Spring Fling: Throwing a fabulous party for no reason at all
Did you know that you can throw a party in springtime, on a Monday, in the rain, and still have a blast? Well, you can. And we did. And it was amazing. Here are our three takes on what turned out to be a really, really good party:
Sarah: Chad and I have the perfect party house. It’s not ours – we rent – but it is beautiful on the inside, and much like the Tardis, is bigger on the inside than it looks on the outside. But the best part of our house is a large screened-in porch off the side of the house. The porch has an uneven stone floor and foundation and a giant Outdoors Movement-style fireplace on one end. It also has a seemingly permanent resident in a giant wooden picnic table, also done in the 1930s national parks style.
The fireplace and the large (mostly) open space make it the perfect place to host parties. Start a fire and add some good food and a little booze and you’ll have to kick people out so you can go to bed.
[Sarah: Half the guests out on the porch. The other half were occupying the kitchen and clustered around the roasted asparagus and ramps (which were – duh – in the kitchen). There were many ramp virgins at the party – and many fervent converts. Tereneh: Oh I love it the glowing lights on the ceiling, the fire, the candles – and the light getting dark outside. I love this spot!]
Since the winter was rather long and all the rain in April making it seem like spring would never arrive, we decided to have a “Welcome Spring” party sometime in May. We picked a Monday night (more on that later) in the middle of the month, invited all our friends, and got to planning. And because really, do we even need a real reason to throw a party?
I spent the weekend cooking and cleaning – I wanted the house to be clean in case it rained and I wanted to cook and prep most things in advance so I wouldn’t stress about doing things the day of, and so that set-up after work would be easy. Also, the only time I ever really clean the house thoroughly is when we have people over (yet another reason to have frequent parties).
[Sarah: Gorgeous ramps (a.k.a. wild leeks) cleaned and ready to be roasted.]
I visited our local organic CSA farm (a new one for me) and loaded up on $40 worth of rhubarb, ramps, asparagus, strawberries, and sorrel (which I ended up not using). Over the course of a Saturday and Sunday I made rhubarb clafoutis, open-faced cucumber-salami sandwiches, a carrot and celery tray, made a ranch-style dip, baked buns (Chad’s favorite – his mom’s recipe), a strawberry-pink grapefruit salad, and loaded some olive oil with dried seasonings to soak.
[Sarah: Here I am explaining my roasted asparagus recipe to Ashley. It went like this: take some asparagus, drizzle with olive oil, coarse sea salt, and black pepper, stir it around, then throw it in the oven. Tereneh: The asparagus was lovely! I was trying my best for a kind of Food TV/Martha Stewart moment with this shot. Funny.]
There were a few things I forgot the day of (like the relish tray with the pickles and roasted red peppers I bought) and I roasted the asparagus and ramps in the oven the day of, but mostly everything went smoothly. Chad made his favorite Second Horse punch and we lay out the spread of beverages, including hard cider. Guests brought pound cake, coconut cookies, a pizza (which was great because it served as a main course for those who forgot to eat dinner) French bread (for the olive oil) and wine.
[Sarah: The lovely dogwoods I tramped through the woods with my Fiskars clippers to get. It was a long haul in wellies and a dress, but I stumbled along a dripping-wet fairy land in the process, so it was well worth it. Even if the dogwoods stubbornly refused to do what I wanted them to in that vase. Also – Ashley’s coconut cookies. Tereneh: I love those little blue and white plates! And Ashley’s yummy cookies on that lovely platter, I just discovered that dogwoods grew in the Hudson Valley on a hike recently, it was so nice to see them on the party table.]
Five o’clocked rolled around and Chad came home from work (I had gotten out earlier) to set up our spare table for the buffet and I started putting down my vintage tablecloths everywhere. Earlier I had tromped up the hill and into the woods in my wellies to cut dogwood branches for bouquets. Chad also set out the candles (he loves candlelight) everywhere on the porch. Around six o’clock Tereneh arrived and helped me start plating everything. Ashley and Tony came around 6:30 and by 7:30 nearly all the guests had arrived and Chad’s giant fire was roaring.
We’d had a few games planned just in case everything slowed down a bit, but our mixed bag of guests (from three different workplaces, plus college friends) all got along swimmingly and with the good food, good booze, and the beautiful atmosphere, the party went really well and everyone seemed to have a great time.
There was only one snafu in the whole thing – it RAINED! A lot. Nearly the whole time, in fact. So bocce and ultimate Frisbee were cancelled. And the damp picnic table got covered with a tablecloth and layers of towels on the benches. But eventually the fireplace dried things out and no one seemed to mind in the least. In fact, with the fire and all the candles, having it be drizzly and damp and cold outside almost made being on the porch even better.
[Sarah: Serious conversation after stuffing ourselves silly. And rotating sides of the picnic table so cold people on the left could heat up on the right near the fireplace. Tereneh: Yep some how I ended up on the wrong side of the fireplace too often that night! But I made up for it with Wine and Chad’s awesome 2nd Horse Punch.]
