Category Archives: Food

Things We Love: German Christmas Markets

One of the things I miss the most about living in Germany, especially at this time of year, is browsing around the Christmas markets, or Weihnachtsmarkte, that are found in big cities and small towns across Germany. You may have even heard of the most famous Christmas markets in Nurnberg or Munich, but my favorite Christmas market is in Cologne.Cologne Christmas Market

Sitting at the base of the huge Gothic Cathedral, the Christmas market fills the large town square with booth-after-twinkling-booth of things to delight your eye!

CologneMarket5

A large Christmas tree stands above the concert stage in the middle of the market, which is always filled with carol singers accompanied by musicians. There are booths filled with sparkling glass Christmas ornaments in all shapes, sizes, and colors.

CologneMarket7

There are booths filled with hand-crafted wooden toys, jolly wooden nutcrackers and smokers, and all sorts of gifts to take home to your family and friends.

Christmas Toys at CologneMarket
There are booths filled with giant cookies that say Ich Liebe Dich! (I love you!) and roasted nuts that smell incredible as you walk by.

CologneMarket Christmas nuts and cookies

Even bundled up in winter coats, scarves and mittens, eventually you begin to feel the cold as you wander through the booths, each more colorful and inviting than the next. It’s time for Gluhwein!

CologneMarket11 Gluhwein

CologneMarket9
Spiced warm wine, or hot chocolate if you prefer, in souvenir mugs is just the thing to warm your hands – and, after a couple of mugs, your toes and nose too!

But my absolute favorite is the booth with the chocolate dipped fruit! Christmas-Market-Chocolate Fruit

Skewers of chocolate-dipped fresh fruit – pieces of bananas, pineapples, grapes, strawberries – dipped in white chocolate, milk chocolate, dark chocolate – it is divine!

Although not found at the Christmas markets, my favorite meal at this time of year in Germany is Christmas goose.

ChristmasGooseDinnerIf you’ve never had goose, you’ve missed out. It is mouth-wateringly delicious! It tastes similar to duck and is traditionally served with Klopse (round steamed potato dumplings), rotkohl (pickled red cabbage) and roasted chestnuts – my all-time favorite German meal.

Gluhwein recipe

Although I’ll miss out on the Christmas goose and chocolate-covered fruit this year, I’ll be reminiscing while trying out this Gluhwein recipe I found on Pinterest!

It calls for 1 bottle of dry red wine, 1 cup of brandy, 1 sliced lemon, and 3 sliced oranges. To add the spice, stir in 6 sticks of cinnamon, 8 to 10 cloves, and 3 to 5 whole anis. Mix in 3 tablespoons of sugar then simmer for 45 minutes.

Prost!

AimeeAvatarAimee owns EuroLuxHome.com with her husband and best friend, Greg. Aimee sources amazing antique furniture, vintage lighting, & high-quality reproduction furniture to help her customers decorate their homes in a unique way. She loves her 8 (you read that right) fuzzy children and is renovating a 1920s bungalow in South Carolina. Find us on Facebook or connect with EuroLux on Google+. Or you can sign up here to receive this blog in your inbox.

 

Traditional Old Country Soups to Warm You Up

I just found out that January is National Soup Month. I don’t know how I missed that before but maybe this is the perfect timing to talk about soup as folks are still digging themselves out from Winter Storm Jonas and it’s still so cold over much of the country. As we are into the final season of Downton Abbey too, let’s take inspiration from The Dowager Countess of Grantham (played by the awesome Maggie Smith) who is a big fan of soups.

Dowager enjoys soup

She was the one who said, “‘Every good lady’s maid should know how to make a restorative broth.” I don’t have a lady’s maid (I went wrong somewhere…) and probably you don’t either, so here are some traditional Old Country soups from Europe that you can make yourself to get warmed up!

We’ll start with an English Barley Soup creation from Pamela Foster, author of the Abbey Cooks Entertain books. Beef and barley soup is a very old English dish – you’ll find a version of it in Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management book published in 1861, but it goes back long before that.  On her DowntonAbbeyCooks.com blog, Pamela offers two variations: cream of barley for the posh family upstairs and a more rustic beef and barley soup for the servants downstairs. I’m with the servants – it looks delicious!

