Martha’s Birthday at Skylands
Sixty-four friends and family members, five delectable meals, and a weekend party at Skylands -- when it comes to celebrating her birthday, Martha doesn't do small.The spacious stone terrace on the south side of Skylands was strewn with lights and set for dinner for 65, with round tables and wicker chairs.
The weekend officially began on Friday with a lunch of cheese, fruit, and cookies. There was no set arrival time, and since people were coming from everywhere -- by car, by plane, and some, by boat -- the food was set up in the butler's pantry so guests could help themselves as they arrived.
The food, prepared by the Skylands cook staff (Martha's dear friend Pierre Schaedelin headed the weekend effort), had been meticulously vetted and planned. On an island, one cannot leave anything to chance since supplies and variety of offerings are limited. Much of Friday night’s menu was cooked outdoors, on the grill, in a La Caja China roasting box, and in the stable kitchen. Here, a hotel pan holds all the utensils required to grill a dinner for 30.
A long "tailors'" table was the buffet for the Friday supper; wildflowers and some of the Skylands bird decoys were the decorations.
Martha lines up a shot during a friendly game of pool during cocktail hour.
Fun and Games
A guest spells out a special message to Martha.
Spicy marinated pork shoulders are cooked inside a La Caja China roasting box.
Unlike a traditional grill, the charcoal is placed on top of, rather than underneath, the food being cooked. The roasting box is lined with metal and functions like a giant Dutch oven when coals are piled on top of it.
The Right Tool for the Job
Salt roasting, which is a cross between steaming and roasting, intensifies flavors while keeping food moist. Here, a hammer is used to crack open a lime-infused salt crust covering whole chickens.
Despite the fact that there were 30 people at dinner, there was a sense of close camaraderie and friendship all around the table. Toasts and jokes and laughter ensued, and all the food was devoured.
Sarah Carey prepares to serve dessert by candlelight.
Setting the Stage
On Saturday morning, guests awoke to a clear and beautiful vista of Seal Harbor and the islands beyond: Sutton, Big Cranberry, and Little Cranberry.
Just a Bowl of Cherries
Juicy Bing and Rainier cherries await early risers.
Rise and Shine
Saturday morning’s breakfast was a luscious buffet of bagels and lox, and plenty of just-picked summer fruit.
Tree to Table
A basket of white nectarines ready to be carried into the kitchen.
In Good Spirits
Kevin Sharkey puts the finishing touches on a spectacular all-green arrangement before the festivities begin.
Cocktails were served in the Round Turn, or circular driveway in front of the house; the drives on the property are covered with pink-granite gravel, which looks wonderful with the pink-granite cut stones of the house (all the stone was quarried on the island).
Before dinner, guests are served drinks of fresh orange granita, St-Germain (an elderflower liqueur), and Champagne.
Nectar of the Gods
Refreshing white sangria is served in a Venus-worthy vessel.
Mix and Mingle
Darcy Miller, editorial director of Martha Stewart Weddings, chats with guests over cocktails.
Faux bois, French for "false wood," is a major theme at Skylands and was incorporated into the table settings: the tablecloths were green faux bois; the woodland arrangements were created in some of Martha's antique French containers; and the menu cards, place cards, and table cards were printed with faux-bois patterns.
Down to Earth
A faux-bois planter serves as a centerpiece.
Playing with the Classics
Crab replaces the traditional scallops in Coquilles St. Jacques, a classic French appetizer served in a scallop shell.
Lobster shells infuse their rich flavor into the broth for the bouillabaisse.
Luscious Maine lobster tails ready to be added to the bouillabaisse.
Maine Meets Provence
The main course was a fragrant and beautiful saffron-infused bouillabaisse with rouille on toasts; because lobster is almost a staple on Mount Desert Island, there was a lot in the traditional French seafood stew.
Kevin Sharkey and other guests enjoying the meal.
Martha's birthday cake, a baked Alaska bombe, was devised by Sarah Carey, editor in chief of Everyday Food. Sarah pipes snowy meringue onto the towering creation using a star tip. She'll toast it with a kitchen torch just before serving.