Entertaining

Field Notes

5 tips for entertaining from the Coachella-approved Outstanding in the Field team
Photo: Ilana Freddye/Outstanding in the Field
Outstanding in the Field

Which came first: the trend of long wooden tables dotted with candles and displayed in the great outdoors, or Outstanding in the Field, the 17-year-old roving professional dinner party thrower?

Maybe we'll never know, but we do know that chef/artist Jim Denevan was on to something when he started this literal farm-to-table endeavor (and epic 'grammable event), which now has more than 700 events under its belt. Case in point: This is the third year Outstanding in the Field has been tapped to gather serious music people for elaborate dinners at iconic music festival Coachella (which kicks off today), pulling from local talents like Terrine's Kris Morningstar and Hanjip's Chris Oh.

"This year, we have more tickets sold out than ever before," Danielle DeMarco, the director of private events at Outstanding in the Field, says. "It is a different crowd than our public tour dinners, and it's so fun to see the people who come to a music festival also consciously choose to attend an hour-and-45-minute seated dinner with wine pairings in the middle of it all."

As DeMarco gears up for the first of the Coachella dinners (and LCD Soundsystem!) going down tonight in Indio, California, the professional (and recreational) party host took time to give us her tips for adding a little Outstanding in the Field magic to any gathering.

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Know what you want. Before you send the invites or start menu planning, DeMarco says you should sit down and nail down exactly what you want to give your guests. "Figuring out the overall 'theme' or 'vibe' of the event is important to do right away," DeMarco says. Basque tapas? Ina Garten theme (Jeffrey's gonna love it)? The world is your oyster, but this step is crucial before going down a Pinterest rabbit hole of knickknacks and decor ideas. "I like to think of it as telling a story by using location, invitation and landscape," she adds.

Play musical chairs. After two years at Outstanding in the Field and 115 successful events, DeMarco knows how to get strangers to break out of their comfort zones. However, off the clock, she does the same thing. "I absolutely love entertaining," DeMarco gushes. "I love getting really different types of people who I know will click well and really be interested in one another." She allows those initial tractions to hold—and takes out that stress of friend matchmaking—by eschewing the place card. "Having an open seating plan really mixes things up," she says. "It's something I'm really fond of."

Take it outside. Any easy way to make your bash more memorable? Take the party outside, obviously. Especially for urban dwellers, this small location change will make an impression—and be a breath of fresh air. "People really respond well to being in nature," DeMarco says. "When guests are doing something they don't typically do, it is always more fun and memorable." Take that idea of doing something different to another level by playing around with food and cuisine, from going full pickled shrimp with a Swedish feast to making a menu of all desserts.

Put the "family" in family style. Half of the fun in planning parties is gathering your friends from all circles who you like or think might mesh together (get out, #nonewfriends). However, that's easier said than done. DeMarco has a simple solution to getting past initial shyness and to actual conversation among friends: Serve everything family style. "If they don't know the people sitting next to them, it is a great way to open up and build relationships that might not come from a typical dinner," DeMarco says.

Always be prepared. Treat outdoor gatherings like you're going to the beach, according to DeMarco. "I always make sure to have sunscreen, bug spray, blankets and candles on hand for an outdoor dinner," she explains. Because the last thing you want ruining your party is a bad sunburn or gnarly mosquito bites. Your guests will thank you later.

Find Terrine here, or in our DINE app.
Find Hanjip here, or in our DINE app.

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