Floating in the warm, salty waters off Curaçao, watching the pelicans dive bomb for their lunch.  Was the B52 modeled on their moves?  Feet spread far apart, riding the thermals, they’re able to spot their pray from dozens of feet above the water.  They dive head first, wings spread far apart, and slam into the water, gobbling up colorful fish. Head back, the poor snagged fish slides down his enormous gullet. Makes me jones for fresh fish.  Most of the food stuffs on the island are shipped in from nearby Venezuela or from Holland, the island’s protectorate.  Land on Curaçao is so costly that it’s less expensive to ship it in rather than grow it.  Silly, huh?

Ecstasy at Esalen

Heritage Culinary Artifacts

He kept asking if I was able to ‘feel it in my marrow.’
Indeed, I could.  He was that good. 
But that’s not where my head was at. 
Not at all. 
Rather, I kept envisioning long, sterling silver spoons,
weighty and hallmarked,
their tiny scoops filled with whipped, savory clouds
studded with crunchy Maldon salt. 
Ah, the earthy flavor of bone marrow:  the mass of life with which we satiate
our darkest hungers. 
My reverie extended to thick slabs of warm brioche,
a fading Barolo from the late 70s, a worthy companion. 
Could the questioning yogi, a tall, exccedingly thin man now standing in front of me
possibly guess at my thoughts?
Bone marrow was not on the week’s menu, but I had come anyway. 
For a yoga and mediation retreat.
Apparently, to heal my marrow. 
Esalen Institute, situated on 120-acres hugging California’s pristine
Pacific coastline in Big Sur, was within easy driving distance
from my home in Napa Valley, yet a world away. 
Esalen offers more than 500 workshops each year on topics often devoted to yoga,
massage, ecology, spirituality, and meditation.
My travel mate and I took the opportunity to make a few stops
on the way to enlightenment,
searching for treasures from California’s Central Coast for my shop,
This covered casserole is a clever, functional work of art created by a
San Francisco artist.  Its figural handle shows a woman hitting her tablemate
in the face with a pie. 
Makes me think of Rubert Murdoch for a variety or reasons. 
Perfect for preparing roasts, ragus and bean dishes. 
Fully functional and in exceptional condition.
Created and signed by San Francisco artist M. Smitty, 1983. 
Measures 8" high and 12" in diameter.  ($310)
Most stirrup cups hail from England but California’s Central Coast is horse country,
so it makes sense I would find such an unusual piece so far from its home. 
Stirrup cups are handed to the rider at the
beginning of the hunt, filled with a morning shot of whiskey to toast success. 
Thanks to the cup’s ingenious design, the rider is able to easily balance his drink and the reins. 
The boar’s head is well done and rather rare. 
Measuring 5" tall and 3" in diameter.  ($185)
One of my favorite recent finds.  A blush pink Depression glass barrel with a brass handle and
spout dispenser, a black porcelain stopper and black porcelain base. 
In excellent condition, this is a highly unusual piece and would be brilliant
on the counter filled with olive oil, wine, wine vinegar, bourbon, Pastis…… 
The base and barrel measure 8" tall and 9" in length.
American, 1930s.  ($410)
 The night prior to our stint at Esalen, we arrived into the small, seaside town of Carmel.
I lived in Carmel for a year, many moons ago.  I always liked the idea of living in Carmel-by-the-Sea more than I actually cared to live there.  The name evokes salty air, golf courses, Doris Day and those crazy cypress trees, their low branches
carved into long, witchy fingers by the winds.  While the natural area is so incredibly lovely,
with its lagoons and harbors and mountains and wildlife,
it’s too white and too wealthy. 
And the food sucks. 
I nursed my indignation with a sunrise walk on Carmel’s divine beach;
the locals playing with their dogs
and catching up on gossip while standing in the gentle surf. 
Invigorated, we had a quick breakfast in Auberge du Carmel’s quite proper dining room,
filling up on hot tea and very retro but tasty orange-cinnamon rolls.  
Big Sur lies further to the south, a magnificent drive along a blissfully undeveloped coastline.  We tucked into a decent lunch of oysters and strong French beer
while sitting outside in the sun at Ventana Inn,
watching the hawks ride the air streams in the hills surrounding us.
We arrived to Esalen just as the sun was beginning to set;
a more prolonged and ecstatic sunset I cannot recall. 
Esalen Institute is … well, it’s truly an institution.  Hippie parties in the 60s, drugs, motorcycles, Hollywood, rock-n-rollers, free love; it’s the stuff of legends.  Timothy Leary stayed and Hunter Thompson worked in the kitchen.  Joan Baez taught a class.  Various Beatles and Stones, as well as heavy thinkers in Gestalt and psychology passed through, all leaving their scholarly mark while looking for peace, love and to score.  (And while I didn’t see any free love nor any rock stars, I did enjoy a bit of California’s finest herb each afternoon during our long lunch break; sitting in the sun, watching for passing whales and migrating Monarch butterflies).
The property retains its California counter-culture, 1960’s vibe, but I noticed more than a few guys waiting in line for lunch who were members of an entirely different counter-culture; the banker-casual shoes and the dress-up of a button-down shirt worn loosely
by guys from nearby Silicon Valley.
The accommodations were clean, private and sparse.  Like visiting a convent on a fine piece of land, which the elders of Roman Catholic Church are hiding from the courts.
The evening sky was black but for the stars.  We wore little headlamps
to get around the property at night. 
Not that we stayed up late.
Deeply sated on ocean air, green bud, meditation, yoga and granola, dark bread and kale,
we were asleep by 9:30 each night, books and magazines untouched.
Mornings were spent in an huge yurt on a bluff, listening to the surf and meditating with the rising sun.  Afternoons, we practiced yoga, listening to our bodies (mine wept) and feeling our marrow.  All of the Institute’s guests and members took meals together in an earthy/crunchy cafeteria, the walls of which were done in knotty California pine.
We waited patiently in line
to fill our plates with good greens and grains,
much of it produced on the property.
Esalen is well known for their outdoor baths, which are perched on a rocky ledge 50-feet above the crashing Pacific surf.  Unreal.  Natural hot springs flow from the ground at 119 degrees at 80 gallons each minute. These same healing waters have been flowing for centuries, providing respite for Esselen Indians and other seekers.  I sat in the late-afternoon sun, naked with a bunch of other naked strangers, staring at the sea.
The migratory whales seemed as curious about us as we were of them, coming as close to the coastline as they dared. 
The sea lions, however, couldn’t have cared less;
happy to rest their heaving bodies on the rocks below.
At week’s end, my body ached, but I felt nourished, relaxed and rested.  The screaming in my head had been momentarily silenced.  My karma must’ve been awesome at this point, because driving home through Monterey,
I found a few more goodies.
This chalkware piece is colorful, fun and functional.  This string holder is perfect for a kitchen counter, hunourously dispensing kitchen twine for tying up chickens, herbs and bratty children.  In fine condition with great colors.
Measures 8" wide and  7" tall.
California, 1930s.

