Everyone wants to know how to throw a fabulous party. We asked Dallas’ top caterers for tips- from flowers to food-on making your party the talk of the town.

THROWING AGREAT PARTY is like writing the Great American Novel. It takes gumption and planning. It takes imagination to create something unique enough to keep everyone interested, yet not so strange as to become fodder for gossip. It takes just the right mix of characters, and it takes good help.

To get you started on the Great American Party, we created the ultimate guide. At least here in Dallas.

Let’s start with trends. Themes are out. Unless it’s a big corporate event, most of those in the party know-agree that it’s better to stick with the basics and add a touch of theme here and there.

Canapés are in. While hosts and hostesses are still having sit-down dinners and buffets, caterers say they are seeing more passed canapés at parties this year than last. This is not only less expensive than a sit-down party, but your guests are also free to mingle. And they get to try eight or nine delectable dishes instead of three.

What about food? Ethnic is hot-Indian. Cuban, Greek, Spanish, and Moroccan. Pacific Rim is huge, bringing with it all sorts of fish, coconut, and tropical fruit. Almost every local chef is fusing something East with something West, (Gourmet Dallas even does a Texas sushi roll featuring a piece of fried chicken.)

But while the chicken satay may come and go, Dallasites never stray far from the boot-scootin’ party scene, “For a while, people got away from the Texas theme,” says John Gilbert, vice president of operations at Eddie Deen Catering, the folks George W. calls when he’s throwing a barbeque. “Now a lot of them are going to back to partying like Texans–beer, boots, and Stetsons.”

Comfort food is also making a comeback-upscale. Good old Southern cooking has left Momma’s kitchen and now travels in the vans of Dallas’ high-end caterers. We’re talking pesto and olive-rubbed meatloaf with sun-dried tomato mashed potatoes, created by the chefs at Spice of Life Catering.

And hostesses are asking caterers to bring on the beef. High-end party planners report that Dallas1 big-deal menus are rilled with wild game. Andrea Hagar and Shelley Barsotti, owners of The Food Company, started their catering company in the mid-’80s, during what Hagar calls “the chicken era.” With a booming economy. Dallas residents are now giving in to their carnivorous cravings.

“People are eating more meat,” Hagar says. “They’re looking at parlies as a chance to show their guests a good time. You don’t have to eat this way every day. but let’s celebrate.”

And speaking of celebrating, meet Jan Miller. The Highland Park literary agent is known nationwide as one of the toughest contract negotiators in the business. In Dallas she and her husband, Jeff Rich. are known for their great parties.

Miller hosts a party at her house two, often three, times a month. And we don’t mean wine and cheese with a little Enya in the background. We mean magicians flown in from California and table décor with more attention to detail than an architect gives to his blueprints (a summer soup, for example, served in terra cotta flower pots with bees painted on them for a June party). “I like to do things in a pretty glamorous way,” she says. This winter, she’s planning a Truman Capote dinner with nothing but caviar and champagne.

For much of this party success, she credits her caterer. George Brown, to whom she has remained monogamous for the past two years. (“If he’s not available. I change the date.”)

In a day when time itself seems a most illusive commodity. Miller finds people are. indeed, taking the time to throw parties reminis-cent of a world without faxes, web sites, and cell phones. “It would be hard for me to list 10 restaurants in Dallas that we frequent,” she says. “But there are so many wonderful ways to entertain, and I think doing things in your home is very important.”

And so the story of how to plan your perfect party begins.

The Table of Contents

ANY BRILLIANT PRO1ECT BEGINS WITH A OUTLINE, SO YOU shouldn’t have a party without a detailed agenda. Start with the idea to invite people to your home. From there, let your imagination wander.

What kind of party are you in the mood for’? Do you want family and friends to gather around the fireplace for hot chocolate and bread pudding before you go caroling? Or are you thinking more along the lines of crème brulée and your favorite little black dress?

Create the guest list based on the size of the party and the potential for riveting conversation. Then think entertainment (piano, harp, DJ. or Uncle Harold?) and rentals (do you have enough silver, tables, and the right linens?).

The most important rule for a successful party is to hire someone to help. Even if your get-together is just a neighborhood pot luck, have at least one person to tend bar and clean up. Remember that when the hostess has a good time, so do the guests. If your soiree exceeds 20, don’t cul costs by relying on a friend to tend bar; hire a bartender. “The only way you can enjoy your party is to have at least one service person,” says Jim Lee, owner of Gourmet Dallas, “’Many people are reluctant to do that and they don’t enjoy their party.”

