Eerie Elegance

A dark & delicious autumn gathering

Fall2016__0225I’m pulling the curtain back on a lush fall gathering that has a dark side. It’s a subtly haunting take on one of my all-time favorite holidays — Halloween! I like to call this genre of entertaining “eerie elegance.” Visually, this autumnal scene lives somewhere between goth and gorgeous. The invite features ripe persimmon cocktails, a rustic mushroom tart (with a spine-tingling backstory), personal monogrammed cheeseboards, and a dark decadent chocolate Bundt cake smothered in blackberries.

Unsettling Table Setting 
The Halloween table is layered in shades of gray velvet and black, and decorated with rich arrangements in haunting hues of aubergine. Eggplant, artichokes, and ornamental cabbages are paired with fall flowers and foliage. For a lavish look I added black feathers, deep plum lilies, fall berries, copper ice buckets, and pops of eye-catching orange.

Fall2016__0296DIY Monogrammed Cheeseboards 
I monogrammed these individual mini cheeseboards with a wood burning tool from the craft store, and added black chalk name tags. Easy!

Rose Cabbages
Try hanging rose cabbages from chandeliers, roots and all. The effect is, well, kind of creepy.

Paint it Black
A small can of spray paint creates a little black magic on inexpensive fresh market greenery, and black chalk paint transforms a bright orange Cinderella pumpkin into a dark fairytale.  

Rustic Mushroom Tart

For me, fall and mushrooms are a beautiful and soulful combo. As a kid, on many wet and foggy fall Pacific Northwest weekends, we would take family day trips and go mushrooming in Washington-area forests with my Italian-born grandmother, Nettie, in the lead. She knew her mushrooms. A bucket and butter knife in hand, I would shadow my grandmother through the dense and misty forests in search of the delectable morsels. On particularly chilly fall mornings, my ever-stylish grandmother would wear her wool coat with a fur collar. Mushrooming season happens to coincide with deer-hunting season. You know where this is going, right? Shots rang out. Grandma and I scampered out of the forest, clutching our pails. Close call, but all was well. We relived the hair-raising event that evening as we cleaned and sautéed our well-earned mushrooms in a little olive oil, fresh parsley, and red pepper flakes.

Fall2016__0145

The Dough

  • 2½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter chilled, and cut into small pieces
  • ¼ to ½ cup ice water

Place all ingredients, except the water, in a food processor and pulse until just combined. With the machine running, add the water, a little at a time, until the dough forms a ball. Divide in half and pat into two disks. Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

The Filling

  • Eight Chanterelle mushrooms, halved lengthwise
  • Fresh parsley, chopped
  • Fresh thyme
  • Red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup ricotta
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • Olive oil
  1. Sauté Chanterelles in a few tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle with parsley, thyme, pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste. Sauté until just softened.
  2. In a small bowl, combine ricotta, Parmesan, lemon zest, and a drizzle of olive oil, Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Roll out one dough disk into a 12-inch circle. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  4. Spread out the cheese mixture, leaving a two-inch border. Layer on the mushrooms. Fold the dough edges inward to form a rustic border.
  5. Bake at 400 degrees for approximately 25 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the filling oozes.

Fall2016__0160Time-Saving Tip
I went with Betty Crocker for the Bundt cake. I made it fancy by drizzling the top with a little melted chocolate, brandy, and blackberries.

The Tell-Tale Tart
I placed the rustic tart on an antique breadboard edged with cheesecloth for a ghostly feel.

Fall2016__0256Persimmon Drop

Check out the amazing color of this fall signature cocktail! The instructions are chalked out in bistro markers, creating an artsy backdrop for the Halloween bar. Guests can snap a picture to easily recreate the cocktail recipe later. The fancy craft cocktail is inspired by the stand of persimmon trees in our garden just beyond the dining room windows. I flavored vodka with a few slices of fresh persimmon, and created a quick persimmon puree. I added a cup of the puree to my simple syrup recipe. (1 cup sugar to 1 cup water, simmered on the stove, then cooled.) I used freshly squeezed lemon juice and garnished the cocktail with a blackberry on a small apple tree branch “pick.”  

Haunted Houseware
Each place setting features stark black dinnerware and linens, and touches of copper, which highlight the goblets filled with blood red wine.

Fall2016__0288Cheap Creep
Recycled wine bottles are sprayed black and repurposed to hold taper candles dripping with wax.

Get the Look
Gray velvet throw from Haley’s Cottage Kirkland. Ingredients from Metropolitan Market. Wood burning tool from Ben Franklin Crafts and Frames.  Cheeseboards from Cost Plus World Market. Hair by SEVEN the Salon, Senior Stylist Chu.

See Monica Hart’s design, recipe, and entertaining ideas in every issue of 425 magazine, and on her website.

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