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Have You Seen These French Ceramics Yet?

French street
It’s hard for me to resist anything French. Wine, cheese, brandy, ceramics, art… the list goes on and on. Thankfully I can get my fix stateside for la vie française with events like Bar Agricole’s recent Brandyfest (Armagnac remains a favorite from my time living in Orthez), visiting with Francophone friends, and using lovely French ceramics. Have a similar love of all things French? Then check out these gems:

French country window

French ceramic watering jugs

French watering jugs

Richard Esteban brings function and flair to the mundane task of watering. These exposed terracotta watering jugs are accented with Richard’s signature butter yellow, adding style to the next time your houseplants get a drink. These French ceramics are so lovely they’d also be fantastic on display in a garden-themed room or filled with beautiful flowers. Two sizes make for versatility.

French ceramic cheese plates

French ceramic cheese platter

In college I had a poster with all 300 cheeses of France on my wall. It was a large poster. French cheese plates are the perfect compliment to your favorite Camembert, comté, or chèvre. Use small cheese plates for two or three cheeses, medium plates for three or four, and large plates for five or more cheeses with accompanying fruit, nuts, or honey. Pair with wine for a delicious beginning or end to a meal.

French cheeses

French ceramic pitchers

Poterie Ravel’s bright, bold colors set their signature French ceramics apart from the rest. Their canary yellow pitchers beg to sit on the kitchen table throughout gray, cold months (fall and winter for most, often June and July here in San Francisco), acting like a ray of permanent sunshine. If whimsy is more your style, Sylvie Duriez’s unique French ceramics are perfect. Her animals and flowers make Provence feel like it’s right there, instead of an ocean away. I particularly love this collection of three lily pad pitchers. They’re the perfect mix of chic, charm, and functionality.

French ceramics: Sylvie

What are your favorite French things? Check out the Emilia Ceramics collection of French ceramics for more ways to bring France and Provence to your home or our France board on Pinterest if you need a mini-French vacation tout de suite.

French cheese image courtesy x1klima via Compfight cc.

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Ceramic Cheese Platters in the Spotlight

ceramic cheese platters

I don’t know what it is about the change of season, but at the onset of spring, summer, fall and winter, I just want to refresh and revamp. Now, with summer here, I have entertaining on the brain. Time to celebrate warm weather, blooming flowers, an abundance of vegetables and fresh cheese from happy cows.

Cheese – and any other summery offering – has never looked as good as it does on these stunning ceramic cheese platters. Each of these platters are hand painted by one of our uniquely selected artisans, and all of them are of the highest quality. I love how multifunctional they are!

It’s so hard to choose which to add to my ceramic cheese platter collection. Could you help me?

How about one these fruit-inspired cheese platters?

ceramic cheese platters

L to R: Oval Serving Platter with OrangesSquare Limoni Platter, Square Due Limoni Platter

I’m loving these orange cheese platters too. Orange is my favorite color….

ceramic cheese platters

L to R: Small Petal Platter – Burnt HoneyFish Platter – Burnt HoneySmall Cheese Plate – Burnt Honey

Or maybe one of these red platters for Fourth of July entertaining?

ceramic cheese platters

L to R: Cherry Red Long PlatterCharger with Red StripeFish Platter – Barn Red

Ahhh, one of these platters could make my neighbors green with envy….

ceramic cheese platters

 L to R: Cucumber Long Platter with Floral ReliefSmall Cheese Plate – Lime GreenSmall Petal Platter – Lime Green

Actually, one of these beautifully, hand decorated cheese platters could be just right!

ceramic cheese platters

L to R: Beatrice Serving PlateScalloped Serving Plate – La FlorEl Baile Serving Plate

No matter which ceramic cheese platter makes the cut, I LOVE knowing that I will be passing this quality piece down to my children. Adding quality pieces to our collection makes me feel good inside.

So, which cheese platter would you choose?

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Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas Beyond the Clichés


Roses are red (and tired), chocolates are cliché. What Valentine’s Day gift ideas do you have for this year? If you’re stumped (or want to give some gentle hints), try one of these swaps for your sweetheart this year.

Instead of chocolates, try cheese.

Does she love brie? Maybe he adores Roquefort. For fans of cheese, a cheese plate paired with a specialized server or two will get plenty of use during your dinner parties or intimate evenings in. And unlike a box of chocolates, a good cheese plate and cheese knives will last for years instead of days.

barn_red_cheese_plate

Instead of a bottle of wine, try cups to toast your love.

Ok, if you both like wine, why not add some new ways to drink your favorite vintage this Valentine’s Day? Stemless wine glasses are always a good move (and won’t break in your dishwasher). I’m also loving these rustic chic vino cups and wine pitcher by Ceramica Valenciana.

Whatever kind of wine vessels you choose, take my advice and avoid black glass. They look great, but it’s impossible to tell what’s inside, which becomes a problem when you need to tell the red from the white.

Instead of a necklace, try a jewelry box.

Maybe she has an entire collection of jewelry from all the time you’ve spent together. A jewelry box that matches her personal style prepares for many more beautiful pieces to come. Think about specialized storage for the pieces she collects. Earrings do well hanging on a tree while rings and bracelets are right at home in a smaller box.

unique vases

 

Instead of flowers, try a unique vase.

Flowers fade, but a vase is a great way to make a lasting statement. Try giving your bouquet in a vase suited to the style of your recipient (and the flowers inside). Whether covered in ornate patterns or a single shade, made of ceramic, glass, or another material, these gift ideas have endless possibilities.

