The Ducks at the Old Mill

Mill Bridge 01

In feng shui folklore, one of the most beautiful icons of romance is the Mandarin Duck.  Known as the “Love Birds” in China and Japan, a pair of these feathered creatures together is a historic symbol of love and devotion  because they mate for life.  In certain schools of feng shui, these are commonly used to attract a desirable mate and promote marriage.   I think ducks are cute.  Unless a client has a general fondness of ducks or birds, it wouldn’t be my first suggestion to use Mandarin Ducks in an environment as decor.  However, do I want some for my home?  Yes!!  I’ve been keeping on eye on this beautiful fabric on Etsy.com with Mandarin ducks on a red background.

Mandarin Duck Fabric

Provided by the Etsy store Simply Fabric Oakland, this colorful print would be ideal for a set of throw pillows.   More information can be found by contacting the seller here:   https://www.etsy.com/listing/112921502/97-width-chinese-double-happiness?ref=shop_home_active_1

Mill Ducks 02

In August, I was in Boston for the wedding of my friends Diane and Josh.  Thanks to my friend Amy, a bridesmaid, I was able to attend the rehearsal dinner as her date.  Due to their romantic symbolism,  I found it brilliantly coincidental that the happy couple would pick a location highly influenced by ducks – and I don’t mean on the menu.  The Old Mill, located in Westminster, Massachusetts, is housed inside a historic mill with water all around.

Mill Duck Solo

The ducks here are very happy creatures.  The restaurant provides bread that guests may feed to them.  (The duck pictured above practically ate out of my hand.)  Now, while these aren’t specifically Mandarin ducks, the romantic symbolism can still be applied.

Mill Modern Section

Originally a sawmill in the late eighteenth century, the mill was a thriving part of the community for five generations, before falling into neglect about a hundred years later.   In 1921, it was revived into a summer tea house, operating until 1942 when war rationing of staples forced it to shut down.  In 1946, the Foster family took it over, making it a year-round restaurant and bakery.  They have continued to run it ever since.

One of things I love about the architecture of the site is the blending of old and new.  Throughout the environment, homage is paid to the historical aspects of the structure, yet making it very livable and modern.  In the photo to the left, one can see the new addition to the wing, and how it melds into the vintage timber of the building.

Mill Waterfall and Pond

Flowing water, thriving trees, sunshine, smooth rocks, all of these are prime examples of how the elements can come together in completely harmony.

Mill Pond 02

Another scenic view of the pond from the restaurant’s terrace.

Mill Seating

The inside environment was nostalgic and quaint.  Tables seating four to six were neatly arranged in the dining areas.   Earth was the main element present in each room; brown being the dominant color and altered wood the primary material.  Because the wood used here is dead (no longer a living plant), it’s now an earth element.

Please Watch Your Hat

This amusing sign made me laugh because I was wearing a hat at the time.  All sorts of vintage memorabilia adorn the walls, conjuring feelings of warmth and comfort.

Mill Buffet

Due to the special nature of the event, our dinner was served buffet style.  Some of my favorite items were:

  • Corn Fritters with a Maple Syrup Glaze – Scrumptious.  I think I had seven…
  • Baked Haddock Casserole with Seafood Stuffing –  Rich and filling.  A seafood lovers dream.
  • Roast Prime Rib – Tender pieces of beef.  Tantalizing and tasty.
  • Caesar Salad – A classic done right.  It accompanied the prime rib perfectly.

Mill Chocolate Martini

Our Server, whose name I sadly cannot recall, was incredible.   In addition to making sure everyone’s needs were met, she was also our bartender.  She made me, without a doubt in my mind, the best chocolate martini I’ve ever had.  Just the right amount of sweetness, and the glass lined with chocolate syrup.  Flawless and sublime.  I was a happy man.

Mill Strawberry Shortcake

Each guest was given their own strawberry shortcake parfait, completely with whip cream on top.  Refreshing and ideal for the summer weather.

Mill Fireplace

A majestic brick fireplace demanded attention in the center of the room.  The candles atop were arranged by the groom’s mother and grandmother.  The candles add beneficial fire energy to the celebration.

Mill Ducks 01

After the rich and decadent meal, many of the guests made their way outside to feed the ducks.

