Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Patriotic Tablescape Design Spans the Summer Season - Here’s How To Get the Look - with 'Portraits in Pies'

Patriotic Summer Tablescape Design Spans the Summer Season Incorporating Homegrown Portraits in Pie Pastries for a Sweet Red, White, and Blue Display
One could be forgiven for thinking that an American patriotic tablescape for Memorial Day or Independence Day is pretty easy or simple to do.

After all, the red, white, and blue colors are a given.

And if you wanted to “slip in” a Bastille Day celebration - (that also marks my wedding anniversary. Don’t start - I’ve heard all the related jokes for years!) - this too totally works for an easy transition to mid-July.

And now that we’re into August, I realize that with a few tweaks, the patriotic tablescape can sail right through to celebrate Labor Day, making the look a true summer investment in your tablescape designs.

Independence Day Tablescape
I have many reasons to celebrate Independence Day: July 3rd is my now 93-year old Mother’s birthday! It’s one of my godchild’s birthdays - and Marissa ever so frequently visits us all for the attending celebrations.

And our Garden State country house sits on a perch over the marina that looks back at Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Rockaways, and Long Island -- and the town produces a spectacular fireworks display as part of the annual Fireman’s Fair fundraiser.

I embrace the big party. There’s no doubt it’s an incredible amount of work to get the gardens and the house in order; it’s all done for love of mother, family, and friends.

We are blessed to be able to share such an incredible Gotham skyline view and offer homegrown food and drink - and to salute Mother and country. Does it get any better?!

Every year, I look to keep many elements of the festivities consistent. Folks like tradition.  I ask guests to bring a covered dish and what they’re drinking.
Bill and I provide the Hostess Drink, Chicken, Burgers, Hot dogs, Apps and Snacks, Wine, Beer, and Dessert -- that is always homemade ice cream and some kind of birthday treat.

Having made red velvet cupcakes last year -

tiered on cake stands -
Meringue treats - in the process of getting "dressed" 
and a parfait of sorts - meringue with berries the year before that - was colorful and tasty.

In order to delight our guests, this year - I knew I wanted something different and special. I also wanted to incorporate the food into - or make it a key element of - the Tablescape Design itself.
That was a bit of a challenge. For a minute or two. Ha.

Mother makes some terrific cherry pie -- and treats Bill on many occasions throughout the year. It’s his favorite. So what’s more American than a Mom-inspired Cherry Pie?

A suite of red, white, and blue summer pie desserts - made in individual serving sizes!

I wanted the seasonal berries to shine through the pie shell top that I would create using a star-designed crust topping.

While I was still pondering how I’d actually make this display dessert, I happened to be sharing my party thoughts with my artful friend - and garden design client - Angie. Angie is a polymath: she and her family hail from West Virginia where both she and her husband Eric were pharmacists; having moved to the Garden State rather recently - Angie has taken up photography - taking it to astonishing, take-your-breath-away heights to have become an extraordinary photo-storyteller-with at least two Bella Grace Magazine cover shots to date.

(See what I mean about being a storyteller? Those images could launch a novel, a film, and oh-so-many cocktail conversations…) That’s her daughter, Kandice, on the right.

So when Angie said, “I’ll make a cherry pie for you for the party,” quickly adding - “I’ll make two Southern Cherry Pies.” I seized the offer. I also think she didn’t know what she was in for. (grinning.)

On the other hand, her beautiful and charming daughter is a pastry chef working at an award-winning bakery. So all in all - I was in good hands.

Baking Portraits in Pies / Tartlettes with Angie

Together with Angie I discussed my idea for the look of the “portraits in pie” creations.
I was dreaming of seasonal cherry and blueberry “tartlettes” with a star-shaped crust top - allowing the color of the berries to shine through.

And ultimately to transfer the baked berry tartlettes to crystal glasses (supplemented with faux crystal I’d ordered just in case we needed more.) Easy right?!

