Nothing says summer like a big family party – made all the better by celebrating more than a few Leo birthdays.
Did you know there are more Leo’s than any other zodiac sign?
Hmmm, let’s see. Counting back nine months, it must be that woozy, Thanksgiving food coma or its key nutrient tryptophan or snuggly cool November nights!
All the more reason to pause and indulge in enchanting Summer entertaining because we can celebrate outdoors – with nature. In the garden.
The only thing disrupting this Eden-like utopian dream for us was that our garden was a lot less verdant; pre-party.
The sad reality was it was still more of a modified construction site.
In fact, we just had the front walk I designed installed for Independence Day.
The newly-installed turf had taken, it was true, despite no irrigation system, and all was a vast improvement.
But there was that hard to ignore, pesky blob of sand, weeds, wood planks, and useless plastic protecting this junkyard, er, our yard.
Regardless, family was in from Arizona, with their extended family; to celebrate the 80th birthday of my dear cousin’s mother/my aunt/my late father’s last surviving sister.
It was a special family event that begged for an elegant menu to celebrate and honor my beloved father’s sister.
I naturally collaborated with my cousin for the celebration and while he attempted to keep it “simple and not a big deal or fancy – truth is that any really special, memorable party indeed cries out for a glamorous, delicious, homegrown menu.
If everyone serves hamburgers & hot dogs from the supermarket (with all its attendant corporate, disease-laden frights – not only is it Boring! (
Recognize this communication: “Ok, you bring the potato salad and noodle salad and I’ll get the dogs and burgers and steak.”
Voila—there is the weekend menu.
No. That is code for: “I don’t really know what to make and am scared to serve my guests something else – and I daresay, much like politics and its code, learning and trying and making more than the average menu is not “Code” for “fancy.”
I have listened to too many people say, “I don’t do fancy.” “I’ll just have burgers and dogs and….”
How utterly boring.
Don’t get me wrong. I am a Wimpy. I LOVE, LOVE, Love a burger more than most.
I could eat my way through any region just on burgers.
But the key -- moreover the point that I share with my Hamptons and Long Island Homegrown Cookbook fans and anyone else who is committed to good food -- is that if one is hosting a party, let’s PLEASE make it as special as the guests you’ve invited and the reason for the party to begin with
Yes, it takes work to come up with a menu.
Yes, it takes work to make the food.
But food is love – just a four-letter word spelled differently. J
The code for “I don’t know what to do or to serve” or “I don’t do fancy” really means no one wants to take the time to lovingly produce a menu they can make, or at least one that a local caterer can make.
How to remedy this ill?
Take a deep breath.
Inhale the beauty of family, love, and spending time with those you care most about.
And if you don’t want to cook and prepare the food – no problem.
You who are all things glamorous and homegrown – can produce the menu.
You can have a local caterer or local garden center foodie court prepare the food.
I am so trying to encourage you to move away from the fear of having more than a few people over for dinner or lunch or brunch – and just serving “Safe Food”
The honest to god’s truth is that that stor-
bought corporate stuff is waaay less than safe in the long run.
Burger patties already cut? Yikes. Who knows where that came from.
Hot Dogs that are predisposed to icky and only more so when the corporate scraps are swept up.
Don’t do it.
You who wouldn’t give your family any less than the best shouldn’t feel intimidated by the honor of producing a family dinner or lunch party that is Homegrown, delicious, local and seasonal.
Here is my menu for my aunt’s 80th birthday party.
Aunt Anne Birthday Dinner
5:00 pm cocktail: Beer, wine, martini, garden-harvest mint iced tea.
Club Sandwiches – w /flag toothpicks
Cherry Tomato Gazpacho from my Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook from The Lake House: Chef Matt
Grilled BBQ Pizza - my idea
Tzatziki Yogurt Spread: low fat yogurt, cucumber, garlic, dill, olive oil, salt
6:00 pm to 9 pm Dinner followed by Birthday cupcakes
· Pretzel-Onion Crusted BBQ Chicken with Pretzel Latkes, Corn, and Mustard – Chef David Burke
· Meatloaf Bundt Cake – Chef David Burke Cookbook
· Potato Salad with Dill – Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook
· Butternut Squash Saltimbocca with Burrata Cheese – Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook from Kitchen A Bistro, Chef Eric
Aunt Jeanne desserts
Homemade ice cream – Garden State peaches (wooahh!)
