A Louisiana Lunch with Keith Carroll

The graphic quilt used as a tablecloth was made by Keith's mother.
Is there anything that can be more charming than a delightful southerner? It's been my experience that southerners take great pride in living up to their reputation for being masters of gracious hospitality, even after they are transplanted up north. New York based interior designer and Louisiana native Keith Carroll, is the epitome of this southern ethos and his entertaining style, like his design style reflect both the warmth and tradition of the south.
His numerous New York projects are a blend of the classic good taste with a modern influence. This Hampton Designer Showhouse veteran, describes his work as "southern style with city chic". He likes to use color and pattern in his rooms and like the table he set for todays post has an air of effortless style.

Designer Keith Carroll.
Tell me about the meal you prepared?
This is a typical southern lunch based on the foods that I grew up eating. A chilled or frozen starter is a very typical way to start a meal followed by a Jumbo of chicken, shrimp and sausage with potato salad on the side. Dessert is a Million Dollar Poundcake made from my mothers recipe. It's made with a pound of butter so its very rich and decadent.
A plate of of Pimento Cheese sandwiches and Prosecco are ready for guests in the entry.
Who influenced your entertaining style?
My mother played a big role in setting my style. She was a great cook and always made big meals with tons of food. The great restaurants of New Orleans and the way they mix the types of foods they serve and the flavors has always inspired me. 
Of course the southern idea of having a good time all the time is something I live and entertain by.

The charming dinner plates are made from the artwork of Louisiana native African-American folk artist Clementine Hunter.

Have something ready for your guests when they walk in...a cocktail, nibble, etc. It's makes for a warm welcome.
A frozen fruit salad to start the meal.
Include something fun and whimsical on the table...it gives guests something to talk about! 
Start the  meal with an unexpected appetizer...not the usual green salad. A frozen salad or unique chilled soup. Keep it fun and interesting!
A homemade Million Dollar Poundcake with strawberries was served for dessert.
What tabletop items do you collect?
I collect old Sheffield silver plate candlesticks and odd pieces here and there. My most recent find was a small box that the dealer called a sugar casket.
A country fresh mix of tulips and Queen Anne's Lace were used for the center piece.

Tulips Grow in Brooklyn

A vibrant and joyful tapestry of tulips in the Annual Border at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
Now I understand why the Dutch caused one of the first financial bubbles in the 17th century with their obsession for tulips. After seeing the ravishingly beautiful beds of tulips at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden it all made sense. I was lured to the garden by the promise of cherry blossoms, which were beautiful indeed as were the lilacs, but the tulip beds were a spectacular riot of blooms in a rainbow of colors and varieties.  
The garden is in Prospect Park in Brooklyn and since it started in 1897 has been growing ever since. Its 52 acres are divided into numerous types of gardens that are all worthy of a blogpost in their own right. I am sure that there is a return visit in my future since I want to see the progress of the espalier fruits trees in the fruit garden. But that's another tale. 
A mix of colors and types of tulips creates an unforgettable display.
The annual border is planted in colorful drifts of tulips that create a breathtaking display. It's a far cry from what the majority of home gardeners plant. 

Clearly the effect is in massing and not sparseness
La Belle Epoque tulip.
The creamy beige/tan and frills of La Belle Epoque put it at the top of my want list for next years garden.  
This tulip combined with the beige/tan heirloom rose La Cussie de Nymphe would make a stunning arrangement. 
Green Star is a beauty of green and white.
There were so many beautiful tulips that it was almost impossible to edit my favorites. The ones shown here are the tulips that made my must have list for next years garden.
Angelique Pink
Angelique pink and Apricot Parrot were both in the Fragrance Garden. The garden was created in 1955 for the blind and all the plants are labeled in brail. Its is wonderful place and a must see during a visit to the garden.
Apricot Parrot
Apricot Beauty and hyacinths
I really like the idea of combining hyacinth and tulips. Ah next year, there is always next year in the garden.

What's James Serving?

The style setters intimate dining room.
Anybody who gets to spend about more than a minute with James Andrew is doubtlessly enchanted by his warm and clever wit. Known for his style blog What's James Wearing and his Instagram feed he has made a name for himself not only as a talented interior designer but as le nec plus ultra dandy about town. James started his career at the esteemed firm Parish Hadley and quickly developed a taste for bespoke everything. He easily translates his fashion to the table and creates welcoming environments for his guests that compliment his delicious cooking.

