Art al Fresco
Guest Post, Staff Picks | Published on August 25, 2016
Equestrian statue of Ranuccio Farnese by Francesco Mochi, in Piazza Cavalli, Piacenza
Everyone can feast on Italy’s al fresco banquet for the soul
In Italy, art is definitely not confined to the museums and the churches. It is everywhere. A house opposite the church od Sant’Eustachio in Rome, more or less round the corner from the Pantheon, in the very heart of the city, still retains quite substantial elements of the frescos applied to its façade by Taddeo Zuccaro in the second half of the sixteenth century.
Most of the al fresco art that surrounds one is sculpture. In our health and safety/conservation-fixated age, the idea of masterpiece taking their chance in the open may indeed seem foolhardy, but the fact is that they have survived remarkably well over the centuries. It is true that three pieces were broken off the left arm of Michelangelo’s David during an anti-Medicean rebellion in Florence in 1527, and rescued by two young artists, Giorgio Vasari – of Lives of the Artists fame – and his friend Francesco Salviati. More generally, however, the sheer weight of large-scale marbles and bronzes means they are hardly likely to be pinched by even the most determined thieves. On the contrary, the most common reason for any such disappearances is a forgivable desire to protect such works from the elements.
Inform Cooks in the Major Leagues
Kitchens & Bath | Published on August 2, 2016
In our past Inform Cooks posts, we’ve done our best to provide you with simple recipes that we adore. In this instalment, we’ve upped our game with the help of a heavy-hitter. Chef Reuben Major is a long time contributor to the local culinary scene and most recently Co-Founder and Culinary Director for Vital Supply Co. He came to us well equipped with his tools, ingredients and values, and effortlessly assembled a top-notch dish that left us salivating for more. We usually provide our guest chefs and cooks with pots, pans and other tools that we carry in-store but on this occasion there was no need. Chef Major’s brought his personal pots and pans which he brought with him were the Demeyere collection designed by John Pawson. Though Chef Major has been using them tirelessly for a decade, which is apparent from the patina, the cookware has perfectly retained it’s form, appeal and cooking power. How many sets of pots have you purchased in the past 10 years?
Chef Major’s culinary prowess was ingrained in him from a young age. As a boy, he would pick his own ingredients from the garden, construct dishes and feed the family without thinking much of it. Food, after all, is a necessity that everyone must take part in. The process felt natural to him. After moving to the city and getting a job at Earl’s as a busboy, he worked his way into the kitchen and up the culinary hierarchy eventually serving as director of culinary and bar development, a position he held for six years. It was then time to explore new paths, develop his breadth of skills and seek out new challenges.
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In Store, Staff Picks | Published on June 14, 2016
Enough with the ties and socks already! That lawnmower still works just fine, he said so himself. Your Dad is cooler than you think, get him something that he not only deserves but that he’ll actually want. Even though he may not know who Henning Koppel or Isaac Reina is, he recognizes master craftsmanship, he know what top grade leather feels like, and you better believe that he knows how to perfectly sear a rib-eye on a top-of-the-line grill.
Here are a few gift ideas that he’s sure to love.
Cufflinks from Skultuna
For over 400 years Skultuna has produced fine metal objects of the highest quality for both everyday use and for special occasions. Always with that same sense of quality, function and design Skultuna today creates tomorrow’s antiques. They have a vast range of cufflinks that any dress shirt wearing guy would love. From bicycles to Jolly Rodgers, royal and presidential emblems to simplistic minimalist shapes. There’s bound to be one to suit your dad.
With Wolf BBQ grills, as with every Wolf product, you can count on quality construction and exceptional performance through years of outdoor cooking. Wolf BBQ grills are sculpted in double-wall stainless steel, precision-welded so they will not rust or hold water. Each of the four gas grill models comes in natural gas or LP, and can be built in to your outdoor space. Optional carts are available for the 30″, 36″ and 42″ models.
