St. Petersburg Garden

St. Petersburg Garden

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Maille Mustard is Spice & Everything Nice

I've always loved mustard. When I say mustard, I'm not talking about that run-of-the-mill yellow sunshine version. I mean mustard. 

Spicy, brown, seeded - delicious. Even when I was little, I couldn't get enough of it. Mustard sandwiches were a favorite of mine. That spicy, dark yellow concoction spread between tiny pieces of baby rye bread was just perfection.

Why? I'm not really sure. Was it the spice? Perhaps. The vinegar? Could be - I'm a lover of vinegar too. Something about this perfect combination of flavors had me hooked early on and I just didn't know exactly why.

As I got older I discovered so many different brands and varieties. I couldn't believe the mustard world that was opening up but nothing compared to the heavenly goldmine I found when I was in Paris a few years ago.

Perfect bread for mustard Sammies
It was an accident really. We were strolling along the Place de la Madeleine and there it was. Store number 6. Mustard Heaven. Or more commonly known as Maille.

I didn't realize that Paris could get even more perfect. They had their own mustard store. An entire store. Le Maison Maille, it's official name, has been producing for more than 267 years.

Started by Antoine Maille in 1747, he began selling vinegar and mustard and later attracted the attention of King Louis XV. He became the official supplier of the King and other monarchs of Europe. If it's good enough for Kings then it's good enough for me.

We walked in to walls and walls of bottled beauties beckoning to us. I didn't know where to begin. What's more perfect than mustard? French mustard. I headed to the counter. I saw beautiful porcelain jars. Specialty jars for the limited edition mustards.

Then I saw it. The tastings. Mustard tastings. Perfection. There were so many to taste that we really could have been there all day. And night.

I remained calm and chose just a few. Each one was better than the next. We made our selections and moved along. We bid farewell to our boutique and knew we'd have to come back someday.

Then, one day, Paris came to me. With mustard. As I walked down the street, I saw a new store getting ready to open and there it was. A sign. Not just any sign, but the sign. "MailleOpening Soon". What??  Just two blocks from my office? I knew it was fate.

Won these at the giveaway
Mustard tastings and sampling mustard are just a few of the perks of being close to the store. There's Black Truffle and Chablis, Sauternes, Dijon with White Wine and they all come with the ceramic stoneware jar. Those are just the flavors at the pump.

Besides the dozens of other mustard flavors to choose from, they also offer many other goods as well. Balsamic vinegar, fruit vinegar, white wine vinegar, olive oils, cornichons and my favorite - the mustard spoon. Ideal for reaching that last little bit at the bottom of the jar so no mustard goes to waste. And no mustard should go to waste.

To learn more about Maille, you can visit their website:

Maille Paris:

Maille NYC:

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Alice & Me in Scone Wonderland

I'm a scone fiend. I'm not ashamed to admit that. Carbs and me, we're best friends. I'm not one to jump on the low-carb bandwagon. Hell no. Never. I need that crusty, flaky, chewy goodness.

Baguettes, bagels, croissants and last but certainly not least, scones - I want them all. In vegan form. Yes, it's still possible to enjoy all of this heavenly breadness in vegan form. If it can be made, I will find it.

And find it I did. This time I hit the scone jackpot. It was just an accidental find. I was out walking one day when I passed the cute storefront with the purple awning with a sign that beckoned for the curious to come inside.

I'm curious. They must have been talking to me.

This was Alice's Tea Cup, Chapter I. Located on the upper west side, it is described on their website as New York's most whimsical tea house.

I walked in and saw a wonderland. Cakes and cookies lined the counter. The wall was filled with giant tea tins. But the highlight was right there under the glass. Scones. And more scones. And then there it was....the vegan scone.

I was sold. I didn't even care what flavor it was, I bought it. Sometimes I get a little too excited. I don't even remember what it was other than delicious because it brought me back. Again. And again. And again.

I started to go every day. I got the scone card. A scone card! Buy 12, get one free. I bought one for me and one for Mike. Then my mom caught wind of my habit. She wanted in.

Every day I looked forward to my trip to "the Cup". Sometimes I'd even get tea. Rose Sencha.

I would walk down the street with my pink bag and people would stop me, recognizing my bag. I once even tried to sneak a few scones home but my mom saw the pink bag and called me out on it, asking if I remembered to get her one.