Instead of dinner out, try breakfast in.

Valentine’s Day is on a Friday this year, so instead of going out that evening, have a special breakfast the next morning. Serve your sweetheart coffee or tea out of new mugs just for the occasion. A red and white espresso cup is festive; blue and white mugs are also sure to please. Other gift ideas from kitchen accessories to table cloths can also feature in your morning repast. Add some mimosas and you’re ready to go!

 

Still stumped for gift ideas? Try one of our new gift cards. They always fit and that way your love can truly get their heart’s desire (at least ceramic-wise).

Heart image courtesy Muffet.

Breakfast image courtesy Will Merydith.

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Our Grand Opening Party!

IMG_3943Last Wednesday, we celebrated the official opening of the Boulder Showroom (above). We were so excited by the turnout — lots of new friends (and some old ones) stopped by to see the new Emilia Ceramics headquarters, enjoy some yummy Spanish wine (in honor of the arrival of our Ceramica Valenciana shipment… stay tuned for details) and lots of cheese!

left_window_display_2In preparation for the event, I made my new space holiday-ready, with garlands and lights around the windows, a little Christmas tree in my favorite Mexican planter, and some festive flowers. I received lots of compliments on all I’ve done to make both the outside and inside of the shop feel like a small piece of Provence. The nice sentiments were much appreciated… after the last few months of making 2232 Pearl Street into Emilia Ceramics’ new home, I was feeling pretty proud!

As for refreshments, I decided to keep it simple. I had 3 different types of cheeses (blue, brie, and manchego), grapes, dates, and marcona almonds (are you sensing the Spanish theme?). Oh and cookies of course! For drinks, my guests could choose between Rioja, a Spanish white (which went especially well with the blue cheese), Sauvignon Blanc, sparkling water, fresh water, and Anchorsteam beer (a nod to my San Francisco roots).

food_table

That’s where the fun part began… choosing ceramics to use for serving! I decided on two of my favorite serving platters: Richard Esteban’s Large Cheese Plate in Barn Red and  Ceramiche Bartoloni’s Foglia e Frutta Footed Platter with Angel. I absolutely LOVE Richard’s ceramic cheese platters, regardless of color or size. Each has a rustic individuality that is both subtle (won’t over-shadow the food you’re serving) and super sophisticated. With my color palette of black, white, and red, the barn red cheese plate looked perfect.

barn_red_cheese_platecheese
I chose the Bartoloni’s footed platter because I love creating multiple dimensions. How boring is a buffet table where everything is flat? I like mixing and matching heights so the food looks as good as it tastes.

wine_beer

Finally, I used one of Tuscia’s beautiful planters — the Blue Leaf Planter — as an ice chest to keep white wine and beer chilled. You’d think the Italian artists had made it for this exact purpose!

All in all, the party was a ton of fun! And judging by how exhausted I was afterward, I consider it a huge success!

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5 Party Planning Tips from Our Boulder Showroom Grand Opening

Emilia Ceramics Boulder Showroom Grand Opening
Who can resist throwing a party? With our Emilia Ceramics Boulder Showroom Grand Opening mere days away, I’m in total party-planner mode. Please join us this Wednesday if you’ll be in Boulder. Can’t make it? Here are five party tips to make your next celebration just as fun as our handmade ceramic bash.

  1. Have plenty of drinks but not too many options. Whether wine, beer, or cocktails, make sure you have more liquid than you think you might need. There’s nothing worse than a party that runs dry! Aim for about 1.5 drinks per guest per hour; one bottle of wine is about 5 drinks. Keep the choices simple with only 2 to 3 options, otherwise you’ll most likely end up with a surplus of one beverage over the others. Always have at least one non-alcoholic option besides water for those who don’t drink or are driving. A delicious tall pitcher of lemonade is always a favorite. If you’ll have 25 guests, 2 gallons should be plenty for the event.wine glass
  2. Scatter the snacks around. Platters full of snacks in different areas will encourage guests to circulate instead of clustering around a single food source. Multiple platters with repeated snacks (chips and salsa, hors d’oeuvres, or bite-sized desserts) are always a good move. If you’re a fan of a cheese platter remember the four parts for success: the cheese, the vehicle (crackers or bread), something sweet (fruit), and something crunchy (nuts). Mix several cheeses on one board or have multiple cheese plates showcasing a single favorite.cheese plate
  3. Embrace labels. So many people have food sensitivities these days, so it pays to clearly label everything. Small signs are classic, or use a roll of craft paper under your platters with contents clearly signaled. Otherwise you’ll find yourself repeating the same information throughout the event.
  4. Fill up a few black & white striped vases. Fresh flowers make even the most ordinary day feel special. Bold, colorful blooms particularly stand out when arranged in an appropriately sized black white striped vase. I love mixing different shapes of flowers and vases; this large black and white striped vase is stunning with sunflowers and this little round vase perfect for just a couple small flowers.black white striped vase
  5. Set the music and forget it. Background music sets the tone, so think about what suits the mood of your event. Keep the volume at a level where people can comfortably converse. No one wants to scream in front of a stack of speakers. Pandora (with no commercials!) is a favorite of mine; I have a great party station based on Pink Martini’s smooth grooves. If you’re crafting your own playlist, aim for about 4-5 hours worth of music. The people that are still around from the beginning will be having such a good time they won’t realize the music is starting to repeat.

What are your party planning secrets? Share your best advice with a comment below or just tell us in person tomorrow at our fête.

