Tête-à-Tête: Maureen Petrosky

Bette Davis
Will you bring me five more martinis, Leo? And line them right up here.

Hey doll, grab your whisky flip and join us as we tipple and talk with our spirited friend, Maureen Petrosky. A cocktail expert who also happens to be a Culinary Institute of America grad and a certified sommelier through the Master Court of Sommeliers, Maureen is the author of a fabulous new giggle water guide called The Cocktail Club: A Year of Recipes and Tips for Spirited Tasting Parties. Full of beautiful photos of drinks and nibbles for every month of the year, The Cocktail Club is the ultimate guide to throwing a spirited soiree. You may also know Maureen from her regular appearances on NBC’s Today show and her popular column on TheKitchn.com. Doll, with Maureen in the mix, finding inspired ways to serve the hard stuff has never been so easy.


Maureen, second from right, on the set of NBC’s “Today” show 

What are your three must-haves for a great cocktail party?

A pre-batched pitcher drink, plenty of ice and another set of hands. My darling husband is my right hand when we entertain. Don’t go at it alone, even if you prep everything ahead of time. There is always a lot to manage once guests arrive.

What’s the best way to stay cocktail party ready?

Always keep bourbon, a small batch gin, vodka, both sweet and dry vermouth, club soda, lemons and limes, and bubbly wine in the house. And, of course, polished glassware. Dry your glasses with a paper towel before you put them away so you’re not fussing with spotty glasses on the day of your party.

The Cocktail Club

Maureen’s new book includes cocktail party tips for every month of the year

What’s the perfect number of people for a cocktail party?

It depends on how intimate you want it to be. Twelve to 15 works for me because it creates a good mix of people, and I can talk to everyone at the party.

What are the hot cocktail trends for the fall?

Big batches and pitcher drinks. They’re perfect for hosts who want to be part of the party instead of spending all their time working it. I also crave beer and beer cocktails in the fall. I think it goes back to my college days.

Fish House Punch

Fish House Punch is the perfect batch drink for fall 

What’s the most underrated cocktail?

The Negroni, by far. Made with gin, Campari, sweet vermouth and club soda, it’s a cocktail that works in every season. I find that people who like whiskey like Negronis and people who say they don’t like gin also like Negronis. They are simply divine.

What cocktail is due for a comeback?

All the flips. That means there’s an egg in the drink. Flips are frothy, creamy and indulgent, like a nice full-bodied Cabernet as opposed to one that is flat and wimpy. Cocktail bars in the cities have been shaking these up for a while, but I think the rest of the country will catch on once they give them a try. They’re fun.

Apple Blow FizzAn Apple Blow Fizz is the perfect flip drink for fall

What are your tips for choosing a signature cocktail for a party?

Don’t over-think it. Make something you really like and chances are others will like it, too. Or, at the very least, you can use your enthusiasm and charm to convince them that they do. Pre-make more than one batch. When people are offered a specific cocktail upon arriving, they usually take it and stick with it.

What’s the best way to create your own signature cocktail?

Think seasonally. Right now, start with apple cider and bourbon and build on that. In the winter, I like to start with a batch of hot toddies on the stove. During the summer, it could be a white peach sangria or a blueberry lavender vodka spritzer depending on what’s in the garden. I always let the garden guide my bar.

What’s your go-to cocktail party hors d’oeuvre?

My tomatoes with vodka and sea salt. Pour a little vodka in the bottom of an olive tray and place a single row of tomatoes right on top. Serve them with toothpicks and a side of coarse salt in a small bowl. Guests should prick a vodka-soaked cherry tomato and then just barely dip it into the salt to coat the bottom. It’s simple, delicious, fun to eat and impresses every time.

Tomatoes vodka and salt

Where do you recommending shopping for party pieces?

I like estate sales and garage sales. I don’t like to have what everyone else has. I love to use vintage glassware and fun trays I’ve found along the way. Mismatched, but complimentary, linens and serving pieces let me share my style.

Maureen Petrosky

Do you recommend printed or emailed invitations?

Printed. Receiving a printed invitation in the mail is like spotting a rare bird. Chances are if someone mails me a nice invitation, I’ll be there. Unless it’s for another baby shower. Then, I’ll pour myself a cocktail and ponder the idea.

What’s the best way to avoid a hangover?

Don’t drink on an empty stomach. Pace yourself and drink water. Have a glass before you go to bed and put another on the nightstand. Believe me, you’ll want it.

Let’s play favorites…

Favorite vodka cocktail?

White Cosmo

Favorite gin cocktail?



Maureen calls Negronis “the perfect sip”

Favorite tequila cocktail?

Margarita made with fresh lime juice – no pre-made mixers, please

Favorite bourbon cocktail?

An Old Fashioned

Favorite bubbly cocktail?

Aperol Fizz. It was the drink that started my cocktail club! We kicked off our monthly wine club with this darling, orangey spritzer and, from then on, it was au revoir wine club and HELLO cocktail club! One sip and you’ll see why. Pour one ounce of Aperol into a champagne flute and top it off with 3 ounces of Prosecco.

Favorite glassware?

Coupes. I’m so happy they’re back in style, although my husband would like to know why I need as many as I have. If anyone is throwing a party and needs to borrow 60 or so, you know who to call.

Monique Lhuil

Monique Lhuillier Waterford Coupes

Monogrammed. Whenever someone hands me a monogrammed linen cocktail napkin, I feel like the drink is going to be something special.

Favorite bar?

Usually the one I’m in.

We’ll drink to that, doll. Thanks, Maureen, for popping by.

Welcome photo: Bette Davis and Miriam Hopkins
Welcome quote: The Thin Man, 1934

The Sally Award: Nieves Alvarez

Nieves-Alvarez-In-Emilio-Pucci-Vogue-Italia-50th-Anniversary (1)

Ciao, bella. What a week for fabulously-frocked party gals, especially in Italy, But none dazzled quite like the striking Spanish model and actress Nieves Alvarez at the Vogue Italia 50th Anniversary party on September 21st in Milan. Nieves was positively aglow in a midnight blue sequined dress with thigh-high slit from Emilio Pucci’s Pre-Fall 2014 Collection. Let’s face it, doll, this is the perfect party dress: effortless, elegant and easy to wear but completely glamorous and sexy. Sleek, pulled back hair, smokey eyes, a nude lip and bejeweled Bulgari drop earrings added the perfect finishing touches. That’s what we call fashion amore, baby.

Marquise du Deffand

Marquise du Deffand

Marquise du Deffand (source: Eon Images)

Oh, doll, whatever you’re doing can wait. You simply must join our bunny about the Marquise du Deffand. Fiercely independent and quite flirtatious, she’s another of our salonniere gals who was far ahead of her time.

Marie Anne de Vichy-Chamrond was born into a noble family in 1697 at the Château de Chamrond in beautiful Burgundy. Smart as a whip, she was sent to study at a convent in Paris but her cynical turn of mind and freedom of views and spirit quite alarmed the abbess, so her parents decided the best thing to do was to get the girl hitched.

So, when Marie was 21, they arranged to have her marry a  gentleman 10 years her senior, the dull Jean Baptiste de la Lande, marquis du Deffand. It was not long before our gal decided she’d had enough of the old fuddy-duddy and ditched him for a duke becoming, instead, the mistress of the duke of Orleans. Our lady liked to play the field, though, and, in 1721, cultivated a friendship with Voltaire, perhaps even fancied the witty writer, who became her regular pen pal.

Portrait of Voltaire by Maurice Quentin de la Tour c. 1736, three years into his relationship with the Marquise du Châtelet. (Wikimedia commons)

A portrait of Voltaire by Maurice Quentin de la Tour c. 1736

You can imagine how charming she must have been to attract so many interesting men, and that esprit made her the center of a brilliant circle, her salon. With her notorious band of high-born débauchés, the Marquise’s salons were a welcoming place for the libertines and aristocrats of the day. Among her famous guests were Charles Henault (President of the Court of Inquiry and a close friend of the Queen), the writer, Marmontel, and the philosophers, Diderot and Montesquieu.

Another habitué of her salon who caught the Marquise’s eye – here we go, again, darlin’ – was Jean le Rond D’Alembert, a mathematician and the publisher of the Encyclopedie. They remained close until the Marquise started to lose her sight in 1754 and she brought in Mademoiselle Julie de Lespinasse to help with her salons. Lo and behold, the younger Julie went behind the Marquise’s back and charmed D’Alembert and, when the ladies had a quarrel and went their separate ways, Julie took D’Alembert with her.


Jean le Rond D’Alembert

Our matron may have been saddened to lose her literary clique and her beloved D’Alembert, but she wasn’t the type to cry over spilled Margaux. She soon found a younger man with whom to liaise, the British art historian and man of letters, Horace Walpole. Now 67, our Marquise developed quite a crush on Horace and, though he may not have encouraged her advances, the two did maintain a voluminous correspondence. Upon her death in 1780 at the age of 83, the Marquise left her precious papers and her precious pooch, Tonton, to his care.

Horace Walpole

A portrait of Horace Walpole by John Giles Eccardt, circa 1755

A book of the Marquise’s letters, Correspondance Inédite De Mme Du Deffand Avec D’alembert, Montesquieu, Le Président Hénault, La Dsse Du Maine, Mmes De Choiseul, De Staal, Le Mis … Lettres De M. De Voltaire À Mme Du Deffand, was published posthumously in 1809. What a  dame, don’t you think, doll? Until the end, this smart and sassy salonniere kept her mind and her options wide open.

10 Tips for Fall Entertaining


Even a man who is pure in heart may become a wolf when the autumn moon is bright.

Howdy, pumpkin. Grab your Sazerac because we’re toasting the Autumnal Equinox, the day when the sun shines directly on the Earth’s equator and starts heading south. In other words, it’s the first day of the fall party season, doll, and we’re feeling tipsy. Want to spice up your autumn soirée? Then feast your eyes on our 10 best entertaining tips for fall.

1. Choose a stellar date. Let’s face it, there’s nothing more festive than an autumn moon, so hold your party on or around an evening when the moon is full and bright. Full moon dates this fall are October 8th and November 6th. If it’s not too cool, serve cocktails or dinner outside. You can always drape pretty throws in seasonal colors over the backs of the chairs for those who get chilly.

Full moon fall dinner

A full moon is the perfect party light 

2. Harvest your guest list. Select your guest list carefully to ensure a fun, interesting and diverse mix of guests. Have a look through your social media feeds to see who had interesting experiences over the summer that you think others might enjoy hearing about.

3. Spice things up with a signature cocktail. Welcome your guests with a drink that puts them in the mood for the cool, crisp days of autumn. Try a Spiced Pear Collins, which is made with gin (you know we’re gin girls, darlin’), pear puree and rosemary.


Spiced Pear Collins

4. Prepare a seasonal feast. Serve warm, earthy nibbles with squash, pears, fennel, figs, apples and other fall flavors. Butternut squash soup served in shot glasses and garnished with fried sage leaves is a classic autumnal touch that looks beautiful passed on trays. Garnish your dishes and serving trays with edible fall leaves.

Edible fall leaves and flowers

Salads with edible fall leaves and flowers make a delicious seasonal statement

5. Fill the air with the sounds of autumn. Create a playlist that reflects the sounds of the season. It’s a subtle – but instrumental (pun intended, darlin’) – touch. Songs to consider are “Autumn Leaves” by Nat King Cole, “September” by Earth, Wind and Fire and “Forever Autumn” by the Moody Blues.

6. Bring a taste of autumn to your flowers. Reflect the bounty of fall with floral arrangements that include seasonal fruits, vegetables and herbs like chard, beets, purple artichokes, fennel blossoms, rosemary and purple basil.


Artichokes add wonderful texture to autumnal arrangements

7. Sprinkle seasonal touches into your décor. Serve your nibbles on leaf-shaped serving platters like those from Michael Aram and choose linens in autumnal shades like gold, rust and pumpkin. Sferra’s Festival collection offers an abundance of hues from which to choose.

Michael Aram

Serving pieces from the Michael Aram Botanical Collection

8. Stoke the embers of friendship. Use lots of candles to make everyone look and feel gorgeous. Place votives in groups on tables to draw people together as though they’re gathering around a hearth.

9. Gather the leaves. As each guest leaves your party, thank them for coming and send them home with a warm hug and an old-fashioned thermos filled with cider or a classic caramel apple – nostalgic touches always make people smile.

Caramel apples

10. Chill. Remember to relax and have fun. You know how it goes, sugar. If you don’t have a good time at your autumn fête, your guests won’t either.

For more fall entertaining ideas, have a look at our story about the 10 best new entertaining books.

Introductory image: Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart in Sabrina, 1954
Introductory quote: The Wolf Man, 1941

The Sally Award: Keira Knightley

9w4fxbw007y99940 Mornin’ darlin’, we’re pouring mimosas and dishing about the best party look of the week. Tell me, doll, did you happen to see Keira Knightley at the party for her new film, Laggies? It was at the Toronto Film Festival, and let’s just say Keira was looking positively sally. She was all dolled up in a stunning Michael van der Ham navy number that had a bodice with black and silver beading and a layered-tulle skirt. Leith Clark, who styled the look, accessorized the custom gown simply with a thin diamond bangle and a pair of elegant black suede evening pumps. Yep, that’s it. So refined. And, of course, you know how we feel about black and navy together – très sophisticated.


Gorgeous Keira completed the look with a bold red lip, gray-lined eyes and an effortless low pony. We hereby confer this week’s Sally Award for the best party look of the week on the most courtly of British beauties, Keira Knightley. Congrats, doll.

Tell us what you think about Keira’s look on any of our social butterfly channels:  FacebookTwitterInstagram and Pinterest.

RSVP: India Hicks

India Hicks HSN Habitually Chic

Doll, come on in and meet beautiful salonniere, India Hicks, who’s here to share her top hostess tips as she recalls attending two of the most famous royal parties in history. She is 678th in line to the British Throne after all. The daughter of David Hicks, the famed interior designer, and Lady Pamela Hicks, the daughter of the Earl Mountbatten of Burma, British-born India has blended her chic and royal roots to make a name for herself as the empress of island style. India has her own line of home products called Island Living by India Hicks, her own line of fine jewelry and her own isle-style blog. She has also penned three lifestyle books, built and restored five major properties, designed products for companies including Crabtree & Evelyn, hosted television programs, modeled for top fashion houses and, yes, run marathons. Given this beauty’s busy-bee propensities, it’s a good thing that she, her partner, David, and their five children have a Bahamian sanctuary to call home. Let’s jump in, doll, shall we? Bare feet first, of course.

Your entertaining style?
Barefoot under the stars with lots of candlelight, a mixed bag of guests and several snoring dogs.

Your favorite place to entertain?
On the top of the small hill in our garden, between the swaying palm trees, just as the sun sets and the sky turns blood-red.

India Hicks

India’s outdoor dining table in the garden of her Bahamian home

Tip for making your guests feel welcome?
Music, candles, flattering lighting and a tray of well-made cocktails.

Trait you most admire in a guest?

Go-to hostess outfit?
A long, silk kaftan, damp hair tied into a ballerina bun, gold bangles and bare feet.

India Hicks

What did you learn from your parents about entertaining?
A well thought out placement is essential.

Last party you hosted?
A mid-summer dinner on our terrace with a long table stretching from end to end, lots of teenagers, lots of friends, lots of family and several people being thrown into a warm pool.

India Hicks

India’s table at her recent mid-summer dinner party

How do you stay party ready?
I keep assorted cheeses and crackers on hand. David says cheese never goes off; it simply changes its name.

Let’s play favorites:
Linens—India Hicks for HSN linen sheet collection
Party dress designer—Ralph Lauren
Party shoe for all-night dancing—Haviana flip flops
Hostess gift—Baby pineapple plant, very ornate and can one day be eaten.

You were one of Princess Diana’s flower girls at her wedding to Prince Charles. What do you remember most from that day?
How crumpled her dress was when she came out of that carriage

India Hicks

Twelve-year-old India, second from the left, at the wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana 

What do you remember most about Prince William’s wedding to Kate Middleton?
Watching the Buckingham Palace balcony being vacuumed as armed SAS [Special Air Service] officers patrolled the roof top

Party you wish you could go back in time to attend?
Studio 54 in its heyday

Most fascinating person you met at a party?
Does Robert De Niro for coffee one morning count?

India Hicks

India in her office

Who is your dream dinner partner?
Nick Cave, songwriter, author, screenwriter, composer and lead singer of the Bad Seeds. He’s a real entertainer and was bloody brilliant at charades after dinner one evening.

What is the party invitation you’d most like to receive?
Dinner with Hilary Clinton in the White House when she is president.

How have your travels influenced your entertaining style?
Once on safari in Africa, we were celebrating one of David’s birthdays. He was served a large cake, shaped in an unusual mound, with a candle on top. The staff clapped and sang and chanted, “Cut it, cut it, cut it, cut it.” David sliced open the cake to find that it was made from fresh elephant poop. We may not bake poop cakes, but we are influenced by the drama of outdoor entertaining, the fun of a relaxed atmosphere and the charm of local customs.


India’s Thanksgiving dinner table 

What is the most interesting entertaining custom you encountered on your travels?
Not being allowed to show the backs of our knees, as women, in Malawi. Apparently it arouses the men too much. But having to eat alligator in Cuba so as not to offend my host was trickier.

If you could host a party anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Rajasthan, India, the land of kings. All that color. All those exotics flavors. Dramatic tents and a few elephants.

India Hicks

India prepares for a dinner party on the beach

Next party you’ll host?
Who knows, but February, March, April, May and June always test my imagination. David and four out of five of our children have birthdays then. One year we had so exhausted our birthday party themes that we ended up hosting a food fight on the beach with whipped cream, damp spaghetti and jelly. It was a huge success.

Photos courtesy of India Hicks, Veranda and Habitually Chic

The Sally Award: Kendall Jenner

Kendall Jenner

Darlin’, this week, we just had to give our Sally Award for best party look of the week to model-of-the-moment, Kendall Jenner, who turned heads during Fashion Week in a stunning Octavio Carlin gown at the Harper’s Bazaar Icons party in New York.

Kendall JennerLooking luminous in a cream-colored, floor-sweeping satin gown, Kendall showed a level of sophistication beyond her years by accessorizing her look simply with a classic chignon, matte evening make up and diamante sandals that echoed the elegant lines of the dress. Dashing, doll.

Harper's Bazaar celebrates 'Icons by Carine Rotifeld' - Arrivals

The Host of El Morocco

John Perona

John Perona

Dolls, one of the greatest party hosts of all time was a dapper fellow by the name of John Perona. For 30 years until his death in 1961, John lived at the epicenter of international café society as the owner of New York’s legendary supper club, El Morocco. Glamorous Hollywood movie stars, European royalty, South American millionaires and prominent society figures all cozied up on the club’s fabled zebra-patterned banquettes before dancing the night away to Gershwin and Cole Porter tunes beneath white palm trees.

El Morocco
On Tuesday, September 16th, auction house Doyle New York will hold a landmark sale, El Morocco: The John Perona Collection, that includes rare treasures from the nightclub that are sure to inspire modern-day salonnieres. 

Highlights of the sale include John Perona’s personal copy of the El Morocco Family Album, a 62-page folio of nearly 350 photos – many autographed – of the club’s most famous and glamorous patrons, including Marilyn Monroe, Marlene Dietrich, Clark Gable, Gloria Swanson and Gary Cooper.

Lot 691 is a treasure trove of rare autographed photos

Want to add some great old Hollywood party juju to your future fêtes? Consider bringing home one of these de-lovely trinkets. Our personal favorite is a fabulous bar set by Cartier in its original fitted box.


Lot 647 is a collectible Cartier Sterling Silver Bar Set 


Lot 697 is comprised of scarves, ashtrays and other gifts that John would give his VIP patrons  


Lot 648 includes vintage bar accessories and a traveling cocktail set in a leather case 

El Morocco linens

Lot 698 features table linens with the El Morocco logo 


Lot 779 is a Udall & Ballou gold and diamond compact  c. 1938

El Morocco menu

Lot 699 includes menus and other printed memorabilia from the New York supper club


Lot 612 comprises a set of Royal Copenhagen fish plates


Lot 686 includes a red evening gown that would be perfect for holiday entertaining

Also in the sale are more than 1,000 rare photographs from the 1930s through the 1950s, showing the biggest Hollywood stars of the day enjoying their nights hobnobbing at Elmo’s, as it was affectionately called.

For more information about El Morocco: The John Perona Collection, or to bid in person or by absentee ballot, visit the auction site or call 212-427-2730.

We feel a ’40s holiday party coming on, sugar.

10 Best New Entertaining Books

Hedy Lamarr and Robert Cummings

What do you feel like doing tonight? I don’t know, Ange. What do you feel like doing?

Autumn’s shorter days and longer nights make it the perfect season for parties. According to our latest national Party Poll, 64% of guys and dolls, ages 25-54, will host a party this fall. Want to spice up your autumn soirée? There are an abundance of new entertaining books set to hit the shelves this fall. Here are the 10 best, harvested just for you, pumpkin.

Jeff Leatham: Visionary Floral Art and Design. The floral artist to the stars, Jeff’s clients range from Givenchy and the George V Hotel in Paris to Oprah and Kylie Minogue. Filled with hundreds of photos and design tips, this tome is abloom with breath-taking floral ideas.


Vogue and The Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute: Parties, Exhibitions, People. Known as The Party of the Year, The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s annual Costume Institute gala – also known as the Met Gala – is hands-down the most glamorous, sophisticated and completely fabulous annual fête. It’s also the most fruitful: it has raised millions for the Met year after year. Full of inspiring photos from past galas, this is a must-have for anyone looking to throw their own party of the year.


A Kitchen in France: A Year of Cooking in My Farmhouse. L’adore la cuisine française? Then you probably love Mimi Thorisson’s beautiful blog, Manger, as much as we do. This is Mimi’s first book and the photos and recipes will transport you to a time and place of rural, delectable bliss. Ooh, la la.

celebrity cocktails

Celebrity Cocktails. How could we not go positively gaga over cocktail recipes associated with such glammy Hollywood movie stars as Humphrey Bogart, Elizabeth Taylor and Dean Martin. Grab your gimlet, doll. We feel a party coming on.


Valentino: At the Emperor’s Table. Written by the famed and fabulous Vogue fashion editor, André Leon Talley, this beautiful coffee table book is a comprehensive visual and written celebration of fashion designer Valentino Garavani, the lavish, luxe and ever-gracious host.

make it ahead

Make It Ahead: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. If you like to host parties the way we do, you’d rather by hobnobbing with your guests than stirring your risotto. Chock full of delicious dishes you can prep, assemble and cook before your fête, this helpful book is your invitation to a completely stress-free dinner party.


Bordeaux: Legendary Wines. A beautiful compendium, you’ll love the list of wines from 125 châteaux, complete with a glossary, tables of harvest conditions of various years, and tasting notes for recent vintages.

life is a banquet

Life Is a Banquet: A Food Lover’s Treasury of Recipes, History, Tradition, and Feasts. Written by Swedish television personality and food historian, Edward Blom, this beautiful book is a smörgåsborg of culinary history, recipes, beautiful photographs and personal anecdotes,

party perfect bites

Party-Perfect Bites: 100 Delicious Recipes for Canapes, Finger Food and Party Snacks. In this must-have recipe book by London caterer-to-the-stars, Milli Taylor, you’ll find one hundred easy-to-make, soiree-friendly fingerfood recipes. Party perfect is right.

food and wine

Food & Wine: Best of the Best, Vol. 17: The Best Recipes from the 25 Best Cookbooks of the Year  Hosting a last-minute dinner party? Recipes from these annual volumes never fail. Each year, the editors of Food & Wine magazine put the best recipes from the best new cookbooks to the test. The top 25 make the cut.

Welcome photo: Hedy Lamarr and Robert Cummings
Welcome quote: Marty, 1955

The Sally Award: Shu Qi

Shu-Qi-Stéphane-Rolland-Couture-Bulgari-LVCEA-Launch-Event-e1409839543338This week’s Sally Award for best party look of the week goes to Taiwanese actress and model, Shu Qi, at the Bulgari LVCEA Launch Event on Wednesday in Beijing. We’ve always been a sucker for a dame in a tux and this chic ivory interpretation by Parisian couturier Stéphane Rolland – with its collarless tail coat, white pointy-collared dress shirt and maxi skirt with crystals and lace – offers a fresh and feminine spin. Qi’s low, sleek bun, red pout and on-the-ear statement jewels were the perfect finishing touches.  Congratulations, doll. You’ve got this week’s Award collared.

RSVP: Peter Som

Peter Som

Sugarplum, come on in. You’re just in time to meet our chic friend, fashion designer, Peter Som. Peter’s taking a break from preparing for his Friday morning show at Fashion Week to tell us about his other creative passion: hosting dinner parties.  As you may know, doll, our culinary couturier has an uncanny ability to find cohesion with all kinds of ingredients – his style aesthetic ranges from classic and elegant to quirky and colorful – and he’s just as masterful at mixing herbs and spices. In fact, Peter’s minestrone is the stuff of legends on the New York dinner party circuit. Hungry for the details? Well, grab your Côtes du Rhône and cozy up, mes chéris. Your party favor is Peter’s minestrone recipe.

Your entertaining style?

Casual and relaxed. It’s all about making my guests feel at ease. I love having friends over to my apartment for a casual dinner. For winter, I love duck breast with a super crispy skin with roasted Brussels sprouts. I prep as much as possible in advance so I won’t be stressed—after all, I want to enjoy the party as much as my guests! And I have an open kitchen so I can socialize while I cook.

Peter in his New York City kitchen. Photos courtesy of Elle magazine.

Last party you hosted?

A friend’s birthday party at my apartment. I served brown-rice sushi and shochu cucumber mojitos. My friend – pastry chef, Zac Young – made brownies encased in chocolate chip cookie dough. They were so good! I kept the décor simple with mint julep cups filled with red and orange roses. I’m not the best flower arranger but, trust me, mint julep cups filled with flowers are a fail-proof arrangement that anyone can do.

You just found out that you have eight people coming for dinner. What do you do?

This happens all the time! I always have a stash of homemade soups in my freezer and fresh produce in my fridge, so I’ll throw together a soup and salad for a light dinner or make a pasta—Cacio e Pepe or a quick Romesco sauce. For dessert, my go-to is always Affogato – vanilla ice cream and espresso with some slivered toasted almonds on top. You can’t go wrong.

What is your most treasured thank-you note?

One I received from Anna Wintour

som anna

Peter with Anna Wintour, Vogue’s editor-in-chief 

Last party you attended?

A dinner party in Southampton. We dined al fresco and the back yard was strung with lights—everyone looked gorgeous!

Party you wish you could go back in time to attend?

Paul Poiret’s 1911 Thousand and Second Night Party

Most memorable party you attended?

Natalia Vodianova’s Love Ball at Valentino’s Château de Wideville

Natalia Vodianova in a custom Valentino gown at the Love Ball

Natalia Vodianova wearing a custom Valentino gown at the Love Ball

Most fascinating person you met at a party?

Tilda Swinton

Dream dinner partner?

Oprah Winfrey

You’ve dressed everyone from Kerry Washington and Allison Williams to Camilla Belle and Jessica Biel for the red carpet. Who would you love to design a party dress for?

Lupita Nyong’o

Julie Bowen chose a floral gown from Peter’s Fall 2014 Collection for this year’s Emmys

You’re so well-known for color and floral prints. You were even invited to create a vivid, print-filled collection for Anthropologie. How do you bring that aesthetic to your party décor?

I love color and always bring color and print into my parties with flowers. Peonies are my favorite. Often one bold statement is all you need. For example, in the winter, I buy magnolia branches and put them in a large glass vase and surround them with votive candles.

Tulip Magnolias

Tulip magnolias make a stunning architectural centerpiece

Money’s no object: what would you buy at the flower market and what would you do with them?

I would create a field of Lilly of the Valley on a long, long dining table.

What inspires your creativity?

Everything! Film, art, my friends and definitely NYC.

Favorite party resources?

Party Rental Ltd, the flower market in NYC and John Derian

Peter Som Cookbooks

Some of Peter’s favorite cookbooks 

Your three party pet-peeves?

Bad lighting, paper plates and dinners that start hours later than planned

Your three party must-haves?

Cloth napkins, fresh flowers and champagne

Next party you’ll host?

A fall dinner at my place where I’ll make my signature minestrone soup and serve it with homemade crusty warm bread

My Minestrone by Peter Som



1⁄2 pound pancetta, cubed
extra virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, sliced
1 large yellow onion, large dice
3-4 celery stalks, medium dice
3 carrots, large dice
2 tablespoon rosemary, minced
kosher salt
black pepper
1 14-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 large can San Marzano whole tomatoes
2 cups diced zucchini
2 cups yellow/summer squash
1 large russet potato, diced
8 cups homemade chicken stock (It makes a difference, but store-bought is fine too.)
1⁄2 to 1⁄2 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
1 or 2 rinds Parmesano-Reggiano
1 bunch kale, chopped
Flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Sauté the pancetta with olive oil in a large pot over medium heat until slightly brown around the edges then add garlic and sauté for another minute. Add onion, celery, carrot, rosemary, some salt and pepper and sauté for approximately 10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Add beans, tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash and potato. Add salt and pepper. Add chicken stock, chili pepper flakes, the bay leaf and Parmesan rinds. Simmer about 15 or until all vegetables are tender. Skim foam off the top. Ideally here is where you fish out the bay leaf (or just warn your guests not to eat it if they find it). Add the kale and continue to simmer until it’s wilted – approximately 2-3 minutes. Toss in the parsley. Serve with a hunk of Parmesano-Reggiano to be grated at the table using a microplane. If you want to add chicken, drizzle some chicken breast with salt, pepper and olive oil, roast it on a sheet pan at 450 for 20 minutes or until done. Cube and add some to each bowl. If you want to fancy up the soup, omit the kale and add 2 cups of sautéed wild mushrooms (such as cremini) as well as 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 a cup of heavy cream at the very end.

Thanks, Peter. That sounds as scrumptious as your fashion confections. We feel a fall dinner party coming on, doll.

Tête-à-Tête: Teri Agins

Robin Givhan, Teri Agins and Anna Wintour

Teri Agins (center) with Robin Givhan (left), fashion critic at The Washington Post, and Anna Wintour (right), editor-in-chief of Vogue

Hey doll, I’m so glad you stopped by. Fashion Week in New York kicks off on Thursday and we’ve got Teri Agins, one of the fashion industry’s most knowledgeable writers and revered insiders, here dishing about everything from the salliest gals on the party circuit to the 10 best ways to look fête-fabulous. The popular “Ask Teri” fashion columnist at the Wall Street Journal, our au courant pal has just published her second book, Hijacking the Runway, a fun and breezy read about the intersection between celebrity, fashion and commerce. Full of insidery details, fun historical facts and giggly gossip, this book is sure to be a hot topic at cocktail parties this fall. We should know, darlin’, because we got a sneak peek at the galleys this summer and read the baby in one rosé-filled sitting. Grab your gimlet, doll, and join our tête-à-tête.

We’re heading into the fall party season. What do you see as the major trends?

Fit and flare silhouettes that offer a fresh take on the sheath and pencil skirt; dark floral and bold abstract prints that deliver visual texture; booties with high heels; and sweater dresses. I just bought an ankle-length, black turtleneck sweater dress by Rick Owens that will be my go-to party dress this winter. It’s slinky and sophisticated.

Dark florals for fall

Bold floral patterns against black are a key fashion trend for fall

Anna Wintour stipulated “white tie and decorations” for the men at this year’s Costume Institute Ball. Do you think we’ll see a return to traditional formal attire this fall?

People dressed very formally at this year’s Met Gala to support the theme, which always dictates the dress, but I don’t see it starting any trends. People have loosened up a lot over the years where formal attire is concerned. I went to my first Costume Institute Ball in 1990. That was the era with Pat Buckley and Nan Kempner and it was all pretty formal and stuffy and dressed up. As Anna and Vogue became involved, and more Hollywood people infiltrated the party, the tenor changed. Women didn’t just wear long gowns. Some wore tea length dresses and the models wore really short, kicky dresses. Today, people want to look chic and dressed up, but no one wants to look super formal.

What do you think of the more relaxed take on formal party attire?

I love it. It’s relaxed-dressy and people look better. When women have their hair very done and sprayed and they’re dripping in jewelry, they can look very uptight, like they’re going to a prom in the ‘70s.Today, most women wear their hair to events in much the same way they wear it to work and just add a bit more makeup and some sparkly evening accessories. They look more like themselves.

Emma Stone

Emma Stone sported a more casual and textured coif last week at the Venice Film Festival 

What caused the trend away from very formal party attire?

In 1992, Alcoa, the aluminum manufacturing company, instituted a casual wear policy for two weeks to raise money for the United Way. They had 87% participation during the drive and broke all fundraising records. Alcoa never returned to formal office wear after that. That was the seminal event that changed the way we dress. Three years later, IBM moved to casual everyday dress at the office. After that, there was no going back to very formal dress codes. Women still wear gowns and cocktail dresses to parties but, for men, the cummerbund as a requisite part of a tuxedo has virtually disappeared. You might still see a very formal look in Europe at a big black-tie gala, but there aren’t many of those in the U.S. anymore.

Who are your favorite party dress designers?

I love Carmen Marc Valvo. His cocktail dresses and gowns are flattering on everybody. He knows how to design for women, particularly American women. He understands that we workout so our arms are bigger and many women have breast augmentation so they need room for alterations on top. He also cuts his sleeveless dresses to cover that awkward bit of skin where your shoulder meets your armpit. I also love Vera Wang, Reem Acra, Tadashi Shoji, and I get a good fit with Cavalli.

Carmen Marco Valvo

Teri, Katie Couric and Vanessa Williams are just a few of the fashionistas who love Carmen Marc Valvo’s little black dresses. These are from the designer’s Fall 2014 Collection.  

Who are your favorite party shoe designers?

Manolo Blahniks are the best—I’ve loved them for 25 years, because you can stand or dance in them for more than a couple of hours. Vince Camuto shoes are also comfortable party shoes. I also have a pair of black patent-leather Gucci stilettos that I love. They have a four-inch bamboo heel, but they’re remarkably comfortable, a really good fit.

Who always looks great at parties?

I love checking out Sarah Jessica Parker. She is an adventurous dresser and always looks fun and festive. Cate Blanchett and Shala Monroque, who wears a lot of Prada, are also risk-takers with great personal style. Tory Burch dresses pretty and classic with big, interesting earrings to punctuate her look. Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, always looks divine and sophisticated. Helen Mirren never fails. She has a beautiful figure, shows just the right amount of skin and looks chicer than just about everyone else at a party. Others I love seeing are Christine Baranski, Genevieve Jones and Lynn Wyatt, who has a dynamite figure and perfect posture. And let’s not forget Kate Middleton—she hits a home run in every ball gown.

Sarah Jessica Parker

Sarah Jessica Parker was one of our best-dressed picks at this year’s Costume Institute Gala

Teri, you’ve been to more than a thousand parties and hobnobbed with the most fashionable people in the world. Give us your top 10 tips for looking fête-chic.

1. Stick with what looks good on you. Know what trends you should sit out. Don’t let yourself be a fashion victim.

2. Alter everything. It’s the reason Fred Astaire always looked so good. I always say, go to the gym and spend your money on alterations.

3. Wear bold colors. Look at the invitation and wear one of the colors you see. Most people play it safe, but it’s boring when everyone is in a little black dress.

4. For a quick change from a day to evening look, put on a darker lipstick and a pair of evening earrings because those are what will get noticed across a table. Adding a pair of heels and a small evening clutch bag are imperative.

Dark lips for fall

Deep plum lipsticks like those from Audacious by Nars (shown above) are de rigueur for fall.

5. Wear shoes that match your skin tone to make you look taller.

6. Avoid bulk by cutting out the lining from your pockets and stitching them down.

7. Take selfies when you shop to see how your dress photographs. I never buy anything that doesn’t photograph well.

8. If you’re going to a party in another city, Google party photos from that city to find out what people wear. For example, in Washington, DC, black-tie always means a full tuxedo for a man.

9. Avoid the Christmas tree look. Some women feel that they’re not dressed up if they’re not super embellished, with earrings bracelets and necklaces. but dressing up does not mean piling on the bling.

10. Avoid strapless dresses. You’ll never find the right bra and you’ll spend the entire night pulling and tugging on your dress.

Teri Agins with Tom Ford

Teri with designer Tom Ford

Not ready for the party to end? Join us for more party patter on any of our social butterfly channels: FacebookTwitterInstagram and Pinterest.  

The Sally Award: Lizzy Caplan

Lizzy CaplanHey, doll. Come on in. We’re handing out this week’s Sally Award for the best party look of the week. Our winner? Masters of Sex star Lizzy Caplan who proved on Monday night that she’s also a mistress of fabulous style. While there were plenty of very sally ladies walking the red carpet on television’s biggest fashion night of the year, it was Lizzy in a Donna Karan Atelier gown who took the prize.

Black and white, modern and classic, provocative and ladylike, soft and structured, and sleek and flowing, this beautiful gown was full of perfectly harmonious contradictions. Styled by the enormously talented Ilaria Urbinati who also dresses Shailene Woodley, Bradley Cooper, Ryan Reynolds and Nina Dobrev. Lizzy’s winning look included Neil Lane jewels, Brian Atwood shoes, and a Judith Lieber clutch. Her sleek, low bun and simple, classic make up allowed the statement dress to shine.

Photos: Ilaria Urbinati/Elle

Très chichi, Lizzy. Inspired by Lizzy’s winning look? Try these five party dresses on for size. We feel a black-tie party coming on.

J. Mendel Black and White Silk Gown at Bergdorf Goodman

Carmen Marc Valvo

Carmen Marc Valvo Sequined Waist Cut-Out Gown at Neiman Marcus

Cushnie et Ochs Cut-Out Gown with Pearls at Moda Operandi


Valentino Black and White Gown at StyleBop 


Cushnie et Ochs

Cushnie et Ochs Gown with Cut-Out Waist at Bergdorf Goodman

Party Hopping: 2014 Emmy Awards

Jon Hamm and January Jones

Jon Hamm and January Jones at the post-Emmy party, The Governors Ball

The soirées: The 66th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at the Nokia Theater, followed by the Governors Ball at the Los Angeles Convention Center and the AMC and IFC Emmy After Party at Boa Steakhouse.

Swellest moments: Walking the red carpet, bien sûr; the palpable sense of joy and excitement that came from gathering together so many who share a passion for television; Billy Crystal’s personal and heartfelt tribute to Robin Williams – you could hear a pin drop; the assortment of L’Oreal make up and hair products in the ladies rooms for the taking; and Cheryl Cecchetto’s production of The Governors Ball, which featured gorgeous tables with linens that matched the flowers, a delicious menu catered by Patina Catering, and entertainment by The Voice‘s Judith Hill.

Governors Ball

Governors Ball

 “Kaleidoscope of Color” was the theme for the Governors Ball

What you didn’t see on the Emmy broadcast: The funny and touching video vignettes from past Emmy broadcasts that were shown during commercial breaks; the genuine sense of collegiality among the comics Seth Myers, Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel; and the seat-filler “machine” – formally-attired men and women came out en masse during the commercial breaks to sit in the 40 to 50 seats that were left empty by those going to the restroom or leaving altogether because their category had already been announced.

Din-din: The first course was a delicious grilled peach and heirloom tomato salad with figs, burrata, peppermint, basil and Marcona almonds served with a 2013 Beaulieu Vineyard Maestro Collection Sauvignon Blanc. The main course was a perfectly prepared filet of beef with artisan grapes, squash and crispy kale served with a 2011 Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Dessert was a chic and delicious take on s’mores featuring a whipped ganache, torched marshmallow fluff, graham crumble and chocolate-covered pop rocks served with a 2012 Beaulieu Vineyard Maestro Collection Napa Valley Port.

Dessert at the Governors Ball

S’mores like you’ve never had them at The Governors Ball

Looking super sally: Jon Hamm, January Jones, Lena Headey, Lizzie Caplan, Matt Bomer, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Juliana Margulies, Claire Danes, Idris Elba, Halle Berry, Sarah Silverman, Sarah Hyland, Octavia Spencer, Seth Myers and Bryan Cranston.

Aaron Paul and Lauren Parsekian

Aaron Paul and Lauren Parsekian at The Governors Ball

anna gunn

Anna Gunn at The Governors Ball

calire daines

Claire Danes in the color of the night at The Governors Ball

Christina Hendricks

Christina Hendricks on her way into the AMC and IFC After Party

Not ready for the party to end? Stop by and visit with us on any of our social butterfly channels: FacebookTwitterInstagram and Pinterest.  Toodle-oo!

Sally Award: Janie Bryant

Janie Bryant

Peter and Janie Bryant at the 2014 Creative Emmy Awards

This week’s Sally Award for best party look of the week goes to “Mad Men” costume designer, Janie Bryant, at the Creative Emmy Awards on August 16th in Los Angeles. Looking every bit as glamorous as the movie stars she dresses, Bryant shined in a silver beaded and paillette-covered KaufmanFranco gown. Bryant’s hair – side parted and softly waved – and dark, smokey eyes added the perfect old Hollywood touch to the look and showcased her impeccable sense of style. Completing the retro-glam look were a Nancy Gonzalez clutch, David Yurman bracelets and a very-today dark purple manicure. Bryant’s red carpet moment was confident and dazzling. Simply put, we were mad about it, doll.

Mad Men

Janie Bryant’s formal looks for the characters of “Mad Men”

Not ready for the party to end? Stop by and see us on our social butterfly channels: FacebookTwitterInstagram and Pinterest 

Thomas Hamel Birthday Party on Capri

Gina Lollobrigida

You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.

Grab your Limoncello, doll, and let us tell you about internationally-known interior designer and author Thomas Hamel’s chic birthday party on the Italian isle of Capri. Talk about la dolce vita, baby.

La fête: A birthday party to celebrate Thomas’s milestone birthday. Incidentally, his debut furniture collection for Jean de Merry will be featured in the September 2014 issue of Elle Decor. Here’s a sneak peek just for you, amore.

L’ambiance: The celebration began with a garden party in Capri’s historic Gardens of Augustus followed by a boat ride to the beautiful Conca de Songa restaurant for lunch by the sea. Later, a stylish poolside supper was held at Capri’s La Scalinatella Hotel.

  • Capri
  • 24-1
  • 14-6
  • 10-9
  • 13-12
  • 18-4
  • 27-7
  • 23-14
  • 16-15
  • 12-11
  • 22-16
  • 11-10
  • 08-28

Le décor: Allowing Capri’s magnificent natural beauty to set the tone, Thomas added simple, elegant and tasteful touches like large baskets filled with the same local herbs that were used in the meal. Sprigs were also used to garnish the place settings. The dinner tables were adorned simply with glass hurricanes and Capri’s famous local lemons.

Thomas Hamel

En vue: In addition to Thomas and his partner, George Massar – both such dapper gents, we spied a chic crowd of international socials from New York and Nashville to Vienna and London. They included Capri icon, Renee Myers; Australian philanthropist, Fiona Myer; Australian financier, Simon Cary and stylist, Howard Steeves; interior designer, Kate Hume; photographer and furniture designer Frans van der Heyden; interior designer, Tamsin Johnson with her husband Patrick, founder of the eponymous bespoke tailoring company; Australian television personality, Chyka Keebaugh; and Brent Wallace, founder of the chic luxury travel blog, Where’s Brent Been? 

J’adored: Given Thomas’s talent for creating perfect, well-edited environments, we were not surprised by the refined less-is-more elegance that carried seamlessly through every element of the party. We were particularly ga-ga over the invitations and the custom-made leather and canvas bags that were gifted to each guest.

Perfetto, baby. Buon compleanno, Thomas.

Introductory photo: Gina Lollobrigida in Solomon & Sheba (1959)
Introductory quote: Mae West


Madame Helvétius

3-Mme Helvetius Doll, come on in and let us tell you about a gorgeous dame who had great panache, lived life to the fullest and threw a heckuva party. Madame Helvétius was her name, but let’s call her “Minette” (which means pussycat en français) as all of her close friends did. Not only did Minette have a very successful 18th century salon – even Napoléon was a guest! – but our gal also set prominent tongues wagging across the pond by capturing the heart of one of our own Founding Fathers. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Anne-Catherine de Ligniville d’Autricourt was born in France July 23, 1722, one of 21 children of Jean-Jacques de Ligniville and his wife Charlotte de Saureau. At the relatively late age of 29, Minette married the French philosopher and poet, Claude Adrien Helvétius, who had amassed quite a fortune as a tax collector. The couple settled in the tony Paris suburb of Auteuil, and Minette began her salon, which included some of the greatest figures of the Enlightenment.

Claude HelvétiusClaude Adrien Helvétius

Among the habitués of Madame Helvétius’s salon were our old salonniere friends, Julie de Lespinasse and Suzanne Necker (both of whom you’ve met, doll), great writers like Diderot and Volney, thinkers including Condorcet, d’Holbach, Turgot and Buffon and scientists like d’Alembert, Lavoisier, Cuvier and Cabanis. It was a veritable who’s who of Paris society. Others who would drop by included politicians like Malesherbes, Talleyrand, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, who was quite the ladies man, doll, but we’ll get to that.

These salons were put on with such éclat and whimsy that it was not surprising to see in attendance all 18 of Minette’s prized Angora cats, dressed to the nines in their silk ribbons. It was also not unusual, évidemment, for Madame’s dogs and canaries to attend, because everyone should get into the salon spirit according to Minette.

Monsieur Helvétius died in 1771 after 20 years of marriage, and Minette carried on with her salons, choosing never to remarry. But our gal had no shortage of suitors. Madame was said to have been so beautiful that a 100-year-old man paid one of the most famous compliments of the era: Ah, Madame, if I were only 80 again.

AuteuilAn old postcard of Auteuil, which was also home to Victor Hugo and Molière 

In her 60s, Minette made the acquaintance of Benjamin Franklin, who was serving as the US ambassador to France, and it was not long before he became smitten. Rumor has it he even proposed marriage. They were avid letter writers and Franklin, who affectionately called our gal “Notre Dame,” wrote this to her in one of them: If Notre Dame is pleased to spend her days with Franklin, he would be just as pleased to spend his nights with her; and since he has already given her so many of his days, although he has so few left to give, she seems ungrateful in never giving him one of her nights.

4-benjamin_franklinBenjamin Franklin

Quite saucy, n’est ce pas? But not everyone succumbed to Minette’s charms. Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams, was shocked by Minette’s behavior when she met her at a dinner in France following the successful negotiation of the Treaty of Paris. In correspondence, Abigail noted scathingly that our gal kissed Franklin on the cheeks and forehead when she greeted him, held his hand during dinner and occasionally threw her arm around his neck: I should have set her down for a very bad one altho 60 years of age and a widow. I own I was highly disgusted and never wish for an acquaintance with any ladies of this cast

Madame Helvétius died at Auteuil in August of 1800. But what a life she lived, doll, so full of exuberance.

Sources: Wikipedia and The Raucous Royals

Sally Award: Taylor Swift

mgid-uma-image-mtvThis week’s Sally Award for best party look of the week goes to Taylor Swift who looked dynamite in a red and blush-hued Monique Lhuillier gown at the August 11th New York premiere of The Giver. Our first two-time Sally Award winner, the super-chic Swift paired the gown, part of Lhuillier’s Resort 2015 collection, with sleek and elegant nude pumps from Casadei.

Taylor-Swift-The-Giver-New-York-PremiereSwift kept her jewelry modern and minimal with a Sylva & Cie ring and pink quartz Brumani earrings. Her flawless make up – featuring her signature black liner and red lip – and Veronica-Lake-inspired side-swept ‘do had us goo-goo eyed and proves that old Hollywood is very much alive in young Hollywood.

"The Giver" New York Premiere - ArrivalsTrès bonne, Miss Swift. Until next time.

What do you think about Taylor’s party look? Come on over to our party on Facebook and let us know, doll.

RSVP: Alexa Hampton

Alexa HamptonPull up a chair, doll. You’re just in time to meet our fabulously chic friend, Alexa Hampton, a world-renowned interior designer and the president of Mark Hampton, the design firm founded by her late father, one of the all-time great interior designers. A perennial member of Architectural Digest’s AD100 and House Beautiful‘s Top Designers list as well as a member of Elle Decor’s A-List, Alexa is also the author of two fabulous books on interior design. Talk about talent running in the family. As if that weren’t enough, Alexa, who told us she wishes she could go back in time to attend a Parisian artists’ salon in the late 1800s, was also named one of Cosmopolitan magazine’s “fun, fearless females.” Clearly, she’s our kind of dame. So, what do you say, sugar? How ’bout we raise a cold glass of red wine – we’ll explain – and listen in as our friend and designer-extraordinaire spills her secrets on everything from how to make your home a great entertaining space to her favorite dinnerware collections.

Your entertaining style?
I like lots of wine and loud laughter and not being too dressy. And I love beautiful surroundings.

Best or most memorable party you’ve ever attended?
My wedding in Greece was pretty great. Four hundred people on a cliff overlooking the Aegean with a full moon, fireworks, DJ Johnny Dynell, lots of wine and shots passed around on the dance floor. We dance the danced night away until 7:30 am.

Alexa Hampton

Alexa with her husband, Pavlos Papageorgiou 

Dream dinner partner?
My father. I’d like to see him, kiss him, hug him and tell him all about his grandchildren.

How do you stay party ready?
I always have to go out beforehand. There’s always wine at our house but, unless my guests were to want chicken noodle soup, Cheerios or egg white omelets, I’m unprepared. I’d run out for olives, hunks of Parmesan and Manchego, some Brie, rice crackers, a baguette, broccoli rabe, sausages, tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, Boston Bibb lettuce and porterhouse steaks on the bone. My husband is our house chef and he is fantastic!

Best way to make your home a great entertaining space?
Have lots of chairs kicking around in corners. Beyond that, be happy. If the host is relaxed and happy, the guests always have a better time.

Alexa Hampton

Room by Alexa Hampton

Your top tip for getting your home party ready?
My best tip is to have your house look great all the time, full stop. Have candlesticks and a centerpiece of some kind permanently located on your dining table. That way you’ll be ready to go. Just grab some fresh flowers on the way home.

Best conversation piece in your home?
My husband. He is really fun and always keeps the party going…until he falls asleep, sometimes even at the dinner table. Our friends have come to expect it. At that point, I take over. I’m the night owl.

Let’s play favorites…
Color – My favorites are expanding. Blue is the longest standing one. Purple is a new fave.
Flower – Anemones
Champagne – I’m not a huge champagne person. I invariably get a headache from it. However, Veuve Cliquot is nice. I also like Krug.
Linens – Leontine Linens

Leontine Linens

Monogrammed cocktail napkins from Leontine Linens

Party food – Bread and cheese, pigs in a blanket, cheddar cheese burgers, Pasta Bolognese, cheese soufflé and caviar pie
Cocktail – Red wine on ice. Repulsive, I know, but I love it.
Dishes – Aptware. I’m also in love with Spode’s Greek and Queen Charlotte patterns.
Glassware – Baccarat Harmonie, and I love – but don’t have – Puiforcat’s silver champagne goblets

Baccarat HarmonieHarmonie by Baccarat

Party resource – Glorious Foods caterers
Comfy shoe for dancing – Prada sky-high heels are, strangely, very comfortable.
Party dress designer – Oscar de la Renta or Issa
Hostess gift – A bottle of wine or champagne.

Three party pet-peeves?
If I’ve gotten myself so stressed out that I’m sweaty
If it rains and there’s no cover
If I forgot I was going to a party on grass and I’ve worn the kind of heels that sink into the dirt

Three party must-haves?
Good company
Good music
Good food and drink

What will you wish for this year when you blow out your birthday candles?
Another year of health and happiness for my family and friends.

We’ll drink to that. Thanks, doll, for stopping by.

How to Host a Classic New England Clambake

Every one of you listening to my voice, tell the world. Tell this to everybody, wherever they are. Watch the skies, everywhere, keep looking. Keep watching the skies.

Nothing says summer like a New England-style clambake with all the traditional fixings: steamed lobsters, clams, corn on the cob and a sunset. But clambakes are also a wonderful way to entertain in the early fall. In fact, Susan Warner, the founder of Nantucket Clambake Company, a leading catering firm that has been serving up traditional New England clambakes for more than 25 years, says September is her favorite time of year for clambakes. Says Warner, “September sunsets are spectacular.” For nature’s great encore, we recommend scheduling your clambake around a full moon. Moonlight is the perfect party lighting.

Clambake under the moonClambakes have a long history in North America. It is believed that the practice was originated more than 2,000 years ago by Native American tribes in the New England area who cooked lobsters and clams in sand pits lined with seaweed and hot rocks. Passed down through the generations, the tradition continues to be an important part of our heritage, history and culture.

Winslow Homer, A Clam-BakeWinslow Homer’s A Clam-Bake, 1873 

While there is nothing as beautiful as a clambake on the beach, backyard clambakes can be just as fabulous. The key is to serve traditional fare and use seaside touches in your décor. Try nautical rope down the center of a long table, driftwood for name cards, ball jars and driftwood hurricanes for candles, linens in a sandy hue or nautical stripe and plenty of shells. Of course, it won’t hurt to have a nice glass of rosé in hand and a glorious sunset in view.

ClambakeTable for 80 by the window? No problem, darlin’. Right this way.

  • Clambake place setting
  • table – Copy
  • Clambake welcome bar
  • Lobster
  • Clams at clambake
  • Clambake menu
  • S'mores
  • Clambake under the moon

Introductory photo: Lana Turner
Introductory quote: The Thing (1953)

Clambake photos by Nate Coe for Carla McDonald

The Sally Award: Charlotte Le Bon

This week’s Sally Award for best party look of the week goes to Canadian model-turned-actress Charlotte Le Bon at the New York premiere of her new film, The Hundred-Foot Journey. Held at the Ziegfeld Theater last Monday, the stunning 27-year-old looked youthful yet sophisticated in a sheer and lace bell-sleeved dress from Elie Saab’s Pre-Fall 2014 Collection. Charlotte echoed the geometric lines of the pretty white frock with strappy white stilettos that added both an innocent and slightly edgy touch to the look.

We also went a bit doll dizzy about Charlotte’s glamorous side-parted hair, simple eye make up, soft berry lip, and berry-colored floral button earrings. All seem so effortless, but these well-chosen touches complemented the silhouette, texture and style of the dress perfectly. Doll, this week, Charlotte proved that she certainly is le bon.

What did you think about Charlotte’s look? Post a comment on our Facebook page, won’t you?

Tipsy Tuesday: 10 Best Party Wines

Oh Beulah…peel me a grape.

À santé, mes chéries. It’s Tuesday here at The Salonniere, and you know what that means – it’s time to get tipsy. Today, we’ve invited 10 food and wine experts to share their favorite summer party wines – wines that are refreshing, delicious and versatile but also affordable enough to serve at soirées. You’ll never believe that these nifty and thrifty libations are all $20 or less per bottle. So, shh, doll. We won’t tell if you won’t. With that, we’ll turn it over to the virtuosos of vino.

Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan, wine educator and Master of Wine – It’s all about rosés during the summer because they are so refreshing. I recommend a Spanish rosé (or rosado) called El Coto. The El Coto Rioja Rosado is a real crowd pleaser available for under $10 a bottle.

Jennifer Simonetti

Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan judging the Ultimate Spirits Challenge

Adam Platt, restaurant critic, New York magazine – I like Domaine de la Papier Sevre et Maine from the Loire Valley. This isn’t your grandmother’s Muscadet. It has the depth and purity of much grander and more expensive wines from the region and, at $19.95 per bottle, you can’t beat the price.

Adam Platt


Maureen Petrosky, author of The Wine Club – I like the 2013 Bridge Lane White Blend from Lieb Cellars. It retails for $20 a bottle but you can buy the box, which is about four bottles, for only $48. I know this sounds crazy, since I’ve never come close to finding a wine in a box that I would recommend, but it’s the best boxed wine I’ve ever tasted and it has fooled many of my wine geek friends. If you’re having an even bigger party, this wine comes in a disposable keg. I mean wine in a keg?!?! That would definitely be a conversation starter at your next summer soirée.

Brahm Callahan, wine director at The Nantucket Wine Festival - My favorite is Malvira Roero Arneis 2012. It’s crisp and clean with lifted citrus aromatics and, at $17.99 a bottle, won’t break the bank.


Dustin Wilson, Master Sommelier and wine director at Eleven Madison Park – At $18 a bottle, Guy Bossard Muscadet, Loire, France, is a bright and minerally white that kills it for the price!

Vilma Mazaite, Advanced Sommelier, La V Austin – I like Domaine Collin Cremant de Limoux Rose Brut from the Languedoc region in Southern France. It is a refreshing, energetic and bright wine made in the same style as champagne. The best part is the price — less than $15 a bottle.

Catherine Louise Schubert, one of New York City’s most in-demand event planners ad caterers – A particular favorite is Pomponette Couteaux d’Aix-en-Provence. This wine is delicate with citrus and berry notes but not too delicate. At under $17 a bottle, it won’t break the bank.

Mary Ann Vangrin and Natalie Wassum, co-founders of Wine Sisterhood – In hot weather, we love Lady LaFemme Prosecco. It’s fresh, affordable and perfect for sipping on a sweltering afternoon.

Mia Van De Water, wine director at the North End Grill – In the summertime, my go-to sipping/picnic/patio wine is Txomin Etxaniz.

Txomin Etxaniz wine

Walter Robb, co-ceo of Whole Foods Market – One of my favorite wineries is Rodney Strong Vineyards. I love their 2012 Chalk Hill Chardonnay for under $20.

Introductory Photo: Rita Hayworth
Introductory Quote: I’m No Angel (1933)

The Sally Award: Miranda Kerr


This week’s Sally Award for best party look of the week goes to Australian model, Miranda Kerr, in Escada at the fashion brand’s soiree in Munich to celebrate the launch of its new fragrance, Joyful. Kerr, the face of Joyful, looked every bit the part as she posed on the red carpet in a sweet-but-sexy floral button-down sweater and skirt combination by Escada. We all know that this Victoria’s Secret Angel knows how to pick her blooms and this green, white and violet petal print was certainly an inspired choice for a perfume launch. To accessorize the look, Kerr chose understated jewelry, simple hair, soft make-up, a green crocodile clutch and purple metallic Dior pumps. We might have preferred a slightly less matchy-matchy shoe – this Stuart Weitzman sandal or Valentino pump would have kept the focus more on the print and Kerr’s gorgeous face – but everything else made her a shoo-in for this week’s award. Do you agree? Take our poll below and let us know. You can also share your thoughts on our Facebook page or any of our social butterfly platforms.

[poll id="4"]

The Secret Language of Flowers

To you, my little prairie flower, I’m thinkin’ of you every hour.

At The Salonniere, we adore flowers. To us, the appeal goes far beyond their beauty and fragrance. Flowers are a historically significant part of human social interaction. In fact, the custom of giving flowers dates back to early civilization, and the earliest known depiction of a mixed arrangement is a mosaic from the early 2nd century at the Roman Emperor Hadrian’s villa at Tivoli. Mythology also blooms with associations between flowers and the gods and goddesses. Remember when Aphrodite’s handsome beau, Adonis, was killed by that nasty wild boar? The story goes that a heartbroken Aphrodite used his blood to create the red anemone flower.

“The Awakening of Adonis” by John William Waterhouse, 1900

Assigning specific meanings to flowers is a tradition that is believed to have begun in Turkey in the 17th century and kept strong through the years by the French and English. During Victorian England, that time when everyone had to keep their feelings to themselves, people used flowers as a secret language for expressing their emotions. Not surprisingly, it was also the time when floriography books – beautiful floral reference books – abounded.

We know that red roses express love and white lilies are a symbol of purity, but do you know the meanings associated with other popular flowers? Take a gander at the list below, buttercup. It offers a garden of opportunities for using posies to proclaim a sentiment. Throwing a tea party to welcome a new friend to the neighborhood? Choose a centerpiece of yellow roses. Hosting a gathering to toast an engagement? Serve a dessert garnished with candied white violets. Yes, they’re edible and so are these yummy blooms.

White violets say, “Let’s take a chance on happiness.” 

BUTTERCUP – Childishness
CALLA LILY – Magnificent beauty
CAMELLIA – Admiration, perfection and good luck when given to a man
CAMELLIA (WHITE) – Adoration
CHRYSANTHEMUM – Abundance and wealth
DAHLIA – Dignity and elegance

Dignified dahlias

DAISY – Innocence
FORGET ME NOT – Memories
FREESIA – Innocence
GARDENIA – Secret love
GERBERA – Innocence
HYACINTH (PURPLE) – “Forgive me”
HYACINTH (RED OR PINK) – Playfulness
HYDRANGEA – “Thank you for understanding”

Hydrangea are flowers of appreciation

IRIS – Faith and wisdom
IRIS (YELLOW) – Passion
LILAC (GENERAL) – Beauty and pride
LILY (GENERAL) – Majesty and honor
LILY (CALLA) – Beauty
MAGNOLIA – Nobility
ORCHID – Love, beauty and fertility
PANSY – “You occupy my thoughts”
PEONY – Happy marriage

Peonies are the perfect wedding flower

PETUNIA – “Your presence soothes me”
POPPY (YELLOW ) – Wealth and success
RANUNCULUS – “I am dazzled by your charms”
ROSE (ORANGE) – Fascination
ROSE (YELLOW) – Friendship
SNAPDRAGON – Gracious lady
SWEETPEA – “Thank you for a lovely time”
TULIP (YELLOW) – “There’s sunshine in your smile”
VIOLET (WHITE) – “Let’s take a chance on happiness”
ZINNIA (MAGENTA) – Lasting Affection

Source: The Language and Sentiment of Flowers

Introductory photo: Mary Pickford (1938)
Introductory quote: The Awful Truth (1937)

Summer Gazpacho

Rita Hayworth

I’m going to show you what yum-yum is. Here’s yum. And here’s the other yum. And here’s yum-yum.

We’ve always been keen on serving gazpacho, a chilled tomato-based soup, at summer parties. In addition to being healthy, delicious and refreshing, gazpacho looks just swell when served in clear shot glasses with a pretty vegetable or herb garnish.

Photo courtesy of Parade magazineTraditionally made entirely of raw vegetables, gazpacho is said to come from the Andalusia region of Spain. No one really knows where the word “gazpacho” (pronounced gahz-pah-cho) came from but the theories range from the Greek word for “collection box” to the Hebrew word Gazaz, which means to break into little pieces. No matter which is true, all speak to the technique of the recipe.

There is really no right or wrong way to make gazpacho, and it comes in many variations, which is why experimenting with gazpacho is so much fun. Some gazpachos are smooth and almost creamy, while others are quite chunky. There are green gazpachos, yellow gazpachos, even an orange-hued Spanish version that blends day-old crusty bread into the soup to give it some added thickness.

What the recipes have in common, however, is that each is made from a base of tomatoes. Vegetables are added for taste, color and texture, vinegar is added for acidity and a touch of olive oil is used to smooth it all out.

Gazpacho ingredients

We like to start our gazpacho with a basic, colorful recipe and then get creative and add in whatever fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs we may have picked up at the farmer’s market that morning. Just be sure to serve it cold as ice baby. Easy, breezy. Come on in and have a taste, doll.

Basic Gazpacho (serves 8)

4 tomatoes, cored and cut into chunks
1 seedless cucumber, peeled if desired and cut into large chunks
1 red bell pepper, cut into large chunks
1 orange or yellow pepper, cut into chunks
1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tablespoons of fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1/8 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine all the ingredients (except the salt and pepper) in a large bowl and refrigerate overnight. Place the mix into a blender or food processor and pulse it to the desired consistency. Be careful not to over-process the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate for at least another hour or two. Remember, the longer gazpacho sits, the more the flavors develop. Garnish with cilantro, mint, basil, lemon, a bit of chopped apple or whatever you fancy and serve.

Introductory photo: Rita Hayworth
Introductory quote: Ball of Fire, 1941

The Sally Award: Hanneli Mustaparta

A14-Hanneli-Mustaparta-in-EdunHappy Sunday, doll. This week, we’re giving our Sally Award for best party look of the week to gorgeous Hanneli Mustaparta in Edun at the July 23rd party celebrating Edun’s launch on mytheresa.com.  Mustaparta, a model, photographer and blogger, was the epitome of chic in this simple but très sexy white frock from the global fashion brand that was founded in 2005 by Ali Hewson and Bono to promote trade in Africa by sourcing production throughout the continent.

a8-hanneli-mustaparta-in-edun_InternWork (1)

We went gaga the minute we saw this Edun number, which features a sexy and modern take on the classic halter and racer-back silhouette. In lieu of jewelry and heavy make-up, Mustaparta accessorized the look with strappy silver sandals and a Prada Saffiano Mini Promenade Crossbody Bag in white. Mustaparta completed this quintessential summer party look with simple just-off-the-beach make up and a no-fuss middle part and knotted braid. This is carefree yet elegant summer dressing at its very best. Très belle, doll.

Photos courtesy of Vogue

Dîner en Blanc

Joan Crawford on The Salonniere
I’ll meet you tonight under the moon. Oh, I can see you now, you and the moon. You wear a necktie so I’ll know ya.

Tell me, sweet cheeks, how many people did you have at your last dinner party? Eight? Maybe 10? Well, François Pasquier, a 67-year-old gent from Paris, had about 15,000. Yep, nearly 15,000 by-invitation-only swells came to his annual dinner party last month at the Pont Alexandre III. François told his guests to dress in white and bring their own bottle as well as “a table, two white chairs, a picnic basket comprised of quality menu items and china dinner service.” And the Monsieur didn’t let on the location for his fête until mere minutes before it started. Rather an unusual way to host a party, non? But this was no ordinary soirée, doll. This was Le Dîner en Blanc, the world’s largest secret dinner party.

Created in Paris 25 years ago by François who simply wanted to picnique with friends in forbidden places, Dîner en Blanc (the “dinner in white”) has grown into an international social event with tens of thousands of white-frocked guests and guests of guests who come together in landmark spaces to dine, dance and revel. As François likes to say, “Dinner parties are what create bonds of friendship.”  We couldn’t agree more, baby. Sites for the chic pop-up picnic have included the Champs-Élysées, Le Louvre Pyramid and the Esplanade de Notre-Dame.

Francois Pasquier and his family on The Salonniere

François Pasquier and his family at a Dîner en Blanc

One lucky guest was our chic friend, Jennifer Ash Rudick, a filmmaker from New York, who brought a movie camera instead of a table, chairs and picnic basket. What she cooked up is “Dîner en Blanc: The World’s Largest Dinner Party,” a fabulous 40-minute documentary that reveals how François’ dinner party has gone from a picnic with 25 pals to the international social marvel that it is today with events in 40 cities worldwide including New York, Buenos Aires, Milan and Moscow. Grab your Lillet, love, and listen in while Jennifer gives us the inside scoop on the world’s largest and most secretive dinner party. Jennifer is the only person ever to have complete access to François and all the party secrets, so you’re not going to want to miss a word of her story, doll,

Jennifer Ash Rudick (center) during the filming of “Dîner en Blanc”

Jennifer, what was your inspiration for the film?

I first heard about Dîner en Blanc while in Paris walking over the Pont des Arts with a Parisian friend and she explained her sister was part of a group of about 2,000 friends-of-friends who had an annual dinner in a forbidden spot in Paris. The most recent location had been the Pont des Arts and the police tried to evacuate them without success. About 15 years later, I read about a Dîner en Blanc in the New York Times. This seemed like it could be a nice little film, so I tried to connect with the founder who really wanted to remain anonymous. It took me six months to convince someone to make an introduction. He agreed to meet me in Paris to discuss the film but, when I arrived, he sent his neighbor. The neighbor asked me what kind of film I envisioned and I answered that I really didn’t know. I thought we should start filming and see what happens. I only knew it would be beautiful because it would be an all-white dinner in Paris. I also wanted to communicate the joy that comes from collaboration.

What do you think is the success behind Dîner en Blanc? 

I believe it comes down to the fact that there’s no agenda, it is completely non-commercial, the location is not disclosed so there is spontaneity, which makes it fun, and everyone is on equal footing with no VIP seating. There is a lot of positive energy in the air! It’s really the perfect dinner party.

How do people get on the Dîner en Blanc guest list?

Hah! In Paris, it is friends-of-friends. If you can’t come one year, but you let the organizers know, you will stay on the list. If you simply don’t show up, or you don’t pick up your garbage, you will probably not be asked back. François wants the numbers to be manageable but he is also inclusive, as that is the idea of the dinner. Many people thought it was meant to be snobbish but it’s not at all. François would like to include anyone who would like to come but he also has to be sure there is room for everyone. That said, he never thought 5,000 would be manageable and they made it work and then 10,000 and now 15,000.


How has making the film changed your perspective on dinner parties? Has it changed the way you think about entertaining?’

I would say making this film has really freed me from many of the constraints that I mistakenly thought were necessary for a proper party. I used to labor over the table setting, flowers, guest lists, menu and so on. Now, instead of orchestrating a dinner party, I act more like a facilitator, especially in the summer, including whoever is around that week, taking advantage of what’s in season to serve, what’s in the garden to decorate the table.  As in Dîner en Blanc, an element of surprise always helps, even if it is just a special drink. I also love having people who can’t stay for dinner swing by for an early drink or come later for dessert. The coming and going energizes the party. I still wouldn’t want to entertain 15,000 people but I have definitely adopted a more casual, open-door policy.  

Interested in organizing a Dîner en Blanc in your city? Find out how here. À votre santé, doll.

Introductory photo: Joan Crawford
Introductory quote: The Cocoanuts, 1929

Thoughts or questions about our story? We’d love to hear from you. Please stop by one of our social butterfly channels for a visit: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest

Tipsy Tuesday: Conversation Starters

Danny Kaye and Grace Kelly on The Salonniere

Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Welcome to another installment of Tipsy Tuesday, our Tuesday feature that provides tips from top salonnieres on all things wing-ding. Today, we’ll be getting tipsy with no-fail ways to kick-start a conversation with a dinner partner. We’ll get the ball rolling…

Carla McDonald, founder, The Salonniere – If the person is attending with his or her significant other, I like to ask, “How did you two meet?” This always puts the person at ease since it’s a happy story and they’ve told it many times before. Also, it usually reveals enough common ground to keep the conversation rolling along for a while.

Alexa Hampton, interior designer and author – I will first ask them to explain to me their work. People usually have a way they explain their job, or how they spend their day, so they can feel comfortable answering this. I also like to ask people what they are reading. Strangely, I think of this as a more personal question.

Alexa Hampton on The Salonniere

Alexa Hampton

Teri Agins, fashion writer and Wall Street Journal columnist – My favorite icebreaker is to find something to compliment them on – their outfit, hairstyle, handbag, shoes…something. I ask them to tell me about it, so the person can’t just respond with a simple thank you. Then I jump in with follow-up questions and that usually gets them going.

Ashley McDermott, writer and philanthropist – I like to ask, “When and where were you happiest in your life?”

Debi Lilly, event designer and author of A Perfect Event: Inspired, Easy Elegance for Every Occasion – I find everyone loves to eat and talk about eating and share what and where they’ve been eating! So I ask, “Have you been to any great new restaurants lately?”

Debi Lily on The Salonniere

Frederick Anderson, president of Hanley Mellon, a soon-to-be-launched lifestyle brand – I ask, “If you had the opportunity to meet one person you haven’t met who would it be, why and what would you talk about?”

Angella Nazaria, best-selling author and philanthropist – My favorites are, “If you could have an alternate career, what would it be?” and “What was your most embarrassing moment?” The answers always spark a lively conversation.

Kathy Freston, the New York Times best-selling author of books about healthy living – I can’t stand small talk, so I’ll turn to the table and say, “Let’s talk about something that we can all learn about from one another. What do you think is the driving force in your life?”

Kathy Freston on The Salonniere

Kathy Freston

Daniel Menaker, author of A Good Talk: The Story and Skill of Conversation – Compliments are nice as are open-ended questions like, “How do you spend your day?” or “What’s new in your world?”

Kimberly Schlegel Whitman, lifestyle and entertaining expert, author and Southern Living and Today show contributor – I always lean on books or travel. They are my go-to topics. So I’ll say, “I’m looking for a good summer read. Have you read anything good lately?”

Introductory photo: Danny Kaye and Grace Kelly
Introductory quote: Casablanca, 1942

The Sally Award: Kate Hudson

501587601MT00004_Wish_I_WasToday’s Sally Award for best party look of the week goes to Kate Hudson in Michael Kors at the New York City screening of her upcoming film, “Wish I Was Here.”  Kate looked summer-evening chic in this simple but glamorous, midriff-baring gown from the designer’s Resort 2015 collection. With a sequined bustier that fit the 35-year-old actress like a second skin, this look proves that impeccable tailoring reigns supreme as fashion’s best accessory.

"Wish I Was Here" New York Screening

While a black gown might not be the first frock you think of for a summer soirée, this skin-baring one works beautifully, particularly because Kate paired it with simple jewelry – little gold hoop earrings and barely there bangles – and minimal make up. With her sun-kissed skin and bronze-toned lips, Kate looks like she slipped into this sensational look after a day basking at the beach. Très sizzling, doll.

Tête-à-Tête: Lulu Powers

Lulu Powers on The SalonniereHi-de-ho, babycakes. Come on in and meet my fabulous friend, Lulu, also known as “The Entertainologist.” In addition to being one of the country’s most inventive celebrity chefs and event designers – her clients have included luminaries from Madonna and Herb Ritts to US presidents – she’s the best-selling author of Lulu Powers: From Food to Flowers, a beautiful, comprehensive and completely accessible party-planning guide. Trust me, this L.A. lady’s natural beauty, colorful personality and bohemian flair are as intoxicating as her “sneekies,” Lulu’s pet name for giggle water. Go ahead, doll, grab your sneeky and join the fun. Lulu’s spilling the beans about how to cook up a fresh, fun and fanciful fete and you’re not going to want to miss one delicious morsel.

About how many events do you plan per year?

What’s the last party you planned?
An al fresco dinner party for 70 people hosted by Catharine and Jeffery Soros to thank the donors of the LA Dance Project. We designed a gorgeous dinner using Katherine’s own china and down-home burlap tablecloths that she wanted to incorporate.

1-pink lanterns

Lulu with clients, Catharine and Jeffery Soros

What party are you planning now?
A cocktail party at producer Shelley Litvack’s Malibu beach house to raise funds for the local Boys and Girls Club. We’ll be doing mini versions of fun, summer foods like lobster rolls. But, honestly, I won’t finalize the menu until that morning when I see what looks fresh and tasty at the Malibu Farmers Market.

Let’s go from food to flowers. What your best tip for…
Food: Always use fresh.
Cocktails: Learn how to make at least one good classic cocktail that you can serve all the time.
Champagne: Serve Schramsberg Vineyards champagne – it’s what they serve at the White House – or the Brut Rosé from Domaine Carneros. It’s delicious and well-priced.
Wine: You can get a deal if you buy a case. Also, your wine guy will deliver it to you cold if you ask.
Music: Always have music on – jazz for cocktails and something more upbeat for later on.
Décor: Put candles everywhere.
Powder rooms: Always light a candle and have plenty of guest towels.
Invitations: Pick up the phone and invite people over at the last minute. Impromptu dinner parties are fun.
Flowers: Two bunches of the same colored flowers can go a long way.

What makes a party great?
At the end of the day, it’s the people. You can spend a fortune and do the most creative things but, if the people are boring, it’s not going to be fun. If you need to hire people to come to your party and dance all night to keep the energy level up, do it.

Lulu Powers on The Salonniere

Lulu’s L.A. book exchange hosted by television news journalist, Lisa McCree

What’s the best party you’ve ever been to?
I’ve been to my share of fun parties but, in the last year, it has to be my friend Gwen’s birthday party last November. It was just good ole girl fun with foot massages at the end of the night, which really helped after I was ripping up the dance floor. The bar cart filled with caviar was pretty great, too. And my sneeky glass was never empty. Need I say more?

When should someone hire a caterer versus doing a party themselves?
Hey, if you can afford to hire a caterer, do it. Hosts should spend their time enjoying their own party and taking care of their guests instead of worrying about the details.

Lulu Powers on The Salonniere

What makes a client great?
When they trust me and let me be completely creative. That’s one of the reasons I love working with Jouer Cosmetics owner, Christina Zilber, so much. She hires me and then says, “Just figure it out.”

If your client gave you $100 to spend on party décor, what would you buy?
I’d buy as many candles and balloons as I could. They’re inexpensive and add so much.

What are your party musts?
My staff has to dress meticulously (that means no cat hair on your pants) and arrive with a smile and a good attitude. I send sour-pusses home on the spot. Guests must be offered a drink as soon as they walk in since people feel most comfortable when they have something in their hand, dirty glasses and scrunched napkins have to be cleaned up as soon as they’re set down and the answer to every request must be “yes.” We can figure out the how later.

Lulu Powers on The Salonniere

What’s the best way to deal with a difficult or over-served guest?
Tell whomever they came with that you think it’s time to get their friend home. Then call a cab and send them out the door with a bottle of Gatorade and some cookies.

How much should a client tip their caterer?
Twenty percent, although some tip more. And never underestimate the value of a sincere thank you.

How do you stay party ready; what’s always in your fridge or pantry?
Pellegrino, wine, Prosecco, champagne, a big hunk of parmesan, potato chips, olives and nuts. Also, I always have three pretty bowls ready to be filled with the nibbles and set out.

Lulu Powers on The Salonniere

Lulu’s bar in her L.A. home, which features a green hat and shaker that belonged to her dad

What’s your current favorite sneeky?
I put some ice in a ball jar, add vodka, fresh mint and basil, which I smash up to let out the essence, and add two tablespoons of limeade and the juices of one fresh lemon and one fresh lime. If I have fresh strawberries, I’ll chop up two or three and throw them in. Then I put the top on the ball jar and shake, shake, shake. So fresh and delicious for summer.

Lulu Powers on The Salonniere

Lulu’s favorite summertime sneeky

What celebrity would you most like to work with?
Filmmaker Tyler Perry. Ever since I saw a story about him on “60 Minutes,” I’ve been a huge fan. He’s completely inspiring and crazy creative. I’d love to collaborate with him. I love his story and I told him so when I met him. I like working with people who inspire me.

Finish this sentence: you know it’s a Lulu Powers party when…
You get a sneeky passed to you as you’re coming in the door, the food is scrumptious and the staff is stellar.

1 2 3 4

© 2014 The Salonniere, Ltd. All rights reserved. The Salonniere™, I Feel a Party Coming On™, The Sally Award™, Party Poll™ and Tipsy Tuesday™ are among the trademarks of The Salonniere.