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/

The Earth Element…Etcetera

Map Ceiling

When I was in grade school, I used to love to draw maps of faraway places.  Usually, these were locations that existed only in the vast caverns of my mind, but others were based on real destinations such as London and Paris.  Since then, I’ve always had a particular fondness for maps and globes.  I get a slight thrill when I open a work of fiction and see a map of the story’s imagined environment printed at the start of the book.  Or when I walk into an antique store and spot an old globe among the various bric-a-brac. You can imagine my surprise when I looked up and noticed the ornately painted map ceiling at Etcetera.  This stylish and quaint French-owned wine bar, located in the Mission area of San Francisco, is one of my favorite places to visit when I journey to the City by the Bay.

Et Cetera Interior

Rich, fiery red, and earth tones of brown, taupe and oak take command of the space.  These colors work perfectly together as red, symbolic of fire, feeds directly into earth, which the other hues represent.  Red is also the most auspicious color in the palette, and is known for attracting attention, luck and passion.  Earth colors, such as yellow, mustard or brown, help to support fire tones in a healthy and beneficial way.  Etcetera makes an impressive use of these colors.  Many businesses select red and yellow (or versions thereof) to draw in people to their environment.  Notice that most fast food establishments have red and yellow as dominate parts of their color scheme. (I also chose the same colors for this website.)

Et Cetera Window

Intimate seating is located within the establishment, and outside tables flank the entrance.  I also really like the compass on the ceiling, placed right over the door.   For those not in the know, there are four main schools of thought concerning Feng Shui:  Classical, Black Hat Sect, Western and Pyramid.  Classical Feng Shui (what my personal feng shui education is based on), uses compass directions to help guide energies throughout an environment.  The other schools do not generally use them.   Also known as Compass School Feng Shui, I refer to their specific principles time and again when analyzing an environment.  But rarely do I see compasses so beautifully displayed as here.  And it’s painted right next to the map (we’ve already established I like the ceiling artwork).

My favorite San Franciscan Wendy and I went to Etcetera during their amazing Happy Hour.  Et Cetera Logo Six days a week from 5:00 – 7:00, one can get a single tapa and a glass of house red, white or rose wine for $10.00.  That is a highly auspicious deal.  So we took advantage of the special, and did two rounds of this addictive combination.  Their tapas menu changes frequently, but below are the items we recently sampled.

La Paradou 2009 Grenache

Le Paradou Grenache 2009 – I opted to go with the House Red.  Their house wines change periodically.   Lately, it has been this delicious grenache from France.  The name of the winery, Paradou, refers to old watermills scattered about the hills of Provence.  A medium bodied wine, this red was seductive and delicious.  I had two glasses.  For more information about Paradou, please visit their website here:  http://www.paradouwines.com/en/   In the photo above, one can also see the charming square stools used as seating.  These were upholstered in a lush fabric almost like velveteen.  I found them to be very comfortable, and am even contemplating building a couple for my apartment.

Prosciutto and Asperagus

Prosciutto and Asparagus – Tender asparagus drizzled with olive oil and herbs.  Fragile folds of prosciutto mingle casually among the greenery.  Refreshing and tasty.

Brie Crostini with Fig

Brie Crostini with Fig – Warm figs tucked under a blanket of melted brie, on a hardened bed of crostini.  Rich and decadent.

Stuffed Tomatoes

Stuffed Tomatoes – Cheese and mellow spices nestled in tomato halves.  Comfy and appealing.

Beet Tiramisu

Beet Tiramisu – I had no idea beets could be so sensual and alluring.  More of a beet parfait than a tiramisu, this savory creation starts with a prime foundation of beets at the bottom, with a second story of beet mouse built atop that.  The penthouse level is unsweetened whip cream.  A beautiful wood element in the form of a single orchid is planted amidst the cream.  Although I’m not particularly a beet enthusiast, I found this parfait to be sublime and delectable.  Perhaps I should explore the world of beets more often.

Alsacian Pizza

The Alsacian Pizza (Flammenkuche) – A flammenkuche is a classic dish originating in Alsace, France, similar to a flat bread pizza.  Melted cheese is not always present, and creme fraiche acts as the sauce base.  My favorite is the Alsacian.  Soft, diced ham, slight browned, and carmelized onions completely cover the luscious crust.  This is not on Happy Hour, but I have to get it on each visit.  Intoxicating, this accompanied the grenache extremely well.

