Sunday, April 29, 2018

Toast to a Finishing Touches Interview with The Modern Bar Cart Podcast

Earlier this month I opened an email with the subject line: Podcast Interview Opportunity. Generally speaking, I do love podcasts and was curious what this could invitation was all about. Well, I’m delighted to share with you I discovered The Modern Bar Cart Podcast via the note from Sami (Samantha) a production assistant at The Modern Bar Cart.

She noted that Eric, the host, has taken an interest in your upcoming book, Finishing Touches, the Art of Garnishing the Cocktail and he would like to speak with you “for an hour of sparkling conversation and genuine curiosity. An interview with you about your book would be the ‘cherry on top’ of a discussion about garnishes”
Sami had me at sparkling conversation and genuine curiosity!
Nevertheless, I had to vet the production. I listened with keen interest - after all, cocktail culture is a passion with me - and I was duly impressed. I wrote back that Eric not only possesses a resonant voice that is easy and compelling to listen to but he is also impressively knowledgeable.
I admire and respect that quality of content and so we confirmed the interview.

Truth be told, the first interview attempt went off the rails due to technology glitch on my end via Skype and passwords and time-stressed frustration. Eric remained calm and courteous - a consummate professional.
We rescheduled for Monday. A hiccup with the Skype tech again didn’t prevent Eric from prevailing and we completed the hour-long cocktail chat. It was fun and provoking. When he asked, “Are you ready for the lightning round?” I gulped a “I hope so reply.” 

After some thoughtful edits, the Art of the Garnish episode is posted for your listening pleasure.

Please make yourself a drink and listen in on my interview about Finishing Touches - including the variety and back story to garnishes, garden-to-glass cocktail creations, accessories from glamorous swizzle sticks to sassy toothpicks to cocktail napkins and knives and muddlers and jewelry as cocktail picks (Yes!) And also how I came to create the food pairings, and creative tablescape or I should say, bar cart decor for the presentations by looking to the ingredients as inspiration...

And now that you know about The Modern Bar Cart Podcasts, you can listen to Eric’s previous interviews and learn more about experimenting with cocktails and home bartending. It’s all very inspiring. Eric says you can listen online (see link to my feature above) or on all major podcasting outlets including, iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, Spotify.

Plus, you can Follow The Modern Bar Cart on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Me too, please. :)

Thank you again, Eric and Sami and Modern Bar Cart. It was an honor and a pleasure to work with you.

P.S. Eric and Modern Bar Cart make their own line of crafted cocktail bitters. I am eagerly awaiting a sample and look forward to posting my review of what I’m sure will be a superlative cocktail ingredient. I adore the botanical ingredients in bitters - the herbs, bark, roots or fruit are endlessly fascinating and have the power to transform a drink. A kind of botanical magic potion!

Cracker Jack garnish (plus a prize!) in my I'm Nutty For You cocktail pairs with the Averna (herbal, caramel, Black Walnut Bitters, plus

English Rose cocktail, edible rose petal garnish

Pisco Royale - made with my favorite Macchu Pisco brandy - from my friends' Melanie & Lizzie & their abuela's family recipe!

Heart of Gold Cocktail - jewelry holds candied ginger garnish

And my twist or remix on the classic Grasshopper is the Verdant Green Jangala.
The garnish is teeny, tiny key lime, cut like a basket with mango in the lime -- and perched on the glass rim.
The showstopper is the Cocktail Composition tablescape.
I used smart technology tuned to nature videos.  The jungle sounds of birds singing and cascading waterfalls, and jungle cats really helps set the mood.
Delight and engage your guests with an immersive, transporting experience...

Friday, April 27, 2018

Oceana Restaurant's Bill Telepan Stars in Three Culinary Productions

14-Course Tasting Menu Launches: an Exclusive Oceana Experience with Chef Bill Telepan

Executive Chef Bill Telepan Launches Ocean's Saturday Series Tasting Menu 
Culinary sprites must’ve been whispering “Variety is the spice of life” into the ears of executive chef Bill Telepan lately. In fact, when one learns of his very diverse and robust schedule of commitments, you think surely, there must’ve been a host of culinary doppelgangers. Or two of Chef Bill.

Since landing at the coveted top spot at Oceana - one of Gotham’s enduring, fine-dining classic restaurants some 18 months ago, Chef set about to migrate his pioneering reputation for creating cutting edge farm to table dishes that by and large starred meat and vegetables - to a seafood emporium. And one with a lauded seafood legacy to boot.

