PARTY WITH A VIEW One of the multiple highlights of the Lavin’s party is the elaborate fireworks display, viewed from their yard perched high over
Raritan Bay. The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and Manhattan skyline can be viewed in the distance.
The Lavins spend weeks planning their Fourth of July party.
“It started as a little bit of a housewarming,” she says. “Over
the years, it’s become a tradition.” The party always coincides
with the town’s fireworks display. “The fireworks that Atlantic
Highlands sets o; are truly spectacular,” says Lavin. “It’s such
a gift to us.”
The Lavins decorate the yard with American flags and patri-
otic bunting. “Bill is a Navy veteran and we are both patriots,”
explains Lavin. Tables and chairs are positioned with the view
in mind. Parking is a challenge, so Bill takes charge, carefully
arranging cars (with “a Rubik’s Cube strategy”) in the tight
driveway and along the quiet street.
Each guest brings a covered dish, adhering to Lavin’s plan.
“Barbecue,” she says, “is the foundation of our menu.” Guests
are greeted with a specialty cocktail that Lavin concocts.
“When you ask someone, ‘what can I get you to drink?’ they
look around to see what everyone else is drinking, or they
default to wine or beer. So I always have a tray of cocktails
as guests arrive, already poured,” she explains. In years past,
Lavin has created her own take on a whiskey sour, as well as
a mojito made with home-grown mint. Keeping things local,
the Lavins serve craft beer from Atlantic Highlands-based
Guests eat, drink, play croquet and other yard games, and
await the fireworks. “We distribute pillows and blankets so
that, when it’s time for the show,” Lavin says, “everyone just
looks up.” The party concludes with a birthday celebration,
not just for the country, but for Lavin’s mother. “Her birthday
is July ;, so the evening wraps with cake, candles, homemade
vanilla ice cream and singing,” Lavin says. “She’ll be ;; this
year. She’s a rock star.”
Lavin loves to share her knowledge of all things edible and
flowering. An avid blogger (gardenglamour-duchessdesigns.
blogspot.com), she has also written a cookbook, The Hamptons
& Long Island Homegrown Cookbook (Voyager Press, ;;;;),
a picture-packed ode to local produce and fresh ingredients.
Lavin plans two similar books on New York City and the Gar-
den State for the Homegrown series. Her latest book, Finishing
Touches: The Art of Garnishing the Cocktail (Cider Mill Press,
;;;;), explores creative cocktail garnishes, including herbs,
fruits and vegetables from her garden, with dozens of innova-
tive recipes. “Ingredients matter,” she says. “There’s no doggie
bag for a cocktail.”
Somehow, amidst the gardening, entertaining and writing,
Lavin found time to work on the inside of the house, including
recently renovating the master suite and finishing the walk-out
basement—complete with a copper-topped bar. But this time of
year, it’s all about living outside. Lavin’s gardens—and sharing
them with family and friends—are her ultimate passion.
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