Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!!

From a bar cart in Portland, Maine…
I'm spending this Thanksgiving with friends in my home state. I asked our hostess Alicia to share her personal rules of entertaining with us today. And she knows what she's talking about - she was recently interviewed on MPBN, a local Portland radio station, because she has become so well known for her party hosting skills. Here are her tips!

1. Have at least one recipe that requires a little wine so you can drink the rest while cooking.
2. Wear lipstick.
3. Make sure someone else does the dishes.

I like her style. She's a LOT more laid back than I am, and I am doing my best to learn from her as I help her prepare to host Thanksgiving dinner.
Labeling serving dishes, as we talked about here.
I hope everyone has a wonderful celebration today and a fun long weekend! 

I'm taking tomorrow off from the blog to experience the bakeries culture in Portland. I'll be back on Monday to talk holiday prep. 

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

5 Last Minute Thanksgiving Printables

I can definitely count free party printables among the things I am grateful for this and every year. I often look to thoughtfully designed paper elements to complete my events, so it's wonderful that there are designers out there who contribute these DIY templates. In case you need a little extra special touch (or a last minute thank you card!) for your celebrations tomorrow, here are 5 of my favorite Thanksgiving printables found around the web. 

Note: To be 100% clear, I did NOT design these printables, and the images you see below belong to the sites I have credited. Click the links in the photo captions to go to the original sites and download the files. Then check out the rest of what these sites have to offer, because they are fabulous!
The Tomkat Studio
Camille Styles
The Sweetest Occasion
Oh So Beautiful Paper

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Glam Kitchen Essentials: Metallics

I love incorporating metallic elements into my décor, especially during the holidays. Metallics are festive enough for the season but can also be used year-round, so they make a great investment. Below are some options to consider for your own kitchen or to give as gifts for the cooks, bakers, and hostesses in your life. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

3 Holiday Party Looks: Casual Cookie, Sparkly Cocktail, Formal Affair

You guys, I am SO excited for the first installation of our "Look the Part" series. While I may have a few hostess tricks up my sleeve, putting together an outfit isn't my strong suit. I would rather coordinate my coasters to my cocktail napkins than my jewelry to my shoes (do people even do that?) - which is why I've called upon Megan Dorward of IG @meganburnley to be our official fashion contributor and put together a series of holiday party looks for us. Megan has gained quite a following on Instagram for her #ootd and other fashion-speak hashtags of her day-to day-style, and she always looks polished yet cheerful. You know all those Kate Spade sayings about the girl who lives colorfully and leaves a little sparkle wherever she goes…? I'm pretty sure it's Megan she's writing about. So I decided she would be the perfect person to go to for advice on what we all should wear to our holiday parties this season. And I'm so appreciative of her help, because now I can focus on dessert recipes and DIY hostess gifts! Here are Megan's party-ready looks, chosen just for us: 

Megan: Every year, one of my dearest friends hosts a cookie exchange party, and this year I'll be wearing a button down shirt in a classic holiday plaid with a festive sequin miniskirt. I've layered on the pearls and jewels since it is a party, after all, but I've kept the footwear simple in flats for the daytime. I think the mix of something casual with something sparkly is a bit unexpected, but the two textures together strike just the right note for an afternoon gathering of friends that is still special and very "holiday." 
Coat: J. Crew, similar here | Shirt: Vineyard Vines | Skirt: Kate Spade (2012), similar BCBG version here | Shoes: J.Crew, similar here and similar Ann Taylor version here | Necklace: J.Crew | Bracelet: J.Crew | Nails: Essie, "Who's She Red?" | Lip: Nars, Heat Wave

Megan: It seems like each year around this time, there's at least one event that calls for cocktail attire, and I am always scrambling for a dress that's a bit more special than your average "night on the town" dress but still festive enough for the season. I found this Shoshanna number on clearance and knew it would be just the ticket. The scoop neck is all party, while the full skirt keeps it sweet, and the silver taffeta makes me think of Nutcracker party scenes and sugar plum fairies. I was lucky enough to score this vintage 60s coat at my neighborhood flea market, and I'm convinced it was made for someone very important to wear to a very important event, which makes cocktail parties at a friend's apartment all the more of an occasion. The shoes are a party in and of themselves; just try to resist a twirl in crystal covered peep-toes!
Coat: Vintage, Columbus Avenue Flea Market | Dress: Shoshanna, Isabella Dress | Shoes: Vince Camuto, similarly fun Ann Taylor heel here | Lip: Nars, Roman Holiday

