There are a few necessities I carry around with me during Chicago winters: tissues, an extra pair of gloves, and a deck of playing cards. Go ahead, check any of my purses. The playing cards really are for practical reasons — you never know when youâ€™ll be delayed thanks to an incoming winter storm or a fun, on-the-town sort of night dissolves into a â€œLetâ€™s just stay in, my eyeballs will freeze if I leave the apartmentâ€ sort of night. A good game of cards can pass those blustery hours. My new favorite deck of cards is a souvenir from the wildly successful Tim Burton exhibition currently at MoMA. Each card features a different Burton creature, part adorable and part terrifying. They’re an inexpensive treat at only $5 ($4.50 for members). — Katie D.
Placemats are hard to get right. The market is flooded with floral prints, boring woven varieties, and kitschy quilted disasters. On the other hand, these gorgeous wood veneer placemats, found on A+R Store, hit all the right notes — they look like high-end art pieces with the delicate feel of lace. Designer Sarah Finn brought a century-old German woodworking business into modern times with laser cutting techniques. The placemats are available in blonde maple or red mahogany veneer for $25 each. — Katie D.
When I grow up I want to be like Paola Navone. The renowned artist and designer exudes warmth and a love a life that is evident in all her work, whether it be Anthropologie’s vibrant color-pop bedding, overly-tufted, welcoming sofas or her new vibrant and playful pieces at Crate & Barrel. She’s also a not-to-be overlooked Italian who gained prominence in the male-dominated design space, and displays a short hairstyle and a prominent nose that I can’t help but identify with. If I can’t grow up to be like her, perhaps we could have dinner one day?
I’m not sure how or when that may happen, but in the meantime I am going to take some inspiration from Crate & Barrel and channel a little Paola for my gatherings this fall. She’s created three collections all centered around entertaining.
The Como collection features bold blue on white designs with organic swirls and patterns. It reminds me of dining al fresco in Sicily, with smells of almond pastries mixing with Mediterranean breezes. Splashes of red wake you up.
The Mallorca collection is more calming, with white on white ceramics that have delicate, feminine edges. Aluminum trays with gentle dimples appear ready to elevate any dish.
All three themes bring a worldly sophistication to the table, without being stuffy or too precious. As the holidays encroach it’s easy to get drawn towards Northernly designs, but a few Navone bits sprinkled about will make sure your dinners always have a sunny disposition. Here’s a little peak at the artistry behind the work.
As if her new designs weren’t enough to inspire some noteworthy dinners of our own, Crate & Barrel even offers up a few recipes from the master herself. This one below, pasta with zucchini, in an interesting take on one of my favorites. I would add a sprinkle of crushed pastachios before serving, to give it a final hint of richness.
Pasta with Zucchini by Paola Navone
What You Need:
2 lbs. baby zucchini; no more than 1¼’ in diameter
Extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 cup fresh mint (smallest leaves only), thyme, rosemary
Saffron threads, a pinch
Fresh cracked pepper
Ground red pepper
Coarse sea salt
1 lb. uncooked dried mezzi rigatoni – shorter, ridged rigatoni
1/4 cup coarse sea salt to season pasta cooking water
To pass at the table:ricotta di bufala *
** Buffalo milk ricotta is less sweet than cow’s milk ricotta.
How To Make:
1. Wash and drain the zucchini. Slice into ¼-inch-thick “coins” and set aside. If using larger zucchini, slice lengthwise, core out the seeds, then slice.
2. Place a large, nonstick sauté pan over low to medium-low heat. Glaze the pan with olive oil. Add crushed garlic, herbs and saffron to the pan to flavor the oil. (Reserve a small handful of the herbs for garnish.) Stir and cook until the garlic just starts to color and become fragrant. Do not let the garlic burn. Remove garlic.
3. Add the zucchini to the pan and season with ground pepper and sea salt. Sear the zucchini until slightly soft and the zucchini begins to brown and caramelize. Remove from heat.
4. Remove ½ of the zucchini mixture; place in a food processor and puree.
5. Add a small drizzle of olive oil to the sliced zucchini still in the pan; gently fold in pureed zucchini. Add more olive oil to taste, but sparingly. The consistency of the sauce should be creamy, not thick.
6. Fill a large pasta pot ¾ full with cold water and place over high heat. Add ¼ cup** of course sea salt to water and bring to a rolling boil. Add dried pasta and cook according to package directions for al dente.
7. Drain pasta (reserving a cup of the pasta cooking water) and place in large serving bowl. Drizzle with a small amount of olive oil.
8. If needed, thin zucchini sauce with a bit of the pasta cooking water. Add zucchini sauce to pasta and toss gently. Garnish with fresh mint and serve immediately. Pass ricotta di bufala for guests to stir into their pasta, to taste.
Note: This post is sponsored by Crate & Barrel.
I spend just as much time flipping through wedding cake portfolios at bakeries as I do Vogues at the hair salon. Iâ€™d love to make my own masterpieces, but I have neither the skills nor the equipment — mine are more Cake Wrecks than Cake Boss. That’s why I like cake stencils, a foolproof way to decorate without steady hands, a drawer full of piping tips, or years of experience! Bonus: a lightly sugared topping is a nice antidote to a heaviness of a slathered-with-frosting cake. Martha Stewart makes a beautiful set. But if you’d rather give cake stencils a try for free, check out this this Canadian Living article — it has downloadable templates so that you can make your own. — Katie D.
How did I miss this incredible idea from Not Martha?! These tiny gingerbread houses are made to be perched on the edge of your mug of hot cocoa (or whatever you may be drinking). These are too cute to put away for a whole year, so I was thrilled to see Not Martha had success making these houses out of sugar cookie dough as well. While gingerbread screams holidays, sugar cookies are welcome in my house all year round. — Erica P.
Update: We believe in credit where credit is due, so please pay a visit to the creators of the fabulous spread above, Dahan Caterers in Washington, DC. They specialize in creative, kosher catering!
There are a lot of things I love about weddings: watching the always gorgeous bride walk down the aisle, the touching exchange of hand written vows, the opportunity to dance the Horah (so fun!) and the cute little appetizers that make the rounds during the cocktail hour. This past summer, two of my very stylish friends had a very posh wedding on Baltimoreâ€™s waterfront. The culinary highlight was this beautiful appetizer table made to look like a summer garden in full bloom. Guests could pick their own bouquet and dip the edible flowers in the yummy spreads planted in terracotta pots. The watering cans held extra skewers for the veggies filling the picnic baskets — yum! Spring brides, take note! — Katie D.