Infusing grandeur into otherwise drab Mondays with five things/ideas/events for the week:
I. Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of hosting ten of my friends for dinner in my home. Though I’ve created hundreds of parties for clients over the last few years, somehow I forgot all of the anxiety that putting on your own dinner induces. To combat this needless worrying, I’ve compiled a list of five tips for the perfect dinner party.
1) Invitation: The invitation sets the tone. Mailed invitations are preferable, but few of us have time for this. Paperless Post has gorgeous options by everyone from Oscar de la Renta to Kelly Wearstler, so why reinvent the wheel when these creative geniuses have already done it for you?
2) Theme: A theme, be it an elaborate costume party or a simple color palette, helps bring food and table decor together quickly, and also gives your guests a sense of what to wear.
3) Tablescape: Set your table the night before. I know this seems like a lot, but if you’re feeling rushed you will kill your creativity. Other than flowers (or plants if your going for a less feminine aesthetic) find objects around your house (ceramic pieces, metal sculptures, topiaries) to curate into a table setting reflective of your taste.
4) Candles: The more candles the better. Firelight lends immediate intimacy to your dinner, especially when you stagger heights by using both tapers and tea lights. I’m famous for ruining linens with candle wax, so I’ve started mixing flameless options in pretty votives with dripless candles for my parties.
5) Cocktail Hour: When you’re mixing a large group of people together in a small setting (sometimes for the first time) it’s helpful to let them mingle when they first arrive before sitting down to a formal meal. Have glassware and an open bottle of wine or a specialty cocktail near the front door, and a cheese plate or nuts for people to partake in so that they aren’t drinking on an empty stomach. Trader Joe’s has surprisingly delicious options that are easy to dress up so that you can focus on making the actual meal - I love adding fruit preserves or quince paste to the top of their Caramelized Onion and Feta Pastry Bites. And don’t forget to enjoy yourself!
II. If planning dinner parties just isn’t your cup of tea, the best way to ensure invitations to other people’s parties is to be the best guest possible. Other than being your charming self, bringing a hostess gift is an amazing way to acknowledge the person throwing the event. Wine or spirits are fine, but typically not very memorable (unless you happen to bring a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 20yr like a ridiculously generous bourbon aficionado at my last dinner - what?!!). If you can’t think of something personal, a coffee table book is always a good choice. I did a post on my go-to choices several months ago, but Jennifer Raiser’s recently released In the Spirit of Napa Valley has since jumped to first place. Jennifer captures the essence of the enviable Napa lifestyle and offers an elegant guide to hotels, restaurants, tasting rooms, and sight-seeing. I couldn’t help ordering one for my coffee table, and a few to keep on-hand for hostess gifts as we move into the holiday season.
III. One of my favorite ways to waste a few hours on a lazy weekend is to peruse the walls of handmade paper at Paper Source in San Francisco and Miki’s Paper in Berkeley. Beyond the obvious utility as gift wrap, I play with the patterns to create menus and placecards for both clients and personal parties. When I found these paper covered lampshades on Minted, I was so excited by the new way to craft with the striking paper. Here are instructions for how to update your own shades, and here are my top three papers: metallic cranes, black marble, and yuzen waves.
IV. This season, I’m smitten with figs. I tried to jump on the peach and cherry bandwagons, but lately nothing satisfies quite like the beautiful pinky orange meat inside of a ripe fig. Preferring savory to sweet, I’ve been making this Fig and Fried Goat Cheese Salad at least once a week. The goat cheese component is the trickiest part of the recipe, but I promise it’s nothing you can’t handle. The rest is just chopping, making it deal for a Monday night meal solo or for your entire family.
V. Whether you live in a modern condo or an aging Victorian, chances are there’s room for improvement when it comes to your hardware. The first thing that I do whenever I move into a new place is swap out old or sterile light switch and electrical outlet faceplates (here and here are my favorite places to find unique options). I never considered replacing doors (sliding barn doors are so darling), toilet paper holders, or heating vents until I stumbled upon an online store called Rejuvenation. Now I can’t get enough! The possibilities for making your home even more perfect are endless.
Have a wonderful week! xx tt