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It may still look like summer outside, but the calendar’s flipped to September and we’re already starting to feel fall’s oncoming presence in the form of cooler nights and the occasional farmers' market gourd sighting. Who better to usher in the season’s gorgeous hues and bountiful harvest with than Athena Calderone, creator of EyeSwoon? I’ve been a fan of her luscious lifestyle blog for years, and now, with Calderone’s always on-point sensibility on full display in her debut book, Cook Beautiful (out October 10 and available for pre-order), these delightful recipes and easy design tips will be at the ready for a new legion of fans.
It’s only natural that Calderone, an interior designer by trade, always brings her food to life using strong visual language. It’s become a signature part of her entertaining M.O. and by extension, Cook Beautiful offers up her best “swoon tips” in elevating meals to truly memorable occasions in an approachable manner.
While the book has no shortage of stunning recipes, it’s Calderone’s warmth and honesty that really pull you in. “My love of food truly brought my entire life into focus,” she writes. “I’ve followed many paths, from acting in my twenties to interior design in my thirties. But it wasn’t until I embraced my love of cooking, that I found the missing piece of my creative puzzle. Finding my voice through food took time, effort, and a lot of trial and error, but it also offered me the ability to be open.”
Give yourself license to try something new at your next get-together. Take a page out of Cook Beautiful and welcome fall in the following swoon-worthy ways.
No. 1: BRANCH OUT
"Bring fall’s natural beauty indoors by displaying a few leafy branches in a simple vase. Don’t be fooled into believing they need to be blooming—or even bountiful—to make an impact."
No. 2: HARVEST GOLD
"Add a warm earthy glow to the table by arranging autumn-hued flowers in a varied collection of amber glass vessels. Check your recycling bin for empty bottles of whiskey, cognac—even kombucha—and peel the labels off with hot water."
No. 3: PRETTY LITTLE THINGS
"Use simple leather cord or twine to tie your napkins, tucking in a few foraged elements like pinecones and wheat sprigs for texture. And while place cards can often feel fussy, kraft paper brings them down to earth."
No. 4: NEUTRAL TERRITORY
"While neutral, handmade ceramics are a year-round staple, they look particularly at home on a fall table. And here’s a little secret: Many ceramics studios offer pottery with teeny, barely noticeable flaws—pieces known as 'seconds'—for a fraction of full price. I’m all about embracing imperfections, so give your local potter a ring!"
No. 5: HERBAL ESSENCE
"In fall, there’s almost always a baking sheet of veggies roasting in my oven. Herb-infused olive oil gives them a little extra oomph—and makes a perfect take-home gift for guests. Just add a few sprigs of hearty, full-flavored herbs like rosemary, sage, and thyme to your favorite extra-virgin variety."
No. 6: FLAME UP
"There’s nothing more flattering than candlelight and I’m always looking for unexpected ways to bring that flickering warmth to the table. Here, rather than employing a traditional candle holder, I corralled pillars of varying heights on a copper tray, tucking seasonal herbs among them for color."
No. 7: POINT BLANC
"Fall harvest décor doesn’t have to be a ho-hum mix of oranges and browns. A cluster of white and gray pumpkins running down the center of the table looks chic and sophisticated, especially when softened with a few silvery green leaves."
No. 8: GIVE THANKS
"Spark meaningful conversations—and add a handmade touch—by printing simple brown paper lunch bags with your favorite quotes about gratitude. Expressing thanks puts a beautiful meal with loved ones in perspective. Guests can read the quotes aloud at the table, and then bring the bags home filled with candied nuts or other sweet treats."
No. 9: PRETTY PENNY
"A bunch of disparate tabletop items can feel like a proper collection when united by a single material or tone—in this case, copper. I love the metal’s warmth and variety of patinas, especially when paired with fall’s earthy palette."
Excerpts from Cook Beautiful by Athena Calderone, published by ABRAMS c 2017.