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Recipes & Entertaining Ideas

Filtering by Tag: Tablescape

A Modern Thanksgiving Menu

Marc J. Sievers

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My absolute favorite thing about Thanksgiving is that it’s a holiday all about family, friends and FOOD! Gathering everyone around the table for a fabulous meal is the perfect way to catch up and enjoy the start of the holiday season. While you could go the traditional route and labor over a turkey and stuffing, why not amp up the luxe factor with my take on a modern Thanksgiving dinner?

My Apple and Herb Wellington can be assembled the day before and be baking away in the oven as your guests arrive. Pair it with my Simple Green Salad with French Bistro Vinaigrette. Your home will smell amazing and you will be free to greet everyone with my Fried Blue Cheese Olives and a lovely glass of wine! Save the best for last with my Pumpkin Spice Trifle, a fall-centric version of the traditional English dessert.

Need a refresher on the perfect presentation? Be sure to check out my tips how to set a Thanksgiving table. The full, delicious menu is below. Happy Thanksgiving!  

 

 
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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!

Watch: WGN News Segment featuring Caspari and Le Dîner en Blanc 


Store-Bought Food

Baguette
Olives
Cashews
S&P Potato Chips
Peppadews
Rosé
Champagne
Sparkling Water



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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!

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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

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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 hand—she 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 table—a 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! 

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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.

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A Creative Approach to Everyday Tablescapes

Marc J. Sievers

Designing tablescapes is something I have been doing for clients for years.  The word “tablescape” sometimes scares people as it conjures images of towering floral arrangements, polished gleaming silver, and layers of fine China.  While that specific image is certainly an option—glorious in its own right—the word tablescape also can refer to everyday tabletop design that have well thought out concepts and choices to help accentuate your personal style, décor, and theme of your soirée, while also showcasing your everyday dishes, glassware, flatware, linens, and other casual pieces you may have.

This May, in celebration for Mother’s Day, I was asked by WGN Chicago to showcase a Mother’s Day brunch extravaganza!  Since Spring is in full swing (most of the days!), I wanted to create a colorful table filled with flowers, texture, thoughtful touches, and an easy and elegant main dish, my Eggs Provençal from my cookbook Entertaining with Love.  In addition to shopping for the ingredients I needed to prepare brunch, I also relied on my local Trader Joe’s for the best overnight croissants (they are available in plain, almond, or chocolate!), another favorite local grocer for an edible and over-the-top gift basket, and stunning flowers, all budget-friendly!

While this tablescape, menu, and basket were each created on the theme of Mother’s Day, they would be equally as fabulous and impressive for a birthday celebration, dinner party, weeknight dinner, or any other celebration with which you want to make a statement—easily using everyday ingredients that are readily available at your local grocery store!  Have fun entertaining!

Order a signed copy of my cookbook Entertaining with Love!

 

Watch the clip below to get a video tour.

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A Perfect Place Setting – Casual or Formal

Marc J. Sievers

Setting a table for a brunch, luncheon, or dinner is one of my favorite things to do. It allows me to be creative with colors, textures, and style. While there are a few rules when it comes to laying a properly appointed place setting, there are also chic and easy ways to make a time-honored tradition both fresh and new without compromising on etiquette.

First, decide how informal or formal you want your table to be. I keep a printed version of the charts below tucked away with my napkin rings, making it easy to reference when it comes time to set the table.


Informal Table Setting


Formal Table Setting


Next, it is onto selecting my accoutrements for my tablescape. Here are a few of my most-used ideas and tips when it comes to selecting the details for the table.

Dinnerware, Glassware & Linens

  • Simple clean-lined white plates are the best for showing off your cuisine. Remember, expensive does not always mean better. You can find white dinnerware just about everywhere and on any budget, including discount stores, flea markets, and garage sales. Some of my most-treasured finds are from thrift stores and flea markets.

  • I also love collecting antique mismatched china! It’s perfect to incorporate with my all-white dinnerware for a touch of whimsical elegance.

  • Use different patterns of vintage flatware to create a more informal feel.

  • Simple clear glassware and stemware is perfect for all types of parties. It allows the colors of wine and cocktails to become part of the table’s décor. Of course, crystal stemware is also perfect. It will add a bit of sparkle and glamour to any party, even the most casual!

  • When hosting a cocktail party, buffet, or potluck choose one type of glass for all beverages, including water. I love using stemless flutes. They are elegant, add height to a table or buffet, and best of all fit into the dishwasher more easily than a traditional stemmed glass. Of course, stemless does not apply to coffee and tea service.

  • If you are planning to serve a full complement of beverages, plan to use 3 to 4 glasses per guest, including a glass each for a cocktail, red wine, white wine, and champagne.

  • Always choose a natural fiber like cotton or linen for napkins, tablecloths, and runners. When something has a stain or spill you can easily pre-treat and launder at home.

  • Choose colors like crisp white or a delicate cream or ivory for your main set of linens. You will always be prepared for any party no matter the theme or style. You can easily dress up plain linens with ribbons, flowers, and other adornments.

  • Table runners, patterned or colored napkins, and plate chargers are fabulous ways to add color (and glamour!) to your table. Having more than one set of linens is a great way to add vibrant color and interest to your table and will pair perfectly with monochromatic napkins, tablecloths, placemats, and plates.

  • Avoid unnecessary stress by pre-pressing linens as soon as they have been laundered. I have a dedicated drawer and a small shelf where I store my ready-to-use linens.

  • While you may have a desire to insert a perfumed sachet in with your clean stored linens, it is not ideal. Any added scent to your linens will interfere with the scent of your food.

