Croquembouche

The other night the favorite dessert of one of the hostesses I work for was served.  It is the French dessert called croquembouche, also spelled croque-en-bouche. This eye catching dessert display is made of choux pastry formed into small balls, which are filled with a vanilla crème.   They are then dipped in a caramel sauce and piled into a tall elongated cone, and held in place with additional caramel sauce.   Around its base and on top the croquembouche is decorated with spun sugar making it a very impressive sight.  The hostess likes to display this fabulous creation on a side table in the dining room for the guests to see, and anticipate eating it.  Just before this dessert is served it is presented to the hostess and then taken to the kitchen where it is broken into small clusters of balls which are placed on silver platters to be served to the guests.  Most of the guests have second servings which clearly signals their appreciation of this delectable wonder.

 

A home is the right place to serve such a delicious dessert.

A Gentleman?

On a cold winter night recently I was in a café and had a cup of delicious hot chocolate .  Seated at a table nearby there was a good looking young couple engaged in animated conversation. They looked and behaved like to me like they were in love.  Within a short while they paid and got ready to depart.  I saw him stand up, quickly put on his coat, put his hands into his pockets and took a few steps away from the table where he stood silently and observed.  His companion, a young lady, struggled to get into her heavy winter coat and picked up a brief case and a tote bag from under the table.  He made absolutely no move whatsoever to assist her in getting ready to leave.  When she had her coat buttoned up, put on her hat and gloves, the bag and briefcase in hand, he led the way out the door into the cold winter night.  

A real gentleman would have assisted the young lady with her coat and bags

Felt Padding

To prevent porcelain dishes from chipping, crystal bowls from cracking and silver serving platters from scratches and denting, I always recommend to hostesses to use felt.  Felt by the yard can be purchased from decorators or fabric shops in your area.  A thick felt layer, cut to size and placed between plates, bowls and platters reduces the potential for accidents dramatically. 

 

Felt is a small investment to protect your valuable dinner inventoryfrom damage

Chairs

At a recent dinner in a wonderful home, the dining room table was surrounded by light-weight modern arm chairs; usually dining room chairs are on the heavy side. While setting up I took it upon myself to look for the secret of these light-weight beauties.  Lifting up the cushions I discovered the seats were caned in a delightful pattern.  There was no wood or heavy upholstery, the caned seats were covered with just a simple cushion.  While serving the main course, I heard a cracking sound and saw a guest sink into his chair.  Acting quickly, I replaced the broken chair with another, and the guest in good humor made light of the situation. The hostess was horrified and apologized for the embarrassing incident.  After dinner she initiated the process of having all the dining room chairs send out for repair.

 

Regular inspection and maintenance of dining room chairs is essential

A Coq au Vin

Arriving on a late winter afternoon after my long walk to Hastings-on-Hudson I decided to warm up with a drink before taking the train back to New York.  Close to the railroad station I discovered the Saint George Bistro (914.478.1671 or  info@saintgeorgebistro.com). Sitting at the bar sipping a glass of excellent red wine, I had a look at the menu.  Since I had time enough before the next train I ordered their Coq au Vin.  To my surprise and delight, it was absolutely delicious and it reminded me of culinary experiences I enjoyed in France.  In this winter weather, their Coq au Vin for me is an absolute winner and I can’t wait for another visit to this fine French restaurant in the Hudson River Valley.

What a treat

Winter Weather

The cold and wet winter weather brings us sneezes and sniffles.  This is the time of year when handkerchiefs are most useful and practical in dealing with runny noses and the effects of having colds.  Keep a handkerchief handy to cover your mouth and nose it will eliminate the need when coughing and sneezing into your elbow. These cotton accessories, white, clean and starched may appear old-fashioned, but they are the best “old school” essentials for ladies and gentlemen. 

Give it a try and you may like it!

Electric Candles

In many homes electric candles are now used and there are a multitude of good reasons for their use.  For some hosts, it eliminates the danger of a fire, no soot will collect on priceless artworks, they are easy to maintain, and they never drip wax on the furniture.  This trend is made apparent as in some homes only electric candles are used. In other homes a combination of wax candles and electric candles are used. Some hosts would never consider using anything but wax candles to illuminate their homes.

Which do you prefer?

Niagara Falls

Last weekend I visited the Niagara Falls, a spectacular site and a sight to see nature at its best.  The never ending flow of water over the Falls creates a mist that accumulates as ice on the trees and made the immediate landscape around the Falls look like pure winter magic. With only a few tour buses and lots of empty parking lots, the Falls were not crowded at all.  Sharing the experience with only a handful of fellow tourists, we admired the astounding vistas.  The experience was relaxing and invigorating despite the cold weather; and yes, the snow and ice covered Falls and its sounds, with never ending water cascading over the cliffs made the visit spectacular.  Restricted access to the Falls because of winter weather did not at all diminish my appreciation for this true wonder of the world.

A visit in the off season has its own rewards

The Bearded Butler

Recently, a butler arrived to work with me and he had a three day beard which made him look in need of a quick shave.  He appeared to be ready for his stage debut or perhaps a photo shoot.  In all my years at this home there was never, ever, a butler with a beard before.  I asked him discreetly to shave which he promptly did and he explained that in many other homes, the hosts do not care how the staff looks.  I would not like to lose such a good butler’s service, and I knew that the hosts liked a clean-cut appearance.  They would not have asked him to come back if he had not shaved off the beard. 

When working as a butler, look the part.

A Large Tarte Tatin

The Tarte Tatin is a great favorite of many hosts in the wintertime.  One particular evening, the catering chef had made only two tarts for almost thirty guests, and so the round tarts were very large.  They were so large that they did not fit properly on the silver serving platters; the crust hung over the edge.  If he had made three or four smaller tarts, it would have been much easier to handle positioning platters between seated guests.  Serving the large tarts was a great inconvenience to the guests who and had to move out of the way to allow such a delicious seasonal dessert to be served.

Small is often better