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dinner party

HOME + GARDEN HOME decor

New Uses for Old Things: Wooden Boxes …and Tips for a Rustic Meal

storage made of wooden boxes

storage made of wooden boxes
Photo: Wooden Box Service Stations at Clyde Common via Remodelista

Each fall, I crave for cosy space and comfort food. There is a design lesson to take home from the service stations at Clyde Common, a Portland restaurant located at the Ace Hotel. You could replicate their design to organize your pantry, your linen closet, or to create storage in your craft room or your kids’ playroom.

Laid-Back Food Presentation

serving steaks on a wood cutting boards
all food photos by David Reamer for Clyde Common

After reading their story on Remodelista, I was curious to see how Clyde Common interprets the European style tavern. I wanted to see how it differs from what is happening here in Montreal. This led me to food presentation that you can steal for your next fall or winter dinner party.

family style at the table

Even though I am a stylish girl, I appreciate the laid-back feeling of food being served on cocottes, cast-iron pans and wooden cutting boards. When I host an everyday dinner party at home, I leave the fancy food presentation to the professional chefs and concentrate my energy on cooking delicious food. Through simple tricks, I add flair to my meal.

charcuterie tray
A crowd-pleaser: the charcuterie tray

Finally, a cute way to serve crudités with their vinaigrette. Even if people don’t eat it, they pleasantly decorate your table.

veggies in a mason jar

What is your favorite way to serve food in fall or winter?

ENTERTAINING PARTY ideas + decor

Dinner Party Ideas: The Making of a Moroccan-Inspired Table

moroccan-inspired dinner table mood board

moroccan-inspired dinner table mood board

Ethnic cuisine is still the most popular dinner party theme. People likes it because it is easy to organize and get the look based on the menu you plan to serve.

Your tabletop should set the tone of your dinner party. Start by selecting the dinnerware and table linens. Since you probably do not wish to invest in plates and serving dishes that you will use only one time, it is best to opt for dinnerware “inspired by” versus the real thing.

I created a Moroccan-inspired mood board composed of  tableware that you will be to use over and over for both indoor and outdoor entertaining. Typically, guests eat with their hands at a Moroccan feast. This is not a popular custom for us. Therefore, I went with the standard place settings. You can still serve each dish family style in big serving plates, fish trays or tagines.

moroccan-inspired table

The Jali Lattice Dinnerware, as suggested by West Elm’s stylists, have the right vibe. Plates and bowls are sold by pack of 4. Complement the table with a few truly Moroccan metal bowls that you will find at a speciality shop.

I also like the modern feel of the Chase Blue Plate layered with pool blue Max dinnerware from Crate and Barrel (top picture). For a casual look, pair it with the amber or the turquoise dimpled glassware series. You can put flowers in recycled glass jars as simple centrepieces.

SOURCING:
+ Jali Lattice Dinnerware Salad plates and bowls $34 USD, Dinner plate $47 on sale at West Elm
+ Hammered Small Dish Bowl $5 USD | $5.19 CAD at West Elm
Chase Blue Plate $5.95 USD | $7.38 CAD at Crate & Barrel
+ Max Pool Blue dinnerware on sale at $59.95 USD | $74.36 CAD at Crate & Barrel
+ Dimmed Glassware set on sale $ $13 – $32 USD| $13.44 to $33.08 CAD at West Elm
+  Recycled glass jars on sale $ $19 – $29 USD| $19.64 to $29.98 CAD at West Elm

 

ENTERTAINING EVERYDAY entertaining

Create Cork Creatures with Pins

corkers wine bottle pin animal

corkers wine bottle pin animal

Planning to take a bottle of wine to that dinner party this weekend? Though your host probably won’t turn it away, a favorite bottle of red (or white) is a somewhat conventional take along.

Pretty packaging may be one way to dress it up, but Corkers – a new creation by Reddish Studio – offer something unexpected.

corkers wine bottle tag moose animal

Smartly packaged in a wine bottle hang tag are push pin sets that bring bottle corks to life as adorable animals. Available in six creatures – monkey, deer, buffalo, bear, bunny and crow – each pack includes the body parts for one creature.

wine bottle pin cork animals corkers

Corkers are sure to add some interesting conversation, creativity, and whimsy around the dinner table. We’ll drink to that!

