12 Days of Clarke – Holiday Tips You’ll Love

12 Days of Clarke – Holiday Tips You’ll Love

On the Twelfth Day of Clarke – Uschi’s Strohsterne Stars

 In our final of the 12 Days of Clarke, we are delighted to share a unique holiday tradition from Clarke Showroom Consultant Uschi Samaritano, who has worked with Fairfield County designers and homeowners in Clarke’s Connecticut Showroom since 2015. Fluent in Flemish, German, English and Spanish, Uschi is a wealth of multi-cultural style and knowledge. She was born in Belgium, traveled to the U.S. in 1994 and is excited to have recently received her U.S. citizenship – a bright spot in this challenging year. Uschi’s holiday tip reflects a tradition passed down through generations in her Hungarian – German – Belgian family.

Called Strohsterne, Uschi would make these simply beautiful straw tree ornaments each year with her mother and Oma (her Hungarian grandmother who lived in Germany). They would make the straw stars to decorate holiday gifts and to replace the Strohsterne decorations that the cats would knock off their tree each year and disassemble with joy. To this day, she makes new Strohsterne ornaments each year to adorn Christmas gifts and her own tree. Some of her gift recipients have saved her package decorations and now have quite a beautiful collection of their own.

She encourages everyone to try their hand at creating their own Strohsterne designs. They can be ever-so-simple or intricate, even adding a little color to the straw. While Uschi makes her Strohsterne with ironed straw, the old-fashioned way, you can now buy kits online that streamline the process.

And, if you’d like to learn the process, this video (in German) is very easy to follow and may be the words that Uschi heard as a child from her Oma as she learned this craft. Or follow the photo instructions here.

Uschi’s Strohsterne exemplifies her grace and global aesthetic. Her European upbringing has colored her lifestyle here in the U.S. where she tends her own apple orchard and garden and is known for her delicious treats year-round. If you’d like to tour Clarke’s Connecticut showroom to explore appliance options for your kitchen, Uschi is a knowledgeable guide to help you select kitchen technology and so much beyond that!

Holiday Cooking Challenges?

Feel free to make a Clarke Ask the Chef appointment or simply call your local showroom and ask to speak with a Clarke consultant. We’re here to help you have the most delicious holiday!

On the Eleventh Day of Clarke – Marco’s Fairfield County Picks

Clarke Director of Showrooms Marco Barallon is known for his exquisite taste and knowledge of the resources to create a spectacular home. So when asked about where he would send people in search of holiday greenery, wines or gifts in Fairfield County, Connecticut, Marco rattles off a list of places that are creative in their offerings and spectacular in their presentation.

 Trimming the Tree

McArdle’s in Greenwich is the place to find your perfect tree small or palatial. They provide white glove installation of Christmas trees complete with delivery, trimming and placement in your home with clean-up. If, however, you’d prefer a contactless delivery this year, that can also be arranged. If you’re looking to send a holiday gift of fresh blooms, their Sugar Plum Fairy is designed to your specifications in deep purples, pinks and reds. The McCardle family started the business in 1910 to supply gardeners on the grand Greenwich estates and for four generations and more than 100 years, they have been the experts in the art of flora. Note: they provide all floral décor for Clarke’s South Norwalk showroom.

Artisanal Gifts

Perhaps you’re looking for a unique gift, something that you won’t see in every shop window? Marco recommends Terrain in Westport. From delicate feather trees to exquisite bronzed serving bowls or fine linen runners, Terrain is a feast for the eyes. They make the art of gifting a pleasure and even if you can’t visit the store, they make selecting your gifts online easy and efficient. One of their specialties is Stargazer Lighting. Who doesn’t need a Stargazer Nature Effects Hanging Dandelion? When you’re ready, their Greenhouse Café is a delightful place to meet brunch, lunch or dinner.

Holiday Spirits

A recent customer of Clarke, Stew Leonard was top of mind when Marco was asked for a recommendation on where to buy wine in Fairfield County. Not far from Clarke, Stew Leonard’s Wines & Spirits in Norwalk, Connecticut, offers a great selection and a service ethic based on the philosophy that the customer is always right. The family-owned business started as a dairy store 50 years ago in Norwalk and has grown into an award-winning chain of markets and wine and spirts shops in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey. If you are looking for wines for Hanukkah, look no further. Select wines from 18 countries around the world. In light of this season’s shopping circumstances, they are happy to deliver or accommodate curbside pick-up.

So, when you need the best advice on world-class appliances, Marco suggests you come to Clarke, and if you need a recommendation for the other elements that go into creating a healthy home and artful life, he just may have a great idea for you on those as well. Happy Holidays from the team at Clarke South Norwalk!

Holiday Cooking Challenges?

Feel free to make a Clarke Ask the Chef appointment or simply call your local showroom and ask to speak with a Clarke consultant. We’re here to help you have the most delicious holiday!

 

On the Tenth Day of Clarke – Jane’s Gift Tags Unlock Memories

Sometimes the gift wrap is more fun than the gift, especially if you’re a member of Clarke Showroom Consultant Jane Vitagliano’s family. Jane’s family does their celebrating on Christmas Eve, gathering to eat, drink and catch up on family news. They’ve created a wonderful tradition that gets everyone talking and telling stories. Instead of using a traditional gift tag with a name on it, they attach a photo of the recipient as the gift tag. As each person takes a turn to open his or her gifts, they have to search for packages with photos of themselves, which could be recent shots or pictures from long ago.

This simple update to their traditional gift-giving has been a huge hit, spurring stories that are filled with laughter and reminiscing. Sharing the photos and the memories is a wonderful gift unto itself.

There’s still time to pull out your photo albums to find just the right photo of the loved ones on your gift list! If you feel you can give the photo away, your gift tag is done. If not, you can scan and print copies out or make a black and white copy that will give them a vintage look. Enjoy!

Holiday Cooking Challenges?

Feel free to make a Clarke Ask the Chef appointment or simply call your local showroom and ask to speak with a Clarke consultant. We’re here to help you have the most delicious holiday!

 

On the Ninth Day of Clarke – A Perfect Gift or Culinary Stocking Stuffer

This is the time of year when we’re often stumped about what little, unique gift to give to a friend, neighbor, daughter- or son-in-law or another special person on your list. You know you have a winner when multiple members of the Clarke Showroom team all come up with the same answer.

Clarke Showroom Consultants Sandra Lashway and Cathy Whelan were the first to raise their hands on this holiday gift tip. They recommend the iSi Whipped Cream Dispenser as the ideal gift for anyone who loves to bake, entertain or just indulge themselves with a beautiful whipped topping on a cup of cocoa or delicate pastries or cake. This little stainless steel gem is made in Austria and comes in three sizes (1/2 pint, 1 pint and 1 quart.) Sandy suggest that the 1 pint size is best for most households.

You can purchase them online in many places, however, make sure of the size you want and the fact that it is made by iSi. There are basic or gourmet models, the latter of which can be used with cold or hot food preparation. The gourmet version is wonderful for sauces as well as whipped cream. You’ll also find optional accessories like gourmet nozzles that make filling pastries a breeze!

So, if you’re trying to whip up a last-minute gift, this might just be the thing! Or you can have one sent directly to you and pretend it was a gift from a secret admirer.

Holiday Cooking Challenges?

Feel free to make a Clarke Ask the Chef appointment or simply call your local showroom and ask to speak with a Clarke consultant. We’re here to help you have the most delicious holiday!

 

On the Eighth Day of Clarke – Chef Tiara’s Family Tradition Reimagined

 

Chef Tiara Hyman has just joined the Clarke Culinary Team in the Milford Showroom. Her perspective on all things culinary have already brought new energy to Clarke’s Beehive. When you talk with Chef Tiara about the holidays, the first thing that comes to her mind is a recipe that has been passed down from generation to generation in her family and she’s sharing this prized possession and her updates to it with all of us!