Cock a Leekie soup MSFarther north, Scotland is famous for its Cock-A-Leekie soup, which was first written about in the 1500s. It is often served on Burns Night at the end of January in celebration of the Scottish poet Robert Burns, but it is a year-round warming treat.

The soup is made of leeks and chicken, usually thickened with rice but sometimes with barley. Prunes are traditionally added for extra seasoning or as a garnish.

Try the recipe by Martha Stewart or go direct to the source with the Cock-A-Leekie recipe in The Scotsman newspaper!

French Onion Soup If you’ve been to France, you might have fond memories of luscious French onion soup. It’s a wonderful comfort food, served with croutons or slices of French bread on top, covered with melted cheese and traditionally served in a chunky round bowl with one or two handles. There are many versions of this simple but satisfying soup that dates back to Roman times, but the longer you leave the onions to caramelize, the richer the flavor! Here’s one recipe from Real SImple magazine.

Waterzooi soupWe import quite a lot of antique Flemish furniture and lighting  to our store, so I went looking for a traditional Flemish soup.

This recipe for Waterzooi soup is a great one to try if you want something a little different. The thick stewy soup is traditionally made with fish, although you can substitute chicken. It has egg yolks, cream and potatoes in it, so you won’t go hungry!

Do you have any favorite traditional soups, perhaps from old family recipes? Make our mouths water and tell us about it in the comments!

AimeeAvatarAimee owns EuroLuxHome.com with her husband and best friend, Greg. Aimee sources amazing antique furniture, vintage lighting, & high-quality reproduction furniture to help her customers decorate their homes in a unique way. She loves her 9 (you read that right) fuzzy children and is renovating a 1920s bungalow in South Carolina. Find us on Facebook or connect with EuroLux on Google+. Or you can sign up here to receive this blog in your inbox.

A Traditional English Christmas

Downton Abbey fans will already know that the popular English TV show is back for its sixth and final season soon, starting on January 3, 2016 on MASTERPIECE on PBS. The very last show in the series will be a Christmas special! But if you want your Downton Abbey Christmas fix now, I’ve also heard that PBS is re-airing the Christmas special finale from Season 5 on December 27, 2015. Downton Abbey Christmas

There’s something nostalgic about an old-time English Christmas. I guess it must be all those Masterpiece Theatre shows as well as holiday stories like A Christmas Carol. Here are some of the English Christmas traditions that stand out to me.

Christmas crackers children

An English Christmas dinner table is always set with Christmas crackers – NOT a food but the novelties that pull apart with a bang. They’re ‘cracked’ before Christmas dinner and the person who “wins” by keeping hold of the longest piece gets the prizes inside. They put on the paper crown and tell the (usually terrible) joke. Once everybody has a paper crown, the feast can commence! This illustration of two children tugging on a cracker dates back to 1878.

Yorkshire PuddingThe English Christmas meal is very similar to our own, except redcurrant jelly might replace cranberry sauce and roast parsnips are traditional too. Turkey is a favorite although in medieval England a roast peacock or wild boar might have been on the menu! King Henry VIII was the first English King to tuck into turkey for Christmas. Many families add a Yorkshire Pudding to the meal. This is not a dessert but a savory dish between an American biscuit and a savory pancake. If you want to try this tasty treat, here’s a recipe for Yorkshire Pudding.

Christmas puddingAfter the meal comes the ‘real’ pudding: Christmas pudding or plum pudding. Except that it’s not a pudding in the way we understand a pudding either! Instead of being a custardy dish, it’s more like a dense steamed cake, full of dried raisins, cherries and other dried fruit and nuts. It’s traditional to hide a silver coin (in the old days it was a silver sixpence) inside the pudding. It’s good luck for whoever finds it in their bowl. Sometimes the pudding is doused in brandy or rum and then set alight as it is carried to the table. It is served with custard, rum butter, clotted cream, or a brandy sauce of thick cream with a few spoons of brandy stirred in.

Osborne House Festive Guided ToursFor snacks between meals or to accompany a pot of tea, everyone loves mince pies! Even if you don’t have servants to bring you mince pies on a silver tray, they are easy to make if you find a jar of the mincemeat in your local grocery store. Despite the name, there is no meat involved, although when the delicacy first appeared in the 13th century it was indeed real meat, seasoned with dried fruits and spices including cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Now the meat has gone and just the sweet stuff remains, although suet is a part of the mix. If you don’t eat meat, look for products with vegetable suet rather than lard suet.

