Thursday, October 8, 2015

Tea Time with Parker

Style maven Parker Bowie Larson.

A dreary autumn day can always be brightened by a magical tea with friends. That theory was proven again when I was invited to the weekend home of one of the most gracious southerners that I know, Parker Bowie Larson a.k.a. style editor of the influential and revered design magazine Architectural Digest.
The Virginian natives natural charm and warmth were evident in every detail of the table setting. Her trove of family silver complimented her contemporary Hermès dinnerware beautifully. The unexpected splash of the hot pink napkins added a jolt of much needed color that every gray day requires. Tea to my mind is not an avant grade experiment in culinary sensations, a traditional selection of finger foods is always the best way to go. Happily my southern friend agrees. Enjoy!

Tell Me about the occasion and what you served.

With the weather turning chilly, I decided it would be fun to have a tea party with some of my girlfriends.  I grew up having afternoon tea at Keswick Hall in Charlottesville, Virginia.  My grandmother discovered Keswick when I was six years old and started the tradition.  Nothing beats having clotted cream and scones with a hot Earl Grey tea!  

A treat laden table is a must for for a successful tea.

What influences your menu choices when you entertain?

I like serving dishes that can be prepared before the guests arrive and that don’t need too much maintenance while cooking.  Tea is easy as you can prepare everything beforehand so you can spend more time with your guests.  

No tea table is complete without a selection of scones. 
Extra points for serving them in family silver.

Who or what has most inspired your entertaining style?

My grandmother and I are very close, and I always have admired how she entertains.  Even when we are doing dinner with just our family at Christmas, she always has flower arrangements for the table, party favors and place cards.  I have learned that place cards are always important as it spares the awkwardness of your guests not knowing where they are supposed to go.

Has anyone been a strong influence in teaching you the l'art de recevoir? if yes how so.

My mother has been a strong influence in teaching me the l’art de recevoir.  She is one of the most optimistic and outgoing people I know, and those qualities make her the perfect hostess when having people over.   Her infectious enthusiasm makes everyone feel welcome and at home.

A yummy tea is the perfect antidote for a cold gray day.

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

I registered for Hermès Bleu d’Ailleurs when I got married.  I received eight place settings, but I love adding to it when I can.  My husband actually gave me the tea pot this past Christmas!  

Champagne always adds a bit of sparkle to a tea table.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Celebrate the Season in Style

Get a jump on freshening up your house for the holidays. This Columbus Day weekend Michael Devine Ltd is offering 25% off our vintage finds and bespoke pillow collection.  
Starting this Thursday all vintage and one of a kind finds I have been collecting will be on sale. These wonderful pieces are things that I have fallen in love with and think you will too.  
I am also including 25% off the bespoke pillow collection in this sale. All the pillows are made to order and require a 6 week delivery. So hurry for the holidays! 

Sale ends Tuesday, October 13th.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Lunching with Matthew

For most people daily lunch in ones office is a mundane event at best. Not for the very talented and charming designer Matthew Patrick Smyth. He is known for  creating interiors that have a fine sense of detail and understated good taste. He has also authored Living Traditions: Interiors by Matthew Patrick Smyth. His well appointed corner office has commanding cityscape views that make any meal seem special. He favors take out from the restaurant across the street, none other than the New York classic Le Colonial served on Limoges porcelain. The beauty of simplicity.
Read on to find out Matthews tips for an easy stylish office lunch.

Designer Matthew Patrick Smyth

Tell me about the occasion and what you served.
It’s a picnic in my office. I often do this when I have clients in for meetings. We start with lunch from Le Colonial and then move into business and design after lunch. It’s faster and easier than going out to lunch. 

Love a meal with a view.

What influences your menu choices when you entertain?
I try to clear potential food issues with my guests before they arrive.  So many people have allergies, gluten issues and sugar problems that it’s hard to keep up. I also never reach beyond my skills and never experiment on guests.

No stress lunchtime picnic: great take out and serve yourself ease.

