EyeSwoon

It is not easy to put creativity or style into words—to describe what we see, or the process of how to compose a meal, a tablescape, an ambiance. What are the roads and pathways that lead you to one decision, then ignite another, and another. What are the parameters that focus your attention? I recently began thinking about the visual story we tell through entertaining. How to set a mood? What flowers are best to adorn our surface?  Do they pair with the food or do they offer a contrast?  What color linens to use? Will our glassware and ceramics evoke a posh feel or rustic vibe? How we instantly know to add a layer to express a lush richness, or when we immediately sense to take something away, offering some negative space. This holds true in setting your holiday table but the same can be said for creating a menu; when to add richness and when our palate needs a bit of relief. There are so many moving parts to hosting, and I want to do it all and I want to do it beautifully. To see it all, hear it all, taste it all in slow motion, analyzing every aspect—can we all say perfectionism?!? Yes, it can be exhausting to consider every minute detail, but the joy on your guests faces as they take in the beautiful holiday table, or savor a bite of food far outweigh the work. This is the very definition of SWOON-worthy…

With the holiday on the horizon, all I can think about it is hosting, cooking and entertaining—it’s the kind of creativity that I swoon most, after all. Estée Lauder and her entertaining practices were recently brought under microscope in my world when the brand asked that I create a holiday tablescape honoring both Estée and the Lauder brand itself. A big kid in the swoon-worthy candy store, I was invited to dig through the Estée archives. What came into sharp focus about this profound visionary was her unwavering perseverance and attention to detail in everything she touched. She offered inspiration to women who want to do it all, and do it in style. She believed that everyone should evoke style and care on every occasion, particularly during the holidays. She was the ultimate perfectionist whose persistence built an empire.

Estée had a home in East Hampton, not too far from my own and I felt a kinship both in our proximity and our love of hosting! Estée believed in formalities (perhaps more than myself), but every element I read about her informed my creative choices for this holiday soirée. One passage that struck a cord within me was a quote from her granddaughter Aerin: “Estée was a terrific hostess, and her sense of entertaining was very luxurious and fun. She would have a little present on the table or she would do something clever like print the menu on the napkin. She always had amazing desserts brought to the table in big silver bowls.”

With this I took inspiration from the queen herself, yet filtered it through the EyeSwoon lens. Estée stressed the importance of color: to her it was a transformative way to appear radiant and glow. Therefore, color was the foundational inspiration as I set out to curate my holiday dinner. The Estée Lauder brand had few guidelines for me, which actually proved to be the catalyst that ignited my journey. The few things they asked that I focus upon were: figs, as they were a signature scent found in their lip color for years, pomegranate, as it is the antioxidant property in one of their skincare lines, and vanilla, which is the signifying scent in their Modern Muse fragrance. I could not have asked for more beautiful parameters to build around, and these elements also informed the color palette, of which I believe Estée, would have approved!

These three elements inspired not only the color palette, but also the menu and the perfect winter-inspired ambiance. I recalled Estée being quite clever with printing on the napkins, and with this I got clever myself. I called upon friend and natural dye expert Audrey Louise Reynolds whose brand ALR Dying has been praised by Vanity Fair, NY Times and Vogue. I asked her to work with pomegranate as a natural dye. I wanted the overall visual scape to be rooted in neutrals, pale grey and creamy natural hues. Then the pops of color would be found in heaping bowls of figs and vibrant pomegranates clinging to their branches—the flowers would mirror the greens and crimson hue of those two Estée inspired fruits. My napkins were naturally dyed in charcoal to offer that hint of grey, with a single edge splattered in crimson pomegranate juice bleeding onto the linen.

Each of my inspired elements had a similar journey – The Figs, Pomegranate, Citrus, and Vanilla extended from tablescape to menu. I map out these specific pathways in the document below.

With all of the fussing calculated and decided upon in advance, the only thing left for me to consider was what to wear and what lip color: crimson, of course – Pure Color Envy Lipstick in Brazen. Estée’s inspiration extended through and through, inspiring me to do it all in style. Color certainly did transform and elevate everything element of this radiant holiday soirée!

Prop styling by Rebecca Bartoshesky | Food Styling by Christine Buckley
Many thanks to Dara Artisans for the Lilith Rockett white satin candleholders

more recipes from this swoon:

Estée Lauder

extending from décor to menu

a SWOONY journey

  • Figs in vintage pewter bowls upon the table were directly inspired by Estée serving dessert in silver bowls. Fig compote was also created to serve with the charcuterie board—weet figs mingled with savory onion served atop crostini slathered with fresh ricotta.

  • Pomegranates were strewn about the table, used as a natural dye and also used within a crisp winter white salad. Pomegranate seeds lent pungent pops of color to the otherwise pale salad, and pomegranate molasses offered a tangy sweetness to the dressing.

  • Citrus notes are predominant in many of the Estee Lauder fragrance’s, which inspired the flavor profile for our main course. I created a creamy, citrusy Meyer lemon risotto that mingled with roasted crimson and golden beets, and was finished with an herbed pistachio gremolata, staying true to our focused color story.

  • Vanilla stalks that contain the swoony and teeny beans became gifts upon the table that I offered guests.  Each guest received a glass vessel with a few fragrant vanilla beans to take home.  Vanilla was also the star ingredient in our final dish of the night: a vanilla-infused panna cotta with blood orange compote.

  • Our menus and seating names cards that clung to the vanilla bottles were also created to mirror the dyed napkins. A muted crimson watercolor effect adorned each menu and name card with an elegant script to further evoke the legendary Estée glamour.

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