Gambit's Party Planning Guide 2015

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Party PLANNING GUIDE A guide to hosting the perfect event, from invitations to food. We help you put it all together.

2015


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GAMBIT’S PARTY PLANNING GUIDE 2015


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Party Planning GUIDE 2015

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THE PLAN Event planners offer tips, ideas and

advice for planning your next shindig

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INSPIRATION Experts advice on where to get ideas

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THE INVITATION Designers tell you how to make the most of your party announcement.

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PERFECT DRINKS What you need to set up your home bar

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POWER PUNCHES Bartenders share bourbon and gin punch recipes

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FLEUR-DE-PERFECT Tips, trends and ideas from florists

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THE FOOD What’s hot in party cuisine

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RESOURCES

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CHECKLIST

Cover photos (clockwise from top left): Kandace Power Graves, Stockphotos © Stefan Davidson, seanfboggs & Nikolay Tsuguliev Cover design by Dora Sison

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GAMBIT’S PARTY PLANNING GUIDE 2015


Grand Events makes a large party more cozy with fabrics on the walls and ceilings and lots of flowers and candles. PHOTO COURTESY GRAND EVENTS

Essentials PARTYPLANNING

Event specialists give their top tips for successful celebrations.

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BY LEE CUTRONE

f you’ve ever planned a party, you know that successful events involve numerous details, which can be overwhelming. Where do you begin? Gambit offers a mini party planning checklist on p. 45 to keep you organized and on schedule, but there are other essentials that make a party fun and memorable. Here, three local event planners offer their top tips — and their own unique slants — on party-planning basics.

KENNY LACOUR GRAND EVENTS Fifteen years ago, Kenny LaCour, owner of Dakota Restaurant in Mandeville and Dakota-Catered, brought his decades of experience in the restaurant and catering industries to a second, complementary business — a turnkey party-planning operation called Grand Events. LaCour plans the full spectrum of events and regularly takes care of everything from soup to nuts. He advises you consider four things:

PURPOSE/EXPERIENCE —

Considering the purpose of a party

is more than just thinking about the type of occasion it celebrates, such as graduation, birthday or anniversary, LaCour says. It also means thinking about how you want the event to be different. For those who entertain regularly, the question is especially important.

BUDGET — When party planners ask clients to name their budget, LaCour says, often clients don’t have a definitive answer. When determining how much to spend, he suggests considering several things: food, beverages and location need to be discussed before a planner or venue can quote a price; and don’t worry that setting a number will make planners and vendors inflate their PAGE 10

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A sparkling dinner table designed by Grand Events builds anticipation for the dinner party. PHOTO COURTESY GRAND EVENTS

prices in order to spend the entire budget. “Everyone is so afraid of leaving savings on the table,” he says, “but with a reputable planner and equally reputable vendors, you don’t have to worry about that.”

UNIQUENESS — There are many ways to make a party stand out — from canvassing the area for an untapped venue — “Don’t be afraid to ask if a unique discovery is available to rent,” LaCour says. — to transforming an oftenused venue into something unexpected. Throwing a unique party may cost more, he says. “Predictability comes with a much more stable price,” LaCour says, but adds

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there are exceptions. He cites the experience of a recent out-of-town client who chose a New Orleans diner for a pre-wedding event that was both memorable and surprisingly affordable. “Our specialty is the opposite of cookie-cutter,” he says. “We take an event and make it as unique as possible.”

ENJOY THE PARTY — “It’s important to be a great host, but you also have to plan a party so that you can be a guest at your party,” LaCour says. “The key is to do the work up front. That means planning the important details beforehand, and then planning to delegate the rest.”


Bold colors and surprise elements are hallmarks of Wink Design and Events. PHOTO COURTESY WINK DESIGN AND EVENTS

HIEN NGUYEN & KIM TRAN

WINK DESIGN AND EVENTS Event planners Kim Tran and Hien Nguyen of Wink Design and Events have been in business for 10 years and handle every aspect of party planning. Tran and Nguyen highlight five key ingredients for planning a stellar affair: VENUE — “The venue is the shell of the event,” Tran says. She advises considering both the logistics of using the venue (parking, space, equipment) as well as whether it has the look and feel you want to convey.

BUDGET — “There’s a party for every budget as long as you

can include details that mean something to you,” Nguyen says. If you’re giving an event on your own, you’ll want to research all costs before finalizing the arrangements. If you are using a party planner, he or she can provide an estimated budget that allows you to see your expenditures and move them around accordingly, she says.