Eat Like a Man: Guide to Feeding a Crowd
Ok, so the Wolf BBQ isn’t in the budget. This cookbook is the ultimate resource for guys who want to host big crowds and need the scaled-up recipes, logistical advice, and mojo to pull it off whether they’re cooking breakfast for a houseful of weekend guests, producing an epic spread for the playoffs, or planning the backyard BBQ that trumps all.
In Praise of the Vespa
Guest Post, Other | Published on May 17, 2016
What’s not to love about those “petrol-powered centaurs”?
Nick Foulkes takes a ride in the Southern Alps
As much a part of the Italian cityscape as overpriced ice cream and historic architecture, the Vespa is one of the great visual (and aural) signs that you have arrived in Italy. Gathering in swarms like their namesake insect, these petrol-powered centaurs bring a new dimension to motoring south of the Alps. A few years ago I was on assignment for the Sunday Times, driving a Bentley down from Portofino to the Amalfi Coast. It is the kind of fearless reporting that I go in for and I needed to screw my courage to the sticking-place when confronting one of the great features of Italy’s minor roads: the Piaggio Ape.
‘The Ape is a Vespa over which someone has placed a large bread tin with a windscreen and door’
Inform Cooks | ¿Que Paso, Taco? by Drew Dunford
Event, Guest Post, Kitchens & Bath | Published on May 4, 2016
Phoenix kitchen from Varenna
In Mexico, taco culture is a way of life. A unifying factor and daily staple for people of all social and economic levels. Mexicans eat them so much and so often that the expression echarse un taco (to grab a taco) is synonymous with the very act of eating. Case in point: the average Mexican consumes 135 pounds of tortillas a year. If and when you find yourself in Mexico (and many regions of the USA), you’ll find taco stands of all description gracing practically every street corner, town square and roadside rabble. These are gathering places: young and old, rich or poor, day or night—it doesn’t matter. Because tacos, chico.
At its most basic level, a taco is some kind of cooked filling lovingly ensconced by a tortilla made of nixtamal (masa dough—another subject for another time). The variety of fillings is dizzying: tacos al pastor (marinated and roasted pork with chunks of charred pineapple), barbacoa (lamb, slow-roasted in a pit or oven), carnitas (pork leg and ribs, braised and later seared), tacos de pescado (beer battered and deep fried white fish) and carne asada (grilled beef) barely scratches the surface of what’s out there. And that doesn’t even begin to include the scope of taco’s cousins enchiladas, gorditas, huaraches, sopes, tostadas, chilaquiles, tamales, et al. Not to mention the innumerable regional varieties, specialties, tweaks and twists. What is an aspiring taco aficionado to do? You could truly spend a lifetime exploring this one simple dish. And what a lifetime it would be.
Golden Apples | An ode to the humble tomato, by Matthew Fort
Guest Post, Kitchens & Bath | Published on April 22, 2016
“If you want to love Italian cooking, you have to love the tomato.”
I sat at a table on the platform at the station of Villarosa in central Sicily. The table was covered with a paper cloth and set with a knife, a fork, a side plate and a tumbler. I had bread and wine. A small, scrawny cat sat silently beside me. Sparrows skittered among the metal struts above me. Clouds moved shadows across the tanned and gold hillside beyond. And then came the unmistakable perfume of frying onions and bubbling tomato, rich, velvety, slightly rasping, slightly cloying, carrying the promise of flavour to coat the fat tubes of penne I was going to eat – penne con salsa di pomodoro, salsiccie e ulive. What a beautiful thing the tomato is, I thought.
Tomatoes: round, squat, tomatoes like gurning faces, plum-shaped, plum-sized tomatoes, grape-shaped, grape-sized, tomatoes the size of baking potatoes. Tomatoes red, orange, green, reddish-orange streaked with green. Shiny, perfect tomatoes, tomatoes cracked and fissured. There are fresh tomatoes, dried tomatoes and tinned tomatoes. There’s polpa, passata, concentrato, doppio concentrato, and ‘strattu, Sicily’s extreme tomato paste. There’s sugo (straight tomato sauce), ragu (tomato and meat sauce) and sugo al carne (tomato sauce in which hunks of pork, veal and/or beef, have been quietly stewed, allowing the meat juices to quietly permeate the vegetable mass). There are even sauces made by roughly chopping raw tomatoes. The culture surrounding tomatoes in Italy surpasses anything in the food universe for variety, ingenuity, and splendour, subtlety and downright deliciousness. ‘It is the lifeblood of Italian food’, writes John Dickie in Delizia, an iconoclastic analysis of Italian food, ‘– some would say of Italians themselves.’