The host: designer James Andrew in front of his vast collection of design books. 
Tell me about the occasion and meal you made. 
Just a little luncheon for four friends. We started with Alex Hitz's sour cream corn cakes with creme fraiche and salmon roe followed by his chicken curry and a salad of spinach, red onion, duck prosciutto and blue cheese with a red wine vinaigrette. The dessert was pineapple upside down cake,  all so delicious and rather easy to make.

A paisley table cloth and Aynsley dinner plates create the background for each place setting. An inspired mix of a patterned salad plate and napkin add interest to each place setting.
What influences your menu choices when you entertain? 
There are seasonal considerations - I love a trip to the local farmers market, then there are moods and themes that come into play - I keep it simple for the most part - I think it is such a treat to entertain at home- and I want everything to have a sense of ease about it!
I like to start with a little cocktail hour in the living room - drinks and some little nibbly things and then go into the dining room for dinner. 
A collection of patriotic red, white and blue glasses and centerpiece add sparkle to the table.
Who or what has most inspired your entertaining style? 
There are so many people and things that have inspired me over the years - as a child I was fascinated by the Julia Child show, The Tiffany Table Settings books were amazing. I was honored to create a table setting at Tiffany's while I was an associate at Parish Hadley
Style icons like Deeda Blair, Valentino, Alberto Pinto, The Duchess of Windsor, The Slatkin Clan- the list is endless - these people have informed my own taste and how I set a table and aspire to entertain.
Using an object like this  melon tureen makes a great no fuss alternative to flowers as a centerpiece. 
Do you have a favorite china or tabletop item that you collect?
I am a bit of a hoarder- as you can see my place is beginning to look a bit like a chic episode of "hoarders buried alive" There are so many things that I like - and an elegant eclectic mix is most appealing to me!

4 Favorite Garden Seed Sources

Spring is in the air and gardens everywhere still hold the magical promise of the perfect season ahead. I have carefully selected the seeds and made the plan for my own little parcel of paradise. There will be the prerequisite assortment of our favorite vegetables, flowers, herbs and fruits for the picking throughout the coming months.
This year is the tenth anniversary of the garden. I am not sure where the time has gone, but I can say with certainty that I have learned a thing or two along the way. One of the most important lessons I picked up is that the beauty and abundance of the garden is a direct correlation to the quality of the seeds and plants planted. In others words: start with the best and you end up with the best.
There have been times that on impulse or from laziness I just picked up a pack of seeds off the rack along the way. There is one company that seems to have racks just about everywhere I turn that drives me to distraction and the depths of remorse long after I can fix the problem. Case in point, last summer I needed some extra zinnia seeds. Instead of ordering them online from one of my favorite companies, I opted to save the postage and pick them up at the super market. The package promised a glorious mix of shades of pink. The "glorious mix" turned out to be fire engine red. Red is not pink nor was it a glorious shade.
So, to save others from a similar fate, I am sharing my 4 favorite sources for seeds that I have have ordered from time and time again without worry. Happy gardening!

The garden in late spring already has a variety of lettuces and roses ready to be picked.
For flower seeds I rely on the great assortment at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. The depth of variety is fantastic and the print catalog is a work of art each year. I got my first and happily only packet of scented tabacco there. I say only because it has become a welcome invasive plant in the garden because it reseeds everywhere. In addition everything they sell is heirloom, no GMO's here. Order early, I have been surprised by out of stock notices more than once.

A must - the white flowers of scented tobacco fill the garden with a heavenly fragrance each summer. 
Pomme de terres are a favorite food group in our house. I always turn to John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds for their Bintje Dutch Potato tubers, it is by far our favorite potato. Of all the many things I have tried from this company I haven't a single complaint. They have never disappointed me. 

These potaoes par boiled and tossed with butter and summer savory make a great side dish. 

The cool thing about Territorial seeds is that it is a seed company geared to four season gardening. Clearly with a garden in the northeast that is a challenge. However, the varieties they sell have a long range of season which helps maximize what I can grow in my small garden.

The garden mid summer: a wealth of abundance with the air of a jungle. 
Gourmet Seeds is a company that also offers a great range of varieties but it also sells the Bavicchi seeds from Italy which I really like. The salad greens and range of peas and beans is really great. They, like the other three seed companies that I like are heirloom driven and and do not use GMO or treated seeds.
Tomatoes ripen in the sun alongside leeks, lettuce and white marigolds in the background.
My idea of garden happiness.

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