Megan: I'll be wearing this lace dress to my office's holiday party, which is a more formal affair. The neckline and full skirt keep it appropriate for the company - it is still a work event, after all - but the lace feels more formal and the metallic accents add a festive element. A black pointy-toe pump is elegant and understated, while the pink funnel coat makes a statement - and an entrance. 
Coat: J.Crew Factory, similar here | Dress: Shoshanna Lace June Dress (2012), similar here | Bag: Vintage | Shoes: Ann Taylor | Bracelet: Kate Spade, similar here | Lip: Nars, Heat Wave

Isn't she just adorable?! I'm definitely loving (okay, copying) that sequin skirt + plaid shirt + pearls combo. Maybe if we ask nicely, Megan will come back with an update on New Years Eve options? (Hint, hint, Megan!)

I hope you enjoyed our first Look the Part. Any favorite pieces? I'd love to know what everyone else is planning to wear to this holiday season - I could use the help! Also, very soon we will have an expert from Estée Lauder sharing her favorite holiday beauty products. I can't wait to share them with you!

All images on this post by photographer Kristin Lance.

Friday, November 22, 2013

My Gift Guide Feature in Delighted Magazine! & Celebration Links for Your Weekend

I am so honored and excited to be a contributor to the latest (Holiday!) issue of Delighted Magazine. There is nothing I enjoy more than searching for the perfect gifts for my loved ones. Well, okay maybe entertaining. And cake. But gift-giving is definitely up there! So when the lovely Amanda Gomes of Delighted asked me to compile a list of my top picks for 2013 holiday gifts, I was thrilled. If you haven't yet discovered Delighted Magazine, you are in for a treat. Every page is oozing with charm and happiness. I suggest you drop everything, pour yourself some tea (or champagne!) and and read it cover to cover. You can find the current issue here. And archived issues here.
Notes about a couple of these items: Lo & Sons is currently offering 20% off all of their bags with code PRETHANKSGIVING2013. I have the OG and it has honestly changed my life. People who are crazy about organization and travel will understand. The Camille Wine Glasses - elongated stem, bubble bowl - are what Olivia Pope uses on Scandal. I'm SO tempted to buy a set of these to designate as our official Scandal-watching glasses, and eat some popcorn for dinner, just like Ms. Pope.

Now for those links on celebration…

In case your bar cart is also in need of an autumnal makeover, Mrs. Lilien has a style guide she is calling Le Fall Bar Cart: Your Must-Have Bottles and Props - this is a must-click. So much fun. 

The Effortless Chic posted The Savvy Girl's Guide to Hosting a Stress-Free Party. My favorite line is: "It is such a temptation in this day and age to project unrealistic expectations on ourselves that keep us from exercising the simple art of hospitality." Well said, and sadly so true! 

A fun article in the New York Times called "Bar Carts: Wheels With a Buzz." I like this guy's style.

Confused about your pie crust for next week? Food52 has you covered. Pie Fats: Butter vs. Oil vs. Shortening vs. Lard.

I can't believe I didn't mention this earlier in the week: I really couldn't have pulled off Friendsgiving without the help of Foragers City Grocer. They not only cooked our turkey for us, timing it to be ready exactly when we wanted to serve it, but they let us borrow their roasting pan and oven mitts to carry it home. If you're in the NYC area (they have locations in both Dumbo & Chelsea) you should check out their full Thanksgiving menu

I hope it's been a great week!! 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Friendsgiving (or Thanksgiving!) Takeaways: Favors and Leftovers

