Wednesday, November 21, 2012


 The Avenue that never really changes. As you head down Worth Avenue all the way to the end, you will come upon the charming Via Mizner. Make a right, and at the end you will find...

Tabletop, bedding, childrens clothing and gifts lure you into the Leta Austin Foster Boutique like a siren's song.

While in Florida I had a visit with Leta Austin Foster and her daughter India. As a Palm Beach interior designer of elegant and comfortable interiors, owner of a home boutique filled with the most beautiful tabletop around, and mother to three grown gals all in the business of design, I wanted to take the opportunity to gather some entertaining advice. She has set glorious tables for some of the best party givers over the last 25 plus years, and carries charming hostess gifts season after season.  In addition to her design work, she generously shares her musings and vast design wisdom as well as her love of mayonnaise (always use Hellmans!) on her blog, Decorating With Sheets. As we sat over coffee the duo shared their experiences with me. Covering both ends of the spectrum, I got a great sense of what it is like to attend a holiday chez Foster.  Sharing her tips on everything from the right candles to use to the best  post-Thanksgiving dish to take advantage of leftovers, here are her wise words of wisdom.

Custom hand-embroidered monograms of every conceivable design are on display to mix and match colors

Beautiful brown and white Isis China can mix well with colors

 Tiny porcelain veggies make a sweet gift and also look pretty mixed in with real veggies on the tabletop

 An assortment of Printery, Bernard Maisner and Picketts Press papers and place cards for saying thank you in style

Leta's Tips for Setting the Table:
- When it comes to setting the table, use a felt liner or old quilt under the tablecloth to keep sound down and protect the table
- You don't have to buy a new tablecloth every holiday, use what you have or pick up an Indian or ethnic cloth that does double duty working on and off the table as a throw or scarf
- Don't forget about the grocery store when it comes to arrangements. Make an arrangement of fruit or vegetables instead of flowers if they are not easy to come by. Try squash down the center of the table, pomegranates and other interesting seasonal selects for their varied color and shape. Be sure to put protective plastic underneath so the protective finish on the wood does not get ruined.
- When picking colors to work with rich fall tones work well- brown and white china with touches of orange or red read holiday.
- When it comes to lighting everyone looks better in candlelight. Hurricanes and photophores cast a beautiful glow off the glass.
- Stay away from scented candles on the table as they will interfere with the flavors. Paraffin has something in it that affects your taste buds and gives of black smoke, so use beeswax that doesn't drip and trim the wicks before every use to minimize smoke signals.

A gracious formal yet inviting New York City dining room

A country dining room with historical details

 A Palm Beach dining room in fresh blues

Photos courtesy of Leta Austin Foster
A Long Island dining room with Swedish accents on the water, recently published in Traditional Home

Cooking and Serving:
- The best parties tend to serve food buffet style or French Service where dishes get passed. Just make sure to seat your guests with enough room in between so the server can reach the plate and avoid awkward angles.
- What is the secret to the best pie crust? Lard, because it really brings out the flavor.
- Is there a one pot dish that utilizes leftovers easily? Turkey Tetrazzini is easy and tasty.  Just chop turkey, sautee mushrooms, butter, a bit of milk and gravy in a pan. This is where some people like to add a cup of white wine and some chicken broth.  Let it reduce then create a rue. Cook spaghetti separately then add it to  the turkey in a low dish. Top it with Parmesan cheese and stick it in the oven for 25 minutes at 350 degrees.

The Big Clean Up:
- How do you clean a pot? Soak it in water, the hotter the better. It's really that simple.
- Stay away from pots with coated surfaces, when used with high heat multiple times they give of noxious stuff.
- If candles drip on napkins or cloths, stick them in the freezer and the wax will lift right off.
- If red wine gets spilled, pour table salt on the stain and create a damp paste and let it sit. The stain will lift out.
- Grease removes grease stains, or you can place a paper towel over the stain and iron it to lift it out.
- Club soda is great for removing stains and dog mishaps.

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