Thursday, August 04, 2011

Everything Happens at Cocktails!

Steven Stolman is a man after my own heart. It's not solely because of his immense charm, although I am a sucker for that kind of thing. And yes, he is the walking embodiment of preppy chic, something which I find to be pretty darn cool. But what has really made me his biggest fan is the fact that Steven is the king of the hors d'oeuvre.

There's no pretense to his style of entertaining, nor is there any attempt at being fancy and showy. Rather, Steven embraces that down to earth, old-fashioned way of entertaining that is to me really quite chic. We're talking hors d'oeuvres and appetizers such as deviled eggs, Lil' Smokies, and dips made from, shall we say, humble ingredients. Seriously, have you ever met anybody who doesn't like a good cocktail frank?

Steven and I got on an email roll recently sharing hors d'oeuvres recipes and entertaining tips. (I've decided that I have a long way to go before I can rattle dip recipes off the top of my head like Steven does.) While we were planning this post, Steven was named President of
Scalamandre. He's perfect for this position. Scalamandre has such a glorious heritage, something which a person like Steven gets and respects. I'm really excited to see what's in store for the venerable fabric house.

But getting back to cocktail franks- Steven emailed to me his thoughts on entertaining. He did such a nice job with the text that I simply copied and pasted it below. And the title of this post? That too is courtesy of Steven. Because you know, if you serve really tasty food and plenty of booze, everything really can happen at cocktails!

Steven wrote:
Having miraculously reached middle age, I have resigned myself to certain absolutes. No matter how hard I work, God does not want me to have granite countertops or stainless steel appliances. Indeed, by the time I could afford them, Formica and Harvest Gold will have become chic again. So, for the foreseeable future, it's gonna be a white kitchen for me. And I don't mean modern, museum quality white. I mean 1970s "only seen by the help" white. In my Palm Beach apartment, I have the same stove that Samantha Stevens of "Bewitched" slaved over- sadly without the magical results. It's the kind of kitchen that caused Diana Vreeland to shriek "My god, I'm SNOWBLIND!" White on white on white- with the added allure of fluorescent lighting.

The result of having a rather retro culinary laboratory has caused me to be enamored by retro foods. I have a huge collection of 1950s-70s charity cookbooks- the kind with plastic spiral bindings and cutesy names like "Nothin' Says Lovin" or "Just Desserts" as published by the Garden Club of Sewickley and the like. And then there are my treasures- an original "I Hate to Cook Book" by Peg Bracken (genius) and the enigmatic "Some Favorite Southern Recipes of the Duchess of Windsor" (useless except for the recipe for popovers that you know she never made- or ate for that matter.) My own repertoire has aped these classics- resulting in the reputation for being a pretty good homestyle cook. Thankfully, I come from a family that has always loved to entertain- from my grandparents' command performance Friday night dinners to my mom's impeccable dinner parties to my own gatherings in Palm Beach and now, after a 15 year hiatus, New York.

When the good folks at Scalamandre asked me to join the company as president, I immediately knew that I would have to ramp up my entertaining activities. The house of Scalamandre is the epitome of gracious living, and welcoming friends and business associates into one's home is the ultimate expression of that ethic. Once again, my surroundings would dictate my entertaining style. While spacious, I live in a studio apartment in what feels like the biggest apartment building on Earth. Built in the early 1960s by the legendary Rudin family, it's a behemoth of white brick, now totally enveloped in scaffolding as part of a multi-year exterior facade overhaul. Needless to say, I love it. But entertaining in a studio has its limitations. The last thing I want to do is go to bed amid the lingering odors of Cassoulet Toulousiene, one of my standbys. So for the duration, it's cocktails at my place followed by a restaurant dinner in the neighborhood. I have a fantastic, enormous 1970s sectional sofa plucked from a thrift shop, a stunning glass topped Fontana Arte coffee table on loan from by buddies at Van den Akker Antiques and another thrift shop find- a classic Mies van der Rohe "Brno" chair. It's kinda like the set of a television talk show, but it seems to be working. This format demands stationary hors d'oeuvre- so my gameplan involves bowls of nuts, olives and pepperoni, a big hunk of cheese with a knife stabbed into it Excalibur-style and one terrific retro cocktail spread- either with crackers or celery sticks. This array always looks fresh and not picked at, packs a lot of punch into a small space and seems to keep people coming back for more. It's also mercifully free of hummus.


