September 28th, 2012 |

Napa-Inspired Wine Tasting Party

Inspired by our recent adventure in wine country, Charynn and I set out to throw the ultimate wine & cheese tasting party for friends….the perfect way to “celebrate the harvest.”

While in Napa Valley, we fell in love with the simplicity of entertaining in wine country, the lush greens that surrounded us, and the amazing tastings we experienced, with many meals being farm-to-table fresh. We learned about pairing: what flavors to match with the different varieties of wine. When we arrived home and we sat down to plan our tasting party, we knew we wanted to accomplish the following: share our new favorite wines with friends, pair them with a spectacular cheese plate, and design party decor in a lush, monochromatic green color palette.

Guests were invited with a crisp, new wine-themed party invitation from WH Hostess, and were greeted with a softly lit party space, full of candles flickering in the night. We lined our buffet table with clear wine bottles topped with candles, which created a soft glow but didn’t take away from the colorful wine labels and gorgeous food.

Centerpieces of green hydrangeas and red grapes sat atop a rustic, ceramic footed pedestal from Pottery Barn. Baskets full of seasonal fruit and corks also served as decorations.

We currated a fabulous selection of cheese to include on our tasting board (a lazy susan made from a former Napa wine barrel), along with accompaniments such as marcona almonds, dried cranberries, hard salami, figs and prosciutto.  Interested in how we layout a cheese plate?  Check this out…..

 

We also served a fabulous selection of small bites, including a fig and goat cheese crostini……. a recipe we will be sharing with you today!

In order for guests to keep track of their wine glass, we created a selection of DIY printable wine tags. You can download them here for use at your next party. We hope that the articles and parties featured in this issue of The Party Dress Magazine have inspired you to embrace the simplicity, natural gorgeousness that is entertaining in true Napa-style. Cheers!

For more Fall entertaining ideas, read the latest issue of The Party Dress Magazine:

order a printed copy   |   download the ipad app   |   read the digital issue

September 26th, 2012 |

AD Hoc

If you have been following along on the blog this week, you have already seen this post about the recent trip I took out to Napa, CA with my friend and assistant magazine editor, Charynn Olsheski and our husbands.  One of the main draws to make this trip out West was this amazing opportunity that was presented to us: visit Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc restaurant for a once-in-a-lifetime culinary experience.

When it comes to celebrity obsessions, both Charynn and I are starstruck when it comes to our favorite chefs. Thomas Keller being at the top of that list, we are huge fans of his popular restaurants, Bouchon, The French Laundry, and were beyond thrilled to be invited back into the kitchen of Ad Hoc, his latest restaurant in Yountville, Californa. We met with Sarah Zozaya, Pastry Chef and Katie Hagan- Whelchel, Executive Sous Chef (see the picture to the right), and passed along some of our readers’ questions to head Chef Cruz.

We took a poll on Facebook of questions that readers would like us to ask Chef Cruz, and without further ado…..

Can you give us a little background as to the mission of Ad Hoc and how it came to be established?

As the name implies, it was originally intended to be a temporary restaurant, a place that would only be open for a few months until a different concept was developed and realized. The impetus for the restaurant was based on the childhood food memories of Chef Keller. Things like fried chicken, beef Stroganoff and meatloaf were among the reference points that inspired the menu. Today our goal is still to touch on those food memories, we have just expanded the reference points. We serve dinner family style and invite our guests to serve each other, as well as dine with each other, just as we have from the start.

What local resources inspire the menu, and how does it change seasonally?

Surely, The French Laundry garden as well as our own garden in the back of Ad Hoc are great inspirations. They truly represent our location and the great bounty of the Napa Valley. They are wonderful because we get to be a part of the process – we have a say in what seeds are planted, and we get to be a part of the rearing, as well as a part of the harvest.

If people wanted to pull inspiration from Wine Country and their Ad Hoc visit to entertain once they return home, what would be your suggestions in terms of food and wine?

Serve what you love. I believe that in wine country, we make food we love to eat and produce wines we love to drink. If you carry that back to your own guests at home, you can’t go wrong. Have your guests be involved too. We get such joy in cooking for and serving our guests. We’ve begun to realize that most people enjoy it as well – they love getting in there and being a part of the process, knowing that they had a part in making the evening special. Keep it close to home.: we pick herbs from our backyard, and use many of our own vegetables that we grow. But we also have many relationships with producers very nearby that have great product and take immense pride in raising it. It’s a wonderful feeling to support people who are also our neighbors, especially when you know they care about their product.

The Ad Hoc cookbook is one of my personal favorites, what inspired this particular library of recipes?

Ad Hoc, plain and simple. These were among our favorite dishes to cook for our friends and, of course to eat. The cookbook was a wonderful way to share some of them.

