Archive of ‘How-to’ category

Building a Hot Dog Bar

Chicago-style hot dog


Happy Friday, love bugs!  What are your plans for the weekend?

I’m outlining the big tailgate we’re hosting over Labor Day Weekend for many of Angus’ students.  We’ve decided that with so many guests the way to go is a hot dog bar, with classic dogs, brats, turkey sausage and tofu dogs plus all the fixins’.  My question for you is, how do you like your dog?  Chicago-style with yellow mustard, onions, sweet relish, a dill pickle, chopped tomatoes, pepperoncini and celery salt on a poppy seed bun? Or are you California-style with avocado slices, onion, parsley and tomatoes on whole wheat?

We’ll have fresh chopped onions, tomatoes, and avocados as well as different kinds of mustard, ketchup and relish, sesame, poppy seed and plain buns, spicy pickled peppers, fresh jalapenos, thin slices of cheddar and pepper jack plus celery seed.  What am I missing?

Also, pickles. Lots of bright, beautiful pickles in large mason jars.  Bon Appétit has a slew of great pickle recipes.  I’m going to try a few plus order some artisanal pickles to try.  Rick’s Picks and Wickles have both been recommended to me recently.  Have you tried either?  That, plus a classic Vlasic or two should put us in good stead.

Happy weekend,




How To: Summer Flower Arrangement


During my June beach vacation, I begged Drew’s 89 year old Grandmother, Ruthmary, to give me a flower arranging lesson. Roo-Roo as us “kids” call her is the type of Southern woman you read about in best selling beach novels. She is an amazing cook, gardener and charitable figure in her community yet she drinks bourbon with grace and cracks the wittiest jokes of anyone I know. Her flower arrangements are legendary in her hometown of Wilson, North Carolina and now we can all learn from her years of experience.

Home grown Hydrangeas

Start with a big selection of flowers. Pictured above are Roo-Roo’s hydrangeas and gardenias from her home garden which she transported 2 hours to the beach. She lines her table with newspaper to make a mess on and then throw out after clean up. Smart.


Ruthmary with grennery

She said to make sure your vase is at waist height or above so you can step back to examine the shape as it builds. Line the first layer of your vase with greenery from your garden or florist.


Ruthmary with Hydrangea

Add the largest stalks of flowers to the center and back of your arrangements to start the shape.


Flower Arrangement Structure

These four tall hydrangeas are the foundation of her arrangement but any large blooms will work for this step.


Hydrangea Arrangement

Fill in the front and center of the arrangement with shorter blooms and varied hues to create interest and depth.


Big Hydrangea Arrangement

Continue to fill in more blooms and greenery until your vase is full and your arrangement has a pretty shape.


Gardenias in a Hyrdrangea bouquet

Now add in some smaller flowers in contrasting colors and shapes. She added gardenias (which Roo-Roo would have wrapped with floral wire to keep from dropping if she had some) and some pale pink flowers and shooting star hydrangeas for contrast.


Ruthmary with arrangement

Ruthmary’s general advice on floral arrangements is “make it so that a bee can fly through it.” Natural and open, her flowers look artfully placed but not fussily stuffing into tight bundles.


Finshed Arrangement

The finished piece!


Beach House Flower Arrangement

She placed it on an entryway table to the back porch so all who passed snagged a scent of gardenias in their day. A lesson I will never forget, thanks so much Roo-Roo.




White Wine Sangria for a Crowd


Ever need to make a large batch of booze for big group and don’t want to spend $200 on fancy wine and fresh fruit? Today is your lucky day my friends.

White Wine Sangria

A bride-to-be friend asked us to provide a poolside drinks for 40 guests staying at the hotel where the wedding was taking place. We wanted an elegant drink that would please a crowd without being too pricey. We also wanted a lighter alcoholic drink so guests wouldn’t be too tired to attend the wedding later that afternoon.


White Wine Sangria with lemons and strawberries

Inspired by our more high-end Rose Wine Sangria, we created this simple version of White Wine Sangria with help from the freezer section of the grocery store. You can find delicious light and crisp wines like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio for $3 a bottle which helps keep the cost down (Trader Joe’s is a great resource for inexpensive wine). This is also easy to assemble.  I cut the strawberries and lemons on a cutting board on the floor of my hotel room with a butter knife and had the whole drink dispenser ready to go in 10 minutes!


White Wine Sangrai + Ice Bucket


Lightly sweet, with a fruity citrus fizz, this cocktail was a huge hit with the wedding guests. Not one drop was left as the stunning bride walked down the aisle.

