To celebrate the launch of my first cookbook, Food with Friends: The Art of Simple Gatherings, I decided to invite my nearest and dearest girlfriends for an afternoon tea party, set in a rustic greenhouse by the sea, with a bunch of snacks from the book. The Earl Grey, giggles, and conversation flowed freely — I didn't want the afternoon to end. Here's the plan and menu for our simple gathering.
The Party Plan: An Afternoon Tea Party for the Girls
From the moment my book came out, I knew I wanted to host my friends for a afternoon of eating and hanging out. There'd be a few foods from the book, and a whole lot of tea and sparkly water. When I chanced upon this spectacular greenhouse just 15 minutes north of Santa Barbara, I knew our dramatic location would be the perfect stage for such a feminine fête. Just walking through the double doors — taking in the pink and green parachute canopy and golden sunshine — leaves you breathless. This is an ideal party zone, am I right?
The Party Menu: Small Treats to Share + Earl Grey
I kept the menu to items that all could be made or assembled ahead of time and finished off moments before the party. Because of our unconventional location, everything had to be ready and transported in my car. I used a lot of large bins and sheet pans to do this, and it worked great. With my trusty electric kettle and a cooler, we were able to plug in for hot water and keep a few things cool until the guests arrived. I highly recommend thinking of parks, beaches, and forests in your area to set a party in; it really was special to be somewhere outside of my home, where I normally entertain guests.
Food with Friends Tea Time Menu
Serves 6 to 8
- Avocado coconut tartlets: Assemble at the last moment to keep avocado creme from oxidizing and turning brown.
- Purple cauliflower hummus: Served with assorted crudité and an assortment of cheeses.
- Pistachio rose clouds: These cotton candy-esque meringues were the bell of the ball. They're easy to make and really set a celebratory tone with their pink color and girly presentation.
- Irish soda bread with rum-plumped figs and candied walnuts: I had to have a bit of a base to serve yummy fig jam and a healthy slathering of creme fraiche.
- Toasted nuts with lemon, thyme, and chili: For a bit of easy snacking.
- Spice-roasted chickpeas: Another easy hit of savory amidst the sweets.
- Tea: Mariage Frères makes the most lovely Earl Grey tea; we went with that (accompanied by heavy cream and honey) and served Pellegrino sparkling water.
The Party Look: Neutrals and Pastels
To make the food really stand out, I opted for a mismatched tablescape of whites, light blues, and light grays — and had a few variations on that theme. The food really popped, and the effect was luminous with the bright sunshine and natural setting. I also art directed my guests with their wardrobe, asking the girls to wear pastels! This may seem over the top, but it really was fun to dress up in a "costume" of sorts. When everyone arrived, the Easter-egg vibe was in full effect and we all laughed. It really added to the fun of the party and I would absolutely do it again; the guests all commented on how lovely it was to get out of their comfort zone and into a party dress.
What's Coming Up This Week
A Soul Playlist
The music was played with a phone in a bowl under the table (I forgot my Bluetooth speakers!), but it added to the appeal because we played '60s soul music exclusively, and it felt kinda like an old record or basement jam session.
Recipes and Tips
We have a few recipes to share from my book and a few other tips and tricks I've learned about styling a table and doing flowers on a budget of $20, plus my favorite travel finds for entertaining.