Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Ending the Age Old Debate: Crostini or Bruschetta?

Relished as bar snacks, antipasti or perhaps a full meal, food experts love crispy bread smothered with delectable toppings. However, most Americans are unaware of the differences between Crostini and Bruschetta, two tasty Italian hors d’oeuvres that have become so popular in the restaurant world.

Crostini, which in Italian means “little toasts” refers to any sliced, toasted round bread, such as ciabatta or baguette. Traditionally served as a means to use up stale bread, Crostini can be served simply rubbed with garlic and drizzled with some good olive oil or as a base for any kind of topping.

Bruschetta, on the other hand, is made with heartier, country bread such as sourdough. The bread is sliced thicker, grilled, rubbed with a garlic clove and drizzled with olive oil. It comes from the Italian bruscare meaning ‘to roast over coals’.

The difference between the two is in the type of bread used, and the topping options are virtually limitless for both. However, bruschetta is heartier and thicker and can support the weight of a meat, fish, or soak up the juice of say, a tomato. For a crostini you might use something that would be too much on a big slab of bruschetta, such as pâté de foie gras or a nice soft cheese.

Favorite crostini:
Crostini of brasaola, goat cheese, & truffle oil
Crostini of pureed cannolini beans and sage
Crostini of pâté de foie gras

Favorite bruschetta:
Bruschetta of sautéed wild mushrooms
Bruschetta of clams, thyme and white wine
Bruschetta of tomato and basil (the classic)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Sweet Summer

I recently discovered these great little cookies that perfectly capture the spirit of summer. Each cookie is shaped like a different summer item, including flip-flops, ice cream cones, hot dogs, and watermelon. They are a perfect simple gift for the host of an outdoor barbeque or pool party.

These little summer treats are made by Chris’s Cookies. The owner Chris started as a one man company and as he tinkered with recipes he created what is now a national chain. Ultimately what Chris has created is a great gift for any occasion.

To purchase these summer treats visit Chris's Cookies and be a hit at your next summer get-together.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Keeping Kids Creative

Artistic vision and design are paramount to my profession and inspiration can come from nearly anywhere. I strongly believe in the importance of art education and every child getting the opportunity to experience artistic inspiration. One of my favorite organizations that has dedicated itself to keeping performing, literary, visual, and media arts programming in schools is Arts Connection.

Arts Connection has a variety of different programs to incorporate dance, theater, art, and music into curriculum of public schools. The programs reflect the diversity of the city combining multiple means of expression to learn about different cultures. With exposure to these different art forms children are encouraged to develop their own style and personality. These programs provide an outlet for them and show children how to develop their inner creativity.

For information on how to support Arts Connection or to learn more about their program go to their website, the impact of art in these children’s lives can be profound.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Presto! It's Pesto!

A warm summer evening can be well complemented by a relaxing and fresh summer dinner. Some of the best ingredients for a light meal can come right from your garden. Homemade sauces made out of ingrediants found right in your garden are a sure-fire way to impress your guests.

Basil, one of my favorite herbs, can be served as part of a dish or made into pesto sauce. An insalata caprese can be an excellent lunch or a light first course for a meal. For dinner, it’s quick and easy to make your own pesto sauce. Try the recipe below with your favorite pasta.

My Favorite Pesto:
In a blender, mix 2 cups fresh basil leaves, about a half cup of olive oil, 2 cloves of garlic, about a quarter cup of pine nuts or walnuts and a dash of salt. Grind to a paste. Serve over your favorite freshly cooked pasta. Add a few sliced cherry tomatoes and some fresh parmesan cheese for a real summer treat.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Organize the Way You Organize!

These days it seems like everyone is running around with thousands of tasks on their to-do lists. With our constant use of cell phones, cameras and iPods, it is impossible to always have them well organized.

A great gift for the friend who is always in need of a few more minutes of battery on the cell phone is a Charging Valet from Brookstone. This recharge station is ready for cameras, phones...really any electronics that come with a messy cord. The station hides the cords, keeping everything neat and tidy. Instead of having phones and electronics lying about with tangled cords, everything can be tucked neatly away on the counter or a desktop.

Finding more ways to keep yourself and your friends organized is a more than helpful gift to give. Don't let the lack of convenient charging prevent your friend from calling you to schedule your next lunch date!

Bedford Smart Recharge Station
Pottery Barn for $39-$79

Please leave a comment with your oganizing tips!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Plumpynut: The New Penicillin

The hunger and starvation problem that reaches every country and community in the world has been discussed for years and years. It has become a story that is covered so nonchalantly on the news, causing people to often overlook ways in which we can help improve the situation. One group that has not been distracted is “Doctors Without Borders”. This Nobel Prize winning relief group has recently discovered a way in which we can all make a difference in a starving child’s life.

