Saturday, August 30, 2014

Big things to come!

The Entertaining House is in the process of moving. Don't worry, the move will be seamless and you won't notice a thing... We'll still cover all your favorite things - fashion. food. decor. restaurant reviews. hotel reviews. and so much more! We're collaborating with some great partners and getting ready to grow... and knock it out of the ballpark!

Meantime les enfants and I are headed to Newport one last time this season - I wish you all a wonderful weekend and a happy and relaxing Labor Day!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Stylish notes on Fashion :: Can slouchy be stylish?


Give me comfort. Give me beauty. Give me style, but above all give me comfort! 

I can't remember a time when I was not madly in love with the over-sized, slouchy sweater. I wear them a little differently than I did when I was in prep school and in college, but I love them just as much. I believe, that when paired with a well fitted pair of jeans, tailored pants or leggings, an over-sized sweater can not only be flattering, but it can indeed be stylish, if not even downright sexy. It's all a matter of how it's worn. Pair a large sweater with leggings and ballet flats, boots and skinny jeans or, slim pants or shorts and a delicate pair of heels. If you've got the legs for it, you can even wear one as a mini dress. This look which is comfortable, and casual can also be quite sophisticated. It's also a look that is quite versatile -  perfect for a stroll in the country, window shopping in the city, to work and then to dinner. It's also the perfect piece to transition your wardrobe for fall. If you happened to have seen the New York Times Style Magazine section this weekend, you might have noticed slouchy and oversized knits, coats and pants gracing many of its pages as well.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Washington Prime :: SoNo's newest restaurant to grace the waterfront is a little bit surf and a little bit turf

At the corner of Washington and Water Streets, in the heart of South Norwalk, a new restaurant graces the waterfront with its presence. In an area that has been described as "hipster meets historic," Washington Prime is the collective vision of restaurateurs Rob Moss and Marco Siguenza. Steering the ship, Executive Chef Jared Falco, creates a menu that is collective, creative and inspirational. Don't let the name fool you, Washington Prime is as much surf as it is turf - offering something for every discernible palate. 

The interior has that industrial feel so often seen in the area that is combined with an element that is both warm and inviting. The high ceilings give the restaurant a spacious feel while the warm woods and moss covered walls and booths lend themselves to create a warm and nature-like ambiance which seems to echo the popular trend of bringing the outside in. A large U-shaped bar takes center stage and you are invited to try one of their specialty cocktails. From there meander over to the tables that are lined up along floor to ceiling windows, offering great natural lighting a panoramic view of the harbor. Outside, plenty of comfortable seating awaits those wishing for a more relaxed setting. 

I had the privilege of attending a special blogger/press dinner last week where I was able to sample a wide array of items on the menu. We started off with the Seafood Tower which consists of colossal shrimp, little necks, Alaskan king crab legs, and Maine lobster served with a spicy mustard sauce, house made cocktail sauce and a classic mignonette. The serving was generous - The seafood, sweet, tender and fresh. I had to pace myself and save room for all the food yet to come. I could have easily feasted on this and made it my dinner. 

Next we moved on to the Small Plates where we delighted in Falco's version of Poutine. Here oxtail ragu, cheese curds and green onion sit on top a generous serving of French Fries. This fun and hash-like creation - a twist of your basic meat and potatoes -  is comfort food at its best. This is like a grown up, hipper version of the chili cheese fries. The meat is saturated with intense flavor that seem to infiltrate the fries without overwhelming them. This is not a dieter's delight... but it certainly is delightful!

Next we moved on to the Wings. Fried chicken wings served with a kimchi sauce, scallions, soy and chili. Ordinarily wings are not something I would order, but I found the description to be intriguing and the presentation to be very palatable. I took a bite - These wings were different - so very different. Jared's twist, playfulness and creativity shines through here as well. The spice is just enough so as not to overwhelm. The heat is strong enough to be present but not so much as to overwhelm. The flavors marry beautifully. Both wings fans and non wings fan will enjoy this dish.