But truth be told, Chef Bill had the seafood bona fides. Just ask his loyal customers from his namesake restaurants, Telpan and Telepan Local, who made his Smoked Trout and Lobster Bolognese two of his signature dishes. He’s since added these two stalwarts to Oceana’s menu.

Plus, his experience working at Le Bernardin, the temple of seafood cuisine; along with his early support working with Dock to Dish and its commitment to sustainable seafood, demonstrates he knows his way around food from the water: fish, shellfish, roe, mollusks, river fish, crustaceans, and edible sea plants.

The variety of edible aquatic food is astonishing when you think about it. Seafood’s taxonomy ignited Chef Bill’s newest menu creation: The Telepan Saturday Series at the Oceana Raw Bar.

You’ll indulge my drama in announcing the 14-course tasting menu - after all, Oceana is located a stone’s throw from New York’s Great White Way: Broadway’s theater district.

Besides the show-stopping tableside theater of deboning a porgy or serving a classic Dover Sole, or Tuna Wellington, the Tasting Menu promises award-winning theater as well.

Chef Bill described how they’ve been running a kind of road show for the last few weeks for family and friends to work out the process and test drive the 14 course, three-hour extravaganza.

Kicking off this Saturday, April 28, you’ll be able to enjoy a rather one-on-one dining experience with Chef Bill and his team.

This is worth the price of the ticket alone. Chef Bill is irrepressible -- and he’s a sparkling conversationalist. Just ask him about the Wellness in Schools program or the volunteer work he does. Oh, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Chef Bill said he missed that one-on-one interaction with his “family of customers” but now he’s having his shrimp, and eating it too, if you will. Meaning his Tasting Menu at Ocean is both grand and intimate.

He describes how guests at the raw bar will watch as Chef and his cooks prepare and serve the fish - by and large omakase and sashimi style little plates.

There’s a kind of seven-inning stretch designed into the Tasting so that guests take a break and then follow him - Pied Piper like - to the open-area kitchen to watch the culinary team prepare and serve a hot course - before heading back to the Raw Bar to complete the tasting.
The open Kitchen at Oceana 
The Tastings are scheduled to run Saturdays throughout 2018. Costs are $175 per person (excluding tax and gratuity); $95 per person optional beverage pairings (excluding tax and gratuity)

For more information and to reserve, contact at: 212-759-5941 or

Chef Bill explained how there is indeed a seasonality to fish -- the “fin to fork” mirror to his passion for “farm to table.” Bay scallops, sea urchins, and oysters for example, follow the cool or warm water ocean streams.
And then there’s soft shell crab season from May to September when the crabs molt.

And while there’s a more traditional fish lover who can’t get enough salmon, the menu will provide adventure too, with Sea Urchin, Red Shrimp from Italy, and one of my favorites: fresh anchovies, along with smelt and octopus. Of course, they’ll be serving a variety of oysters sourced by season from around the globe.

The Tasting Menu show is an exciting culinary performance that is sure to have a long run.

Don’t miss it.

And the daily restaurant menu will change out with the seasons. That’s four times a year; climate chaos notwithstanding.

Keeping Your WITS

Because Chef Bill can keep all those plates spinning (even those small tasting ones), despite his move to a big restaurant that does more than 600 covers a day, he continues to work with the Wellness in the Schools (WITS) program that aims to end childhood obesity.

Ever since he first got involved to work with WITS’ founder Nancy Easton in 2005 at a parent/teacher conference at his daughter’s school, Bill’s roll-up-your-sleeves attitude prevailed when he inquired, “How can I help?”

He began doing what he does best: cooking and teaching how to cook. The three-year program offer a twice a week hands-on teaching session to the children so they learn to cook healthy with real ingredients. WITS says, “We work with schools to transform the cafeteria menu, train school staff, and provide nutrition education to students.”
WITS also offers Coaching so that children get out and play at recess with an informed fitness education program.

Chef Bill described further how the program works with edible school gardens and urban gardens and farms to stock the WITS recipes and menus.
WITS has grown from their initial three schools to 122 schools in four states (NY, NJ, FL, CA), according to Chef Bill.

Recently, WITS hosted their annual fundraiser; this year it was at the IACP building and featured lots of star power and great eats. Fun eating for a good cause. And you can still donate...

Getting tired yet? Over what now seems a much-needed cup of coffee, Chef Bill continued. This chef is impressively indefatigable!

I asked him about his recent work with The Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) as their Director of Sustainability.

