The holidays are right around the corner and to ensure your closet is ready for the hustle and bustle, we’re sharing the six looks that are sure to embellish your wardrobe. From sequins to warm wool, these styling tricks will have you ready for any festivities coming your way.
Take a risk with texture. The soft plush feel of velvet is the perfect way to up the dark toned holiday colors. We recommend a velvet suit or dress in moss green, burgundy or black.
2- ‘Tis the Season of Sequin
Elevate your favorite blouses or sweaters with a touch of sparkle. These festive beads are the per- fect touch of detail this holiday. Complete this look with your favorite skinny jean or velvet trouser.
3- Faux Fur
Make a statement in this season’s soft outerwear of choice. Pair a fur coat with an elegant slip dress perfect for a party or wear it casually with a T-shirt and denims.
4- Boots, Boots, Boots
Boots are a longstanding staple piece of any winter wardrobe. This seasons boot trends come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. From thigh- high to chunky combat to elegant bootie, there’s a style for every look.
5- Oversized Sweaters
Keep it comfortable and classy in an oversized sweater perfect for running holiday errands in or snuggling up by a replace. Wear an oversized sweater as a dress with embroidered boots and tights or combine it with a skinny pant and loafers. Don’t shy away from patterns!
6- Warm Wool
Let’s get back to the basics in a classic wool coat. Both middie coats and ponchos are a quick stylish x for cold weather. Keeping colors neutral such as beige, gray or black will allow the coat to t to almost anything in your winter closet. This classic staple piece will withstand time.
Gift giving can feel great, but gift shopping is another story. From Thanksgiving to Valentine’s Day it feels like the holidays never end. Don’t get your mistletoe branches in a twist this year. We have some simple and creative ways to get your holiday gifts done and dusted with a little twist on holiday wrapping.
If you’re looking for something for the spirits lovers in your life go for a mini oak whiskey barrel from Macy’s or Amazon. This is a great idea for whiskey nerds that want to age their booze in style. For your sippers, tasters and craft beer a cionados you can purchase a ight set. It’s the same kind you’ll see in many craft brewing locations that allows you to try a few beers off tap and not get stuck with a pint of something you won’t like. For wine loves there are whimsical and useful cork or bottle cap collectors sold at Target (and online) that allow you to pop bottles and save memories.You can nd plenty of variations from online stores as well. For those who are on the crafty side and have a large store of corks this December, look into creating a holiday themed cork wreath. All you’ll need is a hot glue gun, craft story pinecones, holly springs and ribbon and you can add this classy addition to your holiday decor.
For those who have a sports fanatic in mind, we have found a few options that may hit it out of the park. Fans who are always home on a Sunday the game might like a book on the history of their favorite NFL team. If you’re dealing with a baseball lover you could go the extra mile (and the extra dollar) for a blueprint of their favorite stadium. With a golf loving wife or husband that also loves a stiff when the green hasn’t treated them well, look no further than golf ball whiskey chillers. If they’re not into whiskey, but you still can’t seem to nd a tting golf themed gift take a look at custom golf link toppers. You can get their name, initials and phone number monogrammed so they won’t ever be fear of losing a club on the green.
You may have a travel obsessed friend, child in college or neighbor that has recently moved to a new city and is missing their hometown or favorite place. If this is the case but you can’t seem to think of a good gift for them you’re in luck. There are companies that have created great products for your giftees. Businesses like The Uncommon Green make an assortment of drinking glasses, slate plaques and cutting boards that can be adored with city maps, states and international spots. In the same vein there are jewelers like Talia Sari who take the city maps and create necklaces, rings and broaches. So, whether it’s the city they have moved from, a new state or country you can give a gift that allows them to appreciate their new surroundings or daydream about their old ones.
If you like the idea of jewelry, hand-crafted arts or handmade products be sure to look locally and you’re guaranteed to nd some gems. Buying from a local artisan who understands their craft and has a passion for their work means you’ll be supplied with quality goods that outstrip products bought from the big retailers. There are plenty of boutique shops to nd cute and cozy winter wear, creative and unique artwork or functional pieces like ceramic wear. A business called Taylor Made Polish, in Easton, Pennsylvania, has recently caught our attention. They’re a small business that is a great option for custom made nail polishes that can be made to match any out t, personality or event color palette.You can make a solo appointment, or book a small party, to mix your own pigments and be the creator of your own personalized nail colors.