1 bunch of scallions
1 pkg. real bacon bits (essential- nothing else works)
1 pkg. shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup mayonnaise
Generous dash of Worcestershire Sauce
A few grinds of black pepper

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, chop scallions and bacon until they resemble wet, green sand. Add cheese and pulse a few more times. Turn out into a bowl and mix in mayonnaise and the rest of the ingredients. Chill before serving- and whatever you do, do not tell people what's in it. Most will guess "chicken salad." I have no clue why. This spread has 2 lives- serve it cold with crackers or spread it on toast rounds and broil until puffed and lightly browned.

MATER'S MESS (courtesy Polly Fawcett, Boston's extraordinary interior designer)

1 small onion
2 hard boiled eggs
1/2 cup green pimento-stuffed olives
1/2 pkg. shredded cheddar cheese
1 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, combine onion, olives and eggs. Pulse until lightly combined. Add cheese and continue to pulse, being very careful not to over-process. Turn out into a bowl and blend in cream cheese. Serve with Triscuits to be authentically North Shore Boston or with celery sticks or spread on cucumber slices if you're avoiding carbs. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES ADD ANY OTHER INGREDIENTS OR VARY FROM THE METHOD (trust me, I've tried.)

A recent batch of Mater's Mess as prepared by Steven.

Backwards Deviled Eggs and Australian Cheddar served Excalibur style.

"Typical cocktail party spread at my Palm Beach apartment.
Tea sandwiches, Swedish meatballs or Lil' Smokies steamed in beer and a great old 1950s cocktail spread that has to included cheese, bacon, olives, hard boiled eggs... sometimes all of the above!"

A Christmas Day Paella dinner at Steven's Palm Beach apartment.

His Palm Beach apartment at the ready for guests.

Just a few of Steven's favorite cookbooks.

All photos courtesy of Steven Stolman.


  1. great post! thank you for sharing -- started my morning off with a smile and a good laugh! Congratulations to Steven as well -- excited for what the future holds for Scalamandre.

  2. It all sounds great! But what are Backward Deviled Eggs?

    A Memphis friend with Delta roots serves deviled eggs (made with Dijon mustard), open face sandwiches of a flaky biscuit with mayonnaise and a thin slice of tomato, and thick strips of sugared bacon!

    Scalamandre is a great company. I hope this new chairman turns out to be just what it needs.

  3. There is something very depressing about the new President of Scalamandre being unable to afford granite countertops, -- a sad commentary on the value (or lack thereof) placed on artistic endeavors in this society.

    His sense of humor, however, clearly remains unscathed, and recommends him as someone with whom I would love to share cocktails, with or without the retro canapes!

    Best wishes to him on his new position.

  4. Artluvr, You are right about his sense of humor! And I can sympathize about his kitchen; mine is the EXACT same! I have a feeling, though, that someday soon he'll get his granite countertops :)

  5. How charming! My husband generally insists on making lil' smokies wrapped in crescent rolls for guests. This always gets a roll of the eyes from me and it is always the first to dissappear. I think my vintage cookbooks are the greatest and its wonderful to hear that it such a chic passion.

  6. Grand post! Congratulations to the new President of Scalamandre, with his sense of humor great things are in store. PS- What are Backward Deviled Eggs?

  7. This was a really terrific post! The idea that the President of Scalamandre is a regular guy with a great sense of humor and hors d'oeuvres straight out of the 60's..well, it's just great!

  8. Oddly enough, I was born and raised (for a few years) in Sewickley so I'm sure my mom has one of those cookbooks he mentions somewhere! LOL
    I so agree that simple is better -you should enjoy your own party!

  9. PS -deviled eggs may be my favorite food item of all time.

  10. okay I have a bet with my sister in law how do you pronounce scalamandre?

  11. How many ounces is that "package of cheese"?

  12. Maraispicasso- I may not be writing this out correctly, but it's skawl-a-mon-dray. I may have just butchered the phonetics there.

  13. Jeannine- It should be one of those 8 oz bags. I'm pretty sure that 8 oz is the standard size for bags of shredded cheese.

  14. I love Steven's sensible, down-home approach to party food. I don't know what Backwards Deviled Eggs are either, but I bet I'd like 'em, which is more than I can say for a lot of fancy food nowadays. At my place, if something might have raised eyebrows at a cocktail party circa 1955, it's not on the menu, simple as that. Hummus? Ick. Tiny skewers of thin-sliced organ meats? Gross. Freeze-dried kiwi foam popsicles? Come on! Give me some real food, dammit! And like Steven says, lots of booze.

