Monday, December 29, 2014

Just in Time for New Year's: The new RALPH LAUREN RESTAURANT, the POLO BAR, New York

"I have to figure out where I'm going to sit for the rest of my life," said Ralph Lauren dressed in a perfectly-fitted suit of Scottish tweed and gold chained pocket watch.   Ever handsome and stylish at 75 years young, Ralph Lauren's The Polo Bar, which is scheduled to open in time for New Year's Eve, is just steps away from his flagship store at Fifth Avenue and 55th Street. Ralph Lauren describes it as "It's tradition with flair."  "The food you're going to come here for is really the best I can do," said Mr. Lauren.  

The Polo Bar has a Old World, decidedly American aristocracy feel, very warm and inviting, the perfect place to come with loved ones or friends on New Year's Eve.  "You've got to be someone who pays attention to the details," Mr. Lauren said, and isn't it those gorgeous details we have come to expect from Ralph Lauren.  Happily he always exceeds our expectations and gives us more than we could imagine, that is the essence of great design, and oh so, perfectly Ralph Lauren.

The Polo Bar Burger

Corned Beef Sandwich with Melted Swiss

"I'm about longevity, I'm about timeless."

The Bone-in Rib-eye

"It was not my idea to be trendy.  I don't want to be the hot restaurant.  I want to be the restaurant you want to go to twice a week."  -Ralph Lauren

If you live in or are coming to New York, get your iPhone out and make reservations now.   For me, I have added it to my list of reasons why I want to move to New York, or visit very soon!

I wish you all a very Happy New Year!

I hope it's lovely where you are...
xx Rié

The Polo Bar
Ralph Lauren Polo
One East 55th Street
New York, NY 10022

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Art of Hospitality: Lunch on the porch, Dinner @ 8:00 PM, Breakfast is self-serve...

Katie Rodgers

It's Monday before Christmas, Hanukkah is under way, and you've done it... the gifts are bought and wrapped, travel plans made, menu decided, and family and friends are coming in to stay with you for the Holiday.  Spending time with friends and family means so much and is a wonderful break from our busy lives.  Making the extra effort for your house guest(s) says to them, "You are important to me."

As you prepare your home, apartment, or beach house for entertaining a Holiday guest(s), keep in mind that all of the small details from good pillows and fresh towels, to a stack of toiletries, add up to create an inviting, comfortable space.

"I want my guest room to be a retreat where friends and family can get away and relax; ... Before your guests arrive, open a window, season permitting, and let in some fresh air.  In the evening switch on a lamp so no ones has to walk into a unfamiliar room in the dark... Turn down the sheets, it's a simple gesture that makes anyone feel pampered." 
- Designer Bunny Williams

A beautifully designed, planned, and laid-out room with your signature welcome such as fresh flowers and/or scented candle (anything from Jo Malone), fresh sheets, and a set of fresh, new if you can, towels for each guest, (please not the towels you use for washing the car ... I am not mentioning names) a new bar of soap, a desk and a comfortable chair and ottoman, good reading lights next to the bed, a bottle of water and small plate of cookies or fruit, is the short listThis attention to details can be achieved next to a pull-out sofa, none of the items need be extravagant, but each practical and stylish - it's the Art of Hospitality.

"Lunch on the porch, Dinner @8:00 PM, Breakfast is self-serve: Coffee, bread, orange juice & toaster is set up in the kitchen.  Help yourself.  See you at noon."  

A small itinerary checklist left by their bed for the next day will put your guest at ease.

Over the years I have collected Guestroom Checklists.  Here is my compilation, I would love to hear what's on yours.  Enjoy!

The Art of Hospitality
-Guestroom Checklist -

"It's the flowers you choose, the music you play, the smile you have waiting."
 - Audrey Hepburn


.   Every room needs a bedside table, perferably two, and/or a table/desk that can be used as a dressing table or a desk where guests can plug in a phone, an iPad, and any other electronic devices.

.   On the desk: postcards, brochures of local attractions, map of area, and stamps.

.   A chair, or if space permits, a comfortable chair for reading or watching TV is a pleasure, and so is a pull-up bench or an ottoman for propping up feet.