Then there are the flowers, the valets- if necessary-and that all-important question that could make all these other decisions a piece of chocolate mousse cake: Should you hire a caterer?

If you are hiring outside help, book a month in advance, two months during the holidays. If you plan to handle the party yourself, keep it simple.

“Don’t let somebody talk you into an idea,” advises Wendy Krispin of Wendy Krispin Caterer. “If you can handle great margaritas and salsa, do that. Just do what you can do and do it really well.”

Whether a caterer is handling the arrangements or you are. lists are one of the most important facets of a party.

“The key is 80 percent planning.” says Gilbert of Eddie Deen’s Catering, “and 20 percent execution.”

The Preface

What goes on in the days and weeks before the doorbell rings on that Saturday night will determine whether your party is a bestseller or ends up on the sale rack at Half Price Books. If you’ve decided to hire a caterer, consider these tips:

Make sure the caterer has a license, a legal kitchen with a food permit from the city, adequate liability insurance ($2 million), liquor liability insurance, and workmen’s compensatio

A caterer who quotes a higher price per person may be using better products. You can’t necessarily compare apple pies to apple pies because one caterer may be using Granny Smith while the other is using something from a can. Ask whether the beef tenderloins are choice, select, or prime (prime is the highest quality, by the way

Word of mouth is a caterer’s best endorsemen

Call reference

Find a caterer who asks questions and listens to your vision of what you want. After all. it’s your party, not theirs. Don’t let them force their menu on yo.

Choosing a caterer is the most important decision you make. Once your plans are on paper, thai should be your first call.

Many of us are still intimidated by the catering process. After all. isn’t cooking for your guests part of our duty? In some cases, yes. In others, absolutely not. Our duty is to give our guests-and ourselves-a good time.

As a general rule, hiring a caterer will generally cost you. per person, a little more than taking your entire party out to a restaurant. A catered sit-down dinner can range in price from $50 to $ 150 a person, depending on whether the caterer is only handling the food or is arranging everything else, from the Bowers to the entertainment. Passed canapes can be much more economical, from $ 12 to $15 a person, without the entire service package.

Before calling a caterer, try to think about what kind of party you might like to throw. What’s the guest of honor like? What are you celebrating? Who’s coming? People who work for you, your friends, or new neighbors? Is it worth it to hire somebody to do the cooking so your manicure doesn’t get grated with the Parmesan cheese? Or is a relaxed dinner with six friends-your paella being the centerpiece-more what you had in mind? If so. perhaps the caterer can handle the hors d’oeuvres, side dishes, and dessert.

Andrew Ormsby. co-owner of Andrew Ormsby Catering, reminds you to think about the taste buds of your guests in addition to your own. Perhaps you need a vegetarian dish. Or you may need what he calls a “safety blanket.” an herbed chicken, for example. “It’s nice to have something everybody would eat,” Ormsby says. Also think about diversity in tastes, textures, and colors.

If you’re handling any of the food yourself don’t do much that requires last-minute prep work. Choose foods that can be served at room temperature or made ahead and kept in the refrigerator.

Whether you choose your menu first or what kind of party you want, the two must be compatible. “You don’t warn to eat a salad or fettuccini standing up,” says Connie Chantilis, owner of Two Sisters Catering. A cocktail party works best during the holidays because people often party hop.

Once the details are in line, order the invitations (or have your caterer or party planner do it if you don’t have time), Invitations should be sent out about two weeks in advance; earlier during the holidays. Be creative: Handwritten is nice. Perhaps something in a box, setting the tone that your party is a gift to its invited recipient. And don’t expect an RSVP-that way you won’t waste your energy cursing those who didn’t bother. Follow your invitation with quick confirmation calls.

Last, but certainly not least, you should give your table and surroundings as much attention as your food.

“Floral makes a party.” says Jeffrey Kollinger, co-owner of Spice of Life Catering. “It brings so much color in.”

Consider every detail. Do you want an earthy flower centerpiece or an arrangement of European breads from the Empire Baking Company? Make the order and add it to your list of confirmations. Check that list a few days before the party. Twice.

Chapters “Hello” through “Drive Home Safely”

THE DOORBELL RINGS AND THE PARTY BE-gins. By now. most of your work is done and the stage set for a wonderful evening A few last-minute tips from Jan Miller:

“Don’t serve too much before dinner. Choose light hors d’oeuvres. And mix up your guests. I always keep a seating chart. It makes it more interesting.”

For the next few hours, do what you set out to do. Eat. Drink. Laugh. Have a few conversation starts in mind. Stories (but no video) of your wine tasting trip to the Alsace region of France. Thoughts on the latest book you’re reading. If you get desperate, ask your guests whether they would have made it through Survivor. By no means, however, can you turn on the television. Even to check the score.

