Wrought Iron Gates
Flowers of Scotland
by Leyanne Baillie
We admire the formal flower beds which burst with colour, as our daughters and their friends have fun racing up and down the perfect lawns. The gardens are separated into sections by stone walls, intricate wrought-iron fences and gates, and thick verdant hedging. The kids are particularly impressed by the section housing several breeds of chickens, with the hens housed in luxurious weatherboard abodes and castles.
The girls also have a great time playing an over-sized game of noughts and crosses while, once again, I am taken with the glasshouses containing a beautiful selection of geraniums, begonias and fuchsias. Chef Stuart Clink serves up delicious home cooking in the tearooms, a beautifully restored stable and coach house at the entrance to the gardens.
The gardens are family-owned and there is a small entry charge which varies depending on the time of year. As well as the walled gardens, there are woodlands which are at their best in the spring when snowdrops are followed by daffodils and bluebells which provide a stunning carpet of colour. Heading into early summer, azalea and rhododendrons provide a colourful display.
The Scots are obsessed by the weather; little wonder considering the rain and lack of sunshine they have to contend with. However, a lot of rain goes a long way to making this country a bonnier place.
Fabulous Homes Of Fashion A-Listers
Fashion mogul Georges Marciano of Guess Jeans may have built—and recently lost to bankruptcy—his fortune with casual clothing, but the style maestro’s stunning seven-bedroom, nine-bath Beverly Hills home, now on the market for $24.5 million, is more the “little black dress” of luxe living.
Tucked behind high walls and wrought iron gates, his iconic Old Hollywood estate was designed in 1927 and once belonged to Harry Cohn, the legendary founder of Columbia Pictures.
The stunning mansion has a two-story wood-paneled foyer with a sweeping staircase, elegant living and dining room, a tony professional screening room, library, family room, billiards room, card room and two full-sized kitchens. And that’s just on the first level.
Outside, Marciano’s lushly landscaped property also has a greenhouse, sunken tennis court with a pavilion, a large swimming pool, cabana and two guest cottages.
Happy New Year Wedding Offer from Ness Gardens
Ness Gardens is located in the heart of the beautiful Wirral Peninsula with breathtaking views over the River Dee to the Welsh Mountains. The setting for civil ceremonies and partnerships is an idyllic location with steps leading down into the Rock garden.
Couples cross the sandstone bridge and are married in the summer house overlooking our angelic lily pond, which provides a stunning backdrop for your wedding photographs. Guests make the short walk from our privileged car park and enter in the beautiful gardens through adjoining wrought iron gates to await the arrival of the bridal party.
A perfect setting, coupled with excellent food and service, guarantee you and your guests a most memorable occasion whilst the picturesque gardens provide wonderful photographic opportunities whatever the time of year.
Following the ceremony, we can provide a canapé and drinks reception in the gardens or alternatively our reception room holds up to 90 guests. If the weather is inclement on the day we do have a beautiful conservatory that overlooks the gardens and is licensed for 100 seated guests. This room is ideal for Winter and Autumn wedding or an alternative to an outdoor ceremony.
A Christmas wonderland
Kimo Cochran takes Guerneville home to next level of holiday decoration
By MEG McCONAHEY
If you find yourself heading through Guerneville at night between now and New Year’s, slow down once you pass through town and gaze across the river. You might for a moment think you’ve stumbled across a fairyland twinkling amid the darkened redwoods.
That would be Kimo’s place, a joyous explosion of Christmas where seemingly no surface save the floors is spared a holiday dressing.
Leave it to Kimo Cochran to mount a holiday production right in his own home. A former sword dancer, fire swallower, actor, model and San Francisco entertainment impresario, his eponymous nightclub on Polk Street was a favorite hangout for some 34 years.
“It’s a huge undertaking. But I love organizing things and I like producing and directing shows,” says Cochran, whose efforts culminate in a dazzling Christmas party for 125 of his closest friends, with catered food, an open bar and an endless feast. One room is devoted to desserts alone.
The decorations start coming out on Oct. 1, which is none too early considering the sheer volume of stuff he has accumulated over some 30 years. And each year he hits the after-Christmas sales to add more.
“I don’t want to be decorating up to Christmas day,” he explains of the pre-Halloween Christmas kick-off.
Then the real fun begins. For the next two months, the man who prefers to be known simply as Kimo strings lights and hangs bells, wreaths, reindeer, poinsettias and Santas throughout every room of the vintage 1400-square-foot cottage he and his partner Russell Burt bought in 1998. Even the chandeliers and the outside deck get the holiday treatment with poinsettias and hanging balls and lights strung from the redwoods.
The centerpiece is an 18-foot, floor-to-ceiling artificial Christmas tree ablaze with some 5,000 lights of every type available and topped with a 3-foot tall angel. It takes a team of four or five people several hours to assemble it. It takes another five days to deck the tree until seemingly every needle is adorned.
Cochran was born in Alabama at the end of The Depression, the baby in a family of six.
“I didn’t have hardly anything at Christmas as a kid,” he confesses, explaining his yuletide obsession. “It’s nice now to have a little money and be able to enjoy it.”
Cochran and Burt, who manages Santa Rosa’s Third Street Cinemas, moved up to the riverside cabin with its own sandy beach full-time about three years ago, after years as weekend visitors. They hired local contractor Tom Lynch to make the 77-year-old cabin into a comfortable home for entertaining that capitalizes on their beautiful river views.