In fact two of his culinary hat tricks are coming together for an event at ICE on May 14th where Bill and Chef Wylie Dufresne will offer a cooking class to support WITS. These are two of my favorite chefs, to say the least, and their whimsical, fun, personalities are sure to make this cooking class a rare opportunity.
Overall, Chef Bill’s work with ICE and their students focuses on developing curriculum and to implement zero waste practices in the kitchen. They do this by honoring the ingredients and using everything to create new dishes that turn cuttings and pairings into “Scrap Soup,” for example. Or butchered lamb scraps into Lamb Sliders. In addition to emphasizing the importance of using everything edible in new ways to save on costs and boost margins, there is a focus on using culinary creativity to design new recipes.

In addition, as Director of Sustainability, Chef Bill coordinates with the students and the ICE Hydronic Garden there operated by Farm One to grow and use fresh herbs and greens.

Whew! Three major jobs. One man. And if that wasn’t enough, as we concluded the interview and I waited for a fellow Homegrown, foodie friend, Nancy to enjoy Oceana’s oysters and wine, Chef Bill stopped to say goodbye before he headed out to support City Harvest - my volunteer organization’s gala that night!

We need a "second helping" of this outstanding chef, please.

Thank you.

Culinary education at Oceana's Raw Bar! 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Garden Glamour Launches Tablescape Design Subscription Service

I couldn’t think of a better day to announce my garden-to-table inspired Tablescape Subscription Service than Earth Day.
I honor the inspired miracle of gardens and plants and nature and love…

I so love gardens, garden design, food and drink and artful hospitality -- which naturally evolved to designing and creating tablescapes.

Setting the table is setting a mood.

Not sure how to match your dream to the tabletop?

Allow me design a beautiful tablescape for you.

For as long as I can remember I’ve been enchanted by the luxury of hospitality.

What could be better than taking the time - yet another luxury - to show your love to family and friends with good food, drink, desserts, wine, and the glory of a glamorous table setting that whispers and winks, “Welcome! I cared so much about our soiree that I created this special homage to making our memory one to cherish, delight, and remember. “

I keep a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson on my work desk: “Love of beauty is taste. The creation of beauty is art.”

Tablescape designs are surely works of art.

And their beauty is in the details. Like a good cocktail, quality ingredients matter; they showcase a distinctive table decor’s creative design and underlying story theme without screaming it - using layers of compelling nuance, that appeals to our all our senses, and of course, whets the appetite.

How did I come to this artful passion?
I tell stories.

I’m a writer and a garden designer. Both endeavours, at their very best, tell a story. Offer a unique and personal narrative.

I’ve had the privilege to travel the world; to be astonished by presentations at first-class hotels and homes. I attend countless lectures and tastings.

So that experience and study inform my hospitality narrative, for sure.

I am also passionate about being creative. and I adore the arts - from fine art painting and sculpture to garden art and culinary art and the domestic arts to music... And all are essential to memorable, artful table designs.

(You can read more about me and my background - just to assure you of my hospitality and design bona fides - with some links below. But first -it’s all about you.)

Soon, my table setting decor evolved -- from setting a “proper” table for a sit down meal - dinner, brunch or a garden tea party or a “Ladies Who Lunch” or a soaring summer BBQ and picnic.

I found my love knew no bounds!

In time, my table setting became more of a curated display. Not only did I showcase seasonal flowers, but holiday-appropriate or themed treasures on the table that are meant to surprise and delight.

While I’ve been designing table looks for me and my garden design clients for some time, it wasn’t until last year that I was encouraged to expand this experience.

I’d been asked to provide presentations on how to design tablescapes. I was honored to showcase at the “What’s New, What’s Next” at the New York Design Center.

And the fun of receiving OMG feedback on social media - pushed me.

Increasingly, I was blogging about the table designs and posting on social media.

Then, just like that, Tablescaping has become a burgeoning phenomenon. Some have called it the lost or overlooked art.

Whether lost and rediscovered -- or a new love -- I’m thrilled to provide you with a Tablescape Subscription service.

I want to make your Tablescape design a customized hospitality experience for the way you live. The ergonomics of designing and arranging the elements of a heart-clutching tablescape composition does not have to be intimidating when you entrust me with your occasion.

I’m your Tablescape design partner. Few domestic pleasures are more satisfying than luxuriating in the table art every day. No special occasion is needed! You can treat you and your family and friends to this affordable extravagance.

A well-designed tablescape is luxury entertainment that creates a memory of emotions and a sense of place.