Et Cetera Art and Sconce

Rotating artwork from various local artists cover their gallery wall.  I also really like the wall sconces, which permeate the room with a soft, warm glow.

Wine Barrel Half Table

I am also fond of repurposing items for new use.  I love this wine barrel table.  It is literally a wine barrel spliced in half, and makes for a great conversation piece.  I also like the elements present here.  First, you have metal as part of the barrel.  Wood is also a part of it, but the wood here is dead, therefore it’s actually more of an earth element.  The brown hue also lends itself to the earth family.  Water is represented in the black shade of the metal, and in the curvature of the table.  I would absolutely have this in my home.

Et Cetera Sombrero Globe     Although they are not technically made of earth, maps and globes are definitely suggestive of the earth element, and can be used to further enhance earthen concepts in an environment.  To our left we have a globe that resides in one corner of Etcetera.  I’m not sure what the story behind the sombrero is resting upon it, but I’m sure there is one.  I also like the rooster and the lion.  In feng shui folklore, this bird is said to bring luck and joy into people’s lives, and is the only animal capable of eating a centipede (one of the Five Poisons.)  Roosters are also the only animal that acts as nature’s alarm clock, crowing every morning to celebrate the start of each day.

Lions have a rich history in feng shui folklore as well.  This large feline is a powerful symbol of protection, and is used throughout the world in front of palaces, banks, hotels, casinos, businesses, museums, and private homes.  (Some of my favorite metal lions reside just outside the British Museum).  In addition to their protective and guarding qualities, they are also known for attracting good fortune and wealth.   Other lion-esque creatures also roam the folklore landscape.  The most prevalent of these being the Fu Dog, a combination Lion-Dog.  These are usually placed in pairs, one male and one female, and act as sentinels for entrances to prosperous environments, such as select buildings, gardens, or neighborhoods.

The service at Etcetara is top-notch.  We were well taken care of by the stylish Alexandra and the debonair Alejandro (I believe it was his first or second day on the job).  Aside from their Happy Hour, they also have a few other deals present, such as their Tuesday Night Special:  One pizza or two tapas and a bottle of select wine for $35.00.  Various events are hosted here throughout the year, and board games are available on request should one have an instant craving to play chess.  Although I am back in my native Los Angeles at present, it will only be a matter of weeks before I find myself traveling the globe again to San Francisco, and having some wine … at Etcetera.

Et Cetera Row Houses

Etcetera Wine Bar

795 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

415 926-5477

Hours:  Tuesday – Thursday  5:00 pm – 12:00 am,  Friday – Saturday 5:00 pm  – 1:30 am,  Sunday 5:00 pm – 11:00 pm,  Happy Hour – Tuesday – Sunday 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm

http://www.etceterawinebar.com/

Street of Dreams: Susan Feniger’s Culinary Delights

Street Restaurant Sign

Years ago when I first visited New York, my friend Petra insisted that I try all of the classic street food Manhattan had to offer.  This included the bagel, the pizza slice, the hot dog, the pretzel, and the ever famed knish (and a few others).  As I ventured around the city,  I would occasionally spot a food stand or truck, and would try one of the items on the list.  It was shortly after this trip that I started really paying attention to street food and food trucks for unique culinary experiences.  Coincidentally, shortly after I returned to Los Angeles, the food truck craze was just coming into vogue.  Since then, I have had some amazing meals and memories created around sidewalk food.  So when my friend Kristy suggested we dine at Susan Feniger’s Street, I was thrilled and ecstatic.  I’d been wanting to try Street for ages, and the tantalizing cuisine far exceeded my expectations.

Indian Iced Soda

While waiting for our table, we sat inside at the bar and ordered some drinks.  I went with the Indian Lime Soda.  I found this to be quite similar to a Gimlet.  A generous amount of fresh lime juice and gin, served over ice.  Celery salt and cumin rim the glass.  The libation provides the ideal balance of yin and yang with the flavors, from sweet to savory, and from mellow to tart.  Absolutely excellent.

Crisps and Jelly

We were seated outside on their elegant patio. Unobtrusive umbrellas create a protective awning under which we sat.   These crisps, pictured above, came complimentary with the meal.  I found them highly addictive.  I didn’t sample the jelly that accompanied them, because I found they were tasty enough on their own.

Biig Fred's Red

We brought a bottle of wine with us from one of my favorite wineries, Robert Renzoni out of Temecula.  This is a fine table wine called Big Fred’s Red.  Hints of cherry and blueberry come across gallantly, with a slight oaken tinge.  Sensational and divine.  We then ordered a bottle from Street’s impressive wine list.  We went with their Barbera.  Unfortunately, I cannot recall the winery it is from, but it is the only Barbera they have, and only available by the whole bottle.  It was a rich, smooth red that accompanied the food perfectly.  I loved it.

