Mas tthee r Art
DISCOVER HOW TO ENTERTAIN YOUR GUESTS IN VICTORIAN STYLE DURING THE UPCOMING HOLIDAY SEASON.
Entertaining can often be a stressful Event, but it doesn’t need to be. In The Art of Entertaining, Jessica Kerwin Jenkins explores the process used by successful hotels when hosting festive events for their guests. Although your family Thanksgiving or Christmas feast may not be for hundreds of people, you can implement these important factors to make your event just as exciting and memorable.
Whether you’re hosting your small family for a simple Sunday meal or your entire extended family for the holidays, bring an air of authenticity to the meal to make an evening to remember. Are you planning on cooking a large turkey with traditional stuffing, mashed potatoes and peas? Do some research and get to know the history about the dish you want to serve. Something as simple and timeless as a turkey dinner may have a history you don’t know. Learning about the food you choose to serve and how to serve it creates a dining experience your guests won’t forget.
At a Great Gatsby themed dinner party, the pastry chef “consulted period cookbooks, researching what was served on ocean liners of the Gilded Age, including the Titanic,” Jenkins writes. In this case, the chef looked to the roaring ‘20s and researched the exact kind of desserts and treats that chefs at the time would have served. Taking the time to look into period-accurate dishes and desserts for the Victorian era and implementing them into your dinner will vastly enhance your guests’ experience.
You can do the same for flatware and cutlery as well. Table settings and silverware are great period pieces that signal what kind of dinner event you are hosting. Even if you're unsure of what styles and designs to use, “nothing is as timeless as silver and gold,” Jenkins writes.
OBSERVE THE ENVIRONMENT
Regardless of what kind of food event you are hosting, you can look to the environment for inspiration. Whether that means decorating according to the season with colorful leaves, or looking through your garden for organic ingredients, your own setting has so much to offer. The chef of an inn in Quebec loves to use “unusual ingredients specific to the place—from beach rose hips to sea buckthorn,” Jenkins writes. Learn more about your own environment to open the doors of experimentation with traditional dishes and create an authentic experience of your own. Even the dishware you choose has an effect on your guests. At one beachside resort in Mexico, the meals are “served in traditional Mexican clay pottery, or ollas de barro, hand-painted, glazed earthenware cooking pots that, according to traditionalists, impart an
incomparable flavor to each dish,” Jenkins writes. This sense of cultural awareness allows the guests to revel in the new foods they are trying. Explore the Victorian food culture through your event to celebrate another historical aspect of the time period.
A truly generous way to make a memorable event is to create an evening full of conversation. No one enjoys a night out with people and awkward silences. Look for ways to allow for easy communication. A beautiful Massachusetts inn arranges the seating in the garden “in cozy room-like settings that encourage conversation,” Jenkins writes. One large table may sound best for a large meal, but smaller tables may actually be more conducive of better connections between guests. Music is an elegant option for dinner parties too, but don’t overdo it. Background music enhances a romantic scene, while loud music may send your guests home early. Desserts and activities will keep the event going too, even after the meal is over. “Naturally, dinner was just the prelude to a long evening to come,” Jenkins writes.
Learning about the food you choose to serve and how to serve it creates a dining experience your guests won’t forget.
Fire pits and lounge chairs can keep guests around for luxurious camaraderie well into the evening. “Something as simple as transporting an attractive indoor dining table outdoors makes a big impact, conjuring a little magic, offering guests a fresh perspective, and buoying the evening,” Jenkins writes. Reinvent your backyard or dining room to showcase a new style. Guests will love seeing a new setting in your home and will stay longer to enjoy the refreshed ambiance. Your guests can always enjoy a lingering finish to your event as well. “In Victorian times the men retired after the meal with port and the ladies with sherry,” Jenkins quotes. The Homestead Inn in New Milford, Connecticut offers cigars and drinks after meals, allowing conversations to continue and friends to further connect. Offer drinks and cigars at the end of the night, or s’mores and hot chocolate.
Colorful pastries and cakes decorate this dessert table at a Great Gatsbyinspired dinner party. Macarons, madeleines, bonbons and éclairs all came from the chef researching cookbooks from that time.
The wicked witch’s apple cocktail topped with cinnamon sugar and apple slices fits in perfectly with the fairytale and ghoulish themed parties of one inn.
“In Victorian times the men retired after the meal with port and the ladies with sherry.”
The Art of Entertaining by Relais & Châteaux North America and Jessica Kerwin Jenkins, published by Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., © 2016; rizzoliusa.com.