RVA Fashion Week – Glam that Gives Back

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As the city lights twinkled below us, we were on top of the world for RVA Fashion Week. City Hall’s Observation Deck was packed with Richmond’s fashion luminaries, models and chic vendors. Before the show we sipped Belle Isle Moonshine cocktails and perused the tables, laden with handmade jewelry, men’s ties repurposed from vintage clothing and more.

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KIKA MUFFS – upscale muffs. IG: @kikamuffs

The show itself was modern, with street style and high-end sportswear (which people have dubbed the “new street style”). It was also modern in its diversity, with models of all shapes, sizes and color, taking style from the esoteric to the accessible. India Laposh was a standout, as was Destiny Howard.

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RVA Fashion Week joined forces with Neighborhood Housing Services of Richmond, Inc., whom have launched the initiative “Create a Home for Our Heroes.” This initiative provides temporary housing for homeless and disabled veterans as they transition back to civilian life. NSHR also rehabilitates blighted buildings for veterans, which beautifies the city and improves neighborhoods, doubling down on the positive effects.

Liberatus Jewelry (pictured above) features versatile, one-of-a-kind pieces by Ginny Crane. John Crutchfield, the psychedelic rockabilly artist was holding court with his brass and fiberglass pieces, inspired by pop culture and art deco. His creations can be found at Artemis GalleryMarla Rene was on site, allowing guests to sample her luxurious skin care line.

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Happy Haven provided gorgeous hand-beaded pieces, leather cuffs and statement accessories. Miranda Classic Ties brought preppy chic to the event, with ties and accessories meant for the modern Southern gentleman, and accessories for the ladies too. Always ahead of the curve, they repurposed vintage textiles and clothes for these stand-out pieces. Nina Zabal (pictured below) featured avant garde geometric pieces reminiscent of Catherine O’Hara in Beetlejuice.

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In all, it was a night that inspired. I was inspired to take fashion risks, dig deeper into some of the arts and culture I was exposed to, and it inspired me to give back to this wonderful city, just like RVA Fashion Week did.

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John teal Crutchfield

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An Autumn-Themed Baby Shower

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I heard that being pregnant in the summer is like wearing a wool sweater in hell. When we were finally graced with cool air, I threw my friend Carla an autumn-themed baby shower.

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Like many parents of second children, she didn’t want her party to be a big to-do. I kept it simple. Like any good shower, I made it short, served ample food and kept the booze flowing!

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I used harvest classics for decor, such as scarecrows, pumpkins and gourds. An earthy sari was used as a tablecloth, with brown and orange paisley.

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As mentioned in a previous post, people love to play with their food, so we had a waffle station. The waffle flavor? Pumpkin spice, of course! I also made truffle-roasted acorn squash, to keep it seasonal. I still added classics, such as fresh fruit, French press coffee, and in a fun twist, I made cheesy Eggs Florentine cups using muffin tins. My husband Robert, an avid curer and smoker of meats, passed around samples of his homemade bacon, accented with a hint of Chinese Five Spice.

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Whenever throwing a party where kids can tag along, it’s best to keep them engaged and independent from their parents. Adults deserve to kick back a bit. I laid out picnic blankets in the yard for them to dine on, along with a plethora of outdoor activities, such as a ball pit, tents and a slide. Those with pets must be sure to scoop up any droppings first!

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People seem to be split into two camps regarding games, but I shamelessly love them. I did a music trivia game, with all songs having the word “baby” or “girl” in the title. Ice Ice Baby and Baby Got Back were crowd-pleasers, especially with the children. Their ears perked up when they heard, “I like big butts and I cannot lie,” and we didn’t hear the end of it. Trivia winners scored limited-edition OPI nail polish and could choose their favorite colors. We also had a Hey Girl Hey photo booth.

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Instead of cake, I made a pyramid of Rice Krispies Balls, dipped into melted white chocolate that was dyed pink. Guests even took home wrapped packages of these as a party favor.

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Carla deserved to kick back and cool off, and this party did just that.
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Richmond Tastemaker Spices Up Church Hill (the puns stay)

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The grand opening of the Green Kitchen felt not like a promotional event, with food samples and stiff greetings. This was a full-blown housewarming party, with a delicious spread and guests were welcome to roam the halls.

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Chef Tammy Brawley made the space feel like home. While the hi-tech kitchen is industrial, the overall feeling is warm. A luscious living wall greets you as you walk in, like a shot of oxygen. A fully set dinner table sits by large windows. Fresh flowers are everywhere. An old stone fireplace sits in the front room, oversized and very Brothers Grimm. To my delight, it’s fully functional.

img_8682.jpgI can speak first hand on Brawley’s mastery in the kitchen, and am happy to report she isn’t solely limited to catering. She’ll be throwing cooking instruction parties, working as a personal chef and, perhaps the most exciting to me, meal prep.IMG_8676Richmond is booming, and busy professionals and families don’t want to sacrifice health for convenience. In fact, many trends point to the fact that fast food is dying. Fading are the days that Mom piled everyone into the station wagon for Roy Rogers. Brawley is creating healthy, gourmet meals for Richmonders to enjoy at home. And unlike mail-order meals, there’s no prep or messy clean-up in the kitchen.IMG_8680Adding cache to the already-chic Church Hill, The Green Kitchen will be a bright spot for the 25th Street corridor and a beacon of taste in Richmond. IMG_8690img_8687.jpgIMG_8678IMG_8681IMG_8691

 

White Hot in RVA: Diner en Blanc 2018

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Some parties are fun, some are even wild. But it’s a rare party that can pull off magical.

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Diner en Blanc in RVA this year was preternaturally beautiful, right down to the breeze that swept the humidity out of the city. Richmond was graced with cool air for the first time in weeks. With the haze gone and stars twinkling above, we carried on the tradition that  began in Paris in 1988. François Pasquier had invited some friends to an elegant outdoor dinner at Bois de Boulogne, and asked them to dress in white so they could find one another. Diner en Blanc is now being hosted in 70 cities around the world, including Richmond.

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The event is held in a top secret location, which isn’t revealed until the day of. I was invited by hosts Christine Wansleben, star chef and owner of Mise En Place and Top 40 Under 40 media maven Enjoli Moon. Ayana Obika was also a host, and has plenty of experience throwing large-scale bashes as owner of Gratitude Rising Events. That night, 1,200 revelers marched in, carrying gorgeous displays for their own dinner set-up. There were strung LED lights, Eiffel towers and billowing bunches of white flowers. Upon entering, guests were greeted by dancer/aerial artists from SOUL Aerial and Performing Arts.

Chloe Wines sponsored the event, and their sparkling Prosecco poured all night. There was even an ice luge sculpture, for those who wanted their bubbles extra chilled. The media lounge featured a delicious spread by Croaker’s Spot and Elegant Cuizines, serving classic summer picnic foods. There was crab salad served in crab shells, fried chicken, cornbread, potato salad, kale salad and bread pudding laced with Maraschino cherries.

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The chic lounge area was decorated by Quirk Hotel, with romantic floral arrangements and glassware. Handmade Eiffel Tower cookies graced the tables, made by Melissa’s Simply Sweet. They were almost too beautiful to eat, but they tasted even better than they looked!

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There was a tres French accordion musician playing Le Mer and other Gallic classics as people assembled their stations. One the set-up was complete, diners waved their napkins in the air so they could commence their meal en masse. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts made a noteworthy appearance with their very own Napoleon. True to form, when he announced it was time to eat, he shouted commands in French. But there was one phrase everyone understood: Bon Appetit!

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Dinner was followed by a live band, and a glow-in-the-dark ensemble of performers, including hula hoopers, jugglers and electric fairies. One highlight was when everyone was asked to light their sparklers. Within seconds the entire place was aglow, a sea of smiling, well-fed faces. New relationships were forged, recipes shared. The event hosts certainly took this event to the next level. Francois Pasquier would have been proud.

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With Quiana Davis, Diner en Blanc volunteer

 

The Portable Pool Party

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Rule number one: A portable pool party cannot be a success if the actual pool is portable. That would be one sad party.

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My friend Flor, a scientist / party girl from Argentina, was having a daughter. But she didn’t want a frilly, pink celebration over it.  She said she wanted to get out of town, just for a day. She loves to swim and tan under the sun, so I threw a portable pool party.

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Luckily our friend had a time share just an hour outside town, with a luxury pool, (indoor and outdoor), lazy river and hot tubs.

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When doing a day trip, always stop for brunch along the way. It’s a fortifying luxury and will allow your party to snack on lighter dishes from the cooler all day.

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Then, bring all the accoutrements that any girl would enjoy by the pool. I brought magazines, nail kits, a deck of cards. I made sure to stock up on sunscreen and bug spray for the girls.

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Under the hot sun, it’s refreshing to eat light food, such as cold cucumber slices dusted with chile y limon. There was heirloom cantaloupe, sliced cheese, truffle potato chips, and guajillo chile porch chop and arugula sandwiches. For dessert there were coconut biscuits and Belgian chocolates. I snuck in spiked strawberry lemonade for the girls, and a Tom Collins for Flor.

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Even with SPF 50, we all started the season with a deep base tan and plenty of Vitamin D. We sipped cocktails in the shallow end, dozed off in the lazy river, and laughed all day. It was a baby shower that didn’t just pamper the mom-to-be, but felt like a reward to everyone who came.

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extravagant mother’s day brunch takes the crepe

Mother’s Day is a holiday that touches everyone. Whether you have a mother or lost one, you are a mother or admire one, it’s thoughtful to set aside time to nurture a nurturer.

That’s what stylist Kristy Kostyniuk did when she and her friends Jennifer Miller and Rose Steed hosted a Mother’s Day Brunch that included not just their mothers, but a curated catch-all. Friends who were far from their mothers, lost a mother, and friends who happen to be moms happily accepted invitations.

crepes, waiting to fulfill their destiny

The ladies spent hours pouring batches of buttery, paper thin crepes. The elaborate spread featured sweet and savory options. There were small-batch jams from local farms, sliced fruit, Nutella, dark chocolate and homemade whipped cream.

Before brunch began, there was a very European spread of croissants, rugalas and scones, all displayed on vintage trays and eye-catching textiles.  Baby pink peonies and fuchsia daisies were everywhere.

On the savory side there were eggs, cheeses, bacon, cured meats, potatoes and more. We lounged and sipped mimosas, swapped stories and repeatedly excused ourselves with a, “Just one more crepe.”

When we couldn’t fit in another bite, the overlapping conversations made their way to the backyard. We sunned ourselves and watched the children dart around  chasing butterflies. Their faces were stained and hands sticky from popsicles. It was an afternoon of leisure and guilty pleasures. As if being a mom weren’t a gift enough.

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The gracious host, Kristy Kostyniuk and her mother

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sweet as pie

Cotton Candy Party!

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For hosts obsessed with themed parties, kid birthdays are an excuse to go over the top. This year Hamilton asked for a cotton candy party.

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To save my house from destruction, I opted for a party in a local playground, and under a patio roof in case of inclement weather.

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For decor, I pulled stuffing from retired outdoor cushions. I wound it into big oval puffs and glue-gunned them into place. I then spray painted them in blue and yellow swirls. You can also dip the stuffing into dyed water to change the color. Once dry, you glue gun cones to the bottom, and paint swirls on for effect. Then, burrow your finger through each puff to draw yarn through and string up!

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Instead of renting,  I bought a mini cotton candy machine – pink and vintage carnival style. Modest in size, we only used it to make on-site cotton candy. So I wouldn’t be preoccupied with making goody bags instead of socializing, I bought pre-packaged party favors from Rainbow Cotton Candy – with a personalized message on them!

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For kids getting antsy in line at the cotton candy machine, we laid out a colorful display on silver platters. We even served cotton candy soda! And so we could even out the inevitable sugar rush, we laid out healthier options, like crudites and sliced oranges. For anyone hungry for a meal, we offered an easy classic: pizza.

As us parents watched the kids burn off energy on the playground, we sat in the shade sipping La Croix, listening to a custom soundtrack I whipped up, and caught up over pizza. The day turned out as sweet as its theme.

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The Night Princess Di’s Chef Cooked Me Dinner

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Now when I hear people say they’ve had a meal fit for a king, I know that I win because I did, literally. Chef Darren McGrady has cooked for Queen Elizabeth and the Royal family. But most notably, he became the personal chef for Princess Di, and her sons William and Harry.

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He was in her employ on the night she died, and decided to move to America after the tragedy. In the states, he’s been a star chef, writing cookbooks and making appearances. Luckily he came to Richmond this week. I was honored to be a part of an intimate dinner for 20. Before we ate, he charmed us with a food demonstration peppered with royal gossip and funny anecdotes. The talented Catt Levesque snapped these photos while we indulged, and is credited with every amazing photo here.

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In the elegant and newly-renovated Mise En Place, he served recipes from his new cookbook The Royal Chef at Home.  We enjoyed a tangy kale quinoa salad with blueberries. There were Stilton and preserved fig canapes, served with fresh grapes. Fiery shrimp and grits, oozing with cheese. To top it off, a buttery bread pudding that’s so exquisite, my words would do it no justice.

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We ate like royalty, and he made us feel like royalty. This night was one for the books.

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Smoke on the Water

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Blade and Bow served smooth bourbon

It’s not often that I write about food and have no photos to show for it. But I was in the thick of it, eating ribs and overstuffed sliders. I was all sticky fingers.

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Even the chestnuts roasted on an open fire

 

Fire, Flour & Fork  returns to Richmond this week, and the series of (almost 40!)  food events include dinners, cooking demonstrations and plenty of booze. The theme this year? Globally Inspired, Locally Made. To kick off the end of a long work week, we attended Smoke on the Water, a Global Barbecue.

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Fall foliage on the James

From Jamaican jerk to lamb sliders, Vietnamese banh mi to low country ribs,  smoke filled the air as chefs served their own version of BBQ. Fall foliage lined the James River beside us, and a full moon rose over the skyline. Live music played as we sipped Belle Isle honey habanero moonshine to wash down the goodness. Thanks to The Virginia Beef Industry Council and other sponsors, this event was outstanding. Perhaps too outstanding, because ZERO food photos.

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oysters and vegetarian options made it an event for all

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Paisley and Jade warmed up the space

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Full bellies, full moon

a cue from the nora ephron playbook

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Nora Ephron was  more than a brilliant screenwriter and author. She was a legendary hostess. She was witty, and a ninja in the kitchen.

In fact, countless websites have posts dedicated to her quotes about food and entertaining. But she’s too funny for me to be satisfied with the Internet’s CliffsNotes. I’ve read every book cover to cover, and came away with some serious wisdom. One memorable dinner party tip: people love to play with their food.

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guests under our pergola, loaded with concord grapes

Whether it’s a mashed potato bar with all the fixings or a Bloody Mary bar with an endless array of hot sauces and pickled veggies, people like to play, build, switch things up.

Since Vietnamese is my one of my favorite cuisines, I decided to host a dinner party where guests could build their own bun cha bowl. Like Chipotle but tastier, and you have total control. We were celebrating the return of The Langes, who got hitched in our own backyard but moved to San Francisco soon after. It was a mini reunion with many of their attorney friends, and members of The Order of the Cincinnati Society, whom meet at our home every Wednesday night.

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When serving food others may find exotic, help them out with a little sign

Scented candles were lit, Chet Baker played on the stereo and after dinner, guests were treated to an array of Asian desserts. Everything from Pocky to coconut rolls. And here’s a tip: guests will feel luxuriously catered to if you pass around a tray with multiple options. The smile on their face when it’s their time to be served is worth a little heavy lifting.

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Hamilton going for the orange creme cookie

It’s my hope that this hospitality will bring The Langes back again as houseguests, and soon!

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on the outside looking in