For more information, and to buy tickets, email Julia Murphy.
For more information, and to buy tickets, email Julia Murphy.
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.
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
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.
What do you do when you’ve got a whole lot of meat to photograph? Well, here at D’Artagnan we turn to Ted Axelrod, a local photographer with an appreciation for good food and a meaty sense of humor.
Ted’s studio is in his home, which is crammed with all kinds of cool props, from cutting boards to glassware, vintage dishes to copper pots. He’s got perfect natural light in his sunroom and a spare refrigerator, which came in handy for us.
With piles of products ranging from raw Wagyu beef short ribs and rack of lamb to truffle butter and charcuterie, we set to work on the two-day shoot. Turns out it’s not so easy to make raw meat look appetizing! Our hats are off to all the food stylists and photographers out there whose work makes us drool.
Ted’s dogs, Gracie and Ella, were so well behaved; they didn’t snag a single duck breast off the table. And considering they had to endure the smell of raw meat all day, that’s a small miracle! We will admit to tossing them a few trimmings from the steaks and chops…and the innards from the chicken and pheasant.
On day two we set up a huge panoramic spread that represented nearly every type of product we sell. With a camera suspended on an arm directly overhead, we tweaked and previewed and reorganized until everything looked perfect. Then we unwrapped it all! As soon as meat is exposed to the air, it begins to oxidize, which makes it dull in color. You’ve got to move fast.
Naturally, we left the fridge full of food! Ted and his wife Susan, who is a food writer and editor, have been cooking up a storm with it all, and posting some of the results on their blog Spoon and Shutter.
We love their braised pheasant post, with step-by-step instructions, and the great photos (we’d expect nothing less!). Check out their progress as they try to eat their way through our catalog!
Look for Ted’s photos to be posted on our website soon.
Charcutepalooza, The Year of Meat. Who could imagine that a single cookbook would inspire a nation to preserve meat competitively for a year? If it’s Michael Ruhlman’s classic book “Charcuterie” and Cathy and Kim, then Charcutepalooza is the result. A year ago, they threw down a challenge to a few dozen fellow food bloggers. Make one charcuterie item per month for a year, and blog about the experience. They figured a few online friends would poke around in the kitchen and learn together. But their numbers grew to over 300 participants around the world. It seemed like everyone wanted to be in on the fun!
We were happy to support the meaty needs of the Charcutepalooza-ers with discounted pricing all year, and to serve on the judges’ panel. The author of the best blog post—it’s hard to taste charcuterie over the web!—would win a week in France, and the admiration of fellow charcutiers. Not to mention the happy side effect of eating lots of charcuterie all year. The stakes were high, the world of meat was watching.
And since we were not anxiously waiting for duck prosciutto to age on a deadline, it seemed like the Year of Meat flew past. Before we knew it, we were reading the final blog posts. They spoke of victory in the kitchen, education at the farmers market and the highs and lows that you encounter when cooking. While all the blog posts were impressive, educational and even moving (yes, curing meat can be emotional!), the ultimate triumph went to A Cook Blog by Peter Barrett.
We congratulate Peter on his creative, charming, knowledgeable and stunning post Gratitude is the Attitude which clinched the win. It left us breathless and hungry! His blog has always impressed us with its clever turns of phrase and ambitious recipes, and we look forward to reading more from his corner of the world. And we expect a full report from France on his blog later this year.
On Saturday, we were pleased to host Charcuterie 101 for the Food Network’s New York Wine & Food Festival. Held in the intimate, cavernous wine cellar at Macelleria in the Meatpacking District, Charcuterie 101 brought together les deux Pierres – our own, Pierre Moreira and one of our favorite NY chefs, Pierre Landet, of Cercle Rouge, for an introduction to the art of preserving meat. Both native Frenchman grew up in the Southwest of France (about 30 miles away from each other, actually!) where charcuterie is another stitch in the fabric of the good life. The event drew a diverse crowd of food lovers who all seemed to enjoy the meaty spread and convivial atmosphere. Macelleria’s brilliant staff kept the wine flowing while Pierre M. waxed on about curing basics and Chef Landet expertly demonstrated how to make a galantine (ok, not exactly 101 but we had some pretty advanced pupils!). The day was a great success & we hope to participate again next year. Until then… here are some photos. Enjoy!
D’Artagnan is presenting a Charcuterie class at the New York Food & Wine Festival, hosted by our own Pierre Moreira and one of our absolute favorite chefs, Pierre Landet. This class should not be missed!
You’ll learn cured & smoked basics, how to put together a proper charcuterie board, watch as Chef Landet demonstrates some fabulous charcuterie recipes and of course, taste & sip! All this & a whole lot more. Get your tickets while they’re HOT!