In the Spring of 2019, HighLife Productions collaborated with Spring44 + Chef Andrew Maturana to reinvent the “dinner party”. Local, Sustainable, delicious eats were on the menu as well as our signature “farm-to-bar” cocktail program, which is a highlight of our summer events calendar at our marquee event Secret Summer. Venue: The Foundry LIC, Florals by Brenton Wolf, Rentals by Broadway Party Rental, Catering by Rapt NY, DJ Eric Visa, Photos by @julesslutsky,
SShef is an unparalleled private dining experience, that was held at The Foundry on Thursday, May 9th This exclusive event served as a kickoff to Secret Summer, the nation’s first and only farm to bar cocktail festival. SShef is brought to you by RAPT, an NYC-based catering and events company and HighLife Productions an NYC based Event Production Company. This special supper club was a three course experience from chef and RAPT owner Andrew Maturana, complemented by unlimited farm to bar cocktails from Spring 44. The dinner menu featured Crisp Edamame with Perigord Truffle and Parmigiano Reggiano, Wild-Caught, Pan-Roasted Black Sea Bass with Fennel Rosti & Buttermilk and Grilled Spring Eggplant Terrine with Fromage Blanc & Pinot Reduction. The night’s entree is a “Woolley Sheep Farm” Spring Lamb with a Jerusalem Artichoke and Miso Purée, Additionally, House Pappardelle Pasta will be served with Chanterelle and Spring Garlic Cream. Dessert will be “Berried Treasure Farm” Tristar Berry Crumble with a 5 Spice Crust, whipped Mascarpone and baby basil.
Creative production, experiential marketing and design by HighLife.
5 tips to help you plan a dinner party
Ah, the dinner party. A classic staple of event life. What separates your dinner party, how to make it exceptional, and why none of your friends ever return phone calls anymore. The secret to throwing a great dinner party is in the details. The details are the easiest way to make sure that each of your guests feels special and unique.
You may not have a dope AF greenhouse like the one pictured here but I can assure you that you can find a space that is just right for your event and how to make it special beyond all means. Below is a little step by step guide on how to make your next dinner party exceptional.
#1 Where is it located? What is the venue
The venue whether your home, office, event space is crucial in this equation. A lot of times your costs significantly increase if your venue doesn’t come with equipment like tables, chairs, plates, flatware, etc. There is nothing wrong with using simplicity when it comes to cutting costs. Often times using a designers eye can allow you to get away with so much. In fact a lot of the design for an event is reliant on the venue and its look and fee. Here’s a tip. In a lot of cities many buildings have event spaces that can be easily rented for FREE. Ask a friend 🙂
#2 Let’s talk food
It’s the most important part right? After all it is called a dinner party so “dinner” would be expected. There are many types “family style”, stations, buffet, three course, 5 course, french service, Russian service??? (it’s a thing, look it up. Nobody does it anymore but maybe we should bring it back. There should be a reason and a focus behind the food. Why is this meal special? What is it promoting? What flavors are unique.?
For our Spring Dinner party SSHEF our focus was on seasonal, locally sourced, farm-to-table cuisine. The dinner menu featured Crisp Edamame with Perigord Truffle and Parmigiano Reggiano, Wild-Caught, Pan-Roasted Black Sea Bass with Fennel Rosti & Buttermilk and Grilled Spring Eggplant Terrine with Fromage Blanc & Pinot Reduction. The night’s entree is a ‘Woolley Sheep Farm’ Spring Lamb with a Jerusalem Artichoke and Miso Purée, Additionally, House Pappardelle Pasta will be served with Chanterelle and Spring Garlic Cream. Dessert will be ‘Wilklow and ‘Berried Treasure Farm’ Tristar Berry Crumble with a 5 Spice Crust, whipped Mascarpone and baby basil. YUM. The freshness of spring!
