How to Put Your Touch on Tailgating

It’s football season. Yay! We love us a competitive friendly sport and a good excuse to get friends together on a Sunday afternoon. But what happens when you don’t have tickets to the big game nor a backyard to BBQ {or you’re averse to freezing temperatures like me}?? You put together an amazing tailgate-inspired spread, indoors, of course! But this is no ordinary tailgate. We partnered with Smirnoff ICE to create our dream football watching party. So we’re ditching nachos for kale chips, upping the ante with some delicious cocktails {sorry, I just don’t do beer!}, and we’ve said so long to the same ole football paraphernalia for super chic modern party accessories. While hanging out in the parking lot with hot dogs sizzling is great fun, we promise hanging at home- a quieter approach to the ol’ tailgate madness- is just as entertaining- especially when it looks like this!

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To live out our ultimate football party, we teamed up with Jesi Haack Design who brought in party essentials that one might not immediately think of when talkin’ football. Just as impactful as a wedding or New Year’s Eve shindig, adding a backdrop to your party decor can have the same impact for game day. So don’t forget it! Ours is made out of different ribbons and paper streamers for fun texture and depth that we swear isn’t difficult to make on your own -even if it does look fancy! Best part is, make one in a neutral color palette and use it over and over again! We also added subtle hints at “pig skin” to our party buffet tablescape with leather accents and “football” shaped himmels in a glam bronze. Oh and don’t forget the flowers for a nice feminine factor! We’re taking football back from the boys with this party.

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Putting touchdown pieces in your place doesn’t require you to Go. All. The. Waayyyyy. You can totally score in the hostess department without bringing in 100 yards of astro turf. In fact, we’re all about the simple nods to the game that create a sophisticated yet fun atmosphere. For instance, ditch paper napkins and instead write up tricky football trivia on linen squares. Take turns quizzing friends in what we like to call, Cocktail Napkin Trivia! Not only is it a light hearted way to get excited about the game, they’re also act as a cute place to set your drink! On your serving platters, draft up “plays” in simple “x” and “o” form – we made ours on a slate platter with a chalk pen!

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Another easy DIY? Take blue masking tape and a marker and channel your ol’ varsity jacket. Jazz up paper bags with numbers and stripes then serve kale chips, popcorn, trail mix- whatever your snacking heart desires. Speaking of snacks, we have three foul-proof munchies that are healthy and delicious!

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Foul Proof Snacks:
– Kale chips {in cute paper bags, of course!}
– Roasted Beets Crostini with Burrata and mint
– Delicata Squash Rings with Ricotta, olive oil, thyme

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But it wouldn’t be a party without some tasty cocktails, would it?! You know we always have you covered. We love the idea of switching up the typical game-day booze selection with a fancier, feel good cocktail. So we put a grown-up twist on a tailgate staple: Smirnoff Ice! We created original cocktail recipes your guests can easily mix up themselves. We served ours in vintage crystal goblets {in opposing team colors, duh!} to really up the ante. Here are two recipes – one sweet and one tart – that’ll get the good times rollin’!

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Lemon Tart Touchdown 

1oz fresh Meyer lemon juice
1/2 oz simple syrup
1 oz orange vanilla liquor
8oz Smirnoff ICE Original

Add fresh Meyer lemon juice and all ingredients into a shaker with ice. Shake. Strain into a glass with ice. Use Meyer lemon peel for garnish.

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Pass The Peach Bellini

6 oz Smirnoff ICE Peach Bellini
4oz champagne
2 dashes bitters

Pour Smirnoff ICE Peach Bellini into a glass. Top with champagne. Add 2 dashes of bitters. Garnish with thyme sprig.

So next time you want to have a mellow football party at home, sans chewed up gum on your seats and sticky arena floors {we all need a break from the madness sometimes!}, keep these simple plays in mind. They are a sure win- touchdown!!

original photography for apartment 34 by Aubrie Pick // styling + food by Jesi Haack Design // glassware c/o Frances Lane // shot on location at LUX-SF 

This is a sponsored post by Smirnoff ICE.  All reviews/opinions expressed in this post are unbiased & based on my personal view. Drink responsibly.

Thanksgiving Tips from a Major Pro

Somehow Thanksgiving is already next week, and if like me, you’re hosting, you might be approaching panic mode. Well it’s not time to totally freak out – yet! Instead of sharing a tabletop idea with you this year {because last year’s table still might be our favorite post of all time!} we decided to tap one of our favorite experts for her ultimate Save Thanksgiving Day tips: Camille Styles!

