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Celebrate New Years with Truffle


Black and White Truffles


Truffles are quite difficult to find and therefore expensive but one whiff of the sensual scent of truffles will help you understand why they are so highly regarded by chefs in any part of the world.

The white truffle, for instance, is most commonly found in Italy near Alba and in the Piedmont region where dogs and pigs are used to locate them. They have also located the white truffle in parts of Croatia and Istria. The kinds of truffles found in Croatia and the Piedmont region are most usually found with oak trees but also with beech and hazel.

Black truffles are equally as valued (if not more so) as the Italian white truffle. The black truffle is exclusive to a symbiotic relationship with the oak tree in the Perigord region of France. Roughly 45% of the black truffle crop is found in France and specifically in the south eastern part of the country. Spain is also home to the black truffle along with small growth patterns in Italy, Croatia and Slovenia.


Although they are not pretty to look at, truffles are delicious and exotic. They are quite difficult to find and therefore expensive but one whiff of the sensual scent of truffles will help you understand why they are so highly regarded by chefs in any part of the world.

The Exotic Scent

Truffles have a very sensual and earthy scent. Many chefs even claim that truffles are an aphrodisiac since a small whiff of this delectable treat is heavenly. Truffle oil is usually a blend of different oils that are steeped for hours with pieces of truffles to infuse the oil with delicate flavor and scent. On its own they can be too intense and harsh. Truffle oil is not used for cooking but as finishing oil. Heating the oil can actually adulterate its flavor. Drizzle a few drops of this beautiful oil over meat dishes, soups or salads to elevate them to gourmet standard.

Using Truffle Oil

Truffles are available in black and white variety. Black truffles are the hardest to find and are often known as black gold because of how expensive they are. What tempts you first about truffle oil is the aroma. The exotic scent of truffle oil works by tempting the taste buds so they crave for a taste. Since the main ingredient in most truffle oils is olive oil, it is easy to infuse any entrée or appetizer with the scent and flavor of truffles.

There are dozens of great rabbit, pork, duck, chicken, beef and even vegetarian entrée recipes available using truffle oil. It also works equally well with egg dishes such as poached eggs and omelets for special Sunday brunches. For something truly unique, try making an after dinner truffle vodka for your next dinner party!

More uses of Truffle from Ann Marie’s.

This season we sampled Truffle Popcorn during the holiday. Our precious popcorn came from the Minocqua Popcorn shop located next to us in downtown Minocqua.   We sprinkled the superb plain popcorn with our Ritrovo Truffle Salt for an unbelievably easy appetizer for the holiday…perfect on New Years with exotic cocktails or Champagne.

Truffle honey over cheese -whether a soft and spreadable goat cheese or over a wonderful Italian  Parmigiano-Reggiano is superb.

Truffle in Polenta-a delicious combination.

Consider these for you new years celebration…

~Ann Marie

The Trees



The White House Tree

After listening to comments this week about the value of trees to combat global climate changed wanted to mention how much I love trees, including my yearly Christmas Tree.

During Christmas of course, it is the center of our living room.   I don’t think I will every have a Christmas without a live tree, you just can’t replace that scent with an evergreen candle I am afraid.   And I don’t feel I have to compromise my  sustainable values when you buy an alive tree.   We have to admit that during the life of that tree, however long here, it has benefited the planet and usually Christmas trees are grown sustainably.    Trees do so much for us:  they clean the air and capture water and combat climate change.  So you can be guilt free buying that live cut tree.   At the end of the season many communities have taken to mulching the trees.   They can provide soil with nutrients and act as a sponge to capture and save water.     You can also combat the guilt feeling by purchasing a live tree and replanting it in your yard or on a property you own.   The “Give a Tree” card program sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation plants a tree in a national forest in honor of someone you know.  (http://www.arborday.org).   And I must add, the holiday tree does not always have to represent Christians only.   Many people have trees that represent to them the Season of Celebration and of course everyone enjoys the scent of a real tree.


Charlie Brown Tree

Charlie Brown Tree

This past weekend I spent some time with my friend John Docter, an arborist who owns Docter Evergreens near Madison, Wisconsin-a little town called Martinsville.  The farm has been an establishment there for some time and has brought much joy and good memories to many families over the years.    It was fun to hear his story on his life in the tree business with his father.   John has an affair going with Christmas trees.   Driving up the road to his house is like driving in French Provence or in Napa Valley, California.   The trees are awe inspiring.   He says he loves what he does because during the holidays the tree farm provides an outdoor experience that seems to really reconnect families-getting out in nature and then selecting and cutting their own tree .  It’s a time away from phones and computers and TV’s John says, which to him is a very healthy thing.     Some families make it an annual event and create a tradition for their children.   John also helps people construct their own holiday wreaths-the smell that is released from the branches is so fresh and so invigorating-even if the sap destroys a few pair of gloves along the way.   ” People are amazed when they create their own wreathes and are able to take them home to hang on their doors” says the John the Tree Docter.

