Champagne Bar: Two of the Loveliest Words in the English Language

Come warm yourself by our champagne fireplace.

Ain’t that the truth?

Earlier this month we shared some ideas for a Hot Chocolate Bar; after doing extensive research on DIY stations, including ignoring my children and eating an entire bag of butterscotch chips, I couldn’t resist creating a mini-series on this idea of DIY stations for guests.

Today’s Treat: Champagne

Service with a smile.

Service with a smile at Union Station.

Just writing it makes me happy.

Nothing says ‘celebrate’ quite like champagne. My friends, family, and that one know-it-all guy at Corridor 44 who thought I should eat something before having another glass of the nectar of the gods can attest that champagne is, by far, my own personal favorite drink. But you can’t drink it all the time. Because those other mothers at preschool would be jealous concerned.

I don’t need to add anything to my champagne – like dinner – but this is not about me. It’s about you AND me – and anyone else who appreciates a glass of bubbly. Like all of us at Epicurean Group. Parties are our game. And our job. Put those in whatever order you wish.

Let's pray some of my co-workers were drinking prior to the second photo.

Let’s pray some of my co-workers were drinking prior to the second photo.

The holidays are a perfect time to create a self-serve station for your guests. It allows for more socializing and less stressing. Always a good thing.

Labels are helpful. Especially, um, later...

Labels are helpful. Especially, um, later…

Today is New Year’s Eve so if you are hosting a soiree or simply want to do something special on New Year’s Day, may we introduce you to the MmmmMimosa Station? Simple elegance, with an emphasis on simple.

Yum.

Yum.

Why bother with glasses? Tie a straw to mini bottles of bubbly!

Why bother with glasses? Tie a straw to mini bottles of bubbly!

MmmmMimosa Station

Ingredients and Accouterments:

  • Ice buckets or other large bin filled with with ice
  • Four containers for fruit (try IKEA or the dollar store if you don’t have any on hand – or use the coffee cups from your wedding china set because, let’s face it, you’re not drinking coffee when champagne is available)
  • Four glass bottles for juice
  • Labels (for labeling juice and for guests to tag their glasses – I use paint sample cards – free! And any color you want. And did I mention free! )
  • Glasses (one per guest)
  • DIY labels
  • Sharpie Pen
  • Champagne or prosecco
  • Sparkling cider
  • Orange juice
  • Grapefruit juice
  • Raspberry lemonade concentrate
  • Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, pineapple (feel free to improvise)
  • Sugar cubes
How sweet are these sugar cubes?

How sweet are these sugar cubes?

Paint samples make great labels.

Paint samples make great labels.

Directions:

  • Chill champagne, prosseco, juice and cider overnight or in an ice bath
  • Pour juice in glass containers, write or print out labels and tie to the bottle
  • Place champagne in an ice bucket on the table
  • Place glasses, fruit, napkins, juice, labels, sugar cubes, and marker on the table

Pour yourself a glass and say hello to 2015 (and maybe a tiny-but-worth-it-headache)!

 

 

submitted by Stephanie Blackford

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Putting It All On The Table: Delicious Decorating Ideas

 

Cinnamon sticks smell so good...nobody will notice you burned Christmas goose...

Cinnamon sticks smell so good…nobody will notice you burned Christmas goose…

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Isn’t that how the song goes? We should know, considering the Christmas music starts earlier and earlier. I, for one, love all things holiday, except the wine stains on the carpet and the required weight gain (I am a certified expert at both – we all have our special talents).

After spending many years in the catering and event planning business, combined with my many years of overcommitting to social engagements that seem to always be at my house, I can set a table in my sleep. Well, not sleep per se, but bleary-eyed zombie-like state from too little rest and too many quality checks of the margaritas during the party prep. I never learn. Does tequila really go with stuffing prep or potato peeling? I say yes. Martha Stewart would be appalled, but Martha had three fewer children than I, and she has a driver, so I am right.

If anyone can pull together a beautiful table, it’s Epicurean. Why? Because Larry DiPasquale is a perfectionist and was born with incomparable taste.

Not that we have to set a gorgeous table, because once Epicurean’s food arrives and the wine is poured, we could be serving our fare on cafeteria trays and everyone would still be happy. It’s that good. I’ve told you about the risotto, right?

