Back from Vacation & Feeling Inspired!

It's been a few weeks and I'm back, having been on vacation in Rome and Paris! The sights were amazing. The food was amazing. While I'm combing through hundreds of photos to share with you, I found myself already missing some of the tasty, French dishes I was so lucky to enjoy. I've invited a few friends over for Sunday brunch, tomorrow and I'm going to make them Croque Madame's (the French version of a ham and cheese sandwich with a fried egg on top). SO good. 

One of the most important ingredients? Good bread. It doesn't get better than fresh sourdough, so I snapped a quick shot (incidentally with a new lens I got today)! I've gone back and fourth with a couple of recipes and will share the outcome with everyone! Talk soon - Jonathan

Celebrate Summer, Entertaining

It's finally summer. When it's not 100 degrees, here in the south, it's one of my favorite food seasons. You can't go wrong with the classic, American staples; hotdogs, cheeseburgers, French fries and corn on the cob. I also love this time when we celebrate with all things red, white and blue. When done tastefully ('case you can definitely OVERDO it), this nod to the good ole USA, makes for a beautiful presentation. 

I loved pulling this patriotic tablescape together, mixing and matching textures and patterns. I found the blue and white star napkins at Pottery Barn which paired perfectly with the vintage red and white striped napkins from the Lexington Company (see links below). The rattan chargers add charm, complimenting the clean white plates.

Below I've pulled together some of my favorite elements as well as some festive American decor. Happy entertaining and have a safe and happy 4th of July!

Click to Enlarge

Grilled Corn with Honey Butter

Grilled Corn with Honey Butter

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 8 ears fresh yellow or white corn
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • chopped fresh parsley, for serving

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, combine the butter, salt, and honey. Preheat your grill to medium. Remove the husks and all of the corn silk from the ears. Wash the corn to remove any stray pieces of silk. Pat dry. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat each ear with olive oil.
  2. Grill the corn, turning often, until the the corn kernels are slightly charred and tender, 15 to 20 minutes. When the corn is done, brush each ear with some honey-butter and serve with extra butter alongside.

Planning: When choosing corn, look for ears with moist, fresh husks (it’s okay to peek under one to inspect the kernels). If not using the day of purchase, store corn in a dry, plastic or large zipper bag in the fridge for a few days.
Product Purity: Use unsalted butter and then add salt in the recipe. Since salt is a preservative and unsalted butter has a cleaner, fresher taste (not to mention that the amount of salt in butter ranges wildly – you can control the amount of salt in your dish).
Presentation: Sprinkle minced parsley over the corn for a hit of fresh flavor (plus, it gives the corn an appetizing color).

Photo by Jonathan Stiers, original recipe from Picture Perfect Meals.

 

Cheesecake with Blueberries

With SO many place settings, glasses and things, cake stands are a great way to elevate items, like this tasty cheesecake. To dress it up All-American Style, I topped it with blueberries and raspberries. Since this was a smaller cheesecake, I improvised and used the Rhodes Drink Dispenser Stand from Pottery Barn.

Balancing Act

I had fun doing this photo shoot. My partner and I cooked AND ate a lot of food. From a photography perspective, this was definitely one of the biggest undertakings as far as scale. Cooking the food, styling the food, setting the table, and the "Oops I forgot something, I have to run back inside." We definitely got some exercise that day but had a lot of fun doing it! 

Found Soda Crates - Pottery Barn

Found Soda Crates - Pottery Barn



Lavender Fields Forever

Lavender fields forever! Ok, I know those aren't the words to the famous Beatle's song, but I think it still works. I could sit, stand or lay in fields of lavender, forever (unless there's a field of basil nearby). I've written about my soap obsession in the past but I wanted to pull together all my lavender-scented favorites that include soaps, candles, shower gel and even dried lavender! So while I haven't had the opportunity (yet), to see these fields myself and since most of us can't hop in our cars or on our Vespas and drive to France, I hope with these products, you will feel and smell like your standing in lavender fields...forever.

Lavender Fields - France
Foaming Bath  |  Hand Cream  |  Candle  |  Bar Soap - L'OCCITANE

Foaming Bath  |  Hand Cream  |  Candle  |  Bar Soap - L'OCCITANE

Hand Soap  |  Hand Lotion  |  Dish Soap - Williams-Sonoma

Hand Soap  |  Hand Lotion  |  Dish Soap - Williams-Sonoma

All-Purpose Cleaner  |  Hand Soap  |  Dish Soap - Method Home (Available at Target)

All-Purpose Cleaner  |  Hand Soap  |  Dish Soap - Method Home (Available at Target)

Dried lavender bunches - Pottery Barn (Scroll down, below wreath)

Dried lavender bunches - Pottery Barn (Scroll down, below wreath)

Night at the Museum

I recently visited the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, where William S. Paley's private collection is temporarily on loan from the Museum of Modern Art.

