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Fellow Caffeine Fans, French Coffee Mugs Are Back!

I have a confession: I am addicted to warm beverages. Specifically my morning tea (often earl grey with cream and honey), though an early afternoon coffee is hard to resist. Of course, if I want to get any sleep, I have to carefully juggle the coffee/exercise/time equation. And then there’s getting the accessories right: which mug to use is of paramount importance, as is the tea or coffee pot if I’m brewing at home. Sound like anyone you know?

French coffee mugs

Thankfully with all the new French arrivals at Emilia Ceramics, I have plenty of beverage accessories to add to my collection. The polka dots on Richard Esteban’s French coffee bowls remain a favorite; I just love the easy way these pieces mix and match. Richard’s French coffee mugs are another must. There’s even a place to rest your thumb on the handle (good for not spilling as I walk my full cup back to my desk). The barn red is my personal favorite, but just like his French coffee bowls, there are plenty of color combinations to mix and match with abandon. These mugs also hit the sweet spot size-wise: big enough that you don’t have to constantly refill, but not so big that the contents are cold by the time you get to last sips. These are definitely a sure winner if you’re trying to buy ceramics for a caffeine lover.

red French coffee mug

Summer is also almost here, which means it’s time to start brewing iced tea and iced coffee. And that means it’s time for pitchers! Looking to expand your summer serving ware? Try pieces like the quirky Richard pitcher, complete with hat and mustache or one of his polka dot pitchers to match the bowls and mugs.

Richard pitcher

Other fun beverage accessories of the moment: cream and sugar sets (perfect for entertaining) and the modern Ceramica Valenciana coffee pot. Sure, it’s Spanish, not French, but it beautifully compliments the playful chic of Richard’s ceramics. So many coffee mugs, so little time.

coffee pot

Now, if you’ll excuse me, the kettle is boiling… time for another cup!

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Favorite Handmade Ceramics Bowls from France

For all you fans of Sylvie Duriez, the wait is finally over. Her new collection of one of a kind, gorgeous handmade ceramic bowls, pitchers, and plates is now making its way onto the website. After photographing all these French bowls, I have them on the brain!

handmade ceramic bowl
Each of Sylvie’s bowls tells its own unique story. These dogs in the snow look incredibly content, like best friends having the time of their lives; the robin perched on a blossoming branch seems to promise spring.

handmade ceramic bowl

The two mice in the sun on this dish also spoke to me. I love their shadows and the gentle colors of the background.

handmade ceramic bowl

Richard Esteban pottery bowls have a totally different look and feel, though no less appeal. His polka dot collection of handmade ceramic bowls is perfectly sized for everything from dips to huge servings of ice cream or soup. The mix of blue, red, and yellow have endless combination and playful flair.

polka dot bowls
They also compliment the lemon yellow bowls from Poterie Ravel. These French ceramics definitely stand out from the crowd.

lemon yellow handmade ceramic bowls

Other French bowls include workhorses like Richard’s casseroles and Patrice Voelkel’s mix and pour bowl. These handmade ceramic bowls move effortlessly from kitchen to table, no matter what you happen to be serving.

Richard Esteban potteryhandmade ceramic bowl

What kind of handmade ceramic bowls do you find most appealing?

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New French Ceramics Have Arrived!

IMG_4197
IMG_4198Last week, the much anticipated French shipment was delivered to my door in Boulder! It wasn’t quite as easy as that sounds… I received about 30 large boxes that were really heavy and literally coming apart at the seams. These boxes had seen a lot. They were packed up in Provence, trucked to a loading center in Paris, then back to a French boat, where they set sail for the USA. In New York, they were put on a truck and taken to Los Angeles, where they finally got re-loaded onto a truck bound for Boulder, CO. Whew!!

Needless to say, I was thrilled that they arrived at all and pleasantly surprised to find that not one little polka-dot bowl was harmed during that extensive journey!

Since the arrival, I’ve been up to my eyebrows in polka dot ceramics. Polka dot bowls, mugs, pitchers, plates; you name it, I’ve seen it with dots. But now that the dust has settled, I’m excited to share with you a sneak peek of our new French ceramics.

Richard Esteban Pottery

This is by far the largest order I’ve ever placed with Richard. I ordered a large refreshment of our favorites, including the polka-dot bowls — which come in cereal (large), ice cream (medium), and dip bowl (small) sizes — as well as the super popular polka-dot mugs and pitchers.