Wine glass image courtesy Dave Dugdale.

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Customer Spotlight: Your Favorite Uses for Serving Trays

I know my favorite ways to use Italian blue and white ceramics (like a blue and white mug for my morning coffee), but it’s always great to hear from customers about ways they use ceramics in their daily lives. Recently people have let me know about the ways they entertain with their favorite pieces, from square serving trays to blue and white ceramic bowls, so I wanted to share some of their stories with you.

At the Brown house, family dinner often involves a mix of ceramics. They mix and match serving trays from Gorky Gonzalez for mains and sides (and dinner in this photo certainly looks delicious!). The rounded shape of this rectangular serving platter makes it perfect for vegetables or desserts alike while the sloped sides of the oval serving dish keep sauces nicely contained for your main course. Even with different designs, the blue and white ties these serving trays together for a stylish meal everyday.

“Sometimes bigger really is better,” Michael wrote about his fish platter by Richard Esteban. He went on to say that this oval serving tray “is great for summer salads when I have people over for a barbeque.” I think this salad looks super delicious with the one-of-a-kind decoration around the edge. Other large trays, like this unusually shaped mustard yellow serving tray by Poterie Ravel, are ideal for handling the fixings for burgers, tacos, or other customizable meals.

On Facebook, Sarah told her secret for throwing a great party: “a beautiful Italian platter with yummy cheese and crackers.” This technique works well for a wine and cheese party, casual get together, or special occasion like a birthday, anniversary or engagement celebration. Square serving trays by Ceramiche Bartoloni with their cheerful lemons or Italian blue and white ceramics decorated with fruit motifs are great ways to use Sarah’s tip. Compliment your cheese and crackers with Italian blue and white ceramic bowls like this one with cheerful lemons.

Many thanks to all of you who have written in about how you use your ceramics and posted pictures on Facebook. Want to share your favorite uses for rectangular serving platters, Italian blue and white ceramics, or salad bowls? Simply leave a comment below!

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How to Throw the Perfect Wine and Cheese Party

There are few things that are more delicious than the pairing of cheese and wine, so it’s no wonder that this duo is the star of so many parties. You don’t need to be an expert to love the idea of wine and cheese, or to throw a fabulous wine and cheese party. Some plates, bowls, glasses, and bottles and you’re already well on your way.

Here are six ideas to make your cheese and wine party a success:

1. Leave out the snobbery. Experts can clearly articulate what makes up a wine’s “nose,” but many of us casual wine drinkers prefer to just enjoy the wine, regardless of its subtle nuances of aroma and taste. The look, swirl, smell, taste method is classic, but encourage people to share what they think using their own vocabulary. One trick I’ve seen is to cover all the bottle labels with a wine bottle holder or paper and only mark the grape (or just a number) so that people can form their own opinions without being swayed as to the wine’s region or brand.
2. Share the work. My favorite cheese and wine parties involve the guests bringing a bottle and a cheese based on a theme. It could be as simple as “red” or “Sauvignon Blanc” or get more complicated with a night dedicated to Spanish reds, New Zealand whites, Californian Wines, or bottles from 2008 only. This ad hoc approach can create some interesting (and delicious) cheese plates as well.wine tasting party idea
3. Arrange your plates in threes. Construct an appealing cheese plate with this simple rule. Have at least three things on your plate (more if it’s big) – two cheeses and one fruit, three cheeses, one cheese with some nuts and honey, you get the idea. Make sure to have a separate knife for each cheese on the plate to prevent mixing.4. Bring on the extras. Fill plates and bowls around the room with fruits, nuts, crackers, bread, and other accompaniments for your cheese and wine. Sliced apples, grapes, and dried fruits are a good starting point and can lead to some complex pairings. Some chèvre and grapes on a plate and a large bowl of fresh sliced baguette always appeals.

5. Let guests know what things are. Clearly label everything from your cheese plate to your non-alcoholic options to help people find their favorites (and know the real name of that amazingly stinky cheese). If you’re providing the wine and cheese yourself, use chalkboard contact paper as a runner to construct a clearly marked table before guests arrive. This tip from Rock UR Party also lets you draw arrows to what foods pair best with which bottles – it’s smart and fun.
6. Label your glasses. From wine charms to ribbons, even using a sharpie (it should wash off) or chalkboard paint to label the glass, there are plenty of ways to help everyone keep track of their own glasses. Pick your favorite (and make sure you have a few extra glasses in case a few end up lost regardless).

Do you have any wine and cheese party tips? Favorite plates you use? Leave a comment and let us know (and enjoy that glass of vino)!

Wine bottles and glasses image courtesy of .craig.

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Blue and White Serving Platters with a French Twist

Need a surefire way to make your food look better? Reach for blue and white serving platters. This color combination is elegant and versatile, adapting to any occasion from a formal dinner to an impromptu barbeque with friends. If you want your serving plates to really stand out, I love those with some French flair, like the large serving platters by Richard Esteban or white platters by Poterie Ravel and Patrice Voekel. These take a common color combination and turn it into something that feels unique and truly special.

So how do you determine the right blue and white serving platters to meet your needs? Whether you’re looking for white platters, unusually shaped ceramic dishes, or especially large serving platters, there is a whole range of options. Here are three tips for choosing French serving plates that are both practical and fun to use.