Next we had Jared's take on the deviled egg - These certainly ain't your grandma's deviled eggs. The intensely smooth and creamy yolk is topped off with a prime meatball, chicken fried bacon, pickled onions and the foie gras powder. The pickled onions added the perfect acidic contrast to the creamy yolk.

For the seafood lover, Knuckle and Claw is a decadent treat with sweet lobster meat over blue corn grits, lobster sauce and tobiko.

I've been on an octopus kick lately and if you happen to love Octopus this is a dish you simply must try. Share it with a friend - or keep it all to yourself.... that would be my choice! The perfectly charred octopus is tender and sweet. (If you equate octopus with something chewy and rubbery, you've not had it cooked properly.) Served with pickled peppers that give this dish the perfect amount of heat, duck fat marbled potatoes that simply melt in your mouth served over a pepper emulsion, this dish knocks it off the charts. I think we all felt the same way about this dish. I wonder if Chef Jared Falco would make this as an entrĂ©e for me?

From the octopus we dug right into the Burrata. Again, Jared defies the ordinary - no tomato, no olive oil, vinegar and basil with this burrata. Instead we have a creamy slaw, an aoili that is reminiscent of a traditional Russian Dressing that is topped with sesame seeds and served over a slice of toasted pretzel bread. The creaminess of the buratta lends itself perfectly to the slaw and the aioli - Again, a perfect example of creativity and innovation.

You've had one Chop Chop Salad, you've had them all, right? Here the finely chopped provolone and salami, together with the onion, carrot, red bell peppers, iceberg and romaine and creamy red wine vinaigrette have a very anti-pasta like quality. This salad is hearty and would make a perfect lunch eaten on its own. Dare I say it's a guy's kind of a salad?

The Iceberg Wedge has been given a mini modern twist. Served with pickled heirloom tomatoes, ewes blue cheese - creamy and mild - bacon, which is not really bacon at all, but an incredibly crispy, smoky pork belly. The house dressing is soft and mellow, without the acrid bite that so many blues tend to have. This version seems to have a lighter fresher feel to the iceberg wedges traditionally served at steak houses.

And now on to the entrees.We sampled filet mignon, ribeye and a porterhouse steak. Each was perfectly cooked - a well seasoned, seared crust sealed in all the flavors and juices. The steaks were tender to cut, completely eliminating the need for any steak knife. The meats were buttery and soft, each with a deep and intense flavor. Meat lovers and fussy meat eaters alike will delight in these steaks.

The scallops are served with corn relish, Nicoise olives and hunter's sauce over midlins. The flavors play beautifully together, and once again Chef Jared Falco adds a creative and modern twist to a classic dish, giving it a fresher feel. The scallops were perfectly seared on the outside and seemed almost butter-like as I bit into it.

The grouper, not pictured, was ternder and flaky, served over Carolina gold rice, tomatoes, asparagus and drizzled in a sweet carrot butter sauce. A nice lighter alternative.

If you have the room and can at all stand it, the desserts at Washington Prime are equally as fabulous. The key lime pie, not exactly, light does offer a refreshing mild key lime flavor a perfect palate tamer. 

This chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich is served up with a twist, a Fruity Pebbles milk reduction. Being the purist I am, I had to keep the Fruity Pebble concoction away from my chip-which.

Bombastic! Perhaps my favorite of all... the Ice cream bomb with chocolate and vanilla ice cream over a chocolate crust, buried beneath a deep chocolate and caramel coating. I may have to return just for dessert...

Cheesecake lovers will not be disappointed with this New York cheesecake. My suggestion, go to Washington Prime with a group of friends, order a lot and share it all - that includes, of course, all the desserts!

Pictured above: Chef Jared Falco and Marco Siguenza, co-Owner

Run (or swim) on over to Washington Prime. You'll not be disappointed. For more information, please visit their Website.

