Thursday, June 22, 2017

How to Create a New Garden Border - For Beauty and Defense against Deer & Ticks

Under the rubric where the “cobbler’s kids have no shoes,” it’s a miracle that our own country house home garden is as beautiful as it is…

But just like my clients, my husband and I have to be mindful of budget and schedules. Plus, there never seems to be enough time after working in my clients’ gardens. You get the idea.

We usually take on one or two “garden rooms” to produce each summer season. (And phew - almost completed all my garden dream rooms throughout the property).

Our garden rooms include the Water Garden, the Ladies Border, the Red Arbor, St. Francis Rock Garden, the Farmette, the Shower Garden, the Orchard -- and more… We’ve been featured on House & Garden tours and will appear next month in NJ Monthly Magazine.

This year, we agreed the focused project would be the driveway. My goal is to take up the paving (bad chemicals, non-permeable, ugly) to a more permeable, and more garden-inspired design. More on that soon as we begin the work.

The start of the driveway work was displaced by the need to rip out and replace what is the border in our backyard.

Let me set the stage and put this into context.

Our front and side yards are where the designed, sculpted gardens are. The back yard looks out with an 180 degree water views from Sandy Hook National Seashore to the South Shore of Long Island and the Rockaways to Brooklyn (love seeing the ferris wheel at Coney Island lit up on summer nights) to Manhattan’s “castles in the sky” to Staten Island.

There is no need to create a visual competition with gardens. Outside of the edible garden “farmette” and the mini orchard -- it’s a bird’s eye view.

However, there is a lot of trash plants growing on the hill there. We’re at the highest point on the East Coast and the properties go from yards to impenetrable pseudo-forest of tangled invasive plants including sumac, honeysuckle, invasive cherry tree and vines, and Porcelain Berry  - Ampelopsis brevipedunculata (here plus full list of Garden State invasives).

While for the most part these “plant thugs are out of site descending as they do down the hill, there was a series of them, layered, and covered with the god-awful, invasive Chinese Honeysuckle, Lonicera maackii. 
Sure it smells nice - for about a nanosecond - but you’re left with ugly, branches and a fighter who won’t budge.

Furthermore, according to the New York Botanical Garden’s (NYBG) “Mistaken Identity” scientific paper on Invasive Plants and their Native Look-Alikes, “Wherever invasive honeysuckle shrubs displace our native forest species there is a huge potential impact on these migrating bird populations due to the reduction in availability of native food sources.”

If you really want honeysuckle - please plant our Native alternative to the Asian honeysuckle. There are various types of trumpet honeysuckle Lonicera sempervirens from which to choose.

If all that wasn't bad enough, what really prompted me - dare I say drove me - to rip out these plant thugs was that earlier in the spring, as Bill and I were enjoying our evening garden walk with our cocktails, a deer head just beyond the border -- a young buck - was perusing the yard from behind the “border hedge” we’d created - looking for all the world like that neighbor character from the Tim Allen Show where all you saw was a nose and eyes above the fence. Young “Buckie” was not to be deterred despite a slingshot and me charging him. Harummphh. He jumped out!

I shrieked. Not because of the cloven-hooved satan, or big rat that he is was now in my world - but because my garden was not designed with deer in mind. We’ve lived here 20 years and nary a fawn has been seen. In a flash, I saw all the years of designing, planting, and luxuriating in the glory of our gardens go up in smoke.

We learned there was building going on up the hill; probably forcing them out of that habitat to seek yet more food.

Please know that deer are now rutting two times a year vs. one.  Many are giving birth to twins and triplets as a result of their fattened state.  There are more deer now than when the settlers first landed on these shores. And where there’s deer, there’s the mice and the dreaded ticks.

Please people, do NOT feed these predators. I just read where a local homeowner was allowing this tick-infested Bambi to swim in her pool!  We need to work as a community to rid our neighborhoods of these admittedly cute creatures (oh why did Disney ever produce Bambi?) and see them for the enablers that they are.

Not too long ago, I saw this at an extended family's residence in Hunterdon County.  This is not pretty.
Plants in Jail -- Result of Deer Menace

Deer and Ticks and Mice; a most unwanted Menage à Trois fueled by -- Acorns!
Bear with me - there’s a connection to the heading….

Some of my garden design clients do, of course, have deer in their yards -- some of the properties are in fact, in the middle of what I call, “deer highways!” But I have incorporated that element into the overall garden design and plant choices. We’re meeting the enemy head on and with eyes open.

Here, I felt blindsided!

I immediately researched the deer and tick and mice situation near us. The news was grim. According to, “Oak trees go through a boom-and-bust cycle with acorn production, and 2015 was a boom year in the Northeast. With a plentiful food source that can be stored over the winter, the mouse population often swells the following year. We saw the acorns in 2015 and then we saw a plague of mice in 2016.”

The text bubble in my head was saying, “I love nature’s symbiosis and the natural food chain but please not with all these nasty elements….” And honeysuckle interrupts the food chain, I read. Not unsurprisingly.

Further, this year, there is a “new” dangerous tick-borne disease called the Powassan virus that is carried by the same tick that transmits Lyme Disease. Double the problem…I’m also figuring that none of these circumstances are helped by climate chaos -- because the winters are not cold long enough to kill off those critters and plants that would normally die off.  As a result, we now spray our clothes with tick repellent.  This one is good and lasts for five to six washings.

Far too many of the good horticulturists I work with have this growing Lyme plague -- that is woefully misdiagnosed and treated far too often almost as an afterthought. “It’ll cripple the health care system,” is what one of my stricken hort men told me who has been battling the crushing Lymes for years.

Then, I read that deer just love to canoodle in the honeysuckle - which means essentially that our “border hedge” could become a love nest for Mr. & Mrs. Buckie Deer.

Not on my watch!

I found this in my research from 10 Reasons to Remove Honeysuckle:

(This is number 11!:)

The presence of Amur Honeysuckle may be increasing the risk of tick-borne diseases, especially in suburban areas where homes are built near woodland edges.

“Invasive bush honeysuckle might be increasing tick-borne disease risk on a pretty large spatial
scale,” says Brian Allan of the University of Illinois. Allan has studied how honeysuckle, deer and ticks interact, and he has learned the shrub attracts deer, and as a result, attracts more ticks. That means people don’t have to go to the woods and prairies to find ticks anymore. The deer are bringing them to us. And it has the effect of concentrating deer in locations where honeysuckle is present, particularly in suburban landscapes. The shrub produces several stems that arch outward, forming a canopy that creates ideal bedding areas for white-tailed deer. “Deer are using the shrubs for shelter,” Allan says. “There’s nothing that really compares to it in terms of native vegetation.” Areas invaded by bush honeysuckle have a higher density of ticks infected with pathogens than areas of native vegetation.

Deer ticks are the main carrier of Lyme disease. “Deer are a food source for adult ticks and a transport mechanism,” says Linn Haramis, entomologist from the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Thank you, Chris McCullough, President, Greater Cincinnati Chapter Wild Ones

That was more than enough for me. No canoodling in our yard!

Soooo - the back border hedge got moved up to the number one position.

Garden Border Hedge
We needed a hedge that could stand up to a true “cat walk” and other animal species, including raccoons and groundhogs, one that would be deer resistant, in case these deer ever do return, evergreen, and good looking. A tall order you say. Indeed. While I might prefer boxwood, it too has issues of late; moreover it was too expensive for our budget at this time.

So after research and input from several of my best local nurseries, I determined to plant the Ilex ‘Compacta’ holly - Aquifoliaceae Genus: Ilex Species: crenata Cultivar: 'Compacta'

It will grow four to five feet high and wide. It’s evergreen. It looks like boxwood.

I needed 25 of the Ilex to cover the border area and Scott and his son, Mike, from Coastal Nursery - one of the best in the Garden State and family run and owned - came through.

And while not inexpensive - it was doable.

The Six Degrees of Hell
And yet, therein lies the trauma of beating back the satanic invasives. Face it folks. We all need to deal with them one way or another.

It was a week of cutting back the invasives; finding the original border (with metal edging!) and cutting, clearing, hacking … You get the idea. It’s horrible. These invasives have survived because they are so strong -- which only means one cannot easily rid them from the landscape.

We gardeners are hopeful and optimistic folk. We are steadfast. Our forefathers had to hack away to make way for agriculture. Those thoughts kept me going.

It was horrible. Did I just say that?!

Finally, with help from my Duchess Designs team - especially Darin, the Master Gardener, Bill, me - and a lot of dedicated hope for a better, healthier yard -- we’re looking at the upside of a sustainable, clean, garden design. I know we will need to be vigilant to keep the plant thugs at bay.