The choice tree and of the decoration is up to you.   Some years I have hardly any ornaments, only lights.  Some years I have every ornament I own on the tree.  Some years huge trees and sometimes small trees.  It depends.    Whatever your inspiration, I think the memories and the conversations it brings are the priceless part of having and sharing a Tree during the holiday.

PS….John still says the Frasier Fur is by far still the most sought after tree for the holiday-beautiful and fragrant.     What was your favorite tree memory?


~thinking of you all decorating and getting prepared for the holiday.

Best Wishes and much Holiday Cheer

Ann Marie



Looking for some cute decorations…visit our Maileg department on our website for some adorable ornaments.

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Creating Beautiful Holiday Memories.

Have a spot of Tea under the Tree.

Weihnachtsbaum mit roten brennenden Kerzen

Years ago on a Christmas Eve my husband, family and I brought a special “High Tea”  treat to a good friend who would have been alone that day.     It was so much fun in preparation and even more memorable enjoying it with her.   We had a selection of tea, tea sandwiches, candies and cakes and even champagne.  I even used a tiered dish I had not had the chance to use-an old classic.  It was one of the best Christmas Eve’s I have ever enjoyed.   The shared stories from our friend Jessie was something that could not be purchased-it was a great gift to us all.   I do make it a point to gift  tea, teacups and saucers and special treats on Christmas because I think people will create some memories with them as well.    And almost everyday during the holiday, be it tea or coffee, I pull out a different teacup and saucer or mug and remember holidays gone by.

When we pause in the midst of all the shopping frenzy, what we really love is a good story to tell about our holidays.  Whether it is sharing of recipes or sledding with families or sharing a Christmas Eve High Tea.   And this includes all of us on a budget or those who have the luxury to splurge.    It’s the little things that thrill us or those very big special moments we like to talk about and remember.

So here are some special moments during the holidays that my staff shared with me.  We hope you will be creating lots of specials memories this holiday season.

 “I always remember a big family gathering on Christmas Eve and star of the show would be a big pot of Swedish oyster stew. The kids were always anxious  to open the gifts, but we couldn’t until we had finished dinner. One year, my Great Uncle Art decided to torture us and ate twelve  bowls of the stew! For a six year old it was pretty excruciating to have to sit though 12 bowls of oyster stew.”Britt
“My most memorable Christmas was many years ago.  I had delivered a premature baby who had to remain in the hospital until she reached the magic weight of 5 pounds.  During that time I occupied myself with getting our new house decorated for the season, in hopes that we would be a complete family by Christmas.  My wish came true, and I spent that Christmas by the fire, happily surrounded by husband, dog (with big red bow around her neck), and new little baby girl.”~Joan
“A fond memory for me was our holiday celebration in my hometown in Switzerland.  Each year it was the same story.  We were all looking forward to being called into our living room on Christmas Eve.  The Christmas Tree was lit candles which showed off the presents to be opened.   Since everyone else in Switzerland was doing the same thing at the same time, and since my dad was the fire chief in our home town, pretty soon the phone started to ring.  The fire brigade was called to  come and extinguish tree fires and quite often home fires too!  So in the end , we never really got to see our dad much on Christmas eve but alot of other people in the town did.  They were very grateful for the loyal services of my dad and the fire brigade. ” ~Stephan
Traveling to Grandma’s house on Christmas Eve when I was 11 and finding out my older brother still believed in Santa-PRICELESS~Ann Marie.
“My husband and I built a home in 1993 and we were told we would be in the new house before the Christmas holiday. The weather had took a turn for the worse in early November and slowed everything down terribly. We were so upset with the fact that “everyone” from “both” sides of our families were coming into town and we had only a one bedroom rented apartment to entertain everyone.  Jim asked me what I really wanted for Christmas that year.  I said a nice new home that would fit 20 people comfortably for dinner. He said but it is our 10th anniversary and I think it is “pearls” for that year and I would really like to get you that for Christmas. I said a house and family mean more to me then gems.  On, December 13th, we got a call from our builder saying everything had passed inspection and we could move in.  Thankfully we had just enough time to stage our three bedroom home with simple furniture a dining table and kitchen plates.  Everyone laughed and laughed around the fireplace, while sitting on the floor eating dinner. It was the best Christmas present ever. And oh by the way, Jim put a pair of pearl and diamond earrings in a toaster oven that we had used in our apartment as my gift. 🙂 Love him to the moon and stars and back.”~ Crystal.


