Early summer 2019 HighLife produced and designed an intimate yet whimsical French countryside bridal shower for make-up beauty industry trendsetter Lauren Maffettone celebrating her nuptials. This gilded affair was designed straight out of Champagne where the couple got engaged. From the selection of fine French cheeses, French wines, champagne, and tea cocktails served in quaint baroque provincial china and ornate golden flatware to the lush floral arrangements and classic country side fare. Classic Coq Au Vin was on the menu as well as gruyere croques monsieurs, summer tartines, beetroot cured salmon, chevre croquettes, seafood tower, pepper cress tossed salad, and an over the top dessert bar for Marie Antoinette herself.
This event hosted at the Foundry in LIC featured a custom Bossa Nova playlist, french mime, handcrafted water color portraiture, and model staff dressed as Parisian hipsters!
Production & Design : HighLife
Catering: Rapt NY
Florals: Brenton Wolf Design
Rentals: Broadway Party Rental
Venue: The Foundry LIC
Desert Bar: So Simply Sweet
Photography: Travis W. Keyes
WaterColors: Anthony Kieren
Mime: Nick Adeel
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.
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
The Nation’s First and Only Sustainable Seafood Festival, Aquarius, Returned to the Foundry in Long Island City on January 26.
The 2nd Annual arctic-chic Aquarius festival, highlighting sustainable seafood and cocktails took place at The Foundry in Long Island City on Saturday, January 26th. The fully restored 19th Century building, which boasts 3,000 sprawling square feet of space and offers up stunning views of the Manhattan skyline along with a gorgeous indoor Greenhouse, played host to this year’s sold-out event. The stunning space was filled with delicacies from the sea that were perfectly paired with complimentary spirits. Aquarius comes to life each year courtesy of the talented producers of Secret Summer, Tyler Hollinger of HighLife Productions, Andrew Maturana of RAPT and Allison du Val of The Foundry.
Sustainable seafood offerings were as vast as the ocean. MF EVENTS had a raw bar filled with oysters served three ways. Midtown Greek hotspot Kellari Taverna,CA’PISCI in Williamsburg, Crazy Taco Mex, Neapolitan Express and My/Mo Mochi Ice Cream all offered up delicious snacks as well. Awe-inspiring accessories were available to purchase from Nuun Watch Official and Penelope Traveling Boutique. Guests commemorated the magical evening with photo shoots in the 4Five Photo Booth. Immersive experiences took shape throughout the night with Winter Burlesque from Karina and two all-star performances from Hudson Horns that brought down the house. The night’s soundtrack was provided by DJ Sasha Hart with guitarist Neon Jesus in the main room and DJ Ryan Vandal in the Albra Room. Revelers were able to warm up inside or outside by lit firepits.
World class brands were also brought on board for this exclusive party. Coney Island Brewery provided craft beer and hard sodas. Barr Hill Gin & Caledonia Spirits, Tanteo Tequila, Spring 44 Distillery and The Finnish Long Drink and Ketel One served up their premium spirits. Ardbeg & Oysters offered guests Ardbeg 10YO Bloody Marys and the 10YO Long Islay paired neat with Oysters for purchase from MF Events. Polar Seltzer Water and Töst and Harmless Harvest Coconut Water ensured guests stayed hydrated all night long. Guests were also able to sample ginger beers from Fentimans Botanical, and sparkling probiotic drinks from KeVita.
Secret Summer, the country’s only farm-to-bar cocktail festival, will return to The Foundry on August 4th. For more information, please visit: http://secretsummernyc.com
In its 3rd year Secret Summer has grown to almost 1000 attendees, 15 brands, 8 performances and 5 different food vendors. The only “Farm-to-Bar Festival” in the world where all cocktail ingredients are locally sourced within 100 miles of the city. HighLife Productions curated all elements and produces this 360 degree experience as the marquee event on the company’s calendar. Immersive, interacting, and delicious; Secret Summer is an experience like none other. Read some of the press below…
Services provided: Overall Creative Direction, NYC Culture Creation, 360 Degree NYC Event Production, Strategic Conception & Planning, Innovative Experience Design, Immersive Experiential Marketing, Venue Sourcing and Logistics, Brand Activation & Partnership Farm-to-Bar Mixology, Farm-to-Table Cuisine, Vendor Sourcing & Contract Management, Event Marketing, Event Ticketing,, Branding Program Analysis, Metric Measurement, Compliance and Regulation, Talent & Influencer Booking and Management, NYC Model Staffing.