If you want to host the perfect party to remember, start with a perfect location. Inspired by the Blanton Museum of Art exhibition, Moderno, we curated an evening of delights for the wit and senses, and no detail was spared.
By Jonathan Spindel
Photography by Romy Suskin
Secondary Camera: John Almerez and Britton Orrange
Producer: Kelly Sanchez
Sittings Editor: Lance Avery Morgan
How do you create a perfectly memorable dinner party for a few dozen of your favorite guests? Start with a dynamic venue, choose unique décor, and invite a charismatic group, then watch the fun unfold. Inspired by the Blanton Museum of Art’s newest exhibition Moderno: Design for Living in Brazil, Mexico, and Venezuela, 1940-1978, we planned a private dinner party and exhibition preview, complete with a five-course meal, music, and revelry with a curated group of Austin’s stylish set. It promised to be a museum-quality evening full of chic couture, witty banter and of course, delectable dining.
LET THE MUSIC PLAY
On what everyone hoped would be the last balmy weekend of an endless summer that stretched into fall, our dapper men and dashing dames appeared on the verdant courtyard of the Blanton Museum of Art. From the moment they approached the museum’s tall stone arch- ways, the sound of David Young’s South American Ensemble set the tone for the evening. The sultry sounds of conga drums and guitars transported guests to the classy midcentury vibe of Latin America, an aesthetic that resonated with the art inside the museum.
The Blanton’s soaring Rapoport Atrium was the perfect canvas for catering and event production experts Rosemary’s Catering and Illusions Rentals and Designs, signature brands, to create a masterpiece event space. The main area, with high skylight ceilings and bedecked with the iconic, iridescent blue installation Stacked Waters by Teresita Fernández, set the tone. To create a dynamic color scheme, we accentuated the blue with vivid fuchsia spotlights, aimed upward to create a striking interplay of colors. The dining table stood grandly in the middle, an enticing stage for the evening’s enchanting activities that lay ahead.
Guests arrived and streamed into the dining area and began to mingle, but instead of sitting at the table, they were invited to climb the re- gal staircase to the balcony. There, they enjoyed champagne cocktails and specialty mixed drinks courtesy of Cinco Vodka. One of the musicians filled the space with the sound of his Paraguayan harp, whose melodies bounced around the atrium in a sonic cascade. “The mixing of guests from various backgrounds, different ages, and different generations led to a memorable evening of fascinating conversation and laughter that enriched the group dynamic,” said philanthropist Aida Dieck.
EASE, DRINK & BE MERRY
“I will always, always appreciate a champagne offering upon entry,” confessed actress Mallory Culbert. “A beautiful setting, and time to mingle, meander, and absorb the space before being asked to sit down.” The crowd was as effervescent as the bubbly drinks they sipped, and soon it was like chatting with old friends. “Not small- talk really but instead more of what people are passionate about and what brought them under this roof,” Culbert continued. Elegant servers passed out hors d’oeuvres and more bubbly, which whetted our appetite for conversation and the dinner that lay ahead. “Being new to Austin, Manuel and I weren’t sure if we would know anyone at the event,” said jewelry designer Cassandra King Polidori. “However, we felt so welcomed as soon as we walked in. The ambiance and the company were unbeatable … though the private tour of the Blanton’s exhibition came close.” Chris Hendel, General Manager of Neiman Marcus, agreed. “The most important thing to remember when hosting an event its to make everyone feel welcome and like they are part of the party.” While the energy was still high, the time came to descend to the feast that waited below.
Downstairs, components of Moreland Young Chamber Quintet, were set within arm’s reach of the guest, playing romantic bossa nova favorites, perfectly evoking the modern Brazilian artwork in the galleries. Bandleader David Young brought a selected group of musicians and vocalists to provide the soundtrack for the evening. “Lighting and music are the finishing touches that make all the difference in creating a magical ambiance,” guest and author Dee Covey said. “The band was spectacular – Bravo, Maestro!”
In the center of the room, the dining table stretched across the neutral stone floor. A long, premium teak table set with white King Louis chairs accommodated all the guests with plenty of room for lively banter. The color theme chosen for the event by the evening’s event producer and the magazine’s Lance Avery Morgan was “winter white elegance.” It was exemplified by the bursts of cream-colored roses, orchids and hydrangeas playing throughout long green garlands that lay woven down the center of the table. Votive candles flickered through- out the centerpiece, and cascading candelabras cast warm light upon the table and heightened – literally – the drama on the table. The effect was artfully completed by luxuriously gilded plates and gold silverware that gave an added spark of charm to the affair.
“The inspiration for this design was simple elegance,” said John Wheeler of Catering by Rosemary’s, a division of The RK Group. “Different elements to create a luxurious, formal vibe for a large king table is one of my favorite things to create.” Inspired by the Blanton Museum of Art, the RK Group drew from the overall aesthetic of the venue and created food and décor that was equally as stunning. “The Blanton provides its guests with thought-provoking and visually arresting experiences and we are so proud to help contribute to their legacy,” attested Rachel Sommer of Catering by Rosemary’s, who was instrumental in the night’s success that took months of planning. “The Blanton’s staff are some of the most professional in the industry.”
