Islander’s Terra Bella shop full of European charm

Homemade braided challah bread is served with a traditional Shabbat meal. - Contributed Photo
Homemade braided challah bread is served with a traditional Shabbat meal.
— image credit: Contributed Photo

Due to an editorial error, an earlier version of the cutline in the photo of challah bread indicated it could be prepared for Passover. Since the bread is leavened, it would not be served on Passover.

Mercer Island resident Nancy Meade has the most wonderful and thought-out accessory and home shop in Bellevue on Old Main Street, rightfully named Terra Bella.

Her store represents the old European charm with the modern touch of today’s lifestyles. Her collection of European tablecloths and napkins married with the contemporary artists of today is a beautiful blend of traditional, classical and contemporary.

From the moment you open the front door, you are greeted with the most wonderful use of your senses. Your eyes gaze lovingly at all the beautiful items. Your nose smells the magnificent scents that linger in the air from the 100 percent sox waxed candles, to the touch of all the fine textured materials in the shop. What grasps your taste buds is the array of tapas spreads that are available.

Having a lively conversation with Nancy or one of her employees and using your senses in such a small space makes one want to stay all day.

Nancy’s personality, coupled with wanting to help you find that perfect something for yourself or someone else, can also keep you lingering throughout your day.

There is the tiniest of store rooms, and one always wonders what else is hiding behind that half-closed door. The French table lines scream to have this wonderful dinner party or fun-filled picnic engaging family and friends. The serving utensils that she carries are full of life and could and do carry over to their own interesting story about the artist who designed them or how they will be used. One detail I did notice is that Nancy enjoys color, texture and comfort.

There is something in this shop for everyone. Many of Nancy’s items are not duplicated in other shops across town. Many times when I wander into the shop just to say hello, I often find myself purchasing gifts for friends, remembering to always leave with a little something for myself.

Speaking of the uniqueness of her shop, Nancy’s son, Mitchell, inspired me this month to write about his love for the kitchen. Mitchell, only 13 years of age, just had his Bar Mitzvah. He is an avid sports fan, Boy Scout and chef. For his Bar Mitzvah service, he made his own six-braided challah from scratch.

This is not easy to do.

Braided Challah

(From “Beni’s Family Cookbook,” by Jane Breskin Zalben)

2 packages dry yeast

Pinch of sugar

3 large eggs

1 egg white (reserve egg yolk)

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2/3 cup honey

8 cups unbleached white flour (plus extra for kneading)

Sesame or poppy seeds (optional)

1. Dissolve yeast in 2 cups of warm water (105-110 degrees). Add sugar. Stir. Set aside 10 minutes at room temp until liquid foams.

2. Beat eggs and egg white. Add salt, oil and honey to mixture. Continue to beat.

3. Put flour in a large bowl. Make a well in the center. Gradually add yeast mixture to flour, stirring center with a wooden spoon until absorbed. Stir in liquid from Step 2.

4. Knead dough by hand. Sprinkle lightly with flour if dough is sticky.

5. Place dough in large bowl. Cover with a dish towel and leave near a warm spot until dough has doubled in size, about 2 hours.

6. Punch dough down and knead.

7. Divide dough into two halves. Divide each half into two pieces — one about one-third of the dough; the other, two-thirds. Form each large piece into three 12-inch ropes. Braid ropes. Pinch ends of ropes together.

8. Shape each smaller piece into three 10-inch ropes. Braid. Place on top of larger braids. Press braids together at the ends to seal.

9. Mix reserved egg yolk with 1 teaspoon cold water. Brush on loaves to glaze.

10. Sprinkle sesame or poppy seeds.

11. Let braided dough rise uncovered for 1 hour. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown (not convection bake).

Yield: 2 loaves for the traditional Shabbat meal.


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