Whether you’re an online shopper or prefer to nd local, handmade goods, hopefully you have a better idea of what direction you’re going to take for your gifts this holiday season. Yet, while we may have helped you brainstorm ideas that doesn’t mean you should slack on your gift wrapping. Keep yourself off the naughty list and skip the overpriced holiday wrapping. Swap those tired designs and colors for creative and memorable wraps that will have your recipient smiling before they even tear open their parcels. Whether it’s eight days of gift giving or a pile of presents for the entire family, this year allow yourself to spread your wings and tap into your creative outlets. If you don’t think you’re creative, no worries! We have a few ideas to help you get those pistons ring on all cylinders.
For a chic and fancy look, wrap your gifts in royal purple with silver ribbon bows or navy and gold ribbon so that even if the gift is a budget restricted coffee mug meant for a Secret Santa, it will look like a million bucks before it’s even opened! If you’re wrapping gifts for relatives get the kids involved, or even the dog, and work with butcher’s paper to create your own wrapping paper. Simple brown butcher’s paper can turn into some truly terri c wrapping with the help of markers, stamps and little helping hands with big creative brains. Try ink pads and puppy paws for cute prints to decorate your wrapping. You can use glue, glitter, markers, or crayons. Go wild or stay mild but it’s 100% up to you and your imagination! If brown doesn’t work with your concept, you can substitute butcher’s paper for stencil paper to give your gifts a white base color.
Paper itself isn’t completely necessary when wrapping presents. For other out-of-the-box options you could forget the box (and the paper) and instead raid your cupboards for mason jars. Fill them with the dry ingredients for a holiday cookie mix, wrap the jar with a simple bow and string on an instruction card! Leftover fabrics are a great soft-to-the-touch option and for unusual name tags, skip the card-stock normality and try tiles from an old Scrabble set. Arrange your letters, glue them vertically or horizontally on top of a ribbon and then tie to your gift. Additionally, any old atlases or maps lying around could make great wrapping for any geography or travel nerds. With smartphone apps directing us everywhere, who is really going to miss those paper directions? Now that you’re better prepared, don’t let gift panic get you this year, spread your holiday cheer!
One of the best parts about fall, besides the perfect temperature and great fashion trends, are all the fall inspired drinks. We’re sure you’re already enjoying an early pumpkin spiced latte or hot apple sider on the cooler mornings, but we’re here to talk about the drinks that will really warm your soul as the days grow colder.
Home + Table sat down with some of Easton’s best mixologists to see what they are planning to pour in the coming months and gather some opinions of optimal supplies to store in your liquor cabinet this autumn.
The first stop was Pearly Baker’s, a bar and restaurant housed in a building that dates back to 1869 and original home to Easton’s YMCA. It’s possible it was named after Purley Baker (a major player in pro-prohibition movements in the early 1900s). One of Pearly’s bartenders, Melissa Vazquez, introduced an array of important fall spices and herbs like cinnamon, star anise, cardamom and allspice before setting to work to craft a Pumpkin Spice Martini. She used a base of Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur, Licor 43, Pinnacle Vanilla Vodka and a small spoonful of pumpkin puree. It’s a drink that’s shaken and then poured smoothly into a martini glass rimmed with cinnamon and sugar. Garnished with a simple cinnamon stick, this elegant cocktail taste even better than it looks.
Next on the docket was a Harvest Moscow Mule that included Tito’s Vodka, Autumn Spiced Simple Syrup, a splash of apple cider, topped with Crabbie’s Ginger Beer and garnished with a cinnamon stick and lemon twist. Melissa believes that a good vodka like Kettle One or Tito’s is a great choice to have in your cabinet year round.Vodka, she said is“so versatile and can be flavored or infused in any number of ways.“ Her resulting drinks were a delicious introduction to the nuances of autumn spices and a warm up before a short walk down the street to 3rd and Ferry Fish Market.
