Friday, April 18, 2008

Wedding Bliss

I have been on a wedding-style bender all night. Not the kind that preceded my own wedding: All those pretty fillies running from dress shop to shoe store, from D.C. to New York and back while breaking out (perhaps a bit too often) the splits of champagne in their handbags (Blushing Hostess Rule #8: Keep champagne in your bag in case there is something to celebrate or something objectionable is said.). We were generally enjoying ourselves far more than decorum allows. Why, the Dashing Host himself had to put a stop to the business with the Kir Royales one frigid Saturday afternoon at the Mayflower Hotel. It was only a momentary pause however, and then he willingly accompanied us to Rouge. He is a gentlemanly God-send, is he not?

We discuss weddings from time to time at the Blushing Hostess. After all, it is the most momentous and consequential gig of your hostessing career, the event to set the tone for all future entertaining as a couple. In our house, that meant that I made an off the cuff (ahem, creative) suggestion and my husband began to look for a drink or my Dad raised his newspaper a bit higher (it set a tone to which we remain true as a group). We were married five years ago, since then the opportunities for whimsy (ahem) and beauty just abound. I dare say the wedding ideas are better than ever.

Some of them, however, are just out and out dangerous, like this shot of candles all over the floor at the service. Surely, there are a number of firefighters in attendance with hoses at the ready. Some are curious, like this drink, a wholly unnatural shade of blue-green which at first made me wonder if they were serving sea water cocktails straight out of Charleston harbor. And finally, some stump me, like the prospect of handing out 200 glass pitchers as guest gifts. Best to review all ideas involving fire, sea water, and heavy glass objects with the appropriate agency. I tell you that only partially in jest. There are, however, a few new ideas worth considering aside from these, ahem, curiosities.

Though I am not generally a proponent of giving gifts to the guests at weddings or showers because I am fatigued from dropping miniature Mikasa vases over at the Goodwill, there are a few I concede might be truly lovely concepts: An arrangement of these gorgeous pink-cosmos boxes would make a stunning centerpiece for a shower. Usefully doubling as gift-boxes, they hide a garden full of seeds. This elegant starfish wine bottle stopper is a gift I will use and it is unisex. But if your wedding is not at the shore, you might choose a snowflake for Vail. I would adore a luggage tag and it would be great fun to slip the seating card into the tag and display them prominently on a board filled with postcards from everywhere you have been together or everywhere you want to go. Please do not give me this, this, or, I beg of you, this. Two words to help you choose gifts for showers and weddings: Elegant. Useful.

And while I am on the subject, there are a few products which will make for stunning details at your parties. The hydrangea-inspired wedding I described to you in a previous essay could now have an additional level of detail perfection with this hydrangea wedding card box and these favor boxes to layer on the flower affect. These shell place card holders would be fabulous placed atop a spill of sand in a huge authentic sweet grass basket.

It does not have to be overtly costly or insanely over-conceived. Sometimes simple can be so rewarding. One huge platter of a tall slice of blue cheese with carefully selected sliced pears, and whole pears used for garnish can do the work of a thousand slices of cheddar and jack and be so much more pleasing to the eye. One tone of flowers can make such powerful a statement. The simplest lines can make the best glass slipper. And when it is all said and done, what is most important is the life ahead, not the flowers behind. Enjoy the company and the celebrating. The Host and I will always have you in our thoughts, wishing for the best of weddings and futures for you.

People are going to drop in from time to time once you are engaged: The girls to show you their dresses. And the gentlemen to have a stiff drink before returning home for the girls to show them their dresses. You will need something sophisticated and elegant to serve. Keep a pie crust, some taleggio cheese, and a few good mushrooms handy and this version of Florence Fabricant's Taleggio and Mushroom Tart will make the entertaining easy and the food fabulous. The pastry short-cut here is one of my entertaining lifesaver tips and takes the time down considerably.

One last note, the prints on the table in the photos are some of the fabulous vintage-inspired dish cloths from Kitchens on the Square in Savannah. I bought a big stack of great prints from the vintage tub filled with color. What an appealing display! Talk about a great wishing well gift for a shower...

Taleggio and Mushroom Tart
Adapted from Florence Fabricant for the New York Times
Serves 6

In the photos attached, I made the crust myself per the original, and it is a great recipe to have. But I have adapted the below to be more time-sensitive and realistic: Use refrigerated crust if you prefer, use sour cream (once baked the difference is barely discernible owing to the strength of the Taleggio) or crema, and/or a combination of mushrooms if they are more readily available.

Ms. Fabricant originally intended this recipe to go with stout, which is undoubtedly very nice. I like it with a good pinot noir and a spinach salad.Taleggio is a rind cow's milk cheese from Italy, it looks similar to brie. It has a noticeable nose (is a little stinky) before it is baked. Afterwards, it is quite mild. You will find it in the specialty chesse imports section of your store. Mine came from the passionate food good people at Fresh Market whom I cannot recommend more highly, they will order anything you need and are endlessly interested in what has come of their work.

Butter, for greasing tart pan
1 refrigerated pie crust
1 tablespoon basil, dried
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, sliced and stems discarded
1 tablespoon finely sliced shallots
Salt and ground pepper
2 tablespoons crème fraîche, crema, or sour cream
8-10 ounces taleggio (depending on the size of your pan), rind removed, thinly sliced

Preheat heat oven to 400 degrees. Generously grease a 9 inch tart pan or a pie plate. Set aside.

Flatten the pie crust out on a lightly floured board. Sprinkle basil evenly over the pie crust and gently press it into the crust.

Fit into the tart pan or pie plate. Prick bottom, line with parchment paper or foil, cover with dry beans and bake 10 minutes. Remove paper and weights. Bake about 10 minutes more, until pastry starts to color. Remove from oven. Reduce heat to 375 degrees.

Spread pastry with crème fraîche (crema or sour cream). Cover with mushrooms, and top with cheese slices. Scatter with remaining cumin. Bake in oven about 20 minutes, until cheese melts. Serve.

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