The Party Emporium
15Dec

Cheat Sheet: Christmas entertaining tips

Cheat Sheet: Christmas entertaining tips

Quick Tips for a Fuss-Free & Stylish Christmas

  • Careful menu planning makes for a much more relaxed Christmas lunch or dinner. As many pre-prepared platters, dishes and desserts that can be made in the lead up means more time for you out of the kitchen and enjoying time with friends and family.
  • Start buying extras like batteries, wrapping paper and gas for the BBQ now, so you’re not frantically trying to do this on top of everything else the day before.
  • Say ‘yes’ to offers of help and don’t be afraid to delegate. Let the family know what’s expected of them – whether it’s making sure there’s enough ice and chilled beverages throughout the day or who’s on cleaning-up duty means everything will run smoothly throughout the day.
  • You don’t need to spend a fortune on masses of plastic trinkets and ornaments – branches sprayed gold for the table and bunches of rosemary from the garden tied with twine and a label make for a gorgeous and fragrant place setting. Save your tin cans and wrap them in washi tape for simple and effective vases or as cute serviette and cutlery holders.
  • Presents don’t need to be extravagant – but well-chosen and beautifully wrapped gifts go a long way to show you care. A roll of brown paper from the supermarket looks divine when paired with bakers twine, washi tape or doilies.
  • Clean the house, room by room during the week, so it’s more manageable on the day. Make sure you’ve retrieved the mandolin from the back of the bottom draw if the recipe calls for wafer thin slices of kipfler potato. No one likes a frazzled host – it will impede everyone’s ability to relax and enjoy the meal if you are running around shoving homework into the washing machine to make room on the dinner table. Especially you.
  • Place-cards are perfect for ensuring everyone sits where you want them to sit – including yourself with easiest access to the kitchen. This also means It doesn’t need to be expensive either! Our parcel tags or our library cards are a perfect way of making it look like you’ve made a whole lot of effort when in essence, it’s actually helping you ensure the day goes off without a hitch.
  • Think about creating a Christmas playlist – and include non-Christmas tracks to break up the festive chorus.
  • Plan a mini-bar so guests can help themselves giving you one less thing to do – think pretty paper straws, coasters and a jug-based cocktail and plenty of non-alcoholic beverages.
26Nov

DIY easy-peasy advent calendar

DIY easy-peasy advent calendar

So it’s official – the countdown to Christmas is really on, and what better way to get into the spirit with an easy peasy DIY advent calendar. The simplest way to get your household into the festive mood and get you in the spirit of planning that all-important Christmas lunch. We love all manner of creative advent calendars – think outside the box and you can come up with something super-creative that fits in with your Christmas theming. For a no-fuss option, this year we’ve gone with a simple pegged bag countdown, using our glassine bags with a candy cane tucked in for each date. To create this, all you need is some glue and the following from the Miss Bunting shop – easy as 1,2, 3!

– Medium Glassine Bags

– Alphabet Stamp Kit

– Twine (we used our gold glitter twine)

– Mini Pegs

– Red Love Heart Doilies (or the silver or gold metallic medallion doilies, depending on your theme!)

 

1Nov

DIY giant rosettes

DIY giant rosettes

As soon as the faint scent of spring hits the Australian air, it seems you can’t turn the page of a magazine or walk through a department store without getting poked in the face with a feathered fascinator. Springtime down-under is truly synonymous with the spring racing carnival, and with the race that stops a nation kicking off at Flemington this Tuesday, we’ve got the sweetest and easiest DIY for you to try.

Rosettes & ribbons are the language of equestrian carnivals the world over, so using our tissue paper fans we created these giant rosettes – the perfect backdrop for your Melbourne Cup party.

You’ll need:

  • Tissue paper – one for each rosette you plan on making
  • Scissors
  • String & hole puncher
  • PVA or Glue dots or the really sticky gummy double sided tape
  • Stapler
  • Ribbon – around 1m, the widest you can find (we used 5cm satin) in a matching colour to your fan
  • Pictures of horses – we liked the vintage, antique horse style, so just google until you find one that suits 

We trimmed our paper fans down so they were rounded at the edges (our paper fans are a little more pointed, like stars). If you are, make sure you punch another hole at the top and affix some string for hanging as it’s likely you will have trimmed this off.

