiny yard gardens in England and magnificent castle gardens of Scotland. Closer to home, the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden outside of Charlotte is awe-inspiring, and I returned home from a recent visit with dozens of new ideas. This week I am off to visit the gardens of Biltmore Estate, in Asheville, a visit I've looked forward to for a few years now!

But when time or inclination intervene and I can't 'go', I 'read'. Having moved 3 times in the past 2 years, my moving man's aching back can attest to how many garden books I own! Mostly, I love to peruse books on the great European gardens, those designed by such people as Gertrude Jekyll. A favorite is The Gardens of Gertrude Jekyll by Richard Bisgrove. Edith Wharton's 1904 tome Italian Villas and Their Gardens has just been re-issued, complete with the Maxfield Parrish plates and it is a beauty. Harder to find, but no less interesting, An Island Garden by Celia Thaxter, with illustrations by the artist Childe Hassam. Struggling with Southern heat and humidity is a cakewalk compared to the conditions Celia dealt with on Appledore Island off the rugged coast of Maine!

Flower Confidential-The Good, the Bad and the Beautiful in the Business of Flowers, by Amy Stewart, is an interesting read about the 'dark' side of the flower industry. I'll bet you never imagined there was a dark side to it! One particularly beautiful book is Pink Ladies and Crimson Gents by Molly and Don Glentzer, a fascinating history of 50 glorious roses and how they came to be named.

To be truly inspired, see Eden on Their Minds: American Gardeners with Bold Visions. I am grass-green with envy seeing what people have achieved in their gardens by being fearless!

Now, where's my trowel?..

And if you voz to see my roziz
As is a boon to all men's noziz, -
You'd fall upon your back and scream -
'O Lawk! O criky! it's a dream!'

- Edward Lear, 1885