The Afterward

This part is easy. If you’ve taken our advice, all you have to do is make sure the cleanup is done well, stumble (did we say that out loud?) up the stairs, and fall into bed, confident everyone will remember this party for years to come.

The End.


Apples To Zinnias. 4024 Villanova St. 214-361-2200. European, traditional, and contemporary design.

Avant Garden. 4 Highland Park Village. The lovely, natural arrangements are great for dinner parties.

Dr. Delphinium Designs. 5806 W. Lovers Ln. 214-522-9911. Upscale, natural designs.

The Design Studio. 2016 Lucas Dr. 214-219-2016.Russell Glenn’s shop is known as an “old standby” for beautiful, traditional arrangements.

Garden Gate Floral Design.2615 Routh St. 214-220-1272. Offers a range of styles from minimalist, sleek, New York modern to organic and natural.

Joy Cook Designs. 4210 Herschel Ave. 214-443-0075. Specializes in flowers that have an airy, innovative style.

Living Color Flower . 6055 Sherry Ln. 2 J 4-750-7500.Innovative, fresh, independent and “really with it.” as one caterer says.

Preston Flower Market. 38208 Preston Rd.. D-10. 972-599-9697. The most unbelievable roses and exotics, including the best orchids in town.

Two Design Group. 1113 Dragon St. 214-741-3145. High-end florist often used at the DMA. Known for big productions and phenomenal weddings (like Howard Rachovsky’s).

Zen Floral Design. 1626 Edison St. 214-741-4001 .High-end prices with creativity to match. Zen’s has plenty of tropical and other unusual flowers.


Andrew Ormsby Gatering. 3121

Ross Are. 214-824-4539.

Eddie Deen. 1104 s. Virginia St.. Terrell. Catered George W.’s first gubernatorial inauguration. Still famous for barbeque, but they’ve expanded with menus in other areas as well.

The Food Company. 4115 Lomo Alto Dr. 214-939-9270.

George Catering. 6303 Ellsworth Ave. 214-752-6851.

Gourmet Dallas. The Quadrangle. 2800 Routh St.. Ste. 144. 214-720-9006. Gourmet Dallas is one of the largest caterers in the city. After 14 years, the business just expanded to include The Silver Room, a restaurant and private dining facility in the old 8.0 spot at The Quadrangle.

Local. 2936AElmSt. 214-752-7500. Owner Tracy Miller runs a boutique-style business.

Spice of life Catering.6401 Skillman St. 214-343-2598. Fabulous crab cakes and three-pepper cream sauce. Executive chef Rickey Baldwin likes to “take comfort food and upscale it.”

Two Sisters Catering. 2633 Gaston Ave. 214-823-3075.www.twosisterscatering. com. Very popular caterer. You can try the food at their dine-in and takeout restaurant.

Wendy Krispin Caterer. 1025 N. Summons Fwy. 214-748-5559.

Wynnwood Hospitality. 16251 Dallas Pkwy., Addison. 972-687-4422.


Bill Reed Decorations.

333 First Ave. 214-823-3154. Hugewarehouse of outdoor and big party props.

Blue Chipper. 2970 Blystone Ln, 214-350-2875. New trendy place that some say will give Ducky-Bob’s a run for its money.

Ducky-Bob’s Cannonball PartyRentals. 3206Belmeade Dr. Carrollton. “That’s all we ever use,” party planners say. They have a great staff and everything you need to throw a party.

Gale Sliger Productions. 1261Profil Dr. 214-637-5566. They can take almost any theme-from French elegant to a 1920s Texas roadhouse- and make it believable.

Liland’s Special Event Production CO. 1421 N. Industrial Blvd.214-748-1191. By appointment only. Liland’s has more than 20 years of experience.

They handle everything from entry décor to chair covers.

Outstanding Productions Inc. 9995 Monroe Dr., Ste. 209. 214-350-6282. If you need a Chinese dragon, you can find it here. These are the guys responsible for last year’s Cattle Baron’s Ball.

PGI Dallas. .3400 Carlisle St., Ste. 500. Nice tablecloths and props. Often used by the Cattle Baron’s Ball and the DMA.

Ruibal’s Plants. 601 S. Pearl Expwy. 214-744-9991. Great for a small parly when you need a rosemary tree or 100 rented poinsettias.

RSVP/Soiree. 6124 Berkshire Ln. 972-818-3200. This is the top of the line in party rentals, with more high-end glasses, china, and prices than other rental favorites.