Christmas-decorations-Finally, the English take Boxing Day, December 26, as a national holiday as well as Christmas Day itself. It has nothing to do with the sport of boxing, although there are lots of sporting events on Boxing Day including horse racing. It is actually the day that people traditionally gave gifts (or boxes) to their servants and tradesmen. Nowadays most people don’t have servants but they still celebrate the day as a chance to visit friends or extended family and exchange gifts, or just relax and eat more mince pies!

This looks like a very grand and festive place to entertain visiting friends. It’s a picture of the Christmas tree at Holker Hall in Cumbria, England, the ancestral home of Lord Cavendish. Even the bust of the Greek poet Homer on the mantelpiece over the fireplace is decorated with a mistletoe wreath!

If you’ve enjoyed reading this, you might also like my post on Old World Christmas Traditions in France and Italy, or the one about Downton Abbey Kitchen Style.

Merry Christmas!

AimeeAvatarAimee owns EuroLuxHome.com with her husband and best friend, Greg. Aimee sources amazing antique furniture, vintage lighting, & high-quality reproduction furniture to help her customers decorate their homes in a unique way. She loves her 9 (you read that right) fuzzy children and is renovating a 1920s bungalow in South Carolina. Find us on Facebook or connect with EuroLux on Google+. Or you can sign up here to receive this blog in your inbox.

Bookshelf: Tales of Traditional French Cooking

I know that many customers who appreciate our fine French antique furniture also enjoy French food and lifestyle. As the holidays are upon us, I thought you might like to see some recently published books about French cooking by American expats who are living the French lifestyle. They’ll make great stocking stuffers for the Francophiles in your life. You could also pair a book with some antique or vintage kitchenware from our gallery!

In a French Kitchen: Tales and Traditions of Everyday Home Cooking in FranceIn a french kitchen

This is the latest book by Susan Loomis who is well-known for her earlier memoir On Rue Tatin: Living and Cooking in a French Town. Her new volume In a French Kitchen mixes 85 recipes with stories about the American author’s friends and neighbors in her adopted town of Louviers in France.

She also shares lots of tips about cooking at home in true French style and without a lot of fuss. Recipes like Braised Asparagus with Herbs look like they are simple to prepare but very delicious. Chapters on French breakfast, dessert, cheese and bread are sure to make the mouth water!

 

My Paris Kitchen: Recipes and Stories

My Paris KitchenMmm… just the dish on the cover makes me hungry and a copper pan is always so handsome to look at.

Food blogger David Lebovitz shares 100 French-inspired recipes that the author has gathered and created since moving to Paris more than a decade ago. The book is illustrated by photos of Paris and of the author’s own kitchen. Although he does write and reinvent some of the classics of French cuisine, he also gives more unusual recipes to reflect the way modern Parisians eat today. For example, Dukkah-roasted cauliflower, salt cod fritters with tartar sauce, and an exotic wheat berry salad with veggies and pomegranate.

Picnic in Provence: A Memoir with Recipes

picnic in provenceThe author Elizabeth Bard is a New Yorker but she’s lived in France long enough to write the popular book Lunch in Paris and now she’s following up with Picnic in Provence. The memoir is about Elizabeth moving from Paris to Provence with her husband and their infant son. There, among the acres of lavender fields, they start their own artisanal ice cream shop with unusual flavors like honey & thyme, olive oil and saffron. As you can guess, the book has plenty of recipes inspired by the culture and countryside of Provence.

Now we are all hungry, aren’t we? I can’t think of any recipes to offer you like the French cooking described in these books, but if you want some good all-American recipes for the holidays, we shared some favorites in our post on Christmas Cookies and Franklin Nut Cake.  Bon appétit!

AimeeAvatarAimee owns EuroLuxHome.com with her husband and best friend, Greg. Aimee sources amazing antique furniture, vintage lighting, & high-quality reproduction furniture to help her customers decorate their homes in a unique way. She loves her 9 (you read that right) fuzzy children and is renovating a 1920s bungalow in South Carolina. Find us on Facebook or connect with EuroLux on Google+. Or you can sign up here to receive this blog in your inbox.

