The perfect party planner

The perfect party planner

Kate Spade's All In Good Taste serves time-honoured advice with new age tips

By Mary Paulose

Published: Thu 28 Jan 2016, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Tue 21 Nov 2017, 9:46 PM

The official festive season might have ended a month ago - but not according to Kate Spade. In the modern era that serves a hectic pace of life, entertaining can be called for anytime, anywhere. even in your office cubicle! This succinct and pretty entertaining party guide on how to plot, plan, and throw the perfect party is one of the best how-to self-help guides I've come across in recent times.
Mind you, this is no staid Martha Stewart-y guide, or the way less than well-received Celebrate by Pippa Middleton, which had painfully obvious pieces of advice like "You can cut up your chicken into portions consisting of the drumstick, thigh, breast and wing" and "[F]lowers are a traditional Valentine's token, and red roses are the classic symbol of romance, be it a dozen hand tied in a beautiful bouquet or simply a single stem."
All In Good Taste's editors Holly Dolce and Rebecca Kaplan have curated a delightful bunch of event-hosting advice from a variety of people, updated with new-age tips on "documenting the party" (Instagram etiquette thrown in), sushi parties, and even movie-referencing for outfit inspiration. Again, it's not just about throwing elaborate dinners or sit-down parties. I was thrilled to lap up useful, out-of-the-box advice on how to throw adult-friendly kid parties (and vice versa), baby showers, dinners for two, garden parties, and city-style cocktail events. Want more party theme ideas? Take your pick of midnight feasts, a party hop (between different friends' homes), a book swap brunch, or a mystery guest dinner.
I also nearly tore out the sections on how to serve take-out on fine china, inspired menus pairing a casual food with a fancy one (popcorn with fondue, anyone?), famous mother-daughter takes on cooking and entertaining, better-late-than-never gifts, and desktop dining (our favourite - how to host a quick lunch-party for your colleagues). Kate also offers great insight into the social aspects of hosting and attending - how to be the dream guest, the art of subtle flirtation (a desired party trait, if not required), faux pas fixes, gifting dos and don'ts, how to go solo to parties, making first impressions, handling the neighbours (you're making noise, remember), moderating small talk and opinionated people, responding graciously to compliments, and after party-thank you notes.
Not to mention some great party recipes too. Sample this: cheese fondue and the perfect chocolate cake alongside temaki rolls and vegetarian borscht, and simpler stuff like poaching eggs, everything you can do with tomatoes for a party, and making a vinaigrette.
Pretty is as pretty does, and the book doesn't take a visual backseat to the advice. The perfect pink jacket, watercolour illustrations, and quirky bits of advice on pastel-hued pages made me want to make my own handy diary.
This is a dream book for any aspiring home or regular party planner and host, and even if you're not, the fun, irreverent take on the modern host's travails and details don't go waste. All In Good Taste is great casual reading and something that you can pass around among friends.

  "Classics have a charm you don't want to miss out on"
What book(s) are you reading right now?
The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton. An intriguing tale set in 17th century Amsterdam, it's very well written and contextually rich book, yet gloomy for the most part. It's a page-turner, but I definitely have mixed feelings about it. There's also Kitchen Essays by Agnes Jekyll. My sister gave me this book for Christmas. It's a collection of articles from the 1920s about food and, at times, recipes that I'm sure are extinct nowadays. It's my bedtime reading at the moment - though not in a bad way!
The book that changed your life.
The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. I first read it in 2001 - and I've read it over and over since. I wouldn't say it changed my life so much as the way I look at marketing my business, especially on social media. The tipping point is "that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behaviour crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire." Another tipping point concept that resonates with me is that details make a huge difference and often prepare for the bigger picture. I always think of branding BookMunch Café along those lines, as the little things tend to "stick". A must-read for entrepreneurs.
Which titles or authors can you pick up and read any time?
Malcolm Gladwell, Chris Cleave, Dr. Seuss, Eric Carle, Fatima Sharafeddine and any fresh cookbook I can lay my hands on.
Which books would you love to pass on to your children to read and treasure?
For toddlers: Yummy Yucky by Lesley Patricelli. I love this because it was the first book my daughter ever munched on. It's very simple with silly repetitive rhymes - definitely a favourite in our home.
As they get older: The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein - the first book to spark up any kind of discussion with children at an older age, it would be interesting to see how many different interpretations they can have of the book - and Batal Al Fuqaat by Abir Ballan. In English, it means Bubble Champion and it's my son's favourite Arabic book. He laughs out loud every time he reads it, and he now thinks "Arabic can be cool" because of it.
For young adults: The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger - an intense, unforgettable classic that we read in school. Holden Caulfield is the first rebellious teenage character I came across. I'd want my children to know "Holden" and maybe contemplate more about who they are, themselves. The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling is another one - I have to admit I only read the first book, but I remember thinking: what a brilliant writer! The way she describes the world of wizardry is so real, so natural. "It's just out of this world," as Lama, my nine-year old, would say. For a year now, Lama breathes, sleeps and dreams Harry Potter. Why would anyone want their children to miss out on this new world that enchants kids and adults alike? There's also Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery - it was the first series I got attached to as a reader. my "Harry Potter"... My aunt gave me my first copy when she took me to the public library in Montreal - also my first visit to a public library. So I have a bit of a biased opinion about this series.
Can books still be relevant today?
Children can still enjoy a blend of classic literature and more contemporary stories today. I have to say, I tried to get my daughter to read Anne of Green Gables, and she refused because it's "too traditional". I tried to explain that classical novels might not feel relevant but they have a charm of their own that I did not want her to miss out on. Will not give up! The Catcher in the Rye next!

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