Lila Turns One !

My cousin, Rachel, is a beautiful redhead. She married Ted, also a redhead. When they announced that they were expecting a baby girl, it was natural to assume that she would be a towhead blond, right ? Ha ! Not even close…

Rachel and Ted’s wedding

Facetiousness aside, I had plans to sew something for little Lila, but Rachel had an unusual request in regards to dictates of dress: she did not want anything that was blatantly pink or blue and was planning on keeping things “gender neutral.” The challenge was accepted !

Rachel and Ted’s gender reveal

The concept of creating a girl outfit that was devoid of pink was more of a struggle than I imagined. Thankfully, an idea popped into my mind: Rachel and Ted had decorated Lila’s nursery in a nature theme. Yes ! I could easily fashion something that evoked the colors of nature ─ soft greens, creams, and maybe even a splash of burnt sienna. When I came across this printed cotton fabric, I knew I had my answer…

I fondly referred to this material as “peach squirrels” and knew it would be appropriate for Lila’s soon-to-be hair color. It checked all the boxes for my outfit. Now it was time to sew…
Using the same children’s pattern that served as the bedrock for Hope’s baby clothes, I opted to sew a romper since they can be classified as unisex.

The bodice was cut from the peach squirrels fabric while the bottom bloomers fit perfectly onto a tranquil sage green print. Not only was the outfit to be neutral, but also on trend with color blocking.

Sweet details, like bow tie pockets and back closure, made for a fun experience. I especially enjoyed utilizing my serger to finish the seams cleanly.

Here’s what the inside looked like before stitching the bodice and pants together…

And then… voilà ! A nature themed romper !

Was the romper, with its bloomer pants and bow ties, really gender neutral ? That’s debatable. Nevertheless, I was pleased at my attempt and even more thrilled to finally behold Lila wearing the creation. Here she is during her 12-month-old photo shoot:

A one-year-old in a one-of-a-kind… What a cutie !

Toi, Toi, Toi,

Mary Martha

Thank you to Rachel and Ted for allowing me to use these pictures of your sweet little girl !

Birthday Blues (and Purples, too !) ─ Matching Birthday Dresses

Have you ever come across an object that so uncannily embodies the persona of someone you know that you almost have to do a double take ? This is exactly what occurred as I was thumbing through an issue of “Julie’s Picks” swatch club one summer afternoon.

There it was: a royal blue burnout velvet that had me screaming inside my head, “Faith !!!!”

Faith has an affinity for blue (and royal blue in particular) the way I have an alliteration affinity (and am an absolutely ardent advocate about appropriate and ample application !). When I spotted an additional royal purple colorway listed on the page, the wheels in my head began to cycle at rapid RPMs. Matching dresses !

Was I being irrational ? After all, I have never met Faith in person and trying to do a fitting online seemed impossible. But that didn’t matter… it was destiny and as soon as the fabrics became available, I snatched up several yards of each.

Originally, I envisioned this duo of dresses for Christmas, but with no opera outfits to conjure, my schedule was left wide open. Since Faith and I share September birthdays that are 6 days apart, it seemed like an appropriate deadline and perfect birthday present. Birthday dresses, it is !

Now came the tricky part: choosing a pattern style that would suit two completely different figures ! Because of the low cost, I turned to Lekala patterns since I knew that they offered customized PDF patterns based on individual measurements for a bargain. Velvet begs for the opportunity to be draped and ruched so the faux wrap style of #4078 was my top choice. The V-neck and triangular inset promised a slimmer appearance, which is desired by all.

Agreeing to the style and process, Faith sent her measurements and I began to work… but first, a detour. Since the almost-neon purple ITY knit I ordered for the lining of my dress was ill-matched to the deep plum of the purple velvet, I decided to use the ITY knit for a mock-up, which I wore to Jonas Kaufmann’s concert in July.

The mock-up proved two things: 1) the dress needed to be looser in the bust and upper arms, and 2) the hem could be lengthened just a smidge to cover the knee, as per Faith’s request. This was done for the real deal. Taking precautions, I cut out the patterns with extra seam allowances, but sewed at only a ¼” seam. Just a tip: cut your stretch velvets with the right sides facing each other… it’s too slippery the other way !

So was the grand plan pulled off without a hitch ? Yes ! Cutting it close, I mailed Faith her dress just days before her birthday, holding my breath to learn of its fit or misfit. It was a gamble, but I heaved a mighty sigh when I received word of its perfection. Whew !