Anyway, table settings need not be fancy or frilly, but they do need to be pretty and functional. Here’s a sneak peek to some stunning but simple tablescapes that won’t have you reaching for the tequila.

Fresh rosemary adds just enough green to a simple tablescape.

Fresh rosemary adds just enough green to a simple tablescape.

 

Use a painter's dropcloth as a tablecloth - so inexpensive you won't feel guilty throwing it out at the end of dinner.

Don’t want a bare table? Use a painter’s dropcloth as a tablecloth or cut them into napkins – it’s so inexpensive you won’t feel guilty throwing everything out at the end of dinner.

 

Feeling bold? Break out of the green and red tradition and go for a more modern palette.

Feeling bold? Break out of the green and red tradition and go for a more modern palette.

 

 

...or deck out your table in creamy white.

…or deck out your table in creamy white.

 

Vintage decor is always in style. This DIY centerpiece would be a fun take-away for guests.

Vintage decor is always in style. This DIY centerpiece would be a fun take-away for guests. I just noticed similar ornaments at West Elm – so cute!

 

This menorah makes a Hanukah table even more special.

This sweet menorah makes a Hanukah table even more special.

 

Cleaned-up tin cans covered with blue paper celebrate the Hanukah season.

Cleaned-up tin cans covered with blue paper celebrate the Hanukah season.

Old song sheets makes forks more festive!

Old song sheets makes forks more festive!

Greenery isn't just for mistletoe.

Greenery isn’t just for mistletoe.

Gold accents paired with chalkboard paint keep this look from being too frilly.

Gold accents paired with earthy add-ons keep this look from being too frilly.

Dig out an old Scarbble game and use the pieces for a cheeky design.

Dig out an old Scarbble game and use the pieces for a cheeky design.

This plaid screams cozy holiday. A tartan throw used for nights by the fire turns a table into something special.

This plaid screams cozy holiday. A tartan throw used for nights by the fire turns a table into something special.

Family photographs ups the aaawww factor.

Family photographs ups the aaawww factor.

Holiday books get an elevated status when built into a funky Christmas tree.

Holiday books get elevated status when built into a funky Christmas tree.

Add a spring of something green (and not poisonous) to your stemware. This quick decoration adds some personality to the table and a new spin on cocktails. Try lavender or a small skewer of cranberries.

Add a spring of something green (and not poisonous) to your stemware. This photo is clearly for decoration only, but by using something edible, you can add some personality to the table and a new spin on cocktails. Try lavender or a small skewer of cranberries.

Mirror Mirror On the Wall – Who’s the Cheapest of Them All?

Madonna_Money_by_Madonna1250 (this might be all you get from the Material Girl)

I know the story about President Obama’s choice for Attorney General is way, way more important than  “Hollywood’s Best and Worst Tippers” on the MSN homepage, but….

I couldn’t help myself. There’s something so addictive about finding out just how generous (or not) the rich and famous can be. I won’t ruin it for you, but if Rachel Ray or Madonna or Bill Cosby walk into your section, don’t start planning that fancy beach vacay.

Parker Presley, our favorite pooch-about-town, wrote a blog on this very subject a few years ago. I dug it up to share with you because the weekend is here – go forth and eat and drink!  Happy Friday!

submitted by Stephanie Blackford

Celebrity Weddings – Even The Rich and Famous Keep It Sweet and Simple

Lauren Conrad celebrates her husband's infamous name by adding red, ripe apples to her centerpieces. Easy and inexpensive!

Lauren Conrad celebrates her husband’s infamous name by adding red, ripe apples to her centerpieces. Use another favorite fruit to highlight the ‘Perfect Pair.’

A recent issue of Us Magazine features celebrity Lauren Conrad’s wedding photos. As hard as this is for me to admit, I don’t really know who Lauren Conrad is or why she is famous. I am over 40, you see. Barely over, but over. The only reason I saw the magazine was because I was getting a manicure; a manicure that included polish in a nice, subtle, tasteful shade of pale pink. The teen-woman next to me was getting blue glitter on every other nail. Betcha she knows all about Lauren Conrad.

