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Florida Gathering with a Tropical Menu

Textile designer Nicolette Mayer artfully serves up seaside fare

Written and produced by Krissa Rossbund
  • Robert Brantley

    Menu and recipes start here

    Nicolette Mayer’s brilliant textiles are color-infused showstoppers. For a casual lunch, she paired her new “Agate” textile collection with her first-ever dinnerware offering to bring tropical colors to the table. The result was a visual feast as delectable as the menu.

    A sheer tablecloth crafted from Mayer’s “Agate” textile collection and Serena & Lily’s “Riviera” chairs set a breezy tempo in the conservatory. 

    Photography: Robert Brantley and Peter Krumhardt

  • Robert Brantley

    Designer

    “I’ve become focused on the Earth and what pressure and time have created within it,” says Mayer. “Agate is interesting in its organic swirling beauty. I like to change the colorations of nature to combinations that might not be possible but make me swoon.”  

    Boca Raton, Florida-based Mayer has been designing textiles for interiors and fashion for 30 years.

  • Robert Brantley

    Beachy Table

    Moved by her water-evoking fabric pattern, Mayer designed an oceanic dinnerware, “Portofino,” (available here) for this gathering. Oranges plucked from backyard trees and stacked into glass vases lend an indigenous twist. Coordinating napkins are made from a geometric pattern from another of her fabric collections.

    Textile designer Nicolette Mayer applied her flair to a new medium on the tropical “Portofino” dinnerware she created. Four coordinating plates feature motifs from gold fish and mosaics to koi fish and nautilus, all in coral and turquoise. The “Wave” highball and “Conus” double old-fashioned from Moser through Mary Mahoney add Caribbean allure to the table. 

     

  • Robert Brantley

    Beachy Tabletop

    A vibrant tablescape calls for recipes with equal visual splash. Coconut-crusted goat cheese and mini pizzas with vegetables started the food rainbow, sustained with sea bass topped with mango salsa and guava sauce, followed by a trio of refreshing sorbets.

    Fresh-from-the-tree oranges fill glass floral shop vases; “Agate” in its grass-cloth form is used as placecards.

  • Peter Krumhardt

    Perfectly Pineapple

    Pineapple salt and pepper shakers  are from Pier 1 Imports.

  • Robert Brantley

    Cool Coral

    Kim Seybert’s “Coral Branch” napkin rings truss napkins made from Mayer’s “New Trellis” fabric in Shrimp. 

  • Robert Brantley

    Menu & Recipes

    Sometimes food has the ability to elevate the table setting to high art. This colorful menu, inspired by textile designer Nicolette Mayer’s tropical dinnerware, is both seaworthy and see-worthy. The refreshingly cool recipes were created by Chef Mary Payne Moran. Included are plenty of make-ahead tips for more relaxed entertaining.

    Menu

    Grand Passion Fruit Martini

    Toasted Coconut Goat Cheese with Chile-Honey Dipping Sauce

    Mini Grilled Pizzas with Pancetta, Avocado, Red Onion, and Baby Arugula

    Lime-Infused Sea Bass with Mango Salsa and Guava Sauce

    Trio of Sorbets

    Plan Ahead

    • The passion fruit syrup for the martini can be made several days in advance and stored, covered and chilled, in an airtight container.
    • The Chile-Honey Dipping Sauce can be made one day ahead and stored, covered and chilled, in an airtight container.
    • The coconut for the goat cheese hors d’oeuvre can be toasted ahead of time and stored in a sealable food container or bag.
    • The Mango Salsa can be made the morning of the party and stored, covered and chilled, in an airtight container.
    • The Guava Sauce can be made the morning of the party and stored, covered and chilled, in an airtight container.
    • The sorbets can be made up to one week in advance and kept in the freezer until serving.

    Shopping List

    We’ve organized a shopping list to make shopping for this party menu easier for you. Package sizes are included so you have enough for duplicated recipe ingredients. The cocktail ingredients have been configured for making eight cocktails.

    Check your pantry for these necessary items before shopping:

    Note: Unless specified, when we call for “butter” we mean the unsalted variety. When we call for “olive oil” we are suggesting good quality extra virgin.