Faith chose to style her dress casually with leggings and boots and with coordinating accessories. As for me, I had the professional modes in mind and added gold jewelry and stockings to complement a dressed up business look.

This was an accomplishment I will always remember: sewing my first fitted project for someone, virtually. The moment was all the more relished by the satisfactory result and the shared bond of two friends with matching birthday dresses.

Toi, Toi, Toi,

Mary Martha

Bavarian Apple Torte

Shoved deep in my mother’s old decoupage recipe box is a brown splattered index card with instructions written on front and back. In the time leading up to fancy dinner parties or special occasions, the card was always sought with expediency. That prized recipe was for Bavarian Apple Torte and originally came from my great grandmother, who was of direct German descent.

My great-grandmother, Claire

When the occasion arose for Jonas Kaufmann’s concert in Bavaria, there was no better choice than the regionally appropriate dessert for our small watch party. And now I’m sharing the favorite recipe below in case you need a simply elegant dessert to impress your guests or have an insatiable hankering to visit Bavaria.

Ingredients

Crust:
½ C butter
¼ tsp. vanilla
1/3 C sugar
1 C flour

Filling:
1- 8 oz. package of cream cheese, softened
¼ C sugar
1 egg
½ tsp. vanilla

Topping:
1/3 C sugar
½ tsp. cinnamon (or more — ¾ – 1 tsp.)
4 C peeled apple slices (any kind)
¼ C sliced almonds

Instructions

Cream butter, vanilla, and 1/3 cup of sugar. Blend in flour. Spread dough onto bottom and sides of springform pan.
(*For easier cleanup, I place a sheet of parchment paper over the bottom of the springform pan and secure it with the metal ring that goes on top. This helps the torte slide off the pan if you do not want the metal bottom of the pan going to an event or if you are giving the torte as a gift.)

Parchment paper covering the pan

Combine softened cream cheese and ¼ cup of sugar; mix well. Add egg and ½ tsp vanilla. Mix and pour into pastry lined pan.

The crust and the filling

Combine 1/3 cup of sugar and cinnamon. Toss apple slices in sugar and cinnamon mixture. Spoon apple mixture over cream cheese layer. Sprinkle with sliced almonds.

Bake 10 minutes at 450°F. Reduce heat to 400°F. Continue baking for 25 minutes. Note: Cover with foil if needed so almonds don’t burn too much, about 10-15 minutes before done.
Cool. Remove rim of pan and slide onto serving plate, leaving bottom of springform underneath torte.
Top with whipped cream, whipped with a little sugar.

Enjoy !

Toi, Toi, Toi,

Mary Martha

Welsh Winter: Bryn Terfel Live in Concert

Listening to Bryn Terfel is like stepping into a vast, storied library: you’re not entirely sure what you will discover, but you undoubtedly know it will be a rich experience full of wonder and abundant surprises. In an ode to the Christmas season, my friends and I gathered to watch Bryn and an assembly of varied musicians perform a concert entirely composed of Christmas carols from the Brecon Cathedral in Wales.

Natalya Romaniw, Bryn Terfel, and Trystan Llŷr Griffiths performing at Brecon Cathedral in Wales / Metropolitan Opera

Traditional and contemporary alike, the carols were sung with joy and charisma. Bryn’s infectious charm and playful personality twinkled like the stars in the night sky while his generosity was clearly evident: invited to perform with Bryn were two young Welsh singers along with the eclectic folk group, Calan. Joined by the talents of pianist Jeffery Howard and harpist (and Bryn’s wife) Hannah Stone, the gang delivered a program full of spirit and hope; my favorites included the multilingual “Still, Still, Still”, Ivor Novello’s “I Can Give You Starlight”, and the harmonious “O Come, All Ye Faithful” to close the concert.

Bryn Terfel performing “I Can Give You Starlight” / Metropolitan Opera

The Cuisine

Our food was partly a throwback to previous concert gatherings─ with an assortment of cheese and charcuterie, I almost felt like I was back at the Jonas Kaufmann concert in July…

Anne’s exquisite cheese platter

…and Jayne’s sparkling rosé was also poured during our French Riviera fête in August…

But the Welsh addition came in the form of Chris’s Pwdin Eva, a kind of apple cobbler…

The food was tastefully presented and shared by musically minded friends. Cheers !

