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La Vie Piquant

La vie piquant—the spicy life!  Everyday is filled with “piquant” moments that are pleasantly stimulation of exciting to the mind.  Whether it is in the form of food, style, design, love, entertaining, or any other inspiring idea or tangible object, “it” should be celebrated!  Here I will be sharing with you simple, beautiful, realistic, doable, and truly re-creatable recipes, entertaining ideas, and home décor pizzazz that will help you interject a little bit of “piquant” into your life – after all, we only live once.  Join me in living la vie piquant!

Cointreau Vinaigrette

Marc J. Sievers

Like so many of you, I like to have different vinaigrettes on-hand in the refrigerator.  A simple salad, when done really well, adds great texture and color to a meal, whether for lunch or dinner.  Salads have been know in my house (and clients, too!) to be an impromptu addition when I am having timing issues in the kitchen (or, when I drain the pasta into the sink without a colander - I blame it on the wine!).  My Cointreau Vinaigrette has a wonderful balance of sharp orange zing from Cointreau, and the freshly squeezed orange juice adds a bit of sweetness.  It is rounded out by the fruity olive oil, blending all of the flavors.   A perfect pairing, indeed!


Cointreau Vinaigrette

Ingredients (serves 6)

Cointreau Vinaigrette:

  • Orange Liqueur – 1½ tablespoons (Cointreau recommended)
  • Olive Oil – ⅓ cup
  • Honey – 2 tablespoons
  • Orange Juice – 3 tablespoons, freshly squeezed
  • Sea Salt – ¼ teaspoon
  • Black Pepper – ¼ teaspoon, freshly cracked

Salad Components:

  • Arugula – 5 ounces
  • Hazelnuts – 1 cup, lightly toasted
  • Goat Cheese – 3 ounces, crumbled
  • Parmesan Cheese – large shavings, for garnish (Parmigiano-Reggiano recommended)
  • Strawberries – 1½ cups, hulled, then thinly sliced
  • Parsley – ¼ cup, fresh, finely minced, Italian flat leaf variety recommended
  • Sea Salt – ½ teaspoon
  • Black Pepper – ½ teaspoon, freshly cracked
  • Orange Juice – ¼ cup, freshly squeezed

Directions

Cointreau Vinaigrette:

  1. Place all of the ingredients into a jar with a tight-fitting lid.  Shake vigorously for about 60 seconds.
  2. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before dressing a salad.

Assembly:

  1. On a large serving platter, arrange the arugula, hazelnuts, goat cheese, Parmesan cheese, strawberries, and parsley.  Evenly sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  2. Next, evenly drizzle the salad with freshly squeezed orange juice.
  3. Add just enough Cointreau Vinaigrette to lightly coat the salad.  Toss tableside just before serving.

Tip: I like to serve more vinaigrette in a small pitcher or gravy boat on the side and let guest add more vinaigrette to their salad if they prefer.


Cointreau Chocolate Ganache

Marc J. Sievers

A really good chocolate ganache is a fabulous recipe to have in your arsenal of quick and easy desserts because once it is made it has so many uses.  It can be used to glaze shortbread cookies, rolled into truffles, served warm over ice cream, used for chocolate covered strawberries, glazing cakes and cupcakes, or even whipped in a stand mixer until light and fluffy to use as a ganache frosting!  My Cointreau Chocolate Ganache is flavored with orange liqueur and Cognac, adding sophisticated (and boozy!) flavor of sharp orange and the warmth of Cognac, both of which happen to pair perfectly with dark chocolate.  Best of all, it takes just a few minutes to make and instantly makes even the simplest garnishes feel special and soirée-ready!


Cointreau Chocolate Ganache

Ingredients (makes 2½ cups)

  • Dark Chocolate – 1 pound, finely chopped
  • Heavy Cream – 1 cup
  • Honey – 4 tablespoons
  • Sea Salt – ¼ teaspoon
  • Vanilla – ¾ teaspoon, pure extract
  • Orange Zest – 1 ½ teaspoons, finely zested
  • Cognac – 2 tablespoons (Remy Martin 1738 recommended)
  • Orange Liqueur – 3 tablespoons (Cointreau recommended)
  • Shortbread Cookies – store-bought (Walkers brand recommended)

Directions

  1. In a heat-proof bowl set over barely simmering water, heat the dark chocolate, heavy cream, honey, and salt until just melted, stirring occasionally.
  2. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla, orange zest, Cognac, and Cointreau.  Stir to combine.
  3. Drizzle ½ of each shortbread cookie with just enough chocolate to coat it.  Set each coated cookie onto a paper baking cup that has been flattened.  Garnish with more orange zest if desired.  Allow the ganache to set at room temperature for a few minutes before serving.  

Tip: Stirring the ganache as it cooks with help make it shiny when it is used as a glaze, making for a professional and dramatic presentation.  The ganache will stay fresh in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to one week.  

Idea: Once the shortbread cookies set, do not refrigerate.  Store them tightly wrapped at room temperature.  


