By Lance Avery Morgan
Photography by Russell Thomas Clayton
The social season may wane during the warm days of summer, yet the party goes on and the music still fills the air as we create a magical environment of some of the city’s most notable swans and swains. Join us and enjoy an evening of friends, frolic, and a little mystery… courtesy of a masked theme.
Every chic party begins with an idea so that it can be a memorable event. “I believe that a great event starts with a great theme,” says By MoJo event producer Monica Burcham. “I’ve found that a dynamic theme allows you to create details that will tell a story throughout the evening. From an elaborate mask for the invitations to masks for each honored guest to don, no detail was left unturned with this party.”
Gathering several renowned Austin residents during the height of all the pre-summer parties was no easy feat. And, we asked them to wear a mask. Not only did they do it gladly, but also it helped make for a successfully creative al fresco event.
Just what ingredients are needed to ensure a dynamic evening? The theme, of a masquerade, of course, was the metaphoric centerpiece of this gathering.
The venue was crucial, too. We chose a hilltop hideaway that happens to be for sale, offering the best views in the city. The three-story mansion was transformed into a setting on the Italian Riviera for one magical night. “There is a sense of mystery when you show up wearing a mask,’ notes guest Gray Hawn, celebrated photographer and TV producer. “It was a creative and romantic evening.”
The perfect setting, offered by Lauri McNevin of Keller Williams Luxury Homes, is a one of their properties that is on the market. The luminous mood, orchestrated by Intelligent Lighting, set the tone of that night that was pure escapist fantasy as one entered the threshold. Premier Designs created the environment of flowing drapes, stunning tableware and of course, the dining table and chairs that guests enjoyed lingering over for hours. “Walking up to the poolside table was a delight because it was so beautifully appointed and created such a lovely setting, making us feel so special and even more festive,” says fundraiser Mary Talley. “Dining outdoors in Texas is always a treat.” Guest Jason Shubert, a hedge fund CFO, agrees by saying, “The tablescape was magnificent. There was an easy elegance to the whole presentation, the ‘relaxed’ formal.”
The setting did indeed create the stage for the evening. “The natural tones of the hills, water, and stone were perfectly offset with vivid floral arrangements, lighting and table settings that in turn provided the perfectly balanced scene to welcome guests that served as the accessories to bring the two together,” remarks By Mo Jo event producer Jonathan Tieken. “It was almost as if the venue was our gallery and the decor and guests were the artwork.” The stunning floral arrangements of almost every imaginable spring flower in bloom in a bountiful palate of deep pinks, oranges and yellows, were created by the team at Floral Renaissance.
So, how do you guarantee a sparkling party? Assemble energetic personalities to keep the conversation strong. We’ve found that shiny, happy people, like our guest list, bring an ideal energy to the party. Along with their remarkable sense of personal style, amidst a glamorous setting was beyond the expected. The elaborate invitations of hand made masks, set in a gray satin box that looked like it could house a small fur stole, were sent to the guests weeks in advance. The guest list ranged from private equity tycoons to tech honchos to entrepreneurs to fundraisers and just about every other type of profession that makes this region so dynamically powerful. Then we gathered at a table fit for royalty. “The view of Lake Austin and surrounding hill country was spectacular,” stated guest Patrick Keel, an Austin mediator-arbitrator. “The evening was perfect for taking in the panorama.”
“Convincing us to use silver flatware with a gold finish was not an easy challenge, but it worked, because we were able to offset what was otherwise a monochromatic and natural setting,” adds Tieken. “What could otherwise feel gaudy and over the top in this setting felt right. Out of the ordinary, yes, but so were our guests.”
“The table was never quiet and conversations abounded throughout the evening. The masks served as a perfect introductory point, and provided easy access to conversation,” confides Tieken. “The table was truly a sampling of all walks of Austin’s culture, and a little disguise immediately placed everyone on the same playing field. This is the beauty of a lightly-themed gathering. It provides guidance to your guests and an easy platform for them to meet others.”