    • Granulated sugar (3 cups)
    • Kosher salt (1 pinch + seasoning)
    • Sea salt (for sprinkling)
    • Freshly ground black pepper
    • Ground white pepper
    • Olive oil (1 cup total)
    • Butter (1 stick)
    • Cornstarch (need 1 teaspoon)
    • Honey (need 1/2 cup)
    • White vinegar (need 1 tablespoon)
    • Crushed red pepper (need 1/2 teaspoon)
    • Non-stick cooking spray
    • Vanilla (need 1-1/2 teaspoons)

    Specialty grocery store

    • 1 (750-milliliter) passion fruit syrup (if not making your own)
    • Garlic oil (if not making your own)
    • 1 pound prepared plain or whole wheat pizza dough
    • Hibiscus berry tea bags

    Produce

    • 2 oranges for cocktail garnish
    • 1 to 2 limes + 10
    • 1 mango
    • 3 medium bananas
    • 1 head garlic
    • 1 medium red onion
    • 1 bunch green onions
    • 1 red sweet pepper
    • 1 avocado
    • 1 (5-ounce) bag baby arugula
    • 1/2 pound fresh fava beans, edamame, or baby lima beans
    • 2 bunches basil

    Grocery

    • Passion fruit puree (Goya brand) (if making your own passion fruit syrup)
    • 1 (32-ounce) bottle guava juice
    • Jasmine rice
    • Caramel ice cream topping

    Baking aisle

    • 1 (8-ounce) package shredded coconut

    Frozen food aisle

    • 1 small package frozen fava beans, frozen edamame, or frozen baby lima beans; if fresh not available

    Fish counter

    • 8 (6-ounce) fresh or frozen skinless sea bass fillets (may have to pre-order)

    Dairy

    • 1 liter fresh orange juice
    • 1 small container refrigerated unsweetened coconut milk
    • 1 (8-ounce) container crème fraîche

    Cheese aisle

    • 8 ounces goat cheese (chèvre)
    • 1 package pancetta

    Alcohol

    • 1 (750-milliliter) bottle vodka
  • Peter Krumhardt

    Grand Passion Fruit Martini

    Passion fruit, a native of Brazil, but now grown globally in tropical locales, gets it name from both amorous and religious origins. We think the perfumy, sweet-tart, and slightly vanilla taste is a delightful pairing to vodka for a summer cocktail.

    Prep: 5 minutes

    • 2 ounces good quality vodka
    • 2 ounces passion fruit syrup, purchased or homemade*
    • Ice cubes
    • Orange peel for garnish

    In cocktail shaker combine vodka and passion fruit syrup. Add ice cubes; cover and shake until very cold. Strain liquid into ice-filled glass. Garnish with orange peel. Makes 1 cocktail.

    *For homemade syrup, in small saucepan combine 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, and 1/2 cup passion fruit puree (such as Goya brand). Bring to simmer, stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat; add 1/2 cup more passion fruit puree. Chill at least 2 hours before using. Syrup can be made several days in advance and stored, covered and chilled, in an airtight container. Makes 2-1/4 cups.

    Recipe from Chef Mary Payne Moran

  • Peter Krumhardt

    Toasted Coconut Goat Cheese with Chile-Honey Dipping Sauce

    The bites of goat cheese and toasted coconut create the background for a snappy sweet and hot dipping sauce.

    Prep: 20 minutes

    Chill: 2 hours

    Stand: 20 minutes

    Toasted Coconut Goat Cheese:

    • 1 cup shredded coconut, toasted*, and coarsely chopped
    • 8 ounces goat cheese (chèvre)
    • 1 recipe Chile-Honey Dipping Sauce

    Chile-Honey Dipping Sauce:

    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
    • 1/2 cup honey
    • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
    • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
    • Pinch kosher salt

    For Toasted Coconut Goat Cheese, line tray or shallow baking pan with parchment paper. Place coconut in shallow dish. Use small cookie scoop to shape cheese into 16 balls. Roll each in coconut to coat. Place balls on tray. Cover and chill until serving time. Let stand at room temperature about 20 minutes before serving. Serve with dipping sauce. Makes 8 servings (2 per person).

