Step out of the heat, doll, and get acquainted with our charming friend, Bettie Bearden Pardee. Bettie is a celebrated hostess, former contributing editor at Bon Appetit where she also wrote the “Entertaining with Style” column, host/producer of the PBS series “The Presidential Palate: Entertaining at the White House,” and four-time author. Bettie’s latest book, Living Newport: Houses, People, Style, offers a rare glimpse into the private side of her fabled town whose legendary social scene is described in Edith Wharton’s novel, The Age of Innocence. Slip into something brightly hued, make yourself a Papillon and listen in as Bettie dishes on everything from the essence of Newport living to her must-haves for Newport-style entertaining. With a surname like Pardee, you know she’s going to be our kind of gal.
How would you describe the essence of Newport entertaining?
I’m reminded of a recent party hosted by a family on the back lawn of their 19th-century mansion. There were four generations in attendance…that’s a Newport trademark. Of course, a bonus that contributes so much to the pleasures of Newport parties is that so many homes have spectacular views, each very different from the other.
During Newport’s Gilded Age, America’s wealthiest families, including the Vanderbilts and Astors, built elaborate mansions to use as summer homes.
What are your top must-haves for Newport-style entertaining?
Cocktail parties are a Newport staple. Must-haves include houseguests that add punctuation to a guest list of people who have grown up with each other, brightly-colored clothes, citronella candles, valet parking, and unfussy hors d’oeuvres. The choice here for years – though it’s not mine – is “Newport Caviar,” a toast round spread with crunchy peanut butter and topped with crumbled bacon.
What is your dream party location in Newport?
The garden pavilion at The Elms.
The gardens at The Elms, which was the summer “cottage” for coal baron Edward Julius Berwind.
What is your entertaining style?
My philosophy about entertaining is that, for a very few halcyon hours, you provide guests with the opportunity to step out of their everyday world, put their cares aside, be tended to and then depart with a memory – a “souvenir of life” – that will bring them a sense of well-being when they reflect back upon it.
What are your signature party details?
An eclectic guest list and changing places at dessert
What was the last party you hosted?
A “Bellinis and Blossoms in the Garden” party during the Newport Flower Show in honor of Margot Shaw of Flower magazine.
What was the most memorable party you attended?
A surprise birthday party in the small, exquisite and seldom-made-available Chinese Tea House at Marble House.
Who is the most fascinating person you’ve been seated next to at a dinner party?
The director emeritus of the Library of Congress.
Who is your dream dinner partner?
Hubert de Givenchy
What’s your go-to conversation starter?
“What’s a dream trip you’re looking forward to taking?”
Bettie with copies of her latest book, Living Newport: Houses, People, Style
What are your top party must-haves?
A fascinating mix of guests, luscious flowers, flattering lighting, reliably yummy food, a selection of good wines and champagne, and one-bite hors d’oeuvres.
And your party pet peeves?
A band that’s too loud during dinner, referring to Prosecco as champagne, getting cornered, drippy hors d’oeuvres, being interrupted when in the middle of a fascinating conversation, and my husband trying to get me to leave the party.
Let’s play favorites. What’s your favorite…
William Yeoward champagne flutes for formal events and French Biot glassware for casual parties.
Large Rosenthal buffet plates that my uncle passed down to me; they were used for his famous annual dinner during the Bing Crosby Golf Tournament at Pebble Beach.
Antique sets paired with my Tiffany “Audubon Bird”
Paces Papers in Atlanta
Go-to shop for party frocks?
Bergdorf Goodman and Tootsie’s
Go-to party shoe designer?
Powder room candle?
Powder room soap?
A lavender guest soap
A Papillon. It’s a non-alcoholic drink with San Pellegrino dressed up with seven dashes of bitters and a big squeeze of lime.
A papillon…that means butterfly en français. What an inspired choice for one of Newport’s most famous social butterflies. Thanks for stopping by, Bettie.
Photo sources: Bettie Bearden Pardee and Discover Newport