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The Mid-Range Party: Strings Attached


How the Experts Would Set Up the Party
String art, roast duck, and lots of Eartha Kitt for mood.

From left: David Stark, the before shot, and chef David Burke.  

The Décor

David Stark, event designer

The problem with the room was that, while they have a lot of interesting things, the way it’s put together doesn’t add up to a cohesive look. A lot of it has to do with scale; there are a lot of things that are smallish and interesting on close examination. We needed bigger elements to give those a backdrop. The apartment’s not set up for entertaining; there’s a small round table that seats four, two Barcelona chairs, and a Barcelona daybed. It needs a table (six-foot table, Party Rental Ltd.; 201-727-4700) to give it focus.

I found the string-wrapped holiday lights at Pearl River Mart (212-431-4770), and it inspired me to do different things with the string-art form; I thought that idea could be developed for the vases, candlesticks, and napkin rings—even the screen and the lighting fixture and the plates. It’s a classic seventies art form, but it’s become fresh today. I used black, white, and green thread—some of it was from the 99-cent store, some was embroidery thread from the garment district (Daytona Trimming; 212-354-1713).

The screen (made of three doors from the Home Depot; 212-929-9571) hid a lot of visual noise and an unsightly air conditioner. Then the fireplace could become the architectural focus of the room.

New Yorkers are tight on space, so you can have holiday presents do double duty if you wrap them in coordinated hues. Pile them up on countertops and in the fireplace, and it’s the most festive thing in the house. I picked the candlesticks (Crate & Barrel; 212-308-0011) because of the shape of the glass, and winding them with string echoed the ball-shaped lighting fixture. The black tapered candles (Gracious Home; 212-517-6300) felt graphic and modern. The black plates were Eric’s, and they were a perfect showcase for the ostrich eggs; the table really worked in concert with the food.

The flowers were inspired by Todd’s love of flower arranging. A lot of times when people think about flowers, they go right for blossoms, but here the blackberries felt very graphic, and tied in with the caviar and the black chairs. We had white hemstitched napkins put in a roll, which was something to lean the place cards against, and we did seventies string art on those, too.

TOTAL COST . . . $905

The Food

David Burke, chef of davidburke & donatella

I like dishes that make people talk, that are eye-catching. Scrambled eggs are easy to do, and with the lobster and caviar, it’s festive and a nice conversation starter. You get some sweetness from the lobster, saltiness from the caviar, and with the rich eggs and cream, it’s wow, especially from a small kitchen.

I wanted to do one Asian-inspired dish for them. The tuna is a cold course, so you just have to assemble it; you’re not stuck in the kitchen. If you don’t want to use a salt brick, just put the slices of tuna over a piece of marble or on a plate. Traditionally you’d put a mignonette with oysters, but this one, with nori and Muscat vinegar, gives a depth of flavor and an Asian feeling.

Duck isn’t an everyday meal, and I thought we’d serve them on a platter like in France or England, where they present the bird. Leaving the head and feet on shows they’re fresh-killed. We brined them for two days to help with the color and crisp it up. Braised Swiss chard is a little different from spinach, and green beans would have been boring.

We stayed with something fruity for dessert, because Todd likes fruit. Kir Royale is a celebration; you’d pour some champagne with it. And you can make it a day ahead.

TOTAL COST . . . $407.37

The Music

Eartha Kitt, chanteuse

Party music should be relaxed, so that people don’t go crazy; easy music that will allow you to have a conversation, without having to scream. “Santa Baby” is one of my standards, and it seemed appropriate for these two, as I am the same age as Eric’s grandmother. “I Love Men”: it’s an old-fashioned song, and I certainly love men. “C’mon a My House,” which I sang in Japanese, is a great party song, especially for Eric since he’s spent time in Japan. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”—they don’t write songs this romantic anymore. Madame Butterfly and Aida: Maria Callas brings great drama. Anything by Nat “King” Cole; he was a wonderful interpreter with a wonderful gentle voice. “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm,” because that’s what we all want, someone we can love and trust. “I Wanna Be Evil”: It’s a lot of fun to play; no event would be right without it.

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