A local designer shares the secrets behind her low-key approach to entertaining.
When Sacramento interior designer Kristine Renee entertains, you won’t find her fussing over a complicated dinner menu or stressing out about composing perfect floral arrangements. Instead, she follows a simple philosophy for hosting a successful party: “It needs to be relaxed so that your guests feel at home.”
The designer, who runs Design Alchemy with her mother and business partner, Deborah Costa, recently hosted a casual gathering at a client’s home in East Sacramento, where guests relaxed in the backyard while noshing on salads and wood-fired pizza from pizza artisan Ben Roberts of Pizza Supreme Being.
Hiring someone to prepare the meal was a no-brainer. “When you host a party, you’re busy planning and prepping and cleaning, so to not have to worry about the food is a relief,” says Renee. “You can spend more time prepping your bar or getting your table ready or whatever it is you want to do. When we hire Ben for parties, we know we’re not going to have to worry about the amazing quality of the food.”
Plus, says Costa, outsourcing the cooking puts the focus of the party on the guests. “Relationships are everything. To be able to spend time with the people you care about is so much more important than stressing over cooking for them.”
Renee also appreciates how hiring a chef or bartender adds to the entertainment factor. “To bring people in who are so passionate about their craft adds another level of energy to an intimate gathering,” she explains. “It’s special when you cook for people, but it’s also special when you bring someone like Ben in who can provide an experience for the people you love.”
For his part, Roberts says pizza is the ideal food to share at a laid-back gathering. “Passing pizzas around a table, you’re literally breaking bread together,” he says. “It’s one of those foods that just about everyone loves. I feel like I can create a pizza to win over just about anyone.”
For his springtime pizzas and salads, Roberts keeps things light with ingredients like fennel (he uses every part of the plant), paper-thin sliced radishes, grilled asparagus, pickled onions, ramps, fresh dill, peas and soft-boiled eggs. For the pies, he’ll often skip the red sauce, opting instead for a slick of olive oil across the handmade crusts, which become perfectly blistered and chewy in his 900-degree portable oven.
Empty plates are one sure sign that the guests have enjoyed the fare. But Renee says she also knows she’s thrown a successful soiree “when people stay longer than they should. That’s when I know they’ve had a great time.”
Setting the Table
Layer linens. Kristine Renee combines sisal chargers and linen runners and napkins to create texture and visual interest. “It’s OK if the linen napkins are messy and not perfectly pressed. They really look pretty on the table.”
Embrace simple dishware. “I prefer a neutral plate that can be paired with a fun napkin or florals.” Renee suggests buying a complete set of white or neutral dishes that you can add to over time. Her favorite: anything from Heath Ceramics.
Invest in unique serving pieces. “A pretty pitcher or ice bucket is another nice element that elevates the look of the table.”
Get the Look
Mercer dinner plates: Crate & Barrel
Old Havana mugs: Anthropologie
Sisal placemats: Ikea
Assorted linens, rocks glasses, cutting boards, floral vases: Design Alchemy (855 57th St., Sacramento)
1 sprig of sage, plus additional for garnish
3 blackberries, plus additional for garnish
1/4 ounce simple syrup
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
2 ounces Zacapa 23 rum
1/2 oz. Chartreuse
2 dashes Angostura bitters
In a pint glass, muddle sage and fruit with simple syrup and lemon juice. Add alcohol and bitters and shake over ice. Strain into a rocks glass over large ice cubes. Garnish with berries and sage.
Adapted from a recipe by Faith Durand on thekitchn.com