SOURCING:
+ Corkers, $8, Monkey Business
+ Reddish Studio
+ Via Not Cot

FOOD + DRINK RECIPES + menus

Sparkling Sangria and a Fruity Fennel Salad for Brunch

sparkling sangria

sparkling sangria

I spotted those on the last issue of Sweet Paul Magazine. Although it was intended for a Holiday brunch, I feel that it is something fresh and appetizing that you could serve anything. A sparkling sangria can replace any welcome punch. And for a modern twist, forgo the traditional punch bowl for a big glass jar.

grapefruit, fennel and apple salad with a grapefruit dressing

I often serve a fennel and fruit salad with a grilled fish. Remember the tropical fennel salad I prepare with a mango and a green apple. Fish and salad make a healthy meal that you can serve on a week day to your family or whenever you entertain. The grapefruit gives it a morning twist. I like to use a frisée salad because it feels elegant and adds textures. I bet that this salad will become popular on my salad repertoire. Get the recipe for his Grapefruit, fennel and apple salad with a grapefruit dressing.

SOURCING:
+ Brunch menu with recipes on the Holiday 2010 issue of Sweet Paul Magazine
+ Styling and photography by Andrew Purcell

ENTERTAINING PARTY ideas + decor

Citrus Centerpieces by O.XIDE Design

citrus centerpieces by o.xide design

citrus centerpieces by o.xide design

For this event, O.XIDE Design gave a modern twist to fruit and floral arrangements. They feel fresh and inviting. I like them a lot! They used white vases as pedestals. Look for casual chic centerpieces like those whenever you are planning a special brunch or dinner party.

citrus centerpieces with a tall arrangement for a drink station

I am taking notes for designing my drink station. If you plan to make your own, you will need a tall glass cylinder vase to execute it. Aim for vases that are 2 feet or more. Your local florists are a good place to start shopping for tall glass vases.

SOURCING:
+ O.XIDE Design’s portfolio – photos by Amélie Cousineau
+ 23″ tall Clear Glass Cylinder Vase $22 at Save on Crafts

ENTERTAINING HOLIDAY entertaining

Creative Thanksgiving Menu

Thanksgiving Desserts

Thanksgiving Appetizers

It can be a challenge to come up with a creative Thanksgiving menu, especially if your guests are turkey-and-mashed-potato purists.

You can serve something special and satisfy traditional tastebuds by using typical Thanksgiving ingredients in surprising ways. Consider adding one or two of these dishes to your dining table, or if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, make it a truly memorable meal with our suggestions for Thanksgiving menu alternatives.

Appetizers

Sweet Potatoes with Pecans and Goat Cheese from Smitten Kitchen. Typically served as a side, sweet potatoes are a Thanksgiving must-have. But when thickly sliced and topped with a seasonal mixture that includes cranberries and pecans, they’re an unexpected appetizer.

+ The Winter Squash Dip is a flavourful, garlicky dip that can be made ahead of time, so you can spend time enjoying it with guests. From Martha Stewart.

Sides

Thanksgiving Side dishes

+ Haricots Verts, Roasted Fennel and Shallots. Boring green beans get a sophisticated upgrade when roasted with fennel and shallots. From Bon Appetit

+ Stir-fried Brussels Sprouts with Lemon and Parmesan from Simple Bites. Brussel sprouts have a bad rap; kids and adults alike tend to steer clear of this cruciferous veggie even when it’s in season. Surprise their taste buds with this stir-fried version. A healthy splash of lemon and a pinch of parm keep the flavour light, balancing out a typically heavy meal.

+ The Wasabi Mashed Potatoes will add fusion flavour to your Thanksgiving table!

Desserts

Thanksgiving Desserts

+ Pumpkin Spice Creme Brulee that is baked and served inside a mini pumpkin. Better Homes and Gardens gave this classic dessert a Thanksgiving twist.

+ Cranberry-Poached Pears. For a light dessert option, this sweet and tart dish looks gorgeous and takes advantage of the season’s fruit harvest. From Martha Stewart.

