How To Shop: Vintage and Antiques Edition

I have always loved old things. It started with my Nana’s collection of Nancy Drew novels from the 1930s (among my most prized possessions) and took on a life of its own when my great grandmother bequeathed me her scarves, gloves, and her art deco engagement ring from the ‘2os.

The antiques shop and flea market scene in San Francisco is pretty fabulous, though, learning how to spot an awesome deal or a worthwhile splurge is definitely a fine art. Learning how to vintage shop – and shop well – takes time. I’ve been combing the Alameda Market for more than a year now, and I finally think I’m developing an eye for vintage items that I love and that tell a story.

With the holidays coming up and the shopping frenzy starting, I thought it would be great to share my top five tips for successful antique market and vintage shopping:

1. Get there early – especially if you want furniture. Folks with their eye on the prize are typically those in need of something: a sofa, a chair, a table. If you are one of these people, get there as early as possible to maximize your chances of finding something amazing. After all, ’tis better to get up early and sniff out the table of your dreams than continue to eat on the floor or buy something crappy from IKEA.

2. Start at the back and work forward. Most people enter and immediately get distracted by the goods up front (look! shiny things!) while the vendors in the back wait for the crowd to trickle through. Personally, I head straight back to get first peek at the goods, and then work my way up to the front.

3. Bring more cash then you think you’ll need. It was only by sheer luck that I managed to snag my desk – a mint green, 1940s secretarial situation – for $40. Which was lucky, because it was all I had. Fancier markets have ATMs, but don’t count on that. I’ve seen the faces of the heartbroken and cash-strapped as they walk away from first edition books and limited edition prints because they were short a few bones. Don’t let yourself be one of them.

4. Know the lingo. Are you firm on this price? Can you come down five? Would you be willing to throw in the (additional small item you want real bad)? All of these phrases signal to a vendor that you know what you’re doing and you’re a savvy shopper. It’s a flea market – bargaining is half the fun! And if you don’t consider bargaining fun, then at least remember that asking for a price adjustment or a deal is expected. You’re not being rude. Don’t try this the next time you hit up J. Crew, but to ask for a 2-for-1 on those old Boy Scout manuals is A-OK.

5. Work on your eye. Don’t buy things that are damaged or only kind-of what you’re looking for. There is a lot of crap in the world. And amid that crap, your perfect mint julep cup/antique record player/limoges tea cup awaits. Don’t settle, and don’t buy something that is like what you want, but not exactly what you want. You will resent that fake limoges tea cup forever if you don’t love it.

Pumpkin Bread

The pumpkin obsession continues! I’ve eaten pumpkin scones, pumpkin sushi, pumpkin pie, pumpkin fro-yo, pumpkin lattes, pumpkin cookies and pumpkin curry this Fall. Maybe it’s because I’m an October baby, or maybe it’s because I love vegetables more than the average person, or maybe it’s because pumpkins are just so dang tasty. Whatever the reason, I can’t get enough. Ergo, pumpkin bread for a breakfast with friends on Saturday morning.

This recipe is dead easy, and you’ll be able to whip up it up in minutes. It’s great fresh from the oven with hot coffee, or heated up the next day with…coffee. Can you tell what I’ve been having for breakfast this week?

PUMPKIN BREAD

*Note, this is a full recipe and makes two pans. I halved it and made one loaf since I’ll be out of town this week. I have no idea if this bread freezes well or not, since I’ve always consumed it right away, like the fat kid I am. If you try it, let me know?

Ingredients:

. 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

. 2 teaspoons baking soda

. 1 teaspoon baking powder

. 3 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

. 1 teaspoon salt

. 3 cups white sugar

. 1 cup vegetable oil

. 4 eggs

. 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree

. 1/2 cup water

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9×5 inch loaf pans. Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and pumpkin pie spice. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, beat together sugar, oil, eggs, and pumpkin. Stir in flour mixture alternately with water. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.

3. Bake in the preheated oven for about an hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Slice and serve!

Whipped Potatoes

You read that right, whipped. Like naughty school children in the days of yore. I’m over mashed potatoes. I didn’t know it until last weekend, but mashed potatoes are dead to me now.

Remember when I started this blog? And I was all about embracing imperfections and accidents and horrible cooking, because it happens? Yeah. So, that’s been happening a lot lately. For instance, when I made these, my hand mixer died. Right in the middle. Oh joy. And on the evening of Friendsgiving last Saturday, I found myself about an hour short of the time needed to properly boil six pounds of potatoes. So I did what any good cook would do: panic.

I didn’t boil long enough, I didn’t boil fast enough, and I didn’t mash nearly thoroughly enough. I didn’t measure, I just threw butter and cream at the problem (like that ever solves anything) and ended up 45 minutes later, standing at my stove, sweaty and near tears, potato masher in one hand, giant spoon in the other, with buttery smears of pepper on my forehead and a big ol’ pot of something I’d never want to serve to anyone. With a broken hand mixer and a sorry excuse for biceps, what’s a girl to do?

