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Dinner Party Hosted By Designer Tobi Fairley

Designer Tobi Fairley throws a colorful soiree (with recipes)

Written and produced by Krissa Rossbund
  • Emily Followill

    Menu and shopping list start here

    Little Rock designer Tobi Fairley went mad for plaid during a recent trip to Scotland, which found her touring a variety of textile mills, including a tartan factory. After she brought a blue-and-green cashmere throw home to Arkansas as a souvenir, she used its color scheme as the springboard for a dinner party she hosted. 

    “I saw miles of gorgeous countryside, and I wanted to bring that home and share it with my guests,” says Tobi. “The trip generated so much inspiration for projects of all sizes—from entire rooms to my special dinner party.”

    Instead of navigating guests to her dining room, Tobi charted a course for them that reflected the routes of her trip. Granted, her living room didn’t require a passport, but it did provide an intimate and cozy setting for the evening. Tobi’s gateleg table, which typi-cally lives in the hallway, was repositioned in front of the sofa, and chairs were slipcovered specifically for the gathering. 

    The table evokes a woodsy feel through natural elements and adaptations of them. On the host chairs, Tobi’s faux bois fabric from her home collection graphically depicts wood grain. Cups made of natural horn complement flatware with handles that look like twigs but are rendered in stainless steel.

    Inspired by a meal of roe deer that she dined on in Scotland, Tobi introduced antlers into her party theme, hanging wooden deer heads on the wall where a sunburst mirror typically shines. Real antlers cradle menu cards announcing a dinner of Spice-Rubbed Petite Tenders of beef with Thyme-Roasted Grapes, Yukon Gold Potato and Celariac Gratin, and Sweet Potato Flan with Cranberry-Caramel Sauce.

    Photography: Emily Followill

  • Emily Followill

    Tobi switched out her living room’s sunburst mirror for carved deer heads by Roost. “Brass Berkshire” horn cups by Jayson Home add to the table’s rustic qualities. The centerpiece arrangement is by Cabbage Rose Florist.

    Recipes begin here. 

  • Emily Followill

    A green-and-blue cashmere throw inspired the bold color scheme. “I thrive on bold palettes, and these colors remind me of a dress from my childhood,” says Tobi. “To make the colors seasonal, I threw in the chocolate brown.”

    Recipes begin here. 

  • Emily Followill

    The “Lemonwood” cutting board and bowl are both from Michael Aram. Amber-colored “Fluent” crystal glasses are from Moser.

    Recipes begin here. 

  • Emily Followill

    Woodsy meets welcoming in the cushy “Stag Head” throw pillow backed in “Faux Bois” fabric, both designed by Tobi Fairley for her home collection.

    Recipes begin here. 

  • Emily Followill

    Mix function and playfulness with salt and pepper shakers like these gold-accented “Acorns” that rest on a leaf base from Michael Aram.

    Recipes begin here. 

  • Emily Followill

    Menu cards by Molly’s Paperie (501/661-9929) are adorned with a buck’s head. Porcelain “Arcades” dinnerware is from BIA Cordon Bleu, and “Olive” chargers are from Herend.

    Recipes begin here. 

  • Emily Followill

    Menu & Shopping List

    Tobi Fairley’s table setting was inspired by her visit to Scotland, but her dinner party menu stays closer to home. Chef Jeremy Pittman of Little Rock’s Palette Cateringdesigned a dinner with a harmonious balance of robust fall flavors and a hint of comfort food.


    Quinoa and Roasted Beet Parfait
    Spice-Rubbed Petite Tender with Thyme-Roasted Grapes 
    Fire-Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
    Broccolini with Warm Honey-Mustard Dressing 
    Yukon Gold Potato and Celeriac Gratin
    Sweet Potato Flan with Cranberry-Caramel Sauce

    Shopping List

    Check your pantry for these necessary items before shopping:

    • Salt (to season + 1/8 teaspoon)
    • Kosher salt (need 1/2 teaspoon)
    • Freshly ground black pepper (to season + 1/8 teaspoon)
    • Whole black peppercorns (need 1 teaspoon)
    • Crushed red pepper (need 1 teaspoon)
    • Ground cinnamon (need 3/4 teaspoon)
    • Ground nutmeg (need 1/4 teaspoon)
    • Vanilla extract (need 1-1/2 teaspoons)
    • Olive oil (need about 1 cup total)
    • Vegetable oil (need 1/2 cup)
    • Honey (need 1 teaspoon +1 tablespoon)
    • Dijon-style mustard (need 1 teaspoon + 1 tablespoon)
    • Lemon juice (for seasoning)
    • Sugar (need about 2-1/2 cups total)
    • All-purpose flour (need 1-1/4 cups)
    • Eggs (need 6)
    • Milk (need 1-1/2 cups)
    • Butter (need 1/2 cup [1 stick])

    Specialty grocery store

    • Champagne vinegar (need 1/4 cup)
    • Whole cardamom seeds (need 1 teaspoon)


    • 12 to 14 ounces beets and/or golden beets
    • 2 large red sweet peppers
    • 1 to 2 chiles (such as jalapeño, Anaheim or habañero)
    • 2 pounds broccolini®
    • 1-1/2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes
    • 1 pound sweet potatoes
    • 1 (1-1/4 pound) celeriac bulb
    • 1 bunch fresh chives
    • 1 bunch fresh thyme
    • 1 large onion
    • 2 small shallots
    • 1 head garlic (need 8 cloves total)
    • 1 small bunch red seedless grapes
    • 1 small bunch green seedless grapes
    • 1 package fresh or frozen cranberries (need 1/2 cup)


    • Cider vinegar (need 1/4 cup)
    • 1 (14.5-ounce) can beef stock or broth

    Organic foods aisle

    • 1 (12-ounce) package red quinoa
    • 1 (12-ounce) package white quinoa

    Baking aisle

    • Walnut oil (need 1/4 cup)
    • 1 (2-ounce) package chopped walnuts (need 1/2 cup)
    • 1 (2-ounce) package pecan halves (need 1/2 cup)
    • 1 (3-ounce) dried cherries (need 1/2 cup)
    • Dried thyme (need 1/8 teaspoon)
    • Dried whole coriander seeds (need 1 tablespoon)
    • Dried whole fennel seeds (need 1 tablespoon)

    Meat counter

    • 4 (8 to 10 ounces each) beef shoulder petite tenders


    • 1 pint whipping cream

    Cheese counter

    • 8 ounces goat cheese (chevre)
    • Cheddar cheese for shredding (need 1/2 cup)
    • Parmesan cheese for grating (need 1/2 cup)
  • Emily Followill

    Quinoa and Roasted Beet Parfait

    This appetizer is a savory version of the classic layered dessert. Make the beets and vinaigrette ahead of time. The goat cheese and whipping cream layer can also be blended and chilled ahead of time. Bring to room temperature before layering.

    • 12 to 14 ounces beets and/or golden beets
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • Salt and ground black pepper

    • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
    • 1/4 cup champagne vinegar
    • 1/4 cup walnut oil
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
    • 1 small shallot, minced
    • 1 teaspoon honey
    • 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard

    • 1/2 cup red quinoa
    • 1/2 cup white quinoa
    • 8 ounces goat cheese (chevre)
    • 2/3 cup whipping cream

    Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut tops off beets; trim root ends. Place on sheet of foil. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bring up sides of foil; seal with double fold. Fold in ends, leaving room for steam to build. (If using both regular and golden beets, wrap separately.) Place foil packet(s) on baking sheet; roast 1 to 1-1/2 hours or until tender.

    When cool enough to handle, rub skin off beets using a paper towel. Dice beets. (Beets may be reserved, covered, up to one day.) Drizzle beets with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil; season to taste with salt and pepper.

    In screw-top jar combine walnuts, vinegar, walnut oil, olive oil, chives, shallot, honey, and mustard. Cover; shake well to combine. Set aside. (Vinaigrette may be made one day ahead and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before using. Shake well.)

    In fine mesh sieve separately rinse and drain red and white quinoa. In each of two small saucepans combine one type of quinoa and one cup of lightly salted water. Bring to boil; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, about 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. While the quinoa is still hot, stir 1/4 cup Walnut Vinaigrette into each type of quinoa.

