Summer Social

Two entertaining gurus guide us on hosting polished and festive soirees

A gathering of colleagues and clients doesn’t have to be a painstaking task. Of course, there is the anxiety of execution, but following a few simple rules can reduce angst and make for an impressive event. The goal is to create an atmosphere that’s inviting and enjoyable, where guests feel comfortable eating, drinking, and socializing. Foods should be easy to ingest, drinks should be premium brands, settings should encourage easy mingling, and your theme should be warm and consistent throughout the event.

There are a range of variables to consider and a number of elements to put in place. BLACK ENTERPRISE consulted entertainment specialists Juan H. Montier III and Robert H. Bolton, who both believe thoughtful planning is the first step to a successful event. Montier, founder of the lifestyle company Montier Designs (www.chezmontier.com), attributes his successes in executing events to his training in architecture. Understanding proportion, style, scale and lighting, he says, “is critical to the three facets of entertaining: food, flora, and décor.” But it all begins with a theme.

A theme shapes the ambiance. Your theme should be distinctive from the front door to the powder room–and lighting is a significant component, says Montier, who has won awards for interior design and lighting and who has served as a chef and food stylist for parties for a variety of luminaries. “Establish three levels of lighting: indirect lighting using floor cans, mid-level lighting with lamps and candles so guests who are sitting get a sparkle, and highlights from above so your food presentation glistens.”

Island-themed socials offer “several execution possibilities. Decorative bowls of pomegranates, mangos, limes, and papayas provide stimulating aromas.” He also suggests filling corners with tall, plush palms; preparing sauces in coconut shells; and offering a steel-pan quartet.

A tapas theme “allows guests to sample food from around the world.” Try tapas such as doro wat from Ethiopia, curry shrimp from India, or beef bourguignonne from France. Build the décor with aqua, lime, and lemon-colored square clay plates; accessorize with tall, thick red, orange, and aqua candles in hurricane lamps and tan glazed clay pots; and serve drinks in thick glass tumblers.

A lean menu offers more. Serving small bites is a big trend in entertaining: Frenching grilled ribs, lamb chops, and chicken drumettes or using skewers for a Wild West-themed barbecue. “Offer a flight of wine (tasting of three or four varieties), [likewise] with desserts. It lets people experience a full range of flavors and not feel guilty.”

Communal tables are another popular trend, but they have to be accessible. Don’t set them so that guests have to raise their leg to sit as with a bench. Smaller tables (30″ to 36″ wide) allow for a comfortable exchange of conversation. Larger tables tend to isolate those who are not actually sitting next to someone.

Your invite unveils. Your first contact with your guest and the introduction of your theme is through an invitation. Before deciding, event manager Bolton of R.H. Bolton Inc. (www.rhboltoninc.com) asks his invitation designer for three samples and

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