*All photos are property of Jessica Gordon Ryan and The Entertaining House. Re-use only with permission and proper attribution.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Behind the Scenes at the Antiques Roadshow

Visit me over at The Daily Basics today as I share my behind the scenes view of the Antiques Roadshow when they came to New York City's Jacob Javits Center.

Friday, August 15, 2014

People who love to eat are always the best people :: Happy Birthday Julia!

Long before Giada, Ina, and Nigella there was Julia. She needed just one name, for people knew who Julia was. Her television career commenced before I was born, but it was a long career and I have vivid memories of watching her, tall, with her shrill voice, on television - Channel 13. I would watch her truss chickens, debone fish, and prepare these long and complicated meals. She told jokes that at the time were way over my head, but yet even I knew they were funny. She was master of the French Cuisine and authored numerous cookbooks that were almost all named after her shows. She scoffed at "healthy cuisine" and believed that fat (butter and cream) were essential to good cooking. She brought, among many other recipes, Boeuf Bourguignon, French Onion Soup and Coq au Vin to the American table. Her cooking was methodical, detailed and often arduous, with many steps involved. Even though I had never sampled any of her cuisine, I could tell, simply by watching, that every laborious second spent on a dish translated into an end product that was nothing short of exquisite. I seem always pressed for time - my present lifestyle is not exactly conducive to her precision, but perhaps I should make a point, if only on weekends, to try my own hand at mastering the art of French cooking.

Julia was parodied in both Saturday Night Live and on The Cosby Show in the 1980s. Her biography is pages and pages long. She was a great influence on society, our cuisine and to all women - proving that when you find your passion, no matter how old you are you can still succeed, something this late bloomer loves.

While Julia was not terribly fond of Julie Powell, her blog, or her book, Julie and Julia which would eventually become a book and then a movie of the same name, starring Merryl Streep, Stanley Tucci and Amy Adams, the book and the movie would introduce this female Master Chef to a whole new generation. I, for one, happened to love both! 

Want to try your hand at a couple of the recipes Julie made famous? Click on this PBS link to get some of Julia's most famous recipes. For more on Julia Child and her life, please visit the Julia Child Foundation.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Happy National Creamsicle Day!

August 14th is National Creamsicle Day. 
It's a kid's treat. It's a kid's treat served up on a hot day. On a stick. At least that's how we think of the Creamsicle. The soft vanilla center covered with a hard orange sherbet-like shell proved to be the perfect antidote to the hot summer sun. As a child growing up in the city, my friends and I would head over a few blocks, either on sneaker-skates (remember those?!) or our skateboards to where the Guggenheim Museum proudly stood. We weren't there in search of art or culture, but of ice cream. Parked next to the museum, on the side street was the Good Humor Man and his truck. I can't remember a day he was not there. I had my favorites. Generally I chose the Chocolate Eclair or the one that had the chocolate candy bar center. On the hotter days I opted for something more refreshing. The Creamsicle was it. It hit the spot. The flavors remind me of my childhood in the city, of the Good Humor Man all dressed in white and The Guggenheim. The orange and vanilla combination brings back happy memories, and the pleasant flavors are by no means childlike. Below I offer some Creamsicle ideas for even the most sophisticated palates. 

For those in need of a boozy treat, How Sweet it Is offers up a creamy Coconut Creamsicle Margarita (top left) that looks dangerously delicious. Savvy Eats has created a marmalade infused Creamsicle Margarita (top right). Pick your preference or try both... Who are we to judge?! However, if you're looking for something slightly healthier, stop by The Roasted Root for her Orange Creamsicle Kumbacha, pictured just below. 

If you're anything like we are, you'd probably prefer something a little more dangerous, a little more decadent. Why not turn your favorite flavors into a truffle? Cooking Classy has done just that with her Orange Creamsicle Truffle. (Oh man, would we ever like to kick these up a notch and dip them in dark chocolate!)

We can only imagine what our all time favorite (French toast) would be like when stuffed with an "orange kissed cream cheese filling." We think it might be a little slice of heaven on a fork. Will Cook for Smiles has such a recipe. (Pictured below) Our only problem would be deciding whether to have it for breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert... or perhaps all four!