Heirloom Tomato Harvest

HeirloomTomatoesThere are so many delicious ways to enjoy the tomato harvest. Heirloom tomatoes are especially fun to cook with and they look beautiful displayed in a rustic wooden bowl on a kitchen counter. Or if you choose heirloom tomato varieties with different colors, create a vibrant centerpiece just by arranging them in a simple glass dish on the dining table.

Tomatoes have a long and interesting history. The fruit (yes, tomatoes are technically a fruit if you didn’t know that already) was already being enjoyed by the Aztecs more than 1300 years ago. The Aztecs called it ‘tomatl’  – that’s where our modern day name comes from.

But tomatoes have also been known as Love Apples and Poison Apples. It’s crazy how the humble tomato can have two such different reputations!

TomatoharvestSpanish conquistadors and explorers introduced the tomato to Europe in the early 16th century, and that’s when rich Europeans started to dub the fruit ‘poison apples.’ People got sick and died after eating them. However, it wasn’t the tomatoes making the rich folk sick. It was the pewter plates they ate from. Tomatoes have a high acidity which reacted with the pewter to leach the lead out, causing lead poisoning.

The French called tomatoes pommes d’amour meaning love apples, because they thought the tomatoes were aphrodisiacs. (Then again, is there ANYTHING that the French don’t make romantic?)

A simple gazpacho with tomatoes is perfect for hot summer days. The cold soup is refreshing and helps keep you hydrated. For extra flavor, it’s great to throw a few heirloom tomatoes in too. There are many gazpacho recipes, but here’s the simple version we like.

Gazpacho Soup Recipe:

5 pounds ripe and juicy tomatoes
1 cup of diced red onions
1 large cucumber
1/3 cup of chopped basil leaves
Juice of 1 or 2 limes
Salt, pepper, and finely diced chile peppers to taste.

Skin the tomatoes. (Drop them in hot water for a few seconds till the skins wrinkle and you can slip them off with your thumbs.) Then core and seed the tomatoes – if you do that over a sieve over a bowl, it will catch the seeds but let the juice go through. You don’t want to waste a drop of that delicious juice! Roughly chop about half of the tomatoes. Put the other half in a blender and liquidize to soup consistency.
Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and take out the seeds with a spoon, then dice the cucumber. (Skin the cucumber first with a potato peeler if it is very rough skin.)
Then combine all the ingredients, and let chill for an hour or overnight. Go light on the seasoning – once the flavors have blended you can taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve with crusty bread and enjoy!

Caprese in a shot glassAlthough these don’t look like heirloom tomatoes, these mini insalata caprese in shot glasses are so adorable. They’d be great for a party or a wedding. Just pour some tomato juice in a shot glass (spiked with vodka or not!) and then add the skewered tomato, flourish of basil leaves, and mozzarella ball.

If you like a Bloody Mary, then also check out my Uncle Dick’s Bloody Mary recipe.

There are so many different types of heirloom tomato, and the colorful ones often seem to be the most tasty. Try the black-tinted Black Prince tomato, the stripy Green Zebra tomatoes, or the golden pear-shaped Beam’s yellow pear heirloom tomato, which dates to the early 1800s.

red and yellow heirloom tomatoThe Italian word for tomatoes – pomodoro – actually means golden apple. Some say that is because the earliest types of tomato taken to Italy were the golden yellow varieties. The red tomato became more popular later.

You say to-MAY-to and I say to-MAR-to….. However you say it, I hope you’re enjoying the tomato harvest this year. If you have any heirloom tomato recipes you love, share them with us in the comments box below!

AimeeAvatarAimee owns EuroLuxAntiques.com with her husband and best friend, Greg. Aimee sources amazing antique furniture, vintage lighting, & high-quality reproduction furniture to help her customers decorate their homes in a unique way. She loves her 8 (you read that right) fuzzy children and is renovating a 1920s bungalow in South Carolina. Find us on Facebook or connect with Or you can sign up here to receive this blog in your inbox.

Romantic Napkin Folding Ideas

I’ve been sleuthing out some romantic napkin folding ideas just in time for Valentine’s Day. A napkin folded into a pretty shape is such a lovely idea for your intimate Valentine’s dinner for two. Not only does it add a romantic touch to the table, but the love and thought you put into wrangling I mean crafting the napkin is a surprise gift for your sweetheart. In fact, these napkin folding designs would be charming on any romantic occasion – a special date, a bridal shower, a wedding, or a wedding anniversary.