A tiny window out to the water was replaced with a ceiling-high arched window now encircled in Christmas lights. French doors open out to a new multi-level deck. Crews spent a year refinishing the spectacular redwood interior walls and building a massive fireplace out of river rock.
He usually hires a couple of kids to help bring it all down from the attic, a job that takes an entire day. Boxes are labeled by room, however, to streamline the process.
Their open-door form of entertaining has enlivened the old Guernewood Road neighborhood, where people may swing by any day of the week with nibbles and wine for pop-up parties in his little Mardi Gras-themed courtyard in front, complete with century-old wrought-iron fence, masks on the trees and an old-fashioned street lamp from New Orleans. Or they can gather around the firepit near a bar he installed on their new and sweeping deck.
In San Francisco, Cochran kept reinventing his San Francisco nightclub, running the gamut from disco to sports bar, always staying one step ahead of the game as trends changed. But he gave it up in late 2011 and now is the principal partner in Guerneville’s R3 Hotel, the former Triple R resort newly reinvented as a 23-room resort with an outdoor stage for comics and singers. After all those years in hospitality and entertainment, Cochran now stays at arm’s length, preferring to manage entertainment on the homefront.
“I’m happy and contented here. I used to come up for vacations,” he said with a sigh. “Now it’s like being on vacation every day.”
First Look at Ba Mien Bistro in North Houston
By Joshua Justice
Vietnamese pho shops are nothing new to even the far reaches of Houston — including the North Bammel and Klein areas of Houston, where no shortage of small, family-owned shops dot the strip centers along Veterans Memorial north of Beltway 8. For over 20 years, these small noodle and sandwich stores have enjoyed streaks of success and a constant customer base in the large Southeast Asian communities in and around Klein Forest and Aldine.
The challenge for small restaurant owners just north continues to be attracting the crush of traffic that buzzes up and down FM 1960 (I’m not calling it Cypress Creek Parkway, dammit). Families and lunchtime workers seem content to patronize fast food and fast casual chains while a steady stream of smaller restaurants of all shapes and sizes come and go seemingly unnoticed. Reasons abound for the continued failures, from poor marketing and bad locations to flat-out crummy food.
I’m as much to blame as anyone else. Having worked in and around the area for years, I was content to blindly pass small delis and barbecue joints for a fast meal at a chain down the street. Ba Mien Bistro, however, found a way — or ways, rather — to catch my interest well before they opened.
Driving by on my way to work last month, I noticed a bright stucco exterior along 1960 just East of Champion Forest Drive, a renovation of a former ramshackle barbecue joint. With a wrought iron fence, street lamp-style lights and a simple front awning out front, Ba Mien is a stark contrast from its previous incarnation and stands out from the adjacent strip center, which houses three different strip mall-style houses of worship (is this a new start-up business thing I’m not aware of? DIY church?), a barber shop and a tattoo joint.
Before long, banners hung on the newly-added patio area announced the impending restaurant along with something else that few small restaurants out here seem to bother with: Ba Mien has a dedicated, professional billboard front. Call me a sucker, but when business owners bother with the small yet important and often pricey details that present a complete product, I’m sold. It seems I’m not the only one, either: One week before I even noticed the place, a regular reader tipped off Eating Our Words to Ba Mien’s impending opening as well.
I visited Ba Mien a few days ago during their second full week of business to see what they had to offer. I was pleased to find that he attention to detail and upscale touches seen outside continue inside as well.
The husband and wife team — along with help from their children — have fully renovated the interior. A pristine marble counter complete with pastry case and small menu board greets you as you enter. The walls and trim have all been painted a glossy gray, offering an austere match to the stripped raw concrete floors. An arrangement of small gold frames softens the metal seating in the main dining room. The hard-meets-soft aesthetic is welcoming and light in its simplicity, something often missing in even professionally designed dining rooms at multi-million dollar restaurants — much less at a mom-and-pop pho shop.
Despite being a lifelong Houstonian, I won’t claim to be a banh mi expert and I’m not versed in the top 100 pho spots in Bellaire. I have, however, been eating the stuff since I was a teenager, so I do know what I like. Simple, fresh and well-seasoned are my keys to Vietnamese casual and Ba Mien is spot-on across the board. The vermicelli, served with two excellent egg rolls, was plenty for lunch (while probably small in comparision to some of the monster sized plates I’ve seen around town), leaving me to take my bánh patê sô to go.
Knowing I wouldn’t be back in the area for sometime, and having enjoyed my French patê pastry at home the night before, I visited Ba Mien again the next day to grab a quick banh mi. I found the sandwich every bit as enjoyable as the previous day’s lunch, served on a large, fresh, crusty French roll with massive hunks of chargrilled pork. My added fried egg was overeasy, its yolk streaming perfectly throughout my sandwich.
“Keep it simple, stupid” reigns supreme when dealing with banh mi sandwiches and this one was a textbook example of a genre in which “textbook” is a high compliment.
All in all, it’s a clever little cafe looking to spread away from the dozens of other shops just down the road. Clever touches on the outside hint at the care and attention to detail in the food. It’s nothing new, but it’s certainly something different.