EyeSwoon

When an opportunity arises that unites your love of being in the kitchen, entertaining and spending time with one of your dearest friends — you know the stars are aligned! Last week I had the chance to do just that when LG Studio, LG Electronics’ premium line of built-in kitchen appliances, invited me to co-host a breakfast with their artistic advisor, and my guy, Nate Berkus. The dreamy morning went a little something like this: Nate introduced the newest suite of premium kitchen appliances, which he had a hand in designing. He spoke to the timeless design and how the built-in, pro-style line elevates the modern kitchen. Nate also set the most gorgeous tablescape for our breakfast gathering, as he does. I curated a menu together with Poppy’s Catering, creating a killer spread of swoonified breakfast nibbles while discussing the importance of elevating the visual presentation of our food. All of this was a way to give our guests some tips on cooking, entertaining and creating beauty. It was a match made in foodie/design heaven, if I do say so myself.

The kitchen is my domain, where I am happiest and where I thrive. It also happens to be that place where we all tend to naturally gravitate – the heart of the home. Anyone who knows me is fully aware that besides being a mama, cooking a meal and gathering with friends truly fulfills me. Yes, all my loved ones tease me about continually busying myself in the kitchen, chop-chop-chopping, but I just can’t help myself. I am a people-pleaser at heart. Nothing brings me more joy than observing as someone takes that first bite of food…followed by laughter and chatter.

Gathering for a meal and being in the kitchen creates togetherness and always an open heart. My friend Mr. Berkus has been in my kitchen far too many times to count, and while he self-proclaims setting a stunning table is high in his skill set, cooking is not exactly in his wheelhouse. I usually relegate him to squeezing the limes for our margaritas — which he has mastered, I might add! But something he does know about, through and through, is beauty. He gets the importance of a well-planned, enduring kitchen, and most of all, he understands sophistication surrounding design. A kitchen cannot bring the joy I so crave if its tools do not function properly. Appliances are the workhorses every cook holds dear. They are a necessity — you need to be able count on them. In a sense, they are your partner in crime as you whip up an expert meal. With the amount of kitchens Nate has designed, both for himself and for his many clients, he has amassed tremendous knowledge about function and performance. And he’s integrated those years of insights into the pro-style LG Studio appliances, making my job much easier!

After the menu was set and cooking executed, it was time to turn my attention to the spread. Top of mind throughout it all was the entire process of eating – which I’d argue starts even before the food hits our lips. Think about it: Instagram feeds are overtaken by well-styled images that have us all salivating. The truth is, we all eat with our eyes. It’s no wonder stunning food images rack up the likes on our social platforms. Our brain literally tells us dishes simply taste better when they’re beautiful. So in thinking about this buffet, I knew I needed to create some visual eye candy for our guests. And you can too. Here are a few tips to achieve a swoony presentation while making hosting easier on yourself.

First, prepare, prepare, prepare. Put together a menu with recipes that can be created in advance so you’re free to enjoy yourself during the get-together. A frittata is a great dish that can easily be made the morning of your event and kept at room temperature. Just prior to serving, toss some fresh herbs and lemon zest on top, to brighten things up. A bundt cake is also a great option. You can easily make and frost it the night before your event, having it sitting on a cake stand, covered and ready to go in the a.m.! Another easy idea? Yogurt, berries and granola. Just store them in the fridge in beautiful bowls covered with plastic until party time. LG Studio’s new refrigerator definitely helps with that – its ultra-large capacity make it easy to store everything, it also has an interior you can customize to different heights to fit all your various vessels and platters. If you want to serve a specialty drink like we did with our lavender lemonade, set it out in a pitcher so guests can serve themselves on arrival. And finally, don’t forget the nibbles. I set out a basket of freshly-baked biscuits with jams so visitors could snack at their leisure until the proper breakfast was served.

Apart from the food itself, there is the matter of how to present it, and that involves composition, color and texture. When I design a buffet spread, I am always thinking about creating visual contrast. That can be expressed in the opposing fabrics from the linens, or by mixing materials like glam gold flatware and rustic wood serving pieces. The same considerations hold when it comes to the platters. Use different shapes and colors, and incorporate polarizing elements like porcelain platters set against wooden boards. Also, creating varying heights on the table is crucial. Pedestals are helpful but they’re not your only option. I can’t tell you how many times I have turned over a simple bowl or propped up a platter with a stack of trivets. And certainly bring in height with the use of something natural. I always incorporate a vessel filled with foraged branches to offer verticality. Of course, it all has to look cohesive. A trick for bringing it all together is to look to your meal — the ingredients can be incorporated as elements of your décor. Since we had lavender in our beverage, I choose to buy two sizes of the potted variety at my local garden center. Not only does it add both visual contrast and seasonality to the spread, it also creates a holistic aesthetic. I played with the fresh herbs and scallions, too. Bundles tied with twine set next to the dishes that incorporated those very ingredients.

As a parting gift for our friends, I created two recipe cards, one savory (our frittata) and one sweet, (the bundt cake). I printed an image of the dish on one side and the recipe on the other. This way, guests could recreate the meal themselves.

From concept to completion, that’s how the gathering came to life. There was an overarching vision, yes, but just as importantly, it was comprised of a series of small and thoughtful ideas. Even the most involved affairs can be tackled with simplicity, bit by bit!

This post is in partnership with LG Electronics.

Rhubarb-Pistachio Bundt Cake with Rose Glaze

Poppy's Catering

  • Ingredients

      • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
      • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
      • 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
      • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
      • 5 large eggs, room temperature
      • 2 teaspoons rose water
      • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
      • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
      • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
      • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
      • 3/4 cup plain yogurt
      • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons raw pistachios, toasted and chopped 8 ounces rhubarb (2-3 stalks)
      • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
      • 2 tablespoons milk
      • 1 tablespoon rose water
      • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
      • 1/8 teaspoon salt
      • dried rose petals
      • raw pistachios, toasted and chopped

       

  • Method

      1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
      2. Butter and flour Bundt pan.
      3. Rub together granulated sugar and lemon zest with your fingers in a large bowl until fragrant.
      4. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, cream lemon sugar and 3/4 cup butter until light and fluffy.
      5. Add eggs 1 at a time, scraping down sides of bowl and beating well between each addition.
      6. Beat in rose water, vanilla extract on medium-low speed until combined.
      7. Whisk 2 1/4 cups flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in another large bowl.
      8. With mixer on low, add dry ingredients to lemon sugar mixture in 3 additions, alternating with yogurt in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients, scraping sides of bowl as needed.
      9. Fold in pistachios.
      10. Cut rhubarb crosswise into 2 1/2” pieces.
      11. Using a mandolin set to 1/4” or a very sharp knife, slice rhubarb lengthwise.
      12. Pour one-third of the batter into prepared pan on a smooth surface.
      13. Add half of the rhubarb, nestling pieces side by side to form a thick ring on top of batter.
      14. Pour another third of the batter on top of rhubarb layer on a smooth surface.
      15. Repeat with remaining rhubarb and batter.
      16. Bake cake until the surface is cracked and golden brown, springs back to the touch, 50–60 minutes.
      17. Let cake rest in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack.
      18. Whisk powdered sugar, milk, rose water, vanilla extract and salt in a medium bowl until well combined.
      19. Glaze should be pourable but stiff enough to hold its shape – it can be thickened with more powdered sugar or thinned with more milk.

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