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You had me at “Alfresco”

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Ahhh, Summer in Santa Fe.  Everything about it is so wonderful, qué no? My favorite thing about summer here is dining alfresco.  Oh, to be sitting under a portal, cool breeze on your skin, sipping a fabulous cocktail as the sun dips below the horizon. There’s really nothing better than enjoying a meal with friends as laughter bubbles into the dusk and the stars begin to peek out of the cooling blue sky. I had the pleasure of working with my good friend Shanti to bring such a night to life.  She is a wonderful chef and wanted to create a lovely dinner party in her backyard. I brought in the décor, and we designed a menu that would highlight the bounty of the Santa Fe local harvests and treat the guests to a delectable and beautiful celebration.

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First, we started with a cocktail. We served a prosecco cocktail with a splash of rosé Lillet, grapefruit soda and lavender-infused simple syrup. Let me tell you, they were amazing! We also served a Basil-infused martini with basil straight from the Shanti’s garden.

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Along with the fabulous sips, guests nibbled on chilled watermelon bites with feta and fresh chopped mint. Is your mouth watering yet?

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I created a tabletop filled with festive, rich color. Silk Dupioni runners from Thailand were layered on the table to bring punches of teal, magenta and saffron to the table. They coordinated beautifully with the fuchsia napkins. Citron bud vases filled with Crespedia dotted along the table with local dahlias set in low bud vases.

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Each setting received an individual demi-baguette from a local bakery, wrapped with parchment and tied with teal raffia. We decided to serve individual baguettes because…

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…we had an heirloom tomato bar! It was complete with gooey Burrata mozzarella, flavored olive oils, aged balsamic vinegar and specialty sea salts. There was also fresh chopped basil, sopresatta and fried sliced of bacon! Guests served a thickly sliced slab of tomato and decorated it with all of the fixings their heart desired. So, of course, what better way to sop up the leftover goodness than with a fresh baked baguette of your own! Oh my goodness, I can taste it now…it was heaven!

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Shanti is an amazing chef and pours her heart into each dish she creates. Her meals always use fresh ingredients and are thoughtfully prepared–if I could eat at her house everyday, I would! These soup shooters were also served as an appetizer and believe me, they were as delicious as they were beautiful. We enjoyed a roasted red beet gazpacho and a chilled avocado soup with spicy Pepitas.

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She roasted local Shishito peppers from the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market and they were topped with edible violas for a beautiful visual contrast.

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Along with the heirloom tomato bar, guests dined on herb-garlic grilled eggplant, a white bean and sage salad, home-made icebox pickles, a lemon-ricotta asparagus tart, assorted cheeses, and the most beautiful watermelon radishes you ever did see! Since I’m a sucker for signage, I calligraphied little tags to highlight each amazing element of the vignette.

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I mean, that color, c’mon!

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We plunked bottles of rosé down the table and let guests serve themselves.  The table was bountiful and the company was adorable!

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The best part was as the sun began to set, the twinkle light above began to glow and the candles flickered among the glass. There’s just something about that light that gets me every time.

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Then there was dessert! Shanti whipped up the most decadent 6-layer lemon chiffon cake, complete with edible pansies and orchids as the garnish. To complement dessert, guests sipped on a delightfully fizzy moscato that we served in colorful Moroccan tea glasses.

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We also commissioned specialty peach-mango-coconut paletas for an after dinner treat. I just love the diagonal two-tone.

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Even though summer is coming to an end, I am so thankful for evenings like these. Thank you Shanti for the opportunity to create with you and to have the pleasure of enjoying such a beautiful meal! Goodbye summer, ’til next year!

Featured image, Cameron Johnson, All other photos, Andy Johnson

 


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