This handsome and unusual ice-cream scoop is made with mixed metals;  brass and stainless steel.  While its design is timeless, it is the use of brass that makes this a unique piece.  Measures 10" long.  American, 1940-1950s.  ($62)
A platter like no other!  The bull is slightly raised and appears angry at the thought of being
roasted on the spit below.  Large in spirit and in size, it measures 19.5"long and 14.5" tall. 
In very fine condition. 
California Pottery, mid-century.  ($285)
The cheese knives are each works of art; radiant mother-of-pearl handles,
incredible detailing on the band work and English hallmarked blades. 
In very fine condition, these gorgeous cheese knives each measure 7" long. Set of six ($110)
The lines on these three pieces are absolutely amazing.  The covered creamer, covered sugar bowl
and covered honey pot are each in excellent condition and
have a lovely creamy brown coloring.  Each piece is marked with the
raised “raymor by Roseville” script mark and shape number.  Raymor Modern Stoneware
is a Mid-Century Modern line introduced by Roseville Pottery in 1952. 
The line was designed by freelance designer Ben Seibel,
and it remains one of the most popular patterns with mid-century afficionados. 
Creamer 4.5" tall.  Sugar bowl 6" wide.  Honey pot 4" tall.
American, 1950s.  Set of three pieces.  ($385)
The figural iron dog knife rests are exceptional.  Great detailing on
heavy pewter in outstanding condition. 
Dachshunds, perhaps?  Whatever the breed, they are eye-catching.  Bark less.  Wag more.
Each measures 2.8" long. 
Set of six ($225)
After a week of staring at the mighty Pacific and eating greens and grains, I was craving something rich from the sea. 
Our final stop before home was to liberate supper from the depths of Monterey Harbor.  Adoring abalone, I’ve been known to cruise Route One towards Mendocino, furtively asking random men by the side of the road if I can score half of their limit of two.  Divers are only permitted to free-dive for abalone.  No scuba allowed.   It’s a tough morning of work; the murky waters are very cold and sharks are known to feed in the kelp beds where abalone are abundant.  The harvesting of this delicious sea snail is highly regulated by the state.  It’s illegal for divers to sell their catch, so I’d offer to trade a good bottle of wine
along with a donation to their favorite charity.
Not often successful in my attempted bribery, I took to ordering from the
Their little storefront is at the end of a long pier, lending a distinct authenticity to their product.  Below the pier, attached to nets, is their abalone farm.  The red abalone is fed tons and tons of kelp, harvested from the same the waters.  It takes more than four years to grow an abalone to market size; at least 3.5” in shell length, weighing a quarter of a pound.
Ugly-sexy, right??
Once home, we pried open their tough shells and removed the meat from the luminous mother-of-pearl linings.  I opened an old bottle of Champagne and got busy cleaning the abalone, trimming off the mantle. I spent the next 20 minutes with a wooden mallet, tenderizing the meat.
I melted an enormous block of Italian butter until sizzling and tossed in the abalone cutlets, dressed skimpily in a dusting of flour. Once lightly browned and flipped, I added a handful of French capers and the juice from a couple of Meyer lemons.  I deglazed the pan with a bit of the 1985 Champagne, it’s tiny bubbles sending up a cloud of mingling aromas.
I could indeed feel it in my marrow.
If any of the treasures in this newsletter move you,
or would make a wonderful gift for someone you know, write to me. 
May I be of assistance? 
Contact me directly at
and I would be very pleased to discuss details. 
Please know each items is unique and one-of-a-kind, 
so when they’re gone, they are gone. 
I will do my best to fulfill your wishes.
Until next time.

