There is something magical about warm summer nights in Santa Barbara, especially with the Mission as a backdrop. They make for slow meals, lingering conversation and the dreamiest ambience. One of our favorite team members, Rutuja is returning to her home in India and in honor of her tenure with us, I hosted a small outdoor gathering at the beautiful Mission Rose Garden with the help of talented pastry chef and owner of Merci Montecito, Elizabeth Colling.
As the sun set, we ditched our devices, gathered around the farm-style table set with DIANI Living tableware and enjoyed a delicious meal, complete with mouthwatering desserts. To say we left with full bellies and full hearts is an understatement. As many of you know, DIANI is a 99.9% female run business, and it was special to take the time to celebrate Rutuja with the team in this way. We did our best to schedule this on a night when we could all meet up, but we missed you Whitney, Mia, Desseray and Jenni!
Since the weather was screaming for outdoor dining, I decided to keep it simple and casual with a few natural accents. I layered the table with our French linen tablecloths and for each table setting, I used our bamboo plates, vintage cutlery and printed linen napkins – topped with custom chocolates and a sprig of rosemary from my kitchen garden at home.
(photo left) Rutuja, far left, chats with two other team members.
(photo right) We sipped Le Chapitré sparkling rosé from our Amwell Champagne Flutes.
The meal began with a delicious gazpacho made from a blend of fresh farmers market tomatoes and a cabernet vinegar. We then dove into a trio of salads – including a kale salad, Persian cucumber salad and a farro grain salad. While all three were delicious, my favorite was the subtle, yet spicy kick from the jalapeño in the cucumber salad.
Elizabeth passed around the most amazing picnic sandwiches, which we promptly devoured.
And it didn’t take us long to ask for seconds…
I snipped a few hydrangeas from a bush in my garden and Elizabeth used the blossoms to add finishing touches to her beautiful, and delicious carrot cake. Usually I’m a die hard chocolate cake lover, but this carrot cake has made me rethink things.
Thank you, Rutuja, for all of your hard work and support of everyone at DIANI this past year. We will miss you, and we wish you all the best as you continue on your remarkable journey back home to India and beyond at your next career location. I will be seeing you soon… when I come to visit you! And, of course, thank you Elizabeth and Merci Montecito for providing the most delightful picnic feast. To learn more about Merci Montecito, visit their website and instagram @mercimontecito. And, if you’re in the Santa Barbara area, check out their boutique artisanal cafe in Montecito.
Photos courtesy of Studio Arna