The Vintage Cookie

Friday, December 31, 2010

The Vintage Cookie now sells unique Jewelry at Eclectic Nature

Exciting new happenings at Eclectic Nature. I am now selling my own jewelry designs, featuring beautiful semi-precious gemstones, freshwater pearls, and beautiful glass and crystal beads. I am offering jewelry in three collections:

Seasons - beautiful designs inspired by beautiful materials. The Seasons collection features semiprecious gemstone beads and freshwater pearls, combined with handmade glass beads from all over the world. The color palettes are chosen to reflect the seasons: the ice cream colors of summer, the fresh clean shades of spring, the golden tones of autumn, and the crisp contrasts of a snowy winter night.

Vintage - designs inspired by the fabulous fashion jewelry of the 20th century. When I was a little girl, my sister and I would pool our allowance and buy jewelry boxes full of costume jewelry from our local estate auction house. The big beads, bright colors, and bold designs of our childhood treasures are the inspiration for my Vintage collection,.

Celebrations - Classical elegance and over the top sparkle, these are my prettiest designs, jewelry for grown-up princesses and modern parties. Celebrations combines my own designs with some beautiful, and fun, jewelry made by leading fashion jewelry firms.

All of my designs are offered at Eclectic Nature, 1503 Mount Vernon Avenue, Alexandria VA 22301 ( I also invite you to see the wonderful jewelry offered by my fellow dealers. We have many beautiful options for Valentine's Day.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Savory Herb Cheesecake - one of the greatest recipes of all times.

My sister, Elizabeth, and my brother, Dan, both love to cook as much as I do. All three of us have large and varied cookbook collections, and each of us has developed our own particular style of cooking. However there are a few cookbooks which all three of us own, and a few recipes which all three of us make. One of these cookbooks is Cookwise by Shirley Corriher. One of these recipes is Shirley's "Savory Herbed Cheesecake." This is a party recipe - a big showstopper that is handsome and delicious and is also cheap and easy to make. As Shirley explains: "It is excellent for large parties and a favorite of caterers because it is dramatic and unusual and neither expensive nor difficult to prepare, and it can be made several days ahead.

The recipe claims "15 to 20 servings," but those would be Brobdingnagian servings. I have served this cake at parties with 40 or 50 guests, where it was extremely popular and met with great success, and still had leftovers. I serve the cheesecake with crackers and/or fresh French bread.

Use fresh herbs, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and freshly ground parmesan cheese - the recipe depends on these great flavors.

Equipment: 8 or 9 inch springform pan; food processor; microplane lemon zester/cheese grater.

1 cup bleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
finely grated zest of one lemon
1/4 pound (1 stick) butter, cut into 8 pieces
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 large egg yolk
Nonstick cooking spray

3 packages (8 oz each) cream cheese
3 tablespoons bleached all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
4 shallots, finely chopped

Fresh herbs, 3 large tomatoes

1. For the crust, process the flour, salt, lemon zest, and butter in a food processor with the steel knife for several seconds. Some butter should remain in lumps. Add the lemon juice and egg yolk. Process with a few on/off pulses just to mix. Spray and 8 or 9 inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. Crumble a third of the dough into the bottom of the pan and press out evenly. Press the remaining dough around the sides of the pan. Place in the freezer while you mix the filling.

2. Preheat the oven to 400 deg F (204 deg C). Place an oven shelf slightly above center.

3. Process the cream cheese until smooth in a food processor with the steel knife. Add the flour and 1 egg, process, and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the remaining eggs, one at a time, processing after each egg. Add the salt, hot sauce, lemon juice, herbs, Parmesan cheese, and shallots. Process just to blend well.

4. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 15 minutes. Turn the oven down to 325 deg F (163 deg C) and bake until the top is medium brown, about 50 minutes more. Cool for 10 minutes on a cooling rack. Loosen the crust from the springform pan by running a thin knife between the crust and pan. Open the springform ring and remove. Let come to room temperature, at least one hour. Refrigerate if not serving immediately.

5. To garnish. Carefully peel the tomatoes deeply with a sharp paring knife, in one long piece if possible. Wind the peel into a tomato rose. Arrange three roses on top of the cheesecake, with basil leaves or other fresh herbs to garnish. To make it easy for guests to serve themselves, precut portions by cutting a partial inner circle about 1 1/2 inches from the edge, then cut 3/4 inch slices from the edge to this circle. Serve with a selection of crackers and/or fresh baguettes. Serve at room temperature.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Open House at Eclectic Nature

Thanks to all our wonderful customers and my fellow dealers for such a great event. Special thanks to Gale for organizing.

