DEPARTURES recently toasted American style maven Aerin Lauder at the EMP Summer House in East Hampton for an afternoon that was equal parts surfside cuisine and insider entertaining tips, with a dash of competitive table tennis.
While the crowds lined up to be seated at the pop-up eatery from Manhattan’s iconic Eleven Madison Park—created especially for American Express Card Members—a more intimate, invite-only group was treated to a “Style Lunch” that included inventive cocktails, a special menu, and tablescapes using products from a collaboration between Williams-Sonoma and Lauder’s namesake lifestyle brand, Aerin.
After a peach cobbler dessert, we held a chat and Q&A between Lauder and our Home + Design editor Dan Rubinstein. The talk centered around Lauder’s memories in the Hamptons, where she spent her childhood looking up to her grandmother, the American beauty and business legend Estée Lauder, particularly in the realms of decor and entertaining.
“Something I learned from her was that everything you do has to be authentic,” Lauder, who creates three home collections each year, said. “It has to be a reflection of you.”
The talk became a master class on entertaining. Here, Lauder’s five foundations for being the perfect host:
It starts with the list.
“I love bringing together friends and family of all ages for dinner parties. My grandmother taught me to make sure guests are comfortable by always including an element of surprise, like serving gourmet potato chips or Swedish Fish in beautiful decorative bowls. It’s an elegant, unexpected type of detail that every guest loves.”
Always be prepared.
“Guests know when you’re stressed or worried. Entertaining should feel effortless, so you as a host can also enjoy the party. Even if everything is not perfect, the most important thing is that guests feel welcome and have fun.”
Add personal touches.
“I always keep the table setting simple and casually elegant. And I love to incorporate a little something for each guest into the place setting—a personalized handwritten note or small gift are always great takeaways.”
Remember the power of fragrance.
“The smell of fresh-cut flowers is something guests remember, and it helps to bring life to any space. I display them on a side table near the entrance for a great first impression and then around the rooms where I’ll be hosting. Keep in mind the height of arrangements at the dinner table—you don’t want them to distract from conversation, so make sure to keep them below chin level.”
Pair casual food with the right design.
“I love serving classic comfort food. In the summer, I grill or serve seafood paella, for example. And a beautiful serving tray is essential—it helps create a gorgeous table display and doubles as a portable bar. The Aerin Classic Shagreen Serving Tray is the perfect size for some spirits, snacks, and glassware and can follow you and your guest from room to room.”
By Invitation Only® is a benefit that gives Platinum Card® Members access to extraordinary experiences - from sports, fashion, and fine dining to entertainment and performing arts. These unique experiences are customized for Platinum Card Members and are typically not available to the general public. For information and reservations, call 1-800-321-RSVP (7787), 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. EST. For a listing of upcoming events, visit www.americanexpress.com/byinvitationonly.