Tag Archives: style

When knowledge turns into style: Encyclopedia of the Exquisite

Encyclopedia of the Exquisite

With Thanksgiving come and gone and the countdown to Christmas already started, it’s time to finalize our wish and gift lists. Well, let me help you with your gift list by suggesting an idea that, hopefully, will make one or more of the people receiving your presents very, very happy.

There are some people whose sense of style and sophistication are so classy and unique that buying a gift for them can turn into being quite a challenge. If one of these people happen to be in your life as a parent, sibling, significant other or friend, the “Encyclopedia of the Exquisite” is the book for them.

Stuff We Like!Written by Jessica Kerwin Jenkins (she was the European editor of W in Paris and she has written for Vogue), the “Encyclopedia of the Exquisite” is an eclectic compendium of historical facts and curiosities about a variety of objects, concepts and expressions that are part of our daily language and use. The book is designed to satisfy the thirst for knowledge of any person of any age and taste, no matter what their interests and hobbies are.

If cooking and drinking are their life passions, the readers will learn about ingredients and dishes such as saffron, truffles, the bon chrétien pear (generally known as the Williams or the Bartlett pear), the omelette (including Julia Child’s suggestions as to how to make the perfect omelet) as well as the history of two of the most beloved drinks: champagne and tea (including tea-making tips). The readers will even find a few lovely recipes to try out and amuse themselves with.

If fashion and beauty are the readers’ kind of poison, they will fall in love with the sections about the sequin, the frilly lingerie, the gloves, the heels, the faux jewels, the kimono, the color black, the bob haircut and the pouf hairstyle, the perfume and the red lipstick.

Encyclopedia of the Exquisite

But that’s not all! Once upon the time there was a little girl whose favorite animal was the unicorn? Well, look under the letter “U”! That section has been written for that dreaming grown-up girl. And forget Stefano when he says that he would be curious to hear what our friend and brilliant psychologist, symbologist and writer Klausbernd V. (please check his wonderful blog out, if you do not follow him already) would have to say about that! 😉

How about the expression “Shabby Chic”? I would challenge most of the people I know who like to use that expression to explain its origin to me!!! 😉 Well, a quick look under the letter “S” will unravel the mystery…

There is so much more in this book! The illustrations are simply exquisite and every page exudes elegance. Going through the Encyclopedia, readers will surely appreciate the effort that the author put into researching the topics and writing in such a way that keeps them always interested and amused.

What do they say about style? You either got it or you don’t.

Well, I think that’s true! Style cannot be taught. But, in my opinion, just “having it” is not enough. In order to blossom, the sense of style must be constantly educated and reading is one of the best ways to achieve the result.

Encyclopedia of the Exquisite

I was a lucky girl in many respects. One of these was to have a very classy mother. Anyone who knows her can vouch for that. I wish I had half the style she has! Anyway, since I was a little girl, she has been teaching me good manners, what to wear for every single occasion, which utensils to use for every dish, how to pick flowers and set a table, what should be expected of a gracious hostess and how to thank for hospitality. Still, the Encyclopedia of the Exquisite has unveiled to me countless facts and secrets about things and lifestyles that I thought I knew everything about… but didn’t! 

I’ll finish this post with a quote by the author: “beauty can be found in the most unlikely places […] and […] luxury doesn’t mean spending lots of money.” Very true, if you ask me.

If you give this book as a present to that special someone, that’s exactly what you are giving her or him for Christmas: beauty and luxury at just the price of a book.

P.S.: Needless to say, my mother bought me the Encyclopedia of the Exquisite! 🙂

Ladurée: a world of beauty beyond macarons

Stuff We Like!

This is my first post of our new column so I decided to start in style.

Ladurée… the echo of this brand is called luxury. Of course, I’m talking about the worldwide known French pâtisserie maison founded by the miller, Louis Ernest Ladurée, in Paris at the end of the 19th century. I’m sure all of you are more than familiar with les macarons, Ladurée’s most famous creation: those small, round mini cakes, crisp on the outside, with a smooth filling in the middle, that can satisfy even the more sophisticated palate. When you buy a box of those sweet masterpieces, you are buying much more than dessert. You are buying an icon. Let me tell you a story to prove my point.