.   Good reading lamps.  I will tuck a small "book light" in a nightstand in case one wants to read while the other sleeps.

.   Fresh Flowers and/or a scented candle.

.   Tissue, small travel-size is best and guests can bring it with them.

.  Books, old and new, current magazine particular to your guest tastes, and that day's newspaper.

.   An alarm clock.

.   Along with notepads next to the phone, keep nice pencils on hand - I like the all-black by Dixon from Office Depot.

.   Small TV or portable DVD player, and/or a CD player with Christmas by Michael Bublé is a nice touch for the holidays.

.   Blackout blinds or shutters for the non-early risers.

.   For the Kids: a small basket of books, Go Fish Cards, jump rope and/or art supplies.

.   If your guests plan to visit for several days, they might wish to put away their things in a chest of drawers - much neater and nicer than living out of a suitcase.


.   Start with a good quality med-firm mattress and mattress pad.

.   Use only 100 percent cotton sheets.  For a fresh, fragrant touch, add lavender water to the rinse cycle.

.   Take the time to do a little ironing.  At the very least, press the pillowcases and the fold-over hem.

.   A variety of good pillows are essential.  Include 2 large 27" European squares for reading in bed, and two (preferably four), standard pillows on a queen-sized bed.  Treat yourself and your friends to a luxurious down pillows, with protective pillow covers, but keep one good quality non-allergenic for anyone who can't use feathers or down.

.   Fold a duvet over the foot of the bed for chilly nights.

.   Soft throw over the foot of the bed for naps.

ON THE TABLE - Snacks and Drinks

.   A plate of tempting cookies and/or a basket of washed fruit.  If I know they are arriving late in the evening I will also leave out some cheese and salami with fresh ground pepper, covered.

.   Bottled(s) water, one per guest, and/or a carafe with the cup on top is a must.

.   Coffee Maker with the all the trimmings or a thermal Carafe of Coffee.  And a hot-chocolate thermal carafe for the kids.  This could also be set up in the kitchen on trays. 

.   In my guest room closet I have a small fridge with glasses, soft drinks, water, sparkling apple cider, cookies, yogurt and other nibbles.  On the top I have a Wolf Gang Puck Hotel coffee maker (which you can purchase online, very affordably) with all the fixings, de-cafe/caffeinated coffee, sugar, sweetener, creamer, coffee cups with saucers, and spoons/stir sticks.


.   Matching padded or wood hangers.

.  Use neutral room fragrances like lavender to keep the closet smelling fresh.

.  A full-length mirror on the inside of the door.

.  Small iron and tabletop ironing board.

.   Luggage rack.  Bags are dirty from the airlines and what not, and definitely don't belong on the bed.

.   Terry cloth robes in a size large enough to fit everyone.

.   If you use this closet for out-of-season clothes, put them in long garment bags keeping them out of your guest's way and the closet neater.

.   If space permits, summer hats, and umbrellas for your guest's use and pleasure.

 "The golden rule of hospitality, however, always remains the same: comfort comes first and preparation is essential." - Designer Jane Schwab

IN THE BATHROOM - Keep toiletries stocked for anyone who may have forgotten something essential, including:

.   Toothbrush, toothpaste, Advil travel size, emery board, sun block, disposable razor, and a travel size sewing kit.  These can be placed in a pretty basket or in a drawer with a lovely card that reads:  For Your Convenience.

.   Thick absorbent terry-cloth towels, I prefer white for easy cleaning with Clorox2, at least one set per-person (bath towel, hand towel, and wash towel).

.   Fresh soaps in both masculine and feminie scents, or bath gel, I love any by Jo Malone or Mistral.  If you hate to waste a full-sized bar, buy guest soaps and toss them after each visit.

.   Hair dryer.

.   Check shower curtain liners for mold and change as necessary.

.   Place a pretty glass tumbler next to the sink, or bottle of water.

.   Beautifully scented candle and matches.

.   Fresh flowers.

.   Free-standing or wall-mounted cosmetic mirror.

 "Life is an exciting business and most exciting when lived for others."
-Helen Keller

Most of all, enjoy your time together.  The Holidays can be stressful, but don't let circumstances or a particular person let you become negative, discouraged, where everything starts to feel like a struggle.  Stay positive, hopeful and expect good things and have fun!