I also knew the people that worked at Alice's Teacup. There was Alice (really), who is sweet and Jasmine, an actress and incredibly awesome. They knew me too.

Which led me to realize that my everyday scone habit was getting out of control. I knew I had to take it down a notch. I knew I had to scale it back to just a few days.

But which days? There were good scones and bad scones. How would I know? What if I missed the double-chocolate cinnamon day? The lemon poppy seed day? The chocolate banana day? I wasn't sure I wanted to take that chance.

Lemon Poppy Seed for sharing
Until the weather changed. New York City in January. Cold. Very cold. What if I walked the 7 blocks for my scones and it was a pear walnut scone day? Did I really want to walk in the cold for a "bad" scone day?

The cold helped break my habit and the phone helped me decide which days I would make the trek. I call daily, get the vegan scone of the day.

Yes, I'm obsessed. When you find a good thing it's hard to let go.

Just a few bites now, some later

To visit any of the Alice's Teacup locations, go to their website:

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Hole

Ah, the Hole. It really just came out of nowhere. Well, TripAdvisor actually. It sort of just popped up on the screen when I was looking at places to visit. Almost like a sign. --->Go Here<

It all started when Mike and I tossed out the idea of going to Turks & Caicos. We weren't sure we'd be able to go but then we won travel tickets as the top fundraisers for the charity we work with and planning soon begun.

On TripAdvisor, the Hole was described like this, "get ready to go to the "Hole" located in Long Bay in Providenciales. This naturally formed massive limestone 40 foot hole is on the list of things to see. People can be lowered down a rope where 80 feet down there is a swimming hole. For adventurous souls only!".

I was intrigued. When I thought of vacations, dream spots, beaches and what to do while there, visiting something called The Hole wasn't something that was at the top of my list. But I like adventure. I was in.

Although I'm not a big fan of tours. I've always felt that I can do a better job of seeing an area on my own. I generally have two schools of thought on my travel - wing it (I'm a big fan of this and can honestly say it's been a great ride every time) and research. As I've gotten older, I've turned more to research. Not because it's necessarily the better way but because I don't want to miss anything.

The warning sign
So TripAdvisor has come in very handy and has given us some great options. We don't always have to use them but we've gotten some great tips and suggestions. We got to Turks, and our very amazing TripAdvisor-suggested hotel, and were set to explore.

We looked at the tour books in our room and they also suggested a tour. For $$$. Whatever. We're our own tour guides. We mapped out a route, grabbed our bags, packed water and snacks and hit the road. Not a bad hike but not too close either. We walked about 2 miles to get there. We were excited. The sites and the books had talked this place up. I couldn't wait to see this swimming hole.

A glimpse into the Hole
We passed dogs roaming free, mosquitoes, dirt roads, more dirt roads, beautiful views and a very interesting warning sign. And then....there it was...The Hole.

Just in case you weren't sure you were in the right spot, the large rock with a hole in it that stated "The Hole" was a good indication that yes, this is it.

There wasn't a soul around. Not a sound either. I'm not exaggerating. We started to wonder if this was a joke. Could all of the guide books AND TripAdvisor have been wrong? Could this really be one of the hot spots to see?

We were here and we weren't going to leave without seeing what it was all about. We walked down the gravel path, through some shrubs and there it was. Or wasn't. Sure, there was a hole. Could you climb down? Probably. Would you want to? No. Swim in it? Absolutely not.
A View from Above

I went close enough to the edge to peer down into this wondrous abyss. From what I read, I pictured rappelling down the sides into a pool of crystal blue waters. Nope and nope. Before stepping up to the edge, it looked like an interesting cliff with mysteries inside. I wanted to go.

My head popped over the edge and I saw.....brown water. Brown water? Not in the Hole. And garbage? There's garbage down in the Hole? Say it isn't so!  Is nothing sacred? Ah, poor Hole.

There you have it. The saga of getting to the Hole. Was it worth it? Of course it was. If we didn't go, we'd still wonder what it was all about. Like always, it was an adventure - we had fun getting there and we were able to explore more of the island.

And that sign. We wouldn't have seen that fabulous warning sign. Most of all, we were happy that we saved money (more for shopping!) and did it on our own.

Much needed pool time after a long hike to The Hole

Relaxing after a long hike to The Hole