See how one utensil makes all the difference. Take clues from these superbly done scallop ceviche for serving any appetizers on a seashell. I am inspired by the stylish way they display the seashells on a fork. This method is also practical since your guests will grab their fork at the same time.
Cut your zucchini or cucumber lengthwise to achieve a more sophisticated look. This is a simple trick to enhance how you serve your vegetable skewers. And if you lack the time to make your own, you can always buy them at Cool & Simple (or Gastronomia).
It is funny that I found in a South African magazine one of the most inspiring pictures that capture the spirit of french alfresco dining. The French are not afraid to mix formal, classic pieces with rustic elements. That dining table is the perfect example with Napoleon III bronze candelabra being used for casual outdoor dining.
This kitchen illustrates one of the most important elements of stylish, stress-free entertaining: do not neglect the preparation. Create a butler station by putting on a surface the glassware, the water bottles or pitchers, the wines and the bread that you will need for the night. This way, it is easy to delegate this task during the party, if you want to. Even if you do it yourself, you will see that this technique simplifies your life.
The media event of Bombay Sapphire is my overall favorite media event. Every year, I always looked for it. One reason might be that the global ambassador of Bombay Sapphire Merlin Griffiths is an amazing storyteller. Plus, I always left the event with three more drinks to add to my cocktail recipe book.
The theme was speakeasy, which led to great tales. Take notes since it is a theme that would be awesome for a birthday party. In case that you do not know, a speakeasy, also called a blind pig or blind tiger, is a secret establishment that illegally sells alcoholic beverages. They gained popularity during the prohibition era. They were often members-only establishments. One famous speakeasy in Chicago used a personalized gold key to identify their members. The gold key attached to my invitation told me that we would get a treat. We did!
How to Host a Speakeasy Party at Home
Keep to an invitation-only guest list. Speakeasy were about a selected few. Therefore, invite a small number of close friends. Ask your guests to dress the part by either wearing 1920s-style clothes or their favorite stylish clothes. Display a few props and serve a few classic cocktails.
Chunks of Ice in Your Drinks
Good quality ice plays a role in making outstanding cocktails. Make yours with boiled water for a clear, pure taste. If you wish to stay true to the era, serve your drinks on ice chunks, that you smash from an ice block. Merlin explained to us how to make your own ice block. Pour the boiled water in an Eskimo cooler and put it on the freezer for 3 or 4 days. This is the amount of time it takes to freeze.
One last details are the glasses. Your grandma treasures would be perfect for this occasion. Otherwise, shop at a dollar store or visit the flea markets to find your set of old-style tumblers and highball glasses.
Have a look at this video for all the insights on how to make your own Sapphire and Sin (recipe below).
Sapphire and Sin Recipe
1.5 oz. of Bombay Sapphire Gin
1 oz. of freshly squeezed lemon juice
0.5 oz. fresh orange juice
0.5 oz. fresh ginger syrup (recipe below)
Ginger slices and cilantro leaves for garnish
You can make it ahead and filter the juice in a fine strainer.
Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker, starting with the gin, follow by the juices and the ginger syrup. Add big pieces of ice that you just smashed from your ice block. Then, shake vigorously. Serve on the rocks in a tumbler. Garnish with ginger slices and cilantro leaves.
Ginger Syrup Recipe
Put in a saucepan 1 cup of powdered white sugar, 3/4 cup of boiling water and 5 thick slices of peeled ginger root. Or you could use ginger root juice to infuse your simple syrup with flavor. Cook the mixture for 10 minutes over medium heat. Let it cool for 30 minutes and strain into a clean bottle. Refrigerate. You can keep it for several weeks in the fridge.
I will share more drink recipes in the coming days. In the meantime, you can see more photos on my Facebook page.
With the wedding season that will soon reach its height, I thought it would be a great ideas to share amazing details for the DIY brides-to-be. But these are so simple to make that you could use them for a stylish picnic or a baby shower.
Get inspired by how this flatware is served. This look is perfect for an outdoor event. I suggest that you put everything on a clear cellophane bag closed with a custom made sticker. Design the sleeve to fit your bag. At best, make select a bag that is tall enough so that you do not have to fold the napkin.
Stylish Cookie Kebab Presentation
It is easy to reproduce this superb presentation. The people at Martha Stewart Weddings did it by first lining a deep-enough serving tray with a sheet of Styrofoam. Then, poke the skewers through so they stand upright, and cover with a layer of candy. Depending on your party theme, you could use sesame seeds or colored glass beads to cover the Styrofoam.
A sure way to enhance a simple recipe is to bring to the next level the finishing touch. Here a citrus sugar adds panache to a fruit salad. Making your own citrus sugar is easy. All you have to do is to mix in a food processor (using a small bowl) zest of 1 orange, the zest of 1 lime and one mint sprig to 5 or 6 tablespoons of superfine sugar. You can also add a teaspoon of grapefruit zest. Decorate the fruit salad with a few mint leaves. Double or triple the recipe so you can display a jar or two of citrus sugar next to your serving plate.
This story demonstrates that you can improvise a formal dining table almost everywhere as long as you can sit people. These are pictures taken at a formal luncheon for a dozen people that was staged aboard the Brooklyn-bound L train. It must have been fun to do as an adventure.
As you can see, the food was fancy. They even serve a soup. The key was to use plates and bowls that limit the chance of a spill. The table trays also have a hole to keep the glass in place while the train was moving.
The set up is a concept that is worth stealing from. It would not be too hard to make your own table trays for when you invite more people that your dining table can sit. What you need are ready-made tablets cut to fit your space and to figure out how they will be held in place. The solution depends on where you will hang them or if you prefer to use legs.