Rose Napkin FoldingThis sweet rose folded napkin is made even prettier with a blossom decorating the center. The napkin folding idea is from Bumblebee Linens which sells cotton and linen napkins and some delightful vintage style aprons and handkerchiefs too. You can see the full instructions for the rose napkin on their website. They say the fancy design is easier to do than it looks!

 

This gorgeous heart fold is by Luigi Spotorno, the author of the book Luigi’s Language of Napkin Folding.  I guess we can all see the message in this heart-shaped napkin and he shows you how to do the heart fold in the video. If you’d rather, Luigi also has a diagram of how to do the heart fold on his website.

The intricate water lily or lotus napkin fold will really impress your darling. It would also make a great centerpiece for the table any time you are entertaining. The video instructions on how to do it are by Luigi Spotorno again, who describes himself a Maestro of the art of napkin folding. In the video, he gives several variations of flowers you can make on your way to building his final lotus napkin. He makes it look so easy too!

Swan napkin foldingSwans mate for life and it’s hard to find a more beautiful bird to symbolize pure romance. This pair of swans is actually folded from paper napkins as you can see from the Origamisan swan napkin folding instructions.  It might be tricky to do with bulkier linen napkins, but using paper napkins means that you can keep the swans after the romantic meal! (Just have another napkin ready to roll out when dinner is served.)

I haven’t tried any of the napkin folding ideas yet. I hope I’m not all thumbs. In case any of my napkins flop and look more like rabbits than swans, I want to remind my husband Greg to remember what I said earlier about the love and thought put into it. :-)

And to show us just what is possible with napkin folding, this amazing Renaissance-style sculpture was completely crafted in linen napkins by virtuoso folder Joan Sallas.

Linen Folding ExhibitionThe Spanish napkin-folding genius showed the 5-foot-high display of a fountain with a lion and griffin at his exhibition in Vienna. Wow. Make a gesture like that for your Valentine’s Day dinner and your sweetheart truly will swoon!

If you enjoyed reading this, you might also get some inspiration from my post on romantic bedroom decor!

Aimee owns EuroLuxAntiques.com with her best friend, Greg.  Aimee sources amazing antique furniture, vintage lighting, & high-quality reproduction furniture to help her customers decorate their homes in a unique way.  She loves her 8 (you read that right) fuzzy children and is renovating a 1920s bungalow in South Carolina. Connect with or you can sign up here to receive this blog in your inbox.

Christmas Cookies and Franklin Nut Cake

We are so lucky at this time of year! Kathy makes tray after tray after tray of Christmas cookies – she likes to give out gifts of cookies to the neighbors. Kathy is Greg’s mom and also our Mrs Fixit who handles all our restorations. Of course, she can’t stand the idea of her family not being able to eat as many cookies as humanly possible.

Kathy makes sugar cookies, oatmeal raisin, peanut butter blossoms, magic cookie bars, gingerbread, the Christmas cookies list goes on and on. However, Greg’s dad John and I agree on our favorite cookie – the white chocolate peanut butter sandwiches. In case you have never tried this scrumptious treat, here is Kathy’s recipe.

Chocolate Peanut Christmas Cookies

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Sandwiches

Decide how many cookies you want to make – you’ll need twice that number of Ritz crackers. Spread peanut butter on half the Ritz crackers and use the other half as sandwich tops. Melt white chocolate in a double boiler. Carefully dip each peanut butter sandwich into the melted chocolate until it is coated, then set on wax paper and top with a pecan. Allow to dry. (Hide them from the family until you want to serve them as they tend to disappear quickly.)

Magic Christmas Cookie BarsGreg’s favorite Christmas cookies are Magic Cookie Bars. These are also pretty darn good, especially if you like coconut.

Kathy’s Magic Cookie Bars

1/2 cup margarine or butter
1 1/2 cups Graham cracker crumbs
1 can sweetened condensed milk
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cup flaked coconut
1 cup chopped nuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (325 degrees for a glass dish). Melt the margarine in the oven in a 13 x 9 inch baking pan. Sprinkle Graham crumbs over the margarine. Pour the condensed milk evenly over the crumbs and then top evenly with remaining ingredients. Press down firmly and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool. Chill if desired. Cut into bars. Store the cookie bars loosely covered at room temperature.

