This past weekend we had the final photoshoot for my cookbook (Good Taste; Good Food. A Good Life). We needed to shoot a summer garden party, and because it was my birthday, and because, frankly, I’ll take any excuse to throw a party, we gathered some friends together, hired some tables and chairs, and threw our first party in Creaky Cottage.
I realised, yet again, how magical this house is. Cocktails gave way to high tide as we sat down at the tables under the canopy of the giant Copper Beech tree in our yard, and watched the sun set over the water, casting its warm apricot glow across the trees.
I threw white tableclothes over the tables, then burlap, and bought steel pots of lavender from Trader Joe’s, lining them up and down the tables. I hand wrote place cards on torn out pieces of paper from a watercolor pad I had lying around.
We set up a bar at one end of the swimming pool and served prosecco and elderflower cocktails, and Pimms, because I’m English, and no Summer party is complete without Pimms. Hors d’oeuvres were stuffed dates wrapped in prosciutto, shrimp cakes, grape and camembert tarts and savory scones with brie and spiced pear jam. For supper we had Asian steamed bass with white rice and Goop’s Vietnamese salad, then my own chocolate mousse cake and Eton mess.
It was a glorious party, and a perfect way to celebrate the beginning of Summer. There were, I have realised, a few tricks that ensured our garden party was a success. The first was a pretty table – burlap over a white tablecloth gave texture and informality, and herbs running down the middle was simple and modern. The lighting was crucial. I wanted lanterns hanging from the branches but they were too high, so we banged in posts and strung little globe lights above, dotting votives up and down the tables.
We made sure the food was prepared beforehand so we could enjoy our guests (Salads are great. Poached salmon. Tenderloin that can be sliced and served at room temperature).
A great cocktail eased the inhibitions of even the most anti-social of guests – ours ensured even the introverts were having a blast within half an hour.
On that note, I give you our Prosecco cocktail, and wishes for glorious garden parties of your own, as soon as this rain stops.
• 2 parts Gin
• 1 part Elderflower Liqueur
• Lime Wedges
• Sugar (for the rim of the glass)
1. Fill a shaker with ice and add the Gin and Elderflower Liqueur. Shake to combine.
2. Place the sugar on a small plate. Run a lime wedge around the rim of a martini glass and press the rim of the martini glass in the sugar to coat.
3. Strain the contents of the shaker into the glass and top with Prosecco. Squeeze a lime wedge in the drink and garnish with an additional lime wedge.
4. Serve immediately.
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