The Clothes

When I think of Wales, my mind is drawn to craggy coasts and rugged landscapes dotted with sheep and sturdy kinfolk, both equipped to survive the battered climates of Great Britain. Although the skies are often painted a dreary gray, the bright red dragon atop the green and white striped national flag belies any sort of unpleasant regional weather.

Flag of Wales

This dragon, known as the “Draig Goch” in Wales, was the inspiration for my outfit. Who would have thought that a web search inquiry for Welsh fabric companies would lead me to some of the cheeriest fabric I’ve ever sewn ? When I landed on the page for a stamped organic cotton, I knew I had found my fabric. But what to make ?

With the winter weather in Florida being much milder than the northern latitudes of wet Wales, I erred on the side of conservative warmth and practicality. A pleated skirt paired with dark leather boots seemed like the perfect storm…
Carbon Chic’s tutorial was a helpful starting point for my knife pleated skirt, but I couldn’t make the numbers work. So, I freehandedly began pleating away in 2 inch increments, starting at the right side seam (with pocket) and moving left towards the second side seam. A zipper and button closure were installed at the back.

Paired with my mother’s classic red turtleneck and riding boots, I was pleased with my “up country” look.

(Psst ! Remember when these same boots marched off to La Fille du Régiment ?)

In a way, I felt my clothes emulated a schoolgirl, arms saddled with books, on her way to the library. And that library, wondrous and enchanting, was an afternoon in Wales with Bryn Terfel.

Toi, Toi, Toi,

Mary Martha

Cast and Credits

Met Stars Live in Concert: Bryn Terfel and Friends
Brecon Cathedral
Brecon, Wales
Live broadcast date: December 12, 2020
(Date seen: December 19, 2020)

Bryn Terfel ─ bass-baritone
Natalya Romaniw ─ soprano
Trystan Llŷr Griffiths ─ tenor
Jeffery Howard ─ piano
Hannah Stone ─ harp
Calan

Baby Clothes for Hope

I have a friend. She is very dear to me… Her name is Faith ! In 2010, we met on Twitter and hit it off almost instantly, whereupon we soon became pen pals. In a way, I have lived life’s major milestones through Faith: I’ve watched her marry the love of her life and then have a daughter of her own. When Faith announced she was pregnant, I knew I wanted to make some very special things for her precious daughter, Hope.

Hope’s birth announcement photo

Her name is very sentimental. Faith and her husband Tyler had hoped for a baby for a long while. And they also hoped for a girl. See the connection ? No name could be better suited to someone who had so much hope behind her !

One of the patterns that my friend, Gisele, had offered me from her yard sale stash was a children’s pattern from the early 90’s. I thought it was darling and knew it would be adorable for Hope.

Simplicity 9685

As I browsed the scant fabric aisles at Walmart, I fingered over the perfect fabric for the dress: peacock print ! Faith and her family have had peacocks as pets and have an affinity for them. What could be better ? In addition to Hope’s tie back dress, I decided to make a matching one for her cousin, Grace, born two months earlier.

And here are the two baby cousins wearing their matching dresses on Mother’s Day:

Faith, her sister, Angel, with their mother, Angela, and Hope and Grace

Didn’t I tell you they love peacocks ? Look at all the feathers !

But I wasn’t done ! In addition to the matching dresses, I also sewed the romper from the same pattern envelope in pink gingham with a scalloped border of lace… sweet, very sweet !

Rompers (and onesies) are the hallmark of comfort. Hope modeled the style when she visited Grandpa Joe over the summer…

I also wanted Hope to have a fancy outfit so I sewed her a pink dress in crepe back satin and organza leftover from my Manon ballgown. In a craft bin at Walmart, I found a matching flower clip, which could be removed to wash the dress. Baby clothes, regardless of how fancy or frivolous, need to be washable. Very washable.

The pattern in size “0-3 months” was free from the Melly Sews blog. https://mellysews.com/sew-a-baby-dress-with-free-pattern/ Thank you, Melissa ! Hope looked like an uptown girl in her coordinating floral dress…

Hope and Grace ─ the two cousins

I couldn’t resist the urge to sew some girly-girl ruffles so I made a diaper cover with layers of pink patterned flounces on the back. Using my Baby Lock serger to both finish and gather the ruffles made the process a bundle of fun. Out of everything I sewed for Hope, this one was my favorite !

And off she goes !

