I’m rounding out our 2nd annual Shop Local holiday series today with an interview with Abby of Farm and Fable — one of my favorite shops (and shop owners!) in the South End. Be sure to check out the rest of the series here.

SouthEndShop_01Tell me a little bit about yourself and your shop, and how you got started.
Abby: I grew up in a 300 year old farmhouse with a family that loved to garden and cook so a lot of what I do is a product of my childhood and is really second nature to me. I started cooking when I was old enough to stand on a stool and stir a pot. I worked in and out of the restaurant industry over the years but took a big old detour and went to law school. I became a product liability litigator at a big law firm. It will surprise no one that for a girl happiest barefoot in a garden, gathering herbs for dinner with her big goofy dogs by her side, law firm life wasn’t a great fit. I was determined to get back in to food so I went to work for Joanne Chang at Flour Bakery. It was during that time that I worked on a concept that would allow me to combine my love of cooking, vintage and all things entertaining related. I really wanted to create a kind of clubhouse for people who are as geeky as I am about food and that is really at the heart of Farm & Fable. 

SouthEndShop_04Are there any go-to items that you offer that you always recommend for holiday gift giving? 
Abby: I love the holidays because it is the one time of year that we really embrace tradition and sentimentality. I think that a good holiday gift should be selected with an eye to either traditions you already have or new traditions you want to start. In my family, traditions always center around food. That’s why for grown-ups I suggest our handmade recipe card boxes from Belle & Union or our keepsake recipe journals from Celina Mancurti which include a page with each recipe for “Notes for Future Generations.” I just love that. For tiny chefs we have the sweetest apron sets from Oddette Williams. I love to decorate gingerbread houses with my nieces and nephews and having their own special apron makes that time seem even sweeter. 

SouthEndShop_07This is the time of year that we always need hostess gifts? What are you recommendations for the best thing to bring when attending a holiday party or visiting someone for the weekend?
Abby: A good hostess gift is like a good houseguest: helpful, pleasant to be around, thoughtful, and doesn’t take up too much space. I love the two gifts sets we have from Farmhouse Pottery. One has a great hand-thrown, hand-glazed salt pig along with Maine farmed sea salt. The other has a small hand-thrown, hand-glazed syrup pitcher along with Vermont maple syrup. They both come packaged in a reusable wooden box complete with gift card. We tie them up with a red grosgrain ribbon and they are ready for gifting. 

SouthEndShop_03You are a bit of an experts on cookbooks given the selection in your shop — what are your favorite new books this year? Any cookbooks that you always go back to for great holiday recipes? 
Abby: This fall was a fabulous season for new cookbooks. I am loving A Boat, a Whale & a Walrus from Renee Erickson. It is arranged seasonally and by menu which I really love for home cooks. I’m also really enjoying Jeremy Sewall’s New England Kitchen which I think makes a great gift for any local food lovers (or people like me who can’t stop eating at Row 34 or Lineage). 

SouthEndShop_05One of my favorite things about shopping local is the way that the community supports each other — what are your favorite places to shop in Boston? 
Abby: I am so lucky to live and have my shop in the South End. I managed to get all of my holiday shopping done in one afternoon without leaving the neighborhood. For my sister-in-law I got a cozy sweater at Flock (and one for myself). For my sister I got a sparkly fun necklace from M. Flynn. For my nieces and nephews I stopped by Tadpole for books and toys. For my mother I picked up the cutest embroidered potting apron from Niche. For my father I went to Urban Grape for a special bottle of scotch. For my brother, brother-in-law and boyfriend I went straight to Sault because Philip’s taste is impeccable. For my friends I stocked up on lip balms and lotions from Follain. I’ll swung by Olives & Grace for stocking stuffers. Of course my own list includes a few of fabulous vintage pieces from Pioneer Goods (hint, hint). 

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What would you tell someone that’s thinking about shopping local this year? Any words of wisdom about why you think it’s important? 
Abby: When you shop local you aren’t just supporting the store you walk in to. Lots of local shop work with other local makers to fill our shelves. Our cutting boards are from South Boston. Our oyster knives come from Cambridge. Our copper pots and pans are from Rhode Island. Shopping with little shops like mine keeps a whole host of business afloat.

All photos credited to local Boston photographer: Bring to Light Photography.

From the time that  I first heard about Farm and Fable’s Cookbook Book Club,  I was sold — what is better than hanging out with a group of friends and chatting about cookbooks? Oh right, eating the recipes from them! I finally was able to join one of the meet-ups this weekend and it was a ton of fun. This month the book was Huckleberry, the new cookbook from the famed Santa Monica bakery. While I love cooking, I’m actually not the most skilled baker (sticking to proportions and instructions can be tough for me, I always want to add more butter, oops!), so I ended up picking one of the more savory recipes from the book, a tomato goat cheese cobbler. It was really tasty, and so were the 10 other recipes that book club attendees made. My favorite? The chocolate banana bread bundt cake — holy yum. I loved getting to hear their experiences with the recipes and even got a few new tips and tricks to use next time! IMG_5217.JPGIMG_5226.JPGIMG_5227.JPGIMG_5234.JPG

My cellphone has been alerting me that I’m just about at the max for storage space, which is a little bit how my brain has been feeling the past few weeks. I hate the glorification of ‘busy’ — so no complaints here about having a lot of stuff going on. It’s more that I have been on the go so much the past few weeks that I’ve slipped a little behind on things like cleaning my apartment and writing blog posts.  I spent this weekend (the first one home in a while!), unpacking bags, catching up on projects, and finally uploading a few of those phone photos here for a little update…

I got to experience my very first NY Fashion Week this year — including pampering and mimosas at DryBar, and then partying it up with my sister at the Reward Style blogger party. I have to admit, I was embarrassingly excited about getting the invite to the event. I’ve been blogging for over 5 years, and like I’m sure many others do, I never feel like I’m really ‘legit’ — the comparison game is inevitable, as hard as I try to avoid it! I always tend to worry that I’m not big enough, or have enough followers, or wonder if I’ll ever feel like a ‘real’ blogger — silly, right? But going to that event and rubbing elbows with people who I know are ‘legit’ gave me a little boost of confidence, and we could all use a little of that! My sister and I walked over to Lincoln Center after the party and snapped some selfies — a little pinch-me moment as we realized some childhood daydreams as grown-ups.

