Thursday, December 31, 2009

It Takes An Army To Throw A Party

A successful party for a large group of guests requires planning, practice, attention to detail . . . and staff.  Boy and I have thrown a sufficient number of large parties over the years that we pretty much have it down. It has been many years since either of us have found ourselves nervous about or unprepared for a party, whatever its size. We understand what is required, we're set up, and we know whom to turn to for support.  We are particularly fortunate in having developed a good, collaborative working relationship with an excellent, thoughtful, and professional caterer--the key element to successful large-scale entertaining, in my view.  Contrary to what you see on reality television, when throwing a large party you can't do it all yourself, and you shouldn't attempt to do so, for it will inevitably lead to disappointment, if not disaster. Behind every successul host is an army of service and support providers. 

At our party we had nine people staffing the inside of the house, all provided by the caterer. When I say "the caterer," I am referring to a husband and wife team that own and run an excellent restaurant in a nearby town that specializes in serving food made with ingredients sourced from sustainable farms within the Hudson River Valley, much of it heirloom or artisanal.  Fortunately for us, in addition to their restaurant they also selectively take on catering assignments such as ours.  At our party the husband ran the kitchen as chef, supported by two assistants, and the wife oversaw the running of the party and the house staff of bartender and four waiters. We required this many servers because almost all of the food at our party was passed.  According to the caterer, our guests consumed approximately 1,500 hors d'oeuvres during the party, including 250 oysters flown in from Maine that morning. Outside we had three off-duty state troopers taking care of valet parking.  As I have written in previous posts our house is in a village setting, so it is most efficient to provide valet parking when throwing a large party.  Not only does it allow that our guests are well-taken care of on a cold winter's evening, but our immediate neighbors are not inconvenienced by a confusion of our guests' cars.  We have also found that having state troopers perform the task obviates complaints, too...

Thanks to the marvelous skills of our service providers our party went off without a hitch, smoothly executed from start to finish.

Here are some of the photos that I took leading up to the party: 

Rental glassware and boxes of votive candles

An advance drop-off by the caterer of wine coolers and shot glasses

Pompey guarding the Prosecco and Muscadet prior to it being loaded into our cellar party refrigerator

Wicker baskets to carry wine bottles up from the cellar; our supply of 12 waiter's jackets in various sizes

The table in our kitchen entry, prior to being dressed for the party

The table in its party wear, and Pompey in his basket

Looking across the table into the Dining Room; the fully dressed bar

Our caterers -- hail, hail, hail!

The waiter's jackets were a bit large for our diminutive lady servers, but appear to fit him just right

No problem with the jackets' fit with these two, either

The Master at work...

His two able supporters (note Pompey truffling for fallen treats)

The parking guys

The Dining Room table, with only minutes to go...

Photos by Boy Fenwick and Reggie Darling


  1. Looks like a lovely party! And what was the menu besides oysters?

  2. Our menu was as follows:

    Passed hors d'oeuvres:
    * Oyster shooters with vodka and horseradish
    * Mini latkes with creme fraiche and salmon roe
    * Arancini
    * Mini ham biscuits
    * Gougueres
    * Duck confit with onion jam in pastry shells
    * Mini lobster clubs

    On the dining table:
    * A variety of breadsticks and cheese-straws, made in different lengths for specific vessels
    * Hudson Valley artisanal cheeses
    * Fruit, including red and green grapes, strawberries, miniature apples, and teeny tiny bananas

  3. Pompey appears to be aware that he is performing a critical function.

  4. Reggie, You are so together. My to dos are less done but I love this type of affair. I do like the decorations Much. I have to say-Do get some darling smallish snappy jackets-I hope You did not make those two ladies wear those. Happy New Year.

  5. OK - I did not get to go but..... did you let dear old Pompey attend?????

    If No - Grrrrrrr LOL

  6. I hope you put your feet up later with a brandy and toasted one another for a job well-done! Gorgeous!

  7. Lady Jicky,
    Pompey was not only allowed to attend, his presence is expected at such events. He is an old pro at parties and spent the evening scurrying around successfully seeking treats from indulgent dupes.

  8. I've been thinking about those jackets ever since I read your post but didnt want to be picky... I agree with little augury although I would go one step further, maids uniforms, in black with white aprons, grey with white for less formal ocassions. I log those around with me, in three different making them wear them is another matter!

    I love your blog, keep it up!

  9. Hello Lindaraxa,
    I agree the jackets were on the large side for the petite lady-waiters, and therefore less than optimal. However this was a somewhat unusual situation for us since most of the time the staff sent over by the the caterer aren't so tiny. The reason we supply the jackets (and bowties) in the first place is to ensure a uniformity of staff appearance at our parties that cannot be assured when the standard rig they show up in is usually limited to a white shirt and black pants.

    As far as maid uniforms go, keep an eye on this site as I will be posting on that very subject shortly...

    Thanks for the support, do keep commenting please!

  10. What lovely memories you've conjured! We were fortunate enought to have seen (and tasted!) such perfection in person. And we couldn't agree more about the importance of a trusted army to help pull it all off!

    Eddie + Jaithan

  11. Now this is the way to throw a party! Love the inside peek before the start of the festivities.


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