Good Taste Fourth of July Fete!

Happy Fourth! There are few things better than a laid-back, early summer barbeque to kick off the summer (and the 4th!). Wake up that typical cookout menu with a few twists on traditional favorites.  Mini burgers with brie and fun, boozy popsicles are the perfect way to keep the menu casual and fun while updating flavor profiles. As always, I have provided make-ahead tips for menu items that can be prepped ahead in order to lighten the load on your day-of entertaining checklist.  With just a few little additions [and fun touches], your menu will be the highlight of the holiday weekend... 
Collage by In Good Taste [Laura Boyd]
Photo Credits: Popsicles via Gourmet Magazine. Raspberry Limeade Cooler via Apartment Therapy's The Kitchn.
Tomato Watermelon Salad via Martha Table via Martha
Hot dog and Hamburgers via Google Images. Dessert via Style Me Pretty. Fries in Paper Cones via

Menu designed by In Good Taste [Laura Boyd]

Raspberry Limeade Coolers
Watermelon Margarita Popsicles
Mint Caipirinha Popsicles
Mini Burgers with Brie + Sweet Red Onion Marmalade
Avocado, Heirloom Tomato + Watermelon Salad
Sweet Potato Fries (these are amazing, no need to make homemade!)
Homemade Pound Cake with Fresh Berries
· Make popsicles a few days before the party and store in freezer until just before serving.
· Form mini burgers into small patties the day before and store in the fridge. 
· Cut cold brie into small squares and store in fridge as well.
· Make the red onion  marmalade the day before and return to room temp before serving.
· Fry the crispy onions the day before and store in air tight plastic bags.
· Cube watermelon and tomatoes the night before and store in fridge in air tight containers.
· Make pound cake a few days ahead and freeze if necessary. Defrost the day before.
· Cut berries the night before and store in air tight containers in fridge.

Once Upon A...Royal Wedding Viewing Party!

Set that alarm Ladies in Waiting!  It's almost time for the much anticipated Royal nuptuals of Miss Catherine Middleton and Prince William, set to air live on April 29th at 6:00 AM EST.  And to get you in the spirit (not that it's possible to get anymore excited), I have a Royal Wedding Viewing Party that will have your guests ready to rise and shine for a seriously chic get-together to view all the glitz and glam that is sure to ensue at Westminster Abbey...

Royal Attire: Glamorous Pajamas [what else?!]
Note: It's a Royal wedding - feel free to go a little over-the-top!
Due to the not-so-convenient time difference, I think its completely acceptable to throw a pajama party for this history-making occasion. No need to sacrifice style - pick out a new pair of glam pajamas (fit for public, of course) and lounge in luxury as you watch Miss Middleton walk that runway of an aisle...
Jenny Packham Robe. TopShop Versus Jewel Pumps. Collage created by In Good Taste.

English Accessory: The Fascinator
In a nod to our fashion-forward friends across the pond, adorn your head with something fabulous to celebrate the special occasion.  Try making your own fascinator or order one from a few of the great shops below (Etsy also has great vendors).  This Brit-inspired accessory is too gorgeous not to be an American staple..

                                  Top Left  + Bottom Right: BHLDN. Top Right + Bottom Left: Lo Boheme. Collage created by In Good Taste.

The Menu:  Traditional English Breakfast [Madeover]
Treat your friends to a stylish English brunch full of champagne cocktails, refreshing Pimm's cup and traditional British favorites. Keeping things simple with a little sophistication is the perfect combo for an early morning event that is honoring such a high-end occasion.  The key is making things ahead [noted below] in order to eliminate a 'crack-of-dawn' panic attack. Making a frittata is a great way to prepare a brunch main dish without having to slave at the store. Throw the eggs and other ingredients into a pan and pop in the oven...that's it! Puffy, golden deliciousness in less than 30 minutes. Cut into small wedges or squares and its the perfect breakfast dish without the fuss (and easy for guests to eat standing). Prepare your other menu items while its bakes. Follow this chic menu with a few tips and your guests will feel like Queens, indeed!

Photo Credits: Lavender Champagne via Martha Stewart. Scones with Jam + Devonshire Cream. Strawberries with Lemon-Lavender Syrup. English Breakfast Fritatta: Delicious Magazine. English Roses via The Paris Apartment. Smoked Salmon canapes (photo): Country Living. Smoked Salmon Recipe on In Good Taste "Bites" tab. Pimm's cup (photo and recipe): Martha Stewart. Homemade Orange Marmalade (photo): Martha Stewart. British cookies and biscuits (photo): Matthew Mead. Collage created by In Good Taste [Laura Boyd].

Menu designed by In Good Taste [Laura Boyd].