Sunrise over the Bosphoros...

in Instanbul.  A completely wild city influenced by the multitudes that have come through… Arabs, Asians, Europeans……
Aimlessly wandering the mosques, palaces and souks during the day, with lunches of roasted lamb and vegetables while seated next to dark, cologned men speaking a completely unfamiliar tongue.  Awoken each morning by the Muslim call to prayer and put to sleep each night by glasses of Turkish wine made from varietals of which I’ve never heard….

September First: Dove Season Opener

Good Lord, it was 4am and I was already late.  Puffy-eyed and tripping over my barely laced hunting boots, I crawled into the cab of John’s pick-up truck.  I laid my shot gun on the floor and put my picnic basket on the seat; its savory aromas immediately filling the car and making John’s bird dogs hungry with anticipation.  This, after all, is what Labradors live for:  opening day of bird season.  As we made our way further into northern California, John, a passionate hunter, regaled me with stories of his most recent, boys-only deer hunting trek.  Seems he scored his one allotted buck on the first day of a ten day trip in the High Sierras with his bow and arrow.  I slowly awakened in the front seat, sipping my Jasmine Pearl tea and looking out onto the still-dark flatlands of orchards and wheat fields, while imagining John, dirty and restless, on the remaining 9 days of his expedition.

We arrived into the agricultural town of Dunnigan, California well before sunrise, the official and natural start of the season.  In the shadows, I was able to make out yards strewn with rusty farm equipment and cinderblock fences.  We met up with the rest of the group, a dozen men and women, many of whom were members of the California Department of Fish and Game and all enthusiastic hunters and environmentalists.  Each can rattle off species of trees and breeds of birds and bees before they even come into clear focus.  And each is a great shot.  I was privileged to be in such expert company.

Our motley group was granted access to a private ranch through a friend-of-a-friend.  After greeting one another and petting our hounds, as many of us had not seen each other since the previous year’s dove opener, we scattered ourselves amongst the hundreds of acres and awaited the first light of day.  I huddled into the arms of an enormous oak tree, shielding my bulky silhouette from sight.  I was glad to have the warmth of my heavy hunting jacket, a hand-me-down gift from a friend who had recently traded up to a Barbour, a fancy English hunting coat.  I tried to acclimate my eyes, looking into the dusk for darting birds and listening determinedly for the flapping of tiny wings.  I could smell the cool earth, recently plowed on the neighboring farm and hear the distant screech of roosters greeting the day.  The wafting pungent smell of good California ganja from my fellow hunter’s pipe put me into a reverie.  I immediately regretted being momentarily transported, as the first flight of doves whizzed over my head, only to be knocked out of the sky further down field by a more attentive hunter.