The last item I created for Hope was a pair of knitted booties. As a mainstay of baby showers, I felt this was a genuine way to celebrate Hope’s arrival. And while I was not able to attend the actual baby shower in Idaho, my handmade clothes and booties were unwrapped with greatest appreciation and delight. From Florida, with love…

Having a niece has been a delight ! Faith and I have already been discussing different dress ideas for when Hope grows up. Of these, the most anticipated design is a Cinderella gown─ a character and story that is as cherished to Faith as our friendship is to the both of us.

Very cherished, indeed.

Toi, Toi, Toi,

Mary Martha

Sirupsnipper Cookies ─ No White Flour, No White Sugar

I haven’t consumed white flour or white sugar since 2009 when a medical condition forced me to change my lifestyle. And while there have been moments of deprivation and longing for conventional flour and sugar-laden treats, my sweet tooth has been mostly satiated since my refined baked goods breakup. Over the years, I have fiddled with adapting regular recipes of breads and sweets with questionable results. However, this cookie was a winner !

I have included a “no white flour/no white sugar” version of the original Sirupsnipper recipe from Sons of Norway The recipe is as follows:

Ingredients

9 Tbsp. cream
½ cup + 2½ Tbsp. maple syrup
½ cup + 2½ Tbsp. coconut sugar
7 Tbsp. butter
3¾ cups rye flour
1½ tsp. pepper*
1½ tsp. ginger*
½ tsp. anise*
1½ tsp. cinnamon*
¼ tsp. salt
¾ tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. baking soda
blanched almonds for decorating

*Note: I came to these measurements based on trial and taste. They are on the spicy side this way, but the spices can certainly be adjusted down if they are too “hot” for the palate. Also, I ground half of a pod of star anise instead of using jarred spice. The freshly ground half pod came to a scant ½ tsp.

Instructions

1. Boil cream, maple syrup, and coconut sugar together. Stir in butter and let mixture cool until lukewarm.

2. Combine flour and dry ingredients and whisk together.

3. Sift in dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Chill overnight.

4. Roll dough out as thin as possible and cut diagonal lines to make diamond shapes (or use cookie cutters in various shapes).

5. Place cookies on greased baking sheet or parchment paper covered baking sheet. These cookies barely spread so you’re safe to crowd them rather tightly on the pan.

6. Place a blanched almond in the middle of each cookie.
7. Bake at 350°F for 12-15 minutes (or until crispy).

*An optional egg wash may be used if you desire a shiny appearance. This, I omitted.

These Christmas cookies were a delicious treat for our Norwegian food spread fêting Lise Davidsen’s Met concert from Oscarshall Palace in Norway. Isn’t the forest of trees a lovely sight next to spiky coconut macaroons ?

Because of the exceptional outcome of this recipe adaptation, I plan to bake these for years to come. File this one under ‘Success’ in the No White Flour/No White Sugar recipe box !

Toi, Toi, Toi,

Mary Martha

From Dirndl to Bunad: How a German sewing pattern became Norway’s traditional dress

Similar in shape and style, the German dirndl and the Norwegian bunad could be long lost cousins ! Vests with front closures, long skirts with embellishments and embroidery, and bright national colors teem with patriotic esprit de corps. With a new, modern production of Wagner’s Die Fliegende Holländer scheduled for the 2019-2020 Live in HD season, I cast off the thought of trying to guess the heretofore unseen (and most likely abstruse) costumes for François Girard’s reimagining and veered toward the more traditional: a Norwegian bunad for the opera’s Scandinavian setting.

However, when Die Fliegende Holländer was cancelled the day before its cinematic broadcast in March, the nearly finished bunad was left thrown over the back of a chair where it sat in silence for months. That is, until the concert for Lise Davidsen popped up and suddenly the bunad became relevant again. Here’s how I made it…

The Pattern

I started by using a German dirndl pattern, which was given to me by a friend several months prior. When Gisele offered me any of the patterns in her garage sale stash, I looked over the Burda pattern thinking it was fashionable, but not something I could use for the foreseeable future. How clueless I was…

Burda 8396

Noticing how similar the bunad and dirndl were, I began plotting how I was going to alter the original pattern; namely, removing the front zipper and transforming the front into a corset of sorts. A mock-up was made.

After determining the new design of the front, the muslin markings were transferred onto the tissue paper pattern piece.

According to the mock-up, the rest of the pattern appeared to be in good shape and now it was time to cut the real fabric.