    For Chile-Honey Dipping Sauce, in small saucepan heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic; cook and stir 30 seconds. Stir in cornstarch. Stir in honey, vinegar, crushed red pepper, and salt. Bring to boil; remove from heat. Set aside to cool.

    *Tip: To toast coconut, preheat oven to 350°F. Spread coconut in shallow baking pan. Bake 5 to 8 minutes or until toasted, stirring several times (watch closely toward the end of baking). Cool. Coconut can be toasted several days in advance and stored, covered and chilled, in a sealable food container or bag.

    Recipe from Chef Mary Payne Moran

  • Peter Krumhardt

    Mini Grilled Pizzas with Pancetta, Avocado, Red Onion, and Baby Arugula

    There’s a perfect balance of flavor on these mini pizzas: tangy crème fraîche, salty pancetta, creamy avocado, pungent red onion, and peppery arugula. We like the individual size, but you could easily roll out the dough for a standard-size pizza and proceed as directed—just dollop the crème fraîche instead of spreading it over the entire surface.

    Prep: 30 minutes

    Grill: 5 minutes

    Mini Grilled Pizzas:

    • 1 pound prepared plain or whole-wheat pizza dough
    • Nonstick cooking spray
    • Fine sea salt
    • 1 cup créme fraîche
    • 4 thin slices pancetta, halved and cooked crisp
    • 1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and diced
    • Thin slivers red onion
    • Baby arugula
    • 2 to 3 tablespoons Garlic Oil (recipe below) or purchased garlic oil
    • Freshly cracked black pepper

    Garlic Oil:

    • 1/2 cup olive oil
    • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and halved

    For Mini Grilled Pizzas, shape pizza dough into eight 4-inch rounds. Coat each on one side with nonstick spray. Sprinkle with sea salt. Heat grill pan or grill to medium-high. Lay pizza rounds on grill rack, coated sides down; cover and grill 2 to 3 minutes or until well-browned.

    Carefully coat tops with nonstick spray and sprinkle with sea salt. Turn; grill 2 to 3 minutes more or until crusts are puffed and browned.

    Remove crusts from grill. Spread each with crème fraîche. Top each with pancetta, avocado, and red onion. Return to grill rack 1 to 2 minutes or until heated through. Top with arugula. Drizzle lightly with garlic oil, sprinkle with cracked black pepper, and serve. Makes 8 servings.

    To make Garlic Oil, add oil and garlic to small saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat 8 minutes. Remove from heat; let stand 30 minutes. Remove and discard garlic. Season oil with salt. Cover; chill any remaining oil up to 1 month.

    Recipe from Chef Mary Payne Moran

  • Peter Krumhardt

    Lime-Infused Sea Bass with Mango Salsa and Guava Sauce

    Sea bass is a lean fish that cooks up both firm and flaky. Its buttery flavor is “melt-in-your-mouth.”  The mango salsa topper captures an island spirit, and the guava sauce is rich and luxurious.

    Fava beans have a short spring season so if you see them in the market, grab them up. Otherwise, frozen favas, edamame, or lima beans are great substitutes in the salsa recipe.

    Prep: 25 minutes

    Bake: 15 minutes at 350°F

    Cook: 24 minutes

    Mango Salsa:*

    • 1 cup finely chopped fresh mango
    • 1 cup fresh or frozen fava beans, cooked; fresh or frozen edamame, cooked; or fresh or frozen baby lima beans, cooked**
    • 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onion
    • 1/2 cup chopped red sweet pepper
    • 1/2 teaspoon lime zest
    • 1/2 cup lime juice
    • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
    • 3 tablespoons good quality olive oil
    • Kosher salt
    • Freshly cracked black pepper

    Lime-Infused Sea Bass:

    • 4 cups guava juice
    • 8 (6-ounce) fresh or frozen skinless sea bass fillets
    • 10 limes, zested (1/3 cup)
    • Kosher salt
    • Ground white pepper
    • 8 tablespoons butter
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • 1 recipe Mango Salsa
    • Hot cooked Jasmine rice (optional)

    To prepare Mango Salsa, in large bowl combine mango, beans, green onion, red pepper, lime zest, lime juice, basil, and oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover; chill until ready to serve.

