There are parties…and then there are PARTIES. This, though, was not a big bash but a small, intimate dinner at our home with fashion icon Iris Apfel on her 95th birthday. It became one of the most memorable weekends of my life. How did this come to be?
When planning our Atelier Swarovski show I learned that Iris, a close friend of Russell Pagliughi (Director of Sales) had never, but always wanted to see Newport. Of course I extended an invitation, and then was thrilled to learn that she would love to stay at Parterre for the weekend. So I put on my hostess hat and shifted into high-gear planning mode. Iris enjoys dining on local fare, so my research began with a favorite reference, Clementine Paddleford’s The Great American Cookbook.
Then, my first call was to the cake designer…wonderful James Kennedy, who had, coincidentally, just been watching Iris’ documentary the week before my call.
Designing the Cake
Simple, fun, whimsical, tongue in cheek (one doesn’t take things too seriously when you’re ninety-five). What else could it be? A stack of bracelets atop a small, high round cake. But it couldn’t be just a yellow four-layer cake filled with Italian buttercream frosting –so I decided to personalize it a bit more by wrapping it in one of Old World Weaver’s toile fabrics (Iris’ favorites). One King’s Lane had a swatch of “Decouvert” in the perfect colors — a russet coral pattern over a deep marigold background. Off to James!
Note: The toile is printed with edible inks on a tissue paper thin sheet of fondant and cut to size to wrap the cake.
The individual bracelets were made of James’ special formula of edible sugar clay gum paste. Each cradled in bubble wrap, the bracelets were carefully unwrapped and arranged atop the cake when he brought it over at six o’clock Saturday evening.
Dressing the Table
Iris loves textiles and her eponymous fabric firm, Old World Weavers (which she and Carl started in 1950) was famous as a go to source for the White House as well as private homes and house museums internationally. This seemed the perfect opportunity to use my Japanese obi panels, providing a touch of the exotic.
Paired with a French ormolu pedestal holding a collection of dahlias which repeated in colors and shape the flowers in the obi…and the bracelets on her cake. Venetian wine goblets and gold striped water glasses continued the understated theme.
All set, now off to greet the caterer…
With one stop to look at my favorite late afternoon view — the sun reflecting off the fountain’s plume.
Setting the Scene
This evening just had to have a setting as magical as the occasion…our Orangerie in the center of the garden. But the weather — sticky humidity and always a chance of rain — kept me on pins and needles. Finally, I took a deep breath and started prepping this small space to become a jewel box, shimmering at night.
Love the reflection of the votives on the glass roof, which can be partially opened.
Dinner at eight…and this is what greeted us as we approached at twilight after cocktails in the library.
Planning the Menu
One note that will give you a sense of Iris and her enthusiasm for life is her desire to eat the fresh and seasonal cuisine of the region that she is visiting. For a Newport menu, that would include inspiration from the Portugese and Native American cultures, with of course, local bounty from the sea. Kim Comfort, thank you for your good taste!
Lobster Salad on Potato Crisps
Littleneck Clam with Ginger-Mint Pesto atop a Corn Pancake
Grilled, Seasoned Cod Fish Patties served over a Charred Corn Salad with Heirloom Tomatoes and Basil
Yellow Pepper Soup with a pinch of Turmeric in Demitasse Cups
Seared Sea Scallops with a Saffron-Garlic Butter Sauce served over a Tangle of Swiss Chard and Seasoned rice
Let the party begin!
Flattering candlelight, good wines, inspired menu, laughter and stories…and convivial guests who each have a great affection for Iris.
Happy Birthday, Iris!
No surprise, Iris was fascinated with the bracelets, taking them with her when she departed for New York on Sunday.
Look for our next blog on Iris out and about in Newport as well as my one-on-one chat with her!
Featured Image Credit, Maaike Bernstrom Photography.