Ceramics in Progress – September 2019

Finally had a chance to make a few somethings out of a big block of red stoneware clay that we bought last summer (?) and has been sitting around the store ever since-

Some *potential serving bowls and soap dishes

Small and Medium sized planters

Wax tart burners/ luminaries and chafing dishes

These tiny vases would be great for flower buds or air plants. The medium sized vases would be great for succulents or small ferns (and flowers of course).

I made a bunch of serving bowls that could also double as pots for plants that don’t need a lot of soil- like the mosses I’ve been experimenting with.

You’ll notice all of these have little feet which not only make them stand out more but I think will nicely compliment the Raku- like glazes they will be getting once they dry. Keep your fingers crossed they survive the firing process.


Three Easy Stir Fry Recipes with Napa Cabbage

Napa or Chinese cabbage seems to be at it’s best this time of the year so here are three very quick and easy stir fry recipes that make use of it-

Spices for making Chinese five spice powder-

Napa cabbage is very different from the red and green cabbage you normally find at the grocery store. It is much more tender and mellow. It’s flavor is more like a mild celery than cabbage with nutty undertones and it doesn’t develop that sulfurous stench when cooked. It also keeps well once chopped and does not develop those black moldy looking spots as long as it is refrigerated.

*These recipes are loosely based on recipes from Elaine Luo’s cooking blog- www.chinasichuanfood.com – if you would like to find more authentic Chinese recipes check it out.

*The actual cooking process for this recipe is very quick- so it’s much easier to have everything prepped and ready to go.

*Chinese black vinegar, or chinkiang vinegar, is a dark, malty vinegar made from rice and wheat. It tastes very similar to a Flemish sour red ale without the bubbles.  If Chinese black vinegar is unavailable a mixture of regular rice vinegar and a balsamic vinegar, or Flemish sour or smoky brown ale is a pretty close substitute.

*Bok Choy can be used in place of Napa Cabbage. Whichever Chinese cabbage you are using the greens will cook much faster than the white rib portions- so to keep them from getting mushy they should be added just before removing from heat.


Vegetables:  Szechuan-Style Cabbage Stir fry

*Doubanjiang is a paste made from fermented fava beans (broad beans), hot chilies, salt and spices. There is really nothing quite like a quality Doubanjiang but a mixture of Sichuan Chili Oil and regular Chinese Black Bean Paste will make an effective substitute.

  • 1 tbsp each Chinese Black Vinegar, Chinese Cooking Wine and light soy sauce
  • 2 tsp each sugar (opt) and starch
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sea salt (or to taste)
  • 3-4 green onions, sliced thin on the bias
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 3-5 slices of fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp Doubanjiang (fermented broad bean and chili paste)- pref from Pu Xian region
  • ½ tsp Chinese Five Spice powder (or to taste)
  • 1-3 dried Thai red chilies crushed in a mortar and pestle
  • Vegetable oil (pref sesame oil) as needed for coating pan
  • 1 head Napa Cabbage, sliced thin with white portions separated from the greens
  • Additional light soy sauce, ground Szechuan Pepper and thinly slices green onions to garnish


  1. In a small bowl mix vinegar, wine, soy sauce, sugar (if using), starch, sesame oil and sea salt. Sauce should be about the color of lightly creamed coffee. Set aside.
  2. In a second bowl crush the white portions of green onions as well as the garlic and ginger slices to a paste and mix thoroughly. Set aside.
  3. In a mortar and pestle mash up the Doubanjiang and stir in the Five Spice powder and Thai chilies. Set aside.
  4. In a wok or deep sauté or frying pan heat oil over medium. When nice and hot add the onion/garlic/ginger paste and sauté 30 sec or so until the raw garlic smell goes away. Add Doubanjiang/chili/ Five Spice mixture and sauté for another minute or until the reddish oil begins to separate from the pastes.
  5. Add the sliced up white portions of the cabbage, turn heat up to medium-high, stir for a minute and then add the sauce.  Continue cooking  for a minute or two until sauce thickens and turns translucent. Stir in green portions of cabbage and remove from heat.
  6. Serve hot with steamed rice and garnish with remaining green onion slices and a drizzle of soy sauce.


Pasta:  Chili Sesame Noodles

*If alkaline noodles are unavailable vermicelli or thin spaghetti will work. Tahini paste will work as sesame paste.


  1. Cook noodles in salted water until al dente. Drain, toss with a tsp of sesame oil (so they don’t glue themselves together) and set aside.
  2. In a small bowl stir remaining sesame oil, vinegar, soy sauces and water one by one into the sesame paste until it is thick and creamy. Add the salt and five spice powder and set aside.
  3. In a large wok, deep sauté or frying pan heat cooking and chili oils oil over medium. When nice and hot add the garlic paste and sauté 30 sec or so until the raw garlic smell goes away.
  4. Add the sliced up white portions of the cabbage, turn heat up to medium-high, stir for a minute then push the cabbage to the sides of the pan. Add the sesame sauce, cook for a minute then stir in the noodles.
  5. Mix everything together and cook for a minute or so until the noodles are nice and hot. Stir in green portions of cabbage and remove from heat.
  6. Serve hot garnished with fried soybeans or toasted peanuts, a drizzle of soy sauce and green onions.


Pasta:  Egg Fried Noodles In Black Bean Sauce

*Douchi are salted, fermented and spiced black soybeans. Douchi smells strangely chocolate-like with a very salty, savory flavor. There is really nothing quite like them but if you mix up some regular canned black beans with ginger, Chinese five spice powder, a lot of salt and cocoa powder it actually smells and tastes roughly similar.

*If alkaline noodles are unavailable plain ramen noodles, vermicelli or thin spaghetti will work. You can also use quinoa pasta- but you will want to rinse the noodles off after cooking as they tend to glue themselves together after draining.

  • ½ lb alkaline noodles
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil – or as needed
  • 1 tbsp Douchi (fermented and spiced black soybeans)
  • 1 tbsp each Chinese black vinegar, light soy sauce and dark soy sauce.
  • ½ tsp Chinese five spice powder (or to taste)
  • 1-2 Thai chilies, broken coarsely (opt)
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, crushed to a paste
  • 1-2 slices ginger root, mashed to a paste
  • 1 lb shiitake mushrooms, sliced thin
  • 3-5 leaves Napa Cabbage, sliced thin with white portions separated from the greens
  • ¼ tsp sea salt (or to taste)
  • Additional light soy sauce and thinly sliced green onions to garnish


  1. Cook noodles in salted water until al dente. Drain, toss with a tsp of sesame oil (so they don’t glue themselves together) and set aside.
  2. In a mortar and pestle mash up the douchi. Add a tsp of sesame oil, the vinegar, soy sauces and spices and mix everything together into a thin paste. Set aside.
  3. In a large wok, deep sauté or frying pan heat a tbsp of sesame oil over medium. When nice and hot pour the beaten eggs into the pan. Let them sit for a minute until they begin to set up then break them up with a spoon and fry until just cooked.
  4. Push eggs pieces to the sides of the pan and pour another tbsp or so of oil into the center of the pan. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté 30 sec or so until the raw garlic smell goes away.
  5. Add the mushrooms and white portions of the cabbage, turn heat up to medium-high, stir for a minute or so then push the cabbage to the sides of the pan.
  6. Add the black bean sauce, cook for a minute then stir in the noodles.
  7. Mix everything together and cook for a minute or so until the noodles are nice and hot. Stir in green portions of cabbage and remove from heat.
  8. Serve hot garnished with a drizzle of soy sauce and green onions.

Recipes- Updated Hamburger Stroganoff

Since summer is now technically over and it’s quite cool and clammy (in these parts anyway) here is a fresh take on a savory comfort food from childhood-

Hamburger Recipes:  Updated Hamburger Stroganoff

*This is a tangier and more complex take on the classic Americana recipe. The wine and vinegar reduction brings some natural sweetness and acidity to this traditionally very heavy (and fatty) dish that complements the sour cream. The generous amount of herbs gives it some added depth.

*A Chablis, Bourgogne Blanc or Viognier work best in this recipe. TVP or Faux ground beef work well if you want a veggie version of this- and they don’t need to be browned beforehand- simply add them to the pan after the mushrooms are nice and tender.  We have Pot Pie Squares from The Little Barn of PA here in the store which work well to in place of regular egg noodles.


  1. Melt 1 tbsp of butter in a large pan over medium heat. Add the raw hamburger and sauté until nicely browned and no pink shows. Remove from pan and keep warm.

2. Add the remaining butter to the pan and melt over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and sauté until onion is soft and begins to caramelize. Crush garlic into pan and sauté until fragrant and beginning to turn golden- do not brown/burn the garlic- about 30 seconds.

3. Add the porcini mushrooms, herbs, spices, wine and vinegar and bring to a boil. Lower heat and let simmer, uncovered, until the liquid begins to condense a little- probably 10 minutes or so.

4. Add mushrooms and sauté until they start to give off their juices. Then stir in the water or broth, the flour mixture, a little salt and the ground beef and let simmer, uncovered, for a few minutes.

5. When the gravy begins to thicken remove from heat and stir in the sour cream and parsley.

6. Serve hot over egg noodles dusted with pepper and paprika and garnish with green onion or chives.

New Additions- September 2018

So we’ve added quite a bit to our selection during the month of August-

For the wine wall we stocked up on some sweet closeout deals including the following:

  • Belmondo Pinot Noir from Italy
  • Louis Bernard, Cotes du Provence Rose from France
  • Cosentino’s “The Rose” from California
  • La Puerta Torrontes from Argentina
  • Vandenberg Chardonnay from California

All $7.99 a bottle! We also have Hunt & Harvest Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc for $8.99; Georges Duboeuf Jolie Saison Gamay for $8.99 a pop and Pouilly-Fuisse at $13.49 a bottle.

