Chef Stephanie Nass knows how to bring people together. As the founder of Victory Club (a roving dinner group that gathers in museums, galleries and the like) and Chefanie Sheets (edible decorative paper for your cakes), entertaining plays a role in all of her endeavors. This summer she’s upped the ante with a debut line of maximalist tableware proving that when it comes to hosting, going bold is always a good idea. Here, she discusses the key to keeping guests happy, entertained and–of course–well-satiated.
Anyone who has a summer home in The Hamptons can look forward to a lot of weekend guests. When hosting visitors, what is the most important thing to keep in mind? That they will inevitably get hungry! Take note of dietary restrictions and favorite snacks before their arrival, and stock the fridge with their preferred items as well as your own. In my freezer, I always have chocolate chip cookie dough, pie crust and ice cream. Leave fruit on the kitchen counter, so guests can nibble on their own terms.
The Hamptons is also all about summer celebrations. Do you prefer hosting intimate soirees or large parties? I love both! Some nights, nothing beats an intimate dinner a deux over candlelight. On other nights a crowded meal of rambunctious well-dressed guests eating with gusto throughout the house–be it at the table, on the couch, by the pool or in the kitchen–is the best thing ever.
So when it’s a big party, how do you prepare? Think about all of the guests so you can cater to their individual preferences. Some love deep conversations on the couch over a glass of wine. Others may feel a bit wilder, and want to dance. Create little spaces with varying acoustics–and, of course, little bites and drinks so everyone can have their perfect evening. The ambience, like the menu, should have options.
Describe the ideal dinner party. A family-style dinner for 12–family, old friends and new– around a table alfresco. Each place setting is personalized with a hand-painted menu and embroidered napkin, over a bold patterned tablecloth. The center of the table is dotted with sunflowers, flickering candles and cold bottles of rose. The tablescape is the first impression of the meal and demonstrates how much care went into its preparation, so it will wow. On the menu is a plethora of local produce lightly seasoned, a bounty of lobster and pesto pasta made from basil in my garden. For dessert, there’s a cake–in a fun design that matches the tablecloth–with a side of blueberries. The fire pit is ablaze. Our favorite Mariachi band is strumming and serenading. The setting will encourage guests to linger throughout the night.
What makes entertaining in the Hamptons different from entertaining in New York City? Everything is more relaxed “Out East.” Rolling down the car window to breathe the salty air, hearing the waves crash on the shore, and the shortage of cell service are all intoxicatingly calming. Entertaining in the Hamptons is less formal than in the city. Personally, I’m more casual about picking flowers for my arrangements, the dress code and pouring tequila into margaritas. Guests are more keen to kick off their shoes, stay up late and appreciate the beauty in small things.
The menu is planned, the music is queued up and the decor is done. What is the final key to the perfect party? Definitely a healthy mix of passionate guests. Artists, students, designers, farmers, entrepreneurs–people of various ages across all industries. You can have all the bells and whistles on the table, but it would be lost if there wasn’t stimulating conversation.
PHOTOS: DANA GALLAGHER
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