Summer is (sadly) about to begin its steady descent into fall—which means now is the time to start planning the rest of our late-August celebrations. To help us prep for easygoing entertaining, Oregon-based blogger and event stylist Sam Rosen is sharing her tips for planning summer soirées ahead of time. With florals from Stemm Floral, calligraphy by Kelsey Malie Calligraphy, a carefully curated menu by Suzannah Stanley and photography by Mary Boyden Photography, this creative collaboration is worthy of an extra-long linger. All the goodness is below!
Tell us about your love for entertaining and event styling. When did you first notice your creative side, and how have you honed your skills since?
I’ve always been the one to plan parties and get-togethers for friends—since high school, even. But I really started to notice my creative side when my best friend got engaged about five years ago. I was the maid of honor and hosted multiple showers for her. Seeing how happy she was with each event made me realize how much I love hosting and entertaining. I started collecting dishware, stemware, cutlery—all items I can mix and match. I’ve hosted or styled many events in other people’s homes or studios, and I can bring all those items with me. For me, it’s all about making people feel welcomed and loved.
Give us a tour of your summer dinner party! What was the inspiration behind it?
This dinner party captures our goal of having friends over for a dinner that focuses on the food and the company. There aren’t too many frilly or unnecessary décor details—just beautiful, useful items that highlight the uniqueness and beauty of real food served for friends! The goal was a bright, clean and organic aesthetic—for the tablescape and for the food. I wanted everything to be functional as well as beautiful. Recently I’ve been drawn to very neutral palates that contain pops of greenery. We’ve been having a very hot summer in Oregon, so these colors are cool and soothing to me.
What are your top three styling or party-planning tips for readers who are preparing to host their own seasonal celebrations?
Keep it simple—less is more right now. Use inspiration, but make it your own. Start preparations well in advance so you can enjoy the process without stressing out. And an extra tip: Envision the event from a photographer’s point of view. Don’t be afraid to move furniture around to create the best setting for photos.
What are your favorite spots in Portland, Oregon? Where do you always take out-of-town visitors who have never before experienced the area?
I could go on forever about my love for Portland. I even have a restaurant list divided by location because friends, family members and readers have asked me for suggestions on multiple occasions. My ultimate favorite area is Division Street; it has amazing restaurants—including the iconic Salt & Straw, Ava Gene’s, Roman Candle Baking Co., Pok Pok, Sen Yai Noodles, Stumptown Coffee and Good Coffee—and so many cute stores. I have a special place in my heart for historic houses, so I love to take guests to Pittock Mansion for a tour (and a great view of the city). Laurelhurst Park is a great place for a picnic in another awesome neighborhood. My favorite Saturday market is located on the Portland State University campus in the Park Blocks; it’s a great market in a beautiful setting.
What was your favorite element of this particular dinner party?
I have many. One of my favorites was the fact that I got to work on it with my friends. I met Suzannah when I first started blogging, and she became a friend through many Portland Bloggers meet-ups. I found Kelsey (who did the calligraphy) through other Portland blogger friends, and even though I’ve never met her in person, she feels like a friend! Stemm Floral is a mother-daughter team, and I went to high school with the daughter. I met Mary through Instagram—another social media friend. I love that Portland has such a strong community for creative people.
What do you love about the tablescape?
I love the beautiful floral arrangement—it’s organic and wild, yet it pulls the whole table together perfectly. I’m blown away by Kelsey’s stunning calligraphy. The plates and bowls are a few of my personal favorite touches. The plates were the first set of dishes my grandparents received as a wedding gift. My grandma just gifted them to me because she knows how much I love styling tablescapes. The wood bowls are handmade by my husband’s grandfather, a talented woodworker. We just received those from a family member who knew I would put them to good use. I love using props that have a story behind them—it adds to the richness of the event.
Do you think Portland caters well (pun intended!) to entertaining enthusiasts? What are some of your favorite local resources for food, beverages, party accessories and the like?
It does! Portland is a city full of creatives and artisans. I often pick up cheese, fruits, veggies and flowers at the farmers’ markets. We have a rich wine country; I love using local wines from Soter Vineyards, Cristom Vineyards, Evening Land Vineyards and so many more. Portland has amazing thrift shops housing one-of-a-kind props, too—my favorites are Maven Collective, Adored Vintage and Orn Hansen. Something Borrowed Portland Vintage Rentals and Commonwealth Vintage Rentals are great rental companies for unique items.
What’s on your party playlist?
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Fleet Foxes, Florence and the Machine. I just discovered the “Theory of Everything” soundtrack, and it’s amazing. After dinner, if we want something a little more energetic, we’ll play anything from the ’90s or early 00’s. Or today’s hits—especially Taylor Swift or Nick Jonas.
You worked with Suzannah Stanley to craft a menu that centered on local Pacific Northwest salmon. Tell us more!
Suzannah took the lead on the menu. This shoot was a celebration of local, seasonal, sustainably grown/caught foods fit to feed a crowd at a peaceful, low-stress dinner party. All the recipes work for a Paleo or real-food diet as well, so everyone—even friends with dietary restrictions—can enjoy them.
From Suzannah: “I was excited to try this high-quality, wild-caught Alaskan salmon from a local community-supported fishery (CSF) called Kenai Red Fish Company. Clint Benson of Kenai Red Fish Company lives in Portland but heads up to the Homer, Alaska area during the salmon season to sustainably harvest sockeye salmon. I’ve been buying community-supported agriculture (CSA) shares for several years now, and I love having a direct connection to my farmer and to high-quality, organic, local and sustainably grown produce—so the CSF model is the next step! The freshly-caught wild Alaskan salmon delivered to us here in Portland is so flavorful and nutrient-dense, and it supports responsible fishing. This was truly some of the best salmon I’ve ever tasted.”
Party planning can be overwhelming at times. How do you streamline the process so that, after conceptualizing and executing, you can actually enjoy the party you’re putting together?
Enjoying a party after weeks or months of preparation is often easier said than done! I work full time and I keep a busy schedule, so I’ve worked hard to streamline the process. I try to start preparations a week in advance. That gives me time to make sure I have everything I need. My mom taught me to set the table the night before. If I’m hosting a party in my home, I also make sure that all of my stemware, flatware and dishes are all clean and ready the day before. The next day I add the food, and then the table is ready for dinner.
I always try to ask a friend to be the photographer for the evening. Previously, photography was the last thing I’d think about—even though I blog and love photographing events for Instagram, I always get distracted when I’m hosting. But I made photography a priority, and now I can enjoy the evening and trust that I will have beautiful photos. I’ve also made flowers a priority so that I’m not scrambling at the last minute to pick up a beautiful arrangement. I either work with a local florist or pick up loose flowers at the grocery store. I do all the shopping a few days in advance so I can prep the food and flowers and chill the wine and Champagne well in advance. This gives me time to pick out my outfit and get last-minute photos of everything before people arrive. Then I grab a glass of Champagne and greet guests!
Check back tomorrow for all four recipes from this summer dinner party!
Styling by Sam Rosen
Calligraphy by Kelsey Malie Calligraphy
Recipes, food and home of Suzannah Stanley
Florals by Stemm Floral
Photography by Mary Boyden Photography