Print your coloured horse picture – cropping it into a circle approx 15 cm diameter, and cut it out.

Unfurl your tissue paper fan, securing it so it stays assembled. Affix your horse image to the centre. If using PVA, leave to dry overnight.

Trim your ribbon to the desired length  – 2 lengths around 30 – 40 cm, trimming the ends into triangles.

Turn over your rosette and position your ribbon so it hangs out from under the rosette on a slight angle. Staple it into position on the back pleats of the tissue paper fan.

Hang and enjoy – or hand out for best dressed on ground!

 

18Sep

DIY paper doily tealight holders

DIY paper doily tealight holders

These tealight holders are an absolute cinch to make, but they look so gorgeously whimsy – we’ll be making them en masse for a special someone’s wedding coming up in January.

We used doilies from the Miss Bunting shop in silver to match our bride’s colour scheme. Other than that, you’ll also need:

  • PVA – the clear drying stuff
  • Paintbrush
  • Cling film
  • Cooking oil spray
  • Water
  • Rubber gloves – optional

You’ll also need several bowls: one to place upside down as a mould – think larger than a coffee mug, smaller than a cereal bowl. Grab another shallow bowl you won’t mind mixing PVA and water in.

Wrap cling film around the outside of your bowl, place upside-down mould and spray with a little oil. This is simply to make sure nothing gets stuck and you can pull the doily tealight vessel away from the mould easily.

Mix a little water in with the PVA – a ratio of around 3 parts PVA to 1 part water. Immerse a doily completely in the mixture and then mould around your upside down bowl. You’ll need to make folds in the doily in order for it to mould flush against the bowl. Repeat as necessary until the outside bowl is covered, overlapping each doily as you go. Depending on the size of your bowl, we used 3 doilies per tealight holder.

Leave to dry overnight, then the next day, brush with a generous layer of PVA (straight from the bottle, not the diluted version). Dry overnight again and for the best result, repeat this last step once more to create a rigid shell. Leave to dry compleltely.

To remove from the mould, gently pull the cling film away from the bowl, and pull the cling film from the lining of the tealight holder.

Make sure you don’t make yours too small if you intend on placing tealights in them as the heat from the tealight can make them curl up!

And remember never to leave any candle or naked flame unattended.

 

 

2Sep

Travel: Miss Bunting goes to Rome

Or rather,  Miss Bunting eats her way through Italy! Travel blog

For many – myself included – travel and food are inextricably linked, making my one-month sojourn in Italy the holy grail of getaways. Which is fitting really – a landscape littered with an embarrassing amount of religious and architectural riches should also yield such a rich bounty of produce.

Our journey began in Rome, and with the aid of NY Times travel & food contributor Katie Parla and her brilliant blog parlafood.com, we aimed to eat like a local and try traditional trattoria to Michelin star.  These are the most memorable highlights:

Staying in Prati, we inadvertently managed to land right in between the best gelato and coffee we would end up having on our entire trip. Gelateria dei Gracchi was the stuff of legend: rich, creamy and traditional, we knew we were onto a winner by the fact it was only ever locals in line no matter what time of day it was, the 6 times we frequented it (yes, really.)

Sciascia has been a coffee bar since 1919. Get your head around that and you’ll see why they’ve perfected the art of the brew. Sitting here watching the regulars walk in, sip their espresso at the bar while exchanging loud pleasantries and leave all within 2 minutes flat was like watching a juggler take centre stage at the theatre – a one man barista operating 2 epic coffee machines with such deft precision, it was a pleasure just to watch.

An Elle Décor recommendation of a trattoria in Trastavere was good, the highlight being veal ravioli in an orange sauce – the sweetness and depth it adds to a dish without it being a blunt hit of citrus was a revelation. No more will they languish at the bottom of my fruit bowl until I work out where the fruit flies are coming from.

We walked half an hour deep into suburbia to find Pizzarium, a hole in the wall pizza sold by weight and were rewarded with not only incredibly crunchy and spongy pizza base with immaculately conceived toppings, but their incredible fried pasta balls were ridiculous good.

