Tag Archives: Behind the Scenes

Festive Halloween Charcuterie

SpookyCharcuterie4 I chose pickled okra instead of gherkins because they reminded me of a witches' fingers.

Hi Everyone! It’s Nicole, Annette’s web-manager and friend, and I am taking over the blog today to bring you a spooky charcuterie spread for Halloween. Annette and I both love Halloween, and we’re always looking for ways to celebrate. I pulled together this easy, cheesy, festive Halloween charcuterie a few years ago, and it’s still one of my favorite posts.

Over the years, Annette has done some pretty phenomenal charcuterie spreads, and she even has a step-by-step guide to creating one yourself. I used her post as a starting point for my grocery shopping. It was so nice to be able to make a shopping list directly from her post.

SpookyCharcuterie1 The "cauldrons" are actually tiny copper food prep bowls, and the "witches broom" breadsticks are held in a skeleton drinking glass.

One pro tip is to make sure that you get food-safe containers for your own spooky charcuterie spread. The “cauldrons” are actually tiny copper food prep bowls, and the “witches broom” breadsticks are held in a skeleton drinking glass.

SpookyCharcuterie3 The end result is a spooky charcuterie spread that is sure to be a hit at your next party!

As I shopped for remaining accouterments, I kept the Halloween theme in mind. I chose pickled okra instead of gherkins because they reminded me of a witches’ fingers. I added dried apricots (a tip from Annette’s post) because they are a lovely shade of orange. I decided on prosciutto because it’s so fatty and veiny.

The end result is a spooky charcuterie spread that is sure to be a hit at your next party! If you really want to carry the theme throughout, add some festive bottles of red wine. The Prisoner is one of my favorites and quite on-theme, too!

Thanks for having me, Annette, and Happy (almost) Halloween, everyone!

xo, Nicole

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Easy Fall Dessert:: Pumpkin Cupcakes

_FRJ5082 This is the season of all things pumpkin. In fact, you’re probably seeing it everywhere right now, but the truth is, I love pumpkin. I also love cupcakes, and everyone loves butter. With that in mind, I love to whip up these pumpkin cupcakes each year.

These cupcakes are moist, rich, and decadent. The decadence comes from the thick, creamy brown butter frosting. Trust me, it’s as good as it sounds. ‘Tis the season to put pumpkin in and on everything. I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll love these.

Pumpkin Cupcakes
makes 24 cupcakes
You will need:
– 1 cup of sugar
– 1 stick butter softened
– 3 eggs, room temperature
– 1/2  teaspoon vanilla
– 1 1/2  cups flour
– 1/2  teaspoon baking powder
– ½ teaspoon baking soda
– 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
– ½ teaspoon salt
– 1/4 cup milk
– 1 cup of pumpkin puree

To prepare:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

Fill two, 6-cup muffin pans with cupcake liners

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle, place butter and sugar and combine until creamy. Approx. 2-3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, then add vanilla.

In a bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture on low speed, finally add milk.

Pour the batter into the prepared cupcake liners, 3/4 way up the liner. Bake for 20 minutes until inserted knife comes out clean, cool for 30 minutes.

Brown Butter Frosting
You will need:
– 1 1/4 sticks butter
– 5 cups of powdered sugar
– 1 teaspoon vanilla
– 1/4 cup milk

To prepare:
Brown butter on medium heat until lightly toasted. Pour sugar, milk and vanilla in the bowl of a standing mixer. Turn the mixer on slow and add browned butter slowly until the frosting comes together.

*note this frosting has a tough consistency so you will need to apply to the cupcakes with a firm yet gentle touch.

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Slow Food Cheese Event in Bra Italy 2019

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Ciao Tutti! As you may have seen from the complete coverage on my instagram feed, Philip Meeker our chef, and Rachel Ritchie our guest liaison, and I headed to the region of the Piedmont, known for delicious wines like Barolo and Barbaresco. Our destination was Bra, Italy, the Slow Food capital of the world. We wanted a little R&R and lots of cheese, wine and truffles.

As a girl from Wisconsin, you can imagine my pure joy. I was excited to share cheese with the team and few truffles as well. We stayed in Alba, the truffle capital of the world, so with all the food groups covered, we relaxed and treated ourselves to endless aisles of cheese, cheese talks and local makers’ booths. We stayed in an Agriturismo by a local wine maker who had a few rooms to rent on the top floor. In truth, the entire foyer smelled of wine-no complaints from me. The location was great and staying at a working winery was kind of fun.

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We got in around 5 pm in time to do a little aperitivo, but not before stopping at my favorite truffle store, Tartufi Ponzio, to load up on Truffle potato chips. Yes, really, truffle potato chips. They are truly the crack of the potato chip family. You can’t eat just one. The owner was there Gianfranco, a very energetic, and enthusiastic man, especially about truffles. He’s a hoot! He’s taken over the family business, and from what I can see, he has brought it into the 21st century with the utmost care.