I thought we'd conclude Friendsgiving week on A Bar Cart in Brooklyn the same way my guests left our celebration: with lots of treats! One thing I love about smaller events is that I can prepare really great favors for guests to bring home. My favorite is to give them something that they can eat for breakfast the next morning - which is a trick I've borrowed from Gramercy Tavern, who sends their diners home with gorgeous, oversized muffins. I call it a trick, because it keeps the guest thinking about your event the next day, in the best way possible.
Inside each box is a mini loaf of pumpkin bread (okay, cake). But if you skip the frosting it's not overly sweet and can pass for breakfast. Accompanying each loaf is a jar of caramel cream cheese frosting. I used the same pumpkin spice cake recipe from Bon Appétit that I used to make these tiered newlywed cakes. I told you this recipe is multi-purpose!
For the tags, I used this (free!) editable template by Lia Griffith. She intended these as place cards but they worked just as well as gift tags. Lia makes a ton of great party printables - you should definitely check out her site!
I knew the end of the evening might be a little hectic (okay, fine - I knew we might be a little wine-drunk), so to make distributing leftovers easy I prepared these packages in advance. I bought disposable cake tins and covered them with tin foil lids. Each guest took home two tins, one for savory and one for sweet. The savory tin had two small containers inside for cranberry sauce & gravy - I picked up the containers at a local salad bar. The separate sweet tin prevented pie from mixing with stuffing, which would have been tragic. And those beautiful calligraphy labels? They are another freebie I found on Jordan Ferney's blog, Oh Happy Day, designed by calligrapher Julie Manwaring of Flourish & Whim. I printed them on adhesive paper and cut to size.

I hope you enjoyed Friendsgiving as much as we did!
Is anyone else planning a Friendsgiving this year? I'd love to hear about it!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Autumnal Bar Cart Design & Friendsgiving (or Thanksgiving!) Cocktail

I put so much care into styling my by cart the first time around that I hadn't changed the design for a few months. I've hosted several events during which the cart was more of a visual accessory than a functional serving station. So I decided that Friendsgiving was the perfect opportunity to use the cart for its intended purpose, and I gave it an autumnal makeover. I didn't start completely from scratch - as you can see there are plenty of the original bar cart elements here, including these vintage ombre tumblers, which had yet to be used!
I wanted the top shelf of the Friendsgiving bar cart to include only what was going into the specialty cocktail I was serving. So I removed all of the bottles except the St-Germain and the Belvoir Cranberry Pressé. For the autumnal accents I added faux leaves and acorns. I replaced the faux lemons with real pears, as pear juice was an ingredient in the cocktail. And I stayed consistent with the table decor by including a stem of the wild kale.
This sparkling pear cocktail is something I've been making for a few years, but for Friendsgiving I decided to add the Belvoir Cranberry Pressé for a touch of Thanksgiving flavor. I included a sign on the bar cart that listed all the ingredients, so my guests would know what they were drinking should they decide to help themselves.
Having a bar cart, or at least a station dedicated to a specialty cocktail, is a great way to free yourself up as the host (and keep your guests out of the kitchen). It was especially helpful for Friendsgiving, as I needed to be in the kitchen a little more than during a normal event, while I was warming up the dinner dishes.
Friendsgiving Sparkling Pear Cocktail: 
1 bottle of Prosecco
1 shot glass of St-Germain
1 cup of fresh pear juice
1 small bottle of Belvoir Cranberry Pressé*
*could substitute 1/2 cup cranberry juice and 1/2 cup seltzer
rosemary sugar for the rim (instructions below)
Guests enjoying their Friendsgiving cocktails
I rimmed the glasses with Homemade Rosemary Sugar: 
Place equal parts dried rosemary and sugar in a food processor and blend well. Press the glasses on a wet paper towel and then directly into a shallow dish of the sugar. (Tip: A jar of rosemary sugar tied with a ribbon also makes a great hostess gift!)


