Pure Wow! Something Fresh for the New Year.

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While this may be left over from December, I held it over for the New Year because I thought following all the sparkle of HOLIDAY and with all the slush and snow…and now warm weather and rain…we might need something to refresh the palette.

A friend in the food PR biz sent this, and I just love it!  I don’t have much else to say beyond that, other than I hope you enjoy it (doubt the links will work though).

Fun, clean and contemporary, these plates have the look and feel of Lyford, or some other tropical “hot” spot, even when you’re in your own dining room!!

As the headline read: “If Jackie O, Truman Capote and Brooke Astor were to have a dinner party…”  Enough said.

And if you don’t know who THEY are, ask your mother!!

 

 

December 19, 2013

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An entertaining darling’s new tabletop collection

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An entertaining darling?s new tabletop collection

We’d love to be able to whip together a Jackie O.-quality dinner party without breaking a sweat (or three wine glasses). But most of our attempts have fallen just a tad short of greatness (read: very, very short).

For those of us more comfortable attending parties than hosting, there’s B by Brandie, a new collection of table accessories from housewares designer Brandie Gehan that’ll have even the most domestically challenged gals throwing pretty fabulous fetes.

Click through for prep-meets-pop table toppers that are easy to match but more fun to mix. Oh, and good luck getting your guests to leave once you’ve laid it all out.

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Festive and Serene Share Space at the Table This New Year

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ChristopherOngHoliday

Photo by Christopher Ong

Happy Holidays, Joy & Peace…particularly this last one as we close out 2013!  Everyone seems to have gone away or is hiding and in hibernation just now.  Friends with cancer.  Friends in troubled relationships.  Friends without jobs.  Friends turned down for jobs.  Friends in jobs they’re unhappy with.  Friends in mid-life crisis.  This seems to be the legacy of the year about to pass.  And I say, let it.  Let’s move on and find renewal and hope and yes, peace, in the year ahead.

With that in mind I selected this table from last year when things appeared a bit brighter…and certainly more peaceful…at least by comparison.

It was meant to be beautiful and serene, and I think I accomplished that.  This year, we practically had take out on paper plates…NOT!  but it felt like that.

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Photo by Kent Brasloff

14 dined under the George Jensen candelabra (and yes, those tin lanterns again).  A cool palette of cream, gray and wintergreen was accented by silver and the hot-metal-of-the-moment, copper.

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Photo by Kent Brasloff

Stemware from Mikasa mixed with vintage bottle green glass and pale green goblets from Macy’s.  Gilt-edged Fitz and Floyd “Renaissance” starter plates rested comfortably on the Gray Travertine dinner chargers.

Dark green napkins were folded into “butter horns” and laid diagonally across the plates, topped with either a silver or a gold Christmas Cracker.

Lenox candy dishes overflowed with Hershey’s Kisses also wrapped in silver and gold.

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Photo by Kent Brasloff

Green glass nut cups dotted the table and provided a between course nosh along with the candy, while gold glass Christmas Tree balls rolled around between the settings.

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Photo by Kent Brasloff

As I’ve mentioned before, a hint of what’s to come is always heralded by a festive door wreath.

And once inside, guests always know they will be well fed!

Menu:
Appetizers –

Chopped Liver
Sun-dried tomato spread
Olives
Potato Knishes with Goat Cheese and Carmelized Onion
Starter Course –
Poached Pear Belle Helene
Main Course –
Chicken Masala
Brisket of Beef
Pan-crusted Brussel Sprouts
Roasted Carrots, Parsnip, Potato and Butternut Squash
Noodle Pudding with grilled onion and cottage cheese
Oven-roasted rice
Dessert –
Pear Tart
Pecan Tart
Checker-Board Cake
Mocha Roll
Brownies
Lemon Bars
Poppy Seed Cookies
Mandel Broit
Champagne
Wine
Coffee and Tea
Here’s wishing you and yours PEACE and a happy, healthy and inspired New Year!

Shimmery Silver and Gold Holiday Setting

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A silver and gold palette works for so many festive occasions.  Anniversary’s, mile-marker birthdays and of course, holiday time and New Year’s Eve.

This small dinner for six was less about Chanukkah and Christmas; and more generally about celebrating the season in the weeks leading up.  It was also good practice for the BIG event.