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Camille’s debut book, Camille Styles Entertaining is all about inspiring readers through the seasons with ideas for life’s big celebrations, as well as showing them how to infuse beauty into their daily lives through the food they make, the rooms they design and the outfits they wear. It’s packed with simple details and creative shortcuts that make everyday moments feel special (with 75 simple + seasonal recipes woven throughout.) As soon as my copy landed in the mailbox, I was immediately taking notes. I love her little creative ideas and DIYS {like keepsake what I’m thankful for cards!} that take Thanksgiving to a beautifully personal level.

I asked Camille if she’d share a few of her top tips with us. I’m thankful she didn’t disappoint!

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My husband and I have been hosting Thanksgiving for both sides of our family since the first year we got married. Though we’ve had our share of hiccups (from faulty plumbing to a fried turkey that burnt to a crisp), each year gets a little more seamless, and yes, delicious. If you’ll be taking on hosting duties this year, never fear: I’ve made all the mistakes first, so that you don’t have to. Here are my favorite ways to honor tradition, put a fresh twist on the big meal, and avoid any disasters in the process.

1. Rethink your furniture arrangement to create more space. So your 4-person kitchen table won’t fit all the friends and family you’d like to seat for the feast? Consider moving the dining table into the living room, and extending it with folding tables that you can line up end-to-end and cover with a pretty autumnal tablecloth. It’ll make the dining table the unexpected focal point of the room, plus open up all kinds of space you didn’t know you had.

2. Try out a new color palette. For this year’s table design, I’m using a palette of indigo, earthy wood, organic greens and white, in lieu of the more expected autumnal oranges and browns. Then, to create a unified design, I’ll use table linens, dishes, serving pieces and flowers that fit into those color families. Sticking within a limited palette is the quickest way to make a major visual impact while keeping the details simple!

3. Think beyond the floral centerpiece. In the fall, I love to forage for beautiful leaves and interesting berries or acorns to incorporate into a centerpiece. Pomegranates, winter squash and pears also make unexpected additions to the table and are a modern spin on the iconic image of an abundant cornucopia.

4. Include a couple of menu items that can be served at room temperature. That way, you’re not scrambling to get every single item out on the buffet at once. I’ll make an appetizer like a cheese and meat board that can sit out unattended for a couple of hours during cocktails. Sides like a brussels sprouts salad and cranberry sauce are delicious at room temperature, so you can set those out first while you slice the turkey and keep the sweet potatoes warm in the oven.

5. Don’t strive for perfection. Hosting Thanksgiving does not require Martha-like perfectionism. This is a holiday that’s about counting our blessings, so ditch the pressure, stress, and unrealistic expectations and instead embrace an attitude that puts the focus back on having fun and creating great memories with the people you care about. Remember, your guests don’t want to be impressed – they want to be welcomed into a warm and inviting atmosphere to eat delicious food and savor great conversation!

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We have so much to be thankful for, and a Thanksgiving dinner surrounded by family, friends and a bountiful feast will be the perfect way to count our blessings from the past year as we savor the present, deliciously.

And thankfully, Camille also gave us a super easy, but totally delicious appetizer idea for when that turkey inevitably needs another hour!

FIGS BLUE CHEESE AND POMEGRANATE SEEDS ON ENDIVE LEAVES

FIGS, BLUE CHEESE AND POMEGRANATE SEEDS ON ENDIVE LEAVES

From Camille: When I worked in catering, one of our most popular hors d’oeuvres was a luscious port wine–soaked cherry and blue cheese combo tucked into an endive leaf like a little boat. This is my autumnal version featuring figs and pomegranate for the most gorgeous color and a touch of exotic flavor. So many of my friends eat gluten-free diets these days, so this is a nice way to serve them a great blue cheese that doesn’t require crackers or bread. You can make these up to an hour before the party, and the hearty leaves will hold up as they sit.

INGREDIENTS
5 fresh figs, each cut into 4 wedges
½ cup balsamic vinegar
2 heads Belgian endive, leaves separated (smallest leaves reserved for another
use)
2 ounces blue cheese (Stilton, Cambozola, or any creamy blue cheese), at room
temperature and crumbled
¼ cup Candied Pecans (see sidebar), finely chopped
¼ cup pomegranate seeds
¼ cup honey

SERVES 8
Put the fig wedges in a small bowl and cover with the balsamic vinegar. Set aside
and let macerate for at least 30 minutes (and up to overnight, in the fridge).
To assemble, lay out the endive leaves on a platter. Use a small spoon to scoop
about ½ teaspoon of blue cheese into each leaf. Top each with a fig wedge, sprinkle
with pecans and a couple pomegranate seeds, drizzle with honey, and serve.