If you're the guest, my mom's advice would have been; remember this is someone's home, chip-in: take the dog for a walk, help with the dishes, or play a game with the children.  Be a delight to have and be around, and don't forget to send a thank you note and some flowers afterwards.

I wish you a Happy Hanukkah and a Merry Christmas!

My prayer for you is   LOVE   .    JOY   .   PEACE

xx Rié

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

French Castle, French Porcelain, French Cookware, and Gourmet Foods from Napa Valley - Just in Time for Christmas

The entrance through the castle walls that surrounded the city in 1492 still serves as gateway to the tiny town of Mehun-sur-Yvere.  Most of Pillivuyt's 350 employees come from the surrounding neighborhoods of Mehun.

WE ARRIVED IN THE NAPA VALLEY'S MOST CHARMING TOWN, ST. HELENA, after a 6 hour car ride, very much looking forward to Christmas and window shopping.  It really is the most wonderful time of the year, twinkle lights fill the tree-lined street with charm, some of the best window displays, bakeries, quaint restaurants, and specialty stores are all lined up neatly in a row.  Leisurely strolling is the best form of transportation to pop in and out and enjoy the season.

Anything French and especially French Brocante has been ever so popular here in the states for some time now.  As Americans we want a piece of that lifestyle.  I personally appreciate the quality of their craftsmanship, and I love vintage French monogram linens, and vintage French dishes.  But the vintage ironstone is no longer food safe, and while it looks wonderful displayed, I couldn't use it.  This began my love for Pillivuyt, who has been producing fine culinary porcelain in the heart of France for nearly two centuries.

Founded by the Pillivuyt family in 1818, the factory is now employee owned (can you believe that?) and operated near the town of Mehun-sur-Yevre.  Everything is handmade by artisians with a 17 step process to exacting standards of quality and supported by state-of-the-art equipment, blending century-old craftsmanship with modern production techniques.  Pillivuyt is beautiful and functional, and is used by almost all restaurants in France.  It can go directly from the freezer to the oven or microwave, it is dishwasher-safe, and everything looks good on it!

Olivier's window display in the evening.

Pillivuyt's porcelain is a gorgeous clear white and has a wonderful weight, it dresses up any table and looks fabulous on open shelves in the kitchen

Pillivuyt France: Lion's Head Tureen, Casseroles/Terrines, Oval Gratin Dishes, dinner plates, and Mehun Milk Pitchers 

Olivier Napa Valley:  Cranberry Bourbon Confit on their gorgeous Antique French Butcher's Block.

In this charming town of St. Helena our first stop for many years now has always been Olivier Napa Valley.  Established in 1995, Olivier began producing fine gourmet oils and savories for specialty stores, and opened a retail store in 1999.

It's a gorgeous store filled with wonderful gourmet food, French Porcelain- Pillivuyt, French Cookware-Staub, Antiques like this gorgeous French butchers block, French soap, lavender, French Pottery and cookbooks.  I always keep their olive oils and specialty mustards on hand.  My new favorites are Olivier's Toasted Garlic & Herb Dipping Oil which is wonderful on anything including eggs, and Truffle Mustard which takes an ordinary sandwich and makes it divine.

Pillivuyt France: Oval Casserole with lid

Olivier's Window display (backside) with an assortment of Pillivuyt, Olivewood, and Pewter

Olivier: Salted Rum Caramel Sauce, Pernod Anise Caramel Sauce and Highland Butterscotch Sauce with their 

Cooper Wrapped Chop Blocks and 

Vallauris French Pottery

Balsamic Vinegars:  
VSOP, Red Apple Balsamic, Blueberry Balsamic, Raspberry Balsamic, and Vinegar/Olive Oil Cruet

Mediterranean, Lemon Dill, and Pomegranate  

 Olive Oils:  
Basil, Chili, Garlic, Herbes de Provence, Lemon, and Truffle Olive Oil

Staub en France Cookware and Teapots
Oval, Round and Mini Cocottes

Olivier Classiques Entrée Base:  
Swedish Meatballs, Chicken Cacciatore, Chicken Marsala, Beef Stroganoff, and Coq au Vin

Olivier carries the self-basting, enameled cast iron cookware and teapots from Staub, France.   Every piece of Staub is made in the Alsacs region of France and is produced using a one-use sand mould, which contributes to the intrinsic beauty of Staub's glazes.  They are used in the best restaurants of France and by notable chefs.

