by Bryan Richards
images courtesy Amélie’s French Bakery & Café
Whether you’re honoring a long-time relationship, a new fling, or your child’s classmates, the pressure of finding a creative and unique way to celebrate Cupid’s favorite day often results in one crafted more from stress than love. Sadly, that’s why many of us write Valentine’s Day off as a pointless Hallmark holiday. Who needs another red teddy bear or heart-shaped locket anyway?
Amélie’s French Bakery & Café to the rescue! The Queen City’s favorite French-inspired café can help you plan the perfect Valentine’s Day with their newest location in the Park Road Shopping Center. Not only can you indulge that special someone in your life with Amélie’s scratch-made French pastries, but the Park Road Shopping Center location also offers French wines, seasonal mimosas, and local craft beer alongside the pastries and café drinks Charlotteans have come to know and love.
“People work here because they get to create and make,” says Sarah Britton, Director of Operations at Amélie’s. “We look forward to holidays and special occasions because we get to be a part of our customers’ lives.”
Plan a night out with the special someone in your life
One of the Park Road Amélie’s most unique attributes is its proximity to all the other fixin’s needed to plan a special date night. Prefer to snuggle up in a movie theatre with your beau? Stop into Amélie’s for a pick-me-up like their spiced maple café crème—the French version of the latte—beforehand and then head on over to the Manor Theater for the latest flick.
Consider yourself a foodie? Plan a progressive dinner with stops at Rock Salt for oysters (nature’s aphrodisiac… wink, wink), DotDotDot for appetizers and cocktails, and CO for an intimate yet exotic dinner, all followed by dessert and a glass of French wine at Amélie’s. The rich chocolate peanut butter petit four washed down with the berry, vanilla, and floral notes of the Bordeaux Rouge from Château de Fontenille make the perfect end to an evening.
If your relationship has advanced to the next level fellas, pop into Brownlee Jewelers and let her shop for the engagement ring she’s been dreaming about. Amélie’s ups the ante on that proposal with a custom made “Will you marry me” Éclair. Not only will her heart melt, but the buttery, creamy dessert will melt in your mouth.
Not ready for a romantic night out, yet? Enjoy a casual Valentine’s date night at Amélie’s
As if the stress of Valentine’s Day just being Valentine’s Day isn’t enough, add to it the complexity of a new relationship. Are we ready for an intimate night out at The Cellar at Duckworth’s? Or is the high price tag of a fancy dinner coupled with awkward moments of candle-lit silence too soon? Amélie’s in the Park Road Shopping Center allows the perfect setting to test the waters of your new relationship.
Skip the tomahawk bone-in ribeye and enjoy a casual, yet still delicious, dinner of seasonal soups, salads, and sandwiches like the wild mushroom duxelles tartine (the French version of an open-faced sandwich). Wash it down with a playful orange and clove mimosa or a Hop, Drop ‘n Roll IPA from NoDa Brewing. If the conversation seems to be moving in the right direction, keep it going with a hazelnut praline café crème and a petite dessert trio, which comes with a fresh fruit tart, a two-tiered macaron, and a mini cream puff.
When you do reach those unavoidable lulls in conversation, talk about the café’s eclectic décor, which Brenda Ische, designer, brand manager, and co-founder of Amélie’s, describes as Marie Antoinette meets Alice and Wonderland. The Mona Lisa wearing sunglasses is my personal favorite.
Enjoy a special date night at home with Amélie’s
Maybe you’re like my wife and I and prefer to celebrate Valentine’s Day with a quiet night at home by either ordering in your favorite takeout or preparing an elaborate dinner. I prefer the latter, often whipping up my eggplant parmesan recipe, which takes me all afternoon to cook. I tend to fall short when it comes to dessert though. I may know my way around the kitchen, but when it comes to anything with sugar, forget it.
Amélie’s is to the rescue with sweet treats like the previously mentioned Éclair Your Love. Customize them with a personal message (requires a 48-hour advanced order). Another customer favorite is the sexy chocolate covered strawberries. With a choice between dark, milk, and white chocolate, there’s something for all chocolate lovers. Last year they sold almost 3,000 of the romantic treat.
