Friday, July 29, 2011

The French Laundry Garden

Let's wrap the week up with a tour of The French Laundry garden. I have yet to dine at French Laundry, though I do hope to do so soon. I did, however, recently spend two lovely mornings walking through their garden which sits right across the street from the restaurant. After seeing the rhubarb, artichokes, squashes, and chickens (yes, chickens), I'm ready to start gardening and designing a chicken coop. Well, sort of. But whether you're a gardener or not, you can't help but to be inspired by such a glorious garden.

I would like to thank Diane Dorrans Saeks (aka The Style Saloniste) for encouraging me to visit the garden. She knew that I would enjoy a stroll through this special place, and indeed I did!

All images are the copyright of Jennifer Boles/The Peak of Chic

Cook Like Alice Waters

And speaking of California, I just learned that One Kings Lane will be featuring Alice Waters on their "Get Inspired" page later today. Waters will be sharing menus and step-by-step recipes from the kitchen of Chez Panisse. Recipes will include Heirloom and Cherry Tomato Salad, Roast Pork Loin with Rosemary and Fennel, Mulberry Ice Cream, and Grilled Boneless Lamb Leg with Olive Sauce. I'd say this is my kind of weekend homework.

Also as part of One Kings Lane's partnership with Waters and The Edible Schoolyard (an organization that teaches urban public school children how to grow and prepare seasonal, nutritious produce), OKL will be selling Waters' "In the Green Kitchen" cookbook at a discounted price.

I'm completely intrigued by the Mulberry Ice Cream and may have to take a stab at it. Now I just need to figure out where to buy mulberries in Atlanta.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Swanson Vineyards Part II

After our tasting in Swanson Vineyards' Salon, we headed next door to check out their Sip Shoppe. More casual than the Salon, Sip Shoppe hosts informal tastings amidst shelves and tables stocked with Swanson Vineyards wine and goodies. Thomas Britt also worked his magic here, this time tenting the entire space in bold red and white striped awning canvas. You know how I love a tented room, so to borrow a line from Rachel Zoe, I died. Actually, I think that I died over everything there!

It's all about the stripes.

A menu of tastings.

Shelves filled with Swanson wine.

He couldn't stop me from buying a few bottles of wine.

What a lucky rooster.

Ira Yeager's charming paintings grace the Sip Shoppe too.

I couldn't resist taking a photo of this top hat champagne bucket.

The courtyard makes you think you're in Italy or France.

Actually, forget Italy. Thanks to French crooner Michel and his barrel organ, you definitely feel like you're in France!

All images copyright of Jennifer Boles/ The Peak of Chic

Monday, July 25, 2011

Swanson Vineyards... Wow!

I'm back from my Napa trip, and thanks to all of the delicious food and wine that I consumed, a good time was certainly had by me! (Did I mention that I'm now on a cottage cheese and cucumber diet?)

One of the highlights of my trip was a tasting at Swanson Vineyards. The entire time I was there, "OMG" kept crossing my mind. How better to describe an afternoon spent drinking fabulous wine, eating cheese and Vosges Haut-Chocolat truffles, and learning about the history of Swanson Vineyards? Oh, and all of this took place in the Salon that was decorated by Thomas Britt. See? OMG!

Alexis Swanson Traina, the super clever Creative Director of Swanson Vineyards, envisioned the Salon as a modern day version of those much romanticized Parisian salons- an intimate place for conversation, discussion, and conviviality. It is in the Swanson Salon that the formal tastings are held. And seriously, you feel as though you're at a chic home. Much of the decor was done by Britt (who, as godfather to Alexis, is someone near and dear to the Swanson family.) Britt chose a pinky red strié finish for the walls that is the perfect backdrop for the eccentric but fabulous paintings by California artist Ira Yeager. Antiques with great old patina are dotted throughout the space.

But the heart of the room is the octagonal tasting table with its magnificent polished wood and geode inset top and impressive metal antler base. (Leave it to Britt to find something as unique as this.) The table is graciously set with beautiful silver candelabra, votives, wine glasses and more wine glasses, and flowers arranged to a casual perfection by Alexis' mother, Elizabeth. It's truly a special spot at which to taste the range of Swanson wines.

I'll stop now because words don't do the Salon justice. If you're ever in Napa, I encourage you (maybe implore is the better word?) to visit Swanson yourself. For those of us who like design, food, wine, and entertaining, Swanson is right up our alley. You don't just go there to taste the wine; you go for the experience. And this truly is an experience that I won't soon forget!

Below are just some of the copious photos that I took of the Salon. Formal tastings in the Salon are by appointment only. Next door to the Salon is the jaunty Sip Shoppe where more informal tastings are held. Stay tuned for my photos of Sip Shoppe plus the charming courtyard of Swanson. For more information on Swanson Vineyards, visit their website.

The tasting table was so lush and beautiful. Of course, I'm also a sucker for silver vases and votives (including that monkey votive!) and a bounty of flowers.

The tasting started with a refreshing 2010 Rosato, followed by a crisp 2010 Chardonnay. Reds followed including Swanson's noted Merlot (2007), a 2007 Alexis Cabernet, and a 2007 Face Cabernet. We ended the tasting with their delicious Crepuscule Late Harvest Semillon. My sister and I were taken with all of the wines tasted. I also have to say that I have never been a Merlot fan, but the Swanson Merlot is one of my new favorite wines. In fact, quite a few bottles of the Merlot, Rosato, and their Pinot Grigio came home with me.

With our Chardonnay, we enjoyed a potato chip with creme fraiche and a dollop of Hackleback caviar. (I'm going to play copycat and serve this at my next to-do.) The cheese plate included my all-time favorite Mimolette cheese. In the ceramic spoon was a rose petal holding Castello blue cheese and a few drops of a Chardonnay syrup. This too might show up at one of my future parties. The truffle at the top left of the photo, an "Alexis Bonbon", was by Vosges Haut-Chocolat. Alexis Cabernet was incorporated into the truffle. Another OMG moment.

The unusual (and very cool) tasting table found by Thomas Britt. Based on the blurriness of the table base photo, it's apparent that I took it after the wine tasting.

The details include antiques, paintings by Ira Yeager, unusual accessories, and of course, those ceramic lions.

All photos are the copyright of Jennifer Boles/ The Peak of Chic.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

See You Very Soon

I'm leaving today for a short vacation in Napa, and boy am I looking forward to getting away from everything. I'm hoping that my trip will be one long Calgon moment, one filled with good food and good wine.

So, until I return late next week, take care and stay cool. But don't have too much fun without me!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Entertaining the Rothschild Way

I found an intriguing article in The Best in European Decoration (1963) on the Baron and Baroness Philippe de Rothschild (the Baroness being Pauline de Rothschild) and their style of entertaining at Château Mouton Rothschild. As sumptuous as the meals might have been, the preparation that went into entertaining guests seemed quite methodical. The choice of table linen, china, and flowers, not to mention the room in which the meal was to be served, was done with the utmost care. I have copied both the text and the captions of the article because really there is no improving upon what was originally written. And you know, I don't think that there is any improving upon the way in which the Baroness set a table, either.

"Not only the grapes are famous at Château Mouton Rothschild (near Bordeaux). Baron and Baroness Philippe de Rothschild provide their guests with food and wine so legendary that awed guests are apt to surreptitiously slip their menu card into their pocket. But besides the delicate succulence of the fare, the table itself invariably engenders a small shock of delighted surprise.

For every meal, the decoration is completely renewed. Always the centrepiece- and this might extend in drifts of leaves or flowers or berries eddying out towards the edge of the table- consists of imaginative clusters of vegetation held by flower-holders placed directly on the tablecloth. These bases are concealed by leaves or moss. The season and what is available in the garden or the park suggest the elements used; shown here are seven tables set for a winter meal. While two include orchids from the chateau's greenhouses, equally sumptuous effects are achieved by simple cabbage leaves or massed pine needles.

Adding to the gaiety are the tablecloths made for Baroness Rothschild. While for town she prefers white, for Mouton she chooses solid colours in delectable shades of orange, coral, yellow, lavender, or hand-blocked printed small designs.

'When one lives in the country', the Baron says, 'variety is essential'. Carrying out this maxim, the table is set in any of several rooms of the château's two houses: a large salon over the vines, a small, intimate sitting room, a library, a corner of the terrace in fine weather, or the regular dining room.

Part of the amusement is provided by some 180 sets of 19th century Creil plates with printed pictures, acquired over the years from all over France before these became collectors' items. A plate from each series has been photographed, given a number and pasted in a notebook. To order the table settings for the next day, the Baroness simply looks in the book, and jots down the selected numbers for her staff. Even the most long-staying guest has never seen the same series come around a second time."

"A forest of catkins, dried ferns and oak leaves spill over a mauve and white hand-blocked cloth. Polychrome Creil plates with hunting scenes. Vermeil, silver and horn knives and forks, the latter shaped like pistol handles. Emerging out of the vegetation are black metal candlesticks painted with a Japanese design. This photograph was taken in the dining room of the original house built by the present owner's grandfather. The walls are lined with linen printed in white and red. Green and gilt Napoleon III chairs."

"A pink cloth sets off decorative cabbage leaves. Sèvres pâte tendre plates decorated during the Revolution and silver tableware."

"Another printed tablecloth, this one heaped with pine cones and needles and, almost invisible here, pots of flowers. This series of Creil plates tells the story of the capture of Orléans by the Duc de Berry. Vermeil and silver tableware."

"Orchids are mixed with heather and moss to create a miniature glade down the centre of this yellow cloth. The plates were made in the 19th century for the family and bear the Rothschild monogram."

"More orchids on another printed tablecloth. The napkins to accompany these printed cloths are white with a monogram embroidered in a matching shade. Baroness Rothschild likes long tablecloths that swirl on the ground like trains."

"Here in a glow of orange: tawny tablecloth bearing seed-pods and orange and blue English stoneware plates decorated for the English trade in Japan. The knives and forks mingle ivory, vermeil and silver."

Image at top: "A small table by a window in the long salon overlooking the vines. Clumps of narcissi, their pots hidden by moss, rise from the centre of a yellow cloth. The plates are Chantilly pâte tendre "décor de brindille". The 19th century knives, forks and spoons, of silver and of vermeil, with hunting scenes, were made in England for Philippe de Rothschild's grandfather. 18th century painted Italian chairs, and Italian consoles on either side of the window holding objects brought back from travels. The sphere by the window is a bronze and ivory 19th century clock that climbs up and down a chain to indicate the time. Around the table, a glimpse of the handsome floor made of large pink and blue rectangles of ceramic squares set in stone."

All images and all text from The Best in European Decoration by Georges and Rosamond Bernier.