Roadtrip Dinner #8: A Backyard Party in Seattle
Happy Friday friends! You've probably noticed that I'm on a bit of an outdoor entertaining kick lately. When the weather is late-summer balmy, all I want to do is gather up some friends, make a simple meal, pour some rose, and hang out in a park or on the roof. Going on the #cookbookroadtrip in June spoiled me tremendously, as I got a chance to throw dinner parties in real backyards (an unheard-of luxury for most New Yorkers). I've already shared with you the photos from our dreamy outdoor dinners in Raleigh, Austin, and Dallas, and today I am thrilled to share details from our final dinner in Seattle. I'm skipping over the Los Angeles soiree for now – which was held in Sarah Sherman Samuel's bougainvillea-filled Venice backyard – because we're working on a magazine feature. More details to come...!
But back to Seattle. This was the last party of the trip, so I was both exhausted (after being on the road for a month straight) and yet exhilerated to see my dream come to fruition so beautifully. I was especially excited about this last dinner because my co-hosts were not only two of the most talented ladies I know, but two of the sweetest: my dear friend stylist extraordinaire Jenn Elliott Blake, and designer/calligrapher Sally Balt. I had the privilege of collaborating with them both back in May on the ABC Carpet & Home/Yellow Table Launch party, and if I could spend the rest of my life throwing parties with them I would!
Jenn and her husband Adam were knee-deep in home renovations back in June, so Sally graciously offered to host at her home. She and her husband Chris have a gorgeous backyard, with a bamboo forest and lights strung over a big, long table. (Jenn sourced the benches for the dinner from Seattle Farm Tables.) Apparently, June in Seattle is a bit unpredictable with the weather, but we lucked out and got a perfectly warm, sunny night.
It's crazy to think that I've only know Jenn a year, as she's a kindred sprit on so many levels. The older I get, I'm realizing that I connect most with people who who have creative souls, and who are making sacrifices to pursue their dreams. Jenn is truly one of the most talented people I've ever met, and one of the hardest-working. She left a career in nursing (with a great salary and benefits) to pursue her dream of working as a stylist. As anyone in the business knows, it's hard to make a living doing this, but she has worked her rear end off and I'm so proud of all she's accomplished in the past few years. I've never met a person more passionate about her craft: for this dinner, she made not one, but two 5 a.m. trips to the flower market to ensure that she got exactly the blooms she wanted (all locally-grown flowers from the Pacific Northwest). And how stunning are these flowers?!
Sally created beautiful handwritten menus (in pencil!) on creamy white paper, and Jenn then singed the edges with a lighter. It was such a cool touch which I would have never in a million years thought of. For the place cards, Sally wrote everyone's names on little tags, which Jenn pinned to the tablecloth at each place (again: attention to detail!). I loved the pretty striped tablecloth Jenn used, and the chartreuse-fringed napkins. And her vintage silverware and pretty glasses she bought to Paris. Sigh. The table could not have been any more perfect.
For the food, I wanted to create a menu that felt light, fresh, and very local. I stocked up on local favas and English peas at Pike Place Market for my Summer Market Salad and of course local cherries (just to snack on!). I bought Pacific Northwest cod, which I roasted in parchment with tomatoes and herbs, and serve with haricots verts, sauteed squash, and couscous. Instead of appetizers, I served a selection of cheeses from Whole Foods Market, which I served with locally-made Simple and Crisp dried fruit crisps – I had never tried these before, and they are amazing! For dessert, because they have a fire pit, I couldn't resist serving s'mores.
As with any party, you always have to be prepared for a last-minute change of plans. The day of the party, we ended up without a photographer. After a bit of panicking, I posted a note on Facebook asking if anyone knew of any Seattle photographers that might be available last minute. Shortly afterward, my friend Robin texted me the names and numbers of 3 photographer friends in Seattle. I started to make my way down the list, and amazingly Elizabeth Rudge – who took these gorgeous photos – was available to come shoot last minute! She brought along her husband, also a photographer, so we quickly rearranged the table to accomodate 13. And you know what, it was fantasic. They were so nice and Elizabeth's photos so perfectly captured the evening. I love when a potential disaster ends up being a blessing in disguise.
The guests were all good friends of Sally's and Jenn's – most of whom work in the wedding industry, as designers and event stylists. One couple, Steve and Jamie Moore, are amazing wedding planners, who I'd gotten to know a bit through my blog, and it was such a pleasure meeting them in person. The evening was a blast and it was so fun getting to meet such a vibrant creative community in Seattle. Everyone there works so hard, and they all kept saying how fun it was to simply sit and enjoy a meal without having to actually do any of the planning or orchestrating. It made me so happy to see everyone relaxing and genuinely enjoying themselves. Despite the fact that it was a weeknight, and everyone had work the next day, people lingered at the table and around the fire until after midnight...not wanting to see the night end.
I'll never forget this night – meeting new friends and connecting around the table. I cannot thank Jenn and Sally for co-hosting this dinner with me, and putting so much love and effort into making it happen – AND for Elizabeth for joining us at the 11th hour to take pictures! It would have been heartbreaking not to have this evening documented.
It's a little bittersweet blogging about this last #cookbookroadtrip dinner party, thinking about all of the memories that were created in such a short period of time, and realizing that this chapter of my life is closed. It's something I'll never, ever forget. This trip, the people met, the meals shared, and the community that rallied around the whole thing is why and how my cookbook got funded. I am beyond grateful, and I hope this book inspires many more people to host their own backyard (or indoor!) gatherings.
Photography: Elizabeth Rudge
Styling: Jenn Elliott Blake
Calligraphy: La Happy
Food: The Yellow Table
Ingredients/Wine: Whole Foods Market