Saturday, February 26, 2011

I know, everyone's a critic...

Maybe it's my mood, the alignment of the planets, my grumpy pants being too tight- you name it, but this has had me twitching since I received my issue of HB: Dylan Lauren (of "Dylan's Candy Bar!" fame and the daughter of Ralph) had the spotlight in the mag's 'Tablescape' section, and this is what she chose to do with it:
 Now I realize that Dylan's Candy Bar is a NYC must-stop-shop for kids of all ages, and "candy bars" have become part of the entertaining landscape popping up at bar mitzvahs and weddings everywhere, but I don't get this... Others have raved (I've googled, and clearly I'm in the minority), but this leaves me cold. "Tables just want to have fun!" and "Candy makes you feel like a kid!" are the memorable quotes from Ms. Lauren. But there is no context for this, and all I'm left with is the feeling that I want to brush my teeth... It could have been very clever and colorful, and the candy used in unique, beautiful ways, but I don't think this editorial represents any of this. An opportunity lost... Fingers crossed for next month!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Of roses and lemons...

The last of the lemons have been harvested, and I can think of no better way to use them fresh off the tree than on the table (at least until they can be juiced!). A bowl of fruit can be really inspiring when setting the table. And while I had no idea what flowers the wholesaler had in stock, I did know that my onyx bowl was filled with a bumper crop of bright yellow beauties. I went in just before the big deliveries came in (like April 15 for accountants, February 14 is all hands on deck for floral employees) to see what was available and found a few pleasant surprises. The first was a pink rose I had never seen before, Bellevue, and it is a stunner. It's a beautiful deep pink with a tinge of light green on the ends. I asked about this variety, and no one seemed to know anything about how it opened or its longevity, but I took a chance. Also found was a great stand-by rose, especially for spring and summer, Green Tea. It has a fresh green color and the blooms will open up beautifully in arrangements.

As I knew I wanted to keep the colors of the roses and lemons separate, I used tall water glasses made from recycled wine bottles as vases for the roses. These are made by a local craftsman here in town who literally goes to restaurants and collects their used bottles and turns them into glasses. Talk about "recycle and reuse"... The sad thing is that the city doesn't recycle from restaurants, so it really is a service that is being done. I really do love these as glasses and use the shorter ones as water glasses (as seen in the photograph) and now the taller ones for vases (look again!). The look of the arrangements is a riff on the standard julep cup arrangement, but these glasses sit a bit higher on the table (hence the flowers do, too!) and they hold a dozen roses each, so you get a really great, full look.

I conditioned the roses as I do (come to a class and learn!), filled the glasses cum vases snuggly, added my signature collar of galax leaves and then did an asymmetrical composition down the center of the table. Usually, my table doesn't require that much when I set it, but when I add one of the two leaves, it just is a really long expansive void. I also used my mother's sterling candle holders with my favorite beeswax tapers, our sterling flatware, woven mats from Williams Sonoma, Tiffany wine glasses, vintage Dansk plates and new French porcelain bowls from Apilco and linen napkins from Muriel Grateau, and voila: a table set high/low- vintage/new for a fun, festive evening!

There is something about fruit on the table that looks so right to me, I don't ever get tired of it. In a pinch, you can always get something colorful from the market, so it makes sense to have a few bowls or other containers ready to fill. This onyx bowl is a beauty filled or empty, which makes it doubly versatile. A good trick, especially with citrus, is to add some greenery. If you can't get fruit on the stem or from your own trees, find a similar looking cluster of leaves from your yard (or neighborhood!) it makes the fresh fruit look that much fresher! Also, taking a little time arranging the fruit (stems in) makes the arrangement look more polished.

Monday, February 7, 2011

"I believe in linen"

At the Paris show, this was the tag-line of really good line of linen for the table, and I whole heartedly agree "I believe in linen!" On a personal side trip during our stay, we managed to step into Muriel Grateau's shop on the rue de Beaune in the St. Germain.

Now, I'd never know this exquisite little shop existed, if not for Ina Garten (boy, do I miss her column in House Beautiful...) and her Barefoot in Paris cookbook. In the appendix, she shares her personal "best of Paris", and us being who we are, we ripped it out of our copy and made our way in Paris through Ina's eyes. This was several years ago, and after a few visits to Mme Grateau's, a year and a half ago, we finally bit the bullet and bought a set of napkins.

Now, this may seem like a no brainer, but literally, there are one hundred shades of napkins arranged in a full light spectrum on a low counter in the front of the store- white to black with every shade of color in between. It's a display, needless to say, that really catches the eye! People spend hours and often call on Mme Grateau herself to help with the final selection. On our first go-round, we decided on a shade of brown that blended with our mid-century Finn Juhl teak dining table. They are a beautiful color. This trip, we had brought a fabric sample with us to get the shade of green we wanted just right, and we added a set of olive colored napkins to go with the brown and the vintage Dansk flamestone dishes that I've collected over the years, which have a fluted edge of matte dark brown surrounding a off-white, round glazed center.

All made their joint debut this past Saturday, and they didn't disappoint! With the table leaf in, two extra chairs pulled from other rooms (my grandnother's painted Hitchcock chairs), lemon trees harvested for the center bowl, roses arranged, and the table set for eight mixing the Dansk with my Apilco white porcelain pasta bowls, we set out to have an enjoyable evening with great food, drink, and friends.  More about the flowers and rest of table setting later, but the point of this post is that, when I went to launder the napkins, I found grease stains... Had I not noticed these before (they were in the brown napkins)? How was I going to clean them (I couldn't very well ignore them, on the brown cloth they all but screamed at me!)? Now with white linen, I never have a problem. I simply soak overnight in Biz (OxyClean is good, too) and then launder. But dark colored linen?!

Google to the rescue. On the internet, we found an answer forum where someone shared that soaking the spots with Dawn dish soap, leaving overnight, and then laundering would not only rid the napkins of the offending grease stains, but not harm the colored napkins. It worked. I'm officially a believer and will never be far from a bottle of Dawn. I believe in linen- and now I believe in Dawn!