    For Lime-Infused Sea Bass, in large saucepan bring guava juice to boil. Reduce heat and boil gently 20 to 25 minutes or until reduced to 2 cups. Keep warm.

    Preheat oven to 350°F. Thaw fish, if frozen. Rinse fish and pat dry with paper towels. Using your fingers, press and rub lime zest onto all sides of fish fillets. Sprinkle with salt and white pepper.

    In large nonstick skillet, heat 4 tablespoons of butter and oil over medium-high heat. Add half of fish; cook about 1 minute per side or until fish is just golden but lime zest is still green. Transfer to shallow baking pan. Add remaining fish to pan and cook as directed. Bake all fish in oven about 15 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork (145°F).

    Add remaining 4 tablespoons butter to guava sauce, stirring to melt and combine.

    Spoon guava sauce on bottom of 8 serving plates. Top with fish and Mango Salsa. Serve with rice, if desired. Makes 8 servings.

    *Tip: The Mango Salsa and Guava Sauce can be made the morning of the party and stored, covered and chilled, in an airtight container.

    **Note: If using fresh fava beans, remove beans from pods. Bring medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add shelled beans; boil 2 to 3 minutes to loosen outer skins. Using a slotted spoon, immediately transfer beans to ice water to cool. Drain beans; peel off and discard outer skins.

    If using edamame or lima beans, cook in boiling salted water according to package directions and cool in ice water.

    Recipe from Chef Mary Payne Moran

  • Peter Krumhardt

    Trio of Sorbets

    The tropical flavors in this trio of sorbets provide a fitting conclusion to this tropical dinner. Cool, refreshing, and colorful, the sorbets are just light enough to serve on warm nights.

    Three flavors of sorbet—banana-caramel, hibiscus tea, and orange-basil—are colorfully presented in the footed “Adele Melikoff Beryl” crystal bowl from Moser through Mary Mahoney.

    Prep: 30 minutes

    Freeze: 4 hours or overnight*

    Simple Syrup:

    • 2 cups water
    • 2 cups sugar

    Hibiscus Tea Sorbet:

    • 2 tablespoons or 6 tea bags hibiscus berry tea
    • 2-1/4 cups boiling water
    • 1 cup Simple Syrup

    Orange-Basil Sorbet:

    • 3/4 cup Simple Syrup
    • 1/3 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
    • 2-1/4 cups fresh orange juice

    Banana Sorbet:

    • 3 medium bananas, peeled, sliced, and frozen
    • 3 tablespoons refrigerated unsweetened coconut milk
    • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
    • Caramel ice cream topping

    For Simple Syrup, in small saucepan combine water and sugar. Bring to simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Let cool completely.

    For Hibiscus Tea Sorbet, steep hibiscus tea in boiling water 6 minutes. Strain tea, or remove and discard tea bags. Let cool completely. Add 1 cup Simple Syrup. Pour into 2-quart baking dish. Cover; freeze 4 hours or until firm. Break up mixture with fork; place in food processor or blender, half at a time, if necessary. Cover and process 30 to 60 seconds or until smooth. Spoon mixture back into baking dish; cover and freeze for 6 to 8 hours or until firm. To serve, let stand at room temperature for 5 minutes before scooping. Makes 8 servings.

    For Orange-Basil Sorbet, in small saucepan bring 3/4 cup Simple Syrup to simmer. Remove from heat. Add basil leaves. Cover and let steep 30 minutes; strain out basil leaves. Let cool completely. Combine basil-infused Simple Syrup and orange juice. Chill 4 to 24 hours. Freeze in ice cream freezer according to manufacturer's directions. Transfer to freezer container and freeze until firm. Garnish with small basil leaves. Makes 8 servings.

    For Banana Sorbet, in food processor combine bananas, coconut milk, and vanilla. Cover and process until smooth. Freeze at least 4 hours for scoopable sorbet. To serve, drizzle with caramel topping. Makes 8 servings.

    *Tip: The sorbets can be made up to one week in advance and kept in the freezer until serving.

    Recipe from Chef Mary Payne Moran

  • Michael Garland
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