Chef Tiara’s mother’s side of the family is from San Juan, Puerto Rico, so she said her holiday selections always offer a slight twist on traditional Christmas dishes. Every Christmas Eve, her entire family gathers in her grandmother’s house and preps for Christmas dinner together. They make all different entrées, side dishes and desserts. The one thing her grandmother has always made on her own was the flan. She guarded the recipe and preparation as if it were a sacred conclusion to the family’s Christmas meal.

As Chef Tiara finally tested the coveted flan recipe on her own, she tried different additions and substitutions to see if she could make it her own. She found that changing a few measurements and adding cream cheese to the base created an incredibly creamy texture almost resembling panna cotta.

And now, here’s the recipe for you to enjoy.

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 package (8 ounces) softened cream cheese
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

In a heavy saucepan, whisk together water and sugar to create a caramel topping. This is achieved by bringing the mixture to a boil then reducing to medium low. Allow this to come together until it reaches a light golden color. To ensure even color, take half of a lemon and rub the rim on where the mixture touches the pan to alleviate burning. After 15 minutes, quickly pour into an ungreased 2-qt. round baking or soufflé dish, tilting to coat the bottom; let stand for 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees or 325 degrees Fahrenheit in your Wolf M series oven. In a bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until completely combined. Scrape sides of bowl and mix again on medium-high for about 3 minutes. Add remaining ingredients; mix well. Pour over caramelized sugar.

Place the dishes you will be using in a larger baking pan. Pour boiling water into larger pan to a depth of one inch. Bake until the center is just set (mixture will jiggle), 35-40 minutes in small ramekins and 50-60 minutes in larger 9-inch round. Remove dish from a larger pan to a wire rack; cool for one hour. Refrigerate overnight. To unmold, run a knife around edges and invert onto a large rimmed serving platter. Cut into wedges or spoon onto dessert plates; spoon sauce over each serving.

Undoubtedly, Chef Tiara’s grandmother is very proud of the granddaughter who took on her love of cooking!

Holiday Cooking Challenges?

Feel free to make a Clarke Ask the Chef appointment or simply call your local showroom and ask to speak with a Clarke consultant. We’re here to help you have the most delicious holiday!

On the Seventh Day of Clarke – Jeremy’s Candy Factory

Our 12 Days of Clarke revealed that we have a regular Charlie in the Chocolate Factory in Jeremy McCulla, Showroom Manager at Clarke’s 7 Tide Showroom in Boston Seaport. When the Clarke Showroom opened its doors in 2016, Jeremy established a tradition of doing something for showroom friends and neighbors and the folks who help out the Clarke team every day, including Diane, their mail carrier and Gus, their cleaning person. One year Jeremy and Showroom Consultant Jane Vitagliano got it into their heads that they would use their Sub-Zero and Wolf appliances to create gourmet chocolates as their gift to the community. As Clarke’s gift, these couldn’t be just any chocolates. They needed to be, as Jeremy said, “chocolates you would buy on Newbury Street.”

According to Jeremy it all turned out fine, but the process it took to get there was something out of “that ‘I Love Lucy’ episode.” You know the one! Tempering, molding and filling were all new to Jeremy, but with Jane’s help, they triumphed. Out of that experience comes a great holiday candy tip from Clarke: Chocolate Transfer Sheets! Using chocolate transfer sheets is just about the easiest way to create professional looking chocolate pieces. These sheets are extremely versatile and work on all kinds and colors of chocolates. They may also be used with magnetic chocolate molds or to decorate cakes and pastries.

Last year, Jeremy and Jane made gourmet cookies. The cookie that was a hit with everyone is Joanne Chang’s Oreo Cookie, which Jeremy found in her Flour cookbook. The Clarke team agreed that the only challenge to creating gifts for people you want to thank at the holidays is that the creators need to “sample” them before they leave the showroom.

Deliciously hand-crafted treats are a wonderful gift for anyone on your list. Recipes can be adapted for gluten-free recipients or with the tastes of a specific person in mind. The creating is as joyful as the giving. Happy Holidays!

Holiday Cooking Challenges?

Feel free to make a Clarke Ask the Chef appointment or simply call your local showroom and ask to speak with a Clarke consultant. We’re here to help you have the most delicious holiday!