Who or what has most inspired your entertaining style?
The late designer Billy Goldsmith. I was his assistant at the time and he taught me that it was all about creating the mood and having a sense of humor and ease.

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

My friend and client Carol Kalikow who is an amazing hostess.  She whips up dinner parties at the drop of a hat and even cooks all the food herself. Some of the food she even grows on her farm. Her table settings are easy but very thoughtful. Her guests never see her sweat.

Matthew’s favorite dinnerware the beautiful 
faux bois pattern designed by Billy Goldsmith.

Do you have a favorite china or tabletop item that you collect?
Billy Goldsmith did a beautiful line of Limoges porcelain many years ago. I buy pieces as I can. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

When Only Beautiful Will Do

Anyone with a table linen obsession needs to know about our local gem Boxwood Linen. This is the go to place for beautifully locally crafted custom or ready made table linens. The company uses only the finest linen to create its range of home products from kitchen to bath. It is the sixteen year endeavor of owner and designer, Franca Fusco. Fusco left the fashion industry to follow her passion for design and has never looked back.

A selection of wares. Cool dish towels and custom 
aprons made from the finest linen.

Her product range runs the gamut from traditional to cool and colorful. What is really fantastic is she offers a custom service and will design a monogram to suit. She oversees every step of the execution of all orders because they are made in her own local studio. 

Owner and Designer Franca Fusco

She recently opened a beautiful new store on Main Street in Chatham, New York. She describes the location as the picture perfect American small town.  The sun filled space is the ideal place to shop the collection. She also carries a very edited selection of tableware, serve ware and fragrances which compliment her own linen collection. 

The store is open from 10-5 Thursday through Sunday and is located at 22 Main Street, Chatham NY. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Enchanting Frances

Aside from being a well known writer and blogger, Frances Schultz is also one of the most delightful people you could hope to meet. She has amazing spirit and a sparkling personality that makes her instantly the person you want to know better. Her recent must read book, The Bee Cottage Story, tells the tale of trials and tribulations of decorating her home in East Hampton, New York and the ups and downs she went through along the way, including a bout of cancer and a relationship or two that went awry.
Frances is also an amazing hostess, true to her generous spirit she hosted a poolside dinner for her friend Jane Scott Hodges this past summer. I am super excited to share Frances' insights and thoughts on entertaining with you today. Enjoy!

The enchanted setting in the garden of the fabled Bee Cottage.

Tell me about the occasion and meal you made/served.
We were celebrating Jane Scott Hodges’s new book, Linens. Jane is a friend but I’m also a huge fan of her beautiful Leontine Linens that grace the rooms of everywhere I live, both in New York and California. Every summer at Bee I like to have at least one whomped-up dinner party for 40 or so, and Jane was the happy excuse for this one. Brent Newsome is my go-to caterer out East. He lets me micro-manage the menu and use one or two of my own recipes, which gives a personal touch. He pretends like I do not drive him crazy, such a gentleman. Otherwise I’m a fan of small, impromptu gatherings—takes the  pressure off you being perfect. I do the cooking myself for those, which I love.

The hostess Frances Schultz.

What influences your menu choices when you entertain?
Depends on the crowd and time of year, of course, and what’s at the farmer’s market. I keep it simple and unfussy. Even if it is catered I don’t want it to look, feel, or taste “catered" and am adamant about presentations that look home-done and not restaurant-y. For a crowd I generally do a buffet dinner, so the food has to “hold” and be good at room temp. Passed hors d’oeuvres are  simple and few, lest one appear to be trying too hard; and I always have Aunt Ruby’s peanuts and pickled okra on the bar and one or two other stand-around places.

Pre dinner drinks poolside.

Who or what has most inspired your entertaining style?
Two of the greatest Southern belles of all time, my late mother and my godmother. They set beautiful tables in beautiful dining rooms and served great food that was straightforward and a little old-fashioned, and always in and with silver and starched linen. Jackie Kennedy in her White House days. Martha Stewart’s 1982  Entertaining. Alex Hitz, whose table I’ve been lucky enough to be around for years now, and he does it like few do anymore. Nina Griscom—it’s in her genes. And anecdotally the late great hostesses I’ve read about like Nan Kempner, Pat Buckley, Marella Agnelli, Perle Mesta!