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I also went a little crazy with Richard’s fun yellow plate settings. To our previous offering of polka-dot plates, songbird plates, and striped plates, we now have charming French fish, dogs, little houses, race cars, and my personal favorites, the ‘Vive L’Amour’ and ‘Vive Le Bon Vin’ rallying cries.

On top of that order, I added many pieces that I fell in love with while visiting Richard in June. Stay tuned for these new and fun additions to the collection, as I haven’t gotten them on the website quite yet!

vive_amourI love that Richard Esteban and his small team of helpers hand-crafted each of these pieces. They threw them on the wheel, loaded them carefully into the kiln (twice), and they painted them completely by hand. While unpacking these beautiful ceramic works of art I kept thinking about how much work went into them. I am so grateful to all the hard-working and super skilled Emilia Ceramics artists, who put their love and talent (not to mention a little blood and sweat, I’m sure) into this craft, all so we can better enjoy our morning coffee, ice cream snacks, and family dinners.

Get Excited…

The work I picked out on my last visit to Sylvie Duriez is just as beautiful as I remember it. I’m excited to start getting these one-of-a-kind pitchers, bowls, and plates up on the website, so keep an eye out for new additions to the Sylvie Collection.

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Fall French Meals for French Platters

The cooling days of fall mean it’s time to start eating hearty, warm foods. For me, nothing beats country French cooking when it comes to delicious and warming dishes. While many traditional dishes might seem complex at first glance, many of them actually just require time to simmer or stew. Then, volià, complex flavors for dinner with actually little effort on your part.

French cheese platterHere are four of my favorite French dishes for fall, made even better of course when served on French platters!

Crêpes

Is there anything more typically French than a delicious crêpe? Fill them with cheese, spinach, ham, sauce Mornay (béchamel), sautéed vegetables… the combinations are endless. Julia Child’s recipe for crêpes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking remains a classic. Serve folded crêpes on a large French platter either filled or empty with accompanying sides. Need some help making the perfect crêpe? Check out Julia in the two videos below for mastering the batter, flip, and presentation.

Crêpes with jam and whipped cream also make for a quick and delicious dessert.

Cassoulet

French cassoulet

Hearty and filling, cassoulet is a traditional dish of Provence. Beans, sausages, duck or goose confit, and bread crumbs are the base components. Add lots of time to simmer and soon your kitchen is filled with the most amazing fragrance. There are tons of recipes out there, but don’t be frustrated if you don’t have confit laying around your kitchen. You can still create a delicious dish, like these examples from Saveur and the New York Times. Use a covered casserole dish instead of a French platter so your dinner can come directly from oven to table.French casserole dishes

French Onion Soup

Another classic, the trick is to thoroughly brown the onions for the richest flavor possible. Serve your French onion soup in either individual ramekins or a larger casserole dish covered in melted gruyere or comté. A hand-crafted white bowl filled with even more French bread is the perfect pairing for sopping up all that broth.

Pear Clafouti

A delicious dessert with an usual name, clafouti is an easy-to-make dessert that packs a visual punch and tastes just as good. Pears with ginger and dried cranberries are perfect for a fall clafouti instead of the traditional cherries. Try this recipe from the Barefoot Contessa and serve either in a pie plate or pre-cut on a gorgeous French platter.

French platter

What dishes do you serve in fall? Are you a fan of rustic white platters or French platters in rich colors? Have any favorite sources for French recipes? Let us know with a comment below!

yellow French platterCassoulet image courtesy of stu_spivack.

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French Ceramics: Patrice Voelkel vs Richard Esteban Pottery

The ceramics of Provence are just as varied as the people who make them. Take Patrice Voelkel and Richard Esteban. Both make incredible French pottery with rustic charm, yet they have very different aesthetics which results in extremely different ceramics. For all the fans of French pottery out there, here’s a quick overview of how these two talented artists measure up and what sets them apart from the rest.

richard esteban potteryPatrice Voelkel

Clay types: Patrice Voelkel uses local black clay for the majority of his pieces, resulting in ceramics that have a bit more heft. The dark clay body also makes for colors that are more deep and rich than bright. Richard Esteban pottery uses the rich red clay of Provence, which causes his glazes to pop, particularly the yellows.