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Friendsgiving (or Thanksgiving!) Paper Elements: Invitations, Place Cards, Menu Sign

Friendsgiving Invitaiton | A Bar Cart in Brooklyn
I was beyond thrilled when I realized that Paperless Post offers actual Friendsgiving invitations. I decided to take it a step further and order the paper version - I am a huge proponent of sending real invitations whenever possible. And Paperless Post makes it so easy and fun - they offer all of the customization choices in print that they do online, including different colors and even a choice of envelope liners. (How adorable are these grandma chic liners?! I'm in love). And you can order quantities as few as 10, which was perfect for our 8 person dinner party.
Friendsgiving Invitaiton | A Bar Cart in Brooklyn
(Address blurred so no one shows up at our door looking for leftovers!)
I chose seasonally inspired postage with these apple stamps. This design is only offered in 33 cent increments, so I doubled up and put two on each envelope. 
Friendsgiving Invitaiton | A Bar Cart in Brooklyn
Our Friendsgiving invitation style is also offered online or in print for Thanksgiving, as pictured below. 
Friendsgiving Invitaiton | A Bar Cart in Brooklyn
For the place cards, I chose letterpressed calligraphy cards with envelopes from Paper Source. During dinner, each guest jotted down what they were thankful for and sealed up their envelopes. At the end of dinner we swapped envelopes and everyone read someone else's card out loud. A little corniness never hurt anyone, right?
Friendsgiving Place Cards | A Bar Cart in Brooklyn
I used the flap on the envelope to prop the cards up, so they looked like this: 
Friendsgiving Place Cards | A Bar Cart in Brooklyn
I didn't print individual menus, because I felt that the place settings already had enough going on visually between the napkins, baguettes and place cards. So instead I wrote out the menu on one of these Bon Appétit paper place mats by Cake Vintage. 
Friendsgiving Place Cards | A Bar Cart in Brooklyn
Somehow I forgot to get a photo of the menu, but here it is from one of my friend's Instagram accounts. I made sure to note which dishes were made by guests, so that everyone got credit for their contributions. I used gold washi tape to post the menu above my bar cart - which we'll get to tomorrow along with the signature sparkling Friendsgiving cocktail!
Friendsgiving Place Cards | A Bar Cart in Brooklyn

Monday, November 18, 2013

Designing a Friendsgiving (or Thanksgiving!) Tablescape

This week on A Bar Cart in Brooklyn we're going to be celebrating Friendsgiving every single day. I am SO happy that this trend has been catching on. I myself have a very small family (tiny, in fact) and as a result, I have celebrated quite a few holidays with other people's families through generous invitations from friends. This Friendsgiving was an opportunity for me to return the favor by hosting those same friends and others for a fun celebration - so much fun that I'm more than happy to get to relive it here all week long. Starting with our tablescape:
We already had this metallic rimmed organic shaped dinnerware from West Elm, Reed & Barton Soho stemware, Villeroy & Boch candleticks (the ones pictured here are size large), Waterford Lismore salt & pepper shakers, and Chilewich Dahlia placemats (thank goodness for wedding registries!) You can find the dripless gold candles for the candlesticks on Amazon. The gold flatware was my grandmother's. I really think she would have been so pleased that we used it for this dinner - she LOVED parties.
I snagged these Garnier-Thiebaut napkins during a Gilt sale (they are still available!) and I loved the color so much that I decided to make it the color focus of the whole table. I find that this happens frequently when I'm designing an event or a room - I find one item I'm so obsessed with that it makes the perfect jumping off point and inspires the rest.
When I went to Gramercy Flowers in search of flowers to match the napkins, I found these stems, which are actually wild kale. (Of course they are - this is Brooklyn, after all). The flower shop also sold me the raffia I used to fill the rustic boxes. I picked up the acorns and berries in the centerpieces, along with the gold votive candleholders at Crate & Barrel. Where, by the way, it has been Christmas already for several weeks - the tiny portion of the store dedicated to Thanksgiving was tucked away in a back corner even weeks ago. Which is actually great, because it means that their Thanksgiving items will probably be going on sale just in time for the actual holiday!
I am a huge fan of Etsy (headquartered here in Dumbo!) I ordered the rustic boxes for the centerpieces from an Etsy shop called Succulents Galore, and the burlap table runner (which sadly is only making this one-time appearance, due to a red wine spill - whoopsie!) from North Country Comforts. Both businesses were super friendly and I highly recommend them.
Each person had their own individual mini baguette special ordered from Almondine Bakery, another local Dumbo business. They claim to have the best baguettes in the city, and I think my friends and I now agree with them! I wrapped the baguettes in pieces of parchment paper and tied them with twine. I also served homemade herb butter (yes, I've learned to make my own butter!) in these butter dishes from Crate & Barrel.
The place cards were envelopes that held a letterpress printed card prompting the guest to jot down what they were thankful for this Friendsgiving. We'll get those and the other paper elements including invitations and the menu tomorrow! I especially can't wait to share the invitations with you.