Watch: Truffled Toast with Asparagus

Marc J. Sievers

Truffled Toast with Asparagus is one of my all-time favorite recipes in my cookbook Table for Two.  It is incredibly chic and elegant, much easier to make than it looks, and is a really unique dish that will "Wow!" your guest!  This dish incorporates flavorful asparagus with crisp delicious bread, coated with delicious truffle oil, and topped off with egg yolks that create a luxurious sauce for the whole dish.  You need a sauté pan, a little assembly, and a couple minutes under a broiler, and you will have an over-the-top main course that is sure to impress you guest as much as it will delight their taste buds!

Series 5, Episode 3: Truffled Toast with Asparagus


Truffled Toast with Asparagus 

Ingredients (serves 2, easily expands for larger soirées)

  • Truffle Oil – 6 tablespoons
  • Challah Bread – 2 slices, cut 2-inches thick
  • Butter – 1 tablespoon, unsalted
  • Olive Oil – 1 tablespoon
  • Asparagus – 5 stalks, bottom ends trimmed and discarded, cut ¾-inch on the diagonal, tips included
  • Sea Salt – ¼ teaspoon
  • Black Pepper – ¼ teaspoon
  • Garlic – 2 cloves, thinly sliced
  • Fontina Cheese – ½ cup, freshly grated
  • Pecorino Cheese – ¼ cup, freshly grated
  • Egg Yolks – 4 extra-large, whole, at room temperature, separated into 2 bowls

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.   Place two individual gratin dishes (6-7 inches in diameter) onto a half sheet pan.
  2. Place a slice of bread into each dish.  Make an oval-shaped well in the center of each slice by removing bread about ½-inch deep.
  3. Brush the tops of each slice with 3 tablespoons of truffle oil, allowing the oil to be absorbed in completely.
  4. Bake for 6-8 minutes, or until the tops are lightly toasted.
  5. Meanwhile, in a 10-inch sauté pan set over medium heat, add the butter and olive oil.  Once hot, add the asparagus, salt, and pepper.  Cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Add the garlic and continue cooking for another 1 minute, being careful not to burn the garlic.  Remove from the heat, transfer into a small bowl, and set aside.
  7. Once the bread is finished baking, remove the sheet pan from the oven, top each slice evenly with both cheeses.  Gently place the eggs yolks into the well of each slice, and evenly distribute the asparagus mixture.
  8. Return to the oven and bake for just another 1-2 minutes, until the cheese is just slightly melted.  The egg yolks will still be raw and runny.
  9. Garnish with more salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately.

Tip: Because the egg yolks are still raw, you really want to make sure to use fresh eggs for this.  Also, because the egg yolks are still raw, the moment you cut into them, they instantly make a sauce! 

Idea: To give this dish even more truffle flavor, you can replace the sea salt with truffle salt – instant upgrade!  Truffle salt, I think, is a fabulous ingredient to keep on hand.  You can use it on almost anything savory as a finishing salt.


Enter If You Dare: Halloween-Inspired Décor

Marc-Ryan Group

Each year as Halloween approaches I get excited for the start of the Autumnal season of holidays and traditions.  The weather starts to cool off, spiced apple drinks start to flow (I like mine spiked!), and Halloween inaugurates the holiday celebrations with fun and creativity.

There are many directions to go when decorating for Halloween.  From kitsch to all-out ghoulish crypt-keeping, often I am left with piles of decorations in November that immediately need to be stored to make way for Thanksgiving.  This year I decided to take a different approach.  Less pumpkin tchotchke and no conversion to a full cemetery in my living room.  Instead, Halloween this year will be paired down to be sophisticated, chic, and best of all done in minutes!

My inspiration for a sophisticated Halloween theme is to utilize a monochromatic color palate of sumptuous black tones, and then to create focused vignettes in specific areas around the apartment.  This keeps the decoration contained and easier to manage and is visually more dramatic.

I also approached my theme with classic easy-to-find decorations in the seasonal aisle in my grocery store and drug store, but layered them in a more curated way.  As beautiful as many of the high-end Halloween decorations can be, they have to be stored year after year, and may not fit your style or space the next Halloween.  All of my decorations fit in a plastic boot-sized storage container for all holidays (except Christmas, of course).

The simplicity of a monochromatic palate is enhanced with different textures in the same black tones, which adds depth, interest, and a more layered look.  Use this visual All-Hallows-Eve photo series as inspiration for your own SPOOKtacular décor!  Pick and choose the elements that resonate with you, play some Halloween-inspired tunes (Pandora: Halloween Party Radio is my choice!), and just have fun adding some BOOtiful elements to make your space come alive – if you dare!

Happy Halloween!


Cobwebs, Spiders, and Crows - OH MY!

Everyday Items Get a SPOOKtacular Makeover!

A Centerpiece Worthy of Frightful Screams!

Classic Halloween Icons Perfect for Place Cards or Food Markers!

BOOtiful Halloween Details!


Watch: Roasted Fruit Salad with Rosemary Vinaigrette

Marc J. Sievers

My Roasted Fruit Salad with Rosemary Vinaigrette is a fantastic combination of incredible flavors and textures and happens to come together without any real effort - my favorite kind of recipe!  Roasting fruit intensifies their flavor and is enhanced even more with my incredibly simple rosemary-infused vinaigrette.  This is one my favorite dishes from my cookbook Table for Two!  It can be served as an entree for lunch or dinner for two, or shared as a salad course for a larger group (I love double-duty recipes!).  A friend recently served the warm fruit with vanilla bean ice cream and said it was a huge hit - who knew?!

