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DINNER WITH FRIENDS | BRITTANY PIGORINI

birchandbrassdinnerLOWRES-7Hello & happy Tuesday! Brittany here and I am so excited to share our Dinner With Friends feature. As an event designer, my world is a beautiful place filled with lush, perfect imagery of ornate floral bouquets, styled vignettes, and more inspirational Pinterest boards than one could ever possibly imagine. Because these curated moments occupy my work life, I crave a more simplistic lifestyle and surroundings when I leave the office. I know many fellow creative folks can relate, as there’s always a tendency for comparisons, which can certainly lead us down a slippery slope.birchandbrassdinnerLOWRES-12birchandbrassdinnerLOWRES-16My friend hosted a small backyard bash for new and old friends alike, where we could all mingle, enjoy a glass of sangria, and relax amongst a candlelit dinner. With a no-fuss menu of a summer quinoa salad and roasted veggies, it was a menu that could be prepped easily and allow her to focus on conversations, not slaving away in the kitchen.birchandbrassdinnerLOWRES-19birchandbrassdinnerLOWRES-10birchandbrassdinnerLOWRES-13Entertaining doesn’t need to be a huge production, and I think allowing guests to help out is the key to success. Rather than pretending you have it under control when you’re secretly drowning in a sea of failed recipes and wishing your home looked like a West Elm catalog, why not entrust in your friends to bring dessert, help set the table, or make a unique cocktail menu? You don’t need to do it all yourself!birchandbrassdinnerLOWRES-23birchandbrassdinnerLOWRES-18birchandbrassdinnerLOWRES-2As the owner of a vintage rentals company, I was able to provide all of the tabletop goods and set the table quickly. Another friend is a talented calligrapher, so she easily whipped up a few name tags that were carefully placed to ensure people made new friends. Another guest owns a succulent and terrarium shop, so we of course incorporated her stunning creations as our centerpieces. Of course, we also were fortunate enough to have a photographer friend snap a few photos during the intimate occasion.

birchandbrassdinnerLOWRES-27birchandbrassdinnerLOWRES-1birchandbrassdinnerLOWRES-21With only an hour of preparation, the entire party was setup and guests were able to share a special evening together. That’s what entertaining is all about – conversation, laughter, and bringing people together. Trust me, nobody cares if your napkins aren’t perfectly pressed or if your yard needs to be mowed.birchandbrassdinnerLOWRES-28birchandbrassdinnerLOWRES-30 birchandbrassdinnerLOWRES-39 birchandbrassdinnerLOWRES-37 birchandbrassdinnerLOWRES-35 birchandbrassdinnerLOWRES-34 birchandbrassdinnerLOWRES-32


Tabletop items and design: Birch & Brass | Calligraphy: Wondrous Whimsy | Hostess and Menu Planning: Modern Whimsy | Terrariums: Slavonk & Hortus Terraria | Event planning: The Daily Romantics | Photography: Chelsea Laine FrancisBRITTANY BUTTON

DINNER WITH FRIENDS | BRITTANY PIGORINI

birchandbrassdinnerLOWRES-7Hello & happy Tuesday! Brittany here and I am so excited to share our Dinner With Friends feature. As an event designer, my world is a beautiful place filled with lush, perfect imagery of ornate floral bouquets, styled vignettes, and more inspirational Pinterest boards than one could ever possibly imagine. Because these curated moments occupy my work life, I crave a more simplistic lifestyle and surroundings when I leave the office. I know many fellow creative folks can relate, as there’s always a tendency for comparisons, which can certainly lead us down a slippery slope.birchandbrassdinnerLOWRES-12birchandbrassdinnerLOWRES-16My friend hosted a small backyard bash for new and old friends alike, where we could all mingle, enjoy a glass of sangria, and relax amongst a candlelit dinner. With a no-fuss menu of a summer quinoa salad and roasted veggies, it was a menu that could be prepped easily and allow her to focus on conversations, not slaving away in the kitchen.birchandbrassdinnerLOWRES-19birchandbrassdinnerLOWRES-10birchandbrassdinnerLOWRES-13Entertaining doesn’t need to be a huge production, and I think allowing guests to help out is the key to success. Rather than pretending you have it under control when you’re secretly drowning in a sea of failed recipes and wishing your home looked like a West Elm catalog, why not entrust in your friends to bring dessert, help set the table, or make a unique cocktail menu? You don’t need to do it all yourself!birchandbrassdinnerLOWRES-23birchandbrassdinnerLOWRES-18birchandbrassdinnerLOWRES-2As the owner of a vintage rentals company, I was able to provide all of the tabletop goods and set the table quickly. Another friend is a talented calligrapher, so she easily whipped up a few name tags that were carefully placed to ensure people made new friends. Another guest owns a succulent and terrarium shop, so we of course incorporated her stunning creations as our centerpieces. Of course, we also were fortunate enough to have a photographer friend snap a few photos during the intimate occasion.