Cindy Birne Preductions. 15839 Nedra Way. 972-980-8047. Cindy Birne painstakingly creates boxed invitations that often become keepsakes.

Campbell Stationers. 8407 Pickwick Ln. 214-692-8380. Lovely, old-fashioned invitations.

Carte. 4256 Oak Lawn Ave. 214-559-6168. Good selection, range, and price.

Needle In A Haystack. 6911 Preston Rd. 214-528-2850. Stocked to the brim with options from formal to cutesy.

Neiman Marcus. 400 NorthPark Center. 214-363-8311. Traditional, beautiful, expensive. As is Neiman’s,

Party Bazaar. 4435 Lovers Ln. 214-528-4795. Printing, engraving, everything.

Polks-Dots. 8306 Kate St., Ste, 3.214-739-2107. Three-dimensional and interactive is the key to this small boutique, owner Polly Campbell says.

St. Michael’s Women Exchange. 5 Highland Park Milage. 214-521-3862. This all-volunteer business has been in Highland Pari Village for 42 years. The shop is the outreach project of the Women of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church.

Write Selection. 314 Preston Royal Milage. 214-750-0531. Great variety of paper, invita-lions, embroidery, and lettering options.

Capitalist Cuisine

Chef David Holben of Wynnwood Hospitality caters to your every whim-even if it includes a suckling pig.

WYNNWOOD HOSPITALITY IS ONE OF THE LARGEST CATERING COMPANIES IN Dallas. Sometimes larger means lesser quality, less personal attention. Not so here.

Under Wynnwood Hospitality, which went into business four years ago, are W Event Planning (large corporate events), Wynnwood Special Events (parties from 14 people to 5,01X1), Seventeen Seventeen restaurant at the Dallas Museum of Art, the Atrium Cafe (also at the DMA), and the Bistral Neighborhood Bakery Bistro on McKinney Avenue.

The catering company itself does not specialize in any one cuisine, but its chefs each bring to the table their own specialties:

David Holben, vice president of culinary operations for all of Wynnwood’s kitchens, spent most of his 20-year career as executive chief at The Riviera, then co-founded FoodStar Restaurant Group Inc., the parent company of Méditerranée, P0P0L0S Cafe, and Toscana. He was named one of America’s top 10 chefs by Food and Wine magazine in 1990.

Raoul Orosa, the chef at the DMA’s Seventeen Seventeen restaurant, is a specialist in Pacific Rim, Thai, Japanese, and French cuisines. Rumor has it that his seared Chilean sea bass is the best your taste buds will ever have the pleasure of meeting.

Jesse Moreno, chef at the DMA’s Atrium Cafe, specializes in Cuban, South American, and Mexican cuisines.

Francois Keller is the company’s corporate executive chef and specializes in French and classic cuisines. Keller has served three U.S. presidents (Kennedy, Reagan, and Bush), the United Nations, and the king of Belgium.

Thierry Meignein, Wynnwood’s executive pastry chef, began his culinary career in France, Fie specializes in wedding calces, plate decorations, and chocolate floral designs.

Surely one of those could cover your needs. In selecting a caterer, Holben offers this advice: ’’You want one that can really cater to you, who can give you something you want, not Just something they want. We customize menus probably 90 percent of the time. Somebody called us wanting to do a Cuban theme, suckling pig and all. And we will.”

Less Is More

George and Katie Brown, one of Dallas’ favorite culinary couples, subscribe to the theory “quality over quantity,”

GEORGE CATERING HAS ON£ VAN PARKED REMIND THE GYPSY TEA ROOM, where the staff works in a joined kitchen. Out of that van, and out of that shared space in Deep Ellum, conies some of Dallas’ finest culinary fare.

George Brown has lived in Dallas most of his life. His wife. Katie, grew up in Lake Jackson, near Houston. The two met at the Culinary Institute in New York and married in 1995. George, who used to be the chef at Seventeen Seventeen, handles the savory side while Katie’s specialty is desserts. (She creates all the desserts for The Green Room.)

Our taste buds applaud the union.

At a recent job for Stanley Korshak, George made three meaty canapes: venison chili shots topped with cotija (a Mexican crumbling cheese), dried tortillas, and yellow pepper sour cream; prime beef tenderloin tartar, mixed with olive oil and garlic and served on tiny profiteroles; and grilled andouille sausage with Creole mustard mayonnaise and scallions.

Meanwhile, Katie works on the other side of the kitchen, creating a chocolate hazelnut marjolaine you can’t stop eating. Another client favorite is the peanut butter stick, a cannoli filled with peanut butter mousse and served on a strawberry jam sauce, stacked up like little logs. She also makes a killer dried cherry chocolate cookie, which site plans to market on the Internet for holiday gifts.

The Browns are trying to promote a “less is more” attitude. “I think portions are too enormous sometimes,” says George, who was selected by food and Winema&inm in 1997 as one of the year’s top 10 best new chefs in the country. “My philosophy is when you get done, I don’t want you to feel like you just ate Thanksgiving dinner. We use less starch and a normal meat proportion, like six ounces. I’m not going to serve you a 14-ounce veal chop.”

Will it work? Who knows in a society where the Cheesecake Factory-with its gargantuan meals of mediocre quality-is a multimillion-dollar business.

George likes to have eight or nine dishes served. His menu includes “things on sticks” and “things on spoons,” like apple bacon lollipops and shiitake mushroom salad.

“We’re trying to bring the fun back into it,” he says.

A Finger in Every Pot

What does Wendy Krispin love most about catering? Everything.

WENDY KRISPIN BELIEVES COOKING IS INSTINCTUAL EXCEPT FOR SOME classes she took in France, her training has been on the job.

While supporting herself as a butcher at Michigan State University, Krispin read an article in Vogue about Marty’s Gourmet. She packed her bags and moved to Dallas. Since then, she has worked at the Mozzarella Company, Kitchen Privileges Catering, Simon David, and Caryl’s by Design.

In the mid-’80s. Krispin went on a working vacation in Europe, taking classes at La Varrenne where she studied the cuisines of France, Spain, Italy, and Great Britain. In 1992. she started Wendy Krispin Caterer, which now includes two restaurants-Krispin in the Dallas Design Center and Table Five in the Trammel Crow Decorative Center.

“I always liked to cook, “she says. “In catering, you could do at least 10 or 15 jobs every day-baker, chef, salesperson, the florist I love all the différent aspects, i never wanted to specialize in just one.”

When she isn’t cooking, she’s still creating. Houses, to be exact. Sometimes from scratch, sometimes a renovation. It’s not such a far stretch from what she does in the kitchen.

“I take things down and build them back up, all day long. This seems natural, It’s a list, an agenda, a schedule. I can build a house using wood and nails or build up a table with fruits and vegetables.”

Bend Over Backward

Andrew ami Joanne Ormsby do what it lakes 10 please their clients.

HOW Do TW0 AUSTRALIAN-BORN CATERERS, WHO TRAVELED AROUND THE world on private yachts for 10 years and lived in such lavish places as the south of France and Italy, end up in Dallas?

The last wealthy businessman with whom Andrew and Joanne Ormsby cooked and traveled was from Dallas. So here they stay, inland with the clients and connections they made on their around-the-world adventure.

In the three years the Ormsbys have been here, they’ve found that locals have become less nervous about what they put on their plates. “People are starting to become a little adventurous, trying Indian and Thai,” says Andrew. “It’s great when they are willing to try different cuisines.”

One of Andrew’s favorite tastes locally is Mexican food, the Texas “stand-by,” as he calls it. He also brings his favorite savory Australian pies to customers-pastries filled with verison, chicken, and quail, or maybe a mushroom pie.

The Ormsbys continue to travel. Although 90 percent of their business is in Dallas, they also do dinners on Martha’s Vineyard and have traveled to Tuscany to do a dinner for 16.

But the couple now has a 2Va-year-otd daughter who seems to be growing up all Texan. So the Ormsbys are probably here to stay.

“[Not being near] the ocean is the big bummer,” Andrew says, “If we could just bring it here.”

Throwing a Bash

Andrea Hagar and Shelley Barsotti believe there’s “nothing tricky ” about their catering style.

THE Food Company makes wonderful, creative, and fresh food. “There’s nothing tricky about it,” says Andrea Hagar.

Magar and her partner, Shelley Barsotti, worked together at Chow Catering until it closed in 1986. But the customers kept calling. And so began The Food Company.

Barsotti handles the food (these days, she actually just handles the planning of the food and leaves the cooking to her chefs), and Hagar handles the design and business end.

Clients say The Food Company is professional, extremely creative, both in food and presentation, and often anticipates a client’s needs, They are known for food that tastes different, but not so different it might scare off your less-adventurous guests. They also have wonderful serving pieces. You might find gargantuan leaves between the food and a primitive wooden bowl or tempting loaves of bread spilling out of huge sconces as part of the table décor.

“You can’t stump them with a theme,” one client says.

Every detail is critical, You can have amazing food, but if the presentation and service are off, who notices? “We’re vary into the whole end product,” says Hagar. “The design, service, and food are all important.”


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