A night wiled away at Vino & Olio was the closest we came to being locals. Literally the only foreigners in this tiny, cosy wine bar – we sampled some incredible reds from all over Italy while tucking into rustic good fare, tapas style.

A 10 course degustation at Il Pagliaccio, a 2 Michelin starred restaurant over the road from Vino & Olio  saw our final night in Rome out with a bang. The sommelier recommended an excellent rosso from Montepulciano from an overwhelming wine list. This paired beautifully with slow cooked ox tail and my other highlight dish, al-dente parcels of pasta that gave way to a burst of melted anchovy in a fresh broad bean ‘soup’.

On our way out of Rome, we stopped off at Gelateria Fatamorgana, an insanely good experimental gelato parlour and I still find myself dreaming of the Basil & Walnut and Fennel, Honey & Licorice in-your-face flavours. Worth the trip to this side of town alone.

Address Book

Gelateria dei Gracchi, Prati Via dei Gracchi, 272, 00192 Rome, Italy

Sciascia, Via Fabio Massimo 80/A, 00192 Rome, Italy

Taverna Trilussa, Via dei Politeama 23, 00153 Rome, Italy

Pizzarium, Via della Meloria 43, 00136 Rome, Italy

Vino & Olio, Pellegrino Via, Rome, Italy

Il Pagliaccio, Via dei Banchi Vecchi 129, a, 00186 Rome, Italy

Gelateria Fatamorgana, Via Lago di Lesina, 9, 00199 Rome, Italy

1Sep

Travel: Miss Bunting goes to Tuscany

While it can be tempting to try and ‘do it all’ in Tuscany, we holed ourselves up in Pienza, a small, yet perfectly formed mediaeval village in central Tuscany and got to know our local area intimately. Staying at La Bandita Townhouse, a beautifully converted nunnery by an ex Sony music exec & his travel-writing wife, all the hard work had been done for us. We carried around their bible of must-do’s religiously; their recommendations giving us a truly authentic insight into Italian countryside living at its best. la_Bandita_Townhouse_95

 

Sette di Vino is a modest and authentic trattoria – its eye-wateringly good grilled pecorino and prosciutto would be worth the trip alone, as too the bean soup served with freshly baked pane.

The Bandita bible pointed us to Tre Cristi in Siena, an excellent seafood restaurant inexplicably miles from sea. Nevertheless, this turned out to be the oldest restaurant in Siena and it’s worth taking the twists and turns to find it: you won’t find this one on the tourist map. A raw fish starter was not what we expected – less sashimi and more ceviche, this was as outstanding as it was fresh. There’s literally nowhere to hide with raw fish – but minced and accompanied only by a smattering of citrus and herbs, this dish was memorable. A slow cooked pigs cheek broth came to the table with plump barley, lightly cooked calamari and prawns. Soup for the soul, this was quite simply, elegantly executed and several layers of excellent.

Not to be outdone, the La Bandita kitchen turns out some beautifully refined food too, and you’d equally have an enjoyable time eating here every night. Try the insanely good prosciutto & buffalo mozzarella starter and my faith in a good tiramisu was restored, thanks to their modern take on this classic.

Our final night in Pienza was the stuff of foodie wet dreams. Sitting in what would be their lounge room, the 12 seat Il Rossellini restaurant was modest, yet served up a fine-dining experience that would be hard to replicate. A husband and wife team, he simply refused to give us the wine we ordered and pointed us to something better. Luckily it was an outstanding 2007 Brunello di Montalcino, a red of distinction, and it’s not hard to see why. My starter – a goose breast carpaccio with onion ‘jam’, orange & pine nuts was extraordinary. My instinct would be ‘more onion jam’, but this was a lesson in restraint and it served only to heighten the subtle flavour of the goose. And the orange, again with the orange – they do things with them I never thought possible. A bowl of huge, fresh porcini foraged early that morning was all the convincing I needed to have that as my secondi, and I was rewarded with an incredible mushroom ‘steak’, simply grilled and lightly seasoned with a hint of fresh mint. Roast guinea fowl rounded out the meal and finished off with a great chocolate fondant pudding  – perfectly molten on the inside and a metaphor for the night. This was not about re-invention; this was about using the best produce available and working with classic dishes executed with skilful precision mastered from years of experience.