Have at least one large serving platter. These are the workhorses of entertaining, holding a range of appetizers at a party or showcasing a main dish at dinner. Because you can load them up, large serving platters can save on table space and make passing food around simple. The teal fish serving platter is a perfect example of this type. It’s 19 inches long, giving your food plenty of room, and the border adds a hint of sophistication that’s unexpected. Another great large serving platter is the petal platter; its slightly sloping sides are equally good for meats that have sauces or assortments of cookies.

Aim for multifunctional pieces. The best ceramic dishes are ones that you can use everyday. Pick a decorative blue and white serving platter and then hang it on the kitchen wall when you don’t need it for serving. A white platter like this footed piece elegantly holds fruit during the week on a table or counter, but also wonderfully highlights desserts when you have guests. Choose serving plates that do many things and they won’t get lost in the back of a cabinet, just taking up space.

Everyone can use a cheese plate. Cheese assortments are an easy way to create elegance at your next gathering. Pick the right size for your needs – these serving plates should have ample room for multiple cheeses as well as your favorite garnishes (fruits, nuts, and honey are all good pairing ideas). A small cheese plate holds 2-3 varieties, while a large cheese plate can take center stage with 4 or more of your favorites.

Don’t use this ceramic dish as a place to slice bread though; that’s bad for your knives. A rustic cutting board or pre-sliced baguette and crackers look better and will keep the crumbs out of the cheeses. These serving plates definitely add the perfect French note to any party, especially when filled with your favorite French cheeses.

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The 4 Blue and White Ceramics We Love for July 4th and Beyond

Even though July 4th was on a Wednesday this year (an awkward time in terms of making it into a three- or four-day weekend), there were still plenty of parties to be had. Whether a causal potluck or a huge barbeque with all your friends and family, it’s likely that you spent the 4th with good people eating good food.

So what does that have to do with blue and white ceramics? Well, with all the serving plates, trays, and platters that entertaining requires, blue and white ceramics are a natural fit. Add some red accents and you have an instant patriotic spread of tasty treats, no matter the kind of occasion or food that you’re serving. The red, white, and blue also works perfectly for that French Bastille Day party you might have on July 14 (there’s still time to plan one!).

Looking to prepare for your next summer fête? Then look no further than these party-ready blue and white ceramics. They make any occasion just a little more festive.

  1. Footed ceramic serving platters: These serving plates literally take the cake, showcasing the delicious frosted creation you (or your favorite bakery) created for the occasion. Footed platters give your spread height and save space on your table or buffet. The blue and white background of this ceramic serving platter by Tuscia d’Arte adds an ornate note to cakes, pies, or even just a pile of cookies. The simple lines and ivory glaze of Poterie Ravel’s footed ceramic serving platter is also striking filled with desserts or a pile of fresh fruit.
  2. Unusually shaped food trays: Who says a serving tray needs to be rectangular? A variety of dinner platter shapes makes any party much more interesting, whether you group foods by type or color. The petal shape of this ceramic serving platter by Richard Esteban stands out, making it great for a selection of canapés or an entrée (like that whole chicken right off the grill). Another popular serving tray is the long platter from Gorky’s Gogo collection. The deep blue and shape looks perfect with raw vegetables surrounded by delicious dips or holding crackers and bread slices.
  3. Round serving plates: The handles on this teal cheese platter make it a blue and white ceramic that’s easy to carry out to your backyard picnic table. Use this kind of serving tray for hamburger fixings, after dinner cheeses, or as another way to showcase those mini cupcakes your guests can’t resist.
  4. Blue and white ceramic bowls: Of course, serving platters only get you so far. Blue and white ceramic bowls, whether small (for dips) or large (for a tasty salad) are another essential. The festive print of this blue and white ceramic salad bowl makes it a real winner, even if it’s just holding the chips.

Fireworks image courtesy of bayassa.

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The Best Ceramics to Buy for Your Collection

I’ve been thinking more about the variety of people who collect ceramics since my last post on Design Miami/Basel 2012. While acclaimed new artists or valuable antique pieces might be ceramics to buy for an established collection, what ceramics should you buy if you’re just starting out?

The first question to ask yourself is simply what do you like? Do you have a favorite color, animal, shape, or country? Many people who buy ceramics online are looking specifically for pieces with Italian roosters, while others have collections that are just blue and white, yellow, or another favored color combination. Maybe you want your collection to reflect your French country décor or make your home feel like a Mexican hacienda. If you’re struggling to find a guiding principal for what ceramics to buy, it’s more important to focus on what you actually like instead of something that’s been designated “valuable” by the dealers.

I don’t think there are any secrets or hard and fast rules about ceramic collecting, but here are my top tips for getting a good start when it comes to buying ceramics, no matter what you like:

Start small.

A great ceramics collection doesn’t happen overnight, even though you can buy ceramics online. Pick a few pieces that appeal to you and that you’ll use. Coffee mugs are ceramics many buy to start off a collection – with all the personalization it’s easy to find a few that you like (and find the space to keep them).

Reward your rituals.

Mugs are also popular ceramics because people tend to use them every day. Think about your daily rituals and what ceramics to buy that you can easily incorporate into these rituals. Morning toast is more special on a handmade ceramic plate; cereal tastes better in unique small bowls. When you buy ceramics that you actually use, your collection will grow organically and you’ll be able to enjoy it everyday.

Have pieces to share.

There’s nothing better than having friends or family sharing a meal together. When thinking of ceramics to buy, a few great serving dishes are simply a must. Large serving platters handle entrees or lots of little appetizers.

Serving bowls are ideal for salads or pasta dishes. And then there are cheese platters and footed platters (perfect for displaying fruits on the table).

