Thursday, October 23, 2014

Fall Farm to Table Soiree

There are parties, and then there are parties…meals eaten and moments shared with friends that you will remember for the rest of your life.  This last weekend was one of those.  Someone called me brave to invite a few quasi-strangers to come spend the weekend at our home, and have a dinner soiree in their honor.  Well, I just trust my intuition I guess, and that is always confirmed by my dogs, who gave our guests the full kissy terrier welcome.  Roll out that red carpet…..love my guests and we were going to party the weekend!!!  The petals that dropped off the garden roses just went right on the table….we roll with it here…make use and have fun was our motto~

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Not having a staff, I had friends descend, and we had a work party and a whole lot of fun and a little instruction.  The scene was finally set.  Mo and Linda, you are the BEST.  Love you ladies and can’t wait to be in Beaune with you…it is significantly easier than this, I promise, but WOW was this fun??

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I made a run to Los Angeles Flower Mart for some flowers, ok a bit obstructive but they looked great….hired the chairs, GOLD as we have in Paris.  My Dad said it looked like an insane asylum and Ophelia should parade at any moment.  But the rest of us, I think, thought it was divine.  Yes, I am a hopeless romantic,and this is my style…..grey tulle x 300 yards, Limoges and vintage crystal, linen, French sterling, and fragrant pink garden roses.  Hand-picked guests who will connect.  Oui.  My style~

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I was absolutely blown away by my guests and their generosity and their joy.   Like long-lost sisters, Elizabeth from Vintage Henhouse, Jennifer from A Well Styled Life and Terri from La Dolfina all came from San Francisco, and we had dinner the night before, so we could visit a little.  Only a little…we have to get together soon or go to Beaune to really visit.  But OH what ladies… do you know how I LOVE you!!!!  For the Saturday dinner, we started with pumpkin soup in a real pumpkin that burnishes to a nice shiny color as in France.  This was just one of a bunch of appetizers.  Olive branches in the candle hurricanes, my touch.  lots of Pretty for my girlfriends~…Terri’s vase of roses next to the pumpkin were so lovely~

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We had dinner, a lengthy, fantastic dinner.  I didn’t get any pics of it.  Someone will post the menu or I will later.  I spent weeks working it out and then redid it all based on what was fresh at various farmers markets that week.  Dang we ate well…..I came out at the end of the meal to a thunderous clapping of hands….oui, it was good and I love that you all enjoyed it… all I want is for you all to be happy and eat and drink well this evening!

I know some thought we were slaving away in the kitchen.  In reality, we were having our own party, a food-fest and great joy rolling out the pasta and assembling the salads.  And speaking of great Joy, we sent eight year old Joy our guest out to “parade the pasta” which she did to perfection.  As we rolled and cut it it was hung over chairs and French cloths in the kitchen, screen grab below from Mary’s Instagram, who thought this was a real hoot.  Yes, we could hire staff, but this is infinitely better.  This is how we party, together. 

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My most awesome guests insisted on doing dishes the night of.  The next day, more to be done, but not too bad; it was manageable.

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As we inhaled the aromas of silver dollar Eucalyptus gifted by Mary….

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and as we listed to Chopin and had our tea and coffee together….it was a lovely way to start the day with Elizabeth aka LaContessa  and Jennifer of A Well Styled Life….love love love love love you ladies….

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We had the company of the dogs too; providing us with a little entertainment along the way…screen grab from Jennifer’s Instagram….

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Meanwhile marble and Eucalyptus are divine….we are still enjoying them and thinking of the party several days later.

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The tables were cleaned and yesterday I took the tulle down, until next time.

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I candied the rose petals from these roses to use at the next cooking class.  These are beautiful little reminders of the party.

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Meanwhile I will continue to relive the party a little…

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And continue to enjoy my sweet gifts brought by my friends.  Terri had it nailed….she brought me so many amazing things that you will see pop up here and on Instagram….a Bonjour flag?  Yes Please!  Love this!!! 

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Making memories….and planning new ones.  I think we will be on party hiatus until the spring, but now we have got something else in mind, something very fun and slightly different. 

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You can see more pics of the party and prep on my Instagram feed HERE.

Next up is my Christmas/Holiday 2014 workshop and cooking class….look for more images and details here soon…

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Fall Farm to Table Prep

I am running through my memory banks trying to figure out when I had to host somewhat elaborate dinner parties.  Ever since the day I bought a plywood round to go on a tiny three legged table in my NYC studio, I think it’s always been onwards and upwards.  This weekend I am delighted to hostess a dinner party in honor of three of my favorite Blogger/IG friends coming to visit.  What am I going to do?? Put on the dog, so to speak, and roll out some awesome food, gather some wonderful people and have a party!  Tomorrow in the wee hours I am going to the flower mart to get greens to supplement the garden cuttings and flowers for the table.  And I had a nice arch of cornstalk with fairylights at night but the Canadian Farm Girl Boss doesn’t like it, so tomorrow we go for olivier or something green. 

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I love to create a menu around what is seasonal and best and what new foods my guests would like to try.  Sunchoke aka Jerusalem Artichoke is on that list, and today at the Santa Monica Farmers market I bought two kinds.  They look gnarly but they have a great taste, raw~

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Awesome figs, yes, came home with me.  Fall compote for the dessert table….

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Great fall colors, though I did not buy….

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I love to introduce American shoppers to celery root or celeri rave or celeriac.  Whatever you call it, it’s a versatile staple you should know how to use….

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No pomegranates for this party, but the display was nice….

