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Looking for a decorative dinner plate that will bring cheer to your table? With Italian hand painted plates, your search is over. From square limoni plates to large serving platters, the lemon motifs by the Bartoloni brothers are a sure winner for kitchens and dining rooms alike.

lemon decorative plate

There are many factors that make these decorative plates so appealing. The rich colors are one; for example, the cobalt blue background contrasts pleasingly with bright yellows and greens on the blu limoni plates. The bright white of the limoni due square plate is more subtle, but just as vibrant with its two lemons (or limoni due) in the center and aquamarine border along the plate’s edge.

white lemon square plate

The unique rounded square shape also adds character to these Italian hand painted plates. They work well for serving appetizers, desserts, or side dishes with causal elegance. I’ve used them for artisanal meats and cheeses at dinner parties as well as delicate French macarons. No matter what they serve, these plates empty quickly – I think it’s because they make food look so delicious!Italian hand painted plates

Of course, hand painted dinner plates also appeal because of the human touch in their creation. Hand painting means that no two plates are exactly alike. The individual brush strokes, incredible detailing, and overall liveliness make for useful and usable works of art. For this reason lots of people like to hang the blu limoni plate as a wall decoration when not using it to serve. It’s just too vibrant to hide away in a cabinet.

Ceramiche Bartoloni’s lemons grace more than just plates, with mugs, pitchers, soap dishes, and spoon rests that continue the theme. Whether used as an accent or a central motif, these lemon plates are the perfect way to brighten a room with a touch of Tuscan charm.

lemon muglemon pitcher

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One of the best things about the pop-up shop in Palo Alto is interacting with customers. Many people who walk into my shop just assume I’m an employee. Sure, I might know something about ceramics, but they don’t expect me to be quite as intimately connected with the goods as I am. I don’t blame them… I make the same assumption when I visit other stores. It’s fun to get to surprise customers by sharing that I actually know the artists who make the pieces, that I personally pick out each piece, and that I use many of the ceramics myself at home. The last piece of info is probably the most helpful to perspective customers. I can give them precise knowledge of food that looks great served on Tuscia’s square platters, promise them that all the mugs work well in the microwave, and assure them that the Vina Azul salad bowl is the best size and shape for tossing/serving salads. I love sharing personal stories of how my parents use an eclectic set of Gorky plates as their everyday dishes, how my sister serves spaghetti, ice cream, salad, chili, and IMG_0779anything else she can think of in Gorky’s pasta bowls, how my brother makes beautiful caprese salads on his Amor Platter, and how I always serve cheese and crackers on my favorite square platter with oranges. Here are some personal photos of Emilia Ceramics in use… Enjoy!

Right and Below: Dinner at my parents’ house with El Mar Platter, Oval Serving Dish, and various Gorky plates.

gorky gonzalez serving platters and plate

Below: My brother’s famous caprese salad served on the Amor Platter

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Below: Delicious and beautiful Gazpacho at my friend’s house, served in Emilia Ceramics’ Italian mugs and blue and white bowls by Gorky Gonzalez.gazpacho

Below: One of my favorite of Richard Esteban’s pieces, this oval serving platter (which I gave my dad for Christmas last year) works great for serving meat dishes and salads. We even served the turkey on it for Thanksgiving this year (but I forgot to take a photo)!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIMG_0384

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Once again it’s the holiday season. Time to shop, go to parties, and hear Christmas music everywhere you go. Entertaining never seems to stop between work parties, family obligations, and gatherings with friends. Looking for some ways to avoid blah entertaining? Here are four party ideas and ways to make them a success (hint: just add some creativity, Mexican ceramics, and some red plates):

1. Family sit-down dinner. No matter if you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or all three, chances are your family will find a time to gather in December. Use festive trivets to protect your table top from those delicious hot roasts and sides. The bright colors of Mexican ceramics add cheer to your serving platters and plates as well, whether they’re filled with appetizers or desserts. I love this red plate filled with homemade cookies – it’s a hit for guests of all ages.

2. Ugly sweater open house. The open house party is a great way to casually get together with friends, neighbors, and colleagues. This year, have an off-beat theme as a way to make the mingling easier. Ugly holiday sweaters are always a fun bet (and a great conversation starter), especially if you have a contest for the ugliest sweater, sweater with the most sparkles, etc. In keeping with the causal atmosphere, choose Gorky Gonzalez pottery with California cool. Oblong serving trays (like this red serving plate) are ideal for finger foods both savory and sweet. Pile cookies on plates around your party zone so that your guests can’t resist just one more nibble.

3. Festive cocktail party. Pull out those recipes for mulled wine, spiked cider, Irish coffee, and other warming delights – ’tis the season for warm drinks. Choose colorful Mexican ceramic mugs for serving. Different colors and patterns make it less likely your guests will lose their drinks. While many warm drinks work well kept on the stove or in a crockpot, offer some classic cocktails (such as an old fashioned or kir royale) pre-mixed in pitchers with labels for your guests. This keeps you from having to play bartender and lets your guests try a variety of old seasonal favorites.