Think about display.

Don’t keep your ceramics collection hidden deep in closed cupboards! Hanging ceramic platters on the wall when not in use or keeping mugs on a rack or exposed shelf allows the ceramics you buy to become a daily part of your décor. Large collections can take over a china cabinet, kitchen wall, or sideboard, adding some personality to any space in your home.

Do you collect ceramics? What ceramics do you buy? Leave a comment to let us know!

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French Ceramics at Design Miami/Basel 2012

Did you make it to Design Miami/Basel 2012? This international forum on art took place in Basel, Switzerland June 12-17 with a whole host of furniture and other objects on display from almost 40 galleries, Design Talks, performances, and more. I was curious to note the strong presence of French ceramics in this year’s show and decided it was worth taking a closer look.

One of the things I like about Design Miami/Basel 2012 is that it’s not just about contemporary design, but pieces and movements from the 20th century to today. The strong French design presence with works by Jean Prouvé, Maria Pergay, and Roger Tallon (who designed Air France interiors, the French high-speed train TGV, and the Mexico City subway, among other major public commissions) really dominated this year, according to The New York Times. These iconic designers have an industrial feel that somehow also translates into timeless appeal. Pergay’s work with stainless steel is truly stunning, like her “flying carpet” daybed and other shiny furnishings – if you’re not familiar with her work (as is the case with many Americans), I recommend looking up her unique creations to see more for yourself.

But this design fair isn’t just about furniture. French ceramics were just some of the many smaller pieces on offer, with other ceramic work from places like Korea, Sweden, and Japan. On the last day of the fair there was even a talk called “Collecting 20th and 21st Century Ceramics” which discussed the evolution of the form and international ceramic styles.

As with other discussions around design and French ceramics, function and form come into question. Is this an art, a craft, or a combination of both? Looking at some of the pieces on offer, I am personally drawn to those that can be used. The delicate porcelain bowl, the smooth flowing vases with solid color glazes, and the stacked plates all are true highlights of this design fair in my opinion. They look great on display, but also in use.

Thus, inspired by all the great design of Design Miami/Basel 2012, I present you my own selection of French ceramics that fit into the aesthetics displayed there:

The simplicity of the celadon pitcher and fluted bowl by Poterie Ravel are definitely elegant, while cheerful yellow plates and bowls add unexpected fun to these appealing French ceramics.

Sylvie’s modern, minimalist Sunrise platter is a one of a kind gem that bridges that gap between form and function, looking beautiful on the wall or the table. In keeping with smooth glazes and solid colors, look no further than the burnt honey round vase, petal platter, and cheese plate by Richard Esteban. These French ceramics all have a touchable appeal and exude a real warmth.

With all these accessible, artistic French ceramics, it’s hard to decide on a “best in show” for French ceramics that fits in with the pieces on display at Design Miami/Basel 2012. But I think the winner would be the chalk white shallow dish by Patrice Voelkel (pictured at the top of this post). Stark and minimal, yet also inviting, it’s a piece worth collecting even if not displayed in a design fair tent.

What do you think of the offerings at Design Miami/Basel this year? Leave a comment and let us know!

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A Plate for Every Occasion

I love a good-looking table, whether it’s for a champagne brunch or an intimate dinner. Besides serving dishes, plates are the big stars when it comes to making a table with personality. Easily overlooked, these dining essentials can be a simple way to inject some excitement into your meal. Let’s look at the different types of plates and the roles they play when it comes to making a dining experience that everyone will remember.

Serving plates

Often the biggest plates, a serving plate handles main dishes and sides with ease. Your roast or pasta primavera never looked so tasty. Serving dishes are also a party essential for finger foods and desserts. A sideboard with cheeses, bread, canapés, and other nibbles makes even the most causal gathering feel just a little more festive.

Dinner plates

These are the workhorses of the plate world. Dinner plates aren’t just for dinner, of course, appearing at most meals (though I stick to a bowl for my morning cereal). Mixing dinner plate patterns can be a fun way to make your table a little more unique. Kids especially like plates with pictures or different designs (though these plates can still have a grown-up feel). Whether you choose solid colors or patterns, use dinner plates as the core building block for your table design.

Salad plates

Slightly smaller than dinner plates, salad plates are a great way to keep courses separate. Whether you eat your salad before the meal or after (like they do in Europe), this plate is the perfect size for greens. If using salad plates for a starter, stacking them on dinner plates makes for a colorful table.

Dessert plates

The smallest plate in the set, dessert plates are sized to make your sweets look the perfect size.

I also use dessert plates as bread plates at a more formal dinner party or for toast in the morning. Fun motifs make dessert plates just a little sweeter, giving the perfect finishing note to the meal.

Wall plates

Any plate can be a wall plate, though often they have intricate designs or pictures. Unusual shapes (like this Limoni rounded square plate) also make for great display plates. Hanging or mounting plates can be a fun way to decorate a kitchen or dining room, making your favorite plates part of your daily life. Wall plates also make great gifts for any occasion (and serve a dual purpose as tableware and art – how’s that for smart giving?).

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Serving Plate Trends: Best and Worst

Serving plates are a key element for any party, whether you’re serving simple appetizers or a formal dinner. I’m sure you’ve been to an event where the serving ware didn’t quite match the contents and everything just felt a little off. Perhaps there was a large serving platter with only a few things on it, so the food looked dwarfed and scanty. Or a tray that was supposed to be passed was just too heavy to comfortably lift. Or a beautiful platter heaped with a pyramid of canapés that looked like it would collapse if anyone touched it… so nobody did the entire time.