We hear Thomas Keller Restaurant Group just opened a new outpost called Addendum. Tell us about it!

Addendum was inspired mostly by demand. We are fortunate to have many people who enjoy the fried chicken we make, as well as the barbecue dishes we do on alternating Mondays. We figured it was so natural to box it up neatly and eat it for a picnic in our garden, or somewhere outside nearby. Add some Napa wines and finish with a “hoc pop,” our own version of a push pop or a Creamsicle and it’s a great way to enjoy what the Napa Valley is about.

We had a fabulous experience at Ad Hoc and encourage you to visit on your next trip to Napa. In the meantime, Chef Cruz is sharing the famous Ad Hoc Fried Chicken recipe with all of us!

Ingredients

BRINE

1 gallon water

1 cup kosher salt

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons honey

12 bay leaves

½ cup garlic cloves, skin left on, smashed

2 tablespoons black peppercorns

About ½ ounce (3 large) rosemary sprigs

About ½ ounce (1 large bunch) thyme sprigs

About 2 ounces (1 large bunch) flat leafed parsley sprigs

COATING

3 cups all purpose flour

2 tablespoons garlic powder

2 tablespoons onion powder

2 teaspoons paprika

2 teaspoons cayenne

2 teaspoons kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Grated zest and juice of 2 large lemons

Two-2 ½ pound chickens

1 quart buttermilk

10 cups peanut oil

Kosher salt

Rosemary and thyme sprigs for garnishing

Directions

For the Brine: Combine all the ingredients in a large pot, cover, and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat and cool completely before using. Rinse the chickens and place the chickens in the cold brine and refrigerate overnight or for up to 12 hours. Remove the chicken from the brine and pat the chicken dry, removing any herbs or spices sticking to the skin. With a knife and pair of kitchen shears, cut the chicken up into 8 pieces: 2 legs, 2 thighs, 2 breast halves and 2 wings.

Bring the peanut oil to 330˚F. in the 6 quart sauté pan. Mix the coating ingredients together in a bowl and place the buttermilk in a second container. Just before frying, dip each piece of chicken into the coating, patting off the excess, then into the buttermilk and back into the coating. Place the chicken on a parchment lined sheet tray. When the oil has reached the proper temperature, carefully lower the pieces of dark meat into the oil. The temperature of the oil will decrease. Adjust the heat as necessary to bring the oil to proper temperature.

Fry the dark meat for about 13 minutes, to a deep golden brown, cooked throughout and very crisp. Remove the chicken to a tray lined with paper towels and sprinkle salt. Carefully add the white meat to the oil and fry for about 6 to 7 minutes until cooked. Remove to the tray, sprinkle with salt and turn off the heat under the oil. Let the chicken rest for a few minutes to cool slightly. It is very hot when it comes out of the oil.

While the chicken rests, add the herb sprigs to the hot oil and let them cook and crisp for a few minutes. Arrange the chicken on the serving platter and garnish with the fried herb sprigs.

And remember: 

Be careful. The oil can spurt as the chicken is added and fried, making this is a perfect recipe to use a splatter screen. Place a thermometer in the oil to help monitor the proper cooking temperature. It is a good idea to make this brine a day ahead and refrigerate it. Do not add the chicken to warm brine and do not leave the chicken in the brine longer than the specified time or it may become too salty.

For more Fall entertaining ideas, read the latest issue of The Party Dress Magazine:

order a printed copy   |   download the ipad app   |   read the digital issue

September 24th, 2012 |

Trip Recap: Napa Valley

This past summer, my assistant editor and friend, Charynn of Two Sugar Babies, and I traveled with our husbands to the magical land that is Napa Valley.  Part magazine work, part vacation, this trip was nothing short of fabulous. With one amazing meal after another, glass after glass of award-winning wines, and a chance to embrace the simplicity that is Napa entertaining all while spending time with friends.  Let’s be honest, a girl couldn’t ask for much more!

During our stay, we visited a variety of vineyards including Chateau Montelena, Stags’ Leap, Frog’s Leap, Conn Creek, Chateau St. Jean, Kuleto Estates, Jospeh Phelps, Chandon, Artesa, and Schramsburg…just to name a few.  For more information about the vineyards, view our article in the latest issue of The Party Dress Magazine.

Each vineyard had it’s own feel – Artesa was sleek and modern,Chateau Montelena was a gorgeous estate set back in the Calistoga region, Schramsburg had caves built into the mountains, while Frog’s Leap winery had a modern-day farmhouse with a big, old front porch (a house I could move right into!).  The style of each winery reinforced their brand, and we embraced all of the different personalities.