Neighbors do need to be respectful and keep their yards tidy too…

We’ll plant/sow turf outside of the newly created steel borders. But it’s a good start and a world away from what was.

Please share your experiences to thwart the thugs and to enjoy true garden glamour.

Inspired landscape design …  A work in progress.  

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

NYBG’s Newly Expanded Farmers Market Opens for the Season, Offering Fresh and Nutritious Local Produce, Specialty Foods and Other Exciting New Features

Ahhhh - it's officially the first day of summer. Admit it, you've been waiting all year for this very moment.

If that wasn't enough to make you giddy with delight, today marks the return of the Farmers Market at The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG).

Offering a diverse array of fresh, locally grown vegetables and fruits, along with hand-crafted baked goods and specialty foods, The New York Botanical Garden’s Farmers Market opens for the season today, just inside the Mosholu Gate and across the street from the Botanical Garden station of the Metro-North commuter railroad.

With a newly expanded roster of vendors from the Hudson Valley and other parts of the tri-state metropolitan area, the NYBG Farmers Market will bring the flavors of the seasons to New Yorkers throughout the summer and into the fall every Wednesday, running until October 25, 2017. Hours are 9 a.m.–3 p.m.

The Garden’s market has been reimagined by Pascale Le Draoulec, who manages farmers markets in the Westchester communities of Hastings, Irvington, Chappaqua, and Bronxville.

Before running farmers markets, Pascale Le Draoulec was a newspaper reporter for 18 years. She spent most of her career writing about food, and from 2001 to 2007 she was the lead restaurant critic at New York’s Daily News, where she won a coveted James Beard award for her reviews.

A first-generation American of French heritage, she is the author of American Pie: Slices of Life and Pie from America’s Back Roads (Harper Collins, 2002), which chronicles her cross-country road trip in search not only of her American roots but also people who still make pie from scratch.

The market will include not only a regular weekly lineup of some of the area’s top produce vendors, bakers and specialty food purveyors—with more than twice as many merchants as in recent years—but also a rotating group of artisanal merchants, offering such treats as savory jams, piquant salsas, infused olive oils, caramels, and gourmet salts.

The market accepts cash, credit and debit cards, and EBT cards, providing visitors more ways to take advantage of the market’s amazing bounty.

Admission to the Garden grounds is free on Wednesdays, allowing visitors to explore many of the Garden’s offerings such as the ever-changing flowers and plant collections in the award-winning, sustainable Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden, the 50-acre old-growth Thain Family Forest, the Native Plant Garden, the Perennial Garden, and the inspiring Home Gardening Center.

As an added convenience, visitors can shop at the Farmers Market first, then store their fresh produce with the Garden’s new complimentary Veggie Valet service as they enjoy the Garden’s many features. Purchases will be kept on ice until visitors pick them up before they leave.

Nice touch! Love the greenmarket concierge service.

This is an outstanding, well-curated list of food artisans and growers. This collection, gathered in one place, helps distinguish a valuable Farmers Market, offering unique and distinguished ingredients, and makes it a must-do weekly food gathering -- plus -- what's better than shopping in a garden?

The weekly vendors at the NYBG Farmers Market will be:

  • Big Bang Coffee Roasters, Peekskill, N.Y.–Hot or iced coffee and coffee beans 
  • DiRiso Rice Balls, Hastings, N.Y.–Arancini (Italian rice balls) stuffed with porcini mushrooms and other homemade Italian foods. Arancini Brothers' could be the very best anywhere - enjoy these treats! 
  • Dr. Pickle, Paterson, N.J.–Pickled products, from standard cucumber pickles to peppers, olives, mushrooms, and much more 
  • Honey Locust Farmhouse, Newburgh, N.Y.–Organic teas, various types of honey, and jams made with local Hudson Valley fruit 
  • Meredith’s Bread, Kingston, N.Y.–Breads, rolls, cakes, cookies, pies, biscotti, challah bread, and quiches, including sugar-free and gluten-free baked goods 
  • Pie Lady & Son, Nyack, N.Y.–Butter-crust fruit pies such as mixed berry, strawberry-rhubarb, and apple, sold whole in three sizes or by the slice 
  • Red Barn Bakery, Irvington, N.Y.–Savory and sweet treats from a full-service bakery 
  • Taliaferro Farms, New Paltz, N.Y.–Wide variety of produce (peppers, zucchini, kale, spinach, turnips, beets), fruits (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, apples, and melons) and many varieties of interesting, hard-to-find produce and herbs 
  • True Food of Nyack, Nyack, N.Y.–Fresh, flavorful seasonal salads and burritos made with local organic chicken 
  • Wave Hill Breads, Norwalk, Conn.–Artisanal breads and pastries made with organic whole grains milled at the bakery 
Setting up at the farmers market on a rotating basis will be:
  • Anna Maria’s Savory Jams, Cliffside Park, N.J.–Italian-style jams meant to pair with cheeses and yogurts, enhance the flavor of meats and poultry, and complete the presentation of cured meats and pâté 
  • Arlotta Food Studio, Briarcliff Manor, NY - Infused organic olive oils such as garlic, lemon, red pepper, and blood orange; balsamic vinegars; and tapenades 
  • Found Herbal, Chappaqua, N.Y.–Lotions, balms, salves, sunscreens, and more—all made with local herbs and flowers 
  • Healing Home Foods, Pound Ridge, N.Y.–Gluten-free and vegan granola, crackers, and other delicious, healthy snacks 
  • La Petite Occasion, Chappaqua, N.Y.–Caramels, toffees, and other handmade confections made with local, high-quality ingredients 
  • Lucero Salsas, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.–Homemade salsas, pepito pestos, tortillas and tamales 
  • Wild Sea Salt, Pomona, N.Y.–Gourmet salts infused with such local ingredients as dandelion, stinging nettle, cedar berry, and sumac. 

Happy Summer. Celebrate the season. Happy cooking and baking and drinking.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

What to Drink While Viewing the Jeff Sessions Testimony? Start with an Alabama Slammer!

Washington has become a kind of running reality show or a series … It’s all too Game of Thrones.

While today’s testimony from the Attorney General Jeff Sessions, may not have the celebrity accorded to last week’s James Comey media event and it’s party-like halo that prompted me to write a pertinent post about Cofveve Cocktails - today is still a must-see TV day to watch or listen -- to the proceedings.

You can watch or listen today as Sessions testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee at 2:30 ET on all major media, including PBS.

Because Mr. Sessions hails from the Camellia state or the Yellowhammer state (so named for the state bird, a type of woodpecker), an Alabama Slammer seems most appropriate.

The Alabama Slammer’s history stems from the 1970s and was developed near the University of Alabama to celebrate the Crimson Tide.

The Alabama Slammer is a cocktail made with amaretto - this is key, Southern Comfort, sloe gin, and orange juice. It is served in a Collins glass. It is also sometimes known as a Southern Slammer. This is a sweet, fruity drink.

And Mr. Sessions is hoping he doesn’t end up in the slammer! See, you can have some fun with this…


3/4 oz Sloe Gin, 3/4 oz Southern Comfort, 3/4 oz Amaretto, Orange juice


Pour Amaretto, sloe gin, and Southern Comfort into glass of ice. Fill with orange juice and stir.

Serve, on the rocks; poured over ice into a Tom Collins glass.


Maraschino Cherry, slice of Orange, or Lemon Wheel -- or all three!

You can substitute Jack Daniels for Southern Comfort and add in lime or lemon, and add Grenadine -- the main point is to make you see Red!
(In keeping with all the fury on both sides of the issue…. Ha!) 

How about watching the news with a new drink: The Recuser?!

This cocktail is from my upcoming book, Finishing Touches the Art of Garnishing the Cocktail - and it’s called the Mediterranean “Sunrise” in the book. But I thought it looks a bit like the Slammer. And besides, it’s delicious.


1 jigger ouzo

1 jigger tequila

8-12 ounces orange (or other fruit juice)

A few dashes of peach bitters or grenadine


Pour the juice into a tall glass over ice, top with the liquor so they float like some drifting iridescent Aegean sea plankton, followed by the bitters.


With speared fruit wedges and a red swizzle licorice stick! The licorice flavor complements ouzo’s anise for a pretty and fun presentation. Place the licorice swizzle sticks in a red glass for a shot of color to boost the cocktail composition, adding red and white or blue and white striped cocktail napkins. Stretches the American-ness of the proceedings, don’t you think?

Try ouzo with Kahlua for a wicked take on a “Fireball.”

Need a drink to celebrate bailing out the boat? Then there’s the Dark & Stormy made with dark rum and ginger beer - I very much like the Gosling’s brand of ginger beer.