While white platters are classic when it comes to entertaining, I’ve been thinking about some other trends in how to serve guests in a way that compliments the food, looks chic, and adds to the atmosphere of the event (even if it’s just family dinner). Here are some current trends to love (as well as some to skip) when it comes to serving plates and platters:

Blue and white serving platters. I’ve written about the versatility of blue and white serving platters for everything from watching “the big game” to having an elegant cocktail party. People love this color combination and it makes food look even more delicious. Mixing blue and white serving platters into an existing all-white set makes for a more dynamic table setting or buffet.

Cheese Plate Slate Chalk Food Macro January 23, 20111Slate. There are some great uses for slate platters, like labeling your cheeses for your guests. A piece of chalk and everyone knows that’s Roquefort, not another blue cheese. But when it comes to individual plates, I tend to agree with David Lebovitz’s take on this trend. Not only are slate plates hard to pick up from the table, they make poor cutting surfaces for a steak entrée or other food that needs cutting. Knives across a chalkboard is not a good dining sound, so I say keep these serving plates for cheeses or other stationary items only.

Meat + Cheese TrayBamboo. Wooden serving trays have always been a good way to transport breakfast in bed or a tea service to your company. Bamboo is not only good for the environment as a renewable resource; it looks streamlined with interesting stripe patterns and real durability. I have a large bamboo cutting board I always use for slicing fresh bread for parties (it looks fantastic with my blue and white serving platters too!).

Overly-specialized serving plates. While I think that having the right tool for the job is great, there’s no sense in wasting storage space on a piece that has no versatility. A good example is this ridiculous champagne and sushi serving platter (unless of course, you throw champagne and sushi parties often!). Functionality is also important. How frustrating is the chip and dip bowl where the dip hangs over the chips and drips onto the chips? No one wants to eat that. Just use a dip bowl next to a larger serving bowl and the problem is solved. Choose serving platters that are versatile and functional so you’ll actually use them.

Slate cheese tray image courtesy of Steven Depolo.

Bamboo serving tray image courtesy of Eric Kilby.

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A Few of My Favorite (French) Things…

Back in September, I took an amazing buying trip to Provence. I revisited my favorite artists: Sylvie Duriez, Patrice Voelkel, Richard Esteban, and the 5th-generation family-run Poterie Ravel. It’s difficult not to overbuy on a trip like that. I was overwhelmed by the creativity of each artist and just kept falling in love with one piece after another. By the end of the trip, I was pretty convinced that I had bought way too much. But as it turns out, that’s nearly impossible. You just can’t buy too much of the beautiful ceramics these French artists are creating. I am constantly blown away by the color and creativity surrounding me in my pop-up shop in Palo Alto and my customers have absolutely loved my French finds. Speaking of the shop, it is closing next Wednesday, March 14th. So if you’re in the Palo Alto area, now’s your last chance to stop by. As for the rest of you, here are a few of my favorite new French ceramics… most of which are now available online.

Pitchers with Personality.

I fell in love with the Three Hearts Pitcher (above left) in Sylvie’s workshop and had to convince her to sell it to me. It is packed with personality (like all of Sylvie’s pieces) and defines one-of-a-kind. It combines fun with authentic and raw emotion all at once. And don’t even get me started on Patrice Voelkel’s large pitcher in (what I’m calling) dark cranberry (above right). The soft glaze on this pitcher is irresistible and the shape is both functional and absolutely breathtaking. These two pitchers are everything a pitcher should be: useful, beautiful, artistic, and individual. In addition to these attributes, they convey a rustic and earthy quality that communicates pure Provencal personality.

Functional and Fun Platters.

 

Continuing the theme of soft and inviting glazes, Richard Esteban’s platters are beautiful pieces to look at, but even better to use. The large petal platter (above right) is just begging for a selection of charcuterie or a main dish like roast chicken. The cheese plate (photo on the left) boasts a fresh, spring-inspired glaze with rustic flecks of brown around the edges. If appetizers of cheese and fruit are your kind of thing, then this serving platter is perfect. I love the way the green makes a relaxing backdrop for the more elaborate Limoni plates and mugs by Ceramiche Bartoloni.

Everyday Pieces You’ll Want to Use… Everyday.

  Whether for cereal, ice cream, snacks, or dipping sauces, the polka-dot bowls in 3 different sizes will bring a smile to your face all day long. Our new arrivals from France also include polka-dot mugs, creamers, plates, and pitchers. Mix and match the polka-dots with plates depicting birds, houses and dogs for a dinner table that is as interesting as the people gathered at it.

Artwork You Can Eat Off, But May Not Want To.

While hand-thrown with the intention that they get used as serving dishes, bowls, pitchers, and creamers, nobody can deny that Sylvie’s pieces are first and foremost works of art. The bowls pictured here are perfect examples – whether depicting birds chatting happily on a flowering branch or expressive (and oh-so-French) women lounging on a lazy afternoon, her soft, watercolor-like glaze transports us much like a painting on a canvas would do.

One reason I have always loved Sylvie’s pitchers is simply that they can be looked at and used simultaneously. Both the mini pitchers and small pitchers are great as creamers or to hold a small bouquet of flowers. The whimsical paintings are pure delight.

I always suggest Sylvie’s one-of-a-kind artwork to customers looking for the perfect birthday or Mother’s Day gift. They are unique, expressive, and unfortunately, almost completely sold-out after my extended season in the pop-up shop! Click here to see what’s left.

