April 06 2018 – Laura Wright
E A S T E R F E A S T E R 2 0 1 8
Hi all! Just wanted to share a quick recap of this year’s Easter Feaster…
For those of you who aren’t familiar with my annual event, it is a combination celebration for my Mom’s birthday and Easter. Not only is this a dinner, but it is an evening, an event. A dinner like this takes the entire night and is such a great way to sit and catch up with family or friends. I have a wonderful time putting this on, carefully designing every aspect from the decor to the menu. Each year I try to do things differently than previous years… different decor, different recipes, something unexpected. This year I was inspired by a soft palette and a feminine french feel.
Here are all the details, plus tips on hosting your own six course dinner party…
This is a long review, so if you aren’t interested in the details, look at the pretty pictures and just remember to PLAN! PLAN! PLAN! and stay organized if you attempt a multi-course dinner… and maybe check out a few of my tips at the very bottom!
I love spaces with different layers and textures, cluttered with interesting things. Here I’ve tried to created that atmosphere with the use of mix-matched china, linens and stemware.
PAPER GOODS: By yours truly, of course... Invitations, place cards and menus are all from my new wedding suite, ENCHANTED in gray and petal pink. The entire suite will be available in six color ways on the site soon!
TABLECLOTH: A neutral Anthropologie linen that I had in the closet. No need to iron! The French nail their timeless style by pairing small luxuries, like cut crystal, with a subtle effortlessness… they do it so well!
NAPKINS: Fine linens can cost a fortune, and the fabric napkins in my buffet did not match the look I was going for (I tend to be a bright, bold kind of girl). Instead of purchasing new, I opted to make my own. I purchased two yards of pink seersucker (~$10). Wash and dry your fabric. Once this is completed, spread material out on the floor or table. Using fabric scissors, cut into even squares (I opted for 18”). Fray the edges by using a pin to pull out fibers. I chose to do a short fray, but you can continue to pull out the fibers until the fray is the desired length. Because I was going for a shabby chic look, I didn’t get too stressed out about imperfect edges or angles. Please note, if you plan to reuse these in the future, and depending on the type of material you chose, they will continue to unravel a little bit more with each wash. I’m not bothered by that and figure I have some fun napkins to use for week night meals throughout the spring!
EGGS: I can’t stand to spend long amounts of time on things that are going to perish. Instead, I purchased WOODEN EGGS to decorate so that they could be reused in the future. Eggs came white, so all I had to do was add design with a silver sharpie. Everyone can do this… really. Just pick a pattern… an easy pattern… polka dots, for example. Play with the spacing and scale of the dots on each egg. Imperfect is beautiful, so don’t overthink it!
FLORALS: Greenery in the chandelier make the space feel foreign and magical. Simply take branches of greenery and weave in between the arms until you have a desired fullness. I do not know the name of the hanging greens, but I added the eucalyptus stems to give it a bit of upright motion as well. The easy DIY centerpiece flowers are soft and feminine. To recreate, simply pick flowers with plenty of fullness down the stem. Cut to a similar length, evenly distribute different colors and viola!
MISCELLANEOUS: Small tin ‘buckets’ with place cards in them are from Hobby Lobby ($1 each). Napkin rings are scraps of gold ribbon. Galvanized centerpiece and pewter birds are antiques. Scraps of ribbons and Cadbury eggs are scattered about.
PLACE SETTINGS: I absolutely love to pull out the fine china! Most people say they don’t use theirs, but I simply can’t understand why not… what a treat! What a way to say, “this is a special occasion!” Here are the details on the china I used for this occasion…
- Chargers: Cheapies from Hobby Lobby (I would love, love, love fine china chargers, but will add this to the list for another day… ha! (~$2 each)
- Dinner Plates: My great grandmother’s fine china… my grandad remembers her pulling this out only when his uncle Loren came to town! As you can see, it’s pink, gold and olive… not typically my cup of tea, but worked oh-so well for this event!!
- Salad Plates: I just love these scalloped plates! They hail from the collection of my great aunt… a vibrant and wonderful lady with antiques coming out of her ears… swoon.
- All Other Plates: My china, KATE SPADE LARABEE ROAD PLATINUM
- Stemware: Assorted Waterford, antique cut crystal and SCHOTT ZWIESEL PURE glasses. To give the table an eclectic look, I mixed these pieces (and sizes) of glassware at each place setting.
- Flatware: Since I don’t have silver, sigh… I used our everyday flatware, KATE SPADE GRACE AVENUE. I love it because the handles look like grosgrain ribbon... I couldn’t have designed it better myself!
M E N U
Please note, I am not a chef… just a creative who loves to play in the kitchen. Some of the things I have done below may not be ‘technically correct’, but they seem to work. Also, I rarely measure accurately… a thing that drives my husband nuts. Again… it generally seems to work out!
- GRAPE FLOWER MARTINIS— no recipe, as my brother brought these!
- A SIGNORELLO red, as chosen by my father.
