Michael Devine: An Invitation to the Garden
Interview: Michael Devine, Author
01 How did your time abroad in Paris influence the way you set the table or entertain at home?
Paris is so influential for me. Since I was a student there I had the opportunity to make a lot of French friends and go to many dinners in their homes. It was amazing to me at the time, how easy they made entertaining seem. And it is. I learned that it is about the mix of people as much as the food. I also developed an awareness of a broad range of types of food, different cooking techniques and gained more self-confidence in my cooking and entertaining style.
02 Has any other travel destination influenced how you entertain at home?
Italy would be second. I am crazy for the simplicity and numerous variations of risotto and of course my favorite Italian dessert is berries and cream.
03 What is the main message of your new book?
The book has three main messages. The first message is that entertaining outdoors can be a four season treat even in the northeast and that great table settings don’t have to sacrifice beauty for price. Secondly, any of the produce for the recipes in the book came from the garden. Just because it is a small garden doesn’t diminish the opportunity to grow your own food and enjoy a beautiful secondary living space. I believe these points are particularly relevant today because of the real concern for the origin of all our food. Growing your produce own really has so many benefits including greater control and a really abundant source of organic produce.
04 What can always be found on your table when you entertain at home?
Beautiful centerpieces are a must in our house when we entertain. From very simple single stems for casual last minute meals to much more elaborate arrangements for more formal meals. One thing that almost never shows up is bread. I shun it in order to indulge in dessert, which is my favorite course of any meal.
05 If you were hosting a garden party, where is the best place to buy flowers for your table?
There are two places in New York that are great sources. Pearl River on lower Broadway is full of fun colorful accessories and is my first choice after the New York Flower market. Located on 28th street in Manhattan it’s a treasure trove of more than flowers. The array of party decorations is amazing. If you can’t find it in one of the shops that line the street between Seventh and Sixth Avenue it probably doesn’t exist.
05a Where is the best place to buy a dessert, if you are not making it yourself?
I always make dessert, however a good source in a pinch would be the French outpost of the master boulangere, Eric Keyser, at Broadway and 21st street in the Flatiron District of New York. His cakes are amazing and so traditionally French. The Paris Brest is one of my favorites.
06 How would you describe your design aesthetic when it comes to creating a tablescape?
I really like layered and detailed tablescapes. The minimalist tablescape isn’t really my style. I always believe the more detailed the better and the extra effort always pays off.
07 What is the significance of dining outdoors to you?
My garden is almost the raison d’etre for having a place in the country. So naturally I want to be able to enjoy every minute of it all season long.
08 What is next for you?
Next? Life is full of surprises so I never try to look too far ahead. I would like to do another book and perhaps add a line of flatware and table linens to my collection.
Photo Source: Rizzoli New York