NON-NEGOTIABLES — If you know you want a certain photographer or band, secure it early on, Tran advises. Fun things like shopping for accent pieces should be saved for last, after the non-negotiable items are pinned down. CUSTOMIZE YOUR EVENT

— “Everyone wants something PAGE 13

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Idea

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FACTORY

INSPIRATION FOR THE LOOK AND FEEL OF A PARTY CAN COME FROM MANY SOURCES. HERE ARE A FEW OF OUR EXPERTS’ FAVORITES. Travel — “Walking around in New York, looking around in bars, dress shops, men’s stores, stationery shops, there are all sorts of things happening from a design point of view,” says Grand Events owner Kenny LaCour, who’s especially fond of New York City as an inspiration destination. The Internet — Kelley Troia of the event planning firm Clandestine regularly sends clients to Pinterest, where they can create a private board for an event that’s under wraps. They also can share boards with event planners. Troi says she also scans Bizbash.com and Stylemepretty.com and keeps images on Flickr and Instagram. LaCour says he prefers websites like TripAdvisor and the Zagat guide to cities. “See what’s hot and look for what you haven’t seen before,” he says. Restaurants — For menu and theme ideas, Hien Nguyen, co-owner of Wink Design and Events, suggests looking at the way food is presented in a creative restaurant. “It’s about taking little pieces of things and being able to envision them in a different environment,” she says. Designers — The women at the events planning company Wink pull inspiration not only from the aesthetics of interior and fashion designers but also from their nuts-and-bolts operations, such as production of a fashion show. Magazines — “I look at as many magazines as I can and pull things that I think are interesting,” says Troia, who suggests Travel & Leisure, Garden & Gun, Edible and The Scout Guide for fresh ideas. — LEE CUTRONE

custom,” Nguyen says, citing social media as a contributing factor in the customization trend. “Everybody wants to post something ‘Wow’ about their party,” she says. Wink counts monograms, bold colors, themes and interactive experiences among personalized touches in current demand.

CREATE AN INVITING ENVIRONMENT — “What makes a great party are the guests, so you want to create an environment where people feel comfortable,” Tran says. At a formal dinner, for example, the atmosphere should be elegant and guests should feel special. PAGE 14

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Clandestine created a unique table display for a fundraising gala. PHOTO COURTESY RICK DOBBS

Likewise, a casual affair should be conducive to informal ease, she says.

KIM SAYATOVIC & KELLEY TROIA CLANDESTINE

Kelley Troia and Kim Sayatovic plan private events, weddings and destination weekend excursions to New Orleans, a specialty niche the partners in Clandestine have carved out during their three and a half years in business. Troia lists five “musts” when planning a perfect party: VENUE — To keep abreast of new venues, Troia advises asking people where they’ve gone to parties. “Most people are pretty forthcoming,” says Troia, who hears about an average of one new venue a month. Troia and Sayatovic like to search airbnb.com for interesting venues, Troia says, and can negotiate party rental opportunities for some of those venues. Make sure to determine noise ordinances and other 14 GAMBIT’S PARTY PLANNING GUIDE 2015

policies in the area of the venue that could affect the event.

SET A BUDGET — Less experienced party hosts often underestimate the cost of entertaining, Troia says, and it affects decisions about everything from beverages to decor. BE FLEXIBLE — Like all the experts interviewed here, Troia advises flexibility. If your heart is set on a particular venue or band, you may have to change the date of your event. CONSIDER ALL YOUR GUESTS — All activities may

not be suited to all guests, Troia says, so make sure everyone feels included. A second line may not be possible for elderly guests, for example, while children may need special activities such as a table with coloring books.

REMEMBER TO HAVE FUN — “People get wrapped up in so many nitty-gritty details, they don’t have fun,” Troi says . “Relax and enjoy.”


