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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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Olympic Summer Style with Gorky Gonzalez Pottery

How did it become August already? If you’re like me, you’ve been watching lots of Olympics. While I’m a big fan of all things volleyball, other events like rowing, gymnastics, and diving have me trying to figure out the rules and cheer on Americans and hard-working underdogs whenever possible.

Of course, the Olympics are another reason to throw a party, whether it’s to celebrate the time trials or event finals for your favorite sport. That’s where Gorky Gonzalez pottery comes into the mix. While these plates, bowls, and platters might not run as fast as our favorite athletes, they certainly win gold metals for style. Here are some tips for using Gorky Gonzalez pottery to make your Olympic party (or even just your family dinner tonight) the best it can be.

  • Think red, white, and blue. These colors aren’t just for the USA, so if you’re cheering on France, the U.K., Chile, Russia, or Australia, you can still use Gorky Gonzalez pottery to show off your patriotism. The solid colors of the Gogo collection, like this long red platter or the brightly colored plates, make these pieces of Gorky Gonzalez pottery easy to mix and match. The blue and white octagonal rooster plate is perfect for you France fans — the rooster looks proud and poised to fight all comers.
  • Have fun with animals. A driving force behind the popularity of Gorky Gonzalez pottery are the lively animal motifs. Whether it’s bunnies or roosters as salt and pepper shakers, or a playful fish plate, you’re sure to smile when you see them on the table. Use these rooster plates for your fresh summer salad or refreshing dessert; people love seeing what appears after they eat.

  • Make room for the dip. Salsa, homemade guacamole, or classic onion dip all enliven boring plain chips. A big chip bowl is a must for any Olympic watching party, and use little bowls on the coffee table so that people can dip into their favorites. Even better, Gorky Gonzalez pottery is sturdy enough not to break if someone knocks things over in the excitement of the winning point.
  • Serve enough the first time. Who wants to go back to the kitchen to refill empty plates and platters when there’s only a minute left on the clock? Using large serving platters and bowls means that you won’t run out of snacks until the commercial breaks (and probably not even then!). One of my personal favorites in the Gorky Gonzalez pottery collection is this platter with the Las Flores design around the edge.Olympic Rings in London

Olympic rings image courtesy of David Catchpole.

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Serve It Right with Blue and White Mexican Pottery

Whether it’s a white serving bowl or a white platter, everyone needs a few pieces of go-to serving ware that can adapt to any occasion from causal to formal. When it comes to pieces that are clean and crisp, you can’t do better than white pottery platters. They really show off your food without taking up too much attention, whether canapés during cocktail hour, scones at brunch, or a succulent side dish at dinner.

Of course, there are lots of stark white platters out there, like those mass-produced in China. To me, the feel of these pieces is impersonal and almost clinical. And who wants to serve their food on something that seems like it belongs in a hospital? White serving ware that uses natural glazes has a warmer tone, giving an authentic, at times rustic look, which is a much better compliment for your home-cooked meals. Pieces like the Gogo oval platter, long serving platter, or round white platter are just some examples of white platters that really showcase your cooking.

White all the time can get a bit monotone, however. That’s why the blue and white combo of Mexican pottery is a surefire winner. It’s a simple equation: blue and white Mexican pottery has the crisp neatness of white, along with the rich contrast of blue. There aren’t many blue foods out there, so most items will really pop on blue serving ware. The end result? Food that looks even tastier, no matter the meal or occasion. Blue and white Mexican pottery like Gorky’s oval serving dishes or Talavera Vazquez’s blue and white serving platter will enliven any table. They’re also sturdy enough to be used everyday for family dinners, not just special occasions.

Want to add some unique serving dishes to your collection of blue and white Mexican pottery? When it comes to blue and white platters, I love the unexpected shape of El Mar and Las Flores pottery platters.

Not quite rectangle, not quite oval, these unique serving dishes are a fantastic example of what makes blue and white Mexican pottery appealing to so many people. The border detail isn’t overpowering, but it makes the perfect frame for your desserts, appetizers, or cheeses.

Do you have favorite pieces of blue and white Mexican pottery? Let us know about your go-to serving ware pieces by leaving a comment below.

