Thursday, July 31, 2008

It's Finished And It's Fantastic!

The renovation of our design office is finally complete and WOW does it look teriffic. If you haven't stopped by the showroom lately you have to come and take a look at our newly remodeled design area. From the clean, flowing lines of the two-tone continuous work surfaces to the stunning original works of art by Robert Quackenbush that adorne the walls, this space gives our designers a creative environment equal to their talents. Special thanks go out to the team at Top Master for their excellent craftsmanship on the Corian solid surface worktops (Rain Cloud & Earth) and to artist extraordinare Robert Quackenbush for creating an original series of mixed media works just for us!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Getting Out The Vote!

As you all know, we've been keeping a close eye on this season of HGTV's Design Star competition and the success of KC's own Jennifer Bertrand on that program. We hope everyone voted (multiple times) for Jennifer over the past 3-1/2 days as we've done here at Portfolio. We think the world of Jen and wish her the best of luck for a winning outcome in the Design Star finale (Sunday at 8pm central time on HGTV).

Click here to read about some of Jennifer's experiences on the show from her interview appearing in the August issue of KC Magazine.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

An Artful Escape

This morning we had the good fortune to visit the very talented artist Robert Quackenbush at his Leawood studio.

We were amazed at his collection of paintings, works in progress and found objects, which serve as inspiration to be incorporated into future pieces.

Robert even gave us a sneak peek of five works for a special exhibit he is preparing for Portfolio. These pieces are phenomenal and should be completed and installed in our design office by the end of July. We can't wait!

Our thanks to Robert and his lovely wife Merry for inviting us into their home and allowing us a look into Robert's studio.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Lunch: Catered In

We love the Chiefs and, apparently, so does everyone who wants to work at the Levy Restaurant at Arrowhead Stadium.

Long story short, a couple of weeks ago, we received hundreds—literally hundreds!—of phone calls from an ad that ran in the Kansas City Star for openings at the Levy Restaurant. The phone number listed was misprinted and ran as our phone number at the showroom. You can see where this is going…

So, over the next week, we had the honor of talking to all kinds of interesting people. After a solid week of the phone ringing off the hook, Geri called the restaurant to inform the manager of what was going on. As an apology for the whole hassle, Director of Operations, Gregg Artley, arranged for Executive Chef Kevin Williams to cater in lunch to the showroom for the staff: chicken and veggie wraps, Caesar salad, and the most delicious Chocolate cheesecake!

Go, Chefs! Oops…we meant Chiefs. Or did we???

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

How Lucky Are We?!?!?

Jen Bertrand, contestant on this season’s Design Star on HGTV, stopped by our showroom this afternoon. I had an opportunity to chat with the lovely Jen for a few minutes about what it is like being back in Kansas City, and watching herself on TV on Sunday nights.

Jen says the hardest part of being back “is keeping [the ending] a secret.” The finale of the show has yet to be filmed. It’s scheduled for next week, and is actually the reunion show, where viewers also vote for their favorite designer from the remaining two finalists.

Jen says this week’s coming show (Sunday, July 13 at 8:00 p.m. CST) “is crazy…we [design] a kitchen in 24 hours.”

Here, at Portfolio, we can’t even imagine! In awe, I asked Jen how in the world she was able to pull that off. She laughs, “I’m the ‘Paint Queen’…it’s all about using what we have, with the resources we have [on hand].”

Monday, July 7, 2008

Baby Bird Update: They've Hatched!

Over the holiday weekend, our mama bird must have done a lot of sitting, because her eggs have hatched. The babies are not exactly the most attractive birds (think tatertots with a few feathers), but they are sure noisy—and hungry!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Jen Bertrand, KC's own Design Star!

Each Sunday at 8:00 (central time) on HGTV, we have been cheering on Kansas City-native, Jen Bertrand, as she competes on this season’s Design Star.

Jen, interior designer and owner of Bertrand Designs with husband, Chris, began Bertrand Designs five years ago. They provide artwork, murals and faux finishes. In fact, Jen has been a very good friend to Portfolio, designing a special paint finish for Geri’s office and exhibiting her art in our showroom.

On Design Star, Jen and the other contestants each have a weekly design challenge and a budget to design everything from dining and living rooms, to themed designs from around the world, and their living space for this season—a Nashville lakehouse! The judges eliminate a contestant each week, and in the end, viewers choose a winner (think American Idol meets HGTV), who becomes the host of a new HGTV show.

Good luck, Jen! Everyone at Portfolio can’t wait to see what you’ll design next!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Portfolio Cookies

Here at Portfolio, we believe in living well, and living beautifully. We also believe in hospitality and hope our clients feel as comfortable in our kitchen showroom as they do in their own kitchens.

Playing a part in the Portfolio story is Kristi, our current intern, who will be joining the team as a designer in September. Along with experience in design and journalism, she also brings with her a culinary background from teaching cooking classes at Williams-Sonoma. This Spring, Kristi began offering our clients her signature ‘Portfolio’ cookies along with their cappuccino upon visiting the showroom. The cookies are essentially crinkle cookies: rich, fudgy cookies that ‘crack’ through their powdered sugar coating as they bake.

We hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

Portfolio Cookies

3 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1-1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/8 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon instant espresso powder
3/4 cup confectioners (powdered) sugar

Make and chill the dough:

1. Melt chocolate in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water or in the top of a double boiler, stirring until smooth. Remove bowl from heat and set aside.

2. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.

3. Beat together butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until light yellow and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add egg, beating well to incorporate. Beat in melted chocolate until combined. Add milk, vanilla, and espresso powder, beating to incorporate. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture, mixing until just combined. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill dough until firm, 2 to 3 hours.

Form and bake cookies:
1. Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 large cookie sheets with parchment paper.

2. Sift confectioners sugar into a bowl. Use a small ice cream scoop, or a teaspoon to roll dough into 1-inch balls, placing them onto the wax paper as rolled. Roll balls, 3 or 4 at a time, in confectioners sugar to coat generously and arrange 2 inches apart on lined baking sheets.

3. Bake, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until cookies are puffed and cracked and edges feel dry (but centers are still slightly soft), 12 to 14 minutes total. Transfer cookies (still on parchment) to racks to cool completely.

4. While first batch is baking, roll remaining dough into balls. Line cooled cookie sheets with fresh parchment, then roll second batch of balls in confectioners sugar and bake in same manner.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies