Monday, January 11, 2010

Holiday Greens & Festive Food

In what I hope is now a Holiday tradition with my fellow/former Junior League girlfriends, we ring in the holiday season the Gotham apartment.
We enjoy a memorable evening with laughter, wine, good food, wine, family stories, wine, and well, you get the idea.

I start the planning with the decorations, naturally.  I visit the Greenmarket for plants and natural and organic creations to fulfill my idea of creating a warm, candle-infused, magical evening of good food and  friends.

Greenmarket at Union Square always delivers organic options. The conifers were inspiring to say the least.

The River Garden stand where I purchase my eucalyptus -- and this year's elegant lamb's ear wreath:

I  found charming beeswax candles shaped into angels and christmas trees -- and in gold -- perfect colors to match the kitchen!

All the girls chip in for the food and I plan the menu with Celeste from Marquette Restaurant (, located around the corner on 12th Street between Fifth Avenue and University Place.  
Celeste is a doll!  She makes the entire catering experience fun, easy and exciting. 
The restaurant is so charming - I think I'm back in France when dining there - and there is art on all the walls.  Heavenly.

Celeste too keeps a file so that she can pull up what the menu was I ordered in previous years.  

For this party, I like to serve a hot soup  -- like fennel carrot -- or this year's no-cream cauliflower.  
I serve the soup in fun, interesting terrines that look like squash, pumpkins, and other winter vegetables that I got from Williams Sonoma a few years ago ( and  Perfect size too.   
I put two or three of the terrines on the buffet kitchen table and use clear glass expresso cups for soup servers - so the guests can scoop the soup into the cups and walk around while sipping the delicious soup. I find this is a very social -- and healthy and delicious - appetizer.  

Celeste and I enjoyed a lively discussion about food possibilities. She knows  how to work with a budget too :)
And she is most creative. For example, I had an idea for sweet potato "cupcakes." 
Celeste and her chefs were able to deliver beyond expectations.  The "cupcake" concept or "caper" :) was not a dessert but rather a side dish or vegetable -- Just a whole lot more interesting and elegant.  Celeste and I talked about how we/she could do this. But in the end, she took the concept and as always -- just ran with it and achieved a culinary wonder!  

We also agreed on a scallop and a crab meat creation with a roasted red pepper sauce. 
I LOVE what she wrote and did with the salmon.  Celeste suggested  poached salmon and a Scotch salmon.  Why, I asked.  What is the difference between the two salmon??  
It is the "look" she instructed me.  She said there is an old saying that "The eyes eat before the stomach." She said it in a much more eloquent way.... But you get the idea. Celeste explained that the two different shades of pink in the salmon is glorious and visual. 
It made me think the seduction of the glamorous salmon, as she explained it, was indeed perfect for us! 

We then agreed on the more, ahem, mundane items, such as the salad with endive, and the cheese platte.
I love a goat, a brie, a stilton and especially this time of year, a cheddar.  
Marquette also provides great baguettes for my cheese fondue that I love to serve at these kind of fetes. It's decadent (who eats cheese like this any more?); goes perfect with wine :) and from my school days and holidays in Switzerland, I embrace the social and convivial experience fondue offers.

I also added our caviar that is, in turn, a gift from our long time friends, the DiMasi's.  They are truly amazing friends and parents ( more about that later). But I get to sing their praises every year with a select few family and friends, as we share the unbelievable good fortune of this spectacular treat.  
And make no mistake. I LOVE caviar more than you can imagine. 

Accordingly, we must offer great champagne to accompany the caviar. 

And god forbid there is any left over - ha - we will carry over to the chocolate dessert.  And this year - I went with the social fondue theme and we enjoyed chocolate fondue with strawberries and dried fruit, including apricots.  

Thank you Celeste. 
And my Tannins.
Glorious, glamorous, memorable evening.

And New York cleans up from Christmas faster than anyplace I know... Too soon...
Coming back into town after New Year's, I saw the trees on the curb for take away.  So pretty.
But they must not realize there is a mulchfest every year the city provides to turn the trees into mulch...