Mill Bridge 02

In addition to the main restaurant, The Old Mill also offers The Cracker Barrel Lounge, complete with a full bar and its own menu (although the restaurant menu can be ordered here as well).  The beneficial energy of the Old Mill, due to the very happy ducks, the natural surroundings, and the historical beauty of the structure, provide an auspicious area for dining, be it for the whole family or a romantic occasion.  I will definitely be returning here on my next visit to Massachusetts, for the food, the drinks, and to feed the adorable ducks.

The 1761 Old Mill

69 State Road East, Westminster, MA 04173

978-874-0914

Hours:  Tuesday– Thursday 11:30 am – 9:15 pm,  Friday – Saturday 11:30 am – 9:45 pm,  Sunday 10:00 am – 8:00 pm,  Lounge Hours:  Tuesday – Thursday 4:00 pm – 9:00 pm, Friday 4:00 pm – 10:00 pm, Saturday 12:00 pm – 10:00 pm, Sunday 12:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Note:  Closed Mondays

http://www.1761oldmill.com/index.html

Mill Pond 01

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Samovar

Samovar and Tree

In addition to being a feng shui consultant, food and wine connoisseur, and writer, I also hold a BFA in Theater Performance.  A few years back, I was in a production of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya when I first heard of an intriguing item called a samovar.  For those unacquainted with the term, a samovar is a large metal or brass urn  with a spigot, used to boil water or tea.   Of Russian origin, they first hit households around the 1820’s, gaining quickly in popularity,  Nearly every Victorian home in Russia possessed one.  Although the originals used coal to heat the water, modern-day versions are electric.  In Uncle Vanya, it is mentioned directly by the playwright in Act I, and in most productions used as a set piece during the scenes that take place in colder months.  (The production I was in sadly did not have one.)  Having only seen pictures online of this vintage kitchen appliance, I was surprised to find a tea house in San Francisco named for this very illusive item.

Samovar Signage

Samovar has three different tea lounges located throughout San Francisco.  I frequent the one bordering the Castro (pictured above).  My best friend Wendy and I came here for an incredible brunch.   One can order items individually, or one can do a tea service,  We both went with the British Tea Service, which was the most “brunchy” of the options.

English Tea Service

We each received a small tray with a steaming pot of their Breakfast Blend Black Tea, a stimulating and robust brew that was incredibly delicious.  This also included honey, cream, and coconut nectar.  The evaporated coconut palm nectar is the brown granules that look like brown or unrefined sugar, but it’s actually healthier for you.  Imported from farmers in Bali, Indonesia, coconut palm nectar is the sap of the coconut plant dehydrated into crystals.  The result is coconut palm sugar which is low on the glycemic index, and full of potassium and micro-nutrients.  It can be substituted for table sugar and in baking.  I found it to be just as sweet as sugar, and went perfectly with the Breakfast Blend.

Tea Service Caddy

The food for the tea service was presented on a three-tiered tray.  (I think I need to invest in one of these for my own home use.)

Quiche and Salad

A savory and mouthwatering vegetable quiche was presented alongside a salad with mixed greens.  Their quiche selection changes somewhat depending on the season.  I loved every bite.  The salad had a pleasing vinaigrette with complimented the quiche perfectly.

Oat Scone and Cream

Cherry Oat Scone – A decadent scone with oats throughout, served with preserves and clotted cream.   I could consume one of these every day.  It was fluffy and not overly dry as scones can sometimes be.  Samovar uses only the evaporated coconut nectar for their baking (there is no refined sugar in any of their baked items).   The amount of cream-to-scone was the ideal ratio, and really made the whole meal truly British.

Fresh British Fruit

An offering of fresh fruit concluded the feast, and accompanied the aristocratic scone ideally.

Asian Statue in Niche

The environment of Samovar is one of peace and contentment.  Choice pieces of art, like the elegant statue above, grace  the room, providing a sense of beauty and culture.  The statue is also a brilliant example of the earth element, due to its earthen material.

Samovar Curtains

Billowy curtains shield patrons from the sun’s rays, and help to foster a more intimate atmosphere between seating arrangements.  I also love the lantern in the window, and the high ceilings that allow chi to move freely throughout the space.