Recipes for Pecan Spritz Cookies and Savory Herb Cheesecake will be posted as soon as possible.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Scalloped Tomatoes - British traditions in a New World dish

We have had some lovely weather here lately, hot during the day and cool at night. When things cooled down, quite suddenly, around 6:30 pm I had a hankering for something warm and rich, but also quick and healthy. I wanted Scalloped Tomatoes, a dish that I have only had in Virginia. In Virginia, Scalloped Tomatoes are a baked tomato and bread pudding.  It took only a couple of minutes to find a version in the Woodlawn Plantation Cook Book. This is a homey spiral bound book, published in 1979. The first half of the book is dedicated to recipes that reflect traditional Virginia cookery. Some of these may have been familiar to Nelly Custis, the adopted daughter of George Washington and mistress of Woodlawn Plantation, but the recipes as given here represent the evolved version of the traditional foodways. These Scalloped Tomatoes, and every version I have ever had of this dish, use canned whole tomatoes. However, the recipe does reflect the English tradition, brought over by Nelly's ancestors, of putting just about anything you have on hand into a bread pudding. I am not sure how traditional the basil is. I left if out because I don't like dried basil and I didn't have any fresh on hand.

The editor of the recipe is correct, an early nineteenth century version would have included a little sugar. This reflects both some ambivalence about the identity of the tomato - is it a fruit or a vegetable - and an older tradition in European cooking, which freely mixed sweet and savory. It is also a good trick with tomatoes. Treat the sugar as a spice - use only a smidge more sugar than salt, and I think you will be pleased. Sugar actually works in all sorts of tomato dishes. My mother taught me to add a bit of sugar, about a teaspoon, to a pot of spaghetti sauce, to better simulate the flavor of tomatoes which have simmered for 12 hours on the back of the stove. But a dash of sugar also works well in a raw tomato salad, especially one made with marginal, supermarket tomatoes.

If you are in the DC area I urge a visit to Woodlawn Plantation. It is beautiful; it is always a lot less crowded than Mount Vernon; and the Plantation includes an unexpected bonus. There is a beautifully restored Frank Lloyd Wright Usonian house on the grounds. The house was originally built in Fairfax in 1939, but was moved in 1964 because it stood in the path of I-66. The new location, however, was well chosen and the house and grounds work beautifully together. The cookbook, like the Plantation, is a two-for-one deal. The second half collects recipes from the 1940s-1960s that might have been prepared and served in a modest yet stylish mid-century home. (Although, more than thirty years on, the recipes in the two parts of the book look less distinct to me than I am sure they seemed to the women who gathered, tested, and compiled them for this book.)

And now, without further ado, here is the recipe.

Scalloped Tomatoes (Woodlawn Plantation Cook Book, Joan Smith, ed. Woodlawn/Wright House Council. 1979, p. 73.)

A delicious way to use canned tomatoes.

2 - 16 oz cans stewed tomatoes. (I used one 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes)
4-6 thin slices firm white bread, toasted and buttered) (I used three slices, it was all I had.)
Salt, pepper and dried basil to taste. (For my taste, I skipped the dried basil.)
Buttered bread crumbs. (1 slice of bread, I like to use the heel of the loaf, TBS butter, softened.)

Optional additions
2 TBS grated parmesan cheese
Brown or white sugar

Preheat oven to 350 deg. f.

Butter a shallow baking dish. I used an 8 inch square casserole. If you have a bigger casserole, double the recipe.

Combine 1 slice of bread and TBS butter in bowl of small food processor. Process until evenly ground into buttered crumbs. Set aside.
Tear toast slices into 4-6 pieces each.
Coarsely chop tomatoes, reserving liquid. Layer tomatoes, juices, and pieces of toast in a shallow baking dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper (and basil, if using) as you layer. As noted in the cookbook, for a more authentic nineteenth century touch, you can also sprinkle the layers with a little bit of brown or white sugar. Early Virginians liked a sweet taste to their tomatoes. Top with a thick layer of buttered crumbs. If you like, the buttered crumbs can be tossed with the Parmesan cheese before layering on top. Bake 35-45 minutes, or until bubbly and browned on top.

