SUMMER ROOFTOP DINNER PARTY

ROOFTOPTABLEMAKERS0041Howdy, folks! Lauren here and I don’t know about you, but I feel like our Summer days are numbered. Not that I am sad to see the sticky summer days go, but I will miss the lazy afternoons spent on rooftops, taking in the sights, nowhere else to be but with your friends drinking rosé.

Chicago is full of rooftop decks that are in prime form in the summer. A nice city breeze, great people watching, not to mention a killer view whilst grilling. It’s basically the best way to dine outside with friends while drinking and eating all you want with you friends. So, that’s exactly what we did!
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Schedules are nuts in the summer, so the promise of good food and a rooftop hang usually helps people clear their schedules pretty quick. We rounded up some good friends, asked them to bring their favorite adult beverage, and gave them the address for where to meet us.
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We whipped up a few of our favorite low-key, slam-dunk meals and picked up some protein to throw on the grill from Whole Foods. Plus, we found these ADORABLE eco-friendly bamboo plates and silverware from Whole Foods and they are perfect for a picnic or a no-cleanup dinner party (which is totally something I can get behind). ROOFTOPTABLEMAKERS0013ROOFTOPTABLEMAKERS0015

Casual get-togethers are my absolute favorite. You round up whatever bowl, pan, or serving container can hold your dish and somehow it all comes together looking fabulous. Grab some dollar store candles, your favorite blooms, and set a table with love and full of friends and you can’t beat it!
3ROOFTOPTABLEMAKERS0025ROOFTOPTABLEMAKERS00304I look like I am about to devour him, but let’s just take a moment to check out my hubs. I mean, such a hunk!ROOFTOPTABLEMAKERS00455ROOFTOPTABLEMAKERS0039So, there you have it! Nothing beats a good rooftop dinner party hang with great friends. Grab a night (probably soon), text your friends, and make it happen. Summer is coming to a close and you should probably have a least a few of these rooftop dinners under your belt.

It doesn’t have to be perfect, it doesn’t even have to be fancy, it just has to be honest. When you throw a get together, tag us! We would love to see your dinner and celebrate the good times with you.

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FOURTH OF JULY BBQ the perfect backyard bash

FOURTH0001Hooray for the ultimate summer holiday – the 4th of July! It doesn’t get much better than lake days, grilling out, and fireworks. There is something so fun & Americana about the parades, the festivities, and, of course, the food!

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This year we are focusing on the guests rather than the décor. Now, hear me out. I know that sounds nuts because 4th of July parties are known for their kitsch red, white, and blue decorations – it’s almost ‘the more kitsch, the better!’ – but this year we are going in a different direction.

Hosting a get-together, let alone a 4th of July bash, can be hectic, so we want to take a little pressure off & say “who cares?!” Don’t have the mile high patriotic centerpieces this year? Don’t sweat it. To us, these holidays are all about celebrating the people you love & being thankful for the men & woman that got you here.

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So, if the pressure is off for crazy decorations, we’ve got to bring you’re A-game with the food! Luckily, we’ve whipped up these grilled pizzas that are not only suuuuper affordable, they are easy, and can be customized depending on the person, food preference, or allergy. Don’t want to make several dishes to please your meat eater friend, token vegetarian, and paleo dieter of the bunch? These pizzas are your answer! Big enough to share, but small enough to make them individualized. Plus, if it’s a kid friendly party, you’ve got a utensil free food that is safe for little ones to eat.

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INGREDIENTS FOR WHEAT DOUGH:

-2 cups whole wheat flour

-1 tbsp of active dry yeast

-3/4 tsp salt

-1 cup warm water

-1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

-1 tsp honey

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-Pour flour into a large mixing bowl.

-Add yeast and salt. Mix well.

-Add water, oil and honey. Mix well.

-Cover dough with a moist cloth and let sit for 10 minutes.

-Place dough on lightly floured surface, and slowly spread and press dough into desired thickness and shape.

-Drizzle dough with olive oil and grill on both sides for 3-5 minutes.

-Remove flatbread from grill and add desired toppings.

-Return flatbread to grill for 3-5 minutes or until cheese has melted.

-Remove flatbread and serve.

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Curious about this gorgeous salad below? Let me introduce you to the best summer salad combo – grapefruit & fennel!