As the red brush strokes of sky changed to orange and then to pink, the morning came quickly.  The thumping of gunfire, both near and far, signaled the arrival of dove, ironically the bird of peace, as my many appalled friends had reminded me weeks prior to this early morning.  I took aim and shot at many more of the tiny birds than I actually hit, although I managed to bag my limit of ten before midmorning.  Overly excited, the dogs quickly retrieved the birds as they fell into the tall grasses and long before the ravenous ground squirrels were able to drag them into their dark dens.

I returned to the truck, my hunting jacket shedding feathers and my pockets brimming with spent shells.  (I’m frankly embarrassed to admit just how many shells I went through to knock my ten small birds out of the sky).  Most of my fellow hunter-gatherers were already situated in a circle, propped on their three-legged hunting stools, removing the dove’s feathers and trading stories about the ones that got away.  The ranch property is surrounded by almond orchards and sunflower fields and the craws of the little birds revealed slivers of almonds and sunflower seeds; a testament to their incredible diet and our good fortune at being able to to hunt such marvelously situated land.

When the birds were finally picked clean and laid to rest on beds of ice, we opened coolers and picnic baskets to share our morning repast.  Freshly pounded abalone from a recent dive was served alongside pears picked the prior evening.  Crispy fried chicken and fresh figs with proscuitto found a place on the tailgates along with a succulent blackberry galette.  Cold beer and cheap white wine were enjoyed until the bottles were drained.  I brought an enormous fennel salumi I smuggled in from London’s Burrough Market and washed rind cheeses from Sonoma Valley.  As I sliced several pieces from the hunk of charcouterie, I noticed my dirty, blood-stained hands; as much a badge of honor as purple mits are to the winemaker or dirt-caked fingers to the farmer.

Home by midday, I slipped the small bodies into a marinade and was grateful for a hot, cleansing shower.  Later that evening, I sparked up the grill and pulled the cork on a mature, Italian Barolo.  I carefully wiped the excess marinade from each bird and lavished them with salt and pepper.  They were patiently cooked over a low flame until the skin was crisp and just beginning to pull away from the flesh.  Each breast yielded only one, sanguine bite, made all the more precious by intense flavors of earth and game.  With great appreciation, the birds of peace were silently savored.  Following dinner, the carcass’ were made into richly dense stock which will again nourish during the cold winter months ahead.

United Kingdom


The first day in London poured cold rain, making it highly pleasurable to spend the day in bed, lazily acclimating to the time change.  The second day finds me venturing out into a breathtakingly cold, clear day - completely bundled for winter.   Now only slightly jetlagged, but still in desperate need of strong, short coffee and a buttery croissant, I tuck into a communal table at Monmouth, the wonderfully rustic (read:  lots of old wood and iron) coffee bar in London’s Borough Market.  Wrapped in their tweeds and caps against the city’s deep chill, dozens of Brits are escaping their offices to join me for a late-morning caffeine hit.    The coffee bar’s barn doors are always wide open to the market beyond, which now proudly exhibits winter produce from across Europe.  A typically patient queue snakes out the door from Neal’s Yard, it’s counters piled high with winter cheeses.  Stalls with cured salumi from Seville, fresh bread from Paris’ Pouliane, and jars of spicy Indian chutneys are set alongside butcher’s stands, now dense with hanging birds, winking pigs, and fat, furry rabbits from the English countryside.  


Fueled and considerably warmer, I stroll the city in search of a few antique shops and unusual galleries. I’m aiming to see incredible pieces of Victorian and Sheffield silver, an English specialty.  Two hundred and fifty years ago, Sheffield Silver Plate was an affordable, quality alternative to sterling silver.  Today, it’s not just a collectible, but highly sought after.   


This carving set has delightful detailing on the handles.  It consists of a sharpening steel and a carving knife and fork.  I also found a Sheffield serrated bread knife in the same shop that is not an exact pattern match to the carving set, but certainly a lovely compliment to the carving set, so I am including it.  The four pieces date to the early 1900s, are all Sheffield, and are in great condition. ($185)     Sheffield also produces extraordinary pewter pieces.  I couldn’t resist this tankard with the naked lady handle.  Is there a more ideal mug in which to drink beer?  Unfortunately, there is only one, so you’ll have to pass her ‘round. ($85)  


And incredible pieces of sterling silver abound in London!  A salt cellar with a colbalt blue liner and its own sterling spoon is matched with a sterling pepper shaker.  Both pieces are balanced on three ornate feet, with the elaborate culmination of a lion’s head at the top of each foot.  The three pieces are clean and polished and quite impressive.  ($165)  