Nothing, and we mean nothing, beats a really good orange cake with a really good frosting. I'm requesting Baked Bree's Creamsicle cake for my next Birthday... if I can stand to wait that long!

Garnish with Lemon is a girl after our own hearts. Dark chocolate and Creamsicles? Swoon. And you will never believe that these are actually healthy to boot! Swing on over to her sight to see if you don't believe us!

We hope you'll take a moment to celebrate National Creamsicle Day. Let us know how you plan to celebrate!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Stylish notes on travel :: The St. Regis, New York

via St. Regis NYC

Right in the heart of midtown, surrounded by the some of the world's greatest museums, shopping and restaurants - and just a quick walk to Central Park - sits the St. Regis, rich in history and steeped in tradition.

In 1903, as they had many other summers, the Astor family took an annual vacation to the family home in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York. That summer the grand and opulent hotel was in the midst of construction and did not yet have a name so John Jacob Astor enlisted the help of his family to help. His niece suggested St. Regis, the beautiful lake by the home which was named after Francois Regis, a seventeenth century monk who was known for his hospitality to travelers. Today, over a century later, the moniker remains a most fitting one.

Property Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House

St. Regis Hotel in New York City is luxury defined and sets the bar incredibly, almost impossibly high. Here the glamour and charm of yesterday coexists beautifully today's modern lifestyle. While the hotel, lobby - currently under renovation - and restaurant exude the hotel's incredibly rich history, the rooms are historic only in their architecture - with high, austere ceilings, oversized windows, and exquisite crown molding - the decor is both elegant and luxurious by today's standards. Luxurious colors, textures and style make the rooms at the St. Regis feel more like a private residence than a hotel.

Property Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House

Our room - A simple but elegant King sized bed is set against a canopy, rich and deep in color and texture, flanked by two bedside tables set against a mirror-inlayed wall that reflects the light of the mirror on the opposing wall. Elegant white and gray shadow stripes gives the room a feel that is both masculine and feminine, modern yet traditional. The sitting area, featuring a small sofa, a chair and a coffee table are dressed in rich velvet of bright mustard, charcoal grey and deep ocean blue. Nothing about the room screamed out "hotel," not even the calling card from our personal butler - Yes, that's right, each visiting guest or family is assigned a personal butler. Your butler is on call and on hand for whatever you may need. Cookies? Milk? Champagne? Just call your butler!

Property Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House

Property Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House

Property Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House

via St. Regis NYC

Let's talk about the staff at the St. Regis. The staff at the St. Regis brings customer service to an entirely new level - attentive, helpful, courteous. Other luxury and 5 Star hotels should take note. And then there's the personal butler. I mentioned that, right? Who doesn't want a personal butler? Complimentary coffee, made in a French Press, along with delicate china cups and morning paper are delivered up daily so you can ease into your day gently, and relax in the comfort of your own room. Our room was high up on the 15th floor and we were graced by the plentiful natural light that warmed the room.

Property Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House

If you do not wish to dine in your room, make your way down to the historic King Cole Bar and Salon which is open for breakfast at 7:00 am and serves a full dinner until 11:00 pm. Of course you can stop in for their famous "Red Snapper." Stylish, sophisticated and glamorous, the King Cole Bar's history is worth sharing. 

THE ST. REGIS SIGNATURE COCKTAIL is the original Bloody Mary, then known as "The Red Snapper."  If you're at all a Bloody Mary fan, you simply must head over to the King Cole Bar to experience theirs. In 1934, Fernand Petiot, the bartender at the time, perfected a recipe for a vodka-and-tomato juice cocktail he dubbed the Bloody Mary. The name was thought to be much too racy for the hotel’s upscale clientele, and was rechristened the Red Snapper. The Bloody Mary remains the signature cocktail of the St. Regis brand, with each hotel crafting its own interpretation of the libation. For the original recipe, please click here.

Property Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House

Property Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House

A lunch of oysters, their own chopped salad and a Bloody Mary perfectly hit the spot!

