Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Tablescape Tribute: Gianni Versace

Anyone who knows me, knows my favourite fashion designer is the late Gianni Versace.  I jump at the chance to have a theme party or dinner party. Here is my Versace-esqe presentation!

(Click on Images to ENLARGE)

A Tablescape Tribute: On a usual evening I entertain in a way I call “Fabulous Lite” not too much fuss or formality. Recently for a fab dinner for four I was inspired to create a TableScape Tribute to the late great Gianni Versace. He has been a creative inspiration for me since the tender age of 9 when I used to sneak into my sister’s room and remove all the Avedon shot Versace ads from her stacks of Vogue’s, I’ve seen EVERY runway show and dreamed of a day I would wear the now classic bondage dress with safety pins to an event. He was a fashion genius whose life was tragically cut short in 1997. It is my personal belief that there has been a gaping hole in Italian high-fashion since then. I converted this inspiration into a full evening of food and fun! First I created and sent a digital invitation to my guests (go paperless and save the trees) which includes a black and white photo of Gianni and his signature Medusa logo along with all the dinner deets.

How did I put it all together? Let’s start with the table.

My tablescape was all about combining elements I currently had in my home, re-purposing them and purchasing small accents that are fresh; it is the details that make a tablescape a success. First I covered my espresso colored dining table with a cream table cloth and a used a velvet Versace scarf with gold medusa logo’s as a “runner” down the center of the table.

Tablescape TIP: Use a scarf from your own collection/closet to add an edge to a blah table cloth that is in line with your theme or color scheme.

I placed 3 champagne glasses filled with water to act as the “anchor” of my table to serve as chic mini vases for the Spider Mums I purchased that morning fresh from the local grocer. I set the wine decanter beside the glasses to let the California Pino Noir breath before the feast. Each place setting had a copy of the menu laid between the salad bowl and the plate. I opted not to use the expected cloth napkins but used my monogramed paper napkins (“H"– for my husband’s last name) in black and white.

I also re-invented the “napkin ring" by using real cocktail rings from my own jewelry collection. It gave a glamorous twist to the traditional plastic napkin ring and was a part of my fashion theme. A single cream Pillar candle perched on a tiny saucer was the center of the table flanked by the powdered Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and dried chilies for the Entrée. At each end of the Versace logo Scarf/Runner was the last 2 Spider Mum tops that were left over from the bunch I purchased; waste not want not. I wanted to make sure that I incorporated all of the flowers into the table. The dishes were from a set of china service for 6 that I had purchased years ago in a Versace-Esque print with black and yellow tones. I hand painted the chargers from silver to a gold metallic to set the Entrée plates on. I had the chargers on hand (all in silver) from my wedding reception that I re-use during the holiday season. A little re-styling in gold acrylic paint and Voila! Instant gilded chargers that Gianni would have been proud of.

The Menu:
The menu was comprised of Appetizer, Salad, Bread, Entrée/Main Course as well as a stellar dessert and wine. The menu was essentially meat free as my husband and I are Pesco-vegetarians; we eat some fish, dairy products, and eggs along with plant foods; Our diet is plant-based. I offered a small portion of seafood as an appetizer. Jumbo Prawns served cold with a cocktail sauce I made myself.

The salad was created using organic California mixed greens (including Spinach), red onion, mushroom & green Apples and almond shavings with a Poppy Seed dressing.

I served Focaccia bread sticks halved with a side plate of Balsamic Vinegar, Olive Oil and fresh pressed Garlic.

I wanted the Entrée to be pasta since the theme features an Italian designer but presented in a non-traditional way. No Spaghetti and Meatballs here; I served a 3 mushroom and leek pasta in a white wine cream sauce topped with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Finally for dessert I created a caramel, creamed cheese and heath bar dip served with green apples.

How did I do it?? Dinner Recipes & TipsAppetizer:

Purchased fresh jumbo prawns from the seafood counter at the local grocer. If that is not available purchase them frozen and thaw. I arranged them around the top of Martini Glasses and filled the center with a cocktail sauce that I created using:

•Ketchup (any type – I use Heinz; there is really is no other Keinz, truly!)
•Horse Radish
•Worcestershire sauce
•Fresh Squeezed lemon juice
•Garlic powder
There is really no “measuring” involved with this sauce. Eye-ball and taste as you go along. Use more ketchup than horseradish (unless you like it really hot), a splash or two of the Worcestershire sauce, squeeze in a lemon wedge or two and use the garlic powder to taste! Mix together and fill your martini glass. Chill in fridge until you are ready to serve.