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Another big event that took me away from home for a few days up to Vermont was my best friend’s wedding! I joined the bride-to-be a few days prior to the wedding up in her hometown to help a fellow bridesmaid-slash-florist with flower prep for the big day.  It is such a nice feeling to be surrounded by your best girlfriends, rolling up your sleeves and getting to use your hands to make something beautiful — I learned so much about flowers over the course of the weekend and so much fun doing it. The wedding was gorgeous and filled with so many perfect little details that only someone as talented as my friend Taz could come up with. Oh and I got to give my first ever wedding speech — great news, I didn’t trip, fall, or drop the microphone — success! IMG_4078.JPGIMG_4130.JPG

Somewhere in between all of that traveling and celebrating, I’ve also been working on some content collaborations that I’ll be able to share here soon, as well as prepping for my upcoming DIY Recipe Box class at Farm & Fable in the South End (there are still a few seats left if you’d like to join! More information here: http://farmandfable.com/collections/classes)IMG_4340.JPG

I have the delicious drink recipes from our Ladies Whiskey Party to share with you today! One of my favorite details from this day  was the incorporation of the recipes into the event — I wrote the ingredients out on brown paper bags and tied them on whiskey bottles to match each drink so it was easy to identify each one. And because the idea of the party was all about sharing these whiskey drinks and making whiskey drinking a bit more approachable, we gave everyone a stack of recipe cards with the ingredients and instructions written out on them so they can recreate them at home. Now, onto those recipes!

aUrbanGrape_StyleMePretty Whiskey Party_Jan2014_003aClassic Whiskey Smash

  •  Half a lemon, cut into wedges
  • 6 mint leaves
  • .75 oz simple syrup
  • 2 oz Buffalo Trace Bourbon

In a shaker, muddle lemon wedges with mint leaves and simple syrup. Add ice and bourbon, shake vigorously. Strain over crushed ice and garnish with a tall mint leaf.

UrbanGrape_StyleMePretty Whiskey Party_Jan2014_093aUrbanGrape_StyleMePretty Whiskey Party_Jan2014_074The Ladies Manhattan

  •  2 oz Michter’s Rye
  • .75 oz Dolin sweet vermouth
  • .25 oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur
  • 2 dashes Regan’s orange bitters
  • Cherry garnish

Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass, cherry garnish.

aUrbanGrape_StyleMePretty Whiskey Party_Jan2014_097 UrbanGrape_StyleMePretty Whiskey Party_Jan2014_087The Bee Keeper Punch

  •  1.5 bottles Overholt Rye
  • 16-18 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 25 dashes bitters
  • 2 cups honey spice simple syrup (go slowly to taste)
  • 1 bottle inexpensive Prosecco

Combine first four ingredients and chill for several hours. Before serving add Prosecco. Serve over rocks with a twist of lemon.  (To make simple syrup: 16 oz clover honey, 16 oz water, 1/4 cup mulling spices. Bring all ingredients to boil, turn off heat. Steep for 15-30 minutes. Strain the ingredients and cool the syrup.)

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Cocktail Recipes, Ingredients, and Event Space: The Urban Grape, Photography: Brian Samuels, Vintage Glassware: Farm & Fable

One of my favorite things about this blog is the great people I get to meet and collaborate with on projects, like the one I’m sharing today. A few weeks back I worked with the Urban Grape to style a Ladies Whiskey Party, a little get together intended to share some recipes all around whiskey. Brian Samuels shot some amazing pictures of the spread — which included whiskey-glazed bacon BLTs and a bourbon caramel drizzled chocolate cake. And the lovely Abby of Farm & Fable lent us the prettiest vintage glassware to highlight the whiskey cocktails. The whole recap can be found over on Style Me Pretty Living today, but here are a few of my favorite pictures (check back tomorrow for the detailed drink recipes!).

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Last night we had an awesome time with the Boston Bloggers group at the cutest South End shop — Farm & Fable. Abby, the owner of the shop, hosted a handful of us for some prosecco sipping, snacking, and late night shopping of her vintage cookbooks and artisan kitchenwares.  After we mix and mingled for a bit, we headed down to the awesome test kitchen space below the store to learn all about mulling wines, and then we all dug in to bowls of coriander, anise, and cinnamon to mix up our own little mulling spice kits to take home! I love a warm mulled cider during the winter, but Abby opened my eyes to something I’ve never tried before: mulled white wine. She mixed hers with a pear brandy and there were a few sweet pear pieces filled with the spiced mixture at the bottom of my cup — I’m ready to try that recipe at home!

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A few weeks ago I was having brunch in the South End with a friend, and we made it a point to stop into the a new shop that I had been hearing about called Farm & Fable. It’s kind of like dying and going to vintage kitchen heaven. The store specializes in vintage cookbooks and serveware, and has an awesome collection of new heirloom kitchenwares — and it is some kind of miracle that I didn’t buy every single item in the shop on our visit. Oh also, they are starting a Cookbook Book Club where all of the attendees make a recipe from one cookbook and bring it for a potluck to chat about the recipes, how cute is that? I’m sad I can’t make the first meeting, but am definitely signing up in the future — that’s a book club I can get behind. If you’re in the neighborhood you must check it out!

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