“Seeing the gorgeously decorated table for the first time was a breathtaking moment,” Dee Covey testified. “To guarantee an elegant and entertaining dinner party,” she continues, “success always starts with a lively mix of people on the guest list.” “When it comes to dinner, a great caterer is important, of course, but attention to seating is always essential,” Kara Swinney, of The Rise School, remarked. “My favorite part of the evening, which is also a great tip for your own dinner party at home, was that the couples were not seated together so that we got to know more people.”
Sharing an indulgent dinner with new acquaintances is a favorite way to make a lasting connection. “I love meeting people that I’ve heard about or only met in passing.” Matt Swinney, founder of Austin Fashion Week and Fashion X Dallas, agreed, “Getting to sit down to have dinner, that conversation always goes so much deeper than it would in any other first-time-meeting setting.”
As guests raised their glasses to toast the occasion, cheers rose from the table and the coursed meal began. Red, white, and sparkling wine was poured all around. Each course was a work of art in its own right. First, a salad of greens and frisée with grapefruit, beet, and tangy goat cheese. Next, grilled salmon atop a champagne poblano risotto, with roasted sweet potato and coriander. Then a sweet surprise wowed the crowd: sweet and spicy sorbeto, served in individual ice sculptures with the Moderno’s exhibition logo. No detail was spared. “Of the many beautiful touches throughout elegant evening, the intermezzo was a particularly lavish touch with individual ice sculptures with a dollop of sorbet with a hint of Latin heat,’ mused real estate professional Eric Copper. A word to the wise party planner – it’s the little details like this that linger long after the meal. A twist, a surprise, an unexpected flair to add playful punctuation to your dinner story.
A succulent ash-crusted beef tenderloin with plantains rounded out the meal, and before dessert arrived, the host Lance Avery Morgan surprised guests with another twist. He asked that all the male guests stand up and find a new seat, giving everyone a chance to make new friends as they enjoyed a delectable dessert of dulce de leche banana splits, tres leches cake and pots de crème.
“In this fast paced world, it is a beautiful thing to be able to step back into an elegant dinner party, surrounded by exquisite beauty and art,” said the Blanton’s Major Gifts Officer Leanne Raesener. “Dressed in one’s splendor to enjoy a scrumptious dinner, engaging in meaningful, light hearted, genuine conversations with lovely, entertaining guests… Rare moments indeed, sublime memories to be savored and recollected for a long time to come.”
After dinner, guests enjoyed one more finishing course – a final chance to stroll among the artwork in the galleries. Attendees shared one more round of stories and laughter. “I’ve always thought the key ingredients to a successful event are good food, good wine, and an extraordinary mix of guests,” remarked Simone Wicha, Director of the Blanton Museum of Art. “With a setting as elegant and stimulating as the Blanton, this dinner saw many lively conversations, much laughter, and was truly a celebration of the museum and the community it serves.” Kathleen Brady Stimpert, the Blanton’s Director of PR and Marketing, beamed as she and fellow guests marveled at the beautiful artwork. “We’re all about creating exceptional experiences for people to interact with the art in new and interesting ways,” she said. The seamlessly professional venue, event designers, caterers, and musicians came together to create a unique and new experience. Samantha Bernstein, a Blanton supporter mused, ”All these individual pieces wove together in a thoughtful manner while making it look effortless.“
On the way out, the dinner party attendees took turns on a step- and-repeat, where photographer Romy Suskin and her team captured spirited portraits and candid photobombs. Neiman Marcus generously donated goodie bags with an Agraria candle in vintage glass. Cinco Vodka donated spirits for the evening and 750 ml. bottles of vodka for guests to take home with them, ensuring seamless holiday entertaining in the weeks ahead.
BOSSA NOVA’S BEAT
David Young of Moreland Young Entertainment brought his custom curated South American Chamber Ensemble, specially planned for our dinner party, to play some classic hits from the sultry 60s.
Desafinado by Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto
Wave by Antonio Carlos Jobim
Caravan by Duke Ellington
St. Thomas by Sonny Rollins
The Girl From Ipanema by Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto
How Insensitive by Astrud Gilberto
Guantanamera by Celia Cruz
Quizás, Quizás, Quizás by Gaby Moreno
Amor, Amor, Amor by Jorge Cárdenas
Bésame Mucho by Consuelo Velasquez
Manhã de Carnaval by Frank Sinatra
El Cuarto de Tula by Buena Vista Social Club
Noche Azul by Ernesto Lecuona
The Shadow of Your Smile by Astrud Gilberto
Perfidia by Julie London
Moderno: Design for Living in Brazil, Mexico, and Venezuela, 1940-1978
The exhibition examines how design transformed the domestic world in Latin America in the mid-20th century. Over 130 pieces of furniture, ceramics, metalwork, textiles, and graphic design highlight the history of Latin American modernism. This special exhibition also includes additional pieces from the Blanton’s own holdings and private collections. On display through January 17, 2016.
THE SOCIETY CINCO-POLITAN
FEATURING CINCO VODKA
1.5 oz Cinco Vodka
.5 oz Triple Sec
.5 oz Lime Juice
1 oz Cranberry Juice
Shake ingredients with ice to chill and serve before you drink responsibly