Inform Cooks | Burrata & Olive Tapenade Crostini
Kitchens & Bath, Other, Staff Picks | Published on February 10, 2016
Arne and Carissa, Inform’s Kitchen & Bath designers, are back again to share another simple yet delicious recipe. This Burrata & Olive Tapenade Crostini is sure to be a hit at any small gathering. If you missed their previous post on how to make fresh pasta from scratch, you can check it out here.
This dish is perfect for sharing with friends and family. The homemade Crostini is a terrific base for the lush, bold flavours of the Olive Tapenade & it’s all balanced by the delicate creaminess of the Burrata Cheese melted overtop. You can even impress your guests with these fun facts…
Tapenade is a very old recipe. Then named Olivarum conditurae, it appears in Columella’s De re Rustica, written in the first century. Cato the Elder ( 234-149 B.C.) includes a recipe for Epityrum, an olive spread very like a tapenade, in chapter 119 of his “On Agriculture.”_
The word burrata means “buttered” in Italian. Burrata is now considered an artisanal cheese and maintains a premium product status even after it became more widely produced and available in the ’50s. This wasn’t always the case; it was once considered a by-product, a useful way to use up the ritagli (“scraps” or “rags”) of mozzarella in cheese factories throughout Italy.
2016 January Sale | Staff Picks
In Store, Staff Picks | Published on January 15, 2016
Our January Sale is in full effect, many of our display models are significantly marked down, up to 70% off. Here are a few of our favourites but there are so many more – send us an email for a list of the included pieces or for more details on any of the pieces below.
Dragonfly Chaise by Roberto Lazzeroni for Flexform
The Dragonfly brings simplicity and comfortability together making an harmonious seating solution for any home.
Fly coffee table by Antonio Citterio for Flexform
Marble top and low-profile steel legs. Simple, beautiful, functional and built to last a lifetime.
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2015 Gift Guide No. 3
In Store, Staff Picks | Published on December 17, 2015
Looking for a good time? We’ve got you covered with an array of watch styles. Georg Jensen’s Koppel, first produced in 1978. Distinguished and minimalist, fluent lines of the case and hands have become a classic and the overall aesthetic is one of uncluttered purity. Q&Q’s SmileSolar collection is colourful, fun; best of all, no winding or batteries required as it gains all of it’s power through sunlight. We also have the classic Casio designed watch with either dashes or numbers.
Songlines by Claudia Schulenberg
The base of these blankets are produced in an 80 year old mill on Prince Edward Island and then embroidered, by hand, in Vancouver. The name Songlines comes from the hand-dyed colour yarn stitched across the blankets which end in small tufts.
Made from 100% unbleached virgin wool, approximately 76 by 104″. Production is very limited, exclusive to Inform.
2015 Gift Guide No. 2 | For the Cooks
In Store, Staff Picks | Published on December 11, 2015
John Pawson for Demeyere
A pan might seem like a very straightforward object to design, but the reality is that smallness of scale does not equate with lack of complexity. Pawson’s goal throughout the extended design development dialogue with Demeyere was a pan of the greatest possible formal simplicity, visually as comfortable on the table as over a flame, balanced in the hand and on the cooktop, with a good pouring lip. The detail of the handle’s profile and its junction with the body of the pan proved to be the defining challenge of the project.
Pure Black by HolmbäckNordentoft for Stelton
These knives are forged from one piece of stainless steel so that their handles morph seamlessly into their blades. The straightforward design and special coating make the knives easy to clean and provides a superb grip.