Restroom and Curtains

I really like how Samovar has concealed the bathroom with bamboo.  One knows it’s a bathroom, but it doesn’t feel like one is sitting near a bathroom.  I also like the further use of curtains to conceal unsightly storage.

Red Brick Wall and small Samovar

The elements of fire, earth, and metal are in perfect harmony here.  The red of the walls, the brick and the smaller, metal samovar coexist in a beneficial manner because each of these elements feed into one another.

There are many health benefits to drinking black tea.  Of the three main caffeinated tea categories, black tea Samovar Menu Flowerhas far less caffeine that its green or white counterparts.  The low amounts of caffeine found in tea can help stimulate blood flow to the brain without overcompensating the heart, which helps to increase energy levels.  And, unlike coffee, tea releases it’s caffeine slowly over time rather than all at once.  Black tea also contains L-theanine, an amino acid that helps one to focus and relax.  Polyphenols in black tea, which contain antioxidants, help oral and heart health, and may aid in the prevention of certain cancers when consumed on a regular basis.

Samovar also has a highly impressive website and blog.  In addition to having vast amounts of tea information, they also have a terrific online store where one may purchase any of their teas, as well as tea accessories (the teapot, tray, teacup and coconut nectar crystals pictured in the tea service can all be purchased).  They also have “tea gurus” who offer private tea classes.  The lounge has limited seating; I suggest making reservations beforehand (but walk-ins are also welcome).  On my next visit to San Francisco, I plan on trying some of their medjool dates stuffed with chevre cheese (Wendy swears by them), and one of their tantalizing rice bowls.  Until then, I will drink tea here in Los Angeles, read some Chekhov, and long for that delicious oat scone.

Samovar Storefront

Samovar Tea Lounge:  Mission/Castro

498 Sanchez Street, San Francisco, CA 94114

415 626-4700

Hours:  Daily 10:00 am – 10:00 pm

http://www.samovarlife.com/

Prosperity on Tap: The Draft Wines at Lucky Devil’s

Lucky Devils Bar 01

Amidst the City of Angels there resides a persuasive creature known as Lucky Devil’s.  This classy bistro first won my heart two years ago with their succulent ribs.  But when it was brought to my attention that they had tap wine, I decided it was time to pay them a long overdue visit.  Located on Hollywood Boulevard, it is the elegant red building pictured below.  (One  can’t helped but be charmed by the cute devil illustration on the marquee. )

Lucky Devils

Keg, or draft wine has been popular in Europe for centuries, and although it’s been introduced to America from time to time, it never really caught on until 2011.  And it’s still a relatively new concept for the Los Angeles market.  The benefits of keg wine versus bottled wine are quite extensive.   Wine barrels are completely reusable, either continuing their original life purpose as kegs, or being crafted into furniture or garden planters.   The keg storage of the wine preserves every single drop of the libation, whereas when it goes into bottles, some wine gets splashed around, thus wasting product.  Kegs also weigh less than bottles per unit, therefore less energy is used in distribution.   Not to mention the excess use of corks, and glass to make the bottles.  There is also the matter of taste.  The wood from the barrels influences wine in a highly auspicious manner.  Most wine looses some of this elemental influence when it is stored in glass vessels for long periods of time.   Wine from a barrel will have a more genuine taste to it than its bottled counterparts.   Not that I’m disparaging bottled wine in the slightest – I love both kinds.  However, keg wine has that beneficial wood element more directly connected to the liquid, which bottled wine lacks.   (When visiting wineries in Temecula or Santa Barbara, some of my fellow wine connoisseurs and I like to have our tastings in the barrel room, as one can usually try things right out of the keg.  Not all wineries offer this, but many do; they just don’t advertise.)

One would think that all of these prosperous attributes would make keg wine less expensive to purchase by the glass.  However, I have found most places serving draft wine in Los Angeles mark the cost up even more than wine out of the bottle.   Lucky Devil’s, however, does not do this.  Reasonably priced,  their wine is available in four different sizes, with 3 ounce and 6 ounce pours if one wants a glass, or the 16 ounce and 32 ounce servings ideal for sharing.   For a 6 ounce pour, most wines run $8.00 – $9.00.  Pictured below is a glass of the Fulton Lane Cabernet Franc ’08.   This luscious red has mellow suggestions of black raspberry, vanilla and cherry.  Lovely and sophisticated.