The Fabric

I knew I wanted a bright red vest with a deep blue skirt and white blouse like many of the photos I found online…

Finding the perfect fabric was simple: a sample ordered online proved to be a brilliant scarlet with a subtle tonal floral pattern. Even better, the cotton fabric was Scandinavian in its origin. I do love to match my materials with their geographical creative counterparts !

The pieces were pinned onto the twice folded fabric (for the face AND lining) and cut out.

Sewing

Because adding decoration and details were important, I decided to pipe the seams of the bodice to set off the shaping of the vest. A regular zipper foot works just as well as any fancy piping foot…

Sewing the piping

Two rows of Rigilene boning were sewn onto the front vertical edges of the lining to support the lacing area. On the face side, the seams and piping allowances were pressed opened. All the corners were snipped to prevent bulk.

Now that both the face and the lining were complete, it was time to sew them together along the neckline edge. Bias binding was used to finish the armholes and the bottom of the vest.

Sewing the bias binding

Voilà ! The vest was almost finished. Holes were punched, grommets were installed, and then the garment was set aside.

The Skirt

The master Burda pattern came with a skirt design, but this, too, had to be adapted. There was a front zipper to be joined in connection with the bodice and this I removed by placing the pattern on the fold of the fabric. Speaking of, I bought the skirt fabric, a navy canvas-type material, from Walmart ! The pattern was laid out on the canvas…

…and a waistband was cut.

Waistband marked on folded fabric

I sewed the skirt based on the instructions, which included front pleats and a gathered back. The single side pocket (why only one ?) was omitted. A regular zipper was installed. Folding the waistband in half, it was attached to the top edge of the skirt over the pleats and gathers. A buttonhole was made at the back and a bright blue button was sewn onto the other side of the back band.

Back zipper closure and button

Something that I found skewed about the pattern was the overall hem length. It was looooooooong ! Too long. Fortunately, the folded hem provided an excellent starting place for the decorative stitching I wanted to implement along the bottom edge. Did I ever think I was going to use more than 3 of the 100 stitches on my BabyLock sewing machine ? Heavens, no ! But I have ─ look how pretty the motifs look when sewn in bright scarlet !

That’s it ! The vest and skirt were finished and now it was time to put it all together. There was one thing missing and that was the classic white blouse that is worn beneath the vest.

Hmmm…

Searching through my mother’s closet, I found a suitable blouse in sleeve length… but it had an expansive scalloped collar satin stitched in crimson. No need to worry─ I just turned the collar right side in and the blouse was just perfect !

Together with a gold brooch and lapis jewelry, the outfit was a close resemblance to the traditional Norwegian bunad.

Toi, Toi, Toi,

Mary Martha

To read about my virtual escape to Norway wearing my bunad, check out my post on the concert for Lise Davidsen !

http://costumeclosetcouture.com/2020/09/07/met-stars-live-in-concert-lise-davidsen/

Met Stars Live in Concert: Diana Damrau and Joseph Calleja

“Viva Italia !” my friends and I exclaimed when we heard that the location of the upcoming concert for Diana Damrau and Joseph Calleja had been moved from exotic seaside Malta to the Palazzo Reale in Caserta, Italy. On record as the world’s largest royal residence, the grand venue was ideal for the cinematic transmission of the latest Met Stars Live in Concert series.

The Palatine Chapel in the Royal Palace of Caserta, Italy

The combination of Diana Damrau and Joseph Calleja was a bit odd, especially when considering their “polar opposites” repertoire. The normally floating trills of the German soprano felt strained during the heavy Tosca numbers (“Vissi d’arte” was downright painful), which were salvaged by the charming apropos acting in a literal libretto location.

Diana Damrau and Joseph Calleja singing excerpts from Tosca in the Met Stars Live in Concert series

Calleja’s hearty voice squelched Damrau’s on more than one occasion, but most notably during the finale duet of “Ave Maria” where they each took turns with versed lines. In the past, I have always enjoyed Diana Damrau due to her ability to make me feel her characters with a voice of sweetly scented femininity. However, it was during this last selection that I wished she would just stand silent and let Calleja fill the cavernous chapel with his rich tone.

Joseph Calleja and Diana Damrau singing “Ave Maria” / Metropolitan Opera

The best part about the concert was guessing which wrap Diana would wear next ! For each musical number, she would emerge from the wings of the palace chapel with a new accessory to play off her strapless black velvet gown.

