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Saint-Tropez-Inspired Dinner

Inspired by her second home in Saint-Tropez, Penny Drue Baird hosts a French Riviera-style dinner in Manhattan

Written by Krissa Rossbund
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  • John Bessler

    For menu and shopping list, click here.

    Recipes begin here.

    Designer Penny Drue Baird has an almost lifelong bond with Saint-Tropez. She first visited there as a college student, which through the years led to longer stays, and eventually she spent summers there for 15 years. Friends from Saint-Tropez are godparents to her children. So when Penny invites guests to dinner in her Manhattan apartment, she dresses her table and devises a menu inspired by the famous resort and its dining hot spot, Club 55. The celebrated eatery is known for its views—both of the Mediterranean and of its A-list frequenters. “Each beach has its own vibe, with a palette defined by the color of the umbrellas and mats,” Penny says. “People discover their favorite beach. Ours is the beach served by Club 55.”

    Penny creates table schemes from accoutrements she’s amassed over decades, depending on who’s invited and what she is serving. For this particular table, ornate “Flora Danica” porcelain dinnerware is grounded by casual textured chargers. As formal French table etiquette dictates, flatware faces downward, which shows the monogram created for Penny and her husband when they married. “We use that monogram on everything, from our linens to our stationery,” she says.

    The highlight of the table is a crudité centerpiece built with raw vegetables on a rustic bark foundation. The menu, loosely inspired by South of France cuisine, starts with tapenade and continues with shrimp and mango ceviche, bouillabaisse, and Tarte Tropézienne.

    “Life in Saint-Tropez is very different from the wild, partying image that is portrayed,” Penny explains. “I wanted to introduce my guests who haven’t visited Saint-Tropez to its pleasures and remind those who have visited of its glory.”

    Photography: John Bessler
    Produced by Erin Swift

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    Tasteful Tabletop

    It’s always a different mix for Penny Drue Baird’s tablescapes. “The fancier the wine, the more simple the stemware,” she says. For this table, she pulled from the many tabletop patterns she’s amassed over three decades. Oversized glasses from William Yeoward Crystal mix with Lalique glasses that bear the crystal maker’s signature frosted detailing. Crystal candlesticks are from Baccarat.

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    Centerpiece Curiosities

    Penny loves a table that is visually appealing—but, more important, that sparks interesting conversation. Her tablescape includes a vintage glass wine jug and a glass cylinder vase filled with stems of pink, red, and white roses that add charm to the center of the table.

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    A Different Mix

    “Crudités are a specialty in Saint-Tropez, and the first thing you order there,” Penny says of the edible centerpiece at her favorite restaurant. A bark platter used as a foundation for the beautifully arranged vegetables is Club 55’s signature.

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    Pretty Place Settings

    Vintage printed linens from Hermès enhance Royal Copenhagen’s hand-painted superstar pattern “Flora Danica.”  Penny discovered the pierced pottery chargers years ago in Provence and bought them in two colors. 

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    Custom Silver

    Silver monogrammed flatware is from Christofle, which designed Penny and her husband’s monogram when they married. That design is also engraved on mint julep cups used for water, an idea she borrowed from her wedding in Paris.

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    White Label

    Beach destinations conjure up visions of umbrella drinks, but Club 55 refreshes its guests with Moët Ice Imperial Champagne, a sparkler made to serve over cubes so keeping it chilled is not an issue. The handsome crystal glasses are vintage Baccarat.

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    Candy Delights

    To elaborate on her South of France theme, Penny treated her guests to nougat, famously confected in Montélimar, France. The wrapped pastel-colored candy is displayed in a lustrous silver compote.

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    Let Us Eat Cake

    Tarte Tropézienne was developed in the 1950s during the making of the French film And God Created Woman. Now it’s the trademark dessert of La Tarte Tropézienne—a Saint-Tropez restaurant—and one of Penny’s desserts of choice when she brings friends together.

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    Lavender Love

    Send guests home with the restful aroma of the South of France in takeaway gifts of lavender-filled sachets. These natural-linen bags were purchased from a street vendor in Provence, but you can find similar pouches of lavender at L’Occitane.

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    Penny Drue Baird serves up a dinner inspired by Club 55 in St. Tropez, and her years living there. The dinner is light, colorful, and easy to pull off. Once you’ve purchased the ingredients, everything comes together quickly.

