The romance and elegance of the gilded age era Pratt Mansion and the original two joined hearts of Olive and Harry in “The Forgotten Room” inspired my table. Love letters, a large ruby filigree pendant necklace, artist’s brushes, paint tubes and an imagined mini portrait of Olive were represented. (See the post “The Forgotten Room” Inspired Bookclub Table)
The cocktail and menu were inspired by
Lucy, John and Philip’s generation in the 1920’s.
FROM THE 1920’S ERA: Philp invites Lucy to have a drink with him at a speakeasy. “The cat’s pajamas are the bees knees” was the password at the door of the bar. After a few drinks Philip tries to kiss Lucy. This caused Lucy to feel hideous shame. Philip Schuyler stared at her in genuine consternation. Or perhaps that was just the gin, slowing his wits, wrinkling his forehead. “I never thought – You’re a girl in a million, Lucy. Has anyone ever told you that? You’re the bee’s knees. The cat’s meow.” Grandly, he declared, “You’re the best secretary I’ve ever had.”
It is our tradition to start with a little cocktail, so I searched for one on pinterest that referenced “the cat’s meow or the bees knees”. I found the recipe below, but it was extremely strong, much stronger that I know my group would appreciate. So much to the original mixologist’s displeasure, I added a lot more honey syrup, some grand marnier and tonic water or club soda to water it down before adding the champagne floater. I also strained the lime juice (not in the original instructions) to remove the pulp. I would suggest you make the drink ahead of time and test taste to ensure the flavors and strength of the drink will not be too overpowering for your guests to talk about the book or drive home safely! My guests said it was very honey forward, and tasty – they seemed to enjoy my doctored version.
Cat’s Meow Cocktail with the Bee’s Knees
Ingredients: (See my notes above for changes made)
- 2oz (60mls) Appleton 8-year-old rum (I used Bacardi Golden)
- 0.75oz (22mls) Lime Juice
- 0.5oz (15mls) Honey Syrup
- dash Angostura Bitters
- Top with Champagne
Garnish with a sliver of honeycomb (I made a cocktail pick with little bees).
Add the first four ingredients to an ice-filled shaker, then strain into a coupe. Top with Champagne.
Cocktail picks made with Dollar Tree picks and craft store bees to and the “bees knees” flourish.
I made a pitcher full of the base cocktail before everyone arrived and place it in the refrigerator. This saved time when I was ready to serve and I just had to fill the glasses with the mixed drink and top it with a little champagne.
Soup and Salad
“Defiantly, Lucy ordered lobster Newburgh. If Philip Schuyler wanted a steak, he could have one himself.”
My meeting menu is usually composed of a soup and salad. As a nod to Lucy’s decision to have “lobster” at Delmonico’s, I served a small rich creamy bowl of lobster bisque with a citrus fennel salad as a fresh crispy bite to balance out the richness of the bisque. Each guest received a warm mini baguette straight from the oven.
Lobster Bisque and Fennel Citrus Salad
Lobster Bisque Recipe
I used the recipe in the above link. In order to form 8 to 10 servings, I bought one fairly large boiled whole lobster and four uncooked tails. I found the lobsters on sale in the freezer section at my grocer discounted to make this affordable. The meat from the claws and larger tail on the whole lobster along with four other tails provided sufficient meat to fulfill the required servings.
I doubled the ingredients in the bisque. I cooked the lobster tails per the recipe and once all of the meat was pulled from the shells, I made the stock/broth with the shells from all of the lobster shells (except the body) along with a carrot, a celery stalk and half an onion.
I followed the recipe exactly up to pureeing the simmered soup. The bisque is so rich that I felt it needed some acid, so I added the zest and juice of one large lemon. I stopped at this pointed (without adding the cream) allowing the pureed soup to cool and then placed it in a sealed container and placed in the refrigerator until the meeting. (Two days later). An hour prior to the meeting, I placed the bisque in a large pot and added two cups of cream and slowly warmed. I placed the butter and garlic in a separate small skillet and slowly warmed (careful not to burn the garlic), then gently tossed the chopped lobster in the garlic butter. I was unable to find fresh tarragon, so I used fennel fronds (from the fennel bulbs used for the salad) to garnish.