I baked an Artisan Focaccia purchased at Albertson’s. If the local grocery does not have a bake option buy one that is ready to eat. You can warm it in the oven at 350 for a few minutes. I prepared side plates using half Balsamic Vinegar and Light Olive Oil. In the center of this liquid Yin/Yang I freshly pressed 2-3 garlic cloves. Use the bread for mopping.

•Organic California mixed greens including spinach
•Red Onion
•White Mushrooms
•Almond Slivers (small bag)
•Green Apples (2)
•Poppy Seed Dressing
Chop ingredients, mix with greens and toss with dressing! DONE! Adjust to the number of guests. TIP: Chop the green apples just before you serve to prevent the “browning effect”, you can also use lemon juice to slow the process down if you have to pre-make your salad. The greens get “soggy” fast so at the last minute apply the Poppy dressing.

Entrée / Main:

•Pasta: Spaghetti (I used white but you can choose the whole grain/brown alternative)
•Mushrooms (White, Shiitake, Mini-bella’s You can use a combination of ANY 3 types you like)
•Leeks (2)or more depending on the number of guests.
•White Wine (Dry)- Use a wine of your choice.
•Whipping Cream (1/2 pint Liquid – found with the half/half & milk section)
•Garlic (I combine powder and fresh cloves)
The sauce does not take much time to make. Chop leeks, separate and soak. TIP: Let your leeks swim!! A leek is a layered veg that usually has dirt or grit between the layers. Chop into rings and separate them into a bowl of cold water (use your thumb to press and separate the individual rings). Let the separated rings soak and you will see the dirt sink to the bottom as the leeks float! Scoop them of the top and place in a pan with some Oilve oil. Add chopped garlic cloves in with the leaks and the olive oil and cook on high for a few minutes before adding the mushroom blend.

TIP: to speed up prep time buy pre-sliced mushrooms. Add the mushrooms to the leek and garlic mixture in the pan (you can always use garlic powder or combine the two).

Add a half a cup (or more) of your dry white wine. How much you use will depend on how many guests you have. Cook the mixture on high to burn off the alcohol. Once the mushrooms are cooks and appear to soften pour in whipping cream and stir. I usually use less than a half a pint. Cook for a few more minutes; pour over pasta, top with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (you can substitute with powder) and SERVE! DELISH!

•1 brick of Creamed Cheese (I use Philadelphia)
•1 Table Spoon Brown Sugar
•Vanilla Extract
•Heath Bar pieces (or SKOR depending on what is available, find bagged in baking isle)
•Green Apples
Let the Creamed Cheese get soft and mix the brown sugar and Vanilla extract in with it. Spread it out into a glass pie plate or glass cake pan (Again depending on how large your party is). Take the caramel (you can use the spreadable or the ice cream topping) and make a layer above the creamed cheese. Top with Heath bar toffee pieces and let cool in the fridge. TIP: Chop the green apples you will use to dip at the last minute to prevent the “browning” I referred to earlier. OR you can try the lemon juice trick to slow the browning process down until you are ready to treat your guests to this decadent dessert.

Attire – Host Look:
I wanted something sleek and minimal as the hostess and chef of this event; I know the polar opposite of the style esthetic of the man we were paying homage to, but this dinner was on the home carpet, not the red carpet. I wore a black wrap dress that is figure friendly and budget friendly (Old Navy). Black patent leather peep-toe pumps with wooden logo heel stems from FENDI (BlueFly), Vintage Cameo clasp bracelet (Evolution Vintage) and statement earrings (Forever 21). A Chic ponytail with a repurposed gold tone broken Vintage necklace with black onyx stones used as an instant DIY hair accessory; just add bobby pins. My makeup was minimal as well. I used M.A.C “Dazzlelight” Eye shadow as a base for a little bit of shine and “Grain” in the crease. Maybelline New York Lash Stiletto mascara in Black. Creamola liner on my lip with M.A.C Lusture Lipstick in “Pretty Please”(A41) as a base and my YSL Golden Gloss on top to shine. On fingers and toes I used Versace Nail Lacquer in sheer gold (V2017).

No matter what the occasion use what personally inspires you to inspire your next dinner party, tabelscape, menu and look. We had our fashion feast with the soft sounds of Elton John in the background (he was Gianni’s BFF after all). We talked business, life and fashion. Not only did my guests get to experience a Versace Tablescape Tribute but they got a lesson in fashion history too!!

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