The Fine Art of Entertaining, Kansas City Style

These party planning hacks will make your celebration a breeze



We're tethered to our electronic devices almost 24/7. Our days are spent in a constant state of frenzy - rushing from one thing to another. Family schedules are so jam packed that an app is required to manage the multiple conflicting schedules. All of this has made taking the time to slow down and savor bringing friends and family together a priority. Psychologists even cite entertaining loved ones over food as a mental health boost. This, of course, means one thing - we need to party more! 

To inspire you to embrace your wingding diva this holiday season we’ve asked some of Kansas City’s best foodies, florists, and festive experts to share with us everything from how to craft a signature cocktail to dinner party hacks. 

Consider this an invitation to up your entertaining game. 


DINNER PARTY DECONSTRUCTED

When you’ve cooked thousands of amazing meals, overseen some of the best hotel kitchens in America and have a fancy British Court of Master Sommeliers certification there’s not much that can mess with your culinary confidence. But Ryan Spruhan, the new executive chef at the Parker at the Fontaine, admits that even he can get nervous hosting a dinner party.  

“You’re inviting people into your home and I think you can put a lot of pressure on yourself to make everything flawless.” -- Ryan Spruhan

Spruhan’s five tips for making your next dinner party stress-free perfection.

1. Keep it simple.

Don’t try and do too much. Be honest with yourself and know what you’re capable of. You need to have confidence in what you’re cooking. Go ahead and try out recipes here and there and make sure it’s a success. One year, I hosted Thanksgiving dinner and it was a disaster. I was used to working a large restaurant kitchen with multiple ovens and I tried to make too much in a small kitchen. It was a complete nightmare. 

2. Food doesn’t have to be complicated to be amazing.

This thought resonates throughout the industry. The more experience we have the simpler our dishes have become. It can be exceedingly rewarding to have a perfectly roasted chicken



3. Go family style.

Yes, I still love a plated dinner party, but family style keeps things easy and it’s on trend. You still though need to focus on presentation. For instance, does this blue bowl look great with this sweet potato dish. Also, use garnishes. Don’t just put a bowl of green beans on the table. Add lemons and almonds and draw attention to the dish. 


4. Know your guests.

This goes beyond being aware of people’s food allergies or if they’re vegan or gluten free. You need to meal plan for your guests’ food aversions. If someone doesn’t like fish don’t have it as the main course. Hosting a party is all about making that extra effort. Not only will your guests appreciate it, but everyone will feel welcomed. 


5. Be Cohesive.

Make sure your party fits the time of year and occasion with food, lighting, music and cocktails - because let’s get real here, beverages can make or break a party. You want to create a feeling of effortless ambience and that’s what great entertaining is all about.


KEEP IT FRESH

If it grows in your yard, chances are Steven Chester of Trapp and Company can use it as a beautification element for a party. Chester has been creating floral masterpieces since disco was king, and he says he’s seen all the trends come and go. For example, the carnation was THE flower of the 70's, then segued to being a tacky grocery store purchase — as in “put anything in the bouquet except carnations” — and is now making a comeback. The best advice this seasoned designer has for creating a gorgeous tableau is to not overthink it. “You have to let go and just be creative,” Chester says.

“The key to good design is to not be all matchy-matchy. Not everything in nature matches. People need to get over the concept that something has to be perfect.” -- Steven Chester

The floral guru also says beauty doesn’t have to be expensive. He’s a fan of using the high-low method with flowers.


“You can use a bud vase with only three flowers or go out in your yard and get some berry and oak leaves, and poof, you have a party,” he says. “People think design has to be difficult and it shouldn’t be.”


DON'T FORGET THE MUSIC

Bryan Truta is the morning show host on 90.9 the Bridge. Truta shares pro tips on how to curate a groovin’ local playlist for your next party.

Let’s dive into the mechanics behind a great playlist. And here’s a big caveat: we’re going to ignore the typical “mainstream” hits in favor of a truly unique musical experience; KC artists only for an authentic Kansas City night.

Chris Hazelton's Boogaloo Seven

Just like your party the right playlist has peaks and valleys, ebbs and flows. You should build the mood slowly while your guests are easing into drinks and conversation. The groovy jazz sounds of Chris Hazelton’s Boogaloo 7 will get your party started. Bouncing bass lines. Funky horns. And no vocals to get in the way of conversation.

Victor & Penny

When the appetizers start to appear it’s time to kick up the tempo and texture a bit. Try the Latin stylings of Making Movies to get your guests’ toes tappin’. Or for those with a more traditional sense, Victor and Penny (real names: Jeff Greling and Erin McGrane) offer a guitar and ukulele take on folk-jazz that dares you not to dance.


Ha Ha Tonka

Making the call to dinner is time to take it up once again. Bring in the rock with “Ha Ha Tonka,” treat your guests to the fun, two minute power pop of the “Shy Boys,” or give in to the slick chords of family band Radkey and their latest confection, “Basement.”


Tech N9ne

Once the plates have cleared it is time for the beats. If the night calls for dancing, look to the perfect-for-the-club sounds of Dragon Inn 3. Seeking a fusion of old school dance mixed with present day R&B/rap Second Hand King is for you. Parties - of course - never go wrong once KC rap king Tech N9ne is called up.


Calvin Arsenia's Cantaloupe

Since we talked ebbs and flows, your night needs to end with a cool down. Try the harp-based soul of Calvin Arsenia’s new album, “Cantaloupe”. Even better, seek out Arsenia’s sleek take on Britney’s “Toxic.” By that point the lights will be low, the conversation a murmur, and you just might have trouble getting people to leave.


Bryan Truta's Recommended Playlist

Chris Hazelton’s Boogaloo 7

Bambu, The Basement Beat, Tru-Galu

Making Movies, Locura Colectiva, Brave Enough

Victor and Penny, Wake Up Early, Day Off Boogi

Ha Ha Tonka: Usual Suspects, Race to the Bottom

Shy Boys: Something Sweet, Take the Doggie

Radkey: Basement; St. Elwood

Dragon Inn 3: Club Sauce

Second Hand King: Mr. Somebody, Go So Wrong

Tech N9ne: Hood Go Crazy

Calvin Arsenia: Toxic, Headlights, Kansas City Baby