The ultimate verdict? Many more parties to come, at the behest of our guests. And one suggestion for a sleepover in front of the fire. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Ashley: Pitter, patter, drip, drop, with our raincoats on our backs and cookies in hand, Tony and I walked through the gray wet night not knowing what to expect and wondering should we have eaten a snack? Our worries washed away though as we walked toward the warm bright light and the smells overwhelmed us. As we first stepped inside the house I notice that everything was laid out perfectly in their own dishes. The dishes were all different shapes, sizes, heights, and colors, which made me take a step back and not only admire the food that lay upon them but the fact that they were beautiful without matching.
Our hosts, Sarah and Chad, were bustling around putting their finishing touches on the fire, punch and cooking the asparagus and ramps, but all the while sharing conversation about preparation and ingredients.
[Ashley: Ramps are a new treat for some and a great conversation piece for others. Set all your manners aside and dig in.]
Parties are not my specialty so all the while I was taking mental notes and at the end of the night was very impressed in how great the party turned out. The party was simple, laid back and was surrounded with good food, conversation and a fire. Those three things always make for an entertaining night especially a fire, which was so cozy on that slightly chilled night.
[Ashley: A good way for new acquaintances to get to know each other put them to work! Preparing for a lovely night ahead. Sarah: Uh, yeah. Firewood is heavy! Good thing Chad had Tony to rope into helping.]
Here is what I took away from the party: doing as much preparation before hand, mainly with food, is important and will allow you to enjoy the party without being stuck in the kitchen. Seasonal vegetables are a must especially those that can be cooked to create those delicious spells! If people ask, “Can I bring something?” suggest to them to bring items that will compliment things you have already made, like a loaf of French bread to go along with homemade dipping oil. And lastly, which I am known to do, don’t over entertain, allow people to move around, mingle, and relax. For example, I am constantly making sure the guess are comfortable and ask if they need anything to drink, but our hosts did it perfectly allowing their guests to serve themselves creating a comforting atmosphere.
Parties at Sarah and Chad’s house are definitely a must, they are not only great hosts but they have the perfect entertaining room for those spring and summer days. I hope that Tony and I are invited to any other parties they may have!
Tereneh: Tereneh here. For me I am always up for a party. I spend way too much time in the studio, solo so to be out and about is always fun for me.
The thing I was most thrilled about was the party was on a Monday! That is so bacchanalian! So that there got me hooked. That plus I knew Sarah was cooking so I knew the food was going to be good.
I arrived earlier than early. Not to start eating the food (really!) but to help out and to try to get pix of the prep. I did help a little but not much, I do remember banging the bag of ice with a knife and scooping out the yummy handmade ranch dressing of Sarah’s. Oh and me staring at the ramps I had never heard of them they were so beautiful to look at like leeks, like spring onions – lovely. I couldn’t wait to eat them. I keep looking at my watch thinking, “Is it 7 o’clock yet?!”
[Sarah: “Bless this house” vintage tablecloth in adorable pink, white, and green that I picked up at a thrift store for a few dollars. Tereneh is either plating food or checking her phone and going for another pretzel to dip in that ranch dressing. Pretzels and ranch dip, people – so addictive. You have no idea. Sorry, I got you addicted, T! Tereneh: Oh Sarah, I was definitely going for another pretzel and dip, yep I am an addict now! Thanks Sarah! ]
As far as the food went I loved everything especially the ranch dressing and pretzels that I ate too much of pre-party. And the ramps I ate those with my hands! The rhubarb clafoutis that Sarah assures me I can make myself at home. Come on Sarah I cannot even pronounce, clafoutis! But anyway it was all yummy.
However, as much as I enjoyed the food and meeting new people. The highlight of the evening for me was getting a chance for the first time to talk with Ashley’s boyfriend, Tony. We discovered that we had the same exact rare Honda scooter, only his is a year earlier than mine. And he was just so much fun, what a sweetheart, I had a ball talking to him and Ashley.
[Sarah: The lovely Miss Ashley by candlelight. Tereneh: I wonder if we are talking about scooters here or something historic? Probably something historic, collections, curatorial stuff – I am sure I am just smiling or maybe that is why I started taking pictures?]
I guess that at the end of the day that is it, even with a perfect setting, wonderful food and perfect planning it’s the human connections that make a party worth the effort.
[Sarah: A very glowy, partial version of Tereneh’s “The Last Supper.” Ashley: What are we laughing at? _______ Fill in the blank. Tereneh: I am sure I had just said something hilarious! I am sure of it.]
[Ashley: The damage at the end of the night – the best part, LEFTOVERS!!! Tereneh: I wish I had taken more of the clafoutis – how did I leave any on the table?? Sarah: Yeah, Chad & I probably shouldn’t have finished off that extra clafoutis in three days, but it makes such a killer breakfast!]
[Ashley: One sign of a good party! Sarah: And an unfortunate repercussion of using cheap candles: wax-infused vintage linens!]
And that’s it! The end! The party was a great success and there are many more uses planned for the screen porch (and fireplace) in the future.