Monday, March 24, 2014

Parties 101

Ina Garten's Parties cookbook is one of my all-time favorites.  More so even than the recipes it is Ina's entertaining philosophy that I find so engaging.  One revolutionary idea the domestic diva introduces in her classic tome is when you can "buy food don't make it."  I was stunned that a chef and consummate hostess would say such a scandalous thing in print?!  Buy food?!  Moi. Never.

I have since learned the wisdom of her words.  A great party is just a group of great people in a room.  The more relaxed the hostess the happier the guests.

This Sunday I hosted an absolutely delightful 6hr brunch.  You know you've done good when your guests linger. The food was good but my girls made it great and one of the biggest hits on the menu was store bought.  You see Ina was right!

Trader Joe's has absolutely marvelous frozen croissants.  I stuffed them with Prosciutto and Gruyere for added yumm.

Prosciutto & Gruyere Croissants

2 packs of Trader Joe's Frozen Croissants (16)
1 1/2 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
6 slices of prosciutto

Allow croissants to proof overnight.  Lift the uppermost pastry layer and gently fill croissants with a thin wedge of ham and about a tablespoon of cheese.

Brush pastry with an egg wash for shine.  Bake at 350 for 15 - 20 minutes.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Modern Tea Room

It's rather sad to see formerly opulent environs descend into shabbiness.  I find those temples of elegance which welcome scores of visitors each year to be far too prone to this fate.  It's a tale often told through fading upholstery, lackluster service, and a reputation which has come to rest soley and rather undeservedly upon a well-known name, teetering precipitously on the past.

Located just off Trafalgar Square, London's glamorous Corinthia Hotel is a welcome respite from the faded glories of London's storied tea rooms.  The Corinthia is a model of modern chic.

The hotel lobby boasts a tiny Harrods so richly bowered in luscious florals you'll be instantly transported to Eliza Doolittle's corner of Tottenham Court Road. The service is solicitous and the pastry's divine.  The delicate gold flecked macarons were the best I have ever tasted.

Next time you're in London and feel like a spot of tea do stop at the Corinthia and enjoy afternoon tea as it should be, the most indulgent of rituals! 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Bar Accompli

Perusing my favorite design blogs, books and magazines I come across a covetable bar almost weekly.  The perfect bar is a mix of spirits and whimsy, a medley of tchotchkes and taste.

Target debuted the ideal bar cart this holiday season.  The burnished gold finish gives the piece a festive flair.

The Target cart has been featured in magazine spreads and fashionable homes galore.  I've placed it in my virtual shopping cart half a dozen times.  Each time my fingers hovered hesitantly over the checkout button.  "It's too big" cried a nagging voice in my head.

I wanted a bar.  A hollywood regency bar on a bargain basement budget and one that wouldn't overwhelm my tiny office (aka the fox den)  Oila, enter Target's diminutive gold and faux bone accent table!

Bar Cart Styling Tips

Choose items that feature variations on a single shade or design motif:  I used gold and polka dots. Petit prosecco bottles play off the blingy theme.  Gold dots grace the interior of a gorgeous porcelain camellia bowl and rainbow colored ones adorn a book cover.

I spray painted a wicker basket a punchy champagne gold and used it for storage.

Add an element of surprise:  The "Hello Darling" letterpress print adds a playful unexpected touch.

Pick your poison: and make it pretty! Midori, chambord and patron feature among the array of lovely liquers I assembled.



Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Ladies Who Lunch

I like spaces that are both aspirational and accessible, opulent yet...dare I say it cozy.  BG is such a space.  Designed by the brilliant Kelly Weastler, the domed chairs, fresh palette and outstanding cuisine make BG well worth a visit.  

Go in the springtime.  The restaurant boasts breathtaking panoramic views of Central Park.  BG is located on the seventh floor of Bergdorf Goodman along New York's Fifth Avenue.  For reservations call (212) 872-8708.

This illustration captures the charm of the space.

Lobster mac n cheese, asparagus soup and deviled eggs.

Lobster salad with avocado & champagne vinaigrette.  

Soho's long-awaited Ladurée tea salon has finally arrived from Paris. Entering Laduree is like stepping onto the Champs Élysées, albeit via Broadway.  Laduree specializes in rainbow hued macarons and haute-couture desserts.  The salon serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner  and everything is absolument délicieux.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Lavender Shortbread

I have a weakness for sweets with savory or herbal flavors.  A hint of rosemary or even a subtle floral accent can make your favorite dessert even more aromatic and decadent.

Adapted from a James Beard recipe, these shortbread have a velvety texture that comes from using ultra fine confectioners sugar and just a touch of honey.  Roll these sweet treats in lavender vanilla bean sugar, available at your local spice shop, to enhance the yumm factor.

Lavender Shortbread

1/4 tsp salt
2 sticks of butter
1 tsp lavender honey
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/8 cup lavender vanilla sugar

Cream the butter, sugar, honey
and salt until thoroughly combined.

Add the flour to butter mixture and knead until smooth.

Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface to about a 1/4 inch in thickness.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Cut the cookies and roll their edges in lavender sugar.

Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Fudgy Chocolate Cupcakes

These super moist chocolate cupcakes were the byproduct of a series of happy accidents...

Chocolate Cupcakes 

1 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup hot coffee

Fudgy Chocolate Frosting

1/3 cup Ghiradelli chocolate
3 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup milk

Monday, December 2, 2013

Honey Honey Suga Suga

The madeline, a petite french cake, originated in the Lorraine region of northeastern France.  I love french pastry.  Madelines, macarons, the secret to such delights is more alchemy than chemistry.           
Deceptively simple in texture and shape, it took me a while to get these right.  The key ingredient: honey.  Don't scoff.  I certainly did, initially at least.  

Honey as an ingredient evokes those infamous Upson daiquiris from Auntie Mame, a vile concoction only a passel of babbity, bourgeois, bigots would consider imbibing.  

In this case however, honey enhances the citrus in the cake and imbues it with a sublime sticky sweetness.  I'm in love!  

(recipe from Rachel Khoo's "Little Paris Kitchen")

3/4 cup  sugar
3 whole eggs
1  1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
zest of 1/2 lemon
4 teaspoons honey
4 tablespoons whole milk
confectioners sugar for dusting
1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 5 tablespoons soft unsalted butter

Whisk the butter, sugar and eggs until pale and fluffy.
In a separate bowl, combine the flour and baking powder. Fold the flour into the butter mixture, then add the honey, lemon zest and milk.
Whisk until smooth.
Add the batter to your tin and drop a ripe raspberry in the center
Bake for 5 minutes at 375′ then turn the oven off for 1 minute, turn the oven back on at 325′ and cook an additional 5 minutes.