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Posts from the ‘Wine + Dine’ Category

Now is the time for a backyard Garden Party

To some, the term “garden party” conjures images of a haughty affair – one where well-heeled, seersucker-clad guests meander through a topiary labyrinth or a gaggle of biddies nibble crustless sandwiches under a canopy of tea roses. Too stiff? Too stuffy? Not for you? Don’t give up on a garden party! It doesn’t have to be a stodgy soiree. A modern garden party is any convivial gathering, formal or casual, where guests enjoy food and drink in a garden setting. So throw out your assumptions, bend the rules and kick up your heels on your own patch of lawn for a modern day garden party that’s fun for all.

The Setting
While often thought of as a prestigious event, today’s garden party doesn’t have to be stuffy, starched affair. Garden parties certainly didn’t start out that way. Rooted in 16th century Europe, garden parties were a way for fashionable families to receive guests at their weekend country estates without strict formality. Softly lit with lanterns at dusk, a country garden provided a lush, magical setting for an intimate dinner. Marie Antoinette famously fêted her closest companions at the Petit Trianon in this very way.

Even if your garden is less than palatial, you can riff off the Renaissance in your garden party setting. Whether your garden is a modest suburban backyard, cottage potager, rolling country hills, or a big-city rooftop, make the most of the outdoor setting by adding a few special touches. For example, bring the indoors out – a long communal table flanked by pillowed benches makes comfortable, casual seating while white linens and twinkling lanterns turn on the charm. Mixed china, unfussy flatware and footed glasses create inviting settings with sparkling tea lights and loosely arranged bouquets of your favorite flowers as festive accents.

Food & Drink
There are three ways to approach food for a garden party. You can serve an assortment of finger foods and hors d’oeuvre, have a sit-down coursed meal, or a combination of the two. Whichever you decide, the following loose guidelines will take some stress out of preparation.

The majority of food served should be able to be made (at least partially) ahead of time. A garden party is all about mingling, playing games and enjoying the outdoor scenery not slaving away at a hot range or standing over a smoky grill.

All dishes you choose should be able to be served just warm, at ambient temperature or chilled. This helps to ensure the laid-back feeling of a garden party. Guests can graze at will and this is especially helpful if you’re hosting a lot of people – the first guest’s food will be at correct eating temperature even after the last guest is served.

The current season should be taken into consideration when deciding what to serve. Since you’ll be outside, keep the climate in mind. You’d never serve a heavy meat braise in peak summer heat or a cold fruit soup in fall when the air is crisp. Highlight your garden’s seasonality with ingredients appropriate to the setting. For example, in spring feature early vegetables, mushrooms and spring meats like lamb or rabbit, in summer serve dishes starring sun-loving fruits like peaches, melon or berries and in the fall try slightly richer dishes made with cream or cheese, root vegetables and game meats. (Speaking of seasonality, if you grow your own vegetables, a garden party is a wonderful way to share your harvest with family and friends. You may even get some help weeding and watering out of it.)

If hosting a party and only serving small plates and finger foods, start with a few larger shared plates as your foundation such as a cheese plate, charcuterie tray or crudités. Lay out small bowls of shared snacks, like olives, black truffle popcorn or spiced nuts. Then build your menu out from there, adding as many dishes as you like based on number of guests. A good rule of thumb for small hors d’oeuvre is 6-8 pieces per person, per hour.

Your hors d’oeuvre should also vary by texture and taste so you’re sure to have something for everyone. Mix and match compatible dishes with different qualities like salty, crunchy, creamy, spiced, sweet, earthy, delicate and/or chilled. For example…

salty = Cheese Gougeres, Bacon Wrapped Figs, Caviar Blinis with Crème Fraiche

crunchy = Fava Bean Bruschetta, Crostini with Tapenade, Lotus Chips with Spicy Mayonnaise

creamy = Duck Rillettes with Prunes, Foie Gras Mousse, Brandade stuffed Piquillo Peppers

spiced = Roasted Five-Spice Chickpeas, Garlic Sausage en Croute, Pan-Fried Chorizo

sweet = Summer Melon with Jambon de Bayonne, Baked Brie with Honey & Candied Walnuts

earthy = Mushroom Vol au Vents, White Truffle Robiola Flatbread, Wagyu Beef Negimaki

delicate = Vegetable Summer Rolls, Oysters with Mignonette, Potato Pancake with Gravlax & Dill

chilled = Summer Melon with Jambon de Bayonne, Chilled Mussels with Saffron Aioli, Venison Carpaccio with Baby Herb-Salad

Fun & Games
Garden parties can be fun! In the warmer months, offer old-fashioned lawn games like croquet or horseshoes. Or clear a spot for our favorite French game – Pétanque. Don’t forget your garden party playlist. Choose music that adds to the festive ambiance but doesn’t overwhelm your guests (or your neighbors!). Finally, take lots of photos. The relaxed, convivial garden party atmosphere allows guests to be themselves and loosen up for the camera.