Franklin Nut Cake

However, Kathy doesn’t stop at just Christmas cookies. She also makes fruit cakes and my favorite, Franklin Nut Cake. Greg’s sister Laura and I agree that Franklin Nut Cake is fantastic for breakfast with a steaming cup of coffee – especially if you want to curl up with a good book while you nibble and sip. Franklin Nut Cake is actually a very old family recipe, handed down from Kathy’s mother, Margaret.

Margaret’s Franklin Nut Cake

1 lb. butter
2 cups sugar
6 eggs
4 cups of flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 lb. chopped candied cherries (red and green)
1/2 lb. chopped candied pineapple
1 lb. chopped pecans
2 teaspoons vanilla
NOTE: Save a few whole cherries and pecan halves to decorate the top of the cake.

Cream the butter and sugar, then add the beaten eggs. Add 3 cups of the flour sifted with the baking powder and salt. Mix remaining cup of flour with chopped cherries, pineapple, and nuts. Stir into batter and then add vanilla. Pour into a tube pan that has been heavily greased and floured. Decorate with saved cherries and nuts. Bake in a preheated oven at 250 degrees for 3 hours. Let the cake cool in the pan.

This cake is really rich, moist, and tasty! Even people who don’t like fruit cake love this. John is a case in point.

If you try these Christmas cookies and cake recipes, we’d love to know if you enjoy them! Tell us in the comments box below… or share your own Christmas cookies recipes.

Aimee owns EuroLuxAntiques.com with her best friend, Greg.  Aimee sources amazing antique furniture, vintage lighting, & high-quality reproduction furniture to help her customers decorate their homes in a unique way.  She loves her 8 (you read that right) fuzzy children and is renovating a 1920s bungalow in South Carolina. Connect with or you can sign up here to receive this blog in your inbox.

Old World Christmas Traditions

Greg and I aren’t taking an antiques buying trip to Europe during this holiday season because we’re too busy filling customer orders for gifts. But I love thinking about interesting Old World Christmas traditions – especially the food! It’s fascinating to see the different ways people in France, England, and Italy celebrate the holidays. While some of these Old World Christmas traditions are familiar to us too, at least in certain regions of the USA or Canada, others are less well-known.

Old World Christmas Traditions in France

Old World Christmas Traditions: FranceDid you know that instead of hanging up a stocking for Santa Claus, children in France often leave shoes out by the fireplace for le Père Noël to fill? Around the holidays, French bakeries are busy making Galette des Rois or King’s Cake. The puff pastry cake is filled with frangipane or almond paste to be enjoyed around Epiphany on January 6. That date is also known as Twelfth Night, to close the twelve days of Christmas. The Galette des Rois traditionally had a lucky bean hidden inside it. Over the centuries that changed to a little charm. If you are served the slice with the charm in it, then you are crowned King for the Day!

Old World Christmas Traditions in England

Mince pies: Old World Christmas traditions

It isn’t an English Christmas without a plate of mince pies! The pies are filled with mincemeat — despite the savory-sounding name the tarts are actually a dessert treat. The mincemeat is a sweet blend of dried fruits, spices, and usually a hearty dash of brandy or rum.

Robin and mince pieThe photo of the robin taking a nibble of a mince pie is just so cute, but also the robin is symbolic of Christmas in England. You often see robins on Christmas cards there. European robins are much smaller than our American ones, and they have a deep red breast. Some say the robin’s red breast is associated with the blood of Christ. Others tell the nativity tale, where the night of the holy birth was so cold in the Bethlehem stable that Mother Mary asked the animals to help warm baby Jesus as the fire near the manger started to die out. Then Mary heard the flapping of wings and looked down to see a tiny plain brown bird fanning his wings at the fading embers, till the fire burst up brightly again to warm the Christ child. In the process, a flame burned the robin’s breast a vivid red, the color it has been ever since.

Old World Christmas traditions: Christmas crackersChristmas crackers are also essential to English celebrations. They are ‘cracked’ before Christmas dinner begins, by one person pulling on each end. The cracker splits apart with a bang, and a trinket, a joke, and a paper hat fall out. You often see Christmas crackers in American stores now too. It’s important to realize that you don’t expect the joke to be very good. It’s usually some kind of groaner!