ENTERTAINING HOLIDAY decorations

Citrus Garland Centerpiece for Thanksgiving

lemon leaf garland centerpiece for thanksgiving

lemon leaf garland centerpiece for thanksgiving

If you are looking for inspirations to make your own centerpiece for your Thanksgiving table, have a look at what Jordan Ferney of Oh Happy Day did for the Wedding Project. It took her a few hours to make this 14 foot garland for $16. If you have the time, it is worth it since it creates such an impact on a simply dressed dining table.

diy lemon leaf garland centerpiece

SOURCING:
+ Learn how to Make your Own Lemon Leaf Garland on Wedding Project
+ photos: Jordan Ferney of Oh Happy Day

FOOD + DRINK RESTAURANTS

Fine Cuisine at BIRONnerie

tempura tomato with its pipette of homemade soya sauce

troisieme bironnerie event at biron restaurant in Montreal

One week ago was the third BIRONnerie. This super cool event for foodies is a recurrent happening at Biron, a Montreal restautant. The concept is imaginative, fun and tasty. Biron opens their kitchen to three amateur cooks to create a five course dinner. The guest cooks will benefit from the skills and support of the kitchen staff and their Chef David Biron to produce a fine dining experience to the customers.

Each amateur cook selects a recipe from their repertoire. The other courses are composed by the Chef. The Chef and the guest cooks meet before the event to plan everything. The day of the event, the guest cook will pass the day in the kitchen, where they will learn tricks of the trade.  It was my first time but it would not be the last. As an attendee, we can sneak next to the kitchen to watch how they assemble the plates. I love that part.

Last Thursday, the menu had a Japanese touch. The five courses were:

tempura tomato with its pipette of homemade soya sauce

We began with a tempura tomato with its pipette of homemade soya sauce from Chef David Biron. It was served on a bed of julienne asparagus.

smoked salmon on a pea pancakes by mayssam samaha of will travel for food

For the second course, Mayssam Samaha of Will travel for food shared her smoked salmon on a pancake of sweet peas with crème fraîche, yuzu (a Japanese citrus fruit), shiso and salmon caviar.

three pieces of brandade with its spicy mayo by dominique berube of les 2 capricieux

Then, we had three pieces of brandade (grilled cod with olive oil) served with a spicy mayonnaise and lime. The Chef adds a touch of a fancy oil (but I forgot to write it down). This was a recipe by Dominique Bérubé, which is known as the Capricieux from Les 2 Capricieux.

main course :: chicken supreme on a bed of puy lentils by chef david biron

The main was a chicken supreme cooked in a juice of olives and Moroccan lemons on its bed of two-celery Puy lentils. This recipe is by Chef David Biron.

cardamon krumkake with homemade ice cream by foodies emporium

To finish the meal in beauty, Nathalie of Foodies Emporium made a cardamon krumkake filled with a homemade ice cream of a local fruit and served with a strawberry and tarragon coulis. A krumkake is a Norwegian waffle cookie that you bake in a machine similar to a waffle maker. The krumkake maker comes with a wooden cone to shape the krumkake. The maker creates a decorative pattern of the waffle cookie.

We opted for the food-wine pairing menu. I wish to send a big thank to the three foodies and the kitchen at Biron for this wonderful dinner. It was divine! To know when is the next BIRONnerie like the restaurant Biron on Facebook.

SOURCING:
+ Villaware Krumkake maker $34.95 USD at Amazon.com [Affiliate link]
+ Biron

FOOD + DRINK TABLEWARE

My Latest Pasta Bowls by Sophie Conran

sage pasta bowls by sophie conran for portmeiron :: serving ware

I added sage pasta bowls to my dinnerware collection. You may recall that I departed of my formal entertaining set for a more casual look last year. I did it because I realized that I never used my formal dinnerware. I am so happy with that decision.

I want to replace my pasta bowls. I grow tired of the traditional Italian drawings inside the bowls. I spot at The Bay this afternoon that pasta bowls from Sophie Conran for Portmeiron. I selected sage, instead of white. Since it is an unusual color for dishes, I only bought 2 bowls. I am always worried that my meal will look less appetizing when placed inside colored plates and bowls. My grilled Italian sausages and vegetables dish looks tasty. As a precaution, I will cook a couple pasta dishes this week to be certain of my choice.

Before You Buy New Dinnerware

The first thing I checked when I like a model is to look at the extent of the serving ware collection. This is the main reason why I opted for Sophie Conran for Portmeiron. The product range is huge and it is always expanding.