The William S. Paley Collection: A Taste for Modernism features selections from William S. Paley, the late founder and guiding spirit of CBS. The exhibition features more than 60 works of art, including paintings, drawings and sculpture, some of the most striking by French modern masters. Highlights include works by Paul Gauguin, André Derain, Henri Matisse, Paul Cézanne, and Edgar Degas, most created between 1880 and 1940, at the height of French Modernism, as well as Pablo Picasso’s Boy Leading a Horse. (from crystalbridges.org)

But - before I took in the art, I wanted to take in some food at the museum's restaurant, Eleven - "where the menu is inspired by the artworks and natural surroundings of Crystal Bridges." I've been to Eleven for lunch (I had an amazing burger served with the oh-so-colorful Terra vegetable chips), but have never been for dinner. 

I started with the Eleven Bruschetta. A traditional bruschetta is served on artisan bread and topped with tomatoes, among other things. Eleven puts a sweet twist on theirs by using figs, walnuts, Gorgonzola and clover honey. I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I ate 3 of the 4, LARGE pieces! It was SO good. I couldn't get enough of the cheese-fig-clover honey combination and will definitely be knocking off this recipe in the near future. I would have eaten the 4th piece but knew I needed to save room for my entree!

Speaking of the entree. I decided to try the Pan-Seared Local Chicken. It is served on top of butternut squash, candied pecans, a cranberry-bourbon reduction and topped with white baby spinach. Oh Em Gee. The flavor was amazing. I love trying new food and especially love when the food exceeds my expectations. I was even somewhat skeptical about the cranberry-bourbon reduction, but it was perfect. Run, do not walk to Crystal Bridges and try this now. You will not be disappointed.

I decided to pass on dessert so I would not be waddling through the exhibit. I finished my wine and made my way to the gallery. I was excited to see unique pieces outside of what you typically see and associate with artists like Picasso and Matisse. Below are some of my favorites.

The night was a perfect combination of great food and art. I enjoyed dinner and the exhibit alone and If you've never tried this before, you should. It's a very calming and enjoyable experience.

Cheers! - Jonathan

Eleven Bruschetta

Pan-Seared Chicken Breast

Matisse

Stanton Macdonald-Wright

Degas

Picasso

The Wild Fork - A Tulsa Tradition

While I don't live in Tulsa, it's always been close enough for the occasional day trip. Just a few hours drive offers a nice change of scenery. One quaint stop, always on my list is Utica Square.

Utica Square opened in 1952 in what once was considered "the outskirts," of town, according to their official website. Surrounded by beautifully matured trees, Utica Square no longer is on the outskirts but instead, surrounded by a mid-western city that has grown up around it. The outside still looks and feels like 1952 which gives this area great charm. On the inside is a collection of contemporary shopping (Restoration Hardware, Anthropologie, Pottery Barn, L'Occitane, etc.) and fun, quirky shops (the Snow Goose), selling various gifts and collectibles.

But at the end of the day (or in my case, the beginning, before the shopping starts), it's all about the food. One of my favorite brunch and lunch places, located in the heart of Utica Square is the Wild Fork.

The Wild Fork opened in 1995 and has become a staple of Utica Square and of Tulsa. It's quirky atmosphere (see photo gallery on their website), is home to unique light fixtures and art, typically that of featured, local artists. The staff is attentive and friendly and the food is delicious without being pretentious or over-priced.

We started with the Black Bean Cassoulet. Warm tortilla crisps served with black beans, baked with cheddar cheese and green chilies and topped with cilantro, sour cream and pico de gallo. My travel companions ordered from the brunch selections, while I ordered what has always kept me coming back to the Wild Fork, the Mediterranean burger. This Greek seasoned burger is served and quartered on a pita flatbread and topped with feta cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and the best part - a creamy herb vinaigrette. 

A friend ordered the Mexican Mule, the literal Mexican twist on a Moscow mule, served with tequila instead of vodka. I prefer Moscow to Mexican but still loved getting a photo of this beauty!

Black Bean Cassoulet

Mediterranean burger

Mexican Mule

The Wild Fork courtyard - Utica Square (Click to enlarge)