I’m a nut for figural pieces and immediately bought these amazing sugar tongs.  Made from sterling silver and marked ‘Germany,’ it is a heavy and fully functional piece.  The detailing on his hands, feet and face is quite precise.  I’ll miss him when he’s gone.  ($385)


Wandering a small alley, I happened upon a curious shop with all kinds of old wood, shiny brass and various hunting accoutrements.     I was ecstatic to find a Clockwork Spit, also referred to as a ‘spitjack.’ What an ingenious design!  The meat hangs on the hook over the fireplace’s embers to slowly roast.  The clockwork mechanism slowly causes the meat to revolve, rotating one revolution one way, then back the other way, and then back again.  A cast-iron wheel and four, adjustable hanging loops are suspended by a brass clockwork rotating mechanism. Marked 30 Salter Warranted.  From England, late 19th century, it measures 16" long and 7" diameter.  ($325)


I also scored a fabulous brass kettle, polished to a high sheen.  It sits proudly on a brass stand and has a warmer below. The piece bears a circular mark enclosing conjoined “WS&S” for William Soutter & Sons of Birmingham, England.  The height overall is 13.25” ($210)


The final piece of brass I scored is a brandy warmer with a spout.  Who wouldn’t want such a fine tool, particularly on a cold winter’s night?  The bottom of the piece is woven into place, signifying its age into the mid-1800s.  The condition is marvelous, as it is spirit ready.  ($155)   


With warm brandy on the brain, I took a break and warmed myself in the afternoon sun at a table along the Thames, daydreaming about the previous evening’s sublime dinner at The River Cafe. Wood fired roasted squid, explosive with flavors of the sea, was followed by a salad of thinly shaved Puntarelle tossed with fresh anchovy and accompanied by an unctuous Soave.  Locally hunted roasted whole grouse still managed to sing when paired with a mature Chianti, its rose petal and cherry notes perfectly playing against the gamey bird.  Affogatos with homemade vanilla bean ice cream and Nonnino grappas punctuated the evening.  The dining room’s convivial spirit added to the divinity of this seasonal meal.  Even the grass-green olive oil on the table was small production, freshly pressed and spicy as hell.  Opened in 1987 by Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray, the dining room brought fresh, seasonal flavors to the then drab London cooking scene. The restaurant earned a Michelin star in 1988, but quite sadly, the world lost Ruth Rogers in early 2010.       


Awoke late to a smattering of rain, an all-too familiar London sight.  Quickly packed a small bag and located a Volkswagon reserved through Zipcar.  Acting as navigator to the countryside town of Somerset, three hours south of the city, meant sitting white-knuckled, neck veins bulging, screaming directions at my pilot while she drove the dark, winding, tiny, and often one-way roads in the rain - on the wrong side of the street from the wrong side of the car!!!!!   We finally arrived into the sweet Somerset village of West Coker and to The Lanes Hotel.  This little hotel is housed in a former rectory whose old stone and wood structure has been made new again; restored to a highly modern sheen incorporating glass, colorful paintings, art, and warm lighting.  I took a seat in the lobby in front of a mod gas fireplace, cleverly tucked inside an enormous old stone hearth, and found that a bottle of Meursault and a terrine made from local, wild game helped to soothe my frazzled nerves.


Even in the chilly rain, the hotel was full, but I never saw more than a few people.  I soaked in the spa, sans garments, for nearly an hour and didn’t encounter a soul.   It was late and I was hungry. Darted across the lawns and through a couple of stonewalls to an ancient pub, only to be told that the kitchen was closed, but they’d accommodate us with chips.  Platters of greasy, salty, thick-cut fries were washed down with never-ending pints of beer. A neighborhood gang of old British men sang local dirges and played every instrument imaginable, showing off for the couple of Americans fortunate enough to have wandered in off the wet, cobbled street.     The next morning found us on a too early train to the historic city of Bath.  I made the pilgrimage into the imposing stone Abbey, which dates to 675 AD, and sat for a long while in the creaking wood pews.  I was mesmerized watching tourists from all over the world slowly read the highly descriptive epitaphs on tombs located inside the sanctuary.    “Here lies Anne Mann; she lived an old maid and died an old Mann.”    Indeed, the walls do talk…     Blinking into the sunlight outside, I skipped the tour of Bath’s baths and headed to the antiques market, where the old men were properly attired against the frigid morning.  I was immediately attracted to a gentleman with a bushy salt and pepper beard who was manning a table laden with early pieces of copper, wood and porcelain.  