Series 5, Episode 3: Roasted Fruit Salad with Rosemary Vinaigrette


Roasted Fruit with Rosemary Vinaigrette

Ingredients (serves 2 as a main course, or 4 as a salad course)

Components

  • French Feta – 5 ounces, crumbled
  • Spring Mix Greens – 3 ounces
  • Pecans – ¾ cup, whole halves

Rosemary Vinaigrette

  • Olive Oil – ¼ cup
  • Honey – ¼ cup
  • Rosemary – 1 sprig, fresh, about 4 inches
  • Whole Black Peppercorns – ¾ teaspoon
  • Balsamic Vinegar – 1 tablespoon

Roasted Fruit

  • Green Grapes – 1 cup, seedless
  • Red Grapes – 1 cup, seedless
  • Black Plums – 2, cut into quarters, pit removed
  • Peaches – 2, cut into sixths, pit removed
  • Olive Oil – 1 tablespoon
  • Sea Salt – ½ teaspoon
  • Black Pepper – ¼ teaspoon, freshly cracked

Directions

Rosemary Vinaigrette

  1. In a small sauce pan set over medium heat, add the olive oil, honey, rosemary, and black peppercorns. 
  2. Bring to a simmer, then remove from the heat, cover, and allow to sit for 20 minutes. 
  3. Next, place a fine mesh sieve over a medium bowl.  Strain the warm mixture, making sure to reserve the peppercorns and rosemary in the sieve.
  4. Lastly, whisk in the balsamic vinegar until full incorporated.  Set aside.

Roasted Fruit

  1. Start by pre-heating the oven to 450 degrees F. 
  2. Place all of the fruit onto a half sheet pan.  Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  3. Roast for 10-12 minutes, until the fruit just begins to release their juices.  During the last 3 minutes, add the pecan halves to the fruit to toast.

Assembly

  1. Arrange the greens onto a platter or a serving bowl.  Evenly distribute the warm fruit, pecans, and crumbled Feta.  Drizzle with vinaigrette.
  2. Serve warm.  


Watch: The Perfect Cocktail Party Pair

Marc J. Sievers

Hotel and restaurant bars can be a fabulous source of inspiration for entertaining at home.  And entertaining for two shouldn't be any less glamorous than for 10!  My Fried Blue Cheese Olives were inspired by a former menu staple at RL in Chicago, and fond memories of the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston helped me to create a simplified update on classic Amaretto Sour Martinis.  These are the perfect pair for a cocktail party just for two!  You can find both recipes in my cookbook Table for Two!

Truth be told, I love making cocktails at home but prefer not to be bothered with having to measure out a long list of ingredients and garnish with little drops and drizzles of things - I get bored way too fast for that!  My Amaretto Sour Martinis are so simple to make and can be made ahead of time and kept in a glass pitcher until you are ready to shake them over ice and serve them perfectly chilled.  

My Fried Blue Cheese Olives are almost as simple as the martinis and truly have that WOW! factor.  These are my go-to when I want to serve something warm with drinks.  You can't make them ahead of time, but they cook so quickly that you can make them just before your guest arrives - and then watch their face light up with excitement for such a delicious and perfect pairing!  

Series 5, Episode 2: The Perfect Cocktail Party Pair


Amaretto Sour Martinis 

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • Amaretto – 6 ounces (Disaronno® recommended)
  • Lime Juice – 2 ounces, freshly squeezed
  • Lemon Juice – 2 ounces, freshly squeezed
  • Honey – 1 tablespoon
  • Maraschino Cherries – for garnish

Directions

  1. In a cocktail shaker, combine the amaretto, lime juice, lemon juice, honey, and a handful of ice.  Shake until very cold, about 60 seconds (it is longer than you realize, but worth the work-out).
  2.  Pour evenly into each martini glass.
  3. Serve immediately.

Fried Blue Cheese Olives

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • Canola Oil – 1½ cups
  • Egg – 1 extra-large, lightly beaten
  • Dried Breadcrumbs – ½ cup, plain
  • Blue Cheese Olives – 16, patted dry, at room temperature

Directions

  1. In a small sauce pan set over high heat, add the oil.  Line a plate with a layer of paper towels.  Set aside.
  2. Place the lightly beaten egg in a small, shallow bowl.  In an additional small bowl, add the bread crumbs.
  3. Roll each olive through the egg, then through the breadcrumbs to evenly coat.  Coat all of the olives and set aside together.
  4. Once the oil has reached 350 degrees F (use a candy thermometer to be accurate), and working in small batches, gently place the olives in the hot oil.  Once golden brown, remove the olives with a small slotted spoon and place on the plate prepared with paper towel to drain. 
  5. Allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.  