Diana Damrau and Joseph Calleja in the Met Stars Live in Concert series from Caserta, Italy

The Cuisine

Let’s talk about the food ! While we all struggled with the idea of Maltese cuisine (rabbit, anyone ?), the Italian switcheroo rendered the culinary preparation a breeze. Since the palace in Caserta was part of the Campania region (think Naples), Chris volunteered to make Neapolitan meatballs…

…and I was assigned the classic Caprese salad.

Anne brought the antipasti platter…

…and Jayne provided the Prosecco !

Our feast was complete… and delicious, too. We cleaned our plates !

The Clothes

When I first saw this concert on the lineup, I knew EXACTLY what I would wear, even after the location change. Years ago, I remembering thumbing through a catalog for Soft Surroundings and “oohing” and “ahhing” at the vibrant colors and relaxed refinery of the clothes. One dress, although simple, always jumped out at me along with the styling of the photo:

Santiago Boatneck Dress / Soft Surroundings

Something about the floor length knit dress in the earthy colors with the rustic jewelry just seemed so casually elegant. Coincidentally, I had several long necklaces that would look perfect with the dress. But when I checked the Soft Surroundings website, it appeared the boatneck style of dress had been discontinued. Even though I wanted to make my own dress, it would have been helpful to have more detailed pictures of what the website could offer. Nevertheless, I searched for knit maxi dress patterns and found a promising one from Hallå Patterns.

Agnes knit dress from Hallå Patterns

With a “just right” paprika colored French Terry knit, which was found in my October 2020 edition of Julie’s Picks swatch club, I sewed the pattern with the one tweak of lengthening the hem by 1½ inches, just in case. It was a perfect adjustment, but I do believe I would have allowed more width in the shoulders.

The dress was just what I desired ─ fall color, Old World jewelry, and casual stateliness for my imagined Neapolitan holiday. Best of all, I didn’t have to pay upwards of $100 ! It was a win-win-win !

Toi, Toi, Toi,

Mary Martha

Cast and Credits

Met Stars Live in Concert: Diana Damrau and Joseph Calleja
Cappella Palatina of the Royal Palace of Caserta
Caserta, Italy
Live broadcast date: October 24, 2020

Diana Damrau ─ soprano
Joseph Calleja ─ tenor
Roberto Moreschi ─ piano

Provençal Potato Salad

The recipe that played a starring role in the Aleksandra Kurzak and Roberto Alagna concert from Èze, France is listed here. This salad is packed full of summer flavors ! With its inherent freshness and chic, Mediterranean appeal, it’s no wonder that the recipe was featured on the cover of The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook in 1999.

The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook (Copyright: Ina Garten, 1999)

(Adaptions and notes made from Ina Garten’s original Provençal Potato Salad recipe are marked by asterisks* and italics)

Ingredients:

1 pound small white boiling potatoes
1 pound small red boiling potatoes
(or any combination of small red, white, or yellow potatoes)
2 tablespoons good dry white wine
2 tablespoons chicken stock
3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar (white wine vinegar works fine)
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
10 tablespoons good olive oil
1/4 cup minced scallions (white and green parts)
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill (or more)
2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley (or more)
2 tablespoons julienned fresh basil leaves
1/2 pound haricots verts, stems removed (or green beans)
1 6-ounce can Italian tuna, drained and flaked (two cans of a good, chunky American tuna will work just as well)
1/2 cup capers, drained
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup small-diced red onion
1/2 cup black olives, pitted
6 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and quartered, optional
6 anchovy fillets, optional*

*I chop 2-4 anchovy fillets for the vinaigrette and do not add additional fillets for garnish.

Instructions

Drop the white and red potatoes into a large pot of boiling salted water and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, until they are just cooked through. (I steam my potatoes in a large pot for the same amount of time) Drain in a colander and place a towel over the potatoes to allow them to steam for 10 more minutes. As soon as you can handle them, cut in 1/2 (quarters if the potatoes are larger) and place in a medium bowl. Toss gently with the wine and chicken stock. Allow the liquids to soak into the warm potatoes before proceeding.

Combine the vinegar, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper (and chopped anchovies) and slowly whisk in the olive oil to make an emulsion. Add the vinaigrette to the potatoes. Add the scallions, dill, parsley, basil, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss.

In a pot of boiling salted water, blanch the haricots verts for 3 to 5 minutes, until barely tender. Drain and immerse into ice water for 5 minutes. Drain again.*

*I steam the green beans at the same time as I’m steaming the eggs, removing the greens beans after the specified time while continuing to steam the eggs.