The day before the big party was our girlfriend bake off. Angie had pre-prepped a lot of the ingredients:

-- pitting all the cherries (! wow) and the dough ingredients.

We did have to call in the pastry professional, Kandice, at one point, in order to determine the size of the bottom crust that would be cut, baked, and fit in as anchor in the crystal glasses. Things were heating up :)
Such attention to detail makes one respect the pastry artist all the more.

It was truly a fun and interesting process. I learned so much.
Because I could never quite master the art of rolling out dough - it’s always eluded me how to get the consistency just right - it was especially educational. Hope you agree.

Just the right amount of flour, lard, water -- ice cubes! And more.

Here's the ultimate tip on how to roll out the dough successfully: 
Here, you see how Angie cut out the rounds for the bottom of the tartlette - and then the star top. Pin-pricking both.

And then, just like that - or so it seemed - (it was, in fact, rather late by the time we finished and cleaned up) -- but we had our masterpiece!

I put all on a tray and set in the big commercial refrigerator we have.

Tablescape Finishing Touches

The next day - I joyfully laid out the tartlettes on the table with all the other tablescape elements I gathered from our garden, including the “siren of summer:” blue macrophylla and Lady in Red hydrangea and red roses.

In addition, I perused my growing inventory of tablescape decor inventory. What to add? What will complement the overall design?
The faux ice added a glamorous touch -- and later I saw how it delighted Mother!

The blue glass vases held the hydrangea.
I use mini blue and white chinoiserie vases and place cards for a variety of holidays - works for a spring table - and here for Independence Day.
I also have these very pretty blue after-dinner cordial glasses that I think my sister gave me -- and they are the perfect petite vases for single-stem blue and red hydrangea displays - grouped on a mirror disc.
(Maybe I should bring back those after-dinner cordials? I do love a digestif… I’ll save that for another post..) 

I used the blue Williams & Sonoma charger plates to anchor the tablescape look with the red, glittery placements underneath (so need those placements with an antique wood table).

I added Seashells -- the country house is on the water, after all. Along with sea shell napkin rings - sans napkins. I just wanted the hardware accessory look.
Red balls from Christmas added a bold pop of glamour, lipstick red.

I added mirrors for dimension and day and night sparkle. An LED light-changing spray with mirrored base that I had from another seasonal tablescape design sparks excitement and balanced design. The mirrors also amplified the crystal glasses embracing the tartlettes.

I recommend you make sure the tablescape is magical in both day - and night. Soft lights are romantic and add a moody atmosphere.

At the same time, I was cleaning out part of the pantry the afternoon of our girlfriend bake-off and rather than toss the spent Cracker Jack boxes and ice cream cones, I repurposed them for the Tablescape.

I stopped short of composting the old ice cream cones - (I find them a marvel of simple baking “engineering.”)
I thought I could do something with them - and then I hit upon using them as a kind of vase -- making it look for all to see - that a flower on top would make it look like a scoop or two!
Not finding anything on my Google search as to how to create a carnation flower ice cream cone - I created it on my own. (The search suggested adding water but I thought that would deteriorate the integrity of the cone.)
Therefore, I used those floral tubes one used to get in florist-delivered bouquets of yore where individual stems were inserted in a tube. Whew. It worked! I put white carnations in the “ice cream cones” in a clear glass vase, inside the cone. Three “scoops” achieved just the right look.

I also added crystal bowls filled seasonal, local blueberries and tart cherries - for display and later - after we sang happy birthday - to add to the tartlettes and homemade vanilla ice cream dessert. 

More than a few guests commented how delicious those cherries are. I know. I get them from the NYC Union Square Greenmarket grower, Red Jacket.   Bill loves their Tart Cherry juice.

Of course, adding just the right amount of mini Old Glory flags to the tablescape and entry hall, is a crowning finishing touch.

The primary or main goal of incorporating the dessert and the homegrown fruit into the tablescape was a happy harmony.
I was able to get to glamorous and elegant yet maintain the patriotic holiday and birthday themes. 