A fish market for a fall cocktail? Yes. In fact, if you haven’t been to 3rd and Ferry you’re undoubtedly missing out on some of the best cocktails and the freshest seafood selections in Eastern Pennsylvania. Head bartender, Danya Kinsman, created seemly complicated drinks that she assured wouldn’t be out of reach for those at home who want to get a little crafty in the kitchen. Her Whiskey Smash was comprised of Jack Daniels, lavender simple syrup and muddled orange. The lavender simple syrup may seem like a hang up to some but if you want to make your own simple syrups you can lean on the fact that simple syrup is true to its name. It’s a mix of equal parts water and sugar reduced down and then flavor ingredients added which can be anything from oranges to rose petals to marsh- mallows (yes, really).
You can make simple syrup infusions with just about any of your summer herbs and carry them through your fall and winter drinks.
A theme that seems to ring throughout these meetings is the use of herbs and spices. Danya assured that for any fall cocktails an essential ingredient is the herbs you put in them,“Try your herb garden for some ideas. Thyme and honey, basil and orange, mint and orange, lavender and citrus of any kind work well and are great flavor combinations.” You can make simple syrup infusions with just about any of your summer herbs and carry them through your fall and winter drinks.
Danya also introduced a Autumn Old Fashion that used baked apple syrup that was created by another of 3rd and Ferry’s mixologist Robin Capner. Robin tried syrup creation a few times before she was satis ed. It’s combined with Amador Whiskey, cranberry bitters and topped with Breckenridge Autumn Ale and truly tastes like something you would drink on a crisp fall morning.
Fresh fruit and herbs are important while making drinks.
Last stop on the cocktail train was Two Rivers Brewing, which was once the home of the historic Mount Vernon Hotel, where bartend- er Naomi Jensen excitedly mixed up a Hot Toddy. It’s a personal favorite of hers and an acclaimed “cold curer” that she uses every winter when the sniffles arrive. It’s an easy to make and delicious hot drink that includes brandy, Creme de Cassis, fresh lemon slices, honey and hot water. You might be tempted to buy lemon juice while shopping but Naomi was adamant that fresh fruit and herbs are important while making drinks. She suggests nixing the bottled citrus mixers and dried herbs and using real fruit and herbs in all your drinks with her assurance that there is a definite difference in the quality of flavor.
Naomi also made an equally tasty Dirty chai Martini. It’s built in a shaker with chai tea, coffee infused vodka and Rumchata and strained into a martini glass with cinnamon sugar coated rim. If you’re using chai tea bags and not pre-brewed and boxed chai tea Naomi suggests a dash of plain simple syrup to add sweetness.
No matter what drinks you wish to make this fall, it seems the takeaway from these wonderful ladies was to use of fresh ingredients and a little bit of experimentation in the kitchen. If you want to do a bit of “research” before mixing these at home visit Melissa, Danya and Naomi and they can show you how it’s done and what its meant to taste like. Above all else, be adventurous! Don’t shy away from making your own simple syrups or picking ingredients from your herb garden. If coffee infused vodka seems like a pricey buy, make your own at home! Remember, the only bad drink is one that goes to waste and with these recipes in your cabinet a bad drink is impossible.
If you haven’t stepped inside Easton’s newest steakhouse yet, you’re going to want a reservation. Oak, the four-story restaurant that opened in July 2017, is home to not only some amazing in-house, aged-to-perfection steaks, but also breath taking architecture paired with contemporary rustic design sure to impress.
“Despite the simplicity, it’s amazing how satisfying it is for people, young and old, to eat a good steak.”
The concept of a restaurant in the space first came under construction in the fall of 2015 when owner, Mick Gjevukaj, who also owns River Grille and Ocean, was ready to start his next venture. “After 3 decades spent in restaurants, I have seen trends come and go, but steak and potatoes have stood the test of time. Despite the simplicity, it’s amazing how satisfying it is for people, young and old, to eat a good steak.”, says Mick. With the dream of a steakhouse in a prime location just about 100 yards from the circle and next to the Easton Public Market, Mick’s plan went into action and construction started.
“After the collapse of building, everything ground to a halt and we were faced with the reality that all of our plans, ideas, hopes, dreams, funds, everything was gone.”
