Gatherings with Family and Friends

The year is 1991, I've just moved into my house, the holidays are fast approaching, and I'm having my first dinner party.  I'm making Beef Wellington (what was I thinking!).  The table is set with vintage Limoges plates and a white linen tablecloth I scored from a local resale shop, the candles are lit and the flowers bright.  The CD player is playing Richard Marx.  Friends arrive amazed with the table setting and the menu.  Afterall, I was barely 27 and not in the house more than a week.

Yes, that Beef Wellington was not perfect, not even close; parts were overcooked and parts were still mooing.  The salad was dressed way too early.  But, the freshly made cream puffs were outstanding! The table setting (most definitely the wine) helped make up for the 'interesting meal'.  We had a great time with some good laughs and excitement over the future.   And so began my obsession with gatherings around food, friends, and family.

Even today, when we get together, we remember that first meal fondly and reminisce about where life has taken us. Today each gathering is a celebration, a time with family and friends.  My cooking has improved and my obsession with table settings has become an occupation.  I cannot tell you why, but I'm drawn to beautiful table settings and, to quote Einstein, "passionately curious" about food.

Inside or out, the food, the table setting, the wine, and the playlist make each gathering a celebration.  However, sometimes table inspiration doesn't come easily.  So here's a little help ---

The beaded edge of the White Pearl Dinnerware by Costa Nova splendidly sets off any meal.  Porto white stonewashed linen runners and napkins by Costa Nova add an elegant simplicity to the table setting without make it fussy ... no ironing needed here.  The eucalyptus and olive branch bough creates a understated 'low-rise' centerpiece that doesn't interfere with cross-table conversations and plays up the natural surroundings.

For an updated table setting, fold napkins in thirds and rest under the plates.  This dresses up the table edge and the napkin doesn't cover up the place setting.  Where guest sit at the table greatly influences the conversation.  Try not to seat couples next to each other to encourage conversation across the table.  Hand written place cards personalizes the table and encourages guests to mingle.

For the grande finale, make a celebration memorable with a stylized dessert table.  Family and friends can help themselves after the meal and it encourages lingering.

Simple desserts work best at large gatherings.  Here, rustic cakes and piped meringues are enhanced by the "white pearl" serving pieces ... almost too pretty to eat.

And, how about that playlist?  Here's a little help with that too ---

     Rod Stewart --- It Had To Be Your

     Joshua Kadison --- Georgia Rain

     Russell Watson --- Faith of the Heart

     Richard Marx --- Hands in Your Pockets

     Rod Stewart --- Embraceable You

     Bruce Hornsby --- Walk in the Sun

     Harry Connick Jr. --- Between Us

     Joshua Kadison --- Beautiful in My Eyes

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