Address book

La Bandita Townhouse Corso Rossellino 111, 53026 Pienza, Italy

Sette di Vino, Piazza di Spagna, 1, 53026 Pienza, Italy

Tre Cristi, Viccilo Provenzano 1/7, Siena, Italy

Il Rossellino, Piazza di Spagna, 4, Pienza, Italy

la_Bandita_Townhouse_84 la_Bandita_Townhouse_99la_Bandita_Townhouse_37
Pictures: La Bandita 

Miss Bunting takes a detour to Modena for 3 Michelin Stars

 Modena – the home of Ferrari, balsamic vinegar, Lambrusco and the #3 restaurant in the world, according to the San Pellegrino 50 Best. With such a pedigree, it would be easy to assume Modena might be a little on the flashy side.

It’s not.

A complete surprise, Modena is a sophisticated, jewel-box of a town that is so self-assured, it needs no gimmicks and merely chugs along to it’s own rhythm at a leisurely pace. This is village life as you’d anticipate: elderly men pottering around the city centre squares and chic women looking impossibly chic on bicycles. Even the produce as the beautiful fresh food market were insanely good-looking: plump, fresh, glossy and over-sized, this was some of the best fruit & veg we’d come across.

But to the restaurant we go, it being the only reason we diverted here en-route to Venice, the result of a happy planning accident that saw us booking Osteria Francescana before the 2013 list was released, which bumped it up to just under heavyweights Noma and El Celler De Can Roca. Book well ahead – I’ve no idea what the wait might be now.

First I need to get this out of the way: Miuccia Prada & her husband, with their net worth of some $12.4 billion were on the table next to us. In that context, it would take a meal of excellent proportions to focus me from this somewhat unexpected and spectacular diversion. And it did. Though there were about some 30 sideward glances – play it cool, I did not.

We opted for the ‘Sensations’ degustation – 1 of 3 to try, figuring the only reason you’d come out this way was to try what kind of kitchen experimentation goes on to take out third place.

12 courses, several amuse bouches, 2 bread baskets and a tray of petit fours later we rolled out of there, exhilarated in a belly-aching way. There is no way to describe the experience without sounding like a cravat-wearing foodie wannabe, but in that dining room, the journey Massimo Bottura takes you on makes complete and utter sense. Literally and metaphorically, the real pleasure was his interpretation of the different regions in Italy, starting at the heel in Sicily. An almond granita with a hint of bergamot and coffee bean to accompany 2 macarons: one oyster, one anchovy was as peculiar as it was good. Like many avant garde restaurants – reading it off a menu and tasting it are 2 entirely different things, things that sound like they shouldn’t work absolutely do, the components all working together to heighten or complement other complex flavours. This is brilliant but bonkers, artistic and show-stopping cooking.

The 11 courses that followed were a roll call of mind-blowing epicurean wizadry, as we took a gourmet tour of Italy from our seat in an elegant dining room in Modena. Next to Miuccia Prada, in case you’d forgotten.

Rome & Lazio gave us ‘Where the Ocean Meets the Sea,’ as described by our charming waiter, in the form of an al-dente, wet risotto with an intense flavour that can only be attributed to what would have been a pungent, tasty slow cooked broth of fish stock. This dish hit all the high notes – perfectly cooked and wave after wave of altering layers of flavour, some sweeter than others, this dish was really special.

‘Greens From the Hills’ and ‘From the Bottom of the Garden’ showcased some beautiful produce, including a generous helping of escargot in a vivid green chlorophyll sauce.

An oyster shell that came to the table with a mousse that tasted of oyster and a mouthful of lamb was mind-boggling good, eel glazed in local aged balsamic accompanied by apple jelly and the finest polenta was sensational.

Roast pigeon that look like it had been bludgeoned and served was confronting to look at, but the red glaze and perfectly cooked bird was so good, I charged on knowing each mouthful was probably worth $22.50.

The highlight for me was when our food journey ‘arrived’ in Modena in the form of fois gras ravioli with balsamic and leek. Each parcel was like a flavour bomb going off in your mouth, as each al dente parcel gave way to a burst of fois gras, the night could have ended there and I would have been fully sated, but on it went until the petit fours came out and like an elite athlete, I hauled myself to the finish line triumphantly, credit card ready to take it for the team.