White Wine Sangriafor a crowd
(Serves 30-40)

6 bottles Sauvignon Blanc or other light and fruity white wine, chilled
2 12oz cans frozen lemonade concentrate
2 cups Triple Sec or other orange flavored liquor
1 pint of strawberries, tops removed and sliced into rounds
1 cup fresh lemon juice
5 lemons, sliced into rounds
12 oz frozen raspberries
16 oz frozen peaches
1 or 2 liters sparkling water

About 2 hours before serving mix the wine, frozen lemonade, triple sec, lemon juice, lemon slices and strawberry slices in a large drink dispenser. Allow to sit in the fridge to let the flavors meld. Just before serving mix in 1 liter of sparkling water and check for taste, adding more sparkling water if needed and then add frozen raspberries and peaches, stir well. Serve alongside a bucket of ice.


PS- Thank you to the Florio family for the wonderful glass drink dispenser in these photos! xo, LEH

Planning a Kitchen Garden


There are recipes to write and boxes to pack, but I’ve only just realized that once we move my office view will no longer be my office view.  So I took a picture.  It’s not much to look at – mainly phone wires and concrete.  Still, that tree has kept me company through a lot of thinking, daydreaming and eating.  Some afternoons it’s so green and the sky so blue that together they blot out the boulevard below.

I’ll miss it.

But I’m looking forward to the new place with its giant jacaranda and space for gardening.  As my experience is limited to potted herbs, outdoor pots of carrots, radishes, and fingerling potatoes seem a safe way to start.  Maybe Lydia will help me plant an organic herb garden.  Should my container gardens grow, the following resources might embolden me to actually strike ground.

Gardening Resources & Good Reads:

A Way to Garden – Horticultural “How-to and Woo-Woo” from Margaret Roach, former editorial director of Martha Stewart Living.  Roach is monastic in her approach – she considers gardening her spiritual practice and life partner. She’s also funny, writes simple recipes and, like any good monk, knows the Latin word for everything her garden grows.

The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball – This memoir is about farming, not gardening.  But  Kimball writes a sexy tale about just how difficult and satisfying farming can be.  Here’s the review that inspired me to download and read it in one sitting.

The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss, illustrated by Crockett Johnson – A childhood favorite in which the little boy remains steadfast and patient while naysayers predict his carrot “won’t come up.” Then he wins the state fair.

The Moosewood Restaurant Kitchen Garden: Creative Gardening for the Adventurous Cook – The Moosewood in Ithaca, NY (shoutout here) may not sound like best place to start when planning a garden in Southern California, but this book helps you organize the garden according to your kitchen needs.

If you’re looking for practical information only, I recommend going straight to Barbara Damrosch and Eliot Coleman.  They’ve done it all and explain their methods in such a calm and lucid way that I finish reading convinced it’d be easy to build and maintain thriving hothouses and lettuce beds, even if it were winter in upstate New York.  It’s the kind of delusion I love to indulge in.

So tell me, do you have your own patch of green?  What are you growing?


P.S. Happy birthday one day early to my dad, who is an exceptional gardener.  Here’s hoping I inherited your (ginormous) green thumb. I love you.


How To: Candy Buffet


Blue and White Candy Buffet

Trendy sure, but a candy buffet is a delightful addition to any party. Guests can’t help but exclaim with glee at the sight of multi-colored chocolates and chews to be scooped to their heart’s content. Surprise your friends by offering it instead of dessert at a cocktail or dinner party. Or use it as a favor for any shower, birthday party, wedding or other celebration to send guests home with a sweet taste in their mouth.


Blue and White Whirly Pops

I recently created the above buffet for a Baby Shower our client was hosting. It was a huge hit at the shower but was surprisingly more work than I had originally imaged. See all my tips, ideas and resources to create your own fun candy buffets in detail at The Daily Meal.


Coconut, Blueberry and Very Berry Jelly Bellys




How-To: Setting the Table


Image via

Happy Wednesday, my dears!

Question for you– have you ever set a formal table?  We don’t do it that often, even for work.  It’s the LA thing.

Mrs. Lilien, mother, wife, blogger and designer extraordinaire, has taken it upon herself to show exactly how to set the table.  She’s even made this handy-dandy printable “Proper Placemat” diagram that you can print for reference.

No more youtubing Pretty Woman so Barney can teach you how to do it right.  Now we all know.

The problem with a properly set table is that it’s never easy to remember which is your bread plate and which is your wine glass. Especially after you’ve made use of that wine glass.  But here’s the secret: hold your hands in front of you, perpendicular to the floor, all fingers extended except the index which you should touch to your thumb Om-style.  You should be looking at a b on your left and a d on your right.  Bread on your left Drink on your right.  Do it discretely in your lap and no one will ever know.



How to Store Fresh Herbs


photo courtesy of


I went to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday and bought some beautiful Thai basil and fresh mint. I washed them in cold water, dried them off and wrapped them in paper towel and placed them loosely in a  plastic bag in the crisper drawer. After 3 days, the basil was starting to wilt already!!! I need a better way to keep my herbs alive and am excited about this jar idea. Read all about it here.



photo courtesy of


In short you place your herbs in jars of water in your fridge covered with a plastic bag.  I’ll let you know how it turns out. Nothing is more sad them beautiful herbs gone limp and unused in the crisper drawer. We must stop the herb carnage.