For Smoked Salmon + English Cucumber Canapes:
Simply toast very thin black break (cut in half to form triangles), allow to cool and spread with a layer of herbed Boursin cheese.
Top with 1-2 thin slices of English cucumber and a sizeable curl of smoked salmon. Garnish with dill, if desired.
· For the Pimm's, slice all fruits the night before and store in air-tight plastic bags, so all you have to do is throw them in the pitcher and mix everything up before the guests arrive.  You'd be surprised how long this little step to prepare a garnish takes!
· Make the scones the night before as well. Store in air-tight containers or plastic bags. Buy store-bought clotted cream, jams, lemon curd and marmalade to eliminate prep time. Dish into small bowls the night before and store with plastic wrap so all you have to do is remove from the fridge and serve!
· Make the lemon-lavender syrup the night before. Slice the strawberries and cover with plastic wrap that night as well. Store in the fridge and mix with the syrup just before serving. Again, slicing  takes more time than you think!
· If you don't have time to make your own cookies (and totally not necessary since they are really just an accessory to the coffee and tea), go ahead and buy store bought shortbreads and tea cookies (Walkers are classic and a great alternative to homemade). Chances are most guests will be full off of the main menu items anyway.
· Be sure to cook the potatoes for the fritatta the night before as well. Reheat before using in fritatta.

Clink! Clink! Cheers to Retro Revelry

Thanks to Mad Men, I think its safe to say that the traditional cocktail hour is back in style.  Grab your pearls and champagne coupe and start clinking to the good life.  Vintage cocktail glasses aren't just unique, I think they make for great home accessories as well.  Search for great Culver finds, glistening with grapic gold prints, or opt for some whimsical rocks glasses with bold stripes. Place on a pretty cocktail tray and, voila!, the perfect side table accessory. Retro chic is all about bold patterns and bright colors, so take some risks and have some fun.  Try mixing and matching for a quirky happy hour full of style!

For a little inspiration...

All "Mad Men"photos courtesy of Pink cocktail glasses: The Hour Cocktail Collection. Culver glasses on red backdrop: Ruby Culver gold trim bar glasses: Green-striped rocks glasses:

All "Mad Men"photos courtesy of Vintage glassware [top right] via the BorrowedAbode blog. Champagne and vintage glassware from Lonny Magazine. Gold Bamboo glasses from the Sleepy Poet via Matters of Style blog. Purple vintage bar set:

For those in the mid-Atlantic area, The Hour cocktail shop in Alexandria, Virginia is an amazing little spot brimming with chic bar accessories and fabulous vintage cocktail finds - including retro artwork and jewelry (because every girl needs that perfect cocktail ring to partner with her punch!).  Here are a few samples of their fun inventory...

All photos and images courtesy of The Hour Cocktail Shop (Alexandria, VA)

Gimlets, Manhattans, and Old Fashioneds, Oh My!  Click here and cheers to the good life!

Freshen Up That Holiday Color Scheme

I've always been a firm believer that you can find inspiration in almost anything.  Take a trip to an art museum, a quirky little antique shop, or simply browse through a colorful coffee table book.  Whatever you choose, document things that jump out at you - I like to keep an inspiration book where I paste all my design, fashion, food and color tidbits that I happen to come across so that I can refer back to them for other uses later.  Last year I threw a holiday party inspired by a linen that I was using at an event - a fabulously whimsical magenta and red damask - so fun!  Although that was last year, I still think this bold color scheme gives the holidays a fresh face.  Try using vibrant red Amaryllis mixed with hot pink accent flowers (roses, tulips, etc.). I love using pink poinsettia instead of (or mixed with) the traditional red for a pop of color. Here is the swatch I was inspired by, followed by an "Inspiration Board" I created to visualize this holiday look:

Photos courtesy of: Amaryllis: Voila Fete. Room with red curtain: Country Living. Candy: Gifted.
Pink ornament tier: Country Living. Poinsettia centerpiece: Southern Living. Room with tree: Country Living.
Invitations: Jean M. Magenta ornaments: Better Homes & Gardens. Candy Canes: Phyllis Asher. 
Champagne: Delicious Magazine. Roses: Jean M.

For those looking for a little less color and a little more sophistication, I absolutely LOVE mercury glass and am constantly looking for ways to use it.  While browsing for more pieces to add to my collection, I came across this great urn from Wisteria.  Styled with the fresh evergreen, I was immediately inspired to look into a green and white scheme, accented with glistening mercury glass accessories.  This is a great option for those who tend to have cooler tones in their homes or those who prefer an updated traditional feel. For this look, I would recommend using fresh evergreen, magnolia or boxwood and accenting with white Hydrangea, white Amaryllis or Paper Whites. For a use of green with an unexpected texture, I adore the moss wreath below...