birchandbrassdinnerLOWRES-27birchandbrassdinnerLOWRES-1birchandbrassdinnerLOWRES-21With only an hour of preparation, the entire party was setup and guests were able to share a special evening together. That’s what entertaining is all about – conversation, laughter, and bringing people together. Trust me, nobody cares if your napkins aren’t perfectly pressed or if your yard needs to be mowed.birchandbrassdinnerLOWRES-28birchandbrassdinnerLOWRES-30 birchandbrassdinnerLOWRES-39 birchandbrassdinnerLOWRES-37 birchandbrassdinnerLOWRES-35 birchandbrassdinnerLOWRES-34 birchandbrassdinnerLOWRES-32


Tabletop items and design: Birch & Brass | Calligraphy: Wondrous Whimsy | Hostess and Menu Planning: Modern Whimsy | Terrariums: Slavonk & Hortus Terraria | Event planning: The Daily Romantics | Photography: Chelsea Laine FrancisBRITTANY BUTTON

DINNER WITH FRIENDS | THE WHISKING KITCHEN

23Meet Elizabeth! The voice  behind The Whisking Kitchen or you might recognize her as the College Housewife! Either way, if you don’t know her yet, let me introduce you to your new favorite food blogger. Her style is approachable, her recipes are divine, and she is all about feeding the people she loves — sounds like a girl out for our own heart. Ooh, the kicker? She is in college. I can (maybe not so proudly) say that when I was 22, I was feeding myself on ramen and boxed wine, not these beautiful pies or omelettes she whips up!

We get to go behind the scenes with Elizabeth today and see how she entertains, what ‘good food’ means to her, and hear a little about more about the gal behind the blog. So cozy up because this is a Dinner With Friends you surely don’t want to miss!
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What does entertaining mean to you?

When I think of entertaining my goal is that people leave with that warm fuzzy feeling inside because of one: delicious food and two: delicious company. When you gather friends and family together for a night in your home you have such an opportunity for a wonderful evening. There is something so intimate about having new and old friends over and hearing people share stories, laughs and great conversation.

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How do you like to make people feel welcome when they come over?

I try and have appetizers and a pitcher of cocktails ready for when people walk through the door. People usually come to a dinner party pretty hungry. Music also keeps a great vibe when entertaining. Parties can keep both my hands full but I do my best to take a few moments and speak to everyone. Just a quick “how’s life” goes a long way and makes them feel welcome.

8What is your favorite “go-to”? 

 Margaritas! Doesn’t everyone love margaritas?!

22What makes you nervous about having people over?

Time! The hour before I have people over can become a little frantic at times. I’ve got my curling iron in one hand and the oven timer going off in the other. Its nuts! I prep everything I can the night before, I mean EVERYTHING. Anything that can be chopped, marinated, or prepared is done the night before.

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Tell us about tonight? How did you plan? How did you come up with the recipes, etc?

It’s summer time so I knew I wanted fresh flavors! Lemon orzo salad, fresh fruit salad and shish kabobs! Talk with your guests! Maybe they have been really craving something that you can make for them. One of my friends suggested an orzo salad and it ended up being the favorite of the night. Get outside! I try to plan most of my dinners outside just because people spend waaaay too much time indoors these days.

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Give us your favorite entertaining tip!

Set the table! I know it’s so simple to set up everything buffet style but a well-dressed table is an amazing centerpiece. People walk in and they instantly feel important and makes your space look so charming.

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Any other pro tips?

 My first few dinner parties I was a little all over the place trying to perfect everything. My boyfriend was always fixing my plate of food and making me sit down and eat because I was trying to clean or get something else together. I’ve realized that its so much more important to leave the dishes in the sink and have a glass of wine with everyone and enjoy the evening, as well as planning it.

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 LEMON ORZO SALAD!

INGREDIENTS

  • 20 Oz of orzo
  • ½ Cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ Cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons of fresh minced basil
  • 2 Tablespoons of fresh minced flat parsley
  • 2 Teaspoons of black pepper
  • 2 Cups of quartered grape tomatoes
  • 1 Bunch of Asparagus, sliced
  • ¾ Cup of sliced almonds

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to rolling boil with ¼ cup of salt added. Add orzo and cook for 6 minutes, stirring frequently. The salt from the water is enough for the orzo you won’t need to add extra to the salad! Drain and do not rinse.
  2. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and add sliced asparagus, cook 4-5 minutes. Transfer asparagus to an ice bath (equal parts water and ice). This stops the cooking and keeps your asparagus bright and green.
  3. In a large mixing bowl mix together all ingredients. Garnish with basil or parsley and fresh lemon slices. You can serve this salad warm, room temp or cold. I personally like it cold!

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RED CHILE GINGER STEAK KABOBS

INGREDIENTS:

  • ½ Cup of Red Chile sauce
  • ½ Cup of Soy sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon of fresh minced ginger
  • 1 Tablespoon of fresh minced garlic
  • 2 Pounds of steak cubed

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Mix all marinade ingredients together and then mix thoroughly with cubed steak. Marinate overnight or at least 6 hours before grilling.

*If using wooden skewers make sure to soak them in water for an hour so they wont burn on the grill!

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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

FOURTH0007FOURTH012INSTRUCTIONS:

-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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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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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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