As part of my personal chef business “Cookin Wild”, clients often ask me to create table designs, or “tablescapes” to coincide with menus they want. I have a fetish for dinnerware, table linens, and center pieces and I have a whole storage unit devoted to my obsession!! I create the design and menu items ahead of time, to catalog them for clients. It helps them visualize my concept.
What started out as probably the most simple table design I’ve ever done, turned into my worst nightmare! I have a menu entitled “Cowboy Dan” I created after finding a Christmas photo of my husband, Danny, strapped with a holster, and gun. He looked so cute and I imagine every little boy has some desire of being a cowboy. I made a BBQ/Prairie themed wild game menu and I wanted to create a very simple tablescape to go along with it.
I wanted to find a location near our home in the central valley of Northern California, to create a quick set up, photograph the table, plate some dishes and photograph them too, in the late afternoon sun. WHAT HAPPENED? A wind storm! Just as we found a great place to set up, a wind storm came out of nowhere. As a matter of fact, at this very moment (October 2015) as I am uploading this, an early October wind storm is coming through! I digress…. Anyway, as the napkins were flying off the table, the flower vases were falling over and spilling water all over the table and chair covers. We had several items that never made it to the table. A plate charger was cracked from the vase falling on it. Debris was flying everywhere! I felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz! We couldn’t get the camp stove working to reheat and plate the menu items I had worked two days to prep. We were also under pressure to finish, because the park was closing soon, and daylight faded much faster than we anticipated.
Anyway, I hope to try this design again, because under the right circumstances, this table is a simple set up, and creates a nice backdrop for the more masculine “Cowboy Dan” menu. Take a look:
Starting with the tabletop: After a feature wall I designed for Danny’s office using plain pine floor boards, that I distressed to look like old floor boards, we had quite a few left over, so I asked if he could create a tabletop that can be used on any base to create a rustic feel. We often need large amounts of space, or make shift tables to accommodate more guests for my clients, or even in our own home. Danny nailed the boards to plywood to create an 8ft. table top. The base can be anything from a smaller table, to saw horses. Hay bales with rustic lap blankets laid on top would also make cool seating.
I placed my burlap tablecloth under it, and added burlap sashes to the chair covers. In place of a few chairs, I added an old bench I’ve had for years. I can’t seem to give up this old bench I found at a flea market.
For simple, recycled candle holders, I save aluminum cans from various cans of tomatoes, or canned fruits. The cans from tomatoes make the best ones because they’ve been stained a cool orange color from the tomatoes so it gives off a nice glow. I wrapped some with black bandanas, and added some with scrap book paper with a rustic theme. I add glass votive cups inside to hold tealights. Some cans I punch hole designs using an awl and a hammer. Unfortunately, many never made it to the table (they kept blowing away), and my candles kept blowing out during the wind storm, but you get the idea.
Various potted faux cactus also were on the table. I would have used real ones, but I don’t have any (I’m kind of a black thumb and I have managed to kill even cacti). I found these resin cowboy boot vases at Hobby Lobby, but if you have real ones (unused), place a tin can inside and create a vase from it. Use bouquets of simple prairie like flowers.
The cowboy statue is also from Hobby Lobby. That’s Cowboy Dan.
I’ve mixed and matched various earthenware to give the place settings an eclectic look. For the chargers I painted using a special can of paint that makes everything look like hammered copper. The chargers were purchased just after Christmas at a dollar store and I purposely left a bit of green to show through just like copper oxidizes to a green patina. I used bandanas as napkins and these really cool copper napkin rings, I’ve had for a long time. I used mason jars to hold lemonade.
Cowboy Dan Sample Menu:
“Rascally Rabbit” Braised Rabbit Crostini with “horsey sauce”
“Tarnation Tortilla Chips” with Queso Dip and “Cowboy Caviar”
“Chocolate Chuckwagon Chile” Venison Shoulder Chile with a touch of mole
“Ride Em Cowboy Redeye” Dry Rubbed Grilled Antelope Loin Rib Chop with Bacon Red Eye Gravy
“Shindig Shish-ka-bob” Venison Loin Cubes Marinated 24 hours with Onions, Mushrooms, Red Bell Peppers
“Rootin Tootin Beans” Brown Sugar Baked Beans with Wild Boar Sausage
“Loaded Guns” Salt and Pepper Crusted Baked Russet Potato Loaded with BBQ Braised Wild Pig, Cheddar, Sour Cream and Chopped Chives and Onion Rings
“Aces High Apple Pie” with Jack Daniels Sauce and Butter Pecan Ice Cream
“Prairie Peach Crisp” with Cherry Ice Cream