Old World Christmas Traditions in Italy

Old World Christmas traditions: PanettonePanettone is one of the most delicious Italian Christmas treats. The light and fluffy sweetened fruit bread is shaped like a tall puffy chimney. It originated in Milan and some say its long history stretches back as far as Ancient Rome. Panettone appeared in a 16th century Bruegel painting, and was baked for emporers and popes!

Panettone is tasty on its own, usually served with sweet wine or liqueur. You can also make a quick and sophisticated dessert dish by toasting slices of Panettone, and topping them with a fruit compote. Make a compote with frozen or fresh fruit cooked with a little sugar and water, plus some cornstarch to thicken the syrup if needed. Any fruit will work, but frozen mixed summer berries add a festive splash of color and the tart flavor complements the sweet bread. Pears poached in wine would be wonderful too! Then sprinkle some snowy confectioners sugar on top and add a dollop of whipped cream.

Children shepherdsAnother sweet Old World Christmas tradition: Italian children dress up head-to-toe as shepherds when they go carol-singing. Bless them! Then on Christmas Eve, Italian households bring out the Urn of Fate. The Urn of Fate is a large bowl that holds lots of small presents.  Family members take it in turn to take their chance in a kind of lucky dip.

Do you have any favorite Old World Christmas traditions that you enjoy in your family? Tell us about it in the comments box below.

Aimee owns EuroLuxAntiques.com with her husband and best friend, Greg.  Aimee sources amazing antique furniture, vintage lighting, & high-quality reproduction furniture to help her customers decorate their homes in a unique way.  She loves her 8 (you read that right) fuzzy children and is renovating a 1920s bungalow in South Carolina. Connect with or you can sign up here to receive this blog in your inbox.

Downton Abbey Kitchen Style

Downton Abbey posterSo many people are counting down to Downton Abbey’s return to PBS in America in January 2014. I could do a blog post on every room in Downton Abbey! Each one offers such visual delight and tons of inspiration for home decor. But I was fascinated by this article in Antique Trader that says people are clamoring for antique kitchen wares inspired by the Downton Abbey kitchen.

It’s not surprising that the Downton Abbey kitchen is so popular. You can’t deny the visual appeal of all that comforting copper and brass. The sense of authenticity and nostalgia, of a simpler world, is a reassuring contrast to our hustle-bustle high-tech lives. (Although it’s maybe not so much fun to be a servant hard at work downstairs in the Downton Abbey kitchen, under the eagle eye of cook Mrs. Patmore!)

Downton Abbey kitchenFortunately, we can have it all in our homes in the 21st century. Labor-saving gadgets and eye-candy decor! I guess that is why Antique Trader reported that: “Downton Abbey magic continues to seed interest in a broad swath of antique kitchen utensils and artifacts.”

To capture a taste of Downton Abbey kitchen style for your own home, look for old-fashioned utensils like meat grinders and rustic old pitchers. Fill chunky salt pots or salt cellars with large grain or rock salt. The materials are important too… brass, copper, wood, clay… these all give an authentic flavor to your decor.

Vintage copper scuttleCopper creates the perfect accent for a Downton Abbey kitchen. The burnished glow and sturdiness of copper creates a unique sense of warmth. This vintage French copper scuttle in our gallery gives you an idea. It would make a terrific planter too, with the winged dragon detail on the side.

Vintage copper brass pitcher

Display a few well-loved pitchers like this vintage copper and brass pitcher on your Downton Abbey kitchen table or shelves to add yet more Old World charm. The simple Country style and warm-hued metal is timeless, and the occasional small ding is part of the authentic allure. It proves that this long-ago crafted pitcher hasn’t just dropped off a shelf in a big box store, but has a history of its own.

antique enamelware kettle You can’t have a Downton Abbey kitchen without a genuine tea kettle. Those Brits are crazy for their tea, and with all that drama going on in the house, they need all the reviving tea they can get! In any case, a kettle always adds a welcoming note to kitchen decor. We found this 1920s enamelware kettle with gold stripes at an antiques market in France. Enamelware is always a good choice for an antique-style kitchen as it is so cozy and homey.