I had been searching for a new tea pot, not made in China, that didn't rust, and looked good on my stove top -and voila!  I purchased a graphite, gray, Staub and I love it.  It's beautiful, stylish, functional, and looks great with my Pillivuyt tea cups.  What more could a girl want from a teapot.  You will most likely never need a new one, well, unless you want a new color.

Olivier's Entrée Base is the perfect way to have a gourmet meal quickly!  Just add one chicken, about 4 lbs, cut into 8 pieces or better yet 4 chicken breasts, add salt and freshly ground pepper, 2 Tbs. of Olive Oil, 1 jar Chicken Marsala base - in your new Staub Cocotte of course - and serve on your French Pillivuyt dishes.  Then add an organic baby green salad, sparkling San Pellegrino with a slice of lime or lemon, and end with anything chocolate!  Delicious!

Oh Santa!  Do you think that soup tureen could fit in a stocking?

I absolutely love stacks of white porcelain!

Vallauris:  Pottery and Dishware from Vallauris, France.

Olivier has a wonderful selection of seasonal sauces

Salted Rum Caramel Sauce - YUM!

French Lavender

Savon de Marseille on a antique French Butcher's Block

Olive Wood Bowl and Copper Wrapped Chop Blocks on top of an Antique Free Standing Chopping Block.

Olive Oil:  Choose your own blend or type.

Olivier has a large selction of Condiments:  
Artichoke Tomato Bruschetta, Caramelized Onions, Green Olive Salsa, Artichoke Pizza Sauce, and Mushroom Duxelle

Staub Fondue Pots and Pillivuyt French Porcelain:  Bakers /Roasters and Deep Pleated Ramekins and Soufflé Dish.

Olive Wood

Olivier carries a wide variety of handmade olive wood items: spoons, saltboxes, cheese boards, vases...

Brilliant!  Vanilla seeds already scraped out of the vanilla pod!  Perfect for Holiday baking!

Olivier sells all their products online making gift-giving and pantry-stocking easy.

I would like to thank Kevin Buchholz, one of the owners of Olivier, for his time and allowing me to "stage" for photos.  Kevin is personable and very talented, a winning combination.  To Jess, Olivier's best concierge, his associate for all of her help, knowledge, and list of new-to-us great restaurants.  Finally, to Alice Title, President at Pillivuyt USA, for her kindness and the opportunity!

To you my friends,  MAY YOUR DAYS BE MERRY AND BRIGHT...

xx Rié

Olivier Napa Valley
1375 Main Street
St. Helena CA  94574
(707) 967.8777

Pillivuyt France can be ordered online at

*All photos: Portobello Design

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


Come December 1, Pamela Pierce, MILIEU’s founder and editor in chief, begins a tradition she has been observing every year since her daughter was a child. In the Houston home she shares with her husband, Jesse, Pam transforms the rooms with Christmas decorations, figures, white lights, and draping garlands.

In her entry foyer, visitors are greeted by a nineteenth-century santo from Mexico standing and gesturing atop an eighteenth-century chest, as if welcoming everyone to the holidays. Pamela has draped the staircase with a mix of garlands and glass mercury balls that she has spray painted white and secured with double-faced, silk ribbon.

Pamela keeps a fire going in the living room and drapes the French period carved stone mantle and surround with mixed garland and olive branches gathered from trees in her yard, interspersed with ripe brown pears. A pair of early Song dynasty jars anchor the scene. White roses are always part of the interior décor — certainly during Christmas, but also year round.

Her nine-foot Noble fir tree, grown in North Carolina, graces the same spot in her living room every year. The tree is adorned with her favorite Neopolitan crèche figures, cream-colored balls, and white lights.  A eighteenth-century Madonna santo presides over the room. When lit, the tree is visible from the street, through a series of arched French doors that are left curtain-less.