Property Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House
In fact, we thought the Bloody Mary to be so perfect, we went back later on for another!

Property Jessica Gordon Ryan/The Entertaining House

I fell in love with the charming, warm and animated Old King Kole bar  - perhaps for the spectacular original mural by artist and illustrator Maxfield Parrish. In fact there are several Parrish pieces in the hotel lobby. Combine the art and architecture with the overall splendor of the building and one may indeed wonder whether they've stepped inside a museum.

For nearly a century the genial king has greeted guests of the King Cole Bar including such famous hotel guests as Ernest Hemingway, Marilyn Monroe, Salvador Dali and John Lennon. To truly appreciate the significance of this mural one needs to learn the about history behind the iconic mural.

“Old King Cole” began its New York reign in 1905, when it was commissioned for St. Regis founder John Jacob Astor IV. The massive 8-by-30-foot painting was to find a home at Astor’s 42nd Street hotel, the Knickerbocker, but that bar fell victim to Prohibition in 1920 and was then converted into an office building. At that point the mural went into storage and moved to several locations. Finally it arrived at the The St. Regis New York and has called it home ever since.

The interesting thing is that Parish was a devout Quaker. He was initially reluctant to paint anything for a bar, but was convinced to put his beliefs aside. Perhaps the greatest influence was that Astor was willing to pay $5,000 for the piece, an incredible amount of money at the time.  

Astor passed away in April 1912 when the Titanic sank. Gertrude Vanderbuilt Whitney, a close friend to Astor, asked Parrish to create a painting to be sold to raise funds for the Titanic staff who perished on the ship. Parrish, because of his close association with Astor, was more than happy to comply.

Parrish's mural essentially launched his career and Parrish would go on to create several other famous masterpieces, including “Daybreak” and “Garden of Allah,” a reproduction of which stands behind the bar at The St. Regis Monarch Beach. During the 1920s it was purported that 1 out of every 5 American homes had a print of either ‘Daybreak’ or ‘Garden of Allah’ hanging on their walls.

via Trip Advisor

The hotel also offers a gym and full service spa.( I didn't use the gym - it is fairly small - but with Central Park just a few blocks away why would anyone want to run inside on a treadmill?)  For a truly spectacular and pampering stay I strongly suggest a customized massage. Upon arrival I was whisked down for what possibly might have been the best massage I have ever had. I thank Galina for restoring a level of calm I've not experienced for years. After the massage, you may relax some more with your choice of champagne, tea or water. I opted for the tea (shocking, I know!) which was a good thing as a split of pink champagne, along with some strawberries and fresh whipped cream, was in my room awaiting my arrival.

via St. Regis NY

When I mentioned to a dear friend that I would be spending the weekend at the St. Regis, she told me that when she was a child her grandmother stayed there often - that it was a very old world hotel. She was surprised I wasn't staying someplace a bit more modern, but then declared me to be old school as well. After I gave her my full report, upon return, I'm quite sure she will visit the St. Regis as well.

In fact, the only thing old school about the hotel, other than the architecture and decor, is the impeccable customer service. The St. Regis recently underwent a multi-million dollar renovation. The hotel offers all the modern amenities businessmen and families alike would ever need. Have I mentioned how incredibly family friendly the St. Regis is?

via Bespoke Magazine 

Upon arrival the children are greeted with a coloring book and a teddy bear. Their stay is peppered with child-friendly meals, pint-sized bathrobes and in-room step-stools. Family-friendly excursions created now will lead to a life-time of lasting memories. The new Family Traditions program caters to travelers of all ages at one of the city's best addresses. Traveling within 10 minutes from the St. Regis? Do be sure to ask about the hotel's Bentley available to all guests - even those traveling without children! At the St. Regis, luxury knows no limit and no detail has been left unturned.

For more information visit their website.

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Stay tuned in the next couple of days for more on my New York weekend including a review of The 
Modern, Del Posto and my behind the scenes tour of The Antiques Road Show!