I thought it would be fun to use my set of Mikasa Parchment dinnerware for you today in celebration of the Great Dinner Party's re-launch.
I've only used the china in one previous tablescape post. It was in the spring, and the centerpiece featured arrangements of (mostly) garden flowers. I followed my natural inclination and made it ever-so-slightly over the top -- lots of shiny silver serving pieces, champagne buckets, layers of lace, clusters of grapes among the flowers. You can see it HERE or just get the idea from the image below:
Today's version is, well, not exactly casual, but decidedly scaled back. My goal was to strike a balance between earthy and ethereal -- definitely a challenge when the dinnerware is truly elegant, with a beautiful scrollwork design and platinum border.
I think of dishes like these as comparable to "investment pieces" of clothing -- the kind of quality classics that give our wardrobes "good bones" and credibility. Personal style comes from mixing in vintage pieces, heirloom jewelry, and so on.
It's not only accepted, but fashionable, these days to mix couture fashions with fun pieces from thrift and consignment shops. Why not take the same approach to table setting?
Some of my favorite tables reflect a "high and low" approach. What do I mean by high and low? I think it's important to include a variety of heights for interest (candles at multiple levels, for example), but I definitely love to create table settings that mix higher-end items (whether new, vintage, or antique) with very basic things from thrift and discount stores.
Instead of using the Mikasa soup/salad bowls this time, I decided on vintage clear glass salad plates, Duncan & Miller Canterbury (1939-1955). I like the way their scalloped rims and bases repeat the graceful lines of the scrollwork design of the china pattern.
I'll be serving shrimp cocktail appetizers in these timeless, blown-glass martini glasses (from one of my favorite boutiques -- Dollar Tree!).
The Wm. Rogers silverplated flatware is a recent estate sale acquisition. It's easy to tell it's from the 1930s, because of the deco design and the then-popular grille/viande shape (long, graceful handles on the dinner forks and knives, with shorter tines and blades).
Since the sale was almost over, I was able to negotiate the price for the service for 8 (in a beautiful wooden silverware chest) down to only $25! That's less than we'd pay today for an inexpensive set of lightweight stainless flatware.
The "table runner" is an embroidered sheer curtain panel I picked up at a different estate sale. It was still in the original packaging, and I think I paid either fifty cents or a dollar for it. I thought it might help the transition between the formal china and the decidedly un-fancy centerpiece. More on that later ....
I suppose the nice folks at Lifetime Brands liked my previous Parchment table. I received a very kind e-mail from them, and they requested my address, so they could send me a "thank you" gift. Isn't the Parchment coffee server stunning?
They also sent me a set of pretty Parchment water goblets. I had trouble remembering where I put them, so they were a last minute addition to the table. In fact, if you'd like to play "Where's Waldo?," you'll notice that I didn't get the blue Mikasa stickers removed from most of them! I peeled one off, removed the residue with Goo Gone, and thought, "I don't have time for this! I'm about to lose the light, and I want some daytime photos!!!"
I promise I'll get the rest of the stickers off and wash the glasses before guests arrive!
The centerpiece wasn't terribly expensive to create. OK, not at ALL expensive. Two bags of colorful gourds (reduced to 99 cents per bag at Kroger), hedge-apples picked up along the roadside, and a handful of perennial button mums from the garden. I say hedge apples; some call them horse apples or osage oranges. You can read about maclura pomifera HERE. The tend to exude a milky, sticky sap, so they're not ideal for long-lasting interior use. But I love the color and texture they add!
I did polish the silver flatware before I set the table, but I resisted the urge to make the candleholders shiny. The warmth of the tarnish somehow seemed to work well with the colors of the gourds and flowers.
OK, I have to include a disclaimer here. I normally would NOT have the cups and saucers on the table until time for the dessert course. And I definitely wouldn't put the napkins under the plates and martini glasses! It reminds me of the old magic trick -- you know the one ... the tablecloth is snatched from underneath the china, crystal, and silver on a beautifully-set table (with disastrous results, unless executed perfectly!).