Just a few months into the renovation, unexpected delays occurred when a storm rolled in with heavy rain and wind gust collapsing the building. “After the collapse of building, everything ground to a halt and we were faced with the reality that all of our plans, ideas, hopes, dreams, funds, everything was gone. So from nothing we had to start over and build something strong and powerful that could withstand anything that came its way. As the proverb says, from the little acorn does the mighty oak grow, and so it did.”, says Mick, and we couldn’t agree more. When you first enter what now is Oak, you can’t help but me taken back by the beautiful structure of the building.
As you tour the restaurant from bottom to top, each floor has its own elements that make it unique from the rest. The bottom floor holds a giant oak table in a private room that you can rent out for your next party or event. The wall is lined with a few hundred of the 2,000 bottles of wine that can be found in the restaurant.You can also peer through a window into the dry aging room that holds many of the different cuts of steak you can find on their menu. Above the table hangs a gorgeous chandelier that Mick’s brother, Bekim, custom built for the space. As you walk up the stairs to the main level, don’t miss the wall to your left made entirely of corks Mick collected starting in the 1990’s.
The first floor has everything from exposed beams that date back 100 years to soulful brick walls and even a life sized oak tree climbing up to the second floor making it a great place to sit back and enjoy your meal. It’s hard to imagine there is even more to explore but as you walk back and enjoy the tastefully designed decor lining both walls, you come to an open kitchen where you can watch cooks preparing the delicious dishes, like my personal favorite, the filet mignon and lobster mac and cheese.
Walking up the wooden staircase to your right leads you to the second floor, another space where diners can be seated. If you arrive early for your reservation, you can head up here for a drink at the bar and enjoy a different view of the oak tree and OAK logo painted on the brick wall that overlooks the entryway. As you walk to the back of the second floor, there is another room that can be rented for private events. This room hold a mural that gives tribute to the collapse and rebuild of the building.
It makes the perfect place to enjoy a dessert drink under the stars. The final floor, one of owner Mick’s favorite places, and possibly the most charming, is the rooftop. A glassed-in patio perfect for drinks and small plates is located at the top of the building. With a retractable glass roof, high-top tables and bar, open on weekends, it makes for the perfect place for a dessert drink under the stars.
With all this amazing architecture and decor surrounding you, the perfectly seasoned steaks, seafood and desserts complete the package. With a 4.9 star rating on Google out of nearly 50 reviews, it’s hard to pick favorites from the menu. When we asked Mick to choose his favorite dish, he said “the Kansas City Steak. It’s similar to a NY Strip but with the bone in.” Some of the Home + Table favorites are the charred thick cut bacon, sweet and spicy shrimp, prime let mignon, chicken, sweet potatoes au gratin, skillet cookie for 2 and New York style cheesecake.
Oak is open Thursday–Saturday for dinner starting at 5pm, and Sunday at 4pm. They strongly suggest that guest make reservation, so check your calendar and plan your date for dinner.
A perfect day for Tim Mountz is eating tomatoes in his fields from dawn to dusk. Obsessive? Maybe. But, imagine yourself in his shoes on that day. Maybe not.
By Mike Madaio
Of all the fruits of summer, the tomato may be the one I covet most. Lettuce, peppers and beans, welcome sight as they are, come on so strong. Same with the berries. It can be smothering. But the tomato plays hard to get. While I gather another armful of cucumbers to haul back to the kitchen, the tomato, still Hulk-green after a summer’s worth of sunbathing, refuses to bend to my will. Until right about now. Even then, that first ripe tomato always comes as a surprise.
All of that comes from a couple of modest plants. Imagine the depth of Tim Mountz’s fixation. He’s growing over 400 kinds this summer. For the last eight years, Mountz and his wife, Amy Bloom, have been selling heirloom seeds, produce and, more recently, scratch-made sauces from that produce at a handful of markets and online as the Kennett Square-based brand Happy Cat Farm. But, tomatoes, obviously, are his first love. Second. Second love. Amy, of course, is his first. Probably.
“The perfect day for me,” Mountz says with a light laugh, “is when I lay down in bed at night and realize that breakfast, lunch and dinner were tomatoes in the field. That’s it.
