Entertaining Q&A with Carla

Entertaining Q&A with Carla

Summer is one of my favorite times of the year to entertain! I recently took some time to respond to a few questions about hosting parties. I hope the upcoming months inspire you to gather with friends and family to celebrate everything the season has to offer!


 What are some of your earliest memories of summer entertaining?

Growing up, I spent summers in Miami with my extended family, and it was always a party. We had an open door policy, and everyone was around – aunts, uncles, cousins. Everything was bright and happy. There would be lots of fresh fish, ceviche, sangria and citrus fruits. Cubans love to throw an afternoon party and serve a merienda – in English, it translates to light snack – which includes little finger sandwiches and croquetas. At our house in Key Biscayne, my parents would often entertain spontaneously. They’d put out whatever they had on hand. My dad would open a bag of banana chips and make sangria. It was just so much fun! That experience led me to never being fearful of entertaining and to be open and ready for a party, no matter if it’s last minute. When I got married, I loved getting to have my own home and entertain because I love how it brings everyone together – especially people you don’t normally get to see and talk to.

How does being an interior designer influence how you entertain?

Before becoming an interior designer, I thought about going into event planning, and actually both jobs overlap so much. Event planners, interior designers, jewelry makers and fashion designers, we all think creatively. From the jewelry you choose, to what clothes you’re wearing, to how you want to make your guests feel – this thought process is very similar to how I design interiors. I look at hosting a party as I do when I’m designing a home: how do I want people to feel when they arrive?

What are some of the first things you consider when planning a party?

I first think about the theme – is the party a baby shower, a going-away, a summer soirée? From there I begin to plan. For example, if it’s a shower for a baby girl, I’ll do pink tea roses and serve petit fours with hints of pink. As hostess, it’s important to me to cultivate a theme, and that of course extends to the menu and drinks. If I know the party includes men, I’ll make sure the menu has heavier fare, like meat and potatoes (I never want anyone to leave feeling hungry!).

Tell us a little about how you approach designing a tablescape.

I love bright colors and making it really festive according to the theme. That’s part of the whole fun of hosting! I’ll consider the china, table linens and flowers, and I like to use items I’ve collected over the years that have meaning to me.  Taking out these objects of love when I have a party is so much fun. I like to use my favorite Herend china and mix it with some colorful plates I found in Palm Beach. I have flatware with bamboo handles from Pottery Barn, which are so festive. Mixing and matching items and using things I love are some of the best things about hosting a dinner party.

What are some of your favorite cocktails and menu items?

This is definitely where my Cuban heritage comes out! I love serving frozen daiquiris with a raw sugar stick as well as citrusy cocktails like lemon martinis and a grapefruit salty dog. Most recently my absolute favorite is the Nanacita (recipe below)! It’s a combination of all the flavors I love! I also take time to choose the best bar and glassware for serving cocktails.

For the menu, I try to do as much as I can in advance. I want to enjoy my guests and not be bogged down with cooking during a party. For appetizers, I like to pick up items from some of my favorite Dallas food shops, like Festive Kitchen (love their bacon apricot zingers) and Kuby’s (the jalapeno pimento cheese is amazing!). I like to prepare a salad in advance by chopping all the vegetables – tomatoes, avocados and green onions – and placing them in a bowl with the salad dressing. I’ll let that marinate for several hours with the washed, chopped lettuce right on top. Once it’s time for dinner, all I need to do is toss and serve. One of my classic go-to meals for a couples’ dinner party is beef tenderloin served with a jalapeno butter sauce along with potatoes au gratin.

Any tips for hosting a party?

I’ve entertained so much over the years and have learned a lot. I once read a quote in a magazine that really resonated with me: if you’re stressed, your guests will be stressed. It’s so important to remember that the reason you’re giving a party is to enjoy time with everyone. Try to have as much prepared beforehand as possible. Entertaining became more pleasurable and less difficult once I figured that out! Since I want my guests to feel welcome from the time they walk in the door, I always make sure I am dressed and ready before they arrive. I also love having games at the table as a way for everyone to engage as a group. For example, under dessert plates, I like to put a different question for each guest with the kinds of topics that normally do not come up in conversations like, What would you do if you won the lottery? and What was your favorite childhood memory? Another suggestion is to consider how to make your gathering memorable in whatever way that feels right to you. You needn’t overthink it. For me, I love to place a gift at each place setting. It might be something related to the party theme or simply candy, and it’s neither extravagant nor expensive. Having a little gift is one way for my guests to remember their time and for them to hopefully say, Wow, now that was a really fun party!


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