Home entertaining reaches a crescendo at this time of year, and the strain of being a host-cook-bartender-decorator can cause diminuendo for even the most stalwart of Martha Stewart acolytes. We at Design New England are no exceptions. When we thought about a small gathering for our staff and associates to celebrate this, our eighth anniversary issue, we liked the hosting
part, and the inviting part, and the celebrating part, but the rest of it boggled our collective mind. Time to call in the pros.
Enter Abby Ruettgers, intrepid proprietress of Farm & Fable, the cookbook and
kitchenware shop she opened a year ago in Boston’s South End. Organically, the little corner store with the well-edited collections of new and vintage cookbooks and
kitchenware evolved into a popular party venue, bridging the gap between cozy living
room and un-homey hotel or restaurant setting.
In the beginning, Ruettgers held cooking demonstrations with local chefs in her
shop’s professional kitchen. Soon she was being asked to hold private, customized
events such as dinner parties, bridal showers, and birthday celebrations. It seemed a
natural transition for the former corporate lawyer and Boston restaurant alum, who
on a moment’s notice can muster a posse of talented party-throwing associates. “I
find the caterer, the florist, and someone to do the cocktails,” she says. “I host behind
the scenes,” leaving her clients as the face of the fete. “The party reflects what they
are interested in and envision.”
We wanted a simple but memorable party that suited the festive season but wasn’t
geared to the holidays, and we wanted light bites that would have our foodie friends
raving and a signature cocktail they’d want to repeat at their own holiday gatherings.
“I particularly like to work with local young people who bring something different to
the table,” says Ruettgers. She rallied Ben Elliott of Saltbox Farm in Concord, Mas-
sachusetts, to provide the food, Krissy Price of Pollen Floral Design in Boston to cre-
ate floral arrangements, and Andrew Fatato of Boston’s Flask & Funnel to tend the
bar and come up with a fabulous cocktail. “I wanted the party to be fresh and festive
and feature the best of New England,” Ruettgers says. “I asked Ben to cater because
he would produce a seasonal menu with produce and ingredients grown on his farm.
Andrew would give a unique take on a classic cocktail. Krissy was onboard with flo-
ral arrangements that had the feel of the New England holiday season but were excit-
ingly different. As a team, we derived a total vision for the party.”
Floral designer Price fashioned a long eucalyptus garland that draped over both
Abby Ruettgers: Day-of-party musts
plan like a chef. Chefs begin each day with a
detailed food preparation list. Do the same thing for
parties. Work backward from the time the guests will
arrive and make a list of all the tasks that need to get
done and how long it will take to accomplish them.
light candles. Everyone looks 10 years younger,
10 pounds thinner, and 10 times sexier in candlelight.
take a break. Fifteen minutes before guests arrive,
take a “hostess break,” Ruettgers says. “I sit down,
look around the beautiful room I’ve spent the day
decorating and filling with food, and take a moment
to appreciate all the hard work I’ve done. It puts me
in the right frame of mind to welcome my guests.”
Krissy Price: Fresh accents
build a garland. Slightly staggering as you go, lay
one piece of greenery (eucalyptus or piney
evergreens work well) on top of another. Using a long
piece of wire, secure the stems together, keeping the
leaves free. Don’t cut the wire. Add another stem and
wrap the wire around all three stems. Continue
layering and wrapping, adding length to the garland
with each new piece, until you achieve the desired
size. For a table (or mantel or other long space),
make two garlands and lay them in opposite
directions, with the finished end in the center. This
allows you to tuck the cut stems under each other in
the middle and let the free ends drape off the edges.
branch out. For easy rustic holiday decor, arrange
simple branches in a narrow-mouthed vase. If you
want to jazz it up a bit, spray-paint them metallic or
hang a few little ornaments from them.