Photos courtesy of: Mantle: Better Homes & Gardens. Tabletop: Pottery Barn. Banister garland: William Waldron. Wreath with mercury glass: Martha Stewart. Doorway: Martha Stewart. Mercury glass ornaments: Pottery Barn. Chair with snowflake detail: Country Living. Champagne glasses: Country Living. Lit Boxwood arrangement: Kaboodle. 

Place Card Perfection

Looking to jazz up your place settings this Thanksgiving?  Wow your guests (and make them feel special!) with effortlessly chic place cards, sure to impress even the most discerning mother-in-law.  With all of the other Thanksgiving prep, its hard to fathom yet another element to assemble, however, place cards are the perfect "plan ahead" piece to accessorize a fabulous holiday table.  

Simple is always best, so keep it easy.  Using seasonal produce like pears, lady apples, or miniature pumpkins is an easy way to add a rustic, fresh touch to your table (not to mention you can grab them while shopping for your other dinner ingredients!).  For a touch of elegance, paint your produce ahead of time with metallic paints.  Or, for those of us who tend to wait until the last minute, send the kids into the backyard to gather some fun pine cones or fresh herbs. Tie a festive ribbon, and voila! a clever quick fix.  

The beauty of the well thought out place card is that often it can do double duty for a table and your guests. If you need a little extra time for the turkey, place cards can be the perfect way to distract guests and keep them satisfied.  Use food as an accessory and set out a little personalized cheese basket at each setting.  For the more indulgent crowd, try using wine tag place cards - they will look festive on the table, but also serve as the perfect way for your guests to keep track of their glasses during post turkey celebrations!

Whatever you choose, keep it simple - the fact that you are personalizing each place setting is a special touch in itself.

Here are some ideas to get you started....

 Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

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Photo courtesy of Southern Living

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

BOO-zey Halloween Concoctions!

Throwing a bash this Halloween?  Cast a spell on your guests with a spooky cocktail or two to get the evening started right.  Cue the full moon and serve up some "witches brew" in the form of these vamped up cocktails that will definitely add some Halloween fun to your party without sacrificing that sophisticated touch...

Add a little mystery and brew up some mischief with this fabulous, award-winning black vodka cocktail, concocted by Micheal Ring at Jay's Catering:

Photo courtesy of

Black Vodka Ghost Martini
[Recipe courtesy of Jay's Catering and the International Caterers Association]

Individual Serving
1/3 part Black Vodka
1/3 part Chambord
1/3 part Cranberry Juice
Club Soda (to top off)
Blackberry (skewered for garnish)
Dry ice pellet (optional)
Fill a shaker halfway with ice. Combine equal parts Black Vodka, Chambord and Cranberry juice. Shake vigorously and pour mixture into a cocktail glass.Top off with 1 part club soda and garnish with a skewered blackberry.  For an additional "ghostly" effect, add a dry ice pellet to the glass.*  

If you are unable to find Black Vodka (Blavod), simply add a few drops of 
black food coloring to the cocktail to get the same effect.

*Note: dry ice can be dangerous to work with.  Please warn guests not to swallow the pellet by accident.  
Always handle dry ice with heavy duty gloves to avoid serious frost burn.

Or, add an "eerie" twist to a traditional favorite...

 Photo courtesy of

"Screwed Up" Screwdriver
[Recipe courtesy of Martha]

Individual Serving
1/4 cup of ice
1/2 cup tangerine or orange juice
1 1/2 oz. black vodka
1 piece of black licorice (for garnish)

Add 1/4 cup of ice to a tall highball glass with 1/2 cup of tangerine or orange juice into glass. Pour 1 1/2 oz. black vodka into the glass over the back of a cocktail spoon so it creates a top, black layer over the juice. Use a piece of black licorice as a festive straw but trimming each end. Serve immediately to avoid the colors blending.

And for those looking to warm up before a chilly evening out on the town, try this great take on the classic Hot Toddy...

Photo courtesy of Tesco Magazine
 Ginger-Lemon Hot Toddy
[Recipe courtesy of Food Network Kitchen]
 Individual Serving
2-3 oz. top-shelf bourbon
1 oz. honey
1/2 oz. ginger syrup (see recipe below)
1/2 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice 

Warm the bourbon, honey, ginger syrup and lemon juice in a small saucepan until the honey is completely dissolved and the drink is hot (but not boiling). Pour into a large snifter or glass Irish coffee mug and serve warm, immediately.  

Ginger Syrup
1 lemon
2 cups coarsely chopped ginger with peel (about 8 oz.)
1 cup of sugar
2 cups of water 

Remove the outer peel of the lemon with a vegetable peeler, taking care not to include too much of the bitter white pith. Finely chop the lemon peel and ginger in a food processor. Transfer the lemon-ginger mixture to a medium saucepan and add the sugar and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer (partially covered) for 15 minutes. Strain the mixture and cool. Cover and refrigerate for up to one week. 
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