Thursday, December 29, 2011

Happy Stone Hill Anniversary

I always feel like reminiscing at the end of the year. We've been cleaning out old computers to donate to the church and I found photos of our House Blessing a year after we moved to Baltimore. We celebrate our fourth year Stone Hill'aversary this week. Have you ever been to a house blessing? It's a wonderful tradition where the priest comes to shoo away any bad spirits from the old house and Christen it with new life and purpose.  It was wonderful having a house blessing at Stone Hill and we of course invited our priest Stuart from Christ Church Georgetown to take on the 160 year old ghosts. It was also a great opportunity to throw a party three years ago this week.

Each room is blessed separately. The prayers are wonderful. Sometimes it's nice to have a prayerbook lead you when you can't find your own words.

I'm so happy we have these photos but what was I thinking with auburn hair and eating my way through Baltimore that first year of marriage?! You can really tell that I've lost 18 pounds after looking at these photos. Vanity aside, Stuart started with a prayer in the kitchen and brought holy water to bless each room. You can find the Celebration of a Home in the Book of Occasional Services on page 146. It's a supplement to the Book of Common Prayer as well as another good one, Lesser Fasts and Feasts for the Episcopal church. Reminds me of something that would have been in Harry Potter's required reading section for some reason. 

Brunch is my all time favorite meal. I love a party and all the items it takes to make it special. I recall this being a very, very easy party to plan. Susan brought the best fruit salad and Eric's mother Jean made a few quiche. We served smoked salmon with bagels, the no-longer-New System Bakery cinnamon glazed donuts, cheese grit casserole and ham with Sister Schubert dinner rolls

Friends and family are of course the most important key to any party, but I'd like to do give a shout out to the buffet plate. The buffet plate is the most wonderful invention and a necessity at any good buffet brunch. I started my buffet plate collection after a friend's Derby Party in Louisville, Kentucky in college. Let's be honest, it was a hang over brunch for the 60 kids that hailed from liberal arts schools throughout the Mid-West. Amy's mother was so tickled at how excited I was about the plates she had set out for the brunch that she gave me my very first plate from her collection to start my own. The plate she gave me was the same plate that started her collection. It's a maize and blue (GO BLUE) hand painted ceramic star plate. The key is to collect them. Tell people you collect them and everyone enjoys the fun in finding 11 1/4 inch buffet plates for you. Most of mind were given to me, many were found at Pier One and Williams-Sonoma on sale. My favorite is my Chesapeake Chicken plate that McCall and I found coming back from Dewey one fortuitous morning. I like using china, glass, silver and cloth napkins when possible. Very green.

Grandmother Tayloe would have approved I think.

The party was pre-Epiphany. I chopped up our Christmas tree and decorated the whole house with it's branches. It was the most wonderful smelling party to date and we needed the room from the tree. If anyone is having a New Year's party and needs the space, start cutting up greens from your tree. Truly makes wonderful centerpieces.

It's wonderful going back and looking at how the house first looked when we moved in. We donated the sofa's to our youth group's room at Memorial and had so many wonderful neighbors visit.

Guy and Pam live next door who we simply love!

My mother-in-law still dreams about these donuts. 

It was really our first party to bring out all of our wedding presents and share the joy of our little house.

The kitchen was the hub and of course where everyone gathered. See the greens on top of the hutch?

When I moved to DC originally in 1994 my mother told me I had to connect with Peggy Malone (West). She lives three miles away from us in Baltimore and we finally met back in 2008. Her parents set my GRANDPARENTS up on their first blind date. I wouldn't be here if it weren't for Battle and Alice Malone. We have loved getting to know Butch and Peggy and their fabulous sons and their families. 

Our DC pals even made the trip for this event. 

George and Susan weren't even engaged in this photo. I love that we attended their wedding and just celebrated Jemma's first birthday. A lot can happen in three years!

I've always loved this photo of Charles. I've changed the bookshelves seven thousand times since this was taken. 

It's fun to walk down memory lane and see how much we've grown, and shrunk and how much we've accomplished on the house. We are close to finishing our new office and Eric has found an old bowling alley remnant to make a custom board table for future endeavors. He's so handy and nice to have around. Thank you for the wonderful four years at Stone Hill Charlie. Happy Home Anniversary!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

LAMILL at the Four Seasons Baltimore

On Thanksgiving morning E. and I were up and out the door by 7:45 am. We had a date planned at LAMILL Coffee at the new Four Seasons in Harbor East. It was a gorgeous, clear blue sky day and just a tad bit chilly. The perfect Thanksgiving Day. 

The streets were quiet as many of the Turkey Trot runners returned from their jog. We should have signed up but I'm so glad we didn't. Our morning was most relaxing which I think was good for both of our hearts.