The simply set table reflects the easy of summer entertaining in the Hamptons.

Has anyone been a strong influence in teaching you the l'art de recevoir? If yes how so.
See previous paragraph, first sentence! They were self-possessed, confident, and magnanimous. As kind and gracious to the Governor as to the UPS man, who now I think of it in our little town of Tarboro, NC, was kind of a hottie. The UPS man, not the Governor. That is the most important thing not only in l’art de recevoir, but in l’art de vivre, n’est-ce pas? I mean, have you ever been to a party where the hostess was horrid to the staff and then turned to you oozing with sweetness? UGH I just want to run away—and take the staff with me!

Love the single stems set around the lantern and votives. 

Do you have a favorite china or tabletop item that you collect?
Oh dear you’ll be sorry you asked. I am such a china slut, it’s embarrassing. In the City I cherish my Herend Fortuna, which has been discontinued; and my Crown Victoria, which has not. I grew up with Mottahedeh’s Tobacco Leaf; my family were tobacco farmers. An Adams ironstone was our “breakfast china,” and I’ve recently been buying it on eBay after seeing in in a blog post. I went crazy. Well, not crazy, but it was kind of like being reunited with an old friend. At Bee Cottage Mottahedeh’s green Torquay is my go-to. A random pattern that is spattered robin’s egg blue and painted with feathers inspired the cottage’s entire color scheme. At the ranch in California, our fancy is Royal Crown Derby’s Olde Avesbury—the colors are so warm and rich and great. I also have and love the Hermès Les Maisons Enchantées. I could open an outlet store… I know you’re sorry you asked…

Monday, September 21, 2015

Meet the Hierloomist

When I was a style and party editor for HFN magazine I had the chance to work with a very young
photographer Shana Novak.  She not only captured every shot that I wanted perfectly, but was
a joy to work with as well. Fast forward to today she is a successful commercial photographer
that now regularly shoots for some of the biggest names in publishing and fashion.
However, she is branching out and her newest venture The Heirloomist has me totally intrigued.
Shana is capturing the stories behind cherished family heirlooms the best way she knows through stunning
photographs of meaningful family heirlooms. These ravishing images capture the essence of the meaning
of cherished pieces. In the process these portraits are becoming the next generation of
heirlooms unto themselves.
Read on and discover her work and what inspires her in her own words.

The family silver.

How did you become a photographer?
My mother's parents owned a photography business together so I guess it's in my DNA. I started working at Women's Wear Daily when I first got to New York, which got me out into the world 
looking at things through the lens. I learned from some really great people there. 
I eventually settled on still life photography because gadgets and objects fascinate me. They can tell a story even though they are "inamimate."

Photographer Shana Novak and friends.

What inspires you?
Sunshine piercing through fog. Highly articulate people. Good writing. Anything that makes things interesting and better than they were before.

 Shana's work has an appealing clean contemporary look.

What started The Heirloomist?
Honestly, my Grandmother is the root of this. She kept so many fascinating knick-knacks and 
gadgets and family objects…I loved getting them on film and talking with her about the stories behind the objects. But that was before I knew I was The Heirloomist! I just loved the stories, really.
My girlfriend kind of opened my eyes to the idea that other people have special stories too. 
In the beginning, it was clear that the concept was really going to resonate with a lot of people. That’s when I came up with The Heirloomist as a vehicle to branch out from my commercial work and capture people's histories, stories and family heritage.

Favorite project:
To date, my favorite commission is from Alisa Berg Goldsmith. She came to me with a pair of jeans that saved her husband from being burned in a fire. Ironically, the jeans had a label sewn into the fly that says "Lucky You" so we honed in on that for the picture. This was the first time I knew that the
term "heirloom" could mean so many things to different people. That's when things really got interesting.

