Brainstorming Dinner Party Decor

My dad will be visiting next week to do press for his new book, Payback Time, which is coming out March 2 (click here to pre-order on Amazon – sorry to plug it, but I’m excited!).

We’re going to have some wonderful family friends over for dinner, and I’m brainstorming my table design. I’m not really sure what I want, exactly. I don’t want it to look girly, but I do want it to look pretty, and I feel in the mood to spice up the table with a print by wrapping vases.

Snippet and Ink

Snippet and Ink

Like these vases, I’m almost feeling a simple and elegant black and white theme, on a white tablecloth with fluffy white flowers and black placecards. It’s a sophisticated color scheme and it won’t compete with the food. A little cold, though?

I have lovely ice blue- and pewter-colored placemats that go really well with my dark wood dining table. I could design around them, with silver candlesticks and maybe chocolate or bronze wrapping on the vases, fluffy white flowers, white napkins with chocolate placecards tucked into them. It would be a color scheme similar to this inspiration board, though less embellished wedding and more birds nest with blue eggs and white accents.

Snippet and Ink

Snippet and Ink

I love that lightish bronze color of the birds nest.

I’m going to see what wrapping paper is on offer at the paper store and go from there . . .

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Casino Inspiration

casino2All photos ©United International Pictures (UIP)

I saw Scorsese’s Casino for the first time the other day and LOVED the design ethos. The textures, the technicolors, the glitz and glamour of old school Vegas make me want to a) immediately fly to Vegas for the weekend, and/or b) immediately throw a fantastic Vegas-style dinner party.

Preferably both. Immediately.


Have I told you that I love Vegas like it’s going out of style? Which, OK, it kind of is; but still, it is my disneyland in the desert, where life only exists for the purpose of fun and lying by the pool in the sun.

I especially look forward to the flight in, because you fly over a whole lot of nothingness for a long time and then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, below you is a glittering man-made oasis with nothing but sand surrounding it that could not exist without our extraordinary ability to make something out of nothing. It’s a giant paean to the gluttony and consumerism – and capitalist ingenuity – of our culture, and there’s something beautiful about people being able to create a place that is entirely, solely, exclusively only for our own enjoyment of those sins. I love it.

And I don’t even gamble.

casino4I love the crazy colors and the glitter and sequins, the fact that you can walk around at 7am in a cocktail dress and nobody thinks a thing about it. People say you can do that stuff in New York without anyone caring, but you can’t. (Not that I’ve tried it – what, lil ol me???!)

I love the fact that everything is an extreme high or low: the temperature, the prices, the winnings. Everyone I know either loves Vegas or hates it – there are no feelings in between.


So what would a Vegas-style menu be? I think it has to be a little be a little classy, a little bit trashy, a little bit over the top and a lot of fun.

I’d start with a big round of cocktails and appetizers. Vegas is into wine these days, but old school Vegas liked their cocktails stiff and large. I’d serve classic martinis (vodka or gin as you like) with blue cheese stuffed olives (traditional with a twist), Cosmopolitans (because Vegas just is), and have some home-spiced bar nuts to munch on.

For the meal, steak is the obvious choice, and a perfectly good one, but it isn’t my thing. I’d make delicately poached salmon with creme fraiche and caviar, creamed spinach as a side, and serve a huge gooey dark chocolate fudge cake with a good port for dessert.

Soooo decadent, I love it!

This menu is clearly not the only way to go  – I know you guys have some juicy Vegas stories and can come up with some great Vegas-esque menus. What would your trashy, classy, over the top decadent menu be? Leave ’em in the comments!

Pink Inspiration to Shoo Away Winter Blahs

The cold swooped into Jackson Hole today, as it did in most of the country, and because I’ve been bundled up and inside I’ve been imagining a party that is springy, girly, happy and filled with joy – i.e., PINK!

Now, I’m not really a pink kind of girl. I rarely use the color and even more rarely wear it, but in the right situation and with the exact right shade of pink, it works for me. And it works even better in the dead of cold, hideous winter when everyone wants some warmth and friendliness in their life. This shade of perfectly pale pink gives winter some color without being garishly too much.

Pink Luncheon

The pinks, gold, touches of glass green and a little cheery yellow/orange make me so happy!

I would use this color scheme for a girls luncheon, a baby shower, or for a more uncommon gathering, an afternoon tea for absolutely no good reason at all. Wouldn’t it be lovely to cover the table in a very pale pink tablecloth and gold candlesticks, then use a few tiny bud vases filled with kosher salt to hold up lollipops and name cards (or if you’re really ambitious, as in the inspiration board: cupcake pops)? I’d add just a few touches of green or blue glass vases or water glasses for some pop against the pink, et voila – you’re done. Nothing to it.

Add some friends, an assortment of tea sandwiches and champagne with a raspberry at the bottom of the glass, and it’ll be a lovely party.

Lucky Meal for the New Year Dinner Party

Happy New Year!

I have a strong feeling this is going to be a good year. I feel it. I wish the best for each of you with a fresh start and renewed energy, and I look forward to sharing many gorgeous and yummy things with all of you here in the next year.


Epicurous has a lovely description of lucky foods from around the world to usher in a most lucky 2010 – and Nancy, my step-grandma, cooked the Southern ones here: collard greens for lots of greenbacks and black-eyed peas for pocket change, she said! I took hasty photos with my iphone and then lost it the next day in I’m not sure which snowboarding tumble in roughly three feet of heavy powder. So no photos from me, and I have to go buy a new phone today.

I’m a midwesterner – now New Yorker – and have absolutely no instincts in my blood for real down home cooking, so it’s all new to me. When Nancy made these dishes last year, I found out that traditionally you cook collard greens with ham hock! I never knew there were dishes with meat in them that didn’t specify that there was, in fact, meat in them. My poor little non-ham-eating heart was shocked. So she substituted chicken broth for the ham for my sister and I and it may not have been strictly traditional, but it was damn good. This year, she actually started three days before, when she cooked the collard greens and then set them in a ziploc bag in the garage to keep cool and steep. Two days before, she put the black-eyed peas in a huge bowl of water to soak, and then the day of she made grits. You could make them with veggie broth just as well, for a nice vegetarian meal.

ChampagneYou could make this lucky New Years meal anytime during the year – nothing wrong with a little luck in April or August, presented with full New Years flair of gold and silver all over the place. Anytime you need a fresh start and a little favor with the gods, it would make a great dinner party and would be so happily different from the usual holidays at the usual times. Give everyone New Years hats and noisemakers, and celebrate each person’s rebirth in whatever way they want! It could be a lovely addition to a happiness group or to cheer someone up.

Details, Details, Details

eddie table

Eddie Ross – remember him from Top Design? – wrote a gorgeous post about his Thanksgiving table design, and especially focused on all the little details like vintage salt cellars and mixed textiles and metals that can make a table so special. I love love love how simultaneously rich and simple the design is.

An Amber-Hued Thanksgiving

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