Dinner For Eight, Late?

Drinks poolside? A brunch for 40? Two pros tell all, including how to get the best bartenders in town and order up stone crabs from Miami.

When Elizabeth Harrison and Lara Shriftman decided to write a book on putting together the perfect party, they didn't mess around. Fête Accompli! The Ultimate Guide to Creative Entertaining, published this month by Clarkson Potter, is no genteel little guide on what to wear and how to set the table. Rather, it's a compendium of the insider sources, smart advice, and knowing anecdotes that these two have accumulated over the nine years they've been organizing events and planning strategic marketing for high-profile clients like Oscar de la Renta and Mercedes-Benz. As anyone who's gotten the nod for one of their "special events" knows, Harrison and Shriftman throw the best parties in town. In Fête Accompli, they have included actual "case studies" and various scenarios for every occasion—duplicate them entirely or pick and choose what you like—with tips from the likes of David Bouley (what to serve), Michael Kors (what not to do), and Duran Duran's John Taylor (what music to play).

"It only takes one fabulous thing to make your guests feel great," says Shriftman. "Fly crabs in from Joe's Stone Crab in Miami. Make one special drink. In the end, people remember those kinds of things more than calligraphed place cards." Not that place cards (see Chapter 3) aren't important, mind you.

An impromptu gathering, for example, may strike fear in some, but it's all in a day's work for Harrison and Shriftman. Take the weekend when Shriftman was asked to host a last-minute party in L.A. for Chris Heinz, stepson of presidential candidate John Kerry. Within an hour, she had ordered wraps from her local takeout, set the table with her favorite Frette napkins, made a pitcher of apple martinis, and put in a call to the Beverly Hills Hotel. "They made the most fabulous chocolate-coconut cupcakes for me," she says. Who knew it could be that simple?


FETE ACCOMPLI: A FEW BASIC ELEMENTS OF STYLE

Lara Shriftman, who shuttles between offices in New York, Miami, and Los Angeles, suggests how to get things started at home. Here, everything and everyone you ever needed to know before your next soiree.

Invitations
I use Robin Maguire for invites and place cards for casual parties (from $10; www.robinmaguire.com) and Paperwhite Studio's handmade invitations for something more formal (from $1,000; 207-892-7815; www.paperwhitestudio.com). For calligraphy, Bernard Maisner does elaborately embellished "full-page" custom lettering, which covers almost the entire surface of the envelope ($ from $2,000; 212-477-6766; www.bernardmaisner.com). Stephannie Barba, another calligrapher extraordinaire, creates fun custom stationery—I use it for thank-you notes ($ from $400; 415-437-6001). If you want to go the custom route and design your own, Alpine Creative Group does all the Harrison & Shriftman invitations (212-989-4198).

Flowers and Music
I swear by Eric Buterbaugh in L.A. for modern arrangements that are never fussy (and for his custom-wrapped vases, which I keep long after the flowers are gone). For a small dinner, he did white phalaenopsis orchids ($150; 310-247-7120) and a Lucite tray filled with thick Polish-glass votives ($495). If I want to fill a room with orchids, the simple white potted variety from 1-800-FLOWERS—trust me—work very well ($45). For music, I've been using my iPod with mixes by the likes of Stéphane Pompougnac at Hôtel Costes (www.plaza101.com) or anything produced by Daniel Lanois (www.daniellanois.com). For big events, we hire DJs like Samantha Ronson ($ 917-415-2887) or Jonathan Shriftman (yes, that's my little brother!; $ 917-687-9753).

Around the Table
My latest furniture obsession is Jonathan Adler. He makes attractive—and very comfortable—Chippendale chairs ($ $695; 877-287-1910) and Louis XVI chairs ($895). Hermès Rythme porcelain ($250 per setting; 800-238-5522) and Onde flatware ($300 per setting) looks great with my Ralph Lauren Heydon place-card holders ($35 for four; www.rlhome.polo.com) and Crate & Barrel Adrienne wineglasses ($8; 800-967-6696). For rentals, I trust Abbey Event Services for furniture, ballroom chairs, plates, and silverware (323-201-4200; www.abbeyeventservices.com). Art & Industrial Design loans iconic furniture—Florence Knoll lounges; chairs from Charles and Ray Eames, Verner Panton, and Arne Jacobsen ($ www.aid20c.com).

Food and Drink
No matter where the party is, I rely on Barton G in Miami (305-576-8888) and Olivier Cheng in New York ($ 212-625-3151) for serious catering. There is always a bartender from New York's Model Bartenders (212-499-0886; www.modelbartenders.com) or Beautiful Bartenders in L.A. ($ 310-600-1077; www.beautifulbartenders.com) serving Chandon-spiked sangria or Türi vodka in my Petrossian shot glasses. For the Heinz party, I added apple martinis made from Rose's Cocktail Infusion (www.rosesinfusions.com) and put out bowls of Popcorn Factory white-cheddar (800-541-2676; www.popcornfactory.com). Dessert? Home Sweet Home and Just Because cookies from Cookies by Design (800-945-2665). And they'll ship anywhere!

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