How it Works:

You can establish your subscription series with whatever frequency works for you.

Every quarter. Every month. On demand. It’s up to you.

You can email me your project details. Tell me what is the holiday, occasion; the date(s,); along with an image or two of your table or dining buffet island - indoors or out.

We’ll set up a phone call, email, and/or Facetime session. Whatever works with your schedule and preferred way of communicating. We’ll talk about your style; what your dreams and fantasies are for the occasion.

I’m your designer. I work with your hidden creativity.

We can work with items you have. No china? No problem. No crystal. No worries.

Plus, I love to repurpose things -- think toys, linens, name tags, vases, music boxes, watches, keyrings, games, books, origami, mirrors, and flowers! This is elegant and fun.

I can also shop for you - I gather items from estate sales, online design sources, as well as my New York City sources - the floral district and trinket shops - to the goldmine of shopping second-hand shops.

It’s a little secret (shhhh) that from Brooklyn to renaissance and antique shops, I find a cornucopia of items that are glamorous but that previous generations can’t pass on. So they end up in second-time-around shops or flea markets or online.

My curated discoveries add that sparkle and intrigue and delight to make your tablescape a hospitality tour de force.

I edit the tablescape composition - with as much or as little of your direction that works for you - to charm, enchant, and intoxicate you and your guests.

My ideas along with your taste, will transform your tablescape and entertaining into a sparkling, inspired experience.

And you can tend to your hosting with nary a worry.

I place the order and manage the shipping details.

You approve everything before the order is placed. If we need to order or buy anything.

The purchased tablescape decor items arrive with a map or outline sized to your table so that you just need to place the items in the designated spot as indicated on the map guide - kind of like a coloring book game. You can keep the items and will be charged or you can return them - as a kind of leased-for-fee design project.

The living items such as flowers or fish - you keep :)

Let’s Do this!

Subscription Platform
  • Monthly Tablescape Designs $350.00 + product & shipping 
  • Bi-monthly (every 2 months) Tablescape Designs $475.00 +product & shipping
  • Quarterly Tablescape Designs $550.00 + product & shipping
  • On Demand - priced per occasion
Please contact me here or at Houzz:

I look forward to working with you and designing artful, memorable, delightful, charming tablescapes with you for every season and occasion.

Some of my Tablescape and Hostess love from past posts:

Please read my blog and visit Houzz for more of my tablescape stories.  

Life's too short - make entertaining delightful... 


Friday, April 6, 2018

Cocktail Conversations with Plants & Trees? Yessss! Learn the Language of Plants

Photo: Peter Wohlleben presentation screenshot
Did you know that trees nurture their offspring; that they wage war, that their roots are like brains, and that they feel pain? (That fresh cut grass is actually a cry for help!)

These concepts and more were presented at The New York Botanical Garden at the Fifth Annual Humanities Institute Symposium: Plant Intelligence.

I had a conflict in my work schedule and woefully regretted to have to miss this recent lecture at The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) when I read the invitation in the Adult Education brochure.
This is what grabbed my attention, in a big way:
“Trees may appear to be strong and silent, but they can “talk” -- to one another, to other plants, ad to animals and insects. Discover how trees communicate via chemical signals in the air to warn each other of insect attacks, as well as through complex fungal networks underground to transfer nutrients and resources to one another - and sometimes to assist their sick tree ‘family members.’”

See, I’ve been working on a children’s book -- and in my story the plants talk to one another - and to the fauna and insects -- and yes, some deserving humans.  In my children’s writing class, I’ll never forget how one man couldn’t abide that plants could talk -- he thought it too unbelievable even for a child to imagine. I reminded him that his story was about a talking truck (!) and wondered how that was so plausible…
More on the challenging world of writing a children’s book soon. I only wanted to bring it up here as it fuels my passion for learning more about how plants do indeed talk.  And they have a lot to say...

My intense interest in plant language is not a reference to the previously kooky scenario of folks talking to their houseplants - chatting up their begonias and African Violets to insure better growth.  No. We're talking science and adventure and exploration of new worlds.

This emerging field of study is rather a consequence of advanced technology and testing that allows us to more readily understand how plants communicate.
You could say it’s like the rosetta stone - except it’s more of a "rosetta or Rose plant" - a bit of our human first steps into the mystery of understanding plant language.
It’s not them - it’s us! We just needed the tools to better communicate with them.