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Invited YOU’RE

Invitations give guests a hint of what’s to come. BY KANDACE POWER GRAVES

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icking the right invitation to announce your event should be about more than just relaying a date, place and time. A well-designed invitation can build excitement and give guests an idea of the character the party will have. “[Invitations] set the tone,” says Margaret Jones, co-owner of the stationery shop Scriptura. “They get the guests excited. They let the guests know whether it’s something worth attending. “I think the amount of care a host puts into ordering and selecting an invitation is indicative of the amount of care they’ll put into the party they’ve invited you to. I think it’s better to let [guests] know that you’re going to give it your best to throw an amazing event, and the invitation is just the opening shot.” There are a wealth of invitation options available, from massproduced fill-in-the-blank versions, to customized wording and type on a pre-made template, or customdesigned invitations that can include monograms, logos, art and embellishments, such as a ribbon with a three-dimensional fleur-delis closure and more. What a host chooses depends on his or her budget, priorities and aesthetics. Designer Alexa Pulitzer, whose stationery collections are sold all over the world, says she helps clients conceive their invitations with an in-depth discussion about what they want to achieve overall. “Typically people come and have an appointment with me and one out of 100 people know what they want,” Pulitzer says. “They’re coming to me to help them create and do something that will set the tone for their event. [The invitation] is the first impression of an event.”

Fergie Lewis, who owns Invitations by Fergie, says she designs invitations after party planners have set the colors and look of the event. “I primarily work with planners who have an idea in mind and they’ll present a storyboard and we’ll look at everything they’re doing — the decor, the flowers — and I’ll zero in on a particular detail that caught my eyes. I just did a wedding for a bride that did a lot of teardrop chandeliers (as wedding decor), and I took a teardrop and worked it into the invitation. My designs are based on something in the wedding that they’re doing. We create a logo or brand for the wedding.” At Scriptura, which has two letterpresses and produces its invitations in house, Jones says she talks with the clients about their priorities and what they want to convey to their guests. “Different things are important to different clients, and some people are deeply invested in how they present themselves on paper and want to go the extra mile to have a fantastic invitation,” she says. “Other people are less inclined and just want the simplest thing and the most cost-effective thing, both of which we’re capable of producing. “I find that with events, people strategize where they want to put their money, and they don’t always follow a formula. Some people are very deeply invested in the Top: Scriptura produced this bachelorette party announcement on a letterpress. Bottom: Engraved Christmas party invitation by Alexa Pulitzer. PAGE 19

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music and the band, some people care about flowers and some people never want anyone to wait in line for the bar. Customers vary in what they care about the most. The people I am seeing at Scriptura tend to care deeply about the invitation and how they present.” For example, one client, a New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival fan named West, was having a 50th birthday party, so Scriptura incorporated a pole of flags like people bring to Jazz Fest into the invitation, with one reading “Jazz West.” For another client, an in-house artist reinterpreted Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night painting for the inside of the envelope and letterpressed some of the starry images onto the invitation itself. “The better invitations actually capture the spirit of the party,” Jones says. “Party invitations mail out three to four weeks in advance, and it’s the only thing you have to keep you engaged, motivated, excited to go to the party. This is all they have until they walk in the front door and see the tableaux created for their enjoyment.” Invitations also should give guests an idea of appropriate dress, whether the event will be inside or outside and how to RSVP. A new trend, Jones says, is adding an email address where people can RSVP. Some customers consider

Clockwise, top left: A sculpted wedding announcement from Invitations by Fergie. A fleur-de-lis and Mardi Gras colors on this invitation make it a popular choice among customers at Gem Printing. Scriptura fashioned an invitation into a beachball shape for a pool party.

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that gauche, but Jones says the online option generally receives a larger number of RSVPs than traditional phone confirmations. Pulitzer says she still advises against email RSVP lines on wedding invitations, however. “There are many ways to get your guests to RSVP,” she says. “I explain that to my clients when I meet with them.” For other events, the quality of the invitation — the paper, 20 GAMBIT’S PARTY PLANNING GUIDE 2015

typefaces and print quality — can indicate attire. “Before you even read an invitation you can look at something and get a sense, literally subconsciously, if it’s coat and tie or if it’s going to be something outside in the backyard that might be a little more casual,” Jones says. Wording on an invitation doesn’t need to be excessive, but should include who is hosting,


what is being celebrated, the date, time and place, she says. Some hosts even want the writing on the envelope to convey a message, and they might hire a calligrapher to address the invitations. That service is available at Gem Printing, which also offers hundreds of invitation templates that can be personalized through typeface selections and wording. Lewis says she started her business 15 years ago because she wanted a unique invitation for her wedding and couldn’t find options she liked. “Brides really want to incorporate things that are specific to their wedding,” she says. One bride, who was getting married at Academy of the Sacred Heart on New Year’s Day, for example, wanted traditional ivory and

gold invitations, but with the fountain at Sacred Heart worked in. For an event at Race & Religious, Lewis included a map of the area near the venue. Once a concept is in place, a host must decide on paper and printing. There are many different weights, colors and textures of paper available, and printing methods include letterpress, engraving and flat printing. Letterpress, which literally presses words and images into a heavy paper, costs more and takes longer than flat printing because the process is labor intensive. The results can be stunning, however, Jones says. Pulitzer prefers engraving, but offers five or six different printing techniques. “It depends on the type of paper you’re

Top: Alexa Pulitzer’s signature kissing alligators in gold. Bottom: Crystal embellishments on this invitation by Fergie Lewis mimic chandelier decor at the wedding.