In a large bowl, combine the haricot verts with potato salad, tuna, capers, tomatoes, onions, olives, eggs, and anchovy fillets.* Serve warm or at room temperature.

*Be careful when tossing the quartered eggs with the rest of the ingredients ─ I found that the yolks separated all too easily when combining the mixture. Another option would be to arrange the eggs on top in a serving bowl.

Just look at all those colors !

Enjoy !

Toi, Toi, Toi,

Mary Martha

Met Stars Live in Concert: Lise Davidsen

Relatively unknown to the world, dramatic soprano Lise Davidsen has been forging a meteoric rise to stardom with her powerful voice that has some critics calling her “the great Wagnerian promise of her generation.” With as much hype (and height ─ Lise is nearly 6’2″ !) surrounding the shy, Norwegian native, my interest in seeing this uncut gem perform was keener than usual.

Lise Davidsen performing at Oscarshall Palace with James Baillieu accompanying / Metropolitan Opera

Although lacking the total confidence that accompanies decades of professional stage experience, Lise’s humble, offhanded spirit brought a refreshing genuineness to her performance, which included a weighted set list of Wagnerian arias, Grieg, Verdi, and Strauss. There was a little bit of everything, so much so that the program felt like a potluck dinner party. Britten’s “Johnny” was playful with sultry low notes, Strauss’s Op. 27 was sublime, and “I Could Have Danced All Night” was a sugary charmer with James Baillieu’s scrumptious piano tip-tapping away. Adding to the ambiance was the stately Oscarshall Palace dining room, which easily recalled images of “Beauty and the Beast” to my fairy tale mind.

Lise Davidsen and James Baillieu performing at Oscarshall Palace in Oslo, Norway / Metropolitan Opera

The Cuisine

Known for its simplicity and seafood, catering our escape to Norway brought out new ideas and enticing recipes to attempt. Chris couldn’t resist trying her hand at gravlax and it was a smashing success ! Cured with salt, sugar, peppercorns, and dill, the sliced salmon was flavorful yet subtle.

Pairing marvelously with traditional mustard dill sauce, minced red onion, and a dribbling of capers, the feast was in running order. Please examine the filigreed handle on the spoon: coincidentally, it says ‘Oslo’ ─ how fitting !

Caraway crackers and rye bread were used as the foundation for the salmon and just look at how gorgeous Anne’s cheese tray was next to my platter of homemade cookies !

From left to right: Danish blue, Jarlsberg, and Havarti with dill

We do eat well at our little opera watch parties, that’s for certain ! The table was spread with delicacies from “The Land of the Midnight Sun” with a fanfare of ligonberry napkins serving as a makeshift flower arrangement.

You wish you were here with me !

Originally planning to bring a rye flour cardamon yeast bread with raisins, I scrapped that endeavour after the initial test run was a complete flop. I then switched my focus to traditional Norwegian Christmas cookies, like sirupsnippers and coconut macaroons…

Because of my dietary restrictions, I made the cookies with rye flour, coconut sugar, and maple syrup ─ no white flour, no white sugar ! The macaroons were especially artistic with their torched tips of flaked coconut.

The Clothes

When the concert location was announced, there was no hesitation as to what I would wear. Earlier in the year, I had sewn a Norwegian bunad costume for The Flying Dutchman that never was and so I’ve had a skirt and vest laying around the nether regions of my bedroom for months. Now with the perfect opportunity, I wore one of my mother’s blouses (swooping collar turned right side in for greater authenticity) under my sewn additions, which were based off a German dirndl pattern.

The palm trees in the background certainly don’t match the sub-arctic Norwegian landscape, but at least my outfit resembled the North Country. Mission accomplished !

Told by the cut caricatures of the sirupsnipper cookies, the fourth Met Stars Live In Concert event could be summed up as such:

From the forests of Norway…

…rising star Lise Davidsen brought her talents to a concert…

…broadcast around the world…

…where she won our hearts !

Hopefully, Lise Davidsen’s return to the Met will be soon; her voice (in addition to her country’s culinary specialties) were delectable !

Toi, Toi, Toi,

Mary Martha

Cast and Credits

Met Stars Live in Concert: Lise Davidsen
Oscarshall Palace
Oslo, Norway
Live broadcast date: August 29, 2020
(Date seen: September 2, 2020)

Lise Davidsen ─ soprano
James Baillieu ─ piano