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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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Summer Recipes to Fill Your Favorite Bowls

In these carb-conscious times, pasta bowls seem to be a true indulgence. That pile of pasta with a delicious sauce, from a homemade Bolognese to pesto to primavera, is delicious, but perhaps too heavy during the hot summer months. So what do you fill your favorite ceramic pasta bowls with in this season of swimsuit conscious eating?

From salads to ice cream, the fresh produce of summer just begs to fill up even the biggest ceramic pasta bowl. Here are some recipe ideas to get you started celebrating the season, no matter what bowl type or size you have.

Mini bowls. Little bowls are perfect if you’re having a Mexican-inspired feast (now that I’m back from Mexico, I can’t stop eating food that reminds me of the trip).

These bowls hold spices, cheeses, and dips for taco parties or just chips and salsa. I often fill a small bowl with guacamole – fresh lime juice, salt, chopped tomato, avocado, and some spice makes for a simple, pleasing dip that disappears quickly!

StrawberrySmall bowls. These bowls beg to be filled with ice cream sundaes, but if you’re trying to eat a little healthier, then turn to the fruits of summer. (Though check out these ice cream pies if you want to get truly decadent). Something like strawberry shortcake is always a winner, especially if you go heavy on the strawberries. These strawberry and cream biscuits by Smitten Kitchen would fill up a bowl nicely along with whipped cream and maybe even more berries on top.

Pasta bowls. For those who can’t resist the lure of pasta, something unusual like nettles makes for an inspiring summer dish. This recipe by 101 Cookbooks has feta, almonds, and garlic to accompany the green (though kale or spinach would also work) and looks great in a large serving bowl. Green summer salads, full of fresh tomatoes, zucchini, sprouts, and other seasonal delights are a lighter choice for lunchtime that’s also bowl-friendly. And then there’s classic potato salad… or a new twist on it: I love tzatziki, so this potato salad recipe seems perfect to try out at my next cookout.

Have any summer-inspired favorite foods that fill up your bowls? Post your recipes below and enjoy!

Strawberry image courtesy of Manchester-Monkey.

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5 Tips: Italian Blue and White Ceramics for Cool Summer Fun


Having a party or just a causal weeknight barbeque? If you’re like me, summer is the time you eat and cook outside as much as possible. San Francisco might not have warm nights, but the grill makes everything taste just a little better.

But presentation also counts for something. So what better way to add some style to your summer dining than with Italian blue and white ceramics? Not sure where to begin? Here are my top tips to bring some flair to your outdoor dining this summer.

  1. Remember, pitchers aren’t just for drinks. An Italian blue and white ceramic pitcher is the perfect way to serve sangria, kid-friendly fruit punch, or even just water. But don’t limit this instant table decoration to drinks. A small blue and white pitcher holds a wildflower bouquet that adds a great causal touch to your table. And if you use a table cloth, blue and white pitchers will keep it from blowing away before you sit down to eat.
  2. Use creative serving trays. Square serving trays are some of my favorites, like this Italian blue and white ceramic tray with lemons. Use it to serve your freshly made burgers right from the grill or pile it high with toppings for people to dress their own. Another idea is to use a big platter as a staging area for do-it-yourself skewers (make sure to soak the wooden skewers first so they don’t burn). Bowls and smaller square serving trays hold the ingredients and the finished skewers with favorite vegetables and meats easily get to grill with no spills.
  3. Keep your grill master happy. The large format of most grilling utensils means that they’re difficult to find a place to set them down cleanly (a spoon rest just doesn’t cut it). Try using a large rectangular serving platter instead – it will hold those tongs with no spills. This trick makes serving a snap, since your grill master just needs to transfer dinner to the serving tray and bring it to the table.
  4. Add some ambiance. Flowers on a picnic table are a good beginning, but why stop there? Decorate your patio or porch with fairy lights or lanterns for gentle lighting as the sun sets. Candles are another great choice for mood lighting; dress them up with Italian blue and white ceramic candle holders to match the rest of your table setting.
  5. Don’t forget dessert. What says summer more than freshly made s’mores? Load a rectangular serving platter with all the essentials: graham crackers, chocolate bars, and marshmallows. If you don’t have a camp fire, you can assemble the s’more and wrap it in aluminum foil, then place it on the grill at medium heat for 4-5 minutes or until the marshmallow is melted. Delicious!