    Even Steven's kitchen sounds great. I love my all-white, no-nonsense, Help-Only kitchen, even though these days, the only Help is me. BTW, Steven, my kitchen still has its original 1926 black jaspe linoleum counters which I wouldn't trade for all the granite at Home Depot, and for a 1970s kitchen, let's face it, Formica is the Classic Choice. I should trademark that.

  15. Simply Grand- I can't even begin to picture what your counters look like, but if they're from the 1920s then I know I would LOVE them. My kitchen has 40+ year old white Formica countertops that are in good shape except for the cigarette burn that a previous owner inflicted on it.

  16. Anonymous5:34 PM

    Perhaps Steven would share with us his recipe for Cassoulet Toulousiene - perhaps it will be the same as the scrumptious one I enjoyed many years ago in Carcassonne. Congrats to him on the new position with Scalamandre. While he saves up for his stainless steel kitchen, I'll save up for some gorgeous new Scalmandre fabrics.

  17. According to Steven, "Backwards Deviled Eggs are made by cutting the eggs in half width-wise so that they are round little cups of equal size- and shaving a bit off the rounded ends so that they stand up straight."

    Also, the proper pronunciation of Scalamandre is Skaal-a-MAHN-dray

  18. Edward9:02 AM

    Congradulations to Steven. I am sure Scalamandre will benefit from his style sense. I hope he reviews their archives. There are some wonderful designs that just may have to be updated. I wonder if he is closing his store in Palm Beach. I always wanted a pair of the chintz pants for men. Unfortunately, I couldn't afford them nor could I find a place to wear them.

  19. Anonymous11:45 PM

    Please clone this man by whatever means necessary.

    This Canadian would like to see how his closet is organised, i.e. by colour, season, etc.

    Many thanks and cheers from Victoria, British Columbia

  20. Oh, my, after reading that column, I LUV Steve, too. It was wonderful...write a book, your spare time. :-D franki

  21. Anonymous8:55 AM

    Hi Peak of Chic,

    Great post as always...what a guy and what a blog!!!

    I am hoping that you can help me with something. I have been trying to find out who designed the Milly store at 73 and Madison in New York. I have reached out to other bloggers but can not seem to get an answer; and those bloggers are in NYC. So my southern friend I am hoping that you can help with this. The store is getting a lot of buzz, the fashion designer is great and am sure was involved with the process, however there MUST be a proper design firm affiliated with this store who I need to find.

    You should check it out.... would be a great decorating story if you can find the designer.

    Many thanks - and thanks for years of great posts and info that is hard to find.

  22. I'll see if I can get the recipe for Steven's Cassoulet. And he def should write a book!

  23. Anon 8:55- I have read numerous online articles about the new Milly shop, and any mention of the decor suggests that Michelle was responsible for the store's design. So, I'm not sure if there was a proper designer involved or not. I'll sleuth around a little more and see what I can find out!

  24. Just lovely. Very inspiring.

  25. Anonymous6:34 AM

    Jane's cheese? I wish I had this recipe last Friday evening! You could have saved the evening for me! Instead it was seafood salad purchased at the market with added scallion and sour cream, chopped finely, on a good cracker....Jane's cheese would have honestly been 'homemade'. I cheated!

  26. So charming!! Wherever he goes, Steven adds a healthy dose of retro chic. Even his tiny shop on Nantucket was oozing in it!! I have an old dip from my mother that is my standby with artichokes and parmesan - you probably know some version of it. As for the Milly store question that Anon posed - I recently shot a Behind the Q there and Michelle's husband told me the name of the architect/designer but of course I can't remember - but I'm sure I could find out if you like - it is indeed incredibly chic!

  27. Anonymous5:32 PM

    Oh what a wonderful post!!! I ADORE Steven!! You cannot even imagine the talent!! He does the most gorgeous weddings you have ever seen; he is eternally chic; and he is Already (!!!) into the archives! He emailed some sensational fabrics for airplanes they did!

    Lucky for Scalamandre!!!
    Jennifer, your phonetics were excellent!

    He should be cloned immediately!!!

    "Fun" will be back at Scalamandre! Chic fun!!!

    His party food is beyond!
    We all want to see his closet; and how it is organized!!

  28. Loved Steven's cookbook selections. He should definitely try Wallis Simpson's Pork Cake.

  29. Mitch Owens7:12 AM

    I swear by the Duchess of Windsor's oyster loaf. Recipe in the appendix section of Suzy Menkes's must-have "Windsor Style."