“I was working with Tim Stark out at Eckerton Hill Farm,” he says. “I had never bitten into a tomato like an apple before. But one afternoon, I had a Jefferson Airplane-like, out-of-body experience. It might have been from sunstroke or something, but it was transcendent. From that point on, I started eating every tomato I could get my hands on.”
Whether cherry-picking from a farm stand or nursing them from your own backyard plot, heed Mountz’s advice on when the time is finally right: “A tomato has to have a little give, some movement to the flesh, so you know there’s juice in there. And full color. Unless it’s a green variety, it shouldn’t have any green. Lastly, fragrance: Much of the tomato’s aroma comes from the vine itself, but the fruit has a definite fragrance.”
Now, for what to do with those lush prizes, keep reading.
A tomato salad is the epitome of summertime eating: simple preparation, complex taste. That line savvy chefs deliver whenever prompted about letting quality ingredients express themselves? It’s because seasonal fruits and veg at the height of their harvest, like tomatoes are right now, are akin to snowflakes—no two taste the same. All that nuance concentrated in just a few bites is the essence of summer: potent humidity, parched earth, a simmering sun and a soul-affirming oomph as it all comes together on the back of your tongue.
Recipe by Yelena Strokin
Heirloom Tomato and Beet Salad
3 sweet heirloom tomatoes (vary the sizes and colors)
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1-2 small beets, cooked, peeled and sliced
2 tbsps. feta
Olive oil to taste
Lemon juice to taste
2 cloves garlic (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Halve the small tomatoes and cut the large ones into thick slices. Then, layer them on a platter, mixing the different shapes and colors in a way that looks as good as it’ll taste.
Tuck in the beets and onions, then the basil and mint. Sprinkle the feta over the entire salad. Season with salt, pepper and garlic to taste. Drizzle with the olive oil and lemon juice, and serve immediately, preferably with a baguette to sop up that beautiful medley of juices that’ll be waiting at the bottom of the dish.
Yelena Strokin is a Newtown-based food stylist and photographer and the founder of the blog Cooking Melangery.
Photos by (Tim Mountz) Matthew J. Rhein and (Heirloom Tomato and Beet Salad) Yelena Strokin
Some simple moves now will spare you from 10 months of escalating aggravation.
By Laurie Palau
You’re forgiven for not noticing them here in the throes of camp season, or before you bolted out of town, but those blinking lights on the horizon, they belong to a school bus. Don’t tell the kids. Let them splash and run with abandon. Their day will come. But ours has arrived.
You’d think back-to-school prep would get easier in this digital age, but the backpacks only grow bigger and fuller as the school years pass. Before their contents explode all over your kitchen table, establish an order while you’re easing them—trying to, at least—back into their routines.
Reload ‘em. All those essentials—notebooks, pencils, folders—buy them now, and not just to cover their immediate needs; stock up for the entire school year. It’s never going to be cheaper. While you’re at it, try to anticipate their long-range needs—poster board, glue sticks, copy paper—and stockpile that stuff as well.
Hook ‘em. The sight of backpacks hanging across kitchen chairs or slung onto counters gradually gnaws at me until I finally detonate right around Thanksgiving break. Install hooks near whichever door they use most. It’s not foolproof, but shouting “Hang them on the hooks!” is a better solution than shouting “Get them out of here!” And, if it takes, it’ll spare you some headaches in the morning, too.
Corral ‘em. Kids are no different from us. Designate a corner the home classroom and they’ll be that much more productive. Make sure it’s out of the way (read: no TV in sight) and quiet. There should also be plenty of room to stow textbooks and ongoing projects.
Mobilize ‘em. Nothing says all that storage needs to assume the form of fixed shelving or desk drawers. Get creative and construct an art caddy that’ll stash all their supplies. The easy portability may even encourage them to dip into it just for fun. Either way, it’ll allow you to tuck it wherever it’s convenient.
Excuse ‘em. Kids are the world’s cutest kleptomaniacs. For no apparent reason, they’ll arrive home with someone else’s Minions lunchbox, jacket or pet turtle. Install a small basket right beneath the backpack hooks to keep them within easy reach for when their rightful owners come calling. The faster you can get them in and out, the less explaining you’ll have to do.