As Sophia from the Golden Girls (the famous American sitcom of the ’80s) would say, picture it: London, a few years ago. I was with one of my clients. He was the perfect incarnation of the type of clients I was dealing with back then: highly educated, rich (which didn’t necessarily mean sophisticated), exclusively capable of talking about money and dreaming about more money and totally used to getting whatever he wanted whenever he wanted to. He had been invited to a dinner party by the wife of a gentleman he was anxious to make a deal with and he was determined to impress the hostess. Sure, he could have brought an expensive bottle of wine or champagne but, let’s be honest, this is a gift that would be more appropriate for a host rather than a hostess and he was a huge believer in the saying that “behind every successful man there is always a woman”. Can you prove him wrong? 😉

Anyway, he dragged me into one of the Ladurée stores in London where we waited for quite a while (it was Friday late afternoon and the store was very busy) before reaching the most beautiful and chic pastry counter I have ever seen. Obviously, my client knew exactly what he wanted (those kind of men always know what they want!) He picked a huge green box, gorgeously decorated, and selected the macarons that would determine his destiny, flavor by flavor. As we were leaving the store, I noticed that the people with the unmistakable Ladurée green bag were as thrilled as those people who carry the equally unmistakable Tiffany’s blue bag. Their face was saying “I bought something very, very special and I feel great about it”. Needless to say, a few days later my client called me to tell me that he had made the deal and it was time to get to work.

Display of Ladurée books

What I didn’t know back then is that Ladurée is much more than macarons. Beside the legendary sweets (cakes, pastries and chocolates), they have the cutest shopping bags, one of the most elegant beauty collections, a candle collection to die for, a home fragrance collection I can’t wait to try and… books. Well, Ladurée books are really the subject matter of this post. I know it took me quite a while to get to the point, but here we are.

Ladurée books are not regular books. When you see the marvelous powder pastel boxes these books come in, you know that you are in for something special. You stand there in astonishment and just the boxes can send shivers down your spine. 🙂 Then you open the boxes and, through the tissue paper that wraps all Ladurée books, you sense the luxury and the richness of the covers. When you finally pull yourself together, get the books in your hands and start flipping through them, you are instantly in heaven.

The two must-have Ladurée recipe books are Sucré (Dolce in the Italian version) and Salé (Savory in the English version).

Ladurée's Sucré and Salé

Sucré unveils the pastry secrets of Ladurée Chef Pâtissier, Philippe Andrieu, from the financiers to the rose cream bigné, the crème brûlée, the éclairs and… les macaronsbien sûr, in all their flavors: incredible recipes presented with an impeccable food styling and exquisite photography. The book also contains the indispensable basic pastry recipes, i.e., those recipes that any baker or pastry chef should perfectly master before daring call themselves as such.

Salé is the cooking gem of Ladurée Chef de Cuisine Michel Lerouet and the natural evolution of Sucré because most of the recipes represent the perfect marriage of sweet and savory in the French gastronomy. The book is divided by occasion: brunch, picnic, lunch, formal and informal dinner. Every occasion is an apotheosis of colors and flavors, from sandwiches to salads, soups, eggs, as well as meat, fish and seafood appetizers and main courses, all immortalized by lovely photographs. Not to mention that lots of the recipes are accompanied by tips of Monsieur le Chef, which is something that makes those recipes even more precious.

If Sucré and Salé are books that I think every cook on the planet should own ;-), l’Art de recevoir is a book that anyone, I repeat, anyone should have unless, of course, they live on a deserted island! Once again the book is divided by occasion: ten moments of the day (from breakfasts to family lunches, picnics, afternoon teas, buffet dinners and formal dinners) for which la Maison offers menu ideas and stylish recipes (with the essential chef’s tips), advice and suggestions on how to create elegant table settings and decorations as well as flower arrangements and, last but certainly not least, mini-lessons of savoir-faire. Every page of this book exudes French elegance and style. The china, the glassware, the silverware, the tablecloths, every decorative object used in the settings are stunning and captured by gorgeous photographs. As the book says, “Très chic, Très Ladurée“.

Ladurée's L'Art de recevoir

I suggest you put l’Art de recevoir on your wish list keeping also in mind that this book is the perfect gift for anyone, including those not so crazy about cooking, because everyone aspires to be the perfect host or the perfect hostess and I think no one can resist Ladurée’s allure.

Unfortunately for my American friends, the one and only Ladurée store in the United States is in New York – where else could it be? 😉 However, if you do not live in the city that never sleeps or close by, do not despair: you can still buy these wonders online on amazon. On the other hand, if you live in the City or you happen to be there, make sure to make time to stop by their store on Madison Avenue (again, where else could Ladurée’s store be but the most chic of Manhattan’s Avenues?) because when you push the door it’s like teleportation: in an instant you’ll find yourself in Paris! Is there anything better than that?

À bientôt, mes amis!

PS: do you like my new flower glasses icon for this column? Isn’t that gorgeous? This new icon as well as all the illustrations on Flora’s Table are the artwork of our super talented friend, Alexandra Dichne. Alexandra is in the process of finalizing her soon-to-be launched blog. Of course, I will write a post about it as soon as her blog goes live, so stay tuned!