Entertaining, Everyday Chic, Seasonal, Spring

Atlanta Garden Party

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April has just arrived and I’m using it as an opportunity to share a Bon Appétit “Entertaining with Style” feature that was produced in 1994. Why? Because it is always fun to harken back to bygone days and reflect on “how far we’ve come.” Especially with good friends who have successfully continued careers that were in their formative days at the time of this article.

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Francis Schultz has authored a number of books (one of her first was Atlanta at Table that featured the Pardee’s), served early on as host of “Southern Living Presents” for 6 years and is currently a contributing editor to House Beautiful as well as former editor-at-large for Veranda. As for hanging out, a Southern California ranch has been added to this Tarheel native’s addresses.

John Oetgen is a major and respected interior designer in Atlanta (click here and see his 2015 story in Veranda on his Highlands, NC getaway spot). Even when he was cutting his teeth offering decorating counsel on our Atlanta home (John, I’ll always love those white “eyelash” living room draperies) you could tell that he would go on to greatness. You-name-it-magazines and books have included John’s work just for this reason.

Candy Sheehan hasn’t strayed far from her culinary and entertaining roots that are shown off here in this Bon Appétit story. And good that she hasn’t, because her get togethers are an always anticipated invitation. Candy was a precursor to the likes of Ina Garten (of whom she reminds me) and the stars of The Food Network and Food Channel.

Comer Jennings III is that rara avis, an actual Atlanta native, Buckhead specifically. Since way back when he has always been the ultimate diplomat and consummate Southern gentleman, whose studies in architecture, city planning and business all took place at another Atlanta institution, Georgia Tech. All of which has contributed to his success in the real estate world in his hometown.

What could make for a better picnic in April story than a gathering of these friends. Enjoy…and cheers from Newport, you all!

Garden Party

A terrific lunch in a colorful outdoor setting.
Produced by Bettie Bearden Pardee
Text by Scott Smith
Photography by Deborah Feingold

For Candy Sheehan, everything’s coming up roses — and jonquils and daffodils and azaleas — every day of the week. “I designed my garden so that there’s always a plant or two in bloom,” says the Atlanta-based food consultant and caterer. “But the garden is more than just something pretty to look at — it also makes a beautiful place for entertaining.” It is the place Candy has chosen, on this sunny springtime afternoon, to host a small luncheon for close friends.

Standing by to greet Candy’s guests is an antique “butler” she brought from England. “When he’s not catching my car keys in the kitchen, he’s out working the terrace,” Candy says. Today he’s offering up a simple appetizer of tapenade and radishes, so Candy can take a walk through the cutting garden with her neighbor, John Oetgen, before lunch. Champagne and Chardonnay nicely balances the assertive flavor of the tapenade.


Candy’s fondness for things French, culinary and otherwise, is a result of her many trips to the south of France. “My garden has English and American influences,” Candy says, “but my table definitely had a French accent — from the menu to the stemware.”

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Rhubarb and Peach Crisp
It’s a little early in the year for fresh peaches, so frozen ones are used here. But when the time comes, go for the fresh — about six peaches should do it. (6 servings)

Ingredients for Topping
2/3 cup old-fashioned oats
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted, husked, chopped

Directions for Topping
Combine first 5 ingredients in medium bowl. Add butter and cut in using pastry blender or rub with fingertips until mixture begins to clump together. Mix in hazelnuts. (Can be prepared 3 hours ahead. Cover and chill.)

Ingredients for Filling
4 cups 3/4-inch-thick slices fresh rhubarb (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 16-ounce package frozen sliced peaches, thawed, drained
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Vanilla frozen yogurt

Directions for Filling
Combine all ingredients except frozen yogurt in large bowl. Let stand 1 to 3 hours.

Directions for Baking
1. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Butter 8x8x2-inch glass baking dish.
2. Transfer filling to prepared dish. Sprinkle topping evenly over filling in dish, covering completely. Bake until fruit is tender, juice bubbles thickly around sides and topping begins to brown slightly, about 40 minutes.
3. Remove crisp from oven. Preheat broiler. Broil 6 inches from heat just until topping is crisp and golden, watching closely, about 2 minutes.
4. Transfer to rack and cool about 30 minutes. Serve warm with frozen yogurt.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Shortcakes
Any leftover compote is great served over vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt. (8 servings)

Ingredients for Compote
4 cups 3/4-inch-thick slices fresh rhubarb (about 1 1/2 pounds)
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons strawberry preserves
1 teaspoon minced orange peel
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 1-pint basket strawberries, hulled, thickly sliced

Directions for Compote
1. Combine first 5 ingredients in heavy large saucepan or Dutch oven. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.
2. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer until rhubarb is tender but some pieces remain intact, about 7 minutes.
3. Remove from heat and add allspice. Cool completely.
4. Stir in strawberries. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 3 hours or overnight.