On the Sixth Day of Clarke – For Karlie, Holidays are for Giving

Karlie Buck is another incredibly talented Showroom Consultant in Clarke’s Milford Showroom. She’s been with the company for almost a decade, starting in Clarke Customer Care helping people with service and repair on their Sub-Zero and Wolf appliances. She then moved into the role of showroom consultant, helping designers and homeowners select the best Sub-Zero and Wolf appliances for their projects. Karlie’s aunt actually inspired her holiday tip: holidays are for remembering the less fortunate. Every year, Karlie’s aunt asks her to forgo a gift to her and instead asks Karlie to donate to Charitywater.org, an organization whose mission is to make sure that every person on the planet has access to clean water. With donations from people like Karlie, Charity Water has funded 59,608 water projects for over 11 million people. It’s no wonder this donation lifts the holiday spirits of Karlie and her aunt.

In a season of giving, donating to charities can be one of the most rewarding acts of holiday kindness. The Clarke family deeply believes in charitable giving and supports such grassroots organizations as Nativity School of Worcester, which provides an all-scholarship middle school education to underserved boys of all faiths, inspiring them to be dedicated to lifelong learning, self-discovery, responsibility and spiritual growth.

When you’re stumped about what to buy for the man or woman who has everything, Karlie suggests you not buy anything at all, but rather donate to a cause or organization that will make a difference in one life or the entire world.

Holiday Cooking Challenges?

Feel free to make a Clarke Ask the Chef appointment or simply call your local showroom and ask to speak with a Clarke consultant. We’re here to help you have the most delicious holiday!

 

On the Fifth Day of Clarke – Lee’s Italian Christmas Tradition Lives On!

Anyone who has toured the Clarke Showroom in Boston with Showroom Consultant Lee Maida knows that Lee’s Italian heritage is rich and her love of Italian cooking results in one delicious dish after another. As part of our 12 Days of Clarke, Lee would like to share an Italian Christmas tradition close to her heart. Growing up, Lee and her sisters would make Struffoli every Christmas with their mom. Struffoli is made in many regions of Italy at Christmastime. This sweet dough, often known as Honey Balls, is deep fried for a delicious crunchy treat.

Now Lee, her two sisters and niece make Struffoli every Christmas in memory of her mother and their Italian roots. We can only imagine the joy in that kitchen each year! Here’s her mom’s original Struffoli recipe…

  • 9 c. flour
  • 1.5 c. sugar
  • 12 eggs
  • 1-40 oz jar of honey
  • Colored sprinkles
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Mix flour, sugar, & eggs & form a dough (knead well as to not see any flour). Take pieces of the dough & roll out into long, finger-like strips & cut finger nail size pieces. Lightly flour a tray to put cut pieces on until you are ready to fry them. In a deep fryer, heat oil, drop in dough pieces & fry until golden brown. Remove & drain on a paper towel. Once you have finished frying all the dough, pour honey in a large pot & on low, heat the honey until it is liquified. Then stir in all of the fried dough pieces until they are all covered with honey. Spoon desired amount on individual plates or on one big platter. Sprinkle with colored sprinkles & serve. You can eat warm or at room temperature. Cover with foil & store at room temperature…do not refrigerate. These can last up to a week.

Holiday traditions are so precious and we are delighted that Lee has shared one of hers.

Holiday Cooking Challenges?

Feel free to make a Clarke Ask the Chef appointment or simply call your local showroom and ask to speak with a Clarke consultant. We’re here to help you have the most delicious holiday!

 

On the Fourth Day of Clarke – Holiday Blooms at Cathy’s House

For 30 years, Clarke Showroom Consultant Cathy Whelan has spread holiday cheer through living gifts. She purchases Paperwhite Narcissus bulbs at a local nursery (but you can also order them 

online). They are by far the easiest bulbs to force. When she can’t get to the nursery, she has found them at the grocery store or at Lowe’s. During Thanksgiving weekend, she plants them to ensure they will bloom near Christmas.