    In medium bowl beat goat cheese and whipping cream with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. In 8 small goblets, assemble parfait in layers. Start with red quinoa, roasted beets, white quinoa, and goat cheese. Repeat layers. Drizzle with remaining vinaigrette. Garnish with roasted beets. Makes 8 servings.


  • Emily Followill

    Spice-Rubbed Petite Tender with Thyme-Roasted Grapes

    Petite tenders, a cut from under the beef shoulder, rival filet mignon for tenderness. Special order them from your butcher. A Fire-Roasted Red Pepper Sauce can accompany the beef. The spice-rubbed beef should chill overnight before cooking.

    • 4 (8 to 10 ounces each) beef shoulder petite tenders
    • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1 recipe Spice Rub (recipe follows)
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 8 small bunches red and/or green seedless grapes, 10 to 12 grapes per bunch
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1/8 teaspoon salt
    • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
    • 1 recipe Fire-Roasted Red Pepper Sauce (optional, recipe follows)

    Season petite tenders with kosher salt. Cover evenly with Spice Rub. Place on tray; cover, chill overnight.

    Remove meat from refrigerator; allow to come to room temperature (about 30 minutes). Heat 12-inch heavy cast-iron pan over medium-high heat. Cook tenders in 2 tablespoons olive oil in skillet 10 to 15 minutes or until instant-read thermometer inserted in meat registers 135°F, turning once to brown evenly. Reduce heat to medium, if necessary. Transfer meat to plate; cover; let stand 15 minutes.

    Meanwhile, for Roasted Grapes, preheat oven to 350°F. In shallow baking pan toss grapes with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/8 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper, and dried thyme. Roast, uncovered, in preheated oven 15 minutes or until grapes start to wrinkle and soften.

    Slice meat and serve with Roasted Grapes and Fire-Roasted Red Pepper Sauce. Makes 8 servings.

    Spice Rub: Heat small dry skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds, 1 tablespoon whole fennel seeds, 1 teaspoon whole cardamom seeds, and 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns; heat spice mixture 1 to 2 minutes or until lightly toasted and aromatic. Remove to mortar to cool. When cool, crush with pestle. Add 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper, 4 cloves garlic, and leaves from 4 sprigs fresh thyme to mortar; mash with pestle. Gradually add 1/4 cup oil to make a paste. Set aside. 

    Fire-Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

    • 2 large red sweet peppers
    • 1 to 2 chiles (jalapeño, Anaheim, and/or habañero)*
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 shallot, minced
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1/2 cup beef stock or broth
    • Salt, pepper, and/or lemon juice (optional)
    • Beef broth, optional

    Preheat oven to 450°F. Line baking sheet with foil. Lightly brush peppers and chiles with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Place peppers on foil; roast 20 minutes or until skins are charred. Remove from oven. Wrap peppers in foil; let stand until cool.

    Peel peppers. Remove stems, seeds, and membranes. Coarsely chop peppers.

    In large skillet cook shallot in remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil 3 minutes. Add garlic; cook 1 minute more. Add chopped peppers and bring mixture to gentle simmer. Simmer, uncovered, 2 minutes. Add stock. Simmer uncovered, 5 minutes more.

    Transfer pepper mixture to blender. Cover; blend until smooth. If desired, season to taste with salt, pepper, and/or lemon juice. Add additional broth, 1 tablespoon at a time, to reach desired consistency. Makes 8 (2-tablespoon) servings. Yield: 1 cup.

    Because hot chile peppers contain volatile oils that can burn your skin and eyes, avoid contact with chiles as much as possible. When working with chile peppers, wear plastic or rubber gloves. If your bare hands do touch the chile peppers, wash your hands well with soap and water.

    Broccolini with Warm Honey-Mustard Dressing

    • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
    • 2 teaspoons snipped fresh thyme
    • 2 pounds Broccolini, trimmed and cut into spears
    • 1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
    • 1 tablespoon honey
    • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 1/2 cup pecan halves, toasted
    • 1/2 cup dried cherries
    • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

    In medium skillet cook onions in hot olive oil over low heat, covered,  13 to 15 minutes or until onions are tender, stirring occasionally. Uncover; cook and stir over medium-high heat 3 to 5 minutes or until golden. Add garlic. Cook 1 minute more. Remove from heat. Stir in vinegar and thyme. Set aside to cool slightly.