Registry Source Book



Hi, loves.

We’re still working on our Registry Basics Series (barware is next) and realized that we hadn’t given you a list of our favorite places to register.   So here it is.  And please excuse the absence of the Holy 5— Crate & Barrel, Williams-Sonoma, Sur la Table, Bloomingdales and Macy’s.  We’re guessing you’ll start there anyway.

Heath Ceramics for handmade plates in dreamy colors and natural table linens
Simon Pearce for graceful pottery and hand-blown glassware
Anthropologie for everyday fun table and kitchen stuff.  No other place has such happy glasses and platters.  They’ve recently added some very chic flatware (see here and here for our most recent picks).
Jonathan Adler for fun accent pieces.  Sometimes I get lost in the swirl of colors but a cheeky piece of pottery or colorful throw adds a lot of life to your registry and home.  I’m still partial to these birdies.
Design Within Reach is all so sleek, modern and sophisticated.
NapaStyle— the name says it all.  I love their glass and flatware in particular.  They also carry unique wooden boards and bowls.
Restoration Hardware has beautiful bed linens and the world’s greatest towels, not to mention Lydia’s luscious cashmere robe.
Tiffany’s for crystal: a candy bowl, a pair of candlesticks or maybe a special occasion cake stand.

What have we’ve missed?

My soon-to-be sister-in-law introduced me to which allows you to compose a registry of items cherry-picked from any and all online stores (including Etsy and small boutiques) all in one place.  No more jumping from store to store to compare items.

Anjali compiled 9 more registry resources for the kitchn.

Happy browsing!


Registry Basics: Platters and Serving Bowls



When it came time to build our own registries, we knew from our catering past which pieces we couldn’t live without.  If you love to entertain as much as we do, the key is being prepared and that means having enough platters and bowls in basic colors and shapes to mix them with ease, add visual interest to your spread, and never get caught short.  After all, no one wants to be carving a turkey and realize they don’t have a large enough platters to plate up the bird.

For you, the pieces we love and use regularly…

1, 2 & 3.  Three big white platters in round, rectangular or oval or a combination of favorite shapes
Here are a few of our current favorites, but the idea is to go for basic white so they play nicely with all your other dishware and can be used interchangeably.
Great White Coupe Serving Bowls (see these in action with our composed salads)
Great White Rectangular Serving Platters
Juliska “Berry and Thread” large oval platter

4. Two medium-sized serving bowls
Perfect for sides, salads, sauces and mashed potatoes for two.  Looks beautiful on a big buffet but you’ll use these bowls constantly.
Heath Ceramics deep serving bowl
and vegetable bowl

5. One large wooden salad bowl
Owning a dedicated salad bowl makes me feel grown up.
Williams-Sonoma Cherrywood salad bowl

6. One cake plate
We love a good cake plate and this beautiful glass one works for cakes, stacks of cookies and cupcakes.  Plus you can flip it over to make a beautiful punch bowl.  I had never heard of such a thing, but Lydia’s mom had one when Lydia was growing up and, after seeing this one, I’m sold.
Williams-Sonoma Domed Cakeplate/Punch Bowl

7. One footed serving bowl/compote
You’ll use this more than you would expect.  It livens up your kitchen fruit bowl, looks gorgeous piled high with tomatoes and shows off any vegetable, like haricot verts, to their best.  Also, there is no other way to serve a chocolate pudding piled high with whipped cream or classic Christmas trifle.
Vera Wang Wedgewood “Classic” footed bowl

8. One breadboard
A stylish way to serve a baguette next to your cheese plate or sourdough with your soup. Doubles as a centerpiece when filled with lemons or satsumas.
Napa Style Vintage German bakery board

9. One wooden board
Use for everything from a cheese plate to flatbread slices.  We also love it for displaying deviled eggs.
Crate and Barrel Acacia Flatbread-Pizza Board

10. One tiered serving tray
Adds height to your party buffets and can display both sweet and savory items.
Crate and Barrel Artesia 2-tier server

11. Ten Ramekins
These are the mini workhorses of our kitchen.  You’ll pull them for prep while cooking, use for baking souffles or coddled eggs, serving mustards with charcuterie or olives with cheese.  Oh, these are a must for butter and jam with scones.
Crate and Barrel ramekins
We’re still sweet on Anthropologie’s mini latté bowls as another option for prep and small serving bowls.  You just can’t bake a soufflé in them.

12. One silver or wood serving tray
Every girl needs a tray!  We use ours to line up champagne flutes for a self-serve prosecco bar.  And we keep hoping someone will use it to serve us breakfast in bed.   Or you can just pile it high with coffee table books.
Pottery Barn Hotel Collection plated silver tray

You can also see a slideshow of this post at The Daily Meal.

Do you have a serving piece you love?

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