A Garden Party with Anthropologie
I love throwing dinner parties. At this point, I’ve thrown (what feels like) a zillion of them: big ones, small ones, indoor, outdoor, formal, casual, with a kitchen and without. No matter what the circumstances, I have one simple mantra: Be flexible. Because no matter how prepared you are, something unexpected will always happen. And the best thing you can do when things don’t go as planned is to take a deep breath, stay calm, and move to Plan B. As long as you’re having fun, chances are your guests will never know the difference.
This mantra, I've learned, holds true not just for dinner parties, but for all manner of life situations. Especially ones involving rain.
I recently had the chance to collaborate with Anthropologie (one of my favorite brands!) to throw a summer garden party. Kelsea Olivia, a floral designer and prop stylist who works for Anthropologie Rockefeller Center, reached out to see if I’d like to create and style a summery menu. The party was supposed to be held at dusk in a lush garden, with a long, low table in the grass, pillows for seats, lanterns scattered about, and twinkling strands of lights strung from the trees. Needless to say, I was very stoked at the opportunity. (And needless to say, things didn't go exactly as planned!)
The menu I planned was in keeping with the garden theme: everything was bright and fresh, with dishes that could be served chilled or at room temperature. I made two salads – a super-easy watermelon, mint, and feta combo, plus an arugula salad with raw corn, pickled shallots, fresh peaches, and toasted pine nuts. I arranged a charcuterie platter with pâté, speck, prosciutto, pancetta, and a variety of saucissons, and made an heirloom tomato tart with ricotta and basil.
For dessert, we had blackberry pecan crumble bars. Finally, I made lightly sparkling rosé sangria with white peaches and basil. I’m not normally a big sangria drinker, as it is often overly sweet (or too boozy!) for my taste, so I created a recipe with no added sugar and no hard liquor. This refreshing sangria, made simply from rosé wine, white peaches, basil, and finished with sparkling peach Moscato (or Prosecco), makes a really pretty pitcher drink – especially served in this crazy cool glass drink dispenser.
The day of the party, we saw that there was a chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon, but after weeks of sunshine, it didn’t seem likely. I arrived around 4:30 p.m., and was greeted by claps of thunder and dramatic streaks of lightening crisscrossing the sky. Seeing that rain was imminent, we unloaded the car and ran everything inside. Moments later, the sky turned black and let loose a torrential downpour of rain. So much for our garden party dreams!
Luckily, we had access to the apartment of one of Kelsea’s colleagues, so we quickly moved to Plan B. Sure it wouldn’t be a garden party, per se, but we set out to recreate a summery garden party ambiance indoors. Kelsea and her team got to work creating an installation of greenery hanging from the lighting fixtures and styling the table, while I finished the food and arranged it all on platters and in bowls. From the wood and marble charcuterie board to the wooden salad bowl and pretty white dinnerware, I seriously wanted every Anthologie piece we used!
By 6:30 we were ready for everyone to sit down for dinner. Kelsea was a miracle worker – the table looked so pretty, lined with gold lanterns and candles and draping greenery, plus hand-written menus and flowers tucked into casually knotted cloth napkins atop the plates. It all looked so summery and garden-like, even though we were unexpectedly forced indoors.
Jen Trahan took pictures and they turned out beautifully, in spite of the lack of natural light. (It was literally pitch black outside thanks to the storm.) Everyone sat around the table and enjoyed the meal, toasting and laughing and telling stories. Glasses were refilled and the food was gobbled up so quickly that I’m pretty sure nobody even noticed it was raining.
The shoot ended up being a blast, and I was reminded again how much I love to collaborate with creative, passionate people. I was also reminded that flexibility is key – whether I’m styling for a photo shoot or throwing a dinner party. It’s easy for me to get stressed when things don’t go as planned, but things are way more fun when I relax and remember to have fun.
Thanks, Kelsea, for putting this together and lending your styling magic, Anthropologie, for the beautiful dinnerware and serving pieces, and to Jen for the lovely photos. Can’t wait to collaborate again sometime.
I'll be posting recipes in the next day or two – check back and you'll be able to click on the links below...
A GARDEN PARTY MENU
- Rosé Sangria with White Peaches and Basil
- Charcuterie Platter
- Arugula Salad with Peaches, Corn, and Pickled Shallots
- Watermelon, Mint, Feta Salad
- Heirloom Tomato Tart with Ricotta
- Blackberry Pecan Crumble Bars