It feels like it was just yesterday that we posted Timothy Corrigan’s out-of-this-world holiday entertaining style at the fabulous Château du Grand-Lucé. Five months later, the temperatures are steadily on the rise in the Loire Valley, and Timothy’s transitioning his parties from dinners by candlelight, to lunch in the garden. We caught up with the interior designer and author as he set a perfectly picturesque al fresco lunch to chat all about bright and sunny springtime entertaining. From Timothy…
Ernest Hemingway famously described the Paris of his youth as a movable feast, and the same might be said of Chateau du Grand-Lucé. When the weather’s nice, the garden seems to invite you to come out and enjoy all that it offers. We set up several big tables in the shade of the allée of Linden trees along one side of the parterre, and sit down to an al fresco buffet.
Your tips for battling the elements:
I think it’s best to embrace the elements when dining outdoors, rather than try to work against them. I always have a big basket of pashmina throws (in all colors) just in case someone gets chilly. The key thing to remember about entertaining outdoors is that no matter how much you plan, Mother Nature always has the upper hand!
Your wine of choice:
At the chateau, I usually serve a local Sancerre from the region or one of the wonderful rosé wines from Provence.
All of the flowers in the arrangements were cut from the gardens at Château du Grand-Lucé. It included a combination of roses, peonies and astromerias. The individual flowers on each plate are from the Virginia Tulip tree on the property — we were lucky that it happened to be in full bloom the day we photographed the luncheon!
I always try to mix people from totally different worlds together, and you can’t help but see that we all have more in common than one would ever think! It’s in those moments of connection with others, I find, that we come to most fully know ourselves.
One of the principal pleasures of an al fresco lunch at the chateau is not only being surrounded by the garden, but bringing it onto the table, and even (as is the case with this tulip tree cutting) onto the plate!
In order to make people feel more comfortable, I try to make these lunches somewhat playful by asking guests to read aloud a passage from a book they’re reading – whether it’s thought-provoking, gossipy, witty, or best of all, something a bit racy. I also like to encourage people to relax and get to know one another by reading aloud their Celtic Tree Horoscopes, which involves finding the particular tree that corresponds to your birth date, then discovering what the connection says about your personality – always good for a fun surprise. It’s important to find ways to make people feel open and at home.
Click here for more information on Celtic Tree Astrology!
Your approach when planning a menu:
I think it’s important to not make the menu the absolute star of the show. It’s important, of course, but the best part of any party is the combination of the food, the setting and the people! If it becomes totally about the food, then you won’t have a fully balanced party.
So when it comes to planning a menu, I like to make things that don’t have to be served the very moment that they come out of the oven. These days, there are so many different dietary issues that I always have something for people who are vegetarian or gluten-free. The French don’t always understand this and think that we Americans are a bit fanatic, but nonetheless, I want my guests to feel comfortable and cared for!
Click here for Timothy’s Lunch Gazpacho recipe.
What you’re working on at the moment:
I recently collaborated with France’s oldest manufacturer of porcelain, Royal Limoges, to design two tabletop collections, but unfortunately they weren’t complete when these photos were taken. One of my new collections for Royal Limoges was actually inspired directly from the gardens at my chateau. Of course, in the future I’ll be using both of my new collections for all of my entertaining, both outdoors and indoors!
My fabric collection for Schumacher just launched this spring. Many of the patterns and colors were inspired from gardens in both California and France, making it perfect for outdoor entertaining. I’ve already used it to make several sets of tablecloths and napkins that I’ll be using both indoors and out this season — there’s even an outdoor fabric, called Hedgerow Trellis, which looks like fine Irish damask linen that would be perfect for elegant looking outdoor seat cushions.