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A Winning Mahjong Party

Nashville natives and renowned hostesses Mary Hollis Huddleston and Katie Jacobs put their expertise to work as they plan an afternoon gathering centered around a popular pastime.

Mahjong is having a moment. Grounded in tradition, the game has historically been associated with older generations. However, thanks to its inherent social nature that encourages community, often over food and drinks, Mahjong is becoming the “it” game for all ages. As a self-proclaimed Southern entertaining enthusiast, I found it to be the perfect catalyst for throwing a great party.

When I received my first set of custom kelly green Mahjong tiles, courtesy of The Mahjong Line, I immediately called upon dear friend and fellow entertaining expert Katie Jacobs to help me host an afternoon of food and festivities centered around the chic pastime. Katie and I have both made careers out of entertaining and styling tables—and we’ve teamed up to plan many events. Since Katie is a wizard in the kitchen, a skill that eludes me, she’s always willing to handle the menu. As far as I’m concerned, a complimentary co-host with a similar aesthetic is a most valuable asset.

Dahlias in a white vase next to card themed stir sticks.

Photo by Mary Craven Dawkins

Mahjong tile stir sticks from Acrylic Sticks were clustered together in a small terra-cotta pot.

A table setting with pink napkins and plates and white and orange flowers to complement.

Photo by Mary Craven Dawkins

A colorful mix of formal pieces with nature-themed elements such as bamboo-handle flatware and pressedflower acrylic place cards created a festive and welcoming tablescape in the garden setting.

MAHJONG PARTY MENU

Click links for recipes

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crostini (golden beet, arugula, and goat cheese crostini with edible flowers and tomato, charred corn, and ricotta crostini with fresh basil)
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chocolate-dipped pretzels with pistachios

Katie also has the gift of a green thumb, and her colorful garden just outside of Nashville provided the most enchanting setting for our gathering. “This garden is a family project,” she says. “My husband and I, along with our children, tend to it every day. It now consists of multiple raised beds, including two flower beds and two herb beds, as well as an in-ground growing area.” Using the garden as the setting for a gathering is not new to Katie. As an author, stylist, and photographer, she has utilized the space to host numerous dinners, celebrations, and photo shoots.

A table is set with a floral tablecloth, flowers, and orange and pink napkins.

Photo by Mary Craven Dawkins

Guests dined at Katie’s stone table nestled in the midst of her vibrant garden.

For our event, I selected a decorative game-table topper from Fenwick Fields with a scalloped brushstroke green pattern to complement my Mahjong tiles. I sourced handembroidered cocktail napkins, along with an assortment of playful acrylic Mahjong stir sticks for our beverages. We set up a wicker drinks table to hold lavender glassware along with several mouthwatering snacks and beverages courtesy of Katie’s culinary talents.

Woman in yellow dress holds a cheesecake on cake stand

Photo by Mary Craven Dawkins

Doubling as a work of art, Katie’s kiwi cheesecake topped with edible flowers was served on a wicker cake stand from Amanda Lindroth.

White chocolate chip cookies with lavender sprinkles in front of vase of summer flowers

Photo by Mary Craven Dawkins

Katie served up her famous lemon and white chocolate chip cookies with lavender on a vintage mint green cake stand.

“Summer is my absolute favorite time to invent new recipes inspired by what comes out of the garden that day,” says Katie. “For this party, I focused on pops of color with simple fresh bites that are easy to eat while playing table games.” Guests happily passed around plates of crostini topped with golden beets, arugula, goat cheese, edible flowers, and tomato, along with charred corn and ricotta with fresh basil. Deviled eggs with caviar and pickled swiss chard were savory favorites. Sweet treats included white chocolate-covered pretzels dipped in crushed pistachios, as well as lemon and white chocolate chip cookies with lavender fresh from the garden. Flowers frozen in ice cubes added to colorful cocktails, including a delightful strawberry thyme lemonade. “The finale was kiwi cheesecake with fresh berries and edible flowers from the garden,” says Katie. “It was an absolute showstopper.”

Tomato with cheese on a baguette.

Photo by Mary Craven Dawkins

Guests enjoyed two variations of crostinis: beet, arugula, and goat cheese with edible flowers and tomato, charred corn, and ricotta cheese with fresh basil.

A closeup of a cup with floral ice cubes and a strawberry lemonade drink.

Photo by Mary Craven Dawkins

Flowers frozen in ice cubes added to colorful cocktails, including a delightful strawberry thyme lemonade.

For the table setting, I played off the colors in Katie’s garden using a floral tablecloth and placemats from one of my favorite linen designers, D’Ascoli. I also brought in my personal collection of hand-painted Ginori plates to complement the pink accents in the Mahjong tiles. When setting an outdoor table, I love using as many natural elements as possible, so I chose bamboo-handle flatware, as well as woven chargers and napkin rings.

Woman in white dress fixes flowers.

Photo by Mary Craven Dawkins

For the table setting, Mary drew inspiration from the abundance of flowers in Katie’s garden.

A pink drink in a purple cup.

Photo by Mary Craven Dawkins

Game table beverages were served in lupine-colored Rialto glasses from Hester & Cook.

Flowers are always a necessity for my table settings, but they were even more important in this lush garden setting. While Katie and I both enjoy arranging our own flowers, we also believe in delegation, so we brought in our friends from The Tulip Tree to help. Using fresh blooms plucked onsite, they created arrangements of sunflowers, zinnias, cosmos, dahlias, poppies, Queen Anne’s Lace, and globe amaranth.

A table with a striped tablecloth outside with flowers.

Photo by Mary Craven Dawkins

To provide ample room for game play, Mary set up a separate drinks table that was easily accessible to guests.

No party is complete without favors—and since we knew ours would come in handy during the party, we didn’t wait until the end to hand them out. The woven, handheld fans from Klatso Home helped guests keep cool in the Southern heat. And as the game came to a close and players began to say their goodbyes, each guest took home the keepsake as a reminder of our special occasion.

MODERN DAY MAHJONG

Originating in the mid-19th century in China, Mahjong made its way to the United States in the early 20th century. The game hit its peak of popularity during the 1920s and 1930s but then lost some of its luster in later decades. Today, Mahjong is seeing a resurgence, not only in the United States but worldwide—and manufacturers have taken notice. Chic Mahjong game sets include tiles in an array of colors made from materials such as bamboo, wood, and clay, many of which are hand-painted. Here are some of our favorites.

American Mahjong Line Tiles, (starting at $375) from The Mahjong Line; themahjongline.com

Luxe Shagreen Mahjong Set ($2,750) from Aerin; aerin.com

Luxury Mahjong Set ($2,850) from Scully & Scully; scullyandscully.com

Oh My Mahjong Ultimate Mahjong Starter Kit ($680) from Neiman Marcus; neimanmarcus.com

Tizo Lucite Mahjong Set ($348) from Bloomingdale’s; bloomingdales.com

Green Mahjong tiles scattered over a striped tablecloth.

Photo by Mary Craven Dawkins

Colorful tiles from The Mahjong Line complemented the green-striped topper from Fenwick Fields.

Written and produced by Mary Hollis Huddleston |  Recipes and food styling by Katie Jacobs | Photography by Mary Craven Dawkins

See more from Katie Jacobs on her website and Instagram.

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