As any of you who have been reading this blog for a while know, my husband's passion for coffee is like some people's love of fine wine, football or religion. We truly plan our vacations around specialty coffee shops. You can see some of our favorites posted here. Because of this commitment we knew three of the staff members at LAMILL. Becca and Lindsay used to work at Spro and Kris was at Charmington's. We visited with them at the opening party and Eric has been a half dozen times without me already. 

For some, coffee is just coffee. I totally get that. You buy your Folgers, measure, add to the filter of your Mr. Coffee, set the timer and voila it's ready with your morning paper. Coffee's come a long way from the Styrofoam cup for $.25 at the corner diner too. Starbucks revolutionized this "third place" experience being the middle ground between home and work. Even during the economic downturn people can still feel special about their complicated order that is usually made to order correctly. 

Eric introduced me to specialty coffee. He was introduced to it in DC and London. I only know a fraction about it but am slowly getting the full skinny on what's what with fancy coffee. These grinders are kind of a big deal at LAMIL. They are custom painted for this shop and each one runs about $5,000. There are six total in the coffee shop. The simple fact is that some grinders heat the coffee bean, changing the flavor of the coffee. These grinders do not heat up the bean keeping the essence of the bean in a perfect state. They need so many so that they can create amazing coffee in a fast amount of time. Be prepared to wait however. It is worth it.

Lindsay's latte art in the process. I still have no idea how to do this.

LAMIL offers many different pastries and lite bites.

The beignets are made to order and come out hot with powdered sugar and your choice of chocolate or butterscotch sauce. The butterscotch is spiked and I swear I got a buzz off of my last order. I happened to land at the coffee shop on National Pastry Day where they were giving away free beignets with any coffee order. 

E. has been here multiple times. We both love the openness of the space and the light from the water.

We got to know Johnathan Liu who trains all of the LAMILL opening teams around the country and world. Such a nice guy and I must say that I love that the Four Seasons embraces tattoos and individuality more than in days past. He just shared this article recently from the LA Times with food predictions for 2012. Read item number two.

LAMIL is a coffee roaster out of LA.They explain the art of roasting beautifully on their website which I've quoted below:
Roasting is to coffee beans as cutting is to fine diamonds. A diamond only starts to sparkle after the facets have been cut. In the same way, a coffee bean won’t show its true potential until the beans have been expertly roasted. Fortunately, there’s no rule of thumb that says you have to spend two months salary for a great cup of coffee.

A good roaster has a thorough understanding of the unique properties of different green beans. He knows that Panamanian is roasted at 15.1 minutes and that Guatemalan is roasted for 15.4. Mistakes can be measured in seconds, so a roaster has to keep a constant vigil. Add to this the fact that they consume ten cups a day… it’s no surprise our roasters are a jittery bunch. But at least they can work long hours.

At LAMILL we small batch roast all our beans on our own special order German Probat G60 commercial roasters. Not only are these the finest, state of the art machines, but it’s also cool to be able to say ‘German Probat G60’. We make the same investment in our staff, being sure to employ only most qualified and talented roasters. At LAMILL we understand how important roasting is to the final product. We don’t take any shortcuts… we don’t make any compromises. If a batch isn’t right, we take the time to do it over, even if it means missing the Lakers game. That’s what TIVO is for.

We read the paper, enjoyed our coffee and had a very relaxing morning. So relaxed in fact that we forgot we had to put the turkey in the oven. Our 3pm dinner began at 6:30 pm. Whoops.

All of the espresso is pulled from this one mother of a machine. It was custom made for this shop and has another hefty price tag. I love the wood handles.

Eric is a huge fan of the simply grilled breads and honey butter. 

I love Becca's reflection in the espresso machine. I took tons of notes to try to explain the espresso process. I'm stumbling with the right words to explain what I've learned. Allie explained it best to me telling me to imagine the water pressure coming through the machine as a fire hydrant. The pressure that the water comes through the coffee is represented in "bars". Barista speak is a tough one to crack. I'm not even sure if I got that right. They speak about how the fruitiness and tomato flavors come out when pulled at a certain bar level. I think. It's all very technical and the temperature in the room, weather outside and how beans are stored effects the taste of the coffee ultimately. I don't think your average Joe Nellie get's how much goes into this coffee science, but I'm still learning. Most important is roasting date. Don't forget to make sure you are getting coffee that hasn't been roasted for over a month.

Welcome to the Baltimore LAMIL. Look forward to more mornings with you soon.

Hoping everyone had a Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah.  We are exhausted from a quick trip to become Baby Nephew's godparents in Michigan and a joyous Christmas with my 93 year young grandmother. My godmother Mary T. joined us for the drive which was the best! My Daddy smoked a turkey for the baptism and Momma made the best Roast Beast ever for the Christmas Feast. We look forward to friends visiting from New York for New Years Eve at Stone Hill and celebrating with Eric's family tonight. 

May your days be filled with freshly roasted coffee, friendly barista's and healthy eating in the New Year, Nelle & E