Mary Spotswood Underwood didn’t have time to wait for Cupid’s arrow to strike, so she planned her own Valentine’s “date,” complete with flowers, wine, and a delicious home-cooked meal. She even lit a few candles. But this wasn’t the romantic rendezvous for two that you might be picturing. Aptly coined “Galentine’s,” it was a weekday brunch for eight of her nearest and dearest girlfriends in celebration of love, laughter, and friendship.
“We were long overdue for some girl time,” says Mary Spotswood, a Nashville-based personal chef, floral designer, and mother of three. “Between kids, husbands, and careers, we are constantly being pulled in a thousand different directions, and our regular meetups had become too few and far between. Valentine’s Day was around the corner, so the timing was right for a special occasion. Although, every occasion is special with this group.”
“There weren’t lots of hearts or red roses. I didn’t want it to feel like Valentine’s Day, because it wasn’t. This was Galentine’s Day, and it deserved its own unique look.” — Mary Spotswood Underwood
Mary Spotswood borrowed the idea for this get-together from an episode of one of her favorite sitcoms but, naturally, she took it to a new level. As owner of à la Bonne Femme, she is known among Nashville’s social and music industry circles as one of the most sought-after entertaining gurus, and with good reason. Her style is elegant and effortless, and she makes everyone feel at home, something that she proudly attributes to her traditional Southern upbringing in Virginia.
The gathering commenced post-carpool in the warmth and comfort of Mary Spotswood’s Franklin, Tennessee, living room, where the gal-pals indulged in chitchat and bacon-wrapped dates and imbibed blood orange mimosas garnished with candied citrus peel (see recipe).
After reveling in the uncommon luxury of lingering, they moved the party to the dining room. On the menu: a few of the hostess’ signature dishes, including chicken-and-mushroom crepes with Cognac sauce (see recipe), marinated asparagus, a citrus-pistachio salad, and dressed greens. The table was covered with a sage linen skirt that Mary Spotswood purchased as a newlywed in Birmingham, Alabama, and a hand-embroidered overlay that she bought across the pond as a student at Le Cordon Bleu in London. In lieu of place cards, each setting was marked with a handwritten name tag tied with picot ribbon to a seed packet of cosmos from Floret Flowers and a mini bouquet of small roses and sprig buds.
“I wanted to send each of them home with a pretty little treat, but I figured I would leave the chocolates and long-stem roses to the guys,” she says. “Cosmos are delicate but easygoing and easy to grow. They come in different varieties, so each one brings a unique dynamic to the garden. I can’t think of a more beautiful symbol of our friendship.”
Scenes from the Party
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“We’re always in a rush, and that’s why this quiet little brunch was so magical. We all took time out to celebrate us.” — Mary Spotswood Underwood
Blood Orange Mimosas with Citrus Curls
For each blood orange mimosa: Combine 2 ounces freshly squeezed blood orange juice and 4 ounces Prosecco in an 8-ounce Champagne flute. Garnish with a candied citrus curl.
For the candied citrus curls: Zest a Meyer lemon or other citrus fruit with a V-notch citrus zester horizontally while rotating continuously. Cut zest into 4- to 5-inch strips. Holding one end, twist the opposite end tightly against itself, making a curl. Repeat with each strip of zest. Place a layer of sugar in a small bowl. Nestle the curls into the sugar while keeping them in a curl. Cover zest with additional sugar. Let stand 12 hours or overnight. Shake off excess sugar. Use curls to garnish cocktails, desserts, or citrus-flavored dishes. You can also use the remaining citrus-infused sugar in other recipes.
By Margaret Zainey Roux | Photography by Mary Craven Photography
- Event design, Mary Spotswood Underwood of à la Bonne Femme, alabonnefemme.com
- Cosmos seed packets, Floret Flowers, floretflowers.com
- Herend china, Rothschild Bird, Corzine & Co., corzineco.com