And because all this hubbub is supposed to be about Russian spying or interference, after all, you can always soothe your anxieties with the classic cocktails: White or Black Russian (I’m calling this one, Glasnost). They are easy to make, quite luxurious and offer a lot of comfort. Interestingly, the White Russian made its way West in the 1930s with the proliferation of vodka’s appeal; the Black “Glasnost” sibling didn’t follow until 1949. Can’t go wrong with either drink.

White Russian


2/3 oz (2 parts) Coffee liqueur, such as Kahlua or --

1 2/3 oz (5 parts) Vodka - I suggest Royal Elite, or LIV , Tito's or Belvedere. I sampled the handcrafted 1857 Vodka last week at the Greenmarket - bought a bottle, too. But it doesn’t taste good… has a kind of cosmetic aftertaste that took over a martini - disrupting a prime feature of vodka - meaning it plays well with other flavors. Try the recommended vodkas - you won’t be disappointed.

1 oz (3 parts) Fresh cream or milk


Pour coffee liqueur and vodka into an Old Fashioned glass filled with ice. Pour the mix and float fresh cream -- or milk - on top and stir slowly. You can do this layering using the back of a spoon over the drink and slowly pouring the cream over the “sled” of the spoon.


What could be better than whipped cream? Well, topping the froth with fresh, shaved chocolate! Or a toasted marshmallow!

Black Russian or Glasnost


⅔ ounces or 2 parts Coffee liqueur - Kahlua or… 1 ⅔ (5 parts) vodka (see above recommendations)


Mix the ingredients into an old-fashioned glass, poured over ice cubes

Pour the ingredients into an old fashioned glass filled with ice cubes. Stir gently.

You can also add a splash of cola - to make it a kind of


Maraschino Cherry skewered on a diamond hat pin or similar-looking Shashka Sabre!


Thursday, June 8, 2017

RETRO Collection by Toni Sabatino for Baden Haus Debuts


RETRO Collection - Gotham City

Designers make dreams come true for their clients.

With the newly-launched RETRO Collection by Toni Sabatino Baden Haus - it is a kind of Italian two-cheek kiss.

See, it’s a dream come true for Toni - the interior design goddess - and a dream come true for Baden Haus’ clients and customers. And if I add in Baden Haus the company - well, that’s a lot more smooching.

Seriously, it was not a surprise to learn that it was amore at first sight between Toni and Baden Haus - (Baden Haus is based in Italy - therefore all the Italian nods to style and culture. Con affetto...)

I see the artistic relationship here as a bit of Carlo and Sophia; the Medicis and Michelangelo…
Fast forward to the finished product and one can almost see the mottoes suspended or floating above the Toni Sabatino designs whispering “classic, sensual sophistication, and enduring glamour.” I heard a show guest remarked, “This must’ve been designed by a woman.” Indeed. RETRO has all the right sensuality and smarts of the best divas.

This innovative collection is surely an expression of both brand’s guiding principles if there ever was one.

Viewing the premiere of the RETRO Collection at the recent International Contemporary Furniture Fair - ICFF show, I learned from Baden Haus Design Director, Marco Oddi, how the relationship first came about and the resulting collaboration.

(Full disclosure - designer Toni has become a solid Homegrown friend. I first met Toni through my first book: The Hamptons and Long Island Homegrown Cookbook - she contacted me to purchase some autographed copies so that she could add a special finishing touches to her kitchen design customers. See how thoughtful and detail-oriented she is? After more than a few of these Homegrown requests, I remarked to my husband, “Toni must be extremely successful - because she’s now buying the books by the case! Well, Toni is indeed successful, and our shared love of design, food and drink, cooking and gardens - soon led to a friendship.)

Marco and Roberto Osimi, Baden Haus officially met Toni at a Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS) event in Las Vegas a year or so ago. Their shared design aesthetics melded much as their ready communication connections. “It was so easy to talk to Toni,” said Oddi.

The professional design respect is mutual.

Not long after, Toni found herself being whisked to Italy. But this was no Roman Holiday. It was a working session - while also a kind of first date, if you will.

See, while Toni got straight to the sketching and design phase of creating -- all of which you can see in the oversized RETRO brochure.
photo courtesy of Baden Haus 

Toni was also conducting a kind of mental check list with her new-found partners.

Did they work with her standards of high quality materials? Check.

Did the company treat its employees with respect and provide a good, healthy working environment? Check and check.

Toni learned how Baden Haus’ quality mission was evident in all phases of their production process. After all, Baden Haus, located in Centobuchi in the Le Marche region of Italy, has been making luxury Italian furniture designed for the bathroom or home spa since 1979.

Piazza in Centobuchi, Italy

In fact, Baden Haus is the largest independent Italian manufacturer of bathroom furniture. A kind of crowning achievement for a brand that prides itself on using only quality materials to produce products “that combine aesthetics and functionality.”

photo courtesy of Baden Haus

When I asked if they had to alter their legacy production process in order to make the RETRO Collection, Oddi explained the company’s factory team needed to add a few more steps to accommodate Toni’s design specs - especially the inside utility of the vanity cabinet and drawers -- features that Toni felt strongly about in terms of the user experience. The sleek one-touch sliding Blum drawer runners is one such example. “Beauty and product organization informed the drawer dynamic. Modularity and the option for “wall hanging or floor mount” are down to earth considerations that are built into the design - not an afterthought left to installers…

photo courtesy of Baden Haus

Gotham City -

photo courtesy Baden Haus

More details on the show floor: I love that Toni filled the frame with a photo of her son, Ricky. How sweet… Tells volumes about Toni’s passions and love that weave their way into her designs and dedication.

photo: Leeann Lavin

When I asked Toni how she came about this design process and how it might differ from her custom work for her clients, she readily responded that here she needed to consider what would appeal to a vast, global audience, versus that one client or couple.

Undaunted by the task, and rather than conduct some sterile research to determine what was trending or forecast to be hot looks, Toni relied on her years of experience. Take into consideration she’s been designing and working with makers and artisans for more than 30 years.

In fact, she embraced the opportunity to create swoon-worthy furniture that would reflect her accumulated design aesthetic - and trusted that market-making metier: Women’s Intuition. Her confidence and style makes RETRO an exalted addition that you just know you will want to live with…

The RETRO Collection consists of four distinct lines or as I refer to them: “conversations.”

These designs surely speak to you - especially when you learn the narratives and personalities behind the design process.

  • Gotham City
  • Gold Lame
  • Paisley Tie
  • Matte 
If you’re like me - the artful interior and exterior design elements you bring to your home offer enduring “conversations” between you and the beauty of the piece.

Not to mention with your house guests and family.

And I daresay - if you’re so lucky (and surely you will after selecting RETRO for your home) there will be the attendant magazine media and tour guests who visit your home to admire the designs.

Like us, after all our hard work and designing and thoughtful compilations - to be recognized by a leading magazine and our local historical society -- and then to be featured as a showhouse!

I have my eye on the RETRO Collection for a renovation of our Gotham jewel of an apartment. Stay tuned.

Already, Toni confirmed she’s sped’c out her RETRO designs to a number of her own clients -- to massive delight, no doubt.

So, back to the dreaming stage. Toni began with periods, places, and art that have long been her muses -- that would lend their “practicality and personality” to achieve a certain timeless RETRO frisson.

Gotham City

photo courtesy of Baden Haus

Gotham - aka New York City -- with its pulsating drama of iconic skyscrapers. She cites the Art Deco beauty of the Chrysler building, (my favorite), where you can almost hear Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” crescendoing in the background while gazing at these pieces - yet Toni swears it was the 80’s “Steam Punk” orchestration that inspired Gotham City’s moody industrial look. See how nuanced the art spectrum can be?

photo courtesy of Baden Haus

Gold Lame

photo courtesy of Baden Haus

Ok, this could be my favorite! Toni attributes this look to her “love of glamour and fashion of ‘Old Hollywood’. The golden shimmering glass brings that ‘golden age’ feel to the bath,” says the designer.

photo courtesy of Baden Haus

photo courtesy of Baden Haus

photo courtesy of Baden Haus

Paisley Tie

Photo courtesy of Baden Haus

Wait, this could be my favorite! I’ve often said, “I’m crazy for paisley!” so imagine what a design delight it was to view these sumptuous runway-worthy looks.

No one would disagree that I couldn’t write anything as witty as Oscar Wilde - a paisley aficionado -- and so I quote here from the RETRO catalog introduction to Paisly: “One should either be a work of art or wear a work of art.” Well, I might add: One could display a work of RETRO art! Maybe I am as witty as Mr. Wilde! See how RETRO inspires…

Seriously, I wish Paisley Tie was available when we redid our country house -- I did one of the bathrooms as all tailored luxe - I even called it, “The Bespoke Suit Bathroom.” Next time…
photo courtesy of Baden Haus
Toni wrote: The history of of this iconic pattern that has spanned centuries is quite colorful and I love it for its sophisticated arty, bohemianism.”

photo courtesy of Baden Haus

photo courtesy of Baden Haus


photo courtesy of Baden Haus

This RETRO conversation whispers Purity. A Balanchine Diamond in Jewels…

The black is all very dramatic and mysterious -- it seems to whisper dark secrets...

