After drooling over pictures of their space online, I emailed owners Dana and Phillip Nappi and told them about my cookbook and road trip, and asked if they would want to collaborate on a dinner party. I didn't hear back at first, but a week later I just happened to be in Nashville, so I stopped by and introduced myself to Dana. We hit it off, chatted about the party, and 6 weeks later, there I was in their space making crostini and serving platters of lemony grilled chicken, pesto spaghetti, roasted carrots, and arugula radicchio salad to 25 hungry guests! It turned out that June 7 just happened to be the brand's 3rd anniversary, so we turned it into a birthday celebration for them, with a rustic Italian menu, and plenty of Prosecco and Italian wines.
This dinner was a collaborative dream. Given that Nashville is my hometown – and given the fact that the city is teaming with creativity – I wanted to partner with as many local artisans as possible. Having the gorgeous Peter Nappi space as a backdrop – with rustic tables both from the store and Dana and Phillip's home, and vintage folding chairs – was a pretty ideal starting point. Then, I had the privilege of working with my friend and stylist extraordinaire Ruthie Lindsey. She took an already beautiful space and made it magical, with glowing lanterns from Anthropologie, bouquets of local wildflowers from Turnbull Creek Farm, antique silverware and goblets from The House Nashville, handwritten place cards from Everleigh Designs, and locally-made plates from Handmade Studio TN. The tables were simple stunning with all of her design touches.
My friend Lisa Donovan, Husk Nashville's insanely talented pastry chef, whipped up cornmeal plum upside-down cakes (in cast iron skillets, of course) with pine nuts that were just to die for. Robin Riddell Jones selected fantastic Italian wines from Woodland Wine Merchant to pair with the meal (even though she sadly couldn't be there!), and Whole Foods provided the ingredients for the food. And Heidi Ross documented the evening through these lovely shots you see here.
Then there was the TEAM of people that helped me out in the kitchen. As fate would have it, the night before the party, a freak accident landed me in the ER getting stitches. A bottle broke and cut my ankle so deeply I couldn't walk without assistance for the rest of that day. (Talk about scary, not being able to stand on both feet the night before a big event!) Luckily after lots of ice, elevation, and Advil, I was able to cook the next day with an Ace bandage around my ankle. Fortunately, this accident happened in Nashville where I have loads of friends and family, who were all happy to help. (AND my sweet husband drove down and surprised me! He arrived in Nashville an hour after I got stitches and was able to stay for the weekend and attend this dinner - such an amazing surprise! I've never been happier to see him.)
The day of the party, my mom, me, Elise, and her mom all spent the day prepping in my parents' kitchen. It was so fun having our moms there to help! At one point our neighbor Cheri came over and helped chop as well. My childhood friend Evie Coates – a talented chef, artist, and co-owner of Twelve at the Table - lent her culinary talents (and good spirits!) to the evening, and volunteered at a moment's notice to help prep, serve, clean, and (as she said) "keep my wine glass full!" She's amazing and I'm so glad she was able to come to the party.
We got most of the food prepped at home (since there's no kitchen at Peter Nappi) and just finished assembling things there. We wanted to cook the chicken there so it would be hot, so we used camping stoves outside, and of course it ended up POURING down rain! Luckily, we had two extremely sweet guys volunteer to help us with the grilling, and they had to stand under a giant umbrella to stay dry while the chicken cooked. One thing I've learned through this trip: when curve balls are thrown your way, just go with it. Improvise. You just have to laugh when a bottle breaks on your leg or it pours down rain. Everything always turns out in the end - it sometimes just takes a little extra help from your friends.
It was such a beautiful evening collaborating with Peter Nappi and celebrating their third birthday with this family-style Italian feast. It was also so fun celebrating The Yellow Table cookbook with close friends and family in Nashville, and getting to meet new friends as well. This was by far the biggest dinner of the trip, but it seemed fitting considering the space and the occasion. It was also a huge privilege collaborating with such an incredible team of talented folks (see links below). A huge thanks to everyone who made this evening so incredibly special.
Location, Tables, Chairs: Peter Nappi; Styling: Ruthie Lindsey; Lanterns: Anthropologie; Calligraphy: Everleigh Designs; Plates: Handmade Studio TN; Vintage Silverware: The House Nashville; Flowers: Turnbull Creek Farm; Photos: Heidi Ross; Dessert: Lisa Donovan; Food: The Yellow Table; Ingredients + Prosecco: Whole Foods Market; Wine: Robin Riddell Jones; Kitchen Help: Elise Inman, Evie Coates, Suzette Greer, Mae Ann Watson, Jamie Vick.
(Photos by Heidi Ross)