Their creation is a mixture called Plumpynut. This food source of peanut butter, powdered milk and powdered sugar is enriched with all the nutrients that are important for young children to eat as they grow. One day’s worth of Plumpynut costs us only $1 to create. The effects of Plumpynut are as great as the impact of penicillin to the starving children, says chief nutritionist Dr. Tectonidis.

By donating, or even simply researching and becoming more aware of the ways in which we can improve others lives, we can begin making changes. Plumpynut is one of the most important steps that has been taken to turn around malnutrition in the world, why wouldn’t you want to have a hand in the change?

Doctors Without Borders

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Margaritaville: Not Your Only Option

Jimmy Buffet has taken the margarita to the next level through his music and the number of restaurants themed after “Margaritaville”, however, if you want to enjoy the taste of a delicious margarita you do not need to put yourself through the craziness of the Margaritaville scene.

There are countless competing opinions concerning the “best” margarita recipe, so in attempt to avoid stepping on any margarita toes, here are a few tips I’ve come across in order to make your own delicious margarita!

1. Use the best of the best: don’t spoil your drink by using low quality tequila or liquor. Patron Silver and Grand Marnier bring out the flavors of your drink.

2. Salt or no salt: often times it is believed that the salting of the glass is used in order to mask the bad flavoring of inexpensive tequila. Therefore, feel confident with your mix and don’t feel that you have to salt your glasses to make a great taste (although the look is great)!

3. Freshest is the Bestest: Using fresh lemons and limes instead of the bottled juice adds to the crisp flavoring of the drink. When given the option between fresh fruits and frozen or canned fruits, the obvious choice, for any occasion, is FRESH!

4. Plan Ahead: The best margaritas are ones that after mixing, are placed in the freezer for one week before serving. When ready for a party, just add ice! The flavors explode and the colors are just as beautiful.

With these failsafe tips, your margaritas will surely be the best around the neighborhood! Below is an extremely simple recipe that will drive your taste buds crazy!

Margarita Madness
1 cup lime juice
1 cup tequila
½ cup cointreau

Monday, July 14, 2008

Have Your Fun, and Eat it Too!

Chocolate, vanilla, pistachio, whatever the flavor, each one spells out my ultimate summer weakness: ICE CREAM! Recently I came across the perfect toy for kids that have a love for ice cream and an unlimited amount of energy. The Play and Freeze Ice Cream Maker, by Industrial Revolution, will bring huge smiles to the faces of your friends' and families' young ones.

Many families, in order to bring some fun to their ice cream eating, have created homemade ice cream makers with coffee cans and ice. Industrial Revolution has come up with a soccer ball shaped maker that is great for the whole family to participate in the creamy creation. The hard plastic shell of the Play and Freeze poses no boundaries when it comes to throwing, kicking, and shaking to mix the ice cream.

If you are in need of a great party idea, buy a number of the Play and Freeze makers and invite a group of friends and their children for an ice cream party. Every family can have their own maker, and after the sundae party is over, each family takes their maker home as a gift. This party will bring a chill, and a thrill, to the sultry summer heat!

Available at the General Home Store: $32
100 Park Place
East Hampton, NY 11937

Also Found at

Friday, July 11, 2008

Mornings with Joan

Early this morning I had the pleasure of appearing on Joan Hamburg’s radio show, at WOR Radio 710, to discuss my life and philosophies as an event planner. It is always an honor to spend time with Joan, and I am always grateful to join her on her show. Below is a list of sources that were mentioned throughout the show. I hope that you are able to use them to improve your home entertaining like I have!

Also, listen here to the radio interview!

Betty’s Bakery

448 Atlantic Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11217

One-Girl Cookies
68 Dean Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201

Mint Malted Milk Balls
Found at Kopper’s Chocolates (wholesale)

Ecens-Gent Incense Sticks
Found at the General Home Store

100 Park Place
East Hampton, New York 11937

Preserving the Past for the Future

Richard Hampton Jenrette, after working on Wall Street, has dedicated much of his time to buying and restoring historic homes. He has recently gone public with the restoration work through the Classical American Homes Preservation Trust. There are six homes featured on the Trust’s website,

The restoration and preservation of these and other historic homes is important in preserving our country’s history and background. The interests and culture of a time period can be revealed through the furniture, design, artwork and architecture of a home. Five of the six homes are dispersed along the East Coast, from New York to St. Croix, in the US Virgin Islands. Tour pricings and times vary from time to time, so be sure to check the website for exact information.