The lecture at NYBG featured the irrepressible Peter Wohlleben, author of The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate,

And Stefano Mancuso, author of Brilliant Green and Plant Revolution  (who, as I understand it, was socked in due to weather and unable to present.)

and Janet Browne, Historian of Science, Harvard University was the moderator.

In the video, Janet notes it has long been common that plants don’t communicate, nor do they have the ability to think or move. To whit: the “couch potato” and “vegging out!”
Ouch - that’s not nice.

On the other hand, horticulturists long believed plants possessed parallel functions to animals.
Enter Carl Linnaeus and Charles Darwin to change people’s minds about plants and their sex lives!

At the lecture, Peter helps us understand plant life - a world brimming with activity and communication. 
We learn plants communicate on a time scale that is different from ours. Meaning trees, especially, take a looooongg time. After all, they live a long time.  He cautioned tree huggers to be patient. 
Plants are living indicators of an unknown world of communications - they are sophisticated - and not just sedentary animals, as some have ignorantly referred to them as.

I think you’ll be fascinated by the presentation: Peter has a great sense of humor when discussing the plants’ and trees’ communication capabilities (you’ll laugh at his description of how a tree “eliminates!” Ahem.

You’ll be touched learning how they can reflect emotions and feelings and bond for life with their tree family. 
Trees have memory. 
Offspring learn from the parents. 
Peter provided the example of a young sapling that doesn’t drop its leaves soon enough and the winter snows and frost cracks the wood - and it feels pain - but the offspring learns from its nearby parent when to drop its leaves next time when the season demands.

Technology can now register radioactive sugar molecules permitting us the ability to track how a mother tree can talk to and nurture her offspring.  For example, she won’t take as much water during a dry summer in order to feed her child… 
Moreover, plants have the ability for kin recognition. Incredible...
Here is the link to the entire video of Peter's talk:

During the Q&A, when asked if he had any direct communication with a tree, Peter replied without missing a beat - saying  "All of us have -- albeit via a one-way communication." 
What?  How's that? 
Yes, he says research shows that our blood pressure lowers when we walk among trees. 
Trees act like medicine, he added. 
What have trees taught him?  Patience.  Living more than 200 years can have that effect...

More cool tree talk: Oaks can send out “fear branches” when surrounded by beech trees that are intent on killing the oak. There are "gang wars" in the plant kingdom! 
Bark beetles hurt the trees. 
Beech can taste the saliva of deer and can begin a wound-healing action.

Besides roots as brains and a kind of communication internet for plants, fungal networks act like neural networks - adding a method for how trees communicate in a kind of two-way/win-win symbiotic relationship with the fungi.

Trees and plants have instincts and reflexes - just like animals - and their emotions are drivers of their instincts. Isn’t that fascinating to discover? 

Plants have social lives and can learn from experience as they struggle for resources and interact with their environment. 

What Plants Talk About

The weather? The new neighbors? Like us, plants have a lot to say.

Yet another plant talk “must see” is a favorite of mine: The PBS documentary, What Plants Talk About. The visuals are breathtaking. The time lapse videos of plant communication, the interaction of plants and pollinators and predators is stunning. It’s discoveries are that “whoa, how’d they capture that,” mesmerizing images.  Click on the image and link above to watch the documentary.

I highly recommend you grab some popcorn and sit back and enjoy this astonishing look at the plant world just beckoning for more research, exploration, and the opportunity to talk to us.

Here’s the documentary overview:
“When we think about plants, we don't often associate a term like "behavior" with them, but experimental plant ecologist JC Cahill wants to change that. The University of Alberta professor maintains that plants do behave and lead anything but solitary and sedentary lives. What Plants Talk About teaches us all that plants are smarter and much more interactive than we thought!”

Networks Plus 

Speaking of working together, while I have you, I thought you’d like to know about a new partnership at the Garden. NYBG has teamed up with one of my favorite enterprises: Blue Apron, the pioneering meal-kit company. Both will promote community well-being and raise awareness of the benefits of sustainable gardening and cooking with fresh ingredients. How nice is that?

As part of Blue Apron's commitment to making delicious home cooking accessible and bringing families and communities together, Blue Apron is aligning with NYBG's Edible Academy, a new state-of-the-art garden-based education facility that will open on June 14, 2018.

The partnership includes seasonally rotating kid-friendly educational signage in the Edible Academy's Green Thumb Gardens, used by school groups, drop-in families, and community visitors.

Now you can bring the children to the Edible Academy, enjoy a true “happy meal” -- all while having a lovely conversation with the nearby plants and trees.