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Great Gatherings: Glamorous Dinner Party—With a Purpose
Event Planner Rachel Hollis hosts a dinner for "Fashion's Night Out"
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No coaxing needed. Just say “fashion,” and women will show up at an event in droves. To support less-fortunate women who are seeking employment, event planner Rachel Hollis organized her own “Fashion’s Night Out” dinner and invited guests to jettison old garments from their wardrobes and bring them to the occasion for donation.
“Clothes are something we all have and something we may take for granted,” explains Hollis. “Every woman knows that a pretty blouse or stylish shoes can make you feel invincible. What a great feeling to share with someone else!”
Photography: Karyn Millet
Food photography: Peter Krumhardt
Setting the Table
Fuchsia-rimmed porcelain plates trimmed in opulent gold infuse settings with vibrant color in a refined and quiet manner. But just as a little black dress is the foundation for a range of accessories, the dinnerware flips a trendy attitude with sassy accoutrements. Service plates—often used to express a formal, proper presentation—are anything but buttoned-up on this oval runway; their animal-print patterns are more likely to be found on a pair of swanky stilettos. Instead of matching the plates, tangerine-colored linen napkins make a sporty contrast and nod to the color-block craze that is au currant in the world of apparel. And just as silver and gold stylishly mix in jewelry, Hollis combines hammered stainless flatware and hip gold-metallic placemats made of a natural material.
“Lacque de Chine” salad and dinner plates and “L’Animal” service plates are from Haviland (800/793-7160). “Leopardo” hammered stainless flatware is from Ricci. “Linear” placemats are from Dransfield & Ross.
Healthful & Delicious
A menu of Buratta with Prosciutto and Roasted Heirloom Tomatoes Salad; Roasted Game Hens with Fall Succotash; and Champagne-Poached Apples is satisfying for a group of health-conscious women.
“This gathering is a win-win for everyone,” says Hollis. “Including handwritten notes of encouragement with the items you donate gives the event even more purpose and meaning. Any opportunity to empower and celebrate other women is always in style.”
Silver-plated, trophy-style containers filled with Phalaenopsis orchids match the dinnerware, but make their own colorful statement. Flowers by R. Jack Balthazar.
Soft & Sublime
Give stylish guests something with which to pamper themselves and their closets. These opulent satin sachets and powder poufs are from Shelley Kyle and make a chic presentation.
Sew fabric swatches into invitation envelopes like this one made of “Feline” in Dove from the Eileen Kathryn Boyd collection for Duralee.
Fall fruits and a hint of molasses give this sangría gorgeous color and smoky back notes. “Excess” crystal wine glasses and champagne flutes in clear, red, and amethyst are from Saint-Louis Crystal through Hermés (212/835-6448).
Let the table setting wear jewelry, too. Attach old pairs of clip-on earrings to a placecard for a dazzling holder. Calligraphy on placecards and invitations is by Bernard Maisner.
Event planner Rachel Hollis organized “Fashion’s Night Out” to benefit fashionistas seeking employment. “This gathering is a win-win for everyone,” she says.
Roasted Game Hens with Fall Succotash
Brining keeps these game hens moist when they are roasted. Use this brine for any roasted chicken.
• 2 cups water
• 1/2 bunch Italian (flat leaf) parsley
• 1 lemon, halved
• 1/2 cup kosher salt
• 1/3 cup granulated sugar
• 4 bay leaves
• 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
• 6 cups ice water
• 2 (1-1/2 pound) Cornish game hens (thawed, if frozen)
• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• Fall Succotash (recipe follows)
The brine: In Dutch oven combine 2 cups water and parsley. Squeeze juice from lemon halves into pan; add lemon halves. Add 1/2 cup salt, sugar, bay leaves, and whole peppercorns. Bring to boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve salt and sugar. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, five minutes. Remove from heat; let steep 30 minutes. Add 6 cups ice water; stir. If brine is not colder than room temperature, refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Brine can be made a day in advance. Place game hens in very large self-sealing plastic bag set in deep pot or dish. Add chilled brine and seal. Refrigerate 6 hours or overnight.
Remove game hens from brine; discard brine. With paper towels, blot game hens completely dry inside and out. Set game hens, breast-side up, on rack in 15x10x1-inch baking pan. Lightly season game hens inside and out with additional kosher salt and pepper. Drizzle game hens with olive oil on all sides. Let game hens stand 30 minutes to come to room temperature.
