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
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"|
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.
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:
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.
The primary or main goal of incorporating the dessert and the homegrown fruit into the tablescape was a happy harmony.
Enduring Tablescape Design that Spans the Calendar
To refresh the tablescape I simply added some glam blue-colored leaf dishes and white shell decor accessories I found on sale.
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.
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...
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.