Friday, February 10, 2012

Homegrown Recipes for a Bridal Shower Menu

It wasn’t that long ago that my mother and I were planning a Bridal Shower.
It was to be a spectacular, love-filled, memory-inducing celebration for our very special, charming southern belle, Lauren Paige, who is my niece and Mother’s first granddaughter.

Naturally, we started the planning with the menu. 
We even planned the afternoon for the menu planning as an event unto itself! 

So I got out all the relevant cookbooks, the cooking magazines, recipe folders and the wine and cheese. 
We needed to keep up our stamina during what we hoped would be a long and delightful afternoon.
We did a splendid job of choosing appetizers, mixing and matching entrees that would be both pretty as food art – and delicious.
I knew I’d do my famous bridal punch with the rose petal wreath encased in ice mold. 
This is a dreamy, special bit of floating florals surrounded by a peachy or pink punch confection.  
It never fails to elicit the oohs and ahhs that something pretty and out of the ordinary does to our senses.

We wrote up the menu. It looked good.

The next morning, I bolted upright out of bed.
What in the world of all that’s gastronomic could I have been thinking??!

Old habits die hard, is all I can offer.  
I have been producing dinner parties and holiday events like this for years.
Everything from the themed table settings to the floral arrangements to the linens are researched and documented.  
The tablescape compositions always make people happy.  
The work of art even helps start the cocktail conversations. 
As my husband says, “People take pictures of your table settings!” 

But things are different now.
I have just authored a book about chefs and their gardens.
The book is filled with outstanding, amazing and delicious recipes – three or four from each of the nearly 30 featured chefs.
There was no way I couldn’t, wouldn’t feature recipes from my book.

So like the film Groundhog Day – but in a good way – we recreated the day of planning the menu. 
A Do-Over with Personality.  
Now every recipe selection would have a story. 
After all, the book profiles my Master Chefs – and the growers who inspire them...

The ladies at the shower would get a sneak preview of the distinctive cuisine embraced by the well-curated list of chefs in the book, “The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook.”
I’d experience the thrill of watching the guests eating and commenting on the food from the book.
Now we were really cooking with gas, as they say.

Poring over the recipes in the manuscript, Mother and I soon compiled the menu that would work best for the afternoon bridal shower. 

The Menu:
Cherry Tomato Gazpacho, The Lake House, Chef Matt Connors

Local Peach and Organic Beefsteak Tomato Salad, The Grey Horse Tavern, Chef Meredith Machemer

Grilled Octopus with Panzanella Salad, Mitch & Toni’s, Chef Mitch SuDock

Up-Island Risotto with Summer Corn, Heirloom Tomato, and Basil, Coolfish, Chef Tom Schaudel

Roasted Beets, House-made Ricotta, Baby Carrots and Sally Nadler Bee Sting Honey, Swallow Restaurant, Chef James Tchinnis

Fizzy Strawberry-Basil Lemonade (non alcoholic), Mirabelle Restaurant, Chef Guy Reuge

We added Mother’s homemade bread, my pesto lasagna – with basil from our garden, my deviled eggs with eggs from the local farm, and my husband’s delicious pasta with shrimp -- and arugula from our garden.

The hallmark of the Homegrown Cookbook is seasonal, fresh, and local food ingredients.
So no surprise then, that the fresh-from-the-garden food came from our home herb garden and “farmette” at our country house in the Garden State including the fennel, basil, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, thyme, garlic, onion, oregano, mint, and the roses for the punch and flowers.

The other ingredients – like the homemade pastas, ricotta, Burrata, came from local specialty stores – like the Italian store and the food emporium, Sickles Market, both located in nearby Fair Haven.   The fish was selected from the Lusty Lobster in the Highlands – not more than a few hundred yards from the Bay. 
The cake was always going to come from The Flaky Tart in Atlantic Highlands: THE best pastry chef and a James Beard award winner.

garlic & scallion from my garden
We started prepping some things about a day or two before the party: 
Our Garden's Cherry Tomatoes waiting to sashay to gazpacho

Garden Beets huddling before the quick change to salad
Fennel & garlic on the runway

The exuberant, game-changing menu was a sensory experience.

Bride-to-be admiring the rose petal punch
The rose-petal punch greeted guests at the door.   
Tiered Martha Stewart green glass cake stands were bedecked with tomato and Burrata tea and cucumber tea sandwiches finger food and another punch bowl was snazzy-red welcome of cherry tomato gazpacho, so guests could scoop a punch cup sized taste and walk around.
I like doing light and small apps and finger food that allows mingling before a sit down dinner as well as a buffet…

Every plated and presented dish was accompanied by a place card noting the name of the recipe and the chef who created it. 

I had lots of stories – and love -- to share with the guests when they asked about the flavors and food.

Hostess Gifts were heart-shaped wine openers!

It was a great day for family, food and memories.  

The Hamptons & Long Island Cookbook here on Amazon in pre order!

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