Deceptive in its simplicity, this table setting incorporated items on-hand or purchased inexpensively.  You could say this was a “high glamour” holiday done on the cheap…and doesn’t everyone love a bargain?

The silver organza cloth was purchased years ago at a Crate & Barrel after-Christmas sale and was layered over a cream, satin damask cloth in a 1940’s pattern.  Mikasa’s Gray Travertine dinner plates were smart looking, giving a bit of sparkle with their gilded edges.  Flatware from Fortunoff’s (remember them?) was also tipped in gold.  Heavy, lacy, square paper doilies in gold, turned on the diamond revved up the Renaissance feeling and acted as a terrific crummer and catch-all during the pasta course, served in shallow, pressed glass bowls.  Octagonal stemware from Villeroy and Boch (purchased at Bloomingdale’s in my salad days) added crisp edges to all the shimmer.

Decorating the table were gold, glass Christmas tree balls from Martha Stewart’s collection for K-Mart and a few dollar store finds in a darker, yellower shade raised up on silver and glass candlesticks or on low, plain glass votive holders (a few were rolled around on the table too).  The different heights and mixed silver, gold and glass elements gave the impression of (golden) bubbles floating on and around the table.  Certainly more of a New Year’s Eve moment!

Keeping to the theme, silver tapers were placed into “antique” incised, brass candle holders from Bombay Company and glittery, silver “minarets” were inserted into cut glass holders with a lattice-work pattern.  The “minarets” were purchased for 99 cents each at Cheap Jacks.  When I went to the counter to pay for them, the young woman behind the counter asked if I knew what they were?  “Of course I do” I said, “they’re tree toppers.”  Still suspicious, the clerk asked if I had four Christmas trees!?  As if it were the most natural thing in the world, I told her “I’m putting them into candlesticks on my table instead of candles!”  I’m sure she thought I was nuts!!

Lighting was kept low for this table making use of simple, clear-glass catering votives.

Ivory napkins gave the table its “winter” moment.

Elegant, inexpensive and, I think, GORGEOUS.

Happy days BEFORE Christmas!

In Celebration of Festivus!

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Year-end holidays are a time to celebrate, sometimes in quiet, small groups and sometimes in large, elaborate gatherings.  When holidays collide like this year’s Thanksgivikkuh or in year’s past when Hannukah, Christmas and Kwanza came within days (or even hours) of each other…or if you exist in a “blended” family of many traditions and beliefs as so many do, how do you please everyone and offend no-one?  How do you co-mingle Aunt Martha’s Christmas Angel tree-topper (without a tree) and Aunt Sadie’s Grandmother’s Cousin’s Mother-in-Law’s chocolate plum cake and crisp mandel broit?

In my family, 50% intermarried, we always had our celebration on Christmas Day.  It didn’t hurt that my maternal grandmother’s birthday was also December 25th, highlighting the desire for elaborate cooking and celebration.

Truth be told, when my ancestors stepped off the boat at Ellis Island and asked for birth dates, my great-grandmother probably wasn’t sure.  There were no records kept in small “shtetl” villages and she had 4 children under eight in tow.   Her likely response was “Hannukah.”…or thereabouts.  “When’s that?” the recording agent must have asked.  “December” (then, sotto voce: “you schumuck who doesn’t know when Hannukah is?”) my great grandmother must have said…and so little Ethel’s birthday was “converted” to a fixed calendar date: Christmas.

Fast forward about 80 years and I was making my own traditions by including friends and local family in my adopted home of New York.  Christmas Eve became the time to say thank you to all those I loved and cared about…sort-of a love note…and a year-end celebration meant to include anyone and everyone who needed a place to go, regardless of affiliation.

But what to do when those pesky holidays all ran together?  I began to term them either “Chrisma-Kwanz-Akkah” or (thanks to Jerry Seinfeld) “Festivus,” which always brought a bemused smile to the faces of my guests.

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This particular evening was definitely a “Festivus” moment.  Not even held on Christmas Eve, we all gathered on December 27th for some reason that year?  I think it was because all of the holidays were colliding and people’s schedules were packed.

No matter, we rolled up the carpets and moved out the furniture and brought in 4 round tables along with mahogany ballroom chairs for 30, two tables each in both the living room and the dining room.  We served buffet, following the salad course, from the kitchen.

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Never short on dishes before, I had to borrow four place-settings from a friend which thankfully co-mingled with the eclectic look of the evening.  My sturdy Mikasa Gray Travertine, Lenox Fruits of Life and mouth-blown, Italian ruby plates (a last purchase from B. Altman before they closed) looked great alternated along with several sets of ruby and clear stemware and two patterns of flatware.

Gold branches, purchased at Gracious Home at 75% off on Christmas Eve Day circled the tin pagoda lanterns that had been lurking in the back of a closet.

Once “placement” was determined for each table, and the cards put out, an appropriate Holiday Cracker was positioned near each guest, most of whom found paper crowns and toys inside!

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By the way, the doggie was NOT found in the cracker!

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Surprisingly, and you’d think just the opposite, 4 round tables actually created a feeling of both intimacy and increased visual space.  It was cozy and grand all at the same time.

And in that vein, I long-ago created an after-dinner candle-lighting ceremony that serves to bring all faiths closer, if not together.  If you’re Jewish, you bring and light a Menorah (or I provide spares).  If you’re Christian, Buddhist, Nudist or other, you bring a candlestick.  We all light the candles at the same time -in relative darkness- with most of the lights out.  The blaze is amazing, warm and uniting…and it gives off a good deal of heat too!

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Finally, the meal has to be special.  It has to match the ambience of the evening, the holiday or the celebration.

As I recall this particular Festivus meal including:

Stuffed Mushrooms, Frisee, Red Beet and Goat Cheese Salad, Turkey-Veal Meatloaf, Brisket, Rice in Beef Broth and Onions, Potato Pancakes, Brussel Sprouts, Cranberry Sauce, Apple Sauce, Sour Creme and Gravy.  Dessert included a Mexican Chocolate Cake, lemon bars and cream puffs.

AND, great quantities of Champagne were consumed by one and all!

 

ALL PHOTOS BY: Katrina Ferguson

Beautiful Living Holiday Segment

Hi Everyone!

Welcome to Tabletop in Our Time.  I haven’t written too much yet to set the tone for this blog but already more than 200 people have found it!  Astonishing!!!!…and flattering since we’ve only been posting for about 2 weeks!

As you may have gathered, this site is about table settings and tabletop design.  It’s been a sort-of closet passion since I was very young.

Somehow I was tasked with setting the table for family holidays.  Likely because I was interested and liked to help.  I’m not sure why -or how- but I always tried to make whatever we had look different at each use…as if it were new.  I incorporated fruit, flowers, branches, glass and paper ornaments.  I mixed patterns, heights and linens too.  I hung tassels and ribbons from the chandelier.

Ok,  I was a strange child…but a child with a gift, a gift I’ve only realized recently has been shared with a precious few: my family and intimate friends.  Who knew so many others would be interested?

Being recently involved with Bilotta Kitchens Art of the Table (a designer showcase for tabletop) unleashed the creative stylist, floral designer and tabletop aficionado within and showed me just how interested people really are from the overwhelming response I received in person as well as on Twitter and Face Book!

I’ve always photographed my tables, interestingly enough never with people, and very much under duress.  Friends always nagged but there’s always so much to do before a dinner party and having to remember to take pictures added to the stress.

And while I gradually, grudgingly got with the program and my picture-taking improved (I’m still very much the amateur), one thing hasn’t changed: the WOW effect is ruined once you light the candles and the guests sit down!  In 20 minutes the whole thing is a memory of perfection…but that has its merits too and I don’t want to make less of menus and food which will figure prominently here as well.  In fact several friends used to tell me to keep a diary of what combinations I used on my table and the menus that I served.  “No time, no time” I’d say…boy am I sorry now!  There was a goldmine of detail that is now lost to posterity.

So let this blog serve the record and be my diary of dinners past, present and future beginning with a fun evening of table setting, cooking and entertaining with friends for (Malaysian Television and) Manhattan Neighborhood Network’s Beautiful Living with Christopher Ong.

Enjoy!!…and please consider following me!

Kent

Beautiful Living with Christopher Ong

Welcoming the Jewish New Year: it’s either early or late, but never on time!

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This particular year was a good balance of cooler temperatures and lingering summer flowers.  The floral bowls (Meito) are a nod to vanishing Summer while the autumn leaf plates portend the season’s close.  Candelabras (Georg Jensen) provided height and drama as did the dark hued cloth.  One or two of the place settings contained one-off elements like a mis-matched water glass or odd-patterned plate to create heightened visual interest.