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The Versatility of Blue and White Serving Trays and Platters

Blue and white ceramics remain a popular choice for home decor. From serving plates to mugs, dinner platters to vases, the color combination is crisp and cool. With such easy elegance, it’s understandable that people often chose blue and white ceramics for entertaining. Whether it’s serving your family dinner or serving fancy hors d’oeuvres at a party, blue and white serving plates and food trays can dress up or down to fit the occasion. Here are some of my favorite blue and white ceramic serving platters and ways to use them. What ideas fit your lifestyle?

Football fiesta

Okay, so the Superbowl has passed, but my favorite sport’s season is in its heyday — yes, March Madness is right around the corner! A bowl of chips and salsa, some wings, maybe these delicious looking mini pigs in a blanket, and drinks – you’re ready to go. Causal and sturdy pieces are best for displaying all your finger food options, like this blue and white ceramic serving platter. The festive motif fits perfectly with any party (and won’t break easily if it gets knocked off the table in all the excitement).

Ladies’ tea party

Maybe you have a book club or just a group of girlfriends that like to get together regularly. I love grown-up tea parties with a giant teapot and delicious snacks to go along with it. This blue and white ceramic serving plate looks divine with a stack of scones ready for butter and jam, cucumber sandwiches, or petit fours. Make sure your guests have plenty to drink with sizable blue and white mugs instead of tiny teacups.

 

Elegant hors d’oeuvres

Wine and cheese parties are a perennial favorite, either to celebrate a special occasion or just to try some new vintages. This gorgeous new teal blue platter by Richard Esteban cries out for a tasty array of fromage from mild chèvre to Camembert. And when it comes to canapés or other finger foods, Richard’s large blue serving tray is a sure winner with its unique petal shape and vibrant hue.

 

Do you have other ideas about ways to use your favorite blue and white ceramics? We’d love to hear them, so please share with a comment below!

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Need a Great Gift Idea? Try Red Plates and Platters!

it's raining presents
I’ve been getting the pop-up shop ready for holiday hustle and bustle, so gift giving has definitely been on my mind. I know that holiday entertaining is another key part of December, but gifts are sometimes harder to plan and execute. Who are the people on your list that are hard to buy for? A boss, coworker, child’s teacher, or your in-laws perhaps. Every year I see people solving these and other tricky gifting dilemmas with handmade ceramics, often paired with thoughtful accessories aimed to please. Top favorites? Plates, ceramic serving platters, and serving dishes.

Here are my top tips for plate gifts from red plates to ceramic serving platters– I hope they’ll inspire your giving this month!

  • Host a cookie swap. This holiday party trend is so smart – everyone makes their favorite cookies then meet to exchange the results, going home with a vast array of homemade treats in the end to eat or give to others. Have guests bring along recipe cards (or gather them electronically) and provide other snacks and drinks so that you don’t overload on sugar. A red plate like this modern serving platter by Gorky Gonzalez strikes the perfect festive note for your favorite treats. Or give a red plate as a gift with a delicious cookie array on it to inspire future delicious use.

  • Sweet like candy. Of course, cookies aren’t the only sweet ofWould you like some fudge? choice. Candies, whether homemade or from your favorite confectioner, are another go-to gift that are sure to please anyone with a sweet tooth. For a great boss gift, load up this long red platter with fudge or another favorite sweet and wrap it in clear plastic with a festive bow. The result can be kept on the desk to share with others or taken home, using the functional ceramic serving platter for future entertaining.
  • Growing gifts. Does your mother-in-law like to garden? Give her seed packets on a stack of salad plates so that she can grow her own salad in the summer months. Planters are another good choice for those who love to garden indoors or out, perhaps given with a beautiful potted plant or flower.
  • Simple pampering. Soaps, lotions, body wash, and other such items can be perfect presents for friends. Save body products from being mundane by giving them on a long serving platter. The blue and white looks great in the kitchen or bathroom and gives your gift a more personal touch.

  • Favorite snacks. Plates are used for eating, so load up ceramic serving platters with delicious foods. Items that keep like jam and jelly are always a good bet, or try cheese (I love Cowgirl Creamery‘s selection) and salumi from Boccalone. This can be an excellent combination of hostess gift and party contribution that is sure to please.

Falling gifts image courtesy of Harsh Patel.

Fudge image courtesy of Jolene Van Laar.

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New Tabletop Trend: Decorative Ceramic Plates

What’s trending on your tabletop? Do you love a massive centerpiece or a more subdued minimalist design? It’s probably no surprise that I’m a big fan of hand painted dinner plates blended with other personal accents to make a unique statement. And recently I’ve noticed that more and more restaurants are using decorative ceramic plates, vases, and colorful table linens to punch up the dining experience.

I recently read this great article on tabletop trends for restaurants at FE&S. Tabletops really set the tone for a restaurant, whether it’s bare wood and paper napkins or crisp white table clothes and polished silver utensils. More and more restaurants are moving to unique statements with decorative ceramic plates instead of boring white china. Ready to up your dinner party ante? Let’s look at some trends you can take from restaurant tables and put into your own home.

Prioritize Plateware. Presentation of food isn’t just how it’s arranged on the plate, but the plate itself. Restaurants are moving towards more playful and unique small plates for things like dessert or appetizers instead of sticking to a uniform (and boring) white. A natural artisan style is great for small plate restaurants like chef Stephanie Izard’s Girl and the Goat in Chicago. Here they use hand painted plates to enhance both décor and food. In your home, choose decorative ceramic plates for both fun accents and main dishes; the durability of majolica means they’ll last for years to come.

