Summer brings ease with longer days and warmer weather. Everything is alive, the leaves on the trees are full and green, birds are chirping. We go about our day-to-day activities unencumbered by parkas, wool scarves, gloves and hat. Summer entertaining is lighter without the rigidity of expected dishes assigned to particular holidays, we may forgo tablecloths. For a brief window we can dine alfresco and cooking itself is lighter. There’s nothing like the joy of receiving family and friends over for a meal, drink and conversation outdoors. In my preparations I start with the menu then I make a sketch concerning the coordination of the cuisine I’m serving to the table d’art I will use.
Entertaining is a fun and a creative process that incorporates all of the five senses and keeps us on our toes with the upkeep of our homes. It’s a reason to decorate our homes, as we seek to make our guests comfortable and to dazzle them. Consider scenting your home for your next dinner party as did legendary fashion editor Diana Vreeland, as shared by her grandson, perfumer Alexander Vreeland. Diana went to great lengths to imbue fragrance into her home with candles, incense, potpourri and lamp rings that were employed simultaneously creating a heady and memorable olfactory experience.
I sought out distinguished professionals in the arts and related industries to share their insights and tips on summer entertaining. It’s a virtual trip of the charmed life from one of Spain’s Balearic islands - Menorca, to America’s East Coast - New York and Connecticut, and across the States to California.
A la plancha
Philippe Courtois CEO of Atelier Premiere, New York - entertains mostly when he and his family are summering on the island of Menorca. They dine outdoors at a fixed table adored with Portuguese tile that sits twenty. Philippe has adopted the healthy Spanish way of grilling a la plancha and the vegetable dish he serves a copious portion of Provençal Tian that is similar to ratatouille but it’s baked instead. It can be served hot or at room tempature and gets even better the day after it is cooked. Philippe serves Bollinger champagne as an aperitif and with the meal a Provençal rosé from Chateau Minuty in Gassin, France. For the grand finale — desert - a meringue is carefully mix with strawberries, raspberries and finished with mint leaves. When Philippe is not receiving guests at home you might find him enjoying a drink on a boat at a creek where he and his friends link their boats together - a fun nautical twist to traditional bar hopping.
New York, New York
Fine Art Photographer Frederick-Edwin Bertin and his wife Marie Stuart a partner at boutique public relations Duke and Nelson take much pleasure in entertaining at home in their New York mid-century apartment blessed with beautiful views of the East River and the courtyard gardens of River House. They set up the buffet near the large picture windows offering the best vantage point of their views and to bring in the notion of the garden indoors. Marie and Frederick’s entertaining incorporates a French and American sensibilities. Together they create warm and inviting interior to receive their guests; a mirrored window sills magnify the illumination and sparkle of flickering candle lights, tables surfaces are embellished with bibelots and family heirlooms. Champagne flows generously, and array of canapés is served that may include Irish smoked salmon, with a dollop of crème fraîche, Maryland crab cakes, chicken salad - coming from Marie’s family’s secret recipe that is over one hundred years old and a selection of French cheeses, breads, broiled potatoes with caviar, seasonal fresh fruit and finishing touch of macarons from Ladurée.
The country life
For artist and creative director Kazumi Yoshida of Clarence House, entertaining is an interactive fun experience at his summer home near the town of Sharon, Connecticut, located in the gentle beauty of bucolic Litchfield County - a destination of choice for many New York creative professionals, as it is a doable weekend drive. Kazumi typically invites six to twelve people to his dinner parties, where guests are encouraged to roll their own sushi with seaweed sheets he provides. Kazumi makes the sushi - Chirashizushi (scattered sushi) with the freshest raw tuna and other fish, vegetables and ginger paired with sake or a Provençal rosé which he shared goes very well with Japanese cooking.
In the tony town of Westport in the southwest Connecticut, we find globe-trotting concert pianist Frederic Chiu and his wife Jeanine A. Esposito. They open up their foundation Beechwood Arts to guests delighting them with music from notables such as jazz singer Nancy Harms. Hors d’oeuvres and drinks flow, and their Copper Beech tree is in its full lusciousness.
In Sonoma, the heart of wine country, Sandra Jordan, founder and owner of Sandra Jordan Textiles in Healdsburg, relishes summer entertaining as it allows her and her guests to enjoy the outdoors and to entertain in a nontraditional way. Recently, Sandra received a group of interior designers and culinary art professionals and friends at her home. Ross Murphy - whose family owns Alexander Valley Vineyards - cooked pizzas in Sandra’s pizza oven with his own ingredients including Ross’s artisanal flour, freshly made cheese and his home grown tomatoes. Olive oil sommelier Nicholas Coleman gave a presentation and tasting of his latest olive oil discoveries. Junny Gonzales brought her homemade foie gras and Belinda Quintanilla gave a marvelous lecture on chocolates from the Americas and included a tasting of her craft chocolates. Sandra’s beverages of choice Agua Frescas made of local fruits and rosé from nearby Copain Winery.
In San Francisco we meet artist Shan Shan Sheng who draws on Chinese culture; the five elements theory of Chinese cooking as in the colorful Shanghais dish of Xiaolongbao dumplings. Shan Shan invites her guests for a studio visit and then moves the dining experience to one of San Francisco’s speciality restaurants such as Canton Seafood and Dim Sum restaurant.
Make your summer dinner parties memorable with delicious colorful fare, serve your favorite beverage - mine is champagne, add a healthy dose of color to your plate and don’t forget your playlist and scent - most of all have fun and enjoy the summer.