Bring home treats for the whole gang.
Nowadays, Valentine’s Day isn’t just limited to the special someone in our lives. Many of us like to bring sweets to the office for our colleagues to enjoy, treat our important clients, or put a smile on the face of our child’s classmates. Britton recommends picking up a dozen or so of Amélie’s pâte sucrée Valentine’s Day cookies—the French version of a sugar cookie. “They’re really buttery when you bite into them but still sturdy enough to support the royal icing that delivers that Valentine’s Day touch,” she says.
Another option is Amélie’s famous French macarons. Raspberry, mixed berry, or a seasonal cranberry pistachio offers that finishing Valentine’s Day touch.
Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be that difficult after all. With the help of Amélie’s, make this Valentine’s Day your best one yet.
reprinted with permission from brandpoint
Cheer and goodwill aren’t the only things Americans share during the holiday season. We also swap germs, overindulge in seasonal foods and spirits, and stew in stress, all of which can lead to digestive woes.
You already know you’ll have to work hard at self-control if you don’t want the numbers on the scale to climb by the end of the holiday season. But, did you know you can also take steps to minimize stomach upset, indigestion, bloating, reflux, and general intestinal distress during the holidays?
So Good, Yet So Bad
Holiday foods taste good because they’re often rich and high in fat and sugar—qualities that cause not only weight gain but also digestive discomfort. During this hectic time of year, most of us eat more, especially at celebrations.
Giving up holiday treats and favorite dishes would be like going through the season without a single cornucopia or twinkling decoration. Rather than suffering digestive distress through indulgence—or choosing to deprive yourself entirely—start with a plan for how you’ll deal with holiday digestive upset, and then take action.
Steps to Feel Better
Stay hydrated. The hectic pace of the holidays may make you forget to drink enough water. What’s more, overindulging in holiday libations like cocktails, wine, champagne, and beer can actually dehydrate your body. Non-alcoholic sugary beverages like mulled cider, hot chocolate, and pumpkin-flavored coffees can also throw off your body’s balance. Remember to drink plenty of water every day throughout the holidays.
Prioritize food choices. Sure, that slice of pumpkin pie looks great on the plate and tastes yummy going down, but will it be worth the heartburn and bloating you’ll experience later? Raw veggies are a healthful and fiber-filled alternative to fatty hors d’oeuvres, but be aware that raw vegetables can also cause bloating and gas. Pay attention to the foods that trigger discomfort, and decide how important they really are. You may be able to substitute something else that’s just as satisfying but less upsetting to your stomach.
Promote gut health. If your digestive tract is already in good shape, it will be better equipped to handle occasional holiday overindulgence. Taking a probiotic supplement, like Family Flora Daily Balance, can support the growth of good gut bacteria that aid in digestion. Family Flora’s Dual-Action formula helps populate the gut with healthy bacteria and also provides prebiotics, the “food” that helps probiotic bacteria thrive and multiply inside the body. The probiotic plus non-GMO prebiotic blend helps promote improved digestion, supports gut flora renewal and colon health, and maintains healthier gastrointestinal function.* The neutral-tasting powder can be mixed into any cold food or beverage.
Reduce portion sizes. Do you give yourself license to overindulge during the holidays, figuring you’ll pay for it later when you step on the scale? Large portions can also make you pay for them right away when you feel indigestion or reflux after finishing a big meal. Reducing portion sizes can help ease holiday strain on your stomach and digestive tract. One easy trick for controlling portion sizes: serve yourself on a dessert-size dish rather than a large dinner plate. Smaller portions will look like more on a smaller plate.
Limit variety. Whether a buffet or a sit-down dinner, holiday meals often feature multiple dishes that just look so good you want to try them all. Mixing too many different foods, however, can lead to stomach upset. Trying everything—even if it’s just a bite or two—can rack up the calories, fat, and sugar. Instead, choose just a few favorites to have at each meal. If you have a spoon of green bean casserole with your Thanksgiving turkey, pass on the yams and plan to have them with tomorrow’s leftovers.