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Pair this perfect summer meal with some local(or patriotically canned) brew & it’s a match made in heaven! Nay-sayers be damned, there is something quintessentially ‘summer’ about pizza and beer.

Have a favorite pizza pairing or pro grill tip? We would love to see! Instagram us, tag us on Facebook, or tweet us with your grilled pizza pairings, summer-time favorites, or anything really. We always love to hear how you improve upon our recipes!

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TABLEMAKERS IN THE VINEYARD

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I know, I know, you’ve heard me say it before, but I just love a good dinner party. I mean it! There is something really magical when you put people together and let them connect over great food & amazing wine. This dinner party might top the list of favorites because, truthfully, how often do you get to dine in a culinary garden in the middle of a vineyard?

KJW0229We invited some of our favorite tastemakers in the bay area to our Tablemakers dinner at the Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate & Gardens and it was nothing short of breathtaking.

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The evening began with a tour of the culinary gardens with Tucker. We wove in and out of the sensory garden, smelling various herbs and then sipping wine to see how the flavors translated. As we walked through the vineyard up the path, Randy explained the maturation process of a grape vine and painted an elegant picture for how wine is made. Just as he finished explaining the lineage & family heritage of the K-J vineyards, we rounded the corner on this…

KJW0227KJW0251The evening was pure magic.

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I have said it before & I will say it again, I love inviting people to dinner who don’t know each other. While, yes, of course, there is a chance they won’t get along and the whole evening goes south, the majority of the time that doesn’t happen. More often than not, things go off without a hitch. This night was absolutely one of those.

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In true Tablemakers form, the conversation was non-stop, the wine was perfectly paired, the food was divine, and the company was even better. It was one of those evenings where you kind of look down on the moment and say, “this is perfect.”

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The concept of Tablemakers – that entertaining doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be honest – is something very near and dear to my heart. Every time I host a party or have friends over for a drink, I think about the balance between perfect and honest. You want everything to be just so & adorably Instagram-able, but you want your guests to relax and have a good time. This dinner in the vineyard struck the perfect cord. The setting was breathtaking (HELLO, we are sitting in the middle of a freaking vineyard) and the preparations were sublime, but the atmosphere was relaxed, laid back, and incredibly conducive to friendship. It was perfect and honest and it left me totally inspired.
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I don’t know about you, but sadly, I don’t have a vineyard at home, but sitting amongst the grounds of the property really got me inspired to entertain outdoors this summer. You couldn’t ask for better ambiance than flickering lightning bugs or twinkling stars and there really isn’t anything better than a long, relaxing dinner outdoors.

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In partnership with Kendall-Jackson. All opinions are our own.

MEMORIAL DAY ROOFTOP ENTERTAINING

Memorial Day Rooftop EntertainingMemorial Day means the start of summer and what better way to celebrate that with a rooftop dinner party with close friends? Set against the New York City skyline, I teamed up with chef and culinary instructor Clare Langan to create a beautiful, intimate evening with a few of our favorite people.  We focused on an easy, yet well-curated menu and simple decor.

Memorial Day Rooftop Entertaining

From Clare: Food was the focus at this styled dinner party for the couple who loves to cook together, craft homemade cocktails and entertain friends at home. An intimate rooftop gathering was just the thing to make the big city seem smaller.

As a chef and food stylist, I believe food should look as good as it tastes. The inspiration for the evening was the lush fruits of summer: deep, rich blackberries, juicy peaches, nectarines and apricots. Vintage peach and blackberry stamps greeted guests on our kraft and cream calligraphy paper goods. The sweetness carried over into the floral design, with branches of young blueberries, blush hyacinths, hydrangea and other super market finds.

A mix of vintage and modern pieces allowed each dish to shine. We loved the antique ‘berry bowls’ from Little Vintage Rentals. Each guest was gifted a bottle of Lemon Simple Syrup, delicious in cocktails or iced tea, to enjoy all summer long.