blue mix and pour bowlyellow French vase

Color palette: Speaking of color, these French artists both rely on a consistent set of colors. Richard favors a wider range, with ceramics in rich reds, yellows, greens, and blues. He loves polka dots and textured patterns. Patrice, on the other hand, loves indigo and all its many variations. Every time I visit his studio Patrice is wearing blue, leading me to think that he just loves the color. His chalk white dishes and deep cranberry pieces are notable exceptions. All of his glazes have a remarkable liquid quality to them.

pitchers by Richard EstebanProduction volume: Perhaps the biggest difference between Patrice and Richard’s pottery is the number of pieces they produce. Most of Patrice’s ceramics are one of a kind, making them unique works of art. Every time I visit I’m always surprised by something new, though he does make multiples of some favorites like his indigo pitcher and mix and pour bowl. The majority of Richard’s ceramics are replicated, which means that I have plenty of polka dot bowls and platters for all his fans. He also has some one of a kind pieces, notably his green fish canister and most of his lamps.

indigo pitchergreen fish canister

Studio size and creative team: Both work in gorgeous surroundings; I don’t think it gets much more picturesque than the French countryside. Patrice works with his wife Sylviane at Poterie Herbes Folles, accompanied by their faithful dog named Tina Turner. Richard opened Poterie d’Aigues-Vives after working with a few different traditional studios. His studio is also part of his home, though he has the talented Arnaud and Katia as part of his team. I’m constantly amazed at how many gorgeous ceramics both these studios produce, particularly since every step is done by hand.

Patrice and Sylviana Voelkel potteryWhat do you love about French ceramics? Are there pieces you’d like to see more of? Do you have a preference for Patrice Voelkel or Richard Esteban pottery? Let us know with a comment below.

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The Ultimate Registry Guide: 5 Things to Not Forget

So you’ve registered with your favorite stores for your upcoming wedding. You’ve figured out the big items that you’d love to receive and are ready to rock… right? Not quite yet. While kitchen appliances and bakeware are the most popular registry items, there are plenty of overlooked items that make great wedding gifts and may have been left off your registry.

Here are my top 5 forgotten things you might just want to include on your wedding registry.

  1. Quality sheets. We all know how important sleep is, so why not use your registry to improve the quality of sleep you get. Find a set in 100 percent Egyptian cotton or 100 percent pima french coffee bowlcotton (known as Suprima) with a 300 thread count minimum. A set (or two) of luxury sheets will have you luxuriating in hotel-worthy comfort. Extra pillow covers are always useful too, so don’t forget to add a few more of those to the list.
  2. Coffee or tea supplies. How do you caffeinate in the morning? French coffee bowls are a fun choice for a gift that’s small and versatile. Like French coffee mugs but bigger, coffee bowls work wonderfully for small servings of soup and cereal. Everyone can use another couple of mugs, particularly for when guests come by. A coffee maker, whether a quality French press or fancy espresso machine, and/or a capacious tea pot are other must-haves.green and white tea pot
  3. More plates and glasses. Even if you only think you need a place setting for eight people, remember that things do break. So ask for others to help you buy ceramics you’ll need in the future, replacing that favorite dish or bowl. No matter if you have a design that’s fine china or handmade ceramic, few designs are produced forever, so stocking up now will pay off in the future. The same is true for glassware, both regular and wine glasses.
  4. Organizers. A spice rack, storage containers, or shelf dividers are definitely items that will see daily use. Use this as an opportunity to streamline the design of your home organization. A quality trash can, set of recycling bins, or garage storage are other useful items that many homes could use.
  5. Home bar accessories. A good corkscrew, wine bottle stoppers, and wine rack are a must for anyone who loves to have a few bottles of wine always on hand. Quality bar tools like a cocktail shaker, muddler, bar spoon, or a good ice bucket make mixed drinks even better. The square ice cube trays are also ideal for anyone who’s looking to take their drinks up a notch; the ice takes longer to melt when it’s in a big square block. And no matter your drink of choice, coasters are another item you never have too many of.

cocktail shakerHave other items you think should be on wedding registries? Do you like to buy ceramics or other daily use items as wedding gifts? Have any items you left off your registry and wish you hadn’t, like French coffee bowls or specialized serving ware? Leave a comment below.

Polka dot bed image courtesy of browndresswithwhitedots via Pinterest.