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Scriptura used a map to show a business’ history in the city.

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using, what print method we’re going to use,” she says. “For a high-end party people typically will engrave. If they are a foundation or a nonprofit, we try to do something much more costeffective, like flat printing. “There’s a lot of economics that actually go into a print job, and there are so many ways to cut corners and save. … Many times people want to do a more economic printing technique but do something to the edges. Having owned a print shop, I’m quite savvy at how to get the best product for the least price.” The printing technique and special treatments can extend the length of lead time needed to produce the invitations, but a general rule of thumb is to order invitations four weeks before they need to be mailed. There are exceptions. Gem Printing

offers a one-day turnaround for customized invitations. Buying fill-in-the-blank or make-your-own invitations is an option, but Jones says it’s not always worth the savings. “It stresses people out,” she says. “Five percent of my clientele are do-ityourselfers who have tried to do it and they hate the way their handwriting looks or don’t like the quality of printing. … Lots of what we do is just clean up for people who could have just handed it off (in the first place).” Pulitzer says finding affordable solutions is her specialty — but she also offers clients something intangible: a network. She keeps a list of performers, event venues, caterers, bakers, florists, etc., and provides it to her clients for free. ““It sets me apart,” she says.


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Every bar needs a corkscrew, and this version by Bar Pro includes a lever and wing handles for easy cork-pulling, $14.99 at Rouses.

Tips for setting up a home bar BY KANDACE POWER GRAVES

H

ome bars can range from a specially designed space with a mini sink, built-in cabinets, an ice machine and refrigerated wine cellar to a cupboard cabinet for the booze, a drawer for the tools and mixers and garnishes in the family refrigerator. There is an endless array of tools, gadgets, glassware, mixers, bitters, alcohol and garnishes, but setting up a bar can be simple. Start with the basics and add other tools and ingredients as you need them for particular events.

HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO START: Alcohol Bar spoon Bottle opener Cocktail shaker Corkscrew Glasses Ice bag Ice bucket and tongs Ice cube trays Jigger or small measuring cup Knife Mixers Muddler Shaker Strainer

ALCOHOL When kept in a cool place where it isn’t exposed to direct sunlight, liquor will stay fresh for a long time, but the lower the level in the bottle, the more quickly it should be consumed to avoid air leaching out flavors. A few bottles of liquor and a few mixers will give you a wide range of drink possibilities.

Go classic with a wooden muddler with a scored head by Oeno, $7, or a sleek stainless steel version by RSVP, $9.99 at Martin Wine Cellar.

The flip-top Boston shaker by Rabbit conveniently allows you to measure, shake and pour all with one container, $19.99 at Martin Wine Cellar.

Stainless steel citrus juicer/ strainer by Epic, $3.99 at Dorignac’s Food Center.

START WITH THESE: • • • • •

Bourbon Cognac Gin Scotch Tequila (the best are 100 percent agave) • Rum • Vodka • (Beer and wine as warranted) PAGE 30

Add a touch of New Orleans to your bar with a fleur-de-lis bottle opener, $6.50 at The Shops at 2011.

This shot glass gives you three measurement levels in ounces and milliliters, $1.99 at Dorignac’s Food Center.

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TO COMPLETE YOUR HOME BAR, SEE PAGE 30

punch PACK A

Classic batch drinks can heat up a party BY CHARLES CODY SILER

D

rinks made in batches, such as bloody marys, margaritas, daiquiris and punches, allow hosts more time to mingle with their guests. Hosts can mix six to eight drinks in about the same time it takes to make a single cocktail. Punches also can add to a party’s theme. Cure bartender Matt Ray recommends The Howitzer, a classic bourbon and lemon punch. “It’s a perfect summer punch,” Ray says. “The sparkling wine and lemon oleo [citrus oil and sugar] really make it pop.” Here are two punch recipes: Cure’s The Howitzer and the gin-based London Republic Punch popular at Arnaud’s French 75 bar.

