Celebrate fall with all the pleaseantries of a sit-down meal
Event planner Rachel Hollis insists that there's no need to wait for the dinner hour to set a formal table. And for a fall luncheon with toasty colors and sophisticated, feel-good food, she has assembled an array of glamorous tablewares to make the noontime memorable.
"We spend a lifetime collecting china, crystal, and silver," says Hollis. "Anytime you sit down to dine is a perfect opportunity to show them off. Using these pieces for the people you care about shows that you are putting special effort into your time with them."
The table is set in an intimate dining room defined by a powerful palette. Walls, papered in an espresso-colored, tone-on-tone geometric, softly recede from the sunny-yellow silk drapery panels to offer a visual pop at the windows.
On the table, Hollis plays up the graphic nature of the room's opposing tones by employing a similar treatment with the dinnerware. Intrigued by the sunlight that floods the space, she searched for pieces that would reflect the rays.
The porcelain Hollis selected features playful gold shapes studded with Swarovski crystals. She contrasts the black-trimmed plates with white-trimmed chargers, both embellished with gold. For the meal's first course-a roasted pumpkin soup-she uses golden bowls textured in a basket motif.
Plain cloth linens can't measure up to the tablescape's rich textures. Instead, square placemats embellished with bronze-toned beads provide a shimmery backdrop. And rather than a single napkin, Hollis offers two to each guest: an oatmeal-colored linen that glitters with subtle gold threads, and a copper-hued organdy napkin with ruffled edges. The napkins are paired and gathered into delightful napkin rings that sport a small golden bird, then a tiny orchid blossom is tucked in with the napkins. As a final colorful touch, the amber stems of the Murano wine glasses complement the autumnal tones of the setting.
For the menu, the selections are equally autumnal. The pumpkin soup course is followed by an entree of roasted pork loin glazed in an apricot-saffron sauce and served with orange-scented orzo and green beans. Rather than serving a heavy dessert (it is lunch, after all), Hollis has individual apple crumble cakes boxed and ready-her guests have the option of when to indulge.
Photography: Colleen Duffley
Event planner Rachel Hollis.
This potent potable was the mid-day cocktail favored at New York's famed Algonquin Hotel Round Table, where 1920s cultural standard-bearers such as Alexander Woollcott, Edna Thurber, Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, and their compatriots held sway over the city's literary scene. Camden Drive of Beverly Hills has re-created this cocktail, which combines the warmth and spice of American rye whiskey, French vermouth, and the fresh sweetness of pineapple.
- 2 ounces good-quality rye whiskey
- 1 ounce French dry vermouth
- 1 ounce pineapple juice
- Cherries for garnish
Pour ingredients into shaker filled halfway with very cold cracked ice. Vigorously shake drink 8 to 10 times; strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with cherry.
Roasted Pumpkin Soup with Spiced Pecans
- 5 to 6 medium carrots, coarsely chopped
- 1 large white onion, quartered
- 2 to 3 cloves garlic
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 (3- to 4-pound) pie pumpkin or butternut squash, seeded and quartered
- 4 tablespoons packed brown sugar, divided
- 8 fresh sage leaves
- 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 recipe Spiced Pecans (recipe follows)
- 6 sprigs fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley
Preheat oven to 375°F. Line roasting pan with foil. Place carrots, onion, and garlic in prepared roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil and toss until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add pumpkin quarters to pan. Spread one tablespoon brown sugar on each pumpkin quarter; top with 2 sage leaves. Drizzle with olive oil.
Roast vegetables 45 to 60 minutes or until pumpkin flesh is soft. Meanwhile, in 4-quart Dutch oven bring broth to just boiling; remove from heat. Set aside to cool slightly. Remove vegetables from oven. Discard sage leaves. Scoop pumpkin flesh into medium bowl (you should have about 5 cups). In batches, add vegetables and pumpkin to blender or food processor and blend or process until smooth, adding enough cooled broth to reach desired consistency. To serve, divide soup evenly among bowls. Top with Spiced Pecans and flat-leaf Italian parsley sprigs. Makes 6 (1 1/3 cup) servings.