There will be a documentary coming out on truffle hunting early next year, so keep your eyes peeled for “The Hunt” and look out for Gianfranco. It will be shown for the first time at the Sundance Film Festival 2020.

Gianfranco showed us all his new products, improved both inside and out. We bought a few more staples to bring back to La Fortezza to share with our guests. As I always do, I asked him where he liked to eat. He immediately told us and picked up the phone to make us a reservation for that night. All set, we said our goodbyes, and told him we hoped he would stop by after closing the store and join us for dessert. The meal was impeccable, more truffles and butter than you could imagine. Divine. GF, as we call him, stopped by for dessert and told us a few stories about truffles and hunting and his family business. All in all, he was quite amusing. Great food, great stories and a great night.

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The next day, we headed to see and eat more cheese than we could have imagined. The festival was huge and would take days to see. We tried cheese from all over the world, all kinds, to the point that we could not eat anymore. Our bellies were full and our feet were hurting which surely means we had an amazing day.

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I will say, most people would say you can’t have enough cheese. Oh but you can. I still cannot think about eating cheese. Vegetables? Yes. Although I never get my fill of truffles. We ate, we drank and we walked and walked all weekend. It was a great little break and mini vaca with the team, but now it’s time to get back to the business of taking care of our workshop attendees. Of course, there will be cheese and there will be truffles, as we love to share.

I highly recommend the slow food cheese festival! It’s in one of my favorite regions in Italy. Piedmont is not to be missed. Tutto il Formaggio. (all the cheese)

xx Annette

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Our First Ever La Fortezza Antiques and Merchants of Italy Shopping Retreat

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Ciao Tutti! We had amazing whirlwind of a week with our first ever La Fortezza Antiques and Merchants of Italy Shopping Retreat. My co-leader Lisa Burnett of Inner Pieces Inc. could not have been a better partner in crime. We hosted 7 lovely ladies and toured them all over the Italian countryside, to shop and meet local artisans and vendors that I love. It was an insiders shopping tour that was both exciting and informative.

Every day there were new destinations and some surprises. We could not have asked for a more fun group of ladies. Even though they did not know each other before, I think some solid bonds were formed. We danced, drank, made pasta and enjoyed the beautiful fall weather on the terrace.

Of course, there was a pizza party where a few of our attendees tried their hand at making pizza in the pizza oven. We loved sharing information about how and why we choose certain props, discussed searching for antiques and loved shopping at my super secret locations. Lisa spent a couple of extra days, so we checked out some of her Italian vendors and hope to expand the shopping experience next year.

We will be conducting this retreat again in 2020 because it had such an overwhelming response when we posted it. Since we still have 50 people on the waitlist from last year, we have decided to do this retreat for 2 consecutive weeks in 2020. If you are interested in joining us and want first dibs sign up for the newsletter. We will be sending a private mailing to our list before the workshop goes public.

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grazie Lisa you’re simply the best! x

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We only have 6 spots available in each retreat, so this shopping retreat very limited. We have decided to vary the schedule in case some of you want to join us for both weeks. We have so much to show you. I cannot express how wonderful it is to meet like-minded shoppers, who share the love of beautiful things. As a prop stylist, I have to say sharing my resources with our groups gives me great joy. Thank you again to my most talented and lovely friend, Lisa. x Let’s shop ’til we drop in 2020.

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Apple Crisp

gluten free apple crisp

In honor of the first week of fall, how about another amazing autumnal recipe?! I love anything apple, and baked apples are my favorite this time of year because they’re in season, so why not use them as much as possible? This is an especially great dish if you’ve been apple picking and are not quite sure what to do with the abundance of apples. Make this apple crisp!

Full disclosure: I love this dish for breakfast with a frothy cappuccino. It’s simply YUMMY! Or serve it as an easy, quick, and great last-minute dessert with vanilla ice cream or whipping cream. Enjoy fall and enjoy the harvest!

Apple Crisp

You will need:

– 8 organic apples, cut into 2 “cubes
– 1 tablespoon flour
– 1 cup oatmeal
– 1 cup flour
– 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
– 3/4 cup sugar + 2 tablespoons for apples
– 1 stick chilled butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

To prepare:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Cut apples into cubes and place them into a bowl. Toss with the 1 tablespoon flour and 2 tablespoons sugar, set aside.

In a bowl, combine the oats, remaining flour, butter, and salt with your fingers or a fork.  Combine the until it becomes a mixture of large crumbs.

Place the apples in a ceramic,10½” x 7″, baking dish and cover with oat crumb mixture. Place dish in the oven on the middle rack for 1- 1 1/2 hours, or until the top is golden brown and the apples are bubbling.

To serve:

Serve warm with ice cream or whip cream topping if desired.

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