I encourage you to check out the website to learn about Jenrette’s historical homes, support the preservation trust, and explore some publications (including some of Jenrette’s writing) about these homes and historic home preservation. Preserving and caring for our past is essential for keeping our history alive and can often provide great inspiration for the future.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Perfect Summer Lunch

Everyone searches for the perfect summer lunch for afternoon guests, for me it is my friend Susan Mason’s tomato pie. A summer lunch needs to be light and fresh, and Susan’s tomato pie paired with a green salad is a simple and satisfying lunch even when temperatures rise. Below is Susan’s recipe, as well as one for balsamic vinaigrette. Be sure to check out her book Susan Mason’s Silver Service, which includes the tomato pie recipe and many delicious others, as well as event and catering tips.

Susan Mason’s Tomato Pie
Serves 6 to 8

9-inch pie shell, baked
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
4 tomatoes, peeled and sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces white cheddar cheese, grated
4 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
½ cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350° F.
Spread the pie shell with Dijon mustard. Layer the sliced tomatoes, salt and pepper, and cheddar cheese in the pie shell, ending with the cheese.
Mix together the mayonnaise and Parmesan cheese in a small bowl. Spread on top of the pie. Bake for about 20 minutes until bubbly. Let cool. Serve at room temperature.

Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
1 garlic clove, crushed through a press (optional)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil

Whisk the balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, brown sugar, garlic, salt, and pepper until mixed. Gradually whisk in the olive oil until smooth.

Enjoy and feel free to leave your own summer lunch suggestions!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Beach in a Bag

While I was at the beach this past weekend, I couldn’t help but admire the resourcefulness of many women who were able to tote around the entirety of their beach gear with one simple bag. These beach goers with children in tow had towel, mat, lunch, sunscreen and books in a variety of fashionable bags. Thanks to these women, today's gift idea incorporates style, personality, and practicality.

The General Home Store carries a perfect bag for travels to and from the beach, where Conventional Totes also carries great sized, eco-friendly totes for creating a great gift package for this summer. T and T (truth and trash) books are also necessary additions for your friends. Any Philipa Gregory books are amazing reads along with the always intriguing Dangerous Liaisons by Pierre Choderlos.

Take a moment to think of objects that you always love to have with you while lounging in the hot sand and add them to your personalized beach bag. Your friends will love you for keeping their life simple…and for urging them to take a trip to the beach!

General Home Store
100 Park Place
East Hampton, NY 11937
631 324 9400

More Great Books Found at

Let me know what you put in your beach gift bag!

Friday, July 4, 2008

And the Rockets Green Glare

For the holiday weekend, many times our minds are busily preparing for the neighborhood picnics, patriotic parades, and evening firework displays, but for this year's 4th celebration why not add a fourth color to your red, white and blue color palette: Green!

This year while celebrating our nation's freedom we can also recognize our ability to keep our country a clean and safe place by following some of ecologically healthy ideas.  

1. Buy biodegradable or reusable plates and utensils.
2. Search for Eco-friendly charcoal for your grilling.
3. Recycle! Remember that after your Barbecue cans, plates and food can be reused, saved or recycled. 

Although firework designers have not come up with a completely green form of fireworks for the shows this weekend, they are currently working to eliminate the not-so-healthy potassium perchlorate that is released by fireworks.  As you are searching for backyard fireworks this weekend, look for fireworks that are rich in nitrogen.

Wicked Good Charcoal can be found online or at Union Market in Brooklyn, NY.

If you are hanging a flag to celebrate the holiday season, please visit my May 23rd blog which discusses Honoring the Flag!

Have a happy and healthy 4th!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Cole Down Your Summer

One of my favorite things about this time of year is making all sorts of coleslaw for my summer guests. Stemming from the Dutch word “koolsalade,” which means cabbage salad, coleslaw is exactly that: salad made primarily of cabbage. While most slaws have a base of either mayonnaise or vinegar, coleslaw can be made with pretty much anything and on anything as long as it has the chief ingredient of cabbage.

I believe that the most important aspect of making coleslaw is having the perfect mandoline. For years I searched for one that had both the perfect sharpness and durability. I came to realize that it is not always the most expensive one that ends up giving you the best slices. There are a few mandolines in different price ranges I have found that work for me. If money is not an issue I would definitely go with the Oxo Good-Grips mandoline which can be found at Williams-Sonoma. If you are not looking to spend too much money I would suggest the Japanese made Benriner, which can be found in most cooking stores or

Once the perfect mandoline is found anything from almonds, apples, or carrots can be added and you will have great coleslaw for all of your friends to enjoy. Happy slicing!

Easy Coleslaw
½ head cabbage
1 large carrot
1 medium onion
1 ½ cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablesppons vinegar
½ teaspoon salt

Finely shred cabbage, carrot and onion and mix well. Combine mayonnaise, sugar, vinegar and salt. Add to shredded vegetables and chill! Serves 4.

Oxo and Debuyer Mandolines Found at William-Sonoma.
Benriner Mandoline Found at