Selecting Dinnerware-Ann Marie Helps you Choose!


At Ann Marie’s we understand that purchasing a dinnerware set can often be an overwhelming process.  There are so many different options available that it is hard to know where to begin and how to decide.     Our sales staff  like to get to know our customers preferences:   what are your colors, what is your design style and lifestyle?

Then of course, where you are in your life makes a big difference.  A young couple just beginning choose something together that they want to share.   The current trend seems to start with something simple like a white or cream dinnerware that can eventually be mixed and matched with pieces that a couple may collect during their lifetime.   Then there are the empty nesters who have been waiting for the kids to “fly away”  before they invest in something a bit better, maybe with more pattern or more style.  But everyone is different and it is fun to discover what it is that you like.

And what about purchasing holiday dinnerware?   The idea of an additional seasonal dinnerware set is overwhelming, and well, a bit extravagant.   For those of you who are more minimal and practical,  we recommend to bring in particular pieces to complement what you have.   Holiday dessert plates and mugs that fit with your current dinnerware is a simple yet fun option.  For me, I cherish my set of holiday dinnerware and can’t wait to bring out the set in the month of December, using it for entertaining through the New Year.

We are thrilled to help people to discover and create their own tableware collections.  Whether is is one pattern or mixing several patterns and textures we find it is satisfying to help our customers put it all together.   Or to simply offer then the chance to compare the abundance of different tableware to choose from.   This season we have put together a collection of holiday table settings to entice you.

Here are some terms to understand your dinnerware or dinnerware you are thinking of purchasing.

Earthenware Slip Pottery is a liquid pottery that is poured into a mold.  Like pottery made from solid clay it’s surface and texture is not as hard and durable as a China or Porcelain.  The nature of Earthenware is that is is a more casual style and fits many lifestyles these days.  Emma Bridgewater Pottery and Burleigh Pottery to name a couple of our favorites are Earthenware Slip pottery and meant for everyday use.

Earthenware Thrown Pottery is not usually manufactured in any volume.   The clay is formed usually on a wheel by an artist or hand shaped by an artist before it is fired and glazed.     Our Nicholas Mosse Pottery and R Wood Ceramics are two manufacturers of clay pottery.  The pottery is lower fired and the surface not as hard as a high fired porcelain.  But the beauty and the amount of hand work that goes into clay pottery is extraordinary and well worth the price.  Many people collect it for it’s more artistic and handmade nature and it’s amazing colors.

Stoneware is also made from clay but not as porous as pottery and is also more durable.   The Polish pottery that we have at our Garden Shop is stoneware.  It is incredibly durable and because it has been fired in the kiln at a high temperature almost all pieces can go from freezer to oven to table.

Porcelain is informally referred to as china or fine china.  It is a very high fired material so its surface is very hard.   It is translucent in nature and very light and delicate in it’s weight.  It is very strong and more chip resistant than pottery.   The porcelain tends to be used in more formal settings and tends not to be used for everyday.   Our Belleek Fine Parian China is a form of Porcelain and called bone china.

Happy table styling ( if you need help just give us a ring.) 800 706 9993

~Ann Marie

Stay tuned for ideas on natural decorations for you holiday table.  This year it’s all about the fruits, nature and the forest.


Lovely colorful fruit and nature decorations make a lovely table center.








About Collecting & Ann Marie’s Emma Bridgewater Cupboards

Some people start collecting because they like accumulating beautiful things and they feel a sense of fulfillment by being surrounded by them.   Others treat collecting like a treasure hunt, achieving fulfillment when they acquire an object that is especially hard to find. Whether this is true or not, is something that only the collectors can answer this question:   “why do people collect stuff?”

I  started collecting Emma Bridgewater the minute I opened my store and  started selling the Copperplate Design made by Emma Bridgewater for the US.

Here are some of my cupboard photos, embarrassingly not the entire collection.

This week be sure to pick up some treasures at our 20% pre-holiday Emma Bridgewater sale starting on Wednesday, both current and collectable pieces.


Cheers and Happy Collecting.

Ann Marie.



Britts Amazing Journey to Simon Pearce Glass Works.