I don’t particularly recall the menu, however it likely offered gingered chicken soup, matzoh balls, brisket and an apple-walnut-chocolate chip cake.  IM000122.JPG

Photo by Kent Brasloff

Often the tablescape offers up several opportunities for centerpieces and decorative accessories.  In this case, I had two centerpiece options to choose from.  In the end, the ceramic pumpkin provided height, shape and weight to balance other items on the table.

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Photo by Kent Brasloff

Gentlemen’s “Smoker”

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In 19th Century New York, as well as in other large cities and fair towns gentlemen’s clubs and societies proliferated.  These all-male enclaves were the setting for many a decadent meal, complimented by cigars (enjoyed at the table), brandy and ribald tales of exotic travel and fancy women.  These evenings were intended to “let boys be boys”, and protect the delicate sensibilities of womankind from such racy repartee.

Typically the 19th Century woman would have only sallied forth under the protection of brother, father or husband and only to prescribed locations, gentleman’s clubs not among them.  It wasn’t until the 1870s that it was permissible  for women to shop publicly in small groups and dine publicly in restaurants, such as Sherry’s and at the few clubs that admitted women.  One such opportunity was at the National Arts Club on Gramercy Park South in New York City. Arguably, the first private club in New York to admit women, they were only allowed in the dining room and then only by a private side entrance.

Recently re-introduced to this dining format in my historical readings, I wanted to re-create a contemporary, yet faithful, version for a select group of friends who would accept the invitation in the spirit it was offered.

As a result, dinner went late and the last glass was put up to dry at 1:30 am!

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Photo by Kent Brasloff

The ambitious menu included:

Chilled Shrimp with Russian Horse Radish
Zucchini Pancakes with Quince Sauce

Pumpkin/Black Bean Soup

Poached Tilapia with Tomatoes and Olives

Beef Tenderloin
Walnut Oil Roasted Asparagus with Artichoke Broth
Red Skin Mashed Potatoes with Grilled Onion and Raw Carrot

Poached Pear Belle Helene with Saga Bleu Cheese

Chocolate/Raspberry/Cream Trifle

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Photo by Kent Brasloff

 

Finally cool enough in New York to turn on the stove again and invite people in

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Autumn is here and I even have friends in the neighborhood now after a long dry spell!

I warmed up my culinary capabilities for the season with the following:

Pumpkin, Black Bean Soup
Breaded Veal Cutlets in a Tomato-Cilantro Sauce
Walnut Oil Roasted Asparagus with Fig Infused Goat Cheese
Browned Potatoes
Apple, White and Dark Chocolate Cake

and a nice Cabernet…

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Photo by Kent Brasloff

The party always begins at the door, usually with a welcoming wreath, festooned in seasonal splendor and suggestive of what lies within.  Like branding a product, a dinner party should carry your stamp through from the minute you enter the front door, to the bar area for that first drink, and at last, when you sit down to the meal.

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Photo by Kent Brasloff

Not too shabby!

Video

Art of the Table 2013

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http://www.editoratlarge.com/editortv/lenox-and-traditional-home-host-the-art-of-the-table-at-bilotta-part-i/263

Art of the Table exploded on to the scene on October 17, 2013 with a profusion of color, flowers, china and other tabletop accoutrements courtesy of event sponsors: Bilotta Kitchens, Traditional Home Magazine and Lenox. The press arrived immediately before the 260 invited guests and in short order it was lights, camera, action! Our interview with Editor At Large and Tori Mellott is featured here. Enjoy!

Art of The Table 2013

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Hosted by Bilotta Kitchens in the Architects & Designers Building in New York City, the event was co-sponsored by Lenox and Traditional Home Magazine.  Four design firms were asked to choose table settings from Lenox’s wardrobe of china, stemware and flatware.  Unveiled to the press and invited guests on October 17, 2013, this popular annual event drew more than 260 people.  Here is our contribution to the evening, we hope you find inspiration for your own fall celebrations!

detail place setting

Photo by Kevin Wick

seating detail

Photo by Kevin Wick

furniture lighting window treatments

Photo by Kevin Wick

Acknowledgements:

Flowers Courtesy of Stellar Style Events

Carpet Courtesy of Stark Carpet Co., Inc.

Chandelier Courtesy of Modulightor

Linens Courtesy of John Robshaw

Window Shade Courtesy of Window Tech

Furniture Courtesy of Christopher Guy

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