Also we now have Nero D’Avola and Pinot Noir from Stemmari of Italy and Copper Ridge White Zinfandel from California.

And for the beer cart we have Royal Jamaican Ginger Beer. This Is an actual beer with alcohol- it is not a soda.

In the spice library we now have:

  • Organic whole juniper berries- great for making bathtub gin- recipes coming soon
  • Organic rosemary leaves
  • Jamaican allspice berries
  • Organic dried minced onion
  • Organic garlic powder
  • Organic whole celery seed
  • Organic whole dill seed
  • Organic Spearmint leaves
  • Organic vanilla extract
  • Linden flowers
  • Ajwain (Bishop’s weed seed)
  • Amchur powder (dry mango powder)
  • Anardana (pomegranate seed powder)
  • Asafetida powder
  • Black mustard seed
  • Sumac -ground
  • Saffron

*We also have Fair Trade/Organic full leaf Darjeeling Tea and Organic Matcha Tea Powder.

Also new:

  • Preservative-free papaya spears from NOW Foods
  • Raw almond flour also from NOW Foods
  • Better Stevia Organic stevia extract powder
  • Appalachian Salt & Cracked Pepper Chips from Rt 11 Potato Chips

New additions

We’ve been very busy putting together our new selection of organic dry goods and exotic spices, herbs and teas!

Our Pantry area boasts a variety of hard-to-find flours and grains as well as gluten-free baking mixes, organic dried beans, rolled oats and whole wheat flour. Our shelves are packed with items such as:

  • Organic corn meal, garbanzo bean (chickpea) flour, flax seed, millet flour, sorghum flour, brown rice flour, whole wheat flour, rolled oats, bulgur wheat, red quinoa and amaranth
  • Unsweetened and unsulfered organic shredded coconut and non-alkalized organic cocoa powder
  • Organic dried black beans, Fava (broad) beans, dark red kidney beans, mung beans, navy beans and pinto beans
  • Non-GMO chickpeas and yellow split peas (chana dal)
  • Sun-dried tomatoes, dried porcini and dried portabella mushrooms
  • Arrowroot starch and gluten-free baking mixes
  • Pot pie squares and Israeli-style (pearl) couscous

The fridge is packed with dried fruit and nuts including preservative-free dates, sun-dried Turkish apricots and California walnuts. We store them in the fridge to keep them very fresh.

And we now have a spice and herb library!

We’ve amassed quite a collection of exotic spices and herbs you can’t find nearby, with everything from aniseed to turmeric, whole green cardamom, black cardamom, ceylon cinnamon, fenugreek seed, kasoori methi, Nigella, tej patta and dadag phool (black stoneflower). And our selection will be expanding in the near future.

Most of these are organic and very high quality, very fresh and very fragrant.

We also have a variety of dried herbs and flowers like German chamomile, lemongrass, hibiscus and pink rosebuds which are excellent in tea and powerful enough to be used in potpourri. The rosebuds are great in spice blends like garam masala and ras el hanout to.

And in the freezer we have whole turmeric root, galanga (galangal) root, whole Thai chilies, lemongrass stalks and makrut (kaffir) lime leaves.

We’ve also expanded our selection of gourmet oils and vinegars to include organic canola and sesame oil and Chinese black vinegar. We also have a few international items like coconut milk from Thailand, tahini (sesame) paste, tamarind paste and Chinese cooking wine.

Visit us soon and check out all of our new inventory! We’ll be holding an Open House on August 18–details to follow.

Fresh out of the kiln 5/03/18

My first batch of pottery made with brown stoneware clay have finally been glazed and fired-

For this batch I applied an underglaze of Amaco’s Satin-Matte White and top coated that with their Satin-Matte Clear Glaze. Upon firing the white and clear glazes melded beautifully creating a creamy, grayish-white hue. The underlying khaki color of the brown stoneware clay really gives a wonderful depth to the finish. My favorites from this batch are these vaguely sea sponge-like luminaries which all miraculously survived.

Unfortunately only one of the bivalve-shaped napkin holders survived, and it shrank so much I think it works better as a sponge holder. The pieces I specifically intended to be sponge holders turned out nicely though.

All of the soap dishes survived- and I especially like how the clam shell-shaped ones turned out with the creamy white glaze.

A couple of serving bowls. The lip of these bowls undulates which gives them built in spoon rests.

Some oyster shell shaped spoon rests- the glaze looks perfect on these.

A cluster of miniature flower bud vases.

Some larger vases-

While these may seem purely decorative and very delicate these ceramics are both functional and quite sturdy.