4. Gingerbread house building party. Little kids can build simple homes out of graham crackers and frosting, or you can go whole hog and create a gingerbread mansion with all your guests. Gingerbread houseNo matter the scale, use these Gorky Gonzalez pottery bowls for your “building materials” such as gum drops, candy canes, and sprinkles. Building small gingerbread houses on a large flat Gorky plate ensures plenty of room for creativity.

Do you have ways you use your Gorky Gonzalez pottery in California or anywhere across the country for the holidays? Leave a comment below with any of your favorite tips for entertaining with Mexican ceramics and style.

Gingerbread house image courtesy of Kermitfrog 🙂.

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Martin and I got married this past May and it’s been quite the whirlwind before, during, and since. Our wedding was lovely, filled with laughter, family, and close friends. Getting to Iceland for the honeymoon was fraught with travel delays and missed flights but absolutely worth it in the end. And then we were back home, with a list of thank you notes to write and “normal” life to resume.

Of course, many of my favorite gifts came from our wedding registry at Emilia Ceramics. As I said in my earlier post, figuring out the mysteries of wedding registries was one of the more stressful aspects of getting married. Using the resulting French coffee bowls and other pieces of new pottery, however, is a breeze.

We threw a reception for our San Francisco friends in July and I was incredibly glad to have the platters and bowls for all the food. I think we incorporated almost every new piece of pottery we’d received for the meat, cheese, and desserts to accompany the champagne. The results looked just as good as they tasted and it was a great way to break in our new ceramics.

The best part though is having things we can use everyday. I see the polka dot bowls whenever I open the cabinet and they never fail to make me smile. These hold my yogurt in the morning, soup at lunch, and the occasional (ok, frequent) ice cream sundae as a reward for diligent studying. Even though I’m more of a tea drinker, I still like to use the French coffee bowls when I sit down to write. As a graduate student in English literature and part time writer and editor, having the perfect vessel for my beverage of choice makes all the difference. My favorite bowl has a few drips of glaze inside and they all have subtle variations in the glaze; I love it that each French coffee bowl is truly unique.

Even when we’re not entertaining, we also use the blue and white salad bowl made by Talavera Vazquez to hold fruit on the table. Other serving platters have made appearances at dinner parties and I’m looking forward to the holidays to have even more occasions to use them.

I dropped by the Emilia Ceramics pop-up shop in Palo Alto the other day (when Emily asked if I’d be willing to write a follow-up post) and I fell in love all over again with the polka dot mugs, espresso cups, and other pieces of new pottery on offer there. Even if we’re done with the wedding registry, I already have some ideas what will be on my Christmas list this year!

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There are few things that are more delicious than the pairing of cheese and wine, so it’s no wonder that this duo is the star of so many parties. You don’t need to be an expert to love the idea of wine and cheese, or to throw a fabulous wine and cheese party. Some plates, bowls, glasses, and bottles and you’re already well on your way.

Here are six ideas to make your cheese and wine party a success:

1. Leave out the snobbery. Experts can clearly articulate what makes up a wine’s “nose,” but many of us casual wine drinkers prefer to just enjoy the wine, regardless of its subtle nuances of aroma and taste. The look, swirl, smell, taste method is classic, but encourage people to share what they think using their own vocabulary. One trick I’ve seen is to cover all the bottle labels with a wine bottle holder or paper and only mark the grape (or just a number) so that people can form their own opinions without being swayed as to the wine’s region or brand.
2. Share the work. My favorite cheese and wine parties involve the guests bringing a bottle and a cheese based on a theme. It could be as simple as “red” or “Sauvignon Blanc” or get more complicated with a night dedicated to Spanish reds, New Zealand whites, Californian Wines, or bottles from 2008 only. This ad hoc approach can create some interesting (and delicious) cheese plates as well.wine tasting party idea
3. Arrange your plates in threes. Construct an appealing cheese plate with this simple rule. Have at least three things on your plate (more if it’s big) – two cheeses and one fruit, three cheeses, one cheese with some nuts and honey, you get the idea. Make sure to have a separate knife for each cheese on the plate to prevent mixing.4. Bring on the extras. Fill plates and bowls around the room with fruits, nuts, crackers, bread, and other accompaniments for your cheese and wine. Sliced apples, grapes, and dried fruits are a good starting point and can lead to some complex pairings. Some chèvre and grapes on a plate and a large bowl of fresh sliced baguette always appeals.

