May 29, 2022 by Arden Montgomery
How I Argaux: Happy Hour with Samantha Rees of Saison
Samantha Rees is a Brooklyn-based stylist, chef, Vogue contributing editor + Founder of Saison, female-founded/female-run catering and gifting studio.
Saison is a female-founded, female-run catering and gifting studio, set out to create thoughtful, one-of-a-kind experiences, for all occasions – big and small. Inspired by nature, Saison believes in intentionality every step of the way, from cooking with organic, local ingredients to sourcing eco-friendly, compostable materials. Saison has been featured in T Magazine, Vogue + Garmentory. Clients include Ulla Johnson, Tiffany & Co, Tweezerman, Neogen Global, Prounis, Catbird, Maker & Son, Honest Beauty, Minted & More.
Tell us about yourself, Samantha! We have a lot in common and there is a lot of ground we could cover, but introduce yourself to the Argaux community.
Hi! I’m founder of Saison — a boutique catering and gifting studio based in Brooklyn. I’ve called Brooklyn my home for my entire life and just married the love of my life who I met way back when in first grade. Cooking, dining and gathering friends around the table are my passions — nothing makes me happier than sharing a glass of wine and a home cooked meal with friends old and new. I’m also a wine and floral enthusiast — constantly foraging for blooms on country roads when I leave the city and arranging wildflower bouquets. Some of my favorite memories over the years have all been over a glass of wine — from sipping gamay’s in the Loire Valley with my girlfriends to beach picnics at sunset with crisp rosés.
Have you always had an interest in food? Did you go to culinary school or are you a dinner party/homecook enthusiast like Margaux and me?
I’ve been gathering friends and family around the table for as long as I can remember, it’s always been something that brings me immense joy and when I feel most at ease. I have no formal cooking training, but around the time right after college was when I began to really find my way in the kitchen and hosting became a meaningful way to gather friends. It’s always been about simple, seasonal meals, made with love — unfussy and beautiful.
Where does the inspiration for Saison come from? When and why did you decide to start the business?
Saison is a natural extension of my approach to cooking and gathering. However, it came to be in a more official way in the spring of 2020, as our garden began to bloom and I longed to cook for friends and family again during the pandemic. There was no real game plan or goal for it to grow into a business, just a way to bring something sweet to my community during such an uncertain time. It started with weekly food boxes filled with homemade baked goods and foods from our garden produce — garlicscape tapenades, mini olive oil cakes studded with berries and stone fruit and herby white bean salads to name a few — and has grown into a small catering business mostly working with creative clients and brands I deeply admire. I never sought out to do exactly what I am doing with Saison, it’s all happened very organically and unfolded in ways I could have never imagined.
The inspiration comes from a combination of so many things, but mostly the beauty of summertime. It’s a season so streaked with nostalgia for me and one I long for year-round — sweet warm air, juicy stone fruits, briny shellfish, nights spent under the stars, and al fresco meals with the ones I love. I try to capture that feeling and it’s tenderness in everything I create with Saison. Whether you are receiving a box of shortbread, a beautiful cheeseboard or ordering a market tote, my hope is that it transports you somewhere special.
What is your ideal ‘happy hour’ routine?
I absolutely adore happy hour and it’s by far my favorite part of entertaining — whether it’s for a large group, a few friends or myself. It’s a moment of transition in the day and I find sets the mood for the rest of the evening. At home, I opt for simple selections and items I normally keep in my fridge — good olives, a lovely cheese or two, berries, a torn baguette, and a few selections of natural wine.
What role does entertaining play in your life? What role does wine play while entertaining?
A week doesn’t go by without friends around my table — sometimes planned, but more often than not, impromptu. Entertaining has always been an extension of who I am — it’s an essential part of my life and a constant inspiration. Whether we’re gathering over an elaborate meal and I set the table with linens or are squeezed around the table over a big bowl of pasta, wine is always flowing until the candles flicker away, bellies are full and conversation lingers.
Do you have a go-to hostess gift?
I always bring wine and something sweet for dessert, but I don’t count that as a hostess gift! In the summer months, a selection of freshly picked produce from the garden, a bundle of flowering herbs or a carton of eggs from our chickens is often a go-to. I love to leave the host with something that will last beyond the evening or to enjoy the next day for breakfast.
How do you incorporate Argaux wines into dinners at home? Even when you aren’t entertaining?
Wine plays a big role in my life and influences so much that goes on in the kitchen. Most evenings, I love to pour a glass of wine while cooking dinner, it marks the end of my work day in the kitchen (which is often very scheduled) to leisurely cooking for myself. My husband also loves to cook and we always make dinner together — it’s one of the most special traditions and something I look forward to everyday. Sharing a new bottle of wine or a favorite from Argaux is such a nice addition to this routine.
What are you cooking these days? Any new favorite recipes?
Late spring is such an exciting time in the kitchen — the markets are bursting again with beautiful produce, and am overwhelmed with inspiration and the beauty of it all. At the moment, I’ve been cooking with a surplus of herbs, tender greens and highlighting all the delicate, nuanced flavors of spring.
There are a few recipes I make over and over in spring — sourdough toasties topped with whipped goat cheese, marinated white beans, peas and basil and a simple fresh pasta with smoked ricotta, peas, asparagus and loads of herbs and lemon. Our rooftop strawberries are ready to harvest so they have been the star of baking lately — olive oil cake topped with whipped cream and strawberries, lemony ricotta cheesecake with strawberry compote and a wildly addictive strawberry cornmeal snacking cake are a few favorites. The strawberries are so delicious though and are perfect on their own or with a little whipped cream.
What are your’ al fresco dining’ essentials?
Besides for delicious food and bottles of chilled wine — linens, candles, a good playlist and citronella incense sticks or bug spray are essentials. I wait all year to dine al fresco — there is really nothing more magical to me than that, so making sure everyone’s comfortable (a buggy night can ruin the vibe!) is key and I find the rest just falls into place.
Do you have a favorite Spotify playlist to listen to while you are cooking?
I have so many! Most of them are ones friends have made over the years. Since I normally spend all day in the kitchen, I try to structure the day a bit by what I listen to so it’s a balance between podcasts and playlists. Recently Harry’s House has been playing a lot 🙂
Favorite restaurant in New York? We’ll give you two! I know how hard this question is 😉
Oof this is so hard, but neighborhood spots are my favorite. One favorite is Locanda Vini E Olli, a rustic Italian spot nestled in an old pharmacy in Clinton Hill. Their homemade pastas are delicious, but I especially love going in the summer for a spritz and anchovy toast. Chez Ma Tante in Greenpoint is another very special spot — my husband and I actually just got married there over an intimate dinner a few weeks ago and it was perfect. Their chilled mussels and chips are a must.
- Olive oil or butter? Butter
- Rosé or chilled red? Chilled Red
- Pasta or Pizza? Pasta
- France or Italy? Italy
Here are some of Samantha’s Argaux favorites:
2019 Origin Bates Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon
2019 Breton Val de Loire Rouge Grolleau
Shades of Rosé 3-Pack, particularly the Château Barbebelle Cuvee Madeline