Lots of New Stuff!

We’ve been busy restocking and finding great new products for you to try.

*Firehook Flatbread crackers are back- with a new multigrain flax flavor.  Perfect with Greenhaven Farms soft goat cheese.

*Nana’s Cocina tortilla chips are back and in smaller packages(smaller price too!)

*We now have BBQ sauce from S&D’s BBQ in Hillsboro–Sweet & Tangy and Sweet Diablo.  Dan, the “D” of S&D, used to be the Cookie Guy and the chocolate guy.  He sold his chocolate equipment to Andrea Howard (Veritas Artizen Chocolates) and we now sell her bean-to-bar chocolate confections, including new 80 and 90% bars. It’s a very small world.

*We now have sampler sizes of the gourmet oils and vinegars from Flavor Pourfection as well as a few new flavors like “Milanese Gremolata” infused olive oil

*In addition to a fresh batch of salted VA peanuts from Plantation Peanuts we now have their redskin peanuts in 22 oz. cans.

*For our VA wine lovers, we have new ladies black T-shirts with the state of Virginia on the front and the words “Wine. It puts me in a good state!”

Speaking of wine, we got a little carried away at the Kysela warehouse tasting last month.  New on the shelves:

  •      Veuve Du Vernay Sparkling Rose and Brut from France
  •      Prime Brume Soave and Cortenova Pinot Grigio from Italy
  •      Layer Cake Rose from CA
  •      Thorn Clarke Milton Park Shiraz from Australia
  •      San Elias, Siegal Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc from Chile
  •      Reibeek Pinotage from South Africa
  •      Burgo Viejo Rioja Old Vine Garnacha from Spain

*Cave Ridge’s Riesling, Red Silk, Mt. Jackson Rouge and Rose are also back, along with the last of their 2013 Syrah!

*New beers have also been added–Cael & Crede Irish Ale (barrel aged in Irish Whiskey casks); The Duck-Rabbit Wee Heavy Scotch Ale; Campion Killer Kolsch and Hog Waller Scramble (Breakfast Stout brewed with coffee and chocolate). Beer for breakfast? Yes, please!

And stay tuned–BIG news coming soon!


Finally framed

My first batch of winter landscape studies are finally framed and up on the walls-

“Winter Forest Late Afternoon”- Original painting by MJ Seal. Acrylic on board, 8″ x 10″. C. 2018-



For this piece I went with a distressed, dark pine frame I made from raw boards. The texture I gouged into the edges of the moulding compliment the expressive brushstrokes and texture in the paint surface.

“Snowbound Forest at Sunset- 1/15/18″- Original painting by MJ Seal. Acrylic on board, 13 1/2″ x 10 1/4”. C. 2018

For this painting I went with a walnut frame that I parcel gilt with composition leaf on the front surface. The bright gilt surface of the frame really makes the golden hues pop in this piece.

A clean, elegant walnut frame joined with keys and parcel gilt with composition leaf.

“Winter Forest at Morning- 1/15/18″- Original painting by MJ Seal. Acrylic on board, 8″ x 10”. C. 2018


The warm metallic gray of the silver leaf in this frame warms up the highlights in the painting and helps to tone down the blues of the shadow areas.


The rich dark brown of this frame helps to warm up this piece and compliment the purplish gray ground. The texture of the olivewood veneer blends in nicely with painterly tree trunks. This is the only frame in this bunch that I did not make myself.

“Winter Forest in a Snowstorm- 1/15/18″- Original painting by MJ Seal. Acrylic on board. 14″ x 10 1/4”. C. 2018


“Snowbound Forest- 1/16/18″- Original painting by MJ Seal. Acrylic on board, 10″ x 14 3/4”. C. 2018


For this piece I went with a simple, “bump” profile moulding. The grain of the oak plays off the movement of the snow covered trees and winding grape vines. The rich, golden color of the finish cools down up the warm gray hues in the painting.


“Snowy Winter Forest- 1/19/18″- Original painting by MJ Seal. Acrylic on board, 7″ x 10”. C. 2018

For the last two paintings I went with a very clean museum profile that was painted black and gilt on the top surface with aluminum leaf. The cool silver tones of the aluminum leaf make the cool whites of the painting seem warm by comparison. The depth of the moulding and the contrast between the flat black of the sides of the frame and the gilt front surface really makes these pieces pop off the wall.


“Snowy Winter Forest- 1/16/18″- Original painting by MJ Seal. Acrylic on board, 10″ x 7”. C. 2018

Valley landscape XII

An abandoned field overlooking distant mountains at midday in warm, dry weather- maybe early summer.

A Shenandoah valley landscape painting by MJ seal
“Shenandoah Valley Landscape XII”- Original painting by MJ Seal. Acrylic on canvas board, 6″ X 4″. C. 2016