When it comes to hosting, I use the seasons as my inspiration for planning the menu as well as setting the table. Where I live, the transitions between the seasons are ever so subtle and, if you blink once, you might miss them. This means you have to look harder to find the faintest signs of seasonal change, but it makes for a fun exercise of the senses. I find that if you can slow down, look up and around you, then grab onto what you see and magnify it in your home or on the table—that’s where the magic happens.
While it was still February at the time of planning this luncheon, the first signs of spring were starting to pop up everywhere—branches began budding, birds chirped restlessly each morning, and lush, green patches of grass started to replace what once lay dry and dormant. We received a significant amount of rainfall this winter, and I wanted to encapsulate that fresh, light and airy feeling you get after the rain while drawing from the general ideas of renewal, awakening, and a fresh start that are often associated with spring.
The occasion was the first Cookbook-ish gathering of the year (you can see last year’s round-up here). As is always the case, the cookbook as well as the location of our gathering influenced my styling direction, including the choice of linens and other tabletop items. I knew I couldn’t go wrong with a cookbook that had the word “salad” in its title for a spring-inspired gathering. But there is more to it: Salad for President by Julia Sherman, much like her eponymous blog, is a compilation of recipes inspired by the artists whose photos and interviews are included in the book. The location of our gathering was a small art gallery space within Santa Barbara’s SBCAST. Featuring the work of four emerging Santa Barbara artists, the gallery exhibition, curated by LUM Art Zine, went hand in hand with the concept of the book. By keeping both the gallery backdrop and seasonal inspiration in mind, I was able to create an experience that in itself served as a blank canvas for the shared meal, each dish being a piece of art on the table. Read on for inspiration and resources.
All photography, event concept and styling: Viktoriya Filippova for FOLD
Above: painting by Madeleine Ignon; SBCAST gallery
Another source of inspiration was the seeming contradiction of nature’s work this time of the year. On the one hand, it is delicate in its overall expression; on the other, it is powerful and unstoppable in its force. Choosing materials and textures of dramatically different properties and assigned values helped carry this concept out in the table setting.
Above: disposable cups and plates alongside vintage silverware; linen napkins from FOLD against cotton canvas drop cloth from the hardware store
Above: artist Ellen Altfest’s Very Green Salad; buffet-style table next to another Ignon painting
Above: Heirloom Tomato Salad with Cornmeal Croutons
Above: Baked Goat Cheese with Lettuces
Above: Cookbook-ish guests enjoying food and conversation; a coffee nook featuring a juxtaposition of elements: hand-thrown ceramic pitcher / disposable cups / FOLD signature linen cloth / paper flower next to live branches
Above: not your average deviled eggs (Sherman’s recipe calls for squid ink and salmon roe); radishes topped with miso ghee and black sesame seeds
Above: tahini, sea salt, dates, aka my new favorite dessert
Cookbook-ish is a book club and a community of like-minded foodies and creative people in my hometown. I curate the book selection and ask everyone to choose 2-3 recipes they'd like to make. I then come up with a cohesive menu based on everyone's selections. We cook at home and bring our respective dishes to share in a potluck-style meal. Next month's book is Near and Far by Heidi Swanson. Not in Santa Barbara? You can still participate by cooking and tagging your posts with #cookbookish_sb.
In the shop: