While the holidays may be about honoring traditions, there's joy to be found in creating new ones. For Jessica Holmes, co-anchor on KTLA Morning News, this meant becoming host of the new weekly show "California Cooking." Her 30-minute show, which debuted earlier this season, offers Holmes' take on West Coast cuisine. "The idea behind the show is to explore the diverse and flourishing culinary scene in the Los Aƒngeles region," she says, "showcasing some of the area's best restaurants and talking to the talented chefs behind them." This, in turn, inspired her idea to host a fall feast.
"Festive, elevated, and contemporary," was the goal in mind according to Leila Lewis. Holmes turned to Lewis (the founder and CEO of Be Inspired) and her team of creatives, for their specialization in publicity, events, and social media campaigns.
A Celebrated Estate
For such a feast, they searched for a home that hearkens back to simpler times. Enter the Lombardi House in the heart of Hollywood. Originally built in 1904, this modest one-and-a-half story shingle style residence was once owned by Philip and Sylvia Lombardi, a pair of retired Vaudevillian performers who moved west from New York City in the 1940s. There, they hosted famously fun parties for some of the biggest names in studio film and theater, as well as other members of the Hollywood elite. Today, it stands as a fully restored Victorian-style farmhouse. Nestled in a cove of fruit trees and gardens, this 7,000 square foot property carries on a great family tradition of great entertaining.
Setting the Scene
Inside, the stable and barn is refurbished with 35-foot vaulted ceilings—featuring the original wall paneling and a charming mix of modern light fixtures. To bring the vision of a "modern picnic" theme to life, the table was set with plaid black-and-white linens, woven chargers, gray stoneware dishes, smokey glassware, and gold-plated utensils. Green, pink, and white gourds were piled onto the table in an effortless centerpiece (and in lieu of traditional orange pumpkins) "so that it felt seasonal, but not cliche!"
A Moment of Thanks
As the guests arrived—16 people for an intimate dinner—they were seated at a long wooden table arranged with seasonal flowers, cozy tea lights emiting a welcoming glow, and a stationery suite courtesy of XOWYO Paper + Press: personalized name cards and a special invitation to take a moment (before the meal began) to write what they were thankful for. "It was important to us and the guests that the dishes were served family-style," Lewis says, "and each guest went around the table sharing what they were thankful that they had written down."
With dark, contemporary accents seen in the cutlery, napkins, and table runner, muted florals helped to soften the look: "We went with a more antique, feminine spin on the season with mauve, peach, blush and pale lavender," says Euri Wong, leader designer at Bloominous. "Much of the foliage we used was seasonal, but we also took advantage of preserved greenery to add warm honey tones that aren't typically available to us."
In each bouquet, Wong chose bright Ecuadorian and garden roses, dinner plate dahlias, carnations, and lisianthus then added textured thistles, herbs, cosmos, berries, and seeds to capture the essence of the season. "And just for fun," adds Wong, "We hit up our local farmers market and found black cherry tomatoes to incorporate along with the harvest of pumpkins, squashes and dried corn."
Let Us Feast
Then, it was time to dine, courtesy of a menu prepared by Colette's Catering. Everyone enjoyed helpings of caramelized butternut squash custard, sea salt pumpkin seeds, pan-roasted hearts of palm with bacon jam and garlic aioli, mixed greens with pomegranate seeds and a beet glaze, and sage sausage. Of course, no Friendsgiving would be complete without the bird: This one was a turkey galantine stuffed with duck confit and served with mushrooms and bacon fig jam. And to cheers? Glasses of Cabernet Sauvignon and California Sauvignon Blanc from ONEHOPE Wine's Vintner Collection.
4 Tips to Hosting Friendsgiving
Friendsgiving, while considered by some to be a more effortless Thanksgiving, calls upon most of the same must-follow etiquette. For your own feast, Lewis offers her snippets of wisdom:
Do allow your guests to contribute so everyone feels involved. "Whether it is bringing a family pie recipe or a bottle of wine, we want everyone to feel included."
Do try to create a festive and inviting atmosphere with your décor. "Just because it's Friendsgiving doesn't mean it has to be more casual than actual Thanksgiving!"
Don't forget to ask about special dietary requests. "If you have a guest that is vegan, make sure that you have a dish for her."
Don't invite too many people: "Although it is Friendsgiving, we do still want it to be intimate."