This impressive copper funnel is 15 inches tall with a great tin lining.  And like the desirable French belle that she is, her fine condition belies her turn-of-the-century age.  ($310)


I grew excited to find a box of six bone spoons.  Dating to the late 1800s from England, the custard hue and lines are compelling. Perfect for bone marrow, salt or caviar.  Maybe ceviche?  ($85 each or all six for $435). 


I indulged my senses with two porcelain creamers, both produced by Royal Bayreuth in the early 1920s in Bavaria, Germany.  The figural fish head ($245) has warm coloring, an enormous mouth, and measures 4 inches tall.  Unflawed.     I always smile at the St. Bernard’s woeful expression.  He measures 3.5 inches, has great hues of gray and brown, and remains in brilliant condition ($245).


Careening the back roads of the English countryside, only slightly stoned from half an old joint I lucked across in my toiletry bag.  Having chatted up the hotelier, we got the skinny on the area.  Green slopes.  Black and white cows.  Red barns and gray skies that shifted shade.  Late morning found us in an empty pub with a fireplace the size of a child’s room for a coffee, before making a detour into the little town of Axminster.  We fortuitously happened into The River Cottage Canteen, a project by English Chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.  I’ve always been a big fan of his books, which are not merely cookbooks but rather ethos on eating.  His casual, comfortable dining room, with its locally produced foodstuffs and rich beers held the promise of a fine lunch.  A duck pate made from the contents of a generous neighbor’s hunting bag was so dense and rich, so incredibly dark, gamey, livery, minerally… that surprisingly, I couldn’t take more than three bites.  The lack of indulgence left plenty of appetite for grilled sardines, pulled from waters off the Dorset coast and dressed simply with lemon and chopped parsley.  The beer was a local affair, full of hops and spice. A slice of gooey goat cheese made on a nearby farm and a salad of hearty winter lettuces left me refreshed.   Pushed on to the coastal town of Lyme Regis; its claim to fame having been the location for the movie The French Lieutenant’s Woman.  I was more impressed to find the stellar Town Mill Bakery.  We took refuge from the angry, spitting sky with large steaming mugs of ’Workman’s Tea’ (also known as Builder’s Tea) doused with local honey and accompanied by dense lemon cakes.  We watched from the communal tables of the warm bakery as the wind blew salt from the crashing surf.   I was glad I ventured into the few shops which remained open.  I found a very heavy, brass mortar and oversized 5” brass pestle.  It screams to be on a wood counter to grind herbs and spices.  ($225)


My last find in the UK was quite special:  a pair of salt and pepper shakers, with superbly detailed silver elephant heads made from the Victorian period.  The crystal bodies are heavy and in very fine condition.  English from the mid-1800s, and measuring 3 inches from trunk to base.  Highly unusual.  ($285)


My treasures and I made it home unharmed.  The U.S. Customs Officers, however, managed to locate most of my contraband salumi.  Ah, well.     It was a fine trip.     Always love traveling.  Always love returning home.   Until the next adventure…