THE HOWITZER INGREDIENTS:

4 LEMON PEELS 1 CUP SUGAR 1 CUP LEMON JUICE 750 MILLILITERS BUFFALO TRACE BOURBON 1 BOTTLE SPARKLING WINE 1 CUP SODA WATER PEACH BITTERS, TO TASTE GRATED CINNAMON

Arnaud’s London Republic Punch from Arnaud’s French 75 uses gin and Pimm’s. PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER

CURE

DIRECTIONS:

To make the oleo, carefully peel the lemons with as little white pith on the undersides as possible. Lightly muddle them into the sugar to release their essential oils. Let sit for at least an hour, preferably two or three hours. Pour ingredients in the punch bowl and stir lightly.

ARNAUD’S LONDON REPUBLIC PUNCH ARNAUD’S FRENCH 75 BAR

INGREDIENTS:

The Howitzer from Cure is a bourbonbased cocktail. PHOTO COURTESY CURE

1 PINT STRAWBERRIES 1/2 CUP SUGAR 1/2 CUP WATER 6 OUNCES FRESH LIME JUICE 4 OUNCES FRESH ORANGE JUICE 6 OUNCES PIMM’S 6 OUNCES GIN 1 WHOLE NUTMEG

DIRECTIONS:

Cut strawberries in half and put in a small saucepan with sugar and muddle heavily. Add water and heat until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat. Strain the syrup to remove strawberry pieces and pulp. Pour strawberry syrup, lime and orange juices, Pimm’s and gin into a pitcher, add ice and store in the fridge. Note: It’s OK for the ice to melt in the pitcher, as the punch needs to dilute before it’s poured it into ice-filled glasses. Garnish each glass with grated nutmeg.

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BASIC MIXERS & FLAVORINGS • • • • • •

Cointreau Vermouth Club soda Tonic water Cola and lemon-lime sodas Bitters (Angostura, Bittermens, or Peychaud’s are good starters) • Hot sauce • Sugar (FOR A FULL-SERVICE BAR) • • • • •

Ginger ale Orange juice Cranberry juice Bloody Mary mix or tomato juice Pineapple juice

To start your bar, pick up some bitters for flavoring cocktails: Peychaud’s Bitters, $5.99 for 5 ounces or Angostura Bitters, $8.99 for 4 ounces at Rouses. 30 GAMBIT’S PARTY PLANNING GUIDE 2015


home bar TIPS FOR TENDING YOUR

• Allow a pound of ice, three drinks, three glasses and three napkins for each guest at a two-hour cocktail party.

• Start your bar with basics needed for the beverages you and your guests drink most often and those you know how to make; add others gradually. • Batch drinks — bloody marys, margaritas, punches (see recipes on p. 29) — are more efficient to serve at a party than making singles for each guest. A themed drink also can add to the ambience and cement the theme of the party. • Hard-frozen solid ice cubes are best for cocktails as they melt slower, not diluting the drink. • Vermouth is a wine and must be refrigerated and consumed within a short time. • Select liquor you like, regardless of the label. • Make your own simple syrup by adding one part water and two parts sugar to a saucepan, heating it until the sugar dissolves. Let it cool before putting it in a bottle. • Don’t forget about guests who don’t drink alcohol. Plan for festive-looking drinks served in cocktail glassware, such as whipping fresh berries, a splash of lemon and ice in a blender and serving with a fruit garnish or mixing cranberry juice with simple syrup and a little seltzer over crushed ice with a three-cherry garnish. — KANDACE POWER GRAVES

GARNISHES & PANTRY STOCK (as needed) • • • • • • • • •

Cocktail olives Cocktail onions Spiced green beans Horseradish Limes Lemons Hot sauce Garnish picks or toothpicks Cocktail recipes (You can find individual recipes online or visit your local bookstore for an easy-to-handle comprehensive bartender’s guide.) PAGE 32

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BASIC GLASSES

Short glasses (six to eight) — a 6- to 8-oz. heavy-bottom glass allows muddling but also can be used for wine.

Tall glasses (six to eight) — 10- to 12-ounce tall glasses can be used for drinks with carbonation or a lot of juice in them.

Stemmed glasses (six to eight) — a rounded 5- to 6-ounce Champagne coupe or a martini glass can be used for mixed drinks, frozen drinks and cold drinks served without ice.

