Spring Tasting


Despite a heavy snow storm the day before, it was a sunny day in Philadelphia for our Spring Tasting at Cuttalossa. Alexis from Teaspoons and Petals curated a collection of season appropriate teas, Alex of Collective Creamery brought a selection of cheeses all produced by woman-lead farms and Alex of Lost Bread Co. baked up a storm of outrageous carbs. Mess Hall was asked to design the menu, table setting and a floral installation to welcome in Spring. 


So thankful for all the all-stars involved and to everyone that attended. Still day dreaming of the out-of-this-world pairing of a shortbread pretzel topped with Birchrun Hills Farm Fat Cat raw cows milk cheese and jasmine tea pickled pear. Couldn't make it but feel inspired to pair cheese and tea? Here's the menu to use as a jumping off point. 




Aviva Rowley Wet Vessels Mess Hall Edible Ikebana

Aviva hand-mixes her own pink glaze making each dish unique. To the right are three sizes of the CASTLE dish which provided a base for our edible arrangements. 

Aviva Rowley Wet Vessels Mess Hall Edible Ikebana Small

Photos and styling by Aviva Rowley and Tate Obayashi and special thanks to Erin Goldberger of New Release Gallery for hosting us. 

Ikebana is having a moment, but the simplistic form of floral arrangement has been popular since 7th century Japan. Once an offering at alters, the core of the art is to respect each flower or plant chosen for it's inimitable quality,  character and purpose. Mess Hall's edible ikebana follows the same philosophy. Each element of our arrangements are carefully chosen at local farmers markets and specialty food shops. This past Valentine's Day we partnered with our dear friend Aviva Rowley of Wet Vessels to create a one-of-a-kind gift. The reception was so overwhelming that we're exploring ways to expand the collaboration!

Aviva Rowley Wet Vessels Mess Hall

To the left, a small edible arrangement using New York State grown beets and watermelon radish, hydroponic baby chard, pickled sweet peppers, New York State mozzarella from Murray's Cheese and a mini baguette from Bien Cuit

Aviva Rowley Wet Vessels Mess Hall Edible Ikebana Still Life




The holiday season may be over, but these party recipes are a pleaser year round. Three Mess Hall contributors from our "Hometown" issue generously shared these additional stories and recipes with us. 


“In an age of automation and virtual reality, I seek comfort in nature and food, and food in nature; the fruit on the tree, the herb in the ground, yada yada yada.”


This family recipe originates from my Mom’s Mom as far as I know. It’s referred to as “Grandma’s Dip.” If she knows you are coming, it will be ready waiting for you; a simple tradition my mother carries out for her children. I’ve only ever enjoyed her dip with either a pretzel or a Pringle. The same goes for anyone else. 

Grandma's Dip

Ben Carrier is a photographer based in London and New York.


Serves a party of 4-5

• 16 oz Cream Cheese (Philadelphia is the “best”) 
• 1/2 white onion minced (we use a baby food grinder)
• 4–5 shakes of Worcestershire
• Add milk, little by little, to desired consistency (it’s a dip not a soup, my preferred thickness is the likes of greek yogurt)


Hot Artichoke Spread


• 1 (14 oz) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
• 1 (8 oz) can water chestnuts, drained and chopped
• 1/2 cup Romano Cheese, grated
• 1/4 chopped green onions
• 1/2 cup mayo
• 1/2 cup sour cream
• Dash of hot sauce
• Paprika



Shannon Retseck is the owner of Cuttalossa, a textile and homeware store based in Philadelphia.


In the mid 2000s spending Easter with Shannon Retseck meant one thing: You celebrate the Polish way — with a  trip to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Doylestown, Pennsylvania and an Easter Mass among hundreds of prayer candles and the Black Madonna herself. Afterwards, her grandmother Theresa would serve up a warm artichoke dip with slices of chewy bread. You’d gorge on that, nearly spoiling the rest of the Easter feast. Theresa was most known for her pineapple pudding and jello salad, but anything with equal parts mayo and sour cream is good in our book. 

Serves a party of 4 - 5

Mix all together and bake in a preheated, 350°F oven for 30 minutes or until bubbling. 


Whoopie Pie


Tate Obayashi is the founder of Mess Hall. When she’s not cooking up a storm, she’s a a prop stylist and designer in New York City.

If you grew up in Massachusetts, or are related to someone who did, chances are you’ve had a whoopie pie. The origins of the treat are hotly debated, but the Marshmallow Fluff used in the filling dates back to 1896 in Fannie Farmer’s Boston School Cookbook. Growing up in Northern California, the whoopie pie was as foreign as Vegimite or clotted cream, but my mother, being a New Englander by birth and heart, made an absurd quantity of them every holiday. I now come to crave them during the colder months, and have continued on the tradition of making an absurd amount. 

Mix all the cake’s dry ingredients together in one bowl and the cake’s wet ingredients in another. Slowly add together until shiny. Leave at room temperature for 30 minutes. In the meantime, whip the butter for the filling, and gradually add the Marshmallow Fluff, the confectionary sugar, and the optional matcha powder. After the cake batter has sat for 30 minutes, spoon out one-inch circles of it on a greased baking sheet and bake in a 350 °F preheated oven for 10 minutes. Let cool before piping the filling between two cakes.


• 2 cups unbleached sifted flour
• 2 tsp baking soda
• 1/4 tsp salt
• 1/3 cup cocoa powder
• 1 cup sugar, white or light brown
• 1 egg
• 1/2 cup cooking oil or butter
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• 1 cup milk

The filling:
• 1 cup butter
• 1 1/4 cup Marshmallow Fluff
• 1 cup confectionary sugar, sifted
• Though not traditional, we added 2 tablespoons matcha powder to our filling for flavor and color


Illustrations by Jen Byun, artist, chef-in-training, and kimchi aficionado based in Rockaway, NYC.




Food is in my DNA. Both sides of my family relied on the food system in order to immigrate to North America and brought along recipes and ingredients from their homeland to remain connected to their past. My maternal grandfather was a baker in World War II, and when he returned to Concord, MA he continued the trade at Sally Ann’s Bakery. My then adolescent mother and her siblings would carve out the soft centers of day old cakes as an after school snack and would rely on a heavy diet of anadama bread, a loaf with New England roots made with cornmeal and molasses. When my maternal grandmother passed away a few years ago, a visit to the still standing bakery spurred an interest in my culinary history. I was gifted a loaf of bread by another customer, a total stranger, who had been going to Sally Ann’s for decades for the anadama. Sweet, earthy, and chewy, the bread satisfied a deep craving within me. 

Politics, media, and social constructs have a way of isolating us from one another, yet food manages to act as the proverbial olive branch. It’s how we define ourselves. It’s how we connect. Mess Hall started as a personal project and has turned into a communal one. I’m grateful to those who have shared their food stories with me thus far and am eager to hear more.



Tate A.K.O.