Decemner 15, 2023
The Art of Hosting, with
At the heart of Alexis' work and vision are all things recipes, cooking, and food.
Feasts and celebratory dinners have been festive ways of bringing people together since ancient times. In rural regions, where people may travel winding, dirt roads and long distances across mountains, hills, valleys, farmlands and forests to reach each other – shared meals become a critical hub around which people gather. Here in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains, local cookbook author Alexis deBoschnek draws on childhood influences and her lifelong love of food to keep her gatherings fun, creative, and sustainable. Read on for firsthand advice from Alexis on how to take the art of hosting to the next level.
At the heart of Alexis' work and vision are all things recipes, cooking, and food. She identifies as an "avid hoster" – just as likely to be curating a dazzling dinner for a few friends on a Tuesday night as she is to be styling a themed party in December. Her first cookbook, To the Last Bite, showcases the comforting, familiar dishes she has perfected over the years and reveals her signature style: efficiency made elegant, organized and charming, pragmatic yet graceful.
When we spoke, autumn was transitioning into winter and Alexis was preparing to go into full hosting mode for the holidays. When I asked her how she approaches arranging and styling for a dinner, she said creating a holiday table is all about delightful details, intention, and celebrating the winter season. "Maybe that is the one time to break out the really nice linens, press the napkins…and it isn't about spending a lot of money." Alexis' own craft projects and decor best practices include gathering aromatic branches for table arrangements, using a homemade borax solution to crystallize elements from nature into frosted delights, and tying a cheery ribbon – with an adorning pine sprig – around each napkin.
Alexis' rural roots shine in her aesthetic. She calls it "bringing the outside in." For example, you might see real pine cones alongside pine cone candles in her table arrangement. "I'm attracted to anything that's part of nature. Plant-heavy and a bit wild. I like candles that drip, I like a flower arrangement with a branch that hits the table. That's why the Greentree Home candles are so beautiful – they feel very of the earth."
I asked Alexis how candles became part of her forte, since she is so well versed in food. She spoke of the memorable fêtes that punctuated her childhood – hosted by her mother, who she names as her greatest teacher and primary inspiration. "My mom threw a lot of dinner parties when I was growing up. Candles were always part of it. If you're going to invite people over, there has to be candles. Even if it's just my husband and I having dinner, we have candles." Alexis' go-to candle from the Greentree Home collection is anything in the classic natural beeswax, and when styling, she loves playing with different lengths of the everyday tapers. "I like pretty things and candles are pretty!"
"My mom threw a lot of dinner parties when I was growing up. Candles were always part of it. If you're going to invite people over, there has to be candles. Even if it's just my husband and I having dinner, we have candles."
- Alexis deBoschnek
In hosting, as in cooking, Alexis gives equal attention to beauty and sensibility: "It's form and function. One doesn't work without the other." When preparing a holiday meal or arranging a fun and festive table, Alexis starts with a theme. She then works her way through the elements, beginning with the most practical – the plates, utensils, glasses, and drinks – before diving into arrangements, candles, and dishes of food. "It's important to leave room on the table so that all the dishes can fit – it's not going to be too overdone." She suggests setting everything up in advance to give guests an easy, effortless experience, and so the host can join in the fun when everyone arrives!
"Why are we doing this? We're doing this so we can be together, share this moment, and eat this meal – and it should be beautiful and romantic, transporting you somewhere else."
- Alexis deBoschnek
Dear reader, what candles, flowers, or wild branches will be adorning your home this winter? What foods will you be cooking and what kind of ambience are you hoping to create for you and your loved ones?
To Learn more about Alexis visit her @alexisdeboschnek
Acknowledging that holiday cooking often leads to an excess of food, Alexis cuts down on waste by asking guests to bring their own storage containers to dinner, so she can send everyone home with food. "It's a fun way to share the feast and help your friends!"