Lisa Minucci | Heritage Culinary Artifacts

Oxbow Public Market | 610 First Street, Stall 14

Napa, CA 94559 |

Cavorting on Cape Cod

Share This: imageimageimageimage  imageIf you’re fond of sand dunes and salty air, Quaint little villages here and there, You’re sure to fall in love with Old Cape Cod.
Written by Claire Rothrock, Milton Yakus, and Allan Jeffrey, 1957 and sung by Patti Page. Landed at Boston’s Logan Airport on a recent gray and windy afternoon. I could feel the wonderfully damp chill of New England the moment I ran screaming from the foul, putrid air of the plane.  How I love to travel, yet how I loathe the process!  Hungry and tired, I craved restoration in the form of an old-school Boston experience.  Walked into The Daily Catch in the city’s North End just as a coveted table in this tiny 20-seat room freed up.  Run by a Sicilian family, the green awning has been hovering over this spot on Hanover Street for as long as I can remember (from the hazy little I recall from my stupor-induced college days in Boston, anyway…) Quickly ordered a cheap bottle of young Chianti and was overwhelmed by the comforting smell of frying garlic. That familiar aroma always brings me to my knees.  
Plates arrived in a slow rhythm.  Tomato and onion salad made tangy by red wine vinegar was followed by baked haddock pulled from the local waters; naked but for a dusting of crumb and a dab of butter and served on its still sizzling cast iron skillet.  Doused with lemon, it was the essence of New England simplicity.  A steaming bowl of pasta then arrived:  the house specialty.  Homemade black pasta made with squid ink and topped with chopped calamari, parley and handfuls of fragrant garlic.  We ordered another bottle of Chianti, its bright acidity a perfect foil to the richness of the dish, and proceeded to eat every damn bite, sopping up the oily goodness with that nasty, doughy stuff that constitutes Italian bread on the east coast.    Early the next morning, we slowly meandered southeastward from Boston, driving Route 6A through the entirety of Cape Cod.  The quintessentially east coast architecture of the boxy Cape Cod homes, the Spring carpets of purple crocus and the sunny bonnets of the daffodils, and the American flags hanging from the front porches brought back fond memories of growing up on this windswept peninsula jutting into the Atlantic.  
Had a hearty New England breakfast of pancakes and bacon at The Sailing Cow Café in Dennisport, in the middle of the Cape, before foraging for a few pieces of great Americana for the shop.   The first antique shop yielded a few of my favorite finds of the trip.  
image   One of the better food signs I have ever found, it reads ‘OYSTERS’ and hails from Cape Cod from the early part of the 1900s, probably 1930s-1940s, complete with old nails.  It measures 3’ long by 9” wide.  ($510)  
image   These five brass pitchers appear to have been handmade.  They all have spouts and large handles and are in wonderful condition.  Surely, they can be cleaned up but I enjoy the patina.  The five measuring mugs are early American, mid-to-late 1800s (set $245).    
During the 1800s and into the early 1900s, grocers used brass stencils to mark their boxes of fruits and vegetables.  Marked Lima Beans, Assorted Fruis and Sugar Peas, each stencil has an fabulous patina and measures 9”across.  They can be framed, displayed – and even used!  ($95 each)   image  
Heavy cast iron pieces always catch my eye, especially cool figural pieces that can go from oven to table so beautifully.  This fish measures 13” from lips to tail and 8.5” from top fin to bottom.  It hails from Japan, early 1900s ($185).  
image   I’m always on the hunt for beer related antiques.  High quality pieces are extremely difficult to come by, so I could barely contain my enthusiasm at coming across this very heavy bronze beer tap with a figural fish spot.  Measuring 11” across and 9” high, it’s a very fine European piece from turn-of-the-century or earlier. ($485)     Making our way further down Cape, we stopped in the too-picturesque seaside town of Wellfleet for a late afternoon platter of their famed oysters, which were dug that morning from just beyond the back door of our harbor side perch.  I also indulged in a huge bowl of steamers, dredging each one in hot salt water to clean them of sand and then in a butter bath before feasting.  Their sweet/saltiness is a true, seasonal east coast joy.  Washed down the bivalves with several bottles of cold Red Stripe, the tasty Jamaican brew.  From there, we forged on to Provincetown, located at the very tip of the Cape.  I was fortunate to find a couple of treasures in the very few shops that were open.  
I swooned for this little three legged lamp has figural feet and a fringed shade made from animal hyde, which gives off the most lovely hue.  It dates to the early 1900s and measures 12” tall.  ($190)  
Mid-century pottery always catches my eye.  Its color and form are always distinct, clean and oh-so-modern.  This platter from Frankoma Pottery was produced in Oklahoma in the early 1950s and is in wonderful condition.  The color is rich and vivid and it is the perfect vessel for serving olives, cheese, nuts and condiments.  It measures 12” in diameter. ($88)  
Tin and metal molds are such fun, especially the more unusual, figural pieces.  This chocolate mold sports the shape of pretzels, reminding me of my early days in New York, when the twisted doughy bread studded with salt and smothered in yellow mustard was this poor working girl’s lunch.  It’s heavy and measures 5.75” across and 6.5’ high.  ($185)     Bunked for a couple of nights in Provincetown at The Brass Key, a lovely complex of rooms, which open onto a fabulous courtyard, all done up by several men of impeccable taste.  My room sported old-school floral wallpaper and a shower with four heads stocked with great product.  The downstairs bar is hysterically named ‘Ship Wrecked’, and I’m sure that during high season, more than one or two sailors are found beached there.  Wandered Commercial Street, P'town’s aptly named main drag, now quiet as off-season looms but still managing to see plenty of leather harnesses and stud collars on parade.  
And speaking of which… who says there is no such thing as a phallic culinary artifact?   I scored this ceramic penis decanter from a dealer situated down a peaceful little alleyway.  Originally from Portugal, legend has it that the bride-to-be would fill it with liquor and pass it around to her bridesmaids the night before the nuptials, allowing each girl to take a pleasurable gulp from it.  Made of ceramic and painted in great hues. ($345)  
Wrapped in a heavy sweater and seated in a quiet, empty outdoor café, we tucked into yet another lobster and a bottle of Italian white wine, departing only as a chilly fog descended on us.  Slightly tipsy, I stumbled into a late-night candy shop on the return to the hotel.  I bought half a pound of the appropriately named Drunken Fudge, the smeared crumbs of which I found in my sheets the following morning.  Slept buried under my blankets with all the doors and windows open, listening to the fog horn moan in the far off distance…   Awoke to warm sunshine and took a soak in the large hot tub, enjoying the breeze and the solitude.  Went to Race Point Beach, which circles the northern coast of Provincetown, and took a long morning walk to the lighthouse.  Found a large cuttlefish skull picked to a white sheen by the gulls and the pounding Atlantic.  It’ll be perfect for the shop!   Sat in the unseasonably warm sun on a bench overlooking Provincetown Harbor, the tide far out and a lovely sea breeze blowing in.