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Photographer: Becka Pillmore | Recipes & Food Styling: Clare Langan | Creative Direction & Floral Design: Lindsey Brunk | Production Assistant: Casey Evans | Calligraphy: Laurel Writes | Vintage tableware: Little Vintage Rentals lindseybrunk

DINNER WITH FRIENDS | CANDICE DEPRANG BOEHM

MH-20150325-82Candice here – and I’m getting personal today, inviting you into my very unblog-worthy home for my Dinner With Friends feature.  The exterior paint colors could use an update, our backyard needs serious landscaping and none of our furniture matches.  But you know what?  I host here all of the time.  At least twice a week.  And here at LaurenKelp.com we want to encourage you to do the same – is your mattress still on box springs because you haven’t found a bed frame?  We say host anyway.  Is your kitchen gloriously unrenovated?  We say celebrate anyway.  And when you think about your friends do your insecurities whisper ‘They have the pretty house, they should be hosting?’

We say tell your insecurities to shut the hell up, order pizza, and invite over your favorite folks.

You see, most of my close friends have much, much cooler houses than me and plenty of more money.  BUT I still truly deeply believe that home is spiritual – and who I am becoming is more important than when I’ll be able to afford backyard landscaping.

So when Spring hit, I invited some friends over to celebrate just for celebration’s sake.  My husband started the grill, I prepped a few dishes ahead of time, and when the first guest knocked I whipped up my very favorite beer margaritas.

Because entertaining doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be thoughtful.

Beer Margaritas

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{The easiest margaritas you’ll every make. There’s nothing fancy here – just beer, tequila, frozen lime and sprite. Seriously.}

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{Our friends Mark and Zoe arrived, and we moved onto the back porch.  In all honesty, our dining area is too small for more than one or two, so we just prepare a table on the back porch instead.  See that long box behind the door?  That’s a curtain rod delivered for a project – I didn’t have time to put it away.  But when you’re greeted with a cocktail, who cares?! }

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{Jen and Jonathan arrive, and before you know it, we’ve got a party!}

simple place settings

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 {When you’re planning a tablescape, don’t forget practical items like water decanters and wine bottles will take up space.  I put these on pretty napkins, mixed in appetizers and some flowers and called  it done!}

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{My husband, what a dream boat.}

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{We get started with some grilled elote.  If you’re not from a border state this simple dish may look a little different, but it’s so.damn.tasty.  I use Gwyneth Paltrow’s version from her cookbook It’s All Good. }

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{We pass around the dishes, cheers, and enjoy!  Fajitas are a versatile dish because they can easily be made gluten free with corn tortillas or vegetarian with vegetables and yummy beans instead of meat.}

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{I was so glad my friend Cameron could join us!  The best part about dinners together is that friends can come in and out.}

What do you say?

 Would you be willing to have friends over this weekend? Even with the office-turned-catch all room and crazy neighbors blasting radio jams?  My deep belief – which is that spaces are spiritual and so are what’s in them – will truly create happiness which is actually just a very full heart.


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COLORFUL BRIDAL LUNCHEON

Colorful Bridal Luncheon

Who doesn’t love a Spring garden party with the girls? When dreaming up this vibrant bridal luncheon, Kristen Kilpatrick and I wanted to pull together something fresh and feminine, but approachable for real brides and single gals alike! Inspired by bold citrus colors, we created a palette of punchy pinks, yellow and orange paired with pops of aqua and green.

We purchased fresh flowers from Central Market and arranged in a simple Anthropologie planter, accented with potted cacti. Using Kristen’s yard as a backdrop, we topped furniture from Loot Vintage Rentals with colorful dishes from Crate & Barrel in modern shapes and textures.

For the food, we wanted to keep things light and refreshing with dishes like a zesty orange & watermelon mint salad and a blood orange topped cake to finish. Stationery Bakery created a whimsical invitation suite in hues of blush and poppy pink to round out the day.

Interested in creating something like this in your own back yard? We will show you how!

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Colorful Bridal Brunch Inspiration

 


Photography: Kristen Kilpatrick | Design & Styling: Lindsey Brunk | Table & Chairs: Loot Vintage Rentals | Plates & Glassware: Crate & Barrel | Flatware: West Elm | Colorful Serving Trays: CB2 | Paper Goods: Stationery Bakery lindseybrunk

5 WAYS TO MASTER THE ART OF GOOD CONVERSATION

9wijhGeuBMYyG1zmlSWMgG_ooxIQ6RuQipogf49NHuE,-WpjpARIbaQdgRMh8D0rFo_GWyfOKNv_J0SV6UwcvRc,cm0lbjno9kBQugmFU6rwmAkCkPeYTAM6Q_FfxrP3NIEWe’ve all been there – sitting around a dinner table, things are going well at first, and then it happens…the awkward silence. The painful silence and everyone can hear the host panic, searching their brain for some scrap of an interesting topic. No one wants the conversation lag to make an appearance at their party & lucky for you, we won’t let that happen. Think of us here at LaurenKelp.com as your Entertaining Fairy Godmothers and this post as step one in how to achieve entertaining mojo. Don’t worry, we will cover cooking for guests with dietary restrictions, the perfect playlist, and other pro-tips, but first things first – How to battle conversation lag.

