Last week, Jaithan’s family was in town, so we decided to have them over to the apartment for a simple but delectable autumnal dinner. Since they were coming from California, we wanted to make sure the meal was extra seasonal just to give them a real fall feel. I put together a menu of some of my favorite foods to eat around this time of year—wild mushroom quiche made with Boursin cheese and caramelized onions and a French onion soup served with a crispy gruyere croustini.
The day before I entertain, I always prepare the table. This is the fun part! I lay out the tablecloth and play around with different dishes, glasses and flatware, testing which combination of things I like best. I consider an unset table my blank canvas. Trying out several options allows you to see what works and what doesn’t. Doing this a day before the actual event gives you time to really think about your choices, without having to worry about the guests arriving any minute! Though I like setting a formal table, I like to take the traditional look and, shall we say, bend the rules. For example, I love changing up the shapes on the table, Instead of traditional circular shaped plates, I chose to use ironstone oval platters. I think they’re modern and totally unexpected.
On a recent trip to Sage Street in Sag Harbor, I found this gorgeous antique copper pot. As a wise woman once said, “Every good cook needs a copper pot.” Vintage copper has such charm, don’t you think? Though this pot was dusty and tarnished when I found it, I knew it had potential to be beautiful. After using a little copper polish and a lot of elbow grease, it’s totally radiant once again. Now, all I have to do to maintain its sheen is use a halved lemon dipped in sea salt. The tinning inside the pot is in great condition, so I can cook with it as well. Perfect for a French onion soup!
Here’s the copper pot set atop one of my old wooden breadboards I recently brought back to life with a little mineral oil love. Doesn’t it make a great trivet? Using the breadboard provides both beauty and protection for your table.
This is a close-up of the ladle I used with the copper pot. Whenever I’m out and about at flea markets and thrift stores, I love collecting antique utensils, especially ones with my monogram!
And speaking of, I love mixing silverware, all with different monograms, whenever I set a table. Check out this Christophle fork with an elegant "MG" monogram on the back. (My good friend Michael Gorman has been trying to get me to give this set to him for years, but I just can’t part with it!) Doesn’t it look chic on this hemstitched napkin from Target?
A dinner table is never complete without sea salt and freshly cracked pepper. (Remember to remove them before you serve dessert!) I used these little butter pats, which I love. The spoons are antique ivory that I bought in Paris a few years ago. There are so many different kinds of salts and I love to experiment with all the different flavors. Have you ever had smoked sea salt? It’s amazing.
For the color palette, I decided to keep things neutral so that the food would really shine. Of all my collections, a favorite of mine is the mini ironstone soup tureens. When ironstone was produced, they made everything in graduating sizes—platters, plates, pitchers, vegetable dishes. You name it, they made it. And as you know, I love anything graduated! In addition to the Christophle fork, I used an ebony handled knife along with a silver soup spoon with an "R" monogram. For the glasses, I chose pretty pressed glass stemware. Don’t you love the railroad etching on the water glass?
Another of my favorite collections are the Czech 1920’s United Porcelain pitchers I picked up at a thrift store in Bucky’s County, Pennsylvania this past summer. They come in so many different sizes. For this particular table, I thought a smaller one would work perfectly to create a low flower arrangement that wouldn’t overwhelm the table. I especially love it with my turned wooden candlesticks. To me, they just feel like fall.
Here’s the wild mushroom quiche I made with Boursin cheese and caramelized onions. I served it right out of this vintage glass Pyrex pie plate. I love how simple and pretty the white mums look in the pitcher. I think they totally compliment the table without distracting from it. To cut the quiche, I used this antique wooden knife, which worked amazingly well! The towel under the quiche is Swedish linen with an "SK" monogram—perfect for Jaithan’s middle and last name, Singh Kochar! I love when monograms work out that way. That’s why whenever you’re at the flea market and you find something you love with a monogram on it, you never know when it’s going to make the perfect gift.
Nothing says fall like a pumpkin, so I placed mine prominently on an antique ironstone compote. Beneath it are the tasty herb toasted croustini with melted gruyere cheese, which I served on my Spode leaf dish. Then I used these Sheffield ice tongs that were the perfect size for floating the croustini on the soup.
Here I am plating up the French onion soup. I have to say, that copper pot from Sage Street is definitely my new favorite find! And the gruyere croustini was a big a hit!
So what are you waiting for? October’s upon us, and the weather here in New York has definitely turned cooler. What a perfect time to invite a few friends over, pop open a bottle of wine and enjoy a simple fall dinner.
I’m so happy you’re enjoying today’s post on the dinner party! A little sidebar for all you foodies out there: At this point, I don’t have formal recipes to share. Culinary school taught me all the basics and from there, I’ve always cooked without measurements. In order to give original, reliable recipes, I’d have to do a lot of recipe testing, and with a full-time job at Martha Stewart Living, there just isn’t enough time in the day! One day soon, I hope to do a book in which I share all my recipes and ideas for entertaining! In the meantime, I’d be more than happy to suggest favorite recipes (especially vintage!) from other chefs. I hope you understand, and thank you for all your kind words and support!