Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Lanterns in the Garden

 The Novel Bakers present Day 2 of Garden Week. . . 

An Invitation to the Garden:
Seasonal Entertaining Outdoors
Michael Devine

 Certainly a lot of detail goes into entertaining successfully," Charlotte Moss wrote in her foreword to An Invitation to the Garden. "But one thing you can be sure of is that ease comes with practice, and all of that translates into fun for your guests.  As I have been a guest at Michael's, I know firsthand that he has fun at his own parties. Whether he's hosting a five-course seated dinner or a casual tray-on-the-lap get-together, he is smiling as if someone else did all of the work. He subscribes to Maxwell's philosophy that when the guests walk through the door, the party begins for everyone, host included."

As I leafed through the book, I was charmed by Michael's "Lantern-Lit Drinks Party." Colorful paper lanterns dangled from a centerpiece of tall white branches that were tucked into a Dollar Store vase.  The party began at dusk, and as his guests walked up, they were greeted by a whimsical scene. Each no-fuss, inexpensive lantern has a battery-operated votive.

                                       At dusk, the effect is like stepping into a dream.

 Since I couldn't find any branches (I don't have any trees!), I strung the lanterns from a market umbrella.

 The menu was finger food," Michael said. "I didn't need to use flatware--another labor-and time-saving trick."


Honey-Glazed Cherry Tomatoes
Makes 24

1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
24 cherry tomatoes, rinsed and dried
1/2 cup flax seeds

In a small sauce pan, add honey, sugar, and water. Blend and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
When mixture comes to a boil, remove from heat and cool. Insert a toothpick or small skewer into each tomato. Dip tomatoes in the honey syrup, then roll in flax seeds.  

A cheese tray, and (somewhere on the table, heaven knows where) are Carr's Water Crackers (suggested by Michael Devine).

The paper napkins and red serving pieces are from the Sandra Lee collection; I found them at K-Mart and Publix.

Store-bought, mini-cannoli didn't make it to the table. As I was carrying them outside,
I tripped, and the cannoli went flying. 
Dessert was a bowl full of cherries.

Ice cubes with edible flowers added a vibrant touch. I couldn't bear to throw away my winter pansies, so I planted them under the shrubs--so far, they haven't succumbed to the heat. Pansies are just the right size for plastic ice cube trays.
A clear acrylic trash can served as an unbreakable ice bucket (K-Mart bath linen department).
 Michael Devine used multicolored bachelor's buttons for his party, but he also suggests rose petals and nasturtiums. (Impatiens are edible, too.)

If you'd like clear cubes, use distilled water.
Add a thin layer in the bottom of plastic trays. Place a washed, edible flower onto the surface of the water. Freeze. Remove from freezer, add more water, and top with a flower. Freeze.
I found pale blue glasses at Publix (99 cents each).
At one end of the table, I set out platters of salami and prosciutto, along with French bread, breadsticks, and assorted mustards. Cheeses were placed in a wooden box. Votives added their own special magic. They always do!

Tips from Michael Devine:

* Food that can be eaten while standing and chatting is a must for a cocktail party.

* Lay down a thick layer of mulch around the beginning of July when the garden is almost filled in for the season. If you mulch too soon, it may attract insects.

* When planning your garden, plant white or light-colored flowers because they almost glow after dark. Michael Devine prefers nicotiana ("Jasmine"), which sends fragrance through your night garden.

I'm a little sad to be leaving this beguiling book, but I'm also excited to see what the Novel Bakers have done today! A visit with them is just like being in their kitchens, cooking and laughing and enjoying life.

You'll find the Novel Bakers at:

Thursday and Friday, the Novel Bakers will return with a peek at In and Out of the Garden.
Saturday and Sunday: Private Edens

We'll also see you this Monday, June 2nd, at the Mystery Ingredient Club.

Sources and Suggested Reading:
Read how Michael created a garden in just three months via Country Living.

As always, thanks for taking time out of your day to visit Rattlebridge Farm.

Shared at Wow Us Wednesdays  and Tablescape Thursday.

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  1. Oh I'm SO charmed by your glowing lanterns and ready to join you on the lawn at dusk for drinks, I just need to grab a hat and I'll be right over! Your wonderful umbrella, candles, and cheery bright striped cloth and the flirty glimpse of your red table legs sets the stage! I didn't have time to do this beautiful book justice. So much inspiration in the pages, I was tempted to try a lantern party too, so glad I didn't after seeing yours. I did manage to freeze some pansies to save them since it's time to pull them up. Your hydrangeas are going to be breathtaking when they bloom. Thanks for the party noshes too, your embellished cheeses nesting in your tray of parsley and skewered tomatoes.Fun, fun, fun!

  2. be still my heart, you have no idea how much i wanted to do this and knew i couldn't pull it off, how fun to watch YOU play! look at all your lush lavender making a special reappearance... i am still totally smitten with that stuff!

    those lanterns... first i never thought of battery operated, opens up a bit of possibilities, but i just rather wait for the sun to set at your house and be served by the gracious hostess i know you must be. i LOVE the use of the umbrella, i am like you, with so little level land you tend to get boxed in with options, i never thought of brightening my deck!

    each shot is more enchanting as the light fades and the jewel shades glimmer...

    honeyed tomatoes, HOW DID I MISS THAT!

    iced pansies... did you hear the groan, followed by a heavy sigh of tiny garden joy escaping me?

    oh this was delightful... truly a magical sunset evening. i will say this, i KNOW you must be having a ball. having books as our blueprints to happiness, creativity, beauty and food is such a perfect way to while our hours away. thanks for being a novel baker, its a joy to watch you play! and i bet the men folk get a kick out you with all your edible homework!

  3. Colorful lanterns glowing in the evening are such a welcome to this garden party full of bright summer colors and yummy things to nosh~the ice cubes are too pretty to hide inside drinks! Thanks for sharing some of Michael Devine's garden tips too~ Your table of lavender and hydrangeas is gorgeous!

  4. Wow- I like the lantern idea- your version is perfect! What a beautiful presentation- right down to the cute ice cubes!

  5. Love this setting for a dusk into evening gathering! I need some lanterns for my yard!

  6. what a great spot, especially with the lanterns aglow at night!

  7. Such a lovely setting, Michael Lee. A lantern party is intriguing. Reminds me of fireflies on a summer night. The pansy in the ice cube is oh so pretty. I'll be adding lots of new ideas to my pin boards! Loving this week of garden delights. Merci!

  8. The lanterns are beautiful hanging from the umbrella Michael! Sorry to hear about the cannoli, but the cheese tray looks amazing:@)

  9. I love the lanterns! Absolutely beautiful setting!

  10. Michael, those lanterns really do make the party special. The gorgeous house in the background doesn't hurt the scene though. I'd love to attend one of his parties. Even the table legs are red. What a fun way to have a party. laurie

  11. Where do I find the lanterns?

    1. You'll need battery-operated (the big lanterns take AA; the little ones require AAA). Prices vary, as do color/design: