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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!

Pomegranate Guacamole

Marc J. Sievers

Last week I mentioned I have been in the kitchen testing guacamole recipes and I just had to share my Pomegranate Guacamole recipe with you (how could I keep this from you?)! This classic recipe with a MJS twist is bursting with fresh basil, red onion, and juicy pomegranate seeds. I love serving this dip on a long rectangular platter with pomegranate seeds casually strewn over the top. Not only is it delicious, but I love the drama of the contrasting colors!


Pomegranate Guacamole

Ingredients (makes 3 cups)

  • Lime Juice – 1 small lime, fresh

  • Hass Avocados – 3 ripe, pitted, flesh removed

  • Red Onion – ½ cup, ¼-inch diced

  • Basil – ½ cup, finely chopped

  • Sea Salt – 1½ teaspoons

  • Black Pepper – 1 teaspoon, freshly cracked

  • Pomegranate Seeds – ¾ cup

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, add the freshly-squeezed lime juice and avocados.

  2. Using two sharp knives in a crisscross action, slice through the avocados in the bowl until they are finely diced but still have some texture.

  3. Add the red onion, basil, salt, and pepper, and gently toss.

  4. Lastly, garnish with pomegranate seeds.


Green Apple Guacamole

Marc J. Sievers

I don’t know about you, but I have been eating guacamole all summer long! The past few months I have been testing guacamole recipes with different ingredients, flavors, and textures to give this classic dip an MJS twist. My Green Apple Guacamole is filled with crunchy green apples, spicy green onion, and of course creamy Hass avocados. As it turns out, green apples not only add fabulous crunch, but also a little bit of tartness that really cuts through the richness of the avocados. A classic, updated - enjoy!


Green Apple Guacamole

Ingredients (makes 3 cups)

  • Lime Juice – 1 small lime, fresh

  • Hass Avocados – 3 ripe, pitted, flesh removed

  • Granny Smith Apple – 2 large, cored, ¼-inch diced

  • Jalapeño – 1 small, fresh, seeded, finely diced

  • Green Onion – ½ cup, thinly sliced, white and green parts

  • Parsley – ½ cup, finely minced, Italian flat leaf variety

  • Sea Salt – 1½ teaspoons

  • Black Pepper – 1 teaspoon, freshly cracked

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, add the freshly-squeezed lime juice and avocados.

  2. Using two sharp knives in a crisscross action, slice through the avocados in the bowl until they are finely diced but still have some texture.

  3. Lastly, add the remaining ingredients and gently toss.


Al Fresco Entertaining

Marc J. Sievers

Hosting an al fresco soirée is one of my favorite things to do when the weather is just too beautiful to stay indoors.  For this years Le Dîner en Blanc Chicago I partnered with Caspari to create the ultimate, portable tablescape perfect for an all-white dinner outside!  Below I have included detailed images, my WGN News segment, and shoppable links (all from behind the scenes!) so you can easily recreate my tablescape for yourself at home or on-location!


Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Marc J. Sievers

The old saying, "I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!" is exactly what you will be shouting from rooftops once you make my incredibly luxurious (yet so easy) Vanilla Bean Ice Cream!  There are some recipes that use a handful of really good, flavorful, and fresh ingredients, that result in what I call "heritage recipes." These recipes embody the essence of home cooking and will make an appearance at your table for decades to come.  My ice cream recipe certainly falls into that category!  It uses just four ingredients, takes only minutes to assemble, and is the epitome of what vanilla bean ice cream should taste like, with fresh cream flavored with vanilla and a hint of briny sea salt.

Whether you plan to serve this vanilla bean ice cream on top of a slice of pie, a French apple tart, galette, or by just itself (drizzled with salted caramel sauce, my favorite!), you will be moved to scream for ice cream from rooftops from now on!

Watch: Another #MJSmoments on YouTube.  Subscribe to my YouTube channel by clicking here!


Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Ingredients (makes 1 ½ quarts)

  • Heavy Cream – 3 cups
  • Sugar –⅔ cup, granulated
  • Vanilla Bean Paste – 2 teaspoons
  • Fleur de Sel – ½ teaspoon

Directions

  1. In a medium sauce pan set over medium heat, add the heavy cream, sugar, vanilla bean paste, and fleur de sel.  Stir until the sugar is dissolved. 
  2. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap pressing it directly onto the surface of the mixture.  Chill the mixture in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or until very cold.
  3. Once the mixture is chilled, add it to an ice cream maker and follow manufactures directions.
  4. Scoop out the ice cream into a freezer-proof container and freeze for 2 hours.

