The Sky Room at the New Museum is a perfect room with a view of downtown Manhattan.

As far as I'm concerned, every party is a surprise party. That’s what I love about my business: No matter what kind of affair I plan, I’m always dreaming up ways to introduce an element of the unexpected, from location and décor to food. And an early-summer bash provides many opportunities for out-of-the-box thinking. Consider the word “entertaining.” When you host a party, you’re inviting guests to be entertained—by you. They’re your audience, and like a great actor, a great host knows how to turn his or her singular sensibilities into an unforgettable experience for an audience. Never forget that every choice you make should reflect your personality, and that every choice counts. 

PASSED HORS D’OEUVRES
Scottish smoked salmon, chive crêpes and crème fraîche
Apple tart filled with foie gras terrine and caramel
Yellowtail ceviche in anise-seed cones
Five-mushroom-ragout tartlet with truffled crème fraîche
Artichoke fondue in oregano-pistachio puffs
Filet mignon bruschetta with red-wine mayonnaise and shallot rings
Parmesan pudding on roasted-tomato crackers
Chicken summer roll of curried vermicelli and Vietnamese basil in rice paper

DINNER
First Course
Chilled English pea soup with basil sorbet and pea shoots

Main Course
Lobster-filled filet of beef, smoked drawn butter, twice-baked fingerling potatoes and chives, and charred asparagus

AMUSE OF SWEETS
Chocolate soda and passion fruit soda shooters
Toasted-almond panna cotta
Coconut tapioca with passion fruit gelée and caramel puffed rice
Mini vanilla cupcakes with coconut frosting
Mini chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting
Whiskey pineapple with crème fraîche
Cherry mousse with macerated cherries
Chocolate-rosemary ganache financier
 Assorted petits fours

Champagne: Piper-Heidsieck

 

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Whiskey pineapple with crème fraîche and cherry mousse with macerated cherries; mini vanilla cupcakes with coconut frosting and mini chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting; lobster-filled filet of beef on charred asparagus with smoked drawn butter and twice-baked fingerling potatoes

When choosing a location, remember that it can be fun to bring guests someplace they’ve never been before—a new part of town or a new space. But even if you’re throwing a party at home, you can make the setting feel new by designing for contrast. If you’re entertaining at a downtown loft, use tables and serving stations to create a flow of intimate spaces. Or warm things up with color: I like soft gray as an anchor, accented with yellows.

When it comes to food, it’s tempting to go a little crazy. I can’t tell you how many parties I’ve attended where each dish seems overthought and a touch tortured. Take food seriously. Bob Spiegel, my business partner, is a highly respected chef who is passionate about the food he prepares. He’s traveled the world in search of the best cuisines, techniques and ingredients.

“I love local, seasonal ingredients,” he says. “Fiddlehead ferns, ramps, fava beans, savory herbs for flavoring.” (He’s also a fan of using herbs to spice cocktails, so please, think past pink drinks!) For a gorgeous start, offer a plate of simply grilled veggies. “Seasonal produce like chive asparagus and cranberry fingerlings puts a ton of color on the plate,” he explains.

Food isn’t just what you’re giving your guests to eat. The way each course is served dictates how people interact, and the food becomes part of the atmosphere. Give guests time up front to intersperse and mingle, but give them a proper sit-down dinner, too. Let small talk turn to real conversation. When people are in one room for a night, tempo changes are important.

Dessert is an opportunity to switch up the pace, and a dessert bar is a perfect way to do just that. Think creatively—dessert presentation can be a conversation-starter and an excuse for guests to get back on their feet after dinner. The energy comes up instantly. And what better way to end things than on a high note?

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