In the Heat of the Night

Is there anything as fun as a big party with loads of friends? As the winter continues I am thinking of some fun party ideas for in the garden this coming summer. One of the best parties we ever hosted was shot for my book, An Invitation to the Garden. I think the reason it was so successful, aside from a fun mix of people, is that it started late for Kinderhook, at 9 pm after the sun had gone down. 
When the guests arrived in the candle lit garden and saw the impressive colorful lantern tree, it set the tone for the night. 

We made it an easy to host party by having all the food, from nuts to dessert, on the center table buffet style. The food was served on a mix of trays from my collection.  That freed our time up so we could spend it enjoying the evening with our guests.

Freezing flowers, bachelor buttons shown here, in ice cubes goes a long way to 
making the ice bucket more attractive.

The seating area was set with candles and an array of favorite summer plants, like pulmbago, scented tobacco and geraniums, in glorious full bloom. 
The scented tobacco had the added benefit of scenting the evening air with its heady perfume.

Since it was a hot summer night we provided fans for the guests. These were found on the street in Chinatown below Canal Street in NYC.

A Day in the Graden: George Eastman Museum

I have to start off by saying I wasn't technically in this garden, I was looking at it through a window. The beautiful summer day that greeted us when we arrived at the George Eastman Museum in Rochester NY, had turned into a stormy afternoon by the time we wanted to go in the garden. Lesson learned: always visit the garden first no matter how cloudless the sky maybe.
Eastman Kodak created one of the greatest American companies of the twentieth century and built a house to reflect that status. The magnificent 50 room Georgian mansion was built between 1902 and 1905 on what was once a farm. Kodak hired noted landscape architect Alling DeForest to design the Italianate Terrace Garden while the house was being built. It is one of four gardens remaining on the estate. Today the Terrace Gardens 23 beds hold mostly perennials and even in the rain the garden maintained an inviting appeal.

The arbor across a drift of yellow Dahlias and purple Phlox.

The stairs leading down to a sunken pool is a focal point in the symmetry of the garden.

The use of grasses in the garden added dimension to the beds.

Classic Boxwood hedges border the gardens beds.

A jumble of brightly colored Scented Tabacco and Zinnias surround the evergreens 
at the back of the garden.

A Grand Birthday Dinner: Kate Rheinstein Brodsky

Possessing effortless self confidence to freely entertain in one’s home is something many people spend a lifetime trying to achieve. For others it comes as naturally as breathing and Kate Rheinstein Brodsky would be one of those people. She can as easily host a fun seated dinner for sixteen or swinging cocktail party for eighty without a second thought. All the while being a mom to three youngsters and running the renowned New York store KRB. As the only daughter of noted designer and hostess Suzanne Rheinstein, it comes as no surprise that the shop is known for its exquisite selection of objets and is a favorite resource for many top designers and other style savvy types. 
Some readers may recognize the dining room from the pages of a not too distant past issue of Elle Decor. The apartment was featured and was the cover of the May 2015 issue. 

The splendid dining room features an amazing geometric painted floor 
and a table that expands to seat sixteen. 

Tell me about the occasion and meal you made:

This is the table set for an intimate birthday party for my dear friend, Charlotte. I have three small children and most often when we entertain, it’s either casually for weekend brunch or festively for cocktail parties of 80+(I like everything to look just as good for 8 as it does for 80). So when I have a dinner party, I really like to make it special and use all my most favorite things. For Charlotte, I wanted the food to feel Special Occasion-y, and so I started with a salad of mache and butter lettuce with walnuts, pear and Roquefort, and then served sliced filet, green beans, and potatoes dauphinoise. Though I’ve found Ina Garten’s recipe for filet to be foolproof, I am not going to lie—I ordered this from Mitchell London. I made the yellow cake with swiss meringue buttercream frosting and decorated it with sugared pansies I found on Etsy. 
A beautiful setting for an elegant table.

What influences your menu choices when you entertain?

For me entertaining is not a time to experiment with food. I love trying new things, but that is why I go to restaurants!  
Almost any recipe I didn’t lift from my mother, I stole from Julia Reed. 
Julia wrote these fabulous food columns for the NYTimes magazine in the 90s and I kept them all. The BEST recipes and ideas. I also tend to make things that my mother (who is from New Orleans) cooks for parties—jambalaya and butter lettuce salads with green goddess dressings for lunch on your lap (ie a buffet), country ham and rolls, hot artichoke dip, pencil asparagus and pink sauce for cocktail suppers; turkey chili and corn bread with lots of toppings for early dinners with other families. I love to read cookbooks and to be honest, I probably read them more than I cook FROM them! My mother does not bake or make sweets, so I taught myself to.