Toni reveals: “Timeless grace, simplicity and elegance. The panels have the look of wainscoting to create the mood of old world charm and tradition.

photo courtesy of Baden Haus

Who says things aren’t just so black and white in this world?

photo courtesy of Baden Haus

photo courtesy of Baden Haus

Toni is still floating on rainbows following the premiere. “I’m thrilled and overjoyed at this opportunity,” said the designer when I asked her how this felt to see her name on the boxes and in the catalog. Difficult to put into words…

photo: Leeann Lavin

photo: Leeann Lavin

As part of my post-show follow up reviews, I posed a series of detailed questions to Marco Oddi, Design Director at Baden Haus.

Here is an edited Q & A from our series of email exchanges.

Q. Can you tell me what your goals are for the line?

A. The RETRO Collection is fast becoming "Baden Haus's business card" for the North American market. We embraced the idea of presenting ourselves to the American and Canadian kitchen and bath enthusiasts - professional and consumer - with a very special project, and surely Toni's RETRO Collection can be considered a beautiful example of a special European and American collaboration or bond.
Q. Have you worked with a guest designer previously?

A. This was our first-ever project officially working together, or alongside a designer. In few previous Collections we have received advice (or input) from some Italian designers but we're just talking about small little conversations.

In the case of the RETRO Collection, we've met few times with Toni, in Italy and in the US, we have had long conversations. Furthermore, our internal Design Department has been in contact with Toni on a daily basis for many months. We wanted to make sure that every single little aspect had been reviewed and that no detail had been neglected.

Q. Do you have plans to do more of this kind of line in the future - meaning working with a stable of designers to continue the success working with a guest designer?

A. Yes. This RETRO Collection experience that we are living now is surely something we want to do again. We hope to create something with a strong, design-orientated personality who is very stimulating - and it's our idea and are planning to come out with something else later on.

Q. Is this Retro line available globally?

A. Absolutely! The RETRO Collection has already been displayed in several showrooms across the globe. Our clients have appreciated very much the effort that Baden Haus has made with this project. The feedback is confirming that the company is really taking the company to a different level.
Retro Collection is available in the all 32 Countries where today we distribute our Baden Haus brand.

Q. How long does a line remain available?

A. Normally four to five years but really it depends on the style, the distribution, and other, varied aspects or elements.
With regard to RETRO, it seems it’s more a "Timeless Collection" as Toni likes to describe it; so who knows, RETRO might be available on the market for longer than that!

How to get your RETRO

One can purchase the RETRO Collection pieces all together for a complete ensemble -- or you can purchase separately; building the look in a modular way. Toni designed the pieces to layer and personalize - not unlike selecting from your wardrobe to create a glamorous, memorable ensemble.

This thoughtful detail gives the designer and consumer the added value of customizing their ultimate home design.

The vanity cabinets are available in basic white or black - and the insets for the tops and drawers come in the four jewel-like Collection “conversations.”

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

The LED mirrors are a kind of fairytale magic - with anti-fogging, BlueTooth speakers and magnifying mirror. All with a sweep of dramatic shaped design to complement the vanity styles. No more hunting for a swanky mirror to hold the look together. (Heretofore there’s been an overabundance of square and round and ok, oval…) But now the mirror elegance can claim some true design CV of its own.

How sexy is this? And the mirror too!

photo Leeann Lavin

Prices range from approximately $1,600 to $6,900. With final investments determined by style, size, and the number of elements (vanity cabinet, mirror, sink, floating storage cupboard, and surface-top style selected for a final version.

All the elements in the RETRO Collection will be shipped from a local U.S. distributor location in the Garden State.

What’s better than designing a line of extraordinary collection of bath vanities with a major Italian manufacturer dedicated to quality and premiering at a distinctive New York Furniture show?

Sharing the exhilarating achievement and happiness with friends and family.

Designer Toni Sabatino (R) and daughter Elise. photo: Leeann Lavin

Elise, Designer & Mother - Toni -- with soon to be mother, Amanda & son Ricky

Now that’s a collection!

Ultimate Cocktail Recipes & Food Pairings to Mark James Comey's Senate Testimony Media Viewing: Covfefe Cocktails!

No matter one’s politics - there’s no denying that today’s drama surrounding the the former director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey Testimony is a media event rivaling anything a former media star might have dreamed up. This is like a reality show - or a spy novel in the John le Carré tradition.

Adding to the serious gravitas this investigation deserves - there is an undeniable American entertainment spectacle that has blossomed around this surreal state of affairs of late.

I’ve read of D.C. bars that are offering special cocktails made with Russian vodka - and free cocktails every time the president tweets about the proceedings. Oh what a holy series of Lemony Snickets... Here’s a quote for you from just such a take on the Absurdity of the Human Experience:

“They didn’t understand it, but like so many unfortunate events in life, just because you don’t understand doesn’t mean it isn’t so.” or “The best way to keep a secret is to tell it to everyone you know, but pretend you are kidding.”

Kidding aside - I’m offering up a series of cocktails today - to help you embrace and remember this auspicious day in American history. We’ll get through this. Stay calm - and carry on. Wait - who says that?!

I’ll start with a few cocktails here - and update as the day unfolds. Covfefe Cocktail Cheers!

Heart of Gold

I chose this cocktail from my soon to be released cocktail book: Finishing Touches: The Art of Garnishing the Cocktail.

The gold glitter seems fitting for such a sparkly kind of media star event we’re witnessing. The pretzels can help keep you nourished! And the gold jewelry pin gilds the gold “star” quality of the garnish. Plus, if things get dodgy - that pin can come can come to a defense - or employed as a rapier!


2 jiggers Goldschlager - German Cinnamon Schnapps Liqueur

3-4 jiggers cold Ginger Beer - homemade or hand-crafted artisanal, such as Reed’s: sparkling, filtered water sweetened by a blend of cane sugar, pineapple juice, honey, fresh ginger root, lemon & lime juices and spices.

The cinnamon of the schnapps harmonizes with the spices in the ginger beer.

2-3 dashes Cherry Bitters - Fee Brothers


Put ice cubes in goblet

Mix all ingredients in cocktail shaker

Remove ice from goblet. Pour strained cocktail into iced goblet glass.

Garnish with crystallized ginger - highlights ginger beer/ginger root ingredients (or maraschino or orange rind studded with cloves) clipped on with gold jewelry pins.

Can also pour cocktail into old-fashioned glasses with ice and garnish

Posh Pretzels & Piglets

Serve with classic cocktail party, German hot dog-inspired favorites: pigs in a blanket, artisanal pretzels and hearty mustard.

Galaxy Negroni Sbagliato

Keeping with the sparkly theme this morning, this negroni recipe includes edible silver glitter! I tasted this at the Negroni Week kickoff at Monday’s rooftop event and it is spectacularly delicious and refreshing. Imbibing during the testimony can bring a smile - albeit a tight one - but the sparkling water adds to a sense of celebration. After all, we live in a democracy where all this can take place.

Created by Naren Young, Dante (NYC)

1 oz. Campari

1 oz. Cinzano 1757

Cinzano Prosecco to top

Pour Campari and Cinzano 1757 over ice in a collins glass that has been sprayed with a chamomile tincture. Add 3 dashes of chamomile tincture and a pinch of edible silver glitter. Top with Prosecco.

Photo courtesy Campari

Bloody Beef Stew
Tom Sebazco, Bartender/Entrepreneur, Fitzgerald’s Pub, NYC

Every morning event can be enhanced with a Bloody Mary -- or a Bull Shot.

Photo courtesy of Tom Sebazco


2 ounce vodka, recommend a potato vodka: LiV, an artisan distilled craft vodka from Long Island, or for today: Russian vodka!

2 ounce tomato juice, preferably fresh-made from locally-grown tomatoes, cooked for 30 minutes, cool - seeds removed via food mill and blended.

Lemon juice (1/4 lemon)

Worcestershire sauce (dash)

Tabasco sauce (splash)

Salt (1/4 teaspoon or to taste)

Fresh cracked pepper (¼ teaspoon or to taste)


Mix all ingredients in cocktail shaker, shake hard, pour over ice in 16 ounce pilsner glass - without curves.


Salt rim on a pint/pilsner glass.