Potato Samosas

Potato Samosas – Golden pyramids of delectable potato served deep-fried with a trio of sauces:  minty yogurt, cucumber chilli and a tamarind chutney.  Each Indian based sauce was savory and impeccable, and good alone or mixed with the others.  The samosas come four to an order, and are purely sublime.  I could eat them all day.

Chicken and Waffles

Chicken, Bacon, and Waffle Croquettes – Two chicken and bacon “meatballs”, reposed on a lounge of comfy waffle.   Enshrouded in a mildly spicy maple syrup, this was a scrumptious delight.  Here, too, is another prime example of the yin and yang of taste, where savory meets sweet.  I also like how the waffle is cut on the diagonal, adding the triangle shape of the fire element to the dish.

Angry Eggs

Angry Eggs – These, too, have the fire element present, but more in the form of heat – as in the use of green and red sriracha.  A nouveau take on the classic deviled variety, these eggs have a burst of spice.  Two pieces come to an order.  Zesty and unforgettable.

Kaya Eggs

Kaya Toast – This is my friend Lori’s favorite item at Street, and it may be their best-selling dish.  A generous amount of thick coconut jam is sandwiched between toast, and then cut into fours mini sandwiches.  Served alongside is a runny fried egg covered in soy sauce.  The correct way to eat this is to dip the coconut  sandwich into the yolk and soy and eat it with a little of the egg.  Delicious and decadent.

Pizza of the Day

The Daily Pizza – Street offers five different items that change every day, which include a Pizza, a Rice Bowl, a Salad, an Asian Inspired Noodle, and a Market Vegetable.  Pictured above was that day’s Daily Pizza.  Caramelized onions and bacon gave a highly tasteful performance here.  I also really liked the crust.  I generally prefer thin to thick crust, but even then I leave the end piece on the plate.  Not here.   The crust, end piece, and all the toppings were quickly devoured.

Fish and Chips

Fish and Chips – Thick cuts of yucca fries act as the sidekick to strips of  fluffy striped bass.  An enticing Peruvian panca sauce is drizzled on top.  Succulent and well-seasoned.

Tatsutage Fried Chicken

Tatsutage Fried Chicken-Japanese style fried chicken.  The breading on the chicken is astounding and rich.  Shredded carrots and an alluring white sauce garland the morsels.  Tofu can also be substituted for the chicken.  Almost rapturous in its taste, this was one of my favorites.  A must-have.

We also had three items that are not pictured:

  • Pumpkin Cauliflower Cannelloni – Gentle cannelloni filled predominantly with pumpkin.  I love anything with pumpkin, and this vegan pasta dish was intoxicating and filling.
  • Street Cheeseburger – My friend Zach got this, and I’m so glad he did.  A mouthwatering burger with all the usual accoutrement.  I really liked the brioche bun it was served on.  This is quite a large burger, good either as a whole meal, or shared with friends.  Phenomenal.
  • The Daily Rice Bowl – As I said earlier, their daily options change.   When we went, our server Chris highly recommended the rice bowl, and he was right to do so.  Saffron and curry were the main influences of the rice, with luscious pieces of eggplant throughout.  Refreshingly different and complex in flavor.   So good!

Street Patio Interior

I really love the use of color Street encompasses.  The dominating hues on the patio are black and orange.  In feng shui, orange  represents creativity, legacy and fertility.  It also offers a lot of yang energy to the environment, being very warm and lively.  Whereas black, a more yin, cool color, helps to balance out the orange.  I also found all five of the elements harmonizing beautifully here:

  • Fire – The red-orange walls, candles and subdued lighting, as well as the fire pit residing in the middle.
  • Earth – The wood parts of the dining tables and chairs.  When wood is cut down, it effectively “dies” as a wood element.  Therefore, it returns to the earth, becoming an earth element.
  • Metal – The metal parts of the dining tables and chairs.
  • Water – The color black encompassing the furniture and woodwork.
  • Wood – ???

But where was the wood element?  I couldn’t see any living wood at first.  And then I saw them – two large palm trees rising from the ground.  The restaurant environment coexists peacefully around the two living plants.  This is one of the best examples of the wood element I’ve seen in a restaurant.  A photograph of one of these monolithic trees is at the end of the post.

