Three. The number of pairs of shoes I soaked through on the day I sourced for this dinner. The rain was blowing side-ways, up-ways, all-ways and the city seemed to swallow me up whole. I kept gazing up to the sky wondering when it was going to surrender, its gray hue creating a grid amongst the skyscrapers. I was well aware before leaving for NYC that although my job is typically ridden with challenges, this time around would be different. Very different.
I landed in NYC on Monday morning that week and we immediately hit the ground running. This particular event had been in the works for months. And when I say months, I mean MONTHS. The delay merely caused by a challenge in coordinating schedules, not at all from a lack of enthusiasm. Anna and I initially discussed the possibility for this dinner party last fall (nearly 8 months before it happened) and our excitement the week of the event was palpable. Working together we knew was fun (we’d already done so here and here), but this felt different. It was different. This week was monumental. Not only to me (my first big gig in NYC), but especially to Anna. This week marked the official launch of her long journey and The Yellow Table Cookbook.
Anna set out last year with one plan. To create her own cookbook. She would recipe test, cook, style, execute and self publish the entire thing in her tiny Manhattan studio apartment – an apartment I might add which has no elevator access and is a 6th floor walk-up! Day after day, she hikes with bags and bags of groceries & props up her narrow staircase and cooks until the sun goes down. I know this, because I’ve seen it. The girl works.her.tail.off! All for the love of what she does. The love of good food. Of good friendship. Of community. And a desire to share her passion for all of these things in written and visual form. And how blessed I felt to not only witness her journey, but to also be a part of it that week. Seriously – even writing this post, I’m still in complete shock that I had the opportunity to be a part of something so so special.
During the planning and design process, one thing kept coming to mind for me. Kindness. Anna is absolutely hands down the kindest person I have EVER met. When she speaks to you, you feel like the only person in the room. When she sends you a card, you know it wasn’t simply a formality, but rather a well thought out expression of love. When she cooks for you, you savor every last bite not only because it tastes damn good, but because you know the process of executing the dish came right from her heart. Everything this woman does is from a place of good. A place of connection, of something real. I wanted everything about this dinner to feel approachable, sweet, organic, and reflective of the spring season. But mostly I wanted it to reflect the woman with which we were all celebrating that night. Kind, passionate and determined Anna.
My job is always made a whole heck of a lot easier by two things. Location and great stuff. And by location I mean Drift Studio (okay seriously, what party wouldn’t look amazing in THIS perfect blank space?!), and by stuff I mean ABC – the interior mecca of all things good and awesome and beautiful. If you’ve never had the chance to visit ABC Carpet and Home in NYC, please please PLEASE do so if you are ever in town. It’s pretty much a prop stylists version of heaven. Floors and floors full of the best loot you’ve ever seen! When I initially found out I’d be sourcing all of the items for the night from ABC, I actually had to re-read Anna’s email four times. Say what?!! I couldn’t believe it, let alone imagine the beauty that was to ensue. From the antique european wood tables (the one on the right is actually an archived piece of the CEO’s!), to the fresh white bistro chairs, to the olive wood bread bowls, to that runner….OH that runner!, to the lovely Jane Burtz ceramics, to a plethora of stunning vases to hold fresh florals…everything about this dinner and the potential for a beautiful tabletop made me grin from ear to ear from start to finish.
Not only did I have beautiful products to style the dinner with, but I wanted the dinner to feel personal as well. I wanted it to be reflective of the reason we were there. Here’s where I thank Sally. Sally brought my vision for the menu to life in the best possible way. I was struggling for a few weeks to come up with a way to bring the actual yellow table – the table Anna grew up with and for her represents community & family; the table that currently sits in her own NYC apartment; the table that symbolizes and inspired her entire journey as a food writer & chef; and the table that was also unfortunately a logistical nightmare to actually get to the studio space for the dinner party itself. Uh-oh.
No yellow table, meant I had to bring the yellow table to dinner some other way. I just HAD to. A week before I left for NYC, I sat straight up in bed at 2am. Yep, I had it. The menu. Of course! I sent Anna a text super early that morning after barely sleeping another wink, crossing my fingers my idea could actually come to life. Would she have a photo? Would it scan okay? Would Sally be able to print it on such short notice? I asked Anna to scan me some of her favorite images of the yellow table from her childhood and after 3 visits to Kinko’s (bless her heart!) I was able to get a copy from Anna and on to Sally. The photo I chose to use was actually from the year Anna was born and created the perfect backdrop to Sally’s gorgeous calligraphy. I also asked Sally to calligraphy each guests name on a stark white piece of cardstock. I used an exacto knife to cut a two-inch slice near the bottom of each card and then slid them onto each fork the day of the event.
The week of the dinner was non-stop. Although ABC was providing all of the decor and furniture for the event there was still so much to do! After spending all day Monday and Tuesday errand running and finalizing details with Anna, I woke Wednesday morning at 5am to hit the flower markets early and had already soaked through my first pair of shoes by 5:07. The market was crazy. Busy. Frantic actually. And EXPENSIVE. Overwhelmingly expensive.
As with any design related task, you have a vision. And once you have set your sights on that vision it can often be hard to compromise. And I’m not good at compromise. I really like to get my way. So what I had meant to be one single trip to the flower market that day turned into 5 separate trips, including one to the local farmer’s market to get the best deals. Determined as I was to make arrangements that were bountiful, beautiful and reflected the spring vision I had for the dinner party, the weather made it nearly an impossible task. No taxis in sight, subway platforms that had inches of water on them, nowhere near enough clothing layers…I was freezing, slightly overwhelmed by a gigantic bustling city, and exhausted.
BUT through it all, I was exhilarated and SO SO SO happy. Happy to be doing what I loved. Happy to be creating in a city like New York. Happy to be spending such quality time with a friend. Happy to be working with a company I had admired and respected so long. Happy to be creating in such a gorgeous space. H-A-P-P-Y overtook all the challenges and by Thursday, the sun was out, and all the hiccups of the week turned into laughter, great conversations, and a tabletop I was proud of.
This special night also would have NEVER come to life without the immense help and support of an amazing group of people. To Annie at ABC Carpet and Home who worked endlessly to ensure we got everything we needed for the night – even rushing over a pretty pink vintage table in a cab with her when it didn’t make it on the delivery truck. To Nathan who lent his beautiful space for the evening and who never once complained or even questioned lending a helping hand – he was there through it all and I’m so grateful!; to Dorothee who without her this event would not have been photographed so fully – I called her merely hours before the event in an emergency and she dropped everything she was doing to be there to capture it – what I friend I’ve found in that lady wow!; to Sally whose gorgeous calligraphy and efficiency brought my vision for the menu to life; to Jean-Luc Le Du whose wines were the cherry on top of a perfect evening – those gigantic rose bottles will forever remain one of the best moments of the night!; and mostly to Anna – your friendship, support and trust mean everything in the end. Congratulations sweet lady. So excited to follow you on the rest of your journey!
Photography : Dorothee of Belathee Photography | Art Direction, Styling & Flowers : Jenn Elliott Blake | Menu & Food : Anna Watson Carl & Linda Sarris | Furniture, Settings and Chairs : ABC Carpet & Home | Venue : Drift Studio | Calligraphy : Sally Balt | Wines : Le Du’s Wines