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Recipes & Entertaining Ideas

Filtering by Category: Entertaining Ideas

Deconstructed Mixed Flower Bouquets

Marc J. Sievers

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Next up in my Grocery Store Flowers Made Fabulous series, is how to deconstruct a mixed flower bouquet to create several beautiful, monochromatic arrangements. I am not a fan of the typical mixed flower bouquets that are available in grocery stores - I love the all of the vibrant colors, but I find that they are not as elegant. It is quick and easy to take one of these bouquets and create gorgeous, one-of-a-kind arrangements!

First, when you are looking at all of the bouquets in the store, make sure to select the biggest bundle of flowers that is available. This will yield the widest variety of blooms to work with. Once you get the flowers home, find a large workspace that will give you enough room to spread out and separate the blooms into single-color groupings.

After you have divided all of the the flowers into groups, use a pair of shears to cut each stem on the diagonal. This will allow the flower to drink up as much water as possible. Use your desired vessel as a guide for trimming the stems. I like to use small bistro glasses with a bit of warm water for these arrangements, as they are perfect for scattering the bouquets around the house or down the center of a table. Regardless of the season, fresh blooms always add that “little something” to brighten up the day!

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Salt & Pepper Potato Chips with Blue Cheese

Marc J. Sievers

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We have come to expect the traditional bowl of chips at a party. But let’s face it: that can get boring. You do not need to completely abandon the salty, crunchy deliciousness of potato chips, but you can make them a lot more interesting! My Salt & Pepper Potato Chips with Blue Cheese from my second cookbook, Table for Two, will immediately amp up the flavor factor at your next get-together and leave your guests wanting more! I love the addition of Stilton and the fresh zing of the lemon zest in this easy and elegant dish. For a party of two, this pairs perfectly with a glass of very dry champagne or bold red wine. Cheers!

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INGREDIENTS (serves 2, expand recipe as needed)

  • Salt & Pepper Potato Chips – 4 ounces, store-bought

  • Stilton Blue Cheese – 2 ounces, crumbled

  • Chives – 2 tablespoons, fresh, finely chopped

  • Lemon Zest – 1½ teaspoons

 DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

  2.  In an 8-inch cast iron skillet, or other oven-proof serving dish, add half of the potato chips.  Then evenly scatter over the chips 1 ounce of blue cheese, 1 tablespoon of chives, and ¾ teaspoon of lemon zest.

  3.  Add another layer of potato chips and the remaining blue cheese.

  4.  Place in the oven for 4-6 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.

  5.  Remove from the oven, and sprinkle with the remaining chives and lemon zest.  Serve hot.

 TIP:

Any brand of Salt & Pepper potato chips will work for this recipe.  Using a cast iron skillet allows this dish to go from oven to table, just remember to use a trivet to protect your tabletop.

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Crostini de Brie

Marc J. Sievers

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I love a simple but luxe little bite to serve with cocktails or even as a wonderful quick snack. My Crostini de Brie was inspired by a similar dish I had in a cozy French bistro in Milwaukee. It’s crunchy, melty, savory and a bit sweet- everything you want to nibble on with a chilled glass of champagne!

This is the perfect recipe to keep in mind as you hit your local farmer’s markets. Fresh baguette and arugula will be on hand, and the wide variety of locally-harvested honey (try a flavored variety, like truffle or orange blossom) will be showcased beautifully in this fabulously chic hors d’oeuvre. If you are looking for something new to wow your guests with, give this a try!

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Ingredients (serves 6, expand recipe as needed)

  • Baguette – 6 pieces, sliced ¼ inch thick on the diagonal

  • Unsalted Butter – 12 teaspoons, unsalted, at room temperature

  • Brie – 6 pieces, sliced ¼ inch thick

  • Honey – 6 teaspoons

  • Black Pepper – 3 teaspoons

  • Fleur de Sel – 1 ½ teaspoons

  • Arugula – for garnish

Directions

  1.  Preheat the broiler on the highest setting.  Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper.  Set aside. 

  2.  Butter both sides of each baguette slice with 1 teaspoon of butter.  Set aside.

  3.  In a large sauté pan set over medium heat, toast the baguette slices on each side until lightly toasted and golden.  Place onto the prepared half sheet pan.