There’s no doubting degustation at one of the top restaurants is an expensive way to dine, but when you have an experience as good as this – where technicality and vision converge and produce something you couldn’t dream up after 12 Lambrusco’s and a bag of magic mushrooms, it’s an experience to savour and remember.

And while I don’t know a whole lot about food, I can appreciate the level of technicality, skill and vision required at this level – and I’m happy to pay for it. If only to see Miuccia again.

Address Book

Osteria Francescana, Via Stella 22, 41121 Modena, Italy

2 10.48.36 pm

never_trust_a_skinny_italian_chef

16Aug

The Amazing Malteser Cake

The Amazing Malteser Cake

I’d seen this little beauty on Pinterest, so I gave it a crack and, well – it’s pretty amazeballs isn’t it? It’s a little on the tricky side to cut, but it’s so worth it. Find the recipe here. A few tips – I substituted Milo in place of the malt powder, figuring it’s got malt in it anyway – that worked just a treat and it was totally yummy. My cake failed to rise well enough to get 3 sliced layers – which seems a few people have had an issue with and I’ll be using a bit of baking powder to help things along next time. That next time will probably be for Mr Bunting’s birthday next month – this one’s a hit with the boys!

14Jul

Bastille Day (or an excuse to eat a plate of Macarons)

Bastille Day (or an excuse to eat a plate of Macarons)

A French national holiday, Bastille Day commemorates the storming of the Bastille which took place on 14 July 1789 and marked the beginning of the French Revolution. While it symbolises the birth of the Republic, it’s also the perfect excuse to indulge our love of Macarons. Cake Pops and Whoopie Pies may have come and gone and replaced by a Cronut, but for us Francophiles, a Macaron is no passing fad . A crisp meringue shell that gives way to a preferably fruit based filling, like most things French – it’s a classic.

Like anything worth doing, Macarons can be a labour of love. If you don’t have a Ladurée down the road, here’s one of our favourite recipes from an old issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller. Failing that, there’s always our gorgeous porcelain Macaron Trinket Holders from the shop – and they’re totally guilt-free! 

And please. A Macaroon is not a Macaron. Anges de Sucre, artisan Macaron specialists in London, describe the difference: a Macaron is made from angels tears and almond meal by unicorn foals, while Macaroons are made with dessicated coconut by your grandmother. Enough said.

Merci Beaucoup.

 

Macarons with White Chocolate & Rasberry Ganache                       

Ingredients

130 gm pure icing sugar

110 gm almond meal

105 gm eggwhite (about 2), at room temperature, left out overnight

65 gm caster sugar

4-5 drops rose food colouring

White chocolate and raspberry ganache

50 ml pouring cream

100 gm white chocolate

45 gm raspberries, coarsely chopped

Method

Process icing sugar and almond meal in a food processor until finely ground, triple-sift into a large bowl and set aside. Whisk 90gm egg white in an electric mixer until soft peaks form (1-2 minutes). Add caster sugar, a tablespoon at a time, whisking continuously until incorporated and mixture is thick and glossy (2- 3 minutes), then add food colouring. Stir in almond mixture in batches until incorporated and mixture slowly slides down sides of bowl when bowl is tilted. Add remaining eggwhite to loosen mixture, spoon into a piping bag with a 1cm plain nozzle, pipe 3cm- diameter rounds of mixture onto heavy baking-paper-lined oven trays, stand until a crust begins to form (4-5 hours).

Preheat oven to 140C. Bake macarons until firm but not coloured, swapping trays halfway through cooking (10-12 minutes), set aside, cool completely on trays.

Meanwhile, for white chocolate and raspberry ganache, bring cream just to the boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat, add chocolate, stand until melted (5 minutes), stir until smooth and glossy. Refrigerate until firm yet still pliable (45 minutes-1 hour) then stir until smooth. Add raspberries, stir to form a ripple effect, then spoon a teaspoon of ganache onto half the macarons. Sandwich with remaining macarons and refrigerate until set. Macarons will keep for 1-2 days refrigerated in an airtight container.

Note:  If fresh raspberries are unavailable, substitute defrosted frozen raspberries.

This recipe (and image) appeared in the July 2009 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller.