Monday, May 4, 2009

Good-Tempered Food, Good-Tempered Friends

This past Saturday night, we invited our friends Hillary and Steve over for a very casual dinner with their kids. 

I always love to do a bit of styling. It doesn't take very long to create something pretty and I think the effect is always worth it.  For this meal, I anchored the tablescape with a chunk of coral and let some clippings of bougainvillea roam freely around it. A few votive candles and some sprigs of greenery from a flowering hedge...and voila.

Piero whipped up some wienerschnitzel for the children and they ate their dinner in the garden while we sipped aperitifs by the pool and caught up on each other's lives.

The Bloomsbury Cooler (serves 8)
In a large pitcher, mix one cup fresh mint leaves and one cucumber, thinly sliced. Add two cups Absolut Ruby Red Grapefruit vodka and two cups fresh-squeezed lemon juice (about 10 lemons). Add simple syrup to taste (I used about 6 oz.) This is your "potion." Serve over ice with equal parts club soda. It's sweetly tart and totally refreshing.

For our starter course, The Divine Italian made six pounds of meules meunieres. In a testament to their deliciousness, the shells mounted up at an alarming rate.
Dinner was grilled monkfish drizzled with gremolata, along with pan-sauteed fava beans on a bed of wild arugula, mache and pea sprouts. That's my husband on the right, looking deservedly proud of himself. (Piero, you rock.)

For dessert, I served Nigella Lawson's almond cake (from "How to Be A Domestic Goddess".) It was ridiculously easy to make. You toss all the ingredients into a Cuisinart (including an entire tube of marzipan -- mmm!) and pour the batter into a springform pan. 

We ate it with sweetened creme fraiche and blackberries.

After their movie ("Five Children and It"), the rascals came downstairs for a piece of See's chocolate. The decision-making process was arduous.

It was a lovely night. Hillary is leaving for Tibet next week on a ten day expedition with her father. She is my most intrepid friend, having recently hiked Mount Kilimanjaro on her own; in addition, she's planning an upcoming trip to Antarctica. Adventure obviously runs in her genes. Her father is a career diplomat and former ambassador to England. The two of them are going to explore the frontiers of Lhasa and beyond. I'm so excited for her. Take lots of pictures, Hillary!

Even after everyone had left and we finished tidying up, it felt as though some of the night's joie de vivre still lingered in the air.  
I firmly believe that a house is like a cast-iron frying pan -- in order to achieve its full potential, it needs to be seasoned. Just as a much-used pan has traces of all the meals that have been cooked inside it, so a house retains a sense memory of every moment experienced within its walls. By providing your home with a bounty of good times, you season its soul...and yours as well.


A Super Dilettante said...

I wish I could be a fly on the wall!! The atmosphere, the food, the candles, the details...Oh Lisa, you've got what it takes to be a society hostess!! A modern Lady Ottoline Morrell(but you score more points because you put effort whereas Lady Ottoline had servants to help her). I love the way you have your dinning table in front of your magnificent bookshelves!

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

A Super Dilettante: You DO realize Ottoline Morrell is one of my biggest inspirations, don't you?! That is the best compliment ever. Garsington Park rules!

C.T. said...

Thàt's how life should be!
Family, friends, food, fun, stories, laughter and sharing it all (with us). ;-)

ArchitectDesign said...

Your house is a well seasoned pan. What a fun evening you had -thanks for sharing it! I can't wait to try out the new cocktail!

Mrs. Blandings said...

You're cooking with gas - looks like everyone had a great time. The table is gorgeous.

Visual Vamp said...

Great hostess with the mostess1
Every detail looks wonderful.
xo xo

Laura [What I Like] said...

What a very sexy table you had laid out there! I couldn't agree more about houses needing to be seasoned...ours was seasoned quite well this past Saturday with a decidedly less elegant event than yours...a homemade lasagna, a boxing match and lots of raucous friends!

Julie Anne Rhodes said...

Love the blog and your profound words of wisdom!

"By providing your home with a bounty of good times, you season its soul...and yours as well."

Elizabeth said...

I first discovered Ottoline Morrell when I was 13 - in 1963 (gosh I'm ancient) in Seigfried Sassoon's "The Old Century"
when I told Quentin Bell (my tutor) later that I though she was wonderful he recalled a perfectly awful holiday when he was 12 and dying of embarrassment as she sailed in full fig across S.Mark's square.
He said Phillip Morrell had a long lasting relationship with a housemaid and made O. sound rather sad.
I intervied R.Gathorne-Hardy about O. for a paper I was writing in the early 70's.
I sort of thought people would have forgotten her by now.

Susan's Snippets said...

Lisa -

Sounds as if your house is well-seasoned...just like mine! Over these years I have become my mother by way of loving to cook dinners for two or twenty.

Thank you for sharing some of your weekend with me!

with glee

vicki archer said...

Gorgeous post and the warmth of your home radiates through. xv

Anzu said...

Sounds like a perfect evening. Love the table display - coral and bougainvillea look beautiful together. Please post more of your displays. They are inspiring + selfishly I am working on a launch at the moment and need all the display ideas I can get!

Tara said...

What a nice evening...I am a tru believer in we have to use our good things to celebrate everyday!

Happened upon your LA blog...I am in New York between the Hamptons and NYC...nice to see your side of the world!

pve design said...

Surely you are a member of the WAGS Wagner and Griswold Society - dedicated to cast iron. If I were a dog my tail would be waggin for any morsels. As far as I can tell, that is the only missing ingredient.

Julie said...

I love, love, love your dining room!! Are my eyes deceiving me? Are your walls a "book" wallpaper? If so, may I ask what and where you found it? Or...are they REAL books?

I enjoyed finding your blog!


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