You might recall the Party People glass markers that I introduced in 2009. The same jolly characters are now available as snack markers. Each of the 8 characters tops a stainless steel fork. This is an eco-friendly alternative to the usual wooden fork or toothpick that you throw away after each bite.
Sandra Downie from The White Library party planning and entertaining blog wrote to me about the DIY projects she did for a fun Super Bowl party. She proposed easy recipes that are served at the stadium. Her DIY projects are so simple that you still have plenty of time to make it happens. I added my suggestions to hers.
First of all, select a color palette. You could show your allegiance to your favorite team by only using the team color or oppose on each end of the buffet table, the colors of both teams. If you opt for the second option, try to simulate the field with your tablecloth.
Sandra nicely styled Bacon Mac & Cheese Bites. She made a traditional mac and cheese recipe and then, with a mini melon ball scooper, put scoops of the mac and cheese in a mini cupcake pan. She then sprinkled bacon bits on top. Another option would be to mix the bacon bits into the mac and cheese. A Game Day pennant decorate each bacon mac and cheese “mini-cupcake”.
To make your own fries containers, simply cut in half plastic drinking cups and line the top edge with coordinating ribbons. For better tasting fries, I suggest that you place a sheet of parchment paper inside the cup before serving. Or you can stamp print or draw an illustration with Sharpie pens on small food-safe brown paper bags. You can find these bags at Alimentation Aubut in Montreal. Another option is to stop by a local hotdog restaurant and ask them to sell you a few empty fries bags.
Classic glass apothecary jars are not just for the bathroom or to serve candies or cookies at a sweet table. See how Darleen of Darling Darleen uses them to keep citrus fruits in easy reach. It reminds everyone in the family to eat their daily portions of fruits. If you host a brunch, her idea would create an awesome centerpiece.
Or fill them with pasta if you are hosting an italian dinner. You can find similar apothecary glass jars at Pottery Barn.
I cannot resist the beautiful rustic charm of reclaimed wood cutting boards. They make awesome serving trays or plates. They transform a simple soup and sandwich meal into a delightful affair.
Although serving food in wooden café plates is an expensive option, I feel that it is worth every penny. As long as they are roughly of the same size, they do not have to be identical. It’s definitively something to put on your Holidays wish list. It’s on mine!
The Most Practical Size
My favorite one, due to its versatility, has to be the Sunday Styles Cutting Board. A 22 inch long, this wooden board works perfectly as serving ware on a buffet table, to serve antipastos at your dinner table, as a cheese plate or to eat your breakfast on weekends.
Gray Works Design produces one-of-a-kind, handmade footed cutting boards, bistro plates and bowls in their small studio located in Woodstock, NY. The collection varies from small to extra-large formats, depending of the products. Made with locally and sustainably harvested or salvaged American hardwoods, the are protected with natural, organic, food safe finishes. Gray Works Design’s products are all available on Etsy.
I enjoy the concept behind Spaghetti al Cartoccio because it looks different and fun. For the hostess, the biggest advantage is that you can prepare the parchment pockets in advance.
The most stylish way to serve it is to prepare single portion parchment pockets. If you heat the pocket on a BBQ for a picnic at the park or the beach, switch to aluminum foil paper. Otherwise, parchment paper delivers a finer look. At home, you will cook the parchment pockets on a baking sheet in a hot oven.
Cooking Time and Recipes
If you prepare Spaghetti al Cartoccio, make sure to not overcook your pasta. Spaghetti, like any Italian pasta, is meant to be eaten al dente. Therefore, when come the time to cook the pasta in boiling water, cut in half the cooking time written on the package. The reason is that the pasta will continue to cook on the oven.
Believe me, it is worth to pay a little more for Italian made pasta like Barilla or De Cecco. They taste way better. Italian cuisine is simple. What makes it exceptional is when you select the finest and freshest ingredients.
Opt for Spaghetti al Cartoccio with a clam and tomato sauce, a seafood sauce or with a tomato and fresh herbs sauce. Have a look at these three recipes:
It has been two months since my birthday party. My husband Jerome did a fantastic job organizing my birthday party without my help. He did it all in one week, just after our return from our trip to Japan. Our friend Nathalie of Foodies Emporium was in charge of the menu. Nat also suggested the welcoming drink, a glass of Champagne with Wild Hibiscus Confit.
She ordered 10 different canapés – 8 savory bites and 2 sweet treats – from Avocado, a Montreal caterer. The Chef Louis Roy-Potvin came to my house, just before the party begins, to present me the food. This was a nice touch. They planned it to give me a few minutes with the chef before the guests arrive.
My husband was to integrate a hint of Japan in my party. Japanese element mixed with local ingredients in the food and the floral arrangements. We had a special sushi called Langue de Dragon (Dragon tongue), and pictured above, scallop tartar canapes with meat pie spices on mirin crispy rice cake.
Bison gravlax marinated in Chartreuse, served with quince jam and fried shallots.
I enjoyed the asparagus wrapped in melted Fjord du Saguenay cheese with dried cranberries. After the canapes, it was time for the local cheese platters. Artisanal cheese makers in Quebec have raised the bar over the years. You should try some. My birthday cake was one of my favorite cakes, a refreshing fraisier. He ordered it at Patisserie Belge.
It’s O.xyde Design, the same florist that I used for his birthday, that did mine. They knew how we arrange the buffet table, since he reused the same setting. We found that this is the setting that works the best for our house.
We had plenty of fun. The food was excellent. He carried the theme beautifully by infusing the color green throughout the decor. I was impressed by what my husband did. Thanks, my love, for a wonderful party.