What do you get when you take crisp white wine, savory hors d’oeuvres, festive flower arrangements, and add in professional homemaker, decorator, and dinner party diva Katie Brown? You end up with an army of cocktail-sipping, al fresco devotees, not to mention a bunch of savvy entertainers.
Two weeks ago at the James Hotel in SoHo, Katie Brown hosted a dinner party to remind all hard-nosed New York writers and bloggers of the simple pleasures of eating a meal outdoors – be it on a bench in Central Park or in our own backyard. She shared a few helpful hints to ensure that our summer gatherings are thoroughly enjoyed by guests and hostesses alike.
At the start of the evening, Tracy and I were met by our lovely driver, Richard Cordero of Aries Luxury Limousine, who helped us into our sleek, black Mercedes sedan, compliments of OFF!® the event’s insect-banishing sponsor. As we settled into our spanking new leather seats, cruising down West Broadway, we turned to each other almost simultaneously with the same question: “So, who is Katie Brown, anyway?”
|Tracy and Emelyn on the ride to dinner with Katie Brown
Of course, we had both done our preemptive Googling of the home entertainer. We knew the domestic expert had a strong television presence on Lifetime, but were both eluded by the fact that her series replaced Martha Stewart’s nearly 20 years ago. Since neither of us had watched The Katie Brown Workshop, we were anxious to meet the lifestyle maven. Upon arriving and chatting with her for a few moments, we quickly got a clear idea of who Katie Brown is.
She is funny and bright-eyed, lacking the faux-chipper sterility one usually associates with a high-intensity homemaker. In fact, she is relaxed, and seems almost frivolous. Moreover, she attributes her success to good fortune and passion for what she does. “Although I often shoot episodes at my home in Connecticut,” she said, “we use a set kitchen in the garage. I like to keep my own kitchen sacred. Cooking there is still what relaxes me the most.”
As servers willed around us with platters of rich appetizers like chicken and shrimp dumplings and buttery pigs in a blanket, we swooned with temptation. “Oh, I couldn’t possibly,” she huffed as another tray of dumplings passed, “I’m gonna be so full by the time the actual dinner happens!” she said, grinning and rolling her eyes as she popped another into her mouth, “What the hell.”
|Our stunning table as we were preparing to start dinner|
After tasting a range of dishes such as a wedge salad with tomato vinaigrette and blue cheese, steamed sea bass, crispy chicken, and pretzel-crusted crab cakes, we agreed the stars of the dinner menu were the Brussels sprouts and the mac and cheese.
|A plate of starters from the menu by David Burke|
The desserts and the after-dinner activity, however, put us into a state of bliss. While we nursed our unlimited supply of cake pops and homemade donuts, the lifestyle expert took the helm of the long table as we looked on in adoration. “Now,” she said, “we are going to learn how to make some easy flower arrangements that will make any outdoor table look warm, elegant, and totally inviting.”
|Katie Brown shares a few pointers on how to arrange flowers|
We were all ears as she walked us through the process, and full speed when it was our turn to rush to the table where fresh flowers and accoutrements were waiting for us. The activity was playful and rewarding, and the spectacle of Gerbera daisies, roses, and Hypericum covering our table was truly stunning.
|Emelyn, Tracy and Katie Brown!|
We ambled to Grand St. carrying our fresh-made bouquets to find our driver waiting by the luxurious car with which OFF!® had totally spoiled us. Buzzing with praise, Pinot grigio, and plans for the hot weather months, we slipped into the back of our ride, and cruised home with the happy anticipation that this summer would include some hearty outdoor food and fun.
|After a fun night with Katie Brown, our chariot awaited!|
The two most essential pieces of advice she left us with were, (1) keep it simple, and (2) plan ahead. Make a dish that you’ve made before to ensure tastiness and circumvent mishaps, and make it beforehand so that, in her words, “You can actually enjoy your party and your guests!”
Of course, the hostess pointed out the pros of a variety of products by our sponsor. She highlighted that this season, OFF!® has come out with a citronella candle that is not only stylish but practical. Keep the bugs off your bare-shouldered guests and soak up that lemony citronella scent without the characteristic drab tin casing. The candles lighting our dinner donned a funky blue and white zig-zag design that will add texture and spark to any outdoor spread.
|Stylish Citronella candle from OFF!®|
The coming months of beachy Hamptons getaways, forested Northeast adventures, Brooklyn backyard barbecues, and Manhattan rooftop get-togethers are sure to be a hit for anyone who follows these worthwhile tips courtesy of Katie Brown.
OFF! invited us to this event, and we received two bags of the company’s products including three citronella candles.