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The holidays tend to be about excess, so when the lovely team at The Line invited me to curate a holiday feast in their space, The Apartment, I was thrilled to take a less expected route. The chic, minimal elements that they’re fond of practically called for it, after all! I’d been itching to work with them for months, and this time of year is always perfect for bringing like-minded folk together. With that in mind, I’d also yearned to work with my uber talented friends Michael & Darroch of Putnam & Putnam flowers—the more, the merrier, right?

The aesthetic of The Line—which emphasizes clean, minimalist and effortless design—drove all of my choices. I focused most on the swoon-worthy white marble table that would play host to our meal and tablescape. After sharing a moodboad of inspired images that expressed a Scandinavian direction, a palette was settled upon —the most important part of any décor scheme!  Wanting to lend the scene a little something special, without overdoing it, we settled on a winter wonderland –  silvery sage, with hints of lavender and white berries and blooms throughout. Greenery was the star of the show, though, as it’s so accessible and much more cost effective than elaborate florals.

As part of the backdrop for this vision, I knew the tableware had to be just right. I gravitate towards artisanal ceramics, with their beautifully imperfect quality, so I chose Speck & Stone’s Pebble dinnerware. Contrast is crucial for me, and these added a much-needed rustic element to offset all the bright white and the glam touches like the delicate brass serving set from Spartan Shop that rested upon the maple Westwind Orchard board. The floral palette also dictated the silvery grey napkins by Linum at Lost & Found. Playing with opposing elements – is always in the forefront of my mind when I create any spread – a touch of elegance seen in the white and gold votives and a hint of the handmade expressed in the striped bowls by M Quan that held the briny olives. The food, the table décor, the florals – it is always about the right mix of aesthetics – color, texture and composition – it’s a delicate dance that causes me to swoon. Bundles of fragrant lavender coupled with cumquat citrus were simply tied with a linen ribbon rested upon each napkin – a sweet gesture for each guest!

For the food, I focused on seasonal ingredients and dishes that could be prepared in advance—a must for any holiday gathering. I settled on a delicious and savory roast squash crostini— the fanciest comfort food—and a winter abundant blood orange galette that I’d been dying to whip up. Rather than serving individual crostinis, I sliced an entire loaf of peasant bread down the equator and dollopped the ricotta & squash down the length, saving time and making for an amazing presentation! I also love to create a festive signature cocktail for every gathering. This cocktail served in crystal glassware conjures up the idea of sparkling winter spice. The Cointreau plays off the citrus flavors in the menu, ginger has a nice spicy bite to it that feels perfect for winter, and the prosecco makes it celebratory. Who doesn’t love a little bubbly and a little spice around the holidays?

Handwritten menus were the final touch, cleverly written on utilitarian brown bags with homemade sweet & spicy nuts inside and tied with a few leftover sprigs of greenery. Thoughtful, simple and unexpected, it’s an addition that does double duty: sending a little love to your guests while helping your feast stand out from the many that take place this time of year.

My love of collaboration is not simply practical, but eye opening, too. Nothing excites me more than creating beauty, seeing your vision come to life while also expanding – learning a thing or two! When I first saw the olive branch garland being put together, sprinkled with white berries, I wanted to squeal—it was striking yet effortless, and expressed exactly the drama & beauty that the Holidays should. These qualities were echoed in everything Putman & Putnam arranged for the day, like a fresh semi-circle of olive branches in lieu of the usual wreath. Working with them and creating with them – within the already-beautiful space of The Apartment triggered such a rush of inspiration—the best gift this girl could ask for, really!  

Hop over to The Line and Style.com for further holiday entertaining inspiration. Athena wearing Proenza Schouler & jewelry shopable from The Line. Photography by Matthew Sprout. Prop assistant Michelle Zacks.

Winter squash and ricotta toast

Inspired by ABC Kitchen

  • THE INGREDIENTS

    • (serves about 6 to 8 people as an appetizer) 
      One 3-pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

      1/2 to 3/4 cup olive oil

      1/2 teaspoon dried chile flakes, or a pinch of finely chopped habanero

      Coarse sea or kosher salt

      1 yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced

      1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

      1/4 cup maple syrup (though I’ll probably use 3 tablespoons next time)

      1 large loaf of Pugliese country bread

      1 heaping cup ricotta or goat cheese

      4 tablespoons chopped mint leaves

  • THE PREP

    • Heat oven to 450. Line large baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss squash with 3 tablespoons olive oil, 2 teaspoons salt and chile flakes until evenly coated. Transfer mixture to prepared sheet and roast until tender and slightly colored, anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes (depending on the density of the squash you use), flipping once about 2/3 of the way through. Leave roasted squash on the tray.

      Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and 1 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are softened and beginning to brown, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add vinegar and syrup and reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring, until onions are jammy and broken down, another 10 to 15 minutes.

      Pile onions on top of roasted squash, still on their baking sheet. Use a fork to gently half-mash the mixture; I like when the mixture is chunky and not uniformly combined. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

      Cut your loaf of bread in half along its equator, brush the lower half with olive oil and lightly toast.

      Spread a thick layer of ricotta on the bread, heap with the squash-onion mixture, sprinkle with flaky salt and garnish with chopped mint on top.

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