Float 1 ounce sirloin Au Jus on top of drink

Skewer cocktail pick with cooked sirloin beef chip; add on the same pick or additional cocktail pick: cut cubes of celery, baby carrots, pearl onion, baby potato and a lemon twist

Food Pairing & Cocktail Composition

Serve the muscular Bloody Beef Stew with potato latkes, Greek yogurt or sour cream, topped with caviar dollop along with a side serving topping of chunky, homemade applesauce & quince & apple or pear preserves with dried figs.

Serve mini or petite potatoes filled with creme fraiche and caviar.

Potato latkes can be secured from a local gourmet food store, a prepared mix or made from any number of recipes.

Make the serving-sized mini potatoes by boiling the potatoes until semi soft - approximately 8-10 minutes. Scoop out the centers. (Use in other recipes).

Using a pastry bag/pouch to fill the petite potatoes with piped creme fraiche. 
Top with dollop of caviar.

Serve the latkes and petite potatoes hot or cold, on silver trays. There is a plethora of faux silver party platters of all sizes available at local party store sources to add a touch of elegance to most every composition.

Bull Shot


(for one drink)
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/8 teaspoon celery salt
Tomato balsamic sea salt from Keith Luce NoFo Kitchen - or local sea salt

Fresh, ground black pepper

2 dash Black Walnut Bitters

1/4 cup vodka
3/4 cup chilled double-rich, double-strength beef broth or beef bouillon


Mix all ingredients together - shake. Pour over flavored ice cubes and serve in an old fashion glass. Bull Shots can be served hot in glass mugs, too.

Ice cubes - to make the seasoned ice cubes, puree celery, fennel, add Sazon - or spice of choice - with a few drops fresh lemon juice and seasoned salt - I used tomato salt. Freeze in cube trays.


Lemon or lime wedge on edge of glass, with celery and fennel tops from the ice recipe.

2 pinch Sazon - Annatto Sazon dusted on top of drink

Food Pairing with Bullshot Brunch

Hard boiled eggs with a swoosh of Thai chili aioli.

Dust with Sazon spice powder -- Sazon is a mix of garlic, cumin, and has a slightly peppery with hint of nutty nutmeg taste.
Annatto and its “color of fire” was once used to control fevers, dysentery and kidney disease - so ideal for what ails you the morning after - or as a wake up drink.

From the Cabot Creamery cookbook - the valentine-red peppers stuffed with eggs and cheese heart Cabot “is a cooperative of 1,200 dairy farm families located throughout New York and New England. It’s

Add a mint julep / love cup filled with fresh crudite: carrots, celery, peppers.

Melba toast points or blue corn chips offer a crunchy, somewhat salty, balance.

Cocktail Composition

The Bullshot and its decorative ice cubes make a handsome display, along with the colorful food pairings. Add some eye-catching straws and cocktail stirrers and napkins, plated with a variety of colorful peppers.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

5 Health Benefits of Cheese, According to Science +8 Delicious Recipes


Recently, I was contacted by Jesse, Jen Reviews ,requesting a guest spot on Garden Glamour. Of course I’m flattered. Plus, I am a card-carrying cheese lover: I adore gooey, creamy cheeses with wine, grilled cheese sandwiches, quiche, goat cheese (with lavender that I get from my Union Square Greenmarket and Catapano’s Dairy Farm and then there’s fondue and mac n’cheese … well, Jen didn’t have to ask this cheese-head twice.  (Well, in fact she did but that's a result of an oversubscribed schedule on my part - not the content...ha.)  Bottom line, she didn't have to twist my arm. 
Enjoy the cheese news and the fun, easy-to-make recipes.

After all, there’s a reason we say “cheese” when smiling for photos!

Guest blogger Jen Reviews:
Cheese making has been in practice for over 8,000 years by various cultures around the world. Throughout history, many animals have been valued for their milk, including camels, bison, goats, and yaks. Today, the majority of dairy production comes from cow’s milk, increasing by 50% over the last 40 years. While the percentage of milk consumption in liquid form has decreased, the popularity of cheese has been on the rise, with each person eating an average of 34 pounds a year as of 2012 (1).

However, not all cheeses are created equal. Most cheeses get a bad rap. We hear about how it is unhealthy, negatively contributing to our waistline and increasing the number on the scale. While all cheeses should be eaten in moderation, there are some that are a good addition to your shopping list, including swiss, feta, part-skim mozzarella, parmesan, and cottage cheese (2). These are a great source of many essential vitamins and minerals, and can help you avoid common health issues.

1. Cheese Can Prevent Osteoporosis
Our parents always instructed us to drink our milk as children, telling us that the calcium and vitamin D would help us to build strong bones. The truth is our bone mass continues to grow throughout childhood and adolescence, reaching its peak density around age 30. From there, the aging process begins to thin our bones over time. It is easy to see that the greater your bone density is at this point, the less effect aging will have on your skeletal integrity.

Unfortunately, inadequate bone mass can contribute to the development of osteoporosis later in life. Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by fragile, porous bones, and it affects over 10 million Americans, 80% of which are women. It is the leading cause of fractures, with 1.5 million estimated each year (particularly in the wrist, hip, or vertebrae). The cause can be attributed to low consumption or poor absorption of calcium, which causes the bones to slowly break down (3).

Balanced nutrition can help you avoid the development of osteoporosis. You need to ensure you are receiving adequate amounts or protein, calcium, and vitamin D. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a minimum daily intake of 400 to 500 mg of calcium per day for people over 50 and at risk for fractures (4). Dairy products, particularly cheese fortified with vitamin D, can be a great way to consume the correct balance of vitamins and minerals.

Bottom Line: Increasing your calcium and protein intake with cheese can keep your bones strong, and help prevent osteoporosis.

2. Cheese Can Have a Positive Effect on Your Dental Health
A study done by dental professionals showed that eating cheese might help to prevent dental cavities. Four groups were tested, consuming milk, sugar-free yogurt, paraffin, and cheese, and the pH balance in various areas of their mouths were tested before and after consumption. A pH level lower than 5.5 can leave your teeth at risk for erosion due to acids created in your mouth. While the groups who drank milk, and ate paraffin and sugar-free yogurt showed no significant change, the group who ate cheese experienced an increase in pH levels (5).

The findings may be the result of increased saliva production, due to chewing, which protects teeth from erosion. It could also be that certain components of the cheese adhered to the teeth, protecting them from acid. Either way, your teeth are made up of the same substances as your bones. Just as cheese is beneficial for your bone health, it can also have positive effects on your dental health.

Bottom Line: Cheese can keep your teeth strong and prevent expensive dental work that results from decay.

3. Cheese Consumption Can Help You Gain Weight in a Healthy Way
To most people, the idea of gaining weight is not something to be looked at favorably. For some, weight gain is a necessity for various reasons. Actors and athletes may need to bulk up for an upcoming role or game season, or a child may be underweight for their age, according to their pediatrician.

For those looking to gain weight, there is a right and a wrong way to do so. You do not want to put your health at risk by choosing the wrong foods. With its fat and protein content, plus the various vitamins and minerals it contains, cheese is a great choice for gaining weight in a healthy manner (6).

You do need to be careful about how much cheese you eat, as it can take you too far to the opposite extreme on the weight chart. It is a very energy-dense food, containing a lot of calories per gram. Common cheeses, like goat, gouda, and parmesan, contain over 100 calories per gram. Eating a diet mainly consisting of foods high in energy density can lead to obesity. Try to balance your cheese intake with low energy-dense foods, like fruits and vegetables (7).

Bottom Line: If your doctor has said that you or your child needs to gain weight, cheese can be a healthy way to achieve this.

4. Cheese is the Best Dietary Source for Calcium
The most abundant mineral in the body, calcium is a necessity for life. It regulates vascular function, nerve transmission, muscle function, and hormone secretion. While only 1% of the calcium in the body is necessary for these functions, the other 99% is stored in the bones.

Your bones go through constant remodeling throughout your life. The balance between breakdown and formation changes over time, with the formation greatly outweighing breakdown in childhood, vice versa in older adults, and a balance between the two in adolescence and early adulthood (8).

Our bodies cannot create new calcium, and we lose calcium every day through our dead skin cells, nails and hair, sweat, and excrement. It is important to get your recommended daily calcium (roughly 1,000 mg for the average adult (9)), as the calcium we do not receive through our food is then taken from our bones, leaving them prone to breaking down and vulnerable to fractures (10).

Bottom Line: Cheese is the best way, without supplementation, to receive your recommended daily intake of calcium.

5. Cheese is an Excellent Source of Protein

Responsible for the formation, regulation, repair, and protection of the body, protein is a necessity in our diets, giving you a strong immune system, healthy hair, and proper fluid balance in your body. Without proper protein intake, you are at risk for fluid retention and shrinkage of muscular tissue.