#3 It’s about the cocktails, silly
In the end if your guests are drinking they are probably having an amazing time right? Remember 3 ingredients make a cocktail; 2 ingredients is just and emergency. A thoughtful cocktail list solves a lot of problems. Remember this is not a restaurant so you don’t provide you guests with ALL the options. Stick to 3 signature cocktails and wine with dinner. The cocktails should match the vibe of the event and wine should match the food. TIP: a great local wine shop should be capable of pairing or suggesting great affordable wine to go with your dinner. After all those people literally sit around and drink wine ALL DAY. Take it from someone who used to work in a wine store, after a couple months you get real good at telling if a wine is good or not and that doesn’t mean expensive. Don’t get those two confused. In the wine world good does not equal expensive
#4 Hire some staff to help you
Don’t be cheap here. Save your sanity. If you love to cook. Then cook. But don’t cook, serve, and bartend… Hire someone to help you. This is the key word “hire” if you ask a friend to ‘help out’ they will most likely be drunk an hour into the event. Great staff always elevates an event. Young, Fashionable, fresh faced staff sets the right tone. How many tired events have you been to were you see disenchanted staff standing around aimlessly in ill-fitting tuxedos. Gross.
#5 That special touch
Details, Details, Details. It’s all about depth not width. How deeply can you effect someone with your level of care, honesty, and attention. Above all else this is what people remember and a small dinner party is just that. These intimate events are the perfect time for you to focus your attention and show your guests just how much you value their time. At this event we personalized individual Spring44 Gin Bottles with a handwritten message on the spot. So this gift could be for your mother, your friend, your dog (I don’t condone getting dogs drunk but you get the idea) this little touch costed nothing and left a nice impact on the guests. Oh, and I forgot to mention the personalized menus we created with everyone’s names at the top. Details people. Details.
When throwing your next dinner party consider these 5 tips as ways to not feel overwhelmed and enjoy the act of it all. Entertaining should be fun and if it’s not, that’s why you have the cocktails.
Tyler Hollinger is the Founder and Creative Director of HighLife Productions, a creative event production agency in NYC. See more at: www.TheHighLifeProductions.com and on Instagram HighLife Productions @ TheHighLifeProductions.
Too often we overlook what is most important. We fixate on things instead of people. It is the people who make every event memorable. Not just your guests but your staff. These individuals are the face of your brand, cause, event, company, and more. In this gig economy this aspect of part time work or the idea of “picking up shifts until something better comes along’ is looked down upon. Take for example that case of Jeffrey Owens bagging groceries at a whole foods and how he was job-shamed for trying to earn a wage. Just in that case many of the event staff at your party are artists, actors, models, singers, dancers who are between jobs.
Its this kind of dedication and hustle that makes the individuals behind a “gig” based workforce memorable. These people are the faces and voices behind major commercial campaigns, TV, shows, films, and your favorite magazines. They are also the people who work your event.
The next time you plan your event, ask yourself that just like the food or the drinks or the music, can the staffing be better.
Derby Day or Cinco de Mayo??
HighLife Productions April 24, 2019
Next week the perfect storm. Whether you are from the south or the way south (Mexico) Derby Day and Cinco De Mayo back-to-back. The Mint Julep or the Margarita? Pick your horse and place your bets. No matted which side of the bar you are on these classic cocktails have stood the test of time for a reason.
THE MINT JULEP (MAY 4th)
The classic Mint Julep looks a little like this… beaded silver cup, crushed ice, sprig of mint and the bourbon…. Ahhh, can you hear the horses getting ready. Maybe its the excitement of the race or the festivities of the hats (oh derby hats) but a lot of ceremony surrounds one drink. The julep first got its start as a medicinal concoction used to settle the stomach. As a cocktail, it blossomed in the American South in the late 1700s, with a decidedly elite air, because not everyone had access to ice nor the silver or pewter cup in which the drink is served. Known as the unofficial drink of the South, the Mint Julep became the official drink of the Kentucky Derby in 1938. Nearly 120,000 Mint Juleps have been sold at the race every year since. That’s a lot of silver cups (which people at the race used to steal, so now they sell them instead).
So if on Saturday, you are tuning in to watch the race, enjoy Derby Day with friends be sure to have the iconic, perennial, best in breed Mint Juleps on hand for if your event/party does that you will always be sure to win, place, or show!
THE HIGHLIFE MINT JULEP
8 mint leaves + 1 mint sprig for garnish
1/4 ounce simple syrup (Best made ahead of time)
2 ounces bourbon, such as Rebel Yell or Ezra Brooks,
Crushed ice, Mint Bitters
Gently muddle mint leaves and simple syrup in the bottom of a julep cup, then add the bourbon and pack with ice. Swirl it all around in the cup so that it gets frosty, then add more ice to the top. Garnish with the mint sprig and dash of mint bitters.