Watch: Stuffed Croissants with Spinach

Marc J. Sievers

I am just so excited to share with you the first webisdoe of my newest series on YouTube of From My Kitchen To Yours: Table for Two edition!  When I started planning out recipes I wanted to film from my new cookbook, I really wanted to show you how truly easy and elegant my idea of cooking and entertaining for you and your +1 can be.  To launch the new series, I knew my Stuffed Croissants with Spinach would be the perfect recipe!  Not only can you serve these as part of a breakfast or brunch, they are also fabulous with a salad for lunch, or even as a first course for dinner.  Not to mention, the "filling" doubles as a creamy and luxurious spinach dip!

Series 5, Episode 1: Stuffed Croissants with Spinach


Stuffed Croissants with Spinach

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • Plain Croissants – 2, store-bought
  • Olive Oil – 1 tablespoon
  • Butter – 1 tablespoon, unsalted
  • Shallot – 1 small, finely minced
  • Garlic – 1 clove, finely minced
  • Spinach – 1 bag (5 ounces), rough-chopped, reserve 2 whole leaves for garnish
  • Sea Salt – ¼ teaspoon
  • Black Pepper – ¼ teaspoon, freshly grated
  • Gruyère Cheese – 4 tablespoons, freshly grated, divided
  • Mascarpone – 2 tablespoons
  • Parmesan Cheese – 2 tablespoons, freshly grated (Parmigiano-Reggiano recommended)
  • Egg Wash – 1 extra-large egg lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon of water

Directions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper.  Slice each croissant horizontally along the outside curve, but not cutting all the way through—you want to make a “pocket” for the filling to nestle into.  Set aside.
  3. In a 10-inch sauté pan set over medium-low heat, add the olive oil and butter.  Once hot, add the shallots.  Cook for 2 minutes just until translucent.  Add the garlic and continue to cook for another 30 seconds, being careful not to burn the garlic.
  4. Next, add the chopped spinach, salt, and pepper.  Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the spinach is wilted and tender.
  5. With a spatula, transfer the hot spinach to a small bowl and add the parmesan, mascarpone, and 2 tablespoons of Gruyère.  Stir until the mascarpone is melted.  
  6. Next, spoon the mixture evenly into the “pocket” created in each croissant.
  7. Brush the outside of each croissant with egg wash, place a spinach leaf on top of each croissant and brush again with the egg wash.  Then, evenly sprinkle each croissant with the remaining 2 tablespoons of Gruyère.
  8. Place onto the prepared sheet pan and bake for 7-9 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the spinach leaf is crisp.  Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

Idea:  This recipe can also be served as a hot spinach dip!  Instead of stuffing the spinach mixture into a croissant, put it in a heat-proof serving bowl alongside a selection of pita chips, tortilla chips, black pepper crackers, or even crisp carrot sticks.


Will You Be My +1!

Marc J. Sievers

A few weeks ago on my Instagram feed I announced I had a new series of From My Kitchen To Yours launching soon on YouTube.  I am so excited to share with you that the first webisode will air Tuesday April 11th!  This five-part series is focused on some of my favorite recipes from my newest cookbook Table for Two and highlights some chic and flavorful ideas on cooking and entertaining for you and your +1.  Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel to ensure you are one of the first to see my latest webisode.  I hope you have as much fun watching the new series as I had filming it!

Cheers,

 
 

Warm Chocolate Pots with Grand Marnier & Cherries

Marc J. Sievers

Warm Chocolate Pots with Grand Marnier & Cherries from the desserts chapter of my cookbook Table for Two: Cooking and Entertaining for You and Your +1.  

When it comes to making desserts at home, I try to keep the recipe easy and elegant – and always with a twist!  My Warm Chocolate Pots with Grand Marnier & Cherries is the perfect dessert for the finale of a casual weeknight meal, yet special enough for a weekend soirée with a glass of Port or Champagne!

The twist comes from (first) a generous “splash” of Grand Marnier, which is an orange liqueur that adds a bit of warmth and depth of flavor to chocolate, and (second) the dried cherries add some sweetness and give it fabulous texture.  My Warm Chocolate Pots require zero (and I mean zero!) special kitchen equipment, and is easier than pie (I mean it!) to prepare.  The recipe uses simple ingredients from your local grocery store (in fact, you probably already have everything on hand!), and from start to finish it takes less than 20 minutes – making this the ultimate dessert to easily have at the ready when entertaining! 


Ingredients (serves 2)  

  • Semi-Sweet Chocolate – 3 ½ ounces, roughly chopped
  • Butter – 4 tablespoons, unsalted, plus more for preparing ramekins
  • Grand Marnier® – 2 tablespoons
  • Sea Salt – ¼ teaspoon
  • Powdered Sugar – ½ cup
  • Cocoa Powder – 1 tablespoon, plus more for dusting
  • Vanilla – 1 teaspoon, pure extract
  • Eggs – 1 extra-large, AND 1 extra-large egg yolk
  • Dried Cherries – ½ cup
  • Flour – 3 tablespoons
  • Candied Orange Peel – for garnish (optional)

Directions

  1. Start by pre-heating the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Butter the interior of two ramekins (6 to 8 ounces each) and place on a baking dish.  Set aside.
  3. In a heat proof bowl, over barely simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally until just melted.  Remove from heat.
  4. Next, to the chocolate, add the Grand Mariner®, salt, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and vanilla.  Whisk until blended.
  5. Slowly whisk in the eggs.
  6. Toss the cherries with the flour, then stir into the chocolate mixture.
  7. Lastly, evenly divide the batter into the prepared ramekins.  Bake for exactly 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow to stand for 2 minutes.  Garnish with cocoa powder and candied orange peel.  Serve warm.