Street Bar

The architect for Street was Neil M. Denari.  Internationally known for his modern, almost futuristic residential and commercial creations, this was Denari’s first restaurant design.  Working closely with Feniger, they wanted to create a space that was welcoming and provocative.  Energy flows very well within the environment, and I love the unique shapes presented in the architecture.  Pictured above is the area right over the entryway and bar.  I love how the curvature of the walls and the wood paneling, further enhanced by the lighting, reminds me of a subway tunnel or an underground walkway.  Thus carrying out the Street theme on varying levels.

Street Interior

The restaurant’s interior offers a more subdued swankiness.  Wood and fire are represented quite differently here than on the patio.  The colors red for fire, and green for wood, are expressed in the hues of the spirited illustrations on the walls.  The murals and wall decor throughout are the products of Studio Huntley-Muir.  Su Huntley and Donna Muir are London-based artists whose innovative line drawings create an ambiance of a lively city populace.  I love how the drawings of people walking about lend to the space an animated yang energy, which is highly beneficial for a dining environment.

Our Server, Chris, was quite knowledgeable about the menu.  His suggestions were spot on, and we were taken care of very well.  Susan Feniger herself also comes around to greet tables personally, which I found wonderful!  She genuinely cares that her guests have an outstanding dining experience on each visit.

Street also has a new Happy Hour, which features a few choice food selections, $5.00 beer and wine options, as well as a $5.00 valet, from 5:00pm – 7:00pm on weekdays.  They also have many vegetarian and vegan options every day, and Meatless Mondays, where even more non-carnivorous items are available.   They also serve lunch on Fridays, with select $5.00 cocktails at the bar from 12:00 – 7:00.  I will be returning to Street very soon for said Happy Hour, and also for their Weekend Brunch (The Hawaiian French Toast sounds incredible).   This auspicious restaurant provides its guests with a trip around the world all under one roof, with various avenues to satisfy even the most discriminating of tastes.  I wonder if, on my next visit, I may find a cheesy knish on the menu…

Street Only Tree

Susan Feniger’s Street

742 North Highland Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90038

323 203-0500

Hours:  Dinner:  Sunday – Thursday  5:00 pm – 10:00 pm,  Friday – Saturday 5:00 pm  – 11:00 pm,  Brunch:  Saturday – Sunday 11:00 am – 3:00 pm,  Lunch:  Friday 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm,  Happy Hour – Monday – Friday 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm

http://www.eatatstreet.com/

Mochas Among the Greenery

Wendy and Colorful Trees

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”  Now, while I agree wholeheartedly with Cicero here, I feel he may have omitted a few other necessities in life – such as one’s morning cup of coffee.  I function much better after I’ve had two cups of that delicious brew.  It awakens my senses as part of my daily ritual for facing the world.   Coffee can be highly useful and beneficial in a variety of manners.  One of the many ways I use coffee is to reuse it’s byproduct – coffee grounds.  I have a small garden on my balcony at home, and I have found used coffee grounds are excellent as plant food, due to its high levels of potassium, nitrogen, and other trace minerals – all of which are important for healthy plant growth.  But is there such a place where coffee and plants come together in a beautiful, harmonious environment?  Yes, there is.

Grubb Nursery 01

Located in the Bayview area of San Francisco, there lies a hidden garden of wondrous delights known as Flora Grubb Gardens.  Established by landscape designer Flora Grubb (yes, that is her real name) and French chef Saul Nadler in 2003, this charming array of plants and plant accoutrement is a feast for the senses.   There is also a fountain within the garden, in the form of Ritual Coffee Roasters,  a coffee distributor that has one of its stores inside. Established in 2005 and launching a coffee revolution, Ritual’s main goal is “to craft the very best cup of coffee available anywhere.  Period.”   One may get tea or coffee, and wander about the luscious grounds, admiring the elegant plants and handiwork of clever artisans.  I ordered a mocha from the friendly and attentive barista.  It was that flawless cup of perfection true coffee connoisseurs seek.  I sipped my beverage and began my journey among the greenery.