Preheat oven to 350°F. In small bowl combine 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted; 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt; and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper. Add 1/2 cup pecans. Toss to combine. Spread evenly on baking sheet lined with foil. Bake 5 minutes or until toasted, watching closely to ensure pecans do not burn. Cool completely.
Roasted Pork Loin with Apricot-Saffron Glaze
Plan ahead: Prepare the Pork Brine up to two days in advance. Brine the pork rib roast the day before you plan to serve.
This recipe makes a hearty portion for lunch (we also like this recipe for a dinner main course). Order the pork rib roast from your butcher in advance, asking him for an appropriate size roast if your guests have smaller appetites. Also, ask him to french the bones ("frenching" refers to trimming excess meat and fat from the bones for a cleaner, prettier presentation).
- 2 quarts Pork Brine (recipe follows)
- 1 (4-1/2 to 5 pound) center-cut pork rib roast with 6 ribs (ask butcher to french bones)
- Gray sea salt (about 3 tablespoons)
- Freshly ground black pepper (about 1 tablespoon) for seasoning
- 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
- 1 recipe Apricot Saffron Glaze (recipe follows)
- 1 recipe Orange-scented Orzo and Green Beans (recipe follows)
The day before serving, prepare Pork Brine and chill as directed. Place brine in deep container large enough to allow pork roast to be submerged. Add pork roast. Cover; chill in refrigerator 5 hours. Remove pork roast; discard brine. Rinse roast with cold water. Pat dry using paper towels. Cover roast well; refrigerate overnight.
The following day, remove roast directly from refrigerator and generously coat roast in gray sea salt and cracked black pepper. Let roast stand at room temperature 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400° F. Add oil to heavy-bottom oven-going skillet large enough to fit entire roast; heat on stove top at medium-high heat until oil is nearly smoking. Sear roast on all sides until golden brown crust forms, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Position roast, rib side down, in skillet and transfer to oven. Roast, uncovered, about 1 hour or until meat thermometer registers 140°F for medium. Remove roast from oven; let rest 20 minutes (temperature of meat after standing should be about 150°F). Slice roast into 6 chops; spoon Apricot Saffron Glaze over roast. Serve with Orange-scented Orzo with Green Beans. Makes 6 servings.
In large pot combine 3/4 cup kosher salt; 1/2 cup sugar; 1 tablespoon black peppercorns; 4 sprigs fresh rosemary; 1/2 bunch fresh thyme; 1/2 bunch fresh sage; 1/2 bunch parsley; 1 head garlic, halved horizontally; 4 bay leaves; and 2 quarts of water. Bring to boiling, stirring to dissolve salt and sugar. Let boil 1 minute; remove from heat. Let cool to room temperature. Transfer to container; refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.
Glaze: In small saucepan combine one 10-ounce jar apricot preserves; 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed; 1/4 cup water, and pinch kosher salt. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until mixture just comes to boiling. Keep warm until serving or make ahead and chill, covered. Gently reheat before serving. Makes about 1-1/4 cups.
Orange-scented Orzo with Green Beans
- 1 pound dried orzo (2 2/3 cups)
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Zest (about 4 teaspoons) and juice (about 1/4 cup) from one medium orange
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound fresh green beans
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 cups ice
- 6 fresh chives
Prepare pasta according to package directions. Drain; set aside.
In large bowl combine olive oil, orange zest, and orange juice. Add cooked pasta. Toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper; set aside.
Meanwhile, trim beans to 3- to 4-inch lengths. Fill 4-quart Dutch oven or pot halfway with cold water; add the 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Bring to boil. Fill large mixing bowl halfway with cold water; add ice cubes to create ice bath. In batches, blanch beans in boiling water 3 to 4 minutes, then remove immediately with tongs to ice bath until chilled. Transfer beans onto paper towel; pat dry. Divide beans into six equal bundles; tie bundles together with one stem chive.
Serve green bean bundles with orzo mixture and Roasted Pork Loin with Apricot-Saffron Glaze. Makes 6 servings.
Apple Crumble Cake
Order these individual mini-layer cakes from Los Angeles-based Cake Monkey Bakery. Check the Web site  for menu and delivery guidelines. Or call Cake Monkey Bakery at 877/640-2253.