  4.  Next, top each slice with brie.  Drizzle each slice with 1 teaspoon of honey.  Place under the broiler for 60 seconds until slightly melted but not runny.  Keep an eye on them, they will burn fast!

  5.  Remove from the broiler, sprinkle evenly with pepper, Fleur de Sel and arrange on a serving dish.  Garnish each crostini with a few leaves of arugula and serve warm.

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The G&A Martini

Marc J. Sievers

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No doubt you have spent many evenings enjoying an Aperol Spritz al fresco (or at your favorite hotel bar!).  I know I have!  But have you ever considered Aperol as the star of a martini?  My G&A Martini brings together the bright, citrus flavor of Aperol, the herbaceous layers of The Botanist gin and with the wonderful fizz of champagne to make for a refreshingly chic take on the most classic of cocktails.  If you are looking for something new to greet your guests with at your next party, you can serve the G&A Martini alongside my Puff Pastry Pinwheels sprinkled with a bit of Gruyère cheese.  For a larger crowd, take a page from the European entertaining playbook and present each drink over ice in small bistro glasses!  Cheers!

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Ingredients (serves 6) 

  • Gin – 6 ounces, Botanist recommended

  • Aperol – 9 ounces

  • Triple Sec – 3 ounces, Cointreau recommended

  • Orange Juice – 3 ounces, freshly squeezed

  • Champagne – (1) 750ml bottle, chilled

  • Rosemary – 6 sprigs, for garnish, fresh

  • Orange Slices – 6, for garnish

Directions

  1.  In a tall pitcher, stir together the gin, Aperol, triple sec and orange juice.  Set aside.

  2.  Fill a large cocktail shaker half full with ice.  Pour enough of the drink mixture into the shaker to almost fill it.  Shake the cocktail for a full 30 seconds and strain into martini glasses.

  3.  Top each martini with 4 ounces of chilled champagne.  Garnish each glass with a sprig of rosemary and fresh orange slice.  Serve cold.

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Grocery Store Flowers Made Fabulous: Rose Cluster

Marc J. Sievers

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I absolutely love having fresh flowers at home. What I do not love is breaking the bank for a beautiful arrangement! It is entirely possible to assemble gorgeous floral moments with blooms from your favorite grocery store, and I want to show you how to make a classic rose cluster using roses that I bought from my neighborhood grocer!

For this cluster, I chose a similar color palette and three colors of roses: Pale pink with lime green, ivory, and a soft pink/peach. One of the varieties was a spray rose to add a different size and texture. All you need are flower shears, green floral wire, and a simple glass cylinder (my go-to vessel - they are easy to find, blend into any table setting, and are small enough to arrange multiples down the center of a table, place on a side table, etc.).

This is the perfect time to be creative! If you prefer a monochromatic story, as I have shown here, select blooms that are in a similar color palette. For a more daring arrangement, shake it up a bit and choose a variety of hues for an eclectic centerpiece. Happy arranging!

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A Few Simple Tips to Arrange the Cluster

  • For a table setting, I think flowers should not be taller than 8-10 inches.  Measure your arrangement using my technique in the video. 

  • Cut stems at a diagonal when arranging.  I like to change the water and re-cut the stems daily to ensure my flowers stay fresh.

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Fresh Fruit & Yogurt Platter

Marc J. Sievers

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Who says that entertaining has to be confined to evenings?  I find that low-key morning gatherings for breakfast or brunch are a great way to catch up (and spill the T—not literally!) with friends, but still allows for everyone to have the rest of the afternoon to themselves. Breakfast entertaining should be just as easy and fun as a cocktail party, while being no less delicious!  My Fresh Fruit & Yogurt Platter is a beautiful showstopper that is light, layered with flavor, and quick to assemble.  

Perfect for any time of the year, this delicately sweet dish is made with a variety of berries, but you can switch up the fruit and play around with the color palette—add slices of kiwi and honeydew for fresh green, or slices of pineapple and mango.  Choose what is in season and highlight the freshness and full flavors of the berries, melons, and tree fruits that are perfectly ripe. Serve with your favorite coffee, tea, or fresh-squeezed juices.  This platter also makes for a simple and gorgeous breakfast meal for an overnight house guest.  A fabulous way to start off your day.  Enjoy!  