I put a lid on it, hopped on the bus, and hoped that the hosts would have a solution to my problem, and low and behold. They did. Never mind the awkwardness of sitting on the bus with a steaming pot of potatoes, slightly wet because of the rain. Because in my disheveled state, I discovered whipped potatoes. Worth it.

We transferred the lumpy mess into the 11-cup food processor, added a bit more cream, and hit play. Within five minutes, I had a bowl of buttery, creamy goodness that tasted better than any mashed potatoes I’ve ever had. These were the potatoes of my life. Full of air and fluff, they were beloved by all.

And you will love them too. And no need to panic about it – I’ve taken care of all that for you. You’re welcome.

WHIPPED POTATOES

*Note, this recipe serves six, because most people don’t need to make potatoes for 20. If you do, triple it! And leave yourself a lot more time than I did. Be ye not so stupid. Or be ye late to the party. Up to you.

Ingredients:

. Two lbs. russet or red potatoes

. 1.5 cups cream or half and half

. One stick of butter

. Salt and pepper

. A food processor

Instructions:

1. Boil your potatoes in salty water, 15-20 minutes

2. Drain well, and then put them back into the warm pot

3. On low, add half the butter and salt and pepper, to taste, and use your masher to break up the big chunks

4. Remove everything from the pot and put it into the food processor, adding in the cream, remaining butter and more salt and pepper a little at a time.

5. When peaks form and your potatoes look like restaurant potatoes, you’re done.

Eat and enjoy!

Brussels Sprouts

I was seriously pondering putting up a picture of a turkey, but then I was all, “How cliche is that?” Plus, it’s been years since I’ve actually eaten a piece of turkey on Thanksgiving.

Then I thought about a photo of some beautiful, sparkly cranberry jelly, and I almost felt sick to my stomach, because, yes, it’s true: I am one of those creepy people who prefer cranberries from a can. No matter how hard my grandmother works to make her cranberry sauce every year, God bless her, I will not eat it.

Instead, for this week, when it will be all food, all the time on GSG, I thought I’d put up a picture of my favorite thing to eat on Thanksgiving: brussels sprouts. Tradition be damned, this oft-maligned, frequently mis-prepared vegetable is my very favorite thing to eat at holiday gatherings. Olive oil, kosher salt, lots of pepper and garlic, and a little bit of pecorino shaved over the top at the end and wowza. You’ll love it.

What are you most excited about eating this week? I’d love to know!

BRUSSELS SPROUTS

Ingredients:

. One stalk of brussels

. EVOO

. Kosher salt

. Ground pepper

. Head of garlic, though you’ll probably not use it all

. Pecorino or parmesan, if desired

Instructions:

1. Cut the sprouts free of the stalk, and then cut the rough bottoms off. Halve them longitudinally, or like you’d cut an avocado, not an orange.

2. Rub EVOO into the flat sides of the sprouts, while also heating a glug of EVOO in a big, flat skillet with a lid.

3.  Put the sprouts into a large bowl once they’ve been EVOO’ed and coat them with salt and pepper. As mentioned in every post, I LOVE pepper, so I will say that you should pepper liberally, but use your best judgement according to your personal pepper preferences.

4. Once the skillet is nice and hot, put the sprouts flat side down in the pan, reserving any outer leaves that have come off in the EVOO process. You’ll definitely want to cook those too, just not at first, or they’ll get too crispy and black.

5. Lid the pan and let the sprouts roast anywhere from 5 – 10 minutes. Keep monitoring them and checking the undersides. Once they start carmelizing and turning golden brown on the bottoms, you can start to flip them over.

6. Lightly oil the leaves and add them to the pan, along with the garlic cloves. I would probably use five-ish garlic cloves, but again, do what you’d like. The sprouts will start to pop and expand, which is exactly right. Once the outsides start to have some char marks, you’re all done!

7. Dump the whole mess into a bowl and shave some pecorino or parm over the top. I have also put a dash of balsamic over these, in lieu of cheese, and that was great, too. Either way, you have warm, crunchy, savory sprouts that will be a highlight of your table.

Eat them right away! These are not great cold, so rally those troops! 

Friday Scraps

{Better for you bruschetta – the perfect snack!

Whole wheat toast, cottage cheese, spinach/basil, cherry tomatoes, evoo/balsamic drizzle}

. Awesome stop motion music video recommended to us by boyfriend Nathan. Thank you, boyfriend!

. Cute!

. Currently inspired by snuggly things, misty days, and menswear, or so it seems.

. An interesting look at the ladies behind the funny.

. Making a trial run of these this weekend! Will they be good enough for GSG readers? Time will tell. Actually, I will tell, since I’ll be doing the tasting.

. Hilarious! Also, my dream photo shoot come true!

This weekend is all about parties and playing! I’m excited for dinner and singing with the ladies, and a pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving feast with dear friends – the first holiday party of the season!

What are you up to? Is it awesome?

Thank you so much for all the comments and follows this week! You made my days.