CANDIED PECANS
½ cup pecan halves
½ cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
Kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 400˚F. In a small saucepan, combine the pecans, sugar, and
1 cup water; bring to a boil, and stir continuously until the sugar dissolves. Cook over
medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the
pecans to a baking sheet. Sprinkle with a bit of sugar and kosher salt, then bake for 8
minutes, or until the nuts are lightly caramelized. Let cool, then serve or store in an
airtight container for up to 1 week.

PS: I’ll be co-hosting Camille’s San Francisco book signing party with Caitlin Flemming on Thursday – we do hope you’ll drop by! Details HERE.

images by buff strickland courtesy of camille styles

Gotta Getaway: A Trip to Hawaii Can Change Everything

When a trip to Hawaii lands in your inbox you freak, obviously. But when it’s coupled with an opportunity to enjoy three days of ah-mazing food cooked up as part of  the Four Season’s Chef Fest, you die, then wake up, and hit “reply” as fast as you can! Our Editorial Director had the chance to do just that and if you were following along on Instagram you know it was quite the enviable experience… to say the least! Here’s how Hawaii changed everything, including her waist size {her words, not mine!}.

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As soon as I walked into the tiki wood decorated lobby of the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai and was greeted by a warm towel to wipe away travel exhaustion, a fresh lei {of course!}, a mai tai served in a coconut and just-picked-off-the-tree-and-squeezed papaya juice, I knew that this going to be a trip of a lifetime. I’d heard that the Four Seasons was one of best resorts in the world long before I ever thought about making my way to the Big Island, but I still couldn’t believe what was right before me. The grounds are the lushest green you’ve ever seen.

As I toured the property, I immediately knew I wasn’t going to want to ever leave- a rarity for a wandering traveler like myself. Six pools, a golf course, a beach steps away from my room; these were all calling my name during my indulgent weekend. But this trip wasn’t just a feast for the eyes or about pool time – it was for the tastebuds too!

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Chef Fest, a food & wine festival bringing together some of the best chefs from around the U.S., is put on by the Four Seasons every year to share a culinary experience for the books. From intimate interactive cooking classes, to barbecue dinners on the beach, blind wine tastings and amazing desserts, my stomach and my knowledge of cuisine grew in just a few short, extraordinary days! Here are some of the highlights:

Want to know the easiest and most impressive way to whip up a dinner? I learned it’s by cooking a whole fish! With a big knife, a lemon and a couple of sprigs of rosemary, Thai Snapper is my now going to be my go-to dish for everything. Demonstrated by Chef Marco Canora of New York’s Herth and Terroir, I promise you cooking up your own fish is way easier than you think. Some things I never knew about cooking a whole fish: make sure the fish is at room temperature when you cook it and make sure that fishy is nice and dry to ensure tasty, crispy skin!

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If you haven’t ever tried a blind wine tasting, {I hadn’t- I’m such a sommeli-nay. I know nothing!} sign yourself up for one. They are so much fun. This one was particularly special because it was lead by none other than wine genius and godfather of Pinot Grigio, Mr. Tony Terlato. Always dapper in a crisp suit, Tony flew to Hawaii to lead the class and school everyone, from people like me, who know nothing, all the way to the Four Season’s Vice President of Food and Beverage! This man is a wealth of knowledge- the vintage, the varietal, terroir… the depth of wine history in his head is remarkable. I was eating up, or should I say, drinking up everything he said! Here are some wine tasting tips I made sure to jot down:

- Determine if you taste the grape or the dirt more. If you taste grape, it’s a New World wine. If you taste the earth, it’s Old World.

- Having some general geographical knowledge about where wine grows should help you you figure out the grape {say Cabernet Savignon vs. Bourdeaux}…but without a multiple choice quiz, this certainly ain’t easy!

- Tilt your wine glass at a 45 degree angle. If the rim at the top of the wine is more white, it’s a younger vintage, if it’s a rich red, it’s been aging for quite some time.

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Luaus and beach cookouts, paddle boarding and yoga in the sand were just a few of the other incredible experiences I was lucky enough to enjoy during Chef Fest. I’m seriously missing waking up every morning and making my way straight to the beach. Even if it WAS with my laptop, nothing gets better than listening to the crash of the waves…

If you’ve had the opportunity to visit Hawaii, or even better the little slice of heaven that is the the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, you know exactly the sentiment I developed for this place – in only three days! The cool golden sand, the warm salty waters, the soft green grass, the humid smell in the air, the never ending sunsets…it’s definitely life changing!

experience c/o The Four Seasons // images by Bianca Sotelo and c/o the Four Seasons