Lucky Devils Cab Franc

Of their sixteen offerings, I sampled a total of eight.  Here are my opinions of the other seven I tried:

  • Baileyana Chardonnay ’11 – This sweet wine was wonderful!  Hints of pineapple and oak are highly prevalent.  I could easily drink a whole carafe of this on a hot summer day.
  • Silvertap Chardonnay ’11 – Much more savory than the above.  This would be ideal  paired with pork or turkey.  Smooth and classy.
  • Shannon Ridge Sauvignon Blanc ’11 – An appealing white that enhanced the flavors of the goat cheese monumentally, with hints of pear.  Crisp and lively.
  • Boat Dock Rose of Grenache ’10 – Quite different from most blush wines, this had an almost creamy essence to it, without being overly sweet.  Although it’s not a dessert wine, I would have this at the end of dinner.  Intriguing and unique.
  • Pop-Chiles Sangiovese ’09 – Citrus and black pepper are the commanding influences in this balmy red.  Bold and contemporary.
  • Pardi Cabernet Sauvignon ’09 – A curious cab blend with hints of spice and orange.  Cool and complex.
  • Parducci Wine Cellars Pinot Noir ’10 – This is that pinot noir dream that every wine lover seeks out, with suggestions of cranberry and cherry.  Smooth and sophisticated.

Truffle Chips

Truffle Parmesan Chips – A perfect appetizer for any meal, although one may want to order two of these if the party is more than three people.  Alluring truffle sea salt and grated parmesan are the beneficial influences over these fresh-cut chips.  Dangerously good and very addictive.  This went very well with the Fulton Lane.

Flaming Goat Half Order

The Flaming Goat – Those born under the Goat, the eighth sign of the Chinese Zodiac, are said to possess many virtuous qualities including creativity, kindness, and a keen business sense.  The Flaming Goat here possesses a great virtue in taste.  Grilled bread covered with Laura Chenel goat cheese and red bell pepper.  The flaming aspect comes from a hint of habanero chile.  This is a little spicy, and I loved it!  Pictured above is half of a full order.  Fiery and decadent.

Tandoori Pizza

Tandoori Chicken and Goat Cheese Pizza – All of the pizzas here are served on a delicious and savory flat bread.  The mixture of the sweetness of the tandoori, mint and chutney combined with the spice of jalapeno, cilantro and onion provide that ideal taste balance of yin and yang.  Mozzarella and goat cheese are both used, and help to draw out the mellow red curry influences in the tomato sauce.  The flat breads are a generous personal size and perfect for sharing or as a stand alone meal.   Exotic and excellent.

Ribs and Sweet Potato Fries

Ribs and Sweet Potato Fries – The legendary ribs I mentioned earlier.  Enshrouded in a piquant bbq sauce, and then slow roasted for seven hours.  Simply wondrous.  The sweet potato fries alongside were good in bringing out the subtlety of the flavors in the hickory marinade.  A pleasingly sumptuous aioli is served with the fries.  Both of these items went extremely well with the Parducci.

Steelhead and Kennebec Fries

Steelhead and Wedge-Cut Fries – For those unfamiliar with Steelhead, it is a variety of rainbow trout.  Lucky Devil’s uses Steelhead in a few of their creations, including the sandwich above.  Cooked to perfection, and served on a delicious role with homemade slaw.  Delicious and tantalizing.  (If trout could be velvet, this would be it.)  Accompanying the Steelhead are wedge-cut fries.  Kennebec potatoes roasted to a golden hue.  Tasty and impressive.

I also tried two other items that are not pictured.

  • Short Rib Sliders – Two soft, Hawaiian roles generously filled with short ribs, wild arugula and a languid horseradish sauce.  I loved every morsel, and devoured them before I could snap a picture.  The Pardi Cab paired perfectly with the short rib.  Irresistible and filling.
  • Smoked Cheddar Grilled Cheese – Comfort food at it’s finest.  Smoked cheddar and a homemade chutney grilled between two toasted pieces of bread.  Perfect for vegetarians.  Partnered alongside the sandwich was a delicious salad of mixed greens with a mildly tangy dressing.  Enticing and opulent.

I had the chance to speak to Lucky Vanous, the owner and creator of this fine establishment.  I was really impressed with his passion for wine and food, and how the two can influence each other in different ways.  One can tell that he absolutely loves what he does, and this type of positive energy is released into the environment.  This is especially vital in making things people absorb – like food and wine – because this chi, or energy, is carried within these items.  An example of this would be Laura Esquivel’s novel Like Water for Chocolate.  The main character of the novel can only express how she truly feels when cooking – by putting her emotions into her food.  Those who ingest the food are then consumed with her feelings.  Some of the situations in the book are a little extreme, but I really like how emotions and energy, and their connection to food, are illustrated.  I feel the positive energy by Lucky and his employees influence the cuisine in a highly beneficial manner.   My server, Brad, took expert care of me.  He was very knowledgeable about wine and wine culture.  The few other employees I also spoke with were helpful and cordial.

Lucky Devils Bar 02

Another winsome trait of Lucky Devil’s is the environment.  They had remodeled some since my last meal here, and the changes are brilliant.  First, there is the color red.  Red is the most auspicious color in the palette.  The element attached to it is fire, and it signifies prosperity, abundance, fame, passion, love, and luck.  In feng shui folklore, many would use red string on items to draw more luck and wealth to their personal areas.  This practice is still used by some today.  From a color science perspective, it’s the hue most people take notice of instantly – hence why it is used symbolically in films more so than other color (such as in The Matrix or Schindler’s List).  A beautiful shade of cardinal covers the outside of the building, with various shades of red and scarlet covering two of the inside walls.  The cool, yin darkness of the tables, upholstery, and ceiling make a perfect balance with the yang of the red hues.  And all five elements are represented here  perfectly:

  • Wood – The trees outside, both along the sidewalk, and in planters lining the patio dining area.
  • Fire – The color red everywhere (including the red wine).
  • Earth – The stone and brick work along the walls, and the brown shades of the furniture.
  • Metal – The wine and beer taps themselves.
  • Water – The black of the upholstery, and the wavy lines along the red walls.

They also solved the beam issue!  As I’ve said before, I am not a fan of ceiling beams.  They can cause many health, financial and emotional issues for those occupying the space.  Here, however, they did exactly what  I would have suggested as the fastest “fix” – paint the ceiling beams the same color as the ceiling, thus making them symbolically “disappear.”  I also really like the height of the ceilings and the way the tables are spread out.  It makes for an easy flow of air and energy (chi).   And I liked the bathrooms.  I laughed out loud when I saw the male and female “sign demons” acting as sentries to the toilets.

Lucky Devils Bathrooms

As for parking, it is Hollywood, so it can be a challenge at times.  There are many pay lots around, and convenient public parking is located right off of Cherokee.  (Although I did find one of the coveted free spaces on the street)   Or one can take the red line and disembark at  Hollywood and Highland, and walk the remaining four blocks.  For beer lovers, there is the Lucky 7 Happy Hour where seven select brews are offered at lower prices (They have a total of twenty-four beers on tap.)  It has been a week since my excursion and I am dying to go back!   I never thought a devil could be so appealing, but this one most assuredly is.  Lucky Devil’s is indeed a place to indulge in heavenly good food and choice wine.

Lucky Devils Sidewalk

Lucky Devil’s

6613 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, CA 90028

323 465-8259

Hours:  Sunday – Thursday  11:30 am – 10:00 pm,  Friday – Saturday 11:30 am – 10:00 pm,  Lucky Seven Happy Hour:  Monday – Friday 4:00 – 7:00