Mint Filled Brownie Cupcakes - Martha Stewart recipe- Mother made and lucky strike extra? Niece and budding pastry talent, Tara, made her version for the big birthday surprise party two days later.
See how good food inspires and begets yet more good food?!
The menu was sourced from my just-released book: “The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook” and from my soon to be released New York City Homegrown Cookbook that features David Burke and recipes from his cookbooks, plus my own favs, such as classic club sandwiches.
I do my own twist on servings too –so I encourage you to do the same.
The classic club sandwich I do is morphed into the BLT -- one of my favs.
I make the homemade mayo with our homegrown garlic.
We use the fresh bread from my mother’s weekly baking and use The best bacon, our garden fresh tomatoes and lettuce and punctuate with an American flag toothpick!
I tier these on those Martha green ascending cake plates.
Guests can breezily indulge from the moment they arrive!
All garlic, tomatoes, potatoes, herbs, mint tea were sourced and made from our gardens and “farmette.”
|Chef David Burke recipe for American Classic bunt baked meat loaf|
|Mixing up gazpacho with Homegrown just picked ingredients|
|The Kitchen A Bistro butternut squash planks ready for cooking up|
|Kitchen A Bistro's Butternut Squash Saltimbocca recipe: our homegrown squash & sage|
The Fountain Springs Forth
And once again, just like the front walk installation, the landscape design transformation for the water garden, was complete just as our guests were arriving!
“Move that truck!” joyfully echoes in my head.
I always work with Burke Honnold’s team for me and for my clients because they are artisans and do the very best work.
It is precise, accurate, and well-- beautiful.
Due to cost, Burke had wisely suggested I go with a pre-made fountain rather than having the team make it, as we’d done for other clients.
And like magic, a fountain came into my life.
I found a tinkling fountain while on a nursery shopping trip for my client’ – filling in some container plants.
Even now I’m not sure if the fountain was really for sale. There was no price tag.
I asked the sales person, Blanche --who was finishing up with another shopper there -- how much for the fountain, whereupon the shopper whipped her head around and quipped, “I’m going home with you!”
After some back and forth, listening to the fountain – (my husband hates that full-on waterfall sound vs. a lovely trickle of water.)
And my garden design fountain was destined for outside the dining room so that the lovely, soft, sensual sound of water would be soothing.
Further, I wanted to provide a garden destination for cocktails where we could walk around the fountain, sit on the side, float candles….
And listen to the sound of water while dining.
On the less dreamy side, there were also more than a few chips in the fountain foundation. But for the right price, I could work with it.
We were in negotiations…
I readjusted the water garden design, made the parterres work and called to say “yes.”
Within a few days, it was being installed.
First the space for the circular base was measured, and dug.
The fountain was then placed within the space and very delicately, the fountain was assembled.
The fabric liner was placed over the space.
The fountain piece were locked into place like a puzzle.
The rubber mallet tapped it together.
Then the metal was cut and bent for the parterre borders.
It was amazing to watch.
The water garden will be bordered by Skip Laurels, box and winter blooming camellia and micro buxus.
The parterres should be filled with easy, fragrant lavender border by box; the variety as recommended by Earthy Delights.
In the meantime, I asked that mulch be put in the parterre beds.
Further, the side garden walk was installed with the same decomposed granite that is the walkway around the fountain and on the side of the front walk and the transition walk.
I like it very much. It complements our home look. The DG is the walkway in Paris’s Tiuilleries gardens and Chicago Botanic Gardens and featured in Garden Design Magazine.
What’s not to love?
It's a great first start and bones to a good garden design/foundation....
Next up: getting the border skip laurels in and the plants for the parterre planting…