Cocktail shaker image courtesy of lennox_mcdough.

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The Nostalgia of Blue and White

Remember when you were a kid visiting relatives and how wonderfully different their homes were from yours? Or when guests would come over and suddenly there would be an entirely different set of dishes to serve dinner? My favorite was my grandmother’s etched glassware, which I actually now have and use whenever I have guests over. It always transports me back to her house and the iced tea she made in the sun each day.

blue and white tea partySimilarly, there’s something wonderfully nostalgic about running into plates and bowls that remind you of your childhood. Whether it’s the fact that your parents still have and use the same dishes or coming across a blue and white bowl at a friend’s house, restaurant, or antique shop, the memories can be incredibly vivid. My parents had (and still use) small, delicately painted blue and white bowls — blue and white bowlthey served me soup when I was sick and  held ice cream when I was healthy. I think this is one of the reasons I was immediately drawn to Richard Esteban’s French coffee bowls. They have a similar feel and shape to the bowls of my childhood.

I think this is why people love blue and white ceramics so much. Blue and white is a classic color combination for fine porcelain, but those delicate plates, bowls, and cups aren’t really suited for the contingencies of everyday life. Sturdier ceramics that evoke the same associations are an ideal compromise. Although not every ceramic piece brings up a memory, the link between objects and experiences is definitely a strong one. I came across this intriguing blog post discussing the link between objects and memories if you’re interested in reading more about the phenomenon.

mug_sideIf you think about it, people do the same thing by collecting souvenirs when they travel. The word comes from the French “to remember” since having a thing makes the memory easier to access. Whenever I want to be reminded of my travels, I reach for an Italian mug or a French coffee bowl: suddenly I’m back in European rolling hills enjoying a drink at a little local café.

Of course, the easiest way to keep a link with the dishware from your past is to use it. This is why so many people pass down their porcelain table settings and fine serving pieces as well as other important objects. Having the creamer that sat on your great-aunt’s dining table or the crystal glasses used by your grandparents is a wonderful way to keep the people from your past as part of your present.
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What objects make you remember your childhood? Are there certain blue and white bowls, plates, cups, or other ceramics that connect you to your past? Souvenirs you try and use frequently? Leave a comment and let us know!

Tea party image courtesy of kevin dooley.

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Enjoying Your Coffee Like the French with Coffee Bowls

French coffee bowl

french coffee bowlA few weeks ago I wrote about Italian mugs and now I can’t stop thinking about coffee (it doesn’t help that I’m a total coffee addict). While Italians invented espresso, there’s something incredibly French about sitting in a café, newspaper in hand and coffee at the ready. I think people love having this experience at home, which explains the popularity of my French drinkware collection. The cheerful French coffee bowls and coffee mugs by Richard Esteban capture the whimsy of Provence while remaining the perfect vessel for a serious cup of coffee.

French coffee bowls are mostly used in the home as part of the morning ritual. Every family member has a preferred bowl for their coffee, hot chocolate, tea, or even chocolate milk for the kids. Unlike mugs and cups, French coffee bowls are the perfect pairing with a traditional tartine (toast with butter and/or jam) or a croissant. Instead of struggling to get the perfect angle, you can easily dip your breakfast into your drink without worrying about if it will fit. The large surface area also lets your hot morning beverage cool to a drinkable temperature quickly, ensuring full caffeination before heading out for the day.

French coffee bowl

Another wonderful aspect of French coffee bowls is that they require both hands to drink, unlike a handled mug. This makes them perfect for a quiet way to wake up in the morning or calm down with a bowl of tea in the afternoon. The width of most French coffee bowls prevent seeing much around the sides, ensuring total enjoyment. It’s almost Zen. Try it.

French coffee bowl

However much I love French coffee bowls, I do recognize that they have their limitations. Espresso needs a compact espresso cup for maximum flavor and enjoyment. Sometimes you need a handle and the smaller profile of a French coffee mug, whether it’s reading in a favorite chair or working furiously at your desk. And for you cappuccino lovers, the rounded cup with saucer is a definite must for all that foam.

capuccino cups and saucers

What are your favorite ways of drinking coffee? Are you a fan of mugs and cups? Do you love French coffee bowls for other uses besides drinks?

