Weekend in the Country

MILLBROOK, NY-Wow, talk about timing. It’s a good thing our 2nd Annual Duck Shoot and Lunch was last weekend and not this slushy old messy one. And what a beautiful weekend it was. Spending time with friends; stomping around the countryside in all its autumn glory; shooting some ducks (which become food); and eating and drinking entirely too much.

After the shoot
After the shoot, two of our tired, happy guests make their way to lunch.

After the Saturday shoot, held at the Tamarack Preserve, Tom and I hosted a lunch on the property, deep in the woods by a pond, on the porch of a little cabin there.

Porch at Turkey Hollow
On the porch at Tamarack's Turkey Hollow.

With such a scenic setting, and on a cerulean blue sky day, you don’t need a lot of embellishment. I did spring for dark, olive-y green napkins from Crate & Barrel. At $3.50 apiece it seemed a good little color bang for the buck.
Tables at Turkey Hollow
Pretty fall arrangements, green napkins, and handpainted menus dressed up the tables enough for a casual Saturday, after-the-shoot lunch.

With the addition of Felicity Banford’s seasonal arrangements and my little painted menus and place cards, the table dressed up just fine.
Felicity table arrangement
Felicity Banford's beautiful arrangements of branches, berries, dahlias, dried hydrangeas, and fall fruits remind me why this is my favorite season.

I’d done the menus last year and people seem to like them, so I did them again this year. Sure to become collector’s items, no? … No, of course not. But they are a nice touch, and people like to think you made a fuss for them, but not too much of one – particularly in a rustic, outdoor room.

Menu 2011
The menus also doubled as place cards. I did the original and then copied the others on watercolor paper on my little ol' Hewlett Packard home printer.

Menu 2010
No need to re-invent the wheel. I let last year's menu inspire this year's.

Felicity's wreath
Felicity's beautiful wreath rings a mounted mallard, in honor of the day's activity. The nice thing about wreaths is that they are high, so everyone can see them.

Sunday lunch was at our stylish hosts’ equally stylish country house. Nina Griscom and Leonel Piriano are the consummate, gracious entertainers, and she’s got more style in her little finger than I have in both arms and legs. (BTW, watch for her One King’s Lane sale coming up in November!)

Nina's table, with a centerpiece of moss and funghi in a simple metal container.
Nina's table, with a centerpiece of moss and mushrooms in a simple metal container, and ornamental cabbages in baskets. The bandana napkins are a nice, casual touch. Having the wine on the table is also a thoughtful convenience, whether or not you have help (which they did)-but especially if you don't.

Star local chef Michel Jean, who with wife Patricia founded the acclaimed Hudson Valley restaurant Stissing House, roasted a baby pig that was absolutely delicious. Not something I will try at home, by the way, but that makes it all the more special.

Jean Michel and pig
Chef Jean Michel shows off his roasted baby pig, after several hours in a special outdoor oven.

First course was a kale salad spruced up with pine nuts, dried cranberries, shaved parmesan and a lemony vinaigrette. Kale is such a beautiful deep green color and soooo healthy. It was steamed for just a minute before hand, to bring out the color but keep its satisfying crunch. The sweetness of the berries and nuts were a perfect counterpoint, and the cheese added creaminess. so simple, and divine. The pork was served with its cracklings – the crispy skin and the best part! – along with a cheesy polenta and broccoli rabe.There was also a great green sauce,* made of herbs, mint, pinenuts, garlic, and olive oil, which I could eat by itself with a spoon – and did when no one was looking.

Sunday lunch
Roast pork, polenta, and broccoli rabe make a beautiful plate, punctuated by that delicious bright green sauce.

Dessert was a tarte tatin with a slug of creme fraiche. You could easily approximate this menu at home with a pork roast, or roasted pulled pork, and the broccoli rabe and polenta are easy enough. An apple pie – and you don’t need permission to buy a prepared one – with ice cream is always a hit.

*I’ve written to ask Michel for the sauce recipe. Will post as soon as it lands. You, your roast pork, chicken, beef, fish, vegetables, fingers – whatever you put it on – will thank me, and him, forEVER.

Frances and Libby
Designer Libby Mavrolian on the right, and yours truly.


  1. Wow! It looks like a great weekend.
    Frances you are very beautiful! Are you married?
    That Nina Griscom is quite a number too! Are both of you available???

    Mr Drysdale ( of the California/Beverly Hills Drysdales)
    if you need a banker, please contact me.

  2. I am so jealous! Roast suckling pig? Too good-have not had that in years. How was the hunting? We are still recovering from the snowstorm here in New hampshire.

    1. Thank you Jane! The shooting was really good, thank you for asking. The Tamarack guys did such a good job, and so did the ducks!

  3. Frannie, We love your lunch. Your life is amazing. I think your drawing is great and I would like to draw like you someday. Mary Marshall Martin

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