Living Entertaining:

A Sparkling Spring Dinner

Photography by Winnie Au. Shared on

Dinner by Danny Amend. Wine paired by Franciacorta


What are the secrets to making a truly swoony soiree? What are the moving parts? When do you start to prepare? How do you play the hostess with the mostess who is relaxed enough to actually enjoy her guests and evening? That might be the hardest challenge of them all, and while I certainly haven’t always pulled off that graceful, delicate dance, I do think I have a few tips to share on the subject 😉

Last month I had the fortunate experience of being invited to a dinner at Upland hosted by the swoony Franciacorta wine, makers of sparkling wine from Northern Italy. I can speak confidently about food, but when it comes to wine I yearn to be educated and I was happy to be at the Franciacorta dinner. I was quickly immersed in how they have been handcrafting wine with passion for the last 50 years. In fact they are the first Italian wine made with the “champagne method”, a traditional process of re-fermentation in the same bottle. To say I was swooned when we got to the tasting would be an understatement. The wines are complex while at the same time, refreshing and crisp. I knew they would be the perfect pair for a private dinner in my Dumbo apartment – a swoony compliment to a night of entertaining with a few close friends, replete with rich tablescape and of course a menu created to bring out the refined flavors of the wine. So where did I start? Here’s my little list of tricks as promised:

THE GUESTS &INVITATIONS: About 3-4 weeks before my dinner date I devised my guest list and sent out informal emails asking my friends about their availability. Once I had my attendees I designed a format e-vite. While handwritten calligraphy is gorgeous, I found a handwritten font that could be printed and still express an easy elegance. Thanks to Magpie Paperworks and their Rivea font!
THE MENU: While I often cook at my own dinner parties, I decided that because we were 12 people and I really wanted to sit and enjoy the meal with my friends, I would bring in Chef Danny Amend who I have cooked with before on eyeswoon and whose pedigree comes one of my favorites, Franny’s. He’s also a massive fan of Franciacorta and knew exactly the type of coastal food to pair with the delicate effervescence and citrus notes.
THE PLACE SETTING: While I have some pretty plates, I yearned for beautifully textured, handmade ceramics but didn’t quite have the budget to splurge. Have you heard of “seconds”? All high-end, handmade (and costly) ceramics have “seconds”, pieces they deem “unusable” because of tiny imperfections. But I love imperfection! I was able to buy a set for 12 for a steal. Next I turned to Etsy to scope out some linen and discovered a homespun linen brand, Not Perfect Linen – the name alone is genius! I found a perfect silvery-blue runner to pair with slightly darker grey linen napkins. I also picked up some amazing flatware on Etsy, vintage mismatched bakelite in a beautiful bone color for under $100.
THE FLORA : I knew I wanted to do something unique for the place settings so I turned to Danny’s menu for inspiration. Since spring was the focus, pea shoots were abundant. I immediately thought of my dear friend Brendon, who has the brilliant Good Water Farms, a micro-green farm in Amagansett. I placed a tiny potted micro-green on each guest’s dinner plate, and nestled into the greens was their name, once again printed in the beautiful rivea font. The final touch was lighting and flowers. I decided not to go crazy with fanciful florals, letting the wine, food and micro-greens take the stage instead. So I simply bought some jasmine vine and let the wild beauty of the vine weave through the simple pillar and taper candles. Sometimes less is more!

In the weeks before the event, it’s important to execute all the little things: make a playlist, dampen and toss the linens in the dryer to shake out the wrinkles, pick up candles, ensure you have enough water and wine glasses, wipe the ceramics clean, print name-cards and menus and of course, chill the wine. If you are super organized – writing lists and executing a little at a time, a stress-free dinner party is absolutely manageable! Stay swooned to see the actual dinner, the wine, the guests and the laughter this coming Thursday on ES.



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