5. Let guests know what things are. Clearly label everything from your cheese plate to your non-alcoholic options to help people find their favorites (and know the real name of that amazingly stinky cheese). If you’re providing the wine and cheese yourself, use chalkboard contact paper as a runner to construct a clearly marked table before guests arrive. This tip from Rock UR Party also lets you draw arrows to what foods pair best with which bottles – it’s smart and fun.
6. Label your glasses. From wine charms to ribbons, even using a sharpie (it should wash off) or chalkboard paint to label the glass, there are plenty of ways to help everyone keep track of their own glasses. Pick your favorite (and make sure you have a few extra glasses in case a few end up lost regardless).

Do you have any wine and cheese party tips? Favorite plates you use? Leave a comment and let us know (and enjoy that glass of vino)!

Wine bottles and glasses image courtesy of .craig.

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Need a surefire way to make your food look better? Reach for blue and white serving platters. This color combination is elegant and versatile, adapting to any occasion from a formal dinner to an impromptu barbeque with friends. If you want your serving plates to really stand out, I love those with some French flair, like the large serving platters by Richard Esteban or white platters by Poterie Ravel and Patrice Voekel. These take a common color combination and turn it into something that feels unique and truly special.

So how do you determine the right blue and white serving platters to meet your needs? Whether you’re looking for white platters, unusually shaped ceramic dishes, or especially large serving platters, there is a whole range of options. Here are three tips for choosing French serving plates that are both practical and fun to use.

Have at least one large serving platter. These are the workhorses of entertaining, holding a range of appetizers at a party or showcasing a main dish at dinner. Because you can load them up, large serving platters can save on table space and make passing food around simple. The teal fish serving platter is a perfect example of this type. It’s 19 inches long, giving your food plenty of room, and the border adds a hint of sophistication that’s unexpected. Another great large serving platter is the petal platter; its slightly sloping sides are equally good for meats that have sauces or assortments of cookies.

Aim for multifunctional pieces. The best ceramic dishes are ones that you can use everyday. Pick a decorative blue and white serving platter and then hang it on the kitchen wall when you don’t need it for serving. A white platter like this footed piece elegantly holds fruit during the week on a table or counter, but also wonderfully highlights desserts when you have guests. Choose serving plates that do many things and they won’t get lost in the back of a cabinet, just taking up space.

Everyone can use a cheese plate. Cheese assortments are an easy way to create elegance at your next gathering. Pick the right size for your needs – these serving plates should have ample room for multiple cheeses as well as your favorite garnishes (fruits, nuts, and honey are all good pairing ideas). A small cheese plate holds 2-3 varieties, while a large cheese plate can take center stage with 4 or more of your favorites.

Don’t use this ceramic dish as a place to slice bread though; that’s bad for your knives. A rustic cutting board or pre-sliced baguette and crackers look better and will keep the crumbs out of the cheeses. These serving plates definitely add the perfect French note to any party, especially when filled with your favorite French cheeses.

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How did it become August already? If you’re like me, you’ve been watching lots of Olympics. While I’m a big fan of all things volleyball, other events like rowing, gymnastics, and diving have me trying to figure out the rules and cheer on Americans and hard-working underdogs whenever possible.

Of course, the Olympics are another reason to throw a party, whether it’s to celebrate the time trials or event finals for your favorite sport. That’s where Gorky Gonzalez pottery comes into the mix. While these plates, bowls, and platters might not run as fast as our favorite athletes, they certainly win gold metals for style. Here are some tips for using Gorky Gonzalez pottery to make your Olympic party (or even just your family dinner tonight) the best it can be.

  • Think red, white, and blue. These colors aren’t just for the USA, so if you’re cheering on France, the U.K., Chile, Russia, or Australia, you can still use Gorky Gonzalez pottery to show off your patriotism. The solid colors of the Gogo collection, like this long red platter or the brightly colored plates, make these pieces of Gorky Gonzalez pottery easy to mix and match. The blue and white octagonal rooster plate is perfect for you France fans — the rooster looks proud and poised to fight all comers.
  • Have fun with animals. A driving force behind the popularity of Gorky Gonzalez pottery are the lively animal motifs. Whether it’s bunnies or roosters as salt and pepper shakers, or a playful fish plate, you’re sure to smile when you see them on the table. Use these rooster plates for your fresh summer salad or refreshing dessert; people love seeing what appears after they eat.

  • Make room for the dip. Salsa, homemade guacamole, or classic onion dip all enliven boring plain chips. A big chip bowl is a must for any Olympic watching party, and use little bowls on the coffee table so that people can dip into their favorites. Even better, Gorky Gonzalez pottery is sturdy enough not to break if someone knocks things over in the excitement of the winning point.
  • Serve enough the first time. Who wants to go back to the kitchen to refill empty plates and platters when there’s only a minute left on the clock? Using large serving platters and bowls means that you won’t run out of snacks until the commercial breaks (and probably not even then!). One of my personal favorites in the Gorky Gonzalez pottery collection is this platter with the Las Flores design around the edge.Olympic Rings in London

Olympic rings image courtesy of David Catchpole.

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