She encourages creativity with the container you plant in, so it reflects your own holiday decorating scheme or the taste of your gift recipient. She’s used wooden planters, metal planters, pottery and urns. Each year she mixes it up. Last year, she decided to use glass containers and stones, leaving the bulb visible, which made a beautiful display in her own home. Cathy says this is so simple and never fails to bring joy during the season. Plant away, then give away and any that are left over become your own personal holiday treat.

Holiday Cooking Challenges?

Feel free to make a Clarke Ask the Chef appointment or simply call your local showroom and ask to speak with a Clarke consultant. We’re here to help you have the most delicious holiday!

 

On the Third Day of Clarke – Sandra Lashway’s Cookie Express

Before coming to Clarke 20 years ago to become a Showroom Consultant and then Showroom Manager in Milford, Sandra Lashway was a home economist and teacher. She is known by everyone at Clarke as the baker extraordinaire with a flair for kitchen organization. It’s no wonder that one of her favorite tips will save you time when baking holiday cookies.

Since Sandy bakes 12-15 different kinds of cookies for the holidays, she’s got it down to a science. We’ll call it her Cookie Express. Before ever thinking about stirring or rolling or baking cookie dough, Sandy spends one day measuring all of her ingredients (yes, really). She labels zip lock bags with the cookie name and “dry ingredients” and fills that bag with the carefully measured basics: flour, salt, baking powder and spices. She labels the second bag with the cookie name and “sugars” and fills it with the appropriate amount of brown, white or confectioner’s sugars for that recipe. She lines up the bags by cookie recipe. When she is ready to make the cookies all that measuring is already done so she can easily add the butter, eggs, extract or other liquid ingredients. She goes recipe by recipe in half the time and she says it keeps the mess to a minimum.

Sandy’s master planning takes the stress out of fun, holiday baking! Especially if you are baking treats to give to friends and relatives, this time-saving step is a treasure.

Holiday Cooking Challenges?

Feel free to make a Clarke Ask the Chef appointment or simply call your local showroom and ask to speak with a Clarke consultant. We’re here to help you have the most delicious holiday!

 

On the Second Day of Clarke – Jenny Tredeau’s Amazing Gift Wrapping Tip

The 12 Days of Clarke focuses on a gift-wrapping tip today. It’s happened to all of us. You’ve finally found just the right candle, picture frame or wall saying for that special person on your list and when you start to wrap it, you realize it has an adhesive price tag on it. Everything stops. You have to figure out how to remove the tag without damaging the gift. Clarke Showroom Consultant Jenny Tredeau has the answer!

Easily remove those stubborn price stickers from gifts…no more breaking nails or leaving scraped off residue on your gift. Simply use a hairdryer to heat the sticker and watch like magic, as it easily peels away! Removes from almost any surface, cardboard tags, metals, glass, boxes and more – but be careful if you are giving any chocolates – as you don’t want to melt the chocolate with hairdryer!

Holiday Cooking Challenges?

Feel free to make a Clarke Ask the Chef appointment or simply call your local showroom and ask to speak with a Clarke consultant. We’re here to help you have the most delicious holiday!

 

On the First Day of Clarke – Jane Vitagliano Shares a Holiday Twist on a Favorite Beverage

Jane’s Holiday Vodka Stinger

Clarke Showroom Consultant Jane Vitagliano’s love of cooking is beyond compare. On any given day you’ll find her innovating a new recipe in Clarke’s Showroom at 7 Tide in Boston Seaport in between showroom appointments. She thought you’d like this little recommendation for a holiday beverage – perfect for sipping while wrapping those presents! Vodka Stingers are making a big comeback – made with your favorite vodka and Crème de Menthe. While it typically calls for white Crème de Menthe, Jane suggests substituting green Crème de Menthe to add some holiday color for the holiday season.

Jane’s Holiday Vodka Stinger

  • 3 parts vodka
  • 1 part green Crème de Menthe
  • Add ingredients into ice-filler shaker.
  • Shake and strain into a chilled (red) martini glass.

Delicious and imagine your table or bar with a tray of these beauties!

Holiday Cooking Challenges?

Feel free to make a Clarke Ask the Chef appointment or simply call your local showroom and ask to speak with a Clarke consultant. We’re here to help you have the most delicious holiday!