CINCO DE MAYO — Sunday May 5th
If the all day drinking of bourbon on Derby Day didn’t wear you out then the quickly following of Cinco de Mayo certainly will. Cinco de Mayo is not a celebration of Mexico’s Independence (which is actually September 16th), but rather a celebration of Mexico’s victory in the battle at Puebla on May 5th, 1862 during the Franco-Mexican war. An unlikely victory but thank god they did or we all might be drinking French 75s instead of the classic Margarita!
One of the earliest stories is of the Margarita being invented in 1938 by Carlos “Danny” Herrera at his restaurant Rancho La Gloria, halfway between Tijuana and Rosarito, Baja California, created for customer and former Ziegfeld dancer Marjorie King, who was allergic to many spirits, but not to tequila. So its understandable that the limited ways to disguise the tequila existed. But how did the Margarita become so famous. Synonymous with spring break, Mexico, and wild nights dancing on the table. Why did the Margarita get cast into super stardom? It’s a perfectly balanced cocktail, and like the Mint Julep has its own glass! There are few other tequila cocktails as well known nor do they have as many variations. Spicy jalapeño, Cucumber, Prickly Pear, Strawberry, skinny… the variations are endless. Which is why we are going to pick just one to highlight today.
4 ounces blanco tequila
4 Ounces of homemade mix (thats lime juice, lemon juice, sugar, and water to taste) err on the side of less sweet here
2 ounces of prickly pear syrup (this is the best because it adds a level of sweetness without being cloying)
Salt for rim (optional)
Lime wedge, for garnish….
VIVA LA MEXICO
No matter which side of the border you are on. There is a cocktail for you. Next weekend is one of the most exciting times to be in NYC and one of the most delicious. So wear that sear sucker and derby hat on Saturday and drink that Mint Julep! Then get up bright and early on Sunday and celebrate with sombreros and Margaritas in the streets even if you don’t speak Spanish, we all speak the language of great cocktails.
How to Stop Your Party From Going Haywire
HighLife Productions March 29, 2017
My Mom loves to tell the story of the day she got married. She had planned for the perfect wedding but after rain, catering mishaps and even a very important person in her life telling her that they didn’t approve who she was marrying, because of religious differences, everything seemed to be falling apart; however, my mother told herself “nothing will ruin this day” and ignored it all.
When we host a party that does not go as we planned we ask ourselves, “Why me, why my party?” What we don’t realize at the time is that something is bound to go wrong. The more you plan for your party the greater your expectations are for how it will turn out; you expect your party to turn out exactly how you picture. With higher standards in mind, when something small goes awry, it has a larger impact on how we view our party than it should. We see the party running off track; however, all the guests are perfectly content.
An easy way to solve this issue is taking a quick survey or judging the conversations in the room. If you, as the host, ask a guest “how are you enjoying everything?” your guests will appreciate your taking time to speak with them and you will also gather key information. Look for tone in their answer rather than the answer itself because guests are inclined to give you a positive response; no one will tell you “this party is going terribly”.
The truth is that guests don’t have expectations of your party in mind until after they are there, at the very least their threshold for a good party is a lot lower than yours. While you may see your party as going terribly, they may see that it is running smoothly. The pasta didn’t come with your catering even though you made it explicitly clear what you had ordered? Your guests do not know that, just work around it! Honestly, the guests usually could care less about the things you see as problems. Further, these flaws may actually be enhancing the experience and may be a primetime to make memories. Be spontaneous! Oh, it is raining during your wedding? Why don’t you dance in the rain, I am sure that it will make for a great memory to put in your photo-book.
At this point you may be thinking that the title is misleading, but it’s not. The solution to stopping your party from going haywire is to expect things to go wrong. Once you start seeing flaws in the party, it will lead into a downward spiral where everything seems to be going poorly. However, if you are not satisfied, here are some tips to fix common mishaps:
I. Rain: It is very easy to plan and book around the weather if you are planning a party a week or two in advance. Parties that require long term planning cannot do this. In these scenarios be sure to notify your guests of the weather as soon as you can . An easy solution is to move your party inside if it is outdoors. You can also set up tents and umbrellas to avoid everyone from getting wet. With the accuracy of weather forecasts in modern times rain should be pretty easy to work around.
II. Important Guest is Late: If someone important to your party is late, your guests may be growing impatient. An easy solution is to distract them. Tell jokes or a funny story about the guest being late in the past. Survey the audience, ask them to tell jokes, play a game, there are so many options! The key is just to be prepared when the moment comes because being spontaneous may sound easy but can be very hard for some people . Therefore, planning ahead with some activities that could help pass time is a key.