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Guest Blogger Bethany: Six Months Later with New Pottery

Martin and I got married this past May and it’s been quite the whirlwind before, during, and since. Our wedding was lovely, filled with laughter, family, and close friends. Getting to Iceland for the honeymoon was fraught with travel delays and missed flights but absolutely worth it in the end. And then we were back home, with a list of thank you notes to write and “normal” life to resume.

Of course, many of my favorite gifts came from our wedding registry at Emilia Ceramics. As I said in my earlier post, figuring out the mysteries of wedding registries was one of the more stressful aspects of getting married. Using the resulting French coffee bowls and other pieces of new pottery, however, is a breeze.

We threw a reception for our San Francisco friends in July and I was incredibly glad to have the platters and bowls for all the food. I think we incorporated almost every new piece of pottery we’d received for the meat, cheese, and desserts to accompany the champagne. The results looked just as good as they tasted and it was a great way to break in our new ceramics.

The best part though is having things we can use everyday. I see the polka dot bowls whenever I open the cabinet and they never fail to make me smile. These hold my yogurt in the morning, soup at lunch, and the occasional (ok, frequent) ice cream sundae as a reward for diligent studying. Even though I’m more of a tea drinker, I still like to use the French coffee bowls when I sit down to write. As a graduate student in English literature and part time writer and editor, having the perfect vessel for my beverage of choice makes all the difference. My favorite bowl has a few drips of glaze inside and they all have subtle variations in the glaze; I love it that each French coffee bowl is truly unique.

Even when we’re not entertaining, we also use the blue and white salad bowl made by Talavera Vazquez to hold fruit on the table. Other serving platters have made appearances at dinner parties and I’m looking forward to the holidays to have even more occasions to use them.

I dropped by the Emilia Ceramics pop-up shop in Palo Alto the other day (when Emily asked if I’d be willing to write a follow-up post) and I fell in love all over again with the polka dot mugs, espresso cups, and other pieces of new pottery on offer there. Even if we’re done with the wedding registry, I already have some ideas what will be on my Christmas list this year!

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Behind the Scenes: Richard Esteban’s French Ceramics

One of my favorite parts about my four years with Emilia Ceramics has been developing a rapport with ceramic artists all around the world. In this series of posts, I’ll give some insights into what happens behind the scenes to make these beautiful handpainted ceramics come to life.

Unlike the traditional French ceramic atelier in Vallauris where Richard Esteban apprenticed at the age of 16, he now has no need for a cane when inspecting his employees work. The two old women owners at Foucard-Jourdan used their canes to crush ceramic pieces on the potters’ wheel that showed any sign of imperfection. Perhaps that’s where Richard learned his attention to detail and developed his appreciation for the slightly imperfect. I love the friendliness of his Aigues-Vives studio, with a tight team consisting of his two employees Arnaud and Katia, his wife Sylvie, and himself. The Esteban family also has three young children with whom I’ve shared several meals over the years, communicating in a mix of broken French and English.

I last visited Richard in September 2011 with my friend Jess acting as a translator. As has become a tradition, we didn’t just get to pick out beautiful French ceramics, but also enjoyed Richard’s incredible hospitality, staying in his guesthouse for the night. When we arrived, Arnaud (pictured above working at his wheel) asked us with a smile, “Vous voulez du cafe?” (Do you want some coffee?)

“Oui, merci, si ce n’est pas un problem” (Yes, please, if it’s not a problem.)

“Vous avez traverser la monde pour nous voire, je peux faire du cafe.” (You traversed the world to see us, we can at least make you coffee.)

This is definitely a place where humor is appreciated (and the coffee delicious, though we had it in espresso cups instead of the fun polka dot mugs they make).

Not only is Richard a wonderful artist, he’s also a great cook, and our evening spent in the backyard with all the Estebans and Katia was a relaxing and thoroughly enjoyable experience. Friendly and playful qualities surround Richard, invoked by himself, his employees, and expressed through his work. His stunning ceramic serving platters, lively polka dot mugs and bowls, and unique vases are just a few examples of his creative take on the French ceramic tradition.

Richard’s methods stay true to the old ways of Provencial pottery. He uses the rich red local clay, every piece is hand-thrown, and he even uses an antique kiln for firing. His love of tradition can also be seen in the museum he opened in 2000 to display his massive collection of glazed French pottery from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. This is definitely an artist devoted to his craft.