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Fresh Fruit and Yogurt Platter (serves 6)

 Ingredients 

  • Sweetened Shredded Coconut – ¼ cup

  • Greek Yogurt – 32 ounces, plain

  • Vanilla – ½ teaspoon, pure extract

  • Cinnamon – ½ teaspoon

  • Maple Syrup – 3 tablespoons, Grade A

  • Honey – 3 tablespoons

  • Orange Zest – 1 tablespoon

  • Sea Salt – ¼ teaspoon

  • Granola – 3 cups, favorite store-bought brand

  • Blackberries – 1 cup

  • Raspberries – 1 cup

Directions 

  1. In a medium sauté pan set over medium heat, add the coconut and cook for 3-5 minutes until lightly toasted, tossing occasionally.  Set aside. 

  2. Next, in a large bowl, add the yogurt, vanilla, cinnamon, maple syrup, honey, orange zest, and salt.  Whisk until combined. 

  3. Lastly, spoon the yogurt onto a large platter or low shallow bowl.  Arrange the granola, blackberries, and raspberries over the top.  Sprinkle with toasted coconut.  Serve immediately.

 

Tip:  You can prepare the yogurt up to two days in advance and store it in the mixing bowl, covered with plastic wrap, and set in the refrigerator. 

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Soirée-Sized Cheese Boxes

Marc J. Sievers

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One of the things that I love most with both cooking and entertaining is taking a classic idea and giving it a modern twist! I like to have a cheese plate ready to greet my guests at a party, but I wanted to tweak it a bit this season to make it more special for the holidays. My Soirée-Sized Cheese Boxes are a perfect companion to a glass of bubbles!

Of course, the best part about a traditional cheese board is that it is an easy, no-cook, delicious mix of flavors and textures: hard and soft cheeses, crackers, dried and fresh fruit and sometimes, a little sweetness, like a high-quality dark chocolate (all available at your favorite grocery store!). Think of my Soirée-Sized Cheese Boxes as a chic, updated version of the cheese plate that will wow your family and friends this holiday. You know what’s even better? They can be assembled in advance and kept in the refrigerator!

There’s no rhyme or reason in building these little boxes, so be creative and think about what your guests would love to nibble on as they arrive as well as what would make the most sophisticated presentation.  I started with these adorable and stylish boxes that are available online. I like to use grapes as a base to give some height and to serve as a sweet foundation. Next, layer in other ingredients, like dried apricots and figs, crackers and flatbreads, nuts and cheeses. You can use anything that has great flavor and will complement each other. This a great opportunity to try something new! To round out the boxes I have here, I included two hard cheeses; Pepper Jack and Gruyere, as I am able to cut them into strong geometric forms, and they will keep their shape while in the box. I presented the boxes in an acrylic tray, accented with a bed of beautiful greenery that I also found at my favorite grocery store. It’s simple and sets an elegant tone for the evening.

I love the idea of these boxes as edible and elegant versions of party favors that will be sure to be the life of your holiday soirée!

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 A Few Simple Tips to Arrange the Boxes

  • If you use a dried fruit with a stem, like the figs I have used here, be sure to remove the stems before placing inside the box.

  • Keep in mind that your guests will eat with their eyes first, so vary the height of the ingredients inside the box. You can use a hard cheese to provide the perfect vertical element for visual interest.

  • Add a fresh sprig of Rosemary or Thyme to each box for a little bit of green for an extra festive (and aromatic!) touch!

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Copper Holiday Centerpiece

Marc J. Sievers

While you are planning your holiday soirée, remember the flowers! An earthy and elegant arrangement makes for the perfect centerpiece. I love the rustic charm of a small copper pot as the vessel for a French-inspired collection of roses and greenery, which creates an arrangement that is sophisticated and does not overwhelm the table.