    Menu
    Tapenade
    St. Tropez Shrimp Ceviche
    Bouillabaisse
    Tarte Tropezienne

    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.

    Check your pantry for these necessary items before shopping:

    • Extra-virgin olive oil (need about 3/4 cup)
    • Salt
    • Ground pepper
    • Crushed red pepper (need 1 to 3 teaspoons)
    • Cayenne pepper (need 1/4 teaspoon)
    • Granulated sugar (need 3/4 cup)
    • Powdered sugar (need 1/4 cup)
    • Cornstarch (need 1/4 cup)
    • All-purpose flour (need 2-1/2 cups)
    • Mayonnaise (need 1/4 cup)
    • Whole milk (need 2-1/2 cups)
    • Eggs (need 5)
    • Butter (need 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon)
    • Nonstick cooking spray

    Specialty food store

    • 1/2-pound pitted, oil-cured black olives, Lyonnaise if possible
    • 2 boules (round French loaves)
    • Orange blossom water
    • Pärlsocker (pearl sugar) (optional for Tarte Tropezienne)

    Produce

    • 1 bunch fresh thyme
    • 1 bunch cilantro
    • 1 bunch parsley
    • 2 bunches dill weed
    • 2 mangoes
    • 1 orange
    • 1 lime
    • 1 lemon
    • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
    • 2 medium yellow onion
    • 1 medium red onion
    • 1 bunch celery
    • 1 medium leek
    • 1 head garlic

    Grocery

    • Capers
    • Anchovy fillets
    • 1 (24-ounce) jar tomato sauce (need 3 cups; homemade may be used)
    • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
    • 1 (12-ounce) jar roasted red sweet peppers

    Bakery aisle

    • Saffron threads (optional for Red Pepper Rouille)
    • Vanilla bean
    • Dry active yeast
    • 1 (2-ounce) package sliced almonds (need 1/2 cup)

    Fish counter

    • 1 pound fresh large shrimp in shells
    • 6 (4-ounce) fresh or frozen skinless young rouget (red mullet) or small red snapper fillets, cut 1/2-inch thick
    • 12 ounces fresh or frozen meaty white fish, such as halibut or cod
    • 8 to 12 giant langoustines or 12 ounces live or cooked crawfish
    • 2 dozen baby clams, scrubbed and rinsed
    • 2 dozen baby mussels or mussels, scrubbed, debearded, and rinsed

    Dairy

    • 1/2 pint whipping cream

    Alcohol

    • Cognac rum or good quality dark rum
    • Pernod
    • Dry white wine
  • John Bessler

    Tapenade

    Serve tapenade with crudités or toasted boule (a round French loaf). Cognac rum is rum that is aged in the Caribbean then sent to France to finish aging in cognac barrels. Some brands include Plantation Barbados 5 years Reserve, Plantation Extra Old Barbados Rum, or Plantation Panama 2002. Good quality dark rum may be substituted.

    • 2 tablespoons drained capers
    • 2 to 4 anchovy fillets
    • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
    • 1 to 2 tablespoons cognac rum or good quality dark rum
    • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 2 cups (1/2 pound) pitted, oil-cured black olives, preferably from Lyon
    • Toasted boule slices

    In food processor combine capers, anchovy fillets, thyme, rum, and olive oil. Cover; process until nearly smooth, scraping down sides of container as necessary. Add olives. Cover; pulse with several on/off turns until rough paste forms. Serve with toasted boule. Makes 1-1/2 cups.
     

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    St. Tropez Shrimp Ceviche

    • 1 pound fresh large shrimp in shells, peeled, deveined, and halved lengthwise, if desired (20 shrimp)
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1 to 2 mangoes, halved, seeded, peeled, and chopped
    • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
    • 1/4 cup chopped onion
    • 1 to 2 tablespoons snipped fresh cilantro
    • Juice of 1 orange (1/4 to 1/3 cup)
    • Juice of 1 lime (2 tablespoons)
    • Salt and ground black pepper

    In large saucepan cook shrimp in boiling salted water 1 to 3 minutes or until shrimp turn opaque, stirring occasionally. Drain shrimp. Rinse in colander under cold running water; drain again. Place in large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil; toss to combine.

    Stir in mangoes, tomatoes, onion and cilantro. Drizzle orange and lime juice over shrimp mixture. Toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover; chill up to 8 hours. Makes 6 servings.
     