Kate Rheinstein Brodsky 

Kate's 3 tips, tricks or must haves.
Always have enough wine and spirits. It may actually be a fate worse than death to run out of wine. Much better to have excess!

Choose to NOT make (at least) part of the meal. Many people happily buy dessert for their dinner parties. I love to bake, so often I will make dessert and pick up dinner from Mitchell London or William Poll.

Buy tableware, glassware, and linens in quantities of 12 or more. It gives you flexibility for breakage, loss, stains...

William Yeoward crystal and Julia B. monogramed napkins.

Who or what has most inspired your entertaining style?

One of the best things about being an only child was that my parents brought me not everywhere but to MANY places. And I just sort of soaked it all in. I got to tag along with my mother on weekends at Gep Durenberger’s in San Juan Capistrano and I was 8 the first time I went to Dawnridge for a dinner party.  Clearly my mother is a huge influence on me . For beautiful unpretentious entertaining, I look to Bunny Williams. For insanely good food and insanely good times, Julia Reed. My mother-in-law, Esty Brodsky, sets a supremely elegant table, TOO.

The birthday girls crown made by Weddy Addison from Tinsel Trading

Has anyone been a strong influence in teaching you the l’art de recevoir? 

My mother, AGAIN! For her, entertaining is as natural as taking a breath. She is graciousness personified. She excels at bringing interesting people together for good food in beautiful settings.  I have always loved that she puts as much thought and energy into making up trays for the two us for lunch in her garden as she does to a sit-down for 36. That said, I think the best thing she taught me is that once the party starts—you just have to let go and have a good time. For sure, something unexpected will happen – an extra guest, a dropped plate, a power outage—but it’s usually nothing an extra bottle of wine, a broom, or more candles can't fix. She is also positively evangelical about candlelight — it hides a multitude of sins. From dust to that tart that broke in half, it all looks fine in low light. 

“Turn that overhead light up so it can cast shadows all over my face," said No Woman Ever. 

Dessert service: candies, Laduree Macarons (not shown) and a homemade 
birthday cake made by Kate.

Do you have a favorite china or tabletop item that you collect?

I collect antique Chinese export (Sacred Bird and Butterfly) which I mix with the reissued Mottahedeh version. I also love Flight Barr and Barr, especially an orange border with a big gadrooned edge and an armorial in the center . . . OH, I also have a pathological weakness for Vieux Paris porcelain with simple bands of color and gilt.  Especially in colors that look like they are from a Smarties roll . . . YOU KNOW THE ONES? LOVE! 

An assortment of roses, sweet peas, poppies and ranunculus made up the arrangements for the table. by Plaza Flowers

A Day in the Garden: Lorenzo

A garden in early summer is a wonderful time, lush and vibrant greens abound and the gardeners hopes are still high for a perfect season ahead. One of the prettiest garden that I have visited also happens to have a spectacular historic house on the property. Lorenzo was the family home for five generations until 1968 when it became a New York State Historic Property.
The house is a treasure trove of beautiful American and European antiques and miles of Zuber paper making it worth the visit alone.
The garden was designed in the mid 19th century by Ledyard Licklan and updated in the early 20th century by noted American garden designer Ellen Biddle Shipman. Today it is attentively cared for and offers a glimpse into a way of life of an historic american family.

The peonies in the garden are based on the original Shipman plan. 

The herbeacous border lines the allee leading to the grove of pine trees that were planted in 1856 by Ledyard Licklaen known  as the "Dark Aisle." The border was restored with the dedication of a voluteer Janine Golub

Designed so that when the doors to the house are open, you can see from the back 
of the garden through the hall onto Cazenovia Lake in the distance. 

No matter how wet the garden is there is always a dry seat. When not in use, the back 
of this bench flips down and covers the seat. Genius. 

The original playhouse with its simple trellis.

A mass of white Dictamnus albus (Gas Plant) stands
out against the green background. 

Originally beside the road this horse trough was moved to the back of the 
garden by designer Shipman. 

© The Devine Life . Design by MangoBlogs.