Designer Lela Rose’s Resort collection has us dreaming of dressing up this holiday season. The dress itself often remains the core of her collections and it’s what she attributes her love of entertaining to. “I love to pick out my outfit and dream about what party I am going to wear it to,” says Rose. The New York-based designer is the quintessential hostess, which is why we asked her to share her tips for entertaining during the holidays.
NM: When you entertain family or friends during the holidays, what are your favorite dishes to serve?
LR: I love to do things seasonally. Right now at the green market it’s all about cabbage and squash. I love to do this roasted cabbage and squash toast with a little bit of maple syrup and cider vinegar. It’s divine! I also love making Middle Eastern lamb meatballs with spices like cumin and cinnamon, which is served over couscous. I am really into broths and meals that are heartier and heavier but that you can do a lot of vegetables with and make them a one-dish meal.
NM: What is your go-to cocktail?
LR: Definitely margaritas, we are definitely a tequila family. My husband is quite the margarita maker. Sometimes I will do pomegranate margaritas, and take pomegranate seeds and muddle them in the drinks. I also love to do things that are seasonal, like maybe we will do a rosemary infused vodka, especially since rosemary goes well with all of the meats. I love to take whatever is in season and use that in different ways.
NM: What do you set the table with?
LR: Since I ride my bike everywhere and I ride through the green market so much, I am not such a flower person, but I love to use fruits and vegetables. I just did a dinner the other night where I used all kinds of purple artichokes and romanescos (they are the most unusual looking vegetable you’ve ever seen) and I use horse apples on the table. I think it’s such a prettier way of setting the table, especially when the evening is about food and cooking. It’s a great way to do something without using fresh cut flowers, which have been trucked in from so far and die the next day. I end up cooking with all of the vegetables subsequently after the dinner party which really gives it a full-circle life.
NM: How do you make a party feel fun and festive?
LR: A specialty cocktail. No matter what, I think you have to greet people with a specialty cocktail. Specialty cocktails set the tone for what to expect and they make people feel comfortable and welcome. I always feel like the hostess should be relaxed. Whatever worries you have, forget them, because it’s not going to change by the time the party starts, and just have fun.
NM: Name a few go-to songs on your dinner party playlist.
LR: It depends on the stage of the party [laughs]. If it’s later in the night I have my “Lela’s Sap Crap” playlist, which is all of the cheese ball 1970s and 80s songs like Total Eclipse of the Heart and Rich Girl by Hall & Oates, also a lot of Elton John and Tiny Dancer. Those are all fun songs to go back to. They are definitely more late-night, when we are in the tequila nook.
NM: What is your go-to outfit when entertaining?
LR: I love to wear skinny pants with a beaded top or a dinner jacket with a feather trim. I also love to wear dresses. I am not the person who does not want to go in overdressed. I could care a less if I am a little overdressed, I just want to go in having fun. I always say to everyone, dress in whatever you want, just make it fun.
NM: Describe your favorite holiday memory.
LR: The “string gift” is a tradition my mother used to do and I have continued it with my kids every Christmas. My mother would have this “string gift” under the tree. At the very end of opening all our gifts we would find this little tiny box under the tree and my mother would always say, “Oh, what’s this under here?” because as a child you would have overlooked it, all we cared about were the bigger gifts. We’d open the box and there would be a string attached and we’d have to wind the string and follow it through the house, over door jams, under carpets and through stairways. At the end of the string would be the biggest gift that Christmas. We do the “string gift” with my kids and it’s the most fun, I’ve always loved it.
NM: What is the easiest way to update your wardrobe for the holidays?
LR: Wearing color is such a great thing. If you have a sea of black dresses throw some silvers and whites in there. Especially during the holidays ivory and silver is such a gorgeous combination and looks really fun and festive.