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1. Create a conducive environment for conversation

Talking is out of the question, let alone good conversation, if the music is too loud. Do everyone a favor and set the volume before your guests come over. Keep the volume low enough so it won’t interfere with conversation.

2. Ask open-ended questions

This is the proverbial slam-dunk for table talk. Asking a creative, open-ended question will not only get the person you posed the question to talking, but will engage the entire table. Here are some of my favorites:

  • How did you meet your boyfriend/girlfriend/wife/husband?
  • What was your favorite toy when you were a kid?
  • What are your favorite Instagram accounts to follow lately?

3. Ask a follow-up question!

Yep, I know! It sounds zainy (eye roll), but asking a follow-up question creates a space for your guests to elaborate, expand, maybe even tell a personal anecdote. Asking, “how did that make you feel?” or “what was that like?” work in almost any situation. Get creative! Ask a question you are genuinely curious to know. You might just learn something fun about an old friend.

4. Pay attention to your guests physical needs

Look around, see who needs a re-fill or a second helping. Don’t let your guests worry about interrupting this great conversation flow we’ve worked hard to achieve. Anticipate their needs and jump in to serve/re-fill when necessary.

5. Do more listening than talking

One of the duties of a good host is to help maintain the flow of conversation. An easy way to do this, is listen more than you talk. Be mindful of how much you are talking. These are all your friends, so be careful not to dominate the conversation. Help guide the flow by asking questions (steps 1 & 2), bringing up topics all your guests might have in common (save the taboo ones), or by paying attention to your guests physical needs (step 4).

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There you have it. Five super easy steps to maintain good conversation flow without the awkward lag. Above all, remember you are the host, so pay attention to all of your guests, engage them, and anticipate their needs. Entertaining is an absolute blast, but when you’ve got a new group of people or guests that don’t know each other, there is some leg work involved. Have no fear, your Entertaining Fairy Godmothers are here!


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HOW TO STYLE A MODERN EASTER TABLE set the perfect table this easter

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Easter is a celebration of all things new, so when it comes to setting a table, I like to mix the design up. While I definitely take a page out of my mother’s book and set the table with various pastel tones, I like to update it with modern elements—think: metallic and retro prints amidst the bountiful floral arrangements.

We’re over at The Nest sharing our favorite tips for setting a modern Easter table, plus a few entertaining tips, because you know I can’t help myself!

Check it out and get inspired!
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Florals by Posies Floral & table decor by urbAna
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PAELLA TABLEMAKERS WITH ST. FRANCIS

STFRANCIS_0001When we first came up with the Tablemakers concept, we envisions hosting great big dinner parties every month with new friends, interesting people in the community, and people doing cool stuff. Coordinating logistics can be difficult, so most Tablemakers posts are smaller, more intimate, which was wonderful, but I had always dreaming of hosting something bigger & thanks to Chef Aaron & St. Francis, we hosted a total dream party.

On Monday nights, St. Francis totally switches it’s menu and offers up a gorgeous Spanish spread of paella, traditional soup, and delicious flan. Paella is such a community dish so to celebrate his new menu & community around Phoenix, Chef Aaron and I invited 30 killer creatives around the valley to a Tablemakers dinner. The result was absolute perfection. The food was divine, the conversation was rich, and the atmosphere was very, well, Spanish. Here is to hosting more in 2015!4567
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HAPPY HOUR AT HOME

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If your holidays season was anything like mine, there was absolutely no way you could celebrate with everyone that you wanted to. There are some friends, some couples, some groups, that you just physically didn’t have time to get together with. Now that schedules are getting back to normal, it’s the perfect time to host a low-key, happy hour at home with all those friends you didn’t get to see during the season. So settle in, because I am here to show you how to throw such a good happy hour, your friends will never want to go anywhere else!

See the Happy Hour at Home I hosted & plus tips on how to host the best happy hour ever!KJ0034

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