III. Food Mishaps: these scenarios are why it is so important to have a backup plan and to be in contact with your catering constantly leading up to your event. It will be hard to find a backup for good quality food if something goes wrong. If the food was mis-delivered or destroyed in some fashion, the catering you use will usually provide a backup, but don’t count on it. If your food never shows up, or they are not able to provide a backup, you need a plan. Have somewhere in mind that will be able to provide food on the spot (although not very luxurious pizza is always a decent option). A way to avoid this entire scenario is to confirm with the food service repeatedly before your party, especially a week in advance and the morning of. If an un-replaceable item is destroyed, say a wedding cake, it may seem like a big deal but the faster you move on the less likely it is to ruin your day. Your guests won’t care if you serve them backup deserts and it is sure to make its place in the memory books.
IV. Silence: This is one of the scariest scenarios, if no one is mingling all eyes are on the host. This scenario is rare and usually only occurs when your guests have some hostility between them or a crowd of introverts. It becomes your job to spark conversation and introduce people. Meeting people is always the hardest part, talking with them after is the easy . If your guests are hostile toward one another try to do something to to draw their attention away from that hostility. Some of the techniques from part II should do the trick or introduce them to other guests at the party.
What do you think? Would you handle these situations in the same way? If you have any other inquiries about party mishaps please let me know below!
Author: Paul Erlanger, Intern for Highlife Productions
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The 5 Senses
HighLife Productions March 26, 2017
The primary goal of any host is to maximize the experience for their guests. All other objectives, including revenue, come second because if the party fails so does your reputation as a host and all future profit. However, “experience” is a very vague term and most people have a different idea of what a good experience looks like. A very easy way to maximize the appeal of your event for your guests is to put yourself in their shoes. To do this you must contextualize your party’s theme with all the ways your guests will perceive it.
Part I Sight:
This is where first impressions are made, the make or break moment. For this reason, focus on the entry point. How people view the party when entering will strongly influence how they view the rest of the experience. If you are throwing a party at night be sure to have quality lighting to set the tone of your event, the dimmer the lighting the more romantic the mood. If you are going for a club-vibe make sure the room isn’t pitch black, throw in some flashing lights or colored beams. If your party is in the day utilize natural lighting. Phillips makes a bulb called the HUE, which allows you to control the color and dimness of the bulb through an app, you can also let the lights change to your music!
Watch out! Be sure to decorate but do not overload the senses, if the space looks too crowded it will turn people off.
Part II Sound:
If anything takes the constellation prize for first impressions it is sound. The music you play can change the entire atmosphere of the party. DO NOT just throw your favorite songs into a playlist, be thoughtful and craft a playlist to the experience of your party. If you are looking for speakers, Sonos makes amazing home entertainment systems that will deliver a high quality booming sound for a good price. The speakers stream directly from the speakers to maximize sound quality (I promise this is an unsponsored endorsement). If you hire live musicians even better, but still keep genre in mind! If you are too lazy to make your own playlists we have you covered. Spotify and other music streaming services have pre-made playlists based on genre.
Don’t let the music overpower discourse, so be sure that you are able to understand others at a normal speaking volume with the music on. A good idea is to have rooms dedicated to louder music for dancing and other rooms with quieter music primarily used for talking. Silence is also an option but only in very specific situations because even faint background music can dispel any awkwardness from conversation.
Part III Smell:
This one is pretty obvious, make sure your party doesn’t have an intolerable stench. Keeping the doors open to the kitchen can be an easy way to spread delightful smells throughout your house -or- just buy some Febreze defusers to place throughout your event, make sure they are not overpowering though. If your party is centered around the smell, like a perfume advertising event, then smell becomes all more important. A pro tip is to put a bottle of cologne/perfume in the bathroom to keep everyone smelling nice.
Part IV Feel:
Just make sure everything is clean, plain and simple. Not just before but throughout the party also.
Part V Taste:
Everyone’s favorite food! If you are serving food at a party make sure it matches the theme of the party. Try to serve clean fresh ingredients, not only will they taste better but they look beautiful. If you are not a chef and cannot afford to hire one, catering is always a great option, it is quick and easy. Don’t leave the food in the catering containers, switching them over to a decorated plate is so easy and makes all the difference. Also, have options for everyone, don’t forget the vegan.
Author: Paul Erlanger, Intern for HighLife Productions