Tip: You can actually make these ahead of time!  Bake and allow to cool completely.  Then, wrap each one tightly with foil and place in the refrigerator.  When it's time to serve, remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes prior.  Discard the foil and warm in a microwave for 45 seconds.  Dust with cocoa powder and serve immediately.

Idea: You can also swap out the Grand Mariner for Cabernet Sauvignon.  I like to add 1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon to give it a little extra zing! 


Warm Winter Glühwein

Marc J. Sievers

My Warm Winter Glühwein - Inspired by a recent trip to Berlin, Germany for a grand tour of the Christmas markets!  Napkins: Britten Couture Home.  Cup & Saucer: Cassandra's Kitchen.

In early December I had the pleasure of traveling to Berlin, Germany with my dear friend Jennifer to celebrate her milestone birthday!  Like me, she is a lover of all things Christmas, and the trip was on her bucket list of places to travel.  The plan was to stay in the center of Berlin and spend a week visiting museums, restaurants, and of course the Weihnachtsmarkts (Christmas markets) that are situated all throughout Berlin!

A favorite (and very stylish!) market was WeihnachtsZauber at the Gendarmenmarkt.  This is one of the most popular Christmas markets in Berlin during the festive Christmas season. Framed by the Französischer Dom, the Konzerthaus, and the Deutscher Dom, a small tent city with more than 1,000 strings of light appears like magic each year in this centrally-located square that house artisans selling handmade ornaments, candles, gifts, and casual food stalls.  Besides the many wintry delights at the market stalls, Michelin-starred chefs offer their haute cuisine in heated tents.  This market was so enchanting, we went twice! 

All of the markets, bars, and restaurants offer different variations of warm Glühwein—based on either red or white wines (I like to use a Cotes du Rhone or Chardonnay) infused with dried spices, honey, and orange peel, which is served warm and typically with a shot of liqueur like amaretto, brandy, or dark rum.   After being outside wandering the streets of Berlin this is a very much welcomed drink to help warm your hands and your tummy!

My Warm Winter Glühwein uses a white wine base and infused with aromatics that add incredible flavor and fabulous notes of the wintry holidays.  I love having a pot of this on the stove as company arrives—it is a fabulous drink to serve as a welcome, but also makes the house smell so wonderful!

From my kitchen to yours – Happy Holidays!


Warm Winter Glühwein

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • Orange – outer peel of 1 orange
  • Cloves – 15 whole cloves
  • White Wine – 1 bottle (750 ml), Chardonnay, dry variety recommended
  • Honey – 4 tablespoons
  • Star Anise – 4 whole pods
  • Ginger – 2 pieces, fresh, 1-inch each, peeled, thinly sliced
  • Cinnamon Sticks – 3
  • Sparkling Water – 1½ cups
  • Dark Rum – 4 tablespoons
  • Orange Liqueur – 2 tablespoons

Directions

  1. Start by inserting the whole cloves into the pieces of orange peels.  
  2. Next, in a medium sauce pan set over medium heat, add the wine, honey, star anise, ginger, cinnamon sticks, and the orange peels dotted with cloves.  Allow to come to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, cover and barely simmer for 30 minutes. 
  3. Using a slotted spoon, remove all of the dried spices and orange peels.  Set aside to use as garnishes.
  4. Lastly, stir in the sparkling water, dark rum, and orange liqueur.  Gently reheat and serve warm.

Tip: I found that adding in sparkling water at the end gave this warm cocktail a slightly effervescent finish and lighter texture.

Idea: You can also make this in advance by following steps 1,2, and 3.  If you plan to serve it later that day, just leave it to cool on the stove top.  Before serving, gently reheat over medium heat, and add the sparkling water, rum, and orange liqueur.  If you want to make it and store it, allow it to cool completely, transfer it into a container, and refrigerate for up to 1 week.  Before serving, gently reheat over medium heat, and add the sparkling water, rum, and orange liqueur.


A Thanksgiving Table

Marc J. Sievers

Thanksgiving for me has always been a favorite holiday as it mostly takes place around a table filled with family and friends, sharing stories and while making more great memories!  While the food is always special, and bit more decedent (more butter!) on the day, one of my favorite parts is setting a festive table.

A great Thanksgiving table doesn’t have to be as complicated to create as the Thanksgiving meal itself, or take as much time.  A beautiful table is the perfect complement to a hearty and flavorful meal, creating a warm and inviting environment.  I love mixing textures, patterns, and autumnal colors to help bring together a rustic and elegant tablescape.

Textures

A layered table filled with different textures instantly creates a visually interesting and cultivated table—and truth be told is even better when everything isn’t so “matchy-matchy”.  I love mixing different metals like copper mirror-finish stemless glasses (for water), hammered gold flatware, pressed glass amber chargers and salad plates, casual stoneware dinner plates, and a rustic low centerpiece of dried twigs (from the grocery store!), pinecones, and fresh orange tulips (in floral water tubes)!  All of these elements add interest and complexity and help create a table filled with textures that work together—even though they are all different.

Patterns

I love using traditional damask tablecloths as a backdrop to most of my tablescapes.  This sets the backdrop elegantly, setting the stage for even the most modern table.  Mixing in damask napkins in complimentary tones keeps everything fresh and new (again, not so matchy-matchy, but complimentary).  Patterns are also found in the design of the plates, silverware, and even the ridges in the goblets.  All of which provide visual diversity.

Autumnal Colors

Classic autumnal colors like orange, wheat, amber, and other warm tones are all brought together with the help and balance of a neutral dove grey, copper, and bright green (from the tulips).  I love using bold tones against neutral tones—it warms the neutral colors and helps the bold colors really pop!

While this is a quick course in creating a fabulous Thanksgiving table, these are not “rules” so much as guidelines that apply also to everyday living and holiday entertaining.  If you are feeling curious, here is a link to all things Thanksgiving!

From my table to yours, happy Thanksgiving!


Some furnishings provided by Mikasa.

Apple & Herb Wellington

Marc J. Sievers

When I began testing this recipe for my new cookbook Table for Two: Cooking and Entertaining for You and Your +1, the combinations of ingredients seemed endless (and they really are!).  I finally settled on a selection of fresh herbs, apple, fragrant fennel and onions.  To give it even more “body”, I added Gruyère cheese that I diced into very small cubes.  This prevented the filling from getting too heavy with melted cheese, and instead created pockets of gently melted Gruyère that added the right amount of richness to the finished dish.  Keep in mind, this recipe does make two larger portions, so I like to serve it alongside a salad dressed in my French Bistro Vinaigrette

What I love most about this recipe is that you can interchange the fresh herbs and filling and have it adapt to be season specific.  During the fall and winter, I like to use fresh sage and rosemary (a perfect vegetarian main course for the holidays!), and replace the parsnip with butternut squash.  In the spring and summer, I love using basil and chives, and replace the apple with zucchini.

Like this recipe, so many other recipes from Table for Two are adaptable to help make entertaining as easy, elegant, and as truly delicious as possible, for you and your plus one!


Apple & Herb Wellington

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • Olive Oil – 3 tablespoons
  • Fennel – ¾ cup, ½-inch diced
  • Yellow Onion – 1 medium, ½-inch diced
  • Parsnip – 1 medium, peeled, ½-inch diced
  • Pink Lady Apple – 1 medium, ½-inch diced
  • Thyme – 2 teaspoons, finely minced, fresh
  • Sea Salt – ¾ teaspoon
  • Black Pepper – ¾ teaspoon
  • Garlic – 2 cloves, finely minced
  • Parsley – 3 tablespoons, finely minced, Italian flat-leaf variety recommended
  • Whole Cashews – ⅓ cup, rough chopped
  • Golden Raisins - ⅓ cup
  • Parmesan Cheese – 2 tablespoons, freshly grated, Parmigiano-Reggiano recommended
  • Gruyère Cheese – 3 ounces, ¼-inch cubed
  • Frozen Puff Pastry – 1 sheet, thawed overnight in the refrigerator
  • *Egg Wash – 1 extra-large egg lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon of water

Directions

1.     Start by preheating the oven to 400 degrees F.  Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper.  Set aside.

2.     In a medium sauté pan set over medium heat, add the olive oil.  Once hot, add the fennel, onion, parsnip, apples, thyme, salt, and pepper.  Cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until very tender, but not brown.

3.     Add the garlic and parsley and continue cooking for another 1 minute, being careful not to burn the garlic.  Transfer to a medium bowl to cool for 5 minutes.  Once cooled, stir in the cashews, raisins, and both cheeses.

4.     Next, on a lightly floured surface, roll out the thawed puff pastry dough to be roughly 12x14-inches.  Cut the dough in half creating 2 pieces measuring 12x7-inces.

5.     Divide the filling evenly onto half of each piece of dough, leaving a ½-inch border.  Brush the border with egg wash*, and fold over top the other half of each side of the dough.  Using the tines of a fork, seal the edges by of the dough by pressing the tines lightly into the dough.  Do this on all three sides or each packet.  Transfer to the prepared baking sheet.

6.     Brush the tops with egg wash*.  Using a small knife, cut three slits on the top of each packet.

7.     Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the pastry is puffed up and golden brown.

8.     Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.


Table for Two!

Marc J. Sievers

For nearly a year, I have been in the process of creating my new cookbook, Table for Two: Cooking and Entertaining for You and Your +1. And now, finally, it is nearly here! Table for Two debuts November 5 and I am simply bursting with excitement to share it with you! It has been a passion borne from the realization that we entertain for two quite often, and that two is a party! I laid out and wrote my new book with the idea that we each have different plus-ones in our lives—those friendships, relationships, and special connections who deserve our undivided attention. But, cooking (and entertaining) just for two is not always easy. How do you cook and entertain elegantly for two, without it feeling like you’re still throwing a dinner party for ten? Or worse, feeling it’s an effort not even worth making! Table for Two is my answer, presented as an easy-to-use guide.

