All Friends on Deck
The slab of lamb being shuttled from grill to cutting board is ready for its close-up—it’s a handsomely crusted, still-sizzling vision from a carnivore’s dream. Our hostess, however, looks worried. "I’m afraid I overcooked it a little," mourns Azita Bina-Seibel, loosely shrouding the evidence with foil. She sighs, then smiles, before rejoining her guests on the terrace, two more bottles of Bin 26 Solare (a juicy Umbrian red she imports herself) in hand.
A dining-industry vet, Bina-Seibel has learned not to sweat the small stuff. She doesn’t have much time for it, especially now that the chef and co-owner of eateries Lala Rokh and Bin 26 Enoteca has added another dining hot spot to her juggling act: Bina Osteria, a glitzy Italian restaurant and lounge ensconced in the Ritz-Carlton Residences building.
Unlike captains of other industries, who can spend weekends playing on the Cape and Islands, chefs are at their busiest Friday through Sunday, and tend to socialize with friends and family closer to home. So when Bina-Seibel and her husband, manuscript dealer Elmar Seibel, purchased their five-floor, 6,700-square-foot, 19th-century Back Bay brownstone in 2000, they tapped architecture firm Office dA (which also designed the interiors of Bin 26 and Bina) to make sure the aging townhouse could handle the couple’s appetite for entertaining. Now a souped-up prep kitchen and two cleverly designed decks make hosting a breeze.
Or, in the case of tonight’s gathering, a warm, balmy breeze; as guests arrive, Bina-Seibel hands out cantaloupe "refreshers," brilliant-orange thirst quenchers made from ultra-ripe fruit. Although she sometimes spikes the beverages with vodka or wine, Bina-Seibel is keeping these booze-free. With multiple courses in the offing, the night is still young. "You don’t want them to get too drunk…at the beginning," she explains. "I like to start with a nonalcoholic drink, then move on to the wines."
The festivities begin on the back deck, just off her 15-year-old son Kian’s fourth-floor bedroom. Guests step onto an oasis of purple flowers and cascading ivy; wood and wrought iron railings; and gray-metal furniture covered in white-canvas all-weather cushions. Here, the blue sky seems even prettier than at the coast, framed as it is by rusting metal fire escapes, jutting ladders, and brick, brick, and more brick. Overhead, the iconic Prudential Tower looms in the distance.
Bina-Seibel passes a spread of fresh, simple finger foods—striped French radishes, marinated olives in assorted hues and shapes. "You shouldn’t make things too complicated," she advises, handing a dish of salty pistachios to a new arrival. As virgin cocktails give way to sparkling wine, the party scoops toasted lavash into a bowl of mirza ghasemi, a savory Persian dip of grilled eggplant, tomatoes, and roasted garlic.
An hour before sundown, Bina-Seibel ushers guests one flight up, to another terrace that juts out over Marlborough Street. A long table sits a few feet away from a three-burner grill, conveniently tethered to a natural-gas line. Window boxes hold more flowers, and a retractable awning provides protection from too much sun (or rain).
The wine flows, and Bina-Seibel darts nimbly between the grill and a small prep kitchen located just inside the sliding glass doors, delivering platter after platter of spectacular edibles: grilled whole sardines, served on charred Tuscan toast. A cold cucumber soup with currants, walnuts, and dried rose petals. Tender rice- and lamb-stuffed tomatoes and yellow peppers.
Soon, the aforementioned lamb is ready for slicing. Turns out, Bina-Seibel’s anxiety was unwarranted: The meat is cooked to a perfect medium-rare. As the party tucks in, there’s a toast. Then another. And one more. At meal’s end, Bina-Seibel whips up crêpes topped with peach compote and mascarpone whipped cream.
Says the consummate hostess: "At the end of the day, the menu is less important than the guest list. Entertaining is about sharing time with family and friends. The food and drink are secondary."
Go on to the next page for Bina-Seibel’s recipes…