I wanted you to see the cups. Which meant the napkins wouldn't fit to the left of the forks. Plus, the color of the napkins makes the lines of the Canterbury plates easier to see in the photographs.
I think this table's going to rely heavily on the ambience only candlelight can create ...
Lifetime Brands also gifted me with the sugar bowl and creamer. I was truly appreciative!
I seem to remember that cocktail forks go to the right of the spoons (the only forks that go on the right). But don't you think they look prettier this way? Since I didn't have cocktail forks that matched the flatware, I went with a totally different pattern that has a decidedly Victorian look. I think it's better to make "mix-and-match" obviously intentional. "Almost matching" can tend to look rather sad.
The champagne flutes are from Goodwill. It was a 50% off day, so the total cost for all 8 was only $4! The simple glass bud vases are also thrifted -- 25 cents each.
Since the table was nearing overload space-wise, I put the Duncan & Miller Canterbury candleholders on the bar. The scalloped rims around the bases of the candles repeat the shapes of the plates and serving pieces.
I literally dumped the gourds from the bags and stuck in the hedge-apples wherever they'd fit. The flowers practically arranged themselves. I rather like the way the informal combinations of objects from nature and the tarnished silver create an interesting juxtaposition with the formal dinnerware and elegant stemware.
I felt really fortunate to find the Canterbury iced beverage glasses at a local antiques shop last week. It's one I rarely visit, because they specialize in mostly Victorian furniture and almost never have "smalls." I saw the dusty glasses sitting on the counter and inquired about them. The owner said he found them at a yard sale somewhere, and he'd take $2 each for them. Oh Happy Day!!!
Yes, I took a lot of photos by candlelight ...
And, purely by accident, a "blue hour" reflection taken from the sunroom.
I hope you've enjoyed your visit!
I'll be serving "tied up" chicken -- filleted chicken breasts and thighs, pounded flat and rolled with thinly-sliced ham and mozzarella cheese, secured with cotton cording, and sauteed in half olive oil/half butter, with white table wine poured in at the end to create a subtle, tantalizing sauce (naturally, the strings are removed before serving).
2 c. sifted enriched flour
1 tsp salt
2/3 c. shortening
5 to 7 T. cold water
Sift together flour and salt, cut in shortening with pastry blender or blending fork till pieces of fat are the size of small peas.
Sprinkle water a T. at a time over part of mixture. Gently toss with fork. Push to one side of bowl. Sprinkle next T. of water over dry part. Mix lightly and push to moistened part at side. Repeat until all is mositened.Gather up with fingers; roll into ball.
For double crust pie divide dough for lower and upper crust. Form each in ball lightly and roll 1/8" thick on lightly floured surface. If edges split, pinch together. Always roll from center out to edge. Use light strokes.
Makes enough pastry for one 10" or 9" lattice top pie or one 8" or 9" double crust pie.
For the filling, I did what I often do. I read various recipes, picked and chose from each what sounded appealing, and then merged them into one.
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1 c. corn syrup
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. butter
1/8 t. salt
1 T. cornmeal (I used 1.5)
1/2 c. coarsely chopped pecans
Mix together all ingredients, stirring in chopped nut meats last. Pour into 9" pie crust. I added a layer of pecan halves on top for beauty and toasted nutty goodness. I didn't measure, just placed them in circular rows until the top was covered.
Bake in hot oven (450 degrees F), ten minutes. Then reduce heat to moderate oven (350 degrees F) and continue baking until a silver knife blade inserted in center of filling comes out clean.
It's best consumed soon after baking (or microwave on high for about 15 seconds just before serving). Top warm pie with a scoop of vanilla or caramel praline ice cream and, if true decadence is desired, add whipped cream (atop, or instead of, the ice cream) drizzled with zig-zag lines of caramel syrup. A drizzle of coffee liquor is an even more sure-fire hit!
Try not to think about calories; focus on the health value of consuming good ol' Southern pecans!