Wines for your Easter Feast

As the sommelier for per se, in New York City, Anani Lawson is responsible for selecting wines for some of the world’s most discriminating palates. He also runs the wine education program for the restaurant’s world class staff. And before per se, Anani worked at The French Laundry for nine years!

Anani Lawson, Sommelier at Per Se

For someone with such a prestigious position (and service record), Anani is one of the nicest, most genuine people we know. His passion for wine and food is apparent in everything he does and his joie de vivre is infectious! His warm, service-driven, straight-forward approach gives guests a feeling of accesibility, which is why we asked him to create some convivial pairings for our Easter menu. These are his suggestions…

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Appetizers

Truffle Butter Gougères

Pierre Gimonnet, Cuis, Premier Cru MV

Anani says: “Ethereal, floral in style, notes of acacia and a little nut, this certainly has plenty of character. The palate is very feminine, starting off quite soft and pillowy, but then revealing a sharp mousse in the background and a good acid backbone. This wine is rounded and very harmonious.”

Schramsberg, “Blanc de Blancs,” Napa Valley 2007

Anani says: “It displays tart green apples, pineapple and lemongrass, with a honeyed nutty edge. Tropical and tangy on the palate, with layers of lemon cream, pineapple and buttery toast, it finishes with a hint of sweetness but plenty of acidity.”

Deviled Quail Eggs Three Ways:

Bacon & Thyme, Porcini & Parmesan, Caviar & Crème Fraiche

Schloss Gobelsburg, Grüner Veltliner, “Steinsetz,” Kamptal 2010

Anani says: “Is the classical full-bodied Grüner Veltliner with mineral flavours and the typical spicy element as well as natural acidity.”

Domaine Weinbach, Riesling, “Cuvée Ste. Catherine-Linedit,” Schlossberg, Grand Cru 2008

Anani says: “This Riesling offers powdered sugar on the nose, even some cinnamon toast. Very spicy vanilla bean and white chocolate. Powerful fruit, very candied; sweet yet racy acids. Fantastic balance. Sweet and sour lemon confit on the finish.”

Jermann, Pinot Grigio, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia 2009

Anani says: “An intense straw yellow colour with a faint tinge of old rose. Beautifully pure, elegant, floral Pinot Grigio. The bouquet is full and fruity. A touch of almonds and vanilla, a hint of fruit and spice on the palate, a smooth and dry full-bodied white which is particularly harmonious and accessible.”

Asparagus Tartlets with Jambon de Bayonne

 Merry Edwards, Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River Valley 2010

Anani says: “The aroma is floral and mouth¬watering, layered with ripe melon, peach and subtle mineral highlights. In the mouth, it is rich and seamlessly well balanced, kicking in a hint of grapefruit, citrus and pear on the lingering finish.”

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The Main Event

Menu #1: Lamb Loin with Leeks and Truffle Honey Vinaigrette, Duck Fat Roasted New Potatoes, Roasted Hen-of-the-Woods Mushrooms, Bibb Salad with Peas & Radish, Lemon Vinaigrette

Kaizen, Grenache, Sonoma County 2009

Anani says: “The aromatics are layered with blackberry, roasted meat, bittersweet chocolate, gunflint, and lavender. The sweet blackberry entry opens to more dark chocolate, blueberry, black pepper, soft earthy  minerality mouth-filling tannins.”

Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona Brunello di Montalcino 2006

Anani says: “The bouquet is intense, fruit-forward, spicy and floral with hints of red berry fruits enriched by delicate spicy notes. Warm, soft and very well balanced on the palate; structured with soft tannins and long aftertaste.”

Ramey, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2007

Anani says: “This cabernet boasts a dense purple color as well as a big, sweet bouquet of blueberry and black currant fruit intertwined with licorice, bay leaf, cedar and fruitcake notes. It’s full-bodied and opulent.”

Menu #2: Glazed Applewood Smoked Heritage Ham, Yukon Gold Potato Gratin with Morels, French Green Beans with Citrus Butter and Tarragon, Duck Fat Biscuits

Albert Boxler, Pinot Gris “Brand,” Grand Cru 2008

Anani says: “Color: bright; Nose: complex; Acidity: crisp; Overall: elegant; great wine….honeysuckle, mango, floral….. superb wine…”

Patz & Hall, Pinot Noir “Hyde Vineyard,” Carneros 2009

Anani says: “Seductive aromas of cherry, kirsch and bittersweet chocolate, segue to red fruit flavors of raspberry, cranberry and framboise, with hints of char and cocoa in this Pinot. The 07 vintage is big and rich with a palate of soft, coating tannins, while still displaying elegant acid balance and a vibrant charm.”