The lobster bisque is so rich that I made a light fennel citrus salad to accompany it. Nothing complicated…
Fennel Citrus Salad
2 fennel bulbs (shaved on a mandolin or very thinly sliced)
3 large navel oranges (segmented)
1 bag baby arugula
1/3 cup chopped toasted almonds
2 shallots (finely chopped)
4 tablespoons rice vinegar (or until shallots are covered)
Allow the two ingredients to marinate for about 20 minutes
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
Vigorously whisk until emulsified
salt and pepper to taste
I found mini single serving French baguettes at Trader Joe’s. I didn’t realize how small they were until I got them home and opened the package (of 6). They are the perfect size for each guest to receive one each and take only 8-10 minutes to warm up in the oven (frozen) or in an air fryer. Since they were hot from the oven, I made little paper napkin cozies to wrap around each so my guests wouldn’t burn their fingers. They’re perfect for one serving without the hassle of tearing or cutting a larger loaf into pieces and everyone having their hands on the loaf.
Chocolate Icebox Cake with Caramel Cream
“They stopped at a street cart for ice-cream sandwiches, Mr. Ravenel teasing Lucy for the dainty way she licked the ice cream from the sides first, so the melting treat wouldn’t drip on her gloves.”
Dessert was inspired by Lucy and John’s day spent together riding the carousel and eating ice cream sandwiches. I chose a vintage recipe from the 1920’s modernized by Zoë François, and served a slice with chocolate dipped strawberry hearts.
This is the chocolate wafer cookies and caramel whipped cream (after an overnight stay in a loaf pan in the refrigerator) before the top coat of vanilla whipped cream is added. The concept is for the whipped cream between and around the cookies should soak into the cookies overnight, softening the cookies into a cakelike texture. While mine set in the refrigerator for a good 12 hours, the cookies were still a little too crispy and make it difficult to cut, but I got exactly 8 slices. Regardless it was still delicious.
Below is the final cake with the vanilla whipped cream outer coat, shaved salted chocolate and chocolate dipped strawberry hearts.
How often do you purchase a container of strawberries where every single berry is perfectly ripe and sweet? I always look forward to these beautiful Louisiana jewels from Baglio Farms, LLC in Independence, Louisiana. Simply cut the stem into a “V” to remove and then dip into melted bittersweet chocolate . Valentine hearts to simply eat or garnish a dessert.
What’s hanging from the chandelier??? First let me explain that I left the evergreen branches from the holidays there since Olive and Harry’s final days together were during Christmas and New Year’s Eve. My daughter saw this ornament idea that I couldn’t resist (after Christmas).
By this time all of its components were on clearance, so they cost nearly nothing to make. Inside are small replicas of the books my club read in 2022 (the year charm on top) by printing very small images of the cover for both the back and front of each book so that when it flipped is shows the same book cover. A sheet of foam (99 cents) was used to represent the pages. Unfortunately, when folding each little book to push it through the opening of the clear ornament, the paper crumbled. I told my group they look like worn out paperbacks (HA! HA!). Since we only read about 5 books a year, if I would have used thinner foam it would have been easier to insert the little books, but it would have looked like hardly anything was inside and they would have settled too flatly. I gave each of my members one of these at the end of this meeting.
Several years ago, I learned that the legendary chef and long time friend of Julia Child, Jacques Pépin published a book with sketches and art (from his hand) along the edges of the pages. When open faced the left page provides a place for guests to write a note and or sign and the opposite page on the right provides a space for noting the type of gathering and recording the menu. I host several luncheons and dinners each year, so I loved the idea of this book. Prior to each gathering I search for pages with art that in some way relates to our gathering.
Menus: A Book for Your Meals and Memories by Jacques Pépin.
It was fun to find this page with what resembled a vintage looking sketch of a couple that appears to be a bride and groom encircled by a heart. This of course was a great place to record our day for this book.
Our group enjoyed this book and appreciate the talented authors that composed this mind bending, hopeful, love mystery. I hope the ideas shared from this book club meeting with inspire you for your next book club. Remember to follow or subscribe to see future book club, wine club and entertaining inspiration! Thank you for stopping by!