Happy Friendsgiving Week!!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Weekend Links: The Latest in Food, Wine & Celebration

A Bar Cart in Brooklyn
Left: Baking apple pies with Chef Dave of One Girl Cookies | Right: Cranberries at Foragers City Grocer

Hi friends! Today I am busy taking my own advice and preparing as much as possible in advance of our Friendsgiving celebration tomorrow. So far I've made cranberry sauce with ginger and clovebrown butter sage stuffingbalsamic honey brussels sprouts, and pomegranate ginger vinaigrette. The only thing left on my to do list is pumpkin pie! (Which I have a fantastic recipe for that isn't online, if anyone wants it please email me). I'll be using this advice from Food52 on make-ahead whipped cream. And luckily I got to make an apple pie (above) under the instruction of Chef Dave at a One Girl Cookies baking class last night - it's taking all my willpower (and a tin foil shield) not to dig into it early.

Now in the land of cocktails…

Napa Distillery just launched their online store, selling all sorts of really wonderful small batch craft spirits and cocktail essentials. They're offering 15% off through the end of 2013 - start ordering holiday gifts for your cocktail-crafting friends! Or just stock your own bar cart. I really love this Texas Grapefruit Shrub, and I also picked up a bottle of this Barrel Aged Negroni Cocktail the last time we were at the store in Napa.

The new online magazine PUNCH published a great article called "(Not) Drinking with GIRLS's Hannah Horvath."

The Huffington Posts wants you to be a better host at your next cocktail party. They set us straight on which cocktails to shake and which to stir.

Off to bake that pie…

Thursday, November 14, 2013

How To: Prepare for a Dinner Party in 5 Steps

There are so many beautiful images of Thanksgiving dinners on the Internet right now. Here are a few examples from Coco + KelleyWaiting on Martha, and Style Me Pretty Living, in case you're looking for some inspiration. I'm quickly learning that having a lifestyle blog means celebrating holidays in advance, which I am fully on board with as it means celebrating twice! Since our focus on this blog is preparation, I thought I'd give you a little step by step guide to preparing for one of these fabulous dinner parties, starting with Thanksgiving (or Friendsgiving!) We already discussed doing as much as possible weeks in advance: decide on a color scheme for your décor, determine the menu, and buy non-perishables. Now let's talk about what you can do during the days leading up to your dinner to minimize stress.
Label Serving Dishes | A Bar Cart in Brooklyn | Dinner Party Preparation
Label Your Serving Dishes 
1. Scheduling and inventory: Type up your menu and print two copies. On one copy make notes of when you will be preparing each dish (or who else is, if others are contributing). Break down your entire menu and make each item as early as you can. For our upcoming Friendsgiving dinner, there are a few items that can be made several days in advance: rosemary almonds for cocktail hour, herb butter for the table, spiced pecans for the salad, pie crust and cinnamon ice cream for dessert. Set aside time in your schedule to prepare these things early in the week to get them out of the way. On the second copy of your menu, jot down what tools you need to prepare each menu item. This could include appliances (food processor, ice cream maker, etc.), and other kitchenware and bakeware. If you keep these things stored away, bring them out and wash them. This step is important as it prevents any last minute purchases of overpriced supplies.

2. Recipes and ingredients: Print out all recipes (even if you know one by heart, write it down and dedicate a page to it) and sort them in order of the preparation schedule you determined above. Check your kitchen to see what ingredients you already have, highlight those you need to purchase, and decide when you will do so. Try to leave only the most perishable items for the day before your dinner. This will free up as much time possible on the day of, so you can spend that time picking up flowers or attending to any unforeseen issues.
A Bar Cart in Brooklyn | Dinner Party Prep | Napkin Folds
Which would you choose??
3. Label serving dishes: Place all of your serving dishes and accessories in an area where you can see them all at once (as pictured in the top photo above), and label them according to what they will be used for. This will help you visualize what you have available to you, discover items you may have forgotten you had, and make sure you're not planning for two items to go on the same platter.

