For more than 60 years, Relais & Châteaux has tapped its sizeable portfolio of hospitality properties to offer its exclusive clientele access to unforgettable events in nearly every corner of the globe. And now, the travel association is throwing back the curtain on its majestic seasonal parties with The Art of Entertaining Relais & Châteaux: Menus, Flowers, Table Settings, and More for Memorable Celebrations. Complete with recipes and instructions, the new book provides amateur hosts with all the information they need to replicate one of more than a dozen of the company’s spectacular soirees. Here are tastes of four of our favorite parties to whet your appetite.
The Fearrington House Inn in Pittsboro, N.C., Southern-Style Brunch was given a splash of elegance and sophistication. Fresh flowers and sprawling gardens help bring a sense of relaxation to the meal, which is designed to last from late-morning to mid-afternoon. And though the classic mimosa is a brunch staple, Fearrington recommends also serving its Last Word cocktail—gin with maraschino liqueur and yellow chartreuse. The mouth-watering menu offers sophisticated plays on brunch favorites, like cornbread waffles layered with smoked salmon and horseradish crème fraiche, and topped with pickled mustard seeds (see recipe at end); fluffy buttermilk pancakes dressed in pecans and caramelized bananas; and of course, fresh shrimp and silky grits in a parmesan sauce.
Transitioning to evening, the Wine Harvest Dinner (originally held at Meadowood Napa Valley) is a winning combination of locally sourced wines and preparations of the harvest season’s best bounty, such as a garden beet salad, sweet potato gnocchi, and duck confit. A tablescape overflowing with manzanita branches, persimmons for a pop of color, dark wood, and leather effortlessly complements rustic venues like those at Meadowood.
Originally held at Glenmere Mansion in Chester, N.Y., the Great Gatsby Dinner Party is an ode to elegance, opulence, and having a jolly good time. Dazzling chandeliers, white orchids, and an array of rare china help set the retro tone, and a supply of Glenmere Gatsby martinis (see recipe at end) will soon have guests in the swing of things—but don’t be surprised if by the end of the night there are a few recreating Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous frolic in the fountain at the Plaza Hotel. True to any dinner party of the Roaring Twenties, the meal is a multi-course affair, with a menu that includes lobster Américaine, broiled salmon in sauce mousseline, breast of chicken regency, medallion of venison with chestnut potatoes and poivrade sauce, and even a baked ham glazed with cognac and cherries. But the party doesn’t stop there; inspired by the Jazz Age, the dessert table is a sweet treat of nostalgia and decadence.
The indulgence of fantasy is central to all successful Halloween Costume Parties, and Patrick O’Connell, chef and proprietor of the Inn at Little Washington, knows this well. In fact, the hotel’s stated goal is to create “fantality,” the marriage of fantasy and reality. Drawing inspiration from the extravagant shin-digs of everyone from Venetian aristocrats to London high-society, O’Connell crafted a “European take on All-Hallows Eve,” and the results are spectacular. Between succulent bison short ribs on a bed of beet puree, squash risotto served in a roasted and hollowed pumpkin bowl, and his Wicked Witch’s Apple cocktail, guests of this Halloween party are sure to have a devilishly good time.
Published by Rizzoli New York, The Art of Entertaining Relais & Châteaux: Menus, Flowers, Table Settings, and More for Memorable Celebrations is priced at $45. It will be available in stores and online on September 27, although pre-orders are currently being accepted. (rizzoliusa.com)
The two following recipes are included in the new book:
THE GLENMERE GATSBY
MAKES 1 COCKTAIL
Crushed pink peppercorns
2 ounces Tito’s Handmade Vodka
1 ounce passion fruit puree
3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
3/4 ounce cardamom–star anise syrup (see Note)
Rim a martini glass with crushed pink peppercorns. Combine the vodka, passion fruit puree, lime juice, and syrup in a cocktail shaker. Shake and strain into the glass.
Note: To make cardamom–star anise simple syrup: Bring 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water to a boil. Pour over 1 whole star anise and 3 green cardamom pods in a heatproof bowl. Cool to room temperature and strain.
CORN BREAD WAFFLES WITH SMOKED SALMON, POTATO SALAD, AND HORSERADISH CRÈME FRAÎCHE
Makes eight servings.
9 ounces gluten-free flour
9 ounces fine yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 cup whole milk
4 large eggs
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
Chopped fresh chives and parsley
Combine the flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar, and baking powder in a large bowl. In another bowl, blend by hand the buttermilk, milk, and eggs. Sift the dry ingredients into a separate bowl, then pour in the milk mixture while continuously mixing. Once there are no visible lumps, pour in the butter in a steady stream. Add chives, parsley, and Parmesan to taste.
Preheat a waffle iron. Add 3/4 cup of the corn bread batter to the waffle iron and cook until golden brown. Repeat to make 8 waffles. Don’t worry about having perfectly round waffles because they get quartered, and the uneven edges are good for the dish too.
Horseradish Crème Fraîche
3 cups sour cream
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 teaspoon citric acid
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
About 2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
Blend the sour cream, cream, buttermilk, and citric acid by hand and place in a sealed container. Leave overnight in a warm part of your kitchen. After 24 hours, spread the crème fraîche on a clean kitchen towel and let sit for 2 to 3 hours to help pull out any extra moisture. Transfer to a container, season with salt and pepper, and add horseradish to taste and a dash of Champagne vinegar. Refrigerate for up to 3 days.
4 large Yukon gold potatoes, peeled
1/4 cup diced shallots
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bring a pan of salted water to a boil (it should taste like the ocean). Use a small melon baller to scoop out as many balls as possible from the potatoes. Add the balls to the water and cook until fork tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Plunge into ice water to cool. Drain and pat dry with paper towels. Line a rimmed baking sheet with more paper towels, add the potatoes, and roll them around to remove all excess water. In a large bowl, combine the potatoes with the shallots, olive oil, sherry vinegar, maple syrup, and herbs. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
Sherry Vinegar Puree
1/4 cup sherry
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons Ultra-Tex 4
Combine the sherry, sherry vinegar, and brown sugar in a small pan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and let cool. Sprinkle in the Ultra-Tex while whisking, then allow to sit for a few minutes so the mixture can bloom. If there are too many lumps, you may have to add a little more liquid. Pass through a fine sieve and transfer to a squeeze bottle.
Pickled Mustard Seeds
1/2 cup mustard seeds
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
Place the mustard seeds in a pot of cold water and bring to a boil. Drain, then repeat two times, each time starting in cold water. Combine the white wine, white wine vinegar, and sugar in a small pot and bring to a boil. Transfer to a pressure cooker and add the mustard seeds. Cover, bring to pressure, and cook for 25 minutes. (Or cook, covered, in a regular pot on the stove top for about 90 minutes.) Let cool and place in a covered container.
To plate: Cut each waffle into 4 wedges and warm slightly. Shingle the waffle pieces and some smoked salmon pieces down one side of a serving plate. Place a piece of salmon on the other side of the plate and top with a quenelle of horseradish crème fraîche. Spoon two piles of potato salad on either side and arrange celery ribbons and herbs on top. Add a few dots of sherry vinegar puree in the bare areas and then sprinkle the mustard seeds on top.
Notes: Ultra-Tex 4 is a thickener, derived from tapioca and available online.