Review: I made 8 four inch tarts instead of one large nine inch tart, so I doubled the recipe. Delicious and beautiful… and believe it or not, easy! I would add a bit more salt and nutmeg to the filling. To cut the zucchini and carrots, I used two different methods… on the zucchini I used a potato peeler and on the carrots I used a mandolin. The zucchini pieces were much thinner and therefore, easier to manipulate during assembly. If you decide to use a mandolin, use the thinnest setting. For 8 four inch tarts, plan on 1.5 hours to roll the ‘roses’ and assemble the tarts. It looks prettiest if all of your zucchini and carrot strips are the same width. I made this in 2016, as well, and generally I don't repeat a dish, but this was requested by the guest of honor.
MELON & PROSCIUTTO WITH TRIPLE BERRY COMPOTE
For the compote, I did not use a recipe. I just threw in two or three handfuls of assorted fresh berries (blueberries, blackberries and strawberries, others would be great, too), some brown sugar, splash of water and a generous squeeze of honey. Bring to a boil, then let simmer until sauce coats the back of a spoon. Press through a mesh sieve to remove seeds and ‘clumps’. Store in refrigerator until time to serve. When time to serve, spoon a small amount of compote onto a plate, place melon & prosciutto skewers on top. Add a basil leaf for extra flare.
Review: DELICIOUS. Plus quick and easy… a great party app!!
Review: DELICIOUS. UNEXPECTED. A MUST-MAKE! I doubled the recipe. For a party of 8, you wouldn’t have to if serving with all these extra courses, however, the leftovers were AMAZING on Sunday when I had no interest in cooking…
HOMEMADE YEAST ROLLS WITH HONEY BUTTER
Review: An emergency run to the grocery store was necessary after I ruined three packets of yeast. Follow the instructions on the back of the packet, not in the roll recipe. My guests enjoyed the rolls, and I found them fine… but not spectacular. I would look for a new recipe for my next party. I am not an experienced bread maker, so this could have contributed to the mediocre results. I will say, however, that they were extra good the second day when eating them as leftovers paired with the soup.
Not sure where I found this recipe, but most likely on Pinterest—
1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup honey
Whip until smooth.
Review: Tasted good, but didn’t look so pretty. Honey quickly separated from butter and was not appetizing plated. This is possibly because I made it in advance or because I whipped by hand, rather than using the stand mixer… Not sure on that one.
Review: I added about three times the pickle juice suggested, plus tiny pieces of chopped pickle to give it a bit more oomph. This was an all-round crowd pleaser. Even guests who claimed to dislike cucumber loved these!! Another easy app for any event!
After much back and forth, I opted to sous vide the lamb, rather than cook in the oven. Loosely following the link above, I prepped the meat Saturday morning and threw into a ziplock bag. On Saturday evening, the ziplock went into the water bath for 60 minutes at 132 degrees. This was definitely on the rare side. I did a lot of advance research, but after actually making this dish, I would recommend upping the temp to at least 134. Once done cooking sous vide, I patted the meat dry and seared each side in clarified butter. From there, I had help tying the meat into a crown. I realize this is unconventional to do AFTER the cooking, but at this point, we were improvising. I could have served the two racks opposing one another with the bones intertwined and it would have been lovely, but darn it, I was set on having a CROWN!
Review: My dad said he thought it was amazing and was used to lamb being dry, gray and tough. This meat was none of those things, however, the rest of us thought it was a little ‘gamey’. I’m guessing that was partly the meat's fault, partly the cook's. The dish looked lovely and was a visual crowd pleaser. I made a french rack of lamb two years ago in the oven, as I recall, they cooked for about a half hour. I don’t have the exact recipe, but I remember liking those better…
FRICASSEE OF WILD MUSHROOMS
No recipe here. This was a dish my family ate (and adored) at a restaurant in Beaver Creek, Colorado many years ago. This was my attempt to recreate- - - Buy assorted varieties of mushrooms. I bought baby bella, portabella, trumpet, clam, and brown clam. Chop into small pieces. For one gallon ziplock filled with chopped mushrooms, melt 2 sticks of butter on stovetop in a large skillet. Add finely chopped shallots and crushed garlic if desired. Add mushrooms, toss to coat in butter. Add a generous splash (1/2 cup?) of white wine. Let simmer for 1-1.5 hours until liquids cook out. Salt as desired.
Review: These turned out exactly as I had hope… rich and delicious. I will be adding variations of this to my weekly meals. Mushrooms cook down to a fraction of their size. If you are serving this as a main dish, keep this in mind, as you may want to make more than you think necessary.
Review: Very good. Simple. If we are being honest, at this point, I was getting a little drunky, so memories of flavors are a bit vague… but I remember thoroughly enjoying it at the time!
Review: I doubled the amount of mint and think it still could have used more, as the mint flavor was not as prominent as I had hoped. Also, I think I overdid the pepper a bit, so start slow!
Review: The recipe does not lie… this was the best (although I haven’t tried too many)! The initial plan was to make a sous vide flourless carrot cake… but my ingredients did not arrive in time and we were forced to improvise. Despite the change of plans, this dessert did not disappoint!!