Preheat oven to 400°F; set rack to upper third of oven. Roast game hens, uncovered 45 minutes or until juices run clear when thigh is pierced with a knife (170°F). If game hens are not golden brown at this point, remove from oven and set oven to broil. Broil game hens 3 minutes or until skins are golden brown, being careful not to let them burn. Loosely cover game hens with foil; let rest 10 minutes. Cut hens in half down middle of each breastbone.
To serve, place 1 cup Fall Succotash (recipe follows) in center of serving plate. Place one half-game hen on top of succotash; garnish with fresh basil leaves. Makes 4 servings.
This colorful succotash makes a great side dish for any dinner. Double the recipe for a larger gathering.
• 1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh basil
• 1 tablespoon snipped fresh dillweed
• 1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives
• 1 tablespoon snipped fresh tarragon (optional)
• 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
• 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
• Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
• 1-1/2 cups fresh or frozen lima beans
• 1-1/2 cups shelled fresh English peas or frozen peas
• 2 ears fresh sweet corn, cut from cob (1 cup) or frozen whole-kernel corn
• 1 large red sweet pepper, coarsely chopped (1 cup)
• 1 small red onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
In small bowl combine basil, dillweed, chives, and tarragon; set aside. In another small bowl combine 4 tablespoons olive oil and red wine vinegar. Whisk to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
If using fresh lima beans and/or peas, cook in small amount of boiling salted water 10 to 12 minutes or until crisp-tender; drain. If using frozen lima beans and/or peas, cook according to package directions.
In large skillet, heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add corn, sweet pepper, and red onion to skillet. Cook over medium heat 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in lima beans and peas; heat through. Stir in herb mixture and vinaigrette. Makes 4 servings.
Buratta with Prosciutto and Heirloom Tomatoes
This salad is a variation of the popular summer Caprese salad. The roasted tomatoes give the salad a distinct autumn flavor. The name Caprese comes from the island of Capri, the fashionable European meeting place of the cognizetti in the 1960s, a wry nod towards this dinner’s theme.
• 1 pound Campari tomatoes or large cherry tomatoes ripened on vine
• 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
• 10 ounces fresh mozzarella or burata cheese,* thinly sliced
• 2 ounces very thinly sliced Prosciutto di Parma, cut into thin strips
• 1 cup fresh basil leaves
• Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 300°F. Place tomatoes in medium bowl; drizzle with enough olive oil to coat. Transfer tomatoes to foil-lined 15x10x1-baking pan; sprinkle with kosher salt. Roast, uncovered, 45 to 60 minutes or until softened but not mushy.
Cool tomatoes about 20 minutes. On four salad plates arrange cheese, tomatoes, prosciutto, and basil leaves. Drizzle with additional oil; sprinkle with pepper. Makes 4 servings.
*If using burata, chill the cheese well before slicing.
• 1 (750-milliliter) bottle dry rosé champagne
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
• 4 small Gala or Fuji apples (4 to 5 ounces each)
• 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
• Scented honey, such as lavender or sage
• Ground cinnamon
• Whole pink peppercorns, lightly crushed, optional
In large saucepan combine champagne, sugar, and vanilla bean; champagne will foam up. Core, halve, and peel apples. Place apple halves in champagne mixture. Bring mixture just to boil; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 10 to 15 minutes or until apples are just tender. With slotted spoon remove apples from saucepan; set aside. Remove vanilla bean; discard. Bring remaining champagne mixture to boil. Boil gently, uncovered, about 25 minutes or until reduced to 3/4 cup.
To serve, ladle champagne sauce onto dessert plate, arrange apples on top. Dollop with Greek yogurt; drizzle apples and yogurt with scented honey. Sprinkle with ground cinnamon and crushed peppercorns. Makes 4 servings.
Molasses adds a hint of smokiness to this sangria full of autumn fruits. If unable to get fresh fruits, dried fruits may be substituted.
• 2 cups fresh fruit such as figs, plums, and apricots, pitted and sliced
• 1 tablespoon mild molasses
• 1-2/3 cups light red wine, such as Beaujolais Villages or Pinot Noir
• 1-2/3 cups sparkling apple cider, chilled
• 1 small orange, sliced
In pitcher container combine fruits and molasses; stir until well combined. Slowly pour in red wine. Cover; chill 2 to 24 hours. To serve, add sparkling cider and orange. Stir gently with spoon. Fill glasses with ice and ladle in sangría. Makes 4 servings.
Tip: Fruits may be halved, quartered or sliced. Remove pits if using fresh fruit.