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How to Throw an Incredible Thanksgiving Party

From DIY floral arrangements to designing the perfect tablescape, here’s everything you need to know for home entertaining this holiday

The designer and author on the perfect tablescape

1. Sferra is my go to for linens. They are of an impeccable quality and available in a range of colors. It’s always a linen napkin and china in our home; we try to use as little paper products as possible.

2. I never use linen tablecloths. I prefer a textured natural tabletop—wood, marble, glass. It grants a natural ease and adds depth to the spread. I decorate with seasonal vegetables like rhubarb or gords.

3. My Mulholland China mixes perfectly with bronze accessories from my home collection. I like to use the dishes for appetizers or implement accessories in unexpected ways—like having my Double Hand Dichotomy Sculpture holding linen napkins or my Diva Dish offering up cocktail olives.

4. A bejeweled wine stop is a near effortless way to elevate any table. Thoughtful details make the table feel spirited and chic.

 

The florist extraordinaire on DIY autumnal floral arrangements

1. One trick is to use cups (and bowls) from your home, fill them with water and ‘chop and drop’ single stems of your choice of flowers and perhaps a sprig of seasonal greenery.

2. Another easy do-it-yourself touch is a tablescape of leaves and pumpkins. You can place these pieces around the flowers to add that festive feel.

3. A little styling goes a long way: I’d use gold mint julep cups and footed bowls along with leaves and pumpkins to create a robust runner.

 

The owner of A Company on dinner party planning

1. First I create a guest list. Ideally, I’d send a beautiful invitation from illustrator Happy Menocal (example above), but if time is not on my side, I send out invitations from Paperless Post.

2. Once I have my headcount for dinner, I turn to my friend, designer Lela Rose for inspiration. She is the best cook I know. I decide which recipes I want to use, make a master grocery list and always find out about any guests food allergies. (If I am a guest attending a dinner, I love giving gift baskets from Fortnum & Mason. Their gooseberry and elderflower jam with lemon curd biscuits are a must!)

3. Then I sit down with my Anya Hindmarch monogrammed leather seating chart and figure out where to place my friends and family around the table. It’s easy to shuffle around guests if I change my mind about seating or someone drops out. I always aim for a balanced table with everyone’s personality traits in mind and make a point to separate couples. As the host, I’ll sit closest to the kitchen so that I can clear plates or grab more wine without disturbing my guests.

4. Two weeks before Thanksgiving, I stock up on all non-perishable items, order from Blue Duck Bakery in Southold, pies from Briermere Farms and order my organic turkey. (Plan your flowers and dinner playlist now, too.)

5. Days before, I make and freeze my gravy, make the turkey brine and chill the wine.

6. The night before, I make a detailed cooking schedule for the day of Thanksgiving,  prep as many ingredients as possible and set the table.

7. The day of, we aim to sit down and eat around 3:00 p.m. The children rarely sit for longer than half an hour, so they head back to the craft table.

8. At the end of the evening after the dishes are done, the pies, coffee and tea are served, I love getting everyone together for games by the fire.

 

The decorator to the stars (with clients like Alexander Wang, James Franco and Jessica Stam) on the elegantly decorated home

1. The Space. I believe in reinventing your home for a specific holiday. When you’re entertaining, I’m all for renting things and taking furniture out of living rooms so it feels like a more special space than just your house. Creating a new environment surprises people and gets them excited—it makes the holiday feel like an event.”

2. Room Scents. I love amber, especially for fall. It’s darker and sexier. (I don’t like clean fragrances for this time of the year.) A touch of cedar adds a lot. And candles—lots and lots of candles!

3. Lighting. I have a dimmer on every switch in my house, which I’m a firm believer in. You need to have low light and a lot of candlelight. It makes things feel more intimate and sexy.

4. Placecards. Even if I have five people over, I still do a placecard. It’s an elegant touch that most people don’t often think of. I take the placesetting very seriously, it’s almost nerdy. And I like to do gold for an elevated look with all the deep tones.

5. The Guests. You need to take care of all of your guests. One thing I’ve learned not to do from parties I’ve attended: When hosts sit back and expect their guests to take care of themselves. I’m always on my feet pouring drinks and making sure everyone’s glasses are full. I don’t care how much time and money you put into the party, no one can make sure your guests are having a good time but you.