Ingredients for Biscuits 
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
6 tablespoons sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 tablespoons minced orange peel (orange part only)
1/4 teaspoon salt
9 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons chilled whipping cream
2 cups chilled whipping cream, sweetened, softly whipped
Mint sprigs

Directions for Biscuits
1. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 400°F. Combine first 5 ingredients in medium bowl.
2. Add butter and cut in using pastry blender or rub with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal.
3. Add 3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons cream and stir until dough comes together.
4. Turn out dough onto lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth, about 6 turns.
5. Flatten dough to 3/4-inch-thick round. Cut out rounds using 2 3/4-inch-diameter plain or scalloped cookie cutter.
6. Gather dough scraps and shape into 3/4-inch-thick round. Cut out additional dough rounds.
7. Transfer rounds to heavy large ungreased baking sheet. Bake until biscuits are puffed and golden, about 23 minutes.
8. Transfer biscuits back to rack and cool slightly. (Can be prepared 2 hours ahead. Rewarm biscuits in 350°F oven just until heated through, about 5 minutes.)
9. Cut biscuits in half. Place 1 bottom half on each plate. Spoon 1/4 cup compote over each. Spoon 1/4 cup compote over each.
10. Top with large spoonful sweetened whipped cream, then large spoonful compote, then more whipped cream. Cover with biscuit tops. Garnish with mint sprigs and serve.

Rhubarb-Raspberry Jam
This jam has a good, concentrated flavor: the only liquid comes from the rhubarb and berries interacting with sugar and lemon juice. The quick-to-prepare jam also makes a nice filling for tarts. (makes about 2 cups)

4 cups 1-inch pieces fresh rhubarb (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon
1 1/2-pint basket raspberries
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1. Combine rhubarb pieces, sugar and fresh lemon juice in heavy large Dutch oven. Cover and refrigerate until juices form, stirring occasionally, at least 8 hours or overnight.
2. Bring rhubarb mixture to simmer over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.
3. Increase heat to high and boil until rhubarb mixture thickens slightly, about 5 minutes.
4. Add raspberries and boil until mixture is thick, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes longer.
5. Remove jam from heat. Stir in ground cardamom. Cool jam completely. (Jam can be made 1 week ahead. Store in covered contained in refrigerator.)

Before lunch, Candy spends a few minutes inside her backyard “folly” arranging flowers for the table. “This used to be a tool shed, and it stood out like a sore thumb,” says Candy. It’s since been converted into a cozy, year-round hideaway.


Out on the terrace a salad of asparagus, yellow bell pepper and radicchio, dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette, rests atop a hand-painted trunk. “Usually the trunk stays inside the house,” Candy says, “but I use a lot of indoor furnishings for my parties in the garden.”

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At the table, Comer Jennings, a neighbor, keeps all the wineglasses full.


“I like to prepare meals beforehand, because I want my guests to relax and enjoy themselves,” Candy says. But I do ask somebody to tend bar, and I often have another friend help serve the food.” Doing just that is Frances Shultz. “Candy’s parties aren’t stiff and formal,” she says. “She lets everyone pitch in a bit, so it’s not just her food and her party; it’s everybody’s.”


On one of her trips to Provence, Candy studied cooking with the late Simone Beck. “Anyone who’s familiar with her work will recognize the potato salad recipe as hers — though over the years I’ve changed it,” Candy says. “That’s the way I cook — I alter recipes to suit my taste and the occasion.”


This occasion calls for two refreshing salads — the potato salad and an asparagus-bell pepper salad — as accompaniments to chicken breasts filled with creamy goat cheese herbs.


Chicken Breasts with Goat Cheese and Herbs
Candy Sheehan likes to start the meal with French bread, purchased tapenade (olive spread) and radishes. She offers Champagne and Chardonnay. (6 servings)

6 ounces soft mild goat cheese (such as Montrachet)
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 ounce)
2 garlic cloves, copped
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 large boneless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Mix first 8 ingredients in medium bowl until blended. If the cheese mixture is too soft to work with, chill 30 minutes.
2. Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter large baking dish.
3. Slide fingertips between chicken skin and meat, leaving skin attached at edges. Spoon cheese mixture under skin, dividing evenly among chicken breasts. Wrap any overhanging skin under chicken to secure.
4. Place chicken, skin side up, in baking dish. Season with salt and pepper. Brush with oil. Bake until chicken is cooked through, about 40 minutes. Cool chicken.
5. Cut each chicken breast crosswise into slices. Fan slices on platter. (Can be prepared 6 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Let stand 1 hour at room temperature before serving.)

Potato and Romaine Salad with Creamy Dijon Dressing
Potatoes are tossed with a rich mustard dressing and served atop a bed of crisp lettuce in this unusual and delicious salad. (6 servings)

Ingredients for Dressing
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 1/4 cups olive oil
2 tablespoons chilled whipping cream
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or 2 teaspoons dried
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Directions for Dressing
1. Blend first 5 ingredients in processor. While machine’s running, add oil in slow steady stream.
2. Add cream; blend mixture until thick and creamy.
3. Mix in herbs. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before using, thinning with water if dressing becomes too thick.)