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    Bouillabaisse

    • 6 (4-ounce) fresh or frozen skinless young rouget or small red snapper fillets, cut 1/2-inch thick
    • 12 ounces fresh or frozen meaty white fish, such as halibut or cod
    • 1 medium red onion, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
    • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
    • 1 rib celery, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
    • 1 medium leek, chopped (1/2 cup)
    • 8 to 10 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 to 3 teaspoons crushed red pepper
    • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    • 3 cups tomato sauce (home made or store bought)
    • 3 cups dry white wine
    • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
    • 1/2 cup Pernod
    • 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill weed
    • 8 to 12 giant langoustines or 12 ounces live or cooked crawfish
    • 2 dozen baby clams, scrubbed and rinsed
    • 2 dozen baby mussels or mussels, scrubbed, debearded, and rinsed
    • 8 (1-inch) slices boule loaf, toasted or grilled
    • 1 clove garlic
    • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
    • 1 recipe Red Pepper Rouille (recipe follows)

    Red Pepper Rouille:

    • 1/4 cup chopped bottled roasted red sweet peppers
    • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
    • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    • Pinch saffron threads (optional)

    Thaw all fish, if frozen. Cut into 2-inch pieces; set aside. In 8-quart Dutch oven cook red and yellow onion, celery, leek, minced garlic, and crushed red pepper in hot oil 3 to 5 minutes or until onion is tender.

    Add tomato sauce, wine, tomatoes, Pernod, and dill weed. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, covered, 30 minutes.

    Add langoustines, clams, mussels, and fish. Cover; return to boil. Uncover; reduce heat. Simmer 8 to 10 minutes or until shellfish have opened, stirring once or twice. (Discard any clams and mussels that do not open.)

    While toast is still hot, rub both sides with whole garlic clove. Lay 1 slice in each of 8 warmed serving bowls. Divide seafood among bowls, then divide broth between bowls. Sprinkle with parsley. Pass Red Pepper Rouille to stir in. Makes 8 servings.

    For Red Pepper Rouille, in blender or food processor combine roasted red pepper, mayonnaise, lemon juice, garlic, salt, cayenne pepper, and saffron. Cover; blend or process until smooth. Cover; chill up to 3 days. Makes ½ cup.

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    Tarte Tropezienne

    For the tarte:

    • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
    • 1/2 cup warm milk (105ºF to 115ºF)
    • Nonstick cooking spray
    • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
    • 1 egg
    • 2 teaspoons orange blossom water
    • Pinch salt
    • 5 tablespoons butter, softened
    • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 egg
    • 1 tablespoon water
    • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
    • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
    • Pärlsocker (optional)*

    For the cream filling:

    • 2 eggs
    • 1 egg yolk
    • 1/4 cup butter
    • 2 cups milk
    • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
    • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
    • 1/4 cup cornstarch
    • 1 tablespoon orange blossom water (optional)
    • 1/2 cup whipping cream

    For tarte, in small bowl dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm milk. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes to soften. Lightly coat 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line bottom with parchment paper; coat parchment paper with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

    In stand mixer fitted with hook combine milk mixture, sugar, 1 egg, orange blossom water, and salt. Beat on low speed while gradually adding butter until combined. Add flour; beat on low to medium speed until dough forms.

    Press dough in even layer in bottom of prepared springform pan. Cover; let rest 2 hours.

    Preheat oven to 375°F. Combine 1 egg with water. Brush dough with egg mixture; sprinkle with sliced almonds. Bake tarte 15 minutes or until top is golden brown. Remove from pan; cool completely on wire rack. Dust with powdered sugar.

    For cream filling, let eggs, egg yolk, and butter stand at room temperature 30 minutes.

    In small saucepan bring milk and vanilla bean to boil. Reduce heat; simmer 20 minutes. Remove vanilla bean.

    In medium bowl, whisk together eggs, egg yolk, sugar and cornstarch. Gently stir in half the vanilla milk. Return egg-vanilla milk mixture to saucepan containing remainder of vanilla milk. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat. Add softened butter; whisk to combine. Cover; let cool completely.

    Stir in orange flower water, if desired. Transfer pastry cream to bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing wrap down on top of cream; chill.

    In another medium bowl beat whipping cream with an electric mixer on medium to high speed just until stiff peaks form (peaks stand straight). Add whipped cream to pastry cream; fold gently to combine. Keep mixture covered and chilled until ready to assemble tart.

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