A few months ago, I was approached by the Chancelor of Western Carolina University and his wife regarding donating a party for the school’s Friends of the Arts Gala. They felt that since I had two interior design degrees from this “institution”, it would be lovely if I would donate a party at Chestnut Cottage for 18 people for the gala’s live auction. In a very weak moment, I said YES!
When the Chancelor’s wife, Susan Belcher , and I started options for the party , we ultimately decided this auction item would be a “Downton Abbey” style dinner party on the lawn of Chestnut Cottage on a (hopefully) beautiful summer evening!
When the Belchers arrived in Cullowhee a year or so ago, someone had given them a copy of my book, The Collected Tabletop. Susan thought a dinner party on the front lawn, like in Chapter 1 of my book would be splendid! So here we are at the beginning of June with a countdown to our Downton Abbey style party on Saturday evening June 20th. So as you might imagine….things are VERY busy at Chestnut Cottage.
I thought you might enjoy the live auction description of this event!
A Downton Abbey English Garden
Wine Tasting and Dinner for 18
Step back in time to the world of Downton Abbey! Kathryn Crisp Greeley, a highly sought-after interior designer specializing in English Country décor and unique event planning, and her husband Wells will treat 18 lucky guests to an elegant summer evening at their “Chestnut Cottage” . Evening includes French wines from Well’s extensive cellar, a tour of Chestnut Cottage with it’s noteworthy antiques, a sumptuous sit-down, candlelit garden dinner with tablescapes of antique British tabletop items and fresh flowers with music provided by WCU faculty member, Dr. Andrew Adams. Every detail has been taken care of including hand designed invitations for the successful bidder to send to their fortunate friends. All guests will leave with a signed copy of Kathryn’s book, “The Collected Tabletop”. An unforgettable experience!
The gentleman who purchased this special party has some very exciting guests coming to Chestnut Cottage! (That will be revealed to you later, so STAY TUNED!)
As with most entertaining, one must start with a lovely invitation! The successful bidder indicated that he would like to do his own invitation, and also requested a good image of Chestnut Cottage for the invitation. He was please when I offered to let him use this watercolor for his invitation.
From the invitation forward, the “ball is in my court”!…Lots of planning, but you will be here with me through the entire process!
I will include you in ….
- Menu and Wine, including Menu Card and Place Card Design
- Tablescapes…China, Silver, Stemware, and Linens!
- Staff…18 at a seated dinner requires help!
- Flowers, Lots of Flowers!
- Favors…I have already agreed to give each guest a signed copy of The Collected Tabletop! But they might also get another little special favor!
- Vintage Dress!
- And the final party… including the special guest!
Goodness…how am I going to get all of my work done at Kathryn Greeley Designs, keep Duncan MacDuff Greeley in line , and make this a perfect entertaining event?!!? BY PROPER PLANNING OF COURSE!
I have a wonderful resource for paper items…LTM Designs and Papers , which is in my area. Leslie McCullough who owns LTM Designs has done some other projects for me and is excited to be a part of this fun party! Leslie and I discussed a “monogram” for Chestnut Cottage that we could use on the menu card and possibly on the place cards. Of course it must be appropriate for a Downton Abbey style party. I was thrilled with the four designs that she presented and had a VERY difficult time selecting my favorite. But ultimately I decided on this.
This will be on a lovely white paper, with a gold backer and charcoal ink. Both Leslie and I agree that charcoal ink is much softer than a harsh black for a formal menu card!
So Leslie is now hard at work on the menu cards and place cards. I have made the final decision on the menu so that Leslie can get the menu cards under way. My husband, Wells, is in charge of providing wonderful French wines for the party and already has his assignment under way!
So…what would have been on the menu at Downton, and also be something that I could actually prepare for my special guests?! Of course it had to be something “British”. I also wanted to include at least one “local” item that is unique to Waynesville…Sunburst Trout! And what a good opportunity to use my antique English fish cutlery! Just this past weekend, I finalized my menu , and here is what I will serve on June 20th!
It was hard to decide on the exact number of courses that I would actually be capable of doing . I decided on things that I frequently make and feel comfortable doing for a crowd. I believe this is very important when one is entertaining at home. I also feel that it is certainly alright to purchase something that you feel meets your standards. When we are at our lake home, we often eat at a fabulous little restaurant in Hayesville NC called The Copper Door. We find it to be one of our favorite restaurants and the chef, Dennis Barber, makes a delicious Wild Mushroom Bisque with Madeira and Cream. So when we were there last weekend, I asked Dennis if he would make this for my very special Downton Abbey party. He graciously agreed, so I have put his soup on the menu.
I have also included two sides, Potatoes Au Gratin and Haricots Vert Bundles, from the first chapter of The Collected Tabletop.
Every Christmas I make a homemade English Trifle, so I have included it on the menu. I found some individual trifle bowls for this party and will serve the trifle with a lavender shortbread cookie.
I will finish with an English Cheese Plate. I have read many articles regarding the question….Cheese before or after dessert. My research would indicate that the French would have the cheese prior to dessert, but in England it would usually be following dessert. I have decided to do it after dessert, served with a nice port. More to follow on the cheese course later.