Friday, August 08, 2008

Dining à Deux

I do love a well-set table. But do you know which tables really get my creative juices flowing? Those set for a chic meal for two.

Why are these small dining vignettes so charming? Perhaps it's the intimacy of the setting. What a perfect way to dine with a paramour, a good friend, or a dear relative. It's suitable for a ladies lunch for two, a light supper with a neighbor, or a post-theater snack. (Many cookbooks and entertaining books include recipes and menus for a post-theater supper. What I want to know is how many people actually do this? It sounds quite civilized, but Atlantans don't really go to the theater. Do you think this is a New York thing?)

These small table settings just beg for the good stuff. When you've only got cleanup for two, why not put out the good flatware, the crystal, and the salt cellars? I also think these intimate meals call for something rich to eat.

So, with that in mind, here are some inspiring little tables and a good souffle recipe to boot:

Bill Blass' Sour Cream Souffle (perfect for a supper for two- or more!)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
5 large egg yolks
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons chopped chives
7 large egg whites

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and set the oven rack at the lower middle level. Butter a 2-quart souffle dish and coat it with the Parmesan cheese, knocking out the excess and reserving it.

In a large mixing bowl, whip the sour cream and flour together with a whisk or electric mixer. Add the egg yolks one at a time while continuously beating. Stir in the salt, cayenne, chives and remaining Parmesan.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they reach firm, shiny peaks. Fold the whites into the batter with a rubber spatula until no streaks remain. Pour gently into souffle dish and bake for about 35 minutes. Serves 6.

A fantasy table set for Mme. de Pompadour and Louix XV (from Tiffany Taste)

An elegant table set for two in the home of Marilyn Evins (c. 1971; House & Garden magazine) (Evins is a relative by marriage of a fellow blogger. Guess who? You'll find out on her blog soon enough.)

Tea for Two, set outdoors in Bermuda (photo from Tiffany Taste)

Would you have guessed that John Saladino set this table? The table is set for an imaginary breakfast between Saladino and the Doge of Venice. (Tiffany Taste)

Rhapsody in Pink. A little retro dining for your pleasure... (image from House & Garden)

Breakfast set for two in San Antonio (Tiffany Taste)

Image at top: Would you expect anything less from the uber-stylish Babe Paley? Note the copy of Breakfast at Tiffany's .... this was obviously before the falling out with Capote.


  1. Jennifer, love the Bermuda table!

    (In an older version of the High cookbook I remember a section related to theater suppers or before the performance gatherings -- I always figured it was a requirement to incorporate as many ideas related to the Woodruff center as possible. But I bet the game day ideas were used the most :)

  2. Anonymous9:34 AM

    Oh, how I do love your references to these marvelous old images. The Evins clipping is in my files from long ago. Shows an interior that is still wonderful, tho done 30 years ago.

  3. Courtney- My mother has that old version, and I do remember those menus. I have a feeling you're right about the popularity of the game day menus!

  4. Anon- That Evins apartment was certainly very stylish! You're right- classic design never goes out of style!

  5. Oh are so right. I recently hosted a baby shower for two and it was so fabulous. The intimacy was momentous and invaluable. I was indeed "the charming hostess". The honoree felt so special, and she continues to comment on the occasion. Settings for two (or a few) are perfect. This way you have the opportunity to present your finest everything without compromise. I love this :)!!

  6. Brandy- That was a truly special baby shower- the way they should be! I'm sure everything looked divine and that you were indeed "the hostess with the mostess"!!!

  7. Anonymous12:45 PM

    What gorgeous images, I love the intimate, cozy feel of a dining à deux in beautiful surroundings. My favorite is the table setting for Madame de Pompadour and Louis XV or perhaps the home of Marilyn Evins. Thank you so much for bringing Tiffany Taste to my attention. Wonderful, fun post!

  8. That turquoise so very pretty. And your souffle recipe sounds delish and (gasp) easy!

  9. I remember seeing the Evins photograph as a teenager and thinking that that was the way I wanted to entertain when I grew up!

  10. That Bermuda picture almost looks like a painting with all the clear colours and great light.

  11. Arts- It's a fun book; you should definitely read it if you get a chance!

  12. Maryam- It is easy and delicious! A bit decadent too! :)

  13. Morris- I dream of entertaining like Evins!!!

  14. Fairfax- The colors are so vivid and cheery. Wouldn't you love to have tea served that way??!! I would :)

  15. Jennifer - this is most fabulous well thought out and most original post! I love it and I must try the souffle.

  16. Sorry Jennifer, that was me - not signed in properly:-)


  17. Anonymous5:24 AM

    You've inspired me. I already love setting the table, but now I've just got to have a tête-à-tête with my husband. Very nice. Thank you!

  18. Table for two , I love it ! Just like a promise of love story ! And what about " un repas aux chandelles " check this photo :

  19. I wish I lived like this! As for guessing that was Saladino - I probably would because of the chairs alone only! But - he does seem the type to sit down to a beautiful table each night - he's such a tastemaster!!! Can not wait to discover who the Evins relative is!!!!!!???????

  20. Love these old Tiffany books - Thanks for sharing.

  21. Anonymous11:14 PM

    I recall reading Joan Didion's The Year of Magical thinking about how she and her late husband John Gregory Dunne would eat in front of the fire much like your photo of Marilyn Evins' home.

    I also have a cookbook of Jacqueline Onassis' housekeeper and friend, Marta Sgubin, who said when Mrs. Onassis dined with her mother or one other person, she insisted on eating on trays in her Fifth Avenue apartment. She also had Hillary Clinton and Diana Vreeland to lunch in the library (Vreeland always phoned ahead to request the Shepherd's Pie). This was a really nice post! Love the copy of Capote's book there, pre Cote Basque!