The charming antique French Country copper kettle below is more than a century old! It dates to 1900, and I wonder what stories it could tell about who has enjoyed the many cups of tea it has served from that pretty spout.antique copper kettle

Again, it has the genuine old-fashioned appeal to add a distinctive touch to someone’s Downton Abbey kitchen. I can just imagine Mrs. Patmore putting that tea kettle on the hob while she teaches Daisy how to make pie crust (they call it pastry in England) or gives Thomas a piece of her mind!

Do you like the Downton Abbey kitchen style? Are you especially inspired by antique kitchen wares? Perhaps you have an heirloom piece from your grandmother handed down that you still use today? Tell us about it in the comments box below.

Aimee owns EuroLuxAntiques.com with her husband and best friend, Greg.  Aimee sources amazing antique furniture, vintage lighting, & high-quality reproduction furniture to help her customers decorate their homes in a unique way.  She loves her 8 (you read that right) fuzzy children and is renovating a 1920s bungalow in South Carolina. Connect with or you can sign up here to receive this blog in your inbox.

Celebrating Beaujolais Nouveau Day!

Beaujolais Nouveau Day is around the corner, on November 21, 2013. That’s the day that this year’s Beaujolais Nouveau wines are released and festivals and events take place across Europe and in U.S. cities from Boston to Seattle.

Beaujolais Nouveau Day The French are protective about their wine. In fact, it’s written into French law that each year’s Beaujolais Nouveau cannot be released until exactly 12:01 am on the third Thursday of November!

The event is marked in France by fireworks and celebrations. For decades, vintners have raced to be the first to get their Beaujolais Nouveau wines on the tables of restaurants in Paris. Later, the race extended across the channel to London. Now it seems like it’s one big world-wide sprint to get the bottles out to all corners, so wine revelers can cheer: “Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé!”

Beaujolais Nouveau Day Poster
The timing is great for American Thanksgiving Day, as Beaujolais Nouveau is said to pair well with turkey. Hats off to the French for their canny marketing techniques! A century ago, the wine, made of hand-picked Gamay grapes, was just a humble table wine made by Beaujolais locals for their own enjoyment, to celebrate the end of the harvest. Now it’s an international star. The young wine is generally best enjoyed by the May of the following year.

Whether you like Beaujolais Nouveau or prefer a more mature wine, we think any excuse for a celebration is good enough. So you can always get in the spirit by raising a glass of your favorite Napa Valley red in honor of Beaujolais Nouveau Day!

Woodbridge Bar StoolWhile we’re talking about wine, I had to share a photo of this new wine glass bar stool that is in our gallery, because the cut-out design on the back is so charming and clever. It’s perfect for a wine celebration or for a wine-lover’s home! Crafted by Woodbridge Furniture Company, the solid wood bar stool has a hand-rubbed and waxed distressed finish, so it looks like it could have come from an old Parisian bistro or wine bar. (We have this design in a counter-height stool too.)

Although I appreciate wine, I doubt that Beaujolais Nouveau will be on our Thanksgiving table. Greg and I will be enjoying Uncle Dick’s Famous Bloody Mary recipe, as you can see in my earlier post!

Ambella Home Enoteca Wine CabinetBut I know that many of our customers are real wine connoisseurs. I would love to have a large enough wine collection to take advantage of this incredible new Ambella Home Enoteca bar cabinet. (We recently added the Ambella Home Collection line of furniture to our gallery, as the quality, design, and craftsmanship meet our high standards!) The 8-foot-tall bar features tons of wine cradles, storage cabinets, and racks to hang stemware.

French Wine Server

 

 

I think this new, reproduction French server/sideboard with a built-in wine rack is more my size! With the whitewash finish on the wood and a lovely limestone tile top, the server looks as if it would be quite at home in a French farmhouse in wine country.

All this talk of wine has made me thirsty! A votre santé! If you celebrate Beaujolais Nouveau Day, we’d love to hear how you do it. Tell us in the comments box below.

Aimee owns EuroLuxAntiques.com with her best friend, Greg.  Aimee sources amazing antique furniture, vintage lighting, & high-quality reproduction furniture to help her customers decorate their homes in a unique way.  She loves her 8 (you read that right) fuzzy children and is renovating a 1920s bungalow in South Carolina. Connect with or you can sign up here to receive this blog in your inbox.