Nevertheless, the trees still look beautiful to me as they await their next chapter:

And the First Presbyterian Church across the street (always gorgeous) is still dripping in wreaths and red  berries.

and our foyer tree (resplendent with decorations and train tracks underneath) came down right after this was taken - and prior to Little Christmas.
What day is that exactly?  I thought it was the 12th...


Friday, January 1, 2010

Putting the New in New Year's Eve

I had a conundrum.  “New” multiplied by a factor of at least three.

To spend NEW Year’s Eve in NEW York, as we’ve done for the past so many years and go out to dinner and dancing and spend the weekend at our apartment? 

Or spend NEW Year’s Eve in our NEW Jersey home?

(That’s three New's, right?)

I am so busy writing the books -- and the snow made me feel like staying put and working in the “igloo,” as I’ve come to refer to the windows on the world view with the winter wonderland on three sides and the peerless view of New York City skyline before me. 

So it was settled then.  The New Year would be welcomed in New Jersey – aka The Garden State.

Plus, I was hosting a “girls” luncheon for my mother, my older sister, Linda and her roommate from Vassar days, Janet on Wednesday.

The luncheon menu was to be festive and fun.  And of course, lots of dreamy holiday music – always complements the dining experience…

Appetizers of smoked trout mousse from the family party of the 18th (more later), Herring on pumpernickel mini bread squares, and crab pizza on a crust of Filo dough (brushing 20 layers with butter is a labor of love!); Bloody Mary’s. 
Entrée of broiled Salmon, jasmine rice and the broccoli au gratin my sister Linda made.
Dessert was espresso-sized hot chocolate with mini marshmallows in our beautiful jewel-like cups

And Panettone with glazed chestnuts cake.

And cookies and pecan goodies from our neighbor, Suzanne.

We enjoyed the apps down in the bar room; lunch in the dining room and espresso that followed the hot chocolate, in the living room in front of the fire. 

It was Janet’s first visit here and it was a perfectly clear day to enjoy the view J

We caught up and determined we will go to the opera together next week at Lincoln Center to enjoy Der Rosenkavalier J

Coming off of no less than five holiday parties that I hosted this year, not to mention the ones I was lucky enough to attend, I was so looking forward to the easy, delicious New Year’s Eve menu of fish: caviar, two kinds of oysters, littleneck clams, and lobsters….
And to be consumed in an easy, casual, when-we-want-to way…

Upon returning home from the Lusty Lobster and picking up my winning Murano glass bowl from Thomas Hauser Designs

I put the bag of seafood outside to keep it cold.  I thought I’d take a picture of our handsome lobsters before it got too dark

And after the flash, our big guy here just roared up!  He arched his claws and his tail fanned out and he gave me the hairy eyeball! Yikes!

I quick got him back in the bag but then worried the whole time I was waiting at the dock for my husband – thinking our lusty lobster might’ve gotten out of the bag and headed off on an escape trail – into the snow!  I thought I should’ve done the leash thing like we did in Boston years ago. Ha!   

But all was safe upon returning home. 

So we started off with the caviar and martinis. Then the oysters and littlenecks accompanied by the special stout my brother Jimmy, the fabulous musician who has several bands –jazz, rock (he opens for Marshall Tucker);,;

And knows a thing or two about style, got us for Christmas.  It is brewed here in the Garden State, especially for oysters. And celebrates and pays homage to the area’s heritage of oyster riches!
Try it - You'll love it's rich velvety without being overpowering...

Then to the amazing lobsters with Roederer Estate Brut Rose champagne (haven’t had that in awhile and it was great)

And that sexy Murano glass came in handy for our shells… :)

And all kinds of Max Brenner’s wonderfully rich chocolates (
From the Union Square locale near the apartment. It is like a Willy Wonka experience.   And I love taking out of town visitors here.

Wonderful evening.  We chose the best of the "New" this year.

Finally, lots of calls, texts and Facebook to family and friends to bring in the New Year – with love. 
Cheers, darlings!