Vertical Garden on Metal Wall

One of my current obsessions is vertical gardens.  They provide a beautiful, living wall of art, and introduce the wood element to an environment in a chic and unexpected way.  Pictured above is a grouping of six vertical panels of rich succulents.   Each panel measures 20″ by 20″ and is available for purchase at Flora Grubb, or at their online store (plants not included).  I’d love to try my hand at creating a vertical herb garden perhaps using one of these boxes.  More information about the D.I.Y. vertical garden panel is available here:  http://shop.floragrubb.com/vertical-succulent-garden-d-i-y-panel/  Flora Grubb also offers a great tutorial on making you own vertical garden:  http://floragrubb.com/florasblog/?p=894

Grubb Furniture 03

Since Christmas, I’ve been debating what to do with my leftover string  lights.  I’m thinking of draping them along some kind of metalwork, like the beautiful filigree pieces above,  Using reclaimed scraps from a variety of sources, they make great conversation pieces, and work well indoors or out.  Although more intended for vines and foliage, I think string lights would adorn them quite nicely.  Classy and colorful Fermob garden furniture can be seen throughout.  The neon green-yellow chair on the right is part of their Luxembourg Collection, while the other pieces are all part of their Bistro Collection, which is based on the original French design patented in 1889.   I’ve been thinking about acquiring some of those folding chairs, too.  I really like the blue one in the bottom left.   More information about their Bistro furniture can be found here:  http://floragrubb.com/florasblog/?p=2450

Buick Planter

Broken items or things in disrepair often attract sha, negative energy, into an environment.  Is it always important to either fix the damaged item, or re-purpose it in a new and fashionable way.  This classic car, a functional beauty in its heyday, has been reincarnated as a planter.  It’s almost apocalyptic in how the plants, a wood element, have taken over this very metal automobile.  It works brilliantly in this space because you have the other three elements working together in harmony alongside the wood and metal (the sunlight and red wall representing fire, the earth below, and the water sustaining the plants).  I like how they use every available area in the car to house a plant.  There are even trees growing through it!  A miraculous and thought-provoking piece of living art.

Comfy Concrete Chaises.  Photo courtesy of Flora Grubb Gardens.

Comfy Concrete Chaises.  Photo courtesy of Flora Grubb Gardens.

These concrete chaises were deceptively comfortable.  I sat here for a while with my mocha and didn’t want to get up.   Many people have mixed opinions about this pair of cement seating, but I like it.  However, I imagine they would be difficult to move around the property.

Justina, Plant and Coffee

Pictured above is my friend Justina with her coffee and a new addition to her plant family.  It’s a crassula of some kind, but I cannot tell you which one.  It’s cute, though.

Grubb Nursery O2

Gardening is one of those activities that is life-affirming and nourishing at the same time.  From a feng shui perspective, it is one of the few actions that incorporates the physical touch of all five of the elements:

  • Wood – The plants themselves
  • Fire – The sunlight for the plants to grow
  • Earth – The soil in which it grows
  • Metal – Gardening tools and implements
  • Water – Also needed for plants to grow

Yin and yang theory also plays a part here.  Many people use gardening as a stress reducer from their hectic, technological yang-filled lives.  Gardening can be a relaxing yin activity, which helps to replenish and balance out stress levels, bringing one back to nature and away from a highly mechanical world.  In addition to being a creative outlet, gardening is also good exercise for people of every age, from young children to retirees.  Not to mention one can grow their own fruits, vegetables and herbs.  Most home-grown veggies taste far better than the store bought varieties.   There is also aromatherapy of sorts working outdoors provides – the various scents of the soil, plants, flowers and air can literally invigorate the soul through olfactory means.  (The smell of fresh-cut grass is a proven aphrodisiac.)

Grubb Plants

The scenery and items at Flora Grubb Gardens are constantly changing and evolving, with new wares coming in almost every day.   I plan on returning here on my next business trip to San Francisco, to see what is currently being offered.  And to have more Ritual Coffee.  (Used coffee grounds also act as a bug repellent, for insects that meander through the soil, such as ants and slugs.  It’s not toxic to them, but will definitely keep them away.)  Come of think of it, I may not be able to wait that long for Ritual’s fine roasts – thankfully, one can order all of their coffee right here:    http://www.ritualroasters.com/store/  I believe is was Thomas Jefferson who said, “Coffee – the favorite drink of the civilized world.”

Flora Grubb Gardens

1634 Jerrold Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94124

415 626-7259

Hours:  Monday – Saturday  9:00 am – 5:00 pm,  Sunday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm

http://www.floragrubb.com/idx/index.php

Ritual Coffee Roasters (located inside Flora Grubb)

415 694-6448

Hours:  Monday – Thursday 9:00 am – 4:00 pm, Friday – Saturday  9:00 am – 4:30 pm,  Sunday 10:00 am – 4:30 pm

http://www.ritualroasters.com/