Enduring Tablescape Design that Spans the Calendar

Later in July, I hosted a “Ladies Who Lunch” - with cherished clients and friends.

To refresh the tablescape I simply added some glam blue-colored leaf dishes and white shell decor accessories I found on sale. 

Now, for Labor Day, I’ll add some seasonal updates. I’m thinking happy sunflowers, red pepper bushes and ripe tomatoes from our garden. We can cruise into harvest with the patriotic, red, white, and blue - with a few modifications.

We’re blessed to host two very special houseguests for the second year in a row. I’m looking forward to a Labor Day tablescape that will be our family and friends’ gathering “hearth” for dinner and breakfast.

Stay tuned.

Tips for Summer Tablescape with Patriotic Theme
Key to any stunning tablescape is to bear in mind you’re telling a story. Ask yourself - what story am I telling my guests?

  • Start with a clean slate. Determine the kind of look you want to achieve: Elegant, Glamorous, Country, or Crafty?
  • Determine if you will use place-mats, tablecloth and/or chargers - build the look up 
  • Red, white, and blue are the colors you’re working with - look to complement and highlight.
  • Provide a look that transcends day and transitions to night. Twinkling lights or light displays (LED), tea lights - many of which can be programmed or set to a timer. Easy. 
  • Add whimsy and delight with accessories. You can theme these for the holiday. Store-bought or repurposed items from pantry and memory to add fun…
  • Use mirrors, trays, cocktail coasters - to amplify the accessories and lights
  • Employ cake stands (Martha Stewart has a variety of sizes and looks to add to any table decor) Using various heights “elevates” the look and adds interest 
  • Items from the garden (or store -- the florist or even the grocery store). Fresh flowers, fruits, vegetables. Leaves too. Succulents are terrific looking and easy to maintain. 
  • Contact me! And we can work together to create a fantasy tablescape...
Enjoy your tablescape design and relish your good fortune to host family and friends and enjoy the bounty of special, seasonal homegrown food and drink. 


And thank you, Rachel Watkinson for taking photos of the party tablescape!  I was so tied up getting the last-minute preparations that I would have lost the moment.  Hugs.  

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Food & Drink Double Pleasure: Enjoy The Macallan No. 4 Whisky at Grand Central tastings - & Rockefeller Center Farmer's Market

Macallan Through the Ages

Following the flawless, special press preview event on Monday, at The Weylin - a former bank in Brooklyn that is now an extraordinary event space because of the building’s architectural designs and quality craftsmanship.


The location fit oh-so appropriately with The MacAllan brand’s dedication to quality craftsmanship. We were invited to Monday to celebrate Macallan’s new distillery - in Speyside, Scotland. There was a bit of confusion, er mystery, surrounding this announcement. One could’ve been forgiven for reading the invitation to suggest the venerable Scottish whiskey maker was opening a distillery in Brooklyn. Why not?

The event was top-tier/top-shelf from start to finish.  Kudos to the entire MACALLAN team.

The event was a tribute to the past, present, and future of The Macallan. And as the evening unfolded, I came to understand the scope…

Walking in, I felt like I stepped through the looking glass. It was a speakeasy from a bygone era - or being in Brooklyn - everyone - especially the men - looked like everyday hipsters who inhabit this borough.

There was the piano player- right out of central casting and Tin Pan Alley

There were also lots of perfectly appointed cocktail culture accessories - from bar carts and crystal decanters and glasses to openers and more. Great decorating ideas for a home bar and speakeasy like I have.

The ambience was transporting. Plus, I was sipping a kind of whisky and ginger ale drink - refreshing but muscular. Plenty of food trays were passed. Loved the Scottish eggs.

The bar and bartenders were all in tune, too. Loved the Speyside Sazerac - concocted from The Macallan Sherry Oak 12, a spritz of Absinthe, Bitters, and a lemon twist garnish and mixed by Aaron.