Dream project:
My dream project would be to photograph an item from someone who has made an enormous impact
on our society. Gloria Steinem, as an example. I approached her but her office told me she was too
busy at the moment. But, I'm not giving up on that.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Entertaining Style Setter Mieke Ten Have

Sometimes you meet someone and it seems like you have known them forever. That was the way it was when I met Mieke Ten Have for the first time years ago. Her captivating personality and natural charm had me hooked.  As I have gotten to know her, one of the things that surprised me the most is her love for cooking. Not only is she one accomplished chef; she also has the ability to bring her hallmark style effortlessly to the table as the “hostess with the mostest”
I am very excited to feature her at her country home in Maine, as shot by the fantastic photographer Darren Setlow, and her tipss for successful entertaining.

Mieke and her dog Hank. When Mieke is not in the kitchen or playing hostess, she is Design Editor at Large at Elle Decor magazine where she has her finger on the pulse of everything that is happening in the world of design.

Who or what has most inspired your entertaining style? Has anyone been a strong influence in teaching you the l'arte de recevoir? 

My mother. She instilled in me a love for tabletop, place setting, flower arranging, and beautiful linens. She also taught me to think about dinner party seating plans­­, so few people pay attention to that these days and I think it is a real misstep. The table is a tableau. Food, entertaining, and design should have a symbiotic relationship.
She lived in Provence for many years and her culinary style is very French­­ which is my foundation for most meals. I like to deviate and experiment, I often never make the exact same thing twice.

Mieke's stunning table.

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

Antique linens. I am always looking for beautiful embroidery­­ I don’t care if the monogram shares any letters with mine. It is so hard to find good embroidery on durable linen. They just don’t make them like they used to! I also like buying antique silver­­ especially larger serving spoons. An elegant serving spoon goes a long way, presentation wise.

For china, I use Alberto Pinto, Astier de Villatte, and Marie Daage on a daily basis­­, the rest is all antique. I own lots of lusterware, antique Wedgwood, and some lovely 19th century Tiffany plates. Cobalt blue glass and silver salt cellars are also a favorite. Basically, I’m really a Victorian grandmother at heart.

What influences your menu choices when you entertain?

Seasonality and location. I try as much as possible to adhere to what I find at the farmers’ market­­ which often means I don’t start with a set menu, I like to see what looks really good that day, especially in the summer when there is so much to choose from. When I am in Maine, I generally serve seafood because it is so good, fresh, and plentifully local. In New York, I have my favorite butchers and cheese purveyors, so it is really predicated on where I am entertaining and what time of year it is. It’s also really important to consider which flavor profiles go well together­­, I like mixing up unexpected elements. My version of the holy grail is the perfect bite of various tastes and textures, and I am always experimenting to find that balance.

Tell me about the occasion and meal you made.

This was an intimate, September luncheon for three friends. I love the late summer, early fall weeks where you can reap the benefits of both seasons­­ still rich in tomatoes and basil, and finally excited to be eating root vegetables again. For this meal, I started with a small beet and bacon soup as an amuse bouche, which I served during the aperitif in petite Empire tea cups. 

I love breaking up the first course into something smaller and serving it a bit more informally­­ it’s a nice way of using your tea cups, too!

For the main course I made a variation on a sole meunière, which is my favorite fish dish to adapt and tinker with. I skip the flour entirely and use a good dose of salt, pepper and butter, which gives it a wonderful golden crust. For this variation, I roasted some cherry tomatoes in the oven, and threw in a lot of garlic and capers in the butter and oil for flavor. I topped it with tons of basil and lemon, which really brightens the dish up. I roasted purple and orange carrots, summer squash, zucchini, and tri color fingerling potatoes until they really softened and caramelized a bit, and made a homemade garlic and citrus rich aioli (another wonderfully adaptable stand by). I dressed the vegetables in the aioli with fresh cracked pepper.

Sole Meunière a la Mieke.