But, more than just a book of recipes, Table for Two is one-part cookbook, one-part entertaining guide, with a dash of story-telling and memoir. From the very beginning, I set out to address the challenge of cooking and entertaining smartly just for a duo. I created every recipe completely from scratch to ensure each is perfectly portioned for two. I also kept it simple, flavorful, and familiar with elegant recipes you would want to serve to any +1 who is special to you! Giving your undivided attention to your +1 is at the heart of the experience I aimed to capture and guide you through with my cookbook. The food you prepare should support that, and doesn’t need to be complicated, fussy, or overly-extravagant.

What truly sets Table for Two apart is my focus on creating for you a trusted guide. With it, you can set up a catch-up around the coffee table, enjoy a kitchen island soirée, or a marvelous in-bed fête. I have set these scenes and more, with useful ideas, easy menus, and inspired stories, all centered on wonderful recipes with fresh ingredients and straight-forward preparation that doesn’t require exotic tools or wild ingredients.

You do not need to be a wiz in the kitchen, or even an experienced host/ess to entertain at home. What you must be, is willing! Willing to not only learn about fresh ingredients and useful techniques, but also to share that with your +1 and make whoever they are feel as through in that moment they are the only other person in the world that matters! Table for Two is sure to be a welcomed addition to your chef’s library as the first lifestyle cookbook and guide you will turn to for a party of two!

Order your signed copy of Table for Two!



My Intimate Affair with Paris, in Chicago!

Marc J. Sievers

P.O.S.H. Chicago

In the June issue of Chicago-Woman Magazine, my article INSPIRÈ: A Curated Collection of Parisian Inspiration featured local Chicago boutiques bursting at the seams with fabulous Parisian flare!  As a regular ORD to CDG traveler, there were still more of my favorite Chicago spots with a French accent that I wanted to share with you.  This “Toddlin’ Town” we all love and adore is replete with ways to take a mini Paris-inspired stay-cation just by climbing into the back of an Uber!  From flowers, to bakeries, to hotel silver, fragrance, and French fries, I hope you enjoy a look into my intimate affair with Paris, in Chicago!


Christine Noelle Design

When I stumbled upon Christine Noelle Design tucked away on Oak Street, I was instantly inspired and transported to Flower.fr which is a favorite floral boutique of mine in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood of Paris, on Rue de Babylone.  Christine’s charming, colorful, and delicate studio in Chicago is about simplicity at its best!  Her studio is filled with fresh blooms, rustic farm tables, and French antique touches that set her well apart from others in the city.  Both studios are a must visit!

Flowers: by Christine Noelle Design.  A full service flower studio filled with a fresh daily selection of unique and one-of-a-kind blooms, celebrating each season, while manipulating color, texture, and composition to strike beauty and balance.  Individual blooms and full arrangements available. 

Christine Noelle Design

106 East Oak Street, Chicago, IL 60610

312.475.1500

www.ChristineNoelleDesign.com


Hendrickx Bakery

At Hendrickx Bakery in the Gold Coast, it starts with top quality ingredients:  the best butter directly imported from France, artisanal flour, and lots of patience (as it takes them 18 hours to prepare fold after fold for the perfect croissant dough).  The result is irresistible, light, airy, buttery, flaky.  Your challenge—decide which of their twelve varieties to choose from!  Walking into Hendrickx, which also serves salads, soups, tartines, and other Parisian essentials, is like walking into a patisserie in Paris – instant charm, warmth, and amazing food!  The next time you are in Paris, check out Mamie Gateaux for simple country cakes, food, and charm!

Croissants:  by Hendrickx Bakery.  Discover our artisanal breads, croissants, macarons and pastries.  Enjoy a home-made sandwich or soup or salad, all prepared from scratch on the premises by Belgian Chef Renaud Hendrickx and his inspired team.  Before you leave, don't forget to take a peak in the all open kitchen, who knows, Renaud might offer you a sample of one of his new products!

Hendrickx Bakery

100 E Walton Street, Chicago, IL 60611

312.649.6717

www.HendrickxBakery.com


diptyque

Synonymous with French fragrance, diptyque threw opens its doors in Chicago in November 2012 on North Damen Avenue in Wicker Park.  The incredibly elegant and sophisticated interiors by Jennifer Studio gives you the feeling of stepping inside a jewel box filled with complex and layered textiles, finishes, and of course some of the most cultivated fragrances in the world.  My personal favorites are Géranium Rosa, reminiscent of the red geraniums that fill Parisian window boxes in the summer, and Feu de Bois for the woodsy scent of billowing smoke from wood-burning fireplaces in the fall and winter!  