http://www.luckydevils-la.com/index.php

The Tequila of L’Scorpion

In ancient Chinese folklore, the scorpion was believed to be one of the Five Poisons, which were five creatures that could cause great harm to people, especially during the summer months.  The first of these five were the snake, centipede and scorpion.  The last two would either be the toad, lizard, spider, or tiger depending on the source of the information.  But all of the sources agree on the first three.  During that era, it was believed that special amulets would protect the wearer from these so-called troublemakers.  It was more likely, however, that these little fiends were probably attracted to the cool environment of buildings from the harsh summer heat, hence why they would cause mischief more so in summer.   The Chinese were not the only ones to notice these  pests.  In Lebanon, The Temple of Eshmun is an ancient sanctuary devoted to the Phoenician God of Healing.  One of the only remaining frescoes on these ruins depicts a snake, centipede, scorpion, and crab, all symbolic of injury and illness.   In modern times, while the scorpion can still cause trouble,  it has redeemed itself in a variety of ways.  Medicinally, scorpion venom has been used in many applications, such as in the treatment for brain cancer,  in dermatological use, and as a pain reliever.  Of course, there is one scorpion that I find to be highly beneficial, and that is tequila serving one known as L’Scorpion.

My friend Katherine and I came here the other night for an incredible tequila tasting, and we were both quite impressed.  The lounge is nestled among costume stores and restaurants on Hollywood Boulevard, not too far from Hollywood and Highland.  I love the elaborate metalwork on the bar and glass doors.  Shades of vibrant red throughout, from the outside awning to the booths upholstery in back, add passion and warmth to the environment, as does the sensual lighting.

Lanterns and sconces, as well as a vintage tin-tiled ceiling are the prime examples of the metal in the space.  I love when buildings incorporate brick into their design, be it natural brick or brick veneer.  Here it  adds a beautiful and stylish earth element to the setting, which acts a bridge between the fire and metal elements.   The curvature of the metalwork adds a much-needed water element to the area, with the rectangular shapes of the bar and the very room itself symbolizing the final element, wood.  Even though it is made of metal, I would also venture to stay that the stripper pole in the rear of the lounge is another example of wood energy feeding fire – or as creative energy feeding passion.  It’s discretely displayed, while still being very attainable to all the patrons – should the mood strike them to use it.  Neither Katherine nor I felt the inclination.  The enormously high ceilings – I’m estimating them to be about eighteen feet high – also assist in a good flow of chi throughout the environment.

Four different tequilas were served to us, ranching from mescal (with an actual scorpion inside the bottle) to a nine months aged tequila.  All of them were good, but my favorite by far was the third option provided by Don Julio – which happens to be my favorite brand of tequila.

Guacamole with Chips – A generous portion of guacamole was served to us on a large platter, with strips of white corn tortilla chips.   L’Scorpion’s guacamole has a sting to it, with fresh green jalapenos added to the party.  Zesty and sensational;  I loved it!

Carnitas Tacos – We each got two carnitas tacos, and they were incredible.  The carnitas was some of the best I’ve ever had.  A small mound of refried beans accompanied the dish.  I added some to my tacos, and it was perfect!  I also like the modern presentation of the tacos on rectangular plates.

Flan – I feel all flan should be consumed by candlelight.  Light-as-air, this was the ideal addition to the meal.   It was impressive on its own, but when paired with the tequila, it was overwhelmingly  good.

In addition to their abundant tequila selection, L’Scorpion also offers a choice drink menu.  I went with their Jalapeno Margarita, because I like it spicy and full of yang energy.  On the rocks with salt and limes, this was a refreshing and strong libation.  The jalapeno in it offered just enough of a slap to get one’s attention.  I may get it just a little spicier next time, just to see how it is.   Katherine ordered the Paloma, which consists of tequila and Squirt soda mixed together with fresh lime juice.  Unbeknownst to me, it is quite popular to mix Squirt and tequila together in various parts of Mexico.  Citrus is the main forerunner of tastes in this beverage.    Intriguing.

As it’s located in the heart of Hollywood, parking can be a difficult task.  I would suggest bringing cash for one of the paid lots.  Another option is to take the metro and exit at Hollywood and Highland.  I did this and then walked the two short blocks to the bar.  Just remember the subway closes around midnight.  If you are going for a more mellow, yin mood, I would advise  going early in the evening when they open at 6:00.  However, if you want more of a lively, yang mood, go later in the evening after 10:00.  L’Scorpion will definitely needle its way into heart and soul – but don’t worry.  The perfect inoculation is more tequila.

L’Scorpion Tequila Bar

6679 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, CA 90028

951 250-3800

Hours:  Sunday – Friday  6:00 pm – 2:00 am,  Saturday 1:30pm – 2:00 am

http://lscorpion.com/