Your body does not store protein. Because of this, your daily food consumption should contain adequate amounts of protein. About 2-3 servings of protein-rich foods (such as meat and dairy) per day is adequate for most adults to meet the requirement (11).

While most cheeses are an excellent source of protein, low moisture-content cheeses are your best choice. If you are looking for the best cheesy source of protein, Parmesan is the one for you. It is the highest protein-content cheese, with 10 grams per ounce. Stay away from “wet” cheeses, like cottage, ricotta, and other cheese spreads if you are looking for protein content. These are very low in protein and high in fat (12).

Bottom Line: Cheese can help you receive your daily amounts of protein, giving you leaner muscle and healthier skin and hair.

6. Cheese is High in Vitamin B12

Vitamin B-12 (also known as Cobalamin) is the largest and most complex vitamin discovered to this day. It aids in the production of red blood cells, protein, and DNA, as well as promotes many mental health functions. Vitamin B-12 anemia, or pernicious anemia, is the result of a deficiency which can lead to lethargy, muscles weakness, and, in long-term, severe cases, neurological damage (13).

This essential vitamin can only be found, naturally, in animal products, or synthetically in supplements. It can be consumed in large doses with no ill side-effects. The excess merely gets stored away in the body until it is needed, and can be stored up to a year (14).

Many cheeses provide an excellent source of natural vitamin B-12. Amongst all cheeses, Swiss has been found to have the highest B-12 content, with 0.95 micrograms per ounce. That’s about 39% of your recommended daily intake. Even the cheeses with the lowest content, cheddar and Monterey, still offer 10% of your B-12 requirement in one ounce (15).

Bottom Line: Choosing cheeses, like Swiss, can energize you and keep your nervous system healthy through vitamin B-12.

7. Cheese Can Reverse Hypertension by Lowering Blood Pressure
There have been links found between a diet that contains dairy and lower blood pressure. It is believed that the increased calcium intake is what is ultimately responsible. There was a study done in which two groups, one who ate only fruits and vegetables and the other included low-fat dairy products, were tested. It was found that the group that included dairy showed overall decreased blood pressure.

Those with hypertension may find that their systolic blood pressure lowered by 2-4 mmHg by including certain cheeses in their diet (16). However, you do still need to be aware of your sodium intake, not exceeding 1,500 mg per day. Choose low-sodium cheeses by checking the packaging labels. Balancing your diet with foods high in potassium can help to reduce your sodium level as well (17). So, why not top that potato with some cheddar?

Bottom Line: Pairing low-sodium cheeses with potassium-rich foods can lower your blood pressure and reverse hypertension.

8. Cheese Provides the Essential Fat, CLA
Conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA, is a complex compound that does not get enough credit. With the trend of low-fat, no-fat diets, the intake of CLA amongst most Americans is very low. It is an essential, “healthy” fat that is commonly found in dairy and meat, primarily from grass-fed cows, sheep, and goats (18).

With the help of CLA, you can experience a loss of body fat and build lean muscle. It also plays a vital role in supporting the immune and inflammatory systems, improving bone mass, regulating blood sugar levels, and reducing your risk of heart disease.

Cheese made from milk from grass-fed cows tends to be high in CLA’s. The amount of CLA in these cheeses tend to increase with the amount of fresh grass eaten. Therefore, when cows have access year-round to fresh grass, you can have as much as 30 mg of CLA per ounce of cheese produced (19).

Bottom Line: Grass-fed cheeses are rich in CLA, which can regulate your blood sugar and reduce your risk of heart failure.

9. Cheese Can Help Prevent Common Cancers

There’s no doubt about it: cancer runs rampant throughout our population. Colorectal cancer is amongst the most common in the world, affecting the colon and digestive tract. Many complications come along with colorectal cancer, including abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, rectal bleeding, and, if undiagnosed, can lead to death in the long-run (20).

While many studies have shown mixed results when it comes to dairy consumption and cancer risk, there has been some evidence that shows milk and cheese can prevent some common cancers, such as colorectal and bladder. There are many factors to consider when it comes to diet and cancer prevention. When it comes to cheese and other dairy products, it is believed that the calcium, vitamin D, and lactic acid can potentially protect you from these cancers (21, 22).

Bottom Line: The calcium content in cheese can potentially help prevent common cancers, like colorectal.

10. Cheese is Plentiful in Healthy Fats

Once upon a time, we were told that fat was evil, causing us to be obese and clogging up our precious arteries. Thus, the low-fat, no-fat diets began to roll out, resulting in a population that was overweight and very sick.

Now we know that fats are essential to a healthy diet. They help to keep you full, so you eat less, and are necessary to help your body absorb certain vitamins. It is still only recommended that 10% or less of your daily calories should come from fat, and you should be selective with where your fats come from and what type of fats you choose.

Unsaturated fats are the best for you. These are typically found in nuts and fish. Saturated fats can also be good, but in moderation. These are often solid at room temperature, and are found in animal products, like meat, butter, and cheese, and certain oils, like coconut and palm. Trans fats should be avoided altogether, being undeniably the worst fat for your heart and found in fried foods and packaged snacks.

Cheese, in moderation, can help you get these necessary fats into your diet. Try choosing aged cheeses, like parmesan, and using it as a garnish to salads. The fats in the cheese will help keep you full and help your body absorb the vitamins in your vegetables (23).

Bottom Line: We now know that fats are essential in our diets, and cheese is a good source of healthy dietary fats.

11. Cheese is a Good Choice for Pregnant Women 

Preeclampsia affects 5 to 8% of pregnant women in America. It is a condition in which a woman develops hypertension in pregnancy, and can have a serious impact on her unborn child, including death. Through various studies and research, it has been shown, however, that calcium supplementation, receiving between 1,500 and 2,000 mg per day, during pregnancy can greatly reduce a woman’s risk of developing preeclampsia (24).

With its calcium content, cheese is a good choice for the pregnant woman’s diet. Not only is it rich in calcium, but it can offer many other essential nutrients for pregnancy, including protein and B vitamins. However, there are many conflicting opinions on the consumption of cheese during pregnancy, and these need to be taken into consideration.

Some soft cheeses, due to their moisture content, can be the perfect environment for bacteria to grow. One of these bacteria, listeria, is especially dangerous for pregnant women and their fetuses. Listeriosis can produce symptoms similar to that of food poisoning, and the bacterial infection can even result in fetal death (25).

If you do choose to eat soft cheese, make sure it is in cooked food. The heat will help to kill the bacteria, making it safer for pregnant women to eat. If you really desire to eat cheese, but you are afraid of the risk of listeriosis, choose hard cheeses instead, like gouda, cheddar, and parmesan. These are usually made with pasteurized milk and cooked at high temperatures, which kill any existing bacteria (26).

Bottom Line: With proper choices and preparation, cheese can be a good choice for pregnant women to receive vitamins and minerals necessary for healthy fetal development.

12. Cheese Helps You Build Muscle
We all know how difficult it can be to lose weight, but for some people, it can be just as hard to put on muscle. Adding certain foods to your diet, however, can help you gain weight and bulk up. Cheese can effectively help you build muscle, due to its fat and protein content (27).

Cottage cheese is easily the cheapest addition to your diet that can help you build muscle. Per serving (about 4 ounces), you get 13 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat (in regular cottage cheese, not low- or no-fat), and 4 grams of carbs. It is a popular choice amongst many athletes and body builders, as the whey and casein protein keeps their muscles lean and aids in post-workout recovery (28).

Bottom Line: With the protein, fat, and carbs in cheese, you can gain weight and build muscle with ease.

13. Cheese Benefits the Immune System

Immunoesenescene is a disease that plagues the elderly, attacking their immune system, leading to its deterioration. It makes it harder for their bodies to fight cancerous cells and respond to immunizations and vaccines, leaving them more susceptible to cancer and infectious diseases.

Recent research, however, has shown that cheese, fortified with probiotic bacteria, can help boost the immune system and prevent immunosenescene. Probiotics are similar to the bacteria found in the human gut, where the majority of the immune system is located. Scientists, therefore, decided to target this area for their research.

A group of volunteers in a nursing home, between the ages of 72 and 103, were observed over a period of four weeks. One group was given a placebo cheese, and the other was given probiotic-rich gouda. At the end of the period, it was clear that natural and acquired immunity was improved in the group who ate the probiotic-fortified gouda (29, 30).

Bottom Line: Cheese, especially gouda, can improve the immune system by introducing gut-healthy probiotics to your body.