Keep exercising. Along with all the other benefits exercise brings, it can also promote digestive health. In addition to its positive physical effects, exercise can also help relieve holiday stress—a big contributor to holiday stomach upset. Whether it’s an hour at the gym or 30 minutes on a yoga mat in your living room, it’s important to maintain an exercise regimen throughout the holidays.
The holidays are meant to be a time of enjoyment, and that includes eating foods you just don’t have around at other times of the year. With some proactive steps, you can help ensure your holidays stay bright and your stomach stays healthy throughout the season.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Visit www.familyflora.com to learn more.
reprinted with permission from brandpoint
What’s your idea of the perfect Thanksgiving meal? A big family buffet, or perhaps an intimate evening with a few close friends? Thanksgiving brings us together from near and far for all sorts of fun-filled traditions that are uniquely our own. And while those traditions may vary somewhat as families grow and our lives change over time, there’s one constant at the heart of Thanksgiving entertaining—the beloved turkey platter.
“Turkey platters really are the Christmas tree of Thanksgiving,” says Keith Winkler, product marketing manager at dinnerware giant Replacements, Ltd. “When you talk about Thanksgiving, I think most Americans picture that iconic Norman Rockwell painting with the mother serving the perfect turkey on a huge platter. Even though that image has been reinterpreted in so many ways as times have changed, the platter has always remained the centerpiece of the gathering, even for those who by-pass the bird to serve another main course for their Thanksgiving meal.”
Winkler notes that there’s also a strong sentimental attachment to this seasonal favorite. Turkey platters often become heirloom pieces, handed down in many families, making the platter even more special.
Turkey Dinnerware History 101
The history behind turkey patterns and ultimately the iconic platter is literally as old as the holiday itself.
When Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving official back in 1863, English potters seized the opportunity to target the growing American market by producing turkey-themed dinner plates and platters. These ingenious designers generally took an existing design and replaced the center with a turkey motif to create those first Thanksgiving patterns. Manufacturers such as Spode, Mason’s, and Wood & Sons used their colorful transfer ware patterns to start a new holiday tradition, which became an instant hit.
In fact, Replacements Ltd.’s most popular Thanksgiving pattern, His Majesty by Johnson Brothers, started as an accent plate in the company’s Friendly Village pattern. The English manufacturer received so much demand for this particular motif that the company turned the proud Tom Turkey-adorned plate into its own pattern.
The Great Platter Hunt
Designers say you don’t have to buy an entire set of turkey-themed dinnerware to find the perfect platter. Replacements Ltd.’s Julie Robbins notes you can find platters that blend well with any pattern, from the very old to the very new.
“Turkey platters aren’t necessarily bird-themed; you’ll find them in designs ranging from florals to even scenic vistas,” Robbins says. “Think who is going to be at your table, what you’re serving, and find a platter that speaks to you. If you’re serving turkey, it doesn’t matter whether you’re carving your bird in the kitchen or on the table, just make sure it’s large enough to accommodate your guests. So many people make the mistake of trying to put a large turkey on a 12-inch platter and, quite frankly, that is just too small and it’s not going to work. This is a special piece, not an everyday platter.”
Robbins adds that she’s seen people do wonderful things with a small turkey, such as placing vegetables around the bird to fill out the larger platter and complete the look. Turkey platters aren’t only fun, many are also functional. Lenox and several other manufacturers produce turkey-shaped platters and other autumn themed serving pieces in alternative metal serveware. This is a special alloy that when heated or chilled maintains temperature to keep foods warm or cold.
Gobble Up This Season’s Tabletop Trends
Many dinnerware companies are producing Thanksgiving or turkey-themed accent plates and platters to mix and match with everyday dinnerware in colors and motifs to fit all tastes and lifestyles, from the very traditional to a more modern aesthetic. And if Tom Turkey isn’t the right design element for your table, Robbins says you can still create a seasonal feel, minus the bird.
“You can use fall leaf or even woodland patterns to create a classic Thanksgiving table without going with a turkey motif. Even beautiful classic fruit patterns give your table that cornucopia or horn of plenty flair.”
Not sure where to start? Find a list of Replacements Ltd.’s most popular fall and Thanksgiving patterns on the company's website, replacements.com.