This event stirred in cocktails of all kinds: the wine, champagne and spirits were provided by Glazer’s Distributors. There was also San Antonio-based Cinco Vodka as well as the new CHOAS vodka cocktail, to give any event the social lubricant it might need at the beginning, especially when its poured by With A Twist bartending services.
The delicious dinner, along with starter bites, provided by Suzanne Court Events and her stellar serving team, was a crisp green salad before a roasted chicken on a bed of wild mushroom risotto, which was a hit with all the guests. “The food and wine was 100% perfection,” enthuses Mary Herr. “Suzanne Court can do no wrong because her attention to detail is absolutely meticulous.” The meal was topped off with a dessert of white chocolate mousse set in chocolate cups from Paige’s Bakehouse in nearby Round Rock, owned by Paige Morgan.
Guests were serenaded by DJ KB, who was perched above the table on the terrace of the residence’s second floor. His playlist, always setting the perfect mood, can be found later in the article to get your creative juices flowing, too. To add more flavor to the event, Jeff of Bobalu Cigars was a part of the action hand rolling cigars for the gentlemen guests who chose to light up. To further commemorate the evening, guests were invited into the retro photobooth provided by Loco Motion Photobooth for some mini black and white shots for their scrapbooks. Professional make-up artist John Pearce was nearby to touch up the ladies in the room so that they looked as fresh as a daisy all evening.
The dinner later turned into a larger, masked ball. “The evening was, in a word, amazing, muses Jonathan Tieken. “You know it has gone well when everyone is gathered around the table long after plates have been cleared away and guests are moving from chair to chair to mingle with those they weren’t able to while eating. The moment it all came into perspective was when a group gathered on the steps just inside the front door, elegant yet relaxed, ties loosened and hair down, in a way that conveyed that they were comfortable to stay and chat and mingle.”
We agree, as does Monica Burcham who helmed the event with By MoJo. “Transforming ordinary parties into extraordinary events is what they do since our process is simple: listen, anticipate, execute and deliver.” We’re looking forward to our next event where we will expect the unexpected.
Courtesy of Paige Morgan at Paige’s Bakehouse in Round Rock
This fluffy dessert is ideal for any special occasion, or just a sweet treat for a small dinner party. Try it as a filling in your favorite cake, or fill a tuille bowl and garnish with chocolate curls. It is sure to impress.
2 cups (480 ml) heavy cream
4 tsp. (12 g) gelatin
1/2 cup (120 ml) cold water
2 Tbsp. pectin powder (regular canning pectin) or you can omit the pectin and increase gelatin by 1 tsp. for a total of 5 tsp. of gelatin
4 oz. (115g) granulated sugar
4 egg whites (1/2 cup/120ml)
12 oz. (340g) white chocolate, melted (be sure not to overheat or mousse will be grainy)
In a mixing bowl with a wisk attachment,Whip the cream to soft peaks and reserve in refrigerator.
Soften gelatin in the water.
Combine the pectin and sugar, stir in egg whites and heat in a double boiler over simmering water, whisking, until it reaches 140 degrees.
Remove from heat and whip until cool and forms stiff peaks.
Heat gelatin mixture to dissolve.
Stir gelatin mixture into melted chocolate until smooth, then stir chocolate mixture into 1/3 of meringue, folding gently. Add chocolate mixture to remaining meringue, then fold in reserved whipped cream.
Use immediately since it sets quickly. Makes 6 cups.
“DJ KB is a professional all vinyl turntablist with over 12 years experience and recommends the following as his favorite dinner party playlist:
Quiet Nights – Astrid Gilberto
Bondax – Just Us
Shelter Point – Forever For Now
Shlohmo – Wen Uuu
Amy Winehouse – Stronger Than Me (Alby D Bootleg)
Bibio – Lovers’ Carvings
Lauryn Hill – Doo Wop (Pedestrian & Maribou State Remix)
The xx – Crystalised (Dark Sky Remix)
Mak & Pasteman – Do the Same (VIP)
Bwana – You Never Stop
Kastle – Could U Want Me (Blackwax Remix)
LDFD – Outtacontrol
Bondax – All Inside
Michael Jackson – Pretty Young Thing