Ingredients for Salad
2 pounds red-skinned potatoes
5 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 large head romaine lettuce, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons drained capers

Directions for Salad
1. Cook potatoes in large pot of boiling water until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain and cool.
2. Peel potatoes. Cut into 1/3-inch-thick slices.
3. Transfer potatoes to large bowl. Sprinkle with cider vinegar. (Can be made 4 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)
4. Whisk oil and vinegar in another large bowl. Add lettuce and toss to coat.
5. Add capers to potatoes.
6. Mix enough dressing into potatoes to coat. Spoon potatoes atop greens and serve.

Asparagus and Yellow Bell Pepper with Balsamic Vinaigrette
A bright and refreshing spring salad. (6 servings)

1 1/2 pounds asparagus, trimmed
1/2 cup olive oil
4 garlic cloves, flattened
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar or 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 head radicchio, thinly sliced
1 large yellow bell pepper, finely diced

1. Cook asparagus in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, about 3 minutes. Drain.
2. Transfer asparagus to bowl of ice water and cool. Drain well.
3. Heat olive oil in heavy small skillet over low heat. Add garlic cloves and sauté until light brown, about 10 minutes.
4. Add balsamic vinegar and cook 2 minutes.
5. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Discard garlic.
6. Arrange radicchio on large platter. Top with asparagus. Sprinkle bell pepper over.
7. Spoon enough dressing over salad to coat. Serve, passing remaining dressing separately.

Lemon Custard Tart
This intensely flavored lemon tart is the perfect finale to a lovely menu. (6 servings)

Ingredients for Filling
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
7 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 teaspoons grated lemon peel
3 large eggs

Directions for Filling
1. Combine sugar, butter, lemon juice and lemon peel in heavy medium saucepan.
2. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves and butter melts.
3. Whisk eggs in medium bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in sugar mixture.
4. Return mixture to saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until mixture thickens, about 3 minutes; do not boil.
5. Pour into bowl. Cool slightly. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled. (Can be prepared 3 days ahead.)

Ingredients for Pastry
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons ice water
3/4 cup chilled whipping cream, lightly sweetened, whipped
Candied violets* (optional)

Directions for Pastry
1. Mix flour and salt in processor.
2. Add butter and cut in, using on/off turns, until mixture resembles coarse meal.
3. Add water and blend until dough begins to clump together. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate 30 minutes.
4. Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to 11-in round. Transfer to 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom.
5. Trim edges. Pierce pastry all over with fork. Freeze 15 minutes.
6. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line pastry with foil.
7. Fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake until sides are set, about 20 minutes.
8. Remove foil and beans and bake until crust is golden brown, about 25 minutes.
9. Transfer crust to rack and cool completely. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
10. Spread lemon filling in crust. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.
11. Spoon whipped cream into pastry bag fitted with star tip. Pipe whipped cream rosettes around top edge of tart.
12. Garnish with candied violets, if desired, and serve.

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From Garden to Table

Set the perfect spring scene with a little help from Mother Nature.

When she “entertains with style,” Candy Sheehan likes to se her garden, so she has created a backyard that is more than a flower bed and a few blades of grass. Assisted by a landscape designer and inspired by frequent visits to the south of France where she has had some memorable outdoor meals, Candy transformed her garden into an intimate, open-air dining room. Planted with carefully chosen flowers and foliage, every corner of the garden offers a tranquil setting for cocktails or a party. Although you may not have as much space as Candy has, there are simple ways to adapt many of her clever ideas to your own entertaining style.

Country baskets, nature-themed dinnerware and a pretty flower arrangement are the most obvious items for a garden party table. But taking just a few extra steps could make the event extra special. There are some terrific ideas here, but look around your garden (or local produce stand or flower shop) from a different point of view — you’ll probably come up with some ideas of your own.

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Candy started with the most important element of any party — the menu. It features fresh, lively flavors in every course. She proceeded from there to presentation of the food and finally to decorating the backyard in a flower-and-fruit motif that includes the use of garden ornaments.

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About Bettie Bearden Pardee

Author of Private Newport and Living Newport, garden furniture designer (The Parterre Bench), national lecturer, and entertaining expert. An honoree for the second year on "The Salonniere 100 America's Best Party Hosts", she was also the host and creative producer of "The Presidential Palate: Entertaining at the White House".

4 thoughts on “Atlanta Garden Party

  1. Bettie: I am not going to look out the windows today. I am going to keep my head down…all day. I am going to look at magazines, page by page. Then, I am going to read this blog again. I’ll probably reread all of your postings…. I am going to pretend that I am in the land of sun, flowering plants and sun dresses. And only when this miserable, cold rain stops here will I rejoin real life! So, today, you are the sun in the sky!

  2. Bettie,
    What a surprise! I just loved reading this article again today. It is hard to believe that it was April 1994, and now it is April 2017! Where does the time go? I still love to cook, and all things French, especially the wine and cuisine! Thank you for including this in your blog! Such a fun time was had by all, and you are right some of my guest’s have gone on to become quite famous and renowned in their field, Frances and John for sure! All the best!
    Love, Candy

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