Archive for October, 2009

Project: Typhoon Recovery

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

Over the last ten years, the craftspeople who work at our Philippine factories have made beautiful, hand crafted acaciaware that provides our customers with unparalleled quality and enduring beauty. These craftspeople represent several hundred families who thrive, in large part, because of their successful partnership with Pacific Merchants and the strong, loyal customer base we provide for their exceptional woodenware.

This past month, super Typhoon Ondoy brought a month’s worth of rainfall to Metro Manila and the outlining Philippine towns in just a few hours, causing severe flooding which resulted in the loss of hundreds of lives and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people. Eight days later, Typhoon Pepeng struck the northern regions causing more damage. More than four million people have been affected by the ravages of these two major typhoons. Beside the loss of life, electricity is still out in many outlying areas, access roads have been washed away, telephone service is still out, and the production of wood at factories such as ours has been at a standstill for several weeks. The good news is that the factories are slowly coming back to life.

After learning about the full extent of the crisis just this last weekend, Pacific Merchants has committed to aid our friends in this devastated country. Effective immediately, we are launching Project: Typhoon Recovery. Through November, Pacific Merchants will donate a significant percentage of profits to recovery efforts in the Philippines.

A Little of This, A Little of That…

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

I’ve had a few requests for the recipe for my homemade vinaigrette dressing, so I’ve included it below, along with the recipe for my favorite salad. Enjoy!

Bruce’s Famous House Salad

Salad:

  • 1 head Romaine lettuce
  • 1 bunch chives, diced into 1/8 “ pieces
  • 1 plump, moderately firm heirloom tomato, sliced or diced to suit your style
  • 4-5 hearts of palm, diced into ¼” pieces

Remove tough and discolored leaves from exterior of romaine head, and cut into bite sized pieces*, rinse, pat dry, and toss into your gorgeous wooden salad bowl from Pacific Merchants. Add chives, tomato and hearts of palm in reckless abandon. Toss with vinaigrette just prior to serving in your gorgeous wooden salad bowl from Pacific Merchants. Am I repeating myself? ; )

Vinaigrette:

  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Unsweetened rice wine vinegar
  • The best virgin olive oil you can manage
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Crushed garlic
  • Fresh garden herbs

To be perfectly honest, I don’t have measurements for this dressing. It’s “a little of this, a little of that” which means the ingredients above serve as a guide for your own, unique vinaigrette. In the interest of good health and lower calories, I do tend to use much more vinegar than oil, flipping the traditional 1/3 vinegar to 2/3 oil the other way round. But that’s all I’m going to say. Enjoy!!!

*Romaine is the only lettuce I know of that can be cut with a knife, rather than torn. This according to my 8th grade home economics teacher. Something to do with the edges of the leaves being resistant to browning. I’ve never checked with an outside source to verify Miss Silver’s claim, but she did have a sterling reputation.

The Picasso of Placemats

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

Serving a memorable meal is a fine art. That art begins with sumptuous cookery: delicious dishes composed with rich daubs of color, broad swathes of texture, and subtle accents of spice. But plating out a delightful dinner is only half the magic. Table setting provides the ultimate framework for the meal you’ve poured your culinary creativity into. Flowers – always. My wife loves when I bring them home, but often picks them fresh from the garden. My kids enjoy collecting pebbles, branches and leaves in the fall and creating the look of a little Japanese garden on the table. They’ve even used a battery operated dime store Zen fountain as a centerpiece, and the effect is charming. Candles? Absolutely, but keep them unscented so they don’t compete with the amazing smells wafting from your serving dishes. I’m also a big fan of oversized, oft washed, super soft dinner napkins. Buy the best and use them often. They just get better with age. But I have to admit that as a purveyor of placemats, I am most inclined to wax poetic about the spectacular qualities of these regularly rectangular, occasionally oval little beauties.

Placemats are a beautiful adornment for a bare table, but they also look lovely on a tablecloth. I recently attended a function at a very fancy restaurant and was pleased to see our Red Maple placemats embellishing a tablecloth of crisp white linen. The look was surprising, both modern and classic. I got a kick out of how several of the other diners commented on the table setting, without knowing the placemats were one of my products! I also surmised that the restaurateur was saving a fortune on laundry bills by using our dishwasher safe placemats on top of the linens!!

Placemats come in a wide variety of colors and weaves, and your best bet is to make sure they complement your dishes, serveware and home decor. Sometimes we serve off of very modern white dishes at home, and pretty much anything goes. Placemats can tie in with a seasonal or culinary theme, flowers, or even complement the color palette of the food being served – although I would warn against getting too cute and matchey-matchey. If you are serving on a patterned china, then the placemat should be more subtley paired, to be a backdrop for the plates. A tailored neutral is often best in that case. But whatever you do, have fun. Think a little outside the box – or rectangle – as the case may be. If you do, you are sure to produce a masterpiece!