The best part is that all of the fabulous flowers (and herbs!) can be found at most grocery stores. While you are out picking up a few last-minute ingredients, you can also bring home simple florals to recreate this arrangement. I used red roses, spray roses, seeded eucalyptus, and rosemary for this holiday-themed bouquet. To make the arrangement, use small pieces of floral foam that fit snuggly into the container to help stabilize the bouquet. Also, throughout the year, keep an eye out for interesting vessels to hold your other arrangements, like vintage copper pans, porcelain, and glass vases of varying sizes. Florals do not have to be complicated, so be creative and experiment with different blooms and containers. You can adapt them for any season or occasion!

 
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 A Few Simple Tips to Create an Arrangement

  • Fill a deep bowl or stock pot with warm water and place a piece of floral foam on top of the water, letting it fully submerge on its own. This is the best way to ensure it absorbs as much water as possible.

  • To help your arranging go more quickly, organize your florals and remove any undesirable petals, stems, or leaves prior to assembling the arrangement.

  • Cut the stems of the roses on the diagonal to allow the blooms to take in more water while in the arrangement.

  • Add the rosemary the day of your soirée to be sure it is fresh and vibrant in the arrangement. Also, be sure to shave off the tough outer bark at the base of the stem, and slice the stem up the center so that it can take in water more easily.

  • I like mixing spray roses and regular roses together in the same color. This adds contrast and visual interest from every vantage point around the table while maintaining a sophisticated look with a unified color palate.

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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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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! 

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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!

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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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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

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10 Simple & Helpful Tips for Entertaining

Marc J. Sievers

Edible Candied Flowers from my cookbook Entertaining with Love!

It is easy to take a simple get-together at home and turn it into an unforgettable evening—it is all in the details!  I am not talking about over-the-top details, or going to any great expense.  Entertaining at home can be transformed so easily with very simple yet thoughtful attention to seemingly small things that will result in a big impact and leave your guests raving about your soireé!  I have been hosting parties for friends, family, and clients for many years and here I have shared some of the most helpful (and simple!) tips and ideas that will make all the difference for your party and your guests.


10 Simple & Helpful Tips for Entertaining 

  • 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.

  • Keep a collection of paper cocktail napkins with different patterns, themes, and colors on hand. Not only are they useful for cocktails and finger foods but will help further the theme or color scheme of your soirée!

  • Always use glass for cocktails and wine—it both tastes and looks better.

  • Have extra clean towels and a trash bin at the ready to quickly manage a spill or broken glass.If you don’t have a coat closet (or it's full!), set up a portable garment rolling rack in the foyer or bedroom for coats. Make sure to have plenty of wooden hangers at the ready.

  • When a guest brings a host(ess) gift open it immediately in front of them so they can see your appreciation. Also, have a spare vase for flowers, room in the refrigerator for chilled wines and champagne, a place for red wine in your wine rack, and extra trays or serving bowls for any food offerings.

  • Keep your pantry stocked with glass (not plastic!) bottles of both still and sparking waters to serve during sit down dinners and cocktail soirées.

  • Edible flowers are an easy way to garnish salads, desserts, and even cocktails and on-the-rocks drinks! Make sure to only use pesticide free varieties. They can be found at many grocery stores or ordered online.

  • When enjoying cocktails or dining al fresco, provide your guests with colorful blankets or pashminas to help keep them comfortable if there is a slight chill in the air. This a wonderful way to add color to your soirée and further evoke the theme of your menu, party, and occasion!

  • Use deli style and Chinese take-out container's to send guests home with leftovers. I like to make small labels that say "Thank You", "Come Back Soon", "Something Yummy Awaits You", and "Bon Appétit" to stick on each container. Little details make all the difference!

Order a signed copy of my cookbook Entertaining with Love!

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Eggs Provençal

Marc J. Sievers

There is something so incredibly chic about enjoying a breakfast or brunch dish at dinner time—especially when having company over!  It takes people by surprise and with a sense of delight, transforming “just another dinner party” into a relaxed occasion.  With the menu change there’s usually a palpable mood-change—guests let their guard down and the dinner party goes from regular, to memorable.  The power of food always amazes me.