We experienced some of the most amazing meals of my life (one of the reasons I love Napa so much!) and walked away with ideas on how to incorporate the fresh, seasonal ingredients into meals into our own homes.  Some of our favorite culinary experiences included Ad Hoc (where we were invited into the kitchen to meet and interview the chefs….more on that tomorrow!), Bouchon, Etoile at Domain Chandon, Barndiva, Morimoto, and Bottega.  For more of our favorites and all of the restaurants contact information, view the fore-mentioned article in the magazine.

I am going to do a separate post on some of the food we enjoyed in Napa….there are just way too many pictures to share with you!

As you all know, I love a good glass of champagne.  Give me bubbles any day of the week!  Chandon is a beautiful estate that is great for tasting and for dining.

We visited all of the darling little towns in the Valley – Yountville, St. Helena, Healdsburg, Sonoma and downtown Napa.  Each had a selection of lovely stores that featured local food items, such as olive oils, spices, salts, as well as home decor stores that had me drooling over wood barrel lazy susans, beautiful wine glasses, and natural lines.

If you happen to find yourself in the Valley, please stop by some of our favorites: Olivier Napa Valley and St. Helena Olive Oil Company for a broad selection of oils (and yes, they do ship!), Michael Chiarello’s Napa Style for salts and unique home goods, Napa Valley Vintage Home for the most gorgeous selection of home goods, Tyler Florence for fabulous kitchen accessories, and Dean & Deluca for all of your gourmet grocery needs.

In addition to thoroughly enjoying ourselves and the beautiful landscape, we walked away with some great ideas on how to recreate the simplistic, natural entertaining that happens daily in Napa.  We’ll be sharing more of those with you all this week on the blog….I hope you will join us!

For more Fall entertaining ideas, read the latest issue of The Party Dress Magazine:

order a printed copy   |   download the ipad app   |   read the digital issue

 

September 19th, 2012 |

Caprese Tomato Stack

This time of year, I have a standard, go-to salad…..a caprese tomato stack.  The gorgeous heirloom tomatoes literally call to me from the farmer’s market.  We keep it traditional sometimes, layering fresh mozzarella cheese between slices.  But what really gets the “wows” in my house is when I layer it with goat cheese.

Tip: mix a touch of whole milk into your goat cheese to make it soft and easy to spread between layers of tomatoes and basil.  Top with a little salt & pepper, and some olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

For more tomato season ideas, visit these posts:

For more Fall entertaining ideas, read the latest issue of The Party Dress Magazine:

order a printed copy   |   download the ipad app   |   read the digital issue

September 17th, 2012 |

Giveaway: Palm Beach Lately

Good Morning, Sunshine!  I hope you all had a fabulous weekend!  We have a fun treat for you this morning.  Meet Palm Beach Lately: a modern guide to Palm Beach that features colorful inspiration and snapshots of island beauty, living, social and style. It’s a new blog created by our friend and magazine contributor, Beth Beattie of Beth Beattie Branding, PR and Events and her sister, Danielle Norcross of Concierge Couture.

These ladies have created a crisp, fresh guide that is quickly become a new lifestyle fav.  They are not only sharing the recipe for their signature cocktail, but they have partnered with Pioneer Linens to create a set of cocktail napkins featuring their icons…..and are giving away a set of them!  What a fabulous way to start off a Monday, right?

Palm Beach Lately Recipe

The cocktail is simple: champagne, grapefruit juice and cherry syrup, but is big on flavor and slim on the calories.

  • 1 part champagne
  • 1 part fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
  • Splash of fresh pureed cherries

In a champagne flute, pour grapefruit juice and champagne. Add a splash of fresh cherry syrup and enjoy.

GIVEAWAY

Designed by the creators of Palm Beach’s “Must Read” blog Palm Beach Lately, these fun and colorful embroidered cocktail napkins are a must have for any fabulous party. The Palm Beach Lately cocktail napkin set is the perfect accent for a posh gathering or to give as a unique hostess gift.

  • Made from 100% Linen
  • One Set of 4 Cocktail Napkins
  • 6 x 6″ with Hemstitch Border
  • By Palm Beach Lately

Here’s how to enter: head over to “like” Pioneer Linen’s facebook page and leave us a comment here to let us know you entered!  Don’t forget to “like’ Palm Beach Lately, too!  Contest starts today, Monday, September 17, 2012 and will end at midnight CST.  A winner will be chosen via random.org based on the comments left on this post.

September 12th, 2012 |

Football Brownies

Whether you are planning a tailgating party, a kids’ football party, or just wanting to surprise your kids with a festive after-school treat, these football brownies are SO EASY!  You only need three supplies: brownies, a football-shaped cookie cutter, and white piping gel (available at your grocery store).