Still, the piece on Conrad’s wedding caught my attention because it highlighted her small, sweet, personalized wedding. I’m a sucker for personalized anything. I take after my grandfather who, for reasons unknown but appreciated nonetheless, wrote his name (Norman Babor) on everything, including his (corded) phone.

Conrad was lucky because she married a man named William Tell; so personalizing with apples and arrows was obvious. (According to folklore, the original William Tell was a peasant who defied Austrian authority and was forced to shoot an apple from his son’s head in order to avoid being killed.) But even if you don’t marry William Tell – and you shouldn’t, because he’s taken – you can put your stamp on your own wedding or special event or telephone. Conrad made a freezer-full of apple pies for her wedding day. Over the (many) years, Epicurean has re-created signature dishes for brides and grooms; most recently a hand-tossed fig pizza as part of the cocktail hour eats. You know Larry DiPasquale must really believe in love if he is game for using another man’s pizza recipe.

Here is some celebrity inspiration that will make you shine like a star:

Lauren Conrad and William Tell sealing it with a kiss.

Lauren Conrad and William Tell sealing it with a kiss.

Amal Alamuddin had cufflinks custom made for husband-to-be George Clooney. His name was engraved in Arabic to reflect her her heritage.

Amal Alamuddin had cufflinks custom made for husband-to-be George Clooney. His name was engraved in Arabic to reflect her her heritage.

When Dawn O'Porter and Chris Dowd married in 2012, they put their names in lights. DIYers could pull this off in a weekend.

When Dawn O’Porter and Chris Dowd married in 2012, they put their names in lights. DIYers could pull this off in a weekend.

Katie Couric and John Molner’s  skipped the traditional white concoction for their favorite Lemon-Strawberry Cake

Katie Couric and John Molner skipped the traditional white concoction for their favorite Lemon-Strawberry Cake.

When Angelina married Brad, she had their children's artwork embroidered into her dress. Too colorful? Have children's artwork screen printed on a handkerchiefs for the bride, groom, and other special guests like grandparents. Sweet and sentimental.

When Angelina married Brad, she had their children’s artwork embroidered into her dress. Too colorful? Have children’s artwork screen printed on handkerchiefs for the bride, groom, and other special guests. Sweet and sentimental.

Speaking of dresses, Beyonce's mother made hers.

Speaking of dresses, Beyonce’s mother made hers. This is a big ask. This could make your mother into your “something blue” depending on her sewing skills…

Miranda Lambert wore her mother's wedding dress when she said 'I Do' to Blake Shelton.

Miranda Lambert wore her mother’s wedding dress when she said ‘I Do’ to Blake Shelton. She also shot the deer that was served at dinner. At Epicurean, we’ve done a lot of custom menus…but…wow.

Reese Witherspoon and Jim Toth included a s'mores station at the reception. This Epicurean specialty continues to be on the menu for many of 'our' couples.

Reese Witherspoon and Jim Toth included a s’mores station at the reception. This Epicurean specialty continues to be on the menu for many of ‘our’ couples.

Princess Diana's famous sapphire and diamond engagement ring was the same one Will used to propose to Kate.

Princess Diana’s famous sapphire and diamond engagement ring was the same one Will used to propose to Kate.

 

 

submitted by Stephanie Blackford

DIY Wedding Videos? I DO!

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In the “olden days,” like five years ago, not everyone and their 80 year-old grandmother had a smartphone. Oh, how times have changed! You can now unlock your car, pay for dinner, find directions, figure out your heart rate, listen to Katy Perry and break up with a boyfriend all with one little accessory. America! What a country! If the smartphone came equipped with breath spray and built-in sunglasses, we wouldn’t even need the latest Michael Kors bag anymore. Which would make life easier, but much less attractive.

Wedit is the latest accessory for the soon-to-be-married crowd. This genius idea, (started in the olden days of 2008), allows wedding guests to record even the smallest moments of the big day, ship the footage to the folks at Wedit, and either have a video edited by the Wedit pros or receive the tools necessary to edit the footage themselves. At approximately $500, the Wedit video is significantly less expensive than hiring a crew; with the average cost of a wedding videographer hitting the $2200 mark, the savings is a gift in itself.