In September, Ann Marie’s Garden Shop manager Britt had the opportunity to visit Simon Pearce Glass in Quechee, VT. While there, she and her husband Bill were treated to a VIP tour of their hand-blown glass and pottery production facilities.



Simon Pearce Glass originated in 1971 in Kilkenny, Ireland. Simon (a real person!) learned his trade by studying at the Royal College of Art in London, and by working in many famous glass blowing houses throughout Europe.

In 1981, Simon, seeking to find a less expensive energy source for his glass blowing operation, found a 19th century water-powered woolen mill along the Ottauquechee River in Quechee, VT. Seeing the incredible potential for inexpensive, sustainable power, he purchased the old mill, and began the process of converting it to produce hydroelectric power. As you might imagine, producing glass requires a tremendous amount of electricity. The Simon Pearce power house produces enough electrical energy to power the entire building, and often times they are able to sell excess power back to the utility company



When they first moved to the United States, Simon and his family lived in the upper floor of the mill, while the lower floors contained the glass furnace and production areas for his amazing hand-blown creations. Along the way, a wonderful cafe was added to the mill. Today, the cafe continues to turn out some incredible food, showcased of course by Simon Pearce glassware!


While they still produce many of their stemware pieces at the original Quechee mill, today much of the Simon Pearce production takes place a few miles away at a beautiful facility in Windsor, VT. The facility was designed to fit perfectly into the idyllic surroundings of the Vermont countryside, and it was very evident that this is a special place to work.


This glass house employs some amazing craftsman who produce each piece one at a time from molten glass. The skill, care, and pride that goes into each piece is so very evident. Each piece is truly a work of art! An adjacent building houses the corporate offices and the pottery production area.





Both the glass blowing and pottery facilities are open to the public for scheduled tours. Britt and Bill however were actually allowed onto the shop floor to meet some of the craftsman and learn a little more about their craft. It was simply amazing to see how they transform a glob of molten glass (the heat from the furnaces was incredible) into beautiful art.


For many of their pieces, the artisans would work in teams to form and shape the glass with a variety of custom tools produced in-house at Simon Pearce.


After each piece is finished and allowed to cool, it goes through a careful inspection to make sure it conforms to the standards established by the designer. Polishing, cleaning, and VERY careful packaging complete the process.


We have long-enjoyed the beauty and the feel of Simon Pearce glass creations. Having seen all that goes into producing these pieces and meeting the people that take such pride in their craft, we can truly say that a Simon Pearce product is more than just a glass-it’s a work of art!



About the author: Britt Kent is the manager of Ann Marie’s Garden Shop in downtown Minocqua, Wisconsin. She and her husband Bill enjoy traveling throughout the world seeking out new food, cultures, and experiences. When not in the Garden Shop or off seeing new places, you can find her in her kitchen baking or in the woods behind her home in Minocqua walking her Cocker Spaniel Garmin.


Fill Your Cookie Jar with these Delicious Cookies.





A precious condiment to both professional and home chef’s alike, Fennel pollen is prized for its flavor and health benefits. Enjoy in salads, over roasted meats and vegetables, atop pureed vegetable and bean soups.  Italy.

Here is a great recipe that Britt, our in house Ann Marie Gourmet expert has made for us. The best cookie I have ever had ~Ann Marie:

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies with Fennel Pollen and Vanilla Sea Salt

1.5 cups sifted all –purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

.5 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon fennel pollen  (available at AnnMarie.com)

1 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened

1 cup granulated sugar

.5 cup packed light brown sugar

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 cups uncooked oats (not instant)

12 oz bag of dark chocolate chips

Vanilla sea salt*


  1. Preheat the oven to 350
  2. Cover cookie sheets with parchment, wax paper or leave them ungreased
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda and fennel pollen and set aside
  4. In a large bowl, cream the butter and the sugars together until light and fluffy
  5. Beat in the eggs and vanilla into the butter mixture, just until incorporated
  6. Stirring slowly, work in the flour mixture completely, then the oats and chocolate chips- the batter will be fairly stiff
  7. Drop the batter onto the cookie sheets by heaping tablespoons about 2 inches apart and sprinkle each cookie with the vanilla sea salt.
  8. Bake for 12 to 16 minutes, or until the cookies are golden brown
  9. Enjoy!


*Vanilla Sea Salt

1 box Maldon Sea salt  (available at AnnMarie.com)

2 Madagascar vanilla beans, split (available at AnnMarie.com)

Put the sea salt and split vanilla beans in a lidded jar and shake it every couple days, letting the vanilla penetrate and perfume the salt for a week or so. Use as a finishing salt in baked goods, or even berries and delicate fish.