I suggest putting your brownies in the freezer for 10 minutes before you want to cut them – you will get a crisp cut with your cookie cutter.  After you cut out your brownies, use the white piping gel to add the laces and details to the “footballs”.  It really is THAT simple!

Looking for more football dessert ideas?  Check out this post!

For more Fall entertaining ideas, read the latest issue of The Party Dress Magazine:

order a printed copy   |   download the ipad app   |   read the digital issue

 

September 10th, 2012 |

Tailgate in Style

Tailgating is a time-honored tradition in the Fall. Whether you are attending a game at your alma mater, gathering with parents at your child’s soccer game, or entertaining at home, here are a few classic ideas that we re-vamped to make your next tailgating party a hit!

Set the stage for your food buffet by using the back of your car and using traditional Fall sports props as decoration. We used a plaid quilt in place of a tablecloth, and a classic picnic basket as a backdrop (it also came in handy to hold the bar ingredients to make our bloody marys!).

Create a crowd-pleasing buffet of appetizers, including chicken wings, bbq meatballs, deviled eggs (you could even get creative and make them look like footballs!). Update the classic stadium snack, a soft pretzel, by cutting it into 1 inch pretzel bites, and serving it with a cheese queso dip in a sturdy mason jar with a lid for easy transporting.

Tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches can be partnered together in small mug, and you can use wood berry baskets to hold kettle popcorn and peanuts. Pull out the sweet treats at half-time: brownies shaped like footballs!

For more Fall entertaining ideas, read the latest issue of The Party Dress Magazine:

order a printed copy   |   download the ipad app   |   read the digital issue

September 7th, 2012 |

Mini Apple Dumplings

Charynn here, from Two Sugar Babies, ready to share one of my favorite recipes with you….the perfect treat to make this weekend! A popular dish in the South, this mini Apple Dumpling recipe has found it’s way into the hearts of my family. It’s so easy and fast to pull together, you’ll be happy to make it whenever they ask!

Ingredients

2 green apples, sliced and peeled into 8 segments
2 cans of refrigerated crescent roll dough
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
12 oz can of Sprite
1/3 cup of pecans, chopped
cinnamon
9×13″ baking dish

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of the baking
dish. Unroll the crescent roll dough and use the perforated marks to
separate into 8 sections. Wrap each section around a slice of apple
and place in buttered baking dish, until all 16 slices are complete.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan, and then add the sugar and
vanilla. Mix until just combined. Pour evenly over the dumplings.

Open the can of Sprite and pour the entire can into the pan, in
between the dumplings.

Sprinkle with a touch of cinnamon and all of the chopped pecans and
bake, uncovered, until the mixture is bubbling and the top of the
dumplings are browned, about 35 minutes.

For more Fall entertaining ideas, read the latest issue of The Party Dress Magazine:

order a printed copy   |   download the ipad app   |   read the digital issue 

September 6th, 2012 |

Inspiration: Apple Picking Party

Apple picking has been one of my favorite activities from the time I was a young child.  Now is the PERFECT time to gather up friends and family to meet at an apple orchard and surprise them with a few {sweet} treats.

Images: apple barrels (poshphotographyonline.com)  |   apple m&m cups (bloomdesignsonline.blogspot.com)  |  apple dessert table (party-wagon.com)  |  apple drink station (frostmeblog.blogspot.com)  |  apple cupcakes (familyfun.go.com)  |  mini apple pies (williams-sonoma.com)

September 6th, 2012 |

Hostess Gifts for Apple Season

Apple Season is upon us and it’s time to celebrate in a BIG way!  The latest issue of The Party Dress Magazine has countless ideas for incorporating nature’s bounty into your seasonal celebrations, decor and recipes.  Today, we’re sharing two ideas for incorporating apples into hostess gifts.  Attending a party this weekend?!  This post is for you!  (these would also make charming party favors or teacher gifts, too)

Love the idea of gifting a homemade apple pie? Of course you do! But sometimes, it’s not convenient to deliver a just-out-of-the-oven apple pie. So gift your friends with the next best thing….apple pie filling {in a jar, with a darling sticker}. That way they can use it anytime they want!

Everyone loves a good caramel apple! Do you love making homemade caramel sauce? Package it up in a small container and place it in a cellophane bag along with a crisp apple. Tie it up with ribbon and our free printable apple gift tags.  (PS – no time to make the homemade caramel sauce?  Repackage store-bought….no one will know!)

Click on the link below to download your FREE apple labels.

For more Fall entertaining ideas, read the latest issue of The Party Dress Magazine:

order a printed copy   |   download the ipad app   |   read the digital issue 

 

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