I recently had the privilege of attending a lovely event in Raleigh, North Carolina, celebrating the launch of Clyde Oak. The garden design company makes and sells rustic gardening tools and accessories (like “urban farm” seed kits and gardening bags), as well as their own line of organic garden-based cocktail mixers called White Whale. The dinner was the brainchild of Clyde Oak founder Corey Mason and his wife Shelley (pictured below), and Mike and Megan Gilger, the husband-and-wife duo behind The Fresh Exchange blog and Wild Measure design studio. The Gilgers regularly host Simple Evening dinners in their home state of Michigan, collaborating with local chefs and artisans, and they decided to take the show on the road to create a farm-themed Simple Evening in Raleigh.
The party was held at Videri, an airy brick-walled bean-to-bar chocolate factory in downtown Raleigh, with farm-to-table fare by Chef Jake Wolf of Capital Club 16. All ingredients were sourced from Commonplace Cooperative farm, and the tables were handcrafted from reclaimed wood by Justin Johnson and Matthew Cronheim of Arrowhead Collective. The amazing Jenn Elliott Blake styled the table; in lieu of floral centerpieces, she planted herbs in an assortment of antique glass bottles, and for each place setting, she included a piece of slate with Clyde Oak’s motto (borrowed from a Woody Guthrie song) “This Land is Your Land” handwritten by Megan. Natural wood stumps were used as chairs and torn strips of denim strung above the table. A vintage American flag completed the look.
Before dinner, Corey’s friend and business partner Dave Staples (pictured below) mixed White Whale cocktails, each with tongue-in-cheek names like Auntie’s Old Fashioned, The Filthy Liar, and Your Older Brother. The cocktails were served with Jake’s fantastic hors d’oeuvres: crostini with classic Southern pimento cheese and another with sauerkraut and sausage. Everyone sat down at the communal table for a buffet-style meal, including German-inspired dishes like schnitzel sandwiches, spaetzle with wild mushrooms, cucumber dill salad, shaved carrot salad, and an all-American grilled cheese with farm-fresh kale. For dessert, everyone enjoyed Videri’s fabulous hand-made chocolates (and more cocktails!) and danced to tunes spun by local DJ Masokix.
The evening was certainly a labor of love, pulled together by a tight-knit group of friends and co-collaborators. I left inspired—to get my hands dirty, to start my own urban garden, and to take Raleigh’s creative, communal spirit back with me back into my day-to-day life.
Mind your manners when checking out these plates by Pen and the Pixel! London-based illustrator and designer Emma Houlston created these plates as an homage to scenes from the Harrow Ladies Luncheon Club from John Betjemen’s 1973 documentary Metro-Land. While I don’t quite grasp all of the references, I do adore the sentiments on each plate. After all, how many times have you been chastised by your horn-rim bespectacled grandma about your elbows?
Valerie and Katie, the duo behind the Vietnamese street food operation Rice Paper Scissors, tipped us off to The Perennial Plate when they shared A Taste of Vietnam with us for the Screen Play column in Issue No. 11. The Perennial Plate is a weekly documentary series focused on socially responsibly and adventurous eating. Each week, chef Daniel Klein and producer Mirra Fine take viewers on tours of the culinary scenes in locations like Sri Lanka, and India in addition to Vietnam. The videos are a beautiful, face-paced glimpse of each location. And we have to agree with Valerie and Katie when they say the five-minute look at Vietnam’s food culture—from the markets full of fresh fish and exotic vegetables to the food carts winding through the city—left them wanting to book a flight. We’d like to go, too!
San Francisco-based artist Jen Garrido can be described in one word: effervescent. And I mean that both personally and artistically! I had the great joy of meeting Jen in her studio, where she regaled me with stories about her beautiful baby daughter, spilt paint, and the adventures of balancing motherhood and art. Jen is bubbly and happy, qualities which I genuinely believe can be witnessed in her work. A real go-getter, Jen rarely sketches first. Instead, she prefers to dig right in and just get started painting. When I visited her studio, she had stacks upon stacks of hand-bound sketchbooks full of her vibrant, undulating work. I think I could spend hours sifting through them all … and still never decide which is my favorite! Using oil and acrylic paints, Jen often pairs neon brights with muddy, toned down colors. Nature-based forms are almost rhythmic in feel, but also very modern. Jen pulls a lot of inspiration from vintage prints and artwork she finds at flea markets. She is also inspired by other artists, such as Keltie Ferris, Amy Sillman, and Charline Von Heyl.
This week we’re sharing another recipe featured in the Simply the Best story from Issue No. 11, in which we asked several photographers about their favorite dishes. This panzanella reminds photographer Melina Hammer of warm days in her mother’s garden as a child. It’s easy to understand why with the handfuls of freshly picked basil and vine-ripened tomatoes. If you have these summer essentials growing in your garden—or have access to them at a farmer’s market or store—this might be the perfect thing to make this weekend. We plan to make it all summer long.
The success of this salad is in the quality of the ingredients. Look for heirloom tomatoes that burst with juice and flavor, as well as great bread and fresh herbs. The combination of these is such a rewarding—and simple—meal you’ll want to eat over and over again.
1 loaf of bread (I used challah, but any country loaf will do)
large handful of shallots
a number of perfectly ripe heirloom tomatoes*
good extra virgin olive oil
aged balsamic vinegar
large handful of basil leaves
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
*I like a variety of hues and flavors—like the savory, intensely juicy Cherokee Purples and bright, acidic Green Zebras
Tear loaf of bread into bite-sized pieces. In a cast-iron skillet over medium heat, fry bread in olive oil. Peel shallots and cut into large wedges. In a bowl, toss shallots with olive oil, then grill on all sides. Cut tomatoes into bite-sized chunks.
Once all ingredients are ready, combine on a large serving platter, and dress with the balsamic and olive oil, and scatter with a bit of large flake sea salt, cracked pepper, and the basil leaves. Make enough for guests to have seconds, because everyone will ask for more.
New York-based Melina Hammer‘s love for eating well and cooking led her to focus on food photography, and a bit of lifestyle and travel photography as well. She blogs about her latest culinary adventures at lickingtheplate.com.