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A thoroughly French Portrait: Potimarron and Celeri-rave~

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Posies were pretty, but I bought their Herbes de Provence goat cheese, which I will use for an appie~

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And organic fresh dates….calling for bacon and bleu~

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Back in Laguna, I loved what I had found.  Quince to go in a compote, grey shallots, dried and fresh strawberries…it was all good~

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Soon everyone was tucked in~ YUM.  These will be topped with cream and berries and then lidded. Personal desserts, French Style. Oui.

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Mendiants made with organic pecan and candied orange zest and dried strawberry that packs a punch~

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I made pecan cookies with a different butter than usual..and I got a spread.  Ooops. 

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But no worries, I gave them the Jackson Pollock treatment and they taste great~~~

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Tomorrow we have another day of work, more cooking and baking and shopping…starting with the flower mart.  It will all be worth it…can’t wait to welcome our guests on Friday~

Sunday, September 28, 2014

My Fall Style

A few of my long-time blog followers came to my cooking class last month.  Sometime during the afternoon, they asked if they could peek into my china cupboard, and mentioned how they miss my regular posts so much.   Since I have been a little caught up in all my various projects, I have been blogging less frequently.  For some reason I hadn’t really thought about my posts being missed…but suddenly, I realized I have a sort of an obligation to continue to blog, and maybe soon vlog, and in any case to share what I see and what I am doing.  So as I wrap up a few other projects, I will try to also blog a little more often. 

I am always thinking to seasons ahead.  In June & July, I am thinking of Fall.  By August, I know what I want and need for Christmas.  Each year is a little different, each year has a different inspiration, and of course, nothing is possible unless you can find, make or grow just what you want to see.  The pumpkin offerings vary from year to year, and it pays to have a wide variety of sources.  I sometimes grow pumpkins and squash at home from French seeds, but it’s become easier to find them through local farms and suppliers.  Yesterday I made the trek to Lavender Hill Farm in beautiful Fallbrook, San Diego.  The field is sloping, trimmed by lavender and herbs, and you can gather pumpkins in the wheelbarrows on hand, and also cut some others. 

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The drive to Fallbrook was really the official kick-off for the fall decorating season.  Our temperatures have cooled off just a little, and it doesn’t feel like New England, but nonetheless it is Fall, and we all want out homes to reflect the season.  I started planning several weeks ago, when I planted various heirloom pumpkin seeds in various containers.  Here are a few sprouts, a few weeks old.

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I spent the weekend making the rounds to the first offerings of pumpkins and squash.  Some from Lavender Hill, and my favorite farms, shops, grocery store and farmers markets, and some from Trader Joe’s.  Today, I began to pull together various elements, organized in a stack of vintage crates. 

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This year, I am going for mostly green and white.  With a little planning, this will transition from Fall to Thanksgiving to Christmas and into the new year.  For my own home, the orange Turban squash will be made into soup tureens before Christmas; others will become soup when I am looking for a meal on hand.  The green pumpkins will all be fine for several months as long as they are not in the full sun.  For now, they look seasonal and inviting, though this is not their final arrangement. 

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The sprouted pumpkins will continue to grow over the next month, through Thanksgiving….they will provide green color and a context for the pumpkins.  Though everyone can see most of the pumpkins are cut, the vines will be fresh and young and beautiful around them, not to mention it’s going to be fun to watch them grow over the next few weeks.

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And of course, it’s that hunt for variety and novelty that is so much fun during this season.  I love this one, with a long stem that I cut, and a large, exaggerated, ribbed side.  I think the color will change, but I love it now.

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I will add to my collection each week, and some of the new ones will go to friends and clients. Pumpkins are not equal, and I look for those which are perfectly imperfect, with character, with life…

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A trio of a small white pumpkin which I cut with a long stem, a mini-turban and a buttercup squash all sit together.  These will be made into soup or crostini, after we have enjoyed their shapes and form.

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Sometimes it’s the markings that attract me; this year I love this green and white variety.  There are several other varieties I have not seen, like Marina di Chiogga, and I have not been to Chino Farm and I have not bought my first slice of Fairtale or Musquee de Provence from Don at the Corona del Mar farmers market.  Oh there are so many great weeks of Fall ahead of us!!

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And as you select your favorites, don’t forget the stems.  I look for unusual and long stems.  You might see a stem, but I see a handle of a small soup tureen for dinner for four, with chunky Herbes de Provence croutons.  We will make these in our cooking class in a few weeks.

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This variety has a super thick stem; I wish they would have left it longer, but it’s still beautiful like this~

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If you go to the pumpkin farms, you can cut your own, like this small green.  The colors often change as the pumpkin matures.  I wonder what color it will become?? 

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My pumpkins this year are mixed in with terra cotta pots filled with herbs and white impatiens.  Only white.  This week I will add paperwhite bulbs in to these pots, and the pots will transition through Halloween, Thanksgiving, and early December, when more pots of paperwhites will be added to the mix.

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So far, this is a very modest haul.  But it’s a start.  It helps that I have made friends with one of the guys at Trader Joe’s and I got some primo pumpkins.  The best ones go fast! Shop often! 

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I have the entry done up with cornstalks, which my family hates, truly, but it’s for my dinner party guests.  I am saving the reveal of the finished install for the party guests, so you will see it on the blogs later in October…

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Inside the house, I collect various gourds and squash that are prime soup tureens or amazingly sculptural, like this one.  My dining room alcove will also hold a pretty display for my dinner party guests, you will see in a few weeks.

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This gourd is from Trader Joe’s, snatched by me before it went out for sale.  It is perfectly shaped, large, perfectly colored, sits up straight and has a nice long stem attached.  Maybe not Pumpkin Lotto, but it’s a major score.  I love the striped green next to the random patchy green. 

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So, keep your eyes out for the best pumpkins, gourds and squash you can this season!  I have not mentioned the other varieties that I buy to eat, but we’ll talk about that next time.  For now, get some Fall décor going, please!!