My Eggs Provençal is just the dish to change up your dinner party dynamic.  It is a flavorful combination of eggs, cream, cheese, and lots of fresh herbs.  I love to serve it with an arugula salad tossed in my French Bistro Vinaigrette, Roasted Savory Carrots, a crusty store-bought Baguette, and a dry Champagne or Rosé.

To enhance the chic-factor, I set my table with simple white plates, flatware, and linen napkins, scatter plenty of scentless white votive candles around the table, and use simple juice glasses filled with red or orange roses to add some drama!  Best of all, this elegant dinner comes together in well under an hour.  Happy cooking!


Eggs Provençal

Ingredients (serve 6)

  • Eggs – 12 extra-large

  • Olive Oil – 3 tablespoons

  • Yellow Onion – 1 medium, ¼-inch diced

  • Kosher Salt – 2 teaspoons, divided

  • Black Pepper – 3 teaspoons, divided

  • Garlic – 6 cloves, finely minced

  • Butter – 2 tablespoons, unsalted

  • Mozzarella Cheese– 1 cup, shredded

  • Rosemary – 2 tablespoons, fresh, finely minced

  • Thyme – 3 tablespoons, fresh, finely minced

  • Arugula – 3 cups, pre-washed

  • Parmesan Cheese – freshly grated, for garnish, Parmigiano-Reggiano recommended

Directions

  1. In a large bowl crack the eggs and whisk vigorously until the whites and yolks are completely incorporated and the mixture is a pale yellow. Set aside.

  2. In a large sauté pan set over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Once hot add onions and season with 1 teaspoon of salt and 2 teaspoons of cracked black pepper. Sauté for 7 to 9 minutes or until translucent and slightly tender. Next, add the garlic and sauté for another 1 to 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the butter to the center of the pan and melt.

  3. Next, add the shredded mozzarella to the egg mixture, then add the rosemary, thyme, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of cracked black pepper. Whisk vigorously to thoroughly mix and immediately pour into the center of the sauté pan.

  4. Gently stir the eggs, constantly scraping the bottom and sides of the pan with a spatula. The mixture will slowly come together and begin to thicken. Remove from the heat after about 8 minutes, when the eggs are wet-looking and gooey, but no longer runny. Continue to gently stir off the heat for another minute.

  5. Next, transfer the eggs to the center of a serving platter. Garnish with arugula and big shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

  6. Serve immediately.

Order a signed copy of my cookbook Entertaining with Love!

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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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Easter Brunch Menu

Marc J. Sievers

A well thought out menu can really make a soirée seem effortless, regardless of the time of day, theme, or occasion.  Instead of trying o make everything yourself (there is really no “knead” to make homemade baguettes!), I think a smart host/ess should always have a few tried-and-true store-bought secrets up their sleeve and at the ready.

I rely on few favorite brands that I have tested and know how to work with as ready-made components to enhance my menus and cut preparation time to a much more manageable proportion of my overall prep time.  With certain useful combos, and easy and elegant recipes, I make my guests feel welcomed, special, and most importantly I get to enjoy my own party without being on constant catering duty.  I keep flowers simple, the music light and airy, and set the table the night before.

For Easter, I love hosting a casual brunch filled with some homemade things, some store-bought things, and some easily-assembled things.  This year, Ryan and I will be spending Easter with his parent’s on their farm.  Rather than have a complicated and labor-intensive menu, we decided a brunch would be an easier idea.  Because the farm isn’t surrounded by big grocery stores and specialty food markets, I wanted to plan a menu that included things that were easy to make, had that WOW! factor, and could easily be transported from Chicago to Iowa.

Whether you celebrate Easter or not, I hope my brunch menu inspires you to host a wonderful soirée (with lots of bubbly!) filled with family and friends!  Happy Easter! 

Order a signed copy of my cookbook Entertaining with Love!


Easter Brunch Menu

French Savory Tart with Onions & Gruyere (make ahead)

Roasted Carrots with Basil & Dark Chocolate (day of)

Simple Green Salad with French Bistro Vinaigrette (make ahead)

Baguette with Salted Butter (store bought)

Chocolate Bunny Platter (store bought)

Champagne (chilled)

Fresh Orange Juice (store bought)

Sparkling Water (room temperature)

Grocery Store Flowers Turned Fabulous


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