So – how, exactly, does Wedit work? The Tuesday before the wedding, the bride and groom receive five high-definition iPod touch cameras and designate their most kind, trustworthy, sober friends to record any and all parts of their wedding celebration (except maybe that nasty exchange with a little sister and the inter-workings of a spray tan). The iPod Touch allows for both video with sound and photography, a great option for those couples who are on a tight budget and want to use Wedit for both their video and photo needs.

Once everything has been recorded, the couple sends the cameras back to Wedit (by the Tuesday following their event) and the pros upload all of the footage. Then the couple can either edit the videos themselves or pay an additional fee for Wedit to do it for them.

Wedit then hosts the videos on their site for a year, allowing couples the chance to force friends and family to watch their wedding video an obscene amount of times which is all fair in love and weddings. After a year, Wedit takes the video off of their site, but the couple will have a copy for keeps. One-stop shopping for that once-in-a-lifetime day is fantastic. And the five hundred bucks is just icing on the wedding cake.

Sour Cherries Offer A Sweet Dessert

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I recently made this fantastic Sour Cherry Crisp. At least I think it is fantastic, considering I didn’t eat it. No, no, not because I lack a sweet tooth (by now we all know that is a complete and total falsehood), but because I am gluten-free and was out of almond flour and was therefore very SAD. Sad, I tell you.

But every single person in my house devoured it, so I have proof that it was delicious.

The great thing about this recipe is that it’s simple; all of the ingredients (besides the cherries) are in most kitchens. The other great thing about this recipe is that I actually have a cherry tree in my backyard, so I sent my four little minis out to pick lots and lots of cherries. This kept them busy for hours. Then how SAD was I? Not sad at all, I tell you.

Once the cherries were picked, we washed them and then pitted them, which offers a lot of opportunities for smashing, smushing, and comparing cherries to various body parts. The boys took the lead on this, because in this one instance, boys are better than girls.

Fresh Sour Cherry Crisp

Serves: 10

Prep Time: Depends on if you, too, have a cherry tree in your backyard and in-home child labor – if cherries are store bought, approximately 20 minutes

Bake Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 4 cups pitted sour cherries
  • 5 cups white sugar
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour (if you are gluten-free like I am, and smart enough to have almond-flour in your pantry, not like I am, feel free to use it!)
  • 5 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  • In a large bowl combine cherries, white sugar and 4 tablespoons of flour
  • Pour into a 9X13 greased baking dish
  • In a medium bowl (let’s be honest here, folks, I used the same bowl – less dishes) combine 1.5 cups of all-purpose flour, oats and brown sugar
  • Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly and sprinkle over cherries
  • Bake in preheated oven until for 45 minutes or until the top is golden and bubbly
  • Serve with vanilla ice cream or greek yogurt

 Submitted by Stephanie Blackford

No Bake Fourth of July Desserts – Let Freedom (From the Kitchen) Ring!

As you may know, I am a fan of desserts. Like, if I were a teenager, I would have posters of cakes on my wall. It’s that bad.

But I am also a fan of feeding my crew healthy, non-food dyed, non-creepy-chemical eats. And that core belief is part of the Epicurean Group Bill of Rights created by our forefather. Real food for real people. God Bless America.

There are several holiday desserts that fit the – um – bill. Or at least almost fit the bill, with a  little modification. And these treats are simple enough to do quickly, don’t require an oven, and won’t cause that post-dessert guilt. I spend my life feeling guilty about the desserts. But those who can not do, teach. Here we go:

Love this portable dessert!

Directions:

  • Puree strawberries in a  blender with a little bit of agave
  • Place strawberries, organic vanilla or lemon yogurt, and blueberries in a mason jar or drinking glass
  • Chill
  • Serve

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If you want to steer clear of the fake stuff, use 100% real chocolate, organic pretzel rods, and  an all-natural food dye to create red, white, and blue pretzel sticks – and skip the sprinkles (they are a mess anyway).Warm chocolate on the stove, dip pretzel rods, and place rods on wax paper in the refrigerator for an hour.

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Alternate bananas, strawberries and blueberries to create this edible flag! This is a great project for little tykes – keeps them busy for a good 8 minutes!

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These are made with Rice Krispie treats, but you can swap out pineapple for the stars – making this a great breakfast, snack or dessert.

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