Match Plates to Food. Restaurants want to amp up their “wow” factor when it comes to presentation and part of that is having the right size plate for the job. If you serve an individual appetizer on a full size dinner plate it will look lost and lonely. Think about large bowls, platters, and decorative ceramic plates for serving with style while small plates work great for salads or individual desserts. Layering hand painted ceramic plates is another great way to add texture to your table.

Shapes Matter. I love using plates and bowls that have a surprising shape. Visual interest is increased with variety, so mix decorative ceramic plates that are square, rectangular, and oval. Octagonal plates by Gorky Gonzalez are a great addition for serving a special dessert.

Less is More. A cluttered table can seem overwhelming. Minimal trends in restaurants like bare tables with textured placemats work great in the home, letting you focus on the details. Try bar towels for napkins, high quality silverware with striking design, and maybe a hand-painted pitcher of water or wine.

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Oh, Glorious Italian Food!

In Italy, meals are truly an art form. The traditional Italian meal can be anywhere from three to six courses, incorporating a vast array of dishes and tastes into one delicious feast. It’s no wonder that Italian serving dishes are a vital compliment to this eating experience.

Italian food has a lot of personality and variation by region. For example, Northern Italian food tends toward risottos and polenta, though pasta is still popular, according to Life In Italy. Liguria is home to pesto, a worldwide (and personal) favorite. In Lombardy minestrone and osso bucco reign, while in the Vento, seafood and wild fowl are the stars. It’s a pretty good bet that whatever grows regionally will be served on local Italian platters.

Now that I’ve gotten you hungry, why not start planning an Italian style dinner party. Now that it’s summer and staying light later, slow down and enjoy a long evening, savoring a leisurely meal just as they do in Italy. Italian serving dishes are the perfect way to showcase your meal. Presentation might not be everything, but I can attest to the fact that it definitely makes the meal taste better.

Whether you prefer white serving platters or something a little more colorful, let’s break down the courses to see what Italian serving dishes work best for each part of the meal.

  • Aperitivo and Antipasti: A little alcohol prepares the palate while small snacks get your stomach ready for the feast ahead. Sliced cheese, meats, or peppers are all good ideas, especially when served on handmade Italian serving dishes, like a Blu Limoni Rectangular Plate.
  • Primo Piatto: For the first course, pasta, risotto, polenta, gnocchi or soup are traditional. An Italian ceramic pasta serving bowl makes everything from spaghetti to tortellini look gorgeous for your guests.
  • Secondo Piatto or Piatto di Mezzo: This second course showcases meats, whether seafood, meat, poultry or game. For the less meat inclined, an omelet or a cooked cheese or vegetable dish are all great options.
  • Contorno: A side dish of cooked vegetables, salad, rice, noodles or polenta is a perfect compliment to the second course. Ceramic Italian platters or a statement making salad bowl ensure your side won’t be overshadowed.
  • Formaggio & Frutta: Usually served in sequence, cheese helps the body digest and fruit cleanses the palate. A decorative footed platter makes apples, cherries, or peaches even more appealing.
  • Dolce and Caffe: Save room for dessert and the obligatory espresso to finish up the meal.
  • Digestivo: A liqueur like grappa, Amaro, or Sambuca finishes off the feast.

Spaghetti photo courtesy of Bejie Ordonez.

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Say Cheese!

I just added some awesome new cheese platters to the Emilia Ceramics collection and it got me thinking about what is by far my favorite appetizer to eat and serve: cheese.  My personal favorite is Manchego (aged sheep’s cheese from Spain), but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy Gouda, Brie, or really, pretty much any cheese you put in front of me!  Most of my friends have come to know that I will always be serving cheese at my place, whether it’s accompanied by crackers, bread, apples, pears or grapes.  And another thing they can count on is that it will be served on a handmade and beautifully painted platter, which I pick out specifically to flatter the cheese on display.  I honestly believe that how food is presented has a direct impact on how it is received and how it is enjoyed.  So here are my three favorites, hand-crafted by three of my favorite artists:

1. Gogo Long Snack Dish in Cherry (above) by Gorky Gonzalez (Mexico).
Price: $32 at Emilia Ceramics.

This bright red dish makes all food look gorgeous, but is especially great for a small selection of cheeses.  Spread them out, alternating between a cluster of grapes, a wedge of cheese, some crackers and apples, another wedge of cheese, etc. And for only $32, this is an awesome gift as well!  It also comes in a large round platter (more cheese, please!) and in various other colors.

2. Square Pear Plate (above) by Tuscia d’Arte (Italy).
Price: $148 at Emilia Ceramics.

It is always fun to serve with odd shaped platters (which I consider anything but round) and this square plate is a perfect example of that.  The hand-painted pear is pure Italian class, the blue background makes it unique (this is not your typical Deruta design!), and the decoration around the edge makes it beautiful even when filled with food.  Needless to say, cheese, crackers, and fruit look amazing on this square plate.

3. Small Cheese Plate in Burnt Honey (above) by Richard Esteban (France).
Price: $145 at Emilia Ceramics.

Here’s the newest cheese plate that I mentioned above.  It has warm French country charm crafted and painted right into it.  Just looking at it transports you to Provence, so imagine what happens when you put some amazing French cheese on it!  It also comes in a large size, both in the Burnt Honey and a beautiful Teal Blue, which just screams for a big hunk of Roquefort!