“Entertaining is a lot like gardening,” Elizabeth Locke says. “You grow more confident with practice and learn from your mistakes. At a certain point you figure out what works and doesn’t work for you.” Locke loves to cook, but she believes it’s the environment and the conversation, rather than the food, that people will remember the most.
She shares four pearls of entertaining wisdom that easily apply to gatherings large or small.
1. ON THE MENU: Locke loves to cook with as many ingredients as she can from her own garden. For this luncheon, she served shakshuka (baked eggs in a spicy tomato sauce) made with eggs from her many chickens, roasted asparagus, and a rhubarb and strawberry crisp.
2. KEEP IT SIMPLE: The designer prefers plates with minimal pattern and instead brings in color through the glassware, tablecloths, and flowers.
3. MIX IT UP: Ultimately Locke believes it’s the conversation and the setting, not the food, that guests remember. She puts the most effort into getting the right mix of people and creating a beautiful environment. Twelve is her ideal number for a seated party, and she uses place cards if she has more than six. “Place cards add a personal touch, and when you’re sitting next to someone new and you forget their name, you can always steal a glance at the card,” she says. “And I always put husbands and wives at different tables.”