image   Went to Devon’s on Commercial Street for breakfast, the windows open onto the harbor.  Spinach and black truffle cheese scrambled eggs with applewood smoked bacon; English muffins layered with house made raspberry jam served from pottery crocks on each table.  Rich, dark coffee, freshly squeezed pulpy grapefruit juice, and Red Bliss potatoes made with Old Bay seasoning made it a truly memorable breakfast.
Fortified, we drove off-Cape to Rhode Island, stopping to see the decadent Newport mansions situated right on the edge of Newport’s famed cliffs.  Good God, have you seen these places?  The Breakers, commissioned by the Vanderbilt family in the late 1800s, is so over-the-top that I’m sure my mouth was hanging open during the entire tour.  What opulence!  I brought myself back down to Earth by haunting various antique shops in the tiny state of Rhode Island.

image   This sign, ‘State Hatchery’ is originally from Maine and had hung in the dealer’s home for 50+ years.  It dates to the 1930s and is in wonderful condition.  The truly amazing aspect?  It’s double sided and can be hung in the middle of a room or over a kitchen island.  It measures 22” tall, 52” wide and 2” deep.  One of a kind.  ($1450)

image   This Victorian-era butter service is quite unique, topped with a dairy cow.  In wonderful condition, it is fitted with a butter knife and an interior tray, which rests on a bed of ice.  In wonderful condition, this piece was created by Simpson, Hall and Miller Silverworks in the late 1800s in Connecticut.  ($245)

image   Cast iron calls to me.  These heavy, figural sheep are very well done with great detail.  They can be used as doorstops or bookends.  I love them!  (pair $185)

image     As my background is in wine and my shop sits in the heart of Napa Valley, I am always hunting for unusual wine antiques.  This European wood, picking basket is a rare item, and still boasts its leather straps.  The patina is rich and lovely and would be perfectly suited to hang on the wall of a kitchen, or over a hearth. Dates to the mid-1800s. ($1650)       The last night’s dinner was a long anticipated affair at Rhode Island’s famed Al Forno.  A bottle of young Barolo accompanied a rustic, rich dish of tomato and eggplant covered with local, bubbling mozzarella, which had been roasted in their wood fired oven. God, how I adore the east coast Italian sensibility!  Guinea hen, smoky and succulent from the wood oven, was served with locally produced polenta and freshly plucked dandelion.  Food and service were all top-notch, but I’m not a fan of being asked to order dessert with my entrée.  Surely, this consistently packed dining room sets such a policy to keep tables turning, but it feels rushed and less than hospitable.  And I usually prefer a green salad and a piece of cheese to hunk of chocolate cake at my meal’s end.
  Too much good booty to pack away in my suitcases, so I spent the final, precious east coast morning negotiating with a shipping company to deliver the pieces westward, safely and before the turn-of-the-century.  I’m happy to report all arrived and my cuttlefish skull, retrieved from Race Point Beach that fine morning, continues to waft its briny scent throughout my shop in Napa Valley.
image   Wedding season is nearly upon us.  I have been asked repeatedly to offer personalized gift registries of unique, one-of-a-kind items.  May I be of assistance to you?  Please contact me directly at and I would be very pleased to discuss details.   And of course, if any of these items in this newsletter move you, write to me.  Please know that each items is unique and I only have one - so when they’re gone, they are gone.  But I will do my best to fulfill your wishes.
  Until next time.

Lisa Minucci | Heritage Culinary Artifacts

Oxbow Public Market | 610 First Street, Stall 14

Napa, CA 94559 |