Candles: by diptyque.  The diptyque story began in Paris 51 years ago, at 34 Boulevard St-Germain, with three friends Christiane Gautrot, interior decorator, Desmond Knox-Leet, painter, and Yves Coueslant, theatre administrator and set designer. Previously designing fabrics and wallpaper for Liberty and Sanderson, together they teamed up in 1961 and opened the first diptyque boutique to showcase their fabric designs. With their unique taste, they gradually transformed the store into a chic bazaar offering a fascinating variety of unexpected items, unique to Paris, which the trio brought back from their travels. In 1963, they introduce the first diptyque scented candles – Aubépine, Cannelle and Thé - and a few years later, they launched their first eau de toilette, L’Eau. Today, the brand’s extensive product portfolio includes home and personal fragrances along with a body care line.

 diptyque

1645 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

773.252.3989

www.DiptyqueParis.com


P.O.S.H. Chicago

Whenever I need a retail pick-me-up, I always head to P.O.S.H. on State Street!  With a desire to offer something unique to the consumer that had grown weary of “sameness”, their small shop is met with a warm reception as the search for pieces that haven’t been mass-produced for coast-to-coast consumption is shared by many.  This is where I like to look for unique hostess gifts, celebration gifts, and truly French vintage tabletop décor – it is like walking into a gleaming Parisian dream!  I especially love holiday time as their window displays are just beyond magical! 

Home Décor & Gifts: by P.O.S.H.  “At some point in your life, you want something that feels authentic - something that speaks to you.” That thought is what drives P.O.S.H. to search high and low for the items that stock its shelves - an eclectic assortment of vintage Hotel and Estate Silver, Restaurant China and Dinnerware and an ever-changing mix of European Flea Market Finds. Found in such disparate places as long-shuttered American china warehouses and restaurant supply depots to the antique markets and auction houses of Europe, the items sold at P.O.S.H. are often one-of-a-kind or limited in quantity. From a vintage silverplate tea service once used in an English Country Inn to a beautiful water pitcher from a Grand Hotel in New York, most of our pieces tell a romantic story of an age gone by.

P.O.S.H.

613 N State Street, Chicago, IL 60654

312.280.1602

www.PoshChicago.com


Le Petit Paris

Probably my most-visited French restaurant in Chicago is Le Petit Paris on Chestnut Street.  It is my go-to spot to sit in the bar area and sip a glass of Champagne while nibbling on a basket of pomme frites, as Edith Piaf plays from the wall mounted jukebox!  There are blinking garlands of Christmas lights in the bar, the occasional Valentine decoration on the wall, and even a couple rolling office chairs for “extra seating”, all of which (and more!) equal eclectic perfection!  Le Petit Paris has genuine charm and personality, partly from the ambience, and also from Alain—chef, owner, bartender, and music volume controller (I like it loud!).  He works seven days a week at his restaurant and goes to the markets every morning at 6:30am to secure the day’s freshest produce, meats, fish, and poultry.  He is then in his kitchen preparing and cooking until the doors open for dinner service starting at 5:00pm. This is truly a hidden gem of Chicago!

French Bistro: Le Petit Paris.  Locals and visitors alike are drawn to the ambiance and relaxed atmosphere of our classic French bistro. Chef/Owner Alain Sutbon lights up the evening and provides a warm setting for lively conversation over a glass of red wine and fabulous French cuisine.  Along with our fine selections of French wines, our signature dishes include Duck with Grand Marnier Sauce, Oven Roasted Rack of Lamb, and fish.  Daily trips to the market are used to give you the freshest ingredients!  To complete the evening, try our house-made desserts with a glass of port.  Check often for monthly specials!

Le Petit Paris

260 E Chestnut St, Chicago, IL 60611

312.787.8260 (Call for reservations)

www.LePetitParis.net


Linda's Tomato Salad

Marc J. Sievers

One of my dearest friends, Linda Marie Clark, lives in California and is an award-winning photographer and exceptional watercolor artist.  She also happens to be an amazing cook!  We met about four years ago after she found my cookbook on Amazon.com and started painting my recipes.   It was so incredibly flattering, especially considering her talent!

Having chatted with her for a few months via email at first then telephone, I decided to invite her to Chicago for a visit.  And now, a few years later, we talk every few days, we started a stationary line together, and our friendship has blossomed.

Linda loves to photograph in her garden in California.  A few weeks back she sent me a text with a photo of a beautiful salad she made after a visit to her local farmers market.  It was filled with fresh tomatoes, sweet corn, and spicy basil!  She also captured the moment perfectly at sunset in her garden.  Her photograph (and salad!) was just too stunning not to share with you!  Linda’s Tomato Salad has made it onto my table three times already this summer and is always a crowd-pleaser!

Happy Summer!


Linda's Tomato Salad

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • Sweet Corn – 2 ears, shucked
  • Heirloom Tomatoes – 1 ½ pounds, 1-inch cubes
  • Basil – ¾ cup, rough chopped
  • Olive Oil – ½ cup
  • Balsamic Vinegar – ¼ cup
  • Sea Salt – ¾ teaspoon
  • Black Pepper – ¾ teaspoon
  • Parmesan Cheese – ¾ cup, large shavings, Parmigiano-Reggiano recommended

Directions

  1. Bring a large sauce pan filled with water to a boil.  Add the ears of corn and cook for just 3 minutes.  Remove the corn for the water and cut the kernels off the cob.
  2. Next, arrange the cubed tomatoes down the center of a serving platter.  Scatter the corn evenly onto the tomatoes.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Sprinkle evenly with basil, salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese.
  4. Serve alongside a basket of crusty bread.