Whether it’s a large ceramic serving platter or one of a kind pitcher, Richard’s pieces are an ideal example of French ceramics with timeless appeal. I can’t wait to see what amazing examples of French ceramics he’s created the next time I visit — and then get to share them all with you.

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5 Ways to Create an Instant Café Experience with French Coffee Mugs

Did Bastille Day make you long for France? It did for me! I keep thinking about my favorite French experiences and near the top of that list is whiling away the morning or afternoon at a sweet Provençal café. From croissants to French coffee bowls, here are my top tips for creating your own French café experience, no matter where you are or what time of day it is.

  1. Pick the cup to suit your drink. Whether you love strong espresso or equal parts coffee and cream, the right vessel makes all the difference. Tiny espresso cups allow the ideal amount of crema to cover the shot for the best taste possible. Like American style coffee? Then treat yourself to a polka dot mug for your brew. And for you hot chocolate and tea lovers, there’s nothing better than French coffee bowls for capacity.
  2. Try using a saucer. At a café in France, every beverage is served on a saucer that holds a tiny spoon, perhaps a lump of sugar, and a small sweet. French coffee mugs with saucers do the same at home, giving you an easy way to transport your cup to your favorite chair or seat on the patio. The saucer also provides protection for your table and won’t go missing the same way a coaster always seems to.
  3. Eat fresh. In France people usually pick up croissants or pain au chocolat from the local boulangerie or pâtisserie when they are only a few hours old. This makes for flakier pastry that tastes even better with a coffee at the local café or breakfast table. While you might not have a bakery right down the street, pair the contents of your French coffee bowl with the freshest breakfast possible, from fruit that’s in season to treats you picked up from the bakery the night before (shhhh, we won’t tell anyone).
  4. Pick up a newspaper. When traveling in Provence, I always see people reading their favorite newspapers at cafés, particularly in the mornings. It’s an easy way to slow down and truly savor what’s in your French coffee mug, whether it’s your first or fifth cup of the day.
  5. Don’t neglect the details. From interesting sugar cubes to those tiny spoons, the right details make your French coffee mug feel even more authentic. Recreate a French breakfast with Nutella or jam spread on toast or a croissant; then dip it into your French coffee bowl and enjoy the delicious results. Whether it’s a playful polka dot mug, gently steamed milk, or a cheerful cream and sugar set on the table, these little details will make any cup of espresso, coffee, or tea seem like someone else made it for you.

Interested in more coffee rituals? Check out our Pinterest board for coffee and tea lovers and let us know what you think.

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Making Beverages Special: From French Coffee Bowls to Espresso Cups

french coffee bowls

What’s your hot beverage of choice? Coffee with cream and sugar? A potent espresso? Antioxidant-rich green tea? Hot chocolate with whipped cream? There are as many variations on these warming drinks as there are people who drink them. Talk with a barista and you’ll find out about even more factors that make a drink great: foam density, temperature, even the size of the espresso cups all contribute to the resulting taste.

There are a few coffeshops in San Francisco who will only serve small espresso drinks (like a macchiato or a simple shot) in ceramic cups, never to go. When I asked a barista why this was, she told me that the oils that give espresso its full flavor get absorbed by the paper of “to go” cups, making the drink taste flatter. Another factor is temperature –  a cooled espresso is a pale imitation of its warm delicious glory.

How should you serve your favorite handcrafted beverages? Here are some tips to get the most flavor out of your favorite cup, no matter what it may be:

Warm your mug first. No matter what you’re drinking, run some hot water in your French coffee bowl or polka dot mug and pour it out first. Bringing the ceramic to a closer temperature with the beverage means that your drink will stay warmer longer. You often see baristas doing this with espresso cups right before pulling the shot.

Use loose leaf tea. The flavor difference is incredible between tea bags and loose leaf because of how they’re created. Tea bags use the leavings and broken bits, while loose leaf varieties maintain more of the leaf and thus flavor. If you hate the mess of loose leaf, use filter bags or a tea ball to create your own tea bag.

Assam Melody

Get fresh beans. Roasting date makes all the difference as after about two weeks coffee starts to go stale. Grinding your own beans can be inconvenient, but getting fresh beans ground at your favorite coffeeshop is infinitely superior to buying pre-ground coffee.