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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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Italian-ize Your Holiday Entertaining

Can you believe that Thanksgiving is next week? The entertaining season has officially begun and will not wind down until New Year’s, so it’s time to take a deep breath and get ready to party! From blue Italian vases to fun rooster serving ware, having the right accents for a dinner party (or any gathering) will help make it an instant success. One of my secrets is to use the festive colors of Tuscan ceramics to bring instant warmth to any space. By making your guests feel warm and comfortable, you ensure that your party is a success.

At our upcoming family gatherings, there are three pieces that will definitely get a lot of use: Tuscan pitchers, Italian vases, and, serving platters. Here’s a quick rundown of how this trifecta of entertaining essentials can help your next party be something you actually enjoy as well.

Tuscan Pitchers

Big or small, pitchers are super versatile, being both decorative and functional. Larger ones are perfect for serving wine or water at the table. A Tuscan pitcher allows your favorite red to breathe and keeps a chilled white cool on the table. Not only does it add an element of Euro-cool to your party, it also keeps wine from dripping down the bottle and onto your special tablecloth.  

Having friends over for brunch? Fill up the rooster pitcher from Ceramiche Bartoloni with mimosas to start the day off right; it also handles milk or plain orange juice with Tuscan flair. Use smaller Tuscan pitchers to create a relaxed accent with a simple bouquet. I love having one on the kitchen counter for an unexpected splash of color that still feels natural in the space.

Italian Vases

I always have fresh flowers when I have company over; whether it’s a truly stunning bouquet or multiple smaller, single color arrangements, flowers make for a conversation piece at a fancy cocktail party or informal get-together.

Large Italian vases support the stems of robust flowers beautifully. Of course, these statement-making Italian vases look great empty too, perfect on a shelf or side table.

I like arranging buds in small Italian vases to add color to the table without blocking the view for your guests. These bud vases also make fantastic hostess gifts –  adding a sweet touch of Tuscany to a bathroom counter or bedside table.

Italian Serving Platters

What’s a party without well-plated food? Having the perfect serving platter for your hors d’oeuvres encourages guests to nibble at will and shows off that great cheese you found or those tarts you slaved over. I like using unusual shapes of serving platters and visually enticing colors to really show off the menu. This year, why not use a large Italian serving platter for slices of turkey after you carve the Thanksgiving bird? Of course, they work well with any kind of roast meat year-round.

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Favorite Recipes to Fill Ceramic Salad Bowls

I love parties. Throwing them, going to them, it doesn’t matter. A friend’s potluck bash got me thinking recently about all the things I could make to share with a crowd. Making food for parties is totally different than cooking for yourself. For example, I wouldn’t be apt to make a dip to eat myself, but if some guests are coming over, I might make some humus, guacamole, onion dip, or fresh salsa to go along with pita or tortilla chips. I also love the excuse to pull out some Mexican or Italian ceramic chip & dip dishes and class up the entire experience. Dip bowls are just too appealing to pass up!

But what about uses for other Italian serving dishes? A ceramic salad bowl is versatile for lots of dishes from salads to soups to pasta. This tortilla salad recipe from 101 Cookbooks looks delicious and would be great served in a huge ceramic salad bowl. I love salads that use something besides lettuce for the base, whether beans or unusual greens.

Italian serving platters are great for meat dishes, appetizers or even desserts. A juicy roast, delightful canapés, cookies… I’m getting hungry! I find that when you have all these Italian serving dishes around you start looking for more excuses to use them. It makes daily meals just a little more gourmet as a result, just as with any other exciting new kitchen tool.

But back to the potluck dilemma. With all my Italian bowls in the kitchen, I was finally inspired to make a pesto pasta salad. Fresh basil from the farmer’s market really makes it a taste sensation, especially with fresh broccoli and squash. The empty bowl at the end was a testament to the fact that I’d made the right choice. Try my friend Andy’s recipe below and see what you think for yourself. It’s great on pasta both hot and cold; you can use any leftovers to make delicious omelets or jazz up scrambled eggs.

Pesto Recipe

2 cups fresh basil leaves

2 garlic gloves (lightly crushed)

1/2 cup olive oil

2 Tb pine nuts

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2-3 Tb freshly grated pecorino cheese

Blend first 5 ingredients in a blender or food processor. Incorporate cheeses by hand when blended.

I’d love to know what recipes you use to fill your ceramic salad bowls – please post comments with recipes or links to good cooking websites you like!