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The Sights and Smells of a Fall Table

Food fosters connection. Lauren Lane, a local culinary guru, has a passion for teaching others to cook and to connect by entertaining and sharing a meal with one another. Through her classes and online blog she encourages friends and strangers to cook more often, entertain more easily, and create memorable moments around the dinner table. "I love to make things look beautiful but unveil how simple it can be," explains Lane. 

Here are a few of Lauren's tips for hosting an effortless gathering:  

  • Cook seasonally, it ensures the ingredients you use are in their prime.  
  • Choose recipes that can be made in advance.  In my recipe development, I share just how much can be made in advance. 
  • Not everything needs to be made from scratch. Don’t overwhelm yourself with too many dishes.  
  • If you don’t bake like me, buy your desserts and put them on a pretty platter.  Sometimes I sprinkle with confectioner sugar to make them look extra special.
  • Have a glass of wine or a signature cocktail that you offer to everyone who enters your home.  
  • Create a mood by turning on music, turning down the lights, and lighting candles.

Lauren's tips for creating an easy and beautiful tablescape

  • It's always a great idea to bring the outdoor in to your table, and it often can be found in your own yard. Use greenery from your yard, branches from your trees, flowers or pine cones.
  • Use fruit as table decor since it can be so beautiful, and can also be used after the to make pies or smoothies.
  • Votive candles create a nice ambiance especially when cozied up in the greenery. 
  • Cloth napkins always make the table special. (if you don’t want to iron them just tie a little twine around them ands no-one will notice.)

Caramelized Onion Tart


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (Cervasi recommended)

2 tablespoons butter

3 medium onions-sliced very thin

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

4 thyme sprigs, plus more for garnish

1 sheet frozen puff pastry-thawed in the refrigerator


Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat until melted and sizzling. Add the onions and sprinkle generously with Kosher salt and pepper. Stir to coat onions with the butter and oil. Turn the heat to low and cook onions for up to 40 minutes, stirring frequently. The onions will be soft, browned in places and taste almost sweet when finished caramelizing

On a piece parchment paper, roll the puff pastry into a roughly 10 by 16-inch rectangle. Place puff pastry on the baking sheet. Top pastry evenly with onions, leaving ½ inch border. Sprinkle with thyme. If using bacon or cheese, sprinkle them on now. 

Bake on middle rack until crust is golden about 25-30 minutes. Oven temperatures vary, so when the edges are browned it is done.

Let the tart cool for 10 minutes. Cut into rectangles. Serve warm or at room temperature. 

Rigatoni with Butternut, Sage Béchamel


Roasted Butternut

4 cups peeled butternut squash, cut into 1” cubes (about 1 medium squash)

2 tablespoons extra olive oil

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt 

Bechamel Sauce

1 stick unsalted butter (4 ounces)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

4 cups whole milk, at room temperature if possible

2 cloves of chopped garlic

1 bay leaf

Pinch fresh nutmeg

6 fresh sage leaves chopped, or more to taste

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt and pepper to taste

1 cup grated fontina

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1 pound dry rigatoni (Cervasi recommended)


Preheat oven to 400 F.

On a baking sheet, toss together the butternut squash, olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Transfer to the oven and roast for 20 then stir and roast for another 20 minutes.
In a 2 quart saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and garlic whisk until smooth, about 2 minutes. Always stirring, gradually add the milk a little at a time, and continue to whisk until the sauce is smooth and creamy. Simmer until you just start to see tiny bubbles around the edges.  (Watch it may boil over if it comes to a rapid boil) The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Turn off the heat and stir in fontina, nutmeg and sage.

In a large pot, bring to a boil 6 quarts of salted water. Add the rigatoni and cook for about 5-7 minutes. Since you will be cooking the pasta a second time in the oven, you want to make sure the inside is still a bit hard inside. Drain in a colander. Return pasta to the pot and pour in the bechamel sauce and the butternut. Using a wooden spoon, mix well until all the pasta is coated with the sauce. Top with the grated parmesan.

Pour into a greased 13-by-9-inch baking dish.  At this point you can cover and refrigerate it for a few hours.

When ready to serve, preheat oven to 375 F.

Take out the baking dish with pasta, and let it come to room temperature.

Bake uncovered for 45 minutes or until the top has bubbled up and browned a bit. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Top with pine nuts and fried sage.  Bake uncovered for 30-45 minutes or until the top has melted and browned a bit. All ovens are different so look for the melty goodness on top. Check to be sure it’s warmed through. 

Remove from the oven and serve.

For more of my easy entertaining ideas, make-ahead recipes, and inspiration, follow Lauren Lane at:




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