14. Cheese is Abundant in the Vital Vitamin K2

Vitamin K is well-known for the role it plays in helping your blood to clot, but there are a few forms of vitamin K. Vitamin K2 doesn’t get as much attention as K1, which is the K vitamin responsible for blood coagulation (called Koagulationsvitamin, understandably). It is believed to be the “unsung hero” when it comes to the prevention of some common diseases (31).

This vitamin works hand-in-hand with other vitamins and nutrients, such as calcium and vitamin D. It benefits your bone, skin, and dental health, by transporting and depositing these essential vitamins and minerals to these areas. It can help prevent dementia in the elderly by promoting healthy brain function. It can even prevent, and possibly treat, common cancers, like leukemia (32).

Many Americans (about 80%), and other Western populations, are believed to not get enough of this magical vitamin. The optimum recommended intake is still inconclusive, but it is believed that 180 to 200 mcg per day will be enough to get those vitamin-transporting proteins working. Hard cheeses, have adequate amounts of vitamin K2, offering over 30% more than soft cheeses, and amongst these, gouda and brie boast the highest amounts, at about 75 mcg per ounce (33, 34).

Bottom Line: Vitamin K2 is a miracle vitamin, believed to help prevent many common diseases, and gouda cheese is an excellent source for this vitamin.

15. Cheese is Good for Your Thyroid Health
Your thyroid, a small, butterfly-shaped gland in your neck, is probably not something you think about often, but it should receive special attention when it comes to your health. The hormones it produces regulate nearly all of the body’s metabolic functions. Too much (hyperthyroidism) or too little (hypothyroidism) production of these hormones can set your body off balance.

A thyroid disorder can have a vast array of symptoms. These include weight gain, fatigue, and infertility with hypothyroidism, and anxiety, insomnia, and rapid weight loss with hyperthyroidism. Both are cause for concern, and can lead to more serious problems in the future.

More than 30 million Americans suffer from a thyroid disorder, and over half of them are undiagnosed. Chances are even higher of an issue developing with your thyroid if you are female, making it about 30% more likely (35, 36).

There are many things you can do to prevent developing a thyroid disorder, such as nutrition. Selenium is an essential mineral, as there are many benefits that result from daily intake. You can experience boosted immunity, as it counteracts the development of viruses, and it regulates thyroid function by aiding in the production of thyroid hormones (37).

Changing your diet can be the first step to avoiding a thyroid disorder. Adding cheese to your diet can help. Hard cheeses, like cheddar, can be a great source of selenium. In a 100-g serving, you can get over 50% of your recommended daily value (38).

Bottom Line: Adding cheddar, and other hard cheeses, to your diet can reduce your risk of developing a thyroid disorder by keeping your hormones in balance.


We all love cheese, and it’s easy to find many fattening, soul-soothing recipes. If you need your cheese fix, try these healthier alternatives.

1. Loaded Cauliflower
With all of the cheesy goodness this dish has to offer, you can enjoy your favorite comfort food without even noticing you’re eating vegetables.

  • In a microwave-safe bowl, combine either a whole head of cauliflower (then cutting it into florets) or a pound of pre-cut cauliflower and 2 tablespoons of water, cover with clear wrap, and microwave for 5-8 minutes, until tender. Drain the excess water and allow to cool for a few minutes.
  • Transfer the cauliflower to a food processor and blend until fluffy. Add ¼ teaspoon of garlic powder, 3 tablespoons of butter, and 4 ounces of sour cream. Blend again until the mixture looks like mashed potatoes.
  • In your serving dish, combine the cauliflower mixture and about 2 tablespoons of snipped chives, and mix in a ½ cup of shredded cheddar. Season with salt and pepper. Top the mixture with another ½ cup of shredded cheddar.
  • Pop it back in the microwave for a few minutes or put it under your broiler to allow the cheese to melt. Sprinkle on some chopped chives and serve.

2. Spaghetti Squash with Bacon, Spinach, and Goat Cheese
With the gluten-free trend on the rise, this recipe is a great trend for those looking for pasta without the carbs.

  • Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a baking pan with either parchment paper or foil. Prep your spaghetti squash by cutting off both ends, slicing it into 1-inch thick rings, and cutting out the seeds in the middle. Drizzle oil onto your lined baking pan, and spread out the squash rings, making sure both sides are coated with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. Allow to bake for about 30 minutes, and cool for 10 minutes when it is finished.
  • Heat a large pan and cook about 6 strips of bacon (cut into 1 inch pieces) until it is browned and crispy. At this point, stir in a tablespoon of red wine vinegar (which will help to deglaze your pan and loosen any stuck pieces of bacon) and a tablespoon of maple syrup. Add a bag of fresh spinach to the pan, one handful at a time, while stirring over low heat. Once the spinach is wilted, remove from heat.
  • Peel the skin from your squash, then, using a fork or your fingers, separate the “spaghetti” strands. Add the squash to your skillet and toss together.
  • Top with goat cheese crumbles and serve warm.

3. Spinach and Goat Cheese Frittata

Add a little bit of cheesy goodness to your brunch with this recipe.
  • Preheat your oven to 400°F. In an oven-proof skillet, heat olive oil and add 6 slices of pancetta. Cook over medium-high heat until crispy. Allow to cool on a separate plate before crumbling into small pieces.
  • Slice up a small leek (length-wise then into ½ inch pieces) and add it to your pan. Cook over low heat until soft and slightly browned. Add a cup of fresh spinach and cook until wilted. Remove the leek and spinach mixture from the pan and allow to sit with the pancetta.
  • Beat 8 large eggs and add them to the pan, seasoning with salt and pepper, and cooking for about a minute. Spread the pancetta, leek, and spinach mixture over the eggs and top with about a ½ cup of goat cheese crumbles.
  • Bake for a few minutes until the frittata is set. Cut into wedges and serve immediately.
4. Skinny Mac and Cheese

Looking for some comfort food without the guilt? This mac and cheese recipe is sure to hit the spot.
  • Grate about a pound and a half of cauliflower (either a head cut into florets or pre-cut) into a large bowl. Measure out about 3 cups of the grated cauliflower and add to a slow cooker or Dutch oven with 2 cups of elbow macaroni and 2 cloves of sliced garlic.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together 1 ½ cups of chicken broth, ½ cup of milk, and 2 tablespoons of flour. Pour the mixture over the cauliflower and macaroni, stirring everything together. Allow to cook until macaroni is tender. Stir in 1 ½ cups of grated cheddar cheese and a cup of low-fat Greek yogurt.
  • Top with more shredded cheddar, if you so desire, and salt and pepper, melting the cheese before serving.
5. Parmesan Kale Grilled Cheese

This healthy spin on classic grilled cheese is sure to satisfy even the pickiest of eaters.

  • Preheat your indoor grill or panini press (you can also use a grill pan on your stove). On a slice of bread, crumble a half-ounce of sliced parmesan and sprinkle hemp seeds and garlic powder. Top with sliced kale, another half-ounce of parmesan, slices of another cheese of your choice (something that will easily melt).
  • Lay your second slice of bread on top and place in grill or panini press and close. Allow to cook for a few minutes, until cheese is melted and grill marks are visible. Serve warm.
6. Parmesan Roasted Zucchini
Why eat French fries when you can enjoy this healthy and delicious alternative?
  • Preheat oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with foil. Slice about 4 to 5 zucchinis into wedges (quarter them length-wise). In a separate bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the zest of a lemon, and 2 cloves of garlic (minced).
  • Spread your zucchini slices on your lined baking sheet and brush with your olive oil mixture. Sprinkle with shredded parmesan and season with salt and pepper. Allow to bake for a few minutes, until zucchini is tender, then allow to broil until the parmesan is golden in color.
  • Serve as a snack or a side with your favorite dish.
7. Cottage Cheese Chicken Enchiladas

Instead of taco night, try serving up these creamy enchiladas with a twist.
  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Shred two chicken breasts, and combine it with ½ cup of chopped onion, and a can of chopped green chile peppers in an oiled pan. Sauté the mixture until brown, then add taco seasoning following the package directions.
  • In a large bowl, mix together ½ cup of sour cream, 2 cups of cottage cheese, and season with salt and pepper. In 6-inch soft tortillas, place a spoonful of your chicken mix, a spoonful of your cheese mix, and some shredded cheese, roll them up, and place them in a greased baking dish. Pour over enchilada sauce and sprinkle on shredded cheddar.
  • Allow to bake for about 30 minutes, until cheese is melted on top, and serve with Spanish rice.
8. Reuben Dip

Enjoy all the flavor of your favorite sandwich in this easy to make snack.
  • Preheat your oven to 350°F. Combine together a package of cream cheese (room temperature), ½ cup of mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons of ketchup, 1 tablespoon of horseradish, and 1 tablespoon of relish in a food processor, and blend until smooth.
  • Stir in 2 cups of grated Swiss cheese, 2 ounces of chopped corned beef, ½ cup of sauerkraut, and ¼ cup of chopped chives. Transfer to a baking dish, and allow to bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, until the dip is hot and bubbly.
  • Serve with pieces of toasted pumpernickel bread.
Thank you.  

