We end our stay at our friend’s home in the country this morning and head into the city where I will attend the National Stationery Show today. It is our tradition when we stay here to set the table and make the dinner the night before we depart. It is a fun way to say thank you, as the host can just sit back and be feted in their own home. One of my most asked questions at the shops is what to bring as a gift when you are staying as an overnight guest. While we enjoy taking our host out for a meal as a gift, it can be so much more relaxing to have a home cooked meal. Setting the table, putting together the flowers, choosing the wine, cooking the meal–all become part of the gift. For someone who has everything, the festive evening becomes part of a memorable gift. It was an evening filled with friendship, a tasty meal, good wine, and much laughter.
Just arrived, more handsome vintage hotel silver at Watson Kennedy. The above oversized shakers are from The Ritz in London and are so unbelievably good I was shaking in my boots a bit from excitement when I was unpacking them. These would whip up one serious batch of martinis. Resilvered and in beautiful condition, these shaker are just amazing objects to look at. Also in lovely condition are another round of Savoy bowls that we sold out of within a day of the last shipment. These are really ample sized bowls that are food safe so can hold whatever your hearts desire. Again, a sublime object to look at when not in use.
I prefer to use the term ‘nibbles’ over the word ‘hors d’oeuvre’ for a host of reasons. The first is the spelling. I think I am a reasonably good speller, but the H word always has me searching on Google for the proper spelling. Secondly, I do think the H word has a place, but I think of it more formally like when food is passed at a cocktail party. Nibbles fit the bill when you are just putting out a quick & easy assortment of things to have with cocktails before dinner.
Here is what I found after a quick web search.
1 : an act of nibbling 2 : a very small quantity or portion (as of food) ; also : snack 3 : a tentative expression of interest
Which leads me to, what do you put out for a nibble or a snack? I think as much that can be done to make entertaining easier and more doable is my answer.
This was a quick assortment of things I pulled together for guests last evening. Most to all were things we had in the cupboard or fridge. It was a week-night dinner after a long work day, so ease was key. Truffle popcorn, cashews & peanuts, a piece of cheese with crackers, tortilla chips with really good salsa. Done. I put most everything in a pretty hotel silver bowl and off it went. It does not have to be a huge assortment. A nibble. Make guests a drink, and watch the conversations start to flow.
Wine Wednesday on this May Day continues with an entry of a very special bottle of wine from a very special family/vintner. Wines from Domaine Tempier have been one of those bottles that we enjoy on notable occasions. These are not inexpensive wines, but are worth every penny. The Peyraud family is legendary in the wine world, producing world class wine from the Bandol region in France. Their rosé (once praised by Robert Parker as the greatest rosé in the world), is a real treat each time we enjoy a bottle. But we really like the reds that they produce too. The La Migoua is one blend that is a particular favorite. We had not yet toasted the finishing of my manuscript, and were waiting for the right time and the right bottle. Monday evening out at WestWard was the right time and this was the right bottle. We had it with a simple roast chicken I made, and it paired beautifully. Kermit Lynch, the noted wine importer who initially exposed the greatness of Domaine Tempier and the Peyraud family years ago to the States writes. “If any wine can be said to have soul, it’s Tempier.” That quote could not be more perfect or more true.
Spring brings such a profusion of flowers, so it is easy to pick & choose to create a special table setting. But for those times that you are coming up dry finding a bloom that speaks to you, also look to the produce aisle. Vegetables can offer clever alternatives to flowers. In both these cases, asparagus just seemed to go the trick for each table being set. The above needed another little something along with the white tulips for the table in town. The below being the only centerpiece on the long zinc table at the beach. Extra added bonus, you get to cook up the display at a later date. The asparagus became a lovely addition with a piece of fish last night, roasted in the oven, for dinner.
Yesterday was spent unpacking the incredible shipment of vintage hotel silver that had just arrived. These are all the gems I have been waiting for these last few months to really make our hotel silver assortment sing. And sing it does! We had folks buying it as I was unpacking it and putting it onto the shelves. This has all been re-silvered, so it is meant to used, and is completely food safe. All from England, all quite extraordinary. Because of the popularity, many pieces will be sold before we have a chance to put it on our website, so if anything catches your eye, please shoot me an e-mail or give one of the shops a ring. Even if you don’t collect it, a look at all of it massed together is just a pretty sight. It is that utilitarian/beautiful mix I just love. Amazing to look at, but meant to be used and enjoyed each day.
I wanted to share with all of you that I finished the manuscript for my book, and I will be sending it off to my editor in New York today. I am a bit over the moon! The above photo was from yesterday where I spent the day shooting table vignettes. Pure heaven for me. I want to thank everyone who has sent encouraging words along the way. It is fun to have all of you along for this journey with me. There is still much work ahead with edits, more photography and page design–I will keep you posted along the way. Spring 2014 when the book comes out will be here in a flash…
Set a creative table! In the coming weeks I want to highlight a few tables I put together over the last year using things that I picked up at the grocery store or found while out and about. Simple things that are readily available. Table setting questions are the most asked to me by customers at the shops, so I thought I would group a few posts around that this month.
For this table, I stumbled upon just the coolest looking melons at the grocery store. The minute I spotted them I knew they would look great added to the table with the green plates, white flowers, and assorted green glassybaby. This was a going away dinner for our beloved Olivia, so I was trying to recreate a bit of a French bistro vibe, so I ran a sheet of white Kraft paper down the middle of the table as a sort of tablecloth. Vintage green pottery was added to give height and add visual interest. But ultimately, it was those great melons that pulled the table together. Often times, one element or thing can do just that.
When I find something for the shops that I have never seen before, it excites me to no end. Such is the case when I spotted this lime vinegar. Yep, you read that right, lime vinegar. Oh what fun a bottle of this would be for whipping up a tangy vinaigrette or creating a marinade with extra virgin olive oil. My mind starts racing. Plus I really like the labeling, the bottle shape, the whole package really. When what is as good on the inside is as good on the outside–it is that winning combo I am always in search of. Fresh lime vinegar, who knew? Yum.
One of the most asked questions I get from customers is how to set a creative table. I approach setting a table a bit like getting dressed. Chose your first piece, then start adding. With this table, it started with these plates I adore, which were a gift to Mister Sive when he attended Hamilton College. Each plate has a different scene of the college, and I just love the Old World, preppy, handsome look of the overall design. From there, I ran an assortment of John Derian plates down the middle of the table. To that I start adding vintage things that have similar color tones. Sort of ‘jewelry’ for the outfit. This is where you really get to be creative. Horn cups, miniature English trophy cups, wood boxes–all to add visual interest. Small apothecary bottles with a single tulip stem strewn here and there, with a big bunch of glorious creamy tulips in a Juliska vase to center the table.