Laurie Palau is the owner of the New Hope-based simply B organized, a home and life organization service.
In the home that Karen Vandeven and Steve Williams built from scratch, every feature was considered and reconsidered until it became a bespoke fit for their deftly curated lifestyle.
By Scott Edwards • Photography by William Heuberger
The living room houses most of Williams’ antique bike collection, along with a few more signs.
Karen Vandeven and Steve Williams’ three-bedroom home sits on a subdivided 120-acre farm in a densely wooded corner of Tinicum, about a 20-minute drive north of New Hope.
“We like it out here,” Williams says. “Although, when we first drove up here, we thought we were a little bit out [there]. We thought we were in Canada, we drove up so far.”
“Our friends, too. They would never come and visit,”Vandeven says.“And now, things have come so close. Doylestown is at our backdoor.”
They bought their five-acre plot in 1998. Back then, a band of vultures hanging out around the corner didn’t even flinch at the sight of them, probably because they knew they had the numbers. Even now, this nook looks relatively unfazed by time. The property’s original stone farmhouse sits just up the hill, within sight of the couple’s home. The corrugated metal cladding that wraps around the second floor of their home is meant to mimic the exterior of the farm’s two-story chicken coop and, in turn, convey a sense of belonging.
But Vandeven and Williams’ home shares little else in common with the remnants of the farm, or, really, any of their neighbors’ homes. As Williams tells it, an older woman in a Mercedes pulled into the driveway mid-construction, compelled to inform the contractor, Richard B. Reshetar (who’s based in the next town over, Point Pleasant), that the area wasn’t zoned for a factory. It’s a home, Reshetar told her. The woman, dumbfounded, said, “Who would want to live in something like that?”
Williams’ home office.
Williams, a graphic designer, had been sketching their dream home for years. Architect John Hayden caught his first glimpse of his drawings when he wandered into Williams’ former office in The Stocking Works, in Newtown, a retrofitted office complex that Hayden himself designed. When they finally found this land, after a year of looking, Williams called Hayden and asked him to design their house. A narrow ledge about midway down a 50-foot slope meant that the layout would have to be rectangular, not square, as Williams wanted. But that was the only major blow to his modern vision.
View from the top of the three-story “tower.”
The 3,000 square foot-home was built over 11 months and completed in June 2001, nearly every detail custom-designed. (A 1,200 square foot, three-story addition that the couple refers to as “the tower” for its obvious resemblance was constructed in 2008.) So much of the design, both inside and out, was influenced by their first home together, an apartment that wasn’t really an apartment in The Laceworks building, a retrofitted 18th century-mill in Lambertville, New Jersey. It was a wide-open, industrial-type space—1,500 square feet, no walls, a 15 foot-ceiling—that Williams talked the owner into letting him renovate.
“It got really hot up there in the summertime, really cold in the wintertime. The walls were just brick,” he says.
Williams installed a kitchen and a bathroom and painstakingly restored the hardwood floors. He lived there for eight years, the last three with Vandeven.
The loft-like master bedroom.
From the overall aesthetic to the practical features, this home is a reimagining of that time—improved upon with maturity. Where there were tall windows, there’s now a pair of one-story glass walls. The core of the home, its literal center, is a commanding steel stairwell. The floors throughout are a grainy No. 3 maple, the same as the floor that Williams spent six weekends scraping and sanding. The walls are few and the ceilings require a 90-degree head-tilt to appreciate. And those ceilings are wood, just like the one at The Laceworks loft. Both were done that way as a matter of function, foremost. Vandeven and Williams are cultivating an extensive vintage trade sign collection, most of which are rather huge and needed to be hanged from the ceiling. A 16-foot, wooden ferguson’s fast side market sign, the first Williams bought (he was 17, and it cost him $5), spans nearly the entire far wall of the kitchen. And that’s not even the largest one in the room.
The second-floor study in the “tower”
Nor are the signs the extent of their collections. Williams has also amassed a museum-quality stockpile of antique bikes. The living room is lined with several, including an ordinary (giant front wheel, tiny rear wheel), the oldest of which date back to the late 19th century. His favorite, a blue and silver 1937 Monarch Silver King, sits around the corner at the base of the stairwell.
Perfume and lotion bottles from several eras ago, the objects of Vandeven’s obsession, and rare, 100-year-old-plus lithographed tins are neatly organized on what look like glass shelves in the mold of a tool chest. There’s also Williams’ library, which is housed on the second floor of the tower. (Typography is the underlying bond of most of his various compilations.)
Both were scavengers before they met, but they function better as a couple. Williams can be impulsive, but he’s learned to abide by Vandeven’s code of conduct, which is, namely, don’t sprint across a flea market after the Next Great Find. Which he still sometimes does anyway.
In any other home, if the main entrance opens to the kitchen, it’s considered a design flaw. Here, it’s completely intentional. The kitchen is where you begin to understand the full effect of all that spaciousness. It’s not just carving out ample room for the signs. When people have room to breathe, they’re more inclined to get comfortable. This space could feel effortlessly intimate with five people hanging out in it or 50. Dinner parties here, it’s easy to imagine, would feel something like eating at a small BYO with an open kitchen.
The chef Max Hansen prepares dinner in Williams and Vendeven’s kitchen.
Vandeven and Williams are avid cooks, and the kitchen follows their ambitious needs as much as their aesthetic. The chef Max Hansen, who lives and operates his eponymous gourmet grocery in nearby Carversville, is a close friend. According to Williams, he considers their kitchen one of his favorites to cook in. The Viking Professional Series range can’t hurt.
The home’s main entrance and sun deck sit atop the garage.
Williams designed the sculptural aluminum pot rack which hangs over the center of an island that spans almost the full length of the large room. Beneath its counter hides the kitchen’s most impressive feature. A stainless steel dining table extends from one end of the island. At full-length, it seats 16. It’s the brainchild of a couple who spent many hours walking through the rooms of their dream house long before a blueprint ever materialized.
It’s a strange thing that the least-remembered part of a dinner party is the dinner itself. Unless, of course, the oven billows black smoke and dinner ends up being takeout from MOO. Otherwise, it’s all the other details that contribute to your guests feeling doted on (or neglected) from which they’ll score your capability as a host. And that’s why a glass is not just a glass. Mason Jars hint at a sense of style, but they won’t distinguish you. Not anymore. Mason jars etched with a map of Philly, however, illustrate both style and substance. The owner of said jars is someone who’s given careful consideration to the night’s nuances, which will be appreciated and only embellished with drunkenness. —Scott Edwards
What’s not to love about a gluttonous holiday feast? (If we showed half as much interest in healthcare as we do in stuffing, the average life expectancy would be like 105.) But it’s the humbler meals around the holidays—the weekend after Thanksgiving, the weeknights between Christmas and New Year’s—that tend to leave even deeper impressions. The air is calmer, the food less fussy. They’re dishes like this one that are plunked down in the middle of the table, inviting everyone to dig in at leisure, without even a break in conversation. Just like it used to be. —Scott Edwards
Photo credit: Yelena Strokin
Beef and Potato Casserole Serves six. Recipe by Yelena Strokin
2 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
¾ cup milk or half-and-half
2 tbsps. unsalted butter
1 tbsp. grape seed oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, shredded
1 lb. ground beef
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tbsp. chopped parsley and dill
2 tbsps. Parmesan, finely grated
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Add the potato to a large saucepan and fill it with enough water to cover the potato entirely. Add a generous pinch of salt and place the pan over a high heat. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and cook until the potato can be easily pierced with a knife, about 15 minutes. Drain.
Move the potato to a large bowl and mash. Warm the milk (or half-and-half), then add it to the bowl along with the egg and butter. Beat the mixture with a wood spoon or a handheld mixer set to medium until the consistency’s smooth and fluffy. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion and carrot and, stirring often, cook until they soften, about five minutes. Stir in the ground beef and bring the mixture to a simmer. Add the paprika, parsley and dill. Season with salt to taste. Stirring occasionally, cook until the beef browns, about 15 minutes.
Spread half of the mashed potato evenly across a shallow baking dish. Then, layer the ground beef mixture over top and the remaining mashed potato on top of that. (If you’re into aesthetics, use a pastry bag to apply the last layer of mashed potato.) Sprinkle with the Parmesan and broil until the top potato layer is tinged brown, about a minute. Serve directly from the baking dish
Michael Aram’s likely going to carve out a place, in some form, at most of our holiday dinner tables. Here, he discusses setting his own, along with offering a glimpse of his next collections.
By David J. Witchell
For years, I’ve posted pics of my dinner parties, specifically the table settings, on social media, and I’m always overwhelmed by how much feedback they draw. Usually, it’s the Michael Aram pieces that pique the most interest.
Amid our deepening attraction to artisanal creativity and craftsmanship, Michael Aram’s home goods collections have become a phenomenon. As often as I use them and as prominently as I display them around my home, I didn’t realize how many of his pieces I’ve come to own until I took stock for this column.
It’s the interplay of materials and textures, like black nickelplate against hammered stainless steel, that keeps his designs contemporary and eternally relevant. I’ve used the same pieces for both the most elegant evenings and casual get-togethers.
This fall, I caught up with Aram, who was at home in Dehli, to ask him what inspires him after all these years and, more importantly, how he goes about setting his own table for the holidays.
Are your holiday dinners big, traditional affairs?
MA Our family always comes together for holiday meals, and they tend to reflect the lifestyle, tastes and personality of the host. We’re excited to host Thanksgiving this year in our new home. It will be a mix of old traditions and new ones.
How much planning goes into your table settings?
It’s relatively easy for me to be relatively unplanned about a table setting since I have a good resource at my disposal. I do, of course, think about it, though. And I enjoy it, especially coming up with the floral arrangements and the fun, unexpected elements.
Have you given any thought yet as to what you’d like to do this year?
We’re moving into the house just before the holidays. I don’t even have a dining table yet. I’m still considering making one. But, once that’s done, the rest will be easy. I think I’m going to use a mix of our new Gotham dinnerware and cutlery and Rock stemware.
Are there any pieces that carry over from year to year, or do you start entirely fresh?
Pieces always carryover. I also like to somehow incorporate family heirlooms. They’re things that are on hand, but they need to look like they belong.
If I forced you to name a single favorite piece from your entire portfolio, what would say?
To say I have a favorite would be dishonest. I do feel connected, nostalgically, to certain pieces that marked either a time in my life or a progression in my creative development. I’m also sentimental about some of my older pieces, like the shoehorn, the twig cutlery and the mouse and cheese knife. But, otherwise, I prefer to keep my attention on my new work.
When you start a new collection, how do you focus your inspiration?
Inspiration has to have an authentic connection to something in my life. I make sketches and post things that inspire me on a wall, which becomes a series of mood boards that are then translated into a prototype that I lovingly call the “Granddaddy DNA Piece,” from which the rest of the collection is born.
How do you go about replenishing your creativity?
It sounds trite, but I do like to be open to inspiration in everything I do—playing with my kids and picking up leaves and broken shells from the beach. Work itself is inspirational, so I feel excited and refreshed every day.
Any chance you could offer a little insight into your next collection?
For next spring, I have two that I’m very excited about. One is a very abstract, almost brutalist, collection called After the Storm, which is inspired, strangely, by strong winds and heavy rains and the destruction and strange calm that follows them. The other is the opposite. It’s called Enchanted Garden, and it celebrates the first flush of spring, with delicate buds and tendrils exquisitely set with semiprecious stones. I jokingly refer to the two as “April Showers Bring May Flowers.” For me, they both capture a sense of new beginnings.
Where do you see Michael Aram, the man and the brand, in the next, say, five years?
Spending a lot of time in my studio and with my family. I want to be a role model for my kids as someone who gives back to his community, is creative, works hard and follows his passion. I feel like my work is taking on an exciting direction. I’m working on a larger scale with some furniture and sculptural work and at the same time working small and precious with fine jewelry.
David J. Witchell is the co-owner of David J. Witchell at 25 South (davidjwitchell.com) and The Boutiques at 25 South, both in Newtown.