I own the cereal/salad bowls, the rim soup bowls and now, the pasta bowls. I often used the rim soup bowls and the pasta bowls to serve my first course or my main course. Using the shallow bowls instead of plates adds an unexpected touch to your dish. You should always put a larger plate under your bowl.

I also bought this afternoon a large pitcher (3 pints – 1.7 l) that will be great for serving water, orange juice or ice tea. The medium oval plate, in white, is on my wish list. I think it will be great to serve grilled vegetables or braised beef.

If you are on the market for a new dinnerware, I invite you to read my Seven simple tips on buying a dinnerware set.

SOURCING:
+ Portmeirion Sophie Conran Oval Platter 14.5″ Sage $28.99 USD
+ Sophie Conran by Portmeirion 3-Pint White Pitcher $35.75 USD

ENTERTAINING PARTY ideas + decor

Elevating the Home Cooking Approach at Parties

I was interviewed last Friday by a Montreal-based journalist about the art of making menu when you hosting a party at home. My best advice has always been to cook dishes that you are familiar with. This way, you will not stress out. Your meal must taste great. It is not the time to experiment. To make your dinner special, simply be original with the food presentation.

The home cooking approach is invading formal events like weddings. The New York Times published Readers’ Wedding Food to illustrate this trend. You will see that it crossed over a wide range of wedding budgets, from high to low.

Easy Inspiring Food Presentation

It is not complicated to serve french fries in paper cones. But it makes it more special. You can use parchment paper, newspapers like they do in Belgium or gingham waxed paper. Opt for professional grade grease proof waxed paper to keep your food.

french fries in paper cones :: comfort food gets elegant

I gathered from the NY Times article the best pictures that you could use for your parties this summer. My photo collage at the top would be perfect for Canada Day or the Fourth of July. As you can see this home cooking trend mixes with eating seasonal food.

+ Lobster bake on the beach in Massachusetts – photo by Paul McEvoy
+ Decorate a cheese platter or for a grand event, your cheese and charcuterie table with seasonal berries and figs
+ Be creative when preparing skewers of vegetables and fruits. An old-time favorite appetizer is a Caprese salad assembled on skewers. Drizzle some balsamic vinegar or put a small bowl of balsamic vinegar for dipping.

grilled portohouse nicely served on a wodden tray

2009 Trends in Weddings

Going back to the article on the New York Times, it talks about the current trend in weddings, even upscale weddings, to serve home cook style meals. People do not do it for saving money. It costs the same and sometimes more to elevate comfort food. This trend started out of a desire to feel less opulent. It also conveys authenticity to their celebrations. Is it representative to what you have seen in weddings this year?

One thing I would say it that guests should dress up even for a simple country weddings. It is a special occasion for the bride and groom. Tell them you know how special this day is by NOT wearing casual clothes. It is one element of etiquette that I strongly believe in.

SOURCING:
+ Waxed Paper Red Gingham $5 USD for 50 sheets
+ Down-Home Celebrations by the New York Times

FOOD + DRINK RECIPES + menus

Daily Quick Links | 2008.08.06 edition

californian farmer's market :: dinning in the NYC streets :: best looking offices by agencies

This is my daily collection of interesting stuff that I saw on the Web.

+ Having dinner in the streets is a public form of entertaining that is born out of necessity in a mega city. Citizens assemble temporary dining terrace in the sidewalks. Suzanne Seggerman holds “Chez L’Hydrant” dinners in front of the building where six or eight friends share a one-pot dish. Calvin Tsao is more daring; he held dinner parties on the Brooklyn Bridge. Via New York Times

+ I added a new blog to my RSS feed that I must tell you about. This Ain’t No Disco (it’s where we work) is blog that shows some of the best agency interiors in the world. I foresee lots of creative rooms in sight. Via desire to inspire

+ A visit at the Farmer’s Market in Novato held on Tuesday evenings. The food looks so fresh and tasty that I have to present this feast. Via The Kitchen

+ If you wish to sell your house at the best price, read 20 Tips To Prepare The Kitchen For Resale written by Susan Serra of The Kitchen Designer

+ The next time you visit Nice in the Cote d’Azur, plan a stop at La Zucca Magica. According to Mark Bittman, Zucca has few equals among well-known Western restaurants serving no meat or fish. Via New York Times