I used to find it odd that there are people who buy cookbooks solely for the purpose of reading them. Actually preparing the recipes is beside the point. Strangely enough, I have now found myself as one of "those people." It's not that I don't want to cook, but I truly have no time! If there were 27 hours in a day, well, then maybe.
Some of my favorite cookbooks to read are those by the late, great Lee Bailey. His recipes look delicious, and I'm even planning to take a stab at his Rigodon soon. (It's a chicken custard with brioche topping.) But what really gives me great pleasure are the books' photos of Bailey's marvelously chic tablesettings. By the looks of the photographs, Bailey obviously preferred china, glassware, and linen that was minimal, slightly casual, not fussy, and enormously stylish. For someone with a background in design, Bailey knew the importance of creating atmosphere for one's dinner parties. He also knew that food looks its best against a simple setting.
Bailey once had a noted food and accessories shop within Bendel's (back before it was bought by The Limited) that later moved to Saks. People still talk and write about his boutique today- almost twenty-five years after it closed! It must have really been something, and I regret that childhood was what kept me from knowing anything at the time about Lee Bailey or his shop.
In the book Lee Bailey's Good Parties, Bailey included photos of some of his favorite china, glassware, flatware, and kitchen tools and gadgets, some of which were available for purchase at his Bendel's shop. Below, I'm showing just some of the items that were sold at Bailey's shop. Even if many of us never got the chance to see it in person, perhaps we can get a little taste of what the magic must have been like.
Stainless steel all-purpose pots by Opa.
A Perfect Fish measure.
Left, a 12 1/4" Stainless Steel buffet plate by Bailey-Bannett Inc. At right, an 11" khaki porcelain dinner plate by Taitu for Lee Bailey.
Matte white Japanese flatware.
Chef Master plastic-handled flatware with nonstick Chefcoat.
Bailey-Bannett Inc. stainless steel dessert bowl and saucer.
Lee Bailey all-purpose bistro glass.
Taitu burgundy/brown porcelain dinner plate.
All images from Lee Bailey's Good Parties.