Add some decadent finishing touches. A French coffee bowl is a great way to enjoy hot chocolate, but it’s even better if you add some fresh whipped cream or a drizzle of dark chocolate just before serving. Coffee purists might not like mixing their brew with flavors, but fresh cinnamon, vanilla, hazelnut, or other favorite flavors can jazz up your routine.

Serve in style. Stylish French coffee mugs, like these polka dot mugs by Richard Esteban, make any drink more enjoyable. Whether espresso cups, French coffee bowls, or a giant mug like the Gran Taza, having the right cup makes all the difference.

Tea leaves image courtesy of A Girl with Tea.

Coffee beans image courtesy of kadluba.

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Polka Dots: A Trend to Love

I love polka dots!

Polka dots continue to wow us, both in fashion and home décor. Cheerful and fun, large and small, you can find polka dot mugs, dresses, wallpapers, French ceramics and just about any accessory you can think of. I even saw some polka dot sunglasses the other day.

While sporting polka dots is the trend this winter, it’s important to use moderation, says chicology. Instead of an entire ensemble, use polka dots as a fun accent: a skirt, a hat, even a chic scarf or umbrella. Perhaps it was the overkill of polka dots that lead to chatter about Rihanna’s new video looking a little too much like photographer Sølve Sundsbø’s work. Dappled in dots, the star is striking, but so are the photos from a 2008 editorial shoot Sundsbø did for Numero, as the side-by-side comparison on Fashionista points out. Just goes to show that you can still get creative with polka dots (and the value of giving credit where credit is due).

Home décor is another area where polka dots shine, from kitchen wares to furniture. French ceramics by artists like Richard Esteban are playful with their bold polka dots. The polka dot mugs, bowls, ceramic serving platters, plates, pitchers, and hanging planters make it easy to add a splash of polka dots to your décor without going too overboard.

But why be subtle? The bold patterning of polka dot wallpaper can really turn a room into a statement, says Decorators Best. Try a simple two-color print, or you can get more crazy with multicolor dots on a plain background (great for a kid’s room). Graphic black and white polka dots look modern, while a subtle grey and white adds just a hint of texture and sophistication. Generally there’s something simple and sweet about polka dots on textiles that keeps it fun no matter what.

My favorite place to see polka dots remains the kitchen. Lighthearted polka dot mugs or coffee bowls are a great way to start any day, whether it’s with your favorite hot beverage or cereal. The butter yellow ceramic serving platter with multicolored dots dresses up any party. And the new midnight polka dot pitcher is a real knock-out. With the whimsy of these French ceramics, it’s easy to make every day just a little brighter.

Polka dot image courtesy of {AndreaRenee}.

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French Coffee Bowls: Adding Provence to Your Morning Routine

french coffee bowl

After my recent buying trip to France, I’ve been craving café crème and chocolat chaud like never before. Coffee culture is such a mainstay of French life; it’s easy to lose count of the espresso drinks you’ve consumed during the day. Even the tiniest town will have a café that makes incredible coffee, stuff that you’d only find at a high-quality place in the USA. Perhaps the tradition of an aperitif before dinner is to counteract all the caffeine of the day. On second thought, most people have another coffee after dinner as well… Never mind!

You don’t see French coffee bowls much in cafés or restaurants; mostly they’re used in the home. Every family member has a preferred bowl for their breakfast ritual, whether it’s filled with coffee, tea, hot chocolate, or even chocolate milk for the kids. They are the perfect pairing to a traditional tartine (toast with butter and/or jam) or my favorite, a croissant. The French love coffee bowls because you can easily dip your breakfast into your drink. If you’ve never tried this, I definitely recommend the experience.

Something else I love about French coffee bowls is that you have to use both hands to drink out of them, unlike a handled mug. On chilly mornings this is a perfect way to really experience a morning drink with all your senses. Because the bowls are so wide, it is difficult to see or do anything else while drinking. It’s a moment of Zen, encouraging you to slow down for complete enjoyment.

Of course, French coffee bowls are for more than just coffee. But there’s something elegant, yet comfortable, about being able to dip with ease into your beverage of choice, whether at breakfast or having afternoon tea with cookies and scones. French coffee bowls are also perfect for soup sipping, a bowl of yogurt with fresh fruit, ice cream sundaes, or even just cereal. As I transition back to life in San Francisco, I know that I’ll be using them to bring a bit of Provence to my kitchen and my day.

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6 Unique Uses for Your Gorgeous Ceramic Bowls

How do you make delicious food even more appealing? Serve it in something gorgeous. Unique dishware, like a handmade blue and white bowl or serving platter, adds flair to any table. Whether it’s a family dinner, cocktail party or casual barbecue… any get-together is made more festive when decorative details are included – how do you think Martha Stewart built her empire?

When it comes to serving and eating from ceramics, I am especially drawn to unique bowls. Maybe it’s the round shape, so lovingly thrown by hand on a potter’s wheel. Or maybe its the various uses for bowls, which differ from one culture to the next. Mexican ceramic bowls, French coffee bowls, Italian pasta bowls, really bowls of all shapes, sizes, and origins cry out to be brought home and enjoyed. And because I believe it is important to really use these beautiful vessels, here are some creative ways to get the most of your ceramic bowl collection.

  • Drinks. French coffee bowls are an obvious choice for a large café crème or a chocolat chaud. Nothing beats dipping a fresh croissant into your favorite warm beverage of choice. Then again, I know kids who love having their chocolate milk served in a bowl – it always seems bigger that way.

  • Fruit. I love the complimentary beauty of citrus fruit displayed in blue and white bowls. Whether its a rustic blue bowl from the south of France or a blue and white floral pattern from Mexico, ceramic bowls are perfect for highlighting the natural beauty of oranges, lemons, and limes.
  • Jewelry. Use mini bowls to keep rings, earrings, or even necklaces. One of my customers told me she uses Mexican ceramic bowls like these by Gorky for her cocktail ring collection.
  • Snacks. If healthy food is readily accessible, you’re more likely to eat it. So why not load up Italian bowls with fresh fruits or nuts for an afternoon pick-me-up? A series of small Mexican ceramic bowls can also be great for serving dips for crunchy vegetables or a trio of salsas for your taco dinner.

  • Salad. A large green or fruit salad really comes to life when you serve it out of a big and beautiful Italian bowl. Traditional pasta dishes are also an obvious way to get the most of a large ceramic bowl. 
  • Dessert. While some may actually use their French coffee bowls for coffee, I am much more apt to use them for ice cream sundaes. Whether Greek yogurt with honey, nuts, and fresh figs, or piping hot cobbler à la mode, an assortment of ceramic bowls compliment a delicious finish to any meal.

Coffee bowl image courtesy of St0rmz.

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French Coffee Bowls to Handcrafted Coffee Mugs Make Any Drink Special

French coffee bowl

I love to start my day with a good cup of coffee. While living in Sevilla I had various favorite cafés where I would sip my “café cortado” while watching the morning rituals unfolding around me: best friends and complete strangers, happily exchanging news and well-wishes. And when I’m traveling in Italy, nothing beats a lovingly-made cappuccino, at any time of day.

As with most things, I believe coffee (or tea) tastes better from handcrafted ceramics. Whether you prefer a rustic Mexican cup and saucer, French coffee bowl or Italian ceramic coffee mug, its a nice reminder to slow down and enjoy the simple things in life. What kind do you prefer?

Cup & Saucer
If you love coffee, you don’t have time for dainty tea sets. The Gran Taza holds enough to wake you up or sip throughout an afternoon. I made a special request for large cups that are the perfect size for a traditional Café Con Leche. No matter the size, blue and white coffee mugs set off tea or coffee so nicely. Saucers are convenient as a built-in coaster, spoon rest, or even do double duty as a snack plate. And I would suggest mixing and matching designs (especially if you can’t decide which you like best).

Prefer espresso? Indulge in distinctive espresso cups and saucers inspired by Jackson Pollock for whimsy with your shot.

Mug
While any handcrafted coffee mug is special, I love Italian ceramic coffee mugs. The bold patterns make me smile; how can you not love a colorful rooster greeting you first thing in the morning? Here too the range of sizes satisfies any drinker. There’s something solid about a mug with a handle that fits perfectly in your hands, warming you inside and out.

Mugs also make great gifts – people never seem to have enough. Mixing and matching mugs adds instant Italian flair to both your shelf and table.

Coffee Bowl
A grande crème anyone? French coffee bowls are part of many breakfast tables. I love filling mine with hot chocolate and dipping in croissants like the locals do.These French coffee bowls come in various sizes, depending on your need for caffeine. They also double as dessert or cereal bowls, for useful versatility.