Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Filling up the tip jar

Your 'entertaining tips' jar can never be too full! Browsing's online Introspective Magazine's Style Compass section, I ran across a profile of designer Darryl Carter, the Washington D.C. based interior designer. He has a compelling story, but more importantly, a clear vision of how he likes to entertain. At the end of the profile, when asked about his ideas for entertaining, Darryl replied that he thought "... a narrow table, too much food, too many candles, and too much wine!" makes for a perfect evening. This first picture is from the profile, and there it is: the too narrow table! Entertaining is about "relationship" and "communication" and making things just a little tight brings everyone into the mix (okay, it's also about food and wine!) He also said that his preferred company list would include, "the smallest gathering of the smartest people from diverse places and professions and with strong opinions that are diametrically opposed on every possible account..." Can you tell that, before he started designing interiors and furniture, he was a lawyer?!
This notion of 'close quarters' has also been the mantra of Ina Garten, everyone's favorite domestic fairy godmother. On House Beautiful's website, there is an interview with her where she reinforces this idea in her entertaining equation: 48 inch round table+six guests, elbow to elbow= successful dinner party. Sometimes this is by design, other times, by necessity.
Our apartment in Los Angeles had a dining room (which always struck me as as so civil- one of the reasons I love older buildings and homes), but the only way it could hold our 36 inch square table comfortably was on a diagonal, chairs pointed towards the corners. For a party we had for 5 (impossible to accommodate at a square table) we rented a 42 inch round table from a party rental supplier and had a cloth and glass topper made for it. This is shown in the second picture and was perfect for providing that intimate feeling we were after.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Dog Days of Summer...

A summer afternoon, as it should be! After a touring/tasting of the caves and wares of GH Mumm in Reims, our intrepid travelers stopped for more! What a special place, this cafe. They get what Tabletop is all about. Think Salvador Dali meets Brideshead Revisted, and you'll get a sense of what the interior is like. Yes, it was 98 degrees, and no there wasn't air conditioning, but the place was slowly filling up with locals who, for practicality's sake, needed to stop their day, and what better way than with champagne and pot of the house pate? We are back home now, and this is but a memory, though we will return- it's just too good not to!
Scouring the New York Times today, a sad story of a 19 year old young man (the Barefoot Bandit!), on the lam, who was arrested in the Bahamas caught my attention. There is a picture of him as an elementary school student, with a bright mischievous grin and a picture of his mother's property that reads "If you go past this sign you will be shot". In the article, a social worker who was assigned to the boy and his mother reported that, after his first arrest at the age of 12, he stated that "(he) wants mom to stop drinking and smoking, get a job, and have food in the house." He was known for stealing food from neighbors' freezers kept outdoors. Now, I understand that life can't always be a glass of champagne for everybody, but I sincerely believe that even the most humble of meals shared together at a table with those you love CAN start to make a difference. There is so much I can't wrap my head around in this story, but what that sign posted in the yard says is, in effect, 'NO HOSPITALITY', not even for those that LIVE there. I also understand that this family needed more than a shared meal together to help them. But it does seem to me that there is a need to ACTIVELY create times to come together and share, rather than stay separated, in our own little worlds, with our own music that only we can hear, or our own shows that we watch in our rooms, or playing our own video games alone, the same meal together.

Monday, July 5, 2010

A blanket with a view

What could be more American than having a picnic on the 4th of July? As I've said before, you don't always need a table to have a tabletop. Sometimes, all you need is a vintage cloth, shared food (a selection of French cheeses, bread, fruit, and several bottles of wine) and great friends, both old and new, and a view. We'll have to wait for the 14 of July for the fireworks, however... A beautiful Fourth was had by us in the Champs de Mars at the base of the Eiffel Tower, as evidenced in the last picture, the "after" shot! While I love the order of a table setting before a party, there is something about the shot taken of the table after the party, which equally delights...

Thursday, July 1, 2010

And speaking of plastic... It seems like melamine is making a comeback! Growing up, my family had a set of turquoise blue bowls that were for "salad", which consisted of iceberg lettuce (and maybe some sliced carrots and a cherry tomato thrown in for good measure) and Catalina dressing. That bright orange dressing on the pale green lettuce in those blue turquoise blue bowls: WOW, Technicolor meals! These kaleidoscope plates come from Jonathan Adler, who seems to always nail my generation's nostalgic touchstones, and the smart monogram plates are from La Plates and have found themselves profiled in a ton of publications this season. Both companies also offer a wide range of color and deign options with these plates, as well. If your going outdoors to eat this summer, you may want to look into these. They aren't your mother's melamine!

As a side bar, the topic of cloth napkins came up this past weekend, and it was expressed that these can really make guests feel like company, even the simple cotton ones from CostPlus. They don't always need to be linen! Another idea that has gained traction is using tea towels as napkins, which is the best idea yet for a barbeque! In any event, buy a dozen- always by napkins in dozens! Buying in dozens can really save you from forgotten laundry, or when you have an onslaught of unexpected guests. Oh, and don't worry about ironing these (at least not all the time!) Simple give then a snap after you take them out of the wash and then smooth them out to dry! The 12 don't have to match each other, they can coordinate together and with the dishes, but I can't tell people enough how having sets of a dozen has helped me not panic at the last minute! Of course, if you feel jaunty, Jonathan does have some zippy examples in those crazy patterns and colors that go with his plates!