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Memorial Day Honors Our Service & Salutes the Summer Kickoff with Vintage Cocktails from 1971 - Official Commemoration

Memorial Day is a true red, white, and blue American holiday. Let’s stick with that true part and celebrate and honor the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military.

Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War yet only became an official federal holiday in 1971.

Given that historical foundation, I thought it’d be appropriate - and fun -- to pay homage to the brave service people while emphasizing the Decoration Day pedigree -- that means serving up cocktails with fabulous Finishing Touches garnishes as drink “decoration,” while imbibing some vintage Atomic Age cocktails from 1970’s America - all the while accommodating what Memorial Day has also embraced: the official kick off to summer. And that means parties: pool parties, beach parties, terrace parties, and well, as much of the outdoor love as you can toast to. And to our brave service people. My husband Bill - and my beloved father, George are Navy. Your family?

These vintage cocktails are delicious -- and surprisingly - easy to make. But they do read rather potent!

1970’s Atomic Age Cocktails:
The Swinging 70’s cocktail culture was in no small part influenced by that quaint Playboy culture. Here’s one from the mansion’s Playboy’s Bar Guide:

Bushranger - 1971


1 oz. light rum

1 oz. Dubonnet

2 dashes Angostura bitters

Lemon peel

Instructions - Method
Shake rum, Dubonnet and bitters well with ice. Strain into pre-chilled cocktail glass. Twist lemon peel above drink and drop into glass.

This cocktail moniker reminded me of the Bushwacker - a drink that a favorite former boss of mine, Bob Dorf, claimed to have created (or was that apocryphal or legend...) for the client Galliano. (I must confess, I never realized how many herbs, spices, and plant extracts were distilled into this Italian liquor. Worth a revisit.

Harvey Wallbanger

1 1/2 oz (3 parts) Vodka

3 oz (6 parts) fresh squeezed orange juice

1/2 oz (1 part) Galliano

Stir the vodka and orange juice with ice in the glass, then float the Galliano on top. Garnish and serve over ice.


Maraschino cherry (Luxardro or homemade) and orange slice

Tequila Sunrise


1-1/2 ounces Blanco Tequila -- I have to recommend Casamigos or Patron - or Maestro Dobel tequila

4 – 5 ounces fresh squeezed orange juice



Fill a highball glass with ice. Pour in tequila and then orange juice, leaving room to top off with a float (approximately 1/2 ounce) of grenadine.


2 ounces Cognac or Brandy

1 ounce White Crème de Menthe

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well. Strain into an old-fashioned glass filled with crushed ice.

Grasshopper - Updated: This is my take on the classic from my soon to be released Finishing Touches cocktail book:

Verdant Green Jangala

A remix on a jungle-green Grasshopper that’s refreshingly minty, and as bewitching and enchanting as nature’s world of plants. Oh, and jangala is Sanskrit for jungle.

1 jigger green creme de menthe

1 jigger white creme de cocoa or white chocolate syrup - homemade is best

1 jigger milk (or cream, or cream of coconut)

3-5 shakes of Fee Brothers chocolate bitters


Mix all in shaker - with ice

Pour into ornamental stemmed cordial, liqueur or sherry glasses, straight up.


Key lime basket brimming with mango pieces.

Key Limes are tiny (1-2 inches); the size allows the basket to perch on the glass rim with a cut on the bottom. Or place a toothpick in the underside of the basket and perch a la a beach umbrella so that the basket rests on the rim with support. To create the garnish, use a paring knife to cut out first one side, then the other, leaving the middle strip as a “handle” You can scallop or cut notches on the edges of the “basket” if you choose. Use a serrated melon baller to hollow out the key lime pulp. Cut up pieces of colorful, soft tropical fruit -- mango or papaya -- and fill the basket. You can also fill a dollop of red pomegranate seeds.

Cocktail Composition
Arrange plants - think herbals, spice plants, and small fruit “trees” as an homage to this nature setting. Potted rosemary, lime, or any kind of mint plant - there’s apple mint, pineapple mint, and more! Continue the green theme with lime-green coasters, cocktail napkins and green snacks. I paired the chocolate green Pocky sticks in a glass for easy snacking - plus there’s a matching chocolate taste. Animal crackers add to the whimsical jungle theme.

For added jungle ambiance, lay out the smart technology tuned to nature videos. Here I used two phones and an IPad, each with its own nature show. The jungle sounds of birds singing, cascading waterfalls, and jungle cats (peering at the animal cracker still life!) is a cocktail party conversation starter and a unique, personalized cocktail composition component that can be readily adapted to any number of party themes. Engage your guests - ask them to provide a favorite video and add to the composition.

Cuba Libre - and my Finishing Touches recipe for Cuban daiquiri from my visit to Hemingway’s bar there.

Havana Daiquiri - Recipe from Havana Club

2 teaspoons sugar

Juice of half a Lime

2 fresh mint sprigs

2 parts of sparkling water

1 part of Havana Club Añejo 3 Años (1 jigger/1.5 ounces or 4.5cl)

4 ice cubes


In a tall glass, add 2 teaspoons of sugar, the juice of half a lime, 2 mint sprigs and 2 parts of sparkling water (3 ounces or 9cl)

Muddle gently.

Add one part of Havana Club Añejo 3 Años and the ice cubes.

Stir well

Strain into a daquiri glass. This is a beautiful drink that is so popular it has its very own glass…

Cut limes to create swirling peels. Place two on glass rim, with lime just “kissing” the drink. A swirling peel can also be wrapped and speared with a cocktail pick and a sprig of fresh mint. Can also create “tatooed” lime wedges and perch on the edge of the glass. The tattoo lime wedges are made from half or quarter of a lime and cutting little “grooves” into the citrus skin. Or garnish with “tatoo” lime slices or plain lime slices tucked into the drink.

Brandy Alexander or my Finishing Touches twist on this favorite: the Open Sesame:

The drink was named for the phrase Open Sésame that is from Antoine Galland's novel, “Les Mille et une Nuits or “One Thousand and One Nights” -- Sésame, ouvre-toi means "Sesame, open!" In the mysterious novel, Ali Baba overhears the 40 thieves saying "open sesame." His brother later cannot remember the phrase, and confuses it with the names of other grains- thus becoming trapped in the magic cave. But not Aladdin who, in a similar tale in the book, had a magic ring and a genie to release him from the cave!

A key ingredient in Open Sésame is tahini, a sesame seed paste that could never be confused with another grain. Create some cocktail party magic with a sesame-infused drink and canapes.

Tahini is ancient; the sesame seed paste appears in a 13th century Arabic cookbook and has been used throughout the Mediterranean and the Middle East’s exotic culinary creations. It possesses a rich but delicate, nutty flavor. Open Sesame is a good cocktail to serve as part of the dessert course or at a brunch or late night cocktail parties. Mixed with the cream, chocolate and coconut, along with the earthy liquors, Open Sesame is a full-bodied sipping adventure worthy of the Arabian Nights.
Open Sesame
1-2 drinks:


1 ounce Anejo Tequila - imparts smoky flavor with hints of vanilla/caramel

1 1/2 ounce Rum - preferably with raw sugar cane syrup base (vs. molasses) It’s grassy herbaceous flavor has a caramel/vanilla botanical kind of earthiness.

¼ ounce creme de cocoa

½ ounce chocolate syrup

½ ounce cream

½ ounce coconut milk

½ ounce Tahini


Chill glasses

Mix the liquors followed by other ingredients in the shaker, strain out into glasses. Either mix up some whipped cream separately or for ‘cocktail theater,” add another ½ ounce or so of cream back into the shaker - with no ice -- and use the Hawthorne spring from the strainer - and shake it up. Pour the cream or made-ahead cream on top of drink. Garnish with toasted coconut and tagine spices, or other mid-east spice powder, including La Boite’s selections, most notably, Za’atar that is a blend of sesame, sumac, thyme, and oregano.

Or Tangier that has rose petals, cumin, and cardamom dancing together - and that works with the spices in the food pairing.

One can also just sprinkle a simple harissa powder.

Open Sesame is a warm embrace of a rich creamy, nutty, chocolate flavor.

Here are a few other 70’s cocktail favorites to help you celebrate. Slow Comfortable Screw and Pink Squirrel. How cute are these?!

And what could be even better? Freezing the cocktails and making frozen pops!

Back to the true --Thank you service people and veterans. We honor and love you.