4. Gather glassware, dinnerware, and silverware: Clean anything that is dusty, and polish your silverware if necessary. To decide on a napkin fold, don't just test the same napkin on the same plate - place several sets next to each other (as pictured above) so you can compare them and decide which you like best. Then press your linens accordingly.

5. Decorations: Arrange your centerpieces and other decorative table items as much as you can. If you're buying flowers, go to the flower shop a few days in advance to see what is seasonal, and pre-order what you want to make sure it's available to be picked up or delivered on the day of your dinner. Gather candlesticks and votives, making sure you have fresh candles for them. Set your table the day before.

I promise this isn't as much work as it sounds. And if you follow these steps, I guarantee you will be a lot less frantic and better able to enjoy your celebration!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

10 Festive Wine Totes to Disguise a Last Minute Gift

In case you're not the type of person who prepares homemade hostess gifts for the holidays (which is okay!) you can still be a gracious guest by gifting your host one of these festive reusable wine totes. It certainly makes a better impression than one of those awful metallic gift bags from the wine store (honestly, I'd rather a plain paper bag than have someone spend money on something so hideous!) Here are some fun, festive totes that you can order now and stash away for holiday parties. It might seem early but I promise it's not - we'll all be wearing ugly sweaters in just a few weeks' time! (Oh, boy). To make it easy for you to order several at once, I chose totes from just two shops: Society Social and Towne9. Specific links below.
A Bar Cart in Brooklyn | 10 Festive Wine Totes
1. Christmas Tree | 2. Snowman | 3. After Party | 4. Gin & Juice | 5. Salute | 6. Cheers | 7. Reindeer | 8. Cin Cin | 9. Bottoms Up! | 10. Celebrate.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Easy DIY Hostess Gift: Cinnamon Spiced Dulce de Leche

Honoring our motto, Preparation for Celebration, it's always a good idea to have a stocked "gift pantry" for when you need a last minute hostess gift. This cinnamon spiced dulce de leche is easy to make, will keep in the fridge for months, and doesn't take up much space - which makes it the perfect thing to make in advance and grab on your way out the door to a party. A homemade gift always makes a more lasting impression than the usual bottle of wine.
A Bar Cart in Brooklyn | Cinnamon Spiced Dulce de Leche
I'd like to say I made this on purpose, but it was really just a very fortunate accident. I was attempting an overly-complicated pumpkin ice cream recipe (the final result detailed here) when I realized I wouldn't have time for all the steps. But I was already reducing some sweetened condensed milk, and I recalled from my time in a pastry kitchen in Miami that one of the Chefs would often make dulce de leche by the same process. Deciding to make it seasonal, I added a few cinnamon sticks while the milk continued to reduce.
A Bar Cart in Brooklyn | Cinnamon Spiced Dulce de Leche
Cinnamon Spiced Dulce de Leche
This ratio makes 2 small jars; if you want more, simply double to 2 cans & 6 sticks.
1 can (14oz) Sweetened Condensed Milk
3 cinnamon sticks
Using a double-boiler (or a bowl placed on top of a pot of boiling water as pictured - making sure the bowl doesn't touch the water), heat the sweetened condensed milk on medium-low with the cinnamon sticks in it for approximately 2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes. The color will darken as the milk reduces. Remove the cinnamon sticks and allow the dulce de leche to cool before pouring into jars.
A Bar Cart in Brooklyn | Cinnamon Spiced Dulce de Leche
Dulce de Leche, also known as milk caramel, translates to "candy of milk" and is very popular in South America. These jars of dulce de leche can be used on top of ice cream, sandwiched in cookies, drizzled on top of brownies, or even to sweeten coffee.
A Bar Cart in Brooklyn | Cinnamon Spiced Dulce de Leche
Pour the finished product in a few empty Weck jars or other containers. Add some gold twine and a tag from Knot & Bow, and voila! An easy, seasonal hostess gift.