Here's a secret: entertaining is not as hard as you think. It not only creates memories that linger in your home long after the guests leave but a source of stirring up a social life as easily as mixing ice with your favorite drink.
Although I've been editor in chief of several luxury magazines and have met the true masters in the field, I have loved table settings since I was in pigtails and collected pieces to create memorable tables. Each table setting tells a story. A trinket from a trip. Dishes from your wedding. Glasses given by a beloved family member.
I've always wondered why people will have collections of handbags or shoes and only one set of dishes. How boring. The table is where memories are made and those who gather around it should see immediately that something special is happening. It is an art form and you can be the artiste.
A consumer spending survey found a 27 percent increase in home entertaining and that number is certain to grow.
While many focus on recipes and food trends, the packaging is equally as important. You can have a party with inexpensive Chinese take-out and by putting it in beautiful bowls collected at garage sales, eBay, or your grandma, you will elevate the experience. Or of course you can just cook the rice and stir fry the chicken and broccoli.
Whatever you decide to do, this column is designed to stimulate your visual senses by weekly showcasing table settings provided by hostesses, designers and restaurants from around the globe who present beautiful artistic innovative creations.
This week we visit Sofia Crokos, an event planner from New York. Here is an example of using staples found in every home to create something special. Her Greek roots inspire her to find elegant but earthy solutions to whatever the theme of the party.
I selected Sofia's work because this table setting is an example of items found in most homes and because she used rosemary in a fresh innovative way. She placed a sprig of it on the Irish crisp hemstich napkin. "This added a fragrant punch to the table," she said.
Rosemary is one of the oldest recorded herbs in history and as gardener Madeline Wajda revealed, Greek students wore garlands of rosemary to improve their memory. Later rosemary became associated with Venus, the Goddess of Love and became a symbol of fidelity which made it a popular feature at weddings as well as funerals. Christians called it the Holy Herb and associated it with Mary, who according to Spanish legend draped her cloak over a rosemary bush on the Holy Family's flight to Egypt turning the color of the blossoms from white to blue and it was burned in medieval hospitals as antiseptic. Wajda also wrote how in England, an old folk saying was that "Where rosemary flourishes, the woman rules" though Shakespeare credited its early Greek roots when in Hamlet Ophelia says, "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance."
For a memorable table, Sofia added a sprig of rosemary to the Irish crisp hemstitch napkin. “This added a fragrant punch to the table,” she said. Another option is to take rosemary and tie a ribbon with it along with a name tag.
To update the wooden table, she added an olive green burlap runner as a base to add the decorative details. “The typical burlap is often rough but you can get treated burlap at most fabric stores,” she said. “Running down the length of the table was alternating compositions of cream zinnias and cream roses accented with geranium foliage, bundles of chamomile and rosemary and pots of Irish moss and maiden hair ferns.”
Notice how all the elements were designed in wooden and terracotta vessels. Go to any garden shop and you can find these terracotta pots for under a few dollars. Because flowers can be expensive if you are not picking them up from your own garden, Sofia also filled pots with grapes, cherries, and peaches and injected the feeling of nature’s bounty with clusters of artichokes that if you want, could be used for a meal after the party.
Candles are also placed throughout the display to create the necessary ambiance. Wherever you are, collect votives and candle holders.
The plates were simple copper-colored dishes. But even if you have a set of only white dishes -– which is still the most common in American homes -– this theme would still be beautiful. One can also add a dish to incorporate the theme. Lamb is a good choice to use rosemary as are lemon drinks. Share with us some of your favorite recipes or ways to use rosemary.
Photos by Bentley Waters
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