(FOR A FULL-SERVICE BAR) Champagne flute (six to eight, if you drink a lot of Champagne) — the tall narrow shape encourages the formation and ascent of bubbles. White wine glasses (eight to 12) — a good all-purpose wine glass has a tulip-shaped bowl and a stem and is commonly considered a glass for white wine. Red wine glasses (eight to 12) — these stemmed glasses have extra room in the bowl for aroma and vapors to collect. Stemless wine glasses — can be used for white or red wine, but because they have no stem, holding the glass in your hand can warm up the contents. The smaller stemless glasses with an inward taper are best for dessert and fortified wines. Beer glasses (six to eight) — with as many shapes of glasses as there are types of beer, it’s best to start with a basic glass that widens at the top. If you and your friends are beer aficionados, you can expand the collection depending on the brew you are serving. 32 GAMBIT’S PARTY PLANNING GUIDE 2015


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F lowers DANCE OF THE

Floral arrangements bring color, texture and beauty to your party. BY CALLIE KITTREDGE

Floral arrangements can set the stage for the atmosphere of the party. PHOTO COURTESY MITCH’S FLOWERS

C

hoosing flowers for an event involves more than selecting your favorite blooms. Floral arrangements can enhance and cement the theme or mood of your event, add color and texture, elegance, scents and more. Flowers and greenery can be made into garlands, placed on tables, hung in globe vases or displayed in other creatie ways. Before deciding on flowers, tell your florist if your party has a theme or style (Hawaiian luau, baby shower, color theme, golden anniversary, etc.). Is the party geared toward a traditional garden style with large centerpieces or a contemporary style with multiple vases and smaller arrangements? Eva Baillie, floral manager at The Plant Gallery, says there are many factors in creating a cohesive look, including venue, floor plan for the party, room type, size and placement of tables, color choices, theme and other items. The next focus should be on the centerpiece. Baillie suggests using hydrangeas as a base and building the arrangement by adding peonies, calla lilies, orchids and roses. Those flowers are timeless and the most requested, she says. PAGE 38

Arrangements that look more natural and wildflower-like are popular this season. PHOTO COURTESY MITCH’S FLOWERS

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Eva Baillie at The Plant Gallery suggests using hydrangeas to anchor an arrangement and build on it with other flowers, such as roses and peonies. This arrangement from The Plant Gallery provides pops of color in the flowers, and the green wrap in the vase complements the natural feel of the party table. PHOTOS COURTESY THE PLANT GALLERY

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A loose, wildflower look accented with indigenous flora is popular right now, says Stephen Sonnier, co-owner of Dunn & Sonnier Flowers. Think baby’s breath, calea flowers or crape myrtle blossoms showered on long tables. He says people are moving away from bouquets with tightly packed flowers to more natural, “homegrown” designs with lots of vegetation. “We have a lucky advantage of greenery all around us,” Sonnier says. “We can find anything to use, such as leaves and foliage.” He suggests short rather than tall centerpieces so guests can talk to each other across the table. Small details and unusual treatments make an impression, according to the staff at Mitch’s Flowers. Scarlet garlands and hanging baskets are stylish, along with tiny flowers in vases placed throughout the location. These florists all agree: It’s about the season. Summer parties look great with pops of bright colors, such as tulips and daffodils in spring and scabiosa and sunflowers in summer. Soft, sherbet tones such as coral, peach and orange are popular during warmer months.

e Barn of Pearl Riv

Floral trends favor looser arrangements with a variety of components like this one from Dunn & Sonnier Flowers. PHOTO BY JAMES SHAW PHOTOGRAPHY

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Feast FOR THE SENSES

Food stations, luscious smells and dish presentations add to the festive ambience of a party. BY CALLIE KITTREDGE PHOTOS COURTESY AUDUBON INSTITUTE

T

he food served at a party should entertain guests with mouthwatering sensory and visual details, as well as satisfy hunger. “Show guests what you’re cooking with action stations,” says Richard Buchsbaum, vice president of food and beverage operations at the Audubon Nature Institute, which includes the zoo, Aquarium of the Americas, the Insectarium and the Audubon Golf Course. “People like to go up and see something happening.” Being social is the whole point of parties and receptions, so small, savory dishes and little bites work best, such as stuffed mushrooms with truffled creamed spinach or soups in 2- to 3-ounce shot glasses, he says. Veggie or fruit gazpacho is an easy dish that is popular this summer, Buchsbaum says, and seafood is always a big hit. Buchsbaum recommends crab cakes with tasty sauces or shrimp and grits. Elegant cheese displays with charcuterie are making a comeback, especially when they are assembled using products from local sources.

