I received an email forever and a day ago from the PR folks who represent the über talented event designer, David Stark. You might remember the show-stopping display David did for the new West Elm store in NYC; it was a flower shop crafted entirely out of old books. Now just imagine that on an even grander scale. David specializes in corporate events, weddings, and the ritziest of Bar Mitzvahs in and around the New York area. He even put together the Huffington Post's Pre-Inaugural Ball in 2009 (see above)!
You can only imagine how excited I was to learn he'd help me and all my readers out with some great tips for summer entertaining! Perfect seeing as the 4th of July is right around the corner!
1. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SUMMER COCKTAIL TO SERVE WHEN ENTERTAINING?
My summer drink is a Campari and Soda with a slice of orange, and I only drink this in the summer!
2. DO YOU PREFER AFTERNOON OR EVENING PARTIES?
I actually prefer an evening party. You know, everyone is so busy during the week, that when they finally get to the weekends, they really want and need their afternoons to themselves. An evening fete allows for that and gives everyone time to do something fun during the day to then talk about at your party!
3. WHEN HOSTING AN OUTDOOR SUMMER PARTY, WHAT TYPE OF FOOD DO YOU RECOMMEND SERVING?
I have very few RULES when planning a party, but there are a couple that resonate with me. Unless you specifically invite people to a COCKTAIL PARTY, then you serve a full meal. Only when the invitation is for cocktails does that mean light snacks. Second, if you are serving dinner, unless this is a sit-down experience at a dining table, food must be easy to eat and must not require a knife to cut. One of the most common mistakes I see people make at an informal buffet gathering is to serve a course, generally a meat that requires some real knife work. Perched on a sofa, that is often a recipe for a disaster!
Serve easy, light foods: Salads, grilled vegetables, grilled fish (easy to cut with just a fork), ceviche, I am always a fan of traditional summer BBQ, and with little twists, you can make the typical burger feel exotic. Serve lamb burgers off the grill and transport your guests to the Greek Islands. Replace ketchup with Greek yogurt touched with mint, cool and crisp for a hot day.
4. CAN YOU RECOMMEND SOME FUN, EASY IDEAS FOR SETTING AN OUTDOOR TABLE?
I often use oversized and bright beach towels to play double duty as vivid table cloths – they immediately set the tone for casual and beach-y. Similarly, cloth bandanas take on a new role as napkins. I throw them all in the wash right after, and they are ready to go for next time!
5. ANY FUN DIY IDEAS FOR A CENTERPIECE?
I like to use vintage thermoses, lunch boxes, and picnic hampers. Sometimes the thermoses host chilled soups – gazpacho or a yogurt cucumber puree, but other times flowers. I mix together stripes and plaids of all sorts for an eye-popping display. Open lunch boxes could display a culinary dish on the menu, but they could also display a small “field” of blossoms or a tumble of fresh lemons. The baskets, thermoses, and lunch boxes are widely available in all shapes, sizes, and patterns at flea markets, on eBay, and at garage sales. Keeping in mind your next dinner party gives your hunting a mission!
Thank you, David! So many great tips. I particularly love the towels as table cloths and bandanas as napkins! And is it just me or does anyone else want one of those iced Campari beverages in their hand stat?
David's newest book, David Stark Design, features photos from his creative feats in the world of event design. And before I sign off today, I have to share photos of my two favorite projects David designed.
Nature-inspired Wedding in Maine
all images via David Stark Design unless otherwise noted