Some things never go out of style. Champagne, caviar, martinis, smoked salmon—they’re simple and sophisticated and they always wow. For this wintertime cocktail and dinner party at our New York City apartment on the Upper East Side—in a thirty-eight-story tower designed by Schultze & Weaver in 1927—that overlooks Central Park, I let classic New York serve as my inspiration.
“I often gather flowers in a single color in graphic vases throughout my New York apartment. Garden freshness is always appreciated in an urban environment.” — Stephanie Booth Shafran
To forge a city-chic vibe, I chose a black and white palette. It’s a classic mix, yet it’s not traditional or tired. I used tall black taper candles and ebony-hued water glasses to coordinate with the black and white Greek key trim on the tablecloths. Continuing the only-in-New York aesthetic, silver trays reflected the light and shimmered like the skyline outside the windows. For my flowers, I selected seasonal blooms—white pom-pom dahlias, hybrid delphiniums, and burgundy peonies—corralled into single color groups for dramatic impact and placed at varying heights for dimension. I also set white garden roses in the entry hall to make a welcoming, pretty statement guests would see the moment they walked in.
The menu featured abundant hors d’oeuvre, many of which turned comfort food into something truly indulgent, such as cheese toasts or deviled eggs topped with caviar. I prefer to serve foods that I enjoy eating. There is no point in entertaining to impress people—entertaining has to come from a generosity of spirit and things you authentically love yourself! At the same time, adding an extra twist like caviar makes guests feel pampered and spoiled, in the very best way. We also served seared scallops with endive salads and set out plentiful seafood towers with lobster, shrimp, oysters, crawfish, and crab, plus a caviar, blini, and vodka bar.
Our drinks were upgraded classics, too: vodka martinis with rosemary swizzles; gin and tonics with ice embedded prettily with rose petals and lemon; and copious Champagne.
Starting a dinner party with a cocktail hour allows guests whose conflicting schedules won’t allow them to stay for the full evening to enjoy a bit of merriment. To help with flow in a small space, you can set up separate stations in different rooms to maximize the floor plan. Here I served drinks in the living room with lots of passed appetizers before we sat down to an intimate dinner in the dining room.
It’s vital to make the best use of your space, because you always want a room to feel full, so the energy of abundant laughter and conversation reigns overall. That evening, one of my friends brought a guest we didn’t know and who didn’t know any of the other guests. I greeted her as she entered and we had a really nice conversation. At the end of the night, she came over and said, “You made me feel welcome and comfortable the minute I walked in the door; thank you for a wonderful evening!” It reminded me, as a hostess, how important it is to greet people. Every party I host is about sharing myself. When it happens to the sound of clinking Champagne glasses with new friends at my side, that’s all the better.
Tips for Entertaining in a Small Space
In an intimate setting such as a New York pied-à-terre, it is vital to edit everything down to its essence in keeping with the theme for the night. Repetition (like the limited palette of black, white, burgundy, and metallic shown here) is key to keeping with the theme in a small space.
To avoid cooking a lavish meal in a cramped kitchen. Opt for easy edibles that impress: tiered trays of seafood (such as lobster and shrimp) or caviar, crème fraîche, blini, and bubbly Champagne!
For a cocktail party select room-temperature foods, so that you don’t have to be as worried about timing.
My favorite classic drinks are Veuve Clicquot Rosé Champagne or a good old-fashioned vodka martini, icy cold, with three olives, not two.
Light candles an hour before guests arrive so a beautiful scent fills your home. I love Nest’s bamboo-scented candle.
By Stephanie Booth Shafran | Photography by Gemma and Andrew Ingalls | Excerpted from You’re Invited: Classic, Elegant Entertaining © 2020 by Stephanie Booth Shafran, Rizzoli New York. Photographs © The Ingalls
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