(Or, for a quicker, more 21st century way to cook the casserole, microwave the casserole until heated through BEFORE covering with breadcrumbs. Then cover with crumbs and run quickly under the broiler. This version will be a little moister, and it will get to the table a LOT faster.)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Upcoming Events at Gadsby's Tavern

In Alexandria, VA, vintage goes pretty far back. The Fall 2010 Schedule just arrived from Gadsby's Tavern . Lectures, tours, dinners, and balls promise a busy fall season. Here we will start with the lectures and talks, and follow up next with the balls and dinners.

John Yagerline Lecture Series: Federal Washington.
October 6, 13, 20. Doors open at 7:00 pm, lecture begins at 7:30 pm. $12 per person, $30 for series.
Three lectures by three authors presenting very different views on the early history of Washington D.C.

October 6, 2010. Fergus Bordewich. Washington: The Making of the American Capital
Bordewich (Bound for Canaan) depicts how some improbable and unwelcoming terrain on the Potomac came to be chosen in 1790 as the site for the nation's capital. Bordewich likewise narrates the graft, inefficiencies and myriad injustices that went into the design of the new capital and the construction of the first state buildings. As the author emphasizes, slavery affected everything about the genesis of Washington: the politics of selecting a site that was nominally Southern to placate Jeffersonian Democrats; the construction of such buildings as the White House and the Capitol—projects that exploited slave labor (from book description).

October 13, 2010. Kenneth Bowling. Author of many books on early American politics and DC history, including Establishing Congress: The Removal to Washington D.C., and the Election of 1800.
Establishing Congress focuses on the end of the 1790s, when, in rapid succession, George Washington died, the federal government moved to Washington, D.C., and the election of 1800 put Thomas Jefferson and the Democratic-Republican party in charge of the federal government.Establishing Congress dispels the myths and misinformation that surround the federal government's move to Washington and demonstrates that the election of 1800 changed American party politics forever, established the success of the American experiment in government, and completed the founding of the Republic (book description from

October 20, 2010. Scott Berg. Grand Avenues: The Story of Pierre Charles L'Enfant, the French Visionary Who Designed Washington, D.C.
In 1791, shortly after the United States won its independence, George Washington personally asked Pierre Charles L’Enfant—a young French artisan turned American revolutionary soldier who gained many friends among the Founding Fathers—to design the new nation's capital. L’Enfant approached this task with unparalleled vigor and passion; however, his imperious and unyielding nature also made him many powerful enemies. After eleven months, Washington reluctantly dismissed L’Enfant from the project. Subsequently, the plan for the city was published under another name, and L’Enfant died long before it was rightfully attributed to him (book description from

Saturday, September 11, 2010

And another laugh...

Here is another classic: The Institute of Official Cheer , home to the classic Gallery of Regrettable Food and other vintage gems.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Off to Los Angeles to confer with my costume designer for Halloween

The Vintage Cookie will be offering an exclusive line of premium children's Halloween costumes. I am in Los Angeles working with our Hollywood designer, Elizabeth Atwater Menes. Stay tuned for more.

Monday, August 23, 2010

More on the Oversized Cocktail Glass

A week ago I blogged on the subject of martini (ahem, cocktail) glasses and size. Here is a follow-up from a Table Matters on the same topic.

Looks like vintage is the only way to go.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

San Francisco before the earthquake

San Francisco in 1905, pre-earthquake, a peek at the world a century ago.

I noticed a few things. First, more cars than horses, even in 1905. Second, the central city really was a man's world. There are women, but not many. Finally, the use of urban space is very different. Pedestrians and vehicles share the road; people are not exiled to the sidewalks.

The soundtrack is Air - La Femme D'Argent. Thanks to Walter Nelson at Mass Historia for the link.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Hour - in Old Town, Alexandria

Honesty compels me to reveal my sources. I was tipped off to the difference in modern and vintage martini's by the wonderful owner of one of my favorite competitors:

The Hour
1015 King St
Alexandria, VA 22314

If you love cocktails, stop by and see the fabulous collection of vintage glassware and cocktail accessories. Best of all, The Hour is only 1.3 miles away from The Vintage Cookie at Eclectic Nature, 1503 Mount Vernon Avenue, Alexandria VA 22301.

Yet more evidence that Alexandria is the place for those who love the art of the party.