Today, we momentarily depart from the world of weddings to embrace the season with fall entertaining inspiration from Strictly Weddings’ Chicago partner, Kehoe Designs. In this feature, two powerhouses in the art of entertaining come together to fill us with loads of festive fall ideas on hosting an intimate yet unforgettable autumnal dinner party. Senior Event Designer, Renee Price of Kehoe Designs, and Sales Director, Nicole Stephens of Blue Plate Catering, most often collaborate on crafting awe-inspiring weddings on a big city scale but today, they put their heads together to help those of us who love to entertain in our homes. What we learn from this dynamic duo is that by adding a dash of creativity and a sprinkle of surprise, there are many ways to leave a lasting impression on your dinner guests!
Both Renee and Nicole agree that pre-selecting a theme is just as fun and effective when hosting for a large group or a select number of friends and family. “It could be a menu based completely off one type of ingredient like fall harvest squash,” says Renee, listing off examples such as a savory acorn squash soup, homemade squash ravioli, or these adorable butternut squash cheesecakes.
If that feels too limiting, take the farmers market challenge and consider making a meal solely from your basket of local, farm fresh goodies. “People close to me know I also love to incorporate a fun activity at my dinner parties,” she adds.
For the fall, Renee suggests a local beer or cider tasting, with Nicole quick to propose a complementary menu of Chicago craft brew shooters served with a delicious cheese soup that is topped with warm, seasoned pretzel bites. Or how about a fall pie-making party where each guest makes their own mini cranberry apple pie? “Your house will smell delicious for days and guests get to bring home a piece of the party!” Renee exclaims.
Blue Plate catering guru, Nicole emphasizes the fun in adding a playful take to your fall fare, sharing with us complete recipes of all the delicious dishes she describes below! “When hosting in the home, I like to put together menu items that can all be prepared and beautifully set out on a buffet in advance. It frees the host to enjoy their guests and encourages everyone to move around and mingle,” says Nicole.
What seasonal items might appear on her fall entertaining menu? “I just love the darling presentation of Blue Plates’ Crisp Kale Cups, filled with goat cheese, preserved lemon & red quinoa,” Nicole says. Another out-of-the-box idea she shares is to take a traditional French Creme Brulee and infuse it with a fall harvest ingredient such as a savory carrot puree. “We’ve also had a great response to our autumn Salad Skewers, a fun dish composed with roasted Acorn squash, baby spinach, goat cheese, dried fall fruits, granola, and an orange honeycomb vinaigrette,” adds Nicole.
For a more hearty preparation, Blue Plate recommends their scrumptious Gastro Pub Hand Pies, beloved for their golden crust and yummy fillings like chicken pot pie or braised short ribs. To finish the night off, Blue Plate suggests their gorgeous Apple Pie Spice Scones, served with ginger mascarpone, vanilla cranberry compote, pomegranate seeds, sugared almonds and sprig of fresh mint.
How do you elevate the party with a sophisticated fall design? Renee suggests using a dynamic fabric or throw from your linen closet as the tablecloth. “Personally, I am absolutely in love with the eclectic and chic global feel of Suzani textiles,” says Renee. Originating from Central Asia, these unique handmade fabrics feature tribal patterns often in a palette of gorgeous autumnal colors. “Once you select your linen, build up from there,” she continues, “repurposing items in your home in an unexpected way such as a cake plate to create levels on the table or a unique vessel in place of a standard glass vase.”
For a warm and seasonally inspired centerpiece, Renee recommends following Mother Nature’s cue for fall and selecting rich autumnal blooms such as amber cymbidium orchids, burgundy dahlias, mango calla lilies and golden roses. “Bittersweet or hypericum berries and seasonal foliages are also perfect,” says Renee. “Another impactful look is to arrange a massive display of foliage or branches in a container and just let it speak!” she adds. This time of year, look for Olive Branch, Nandina or Liquid Amber foliage for your mono botanic design.
We finish off our fall inspiration piece with a final party tip from our entertaining pros. “At the end of the dinner, I adore giving guests a small token from the evening, so much so that it has has become my trademark!” says Renee. For a fall menu, she suggests small bottles of Rosemary Olive Oil. “Just buy mini bottles at Container Store, fill with olive oil and a sprig of Rosemary – and voila!” she says.
Another simple idea is a satchel of fall scented autumn spices. “Get your cotton satchels online (or at Container Store), fill with whole spices like cloves, cinnamon sticks, and star anise. Your guests will love the way their home smells when they boil their homemade potpourri!” Renee explains giddily. “Or, keep the party going by sending guests off with a ‘signature cocktail kit,’” adds Nicole. “Package together a small bottle of thyme simple syrup and Cointreau with this fabulous recipe for a Fig Thyme Cocktail tucked inside,” says Nicole.
As Renee Price of Kehoe Designs and Nicole Stephens of Blue Plate Catering so beautifully illustrate, there is much more to fall parties than hay, pumpkins, and burlap! Whether entertaining on a large scale or within the home, there are many ways to add playful and unexpected touches that make for a magical and memorable fall soiree! For more information (and inspiration!) from our partner, Kehoe Designs, be sure to visit their beautifully curated blog called Crafted, Facebook page and website!