Tip: I love the ease and simplicity of the Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker.

Try my other favorite ice cream recipes here:


4th of July Soirée - Six Festive Ideas to Do Ahead

Marc J. Sievers

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Entertaining during the summer should be all about ease, simplicity, and should include things that can be done ahead of time for your soirée—even for hosting a party on the Fourth of July!  For any holiday-themed event food is a fun (and easy!) way to bring it to life.  But, keeping it simple and stress-free is important.  These six do-ahead ideas can be done with simple items found easily at the grocery store, craft store, and even items already in your own pantry that will bring the party to life!

Kick off your own fireworks with these six do-ahead 4th of July ideas for a summer soirée in red-white-and-blue style!


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Champagne or wine glasses get a festive makeover with streaming ribbon

Red, white, and blue ribbons tied with a simple knot onto the stems of glassware is an effortless transformation with a dramatic effect!  Make sure the tails are extra-long!  As your guests hold their glasses the ribbon cascades for a stunning look, especially when multiplied across the backdrop of the party.  Matching-patterned cocktail napkins will pull this look together.  Use this simple idea to accentuate those savvy cheers-worthy moments!


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Get organized right from the beginning

Once you have decided on your menu, choosing the right serving dish is a helpful and time-saving next step.  Write on a sticky note with each of your menu items and label each serving piece with the corresponding sticky note.  This is also helpful during prep the day of the party when a guest asks, “Where should I put the veggie burgers?” All they have to do is look for the labeled platter!  Your food table is planned, organized, and ready to go.


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Create a color-pop platter

Having platters and other serving pieces for every holiday can be an expensive investment, not to mention a storage overload.  Instead, use acrylic rock crystals (they are typically used as filler in vases or scattered around a table) to punch-up an everyday white platter!  Choose a combination of colors (two or three—four or more is a bit overwhelming) that captures the colors of your theme.  Then, simply use a hot glue gun to affix the faux gems to the rim of a heat-proof platter.  You can do them in a pattern, a cluster, or arranged as section dividers on the platter.  After the party is over, the acrylic rocks just pop off leaving behind your simple white platter ready for the next holiday!


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Candles are key

Hurricanes had height, light, and a bit of drama to any décor.  Use the same acrylic rock crystals as the color-pop platter idea to create hurricanes on theme with your holiday look!  Place your candles in the hurricanes.  Mix together the three rock crystal colors, in this case red, silver, and blue.  Pour the rock crystals around the candles in each hurricane, about half way up the height of the candle.


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Take-out containers filled with make-ahead recipes

Doing as much ahead of time is key to keeping your soirée simple and stress-free.  After all, you want to enjoy the party, too!  A delicious and easy-to-make summer pasta salad is the answer.  Pasta salads taste better when you make them in advance and allow the flavors time to meld together.  Since you are already in the kitchen making a fabulous summer pasta salad (like my Pesto & Arugula Pasta Salad!), why not do one more small step to package it up in individual servings using take-out containers, also dressed with ribbon tails.  This is the easiest way to pack food for large groups without having to worry about serving bowls and utensils, spoons, and forks—just include a set of to-go chopsticks for each guest!  Best of all, the container, ribbon, and chopsticks are all recyclable, making clean-up easiest of all!


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Ribbon napkin rings

Do you have a drawer filled with mix-and-match napkin rings?  Where do their counterparts go?   It’s like the tabletop equivalent of socks “eaten” by the dryer!  Ribbon is the go-to solution when you need to add a bit of flair to a tablesetting, BBQ, or picnic.  Wired-edge ribbon is a perfect substitute for dedicated holiday napkin rings.  Instead of owning a set of twelve red- white-and-blue glittered star napkins rings to use once (maybe twice) a year, buy a spool of glittery star ribbon as a perfect alternative!


A Royal Wedding Breakfast!

Marc J. Sievers

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When WGN News asked me to design a segment for the ultimate watch party for the royal wedding of Price Harry & Megan Markle, I happily said "yes"!  Since the royal nuptials are being broadcast live from London, coverage begins in some TV-land markets as early as 2am - YIKES!  I thought A Royal Wedding Breakfast soireé was the perfect way to gather with friend on Saturday morning and watch the festivities unfold (and a perfect excuse to stay in your jammies!).  Below I have included detailed images, my WGN News segment, and shoppable links (all from behind the scenes!) so you can easily recreate my Royal Wedding Breakfast for yourself at home! 

Trader Joes

Toasted Crumpets with Mascarpone and Strawberry Preserves

Buttery Croissants filled with Scrambled Eggs & Spinach

Vanilla Bean Yogurt with Dehydrated Raspberries, Fresh Blackberries, & Granola

Vosges Chocolates

Lemon Raspberry Petit Gateaux

Rosé BonBons

Chocolate Truffles “Les Fleus” Collection

Loose Leaf Tea

Earl Grey Rose

Earl Grey Lavender

Offray Ribbon

1/8” in colors Wine, Lemongrass, Silver, Ivory, & Pink

Caspari

Paper Table Cover in “Gold”

Flower Tubes

Plastic Water Flower Tubes


An Easter Extravaganza!

Marc J. Sievers

For me, Easter has always been a very festive and colorful holiday!  Growing up my entire family would get together to cook, color eggs, hide eggs, and all of us little ones would get fabulous baskets filled with toys, coloring books, and candy from a local shop that opened in the 1920's called Priscilla's Candies.  Priscilla's was in Lawrence, MA along a quintessential main street lined with other small shops, including a Woolworths (where I would go with Nan for an ice cream at the counter).  My cousin Christine worked there during high school and college and learned to make everything by handshe even handmade candy canes!  Sadly the shop closed in 2011, but has left generations of us with some of the most vivid and sweet memories!

Priscilla's also had magical window displays (thanks Christine!) which is where my inspiration came from for this year's Easter tablea deconstructed Easter basket!  Instead of flowers, I decided to create a tablescape that was designed with all the elements found in an Easter basket:  Green grass, jelly beans, foil covered chocolate eggs, little toys, even chenille chicks!  The center piece was tall curly willow branches adorned with speckled eggs.  Recreating this at home is very straight-forward (I promise!) and can be sized to fit nearly any table.  Best of all, almost everything I used was from a local grocery store or drug store.  Below I have included detailed images, my WGN News segment, favorite Easter recipes, and shoppable links so you can easily recreate my Easter extravaganza for yourself at home! 


Festive & Fabulous Last-Minute Holiday Ideas

Marc J. Sievers

I love the last few days leading up to Christmas, there is a frenetic buzz in the air, everything seems to smell like peppermint and cloves, and the decorations on the streets and in the windows are like no other time of year!  I was asked by WGN Chicago for my top tips on some last-minute holiday ideas and I think I came up with a few you are going to absolutely love - and best of all you can find everything at your local grocery store!  Below is the clip for you to watch and hopefully get inspired to some festive cheer to your home this time of year!  Here are the recipes for my Cointreau Chocolate Ganache and Cointreau Winter Cider.  Sending love, hugs, and well wishes from my home to yours - Happy Holidays! 


Cointreau Winter Cider

Marc J. Sievers

During the winter, when the temperatures are just freezing, is actually my favorite time of year to entertain at home.  People tend to stay a bit longer, the food is very comforting and hearty, and everyone can relax and have a really good time!  When my guests arrive, I offer them a hot cocktail to warm them up and make them feel right at home – and it gives me time to put the finishing touches on dinner.  My Cointreau Winter Cider is filled with aromatic spices, lime juice to cut the sweetness, and has an orange boozy kick from Cointreau (that is sure to warm you up!)!  Best of all it can be made in advance so there is no mixing or shaking individual drinks – which leaves more time for me to enjoy the soirée, too!


Cointreau Winter Cider

Ingredients (serves 8)

  • Apple Cider – 32 ounces
  • Fresh Lime Juice – 6 ounces, freshly squeezed
  • Cinnamon Sticks – 2, plus more for garnish if desired
  • Star Anises – 2, whole
  • Cloves – 2, whole
  • Oranges – 2, thinly sliced, plus more for garnish if desired
  • Granny Smith Apple – 1, cored, thinly sliced, plus more for garnish if desired
  • Cointreau (orange liqueur) – 12 ounces

Directions

  1. In a large saucepan set over medium heat, add all of the ingredients except for the Cointreau.
  2. Bring to a boil, remove from the heat, add the Cointreau, cover and steep for 20 minutes.
  3. Fill heat-proof glasses or mugs with hot cider, garnish with extra cinnamon sticks, and serve.

Tip: If you would like to make this in advance, after the cider is finished steeping, remove the fruit and spices, and store the finished cider in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.  When you are ready to serve, gently re-heat the cider in a medium sauce pan over medium heat and serve hot.


Strawberry White Chocolate Bark

Marc J. Sievers

Whenever I travel I like to bring home food and entertaining inspiration from some of the world’s most extraordinary stores.  When I was in Berlin in early December, I was shopping in the candy department at KaDeWe (it is an entire floor!) and came across a beautiful bar of white chocolate with dehydrated strawberries.  I snapped a photo and continued on.  After getting over my jet-lag, I headed into my kitchen in Chicago and I recreated my version using white chocolate chips that are readily found in all grocery stores and freeze-dried strawberries from Trader Joe's.  After a few batches, the addition of vanilla bean seeds and French sea salt where the magic ingredients!  The vanilla added depth of flavor to the chocolate and the salt took it from a sweet treat to an elegant homemade candy - a truly winning combination!


Strawberry White Chocolate Bark

Ingredients (serves 8-10)

  • White Chocolate Chips – 20 ounces
  • Vanilla Bean Seeds – 1 teaspoon
  • Fleur de Sel – ¾ teaspoon
  • Freeze Dried Strawberry Slices – 1 ounce

Directions

  1. Using a pencil, draw a 9x11-inch rectangle on a piece of parchment paper.  Turn the parchment paper over and place it onto a half sheet pan.  Set aside.
  2. Add three quarters of the white chocolate chips to a heat-proof glass bowl.  Place the bowl in the microwave and heat on high for exactly 30 seconds.  Using a rubber spatula, stir the chocolate, return it to the microwave, and heat on high for another 30 seconds.  Continue to heat and stir in 30-second intervals until the chocolate is just melted. 
  3. Once it is just melted, add the remaining chocolate chips and vanilla bean seeds and stir until it's completely smooth.
  4. Pour the warm melted chocolate onto the parchment paper and spread it lightly to fill the drawn rectangle on the prepared sheet of parchment.
  5. Next, while the chocolate is still warm, evenly sprinkle over the fleur de sel.  Arrange the freeze dried strawberry slices to fill the entire chocolate surface. 
  6. Allow to sit at room temperature for 3 hours to set.  Break into pieces are serve. 

Tip: In addition to the whole slices of strawberries, I also use the “strawberry dust” at the bottom of the bag.  It adds even more flavor to each bite of chocolate bark and also looks fabulous!  


Watch: Store-Bought Cake Made Fabulous!

Marc J. Sievers

The word “zhush” means to make something exciting or more attractive, or to make it more fabulous (at least, that is how I use it!).  In this case, it is all about saving time by making a plain, simple, store-bought cake fabulous!  When I don’t have the time to make a cake from scratch (or don’t want to be bothered), I like to buy a small simple chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream to zhush up and turn it into something I am not only excited about serving, but also eating!  Grocery store bakeries are usually filled with cakes ranging in size and cost.  My approach for a Store-Bought Cake Made Fabulous is to buy the simplest and most delicious cake I can find.  Instead of relying of those pre-fab decorated cakes, focus on quality, and use these simple options to dress up even the most unassuming store-bought cake!


These are some of my favorite additions to zhush up a store-bough cake:

Edible gold leaf which you can easily find online and also in silver, adds a bit of glamour to fresh raspberries!  The same would be true for using strawberries, blackberries, or even blueberries.  Choose something that will complement the flavor of both the cake and frosting you choose.

Simple store-bought salted caramel makes a truly decedent addition to the top of a cake!  Once you start slicing, the caramel oozes down into the cake and makes each and every bite scrumptious.  I usually keep a little extra on-hand to serve alongside the cake.  For added fabulousness, you can also heat up the caramel and pour it over the cake as you present it!  Or, add a touch more of flaked sea salt for crunch. 

Colorful edible flowers which are typically in the produce department of grocery stores, makes for a very casual yet elegant effect.  I love dusting them with a bit of powdered sugar to help sweeten them (they are VERY earthy tasting) and to add a bit of texture and contrast.  This is especially elegant on larger rose petals!

Homemade whipped cream is also a wonderful decoration for almost any flavor of cake!  I like to use a piping bag fitted with a large round tip (or start tip) and pipe around the base of the cake when the cardboard disk meets the serving plate.  To make homemade whipped cream you need:

Homemade Whipped Cream

Ingredients

  • Heavy Cream – 1 cup, very cold
  • Sugar – 2 tablespoons
  • Vanilla – ¾ teaspoon, pure extract   

Directions

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, add the cold cream.  Turn the mixer to medium-low and begin whipping the cream.  Once it starts to thicken, add the sugar and vanilla.
  2. Raise the speed to high, and whip it until it thicken and begins to forms medium peaks.  I like it to still be a bit “soft” as the texture is much creamier.

Tip: Don’t overbeat, or you will end up with a very stiff whipped cream and it will not have any fluidity to it and will also turn into butter!


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