Tuscany on the Eastern Shore

photos: m&j

A magical evening occurred last month on a beautiful farm by the bay in Wittman, Maryland – an al fresco dinner, to which a few of us lucky souls were fortunate enough to be invited. Both the meal and setting will be remembered for a long time to come. And even more impressive than the natural beauty of the site, the graciousness of the host and hostess and the many talents of those who caught, grew and skillfully prepared the bounty of sumptuous offerings we gorged ourselves upon was the company, itself. It’s hard to recall an evening coming together so perfectly. It was supposed to rain, but instead the sun came out and set with a lovely blush to match the delicate Charles & Charles and Sancerre Rosés. Some of us had not previously met, but we are now communicating regularly and planning future escapades. The event and, indeed, the menu was only casually discussed, but suddenly it all seemed to come together as if it had been planned for months.

This is one of those great evenings that we see in photos and wish we could’ve been a part of. And, delightfully, we were. And it all came together in a relaxed and flawless manner that is the hallmark of great entertaining – thanks to the deft hand and eye (and taste buds!) of delightful Carol Bean (our hostess, chef, stylist and farmer), her charming husband Mark Connolly (a third generation waterman, who, along with his brother, caught the delicious fish we ate), Rachel Vecchio (a super-talented baker and pastry chef who supplied the desserts) and Kathy Bosin (a local blogger who graced us with her presence and charming dinner company).

We began with the lovely wine and worked in some freshly pressed & chilled watermelon juice for pacing. Then came the Red Cloud goat cheese served with grilled French bread drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and Carol’s special, handmade “fish” crackers with sesame seeds and black lava salt. While the whole rockfish – stuffed with lemon, garlic & fresh mint and wrapped in fresh fig leaves from one of the farm’s three fig trees – was grilling along with eggplant brushed with olive oil & sea salt. The parade of delicacies began to emerge from Carol’s magical kitchen; quinoa cakes with slow-roasted heirloom cherry tomatoes, yogurt and finished with the tiniest micro-arugula we’d ever seen, fresh honeydew melon salad with blackberries and radish micro greens – tossed with a lavender white balsamic vinaigrette, barley salad with fresh, local raw corn, slow-roasted heirloom cherry tomatoes with fresh basil and fresh feta cheese, freshly grown and made chilled cucumber gazpacho “shooters” with a hint of lemon and garlic topped with beautiful, tiny micro greens – all fresh from the garden and Carol’s French green beans, pickled in her own chive flower-infused vinegar. As we ate, drank and enjoyed every nuanced bite of these super-fresh, simple yet complex culinary delights, the dessert table started to beckon …

Carol popped the cork on a bottle of Domaine Du Pre Semele and we started nibbling dates stuffed with mascarpone cheese, rolled in chopped, dark chocolate covered espresso beans, then fresh, local peaches, soaked in a lemon verbena simple syrup, dusted with fresh lavender flowers, drizzled with balsamic reduction which had been grilled on the fire and finally ripe brown Turkish figs fresh from Carol’s incredibly productive tree, sliced over the most delicate and decadent St. Angel cheese, drizzled with local honey. It cannot be stressed how delicious this cheese was (it will be eaten again. Soon!).  And then, just when we all thought things couldn’t get any better, Rachel brought out her now famous honeyed-thyme brown Turkish fig crostatas (made with local figs picked in nearby Neavitt and honey from Sand Hill Farms) served with homemade orange blossom whipped cream and an absolutely out-of-this-world rustic peach galette (made with peaches from Caroline County, and served with lavender-scented homemade whipped cream. Wow. Wow. And wow. We are still quite floored by it all and frankly, just longing for an encore! September, anyone?

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a study in Victorian cookery

photos: m&j

When we purchased this 19th century antique recipe book from a dealer in the UK, we had no idea what an absolute treasure we were acquiring. We like to imagine this well-used guide to the cookery of the day as something often referred to and notated by the likes of Mrs. Patmore from the fictional Downton Abbey. And though its story may be somewhat less dramatic (though we did recently hear back from the antiques seller that it was a part of the estate of an artist who had belonged to The Bloomsbury Set), it’s impossible to imagine there isn’t a story – and, likely, quite a good one. From the study of highbrow to lowbrow penmanship in the plethora of entries to the almost perfect browning and spotting on the pages to the fanciful recipes (blancmange, anyone?) themselves, time has most certainly turned this once utilitarian handbook into a gastronomic work of art!

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an armful of June peonies

photos: m&j

What a lovely surprise to see these beauties out in full force at the Union Square Market this Saturday with this unseasonably warm, early season we’ve been having. We grabbed all we could carry and have been reveling in them ever since!

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Cooking in the kitchen with Wallis

photos: m&j

When we came across this vintage cookbook at an antiques shop, we just had to have it – Some Favorite Southern Recipes of The Duchess of Windsor is a collection of down home Southern American fare, culled by this now infamous non-Brit for her friends and others in the United Kingdom. As we scan the pages, we wonder how home cooks and entertainers in England were really enjoying her Smothered Chicken, Waffles & Syrup, Picked Watermelon Rind or Crab & Okra Gumbo. But it does, however, seem quite possible that her Frozen Tomato Salad and Tipsy Charlotte were quite popular in 1958 when it was first published. This one’s a real gem, not to mention what a fabulous hostess gift it will make if one is ever invited to the home of Madonna!

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last giant magnolia bouquet

photos: m&j

We are so sad to report that Chelsea’s Landing, our beloved family home in St. Michael’s, MD is in the process of being sold. So this will be our last summer there. And, though the official sale is good news for the family, it is oh-so-bittersweet.  Afraid you’ll see a lot of posts from the fabulous 17 acre grounds and garden, waxing on with less-than-faint nostalgia about the last time we’ll see, smell and taste each ripe, gorgeous fruit, vegetable, crab and flower as the season progresses. This Memorial Day weekend, it was giant Magnolia blossoms – and how lemony and heady they were. After trucking them back to the city, the scent has delightfully filled the entire apartment. We will miss you in all your glory, enormous flowering tree ! More to come …

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flower foraging in Litchfield County

photos: m&j

We are hard pressed to imagine a prettier place on earth than Litchfield County, CT in springtime. And there’s no prettier spread in the county than our dear friend Alicia’s 1808 colonial with all its textured finery, abundant and truly special offerings. Thank you, A for the spectacular feast for our hearts, stomachs and eyes and for letting us take home a few flower-filled “doggie bags” for our week in the concrete jungle xoxo. p.s. the much-coveted arrangements include; double lilacs, pink weigelia, helleborus, “knockout” pink roses, lilies of the valley and stars of Bethlehem.

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High Tea fit for a Chelsea Queen

photos: m&j

When Betsy saw fit to give the most gorgeous, modern, subtle and tasteful set of hand-thrown pottery in the form of teacups, cream & sugar and teeny tiny spoons from abc carpet & home for m’s most recent birthday, there was only one thing to do: serve tea!  But not just any tea for these beauties would do. We brewed a fabulous pot of what we think is the ultimate – Bellocq  No 42 “Little Dickens” – laced with goodies like vanilla beans, calendula flowers, rose petals and raw cacao nibs available from our dear friends at Haven’s Kitchen, along with HK’s own freshly baked petite almond meringues, slices of girly, pink strawberry cake from Books of Wonder Cafe on 18th and fragrantly blushing white pineberries via Belgium from Eataly. After all, when you decide to do justice to high tea, one really must pull out all the stops – thanks for the inspiration, B!

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