A Brooklyn Heights couple built things up instead of investing in a vacation home and are now in love with their sky-high oasis.
Interior designer Laurie Blumenfeld-Russo and her husband, Bob Russo, toyed with the idea of buying a summer home in Westport or Madison, CT. Instead, they decided to install a garden and full kitchen with an entertaining space atop their penthouse in a historic Brooklyn brownstone built in 1898. Her husband is a creative chef and she loves to garden. To accommodated both passions, they brought in Studio Prospect, a Brooklyn landscape architecture firm. “I envisioned an industrial-style kitchen to contrast with an organic roofscape,” notes Blumenfeld-Russo.
Their custom-built planters hold perennials and annuals. Some are dedicated to cherry and plum tomatoes, kale, carrots, peppers and other veggies, while others are for herbs, such as sage, basil, oregano, lavender, rosemary, mint and thyme.
“The herb cutting garden is part of the kitchen area for easy access when cooking,” notes Blumenfeld- Russo. “Being able to experience ‘garden to table’ is gratifying, delicious and fun.”
She also tends ornamental grasses, succulents and creeping Jenny, plus birch and dappled willow trees.
A gardener this gifted must have great helpers. “My go-to tools are a trowel, pruners, gardening gloves and a lot of sunblock.”
Laurie’s Tools For Entertaining | Laurie Blumenfeld-Russo and Bob Russo have perfected entertaining in their rooftop space. They serve delectable dishes like grilled lobster with a spicy garlic sauce alongside cocktails made with homemade Limonada and rosemary sprigs from their lofty herb garden. Their secrets to stress-free dinner parties and brunches:
- Before guests arrive, we prep a bar area with homemade cocktails. The table is set with hors d’oeuvres, and I always have on music to set a tone for the evening.
- We like Crate & Barrel Outdoor Dinnerware: plates, chargers, serving bowls and cups. The plates are white with rose gold chargers and serving bowls. They look so elegant on our gray reclaimed wood table. For flatware, Crate & Barrel or rose gold disposable plastic. Less to clean up!
- No tablecloth required. I like to see the organic elements of the wood.
- We use unbreakable/plastic pitchers and barware – except for the glass mason jars, because drinks look so appealing in them.
- We installed uplighting in all the planters to illuminate the garden at night.
LIMONCELLO COCKTAIL | Homemade Limoncello (inspired from our trip to Sicily last summer), grapefruit Pellegrino, a sprig of freshly picked rosemary from the garden and lots of ice. Serve in a mason jar.
GRILLED LOBSTER WITH SPICY GARLIC SAUCE | Ingredients:
1 cup olive oil
8 tablespoons butter
1 large bulb of garlic, finely chopped
6 shallots minced
4 jalapenos, seeds removed and finely chopped
Red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
Cup of cilantro leaves
Juice of one lemon
(2) 1.5 – 2 lb. lobsters
Put live lobsters in deep pot with little water and steam (if you have a steamer all the better) 15-20 minutes, until almost red. Remove from pot and let cool.
Sauce: Heat olive oil in pan on medium high heat. When hot throw in garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes, do not brown. Mix in shallots and cook for a few minutes. Add in jalapeno and cook for a few minutes continue to stir. As it’s cooking, layer in red pepper, salt and pepper to taste. Add cilantro and one minute later drop in the butter. When butter melts put in lemon juice to taste and cook a few minutes more.
Cut lobster in half-length wise and spoon garlic mixture generously on top of each half. Put on hot grill and close lid for five minutes. Serve with leftover garlic sauce and lemon.
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