 

The Oscar-winning composer (whose latest work is the original music for Julie Taymor’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at Brooklyn’s Theatre for a New Audience) on his choices for a crowd-pleasing dinner soundtrack

1. Louis Armstrong and His Hot Seven, “Twelfth Street Rag.” This was Armstrong at his peak of inventiveness. It’s so full of life and vigor—it’s the first thing to know about American jazz and swagger. This is great for a party; guests will be dancing all over.

2. Bob Dylan, “Highway 61 Revisited.” This album sets a great tone with idealistic music and lyrics but also a rebellious streak, which sort of defines our entire nation. Dylan’s voice has a clarion tone as it points out the pitfalls of love and society—quite a feat for such a young man. Dylan still sings, but not like this.

3. Krzysztof Penderecki, “Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima.” This composition has in it the horror of what human beings are capable of. Of course, I don’t recommend it for a cocktail hour but perhaps for the time spent before you visit friends and family, when you’re reflecting on those who are less fortunate that you are. This allows perspective on why Thanksgiving is so important.

4. Elliot Goldenthal, “Frida.” My score to the film Frida is all about celebrating life; my music expresses that in a very intimate way. The songs are based on the life of Frida Kahlo, who was throughout her life fighting against personal struggles, but never stopped trying. Hail to those who live life to the fullest.

The chef/partner of Fourth Wall Restaurants on what to do with the leftovers

“This is an easy way to use multiple leftovers from the holiday. Once the dish is complete, I also like to add a little cranberry sauce for sweetness.”

 

Ingredients

8 slices thick-cut bacon, cut crosswise in 1/4 inch wide strips

2 cups leftover turkey meat (preferably dark) cut into 1/2 inch pieces

3 cups pre-prepared or delivery rice

2 cups leftover turkey stuffing

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup leftover gravy

2 eggs, beaten well

Freshly ground black pepper

1 bunch scallions, finely chopped

 

Method

1. Heat a large, well seasoned cast iron skillet over a medium high flame for a few minutes. Add bacon and render out fat.

2. Add turkey meat and heat thoroughly.

3. Add rice and stuffing and mix well, making sure everything is coated well with the bacon fat.

4. Continue to heat rice in the skillet and let crisp a little at the bottom. Add soy sauce and gravy and mix well into the rice.

5. Meanwhile, in another small pan, cook beaten eggs until softly scrambled and then add to rice, mix well.

6. Season rice generously with freshly ground black pepper and adjust seasoning with salt if necessary.

7. Just before serving, mix in chopped scallions. Delicious with cranberry sauce.

The Piora sommelier (formerly of The Mark, Chicago’s L20 and Sixteen) on your top five holiday wines

1. Sparkling: Benoit Lahaye “Brut Nature” Grand Cru Benoit Lahaye.
I first tasted these wines a year ago and have been really impressed with the quality. The champagne is primarily Pinot Noir with a pinch of Chardonnay in the blend.  This champagne has a great texture, presence of fruit but remains nervy on the finish.  If one day I can return to my hotel room after saving the world like in a James Bond film and order a Benoit Lahaye Champagne with Beluga caviar from room service, that would be a dream come true.

2. White: Domaine Mathieu, Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc, FR 2010.
I have been familiar with their reds for a couple years but recently tasted there blanc.  It’s a blend primarily consisting of Grenache Blanc and Clairette. The wine drinks etherial for a Chateauneuf-du-Pape reminding me a bit of Meursault with aromas of hazelnut and honey. There are no rough edges, just appeal and comfort with this wine.

3. White: Ceritas, Porter-Bass Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, CA 2011. 
 I think this is a showstopper of a wine, especially knowing that it comes from California.  Fans of Chablis and White Burgundy should get their hands on this. The wine is made from a family-owned three-acre vineyard and it tastes like premier cru Chablis.  When the relatives have the heat turned on too high and the oven’s at 450 degrees cooking the turkey, this can help you cool off before indulging the feast.

4. Red: Leon Barrel “Jadis” Faugeres, FR 2005.
There is not much wine out there like this. The principals of biodynamics are applied to the vineyards and in return make spicy, full-bodied and meaty wines. This wine suits all the rich flavors of Thanksgiving and the cool weather.

5. Red: Paolo Bea Rosso de Veo Umbria, IT 2006. 
This is truly a renegade wine and super unique. It is 100 percent from the grape Sagrantino, which is the calling card grape of Umbria.  The wine displays a dark fruit character with notes of quinine and cinnamon. This wine is a bit rustic and that makes it all the more appealing.

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