SKIP’S HOMEMADE ICE CREAM
No recipe here, as my brother contributed this!
Review: You can never go wrong with homemade ice cream! He has a big machine, but I intend to purchase the Kitchen Aid ice cream attachment soon!!
ONE MONTH BEFORE
- Send invitations. You will want to request an RSVP so that you can plan accordingly for this intimate meal.
TWO WEEKS BEFORE
- Decorate your eggs.
- Plan your menu.
- Purchase any decor necessary.
- Buy and wash fabric.
- Get out the tablecloth.
- Cut and fray the napkins. Tie them with ribbon.
- Polish all silverware, plates and glassware with a damp rag. Everything should look it’s best!
- Set the table.
- Review your recipes again. Make your list. Grocery shop.
- Start prepping the food! Make Herbed Cucumber Bites- Cut cucumber and vacuum seal. Make the ‘topping’ and store in a ziplock bag. Make your berry compote. Make the Mint & Pistachio Pesto. ‘Shave’ zucchini and carrot strips for the rose tart. Store all items in the fridge.
- Buy your flowers (if DIY, otherwise, order earlier in the week!). Arrange your centerpiece.
- Friday evening, place the greenery in your chandelier. It will look it's freshest and best in the first 24 hours out of water. After this, the greenery will dry out and look a bit limp, but will still be pretty and last like this for days.
- Pick up any remaining grocery items.
- Make the Pear & Parsnip Soup. Cut the mushrooms for the Fricassee. Make the Carrot Cake and frosting, refrigerate over night. Cut dried fruit for the Cous Cous Stuffing, measure ingredients and set aside in a ziplock.
- Make the puff pastry for Zucchini & Carrot Rose Tart.
- Make your yeast dough for rolls.
- Frost the cake.
- Rub the lamb in herbs, garlic, olive oil, salt & pepper, place in a ziplock bag.
SATURDAY EARLY AFTERNOON
- Fill the puff pastry and assemble the ‘roses’ for the Zucchini & Carrot Rose Tart.
- Set out Cadbury eggs on the table and make any final touches to the table.
- Clean and put away as many dishes as possible before your guests arrive.
- Shower. Have yourself dressed and ready.
- 6:00 Put Zucchini and Carrot Rose Tarts in the Oven (380 degrees, 50 minutes), have pots and pans ready for mushrooms, cous cous and lamb
- 6:30 Guests arrive, serve grape flower cocktail, start mushrooms
- 6:50 Pull Tarts out of oven, heat sous vide
- 7:00 Dinner to begin, put rolls in oven (350 degrees, 25 minutes), put lamb in sous vide
- 7:15 Assemble melon & prosciutto skewers, place pear & parsnip soup on medium heat
- 7:20 Take rolls out, serve melon & prosciutto skewers, begin making cous cous
- 7:35 Serve pear & parsnip soup, yeast rolls & honey butter
- 7:50 Assemble and serve herbed cucumber bites
- 8:00 Take lamb out of sous vide, dry and sear
- 8:10 Serve lamb, mushrooms, cous cous and pesto
- 8:40 Serve cake and ice cream
- Start with a theme. Design around that.
- If your dining room has doors, shut them before guests arrive and open them once dinner is served. This will make the experience more dramatic. BONUS: If you have floral arrangements in the room, the space will smell of delicate flowers.
- Use scraps of ribbon in place of wine charms. Here I used one type of ribbon on each glass at a place setting, and each settings designated ribbon was different.
- If you are making carrots for Easter (and see the pretty ones with green stems the week before you need them), buy them early!! You may not be able to find the ‘pretty carrots’ again… I had them on the menu and decided to axe them because I had so many other things… More than anything, this may be a note to my future self... BUY THE CARROTS EARLY!
- Plan your menu and look over ingredients a few weeks in advance. If you are making anything unique (and live in a small town like I do), you may not be able to find all necessary ingredients at the local grocery. Planning early allows you to order anything you may not be able to find in town.
- Always have extra butter on hand!!
- Always have extra yeast on hand, if using a recipe that calls for it! Follow directions on the back of yeast packet, NOT the directions in your recipe.
- Run your dishwasher frequently over the course of the ‘prep’ process, even when not completely full. Some utensils may be needed often, having them clean and/or cleaned up and out of the way will make your time in the kitchen operate smoothly.
- Make a timeline of your menu. Plan what time you would like to eat each dish and plan cook times accordingly. If you have only one oven (like me), you will be able to plan how to have everything cooked properly without surprises.
- Decide what plates and/or serving dishes you are using for each course ahead of time. Have all items clean and ready to go. Being organized will allow the process to run smoothly and efficiently.
- Have a helper... or two. My husband and brother are gracious hosts and helped serve and entertain while I was preparing each course.
- Having a guest of honor? Do something to make their place setting extra special! Here I've covered my mom's chair in scraps of pink ribbon and fabric in hopes that the extra flare would make her feel extra special.