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“What’s New, What’s Next” Apex and Epilogue from NY Design Center’s InHouse Finishing Touches Cocktail Party

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We are Co-Presenters at What’s New, What’s Next! InHouse showroom at NY Design Center: Interior Designer Toni Sabatino (L) & me, Finishing Touches author, Leeann Lavin 

Thank you for attending this year’s ninth annual What’s New, What’s Next!

And for spending your cocktail time with me, Toni, the InHouse Kitchen, Bath, Home team: Dave Burcher, Mary Erker, and Leah Gold; and Wood-Mode’s Jim – and John.

Our InHouse Finishing Touches presentation celebrated the pre-release of my book which presents classic and new cocktails with heart-stopping garnishes, especially “garden-to-glass” and other creative finishing touches, including candy, jewelry, and fire — along with the drinks’ delicious food pairings that complement the provenance and natural ingredients of the craft cocktails and the tablescape or cocktail composition presentations — a kind of genius loci or “spirit of the place.”
It’s all about honoring quality ingredients and the presentation to add that special, finishing touch.

While my Finishing Touches book (FT) is chock full of history – kneeling at the bar of classic drinks and their garnishes, it also presents a new lifestyle approach that aims to bring cocktails to the next level.  It was a perfect coupling — that Dave has an eye for strategic and creative alliances.
The book’s theme played footsie or “romanced” the InHouse and sponsor Wood-Mode’s brand attributes of quality ingredients, bespoke craftsmanship, and stunning, glamorous beauty.

Leading up to the WNWN event and the InHouse cocktail party the InHouse team along with Toni and me, highlighted those shared value attributes in the talking points and presentation.
And so too with the food pairings made with artisanal ingredients.

Our rehearsal on the Tuesday prior to Thursday’s WNWN event was missing Toni because she was detained with family in Florida by that wench, Irma. While we did a bit of Facetime, covering key points together with the help of Dave, Mary, and Leah, who was managing changes to our Powerpoint presentation, it was nevertheless a test of our resilience.

We triumphed!

I think our brief, animated Finishing Touches talk (here for full presentation) captured the essence of the tie in and crossover elements including the art of composition, handcrafted ingredients, and creating a display that evokes personality and elegance.

Here, me, Toni, and Dave are running through our paces one last time before our guests arrive and Dave kicked off the event with a finishing touch welcome and a timely joke…

With the help of Mary:

The images in my part of the talk highlighted how I created the cocktails and and came up with the food pairings and entertaining compositions to draw your eye – and your guests — to a very happy hour!
I also included some tasty anecdotes and tall tales about classic garnishes and drinks.

To mark our Finishing Touches cocktail party, I chose two drinks from the book for their appropriateness to the event and to the season – and the ease of use to make.

Heart of Gold is a very glamorous cocktail with its gold-flaked, cinnamon-flavored liqueur (I was channelling autumn), artisanal ginger beer, cherry bitters

and a garnish of candied ginger affixed to the glass with a jewelry pin!

Sweater Weather is a Jessica Wohlers drink creation — perfect for the season and so fitting for the sponsor and their cabinets! For the event, I created a custom garnish of knitting needles and colorful stitch holders!

The food pairings were plated on recyclable gold plates; cocktail napkins were monographed in gold lettering.

Food companions for Heart of Gold was inspired by my travels to Germany while attending school in Switzerland and informed by the cocktail’s Alpine liquor.

So pretzels and comfort-food Pigs-in-a-Blanket very much work. For the event, InHouse went top shelf, of course, and secured Martins Pretzels. These handmade pretzels fit perfectly into the quality ingredients we were showcasing at the Finishing Touches event. Plus the pretzels are my husband’s favorite for the same reasons…

The pigs in a blanket were Brooklyn’s Piggies

artisanal pork or chicken ingredients wrapped in a flaky puff pastry!   Here, Jason is mixing up Heart of Gold for our guests.

The food pairing from the FT book for Sweater Weather is Figs garnished with goat cheese, walnuts, sea salt, basil, and balsamic vinegar, and honey.

All this attention to ingredients and details allowed Toni to expertly segue to Wood-Mode and Brookhaven:

“As you sip your Heart of Gold cocktail think of the kitchen as the heart of your home and illumination as the heart of your Wood-Mode cabinetry. Both the Wood-Mode and Brookhaven lines are now available with factory preparation for LED light strips in cabinet interiors. Think of the possibilities for lighting display cabinets, wardrobes and baths as well as your kitchen. We all want to create spaces with personality and the lighting options shown here are examples of how you can highlight some of those favored pieces, whether silver, china and glassware, art objects or cigars! Wood-Mode has also elevated under cabinet lighting to a new level with independent bottom panels to create a seamless look spanning multiple cabinets. This adjustable kelvin LED lighting option can create bright targeted illumination or simply give your cabinetry a golden glow. The option for factory lighting preparation adds a new layer of luxury to the wood mode line. As designers, we know that that the right lighting is everything! Even the pots, pans and coffee pods look fantastic with the right lighting.
Sweater Weather lent its charm to Wood-Mode and Toni’s talk this way:

“Sweater Weather” seems like a great time to talk about Wood-Mode’s wardrobe cabinetry. As designers, we all that know that custom home design requires special attention to the closet. Deep drawers with full extension undermount slides can hold sweaters galore and custom jewelry compartments or tie racks are sure to keep all those accessories that make the outfit organized. Shown on this slide is Wood-Mode’s new illuminated pole offering to illuminate those favorite sweaters. I invite you to look around the corner at In House’s custom closet display featuring side mounted LED light strips, some luscious fabrics and great organizational features sure to please in any weather. An inventory of your wardrobe and your personal garnishes, scarves, jewelry, accessories, along with a meeting with your InHouse design consultant is all you need to create that dream closet.
Finishing Touches celebrates the art of garnishing the cocktail and the art of hosting a cocktail party — for one or 50 — by seducing all the senses: sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste… And as I reminded the guests — nearly 200 of them — “There’s no doggie-bag for a cocktail!” You have to be in the moment — enjoying the look and ingredients — and fun — of the party!

Toni added:

Like the garnish makes the cocktail, Wood-Mode adds “Finishing Touches” to every main ingredient of their manufacturing recipe. Over 1000 touches, actually, from the hand selection of the boards to artisanal glazing to readying the product for delivery to your site. These hands on finishing touches happen in the factory in Kreamer, Pennsylvania, where folks like Mike and Roger handcraft each piece. Each dovetail is actually hand sanded! The rich layered glazes are also hand produced with limited variation to give you a “Finishing Touch” sure to please even the pickiest of clients. Hand buffed High Gloss is an exceptional look for those looking for the next generation of modern shapes and clean lines and then there is the rustic beauty of natural wood that works so well to create an elevated industrial look. Wood-Mode has a vast capability. Any paint color, custom finish, size or shape can be built for you, giving you the ability to be creative and the assurance of exceptional quality control.

I learned from the New York Design Center (NYDC) recent email that this year’s event was a “Record-breaking event — with more than 7,500 guests who attended the best in design” celebration. The NYDC noted there “more than 52 designer celebrations, presentations, and panels – including ours — 22 Meet and Greets, with the industry’s top names, editors, manufacturers (who) helped to make the 2017 WNWN the most exciting ever.”

Indeed, the day was truly exciting. And our event was a classy, swanky, fun, and delicious Finishing Touches cocktail party.

I was so happy my husband Bill was able to be there… And I was also overjoyed to see friends – some came all the way from the Garden State. Tom Sebazco – a contributing mixologist and artist took the time to attend – and walk all 15 flights up to the InHouse showroom because the elevators were all jam-packed!

Me and botanical artist, Jean Galle

                  Me and interior designer, Felicia Grant.

And new friends:

Briauna Gardner, Junior Designer at Lux Pad Interiors.

Thank you, Jason – extraordinary mixologist and photographer.

Then, there was the incomparable artist, Bek Millhouse – who creates graphic art — she did the icons for the book in production now, Eat with Your Eyes First, Artful Entertaining with Verrine Recipes, (You can Like us on Faceback-  and help provide feedback, please).  Bek also paints – she does watercolors – (I own a Bek watercolor of an Ecuadorian scene ) — she does pencil art – check out her pet portraits –  and she is a photographer – to name a few of her talents. Besides being so much fun to be with.

Bek took the photos of me and Toni at The New York Botanical Garden for the WNWN poster — and came to the Finishing Touches cocktail party and took these wonderful photos. Enjoy the photo album she shared with us. Abrazos, Bek.

This could be my favorite photo – I love how Bek set up this shot in the InHouse kitchen with Finishing Touches and food pairings.

Bek photographing Toni the kitchen designer in her element. Me and my gal, Bek, the artist.

Me and Jennifer Calais Smith, one of the photographers from my first book, The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook. And I can see Bill and Toni in the InHouse kitchen beyond us!

Hello, Jennifer! (Plus I love my finishing touches hair piece from Avigail Adam )

Me and Jessica

Leah and me.

Jessica expertly working her Sweater Weather look – and cocktail!

                        Toni and me

Me and Toni       — Love this woman and her talent!

We have so much fun working, designing, and traveling and eating and drinking together!

And some of my action shots taken at the post party. No one wanted to leave!
James Franco doppelganger, Lucas and girlfriend/fiance, Mary. What a dynamic couple! (I remarked that they are so perfect – they look like the couple images that come with a store-bought frame!)


Toni, Dave and guest

Thank you, InHouse and Wood-Mode. Cheers to more Finishing Touches!


  • Thank you! It was indeed an exciting event – and the players and products live on! Cheers!

  • Anonymous

    wow! real exciting

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"Love of beauty is taste. The creation of beauty is art."
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 I adore plants. Plants are my muse ~ they are my paramour… I’m a garden artist; a nature lover, & horticulturist. I’m an author & writer. My passion for culture & beauty, along with my trait curiosity, brings you an authentic celebration of life. I’m a storyteller ~ weaving the artful gifts of horticulture, garden design, tablescape decor, floral design, cocktail culture, garden-to-glass recipes & their glamorous garnishes, homegrown edibles, food & drink; & cooking, to bring you my flair & what I’ve been told is an avid elan ~ as well as the stories from those who inspire me ~ to pursue an elegant, enduring, & joyful, entertaining lifestyle. It’s an honor & a privilege to do what you love.

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