The 1824 Bamboo (The Macallan Sherry Oak 12, Dry Oloroso Sherry, Dry Vermouth, Orange Bitters, and a twist of orange for the garnish) was very good too - although I only had a sip of that before it was time to enter the Cube!
But first, our group was tasting a dram of The Macallan No 4 Whisky before entering the Cube. 

Then, it was time.  To enter this Cube. 
As a former tech exec - I loved the use of technology to transport us to other worlds - other places -- all with the flip of a hand. 
We were in Scotland.  Or was that The Macallan whispering?!  Ha. 

The 4D technology is really incredible. Here we experienced the new Macallan Distillery located in Speyside Scotland with sight, sound, the vibration of air -- the tinkling of brooks. Very transporting. 

As a garden and landscape designer, I was further impressed with the distillery’s design -- located essentially underground! So as not to disturb the pristine land there. It’s a true green roof, undulating across the rolling hills of Speyside.

Next, it was on to the Future of the Macallan.

We we ushered into a grand hall -- all open space and airy bar, dotted with lounge seating and VR technology. Oh - and food and drink.

I tried The Ruby Queen - a super blend of The Macallan Double Cask 12, Fresh Beet Juice, Fresh Lemon Juice, Honey, and a garnish of fresh tarragon. Loved it and the garden to glass garnish. Lovely finishing touch.

The Macallan team will replicate a wee bit of the immersive Distillery and Visitor Experience we had on Monday at Grand Central Station’s Vanderbilt Hall. Please see dates and times below.

Here are some details on the experience:

  • Created using 360-degree video (using technologies such as drones and a remote-controlled robot) “The Macallan Distillery Experience” will make the user feel like they have been fully transported to the whisky mecca. 
  • The 15x15x15 cube-like structure allows for a group VR experience for groups of 15 at a time.
  • The experience includes cutting-edge wind and scent diffusion technology matched to the footage and fully interactive leap motion controls allow guests to guide the experience with a mid-air gesture of their hand.

Outside of the NYC events, whisky enthusiasts around the globe will be able to view “The Macallan Distillery Experience” on their mobile phones or desktops, through social media, or at select wine and liquor retail stores, bars and restaurants using a VR headset.

Here’s one of the videos that will be shown in the 4D cube: The 4D really makes it extraordinary, though.

Here are the exact timings for the Grand Central activation:

Date(s): Wednesday, July 25, Thursday, July 26 and Friday, July 27 (half day only), and culminating on Friday, July 27 -- which is: National Scotch Day - naturally!

Time: 11:30 AM to 7:30 PM (12:00 PM to 3:30 PM on Friday)

You’ll be able to sample The Macallan’s new Edition No.4 whisky.


And this being New York - there’s more than one big event launching today. The Rockefeller Center® Farmers Market Returns for the Summer

Organized by The GrowNYC Greenmarket, the summer farmer’s market in the heart of Gotham, offers specialty products from local, regional farms.

That there is a farmer’s market in the heart of midtown makes perfect sense. Did you know that the country's First Botanic Garden was on 20 wooded acres at today's Rockefeller Center?

It’s true!
With garden dreams of yore floating through your seasonal, homegrown menus, be sure to visit Rockefeller Center’s annual farmers market that returns this summer with a wide variety of specialty products from regional farms spanning New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Vermont.

The market will be open Wednesday, July 25 through Friday, August 31, Wednesday-Friday of each week from 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., at Rockefeller Center Plaza, located between 49th and 50th Streets and 5th and 6th Avenues, Manhattan.
You’ll find fresh produce, meat, eggs, flowers, baked goods, cheeses, wine, spirits, and more. The farmers market is free and open to the public.

For more information visit rockefellercenter.com.

For news and updates follow @RockCenterNYC on Twitter and Instagram and Like Rockefeller Center on Facebook. Join the conversation by using #RockCenter

DATE: Wednesday, July 25 – Friday, August / Wednesday through Friday, weekly

TIME: 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

LOCATION: Rockefeller Plaza - Between 49th and 50th Streets and 5th and 6th Avenues