Dinner By Design
What happens when you put five designers in a room and say, Party
Let a bunch of designers loose in the kitchen and you can never tell what might happen. While having coffee with interior designer Philip Gorrivan, the idea for a designer potluck supper was hatched. Philip and his wife Lisa Rossi and their two children live in a classic1840s house nestled on a quiet road in Washington. The house, originally located in the Depot, was moved to its present location after the flood in 1955. The previous owner added an enclosed porch; other than that it retains its original bones. And the Gorrivans have remained true to the character of the house by making it livable and beautiful.
Philip, the son of a French Moroccan mother and a native New England father, grew up in an 1820s rambling farmhouse in Maine. He has been influenced in his work by both his parents. While many of his rooms have a touch of the exotic, there is a simplicity and timelessness about them. Antiques live side by side with modern pieces; the rooms of this house follow the same palette: various shades of taupes, grays, and whites mingle with shots of color, such as the startling red and white geometric rug in the living room. The textured wallpapers and fabrics throughout the house are of Gorrivan’s own designs.
But back to the potluck dinner, which is the reason these folks have gathered at Gorrivan’s in the first place.
“I asked everyone to bring something—either their signature dish or if they can’t cook, it could be store-bought,” Gorrivan explains. The kitchen, with its new white counters, eagerly awaited the trays of food. While there was not a specific theme, the combination of dusty pink roses paired with aubergine glasses and napkins and white plates set the tone for the table in the room off the kitchen—sunroom in the summer and cozy den in the winter. This room is home to Gorrivan’s collection of horns, scattered on the walls.
Fashion designer Andrea Karambelas and Gorrivan’s assistant Jeff Jackson had arrived earlier in the day to help set up for the party. Fires were roaring in the several fireplaces and as guests began to arrive, the brilliant white bowls set out on the counter began to fill up with the various culinary creations. And there was something for every appetite: crisp, vibrant raw vegetables with a tasty cream dipping sauce; classic Caesar salad; kale, apple, and bacon salad; sweet potatoes with orange and ginger; crispy roasted chicken; perfectly grilled steak; white chili; orecchiette with Bolognese sauce. We’ll get to the desserts later.
“We entertain a lot,” says Gorrivan, surveying the dozen or so guests, chatting, and drinking. “But it’s certainly easier when they bring their own food.”
“It’s a great idea, I don’t know why more people don’t do it,” says Bruce Glickman, co-owner of Duane, an upper east side resource for antique and vintage furniture and decorative pieces. “My contribution of Caesar salad is pretty basic—but delicious.” Take torn Romaine, olive oil, grated Parmesan, garlic, anchovy paste, one raw egg, Worcestershire sauce, dry mustard, salt, pepper, croutons, and squeeze of a lemon. Simple and delicious.” Glickman had brought along his friend Pat Moran, who was visiting from Providence and a couple who were new to the area Marc Roman and Holly Parker, who contributed the chicken.
“Have you ever had white chili?” asks interior designer Ron Norsworthy. “It’s my mother’s signature dish and I made her share the recipe with me. The main difference is using white beans, like cannelloni, instead of the red. Sauté the chicken pieces, and set them aside. Sauté an onion, add chilis, salsa, chicken broth, cumin, and oregano and bring mixture to a boil. Let it simmer for twenty minutes, add the chicken and beans and cook for five minutes more. Stir in lime juice, season with salt to taste. I serve it topped with cilantro, yogurt and cheddar cheese.”
Linda Zelenko, designer and owner of York Street Studio, stuck with a real basic. “You just can’t beat a good sirloin steak,” she says, eying the perfectly cooked meat. “I brush olive oil on both sides, a little salt, grind together a lemon rind, cayenne, ground pepper, and onion powder and brush that on as well. Broil on one side for eight minutes, and four or five minutes on the other side.”
The flow of Gorrivan’s house made for comfortable dining in various rooms.
It wouldn’t be a party without desserts and the guests outdid themselves with their contributions. The long table in the formal dining room was covered end to end with the most wickedly tempting fare. Suzanne Cassano, co-owner of Privet House in New Preston, showed her culinary skills, by baking a chocolate, chocolate cake, and a bourbon pumpkin cheesecake. “I actually love to bake, but never get the chance. This is the perfect excuse to do it in excess,” she said.
After several hours, the wine continued to flow, even a few of the guests switched to coffee. There was a warm glow, not only from the wine and the roaring fires, but also emanating from the people, both friends and strangers prior to the dinner, who had contributed not only fine food but good feelings and camaraderie on a cold winter’s night.