    In large pot with steamer basket bring water to boil. Add Broccolini to basket. (Or put Broccolini directly into an inch of boiling water.) Cover; reduce heat to medium. Cook 8 to 10 minutes or until just tender when pierced with fork.

    Place Broccolini on serving platter. In small bowl whisk together mustard and honey. Slowly add vegetable oil, whisking constantly until combined. Stir in onion mixture. Season to taste with salt and ground black pepper. Drizzle mixture over Broccolini. Sprinkle with pecans, cherries, and cheese. Makes 8 servings.

    Yukon Gold Potato and Celeriac Gratin

    • 1-1/2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
    • 1 (1-1/4-pound) celeriac bulb, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
    • 1-1/3 cups whipping cream
    • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

    Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter 2-quart soufflé dish; set aside. In 4- to 5-quart Dutch oven combine potatoes, celeriac, and whipping cream. Bring just to boil.

    Place half the potato mixture in prepared dish. Sprinkle with half the cheese and some salt and pepper. Add remaining potato mixture and sprinkle with remaining cheese and additional salt and pepper.

    Bake, uncovered, in preheated oven 1 hour 25 minutes or until potatoes and celeriac are fork tender. If necessary, cover loosely with foil to prevent overbrowning. Let stand 20 minutes before serving. Cut into wedges to serve. Makes 8 servings.


  • Emily Followill

    Sweet Potato Flan with Cranberry-Caramel Sauce

    • 3/4 cup sugar
    • 3 eggs
    • 3 egg yolks
    • 1-1/2 cups milk, scalded
    • 1-1/4 cups sweet potato puree*
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
    • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    • Pinch of salt

    • 3/4 cup water
    • 1/2 cup fresh cranberries
    • 1 cup sugar

    SWEET POTATO FLAN: To caramelize sugar, in medium heavy skillet, heat 3/4 cup sugar over medium-high heat until it begins to melt, shaking skillet occasionally; do not stir. When sugar starts to melt, reduce heat to low; cook about 5 minutes or until all the sugar melts and is golden, stirring as needed with wooden spoon. Immediately divide caramelized sugar evenly among eight 4-ounce custard cups or ramekins; tilt cups to coat bottoms. Let stand 10 minutes.

    Meanwhile, preheat oven to 325°F. In large mixing bowl combine eggs, egg yolks, milk, sweet potato, 1/2 cup sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Strain mixture through fine sieve. Place custard cups in large roasting pan. Divide egg mixture evenly among custard cups. Place baking dish on oven rack. Pour boiling water into baking dish around custard cups to depth of 1 inch. Bake about 40 minutes or until knife inserted near centers comes out clean.

    Remove custard cups from water. Cool slightly on wire rack and unmold. (Or cool completely in cups. Cover; chill until serving time.) Using sharp knife, loosen flan from sides of cups. Invert plate over each cup; turn plate and cup over together. Remove cups. Makes 8 servings.

    *FOR SWEET POTATO PUREE: Peel and cut up 1 pound sweet potatoes. In medium saucepan cook potatoes in lightly salted boiling water, covered, 20 to 25 minutes or until tender; drain. Mash with potato masher or beat with electric mixer on low speed. Measure out 1-1/4 cups. Set aside any remaining for another use.

    Cranberry-Caramel Sauce

    In food processor or blender combine water and 1/4 cup cranberries. Cover and process until smooth. Strain through fine mesh sieve. Discard solids; set cranberry mixture aside.

    TO CARMELIZE SUGAR: In large heavy saucepan, heat 1 cup sugar over medium-high heat until it begins to melt, shaking saucepan occasionally; do not stir. When sugar starts to melt, reduce heat to low; cook about 5 minutes or until all of the sugar melts and is golden, stirring as needed with wooden spoon. Remove pan from heat. Using caution, gradually add cranberry mixture to the caramel. (Mixture will splatter.)

    Over low heat cook mixture, stirring, until gentle simmer is reached and everything is melted together. Simmer, uncovered, until reduced to about 1 cup. Stir in remaining cranberries, cook 1 minute more. Serve Cranberry-Caramel Sauce with flan.


  • Emily Followill

    See how another interior designer—Mary McDonald of Los Angeles—entertains in our story on a New Year’s Eve Dinner.