Pamela has been collecting vintage crèche angels for years, and each wears its own linen outfit and contemplative expression.

The room is infused with the holiday fragrance of fir, immediately evocative of the Christmas season. Pamela uses fresh, smaller trees throughout her home without ornaments. Trimmings from the Noble firs are used to fashion wreaths, one of which is hung on the reverse side from the ceiling with silk ribbons. Her dining table is set with angel-shaped sugar cookies and a coconut-cream cake. 

Angels are the favored shape of holiday cookies, and family gifts are wrapped in silk chamois and suede cloth. Then the packages are finished with cellophane to create a shimmery sparkle and accented with fresh sprigs from olive branches.

Upon arrival, Pamela's grandchildren place a sign in her yard addressed to Santa, letting him know where they will be Christmas morning. Christmas Eve dinner is Tex-Mex. Gifts are opened by the family on Christmas morning and the family enjoys a traditional holiday meal of turkey and ham. Although Pam often takes the decorations down the day after Christmas, she eagerly anticipates the peace of the coming week — that quiet, reflective, restful time before New Year’s.

Happy Holidays from Pamela Pierce
This season share MILIEU with your friends and family.  


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I wish you Happy Holidays and a Merry Christmas...

All the best, Rié




Friday, December 5, 2014

Balanced Beauty: Designer Amy Aidinis Hirsch

Chinoiserie Chic - A collection of blue and white Chinese porcelain and Gracie wallpaper makes a lovely dinning room.

Amy Aidinis Hirsch is a Greenwich-based interior design firm.  I was introduced to her on Bennison 

Fabrics' Instagram with the quote "Another lovely room by ..."  Which of course compelled me to

see more of her work.   Her work is liveable, modern and fresh, a remix of the classics and oh so

pretty.  I was torn between showcasing two of her projects, but since blue and white is always a

favorite, and every time I looked at her take on a mudroom I thought, "When my son was little he

would have wanted to sleep right there..." I couldn't resist.  Enjoy.

Amy Aidinis Hirsch is a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology and has won numerous

awards.  You can see her love for architecture and curated details in every space.

Flooded in light this room is warm, inviting, and fresh-  I love the exposed beams and heavy iron 

chandelier, along with barn doors mixed with dressmaker details.

Hirsch deftly mixes patterns, I counted 6 different patterns in this room, and soft inviting colors...

This room is what I mean by a classic remix with the painted geometric wood floor, exposed beams,

and modern orbit glass drop chandelier.  You can find a similar chandelier here:  

Traditional clear glass knobs and pulls, (similar here and here) stainless steel industrial hood,

polished nickel pendant (similar here), white Staub Cocottes (I love this French cookware) ...

French Riviera stools in navy. (similar Serena & Lily)

A pretty, contemporary living room with plenty of seating.

A gorgeous navy blue leather door with a glass knob and nickel brads leading into what looks

like a library ... sigh.

I have always wanted enough room in my master bath to have a chair or upholstered bench; it's just

too narrow.   I love the frame-less glass shower doors, marble, and marble tiles with nickle finishes,

but the width is what I love most... I could have two chairs and possibly a small table if I wanted!

Or better yet, a settee!  A girl can dream. 

Now this is a mudroom!  I love the black lacquered Dutch door, bead board, and moldings,

the mix of fabrics and custom built-ins.   I know my son, when he was little, would have

begged me to sleep right there on one of these alcove benches!

The perfect mud room accessory - Don't you just love Hunter boots?  They come in the greatest

colors and styles.  (here)  Hirsch design is the perfect description of liveable luxury... look at the

amount of thoughtful storage.  A wall of custom cabinets, drawers underneath the benches,

peg racks, and my personal favorite: a shoe rack.  I keep a basket by our door for shoes, but this is

much more stylish and would make finding the right shoe for the right task easy.

Amy Aidinis Hirsch design philosophy is to translate her client's individual needs into a custom-fit

design with a meticulous attention to architectural details, function, and aesthetics.   Personally, I am

looking forward to see more from this talented designer.

I hope it's lovely where you are...

All the best, Rié

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