“Ask yourself, how well can you embellish the tray?” Buchsbaum says. “Fresh greenery and herbs blend beautifully together.” Also trending for parties are small plate dessert tables, which allow guests to easily pick up their choice. When it comes to beverages, Buchsbaum says you can save money by providing guests with a full-service bar and a choice of good wines instead of having specialty drink stations. “You don’t want just your standard Chardonnay,” Buchsbaum says. Accommodating people with allergies and special diets can be challenging, but Buchsbaum says the solution is to create a balanced menu so everyone can find something they can eat. It’s important to provide these guests with options such as a salad bar and lots of fruit, he says. You also can sidestep dietary problems by placing cards showing all the ingredients next to each dish. Placing the cards in silver frames adds elegance to the information.

Seafood with tasty sauces is always a popular dish, made more elegant by an herb garnish.

A table of individually plated desserts is a popular trend.

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PAGE 9 Clandestine 651 Richard St., Suite 2C (504) 301-2991; www.clandestinenola.com Grand Events By appointment, (504) 451-8155; www.grandeventsnola.com Wink Design & Events 1519 Tchoupitoulas St., (504) 366-8063; www. winkdesignandevents.com

YOU’RE INVITED

Cure 4905 Freret St., (504) 302-2357; www.curenola.com

Dorignac’s Food Center Wilshire Plaza, 710 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, (504) 834-8216; www.dorignacs.com Martin Wine Cellar 714 Elmeer Ave., Metairie, (504) 896-7300; Village Shopping Center, 2895 Highway 190, Mandeville, (985) 951-8081; 3827 Baronne St., (504) 899-7411; www.martinwinecellar.com Rouses Citywide; www.rouses.com The Shops at 2011 2011 Magazine St., (504) 407-0499; www.theshopsat2011.com

PAGE 17 Alexa Pulitzer By appointment, (504) 9454843; www.alexapulitzer.com Gem Printing 1904 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, (504) 831-1762; www.gemprinting.com Invitations by Fergie By appointment, (504) 581-7248; www.invitationsbyfergie.com Scriptura Lakeside Shopping Center Annex, 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, (504) 219-1113; 5423 Magazine St., (504) 8971555; www.scriptura.com

BAR NONE PAGE 27 Arnaud’s French 75 Arnaud’s Restaurant, 813 Bienville St., (504) 523-5433; www.arnaudsrestaurant.com/ bars/french-75

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DANCE OF THE FLOWERS PAGE 37 Dunn & Sonnier Flowers 2138 Magazine St., (504) 524-3235; www. dunnandsonnierflowers.com Mitch’s Flowers 4843 Magazine St., (504) 899-4843; www. mitchsflowersnola.com The Plant Gallery 9401 Airline Drive, (504) 488-8887; www.theplantgallery.com

FEAST OF THE SENSES PAGE 43 Audubon Nature Institute (504) 212-5301; www.auduboninstitute.org/ catering-new-orleans


Checklist PARTY PLANNING

A simple guide to a successful soiree

1 MONTH BEFORE PARTY

Allow six weeks if it is a very large function or if outside services are required. If you use an event planner/coordinator, use this schedule to check on his or her progress

Decide on the particulars: Date Type of party Theme Venue Guest list Budget

3 WEEKS BEFORE PARTY

Choose menu Make a timeline for preparing items that can be made ahead of time and frozen or stored in the refrigerator. Hire any needed outside services Inventory linens, tableware, glassware, chairs and tables, serving platters and utensils, etc., and acquire what you need Buy wine, beer and liquor Shop for nonperishable items

Buy decorations

1 WEEK

BEFORE PARTY Firm up your RSVP list Prepare any food that will remain fresh Make a final shopping list Defrost frozen foods Clean venue if required; wash serving pieces, de-spot glasses and polish silver Set tables and put up decorations, special activities, etc. (day before party, if possible)

DAY OF PARTY THE

Set up serving area Set out flowers

Make sure bathrooms are clean and stocked with hand towels and toilet paper Finish preparing food About four hours before the party, start chilling sparkling and white wines.

For a more detailed checklist, visit www.bestofneworleans. com/partyplanninglist

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