When I got word that Noora Raj Brown was going to be hosting her very own Secret Garden dinner party (where The Mascot wine would be flowing), I knew we were all in for a treat. I mean... goop's very own SVP of Communications & Brand Marketing setting the table with our exclusive look designed in collaboration with goop? The stars have aligned!
Read on for swoon-worthy pics , a tasty recipe, and hosting tips from a seasoned pro.
How frequently do you host at home and what does a typical gathering look like at your place?
We tend to host a lot of small, cozy dinner parties but I love to throw a large gathering from time to time. We’ve done everything from black-tie pizza parties to casual backyard brunches. My husband is usually in charge of the wine and the music (he likes the French dinner party playlist on Spotify) and at the end of the night, when people retire into the living room for cocktails or tea, I may put on Fleetwood Mac. I’m not the most talented chef (though I do have a few tricks up my sleeve), so I usually outsource the food. I am keenly aware of my talents, or lack of them. I’m much better at creating an ambience than whipping up côte de boeuf.
How did your upbringing influence the way you entertain today?
I’m Indian, and it’s a long-standing tradition that food is the love language of our culture. Indians also tend to be of “the more, the merrier” mindset (it’s not uncommon to receive a wedding invitation when running into someone on the street). I tend to lean into the festive over the formal.
What about the ritual of setting the table is most special to you?
I love creating beautiful vignettes, and merging tableware from different cultures and travels. I love to edit my wardrobe but I’m not too precious with a table… more is more is a big part of my tablescape philosophy.
What are your top 3 host tips and tricks?
1) Think carefully about seating. I love breaking up couples and forcing people to make new friends, but I try to pair people who I know will fall into natural conversation. And I usually drop in some common threads (whether that’s two people having kids the same age, loving a similar artist or travel destination, or having a close mutual friend) that makes it easy to have a jumping off point.
2) Work a conversation starter into the evening: a theme, an interactive food (I have a friend who loves to bring out little ice cream cups and toppings at the end of an evening for people to make their own sundaes) or even a game if a lot of people don’t know each other well.
3) Have fun. It sounds trite, but no one will remember if you left the soufflés in the oven too long and had to serve fruit instead. They will remember if you’re fretting about like a stressed out monkey.
Do you have a favorite dish to serve when hosting at home?
Fish en papillote is my dinner party secret. It looks beautiful and complicated, but it’s so easy, and you can utilize whatever you have in your fridge. I tend to start with salmon or halibut, put the filets over a bed of thinly sliced vegetables, and top with herbs and/or a simple sauce.
One of my favorites is miso mixed with a little tamari, fish sauce and toasted sesame seed oil, but you could simply do olive oil, rosemary springs and some beautiful cherry tomatoes. Foolproof recipe blow!
If you could invite one person to one of your dinner parties, who would it be?
My grandmother. She was full of joy. And maybe Truman Capote.
Noora's Best Of
Party Song: 90s hip hop, like Biggie or Dr. Dre
Dress Code: Barefoot cocktail
Icebreaker: Introduce the person to your left to the rest of the table. Be as fantastical as you like in your description.
Cocktail: An ice cold vodka martini, a whisper dirty with a twist.
Best Party Ever? Years ago, Michelle Obama hosted a “Celebration of Design” party for the fashion industry at the White House. Let’s hope my husband doesn’t read this, because it was probably more fun than our wedding.