  • Always plan on having available double the number of napkins per guest. After dinner give each guest a new napkin for dessert. Nobody enjoys wiping their mouth with a soiled napkin.

  • For a rustic feel use over-sized, new, clean dishtowels for napkins or placemats. Choose ones that will fit the theme of your food and colors.


Table, Flowers & Service

  • A fabulous host or hostess sets the table the night before! You can take your time to make sure all of your details are in place, and you will have time to fix or work around any problems you might discover (a torn tablecloth or wax-encrusted candle stick). Doing so the night before also allows extra time in case you are running a tad behind in the kitchen (we all do!).

  • Flowers are a must for any soiree! Buy flowers and arrange them one or two days in advance of your soirée with warm tap water. This allows the blooms to relax and open which will make your arrangements appear fuller and more natural the day of your gathering.

  • Cut the stems on the diagonal to allow them to drink the most water. Change the water daily to keep your arrangements fresh and vibrant.

  • Buy flowers with little to no scent for the dining table or sideboard. You never want the scent of flowers to compete with the aromas of your food. Keep heavily scented flowers for the guest bathroom or foyer.

  • A flower arrangement set on your dining room table during dinner should be no more than eight inches tall. You want to create a low-lying display, something that can easily be “peeked” over so guests can converse with one another naturally.

  • Instead of placing one flower arrangement in the center of the table try placing three or five (use odd numbers) smaller arrangements in a single row going that spans the entire length of the table.

  • If you only have taller vases place a larger arrangement at each end of the table and sit guests between them. Fill in the middle of the table with candles, rose petals, potted herbs, or big bowls fresh produce.

  • If your budget is a bit tight opt for hand-made tissue paper flowers that can be made in a variety of colors and sizes. They can also be stored and reused. Not only are you saving money, but being green as well!

  • Antique silver trays and bowls are my signature entertaining trick! Both useful and beautiful, you can find them at garage sales, flea markets, and online. I like to buy many different sizes and shapes enabling me to always have the perfect shape every time. It is amazing what they will do to elevate your party and add instant style and sophistication! Perfect for serving canapés to cocktails, side dishes to desserts, they will fast become your “go-to” soiree item!

  • Use small glass or silver serving bowls for all condiments. Never put plastic bottles on the table. Not only will they detract from your tablescape, but nobody wants to read labels during a party.

  • I love using beautiful wired edged satin ribbon for napkin rings. Simply tie it into a bow around the napkin, then place a sprig of fresh thyme, rosemary, or a small stemmed flower in between the ribbon and napkin.


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The City of Lights - Paris!

Marc J. Sievers

The City of Lights – Paris, France – in my opinion should be called “The City of Inspiration”!  Having just spent eight glorious days there eating, shopping, and of course enjoying some fabulous French wines, I brought home a million (and one!) food, décor, and style ideas.  The weather was mostly sunny, the air was filled with smells of freshly baked bread, and the gardens and trees were just starting to get their Spring buds—it was the perfect backdrop for my first trip with my husband Ryan to celebrate our third wedding anniversary with great friends. 

Since I have been home (for about 8 grueling American days) I have been going through the almost 1,200 photos that I took during my trip — everything from street vendors, patisseries, bistros, flowers and of course the Eiffel Tower and Versailles.  In the coming months, sprinkled amongst my regular posts, I will be sharing Paris-inspired posts, each filled with original recipes, décor ideas, and style concepts that will take you on a virtual vacation and impart some Parisian flair into your everyday living.  Grab your beret!  Our first stop is Ralph’s!

Ralph’s is Ralph Lauren’s second restaurant—the first was RL in Chicago—which opened in 2010 in the romantic Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood in Paris.  It was also the backdrop to our anniversary dinner!  RL in Chicago is our “go-to” restaurant whether we are grabbing a quick lunch, aperitif, or a cozy dinner, so the only place we could imagine creating a lasting memory for our anniversary dinner on our first trip to Paris was Ralph’s.  The moment we stepped out of the taxi (at a very un-Parisian early 7:00pm) we knew we were in for a stunningly beautiful evening.  As we walked through the heavy double outer doors, through the stone vestibule, and into the swoon-worthy inner courtyard, I couldn’t help but to stop and peak through the windows on the world-famous designer’s Paris flagship boutique.

The particular window I peek through first was the jewelry salon, where sitting atop a fireplace mantle were two ornate Chinese ginger jars filled with dozens of red roses.  They took my breath away.  These two simple components—materialized on a truly grand scale—were somehow going to come back to Chicago with me!  For months I had been struggling with just how to finish the sideboard in my dining room—no longer!  As I tucked that idea into the back of my mind, walked through the courtyard, and stepped into the “magazine worthy” restaurant, the simple and elegant theme of the red roses continued at the bar, on every table with small clusters in simple glass vases, and even fifteen feet in the air by way of towering mantle pieces crowned with velvety red roses.  I felt as though I was in a chic and fabulous dream!  The rest of the evening was filled with champagne, laughter with close friends, scrumptious food, and lasting memories that I will cherish for years to come.




Inspiration is about seeing something that impresses you in a way that you want to create your own interpretation of it and adapt into your own style, scale, and budget. Inspiration is about being inspired—motivated by something, based on a particular example, feeling, or flavor, and is not about copying or duplicating. Inspiration comes in many forms and from countless sources and well-executed inspirational experience will incorporate details you love and want to pay homage to. - MJS


TIP: When arranging small clusters of roses, arrange them at least 3 days before your soirée. This will allow each bloom to open up and become more full.  Change the water everyday and re-cut each stem ¼ inch to ensure the flowers stay fresh and drink as much water as possible.  

Order a signed copy of my cookbook Entertaining with Love!

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